New York Giants: Antrel Rolle

video Will Hill was the best player on the New York Giants' defense last year.

If you'd forgotten that, then watching Hill cover Jimmy Graham and return an interception for a touchdown Monday Night to help the Ravens beat the Saints brought it all back home for you. Hill is a special talent, and he would undoubtedly be an asset to a struggling Giants defense that's especially banged up in the secondary.

But none of that means the Giants were wrong to release Hill in June after learning of his third drug suspension in as many seasons.

"When you run a business, you have to be able to rely and depend on people to be there when you need them to perform their duties," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said at the time.

And that's it. Releasing Hill had nothing to do with the Giants' feelings about drugs, about Hill personally or about his ability to help them win their Week 12 game. It was all about the Giants deciding, with good reason, that they couldn't trust Hill to show up for work. He misses games due to a drug suspension literally every single year. His next suspension would likely be for at least a full year, if not longer. You can't keep investing time and resources and a roster spot in a player who has proven he's not going to be able to play every game.

There are players all over the league who get injured and miss games every year, and it's easy for people to understand the idea of moving on from those players because they can't get on the field. This should be even easier to understand. Hill doesn't have injury issues, which wouldn't necessarily be his fault. He has bad-life-decision issues, which are his fault and which he has shown an inability and/or unwillingness to correct.

"Will knew the situation he put the Giants in. He forced their hand," Giants safety and Hill confidant Antrel Rolle said at the time of the suspension. "For him to keep moving himself in the wrong direction is not a good thing. It's too easy to do right to keep doing wrong."

The Giants are happy to see Hill succeeding in Baltimore, where he sat out the first six games of the season after his latest suspension. They liked him as a person and loved him as a player, and no one in their building is surprised to see him playing well. But in order to get the benefits of Will Hill, you have to accept the drawbacks -- the most significant of which is the likelihood that he tests positive once again for drugs and can't play for you anymore. The Giants decided they'd had enough of assuming that risk, and just because Hill had a big game Monday Night, it doesn't mean it was the wrong decision.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Seen and heard in the locker room following the New York Giants' 16-10 loss to the 49ers.
  • Giants coach Tom Coughlin, talking about the last two games and looking ahead to next week: "We've had a defensive fiasco. Now we've had an offensive fiasco. Now maybe we can put something together." It's never good when you're comparing fiascoes.
  • Pugh
    Coughlin said right tackle Justin Pugh injured his quad in last week's game in Seattle, which was surprising because Pugh was never on the injury report this week. Coughlin said Pugh took every snap in practice, so they weren't worried, but he came out of this game early and did not return. Charles Brown did a poor job as his replacement.
  • Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie had to physically restrain safety Antrel Rolle from walking across the field to argue with officials following a pass interference call on Rodgers-Cromartie early in the game. I pointed out to Rodgers-Cromartie that his veteran mentor, Rolle, was supposed to be the one who did that for him. Rodgers-Cromartie grinned and said, "Sometimes the younger guy has to play the bigger role."

Giants' D vows to bounce back vs. 49ers

November, 12, 2014
Nov 12
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants' defense has moved on from its historically bad performance Sunday in Seattle, but they haven't forgotten it.

The Giants gave up 350 rushing yards to the Seahawks -- the third-worst total in franchise history. They were outrushed 350-54 -- a 296-yard difference, the largest ever in a Giants loss according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

"That’s not the Giants standard, and that’s not the way football is played," linebacker Jameel McClain said Wednesday. "Nobody wants records set on them, and I hate it, it still makes me sick. So the idea that I get to go back out there and hit someone and make them pay for what happened last week, I love it."

[+] EnlargeLynch
Otto Greule Jr/Getty ImagesMarshawn Lynch and the Seahawks outrushed the Giants 350 yards to 54.
Strong words, yes, but the task is more difficult than it sounds. The Giants' next opponent, the San Francisco 49ers, are ninth in the league in the rushing (122.2 yards per game). Running back Frank Gore is ranked 10th in the league (553 yards), and Colin Kaepernick is second among all NFL QBs in rushing yards (298) -- behind only the Seahawks' Russell Wilson (500), who ran for 107 against the Giants last week.

The Giants, meanwhile, are ranked dead-last in the NFL against the run (144.7 yards per game). In fact, they are dead-last in total defense, too (404.9 yards per game), a fact that was brought up to several Giants defensive players Wednesday.

"We know it, we’re aware of it, and we have to change it," said defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins. "We have to have pride, and it comes from inside. It’s something that we’re not gonna accept, we’re not gonna tolerate, and it has to come from the players -- we’ve gotta go out there and do it on Sundays."

The Giants' coaching staff, and defensive coordinator Perry Fewell in particular, have come under fire in recent days. But the players largely took the blame upon themselves Wednesday.

"We watch things on film, it’s simple -- details, minor things that we’ve been taught to do, we’re just not going out there and executing," safety Antrel Rolle said.

The Giants may be missing another key player on defense Sunday against the 49ers. Linebacker Jacquian Williams, the team's leading tackler, has a concussion and did not practice Wednesday. Williams has played 563 defensive snaps for the Giants this season according to Football Outsiders, or 93.8 percent -- second only to Rolle (595, 99.2 percent).

The team has already lost two starters, middle linebacker Jon Beason and cornerback Prince Amukamara, plus slot corner Walter Thurmond and his replacement, Trumaine McBride, for the remainder of the season.

"Jacquian I think he’s been playing good football, but right now with the injuries we’ve been hit with thus far, we’re kind of used to it already," Rolle said. "Next man up. We just gotta get ready."

The Giants have allowed 423 or more yards in four consecutive games for the first time in franchise history. They're giving up 9.1 "explosive plays" (rushes of 10-plus yards, passes of 20-plus yards) per game -- the worst single-season figure since ESPN Stats & Information began tracking that stat in 2001.

There's little reason for optimism, but the defensive players sounded upbeat Wednesday, for what it's worth.

"We made our beds, we gotta lie in them," defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka said. "The bottom line is, we’ll dig ourselves out of that hole and make sure that this week is the start of getting out of there."

"We have to go out there and put out the best performance that we’ve had to date," McClain said. "I love the challenge of going out there, and I know my teammates look forward to the challenge. You get to see how people stand up at this point."
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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.

Antrel Rolle on Giants: 'We need a pulse'

November, 5, 2014
Nov 5
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Antrel Rolle thinks the New York Giants lack passion, but not all of his teammates agree.

Rolle caused a stir Tuesday with some comments he made during his weekly radio spot on WFAN. "I just think [passion's] something we're missing a lot," Rolle said. "On our sideline it's very dead. Throughout the course of the game it's dead. We need a pulse."

Linebacker Jameel McClain, one of four Giants players made available to the media Wednesday via conference call, expressed support for Rolle but at the same time seemed to contradict Rolle's words.

[+] EnlargeAntrel Rolle
AP Photo/Bill Kostroun"On our sideline it's very dead," Giants captain Antrel Rolle said. "Throughout the course of the game it's dead."
"Antrel's a general, and whatever the general says, it goes. At the end of the day I'm a part of this battle with him, and if he feels that way, I feel that way with him," McClain said. "[But] I can speak for myself, and I can speak for some of the things that I've seen. I see passion in guys, and I play the game with passion, I play with everything that I have."

"Whatever Antrel sees, I take it as a challenge, for us to step it up, for me to give more," he added. "That's how I took it -- just, what more can you do as an individual -- and that's how everybody else should take it."

Rolle is one of the team's five captains, but McClain has quickly emerged as a vocal leader in his first year with the Giants, too. In fact, McClain -- who is now starting at middle linebacker in place of the injured Jon Beason -- was made an additional game-day captain for Monday night's game against the Indianapolis Colts.

Speaking of Monday night, one Giant who certainly played with passion was defensive lineman Robert Ayers, who had the team's only sack of Andrew Luck and was credited with a whopping seven quarterback hits in the game.

Ayers, also in his first year with the Giants, agreed with Rolle.

"I do feel like we can play with more intensity," Ayers said. "It is easy to be intense when things are good, but when things are bad, we still have to keep it going. It starts with the players, it starts with the coaches and we just have to keep fighting and keep wanting it, it will come."

The 3-5 Giants have now lost three in a row, and face a short week and a long trip to Seattle to face the defending Super Bowl champion Seahawks this coming Sunday.

Coach Tom Coughlin bristled at questions about the Indianapolis game on Wednesday, preferring to look ahead to Seattle, but said he didn't think a lack of effort or passion was the problem against the Colts.

"I think we played hard the other night. I think we played consistently hard throughout the game," Coughlin said. "What is Antrel’s interpretation of that, I am not sure. I know he is an emotional guy and he does wear his emotions on his sleeve. He is a passionate young man.

"Not all people are the same. I think our preparation last week was certainly good. I thought that the idea of playing hard, not looking at the scoreboard, staying with it and working as hard as we could -- I think, for the most part, we did that. It wasn’t a ‘rah-rah’ situation most of the time on the sideline, but people were into the game and they were playing hard."
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants still have six days until their next game, so Monday's practice was a shorter one than usual, designed to shake off the rust from the bye week and see where everyone stands in terms of health and readiness for the final nine games of the season. Here's a recap of what we learned Monday on that front:
  • Jennings
    We already went through running back Rashad Jennings and the reasons it doesn't sound to me as though he'll be ready to play Monday night against the Colts. You can read more about it here, but basically, Jennings is a highly positive and optimistic person who admitted between the lines Monday that his optimism in this particular case is likely not going to turn out to be justified.
  • Guard Geoff Schwartz, who hasn't played since the preseason because of a toe injury, is eligible to come off short-term injured reserve and play Monday, but there's no guarantee he will. He was on the practice field and moving around, but he didn't appear to be doing much. Coach Tom Coughlin said, "He's started," meaning Schwartz was just now beginning the process of getting back on the field. The Giants have 21 days to activate Schwartz from the short-term injured reserve list, which means there's nothing compelling them to play him or even put him back on the 53-man roster in time for this week's game.
  • Rodgers-Cromartie
    Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was on the practice field, though Coughlin indicated Rodgers-Cromartie remained somewhat limited due to persistent leg and back problems. He has yet to miss a game, but he hasn't played a whole one in more than a month. Rodgers-Cromartie's injuries appear to be the kind that will bother and limit him all season, but at this point they're not considering sitting him for a long period of time. That could change.
  • In case you missed it, linebacker Jon Beason will have surgery on his toe and miss the rest of the season. "Hopefully we're not going to lose anything in terms of his presence," Coughlin said. "I think he's probably going to have to be away a little bit, but then he'll return and we'll have him in meetings, etc. I'm looking forward to that part, anyway."
  • And safety Antrel Rolle was struggling a bit with his left foot in the early portion of practice Monday, coming on and off the field while trainers worked on his foot and tried to adjust his shoe to alleviate some discomfort. But Coughlin said Rolle ended up taking every snap in the team period, and Rolle said after practice that he was fine. So that's something to keep in the back of your mind, but at this point it doesn't appear to be a major thing.

The Giants are off Tuesday, and Wednesday is an abbreviated work day with no media access, so the next time we check in with these guys will be Thursday.
Injuries could force the New York Giants' defense to look a little bit different in the weeks that follow this week's bye. Defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins strained his right calf in Sunday's loss in Dallas. Middle linebacker Jon Beason might need surgery to repair the toe injury that's been limiting him since June. And injuries at cornerback could lead the Giants to bring back the three-safety look they used on their way to their most recent Super Bowl title three seasons ago.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Now that he's healthy, he's contributing on special teams, and last week was able to go in the game and do some good things," linebackers coach Jim Herrmann said of Kennard. "It was good to see him get out and get some game experience, because that is invaluable for a young linebacker. The other guys love him. He's got a great personality, and he wants to be great. I think we'll see some really good things out of him."
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New York Giants cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie missed a second straight day of practice Thursday, casting significant doubt on his availability for Sunday's game against Dez Bryant and the Cowboys in Dallas.

Rodgers-Cromartie
Giants coach Tom Coughlin said Wednesday morning that Rodgers-Cromartie would practice on a limited basis. But Rodgers-Cromartie did not practice at all Wednesday, and he was not on the field for the portion of Thursday's practice that was open to the media.

Rodgers-Cromartie has been struggling for weeks with a leg problem that has been described at various times as an ankle, hip or hamstring injury, and he left Sunday night's game in Philadelphia with back problems. His official listing on Wednesday's injury report was "Did not practice (back/hamstring)."

If Rodgers-Cromartie can't play, Zack Bowman likely would take his place as a starting outside cornerback along with Prince Amukamara, who likely would draw Rodgers-Cromartie's usual assignment of covering the opposing team's top wide receiver. For the Cowboys, that means Bryant, who's one of the best and most physically dominating wide receivers in the game. Amukamara is having a strong season, but he does tend to look better when Rodgers-Cromartie is on the field.

The Giants also are down to their third option at nickel cornerback. With Walter Thurmond and Trumaine McBride out for the season with injuries, Jayron Hosley will draw that assignment Sunday, though it's possible safety Antrel Rolle could play that spot as he has in the past. If that happened, the Giants might have to revive their old three-safety look, which could bring benched starter Stevie Brown back into the mix.

The Film Don't Lie: Giants

October, 14, 2014
Oct 14
11:00
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A weekly look at something the New York Giants must fix:

The Dallas Cowboys have the No. 1 rushing offense in the league. They are averaging 160.3 rush yards per game, 10.5 more than any other team. Running back DeMarco Murray leads the league in rushing by 243 yards after only six weeks. In other words, Dallas likes to run the ball and is very good at doing so.

Although the New York Giants have a lot to fix after Sunday night's 27-0 loss in Philadelphia, the most important thing this week is their run defense. The Giants made a poor game-plan decision Sunday, and the Eagles took advantage of it. The Giants stayed in a nickel defense pretty much all night, which wasn't a problem in and of itself. But they uncharacteristically took their best coverage linebacker, Jacquian Williams, off the field far more than usual. They kept both safeties high for much of the game and relied on linebackers Jameel McClain and Jon Beason for run support, and LeSean McCoy had a field day while the Eagles' line blew the Giants' front four off the ball.

The Giants need to use safety Antrel Rolle in the box more than they did Sunday. They're better off when Williams is on the field to cover the tight end and the defensive backs help in run support. If they don't go back to that formula Sunday, they're going to have a tough time stopping Murray before he gets to the second level.
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.

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

October, 13, 2014
Oct 13
12:40
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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."
LANDOVER, Md. -- The New York Giants were one of only three teams in the NFL that didn't take the ball away from its opponent in the first two weeks of the season. It was a trend they have spoke in practice and meetings about reversing.

Amukamara
 "Coach [Perry] Fewell has been challenging us to get turnovers, and ever since the first week he's been telling us we need to be more Zack Bowman-ish, since [Giants cornerback] Zack Bowman is known for getting turnovers," cornerback Prince Amukamara said after Thursday's 45-14 victory over Washington. "We've been rising to the challenge."

Bowman did not have one of the Giants' four interceptions Thursday, but Amukamara did, and it was something of a milestone for him. After collecting just one interception in each of his first three NFL seasons, Amukamara now has one in each of his last two games -- and a career-high two for the season.

"Zack's been staying with me after practice, catching balls off the JUGS machine, and he told me after last week, 'There's more to get,'" Amukamara said. "And tonight he came to me and said, 'You broke your record.' The knock on me has always been I have bad hands or I'm not a big playmaker or whatever. So it's definitely good to be able to show that part of my game."

It's vital for the team as well. The Giants had six takeaways in the game and only turned the ball over once. A plus-five turnover differential is a pretty good way to ensure a victory in the NFL. According to ESPN Stats & Information, since the start of the 2013 season, the Giants are 7-0 when they have a positive turnover differential, and 2-11 when they do not.

"It's Christmas, that's what it is," said safety Antrel Rolle, who had another of the interceptions. "You want games like that, where you're playing ahead and the other team is trying to play catch-up, and you know they have to force the ball. They're trying to make the long throws and complete long passes, and it gives the defense more opportunities to create turnovers."

Amukamara and safety Quintin Demps, who also had an interception in his first game replacing Stevie Brown as a starter, said Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins was staring down receivers Thursday night, and that helped the defensive backs jump routes and anticipate where the ball was going.

Good pressure by the defensive line and blitzing linebackers in the first half helped get Cousins off his game -- especially when Mathias Kiwanuka came unblocked for an early sack/fumble.

And Amukamara and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie held up their end in man coverage against star Washington receivers Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson, respectively. Strong defensive effort all around, but the Giants feel a lot better about those strong defensive efforts when they come with a big pile of turnovers.

"It's a mindset," said Bowman, who came over from the takeaway-happy Bears this offseason and has been preaching that since training camp. "Once you start getting them, it can snowball. It can get contagious. That's where we are right now."
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- It wasn't a fun week for New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Giants' secondary a mess so far

September, 16, 2014
Sep 16
10:45
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Aggressive enough to be called for way too many penalties; not aggressive enough to force any turnovers.

This, through two weeks, is the New York Giants' secondary. A unit that was supposed to be the strength of this team has instead been one of the main culprits for their 0-2 start.

Rolle
 You can't have both of these problems. If you're committing seven penalties on point-of-emphasis, downfield contact plays, five of which hand first downs to the opponent, then that aggressiveness needs to be paying off in the form of takeaways. The Giants are one of three teams in the league -- along with the Chiefs and Steelers -- who have yet to take the ball away from their opponent through the first two weeks of the season.

"The no takeaways is an issue now," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said Monday. "This is something that every team counts on in the NFL -- getting an extra field position, bona fide field position from some type of takeaway, whether it be special teams or defense. And we have not had that."

Coughlin lamented a couple of plays from Sunday's game that he believed safety Stevie Brown and cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie could have turned into interceptions, and he seemed to believe the issues were of technique and/or decision-making.

"You've got to be in the right position. Your eyes have got to be in the right spot. You've got to have a good feel for it," Coughlin said. I thought on a couple of occasions, the quarterback was actually staring the ball down where he was goingm and we still weren't influenced enough to go in that direction and be in position to make a play. We do have athletes. They are good athletes. A couple of years ago, we referred to Stevie Brown as kind of a ballhawking guy in center field when he had that opportunity. He's just not there yet. He's not back yet to where he was a couple of years ago, and let's hope he gets there."

In the meantime, the Giants' defensive backs need to keep their hands to themselves. They weren't called for many of those preseason-type downfield contact penalties in the opening-week loss in Detroit, but they had way too many of them on Sunday. And while fans and even some players and coaches may want to sit around and argue about the validity of the calls being made against defensive backs, they are being made, and defensive players have to adjust better than the Giants have done.

"We need to be smarter," safety Antrel Rolle said. "You can't hold a guy. Illegal contact, things like that are going to take place throughout the course of the game. But there are certain things we saw on film. When you're jamming a guy, and you're holding and you're looking at the quarterback, they're going to call that 100 percent of the time. So we have to be smarter."

It would be one thing if the over-aggressive play were leading to interceptions, but they don't have one yet. And while it's still early, this is a unit that needs to be setting the tone for the rest of the team. It's not going to get any easier with nickel cornerback Walter Thurmond out for the year due to a pectoral muscle injury, but the players who remain are good enough to cut down on the penalties and make some plays. At this point, though, the Giants would take just one of those things.

"Obviously, we're not as good at it as we should be," Coughlin said. "So we've got to sharpen it up."
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DETROIT -- The worst part for the New York Giants was that they didn't have anything they could feel good about. Week 1 is supposed to be about optimism and looking forward with hope. But after a 35-14 loss to the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on Monday night, the Giants couldn't come up with anything positive to say about their performance.

"No excuses. We played very poorly," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "We don't have a lot to be proud of here. It was a nightmare performance."

Coughlin wasn't happy about the pass protection, as the Lions registered two sacks and nine hits of Giants quarterback Eli Manning. He was unhappy about a running game that gained 53 yards on 22 carries. He was upset about the breakdowns in pass coverage that allowed Calvin Johnson to perform like the video-game version of himself to the tune of seven catches for 164 yards and two touchdowns, and that allowed Golden Tate to gain 44 yards on a key third-and-11. He was unhappy about Manning's two interceptions and the inability of receivers Victor Cruz and Rueben Randle to make plays.

Everybody was unhappy. We even asked defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins, who had a good game stopping the run, whether he felt good about that at least. He did not.

"Right now, I don't feel like I did a good job of anything," Jenkins said. "I feel like we could have made it a lot easier on our secondary if we'd played better up front."

Safety Antrel Rolle said "there definitely wasn't enough fight" in his team in its first game of the season. And after the mess they made of last season, all of the changes they made in the offseason and the grief they took from outside critics in the preseason, you would have thought that wouldn't be a problem.

Instead, those who endured last year's 0-6 start seemed to be experiencing a sick and familiar feeling as they dressed and packed and headed for the plane.

"We shouldn't be talking right now about comparing the way we lost to last year," Jenkins said. "We should be talking about what we learned from last year, and how that made us better."

But they weren't, and the reason was the familiarity of the overmatched feeling they felt on the field. The Lions came at them with star players at wide receiver, running back, defensive line and, of course, quarterback. The Giants looked like a patchwork science project of a team whose pieces aren't good enough on their own to scare anyone and don't yet fit together in any kind of productive way.

"How are guys that you don't know going to respond to adversity now?" linebacker and newly minted team captain Jon Beason asked. "We have a new group of guys here. Owning up to what you did wrong is the first step, and it's an important one."

Tuesday and Wednesday aren't going to be fun days for the Giants as they review what went on in their first game of the season. To make sure the feeling doesn't repeat itself, they must correct the mistakes and start playing better. The long-term problem is that they may not have enough quality players on this roster to allow them to do that. The short-term problem is that Monday night's opener didn't offer any evidence to the contrary.

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