Thursday, September 20, 2012

What to Watch For: New York Giants vs. Carolina Panthers

Thursday, September 20, 2012
New York Giants vs. Carolina Panthers
What to Watch For

On a short week, the short-handed Giants will travel to Carolina to take on Cam Newton and the Panthers.  It is the second primetime game for the Giants this season and hopefully this one goes better for the Giants than the first one did against the Dallas Cowboys.  Here are a few things to watch for in the game tonight.

-Lacking Some Firepower

The Giants will be heading into a tough environment tonight without some key players.  Starting wide receiver Hakeem Nicks was a surprise scratch Wednesday night after originally being listed as questionable.  Nicks did not even make the trip, as he struggled to do much of anything at practice this week and the team decided it would be better for him to sit this one out. 

Starting running back Ahmad Bradshaw will also miss the game tonight with a neck injury and starting tackle David Diehl is out with an injury to his right MCL.  Diehl’s prognosis is still unknown, as his injury may be severe enough to keep him out for an extended period of time. 

Eli Manning will also be without third receiver and return man Domenik Hixon, who suffered a concussion Sunday afternoon and was not cleared to play this week.

The odds are stacked against the Giants but that is something they are used to and embrace.  Do not be shocked to see them come out firing with a chip on their shoulder.

-Who is Going to Step Up?

With so many injuries to playmakers on the offensive side of the ball, the Giants will need some people to step up and fill the shoes of the starters.

Manning still has Victor Cruz and Martellus Bennett to rely on, but another receiver has to step up.  Look for Ramses Barden to start opposite of Cruz with Rueben Randle and Jerel Jernigan splitting time as the third receiver. 

This is a huge chance for Barden, as he was in danger of getting cut this past preseason.  If he can put on an impressive showing, the Giants may have the second coming of Cruz.  Last season, it was week 3 in which Cruz had his breakout performance.  Barden should come out ready to show that he is a worthy NFL receiver and someone the Giants should give more playing time to.

Randle and Jernigan will not only have to make up for Hixon as the third receiver, but also on punt return.  Randle had an impressive return that was brought back because of a penalty Sunday against the Buccaneers but both should have opportunities to show the Giants what they are capable of.

-Will the Running Game Show Up

The Giants running game struggled all of last season and hasn’t been strong through the first two games of this season either.  With Bradshaw going down with an injury, someone is going to have to step up and that someone is Andre Brown.

Brown is expected to make his first career start Thursday night over rookie David Wilson after an impressive showing against the Buccaneers.  Brown, who entered the game with -1 career rushing yards, finished the game with 71 yards rushing on 13 attempts and a touchdown in addition to 2 receptions for 19 yards. 

Brown will also be responsible for blocking for Manning, as Bradshaw is the Giants best blocking running back.

Brown will need a breather here and there and that is where Wilson will come in.  Wilson may not be getting the start, but he will play a pivotal role in the offense this week as he has the ability to be a weapon in the passing game, something the Giants will need with Nicks being out.

-Which Defense Will Show Up?

With the offense being so depleted, this is an opportunity for the defense to make up for some of their short comings the first two weeks of the season and carry the team.

The Giants secondary has been getting torched on and off the field, as injuries have been piling up week after week.  This week, Prince Amukamara is expected to make his return from a high ankle sprain, giving the Giants an upgrade that is sorely needed.

The secondary will have their hands full tonight, as the Panthers employ a talented receiving core highlighted by All-Pro Steve Smith.  They also have an up and coming second receiver in Brandon LaFell who will need to be watched and a more than capable tight end in Greg Olsen.

One problem the secondary has struggled so much is that the front seven has not been playing up to their potential.  The Giants are not generating much of a pass rush with their star studded defensive line of Justin Tuck, Jason Pierre-Paul and Osi Umenyiora, putting the cornerbacks in a tough position. 

The job will not get any easier for the front seven tonight, as the Giants will need to figure out a way to contain the dynamic Cam Newton.  The key to slowing down Newton is to contain the run game and force him to become a passing quarterback.  This season alone shows that, as the Panthers struggled week one when they only ran the ball 13 times but beat the Saints in week 2 running the ball 41 times.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Hakeem Nicks, 3 Other Starters Out Thursday Night

Hakeem Nicks Ruled Out

The New York Giants announced Wednesday that starting wide receiver Hakeem Nicks will not playing in Thursday night’s game against the Carolina Panthers.

Nicks, the reigning NFC Offensive Player of the Week, will not even be making the trip down to Carolina after being listed as questionable earlier in the day and being downgraded to out just hours ago.!/img/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_635/hakeem-nicks.jpg
Nicks did not participate in any type of practice or walk-through this week, not even taking part in the jog this morning.  Tuesday was a scheduled day off for Nicks, who still suffers from soreness in his surgically repaired ankle.

Nicks was quoted as saying that he felt pretty good Tuesday, so either he suffered a setback or was not feeling as good as the Giants had hoped, leading to the downgrading.

The team opted to play it safe with Nicks, as the Giants have a very short week with the quick turnaround with a game Thursday night.  Resting Nicks is most likely the best scenario in the long run for the Giants.

Nicks is not the only prominent Giant that will not make the trip, as starting running back Ahmad Bradshaw, offensive tackle David Diehl and third receiver/return man Domenik Hixon are all not making the trip.  All three players suffered injuries in Sunday afternoon’s victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, as Bradshaw injured his neck, Diehl his right MCL and Hixon suffered a concussion.

Rookie defensive lineman Adewale Ojomo will also not be making the trip.

With the injury to Nicks, Victor Cruz will take over as the top wide out.  Look for Rueben Randle, Ramses Barden and Jerel Jernigan to also get some action, as they will be moved up the depth chart with the Hixon injury as well. 

Andre Brown will take over lead back duties for Bradshaw; something he earned with his performance Sunday.  Brown ran for 71 yards on 13 carries and caught two passes for 19 yards in relief of Bradshaw.

The Giants are likely to go with the shift they put in place when Diehl went down Sunday, with Sean Locklear moving to right tackle and Will Beatty taking over at left tackle.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Eli Leads Giants Comeback over Buccaneers

Sunday, September 16 2012
Post Game Recap
Final Score: Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 34 New York Giants: 41
Eli Leads Giants Comeback over Bucs

The second game for the season started off poorly for the Giants, much like the opening night game against the Cowboys; this time around, the Giants were able to get it together and mount a successful comeback against the Buccaneers, pulling out the 41-34 win.  The Giants were down 27-13 early in the third quarter before they came storming back behind the heroics of Eli Manning.

Manning was awful in the first half of the game, throwing three interceptions.  The interception before the half by Eric Wright was returned 60 yards for a touchdown, as all three of Manning’s interceptions led to touchdowns for the Buccaneers.  The first interception off Manning was by linebacker Mason Foster and put the Buccaneers at the Giants 28 yard line.  The second, by Brandon McDonald, seemed to be caused by a hold on Victor Cruz that was not called and put the Buccaneers at the 26 yard line after a 40-yard return and ending at the 13 after Andre Brown was called for a horse collar tackle.

Manning bounced back in a strong way in the second half, looking more like the quarterback that led the Giants on a Super Bowl run last season.  Manning threw two touchdown passes with under seven minutes remaining in the 4th quarter, an 80-yard one to Cruz and a 33-yard touchdown toss to Martellus Bennett.

 After the Giants defense surrendered the lead on, Manning marched the offense back down the field for a third time and the game winning touchdown score by Brown. 

Manning light up the Buccaneers defense for a career high 510 passing yards.  One reason for Manning’s success was the pass protection off the offensive line and running backs; Manning was not sacked once in his 51 drop backs and was only hit twice. 

With Manning having such a big afternoon, the receivers also benefited with monster games.  Cruz, playing with a heavy heart after the passing of his grandmother earlier in the week, caught 11 passes for 179 yards and the 80-yard touchdown.  Nine of the 11 catches came in the first half alone for Cruz, as he bounced back in a big way after dropping three passes in the opener against Dallas. 

Hakeem Nicks was not to be upstaged by his teammate, as he also had a monster game.  Nicks reeled in 10 balls for 199 yards and a touchdown, dominating the Buccaneers secondary, specifically cornerback Aqib Talib, whose holding and penalties couldn’t even slow down Nicks.  Nicks looked to be limping a few times after falling and being tackled awkwardly, but was able to finish the game and have a major impact.

New tight end Bennett had another strong game for the Giants after coming over from the Cowboys in the off-season.  Bennett had a rough first half, having a touchdown pass hit him in the facemask, but bounced back like all the other Giants in the second half when he made an adjustment and made a great catch on his 33-yard touchdown.  Bennett finished with five receptions for 72 yards and the touchdown.

After losing starting running back Ahmad Bradshaw to a neck injury, the Giants had to turn to Brown as the lead back and he responded well.  Coming in the game, Brown had -1 career yards, but was able to bring a dimension to the Giants they have been lacking in a running game.  Brown ran for 71 yards on 11 carries and the game winning touchdown, also converting a critical two-point conversion in the 4th quarter to tie the game up at 27.  Brown’s performance definitely earned him more playing time, as he showcased both power, speed and ball security, something the coaching staff holds in high regard.

In addition to Bradshaw, the Giants suffered more injuries in the first half.  Wide receiver Domenik Hixon was knocked out of the game with a concussion and starting right tackle David Diehl was knocked out with an MCL injury.  The injury to Diehl forced the Giants to do some shuffling across their offensive line, as Sean Locklear was moved to right tackle and Will Beatty was brought in to play left tackle. 

Beatty struggled in the first half, a common theme for all of the Giants, as he dropped a high pass from Manning as the extra tight end and committed two false start penalties.

Again for the Giants the defensive backfield struggled.  Corey Webster struggled at times in the first half, giving up big plays to Vincent Jackson, who finished the game with five receptions for 128 yards and a touchdown.  Webster was able to redeem himself later in the second half, intercepting Josh Freeman. 

Michael Coe surrendered the touchdown to Jackson in the first half, but like Webster was able to redeem himself with stronger play in the second half.  Coe did not start the game, as Jayron Hosley got his first career start.  Coe would come in and play the outside when Hosley would slide over and be the slot corner.

The end of the game also saw a confrontation between head coaches Tom Coughlin and Greg Schiano.  Coughlin was upset that the Buccaneers defensive linemen went down and cut center David Baas knees and knocking down Manning, even though the Giants were kneeing and were in "victory formation".  Coughlin and Schiano shared heated words after the game shaking hands, when Coughlin was visibly upset with what had happened. 

Next up for the Giants is a visit to Carolina to play against Cam Newton and the Panthers.  It is a quick turnaround for the Giants, as they play the Panthers Thursday night.