New York Giants: DeMarcus Ware

Top free-agent roundup: NFC East

March, 10, 2014
Mar 10
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Here are the top 15 free agents, followed by their rankings, entering Tuesday's signing period as compiled by NFC East reporters Dan Graziano, Todd Archer, Phil Sheridan and John Keim. There are some strong options at the top, but there is not a lot of depth in the NFC East when it comes to free agency. And if Dallas' DeMarcus Ware gets released, he vaults to a top spot on this list. As always, ESPN's free-agent tracker will keep you updated during this period.

1. LB Brian Orakpo, 8.5: The Redskins used the franchise tag on him, so barring a surprise, he’ll be back. It’s a controversial move among fans, but the Redskins need his pass rush and promise to unleash him more often. His career best for a single season is 11 sacks.

2. DT Linval Joseph, 8: A very big, strong and young (25) interior run-stuffer who has also shown the ability to create pressure from the interior, Joseph could be available because of the Giants’ depth at defensive tackle and their many needs.

3. DT Jason Hatcher, 8: He is coming off an 11-sack season, but he turns 32 in July and Dallas doesn’t have much cap space.

4. LB Jon Beason, 7: The Giants are working hard to sign him before free agency opens, as his leadership and high-energy play at middle linebacker helped transform their defense during the 2013 season.

Nicks
5. WR Hakeem Nicks, 7: This grade is based on talent and past accomplishments, and a feeling that he was being overly careful in 2013 in order to hit free agency healthy. Lacks his early career speed, but knows how to play the position as well as anyone.

6. WR Jason Avant, 7: For a team in need of a third-down possession guy, the sure-handed Avant will be a great value.

7. P Donnie Jones, 7: The Eagles are expected to re-sign Jones, who was an underrated contributor to their NFC East title team.

8. DE Anthony Spencer, 6: He is coming back from microfracture surgery, so the cost won’t be high.

9. LB Perry Riley, 6: The Redskins need to re-sign him because they already have a hole at inside linebacker after London Fletcher retired. But they won’t break the bank for Riley, who needs to improve in coverage.

10. DE Justin Tuck, 6: Coming off an 11-sack season that came out of nowhere after two down years, Tuck turns 31 later this month but is a locker-room leader and a 4-3 defensive end who can set the edge against the run.

Vick
Vick
11. QB Michael Vick, 6: With Nick Foles' ascension, Vick is looking for a chance to start elsewhere.

12. RB Andre Brown, 5: He played very well in his first few games back off a broken leg, but faded down the stretch and fumbled too much in the final few games. He is likely not a guy who can be relied on as a starter, but potentially a valuable piece.

13. TE Brandon Myers, 5: A huge disappointment in New York after catching 79 passes as a Raider in 2012, Myers also contributed little as a blocker. The Giants are likely to let him go. He could fit better with a different system.

14. CB Terrell Thomas, 5: He played all 16 games after missing the previous two seasons because of ACL tears in the same knee. Thomas believes he can hold up as a starter off a real offseason, and would like to cash in.

15. S Danny McCray, 5: He is a core special teamer only, so the Cowboys could find value here.
With projections for the 2014 salary cap continuing to rise into the low $130 millions, we have discussed the ways in which the perennially cap-strapped New York Giants could benefit. According to this chart Kevin Seifert put together, the Giants currently project to have $18,288,183 in cap space if the cap comes in at $132 million when it's announced next week. That puts them right in the middle of the NFL pack, and third in the NFC East. Here's a look at where the division's other teams stand in the current projections. You'll note that the Dallas Cowboys appear to be in massive trouble.

Washington Redskins: $28,684,986. After two straight offseasons in which they were penalized $18 million worth of cap room for their spending behavior during the uncapped 2010 season, the Redskins are ready to get to work rebuilding their secondary. They also need money to re-sign pass-rusher Brian Orakpo.

Philadelphia Eagles: $25,674,804. The Eagles always manage the cap well, and they're already at work locking up their current players on long-term deals to maintain flexibility and continuity. Left tackle Jason Peters got his deal Wednesday, and it sounds as though center Jason Kelce and wide receiver Riley Cooper are next in line. If they spend in free agency, it likely will be on defense, where they could use some fresh pieces.

Dallas Cowboys: -$18,920,690. Yeah, that's a minus-sign there. The Cowboys are nearly $19 million over the projected cap at this point, which means they probably can't retain free agent defensive linemen Jason Hatcher and Anthony Spencer and have some other tough choices to make. They have already made some noise about possibly having to cut DeMarcus Ware, which sounds crazy but would wipe out a huge chunk of the debt.
New York Giants general manager Jerry Reese said last week at the NFL scouting combine that he expects defensive end Justin Tuck to test the free-agent market. Should Tuck find what he's looking for there, he could leave the Giants after spending the first nine years of his career in New York.

Tuck turns 31 in March, and his 11-sack 2013 season came on the heels of two injury-plagued and disappointing years from an individual standpoint. So while he's an all-time great Giant coming off a big year, it's not as though the team can't make the case to let him go if he's offered more from someone else than they think he's worth. However, if he leaves, he will need to be replaced in a pass-rush rotation that's grown a bit thin in recent years.

The starter at the other defensive-end position is Jason Pierre-Paul, a superstar talent who's struggled terribly with injuries the past two seasons and is therefore a question mark going forward. The in-house candidates to replace Tuck at this point would be Mathias Kiwanuka, who's better as a rotational substitute than as a starter and is a candidate to be cut for cap reasons anyway, and Damontre Moore, the 2013 third-round pick who played sparingly as a rookie. It's safe to say that, if Tuck leaves, the Giants will need to find at least one pass-rusher in free agency or the draft to replace him.

There are some intriguing free agents:

[+] EnlargeCincinnati's Michael Johnson
AP Photo/Paul SpinelliCincinnati's Michael Johnson has 26.5 career sacks and has missed just one game in five seasons.
Greg Hardy, Carolina. He had 15 sacks in 2013 and doesn't turn 26 until late July. He's the top pass-rusher on the market unless Dallas is really crazy enough to cut DeMarcus Ware. I doubt Carolina lets Hardy hit the market, even if that means franchising him.

Michael Johnson, Cincinnati. The Bengals franchised Johnson last year and likely can't afford to do so again. He only had 3.5 sacks in 2013, but 11.5 the year before, and just turned 27 this month.

Michael Bennett, Seattle. After signing for one year and $5 million and winning the Super Bowl with the Seahawks, the 28-year-old Bennett wants to get paid. The Giants employed his brother, tight end Martellus Bennett, two years ago. There is chatter in league circles that Bennett wants to sign with Chicago to play with his brother.

Anthony Spencer, Dallas. We never got to find out what Spencer looked like as a 4-3 defensive end because the former 3-4 outside linebacker got hurt early in the first year of Dallas' transition to the 4-3. He's 30 years old and was great two years ago in the 3-4. Likely too big a question mark for the Giants.

Jared Allen, Minnesota. Big name, yeah, but he'll be 32 in April and is slowing down. If they'd be willing to sign Allen, why wouldn't they just re-sign Tuck instead?

Lamarr Houston, Oakland. He turns 27 in June and is well-regarded as a do-it-all defensive end who can play the run as well as rush the passer. Oakland is trying to keep him off the market.

DeMarcus Ware, Dallas. Have to throw him in here, right? I still think Jerry Jones is just blowing smoke and there's no chance he'll cut Ware for cap reasons. But if he does, this is a Hall of Fame talent who recorded at least 11 sacks in each of the seven seasons prior to 2013. The Giants (and many other teams) would be nuts not to at least kick the tires.
The New York Giants' 2013 season started taking on an ugly shape right away. So as we continue with our little five-part series on moments that shaped the season, we flash all the way back to the Week 1 loss in Dallas.

No. 3: A Carr wreck

Three turnovers in a season opener is enough to cost you a feel-good Week 1 win and get your coaches' stomachs churning. Four turnovers in a season opener is a straight-up disaster worthy of extra film work and a week of misery. Five turnovers in a season opener is almost incomprehensible, and would be a sign that something is seriously wrong.

But when you go ahead and turn the ball over six times in your opener? Man, that's just... well, it's not good.

The Giants needed all six of them to lose the Week 1 Sunday night game to the Cowboys, too. They were down by only six points and had the ball at midfield with two minutes left in the game. At this point, Eli Manning's reputation as a comeback king was still prominent in the minds and memories of Giants fans, players, coaches and opponents, so when he hit Rueben Randle for 26 yards on third-and-five to get the ball to the 48-yard line, there was hope for the game and for the season.

But on the next play, Dallas cornerback Brandon Carr intercepted a screen pass intended for running back Da'Rel Scott (who was in the game because Andre Brown had broken his leg the week before in a preseason game and David Wilson had fumbled twice already in this game) and ran it back 49 yards for the touchdown that sealed the game.

The full ledger of Week 1 turnovers included three Manning interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown, the two lost fumbles by Wilson, one of which was returned for a touchdown, and a muffed punt return by Trumaine McBride. The first play of the game was an interception of a Manning pass by Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Ware. The numbers were made all the more difficult to take in light of the fact that the Cowboys had only forced 16 total turnovers the entire 2012 season.

An angry Tom Coughlin fumed after the game about what he believed was an anomaly to be corrected. Instead, it was a horrifying preview of what was to come.

Double Coverage: Cowboys at Giants

November, 21, 2013
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A lot has happened to the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Giants since they met in their season opener 11 weeks ago, and not much of it has been good. When they meet again at 4:25 p.m. ET on Sunday at MetLife Stadium, the second-place Cowboys will be 5-5 and the third-place Giants 4-6. The best thing either team has going for it is that the first-place Philadelphia Eagles are only 6-5. But that's a story for another day. This story is about the Cowboys and the Giants, and it's being told to you by ESPN Cowboys reporter Todd Archer and ESPN Giants reporter Dan Graziano, as only they can.

Dan Graziano: Todd, not to be overly dramatic or anything, but I personally feel as though the Cowboys should be ashamed of themselves for not having run away with this dumpster fire of a division weeks ago. Do you agree?

Todd Archer: I can't go that far. I'd put some of the blame on us, the media. We constantly build the Cowboys up to be better than they are because of the names we know. This team's issue is the names we don't know. They just don't have the depth required to pull away from teams. From afar, the eyes are always on Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, DeMarcus Ware, Sean Lee, Jason Witten and pick another big-name player. It's never on the underbelly of the roster. That's where Jerry Jones the GM has failed this team. The Cowboys got hurt last season and it seemed their strategy to avoid injury this season was "hope." That's never a good strategy, and they are now left taking guys off the street for the second straight season and putting them in the starting lineup. Maybe that's too easy, but I just don't see -- and haven't seen -- an uber-talented team here.

I guess with the Giants I have to start with how in the heck have they dug out of that 0-6 hole? Product of the competition?

Graziano: Blaming the media? Come on, man. You're better than that. The Cowboys have let the Nick Foles Eagles pass them and the worst Giants team in a decade onto their back bumper. No excuse!

The Giants earned every bit of their 0-6 start and remain a terribly flawed team, but they have grown fat and confident over their past four games against this Pro Bowl roster of quarterbacks: Josh Freeman, Matt Barkley, Terrelle Pryor and Scott Tolzien. The defense has improved dramatically from the last time you saw it, largely because of the in-season trade for middle linebacker Jon Beason, the return of safety Will Hill from drug suspension and the improved health of Jason Pierre-Paul, who's as fired up for this game as Rachael Ray gets for Thanksgiving. But it remains to be seen if the defense can play as well against the remaining quarterbacks on its schedule as it has against the past four. The Giants' final six games are against Romo, Robert Griffin III, Philip Rivers, Russell Wilson, Matthew Stafford and Griffin again.

So the first one on that list is Romo, who's got some sweet-looking stats when you look in from the outside. How's Romo looking to you these days, and how well equipped is that Cowboys offense to test this new and improved Giants D?

Archer: The stats look good because he is avoiding interceptions, but something has been wrong since he had his best game against Denver, when he went pass for pass against Peyton Manning. The offense, in general, has taken a step back. It is awful on third down. It can't get the ball to Bryant or Witten enough. Romo's completion percentage has taken a hit. He completed at least 69.4 percent of his passes in the first five games, and he has been better than 60 percent just once in his past five games. It's not that he is playing poorly. He's just not playing to the level we're accustomed to seeing, especially in November.

I'm curious to see how a "more involved" Jason Garrett affects the offense, even if Bill Callahan is still calling the plays. With the way the defense is playing, they have to be more aggressive. I think the bye week will help them come up with some fresh ideas on offense.

Let's stick with the quarterbacks. Eli Manning's season started awfully down here in Dallas and went that way for the first six weeks. He has curtailed the picks, so is it something he's done differently, or the coaches?

Graziano: Well, in contrast to Romo, Manning has played quite poorly. The significant problems the Giants had in pass protection early in the season (many of which have not been solved) have left the two-time Super Bowl MVP jittery in the pocket, and he's not consistently planting his feet and making accurate throws.

Now, there were positive signs in Sunday's game against the Green Bay Packers. Manning's completion percentage of 71.4 was his highest in any game this season. His 92.4 passer rating was his highest since the opener, and his 279 passing yards were his highest single-game total since Week 5. So it's possible he's getting better and about to get on a roll.

The improved running game has helped, but the key is really going to have to be wide receiver Hakeem Nicks, who hasn't scored a touchdown all season and simply doesn't look like the same player he used to be. Manning and Nicks haven't developed any kind of rhythm this season, and it has crippled the passing game.

However, Todd, I'm not sure whether you heard about this or not, but the defense Manning faces Sunday gave up 40 first downs and 625 yards in its most recent game. That suggests to me that this game offers the potential for a Giants offensive breakout. Does it?

Archer: There's no doubt it can. Lee is out. Justin Durant is out. Morris Claiborne could be out. Ware is banged up. So is Jason Hatcher. And those guys all played in the opener, when Manning threw for 450 yards and four touchdowns.

The defense is a mess. Even with those guys healthy, it was kind of a mess. Monte Kiffin just hasn't been able to get the job done. Good quarterbacks have lit up the defense, and the New Orleans Saints exposed the run defense. When the Cowboys have decided to play man coverage more, they have been better. When they have sat back in a zone, they have been torched. When coach Jerry Jones, oops, owner Jerry Jones says the Cowboys will use more man, you tend to believe him. I'm not sure it will solve much, but it will at least force Manning to make throws in tighter spaces.

JPP kicked off the week with some nice trash talk, so I'll ask this: Do the Giants hate the Cowboys more than any other team in the division? Justin Tuck has had his barbs in the past. So has Brandon Jacobs. Without Patrick Crayton, the Cowboys don't have anybody to really retort.

Graziano: The Giants definitely seem to be a team that seeks any form of external motivation it can find, and they always seem to find it when they're getting ready to play the Cowboys. I think they feel like it's always a big game, always a rivalry game, the type of game that gets the fans fired up, and they look forward to feeding off that. They also feel as though they should have won that opener and that the six (SIX!) turnovers they committed are what cost them a chance to start the season 1-0. Much might have been different had they done that.

Anyway, the Giants are feeling considerably better about themselves now than they were after that game, and I think they're eager for a chance to put what they believe is a vastly improved product on a big stage. They'll be winding themselves up all week about this game because they feel like that's the best way to get up for it.

Where are the Cowboys right now psychologically? Had to be brutal after the New Orleans game, and by the time Sunday rolls around, they'll have been sitting on that for two weeks. Do you expect them to bounce back in a game like this, or do you think they're in a downward spiral?

Archer: This is where they start to pay for past sins. They have had a history of late-season crashes. Maybe this one started a little earlier. For the optimists, the New Orleans loss was an anomaly. The other four losses have been by a total of 14 points. For the pessimist, it's the same old Cowboys. To me, this game is one that defines their season. If they lose, they won't be eliminated, but it's hard to see them being able to get out of the downward spiral. If they win, they'll be 4-0 in the division and all but eliminate the Giants, with the Washington Redskins almost out of the picture as well.

The best part of the bye week for the Cowboys was the chance to get guys healthy and get the healthy guys rested. They had been going at it for 17 straight weeks thanks to their time with the Hall of Fame Game.

The Cowboys have not shown they can stop a passing game by a good quarterback this season. It's been awhile since Nicks and Victor Cruz scored. Both went for more than 100 yards in the opener. Is there any reason to think they won't play a huge part Sunday?

Graziano: They have plenty of track record to indicate that they can, but they simply haven't. Cruz has played well, but he's caught only one touchdown pass since catching three in the opener, and that was way back in Week 4. Nicks hasn't caught one all season. It's possible that playing Dallas will fire these guys back up, and that they'll play the way they played in Week 1. Nicks certainly has motivation to pick up his game since he's got six games left before unrestricted free agency, but I just don't think his legs are what they used to be. More and more, when the Giants get in close, Manning looks for Rueben Randle, who leads the team with six touchdown catches.

In the opener, the Giants had a good coverage plan against the Dallas wideouts, keeping a safety on Bryant's side and asking Terrell Thomas to handle Miles Austin in the slot and not let him get past him. Terrance Williams wasn't a factor yet, though, and the Giants had no answer that night for Witten. How will the challenge be different for the Giants secondary this time around?

Archer: Williams has kind of hit a wall here lately. Or maybe defenses are getting a better read on him. Austin's return should help, but his hamstrings are as reliable as my youngest daughter doing her homework every night. Sometimes it's OK, sometimes it's not.

The Cowboys swear they spent the bye week trying to devise ways to make it difficult for teams to double-team Bryant and Witten. They have to be a bigger part of the offense. They can't just be decoys. Austin had 10 catches in the opener but for only 72 yards. They'll need to go down the field and make some big plays. To do that, they'll need to pass protect, so that might mean less shots for Witten. One thing to pay attention to on Sunday is how active Garrett is with Romo between series. If he is talking to him, then there really has been a change with the offense.

What will the atmosphere be like Sunday? Have the fans jumped back on the bandwagon or are they skeptical as well?

Graziano: It seems to me that Giants fans want to believe. There's a segment of the fan base that will always believe because it's seen this team come back from dire-looking circumstances and win Super Bowls. But there's a more realistic segment that wants to see the team get back to .500 before believing in this group. A victory over the Cowboys would really start to get the bandwagon humming again. So I think it could go either way for the crowd Sunday.

Thanks, Todd. Always good chatting with you. Travel safe, and I'll see you Sunday.

Big Blue Morning: Dreaming big dreams

November, 19, 2013
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Your daily morning check-in on news and notes about and of interest to the New York Giants:

The news of the day: It's Cowboys week, which means everybody's amped up, especially Jason Pierre-Paul, who is expecting... bloodshed? I mean, I'm sure there'll be cuts and bruises as there are in any NFL game, but sheesh. Still almost a whole week to go. Let's pace ourselves, shall we? A more level-headed Jon Beason spoke on a conference call Monday of the Giants' belief that they can keep winning and remain relevant in a weak NFC East race, saying "If you're a confident player or a confident team, then the sky is really the limit." And if you'll permit a shameless plug, I wrote this column Monday saying that, if this Giants team really can cash in this resurgence and reach this year's playoffs, there should be no more doubt that Tom Coughlin is the best coach in the league. The point isn't that they're all that great all of a sudden; it's that they kept their focus and didn't fall apart under circumstances that would have caused other teams to do so. Coughlin knows how to manage and solve problems as well as any coach in the league, and that's the soul of coaching, I think.

Behind enemy lines: A Cowboys defense that gave up 40 first downs and 625 yards (neither is a misprint) in its most recent game Nov. 10 in New Orleans could be getting some key pieces back this week. Defensive end DeMarcus Ware and cornerback Morris Claiborne look set to return to practice. Defensive tackle Jason Hatcher and safety J.J. Wilcox were back at practice Monday. Still a lot of missing pieces, most significantly linebacker Sean Lee, who'll miss the game with a hamstring injury. But the bye week may have done the Cowboys some health-related good.

Around the division: Things are not going well in Washington, where there will be no seven-game win streak to rescue this Redskins season and coach Mike Shanahan has come under fire again. I have believed since it happened that last year's division title would buy Shanahan time, and that he's in no danger of being fired after this season. But if things were to really bottom out, and if that bottoming-out were perceived to be impacting the management of franchise quarterback Robert Griffin III, surely owner Dan Snyder could act unpredictably and make a change. I still think it's unlikely, but you never do know.

Around the league: Shanahan shows up on Bill Barnwell's list of coaches on the hot seat, though Bill doesn't list his seat in the same heat-level category as those of Houston's Gary Kubiak, Miami's Joe Philbin or of course Tampa Bay's Greg Schiano. Coughlin's in Bill's rundown too, though the speculation on him is the usual stuff about whether Coughlin will want to come back. As I've written many times, there is not one single, actual, legitimate reason for anyone to think Coughlin is considering or ever has considered retirement. But his age keeps the speculation coming, and that's not likely to change. He could coach into his 80s and people will still say he stopped because he got too old.

Big Blue Morning: T2's great comeback

October, 31, 2013
10/31/13
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Your daily morning check-in on news and notes about and of interest to the New York Giants.

The news of the day: Giants cornerback Terrell Thomas was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week for his 11-tackle performance against the Eagles on Sunday. Thomas' comeback from a third ACL surgery on the same knee was remarkable already when he made the team and took the field in Week 1 against the Cowboys. But the fact that his recognition as the best defensive performer in the conference in Week 8 is an occasion to marvel once again at what it took for him to get back to the NFL. ... Giants tight ends coach Mike Pope says everybody needs to go easy on Brandon Myers, who has not continued the Giants' streak of success with changing faces at the tight end position. ... And David Diehl told Pro Football Talk that he doesn't see Hakeem Nicks returning to the Giants in 2014, which would be really interesting if Diehl were either the Giants' GM or Nicks' agent. He is neither, and quite frankly I like Nicks' chances of playing for the Giants in 2014 better than I like Diehl's.

Around the division: The Cowboys sure are rallying around Dez Bryant as he absorbs criticism for his sideline behavior Sunday. Even Jason Witten, who had to be separated from Bryant by DeMarcus Ware late in the game, says he thinks the Cowboys need more guys like Dez. My take on Bryant is that nothing's stickier than a reputation, and even though all of his issues in the past have been off-field and he's been a solid citizen in the locker room, he's perceived a certain way. So he can't slip up, or this is what happens. Unfair? Sure. But it's his reality, and that's his lesson of the week.

Around the league: Raise your hand if you're surprised Roger Goodell didn't go to the meeting with the Oneida Indian Nation about the Redskins' team name. Yeah, I didn't think so. Goodell wants this to go away. I'm not sure he's getting his wish.
Your daily morning check-in on news and notes about to the New York Giants

The news of the day: Running back David Wilson won't require surgery for his neck injury at this time, but he's still out at least 3-4 more weeks, and with Brandon Jacobs and Da'Rel Scott dealing with hamstring injuries, the Giants will work out running backs today.

The one name I heard was Jeremy Wright, the former Louisville back the Giants signed as an undrafted free agent and cut after two days of minicamp. Jason LaCanfora of CBSSports.com reported on Twitter on Monday night that Peyton Hillis was among the others scheduled to work out today. Usually, the Giants will bring in several guys for workouts at a position of need and pick one (if any) to sign. It's also possible that Jacobs could be ready for the next game, on Monday night against the Vikings, or that the Giants could offer rookie Michael Cox his first NFL carries. It's an increasingly desperate situation, as Kieran Darcy writes.

Behind enemy lines: The Vikings are hoping to decide on a starting quarterback for Monday's game by Wednesday of this week, though it's no guarantee that they can. The sense you get is that they'd love for newcomer Josh Freeman to be up to speed in time to play this game, but that they have to be realistic about the chances of that happening. Ben Goessling thinks Freeman is going to get the start in this game.

Around the division: Tough news for the Cowboys, who lose top pass-rusher DeMarcus Ware for a few weeks due to a pulled quad and likely won't have starting running back DeMarco Murray next week either. Obviously, the defense works best with Ware in there, but there's a lot of evidence over the past few years that the Cowboys' offense works best when Murray is playing, too. Could be a chance for the Eagles to catch the Cowboys at their weakest and take over first place in the NFC East.

Around the league: Jeff Chadiha thinks the 6-0 Chiefs could bolster their chances for the stretch run by bringing back former Chiefs great Tony Gonzalez to help the passing game at tight end. And he's right, of course. Gonzalez would help almost anyone. I just feel it's unlikely that Gonzalez would want a trade. He didn't come out of retirement because he was dying to play again. He came out to play for the Falcons, specifically, because of his relationships there and his belief in their chances to win the Super Bowl. Obviously, those chances are in big trouble now, but even so, I wouldn't assume Gonzalez would just jump at a chance to play for any contender.

Eli Manning report: Wary of Ware

September, 5, 2013
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Unlike their cross-market rivals down in Florham Park, the New York Giants have yet to name a starting quarterback for Sunday's season opener. That's because they've known theirs for years. So, while he's not a headline-maker in New York, here are a couple of tidbits from Giants quarterback Eli Manning's weekly session with reporters, which took place here Wednesday:

Does the Dallas Cowboys' change from a 3-4 defensive front to a 4-3 affect the way you prepare for Sunday's game?

Eli Manning: I don't think it affects the way you approach it. There's still a lot of studying and preparation and watching a lot of film. It's still a matter of execution and blocking up DeMarcus Ware and running good routes off their cornerbacks, throwing the ball accurately, running the ball, being physical. So it's the same preparation. They might be lined up a little different. DeMarcus Ware might be called a defensive end now instead of an outside linebacker, but it doesn't change a whole lot.

Does it feel like you've been going up against Ware for a long time?

EM: Yeah. He's a guy, you have to know where he is. He does a good job getting to the quarterback and causing problems. He's a tremendous player, and I'm sure I've been sacked by him more than anybody else. Hopefully we can control him enough so he's not making tons of plays and creating turnovers and we can get the ball downfield and hit some big plays of our own.

Are you enjoying having your full complement of receivers, with Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz both healthy and practicing?

EM: Yeah, feeling good. Obviously, those guys have made a lot of plays for us over the years and they practice hard and do a lot of good things. Every day at practice, we're working to get better, and having those guys out there obviously is going to help us do that.

Shuffled Giants O-line preps for Ware

September, 4, 2013
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A year ago, left tackle Will Beatty was one of the main question marks on the New York Giants' offensive line. Now, he's its reliable constant. The right tackle's a rookie, the veteran right guard is coming off of hip surgery. The center was the left guard two weeks ago. The left guard was a backup tackle. Injuries and adjustments have thrown the Giants' offensive line into a state of uncertainty with the regular-season opener in Dallas just four days away. And while the Cowboys have their own injury issues in the defensive front, they also still have elite pass-rusher DeMarcus Ware, who is on the Giants' minds.

[+] EnlargeDeMarcus Ware
Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsDeMarcus Ware has collected double-digit sacks each of the past seven seasons.
"You know what he can do. You know how he can destroy a team," Beatty said of Ware. "You've played him before, so he knows your mistakes and you know his, so it's all about how you're going to change what you did last time. He has his technique down pat, so he can focus on you. So you've got to make sure you're going to show him something different than you did the last time."

Beatty is likely to get a full game's worth of Ware, who's a 4-3 defensive end in the Cowboys' new defensive alignment and doesn't move around the formation the way he used to when he was a standup 3-4 outside linebacker. And while rookie right tackle Justin Pugh could get a break if the injured Anthony Spencer doesn't play, the interior lineman are prepared for a tough test from underrated defensive tackle Jason Hatcher. It's a lot for a group that has undergone significant change in the final few weeks of the preseason due to injuries to starting center David Baas and right tackle David Diehl.

"As a unit, we've done this before, moved guys around," Beatty said. "You've just got to know the guy who's playing beside you."

James Brewer is that guy for Beatty now, a converted tackle being asked to play left guard while Kevin Boothe moves over to center to take Baas' place. It's a position Brewer hadn't played before last week's preseason game, and he may be benefiting from a change Beatty made this offseason.

"Will's taken on more of a leadership role, out on the field and in the meetings, than he used to have," veteran right guard Chris Snee said. "It's good to see. Where it used to be me or Diehl or guys like Shaun O'Hara who used to do most of the talking, he's really taken over that role, which I think he has to. He'll be here for years, so he's got to be that guy."

Beatty signed a five-year contract this offseason as the Giants made what coach Tom Coughlin described as "quite a statement" that he's their left tackle of the future. Understanding the significance of that statement, and of his role in the most prominent position on the line, Beatty made a conscious decision to take on a veteran's role this season.

"Every year I've come in here feeling like I had to win the spot," Beatty said. "And this year, it's still the same, but you feel like you have to show a little bit more, I think. I don't want to say it's because of the money, because it's not, but you're older now. You bring guys along with you. You should know what the coaches want you to do by now, so your job is to show the young guys."

The youngest plays all the way on the other side of the offensive line, and rookie Justin Pugh expects to "feel like you're going to throw up" before his first NFL game. Pugh's pregame ritual at Syracuse included being the last player out of the locker room and onto the field for the game. He doesn't know whether he'll be able to dictate his routine to that extent as an NFL rookie, but he's confident he's ready for whatever the Cowboys are going to throw at him, and his teammates share his confidence.

"He's got great talent, great feet, and he can do anything we ask him to do," Snee said of Pugh. "When you have that kind of athletic ability and also an understanding of what's needed, you're going to be fine. A lot of times, young guys, they're thinking about what they have to do out there instead of just doing it. That's not the case with Justin."

Ready or not, this reworked Giants offensive line will be asked to do what it can to give Eli Manning and the offense enough time to operate Sunday night. These Cowboys-Giants games have tended to be shootouts in recent years, and the expectation is for more of the same. The rest of the week is about gearing up the intensity.

"You want this atmosphere, you want these games," Beatty said. "To open up the season? There's no other team but Dallas."
Your daily morning check-in on news and issues about and of interest to the New York Giants.

The news of the day: The Giants are off today, but they had a short practice Monday morning, and the big news was of course the return of wide receiver Victor Cruz to the practice field after two missed weeks due to a heel bruise. Talking to Cruz after practice, you couldn't be 100 percent sure he'd be playing Sunday night in Dallas, but all of the signs are encouraging. We will, of course, monitor this throughout the week. If he's practicing Wednesday and Thursday, you're probably OK to put him in your fantasy lineup. ... Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, recovering from back surgery, also worked some in practice, but he seems less likely to play in the opener. Same with fullback Henry Hynoski, whose return is vital to the run game with the offensive line banged up. ... Speaking of fantasy, here's a post from Tom Carpenter Insider on Giants No. 3 receiver Rueben Randle as a potential sleeper in 2013.

Behind enemy lines: As they prepare to face the Giants in Sunday night's season opener, the Dallas Cowboys are having serious problems with their defensive line. That's a strong unit if the four starters are healthy, but right now they're not. Jay Ratliff is definitely out, and as of now it looks as though it'll be a stretch for Anthony Spencer to play in the opener. They are crucial elements to the Cowboys' pass rush, and while DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher still pose significant threats, it's easier to defend those guys when you only have backups to worry about at the other two spots. Welcome news for a banged-up Giants offensive line.

Around the division: The Washington Redskins announced that quarterback Robert Griffin III, who had reconstructive knee surgery in January, would start their Monday Night Football season opener six days from now against the Philadelphia Eagles. Griffin didn't practice at all in minicamp or organized team activities, didn't practice in full until very late in training camp and didn't play at all in preseason games, so obviously it'll be fascinating to see how he looks in his first game action since he crumpled on the field in that playoff loss to the Seahawks. Griffin's not the Giants' problem until December, since the Giants don't play the defending champs in the first three months of the season.

Around the league: Not a huge news day Monday. One item of note was the new five-year, $55 million contract the Bengals gave defensive tackle Geno Atkins. The Giants' Linval Joseph is not the same level of superstar player, obviously, but he's a very good one, and you can bet he smiled at the news of a defensive tackle getting a big-money deal as he himself heads into the final year of his four-year, $4.16 million rookie contract. Joseph's salary this year is $630,000.

Breaking down the Giants' run game

September, 12, 2012
9/12/12
6:03
PM ET

Something's got to give. On Sunday, the New York Giants, who had the worst rush offense in the NFL last year, host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who had the league's worst rush defense. I don't know what this means, but from the standpoint of this blog we have to say it offers the Giants a very good chance to get their run game going and put last year's troubles in the past.

To assess their chances, I consulted the NFL's Game Rewind app, which this year offers users the chance to watch the "All 22" coaches film and see where everybody goes on every play. Pretty useful stuff that should offer plenty of chances for great blog fodder as the year goes along. Here are a few things I learned about the Giants' run game watching it today.

    • Of the 19 run plays the Giants ran against the Cowboys in last Wednesday's opener, 11 went to the left side, seven to the right side and one up the middle (Ahmad Bradshaw's 5-yarder on 3rd-and-16 to end the first half).

 

  • Of those 19 run plays, 11 were on first down, five were on second down, two on third and one on fourth. Bradshaw's biggest run was a 33-yarder on 3rd-and-1 that was a very well blocked play to the side of the line on which the Giants did not have extra blockers. More on that in a second.
  • Bradshaw ran the ball 17 times. Rookie David Wilson ran it twice, and not at all after fumbling on his second carry. No other Giants running back got a carry in the game.
  • Of the 19 runs, 13 were run to the side of the line on which tight end Martellus Bennett was lined up. That includes the first 10 Giants running plays of the game. The first time Bradshaw runs to the side on which Bennett is not lined up is a 2-yard gain to the right side in the second quarter, and on that play tackle Will Beatty was in the game on the right side as an eligible tight end. The play is basically stopped immediately by Anthony Spencer when he gets off the block of Beatty.
  • Right tackle David Diehl had a rough game against Dallas defensive end Jason Hatcher. On the final play of the first half, the Cowboys have only three men on the line and Bradshaw gets the ball and runs right up the middle, but Diehl can't handle Hatcher, who brings Bradshaw down before he can get loose. Not that they were trying to do anything special there, but you never know.
  • There are times when Bradshaw shows indecisiveness and a lack of burst that costs him. The play just before the Wilson fumble is a 1st-and-10 on which Bennett motions to the right and Bradshaw runs that way. There appears to be a hole between Bennett and Diehl on that right side, but Bradshaw is unable to slip through before it closes. That play looked like one on which Bradshaw could have gained more. There's also a 1st-and-10 in the fourth quarter on which he's running to the right side, where Bennett and fellow tight end Bear Pascoe are both lined up, and he seems to have a brief opportunity to turn upfield quickly before Bruce Carter fills the gap and brings him down.
  • Once they started running away from Bennett's side, the Giants actually had more success. I don't know if this is because Dallas was devoting extra attention to Bennett's side (which would make sense, after the Giants ran their first 10 plays to Bennett's side) or if it's a matter of Dallas focusing more energy on pass defense once they had the lead. But Bennett is on the right side when Bradshaw runs left for a 10-yard touchdown to the left. The touchdown is a very well-blocked play that involves no tight ends. Left guard Kevin Boothe shoves the defensive lineman inside and then blocks Sean Lee. Left tackle Sean Locklear takes care of his man. Fullback Henry Hynoski, lined up in front of Bradshaw in the backfield, swings over and makes his block. Hakeem Nicks is trying to make a block near the goal line as Bradshaw jukes the defensive back and slips into the end zone. Good play all-around, and without extra blockers on that side.
  • The other very well-blocked play is Bradshaw's 33-yard run to the right in the fourth quarter. Bennett is lined up on the left side on that play, and Dallas is committing most of its defense to that side. But Diehl blocks his man while right guard Chris Snee gets out and makes a very nice block on DeMarcus Ware to spring Bradshaw for the one big gain of the day in the run game.
  • I need to make special note of the Wilson fumble play, which is all Sean Lee. The Giants load up on the left side with Bennett and Hynoski, and they get everybody blocked and make a nice little bubble for Wilson on that left side. But Lee, who is lined up as the far-side inside linebacker on that play (i.e., the side away from the side to which the play is run), makes an incredible quick and instinctive jump on the ball, slips past all of the engaged blockers and defenders and closes on Wilson with remarkable speed. Wilson of course needs to hold onto the ball, but he is completely blindsided on a brilliant play by a player who got there much quicker than anyone on the field could have had reason to expect him to.

 

I guess my conclusion is that I'd like to see more Wilson. I understand the benching and agree with it, but it does seem, going forward, as though Wilson is better suited to make a big gain out of the minimal blocking the Giants can expect at this point from their offensive line. There are more plays on which they don't block well than plays on which they do, but Bradshaw seems to be doing a poor job of taking advantage of the latter. They're giving him a lot of help by committing extra blockers to the side of the field to which he's running, and he's still not able to find anything. That may be the offensive line's fault most of the time, but it's not all the time.

Canty: JPP reminds me of Reggie White

June, 26, 2012
6/26/12
7:50
PM ET


Chris Canty doesn't just believe Jason Pierre-Paul is the most versatile defensive end in the game today.

He thinks JPP can be as good as one of the all-time greats –- Reggie White.

When asked on "The Michael Kay Show" who is better, Pierre-Paul or Canty's former Cowboys teammate DeMarcus Ware, Canty replied without hesitation.

"It is no question in my mind," the Giants defensive tackle said on ESPN New York 98.7. "JPP's ability to play any position along the defensive front is what makes him tremendously special. He can play the shade, the two technique, the three technique ... he can do it all ... anything you want him to do along the defensive front, he can do."

Canty said the better comparison may be JPP to White.

"There is really nobody in the league right now that you can compare him to," Canty said. "The only person that kind of sticks out where you can compare him to -- and I can't believe I am saying this -- but he reminds me a lot of Reggie White. His ability to play all those different positions and to impact the football game the way he does, he is an unbelievable talent."

Canty also said he agrees with several others who believe Osi Umenyiora is underpaid even after restructuring the final of year of his contract.

"I think Osi is underpaid even though they gave him a little something to kind of appease him right now," Canty said. "He is a tremendous football player, a great teammate and person and I am glad to be able to play with him. With that being said, he is probably talent-wise a $10 (million) to $12 million-a-year defensive end and his performance and his play speaks for itself."

JPP vs. Ware on Sunday night

January, 1, 2012
1/01/12
4:00
PM ET
It's a battle of the sack artists.

In Sunday night's game, two of the premier pass rushers in the game, Dallas' DeMarcus Ware and New York's Jason Pierre-Paul, will be trying to guide their respective teams to the NFC East title. Their play could have a huge influence on who wins the game.

In the first game, Pierre-Paul had two sacks, including a safety, and blocked the attempted game-trying kick to help his team win 37-34. Ware did not record a single sack in a losing effort and the Cowboys overall did not have any sacks.

Here are some stats on the two respective pass rushers, courtesy of ESPN Stats & Information:

PIERRE-PAUL

The Giants rushed four or less men against Dallas on 77.4 percent of passes, their fourth-highest percentage of the year. Both of Pierre-Paul's sacks in that game came in four-man rushes and he has 11.5 sacks in those situations this season, the fifth-most in the league.

In connection with his blocked kick, since the start of 2010, Pierre-Paul has the most passes defended or batted down among lineman in the league with 15. He has eight this season, which is the second-most on his team.

WARE

The linebacker is one of just four defenders to have at least four sacks when he lines up on either side of the defense. He has eight sacks from the left and 10 sacks from the right. He also has benefited from the blitz has he has a league-high nine sacks when the Cowboys send at least five men after the passer.

Combined, the two of them have 33.5 sacks. According to Stats & Info, only Philadelphia's Jason Babin has more games with at least two sacks than these two fearsome rushers, who have five each. Will they make the push for six on Sunday? We'll find out soon enough.

Cowboys want their manhood back

December, 7, 2011
12/07/11
6:53
PM ET
Our man in Dallas, Calvin Watkins of ESPNDallas.com, reports that Cowboys players were asked about the hatred some of the Giants -– namely Justin Tuck and Brandon Jacobs -- have for them.

Jacobs makes it no secret that he despises the Cowboys.

"That's him," cornerback Mike Jenkins said of Jacobs. "That’s what you get from him. He is a bully."

The Cowboys admit, though, that they need to stop allowing the Giants to push them around in their own house. The Giants have won the two meetings at the sparkling Cowboys Stadium.

"I hate anytime that we play them," DeMarcus Ware said. "It's just not the Giants, because guess what, the team is trying to come in here and take your manhood. So it don't matter who you're playing. It's sort of like a battle, gladiator against gladiator, who wants it the most. It's not just the Giants, so there is a lot at stake. You're playing for first place and you got to get out there and play hard."

When asked whether the Cowboys can get their manhood back by beating the Giants on Sunday night, Ware said, "We've got to figure out how to get that back."

Ware also said he thinks he knows why Tuck hates the Cowboys and has called Cowboys Stadium a dump after winning the first game there.

"He says that because maybe he wants to play here," Ware said of Tuck. "Everybody wants to play for the Cowboys. If I wasn't playing for Cowboys I would call it that too because I want to play for them."

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