New York Giants: Brandon Myers

The awkward part of New York Giants GM Jerry Reese's pre-draft news conference Thursday came when a reporter asked him about tight end. The exchange went like this:
Q: Historically, this team has relied on the tight end quite a bit. Would you be comfortable moving forward with the guys you have on your roster right now?

Reese: Historically we've relied on our tight end?

Q: Well, they've had a prominent role.

Reese: Really?

Q: I seem to remember tight ends catching important passes.

Reese: Yeah, well, we think we've got some tight ends that can catch some important passes. But "prominent role"? We want all of our positions to be prominent roles. I'm not sure if our tight ends have had prominent roles in the past. But we want a competent tight end. We think we've got a couple of young tight ends who have been here for a couple of years who we want to develop, and we'll continue to look as we move forward.
[+] EnlargeBrandon Myers
Brad Penner/USA TODAY SportsIn his one season with the Giants, Brandon Myers caught 47 passes for 522 yards.
I have been on the other end of that exchange in the past. I've been the one who asked Reese a question that posited a certain level of significance for the tight end position and had him reject the premise. Obviously, this does not show Reese at his most polite, but he views this idea that the Giants' offense has relied on a tight end as an especially irksome misperception. And the numbers support his side of it:

  • Brandon Myers' 47 receptions in 2013 were the second-most in a single season by a Giants tight end since Jeremy Shockey caught 57 passes in 2007.
  • Since 2007, the Giants have employed four different starting tight ends -- Kevin Boss from 2008-10, Jake Ballard in 2011, Martellus Bennett in 2012 and Myers last year.
  • Over that six-year stretch, the Giants' leading tight end has averaged 42 receptions for 539 yards and five touchdowns per year, with Bennett's 55 catches and 626 yards in 2012 and Boss' six touchdowns in 2008 the high-water marks in those categories.

Reese is not shy about telling people he thinks he can find a tight end who can catch 42 passes every year, and this is the basis on which he rejects a characterization such as "prominent role." Yes, he could be nicer about making the point, but the Giants' offense has not, in point of fact, relied on the tight end. Shockey was an exceptional case -- an exceptional talent the Giants deemed worthy of a first-round pick. And Bennett's athleticism allowed them to use him a bit more than they've used other guys after they were able to get him on the cheap prior to the 2012 season.

But the thing to remember about Bennett and Shockey is that both were excellent and willing blockers at the position. Bennett's as good a run-blocking tight end as there is in the NFL right now, and the Giants had him on the field a lot for that reason. That his size and speed enabled him to be a slightly bigger factor in the passing game than some of his predecessors were was a bonus, and the Giants were fortunate that he wasn't in demand that year due to the perception that he was a huge disappointment in Dallas. Once he played well for them, he parlayed that into a big free-agent deal with the Bears, and the Giants made no effort to spend to keep him.

So the point to be taken from this is not that the Giants don't like the tight end position but that it's not a position on which they feel compelled to spend major resources. Other than that 2002 first-round pick they spent on Shockey, they've consistently sought cheap solutions at tight end, viewing whoever plays it as replaceable from year to year. They want guys who can block, and if those guys can catch the ball, so much the better.

For that reason, it's easy to convince yourself that they won't be taking North Carolina's Eric Ebron with the No. 12 pick in the first round next week. Ebron may be an exceptional talent as a receiver, and the tight end position leaguewide may have evolved to the point where it's worth spending a No. 12 overall pick to get one who can be a difference-maker in the passing game. But Reese insisted Thursday that the arrival of new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo has not changed the way the Giants evaluate offensive players. And while Shockey was the No. 14 overall pick in that 2002 draft, it's vital to remember that Shockey was a good blocker in addition to a great pass-catcher. Ebron is a pass-catcher only. He'd be a liability as a blocker. So the comparison doesn't necessarily fit.

The Giants could find a tight end such as Jace Amaro or Austin Seferian-Jenkins in the second round if they really feel they need one, but it's possible they don't feel that way. They have 2012 fourth-round pick Adrien Robinson still on the roster and have been eager for some time to see him on the field more. They resisted putting Robinson on injured reserve all last year because they believed he had something to offer if he ever got healthy (which he finally did, only to injure himself again on the opening kickoff of the Week 16 game in Detroit). They signed blocking tight end Kellen Davis and Daniel Fells for depth at the position, and Larry Donnell has been a strong enough special-teams performer to earn more practice reps and show what he can do. That's the group Reese has, and he swears he doesn't feel the need to upgrade it in the draft. If their pick comes around and the best player still on their board plays tight end, sure, they could take him. But Reese isn't hunting for some huge solution at the position next week.

The question is whether he's right. I personally think the Giants would benefit from having a more permanent solution at this position than they've employed over the past four years. I think the way the league is going, it's more important than it used to be to have a big-time weapon at that position who can split out wide and bust matchups in the secondary. But I don't run the Giants. Jerry Reese does. And he and the Giants do things their way, and they believe in it. You can respect someone's conviction even if your opinion differs from theirs. Reese thinks he's OK at tight end -- or at least that he will be. And it's clear when he's asked about it that he doesn't understand what all the fuss is about.
After a dizzying Sunday and Monday, things quieted down around the New York Giants on Tuesday. They signed former New York Giants wide receiver Mario Manningham, though maybe just as a favor to an old friend. It would be a surprise if that ended up being an impact move given his health issues, but I'm sure it's a low-cost gamble unlikely to hurt them even if he can't play.

But that was it for Tuesday, and with their salary cap room drying up due to their 18 free-agent signings so far, the Giants are likely to slow down a bit here. They still need help in the pass rush and in the passing game, but it's looking more and more likely that they'll seek that help in the draft, which is still seven weeks away. Meantime, they will bargain-hunt and tinker as they continue to work on the major roster rebuild this offseason has brought about.

Here's a look at a few things that still may be on the horizon:
  • Defensive line help: As of now, the pass-rushers are Jason Pierre-Paul (who's had major injury issues for two years in a row), Mathias Kiwanuka (better used as a rotational player than a starting defensive end) and Damontre Moore (a talented, high-motor project who didn't see the field much as a rookie in 2013). The Giants are startlingly thin at a position that has been their championship calling card. They briefly agreed to terms last week with free agent O'Brien Schofield for pass-rush help, but they failed him on his physical due to knee issues. He hasn't signed elsewhere, so they could theoretically go back to that well, but it seems unlikely. They looked at Anthony Spencer over the weekend, but his knee may not be ready in time either. I don't see them having the cap space for Jared Allen, who's on the wrong side of 30 for them anyway, and the remainder of the pass-rusher market is a bunch of Corey Wootton/Robert Ayers-type flotsam. Do they spend that No. 12 draft pick on a pass-rusher like Anthony Barr in May? Or do they really go with what little they have in this critical area? Dangerous to try that. You can make your secondary as strong as you want, but if you can't force the quarterback to throw the ball when and where he doesn't want to throw it, it won't matter much.
  • Receivers: I am well aware that Hakeem Nicks and tight end Brandon Myers were lousy in 2013. I still find it hard to believe that losing both of them and adding only Manningham to Eli Manning's corps of pass-catchers is the way to fix the offense. Victor Cruz gets paid liked a No. 1 receiver and produces numbers like one, but he struggled with double-coverage in 2013 due to the lack of other options, and the Giants need someone who can win physical matchups all the way down the field. We've written a lot about the possibility of a pass-catcher like Texas A&M wideout Mike Evans or North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron at No. 12, and that may well be the best way to go at this point. The best remaining wide receivers on the market (Santonio Holmes? Miles Austin?) come with major question marks, and the best tight end, Jermichael Finley, does as well.
  • Center: Kevin Boothe signed with the Raiders on Monday, which shook up the Giants' plans a little bit. Not because Boothe is the second coming of Mike Webster or anything like that, but because he was to be their insurance policy at center in the likely event that this weird gamble they're taking with J.D. Walton doesn't work out. Now they're stuck with Walton or Dallas Reynolds unless they sign back Jim Cordle, who himself is no perfect solution. The offensive line was the most significant problem the 2013 Giants had, and new left guard Geoff Schwartz notwithstanding, it's hard to see how they've upgraded it enough. The middle rounds of the draft could offer a chance to draft a center like Florida State's Bryan Stork, and there still are some interesting, experienced names on the free-agent wire at the position. If the price for someone like Brian De La Puente or Ryan Wendell is right, they could still make a pre-draft move there and get deeper along the line as they must.
  • More relief? Kiwanuka's massive pay cut helped with the most recent signings, but there aren't too many more candidates on the roster for that kind of restructure. They could look into extending Antrel Rolle beyond 2014 and reducing his $9.25 million cap number in the process. Rolle is 31, though, and the only one of the Giants' 18 free-agent signings so far that's over 30 is kicker Josh Brown. Committing long-term to Rolle would seem to veer from the March 2014 plan. But he is one of their captains, and with Justin Tuck gone they could decide he's worth making an exception. The big elephant in the contract room, though, is Manning, whose 2014 cap number of $20.4 million is the third-highest in the league. They could reduce that with an extension of his current deal, which runs through 2015, but the Giants don't seem inclined to commit to Manning beyond 2015 at this point. They're a bit concerned with the possibility that he's in decline, and they'd like to see some 2014 proof otherwise before making that big long-term bet. A Manning extension would create the financial freedom for the Giants to acquire anyone they want, but it does not appear to be in the cards.

Top free-agent roundup: NFC East

March, 10, 2014
Mar 10
Here are the top 15 free agents, followed by their rankings, entering Tuesday's signing period as compiled by NFC East reporters Dan Graziano, Todd Archer, Phil Sheridan and John Keim. There are some strong options at the top, but there is not a lot of depth in the NFC East when it comes to free agency. And if Dallas' DeMarcus Ware gets released, he vaults to a top spot on this list. As always, ESPN's free-agent tracker will keep you updated during this period.

1. LB Brian Orakpo, 8.5: The Redskins used the franchise tag on him, so barring a surprise, he’ll be back. It’s a controversial move among fans, but the Redskins need his pass rush and promise to unleash him more often. His career best for a single season is 11 sacks.

2. DT Linval Joseph, 8: A very big, strong and young (25) interior run-stuffer who has also shown the ability to create pressure from the interior, Joseph could be available because of the Giants’ depth at defensive tackle and their many needs.

3. DT Jason Hatcher, 8: He is coming off an 11-sack season, but he turns 32 in July and Dallas doesn’t have much cap space.

4. LB Jon Beason, 7: The Giants are working hard to sign him before free agency opens, as his leadership and high-energy play at middle linebacker helped transform their defense during the 2013 season.

5. WR Hakeem Nicks, 7: This grade is based on talent and past accomplishments, and a feeling that he was being overly careful in 2013 in order to hit free agency healthy. Lacks his early career speed, but knows how to play the position as well as anyone.

6. WR Jason Avant, 7: For a team in need of a third-down possession guy, the sure-handed Avant will be a great value.

7. P Donnie Jones, 7: The Eagles are expected to re-sign Jones, who was an underrated contributor to their NFC East title team.

8. DE Anthony Spencer, 6: He is coming back from microfracture surgery, so the cost won’t be high.

9. LB Perry Riley, 6: The Redskins need to re-sign him because they already have a hole at inside linebacker after London Fletcher retired. But they won’t break the bank for Riley, who needs to improve in coverage.

10. DE Justin Tuck, 6: Coming off an 11-sack season that came out of nowhere after two down years, Tuck turns 31 later this month but is a locker-room leader and a 4-3 defensive end who can set the edge against the run.

11. QB Michael Vick, 6: With Nick Foles' ascension, Vick is looking for a chance to start elsewhere.

12. RB Andre Brown, 5: He played very well in his first few games back off a broken leg, but faded down the stretch and fumbled too much in the final few games. He is likely not a guy who can be relied on as a starter, but potentially a valuable piece.

13. TE Brandon Myers, 5: A huge disappointment in New York after catching 79 passes as a Raider in 2012, Myers also contributed little as a blocker. The Giants are likely to let him go. He could fit better with a different system.

14. CB Terrell Thomas, 5: He played all 16 games after missing the previous two seasons because of ACL tears in the same knee. Thomas believes he can hold up as a starter off a real offseason, and would like to cash in.

15. S Danny McCray, 5: He is a core special teamer only, so the Cowboys could find value here.

Free-agency primer: Giants

March, 7, 2014
Mar 7
» AFC Free-Agency Primer: East | West | North | South » NFC: East | West | North | South

Key free agents: DT Linval Joseph, LB Jon Beason, WR Hakeem Nicks, DE Justin Tuck, RB Andre Brown, TE Brandon Myers, CB Terrell Thomas, CB Trumaine McBride

Where they stand: The Giants have 23 unrestricted free agents and a crying need to rebuild an offense that bottomed out around quarterback Eli Manning in 2013. They need to find a wide receiver, a running back, a tight end and at least two starting offensive linemen. New offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo is likely to have some input in the kinds of players they pursue in free agency because he's installing a relatively new offense in New York for the first time in 10 years. They will also need to plug holes on defense if they don't re-sign Beason, Tuck or Joseph. And they could use an upgrade over McBride at cornerback.

What to expect: The Giants are trying to lock up Beason in advance of free agency but haven't yet. Once the market opens Tuesday, expect them to be aggressive in their pursuit of interior offensive linemen. If they find an upgrade at center, they can gain significant cap room by designating David Baas a June 1 cut. But they will go after at least one free-agent guard (Geoff Schwartz, Jon Asamoah, guys like that) and possibly more. Improving the protection of Manning is a primary goal for the Giants this offseason. Beefing up the interior of the line would also help them re-establish the run game. As they pursue wide receivers, keep an eye on players like Dexter McCluster and Golden Tate, who could help the Giants' weak return units.
As Paul Schwartz pointed out over the weekend, the remaining years on the New York Giants' contracts of cornerback Corey Webster and tight end Brandon Myers were automatically voided Friday. This came as no surprise, as the contracts were structured that way to allow the Giants to escape them unless either turned out to be a steal.

Webster barely played in 2013, and Myers was unproductive for most of the season, so we and others have been counting these two among the Giants' free agents all along. Any salary cap projections you've seen have likely taken these two into account already, so the answer to the inevitable question about how much cap room these moves create is basically none. The Giants still project to have about $12 million to $13 million in cap room, though that number would go up to over $20 million if they were to release veteran offensive linemen Chris Snee and David Baas, as they likely will.

I think Webster's Giants days are done. He didn't seem interested in getting on the field this year, and while his contributions to two Super Bowl titles likely prevent the team from saying or feeling anything too negative about him, it's time to move on.

Myers is a more interesting case. The Giants saw something they liked in him a year ago, when he was coming off a 79-catch season with the Raiders. He didn't play well in 2013, but almost no one on the offense did, and if the Giants improve the play of the offensive line and the wide receivers, it's possible Myers could succeed playing in Ben McAdoo's west coast-style offense with Eli Manning throwing him the ball. The Giants need to find an answer at tight end, and while it's worth their time to explore other options in the draft and free agency, it's not completely out of the question to think they might end up deciding Myers is their best bet if he comes cheap enough.
So New York Giants safety Antrel Rolle watched the Super Bowl with his buddy, Packers tight end Jermichael Finley, and said Tuesday night that he's trying to convince Finley to join the Giants. Certainly, a peak-condition Finley would be a fun weapon for the Giants to add, but it's important to note Finley is coming off a severe neck injury and spinal fusion surgery and is no sure bet to be cleared by doctors to play again. He has said he expects to be cleared by his own doctors for contact in the coming weeks, but that doesn't mean the Packers, the Giants or any other team will pass him on a physical and sign him to a contract. So Finley remains a question mark, for the Giants and in general.

But with tight end Brandon Myers almost certain to be cut and not be missed, the Giants are looking for answers at that position. And if Finley does pass the medical tests, he'd potentially be a strong solution -- especially given his history with new Giants offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo, who came from Green Bay. But why not take this opportunity to look at some other possibilities for the Giants at tight end? All it is is snow and ice out there, so it's not like we can go anywhere.

Free agency

Finley is but one of many intriguing candidates who fall in the talented-but-flawed category. Detroit's 6-foot-5, 265-pound Brandon Pettigrew is a former first-round pick who hasn't developed the way the Lions would have hoped and might could stand a change of scenery. Baltimore's Dennis Pitta, if the Ravens let him go, is coming off a major hip injury but is a reliable receiver with a Super Bowl ring. Guys like Fred Davis and Dustin Keller have had some success in the league but come with other question marks. And sorry, but there's no way the Saints are letting Jimmy Graham reach free agency. Cross him off your wish lists.

The draft

In 2002, the Giants used the No. 14 pick in the draft on talented, dynamic tight end Jeremy Shockey. And while we all remember the ugly end to Shockey's Giants career, he was a very good player for them for a while. Could they repeat themselves 14 years later and use the No. 12 pick in the draft on North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron? And if they don't, would they take someone like Texas Tech's Jace Amaro or Washington's huge Austin Seferian-Jenkins in the second? It would not be an out-of-character move for the Giants to try to find a dynamic weapon for Eli Manning with an early pick. He could certainly use a few.

The current roster

Bear Pascoe is a free agent himself and not the answer as a receiver. Larry Donnell's basically a special teamer. So the intriguing guy in the mix here is Adrien Robinson, the fourth-round pick in the 2012 draft who has participated in only three games in the first two years of his professional career. The Giants drafted Robinson as a project because they liked his size and talent, but they knew there was a risk he might never develop. Injuries kept him out of the lineup all through 2013 until the Week 16 game in Detroit, when he was active for the first time all year but injured himself on the opening kickoff and didn't play again. If the Giants have something in Robinson, there's been no way so far for them to find out. They obviously can't count on him as their starter going into 2014.
Just because I've been busy all week with Super Bowl coverage doesn't mean I've forgotten about my New York Giants fans. As always on Saturday morning, you have questions, and you used the #nygmail hashtag to post them on Twitter, so I will do my best to supply the answers.

Thanks for the questions. Enjoy the rest of your weekend and the Super Bowl.
It's Saturday, and that means New York Giants Twitter questions tagged with #nygmail throughout the week get answers. Be on the hashtag train or be under it.
It's almost over. I promise. And who knows? Perhaps you as a New York Giants fan are experiencing some sort of catharsis as you live through our daily look back at five moments that shaped the Giants' 7-9 season. I won't pretend the memories are pleasant, but I hope you're finding that they've at least been presented in an entertaining way. Laugh to keep from crying, maybe. Who knows?

No. 2: Picked off in the Windy City

Yes, it was a cool Thursday night, Oct. 10, in Chicago and the Giants were beyond desperate. They were 0-5 and in need of a win, and Eli Manning had thrown interceptions on each of the first two possessions of the night to run his league-leading total to a stunning 14. Yet somehow, Manning and the Giants had the ball in the final minutes of the game trailing by only six points. Manning converted a third-and-7 from his own 28 with an 11-yard pass to Hakeem Nicks. And strong runs by Brandon Jacobs and Da'Rel Scott had moved them to the Bears' 35-yard line with two minutes to go. In between those runs, Manning had nearly thrown his 15th interception of the year -- a pass to tight end Larry Donnell down the right side of the field that very well could have been picked off by Bears cornerback Tim Jennings but wasn't. The Giants had gotten a break, and they had a chance.

But on second-and-9 from the Chicago 35, they ran that same play again, this time with tight end Brandon Myers. For weeks afterward, there would be debate about whether Manning's throw was too high (which it was, a little) or whether Myers should have been able to catch it (which he should have, really), but the debate was all hollow because the result was what counted. It was Jennings who caught it, sealing Manning's third interception of the game and 15th of the season and ensuring the loss that would drop the Giants to 0-6.

They would win their next game, 11 nights later against the Josh Freeman-led Minnesota Vikings. Heck, they would win their next four and stay mathematically alive. But that night in Chicago, when Manning's final pass was picked off and he stood in a news conference close to tears and unable to explain why he couldn't win games anymore, was the night that made it clear this wasn't going to all be OK after all.

Looking at Giants draft needs

January, 9, 2014
Jan 9
Our NFL draft team's division-by-division look at draft needs stops today on the NFC East Insider, and -- surprise! -- the top three needs Steve Muench lists for the New York Giants are all on offense. Steve lists offensive line, tight end and wide receiver as the top positions for the Giants to address in the draft, and lists some candidates at each of those spots. It's an Insider article, so I can't give it all away, but here's a piece, along with a list of players Steve suggests as possibilities at those three positions:
Improving the pass rush is important, but getting Manning back on track is imperative, so receiver gets the nod for the third need. Hakeem Nicks is expected to leave via free agency, and Louis Murphy isn't under contract for next year. While 2012 second-round pick Rueben Randle has flashed, he's inconsistent.

OL: Alabama's Cyrus Kouandjio* (OT), Stanford's David Yankey* (G), Arkansas' Travis Swanson (C)
TEs: Washington's Austin Seferian-Jenkins*, Texas Tech's Jace Amaro*, Iowa's C.J. Fiedorowicz
WRs: Vanderbilt's Jordan Matthews, Penn State's Allen Robinson*, Clemson's Martavis Bryant*

I can't argue with the idea that the Giants need to address offense in many ways this offseason. The extent to which it will turn out to be a draft priority in May will depend on how they spend their money in free agency. But addressing the offensive line in the draft makes sense, because their problems there stretch beyond the immediate. Their lack of quality replacements in the pipeline behind their injured starters on the line this season was a major issue, and they need to address the line as a long-range project, not as a collection of 2014 roster holes.

Similarly, tight end is worth addressing if there is a quality candidate there in the early rounds. The Giants have changed their No. 1 tight end each of the past four seasons, and sometimes it's been successful and other times it hasn't. Their thought process is that the tight end hasn't been a top target in their offense and that tight ends coach Mike Pope can get the best out of anyone they bring in. But Brandon Myers was a major disappointment this season and ended Pope's run of success with one-year stopgaps at the position. They need someone who can block in the run game, and who can be at least a safety valve for Eli Manning as a receiver. It's possible, too, that a new offensive coordinator would implement a system in which the tight end is more important as a receiver. Either way, drafting a high-end talent at the position would alleviate the problem of trying to replace someone each and every offseason.

Upon Further Review: Giants Week 15

December, 16, 2013
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A review of four hot issues from the New York Giants' 23-0 loss to the Seattle Seahawks:

[+] EnlargeTom Coughlin
AP Photo/Bill KostrounTom Coughlin and the Giants are showing signs of frustration as they trudge down the stretch of a disappointing season.
Locker room strife? The Giants have held together admirably all miserable season long, in spite of an 0-6 start and a generally dismal performance by their offense even during their four-game win streak. But after Sunday's game, coach Tom Coughlin laid the blame deservedly at the feet of the offense, and safety Antrel Rolle strongly indicated that he agreed. Wide receiver Hakeem Nicks bristled at Coughlin's use of the word "pathetic," and tight end Brandon Myers tweeted, "If ppl on this team wanna take shots at me an say I have no passion they are mistaken. I give everything I have each an every week." The Giants aren't going anywhere this season. They can't even finish .500 at this point. But the leaders and the coaches could conceivably face a challenge in keeping the locker room together to maintain some semblance of respectability in the final two weeks.

Nicks' woes continue: It was easy to infer that Nicks was one of the players Coughlin suggested had to "fight harder for the ball," as Eli Manning was 1-for-4 for five yards and three interceptions when targeting Nicks on Sunday, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Manning is completing 56.8 percent of his attempts to Nicks this season with no touchdowns and six interceptions. The Giants entered this season hoping Nicks would have a big year and give them a difficult decision about how much to pay to sign him as a free agent. Instead, he has had a horrible one, and does not appear likely to be back. Amazing that he has fallen so far out of favor after being such a respected figure in their huddle and their locker room for his first four years.

Manning's miserable year: Manning has matched his career high for interceptions in a season with 25. He threw 25 in 2010, but he still has two games to go in this season. He was sacked three times in Sunday's game, extending his career high in that category to 36 for the season with two games to go. He was 2-for-10 with four interceptions on throws of 10 or more yards downfield Sunday. If Victor Cruz is out next week in Detroit, which is possible after he left the game with a concussion and a knee sprain, it's hard to imagine how the Giants' passing game has a chance to do anything. And a run game that gained 25 yards on 14 carries Sunday didn't inspire much confidence that it can alleviate any of the pressure.

One positive: The Giants did a good job limiting monster Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch between the tackles. He gained only 47 yards on 16 carries, though he did catch six passes for 73 yards. That looks like the kind of line top running backs were posting against the Giants back in September, which means the season has come full circle. Which is not, for the Giants, awesome.

Seahawks could give Cruz what he craves

December, 12, 2013
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- No matter how tough the opposing defense, by Thursday the New York Giants' offense is focusing on something about that defense it thinks it can exploit. So while the Giants know the Seattle Seahawks have as good a defense as any team in the league, they're more focused on what they might be able to do than what they won't.

[+] EnlargeVictor Cruz
Al Bello/Getty ImagesWill Victor Cruz get one-on-one opportunities against Seattle's secondary?
"Some of the things they do should give us some chances," offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride said Thursday. "Guys we have who are always clamoring for one-on-one opportunities, they're going to get them."

The guy who most fits that description this year is wide receiver Victor Cruz, who is 27 yards shy of his third straight 1,000-yard season but doesn't have a touchdown since September and has struggled to be as productive and explosive this year as he was in the last two.

"There's no question that we haven't been as effective in some of the other spots, so teams are gearing up to see where Victor is," Gilbride said. "And we've gotten a lot more doubles."

Gilbride wasn't naming names, but everyone knows that wide receiver Hakeem Nicks and tight end Brandon Myers have been disappointments this year as receivers. As the year has gone on and Nicks has consistently failed to play like his old self on the outside, Cruz has seen a lot more coverage. He says he takes it in stride.

"It's tough overall, having to face a double-team, having to face a lot of attention throughout the year," Cruz said. "But it's something you've got to battle and deal with. You want to call yourself an elite receiver in this league, it's something you've got to do."

Cruz says he takes it as a compliment that opposing coaches are scheming for him and concentrating extra attention his way. As for what Seattle will do, he's hopeful but not certain.

"I've seen them double (Falcons tight end) Tony Gonzalez a bunch, and a few other guys," Cruz said. "So we'll see if they do it. They're pretty much locked into a playoff spot, so I don't know if they'll be as risky as they might have been earlier in the season."

Even if he does see single coverage, it won't be easy. Seattle's defensive backs are some of the biggest and most physical in the league, led by 6-foot-3 cornerback Richard Sherman. Gilbride is preparing his receivers to take a physical beating Sunday.

"You've just got to prepare them to realize what they're in for," Gilbride said. "Guys are going to be up in your face, grabbing you, holding you. And if you think it's all going to be called and that's the solution to the problem, you're going to be sorely disappointed, because they have mastered the art."

The Giants are out of the playoff hunt. The Seahawks have clinched their spot and are almost certain to get the NFC's No. 1 seed. The individual matchups on the field will be worth watching Sunday, though, and the way the Giants' struggling passing game attacks Seattle's famed secondary will be as interesting as anything. Who knows? Maybe it's the week Cruz gets going.

Upon Further Review: Giants Week 14

December, 9, 2013
SAN DIEGO -- An examination of four hot issues from the New York Giants' 37-14 loss to the San Diego Chargers.

[+] EnlargeEli Manning
Jeff Gross/Getty ImagesEli Manning threw two more interceptions, bringing him closer to a new career high.
Penalties a killer: The Giants were flagged for seven penalties for 72 yards. The worst may have been Charles James' offside penalty that gave Nick Novak a second chance at a field goal (he missed from 41 yards but then made it from 36), but that was just one of four offside calls against the Giants. "There's no excuse for that," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "Watch the ball. That's what you do all day long. If you watch us practice, we put a ball on the end of a stick, and the player doesn't move until the ball moves. There's absolutely no excuse for jumping offsides." It's easy to use a word like "undisciplined" to describe a team that gets called for too many penalties, but I think sometimes a team that feels overmatched can start jumping early in an effort to tilt the advantage back in its favor. The Giants have certainly felt overmatched at times this season, and Sunday was a strong example of such a game.

Chargers run wild: The Chargers rushed for 144 yards on 40 carries. Ryan Mathews had 103 yards and Danny Woodhead added 42. Justin Tuck grumbled that the total had more to do with San Diego's number of rushing attempts than anything special they did against the Giants' defense. But the 144 was the second-highest single-game rushing yardage total against the Giants this season (Carolina had 194 in Week 3), and Mathews found holes all day. The Chargers ended up possessing the ball for 36:56, which was the second-highest time-of-possession total against the Giants this season, just behind Dallas' 37:10 in the opener.

Third-down woes: The Chargers entered the game with a third-down conversion rate of 46.4 percent, which was second-best in the league to Denver, and they improved it, going 10-for-15 on third down Sunday. The Giants have struggled with third-down defense all season, and rank in the bottom third of the league in that department. But this was especially bad. Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers was 7-for-10 for 128 yards and two touchdowns on third down, and that was another huge reason for the time-of-possession edge.

Eli's rough year rolls on: Hakeem Nicks was able to make some plays down the field for a change, and ended up with 135 yards on five catches. But quarterback Eli Manning struggled again, missing some key throws and once again unable to get the offense into a rhythm. The Giants struggled to protect him early in the game, and he took two more sacks to raise his career-high total to 33 for the season. He also threw his 19th and 20th interceptions of the season, putting him five short of his career high in that department with three games to play. He threw a touchdown pass to tight end Brandon Myers for the third game in a row, but Nicks doesn't have a touchdown all season and Victor Cruz hasn't caught one since September.

Nicks has rare big game in Giants' loss

December, 8, 2013
SAN DIEGO -- The easy joke is that you can forgive New York Giants' wide receiver Hakeem Nicks for not knowing he wasn't in the end zone, since he hasn't been there all season. Nicks went up to catch Eli Manning's Hail Mary pass at the end of the first half of Sunday's 37-14 loss to the Chargers. He outfought defenders for it and came down with the ball at the six-yard line. Then he got up and started acting as though he'd scored a touchdown, because he believed he had.

"I thought I was in the end zone until I got up and everybody was just looking at me," Nicks said. "I was thinking, 'Why isn't anyone celebrating?'"

Nicks did nothing wrong on the play. He went for the ball and got it. Had he actually been in the end zone, he would not have been able to catch it. But as it stands, he is still without a touchdown catch in this, the final season of his contract with the Giants.

He didn't have a bad game, though. He caught a 51-yard pass early in the game that he thought would help the offense get going. He had a 28-yarder in the second half, and ended up with 135 yards on five catches. He and tight end Brandon Myers each were targeted seven times to lead the team. And the two Nicks didn't catch, while they weren't uncatchable, were balls Manning threw behind him on short routes across the middle.

"Each week I strap it up and I'm ready to go," Nicks said. "I had a lot more opportunities today and I wanted to take advantage of it."

It's hard to imagine the Giants re-signing Nicks, especially since he'll likely be looking for the biggest contract he can get. But a strong final month would help him in that pursuit, whether it's the Giants who sign him or some other team.

Injury report: McBride questionable

December, 6, 2013
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Giants starting cornerback Trumaine McBride (groin) is questionable for Sunday's game against San Diego after being limited in practice all week.

McBride missed last Sunday's game against Washington after suffering an injury the previous week against Dallas.

"He looks like he's going to be OK," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said.

The Giants will be without Jason Pierre-Paul (shoulder) and Corey Webster (ankle) against the Chargers, while Brandon Jacobs (knee) is doubtful. Brandon Myers (groin) is probable.

Here's the full injury report:


DE Jason Pierre-Paul (shoulder/did not practice)
CB Corey Webster (ankle/limited)

RB Brandon Jacobs (knee/did not practice)

CB Trumaine McBride (groin/limited)

TE Brandon Myers (groin/limited)
CB Terrell Thomas (knee/limited)


LB Jarret Johnson (hand/full)
WR Eddie Royal (toe/chest/did not practice)

OT King Dunlap (neck/full)
OT D.J. Fluker (ankle/limited)
DE Lawrence Guy (toe/full)
C Nick Hardwick (neck/full)
WR LaVelle Hawkins (knee/full)
DE Corey Liuget (knee/full)