New York Giants: Chip Kelly

The New York Giants are pass rush, and pass rush is the New York Giants. So we have been told for decades, since the days of L.T. and Bill Parcells. When the Giants win, it's because they pressure quarterbacks. Pass rush is acknowledged as the single biggest reason the Giants have won four Super Bowls and the Tom Brady/Bill Belichick Patriots have only won three. Lawrence Taylor, Leonard Marshall, Michael Strahan, Justin Tuck, Jason Pierre-Paul ... these are the fearsome edge rushers who have delivered for the Giants in their greatest seasons.

And yet, this offseason has been about the smaller, faster guys who play on the back end of the defense. The Giants let 2013 sack leader Tuck leave via free agency and have not replaced him, instead signing three new cornerbacks and re-signing one of their own cornerbacks and their own safety. If you didn't know any better, you'd think some sort of broad organizational philosophy shift was in the works.

I doubt that's it, because the Giants aren't big into sudden, broad organizational philosophy shifts. But it's entirely possible that the commitment to a secondary that didn't seem to be one of the most pressing needs when the offseason began has something to do with the way offenses are trending in the NFL in general and in the NFC East in particular. The Chip Kelly Eagles get the ball out of their quarterback's hands before a pass rush can get there. Tony Romo is elusive and was picking apart the Giants with short, quick passes in two games last season. And while he didn't look it in that Dec. 1 game last year, Robert Griffin III was a nightmare for Giants pass-rushers the year before when healthy.

If the trend is toward mobile quarterbacks and up-tempo, quick-release passing games, it's entirely possible that devoting more resources to covering receivers is a smart way to go. I still think the best way to disrupt a passing offense is to pressure the quarterback into throwing (or not throwing) the ball. But if you're running a defense these days and you see the way offenses are trending, it's possible to come to the conclusion that you're just not going to be able to dictate that the way you used to. And if that's the case, locking things down on the back end and maybe trying to buy your pass-rushers some extra time that way is a reasonable counter-move.

John Mara said last week that the reason the Giants ended up devoting so many of their free-agent resources to defensive backs was because that's the way the market fell for them, and I believe him. The Giants were a team with many needs, and if the players they liked best for the prices all happened to play defensive back, there's no reason they shouldn't have leaned that way. But I'm interested to see whether beefing up on the back end of the defense rather than the front end is a formula that can work for a team that has, for so long, believed in doing things the other way.
So, back on draft day 2009, as Mike Garafolo reported at the time, the New York Giants had their eye on Missouri wide receiver Jeremy Maclin in the first round. They'd worked out a deal with the Lions to trade up from No. 29 to No. 20 to pick Maclin if he was available. Once the Eagles traded up to No. 19 and took Maclin there, the deal was off and the Giants stayed put and took North Carolina wide receiver Hakeem Nicks instead.

Now, Nicks is a free agent coming off a disappointing year in which he failed to score a touchdown, and Maclin is a free agent coming off a year he missed after tearing his ACL during training camp. Giants fans (and possibly the Giants' coaching staff) are down on Nicks for a perceived deficiency of effort during the 2013 season, and Monday on Twitter I got this interesting question:

So I thought, "Good question, Steve," and I gave it some thought.

The first thing to understand about Maclin is that no one's going to offer him any kind of contract until he proves his knee is healthy. ACL injuries may not be as career-threatening scary as they were even a half-decade ago, but until Maclin shows teams he can run, the interest won't materialize. Assuming he does, though, there are likely to be many interested teams. Maclin turns 26 in May and has a long career ahead of him if he recovers fully. If he can demonstrate anything resembling his old speed, a one-year offer may not be enough to get it done.

And even if it were enough, you'd have to think he'd take a "prove-it" deal from the Eagles, no? He likes it there. Chip Kelly's offense looks as though it's a great deal of fun for a wide receiver. If it's down to one-year offers of similar value, Philadelphia would have to have the best chance, I would think.

So I guess my answer is this: A healthy Maclin would make sense for the Giants as a Nicks replacement, and the fact that they preferred him to Nicks on draft day 2009 shouldn't be discounted, as the same people are making their decisions now as were making them then. But if they do want to go that route, they're likely going to have to decide they're sold on the condition of his knee and willing to commit to him beyond just 2014. I would be surprised if that happened, but it can't be ruled out.
Your daily morning check-in on news and notes about and of interest to the New York Giants.

The news of the day: The game Sunday against the Redskins could be the final one in a Giants uniform for long-timers like Justin Tuck, Mathias Kiwanuka, David Diehl, Hakeem Nicks and others. Tuck says the fact is on his mind, even as he works to focus on trying to win the game. Nicks is a free agent too, and doesn't appear to have the support of the coaching staff anymore after playing as poorly as he has in his contract year. Nicks' possible replacement, if such a thing is on the roster, is Rueben Randle, who missed Thursday's practice with a knee injury.

Behind enemy lines: The quarterback for the Redskins on Sunday will be Kirk Cousins. But the quarterback of the Redskins' future is still Robert Griffin III. And whoever's coaching him next year, his current offensive coordinator believes he'll have plenty of success.

Around the division: The Cowboys appear to be playing games with their quarterback situation, refusing to admit that Tony Romo won't be able to play due to his back injury. Eagles coach Chip Kelly says his team won't be taken in by any attempts to confuse the situation.

Around the league: We'll go around the league today on "NFL Insiders" on ESPN at 3 p.m. ET. I'll also be on the 11 am ET SportsCenter, talking about league-wide issues including the Cowboys-Eagles game. Tune in, DVR it or whatever it is you do. Hope you enjoy.
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?

Big Blue Morning: Bye, bye, bye

October, 29, 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 gathered Monday for a film breakdown and meetings off the Eagles' game and then dispersed. They don't have to return to practice until next Monday as they have this week off for their bye and their next game is not until Sunday, Nov. 10 at home against the Raiders. The players and coaches are as upbeat as any 2-6 team in league history, because they've won two in a row after an 0-6 start and are only two games out of first place due to the 4-4 Cowboys' inconsistencies. "We haven't done anything yet," cornerback Terrell Thomas said. "We're 2-6. It feels great to have two wins, and there are smiles around here. Everybody is confident and this team has the makeup to make a run. We're better when our backs are against the wall. But it's a good time for us to relax and get football off our minds, then come back refreshed."

Behind enemy lines: The Raiders just beat the Steelers 21-18 and are now getting ready to play the Eagles on Sunday. Just like Eagles coach Chip Kelly, they don't know who's going to be playing quarterback for the Eagles when they face them.

Around the division: The Redskins are having a tough enough time trying to defend their division title, and so they don't need there to be any news about Robert Griffin III's knee. Fortunately for them, the news from Sunday's knee injury appears to have been minor. But it's a reminder that Griffin's health remains the most critical issue around that franchise, likely for the next decade.

Around the league: John Clayton's "Last Call" from Sunday's action delves into the idea that the Giants aren't the only team in the league that's struggling with the run game.
New York Giants defensive players would say when it was all over that they were relieved to see Eagles quarterback Michael Vick leave the game in favor of Matt Barkley, but it sure didn't look that way at the beginning. Barkley was working his way down the field in the final two minutes of the first half and looked as though he was about to score a touchdown that would have cut the Giants' lead to 12-7 at the half. At the very least, the Eagles appeared assured of a field goal when a 14-yard Barkley pass to Jason Avant set them up with a first-and-goal from the 2-yard line with 1:23 left on the clock.

But instead of handing the ball to the league's leading rusher and trying to grind out those final 2 yards with a couple of safe runs, Eagles coach Chip Kelly instead had the rookie Barkley attempt a bizarre-looking goal-line pass play. And the result was exactly what the Giants' defense needed.

Cornerback Terrell Thomas was the one who got into the backfield, and for a few seconds it appeared as though Thomas' fellow former USC Trojan would elude him. Barkley rolled out to his left looking for someone open in the end zone, but Thomas stuck with him and was able to slap the ball out of Barkley's hand as he brought him down for the sack. The ball scuttled toward the sideline as Giants linebacker Jacquian Williams leaped over Thomas and Barkley and managed to corral the ball just before it rolled out of bounds. The Giants had the ball and the Eagles' scoring threat was over.

"I thought he was going to get away from me, but thank god I was able to get a hand on it," Thomas said. "Great play by Jacquian to keep his arm in bounds."

Probably the play that kept the game from slipping away from the Giants.

Big Blue Morning: Historically bad

October, 7, 2013
Your daily morning check-in on news and notes about and of interest to the New York Giants:

The news of the day: A 36-21 loss to a terrible Philadelphia Eagles team that had to play its backup quarterback for the whole second half dropped the Giants to 0-5 for the first time since the replacement-player season of 1987 and the first time in a non-strike year since 1979. You don't hear a lot about the 1979 Giants, so here you go: The fifth game of that 0-5 start was the NFL debut game of quarterback Phil Simms, who piloted the Giants to four straight wins thereafter and a 6-10 record for the season. Their leading rusher that year was fullback Billy Taylor with 700 yards and seven touchdowns. Earnest Gray led the team with 537 receiving yards on 28 catches. Linebackers Harry Carson and Brad Van Pelt and punter Dave Jennings were the team's only Pro Bowlers. Yes, the current Giants are proving themselves worthy of these types of comparisons. It's that bad. And the scariest part of it, may be that, as Ian O'Connor writes, Eli Manning appears to be cracking under the pressure.

Behind enemy lines: Nick Foles looked good in relief, but Eagles coach Chip Kelly says Michael Vick will remain his starting quarterback if and when he gets that hamstring healthy. Which is fair. Can't anoint a guy just because he beat the Giants. Look what happened to Cam Newton on Sunday. Giants are fools gold for opposing offenses and defenses alike.

Around the division: The game of the day was of course Cowboys-Broncos, which the Cowboys lost 51-48 when Tony Romo threw an interception late after an otherwise brilliant game. The loss to the Broncos, who are 3-0 against NFC East teams with the Redskins still to play, dropped the Cowboys to 2-3 and in a first-place tie with the Eagles. I still think Dallas has a good team that doesn't know how to win, and that the other three teams in the division are bad teams. And I know which one I'd rather be.

Around the league: For me, the most impressive win of the day was the comeback victory by Andrew Luck and the Colts over the previously undefeated Seahawks. I don't want to give anything away, but I'm thinking those Colts get a bump this week's Power Rankings and that young Mr. Luck makes an appearance on this week's MVP Watch.

Shaky day for Giants coach Coughlin

October, 6, 2013
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin has never before been 0-5 as an NFL head coach. Even his expansion 1995 Jacksonville Jaguars won their fifth game after starting 0-4. After the Giants' 36-21 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, Coughlin worked hard to try to convey leadership and accountability.

"It's no fun, but I'm not concerned about me," Coughlin said. "I'm concerned about those players in the locker room. Whatever I can do, I'll defer whatever to myself. I lose the games and they win 'em."

Truth is, there's ample blame to go around, and Coughlin made a couple of questionable decisions in Sunday's loss. He explained them after the game.

Situation No. 1: In the first quarter, with the Giants up 7-0, the Eagles picked up five yards on a third-and-nine play that moved the ball to the Giants' 47. Eagles center Jason Kelce was called for holding, and had Coughlin declined the penalty, the Eagles would have had fourth-and-four at the 47. Instead, he accepted it, and they had third-and-20 from their own 37. Michael Vick ran 34 yards for the first down. Coughlin said he accepted the penalty because he believed Chip Kelly would have gone for it on fourth-and-four, and to be fair there is ample evidence to support that belief.

The explanation: "There was no question in our minds that the would go for it," Coughlin said. "So the consensus on the sideline was to take them back. We were doing a pretty good job with Vick at that time. Then, of course, the next play he runs for what would've been that first down and a first down from wherever the ball was."

My take: Even if you thought the Eagles would go for it on fourth down, I make them make that decision. Coughlin's right -- the Giants were doing a decent job on Vick at that point. The Eagles had 12 yards of total offense on nine plays so far, and there was no reason yet for the Giants to believe they couldn't stop them from gaining four yards. Crowd and defense would have been fired up. Instead, everyone was confused.

Situation No. 2: With 12:40 left in the third quarter and the Giants trailing 19-7, the Eagles converted a third-and-10 with an 11-yard Nick Foles pass to LeSean McCoy. There was some dispute, among the Giants on the field, as to whether McCoy had control of the ball when he fell out of bounds and whether he had sufficient yardage for a first down. Coughlin called timeout to settle things down, then got word from his coaches in the booth that it was worth challenging the play. So he challenged the play and lost the challenge, leaving the Giants with only one more timeout for the final 27:40 of the game.

The explanation: "When I saw the players on the field, they were trying to get my attention to go ahead and challenge," Coughlin said. "The clock was way down, so I just instinctively called a timeout to settle everybody down. Obviously if I'd known in advance from upstairs what exactly I was going to do, I would have challenged first. Then I asked for the timeout back if they did reverse it. That wasn't going to be the case either. But I was very surprised, as was our sideline and upstairs, when they did not reverse it."

My take: At the time, with the game in reach and the Giants behind, it seemed like a bad move. Especially bad when they burned that final timeout with 4:48 still left in the third quarter. But this was desperation time for an 0-4 Giants team that had no reason to believe, based on its first four games, that it would be within striking distance late in the fourth quarter when those timeouts might matter. And as it turns out, they weren't.
Your daily morning check-in for news and notes related to the New York Giants.

The news of the day: Reports late Thursday night indicated the Giants are close to acquiring linebacker Jon Beason from the Carolina Panthers for a late-round draft choice. Certainly a big name, and the kind of splashy move for which the fans have been calling. And given the state of the Giants' linebacker corps, a player as accomplished as Beason is worth taking a chance on.

[+] EnlargeJon Beason
Tom Szczerbowski/Getty ImagesJon Beason was selected to three straight Pro Bowls (2008-10) before injuries took a toll on his career.
He has not been a very good player, however, for the Panthers this year and was (somewhat ironically) losing practice snaps to former Giants linebacker Chase Blackburn in recent days. Injuries limited Beason to five games total over the past two years, and he's been struggling with a surgically repaired knee. So what I'm saying is, don't anticipate instant help.

The Giants will need to make a move to clear a roster spot if Beason passes his physical and the deal does go through. They also will need a roster spot for safety Will Hill if they decide to active him from the suspended list, as expected. Right guard Chris Snee is a candidate for injured reserve. The Giants also could cut a disappointing linebacker, such as Keith Rivers, to make room for Beason. The deal also would require some sort of salary-cap move from the Giants, as they don't have the room to pay the active-roster incentives in Beason's contract unless they restructure it.

Behind enemy lines: The numbers say Michael Vick is holding the ball too long. Vick says that anyone who says he's holding the ball too long needs to go watch the film. So what Vick is saying, I think, is that the numbers need to go watch the film. Why go after the numbers, Mike? They're just numbers. They can't watch film.

Around the division: The Cowboys aren't scared of Peyton Manning and the Broncos, and I can totally respect that, even though I really do think they should be. A lot of people are 100 percent certain the Broncos will win in Dallas on Sunday and that the winner of the Giants-Eagles game will be either tied for first place or one game back. I don't know. Call me crazy. I have a hunch this could be Denver's first loss.

Around the league: Texans safety Ed Reed, discussing the revelations in the book "League of Denial" by ESPN investigative reporters Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru, says the NFL is "shady." On next week's show, Ed will learn that grass is green and water is wet.

Giants' D will have hands full vs. Eagles

October, 3, 2013
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants' defense faces a unique challenge Sunday -- and they'll almost certainly do so shorthanded.

Both starting defensive tackles, Linval Joseph (ankle/knee) and Cullen Jenkins (knee/Achilles), sat out practice Thursday, as did starting cornerback Corey Webster (groin). Backup cornerbacks Aaron Ross (back) and Jayron Hosley (hamstring) missed practice as well, leaving the Giants frighteningly thin in the secondary.

But coach Tom Coughlin and defensive coordinator Perry Fewell did not sound overly concerned when asked about the cornerback shortage. Trumaine McBride is a six-year veteran, and Fewell said Terrell Thomas could possibly be moved from nickelback to the outside.

"We have a plan, as far as what we’d like to do and how we’d like to do it going into the game," Fewell said Thursday. "They’ve done a good job in practice this week -- even though we have some missing parts, they’ve done a really nice job."

Whoever can suit up Sunday will be trying to stop a new style of offense, installed by new Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly, formerly of the University of Oregon. The Eagles work quickly -- averaging 22.4 seconds of possession per play, the fewest in the NFL. And they've run 96 read-option plays, more than twice the amount of the next closest team, the Buffalo Bills (46). (Thanks, ESPN Stats & Information.)

The results? Philadelphia leads the NFL in rushing yards per game (198.3), and trails only the Denver Broncos in total yards per game (458.8).

LeSean McCoy is the Giants' No. 1 concern. After a couple of subpar seasons, the 25-year-old looks re-energized -- leading the NFL in rushing, averaging 117 yards per game. (The Giants' run defense is ranked No. 28 in the league, by the way.)

"He’s running like he ran several years ago," Fewell said. "He’s an outstanding runner. And I think the scheme buys him an opportunity to showcase his talents even more. It’s a two-way street -- some scheme, and then he’s just playing lights-out football."

Quarterback Michael Vick has completed 65 of 118 passes (55.1 percent), with five touchdowns and just two interceptions. And he's run the ball 26 times for 228 yards. (To put that in some perspective -- the Giants only have 231 rushing yards as a team.)

DeSean Jackson has 21 catches for 393 yards and two touchdowns, averaging 18.7 yards per catch (fifth in the league). And the Eagles have 24 passing plays of 20 yards or more in four games.

"Those [players'] skill levels are really good," Fewell said. "So when you add that with the things that they’re doing now, it’s an offense that can move the football all over the field."

The Giants spent considerable time in training camp preparing for the Eagles' offense, considering they'll face it twice per season. Fewell said the coaching staff pored over three years' worth of tape from Kelly's Oregon days, dating back to 2010.

Giants linebacker Spencer Paysinger played for Kelly at Oregon, and said he sees some similarities between the Eagles' offense and the one he faced in practice in college.

"You’ve got to have players that have set rules," Paysinger said. "You don’t want to have to think too much against this type of offense because that’s what they’re banking on -- you thinking too much, getting a half-man out of the gap and they can pop a good run."

Preparation shouldn't be an issue. But the injuries may be. And the Giants are already giving up a league-high 36.5 points per game.

The Eagles are second-worst, at 34.5 points per game. New York's best defense may be a good offense, keeping McCoy and company off the field.
Eli Manning, LeSean McCoyGetty ImagesEli Manning and LeSean McCoy enter Sunday's game with a combined 1-7 record this season.

The last time the New York Giants played the Philadelphia Eagles, in Week 17 of last season, Philadelphia was sleepwalking through the final game of the Andy Reid era while the Giants were being eliminated from playoff contention by results in other cities. The month of September didn't treat either team much better, and so it is a 1-3 Eagles team that travels to New Jersey this weekend to face the 0-4 Giants at 1 p.m. ET Sunday at MetLife Stadium.

Eagles team reporter Phil Sheridan and Giants team reporter Dan Graziano offer their thoughts on this bottom-of-the-division NFC East matchup.

Dan Graziano: Hey, Phil. Hope things are going well for you down there in the City of Brotherly Love. Up here, the Giants might be the worst team in the NFL so far this year. I don't think that's a development anyone saw coming, but based on the way they've played on both sides of the ball, it's hard to argue. Not sure anyone knew what was coming in Philadelphia, and the Chip Kelly Eagles sure did burst onto the scene with their Week 1 victory in Washington. Things don't seem to have gone very well since, however. What do you think is the biggest thing that's derailed the Chip-Kelly-Will-Change-The-NFL storyline?

Phil Sheridan: The biggest thing, Dan, is that the NFL just isn't that easy to change. Kelly had one chance to throw a sucker punch, which he did in the first half of that Monday night game at Washington. The Eagles haven't looked remotely as crisp or as confident since halftime of that game. They did put up some points against San Diego, but only because the Chargers' mystifying decision not to cover DeSean Jackson. Since then, Kelly has been outclassed by Andy Reid and John Fox, two of the NFL's senior head coaches. Ultimately, if Kelly is going to stage a revolution, he's going to need a better army. The Eagles just aren't good enough.

Which brings me to the big question about the Giants: What in the world happened? OK, a little more specific: Is Eli Manning playing that badly or is it the offense around him?

DG: Oh, the problems are around Manning, for sure. He needs to play better, and he's committed too many turnovers. But the issues start up front, as they always do, and the Giants' offensive line is just plain awful. It was a rotten run-blocking unit in the first two games. It gave up seven sacks of Manning in the 37-0 loss in Carolina in Week 3, and starting center David Baas and right guard Chris Snee got hurt in that game. So they had to use backups at those two spots last Sunday in Kansas City, and it was a mess again. The result is that Manning and the offense can't get in any kind of rhythm because they can't get the play blocked at the point of attack. The receivers don't have time to get open, the running backs can't find holes, and even if there is something that works, the Giants simply can't trust that anything will be there play to play. Tom Coughlin said after Sunday's game that trying to call offensive plays right now is like "throwing a dart at a board."

Now, all of that said, they have faced four pretty strong defensive fronts so far in Dallas, Denver, Carolina and Kansas City. The Eagles' defense, to me at least, looks a little bit more, shall we say, permissive. Do you think it's possible the Giants get the offense going this week against the Philly D?

PS: It's very possible. Peyton Manning has it all going on right now, obviously, but I think Archie Manning could go out Sunday and move the ball against this Eagles secondary. The litany of issues sounds quite a bit like what you just outlined regarding the Giants' offense. The Eagles have not been able to generate any kind of reliable pass rush. Trent Cole is in transition, playing some standard defensive end while also standing up and occasionally dropping into coverage. Connor Barwin, the only true 3-4 outside linebacker on the team, has not been the difference-maker the Eagles expected. At least not yet. The lack of pressure makes the secondary vulnerable and the lack of coverage ability doesn't give the pass rush time to get there. It's a cycle that allows smart, experienced quarterbacks to do their bidding, and Eli is certainly one of them. He hung 42 on the Eagles as a lovely parting gift to Andy Reid last December.

While we're talking pass rush, we're used to watching the Giants torment Eagles quarterbacks. What happened to the Giants' pass rush and is there any hope to get it cranking again?

DG: I'm starting to think not. The Giants have only seven sacks in their past nine games dating back to last November. (And the one they got Sunday really shouldn't have counted, since it was a linebacker tackling Alex Smith at the line of scrimmage on a run play.) Jason Pierre-Paul has one sack in his past 11 games, and I watched him closely Sunday. There are plays on which he simply doesn't do anything at all. The explosive player who racked up 16.5 sacks in 2011 has vanished, and while he might still be getting over offseason back surgery, it's possible he never returns to form. That's more than possible for Justin Tuck, obviously, coming off two down years. Mathias Kiwanuka is so-so. Rookie Damontre Moore has great skills but has been slow to develop to the point where the coaches trust him.

The Giants have actually had some guys perform better than expectations at linebacker and in the secondary. And the way the offense has played has offered the defense some cover. But you're right -- if they can't get the pass rush going, they're not a good defense.

They have, in the past, had a lot of trouble stopping LeSean McCoy and the Eagles' midrange passing game, as Andy Reid used to love to exploit the Giants' weakness at linebacker. Can we expect a heavy dose of the run game Sunday, I assume?

PS: Absolutely. Kelly flat-out said the Eagles will continue to rely on what they do best, which is to run the ball. They are No. 1 in the NFL in rushing yards, which would have sounded like science fiction during Reid's pass-happy tenure. The basic philosophy is simple: The Eagles spread opponents out with three wide receivers, then pound the ball behind a good run-blocking line. The question I have is whether defensive coordinators are willing to concede a certain amount of rushing yards in order to safeguard against big plays from DeSean Jackson. The Eagles amassed 890 yards the past two weeks -- 426 of them on the ground -- but scored just four touchdowns. That's not enough in 2013.

Here's a more abstract question. With two Super Bowls on their résumés, there has to be a temptation for the Giants' core group to accept that this is just a down year. Do you see signs of that? And can Coughlin still find a way to prevent that?

DG: Yeah, I don't think that's what's happening here. Not after they missed the playoffs last year for the third time in four seasons. This team won the Super Bowl two seasons ago, but the six-week stretch that culminated in that title is one of the few sustained runs of strong play the Giants had over the past half-decade. The Giants believe they can play better and that it's on them to do so, whether the season can still be saved or not. And what ownership is telling Coughlin is that they have faith in him to figure out how to fix the problems. Whether he can or not will have an impact on his legacy. He's not in any trouble here in terms of job security, but the current plight offers him a chance to prove he's the coach the Giants and their fans believe him to be.

Good talk, Phil. Thanks. Looking forward to seeing you Sunday in the swamp.


Big Blue Morning: Giants in an 0-2 hole

September, 16, 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 lost their home opener 41-23 to the Denver Broncos to fall to 0-2 for the season. They've been 0-2 before, most notably in 2007 when they recovered to win the Super Bowl, but that's not really relevant to the current situation from which Tom Coughlin must find a way to rescue his team. Eli Manning is a significant part of the problem so far, as his four interceptions Sunday night raised his league-leading total to seven through just two games. The defense keeps insisting it's playing well, but I think it's all relative. They've allowed 747 yards in two games.

Behind enemy lines: Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning was happy to be done with his third career game against his younger brother, and the Broncos defensive backs weren't surprised they got called for so many penalties in their physical battles with the Giants wide receivers, Jeff Legwold writes.

Around the division: Every other team in the NFC East lost Sunday as well, which means the Cowboys and Eagles are tied for first place at 1-1 with the Giants and Redskins both 0-2. Jean-Jacques Taylor writes that Dallas' loss recalled a same-old issue: The inability to make the plays when it really mattered. John Keim writes that the Redskins' Robert Griffin III, who didn't play all preseason and barely practiced all offseason following reconstructive knee surgery, has to play more like his dynamic old self. And Phil Sheridan writes that the Eagles' loss exposed the flaws in Chip Kelly's breakneck-pace approach to offense. The one that keeps striking me as alarming is the extent to which they take chances and make sacrifices in pass protection.

Around the league: The early games Sunday were mesmerizing. Seemed like they all went down to the wire. The throw Jay Cutler made to Martellus Bennett to win the game for the Bears against the Vikings may have been my favorite. Kelly's getting all the ink, but what if Marc Trestman is going to make Cutler a star in Chicago? Wouldn't that be just as impressive?

Big Blue Morning: Manning Week rolls on

September, 12, 2013
Your daily morning check-in on news and notes about and of interest to the New York Giants:

The news of the day: I wrote this on the Eli Manning-Peyton Manning matchup, which is something I just find totally fascinating. Maybe it's because I have two younger brothers and two sons, but the brother relationship is of great interest to me, and I think people have grown too blasé about just how wild it is that two brothers from the same family could grow up to be top NFL quarterbacks and play against each other three times. As someone with a TV camera said to Eli on Wednesday, you'd have a better chance of being struck by lightning.

To his credit, Eli said he understands that. "Obviously there are 32 starting quarterbacks in the NFL right now and one of the other ones happens to be my brother," Eli said. "I understand that is rare. I don't know how it quite happened. I don't think my parents know how it quite happened. It just worked out that way, but I do feel blessed that I get to play this sport and I know Peyton feels the same way."

Other Giants news includes Da'Rel Scott's knee injury, which cropped up Wednesday and leaves them potentially thin again at running back against Denver, even after the signing of Brandon Jacobs on Tuesday. We'll check in on that Thursday at practice, and we'll also check in on starting cornerback Prince Amukamara, who sat out Wednesday as he continued to deal with the concussion he suffered in Sunday's game.

Behind enemy lines: The Broncos would like to have their secondary at full strength Sunday against a Giants team that had three wide receivers go over 100 yards in the opener in Dallas. But while top cornerback Champ Bailey is getting closer to returning from his foot injury, he didn't practice Wednesday and his status for the game remains in doubt.

Around the division: We dispatched our nationwide team of NFL reporters to ask players around the league the question of the week: Do you think Chip Kelly's Philadelphia Eagles offense is sustainable? Here's the result of the collaboration (the sort of thing you can expect more of as the season goes on). And here's what I wrote from the Giants' end of things about the radically changed division rivals down I-95.

Around the league: Pretty cool read here from Jeff Chadiha on the NFL's young quarterbacks. He polled folks around the league and had them rank Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick and Cam Newton on a variety of factors, including intelligence, accuracy and durability. I guess I'm not too surprised, because I always feel like memories in this league don't go back any further than six days, but it seems wrong that Newton ranks last so many times. He's got a year on all of these guys and has put up two monster seasons. I guess the beauty of it is, we'll all find out together.

NFLN Says: Can the Eagles keep it up?

September, 11, 2013
So we went around and polled NFL players Wednesday on the question of whether the Philadelphia Eagles' new up-tempo offense under former Oregon coach Chip Kelly is sustainable. You know, since it looked so good in the first half Monday night against the Redskins' mediocre defense and has become the talk of the league on the most overreactive week of the season, right?

The question of sustainability is a significant one to the New York Giants, who don't face the Eagles in September but do face them twice in October. They get them Week 5 at home and Week 8 on the road, so if they can't handle them the first time it'll be fresh in their memories for the second. And while it might be nice to have more than four games' worth of tape to assess before the first time they face them, four is better than the zero with which the Redskins were working when Kelly, Michael Vick and LeSean McCoy showed up Monday night and ran them out of their own building.

So the Giants will at least be in a position to plan for the Eagles and it's likely that by the time they face them they will have put some failure on film. And it's always possible, of course, that Vick gets hurt and either isn't 100 percent or isn't able to play. That's a Vick thing, no matter what kind of offense he's in, and this particular one looks willing to make a lot of sacrifices in pass protection in exchange for its determination to run plays as quickly as possible.

My sense is that you'll soon start to hear the same things about Kelly's manic offense that you heard last year and this offseason about the read-option -- that if you can hit the quarterback, you can derail this or any other offense. And the Giants' whole defensive plan is based on the importance of hitting the quarterback. The Giants also made beefing up their run defense a major focus of their offseason, and they have a deep stable of defensive tackles with which to combat the brilliant McCoy.

When the Giants do finally get their first up-close look at the Eagles, they're going to have to do what they always have to do -- pressure and hit the quarterback as quickly and effectively as possible so he's unable to do whatever he's supposed to do on a given play. If the speed of Kelly's offense makes that more difficult, it's going to be on Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul to out-athlete the Eagles' offensive players and make life miserable for Vick.