New York Giants: andre williams
You guys have New York Giants questions, and you asked them with the #nygmail hashtag on Twitter. So here's my attempt to answer some of them:
@DanGrazianoESPN #nygmail is Reese making sure he has flexibility for a new coach next year, there are no extensions and 1 year contracts
- Ibleedbigblue (@tmerritt51) March 19, 2015
@DanGrazianoESPN: Anyone who reads me regularly knows I'm very tough on Giants GM Jerry Reese. I don't think his record as a drafter and a roster-builder matches up with the mythology that the Super Bowl titles have bestowed upon him. However, it's important to note that I consider Reese a man of high character and believe tat he makes his decisions with the best interests of the franchise in mind. There has been a lot of talk this offseason that 2015 will be a "win or else" year for those who run the Giants -- that coach Tom Coughlin and his staff are out if they miss the playoffs again (which is likely) or even that Reese himself could be in danger of losing his job (far less likely). But I think it's a mistake to assume that Reese or Coughlin will operate any differently just because that might be the case. Reese's job is to make the best decisions for the Giants' franchise, factoring in its short-term and long-term health. He might not always make the right decisions, but his decisions are governed by his sense of responsibility to his job and his employer. I don't think anything he's doing right now is being done in an effort to save his own skin or position himself to replace Coughlin. Likewise, I'd be stunned if Coughlin coached any differently in 2015 just because there was supposedly more pressure on him. The one-year extensions for Coughlin and the coaching staff are the result of the failures of the past few years -- put simply, Coughlin hasn't done anything since his last contract extension to justify another long-term deal. So they keep going year-to-year because they like him and hope he can turn it around and give them reason to allow an all-time franchise coach to go out on his own terms. Could they eventually lose patience? Sure. Could it be this year? Yup. But I don't think they're operating in that frame of mind.
@DanGrazianoESPN: I actually think the odds-on favorite to play right guard is Geoff Schwartz, who was signed last year to play left guard because that's where the hole was and Chris Snee hadn't yet retired. Schwartz has played more on the right side in his career, and with both spots open, my guess is he moves over there, assuming he comes back healthy from his 2014 injury problems. But then your question would become "Who in the world is playing left guard next year? Jerry?" And yes, at this point, if they do nothing else, John Jerry would be a candidate. So would Marshall Newhouse, a bench lineman they signed last week. And if Canadian center Brett Jones were to beat out Weston Richburg for the starting center job in camp (I doubt it, but it's not impossible), then Richburg would be a candidate to go back to left guard as well. It's an uninspiring list of candidates, I grant you that. And if I were a Giants fan, I'd surely be hoping there's another viable starter on the horizon in the draft or in free agency. But as of now, given the state of the roster, Jerry looks like a candidate to start at guard again, yes.
- Ben Rosenberg (@BenRNJ) March 20, 2015
@DanGrazianoESPN: I see your point, but let's not forget how far behind Dallas and Philadelphia the Giants were in 2014. They finished six games worse than the Cowboys and four games worse than the Eagles, and they went a combined 0-4 against those teams. That's a lot of ground to make up. Dallas still has the division's best offensive line, best wide receiver and best quarterback. (Yes, I know about the Super Bowls, but Tony Romo is playing the best at this point in time.) I don't know how many games Greg Hardy will be allowed to play, but the last time the Giants saw him he was helping Carolina's front four sack Eli Manning six times in the first 17 minutes of a Week 3 game in 2013. Dallas will find a running back in the draft and be favored to repeat as division champ, and justifiably so. And the Eagles... well, I think Chip Kelly knows what he's doing. He just needs to keep all of those guys healthy, which he thinks he can do, and the Eagles should be a strong contender to once again win the 10 games they've won in each of Kelly's first two years. If you want to believe the Giants will improve and contend, that's fine, and you could be right. But don't overlook how far they have to go from where they were last year in order to do that. This division is not the weakling it was two, three and four years ago.
@DanGrazianoESPN: That's a good question, and not an easy one. They obviously have a lot of depth at linebacker now, but I question the overall quality and a lot depends on Jon Beason's ability to stay healthy (which history says is no sure thing). They like their running backs a lot, assuming a healthy year from Rashad Jennings, continued development from Andre Williams and a dynamic contribution from Shane Vereen as a pass-catcher. So running back might be the answer. I'd probably say wide receiver if I knew Victor Cruz was going to come all the way back from his serious knee injury, but we don't know that. So I guess you can pick Beason, Jennings or Cruz, tell me which one you feel most confident about, and then their position group is your answer. Still a lot of question marks on this roster.
Thanks for all of your questions, and enjoy the rest of your Saturday. I'll catch up with you early next week from Phoenix and the NFL owners meetings.
The New York Giants have had a rough pre-free agency period. They targeted New England safety Devin McCourty and Philadelphia pass-rusher Brandon Graham only to see each re-sign with his current team for similar or smaller deals than the Giants were offering. But the Giants are still plugging away and are likely to add some players either today or in the coming days in free agency.
Here's where things stand as of Tuesday morning with the Giants:
- They continue to have conversations with the representatives for Arizona defensive tackle Dan Williams and Kansas City safety Ron Parker, though they are getting competition from other teams for both players. I'm not sure where they are on defensive end after losing out on Graham, but I did hear some talk Monday night that they could make a run at Lions restricted free agent George Johnson. Detroit gave Johnson an original-round tender, so he wouldn't cost much to sign, but the Lions would have the right to match the offer.
- I would expect them to add at least one offensive lineman, and I wouldn't be shocked if it turned out to be St. Louis right tackle Joe Barksdale. A tackle signing would indicate a decision to move Justin Pugh from right tackle to one of the guard spots. A guard signing would indicate a decision to keep Pugh at the position he's played his first two years in the league.
- They are talking to the representatives for several running backs as they look to diversify their options in the run game and add a big-play threat to a stable that includes Rashad Jennings and Andre Williams. Various reports have linked the Giants to Roy Helu, Antone Smith, and even Shane Vereen. I was a bit surprised to see Vereen's name surface Monday night, because my sense was that the Giants were looking for a back to fill a niche role and that some team would be interested in Vereen for a larger role. But in keeping with recent trends, the running back market does not appear to be flush with big offers, and if the Giants do like Vereen, it's possible they could get him for a decent price. A pass-catching back with big-play potential, Vereen would expand the number of creative options at offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo's disposal.
- The Giants have remained in contact with a few of their own free agents, and it's possible that any or all from a group that includes safety Stevie Brown, linebacker Mark Herzlich, fullback Henry Hynoski, and tight end Daniel Fells could sign before 4 pm ET. I think it's safe to expect Antrel Rolle, Walter Thurmond, Mike Patterson, Jerrel Jernigan, Jacquian Williams, and James Brewer to hit the market and find work elsewhere.
- The Giants got Jon Beason to agree to a pay cut Monday, which clears about $3 million in cap room and takes them to just under $16 million (accounting for the $14.813 million franchise tag for Jason Pierre-Paul). I don't think the Beason pay cut was to clear cap room for any particular signing or signings, but rather to get Beason's contract in line with his performance after a year in which he missed all of training camp and 12 games because of foot injuries.
- With Beason back in the fold, the Giants could end up cutting linebacker Jameel McClain if they find themselves in need of more cap room. Cutting McClain would save another $3.1 million, or they could try to talk him into a pay cut and save a little less while also keeping a player they like. Or they could leave his deal alone. It just offers them an option if they need cap room down the road.
- Cornerback Prince Amukamara's $6.898 million salary for 2015 becomes fully guaranteed as of 4 pm ET. Amukamara is a 2011 first-round draft pick who had his 2015 contract option picked up. The Giants have not approached him about an extension. GM Jerry Reese said at the combine last month that the Giants would need to see Amukamara, who ended the season on injured reserve with a torn biceps tendon, healthy before discussing an extension, and that he considered Amukamara's salary a good price for a starting cornerback. The current free-agent market seems to bear that out.
- I have heard no talk on an extension for Eli Manning, which is another device available to the Giants that could clear up to $11 million in cap room. At this point, the Giants don't need that cap room and have no reason to extend Manning now unless he's offering them a discount, which he likely won't. The Giants are considering letting Manning play out the final year of his deal, knowing they could franchise or sign him and keep him off the market next winter if it came to that.
More to come throughout the day.
@DanGrazianoESPN: To be accurate, the scheduled 2015 cap numbers for quarterback Eli Manning ($19.75 million) and cornerback Prince Amukamara ($6.898) million are the highest and fifth-highest on the team, respectively. (Victor Cruz, Will Beatty and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie still have cap numbers higher than Amukamara's, and Jon Beason isn't far behind him.) Manning's number would work out to 13.8 percent of a $143 million salary cap, and Amukamara's is 4.8 percent. So together, they represent 18.6 percent of the cap.
Let's take Amukamara first. He's on that one-year deal as a fifth-year option player from the first round of the 2011 draft. Of those 32 first-round picks, 21 had their 2015 options picked up and only four -- J.J. Watt, Robert Quinn, Tyron Smith, and Patrick Peterson -- have signed long-term deals. I spoke with several general managers at the combine who have players in this category, and in general they don't seem in a hurry to alter these contracts. I spoke to Giants GM Jerry Reese specifically about Amukamara, and he said the $6.898 million is a perfectly fine salary for a starting cornerback. He likes Amukamara, but like other GMs with fifth-year option players, he doesn't see the need to act and award an extension just to get cap relief this year. Amukamara is coming off a season-ending injury, and it's reasonable for the Giants to let him play out this year and see how healthy he is at the end of it. They can always extend him during or after the season, and if it comes to it, they could franchise him next year and keep him off the market for another year. Basically, this fifth-year option is like an extra franchise tag, and teams are employing it as such. I don't expect any movement on Amukamara's contract in 2015.
And honestly, Manning's situation is kind of similar. They're obviously comfortable paying Manning a significant portion of their salary-cap allotment, as they have been doing it for years. With the cap going up, a $17 million salary for a franchise quarterback who never misses a game isn't a bad price. And if it came to it, they could always sign or franchise Manning next year. It's not as though they would be getting any kind of discount if they signed him now. An extension for Manning could save the Giants as much as $11 million against this year's cap, and for that reason they might decide they need to do it. But with about $25 million in projected cap room as of now and no big-money necessities outside of Jason Pierre-Paul, they might not have to do it.
@DanGrazianoESPN: Well, I think if you have a chance to take an original gangster at No. 9, you can't pass that up. I believe it was Gil Brandt who once said of the draft, "I ain't no superhero, I ain't no Marvel comic, but when it comes to picking in the top 10, I'm atomic." I think it was Gil. Might have been Ernie Accorsi. Need to go look that up.
However, if by "OG" you meant "offensive guard," then yeah, I think that gives you pause. I think if you're picking in the top 10, you need to find a franchise cornerstone piece at one of those critical positions we talk about -- quarterback, wide receiver, left tackle, pass-rusher, or cornerback. There are exceptions, sure, but that's a good guideline. And if a guy like Iowa's Brandon Scherff, who is the popular mock draft pick of the moment for the Giants, projects as a guard, you do have to step back and ask yourself whether picking a guard at No. 9 overall is really the best thing for your franchise long-term. If you feel like you're getting a guy who can play guard right away and then develop into your franchise left tackle down the road, that's one thing. But if the guy projects as a 10-year starting guard in the NFL? Nice thing to have, but I'm not sure you need to spend your top 10 pick on that. Just my opinion.
The Giants are in an odd place here. They desperately need to address the offensive line as a present and long-range future need, but there doesn't seem to be the kind of impact, building-block lineman in this year's draft that would justify using a pick as high as their No. 9 overall on him. So either they would need to trade down (unlikely, since they don't tend to operate like that) or shore up the line with a young free agent or two and spend this pick on a high-impact defender.
@DanGrazianoESPN: I think Reggie Bush is the kind of back for which the Giants are looking -- a home-run-hitter type with some receiving ability out of the backfield who would complement the power runners they already have in Rashad Jennings and Andre Williams. But as of Friday afternoon, I was told the Giants were not among the teams showing interest in Bush, and they very well might not. Bush's 30th birthday is Monday, and if you remember the Giants' free-agent spree from last year you might remember that the only free agent they signed who was over 30 was kicker Josh Brown. Bush has the skill set for which the Giants are looking, but when they look for free agents, they look for guys who are younger than he is. So my guess is they will look elsewhere for their change-of-pace back, unless Bush's market doesn't develop and they are still looking a month or so from now.
@DanGrazianoESPN: No, I do not, because I think Jordan Cameron is going to be relatively expensive and I think we've seen very clearly that the Giants don't like to spend money on tight end. I also think they are still very high on Larry Donnell as a present-day producer and high-ceiling prospect, and that they consider Donnell their starter at the position. They believe another strong offseason will help him take another step, and they expect him to emerge as one of the better players in the league at his position. I do not think tight end is on the Giants' shopping list this offseason, except the blocking kind, on which they will surely stock up ahead of training camp as usual..
Thanks for all of the questions, and enjoy the rest of your Saturday.
They're still looking for David Wilson's replacement: The Giants' 2012 first-round pick had to retire last summer because of neck injuries, and the Giants this offseason are on the lookout for a speedy, home-run hitter running back who can complement Rashad Jennings and Andre Williams. "We've got some big bangers, and David was a fast, quick guy who could catch the ball out of the backfield," Reese said. "You lose a dynamic-type player, it stings a little bit. But it's football, and we'll try and replace that position."
The Giants are assuming nothing with regard to Victor Cruz: Reese continues to say the team hopes for a full recovery by Cruz from the severe knee injury that ended his 2014 season in Week 6. But he repeated Saturday that, until they see Cruz on the field and running the way he used to, they can't assume that recovery will happen. Receiver remains a position at which Reese would hate to be caught short, and if concerns about Cruz linger in April and May, the Giants could use an early pick on a wideout.
Landon Collins is obsessed with Sean Taylor: The Alabama star, who is the top safety in this year's draft and a possible first-round pick for the Giants, said he watched Taylor's game film before every game, wears No. 26 because Taylor wore it in college, roots for Washington because that was Taylor's NFL team and cried when he heard the news of Taylor's death in 2007.
The drawbacks include the fact that Bush turns 30 in March as well as his extensive injury history. But the list of guys the Giants could pursue for this role is filled with imperfect solutions. C.J. Spiller has a history of injuries, Shane Vereen could cost too much, Antone Smith broke his leg in November, etc.
Anyway, the Giants are here at the combine looking at a variety of draft prospects, and they'll have their eyes open for a specialty running back if one makes sense in the middle rounds. But they're also likely to look around at veteran options as we get closer to the start of free agency next month. So, you know. Just sayin'.
@DanGrazianoESPN: The New York Giants are paying Rashad Jennings a base salary of $2.23 million this year, and he'll cost less than $3 million against their salary cap. During the portions of the 2014 season when he was healthy, Jennings showed that he can play a valuable role as the starting running back in the Giants' offense, both as a runner and a receiver. The Giants have no reason to re-think the decision to sign Jennings long-term at this point, and no reason not to go into 2015 with him as a big part of their plans. Now, Andre Williams is entering his second season and is likely to earn a greater share of the carries than was originally planned last year. And I fully expect the Giants to try to sign a speedy, change-of-pace back to fill the role they had carved out for David Wilson last summer before neck injuries forced him to retire. So I don't think you can expect Jennings to get the same kind of workload as a Matt Forte or DeMarco Murray or the backs like that. But as for being the nominal "starter" in a fluid Giants backfield designed to distribute lots of carries/catches to several different backs? Yes, he's the front-runner as of now.
@DanGrazianoESPN: No, I think Jason Pierre-Paul is the only real candidate for the franchise player designation this year. The franchise number for safeties is likely to come in somewhere around $10 million, and I don't imagine the Giants wanting to pay a 32-year-old Antrel Rolle that much money. I think the Giants would like to have Rolle back, but they are turning over the safety position with an eye toward the future, so they are unlikely to commit any kind of exorbitant amount to a player of Rolle's age, even if he has been a valuable part of the team and the locker room for the past half-decade. The way the Giants generally operate with their free agents is to assign each of them a price and tell them, if they want more, to go out on the market and look for it. In the meantime, if Rolle does that, the Giants would be likely to move on to other options. But if he'll sign for their price, he could be back on a two-year or maybe even a cheap three-year deal. I don't think he's a candidate to be franchised.
This has to be last yr for Tom, Jerry, and Eli if they don't playoff right? #nygmail— AiredMania (@airedmania) February 6, 2015
@DanGrazianoESPN: I think coach Tom Coughlin is probably out if they miss the playoffs for a fourth straight season. But GM Jerry Reese is absolutely not in danger of losing his job, I'm telling you. People don't want to believe it, but Giants ownership is all-in on Reese and has no intention of making a change at GM any time soon. Likewise, they're all in on quarterback Eli Manning and likely to extend his contract this offseason so that he completes his career as a Giant. It's not fair for Coughlin to be the only one taking the fall if the Giants have another bad year, because Reese deserves at least as much blame if not more for the current state of the roster. It's the personnel department's run of failed drafts that have sunk the Giants into this hole, and I don't understand what it is about Reese that makes him untouchable in the eyes of the people who run the Giants. But he is, and that's the reality of it. I think Coughlin needs a winning record in 2015 to come back in 2016, fair or not.
@DanGrazianoESPN: It's really not as simple as "talent over needs" or vice-versa. It's about maximizing the value of your draft pick. And as wonderful a player as Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper is, it would be patently foolish for the Giants, from a roster-building perspective, to draft him with the No. 9 pick in this year's draft. The reason is one of allocation of resources. In the salary-cap era, it's important to assign your high-end resources (meaning free-agent money and high draft picks) to the most important positions. But it's also important not to over-commit at one of those positions. Game-breaking wide receivers are nice to have, but as of now the Giants have a first-round pick (Odell Beckham Jr.) a second-round pick (Rueben Randle) and a big-money free agent (Victor Cruz) at wide receiver. That's a lot of high-end resources committed to that one position, and it would be a mistake to do it again this year, because by definition it would leave them too weak elsewhere on the roster. So they need to find the best player they can at No. 9, yes, but they need to do it with an eye toward the needs of their roster. There are important positions (safety, pass-rusher, offensive line) that could stand a taste of the attention the wide receiver position has received from the Giants' front office in recent years, and they should be drafting with an eye toward beefing up elsewhere for a change.
Thanks for all of your questions. Enjoy the remainder of your weekend.
1. How does the run game look? The Eagles have allowed 134 rush yards per game over the last three weeks after being one of the stingiest run defense teams in the league for much of the season. Rashad Jennings, who missed the Week 6 game in Philadelphia, should play Sunday. Andre Williams, who was the starter that night and didn't have any success, is questionable with a shoulder injury. The Giants' offense has looked its best with a healthy Jennings at running back, though they really haven't had that since he hurt his knee in Week 5. If Jennings can give them a full game, the Giants' rushing attack has a chance to go into the offseason on a high note. If not, you could see a hodgepodge of Jennings, Williams and Orleans Darkwa against a tough Eagles front.
2. Can Jason Pierre-Paul handle Jason Peters? The Giants' defensive end has seven sacks in his last four games and has caught fire as a pass-rusher in the final weeks of his contract drive. He has a ton of respect for Peters, the Eagles' star left tackle, and considers this as tough a matchup as any he faces. Peters handled him well in Week 6 on a night when the Eagles did everything right and the Giants did everything wrong. But with Pierre-Paul coming in on a roll this time, perhaps things could be different over on that end of the line.
3. Odell Beckham Jr.'s final act. The first game against the Eagles was Beckham's second NFL game and, of course, the game in which Victor Cruz's season ended with a knee injury. Since that game, Beckham has been on a ridiculous roll, with 73 catches for 1,048 yards and 10 touchdowns in only nine games. At this point, the legitimate expectation is that Beckham will catch something like eight passes for 150 yards and a touchdown or two, because he does it every week. This will be your last chance to watch the dazzling Giants rookie play for a while, and if he's got one more great game in him, it'll leave Giants fans excited for the possibilities for next season.
#nygmail do you get the feeling the front office wants McAdoo to succeed Coughlin as HC once the fountain of youth runs dry?— Steven Klein (@Kleindrive) December 26, 2014
@DanGrazianoESPN: Here's what I believe about offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo. I think the Giants' decision-makers view him as head coach material and believe he could be their head coach at some point in the future. He is only 37 years old and just now getting to the end of his first season ever as a coordinator at any level, so it's hard to have complete confidence that he could handle the job if they gave it to him right now. But what they've seen from him in his first year has not injured their perception of him or his prospects, so he remains a consideration as a possible replacement for Tom Coughlin at some point in the future when they or Coughlin decide it's time to make a change. However, the Giants understand that putting a "succession plan" in place or having a "coach-in-waiting" in the NFL is a tough business because so much can change in a short period of time. What if the offense tanks next year? What if McAdoo gets a job somewhere else first? And so on. So while McAdoo is on their list of potential Coughlin replacements down the road, he's not alone on that list. I guess since you asked what the front office "wants," it's probably that Coughlin coaches for several more seasons during which the Giants have plenty of success and, if McAdoo's still on the staff when Coughlin's time here ends, maybe he gets the promotion. They do like him a lot.
@DanGrazianoESPN: Early returns on GM Jerry Reese's 2014 draft are pretty good. Obviously, first-round pick Odell Beckham doesn't just look like a future star, he actually is a present star. Second-rounder Weston Richburg will end up starting 15 of the 16 games at left guard, and while he's had his struggles, he has also improved and could be a long-range answer at center if he continues to improve. Fourth-rounder Andre Williams has had a couple of 100-yard rushing games, and fifth-rounder Devon Kennard is a valuable contributor at linebacker who already has an NFC Defensive Player of the Week award on his resume. So you're right to like the contributions the Giants have gotten from their rookies this year, and obviously if those guys continue to play and produce at their current levels, this ends up looking like a good draft -- maybe even the best one Reese has had, though that's not necessarily saying much. The key is, of course, how they continue to play and develop. A year ago, everyone was happy with Justin Pugh following his rookie year at right tackle. But Pugh's struggles this year are an example of why we can't always assume a strong rookie year guarantees long-range success. And you can't assess a draft after only one season.
@DanGrazianoESPN: I believe the Giants and veteran safety Antrel Rolle will be able to find common ground on a contract for Rolle to return. I don't see the market opening up for a 32-year-old safety, regardless of Rolle's impressive durability and his evolution as an on-field and off-field leader. He's the kind of guy who likely has more value to the Giants than he would to another team at this point, so I think their offer will reflect that and he'll end up taking it. Will it be for the three more years he says he wants to play? Hard to say. But my hunch is they can work something out.
As for defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, the entire thing is going to be market-driven. If there's a hungry free-agent market for Pierre-Paul as a still-young/now-healthy pass-rusher, the Giants could get priced out. Not because they don't have the money or cap room, but because the Giants' method with their own free agents is to assign a value and stick with it or close to it. If Pierre-Paul's price goes beyond what the Giants believe he's worth, I believe he'll take the highest offer and go elsewhere. But with Mathias Kiwanuka likely on his way out and Damontre Moore continuing to struggle with his development and maturity, the Giants need to find an impact pass-rusher on this year's market, whether it's Pierre-Paul or someone else. And it's the kind of position on which they don't mind spending money.
@DanGrazianoESPN how do the giants view Andre Williams going into next year? Seems to still have pass protection and pass catching issues— Yokes (@RyYokes) December 26, 2014
@DanGrazianoESPN: The Giants actually believe Williams has improved in both of those areas as this season has gone along. He spends a ton of time after practice each day catching balls off the JUGS machine, and they trust him more in the passing game than they did in September and October. Assuming continued improvement there, they'll feel good about him in the passing game next year if they need to lean on him there. Where Williams has been a bit of a disappointment is in his actual running of the ball. The Giants would like to see him be more patient and find the holes, rather than running as hard as he can to the hole before it has opened up. Some of that can be helped with improvements on the offensive line, but Williams needs to develop better trust and timing with his blockers in order to have success next year and beyond. As veteran running back Rashad Jennings tells Williams when tutoring him, he needs to be "quick through the hole, as opposed to quick to the hole." Williams is a part of the plans for next year, for sure, but at this point I doubt they view him as a surefire, carry-the-load starter.
Thanks for all of the questions. Enjoy the final weekend of the regular season.
Kennard had a plastic walking boot on his left foot and did not practice Wednesday. He said he injured his left big toe early in Sunday's game, kept playing on it, was sore after the game and was very sore Monday morning. He believes he can get ready in time for Sunday's game, but until he gets on the practice field he can't be sure.
Jennings was listed as a limited participant in practice but said he's playing Sunday. Also limited in practice were running back Andre Williams (shoulder), linebacker Jameel McClain (knee) and linebacker Paul Hazel (hamstring).
Due to Jennings' injuries, Williams has taken over the team rushing yardage lead, 678 to 606. Jennings said he's happy about that and wants Williams to be a better player than he is. But he smiled and declined comment when asked if he hoped to pass him.
The Giants got the ball at their own 20 to start the drive with 1:37 left in the third quarter. Rookie running back Andre Williams ran for no gain on first down. On second down, Eli Manning fired one quickly to Beckham in the flat, but two defenders were launching themselves irresponsibly at Beckham, and the rookie wide receiver wisely backed out of the play rather than get cut in half.
The Rams did themselves harm on the play, as cornerback E.J. Gaines was injured and had to be carted off the field and checked for a concussion. On the next play, a third-and-10 from the Giants' 20, a coverage bust cost the Rams the play of the game.
Beckham faked a corner route, and the corner bit on it, and Beckham raced past the safety and Manning hit him in stride for an electrifying 80-yard touchdown pass.
"You're catching it and you're running free," Beckham said with a smile. "There's no better feeling than that."
The touchdown gave the Giants a 34-20 lead and they would go on to win 37-27. It was Beckham's second touchdown catch of the game and his 11th in just 11 games this year. He finished the game with eight catches for 148 yards, broke Jeremy Shockey's Giants rookie record of 74 catches in a season and went over 1,000 receiving yards for the year with one game to go.
1. Can the pass rush stay hot? The Giants have a whopping 22 sacks in their last three games after recording only 19 in their first 11. St. Louis' offensive line had a hard time protecting quarterback Shaun Hill in its Week 15 game against Arizona. The quarterback-challenged Rams will try to keep the Giants' pressure off by leaning on the run game -- something they couldn't do against Arizona's tough run defense. So the Giants' pass-rushers are going to have to find ways to keep the pressure on while still paying attention to Tre Mason and the Rams' running game.
2. Can they protect Eli Manning? On the flip side of that, the Giants' offensive line will have to cope with a fearsome St. Louis front that features Robert Quinn, Chris Long and rookie defensive tackle Aaron Donald. Manning hasn't responded well this year (or last!) when facing pressure, and the Giants haven't faced a defense this tough in quite a while, if all year. St. Louis had back-to-back shutouts before last week's 12-6 loss to Arizona. They haven't given up a touchdown since Week 12.
Jennings said Friday that his hope is to return to practice next week and play in the season finale against the Philadelphia Eagles next week. In the meantime, rookie Andre Williams will make his sixth start of the season. Orleans Darkwa will serve as his backup, and Chris Ogbonnaya is likely to be active for the first time as a Giant.
The only other Giants player on the injury report this week was middle linebacker Jameel McClain, who missed Wednesday's practice with a knee injury but practiced Thursday and Friday. McClain is listed as probable and is expected to play.
"First dang play," Jennings said. "Obviously, that's frustrating, as you can imagine."
Well, Jennings doesn't think his season is over yet. But the Giants only have two games left, and his chances of playing in Sunday's game in St. Louis are pretty slim. He sat out practice Wednesday and doesn't expect to practice Thursday either. He's keeping to his I-want-to-play mantra, but at least in terms of this week, he doesn't think he's got much of a chance to convince them to let him try.
"I've been fighting them to let me play anyway, and now with this happening..." Jennings said with a grin. "I wouldn't be surprised if they said, 'Nah'."
So his hope is to heal up enough between now and the regular-season home finale against Philadelphia, and to play in one more game this year. Jennings missed four games earlier in the year with a knee sprain and has been a non-factor the last two weeks due to the ankle.
If Jennings can't play, the Giants will use rookie Andre Williams as their starting running back and Orleans Darkwa as his backup. It's possible Darkwa could see some passing-downs work, and that Chris Ogbonnaya could be active as a reserve.
The only other Giant who isn't on injured reserve and missed practice Wednesday was linebacker Jameel McClain, who's been taking Wednesdays off lately due to a sore knee but has yet to miss a game.
Jennings sprained his ankle in the Week 13 loss in Jacksonville and played a minimal role in the following week's victory in Tennessee. He was slated for a slightly larger workload Sunday, as evidenced by the fact that he got the first carry of the game. But says he "tweaked" the ankle on that very play, and now his status for the final two games of the season is obviously in doubt.
Assuming the injury is where it was after the Jacksonville game, it's impossible to count on Jennings for Sunday's game in St. Louis, and it's possible they could just shut him down for the rest of the season and give the starting running back work to rookie Andre Williams. We likely won't know for sure until Wednesday, when the Giants return to the practice field. But it's obviously not looking good for Jennings to have the strong finish to the season for which he was hoping.
Jennings is in his first year with the Giants, having signed a free-agent contract in March. Early in the season, when the offense was having success, he looked like a good fit as the all-purpose starter at running back. He had 176 rushing yards in the Week 3 victory against Houston and averaged 4.35 yards per carry during the Giants' first five games. But he injured his knee in Week 5, missed the next four games and wasn't back to full strength until the Jacksonville game, in which he injured the ankle. So Jennings' first Giants season will turn out to have been about injury and time missed, and his health issues will make him one of their question marks going into 2015.
Giants coach Tom Coughlin, asked whether Jennings re-injured his sprained right ankle on that play, said, "Yeah, right away, he did."
Jennings sprained his ankle two weeks ago in Jacksonville, and while he was active last week in Tennessee, he was the backup to rookie Andre Williams and played a minimal role as the Giants blew out the Titans. My understanding as of Friday was that Jennings' ankle was feeling better but not 100 percent even though he practiced all week, and that the Giants would try to use him in a bit of a lesser role for one more week before letting him loose again next week in St. Louis. They did not get that chance, and we'll wait to hear Monday whether there's a negative prognosis that could cost Jennings a chance to play in the Giants' final two games.
Williams had 131 yards on 24 carries last week against the Titans' No. 32-ranked run defense, but only 44 yards on 18 carries Sunday against Washington's top-10 run defense that loaded up to stop him. If Jennings can't play in the final two games, you can expect the Giants to give Williams a heavy workload, and the benefit of that would be a chance for him to develop and for them to evaluate him in advance of next season.