New York Giants: Jason Pierre-Paul

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.

Jason Pierre-Paul: 'Don't count us out yet'

November, 21, 2014
Nov 21
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The Dallas Cowboys always bring out the best in Jason Pierre-Paul.

On the field and off it.

A month ago, Pierre-Paul played his best game of the season in the New York Giants' 31-21 loss in Dallas. The next day, he said the Giants could win their remaining nine games.

[+] EnlargeJason Pierre-Paul
Al Bello/Getty ImagesThe Giants have gone from 3-4 to 3-7 since JPP's first "run the table" proclamation.
Now it's time for the Giants to play the Cowboys again, on Sunday night at MetLife Stadium. And even though the Giants have gone from 3-4 to 3-7 since his first "run the table" proclamation, Pierre-Paul doubled down on it Friday.

"Don't count us out yet," Pierre-Paul said. "We made it hard on ourselves, but we can dig out of this hole."

The Giants have lost five straight. They're four games behind the Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles, who are tied atop the NFC East with 7-3 records and only six games remaining.

As Pierre-Paul helpfully pointed out, both the Cowboys and Eagles still have to come to MetLife.

Also, as Pierre-Paul helpfully pointed out, he has some history with the Cowboys.

"When it comes to the Cowboys, I always play great against them," he said.

He has played well against them. In nine career games, he has seven sacks, his most against any opponent. Coach Tom Coughlin singled Pierre-Paul out after the first Dallas game this season, pointing out how well he did while lined up against Tyron Smith, the Cowboys left tackle who was coming off winning the NFL's Offensive Player of the Week award.

"He's good competition," Pierre-Paul said. "He brings it. I bring it. He's one of those tackles you've got to study real hard."

Pierre-Paul is playing for a new contract, so there's little doubt that he's motivated to be at his best the rest of the season ("I would love to be a Giant next year," he said Friday). But he insisted that the Giants still have plenty to play for as a team, too.

"They've got to come through here," he said. "You know what I mean. Every team's got to come through here. Any team that comes through here, we're going to be playing our hardest. We've made it hard on ourselves, in this predicament that we're in right now. We can dig ourselves out of it by winning all these games. We've got six games left. Let's win them. I think we can.

"I think we can run the table," he said. "Honestly, I do."

He always says that. Honestly, he does.

First, they need to find a way to beat the Cowboys, who have beaten the Giants three straight times.

"We had a great week of practice," he said. "Everybody did their jobs, running to the ball, interceptions, getting to the quarterback, stopping the run. Those are things we need to do. Special teams need to step up. Offense needs to step up. We've all got to play as one.

"If everybody plays as one, we're going to win this game."

He's said it before. He'll say it again.

One of these times, he may even turn out to be right.

Prediction: Giants will beat Cowboys

November, 21, 2014
Nov 21
During their current five-game losing streak, the best game the New York Giants' offense has played was the Week 7 loss to the Cowboys in Dallas. In that game, according to ESPN Stats & Information, the Giants had an offensive EPA (expected points added by offense) of 5.36.

That is by far their best number in any of their seven losses, and it's a better one than they had in their Week 3 victory against Houston. They were done in by two costly turnovers in that game, and by the defense's inability to get off the field on third down against DeMarco Murray and the Cowboys' offense, but on the whole Eli Manning and the Giants' offense played well.

Can the defense step it up if the offense gets it going again? Based on the fact that the Cowboys always seem to wake up Jason Pierre-Paul, who has more sacks (7) and more tackles (25) against them than he does against any other team in his career, I'll say sure, why not? The Giants aren't going to lose the rest of their games, and a home game against a rival while facing elimination feels like as good a time to pick them as any.

Prediction: Giants 24, Cowboys 21

Giants' last-ranked defense stands up

November, 16, 2014
Nov 16
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- All week long, the New York Giants defense was reminded time and time again that statistically they were the worst unit in the NFL.

Well, they did something about it Sunday afternoon.

The Giants held Colin Kaepernick & Co. in check, for the most part, giving up just 16 points. But that was enough for the 49ers, thanks to the Giants' ineptitude on offense.

[+] EnlargeColin Kaepernic
Robert Deutsch/USA TODAY SportsThe Giants defense held Colin Kaepernick to under 200 yards passing and just 24 yards rushing.
It was a much better defensive effort than last week's debacle in Seattle, but the players were not satisfied after the game.

"There were positives to take from it," said defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka. "But a loss is a loss, and it hurts just as much."

"We lost the game. I’m not happy about nothing right now," said fellow end Jason Pierre-Paul.

A week after being gashed for 350 rushing yards by the Seahawks -- the third-most allowed in a single game in team history -- the Giants held the 49ers to a much more modest 148 on 37 carries.

Frank Gore (19 carries, 95 yards) had a pretty good day, but the Giants limited Kaepernick to 24 yards on eight carries.

"We executed our plays better, and handled that read-option better too," Pierre-Paul said.

In the air, Kaepernick completed just 15 of 29 passes, for 193 yards. The Giants gave up one big play, but it was a very damaging one -- a 48-yard touchdown grab and run by Michael Crabtree early in the third quarter, San Francisco's lone touchdown of the game.

"I think we played some good football at points. I think at points we gave things up," said middle linebacker Jameel McClain. "We got back to playing assignments and trusting in the scheme and everybody doing their job and playing passionate, so I’m very excited about that. But we obviously didn’t do enough."

Keep in mind, the defensive unit we watched Sunday looked very different than the one we saw at the beginning of the season. The Giants were without starting defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins, starting linebackers Jon Beason and Jacquian Williams, and starting cornerback Prince Amukamara due to injury.

The Giants' other starting cornerback, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, was shuffled in and out of the lineup as well because of a sore right leg. And he didn't look very good when he was on the field, getting beaten by Crabtree on the touchdown.

There's certainly room for improvement. The Giants' D got just one turnover -- a fumble by Gore on the very first possession of the game (recovered by cornerback Zack Bowman). They had just one sack (by Robert Ayers, who leads the team with five). And Pierre-Paul was quiet, with just one tackle on the afternoon.

But overall the Giants did have five tackles for loss -- one apiece by Ayers, Kiwanuka, McClain, Devon Kennard and Mark Herzlich, who played well (nine tackles) filling in for the injured Williams.

"The defense obviously had listened to enough and they played with good physical play," coach Tom Coughlin said. "They made plays out there today and got a lot of stops."

The Giants may not be ranked dead-last in defense anymore once this week's games are over. But that would be little consolation with the team now 3-7, having lost five games in a row.

"I want to win, I don’t want anything else," Kiwanuka said. "I don’t want moral victories, I don’t want anybody to pat half of us on the back. I want us to get a win."
A lot of season still left, lots of New York Giants questions remain. Some of them even come with the #nygmail hashtag on Twitter. Like these.

@DanGrazianoESPN: There are multiple issues at work with regard to a Jason Pierre-Paul contract extension. The Giants have the money and the cap room to do it, but there remains a chance that Pierre-Paul could turn out to be this year's Hakeem Nicks if he doesn't produce at a consistently high level over these final seven games. The Giants were very pleased with his game against the Cowboys a few weeks back, but less so with his performance against the Colts and Seahawks. Pierre-Paul will be seeking a significant contract in line with those of the league's elite pass-rushers, and if the Giants aren't convinced he is one of them, they're not going to want to pay him what he wants. The way to look at it is this: The Giants will need to find a foundation piece for their pass rush this offseason among the free agents and high draft picks available. It's entirely possible, if he performs the way he and they believe he can, that Pierre-Paul is that piece and they give him a contract that reflects it. But if the performance doesn't improve (and remain consistent), and if he wants more money than they believe he's worth, the Giants will move on to other options. At this point, their hope is that he convinces them he's their guy. But they're not convinced yet. @DanGrazianoESPN: Rookie left guard Weston Richburg and second-year right tackle Justin Pugh are having rough years at their respective positions, though the word "development" is an important one when discussing players this young, and it's important to remember that young, developing players are inconsistent and can improve. As for potential moves inside, Richburg was a center in college and was drafted as one, and if the Giants hadn't been impressed with J.D. Walton in camp, Richburg might have been the starting center Week 1. So they do see him at that position long term, though at this point they're happy with Walton and don't feel the need to make a move like that. The way Richburg and Walton have played relative to each other so far this year, such a move wouldn't even be justifiable. As for Pugh, the book on him before the 2013 draft was that he was a college tackle whose physical traits made him more suited to guard in the NFL. The Giants have stubbornly insisted that they view him as a tackle, and they cite his impressive 16-game rookie performance as evidence to support that. So at this point, they don't view him as a guy they'll eventually move to guard. That could change if all of a sudden they come up with a bunch of superior options at tackle. But right now they don't have those, and their preference is to let Pugh continue to work to get better and ideally be a long-term solution for them at one of the tackle spots. @DanGrazianoESPN: That's a good question, because the answer lies in figuring out which of these guys can be long-term building blocks for them, as opposed to short-term hole-pluggers. I believe they view cornerbacks Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Walter Thurmond as guys who can long-term solutions at that position, though Rogers-Cromartie is on his fourth team already and I don't know how Thurmond's season-ending injury affects their view of him. (He's a free agent after this season.) Robert Ayers has shown more than I think they expected and could stick around as part of a rebuild of the pass rush. Running back Rashad Jennings could theoretically stick around a while, but he already has suffered a pretty serious knee injury, and that reminds us that running backs don't tend to hold up in this league. @DanGrazianoESPN: While I understand the desire to keep the analytical equation simple, I think it's far too simple to say the Giants hired offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo to be Tom Coughlin's successor. And if Coughlin is out at the end of this year, which is possible if the final seven games go poorly, it's almost impossible to imagine them elevating 37-year-old McAdoo to the position of head coach after one season ever as a coordinator and a play-caller at any level. The Giants see a potential future head coach in McAdoo, as did many of the other teams that interviewed him for jobs last offseason. But I don't think they're in a rush to make him one. If he's to be Coughlin's successor, Coughlin likely has to stick around a few more years while McAdoo continues to develop as a young coach. So my answer is that it's possible, but not necessarily likely and far from certain. If and when the Giants move on from Coughlin, it's likely to be a major, sweeping kind of change.

Thanks for all of the questions. Enjoy the rest of your Saturday. Chat at ya Sunday from MetLife Stadium.
SEATTLE -- When the New York Giants finished last season 7-9, owner John Mara famously declared the offense "broken," and the team set about totally retooling with a new coordinator and a new scheme.

Following Sunday's 38-17 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, the Giants are 3-6 and headed for another disappointing, non-playoff season. And while the offense isn't exactly setting the world on fire, this time it's the defense that looks broken and headed for major offseason change.

The Giants gave up a must-be-a-typo 350 rushing yards to the Seahawks on Sunday. Running back Marshawn Lynch had 140 yards and four touchdowns. Quarterback Russell Wilson had 107 rushing yards and the other touchdown. Four different players carried the ball for the Seahawks and every single one of them averaged more than five yards per carry. As a team, they averaged 7.8.

[+] EnlargeMarshawn Lynch
Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY SportsThe Giants' defense seemed helpless against the Seattle ground game, giving up 350 rushing yards.
"That hurts," said Giants cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who could be seen hollering on the sideline in an effort to fire up his defensive teammates at various points in the game. "Because that means they're just lining up and hitting you in the mouth, they're more physical and they want it more. And I know that can't be the case."

The Seahawks did win the physical battles Sunday, but worse was the Giants' inability to figure out Seattle's zone-read offense. They appeared to guess wrong on almost every play, especially in an second half in which Seattle outscored them 24-0. When they should have been swarming toward Lynch up the middle, they were playing too wide. When they should have been playing contain on Wilson on the outside, they were swarming the middle. Wilson had easy decision after easy decision, and the Seahawks picked the Giants' defense apart.

"Our defense is all about knowing what your assignment is and doing it," safety Antrel Rolle said. "You can't beat yourself in this league. If you have the dive, take the dive. If you have the quarterback, take the quarterback."

The excuses are there for the Giants if they want them. They're playing without three of their top four cornerbacks and their starting middle linebacker, all of whom are out for the season due to injuries. Rodgers-Cromartie and defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins were playing hurt Sunday. It's clear they're outmanned on both sides of the ball, and the reason is that they're still piecing back together a roster that was so hollowed out by the end of last season that they had no choice but to load up on free agents in an effort to plug holes.

However, all of that understood, the defense is playing at an inexcusably poor level. The Giants are allowing an average of 456 yards per game during their current four-game losing streak. They did collect three turnovers Sunday, and the first two were the main reason they had a 17-14 lead at the half. But they're still allowing too many big plays due to too many missed assignments, and overall they're just not stopping anyone.

"We'll be OK," defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul insisted. "We've just got to get it right. We've got seven games left. We'll be OK."

I don't know what Pierre-Paul is talking about. Yes, things could get better in December, when they stop playing playoff teams and start lining up against the Jacksonville/Tennessee/Washington/St. Louis portion of the schedule. And assuming they can run off some wins toward the end of the year as they did last year, head coach Tom Coughlin still has a strong chance to salvage his job.

But on defense, there's no one who should currently be assuming things will be all right. Coordinator Perry Fewell, at this point, does not deserve to return in 2015. Pierre-Paul, who's headed for free agency, isn't a sure thing to be back. Rolle is a pending free agent whom the team loves, but he's going to be 32, and how much money will he want? If the Giants react to this year's defensive performance the way they reacted to last year's offensive performance, all bets are off, and they have to think seriously about which of their current players fit into whatever new scheme their new coordinator will be installing.

"We've got to get better," Rolle said. "Everyone. Players, coaches, we have to find an answer, because right now the answer's not there."

Increasingly, as it did last year, it looks as though the answer is somewhere in the offseason, somewhere outside the organization. Because regardless of injuries, talent deficiencies or strength of schedule, an NFL defense simply has to be playing better than the Giants' defense is playing right now. There's no question the Giants' defense is broken, and will require an extensive fix once this season is over.

W2W4: New York Giants

November, 8, 2014
Nov 8
The 3-5 New York Giants travel to Seattle to play the 5-3 defending Super Bowl champion Seahawks in a 4:25 p.m. ET game Sunday. Here are three things we'll be watching closely:

1. What will (can) they do in coverage? Injuries have decimated the Giants' cornerback corps, which began the season as the team's deepest and strongest position group. Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell, asked about his reaction to Prince Amukamara's season-ending injury last week, looked up at the sky and said, "What did I do wrong?" Fewell and the rest of the Giants' coaches will have to patch something together without Amukamara, Walter Thurmond, Trumaine McBride and possibly Zack Bowman, who missed practice time this week with an abdominal issue. The inexperience level at the cornerback position is staggering right now, and their best corner, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, hasn't been able to play a full game for more than a month due to back and leg injuries.

2. Can they get to the quarterback? The issues in the secondary will put even more responsibility on the defensive line to get pressure on Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, who Fewell pointed out is the league's leading rushing quarterback on third downs this year. The Giants have a pedestrian total of 14 sacks so far this season in eight games, putting them on pace for just 28, or six fewer than they had last year. Jason Pierre-Paul needs to play better and finish off pursuit. Robert Ayers, who harassed Andrew Luck all Monday Night, needs to play more, ahead of Mathias Kiwanuka. The Giants likely won't be able or willing to blitz as much as they have so far this year due to their concern about Wilson beating them with his legs. So the guys up front need to get it done on their own.

3. How will they handle the noise? The Giants' offense around Eli Manning is also quite young and inexperienced right now, and a big part of Sunday will come down to how well the young receivers, running back and linemen handle the world-famous noise levels at CenturyLink Field. Manning said Thursday that they've been working all week on their non-verbal communication at the line. They struggled in an indoor domed stadium in Week 1 in Detroit, and that was when they still had Victor Cruz and Rashad Jennings in the lineup. This is a big test for a still relatively untested group.

Jason Pierre-Paul questions Giants' heart

November, 6, 2014
Nov 6
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- On Tuesday, Antrel Rolle said the New York Giants lack passion. Two days later, Jason Pierre-Paul said the Giants don't have enough heart.

Not very encouraging -- particularly coming from two of the team's best defensive players.

"Honestly, it is not all about attitude, it is all about heart," Pierre-Paul said Thursday, when asked about the Giants' attitude heading into the second half of the season. "You can have the attitude, you can have the swagger, you can talk your way, but it is all about heart. If you don’t have the heart to play this game, then we are going to continue losing.

"That is with every guy, every guy has to challenge their self to play more and do more than what they expect," he continued. "When it comes down to it, it is all about heart. If you don’t have heart, that is something you can’t give a player, you just have to have it."

Soon after, Pierre-Paul was asked if that heart is missing on the Giants. "It's definitely missing from a lot of guys," he said. "But we'll get it together. We’ve got tomorrow, and then we play Sunday."

Rolle and Pierre-Paul may just be trying to fire up their teammates, heading into Sunday's game in Seattle against the Seahawks. Playing the defending Super Bowl champions, on the road no less, is a daunting task.

The Giants are heavy underdogs, and another loss would be their fourth in a row, dropping them to 3-6 -- on the precipice of falling out of the playoff race.

The pressure is on -- and speaking of pressure, the Giants desperately need to put more pressure on the quarterback, particularly now that their already-depleted secondary has lost Prince Amukamara for the rest of the season, and may be without his replacement, Zack Bowman, too.

Eight games in, the Giants have just 14 sacks, tying them for 23rd in the league. Pierre-Paul is the team leader, but he only has 3.5, putting him on pace for seven -- a far cry from the 16.5 he had in 2011.

"Twelve [sacks] would be nice," Coughlin said, when Pierre-Paul's 16.5-sack season was mentioned Thursday. "He’s very explosive in practice, and sometimes not as explosive in games. We’re trying like heck to work with his technique a little bit more to give him a little bit of an edge. That’s basically where we are."

Pierre-Paul had two sacks in the Giants' previous game against the Cowboys, but wasn't nearly as effective against the Colts on Monday night. He was dealing with a shoulder injury late last week, but has not appeared on the team's injury report this week.

Coughlin believes technique is the issue. "Sometimes he doesn’t get the jump on the ball that I’ve seen him get," Coughlin said. "It kind of all goes together."

"I don’t know what you are talking about," Pierre-Paul said, when asked about Coughlin's comments. "I am watching more film, like I always do, I am watching film of myself and criticizing myself. I always take criticism from the coaches. ... As long as they tell me, 'Hey, look, this is what you need to do,' I do it. Whatever they ask me to do, I do it."

Pierre-Paul admitted he didn't play well against the Colts. "Last game I saw a lot of mistakes out there on my part," he said. "I could have played really better than I did last game. Come off a bye week, I could have been much better."

The Giants will be on a big stage Sunday against the defending champs -- giving Pierre-Paul the chance to prove he's still got game, and his teammates the chance to prove they're not a bunch of Tin Men.

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The 2014 New York Giants are not a very good team. They never were a very good team, and now that the big injuries have set in, they don't even look as though they can be competitive with the league's legitimate contenders. The Giants are 0-5 against teams with a winning record and 3-0 against teams with a losing record, and Monday night's 40-24 home loss to the Indianapolis Colts did little but reinforce what we already knew.

Coach Tom Coughlin challenged his team last week to "play above the X's and O's," but given the Giants' health situation, their inexperience and the talent level of their personnel, that's too much to ask at this point. The alarming thing about Monday night was the extent to which the Giants played below the X's and O's: the touchdown given up because the defense wasn't ready; the inability to convert a third down; the maddening, continued, fruitless search for a running game.

"You've got to have a lot of passion about this game," safety and defensive team captain Antrel Rolle said early Tuesday morning. "We're not taking it. We have to fight harder."

They do. The Giants have eight games left in this season. The rules say they have to play all eight. Coughlin will demand they prepare and play their absolute best in all eight, whether they're contenders or not. So the question becomes, What can they get out of the second half of another lost season? The answer: quite a bit.

[+] EnlargeManning
Al Bello/Getty ImagesThe 2014 season has been frustrating for Eli Manning and the Giants, but the next eight games will be used to weed out the roster for 2015 and beyond.
The final eight games of this Giants season will be about finding out who's part of the solution and who isn't. The Giants began a rebuilding project last spring, and as they brace for the extreme likelihood of missing the playoffs for the fifth time in the past six years, they must carefully evaluate the ability, desire and fit of every player they have. They need to know what they have that's worth building on.

"You can't say we're not prepared, we're not focused, not practicing hard," cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie said. "That's one thing about Coach Coughlin -- he's not going to let that happen."

Those who demonstrate an ability to function in the Giants' program will stand in good stead for 2015 and beyond. Those who don't, no matter how much they make or in which round they were drafted, will not. The evidence for this was on the field Monday night wearing a Colts No. 14 jersey: former first-round pick Hakeem Nicks, who yawned his way out of town with a miserable contract year in 2013. Just 26 years old and a Giants Super Bowl champion, Nicks was clearly not into what they were doing here anymore, so they decided in the spring not to make him a part of what they were doing in the future, either.

So, yes, you'd better believe people are playing for jobs right now. The group the Giants are running out there on a weekly basis is very young and still learning, but the people who run the team are going to be watching closely to see how hard those young players are working, what the competition means to them and how they're developing in the system. Former first-rounder Jason Pierre-Paul is where Nicks was a year ago, and if he's looking for a big contract in free agency, he's got to deliver big to convince the team to give it to him. Left tackle Will Beatty, who signed a big free-agent deal two offseasons ago, needs to play like someone who deserves to keep it. Rolle is an impending free agent. Heck, Eli Manning is going to be looking for a contract extension at the end of this year.

And this goes for the coaches, too. It's hard to imagine a Coughlin team bottoming out and finishing 4-12 or 3-13 -- especially after last year's hollowed-out husk of a roster didn't. But if such a thing happens, Coughlin is not automatically safe. If Perry Fewell's defense keeps giving up big plays, he's not guaranteed a job in 2015. It's hard to see them cutting offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo loose after just one year, but the first-year playcaller is like every other rookie around here -- he has to show promise in order to make the Giants feel good about sticking with him beyond 2014.

These are tough times around the Giants. No one likes losing, and no one likes the feeling of not being good enough to compete week to week. If it's all pointing to better things in the future, it's easier to take. But those who want to stick around and be part of those better things need to spend the final eight games proving they can help make them a reality -- or they won't get the chance.
A New York Giants bye week doesn't mean a break from the Twitter mailbag. And thanks to your curious and judicious use of the #nygmail hashtag, here it is.

@Dan GrazianoESPN: The Giants are going to have a decision to make next offseason on left tackle Will Beatty, who carries a cap number of $8.05 million in 2015 and $9.175 million in 2016. They could get out of the deal, if they wanted to, by making Beatty a June 1 cut next year. This could happen if (a) he doesn't play better, (b) they think Justin Pugh is ready to move to left tackle, (c) they find a better and cheaper tackle solution in the draft or (d) all of the above. If they decide to stick with Beatty, then you have to figure that at least four-fifths of next year's line is already on the team in Beatty, Pugh, Geoff Schwartz and Weston Richburg, and center J.D. Walton has a two-year contract, too. Now, can any of those spots be upgraded? Of course. And it's never a bad idea to look for building-block pieces on the offensive line early in the draft. Look at that Dallas Cowboys line that's getting all of that positive attention. Three of its starters were first-round picks in the last four years. It's no coincidence. If you invest in top-level talent on the line, it pays off. The Giants have shied away from doing that in recent years, but by picking Pugh in the first round in 2013 and Richburg early in the second this year, they're at least trending toward sensibility there. It wouldn't be crazy for them to add a key piece to the line next year via the draft or free agency.

@Dan GrazianoESPN: Other than the Giants (whom he's never played, obviously), the only three NFL teams Eli Manning has not yet defeated are the Colts (0-2), the Chargers (0-3) and the Titans (0-2). The first two are interesting connections, since Manning's big brother played for the Colts in both of those games and the Chargers are the team that drafted him and for which he famously did not want to play. I have no idea how to explain the 0-2 against the Titans. But the Giants do play both the Colts and the Titans this year, so there exists the chance that, by the end of the season, San Diego will still be the only opponent Manning has not defeated in his NFL career.

@Dan GrazianoESPN: I feel like I've answered this question a lot, but I guess not enough people have read my answers. Giants GM Jerry Reese is not on any sort of hot seat, nor in any danger of losing his job. The Giants do not fire general managers. They have employed a grand total of three of them in the past 36 years. They believe strongly in the importance of continuity in leadership positions, and they are pleased with the job Reese has done overseeing the direction of the franchise. They will not fire him because he's been a poor drafter, though you are correct in saying he has been. Since Reese took over as GM in 2007, only three Giants draft picks (Ahmad Bradshaw, Will Beatty and Zak DeOssie) have signed second contracts with the team. Reese has delivered Super Bowl titles but has not found building blocks in the draft, and that's the reason last year's roster was so hollowed-out and required a free-agent-centric offseason rebuild. The record is what it is, and it's not good. But rather than fire him and start over, the Giants will leave it to Reese to re-evaluate the manner in which the draft is orchestrated and make changes as need dictates. Prince Amukamara, the 2011 first-round pick you cite here, has a chance to stick around, as does 2010 first-rounder Jason Pierre-Paul. The way this year goes for both of those players (who are both off to good starts) will dictate whether either or both can earn a contract extension in the offseason. And if they become long-term building blocks, Reese's draft record has a chance to start looking a bit better than it does right now.

Thanks for all of the questions. Enjoy a weekend without angst. 
Jason Pierre-Paul didn't have his best game two weeks ago against the Philadelphia Eagles and star left tackle Jason Peters, but he rebounded well enough Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys and star left tackle Tyron Smith that New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin singled him out in a team meeting Monday morning.

"Coach Coughlin mentioned him specifically as having a great game, and when we went back and watched the film, we were amazed," Giants cornerback Prince Amukamara said. "He dominated."

Pierre-Paul had two sacks in the Giants' 31-21 loss in Dallas, getting the better of Smith, who the previous week had become the first offensive lineman in 10 years to a win a conference Player of the Week award. Pierre-Paul was complimentary of Smith prior to the game, but he did note Friday, "I've won a couple of those [Player of the Week] awards too, you know."

He has indeed, and after he struggled through injuries that limited his production the last two years, that was easy for some to forget. But so far this year, Pierre-Paul has been a force for the Giants on the defensive line.

"He's always been an outstanding run player," Giants defensive line coach Robert Nunn said Tuesday. "He's been as good as there has been in the league. When he's healthy, he's as good a run player as I've been around. And with the pass rush, if he continues to stay healthy, it will show up. I think he has a better plan in the pass rush than he has ever had. He came into training camp and that plan developed for him. He's doing a good job attacking offensive tackles."

His 3.5 sacks put him on pace for just eight this year, which is not a number that would make a defensive end in search of a big free-agent contract very happy. But Pierre-Paul knows those sacks can come in bunches. In the meantime, if he continues to play well against the run, he knows the Giants (who've been preaching the importance of that to him since he was a rookie) will appreciate it come contract time. The Giants will have it in their budget to sign Pierre-Paul long term next offseason, and if he continues to play the way he's played so far this year, they'll be happy to give him the kind of deal that stamps him as the cornerstone of their pass rush for the present and the future.
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The two weeks that were going to tell us all about the 2014 New York Giants went about as poorly as they could have gone and told us everything we needed to know.

The Dallas Cowboys beat the Giants 31-21 on Sunday at AT&T Stadium to improve to 6-1. They lead the NFC East by a half-game over the idle Philadelphia Eagles, who are 5-1 and beat the Giants 27-0 last Sunday. The Giants are 3-4, well behind two teams that just beat them, and as they head into their bye week, they look absolutely nothing like a team with playoff hopes.

"This is our bye week, and when we come back, we want to be a great team," defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul said. "We have a good football team. When we get those kinks out of there, we'll be all right."

That is the right way for the players in the locker room to think, because their job is to take the field every week and give an honest effort to win games. But to those of us who stand on the outside and evaluate these teams against one another, it's clear that these Giants are not that good. They're not a terrible team, as they were this time last year, but they're not a contender either. They are a rebuilding team and clearly have been since they changed up the offense and blew out the free-agent budget in the offseason, signing more free agents than any other team.

And while the remainder of this year is likely to feature periods of encouraging progress, right now the Giants just don't have enough good players to hang with the top teams in the league.

"We've got to figure out a way to get better," quarterback Eli Manning said. "We have to eliminate the mistakes and the little things so we can execute better and find a way to sustain more drives."

The Giants were penalized six times for 40 yards, and the timing of the penalties was backbreaking. They lost two fumbles, the first of which came at a point when the game was still in question.

These are the mistakes to which Manning refers, and the Giants aren't a team that can overcome such mistakes. Given their significant personnel deficiencies relative to their division rivals, they need to be just about perfect to win games.

The Cowboys' offensive skill-position players Sunday around quarterback Tony Romo included Dez Bryant, DeMarco Murray, Terrance Williams, Jason Witten and emerging tight end Gavin Escobar. Their opposite numbers on the Giants were Rueben Randle, Andre Williams, Odell Beckham Jr., Larry Donnell and Daniel Fells. Size those groups up against each other and there's no reason to believe the game should have been close. That Giants' core has talent and promise, but no neutral observer could think it compares to the Cowboys' offensive personnel at this stage in the careers of the people on those lists.

Add in the fact that the Giants are missing top wide receiver Victor Cruz, starting running back Rashad Jennings, top cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and starting middle linebacker Jon Beason due to injury and lost starting defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins early in Sunday's game. These are significant losses to overcome, and the Giants at this stage in their roster rebuild don't have the depth to overcome them.

"We keep forgetting about that, because we have to come back and play next week," cornerback Prince Amukamara said. "But when you do lose key players, it definitely can hurt your team."

It's crippling the Giants, who needed everything possible to go right to contend this year. In the end, the best they can hope for this season is to be able to say at its end that they made progress in the new offensive scheme and have a plan for patching the remaining holes next offseason. Any talk of firing coaches is likely to be unjustified -- as it usually is -- because this is a roster-in-progress and a project that likely needs at least two years to bear fruit.

That's the reality of what the Giants are dealing with in 2014, and it always has been. Players like Beckham offer hope for the future, and this Giants team is likely to be better this time next year than it is right now. But right now, the simple fact is it's not good enough to be a contender. Not this year.

W2W4: New York Giants

October, 18, 2014
Oct 18
The 3-3 New York Giants travel to Dallas for a 4:25 p.m. ET game on Sunday against the 5-1 Dallas Cowboys. Here are three things we'll be watching:

1. Another tough matchup for Jason Pierre-Paul. The Giants' top pass-rusher had a tough time Sunday in Philadelphia against Eagles left tackle Jason Peters. Things get no easier this week against Dallas left tackle Tyron Smith, who last week became the first lineman to win an Offensive Player of the Week award since 2004. Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell raved about Smith on Thursday, calling him "the lynchpin of the offense." This ESPN Insider piece from Christopher Harris Insider this week ranked "DeMarco Murray behind left tackle kick-out" as the second-most unstoppable play in the NFL right now, and the left tackle in that equation is obviously Smith. Pierre-Paul is sound against the run and won't be overly aggressive as is the pass-rusher in Christopher's example (Robert Quinn), but that doesn't mean he'll have an easy time winning one-on-one against Smith, who's playing his position as well as anyone in the league.

2. Can the Giants get the offense in rhythm? The Eagles' pass rush so overwhelmed the Giants' offensive line Sunday night that Eli Manning and the offense couldn't get anything going. Their offense is rhythm-driven and must be on the field collecting first downs at a steady clip in order to operate effectively and score points. The Cowboys aren't likely to attack them as fiercely, but the way they slow down an offense is by boring it to death on the sideline. Dallas' average per-game time of possession is 34:02, which is the fourth-highest in the league. If they can run the ball with Murray as effectively as they have been, they can keep Manning and the Giants' offense off the field -- as they did to Russell Wilson and the Super Bowl champion Seahawks on Sunday in Seattle -- and knock them out of their rhythm that way.

3. Who replaces Victor Cruz? With starter Rashad Jennings out last week, the Giants used a combination of Andre Williams and Peyton Hillis at running back to little effect. Cruz, the Giants' top receiver, is out for the year due to a knee injury suffered in Sunday's game. The Giants are going to have to mix-and-match with some combination of Preston Parker, Kevin Ogletree and Corey Washington to replace Cruz's production while Rueben Randle and Odell Beckham Jr. serve as primary receiving weapons along with tight end Larry Donnell. It's not going to be easy, and the passing game is likely to suffer for the absence of Cruz and Jennings. Manning just doesn't have as many short-range options as he did two weeks ago.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Left tackle Tyron Smith of the Dallas Cowboys just became the first lineman in 10 years to win an Offensive Player of the Week award. New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul is not among those who might be surprised by that.

"He's that good, definitely," Pierre-Paul said of the 23-year-old Smith. "He's as tough as there is in the whole league."

[+] EnlargeTyron Smith
AP Photo/James D. SmithTyron Smith, the first offensive lineman in 10 years to win player of the week honors, is just one Cowboy who presents the Giants with matchup challenges.
This will be the second week in a row that Pierre-Paul faces a tough test in the opposing left tackle. He had his worst game of the year last week against Philadelphia Eagles left tackle Jason Peters. And things don't get easier Sunday in Dallas against Smith, who's a huge part of the reason the Cowboys and DeMarco Murray are leading the league in rushing.

"He's playing at such a high level, JPP and our defensive linemen will have to play at their best to neutralize this guy," Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said. "And that's what you want to do -- neutralize him."

It won't be easy, but you can look all over the two depth charts for Sunday and find matchups that aren't going to be easy for the Giants.

The Cowboys are 5-1 and playing extremely well. The Giants (3-3) are without their best wide receiver, best running back and maybe their best cornerback and are coming off an ugly 27-0 loss. A list of Dallas' offensive personnel includes wide receivers Dez Bryant and Terrance Williams, tight end Jason Witten, league-leading rusher Murray and Smith, who's one of three recent first-round picks starting on their impressive offensive line. Line up the Giants' offensive depth chart against that, and on paper it clearly looks outmanned.

Which is why, when it comes to the Pierre-Paul/Smith matchup, Fewell may have summed up the key to the Giants' chances in this game.

"Our best guy is on him," Fewell said. "So I think it'll be a heavyweight battle."

It has to be. If Pierre-Paul loses his matchup with Smith the same way he lost Sunday's to Peters, the Giants are going to have a hard time overcoming that. All over the field, there are Giants who have to play as big as possible in this game. It's possible cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie won't be able to play, and even if he can he's obviously not himself. (He estimated himself at "60 percent" Thursday). That could mean Prince Amukamara needs to cover Bryant and deliver a flawless performance if he's to stop him. Quarterback Eli Manning -- assuming his line can keep the pass rush off of him for at least a couple of seconds this week -- needs to play the way he did in Weeks 2-5, and to outperform a very comfortable Tony Romo.

In short, the Giants' top players have to be at the very tops of their respective games for this one, because there aren't going to be enough of them there. On offense, they're without Victor Cruz, Rashad Jennings and Geoff Schwartz, who represent more than 18 percent of their offensive salary cap spending. On defense, they're without Walter Thurmond, Trumaine McBride and possibly Rodgers-Cromartie, who make up more than 13 percent of their defensive cap spending. These are players to whom the Giants have committed major resources, and they're not available to them. That means the other big-resource guys -- Manning, Pierre-Paul, Amukamara, Jon Beason, etc. -- have to excel to make up for the losses.

It won't be easy, but the Giants believe in the players they're running out there Sunday. This is a chance for many of them to justify that belief and deliver a win that would qualify in almost anyone's eyes right now as an upset.

Giants' Antrel Rolle: 'We took the day off'

October, 13, 2014
Oct 13
PHILADELPHIA -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the New York Giants' 27-0 loss to the Eagles:
  • Giants safety and team captain Antrel Rolle said, "We took the day off. No rhyme or reason for it. In this league, you can't take days off, and we did. Everyone." That was the theme in the locker room -- that the Giants were beaten thoroughly on both sides of the ball from the start. "We just didn't come out and play physical enough," defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul said. "They were the better team and they won this game. They wanted it more today."
  • Obviously, the Giants were distraught over the season-ending injury to wide receiver Victor Cruz. Defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka hadn't heard the diagnosis of a torn patellar tendon until reporters told him. "That's about as bad as it can get," Kiwanuka said. "The sad thing about this game is, every week, somebody's season is over. Most times you don't even see it, they go to commercial and come back and the game keeps going. But that's our teammate out there. We feel that."