Friday, October 12, 2012

Knicks Take Preseason Opener in Washington

Thursday, October 11, 2012
Final Score: New York Knicks: 108 Washington Wizards: 101
Knicks Take Preseason Opener in Washington
In what is out of character for a Mike Woodson led team, the Knicks did not have to rely on defense tonight as they scored at a ferocious pace in beating the Wizards 108-101.  The first preseason game saw the Knicks knock down 18 of 33 three point attempts, good for 54.5 percent.

The Knicks got off to a hot start tonight, as Raymond Felton was working the pick-and-roll game fluently with Tyson Chandler.  The Knicks scored 38 points off 11 assists, four of which were from Felton, in the first quarter which ended with the Knicks up 17. 

Felton, whose conditioning has been called into question, looked to be in great shape last night, running the offense well and pushing the tempo when needed.  He showed great explosion and looked like he could have played a full compliment of minutes. 

For as good as the first quarter went, the second quarter was bad.  The starting lineup in the second quarter was Felton, Pablo Prigioni, John Shurna, Steve Novak and Chris Copeland, an average lineup at best that has a very small likelihood of being on the court in regular season play.  The Wizards took advantage of the Knicks lineup, racking up a 22-0 run to start the quarter and get them back in the game. 

The pick-and-roll options were no where to be seen, as Chandler was getting a rest and Amar’e Stoudemire and Marcus Camby were both out with injuries.  The Knicks offense became very stagnant in the second quarter, as they settled for too many jump shots and allowed the Wizards to get into a rhythm and get back into the game. 

The game was close until the fourth quarter, when the Knicks, specifically Steve Novak, J.R. Smith and Prigioni started to heat up and light it up from distance.

Novak was a big difference maker in the game, as he continued right where he left off last season as the best 3 point shooter in the NBA, going 7 for 7 from downtown.  Novak led the Knicks in scoring tonight, totaling 21 points.  Carmelo Anthony, who rested for long portions of the game, totaled 17 points thanks mostly to a strong opening quarter ands taking the Knicks to an early lead.

Anthony will be someone to keep an eye on this season.  He is now the most prominent player in the NBA without a ring with Lebron James winning his first last season and has a lot of people to prove wrong.  Could that change this season?

Anthony is said to be in the best shape of his career, after winning another Olympic gold medal this summer.  Anthony is also healthy this season, as last year he battled through right thumb and left wrist injuries that played into him losing accuracy on his shot.  If Anthony can bring the perimeter shooting from the Olympics with him to the Knicks, he will be a major headache for opposing defenses.  It will be yet another weapon in the arsenal for the Knicks and Mike Woodson to put to use.

The injury report for the Knicks tonight was pretty lengthy, with Stoudemire sitting out with a bruised knee, Camby out with a left calf strain, James White with a sore right hamstring, Rasheed Wallace with a lack of conditioning and Ronnie Brewer, Iman Shumpert and Chris Smith all with knee-related injuries. 

Next up for the Knicks is a visit to the XL Center in Hartford, Connecticut to take on the rival Boston Celtics on October 13 at 7:30 P.M.

Giants Team Grades: Week 5 vs. Cleveland Browns

Sunday, October 7th 2012
Final Score: Cleveland Browns: 27 New York Giants: 41
Giants Team Grades

A slow start by the Giants produced a grim feeling at MetLife Stadium Sunday afternoon, but the Giants were eventually able to put it all together and roll the Browns 41-27.  The veteran leadership shown through in this performance, as the older more experienced Giants eventually over-whelmed the young, inexperienced Browns. 

Passing Offense Grade: A
With starting wide receiver Hakeem Nicks out again, Ramses Barden out because of a concussion and Martellus Bennett getting a hyper-extended knee, Eli Manning was again left with responsibility of running an offense without main pieces and that is exactly what he did.

Manning hooked up with Victor Cruz for three touchdowns and continued to show no matter who is on the field he can produce.  This week, Domenik Hixon and rookie Reuben Randle stepped up for the Giants.

Hixon and Randle combined for 11 catches and 137 yards in replace of Nicks and Barden.

Manning finished the game 25 for 37 for 259 yards and three touchdowns.  Manning also had a tough luck interception, as a ball bounced out of Cruz’s hands and into Cleveland Browns’ Usama Young’s hands

Rushing Offense Grade: A+
The first carry of the game from Ahmad Bradshaw resulted in a turnover and quick score for the Browns, but Bradshaw did not allow that to affect him.  Bradshaw used that turnover as motivation as he dominated the Browns the rest of the afternoon.

With backup Andre Brown suffering a concussion early in the game, the onus was on Bradshaw to be the workhorse out of the backfield and he took the challenge straight on. 

Bradshaw finished the game with a career high 200 yards on 30 carries, dominating the Browns with every opportunity given to him.  Bradshaw was also a contributor in the passing game, catching four passes for 29 yards. 

David Wilson made a cameo on offense as well and made the most of it, ripping off a 40 yard touchdown run.  If you blinked, the play would have been missed as Wilson looked as if he was shot out of a cannon, showing off the speed the Giants became enamored with when they were scouting him before the draft in April.

The Giants totaled 243 yards on the ground against the Browns and if they can continue running the ball effectively, they will have the best offense in the NFL.

Passing Defense Grade: B
The Giants pass defense got off to a rough start, as Brandon Weeden connected with Josh Gordon on a 62-yard bomb in the first quarter.  Weeden also threw another touchdown near the end of the game, as the Giants struggled to get pressure on him, failing to register a sack against an offensive line that had allowed nine throughout the season.

Weeden eventually would make rookie mistakes once the Giants got a small amount of pressure on him, as Stevie Brown, filling in for the injured Kenny Phillips, intercepted Weeden in the second quarter.  That interception set up the tying score for the Giants and Chase Blackburn added an interception of his own later in the game in the end zone.

The Giants have been ravaged in the secondary by injuries, but will have to put on a better performance in the coming weeks with better opponents on the schedule.

Rushing Defense Grade: B
Trent Richardson was able to do what he wanted against the Giants defense, with the only thing slowing him down being the scoreboard.  He scored an early touchdown after the Bradshaw fumble and rumbled to 67 yards in the first half, but was limited in the second half because of the score.

Richardson ended with 81 yards on 17 carriers, adding five receptions for 47 yards.  It was a feat for the Giants though, as they held the Browns to less than 100 yards rushing even with Rocky Bernard out of the lineup. 

Special Teams Grade: B
The return game was unable to get going, as Wilson averaged on 13.5 yards per return after exploding against the Eagles in week 4.  Andre Brown had one return for 13 yards before suffering a concussion that knocked him out of the game. 

Lawrence Tynes continued his strong season, knocking his two field goal attempts through the uprights and nailing all five of his extra points.  Weatherford was brought on to punt only twice, but averaged 50 yards per punt.

Josh Cribbs was able to break a 74-yard kick off return, which would have gone to the house if not for Mark Herzlich’s hustle to tackle him.  But Cribbs also fumbled earlier in the game, as Will Hill forced the fumble and Stevie Brown recovered it, giving him two forced turnovers in the game. 

Coaching Grade: A
It definitely was not in the game plan to go down 14-0, but with how the Giants responded the coaching staff had viable reason to say they might have.  With seven key contributors sitting this one out, the struggles could have been insurmountable but the Giants overcame all the adversity against them.

The Giants were also able to avoid their yearly let down by playing down to their opponents level, eventually getting it going and hammering the Browns after giving up those 14 early points.  Slow starts will have to be something they work out, as starts like that will not be as easily turned around against teams the Giants have on their remaining schedule.

The coaching staff, in addition to the front office, needs credit for the continuous shifting going on in the lineups.  The ability for the Giants to just plug people into different holes when players go down is not something every team is capable of doing. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Despite Slow Start, Giants Blow Out Browns

Sunday, October 7 2012
Post Game Recap
Final Score: Cleveland Browns: 27 New York Giants 41
Giants down Browns despite Slow Start

Before there was a sweat broken by either team, the Giants found themselves down 14-0 to the winless Browns.  It proved to just be a little blip on the radar for the Giants, who eventually got warmed up and rolled the Browns 41-27, rattling off 20 unanswered points in a 13 and a half minute span.  The Giants will need to avoid slow starts like this as the outcome will not be as pleasant against upper echelon teams.

This was a game the Giants needed to have and after a rough start they handled business.  This was a prototypical trap game for the Giants, but they overcame the slow start and finished strong.  No one epitomized that more than Ahmad Bradshaw.
Bradshaw started the game by fumbling, after running into Chris Snee on the first play from scrimmage.  The Browns followed the turnover with a touchdown, putting the Giants in the early hole.  Bradshaw ran like a man possessed the rest of the afternoon, tearing the Browns defense up for a career high 200 yards on 30 carries and a touchdown.  Bradshaw also contributed in the pass game with four receptions for 29 yards. 

It was an impressive performance for Bradshaw and one the Giants needed badly; backup running back Andre Brown suffered a concussion on a kick return in the first quarter, leaving Bradshaw as the workhorse.  David Wilson made a cameo in the backfield and made the most of it, ripping off a 40 yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.  Wilson looked like he was shot out of a cannon with how fast he was moving, looking to have a lot of pent up energy after not being featured in the offense much throughout the season thus far.

Eli Manning also did his thing for the Giants, even without starting wide receiver Hakeem Nicks for the third straight game and Martellus Bennett suffering a hyper-extended knee.  Ramses Barden also was out with a concussion, but the next players in line stepped up and performed extremely well, as Manning showed once again that no matter who is put on the field he can make them produce.

Rookie second round pick Rueben Randle got his first extended action of the season and made the most of it, catching six balls for 82 yards.  Whatever talk he had with Manning during the week in practice must have worked, as Randle had his most impressive showing thus far in his young career. 

Domenik Hixon also had a strong game, starting opposite of Victor Cruz with Nicks’ absence.  Hixon caught five balls for 55 yards, working all over the field for the Giants.  Cruz had a big game for the Giants as well, catching all three of Manning’s touchdown passes.  He ended the game with five receptions for 50 yards and the three touchdowns.
The Giants defense at first look at a very underwhelming day, but a few players stood out and both happen to be substitutions.  Stevie Brown, starting for the injured Kenny Phillips at safety, and Will Hill seeing his playing time increased because of injures, both had major impacts on the game. 

Brown made a momentum changing interception in the second quarter off Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden, which the Giants turned into a touchdown to a tying score.  On the ensuing kickoff, Hill forced a fumble on return man Josh Cribbs and Brown was on the spot to make the recovery.
Brown has been very productive when on the field filling in for Phillips and Antrel Rolle.  Brown should continue to start in place of Phillips, but Hill will not be seen for at least four weeks.  Hill was suspended four weeks by the NFL for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.  Tyler Sash will take Hill’s roster spot for the time being, as he is also returning from his own suspension because of the same incident.

Next up for the Giants is a rematch from the NFC Championship game, as they will travel to San Francisco to take on the 49ers and some old faces in Mario Manningham and Brandon Jacobs.  

Monday, October 8, 2012

Giants Suffer Another Blow to Secondary

Giants Suffer another Blow in Secondary
The New York Giants announced today that safety/corner back Will Hill has been suspended four games by the NFL for taking Adderall and violating the league’s substance abuse policy.

Hill is the second Giants safety to be suspended for taking the banned substance, as Tyler Sash was suspended for the first four games and missed the first five because of the same substance abuse penalty.  Sash will actually be taking the roster spot for Hill this week.

Hill’s suspension will be effective immediately and he will not be eligible for a return until November 5th.

Hill said, “I received a doctor’s prescription for Adderall prior to signing with the Giants.  Shortly after signing with the team, I was in a meeting with) director of player development) Charles Way, who reviewed the list of the league’s banned substances.  I knew at that point that this may be an issue.” 

He added, “I was tested and the results came back that Adderall was in my system.  I appealed but lost the appeal.  I accept full responsibility for this situation and it won’t happen again.”

Sash also appealed his suspension when he found out of it, saying he received it to help combat his fear and anxiety of public speaking, but lost the appeal.

A third Giant, Andre Brown, was suspended for Adderall but he won his appeal and the suspension was overturned.  Brown admitted to taking the drug and that the suspension came from misunderstandings that arose over the paperwork.  Adderall is a drug that is commonly given to people who suffer from attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. 

Hill has had terrible character issues in the past, going undrafted out of Florida in 2010 as teams flagged him as a potential problem.  But the Giants gave him a chance anyway and he took it and ran during rookie mini-camp this past May.  Hill has played in all five games thus far this season and has seen his role grow as the season as went on because of a rash of injuries to the Giants secondary, even forcing a fumble on a kick return this past weekend against the Browns. 

“The Giants have given me a great opportunity when nobody else would, and I don’t take that for granted,” said Hill.  “I feel badly this has happened.  I will work hard and stay in great shape these next four weeks so I can come back and contribute to this team after my suspension.”