New York Giants: nick foles

Eagles vs. Giants preview

December, 26, 2014
Dec 26

The last time the Philadelphia Eagles played a game without playoff implications, it was the tail end of the 2012 season and Andy Reid was still their coach. For the New York Giants, Sunday's 1 p.m. ET regular-season finale against the Eagles at MetLife Stadium will be the fifth consecutive game in which both they and their opponent have already been eliminated from postseason contention. Nothing on the line here but pride for these division rivals. ESPN NFL Nation reporters Dan Graziano and Phil Sheridan are here to break it all down for you.

Graziano: Well, that fell apart in a hurry. Three weeks ago, the Eagles were in the NFC East driver’s seat. Now, Sunday’s game means nothing more to their playoff chances than it does to the Giants’ playoff chances. What’s the biggest reason for the collapse?

Sheridan: I’ve had a little time to ponder this and I think it’s relatively simple. The Eagles were not an elite team this year. They were pretty good, able to compete within the NFC East and against St. Louis and Jacksonville and such squads. But every time they had to face a playoff-caliber team -- Arizona, San Francisco (before their fall), Green Bay -- they lost.

That big Thanksgiving Day win in Dallas created the illusion that the Eagles had hit their stride. But Seattle brought them right back to reality. Seattle simply beat them up the way superior teams beat average teams.

The two most recent losses, to Dallas and Washington, were due to factors that have lingered all season for the Eagles. Turnovers? They lead the league in giving the ball away. Red zone? Break out the rookie place-kicker. Pass defense? Er, next question.

Early in the season, the Eagles got a bunch of touchdowns from their defense and special teams. That was a tough way to win, and it dried up on them against the better teams.

The Giants were 3-9 when the Eagles were 9-3. The Eagles haven’t won since, the Giants haven't lost since. Is that just late-season, no-pressure-to-win stat-padding, or have the Giants really turned things around? Put another way: Is this something they can carry over to 2015?

Graziano: They think it is, which I think is important, considering how young the players are who are contributing to this run. The schedule has helped, of course. The Giants' three-game winning streak is against Tennessee, Washington and St. Louis. But the Rams were playing defense as well as anyone in the league coming into Sunday, and the Giants dropped 37 points on them. So something is going right. Rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham is the superstar, but rookie Andre Williams has two 100-yard rushing games in the past three weeks, rookies Devon Kennard and Kerry Wynn are contributing on special teams. Add in strong late surges from cornerstone players in quarterback Eli Manning and defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, and the Giants are on the kind of roll that means nothing to this year but could, they hope, give them some confidence going into the offseason that they're on the right track for 2015. The offense has definitely shown progress since Week 1, and in the first year with a new coordinator, that's one of the biggest things for which the Giants were hoping.

Hey, Mark Sanchez is back in his old stomping grounds this week. Am I safe in assuming the Eagles go into this offseason with quarterback high on their priority list? Or do they expect/want Nick Foles to come back and win the job?

Sheridan: You’d be safe in that assumption if I were the general manager or head coach. As for Howie Roseman and Chip Kelly, I’m not sure how they view this. I think it will be a little bit of a Rorschach test: What they see when they look at Foles will tell a lot about them.

If they blame the collapse on Mark Sanchez and his 13 turnovers in eight games, that will mean they choose to overlook Foles’ 13 turnovers in his eight games. It’s a shame, really, that Foles wasn’t cleared to play in time to get one or two more games in. It would have helped the evaluation process to see him behind the relatively healthy version of the offensive line. It was banged up when he was playing (which is one reason he ended up with a broken collarbone, frankly).

Sanchez will be a free agent. Foles still has one more year on his rookie deal. It would certainly be easy enough to bring Foles back and let 2015 decide whether he gets a franchise-quarterback contract. But then Kelly is in his third season and if Foles plays more like he did this year than last year? Year 4 isn’t exactly the time to start looking for a franchise quarterback.

I would expect Kelly and Roseman to explore all the options, including mortgaging some draft picks to move up and try for Oregon’s Marcus Mariota. If they can’t hit a home run, they can always come back with Foles. But swinging for the fences seems like the right thing at this point.

How responsible is Beckham for the Giants’ recent success? It looks from a distance as if he quickly has become the bell cow for that team. Does it look like that from up close? How good can the kid be?

Graziano: He's the engine, that's for sure. I thought the target distribution was more even this week, then I looked at the box score and saw Beckham was targeted 12 times and no one else was targeted more than six. And this in Manning's best game of the year. It's not exaggerating to say there's no one in the league playing the receiver position better than Beckham is playing it at the moment. He runs great routes, has great speed, catches everything and offers the ability to run trick plays where he lines up in the backfield because he can run with the ball or even throw it. He had only two catches for 28 yards in the Week 6 whitewashing in Philadelphia in which Victor Cruz went down. But since that game, Beckham has 1,048 yards and 10 touchdowns in only nine games. He can be as good as he wants to be. Remember, he's doing this after missing almost all of the offseason program, all of training camp and the first four games of the season due to a hamstring injury. In the grand scheme of things, at the NFL level, he has barely even practiced.

As far as this game goes, Beckham and the Giants’ offense are on a roll. Do you expect them to be able to continue it against an Eagles defense that shut them out in Week 6?

Sheridan: Yup.

Oh, I should write more? I just don’t see anything from the Eagles' defense that suggests they’re equipped to stop the bleeding that has cost them these past three games. There is some chance that Bradley Fletcher will get benched after his escapades covering Dez Bryant and DeSean Jackson, but there is a reason the Eagles kept running Fletcher out there. He’s better than Nolan Carroll and Brandon Boykin.

That said, can he cover Beckham? I shudder to think about the damage that might be done if the Eagles try to find out. The simple fact is the Eagles have tended to lose against good quarterbacks with decent weapons to work with. You know better than I do what was up with Manning and the Giants when the Eagles shut them out in October. Cruz got hurt in that game. Beckham was only a household name with “David” in front of it back then. But if the Giants of the past few weeks show up Sunday, they will be able to get some big plays on this defense.

There always seems to be speculation about Tom Coughlin’s future. He endured a seven-game losing streak this season. Now that things seem turned around, is there more confidence in Coughlin going forward? Is he feeling re-energized?

Graziano: I never sensed a lapse in energy -- not for any sustained length of time. Coughlin was down after the loss in Jacksonville that dropped the Giants to 3-9, but true to his nature he was right back up Wednesday and getting the team ready for the next game the way he always does. At this point, I think it would be shocking if he's not back next year, based on everything I've heard inside and outside the building about this. Ownership never wanted to get rid of him -- especially after only one year in the new offense and with Ben McAdoo still only 37 and likely not ready yet to take over. There was some concern that a lousy finish might force their hand, but the three straight wins here have mellowed things, and now I expect Coughlin back in 2015. And I don't expect to see any difference in the way he coaches or operates. He's as consistently a high-energy coach as there is in the league, even though he's the oldest, and if there was no reason to get rid of him last year, I don't see what the reason is to do it a year later.

PHILADELPHIA -- The New York Giants lost more than a game here Sunday night. They lost wide receiver Victor Cruz for the season to a knee injury -- a loss that hit them on a deeper emotional level than did the 27-0 loss on the scoreboard. They also lost ground in the NFC East. Rather than playing for first place next week in Dallas, they sit at 3-3, a full two games behind the two teams tied for first place in their division.

It was a terrible night on every conceivable level for the Giants -- a rude splash of cold water in the face of a team that was beginning to feel as though it had things figured out.

[+] EnlargeEli Manning
Rich Schultz /Getty ImagesEli Manning and the Giants couldn't get going against the Eagles and fell to 3-3.
"I think it's a good reminder that you can't just show up on the field and have things go well for you automatically," Giants quarterback Eli Manning said. "You've got to earn it."

The Giants aren't as bad as they looked Sunday night. Nor are they as good as they looked during the three-game winning streak they carried here with them on a wave of bizarre midweek trash talk. They are what we thought they were all along -- a rebuilding team that's going to show progress in spurts but isn't likely to sustain excellence anytime soon. They're a team unlikely to be able to survive injuries to players as important to them as Cruz and injured running back Rashad Jennings, who missed this game with a knee injury of his own. They're good enough and well-coached enough that it's not going to shock you to see them win any given game, yet they're unfinished enough that they can still get their helmets handed to them by a 2013 playoff team that has as many good players as the Eagles do.

"Definitely, the first couple of series, we got punched in the mouth," Giants cornerback Prince Amukamara said. "We started bleeding, and we couldn't put a Band-Aid on it."

The Eagles dominated the Giants on both lines. They sacked Manning six times and backup Ryan Nassib twice in what Giants right tackle Justin Pugh called "probably the worst game I've ever played, hands down, not even close." The Eagles' offensive line kept the Giants' pass-rushers away from quarterback Nick Foles and opened enough holes to break star running back LeSean McCoy out of his early-season funk. The Eagles were, by the Giants' own admission, the more physical team and the team that wanted the game more.

"We took the night off," Giants safety Antrel Rolle said. "No rhyme or reason for it."

That's going to be the frustrating thing about this Giants season. You're not likely to know when the good game is coming or when the stinker is just around the corner. They will be inconsistent and maddening, because that is the type of team they are. They are still putting a lot of new pieces together, still trying to make progress in the new offense. If you believed that progress would continue without any setbacks, you now know how wrong you were.

The injury to Cruz only adds to the challenge. Jennings was clearly missed, as the Giants don't trust rookie Andre Williams in passing situations yet and the Eagles played defense as though they knew it. And starting cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who missed the second half with back spasms, is starting to become a regular injury question mark.

A team in the Giants' position -- one that's still trying to find itself -- is going to feel those injuries keenly. Cruz, Jennings and Rodgers-Cromartie are vital pieces not easily replaced. And even if the Giants get tough relief efforts from guys such as Odell Beckham Jr., Williams and Zack Bowman, there are enough cracks elsewhere on the roster that the hiccups are likely to continue.

There's nothing wrong with being a team like that as long as you're making progress. And Sunday night notwithstanding, the Giants have shown progress over the season's first six weeks. If you can contend while you're rebuilding, it's a bonus. And while these Giants may yet be able to pull that off, their main goals this year should be to show progress and figure out which holes remain for them to plug next offseason. Nothing about the first six weeks of the season has really changed that. Sunday night, in the end, was only a reminder that this is a team that still has a long way to go.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin shows his team the NFC East standings every week. He's not going to have a tough time getting his players' attention with them this week.

Winners of three games in a row, the Giants are nonetheless in third place in their division with a 3-2 record. The two teams in front of them are the Philadelphia Eagles and the Dallas Cowboys, both 4-1.

The Giants' next two games are on the road, the next two Sundays, in Philadelphia and then in Dallas.

"We know what's in front of us, but we need to keep focused on ourselves," defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul said. "We have a lot more work to do and we can get a lot better. If we do that, it doesn't matter who we play."

That's a perfectly appropriate frame of mind for the players to have. But the fact is, if the Giants win their next two games, they would enter their Week 8 bye in control of the division. They would be 5-2, with the Eagles' and Cowboys' records guaranteed to be no better than that, and they would be 3-0 in their division games, all three of which will have been road games.

[+] EnlargeLeSean McCoy
AP Photo/Matt RourkeLeSean McCoy is off to a slow start for the Eagles, but is coming off an 81-yard performance in Week 5.
If they lose their next two games, the Giants would be 3-4, with the Eagles and Cowboys each no worse than 5-2, and they'd be 1-2 in the division. They could also split the next two games, but if they do that, they'll obviously slip somewhat significantly behind whichever team beats them.

It's a critical stretch, and the Giants are in the right frame of mind to handle it. They followed a couple of easy victories with Sunday's tough, brawling comeback, and they believe their new system and personnel are working well together. So what are their chances to make the most of this opportunity?

The Eagles are first up. They're 4-1 and their only loss was in San Francisco, but things aren't going smoothly. Six of their 18 touchdowns have come on defense or special teams. Quarterback Nick Foles, who threw just two interceptions last year, has five interceptions and three lost fumbles in five games this year. They are allowing an average of 26.4 points per game. They fell behind in each of their first four games and came close to blowing a 34-7 third-quarter lead to St. Louis on Sunday. Last year's NFL rushing leader, LeSean McCoy, is averaging 54.6 yards per game, 2.9 yards per carry and has only one touchdown. They have suffered multiple injuries to starting offensive linemen, a problem they avoided throughout the 2013 season. As a result, their offense is not what it was as they rolled to a division title in the second half of 2013.

The Giants' newfound ability to milk the clock and operate their offense in rhythm while minimizing turnover risk could enable them to control the game against a still-wobbly defending champion. But McCoy did run for 81 yards and the team for 145 on Sunday, with right tackle Lane Johnson back from his drug suspension. And Foles' play-action passing game improved as a result (9-for-12 with an average of 9.3 yards per attempt). The Eagles remain dangerous with Darren Sproles complementing McCoy out of the backfield and Jeremy Maclin leading the downfield attack. They will be a tougher offense to get off the field on third down than any the Giants have faced since their opener in Detroit.

The Cowboys are dominating in the run game behind NFL rushing leader DeMarco Murray and a powerful offensive line that features three of their last four first-round draft picks. They have won four games in a row, though by the time the Giants get there, Dallas will be coming off a tough road game in Seattle. Obviously, if the Cowboys can run the ball against the defending Super Bowl champs and take a five-game winning streak into the Giants game, they will have everyone's attention. But so far, their formula has been effective. Murray was so effective on first down Sunday that Dallas quarterback Tony Romo was 15-for-20 for 185 yards on second-down throws.

Dallas' defense entered Week 5 ranked 26th against the pass and 14th against the run, but it hasn't been the crippling weakness it looked to be on paper before the season started. Part of the reason for that is substandard competition, but one of their four victories was an impressive throttling of Drew Brees and the Saints. The Cowboys' offense is so good at keeping the opposing offense on the sidelines that the defense isn't asked to do too much.

These will both be difficult games, and after they're over, the Giants will hit the bye week with a much better idea of how they stack up in the NFC East race.
New York Giants safety Antrel Rolle will play for Jerry Rice's team Sunday in what could be the final Pro Bowl ever. Rolle was "assigned" to Team Rice in Wednesday night's Pro Bowl draft, which I think means he was the only safety left after all others were picked and Rice's team needed a safety. I think that's what it means, but I didn't stay up for the whole thing and I didn't see Rolle get picked. Kevin Seifert reviewed the first-ever Pro Bowl draft here, and I agree with him. It was something of a tough watch.

Anyway, the "starting" safeties for Team Rice are San Francisco's Eric Reid and Buffalo's Jairus Byrd, with Rolle on the bench behind them. If Rolle intercepts a pass, it'll be from one of the Team Deion Sanders quarterbacks -- Andrew Luck, Cam Newton or Nick Foles. Rolle is, of course, the only Giants player in this year's Pro Bowl.

In Giants news closer to home, the team named former Vikings quarterbacks coach Craig Johnson as its new running backs coach. Don't get caught up in titles. A coach is a coach is a coach, and if this is a guy the Giants like, he should have no trouble coaching running backs instead of quarterbacks. Now, the Giants just need to get him some running backs to coach. One spot remains open on the coaching staff now, and it's the tight ends coach position vacated last week by the firing of Mike Pope, who joined the Dallas Cowboys' staff Wednesday in the same role.
Your daily morning check-in on news and notes about and of interest to the New York Giants

The news of the day: The post-mortem on the Giants' fifth victory in their last six games was mostly positive Monday, as coach Tom Coughlin praised the ability of his team to recover from the early 14-0 deficit and comeback to defeat Washington on Sunday night. The defense was especially impressive, considering that they were playing thin in the secondary due to injuries and without starting defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, whose shoulder injury is likely to be a problem for the rest of the season. Pierre-Paul's absence left the Giants thin at defensive end, and Justin Tuck and Mathias Kiwanuka may have handle more of the workload the rest of the way if Pierre-Paul can't play or if his snaps have to be limited.

Behind enemy lines: San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers is having a monster season and should pose another tough test for this improved Giants defense. But as Eric D. Williams points out, Qualcomm Stadium hasn't exactly been a tough place for opponents to play over the past few years. The Chargers are just 2-3 at home this year and 10-11 at home since the start of the 2011 season.

Around the division: Under ridiculously insane pressure, all the time, to issue definitive statements about his quarterback situation in a world and a league that defy definitive statements, Eagles coach Chip Kelly pronounced red-hot Nick Foles the Eagles' quarterback for the next 1,000 years. I think I speak for everyone when I say I'd really like to know what Kelly's putting in Foles' personalized post-practice smoothies.

Around the league: The Patriots say it's crazy to think they were spying on the Texans, as the Texans hinted after the game. Not sure where the Texans would have got the idea that the Patriots would do something like that ...

Big Blue Morning: Woe-line

November, 27, 2013
Your daily morning check-in on news and notes about and of interest to the New York Giants

The news of the day: The Giants placed center Jim Cordle on season-ending injured reserve with a knee injury. Since Cordle was playing in place of starting center David Baas, and Baas is also on injured reserve, this sends the Giants to Plan C at center. And no, the fact that "center" begins with "C" does not make it all okay. The most likely arrangement is Kevin Boothe moving from left guard to center and James Brewer taking over at left guard, which is what the Giants did Sunday when Cordle left the game. But that is neither certain nor ideal, and it's possible the Giants have some other plan of which we'll learn today. Either way, it's not likely to help with the problems they're having against the interior pass rush. The line did a heck of a job blocking for the run Sunday, but they need to find some way to keep the defense off of Eli Manning better than they have. On a marginally related note, I cannot wait to hear what Hakeem Nicks has to say today.

Behind enemy lines: As poorly as this season has gone for the Giants, it's gone worse for the Washington Redskins, the team they'll face Sunday night. Mike Shanahan has one year left on his contract as the Redskins' coach and is spending much of his time these days defending the work he's done in the first four.

Around the division: Eagles coach Chip Kelly officially named Nick Foles the team's starting quarterback for the remainder of the season. As Phil Sheridan writes, the decision was an obvious one based on the numbers Foles has put up in his five games since stepping in for the injured Michael Vick. Now, Kelly gets to find out how Foles operates knowing he's the guy, as Kelly continues to try to figure out whether he'll need to go quarterback shopping in the offseason or if he already has his answer.

Around the league: Drug suspensions don't just hurt the suspended players. They hurt their teams. Seattle wide receiver Golden Tate is 100 percent right when he says the drug violations that will cost his teammates significant time are the results of selfishness. The Seahawks have the best record in the league and the biggest of dreams. That program needs to run a little bit tighter, no?
Your daily morning check-in on news and notes about and of interest to the New York Giants

The news of the day: Jason Pierre-Paul's status for Sunday's game against the Packers remains in doubt because of a shoulder injury that has kept him from practicing the past two days. If he can't play, the Giants' base defense likely would slide versatile defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins out to defensive end and replace Jenkins with another defensive tackle, such as Mike Patterson or Johnathan Hankins, on the inside. The Giants are greatly concerned about Eddie Lacy and the Packers' running game, especially with third-string quarterback Scott Tolzien starting the game because of injuries to Aaron Rodgers and Seneca Wallace, and an extra defensive tackle on first and second downs might make some sense. Jenkins has experience playing end as well as tackle. On passing downs, an additional defensive end, such as rookie Damontre Moore, could come into the picture. Of course, it's also possible Pierre-Paul will play and they can line up as they normally do ... Regardless of Pierre-Paul, running back Andre Brown is recovered from his 30-carry effort of last week and ready for an encore against Green Bay on Sunday at MetLife Stadium.

Behind enemy lines: Packers linebacker Clay Matthews said the "club" cast he wore on his right hand last week made him feel like a cat with no whiskers, and he's wearing a smaller cast this week. Matthews obviously matters a great deal to the Packers' chances of extending the Giants' league lead in turnovers. And yeah, you have to click the link to find out what the cat thing means. I can't do everything for you.

Around the division: Nick Foles is getting an extended shot to prove whether he can really be the Eagles' quarterback of the long-term future. The organization isn't sold yet, but Foles is red-hot, and a big performance this week against the division-rival Redskins would be another feather in his cap.

Around the league: People are going to grumble about this -- none more loudly than the league's defensive players -- but the NFL is talking about expanding the rules that protect quarterbacks. Apparently, the number of significant quarterback injuries this year has caught the attention of the right people.
Eli Manning and Charles WoodsonGetty ImagesEli Manning's Giants aim to maintain their momentum when Charles Woodson and the Raiders visit.
It will be a battle of teams looking to climb out of the cellar of their respective divisions as the 2-6 New York Giants host the 3-5 Oakland Raiders at 1 p.m. ET Sunday at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. The Giants have won two games in a row after an 0-6 start and are coming off their bye week. The Raiders just suffered their most embarrassing loss of the season, 49-20 at home to the Philadelphia Eagles.

Which last-place team will get the win Sunday at the site of Super Bowl XLVIII? Raiders reporter Paul Gutierrez and Giants reporter Dan Graziano break it down for you.

Dan Graziano: Paul, I was a little surprised by how poorly the Raiders played Sunday. I knew they were a sub-.500 team, but I didn't think they were a terrible one. What was up with that defensive effort against Nick Foles and the Eagles?

Paul Gutierrez: Dan, you're not the only one who was surprised by what the Raiders in general, and the defense in particular, put on the field against the Eagles. Everyone from coach Dennis Allen to veteran safety Charles Woodson wondered out loud if the defense got caught reading its clips from the week before. After all, the Raiders' D was playing lights out and was the team's strength, entering the game with the No. 10-ranked defense, despite 10 new starters.

Like boxing, styles make fights, and the Eagles' high-octane offense worked to near-perfection and dropped Oakland early and often. The Raiders were a step behind all game long, especially top draft pick D.J. Hayden, who was given the Elvis "Toast" Patterson treatment (I'm sure that name will elicit varied responses from Giants fans) by Riley Cooper and DeSean Jackson and gave up three completions to the two for a combined 139 yards and two touchdowns. In short, it was a complete meltdown by the entire defense, which had been feeling itself a little too much.

The Giants, though, seem to be heading in the opposite direction after that ghastly start. Do you get the sense they have righted the ship, or is it fool's gold after beating the hapless Vikings and then-hopeless Eagles?

Graziano: It's unquestionably fool's gold. They beat the Vikings when Minnesota foolishly and inexplicably started an unprepared Josh Freeman at quarterback and beat the Eagles when they started a clearly injured Michael Vick and had to replace him with unprepared Matt Barkley. And it's not as though they looked especially good in either win. Eli Manning hit clumsy Minnesota defenders in the hands three times in that Monday night game and somehow still didn't get intercepted, and the Giants didn't score a touchdown in that 15-7 victory over the Eagles. They are a bad team with major problems at almost every position, and the fact that they've won two in a row after starting 0-6 doesn't make that go away.

That said, it's possible they'll get a gimpy Terrelle Pryor this week, right? (And maybe an Aaron Rodgers backup next week.) Pryor left against the Eagles with a knee injury. Do you expect that he'll play, and assuming he does, what kind of special problems does he present for a Giants defense that has been getting fat on the likes of Freeman and Barkley?

Gutierrez: Pryor said after the game that his knee was fine, that treatment and ice and the like were all "precautionary," that his knee was not "wobbly" or anything like that. The Raiders were going to take him out of the game for those last two series of a blowout anyway. While Pryor did not speak at the facility Monday, he was walking around the locker room and was not wearing a brace. He should be ready to go.

Then again, if there is even the slightest hitch in his giddyup, that could spell trouble since his running game is his strength. The problems he presents defenses are not unique for a team like the Giants, who already face the read-option from Washington's Robert Griffin III (when healthy). But Pryor's combination of size and speed is what makes him unique, or did you miss his 93-yard touchdown run against the Pittsburgh Steelers in which he looked like he was coasting but actually was pulling away from defenders? Earlier in the year, the Raiders' coaches wanted him to run more to take advantage of his strength. Now, Allen said Pryor has to trust the process more, from the protection to his reads. This should be interesting to see how Pryor soaks it all in.

Then again, it will be interesting to see how the Giants' defense responds to Pryor. The Steelers and Eagles had some success in keeping him under wraps by putting a spy on him, challenging him to beat them with his arm. Would the Giants employ such a tactic and who would that spy be, or would they rather play him straight up?

Graziano: It's a good question, though they don't seem interested in giving away the answer just yet. In the past year, they have played guys like Vick and RG III without a spy and have paid the price. Vick ran for 79 yards against them in the first half in Week 5 before pulling his hamstring.

If they do change it up and decide to spy Pryor, the most likely candidate would be linebacker Jacquian Williams, who has good sideline-to-sideline speed. They tend to like to use him to cover tough tight ends, but it's possible that the Raiders' receiving options will allow them to get everyone covered with their nickel-safety or nickel-corner package with Week 8 NFC Defensive Player of the Week Terrell Thomas covering the slot. That might free up Williams to spy Pryor, which I think would be a good idea. But the Giants can get stubborn at times, and it's possible they'll decide to play him straight up. I would like his chances of picking up yards on the ground on the outside if they did.

Manning hasn't thrown an interception in his past two games, but he still leads the league with those 15 he threw in the first six weeks. The Giants have been vulnerable to A-gap pressure due to the fact that they're using backups at center and right guard, and as a result, Manning has been uncomfortable in the pocket all season. The lack of a run game has hurt his play-action passing game too. Are the Raiders going to be able to pressure him better than they did Foles? Or will Eli have an easy day?

Gutierrez: Using the past-is-prologue approach and sprinkling in the notion that hindsight is always 20/20, the Raiders simply have to put pressure on Manning. Allen acknowledged the Raiders did not bring enough pressure to disrupt Foles, and when they did, he simply rolled out and found a target downfield. The Raiders seemed to have learned their lesson, but we'll see. Against the Eagles, they went away from being their normal, blitz-happy selves by rushing just three at times and sitting back in coverage. Foles ate them up. And Foles is no Manning. (You can't spell "elite" without "Eli," right?)

I would expect defensive coordinator Jason Tarver to dial up the blitzes again and send anyone at any time -- unless the Giants start running a no-huddle, hurry-up offense to rattle the Raiders. Keep an eye on right defensive end Lamarr Houston, who leads the Raiders with four sacks but was slowed by a right hamstring issue against the Eagles. In fact, 11.5 of Oakland's 23 sacks have come from their front four.

The Raiders -- Hayden in particular -- had problems in coverage against the Eagles. Whom would the Giants deploy to take advantage of Hayden, who usually plays on the outside in nickel packages? Might the Giants put the physically imposing Hakeem Nicks out there?

Graziano: Yeah, Nicks plays on the outside with Victor Cruz in the slot and Rueben Randle on the other side when they go three-wide. But Nicks hasn't been himself. He's still capable of outfighting defenders for the ball and could be a tough matchup for Hayden, but he doesn't seem able to separate anymore and has had uncharacteristic issues with drops. He won't admit it, but he's playing like a guy in his walk year whose long-term future is on his mind. It's been one of many problems the Giants didn't anticipate, and if he has a big game against the Raiders, it'll be his first. He still doesn't have a touchdown this season.

Anyway, nice chatting with you, Paul. Travel safely, and I look forward to seeing you at the game Sunday.

Your daily morning check-in on news and notes about and of interest to the New York Giants

The news of the day: A lot went on Monday during the Giants' first day back at work after their bye week. The team announced that running back David Wilson's herniated disk was improving but that he still wasn't cleared to resume football activities. Wilson's going to get his neck looked at again in a few weeks, and they haven't put him on season-ending injured reserve yet, but that certainly remains a possibility. ... We spoke with Prince Amukamara about his own experiences with hazing in light of the Jonathan Martin/Richie Incognito story. Amukamara had a lot to say about the concepts of hazing and bullying in general and the key differences between his case and Martin's. ... Newsday spoke with Giants kicker Josh Brown, who knows Incognito and isn't surprised by his behavior. ... And yes, the Giants did some scoreboard-watching Sunday, and were disappointed with the results of the NFC East games.

Behind enemy lines: Of the two significant offensive players who left Sunday's game with injuries, the Raiders are more concerned with running back Darren McFadden's availability than they are with quarterback Terrelle Pryor's. McFadden has a hamstring injury and a history as a slow healer. Pryor's knee injury is being described by the team as "day to day," and the Raiders said he wouldd have been coming out of the game at that point anyway.

Around the division: How many touchdown passes does a guy have to throw to get named the full-time starting quarterback? Apparently more than the seven Nick Foles threw Sunday against the Raiders. ... The trial of Sean Taylor's shooter is over, and as John Keim writes, it's the latest occasion to reflect on what might have been had Taylor's life and career not ended far too soon.

Around the league: Tim Keown's column on the Martin/Incognito affair knocks it out of the park, addressing a core issue that you're not going to hear players address in their locker-room interviews about this while the story remains in the headlines. There are, plain and simple, a large number of people in the NFL who see Martin as the one in the wrong here. And that's sad. No matter how rough-and-tough your line of work is, there's no excuse for abandoning basic human decency. We're not on this planet very long, folks. No one's final words are ever, "I wish I'd been more horrible to people."

Big Blue Morning: Back to work

November, 4, 2013
Your daily morning check-in on news and notes about and of interest to the New York Giants

The news of the day: Coming off their bye week, Giants players will return to work Monday after seven days off and go through a late-morning practice. Andre Brown should be front and center in the running back mix, as he's eligible to come off of injured reserve and make his season debut Sunday against the Raiders. It remains to be seen how things will shake out with Brandon Jacobs, Peyton Hillis and Michael Cox once Brown is activated. And they will need to clear a roster spot. But as Adam Schefter reports this morning, starting running back David Wilson is going for an MRI this week on his injured neck. If it's determined that Wilson must miss the rest of the season, which is possible and may even be the wise course of action given the Giants' 2-6 record, then that's the roster spot. Anyway, Brown has been practicing for a couple of weeks now and is eager to get going.

Behind enemy lines: The Raiders sure didn't look like much Sunday, as they allowed an NFL record-tying seven touchdown passes to Nick Foles and lost 49-20 to the Eagles one week after the Giants beat the Eagles 15-7. The Raiders also saw starting running back Darren McFadden and quarterback Terrelle Pryor leave that game with injuries. Add in the fact that the Raiders are flying cross-country for a 1 p.m. ET (10 a.m. PT) game at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, and you start to like the Giants' chances of a third win in a row. Of course, for the third game in a row, that opinion is based on the quality of the opponent, and not the way the Giants themselves have played.

Around the division: Rough week for those who insist on believing the 2-6 Giants can get back into the division race, as all three NFC East teams won. Apart from the Eagles' demolition of the Raiders, the first-place Cowboys squeaked out a final-seconds victory over the Minnesota Vikings to improve to 5-4 (including an important 3-0 record in division games). The Eagles sit a game behind them at 4-5. And the Redskins, who beat the Chargers in overtime, are 3-5. The Giants' best-case scenario for the next couple of weeks involves beating the Raiders on Sunday and the Packers at home a week later to improve to 4-6 in time for the Nov. 24 home game against the Cowboys, by which time the worst Dallas can be is 5-5, since they have a bye in Week 11. But there are also those other two teams in front of them, and again, that requires a four-game winning streak (and a victory over the Packers!) by a Giants team that continues to rank among the very worst in the NFL in a wide variety of categories. When considering the opportunity presented to the last-place Giants by the relative weakness of the rest of the division, you must also consider the Giants' ability to take advantage of it. They are not a good team.

Around the league: The Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin case is going to continue to be a big story this week, as the issue of what's appropriate behavior in a football locker room and what isn't gets dissected. I guess one thing to note here is that, when it gets to the point where a key player (Martin, in this case) feels as though he can't be a part of the team, it has hurt the team, and has clearly gone too far. I have plenty of thoughts on the unnecessary-cruelty-to-fellow-human-beings aspect of it as well, but I kind of feel as though those should be obvious.
Your daily morning check-in on news and notes about to the New York Giants

The news of the day: Linebackers coach Jim Hermann feels his group has improved since the start of the season. The addition of Jon Beason at middle linebacker is the clearest and biggest reason for this, but Hermann is also happy with what he's seen lately from Spencer Paysinger and Jacquian Williams. ... The biggest problem area on the team has been and remains the offensive line, which coach Pat Flaherty acknowledges has been a challenge to juggle. ... And in case you missed it Thursday, I wrote this on the contrast between a typical NFL sideline rant and the manner in which the Giants' defensive players took their complaints and concerns to their coach some weeks ago.

Behind enemy lines: They still have to get through a Sunday game against the Eagles before they get the rested Giants in Week 10, but the Raiders have obviously been having some problems of their own, even in their victories.

Around the division: Will the Raiders team the Giants face on Nov. 10 be coming off a win or a loss? That likely depends on the performance of one Mr. Nick Foles, who is the quarterback of choice (or, more likely, of necessity) for the reeling Philadelphia Eagles this week.

Around the league: With the trade deadline over and a lot of fans unhappy their team didn't do anything, Jeff Chadiha looks at the biggest move of the trade season and writes that the Colts don't appear to have acquired the difference-making running back they thought they were getting in Trent Richardson.

Brandon Jacobs inactive as expected

October, 27, 2013
PHILADELPHIA -- New York Giants running back Brandon Jacobs, who did not practice all week and was listed as doubtful on the team's most recent injury report, is officially inactive for the second game in a row due to his hamstring injury. Peyton Hillis and Michael Cox will share running back duties for the Giants on Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles as they did in Monday night's victory over the Vikings.

Also inactive for the Giants are running back David Wilson, cornerback Jayron Hosley, defensive tackle Shaun Rogers, tight end Adrien Robinson, center Dallas Reynolds and third quarterback Ryan Nassib. None of those is a surprise, as the first three already had been ruled out due to injury, Robinson hasn't played all year due to a foot problem, Reynolds is new and Nassib is more or less redshirting.

Rogers being inactive means that rookie Johnathan Hankins will be involved in the defensive tackle rotation, as he was in Weeks 5 and 6 against the Eagles and the Bears. Hankins was inactive Monday against the Vikings with all of the veteran defensive tackles healthy.

Michael Vick will start at quarterback for the Eagles, as Nick Foles is inactive due to a concussion. Vick has not played since injuring his hamstring in the second quarter of the Eagles' Week 5 victory over the Giants at MetLife Stadium.

In other Giants news, Adam Schefter reported on ESPN on Sunday morning that the team is "resisting all overtures" for wide receiver Hakeem Nicks in advance of Tuesday's trade deadline. That's not to say there's no chance Nicks gets dealt, but as we have discussed here, his value isn't very high right now and the Giants haven't yet given up on their season or the idea of keeping Nicks beyond this season. Perhaps that changes if they lose Sunday, but either way, it's obviously unlikely they trade Nicks by Tuesday.

W2W4: Giants at Eagles

October, 26, 2013
The New York Giants are looking for their first two-game winning streak since Weeks 7-8 of last year as they travel to Philadelphia to take on the Eagles in a 1 pm ET game Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field. Here are a couple of things to look for as the Giants try to avenge their 36-21 Week 5 loss to the Eagles at MetLife Stadium.

Can Michael Vick still run? Vick rushed for 79 yards on seven carries in the first half of that Week 5 game, but he pulled his hamstring running out of bounds just before halftime and hasn't played since. It's possible that Nick Foles would be starting this game if Foles hadn't suffered a concussion in last week's loss to Dallas. So it's fair to wonder whether Vick will be able to hurt the Giants with his legs to the extent he did three weeks ago. If his legs aren't fully healthy, that takes away an element of the Eagles' offense that was vital to their ability to build a first-half lead. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Eagles running back LeSean McCoy is averaging 5.7 yards per carry this year when Vick is the quarterback and 3.3 when Foles is. Add in the fact that the Giants are much improved on defense since that game due to the addition of middle linebacker Jon Beason, who has energized and organized the defense and played extremely well since coming over from Carolina in a trade. The linebacker corps with Beason at its center is better equipped to contain those outside runs (and those screen passes to McCoy) than it was the first time these two teams met.

Something's got to give: Since beating the Giants at Lincoln Financial Field in Week 4 of last season, the Eagles have lost nine straight home games -- the longest home losing streak in the NFL since the 2008-10 St. Louis Rams. Since winning in Dallas in Week 8 of last year, the Giants have lost eight straight road games -- their longest road losing streak since 1978-79. One of those streaks has to end Sunday.

Toughening up? The Giants spoke a lot this past week about how the Eagles' defense looks better now than it did earlier in the year. Philadelphia gave up an average of 446.8 yards per game and forced a total of five turnovers in four September games. But in their three games so far in October, they are allowing 367.3 yards per game and have forced seven turnovers. The better streak started with that Week 5 game in New Jersey and the three interceptions Eli Manning threw in the fourth quarter. The Giants have taken the ball away from their opponents only 10 times this year, but it's possible they're improving in that area too, as three of the 10 came in their most recent game, Monday night's victory over the Vikings.
Your daily morning check-in on news and notes about and of interest to the New York Giants

The news of the day: What else could it be? In their seventh try of the 2013 season, the Giants went ahead and actually won a game. It wasn't pretty, and the ineptitude of the Minnesota Vikings obviously had a lot to do with it. But the defense looks energized with Jon Beason at middle linebacker. Eli Manning didn't throw an interception for the first time all year. And after the game, everybody in the locker room was feeling good. Their 1-6 record surely isn't anything of which to be proud, but right now all the Giants are thinking is that it's better than being 0-7.

Behind enemy lines: The Giants' next game is Sunday in Philadelphia against the Eagles, who beat them in New Jersey in Week 5 with Michael Vick starting at quarterback and Nick Foles relieving Vick once Vick got hurt. Vick hasn't played since, and Foles got hurt Sunday, which leaves the Eagles' quarterback situation muddled and the Giants unsure which guy they'll be facing come Sunday.

Around the division: Dallas Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant says he thinks he can do anything Calvin Johnson can do. Says he believes Johnson is the best but that he also believes it about himself. You guys know what a fan I am of Bryant, and that I believe he can be as good as anyone in the league at his position. But what Johnson did Sunday was still something for which Bryant is striving. He may get there. Heck, he may get past there. But Johnson is still the king. There is only one Megatron.

Around the league: Brandon Meriweather should have known this was coming. It's like I used to write about James Harrison. Doesn't matter what you were taught or how you've always done it. You've been warned many, many, many times that you have to change or else you'll be suspended. And now, you're suspended. And you should be.

Big Blue Morning: Still not in a rush

October, 18, 2013
Your daily morning check-in on news and notes about the New York Giants.

The news of the day: So much attention has been paid to the running back situation and to Eli Manning's interceptions that a lot of people have been missing the most significant problem that's keeping the Giants from playing the way they believe they can play. Kieran Darcy checks in on the Giants' absentee pass rush, which Justin Tuck still believes can make an impact. The Giants won't be able to control games in any way until they start knocking down quarterbacks again.

Behind enemy lines: Adrian Peterson, the Vikings' star running back, was limited in practice Thursday with a hamstring injury. Obviously, with the game not until Monday night, the Vikings have time to get Peterson right. But if he's to be limited in any way, it will severely hurt a Vikings' offense that's keyed around Peterson and the running game. The Vikings are starting quarterback Josh Freeman, who just joined the team a couple of weeks ago after being cut by the Buccaneers, so it's more likely than ever that they want to pound the ball with Peterson to take pressure off a quarterback who's still settling in.

Around the division: Michael Vick and Nick Foles playfully decided to address the media together Thursday, which is nice that they're getting along and all. But this is a quarterback controversy (or "conversation," as some would prefer it be called) that's likely to linger all year. Given that Vick's not exactly a quick healer, I imagine the Giants will be planning for Foles this time next week, since they face the Eagles in Week 8. Long-term, I still think Chip Kelly would rather go with Vick, but I am no mind-reader.

Around the league: We will talk Cardinals-Seahawks, the Eagles' quarterback situation, maybe some Giants and a whole bunch of other topics this afternoon at 3 pm on "NFL Insiders" on ESPN. I have a nice suit and tie picked out, and I hope you will tune in.