New York Giants: Damontre Moore

Giants' McClain calls Rams 'dirty team'

December, 21, 2014
Dec 21
ST. LOUIS -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the New York Giants' 37-27 victory over the St. Louis Rams on Sunday:
  • McClain
    Linebacker Jameel McClain walked from the field to the locker room hollering, "Dirty-ass team! That dirty [stuff] doesn't help you win! They suck as an organization!" This was in obvious reference to the Rams, as the Giants felt they'd been targeting Odell Beckham Jr. with cheap shots all game and trying to get under his and the Giants' skin. "I'm just not interested," McClain said later. "I had a lot of respect for the things their defense did. I'm just not interested in chippiness and dirty play. It's not what this game is about, and it has no room in the league." Jason Pierre-Paul and Antrel Rolle were among the other Giants to use the word "dirty" to describe the Rams.
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    "Doesn't anyone want to talk about the game?" a frustrated Giants coach Tom Coughlin asked after several questions about Beckham and the first-half brawl. Seconds later, he ended his postgame news conference early with a sarcastic "Happy Holidays" and stormed out before his "game" questions could be asked -- or before someone could explain to him that when you're 6-9 and were eliminated on Thanksgiving, it's not unreasonable for people to ask about the brawl that saw two of your players get kicked out of the game or the continued maturation and development of your superstar rookie before they ask about the game. Not Coughlin's finest moment.
  • For his part, Beckham said Coughlin spoke to him about his ball-spinning end zone celebration that drew the flag, and Beckham apologized on behalf of himself and the team for his role in sparking the brawl. But he said he wouldn't apologize for playing with passion or for his teammates' standing up to protect him and one another. Damontre Moore, who along with Preston Parker was ejected for his role in the brawl, said he felt bad he let his team down by getting ejected, but he wouldn't do anything differently if the same circumstances presented themselves.

Rapid Reaction: New York Giants

December, 21, 2014
Dec 21
ST. LOUIS -- A few thoughts on the New York Giants' 37-27 victory over the St. Louis Rams on Sunday at the Edwards Jones Dome:

What it means: If the Giants are looking for reasons to feel good about their team going into next season, this game was loaded with them. The Rams had not allowed a touchdown since Week 12, but the Giants scored four of them and rolled up 514 yards in the process. Quarterback Eli Manning was 25-for-32 for a season-high 391 yards and three touchdowns. Odell Beckham Jr. was incredible again, with eight catches for 148 yards and a pair of touchdown catches, including an 80-yarder in the third quarter. Rueben Randle went for more than 100 receiving yards and caught a touchdown. Andre Williams had 100 rushing yards. Orleans Darkwa scored a rushing touchdown. I mean, everybody was into the act here. It was as complete an offensive performance as the Giants have delivered all season, especially when you consider they were facing one of the league's toughest defenses.

Stock watch: Randle -- Up. Few Giants needed a big game more than Randle did. The third-year wideout has been clearly surpassed by his former LSU teammate, Beckham, all season, and he's been benched twice in the past month by Tom Coughlin for being late to team meetings. But he started Sunday's game and played very well in catching six passes for 132 yards and a touchdown. In doing so, he likely helped his own confidence and the team's faith in him moving into next season.

Ugliness: The Rams clearly wanted to be physical and deliver messages to Beckham, and things got out of hand in the second quarter. Rams linebacker Alec Ogletree delivered a completely unnecessary late hit out of bounds on Beckham, then the two of them shoved each other in the face on the ground, which touched off an ugly brawl that saw Giants receiver Preston Parker, Giants defensive end Damontre Moore and Rams defensive end William Hayes ejected for fighting. It appeared Moore also was called for a foul on an official, which could result in a suspension for him.

Game ball: Manning. The Giants' QB was on the money all night, in full command of the offense and pinpoint with decisions and throws. He was 25-for-32 for a season-high 391 yards and three touchdowns and completed passes to six different receivers. He checked into a run call on a play that resulted in a 45-yard Williams run. It was the most comfortable and in command he's been all season.

What's next: The Giants will wrap up their 2014 season with a 1 p.m. ET home game Sunday against the 9-6 Philadelphia Eagles, who were eliminated from playoff contention with the Cowboys' victory Sunday. It will be the fifth game in a row in which the Giants and their opponent have both been eliminated from playoff contention. The Eagles beat the Giants 27-0 in Week 6 in Philadelphia, in the game in which Victor Cruz suffered his season-ending knee injury.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- It was a celebration play, complete with celebrations that went a little bit too far over the top. New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin didn't love that Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie high-stepped his way into the end zone with his interception of Zach Mettenberger in the fourth quarter of Sunday's blowout win, and he didn't love that veteran safety Antrel Rolle celebrated in a manner that earned him a penalty flag.

But the whole thing was undone by a different penalty -- one on second-year defensive end Damontre Moore for leveling Mettenberger after the interception. That penalty nullified the touchdown and prompted Moore to apologize to Rodgers-Cromartie after a sideline lecture from Coughlin.

Moore said the issue was a failure to understand the rules. He said he believed he could hit the quarterback after the interception to prevent him from making a tackle. But it's not that cut-and-dried, and there are rules that prohibit a player from leveling said quarterback if he's far from the play.

"That's bad on my part that I didn't know the rule all the way," Moore said. "If I had known the rule all the way, I would have made a smarter play. I should be better aware of all the rules of the game. That's my fault."

Coughlin bought Moore's explanation and said he honestly believed Moore didn't think he'd done anything wrong until he explained it to him.

"We all know I've got penalties before, and he's ripped me a new one," Moore said of Coughlin. "This time, he didn't rip me a new one."

Moore is in his second season in the NFL, but he's still only 22 years old. He has the physical talent to be a disruptive force for the Giants on defense, but Giants coaches have talked openly about his struggles to consistently understand and carry out his assignments. Even after the Giants put two defensive ends on injured reserve last week, they used defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins as a starter at the position Sunday rather than elevate Moore to that spot. They don't believe they can fully trust him yet on running downs, and they cite discipline as a key issue for him as he works to improve.

"I apologized to DRC and to the whole defense. I took points off the board," Moore said. "But I don't apologize for being an aggressive player and trying to make a play. I just needed to know the rule better."
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Observed and heard in the locker room following the New York Giants' 36-7 victory over the Tennessee Titans:
  • lastname
    The Giants hadn't won a game in 63 days. So coach Tom Coughlin told his team how proud he was of their continued week-to-week effort and to revel a bit in the fact that it finally paid off with a win. "We're going to smile," Coughlin said. "We're going to enjoy this. We're going to be joyous, and we're going to smile about this before we get started on Washington."
  • Wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. said he was upset with himself on his long touchdown-pass attempt in the first quarter because he should have gone to his second read, Preston Parker, who was "wide open." Quarterback Eli Manning laughed when he heard that. "He only had two receivers on the route, so there were only two reads," Manning said. "Receivers always want to go deep all the time. He wanted to throw it deep. So no surprise there."
  • Manning spent a little more time than usual in the trainer's room after the game but said he was "just getting iced down on some things, nothing serious." Manning has not missed a game since becoming the Giants' starter in 2004.
  • Defensive end Damontre Moore got an earful from Coughlin after his penalty for taking out the quarterback negated the touchdown part of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie's interception-return-for-touchdown. Coughlin said he "truly believed" Moore didn't realize there were rules about when you can and can't hit the quarterback during an interception return. Moore said he didn't know, but that he should have. "I should be better aware of all the rules of the game," he said.
NASHVILLE -- After missing two days of practice last week with a sprained right ankle, New York Giants running back Rashad Jennings is officially active for Sunday's game here against the Tennessee Titans. The question now is how much the Giants can expect him to play.

From what I have been told, the Giants' plan is to use Jennings mainly on passing downs, with rookie Andre Williams getting the start and most of the first-down and second-down work. It's possible, if Jennings looks good early, his role could expand as the game goes along. But for now, they're planning to lean on Williams against the Titans' No. 31-ranked run defense and use Jennings as a receiving option and pass protector on third downs. The Giants officially listed Williams as their starting running back.

In other news, the Giants are using Damontre Moore as the starting defensive end opposite Jason Pierre-Paul with both Robert Ayers and Mathias Kiwanuka having been placed on injured reserve last week. Spencer Paysinger starts at weakside linebacker with Jacquian Williams and Mark Herzlich back home dealing with concussion symptoms.

Here is the full list of Giants inactives, which only has six names on it this week because the Giants only have 52 players on their 53-man roster:

LB Mark Herzlich
LB Jacquian Williams
OL James Brewer
G Eric Herman
CB Jayron Hosley
RB Chris Ogbonnaya

W2W4: New York Giants

December, 6, 2014
Dec 6
The 3-9 New York Giants travel to Tennessee for a 1 p.m. ET Sunday game against the 2-10 Titans. The Giants' last win was Oct. 5. The Titans' last win was Oct. 12. Someone's got to win this one, and here's what we'll be watching from the Giants' end as they try to break their seven-game losing streak.

1. Holding onto the ball. The Giants lead the NFL with 13 lost fumbles and are tied for third in the league with 25 turnovers. They've lost their past three games by a total of 10 points, and their cumulative turnover differential in those games is minus-7. It's not hard to figure out what they need to do differently in order to get their first win in two months. From Eli Manning to Larry Donnell to whoever's carrying the ball in the run game, the Giants need to figure out ways to hold onto the ball better than they have been lately.

2. Who steps forward in the pass rush? We've been saying for weeks that defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul needs a big finish in order to get the big free-agent payday he's expecting this offseason. But the bigger question for this week is what the Giants will get from the pass rush on the other end of the line. Will defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins (assuming he's healthy enough to play) move over and start at defensive end? Will they start second-year dynamo Damontre Moore, or is he still too unreliable on run downs? Is rookie Kerry Wynn worthy of more playing time after looking good in his debut last week? Unless there's a credible pass-rush threat from the left side of the defensive line, the Titans and the rest of the teams the Giants play this year will be able to key on Pierre-Paul and take him out of games.

3. Run, run, run. The Giants rank No. 32 in the NFL in run defense. The Titans rank No. 31. The Giants' running back situation is a little bit muddied due to the injury to Rashad Jennings, and it could fall to rookie Andre Williams to carry the load. The Titans' No. 1 back is rookie Bishop Sankey, who's been inconsistent. But if ever there was a game in which a couple of struggling rookie running backs could get it going, it's this one.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants put two defensive ends on injured reserve this week, so if you've been thinking you'd like to see second-year end Damontre Moore get more playing time, this has to be your week, right?


Right, Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell???

"He'll be in a rotation," Fewell said Thursday. "He won't be an every-down player for us."

Any analysis of Moore and his playing time must factor in that he's only 22 years old, still younger than rookie phenom Odell Beckham Jr., and that the main reason he hasn't seen the field more on defense is that the coaches don't see enough consistency in practice to trust him in games. If he can't master his assignments or figure out how to stay onside in the field house on Thursdays, what kind of mess is he going to make against a real opponent on a Sunday? Sure, he can get in there and bat down a pass or block a kick, but too many times he's either committing a penalty or getting swallowed up by blockers because he took the wrong first step or got knocked to the side by a tight end because he's not big enough.

"He's a better pass defender than he is a run defender," Fewell said. "We'd like for him to play the run stouter than he's doing now."

The Giants are hoping that defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins can return from his calf injury this week. Jenkins has some experience playing defensive end, and it sounds as though he has a chance to start at that defensive end spot opposite Jason Pierre-Paul if he can play. He, Moore and rookie Kerry Wynn, who made his NFL debut Sunday in Jacksonville, would be in that defensive end rotation now that Robert Ayers and Mathias Kiwanuka are done for the year.

But as exciting as he can be at times, it's clear Moore is still a project, at least in the eyes of the Giants' coaching staff. Asked what he needs to improve to become a regular player in the league, Fewell said, "Strength, power and discipline," which basically encompasses everything you would think a defensive end needs to be successful in the NFL.

"How much he'll get into the weight room, how much strength he develops," Fewell said. "You have to have good strength at the point of attack to be able to strike, shed and defend."

Moore will get more playing time, simply out of necessity at this point. But don't expect the Giants to just hand him a starting spot because one has come open. They still don't think he's ready.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants' coordinators only address the media once a week, so Friday was the first chance we had to speak to defensive coordinator Perry Fewell about what went wrong in Sunday's loss to the Dallas Cowboys. There was a lot to ask.

Start with the Tony Romo touchdown pass to Cole Beasley -- the 45-yard catch-and run in the third quarter that cut the Giants' lead to 21-17. Beasley caught the ball over the middle with no one covering him, Zack Bowman missed a tackle and Jayron Hosley couldn't catch Beasley as he raced for the end zone. Middle linebacker Jameel McClain blitzed on the play, which was apparently the first mistake.

"He was not supposed to pressure on that play. He was supposed to be in coverage. That was an error," Fewell said.

Fewell said he didn't know why the error occurred -- whether McClain misinterpreted the call or confused it for another similar call from the same formation. But he admitted that mistakes such as these are frustrating.

"That's why I don't have hair," Fewell quipped. "It's not genetic. That's the reason why I don't have any hair."

The Giants have been fine with the way McClain has played for the most part since taking over at middle linebacker for the injured Jon Beason. But there is a reason they signed Beason to a big free-agent deal in the offseason, and they do miss him.

"It's like you lost your starting quarterback," Fewell said. "You lose a guy who, he really didn't practice in the preseason and they elect him captain based just on what he did from last October through OTAs. That says a lot about a guy."

But Fewell knows he has to get by without injured players. That's life as a coach in the NFL. So the fact that he's taking the heat for things like his new middle linebacker missing an assignment and helping give up a long touchdown does not come as a surprise to him.

"That comes with the job," Fewell said. "I'm responsible for it."

He also addressed the personnel groupings and strategy on the Cowboys' game-winning touchdown drive -- something head coach Tom Coughlin seemed to question earlier in the week. Fewell said the main reason he didn't have his pass-rush personnel on the field for that entire drive was that there was a lot of time remaining on the clock and he couldn't be certain the Cowboys would be passing on every down.

"It really wasn't a two-minute situation, so to speak," Fewell said. "They had a lot of time on the clock, so they could run it, they could do a number of things."

Nonetheless, he did admit that pass-rusher Damontre Moore was supposed to be on the field for the final touchdown pass to Dez Bryant, and that the coaches deserved blame for not having the right personnel on the field in that situation.

"We just didn't do a good enough job managing that," Fewell said. "That was a poor job on our part."

Changes coming on Giants' D-line? Perhaps

November, 26, 2014
Nov 26

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin admitted the obvious on Wednesday: His team's pass rush has been a major disappointment this season.

"It is something that has been missing the majority of the time this year," Coughlin said. "The effectiveness of pressures, whether they come out of the secondary, the linebacker level, we have not been good with that.

"Plus, to be honest with you, we’ve had some missed assignments when those are called. The responsibility starts with me."

It may start with Coughlin, but it quickly extends to defensive coordinator Perry Fewell and the players themselves. Yes, Fewell could've called more blitzes against the Cowboys last Sunday, particularly on that final drive. But the guys up front have failed to live up to expectations this season.

Starting defensive ends Jason Pierre-Paul and Mathias Kiwanuka have a combined six sacks -- 3.5 for Pierre-Paul, 2.5 for Kiwanuka. Pierre-Paul had 16.5 in 2011 and Kiwanuka had as many as eight in 2008.

"We’d like to think we would be a better team with pressure," Coughlin said. "There are a bunch of guys up front that are supposed to be known for that."

Robert Ayers leads the team with five sacks and is also tops in quarterback hits (12) and quarterback hurries (24), according to Pro Football Focus. This despite the fact that he has played only 350 snaps. In comparison, Pierre-Paul has played 651 and Kiwanuka 558.

Ayers had gotten more playing time of late, until the game against the Cowboys, when he was in for only 20 of 55 defensive snaps and was not on the field for Dallas' game-winning drive.

When asked Wednesday if he felt he was benched, Ayers shrugged, then said, "I’m not the starter, so how can a backup be benched? The guys that started the game were the guys that played (at the end)."

"Ayers has had some success, (but) didn’t play very well last weekend," Coughlin said earlier.

For what it's worth, Ayers was credited with three of the Giants' six quarterback hurries against the Cowboys, despite the limited amount of snaps. And he received a positive grade for the game from Pro Football Focus -- in fact, he got the highest grade of any defensive player on the team.

"Maybe? That’s his assessment," Ayers said, when Coughlin's criticism was brought to his attention. "The way I viewed it was, there wasn’t any other game this season when the starters didn’t finish the game. If I was benched, I was benched. I don’t know."

Speaking of sacks, second-year defensive end Damontre Moore had one of the Giants' two against the Cowboys (Kiwanuka had the other). But Moore played only six snaps and has played only 167 on the season, despite being active for every game.

"Young Damontre, everybody wants him in the ballgame. He did have some success the other day with one sack," Coughlin said. "He should have been playing a little bit more."

When asked why we haven't seen more of Moore, Coughlin indicated that poor performances in practice are the reason.

"Because there are times, to be honest with you, during the week when you talk about confidence level, whether it’s assignment football or whatever -- for whatever reason, it hasn’t been something that we thought he knows exactly what he’s doing and so on and so forth," Coughlin said. "The practices have to fulfill the idea that we can go ahead and play him under all kinds of circumstances is what we’d like to do, not just on third down."

The Jacksonville Jaguars, the Giants' opponent this coming Sunday, have given up 43 sacks through 11 games, the worst total in the entire NFL. So if the pass rush is going to come alive this season, this would be the week.

But the Giants have just 19 sacks in 11 games, ranking them 26th in the league.

At 3-8 and virtually eliminated from playoff contention, perhaps it's time for the Giants to give guys like Ayers and Moore a bigger opportunity to show what they can really do.

W2W4: New York Giants

November, 2, 2014
Nov 2

The 3-4 New York Giants return from their bye week for a Monday Night Football matchup against the 5-3 Indianapolis Colts at MetLife Stadium on at 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN. Here are three things we'll be watching closely from the Giants' end:

1. The pass rush: Colts quarterback Andrew Luck is the league's leading passer, and wide receiver T.Y. Hilton leads the league in receiving yards. They like to throw the ball, and Luck likes to spread it around to different receivers. The best hope for the Giants' defense is to get to Luck quickly to limit his ability to go through his progressions -- a task likely made more difficult by Luck's underrated speed and willingness to run. There was a lot of talk around the Giants last week about getting second-year pass-rusher Damontre Moore more involved in the defense, and his speed might be an asset against Luck if he's able to play within the system and under control. As team, the Giants have just 13 sacks in seven games, and the Colts have allowed just 13 in eight games. So it's not going to be easy for the Giants to get to Luck. If they can find a way, it could impact the game significantly.

2. The deep passing game: On Monday, Giants GM Jerry Reese said he'd like to see the offense be more aggressive. On Thursday, quarterback Eli Manning said the plan would remain the same and the Giants' passing game would take what's available to it and continue to work to find easy completions and avoid sacks and interceptions. The guess here is that Manning ends up being right, but as rookie speedster Odell Beckham Jr. gets more acclimated to the offense, it's possible they'll try to spring him deep a few times and stretch the field against the Colts' secondary. Indy's pass rush has been inconsistent from week to week, so if the offensive line can keep the defense off of Manning, there might be a chance to find someone open a bit further down the field. Not that he's looking for it.

3. Old friends: Former Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw is having a renaissance season, leading the Colts in rushing and leading the league in receiving touchdowns by a running back. Former Giants wide receiver Hakeem Nicks has been a disappointment in his first season in Indianapolis (as he was in his final season in New York), but as we've mentioned, Luck does like to spread the ball around. And if ever there were a game for which Nicks would be motivated to elevate his game, it could be this one. Two of the key members of the Giants' most recent Super Bowl title team, Bradshaw and Nicks, will certainly draw the attention of the Giants' defense on Monday Night.

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- One of the more common frustrated-fan questions I get about the New York Giants is when they'll let second-year pass-rusher Damontre Moore play more on defense. General manager Jerry Reese mentioned earlier this week that he'd like to see it. Defensive line coach Robert Nunn said last week he planned to try it. Even head coach Tom Coughlin mentioned in his Thursday morning news conference that he'd like to get Moore involved in the pass-rush rotation, though Coughlin did add, "and Robert Ayers as well."

It's all reasonable and understandable. Moore has electrifying speed and talent and has shown an ability to make an impact on special teams and on defense. And part of the reason they picked him in the third round of the 2013 draft was because they thought his college production indicated he was a player who could help right away, at least as a situational pass-rusher.

But the answer I give when I get the question is that Moore is still quite young (he just turned 22 last month) and inexperienced and hasn't yet earned the trust of the coaching staff. You know who knows this as well as anyone? Damontre Moore does.

"We've been putting more of an emphasis on making sure I'm fundamentally sound in my technique, but Rome wasn't built in a day," Moore said Thursday. "This second half of the season, I want to make sure I'm more fundamentally sound and studying my opponent more, doing all of the little things and making sure I don't leave anything to chance. I have to prove I know my scheme and make sure my teammates know they can trust me not to make mistakes."

That's it. Once the Giants feel they can put Moore into a key spot and trust him not to jump offside or overpursue a running back or make any number of mistakes you'd expect a high-energy 22-year-old to make, they'll play him more. They only have 13 sacks so far, and it's not as though Mathias Kiwanuka is playing at such a high level at defensive end that there aren't reps to be had. With defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins likely out a few weeks with a calf injury, Kiwanuka and Ayers are going to have to play inside more, and that could be the chance for Moore to demonstrate whatever improvements he's made on his own reliability.

"I've got all the right people saying it," Moore said of his chances of getting more plays. "I'm just waiting for it to come when they say it's going to come, like everything else has. I think I can make some things happen."
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Don't think the New York Giants are taking enough shots downfield in their new offense? Well, you have some high-profile company. Giants general manager Jerry Reese agrees with you.

"I just think, as an offense, we have to be more aggressive," Reese said in his annual midseason news conference Monday. "At times, we're a little bit almost too cautions with what we're doing offensively. This is the National Football League. You've got to go out there and you've got to win the game. You can't expect something to fall into your lap. You've got to take the game. And I think we've got to be more aggressive offensively.

[+] EnlargeEli Manning
Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsMore than two-thirds of Eli Manning's throws this season have been for fewer than 10 yards downfield.
"I appreciate Eli taking care of the ball and not turning it over, because that's what leads to wins a lot of the time. But you can't be too cautious. You've got to throw the ball down the field. You've got to score points in this league to win."

This was a startling comment because it runs directly counter to everything that quarterback Eli Manning, coach Tom Coughlin and offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo have been saying about this new Giants offense. Manning spoke last week about how he's learned to get rid of the ball rather than take chances with tough throws he used to take (and how much he likes that change). And Coughlin spoke last week about the team's reliance on the run game as a means of avoiding turnovers following Manning's 27-interception 2013 season. Each made it clear that the plan would not change. But Reese made it clear Monday he'd like to see some changes.

"I'd like to see us be more aggressive going down the stretch," Reese said. "If you turn the ball over, you're going to lose in this league. But you still can't be too careful. You have to throw the ball down the field. You have to be more aggressive. You have to give your receivers a chance to make plays. You've got to score points. If you don't score points, it's hard to win."

The Giants (3-4) rank 22nd in the league in points per game. According to ESPN Stats & Information, 67 percent of Manning's passes this season have been thrown fewer than 10 yards downfield, up from 61 percent in 2013, 61 percent in 2012 and 60 percent in 2011. So this is a conscious and determined change, whether Reese likes it or not. That has not stopped him from communicating his opinion on the matter to the coaching staff.

"I'm just giving you what my opinion is," Reese said. "We talk every week about, 'How do we win the next game?' Every Monday we meet. And we don't sugarcoat anything. We go in there and talk real talk. So we've had conversations about this, yes."

Very interesting. My take on this is that, in an organization with less secure leaders, this could be an issue. With the Giants, less so. I found it surprising that Reese, who only makes himself available this one time during the season because he wants to let the coaches coach the team and not appear to be meddling, would admit publicly to disagreeing with Coughlin and his staff on such a significant matter. But I believe him that he's expressed his opinion in meetings, and it's obviously possible that the coaching staff has thanked him for it and told him they would continue trying it their way. And that such conversations will continue as part of the regular weekly course of things.

By the way, this wasn't the only such issue that came up. Reese shares an opinion with the vocal portion of the fan base about second-year defensive end Damontre Moore as well.

"I think he needs to play a few more snaps," Reese said of his 2013 third-round pick. "I think, when he gets into a game, he makes something happen. So I think he's progressing, but I think he needs to play a little bit more."

Again, on this matter, Reese has made his opinion known and then stepped back to allow the coaches to do what they want with it. Moore is still very young and hasn't yet earned the trust of the coaching staff to an extent that would allow his role in the defense to expand.

"We have conversations about everything," Reese said. "We don't sugarcoat anything. I don't coach the game. It's the heat of the moment. And those guys, they've been coaching a long time. They know who to play."

And they also, apparently, don't have to wonder who (or how) the GM wants them to play.
No game this week for the New York Giants. We will try to fill that emptiness in your life with a second Twitter mailbag. I hope it comes close.

@DanGrazianoESPN: The point I've been trying to stress in my writing, really since March, is that "one major move" isn't what the Giants need to help them for the long-term. The Giants are a team in the early stages of a rebuilding project. They are a team with a clear plan for what they want to be and how they want to play moving forward. They have stability in the front office, on the coaching staff and at quarterback. They have young and developing players in key roles, and those players need experience and time in order to get better. I understand the desire for the big splash, but the Giants don't tend to make those big splashes, and based on where they are right now, they shouldn't. There is talent on the team, but it's largely underdeveloped -- in the receiving corps, for instance, where Rueben Randle, Odell Beckham Jr. and Larry Donnell all show promise but need more work. The Giants will need to monitor those players' development and augment the roster with strategic free-agent or draft additions. But if you're a Giants fan right now, you have to be thinking along with the people running the team, who'd love to win in the short-term but are primarily focused on rebuilding a sustainable contender for the long-term.

@DanGrazianoESPN: This question is about Damontre Moore, the second-year defensive end the Giants picked in the third round of the 2013 draft. I agree that Moore shows "game-changing talent" at times (though not "every time"), especially on special teams and in strict pass-rushing situations where he doesn't have to think and can just use his speed, energy and athleticism to make plays. The answer to your question, however, is that Moore still hasn't progressed as a reliably disciplined player against the run, and therefore can't yet be trusted on early downs. And as talented as he is in the pass rush, there are still parts of his game there that have to be refined before he's a reliably consistent option even on passing downs. I wrote last week about the concept of development as it's applied to emerging Giants tight end Larry Donnell, and the concepts in that story apply to other players as well. Moore is extremely young. He didn't turn 22 until last month. The high sack total in his final year at Texas A&M was one of the reasons the Giants drafted him -- figuring they could deploy him as a pass-rusher right away and develop a good player around his raw instincts. At this point, that process is ongoing. And just because he's not a major contributor right now doesn't mean he can't or won't be eventually. The Giants believe in developing players, and they are working to develop Moore. If he shows more progress, he'll play more. If he doesn't, he won't.

@DanGrazianoESPN: Obviously, it can happen this year. They're nowhere near eliminated, and the NFL is impossible to predict. To this point, the Giants haven't shown an ability to beat the better teams on their schedule, but that doesn't mean they won't come roaring out of the bye week and start doing just that. The main issue they face, though, in comparison to the 2011 season, is that the teams ahead of them in the division right now have excellent records. The Cowboys are 6-1 and the Eagles are 5-1. The 2011 Giants limped through much of the season and were 7-7 through 14 games. But they were able to win the NFC East with a 9-7 record in an exceptionally down year for the division -- the full season in its history in which the NFC East's champion had fewer than 10 wins -- and get into the playoff field that way. That doesn't look to be an option this year, and even if the Giants find a way to finish very strong, continued success by the Cowboys and Eagles could make this year more like the 2010 season in which the Giants went 10-6 and missed the playoffs. But the fundamental answer to your question lies in the point I've been trying to make in the first couple of mailbag answers today -- that this is still a developing team. That 2007 team had already had some time to jell together, and of course the 2011 team relied on much of the core and the culture of the 2007 championship team. This Giants team still seems to be at the beginning of something, and likely needs time to develop its own personality and culture before it can build itself into a real championship contender. If Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning get into the playoffs, surely they'll be scary, because they know what it takes to win there. But this Giants group is not the 2007 or 2011 teams, and it may never be. Assuming it can or will be is a bit insulting to those teams, and it's an unfair expectation to put on this group as it works to come together.

Enjoy your football Sunday. I'll chat at you again Monday from East Rutherford.

Injuries could force the New York Giants' defense to look a little bit different in the weeks that follow this week's bye. Defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins strained his right calf in Sunday's loss in Dallas. Middle linebacker Jon Beason might need surgery to repair the toe injury that's been limiting him since June. And injuries at cornerback could lead the Giants to bring back the three-safety look they used on their way to their most recent Super Bowl title three seasons ago.

"The game plan last week was to have Stevie Brown in the game with the three-safety package versus certain personnel groupings," safeties coach Dave Merritt said Tuesday. "That worked out for us, because Stevie went in and did his job and did what we asked him to do. The fact that we used to play the three-safety package a ton back in the day was because of the fact that we had three veterans who were able to play. I'm talking about Kenny Phillips, Antrel Rolle and Deon Grant. Right now, we feel like we've tested the waters and we have the same right now in our camp here."

[+] EnlargeStevie Brown
AP Photo/Seth WenigStevie Brown could see more playing time as the Giants adapt to injuries in their secondary.
The plan coming into this year was to play three cornerbacks most of the time. The team signed Walter Thurmond to play the nickel spot, but he suffered a season-ending injury in September, and Trumaine McBride, who took over, suffered his own season-ending injury in Week 6. So they are down to their third-string nickel cornerback, Jayron Hosley, and they don't seem comfortable leaning on him to the extent that they leaned on Thurmond or McBride.

Brown entered the season as a starting safety, but he lost his job in Week 4 after a poor start to the season and was replaced by Quintin Demps. Coaches have been pleased with the work Brown has put in since the demotion, and they believe there are situations in which it's better to have him, Demps and Rolle on the field at the same time than it is to have three cornerbacks. This arrangement could force Rolle into the nickel spot, a position he has said in the past he's willing to play but prefers not to, but Merritt said they are comfortable with Brown in there as well.

On the defensive line, Jenkins' absence for at least a few weeks leaves the Giants thin at defensive tackle. But they have had success playing defensive ends Robert Ayers and Mathias Kiwanuka at interior positions in pass-rush situations this season, and they might decide to do that more going forward to augment the defensive tackle rotation. Rookie defensive tackle Jay Bromley likely will be elevated to the active roster in Jenkins' absence, but there's also a chance second-year defensive end Damontre Moore could get more looks on the outside when Ayers and/or Kiwanuka move inside.

"Damontre needs to continue to improve and stay focused on what we're doing on first and second down," defensive line coach Robert Nunn said. "He can do it. He's a lighter body, not ideal, but he can play it. He has to stay focused and continue to improve in that area, and he will get more at-bats. He's going to get more opportunities on third down, so he just has to keep coming along and improve on first and second down. If he does that, then he's going to get those opportunities in pass-rush situations."

Moore has shown exciting ability in pass-rush situations and on special teams. But he has yet to earn the complete trust of the coaching staff as a player who can stop the run (and avoid jumping offsides).

No trust issues at linebacker, though. When Beason missed time early in the season, Jameel McClain filled in for him in the middle. At the time, rookie Devon Kennard was hurt, so Mark Herzlich replaced McClain on the strong side. This time, if Beason is out a while, Kennard could be the one who sees more playing time.

"Now that he's healthy, he's contributing on special teams, and last week was able to go in the game and do some good things," linebackers coach Jim Herrmann said of Kennard. "It was good to see him get out and get some game experience, because that is invaluable for a young linebacker. The other guys love him. He's got a great personality, and he wants to be great. I think we'll see some really good things out of him."
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- It wasn't a fun week for New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz.

After last Sunday's drop-filled loss to the Arizona Cardinals, Cruz spent the week meeting with coach Tom Coughlin and fielding questions from reporters about why he wasn't catching the ball. By Friday night, Cruz was on Twitter, retweeting fan criticism of his hands, which is never a good look and a clear sign of frustration.

So Cruz's 61-yard catch-and-run in the waning moments of the first quarter was a load off his mind. And his 26-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter -- his first touchdown catch since Week 4 of last season -- was an absolute catharsis. When the game ended and the Giants had secured their first victory of the season, 30-17 against the Houston Texans, the dominant feeling in the locker room was clear.

[+] EnlargeVictor Cruz
Robert Deutsch/USA TODAY SportsVictor Cruz had five catches for 107 yards, including a 61-yarder, in the Giants' win against Houston.
"This takes a lot of weight off," Cruz said. "Any guy who was here last year knows what that 0-6 felt like. Nobody wanted to feel like that again."

The Giants are 1-2, which is obviously not where they wanted to be at this point. But it's a whole lot better than 0-3, and they just need to flip the calendar back one year to remind themselves of that. With a short week and a Thursday game in Washington on the upcoming schedule, the Giants needed this game badly.

They needed to play well and in rhythm on offense, and they did. Quarterback Eli Manning was 21-for-28 for 234 yards and two touchdowns, and running back Rashad Jennings had a career-high 176 rushing yards on 34 carries.

They needed to force turnovers on defense, and they did, collecting their first three interceptions of the season and overcoming a slew of terrible early mistakes. They included a goal-line fumble, a bad snap that botched a field goal attempt and a fake punt the Texans converted in the first quarter. Houston quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was not intercepted or sacked in the Texans' first two games, but Prince Amukamara, Antrel Rolle and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie each intercepted him Sunday and the Giants sacked him twice.

They needed to get a lead and hold it. They needed to win the time-of-possession battle. They needed their playmakers to make plays. Cruz obliged.

"This really helps us gain confidence that we're going in the right direction," Cruz said. "This is something to build on."

The Giants needed that more than anything. What we saw Sunday wasn't necessarily some season-turning event. This was clearly a flawed Texans team that was without its best offensive player, running back Arian Foster, and isn't comfortable with Fitzpatrick throwing the ball as a means of scoring points. The Giants remain a flawed team that will struggle with high-level competition, and Sunday didn't change that.

But after the way they played in the preseason and the first two weeks of the regular season, the Giants needed a performance that reminded them they are capable of playing well and winning. Sunday was that game. The offense clicked, especially in its up-tempo, no-huddle incarnation. The line held up against a tough pass rush. The defense pressured Fitzpatrick and made plays on the back end. Damontre Moore blocked a punt.

"Good win for our team. We needed it," Coughlin said. "A lot of guys played well. I'm looking forward to looking at this tape."

And isn't that a good feeling for the Giants to have for a change?