New York Giants: Michael Vick

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.

Big Blue Morning: Woe-line

November, 27, 2013
11/27/13
8:00
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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: 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?
Eli Manning and Charles WoodsonGetty ImagesEli Manning's Giants aim to maintain their momentum when Charles Woodson and the Raiders visit.
It will be a battle of teams looking to climb out of the cellar of their respective divisions as the 2-6 New York Giants host the 3-5 Oakland Raiders at 1 p.m. ET Sunday at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. The Giants have won two games in a row after an 0-6 start and are coming off their bye week. The Raiders just suffered their most embarrassing loss of the season, 49-20 at home to the Philadelphia Eagles.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- There are six quarterbacks in the NFL who have rushed for at least 250 yards already this year. The New York Giants have played three of them, and the other three are on the schedule. But the one with the most is the Oakland Raiders' Terrelle Pryor, and stopping him will be the Giants' assignment starting at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday at MetLife Stadium.

"He's a 4.4 (40-yard dash) guy. He's built like the power forward on a basketball team. I'm impressed with him on tape," Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell gushed Thursday. "We're going to have to bring our A-game against this guy, because he can hurt you."

[+] EnlargeTerrelle Pryor
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY SportsCan the Giants keep Raiders QB Terrelle Pryor from adding on more rushing yards to the 485 he has already this season?
Pryor was a surprise choice as the Raiders' starting quarterback in the preseason, but Oakland felt he had a higher ceiling and offered them the potential for more options on offense than Matt Flynn did. To this point, though the Raiders are a disappointing 3-5, the choice has looked like the right one. Pryor leads all NFL quarterbacks -- and all but 14 NFL running backs -- with 485 rushing yards this year on just 63 carries. Eight of those 63 carries have picked up 20 or more yards, including a 93-yard touchdown run on the first play of the Raiders' Week 8 victory over the Steelers. He's also, perhaps more surprisingly, completing better than 60 percent of his passes, though his nine interceptions to five touchdown passes linger as an indication of how raw he still is.

"He's not going to stay in the pocket for long," Giants defensive end Justin Tuck said. "He understands how gifted he is as an athlete, and considering that the people chasing after him aren't as fast as he is, he has an advantage and he's used it to pretty good success. I don't know if he's necessarily looking to run, but when the opportunity is there, he's not hesitating."

The Giants have performed well as a defense against between-the-tackles running backs, including some of the best ones in the league. But they have been vulnerable to running quarterbacks. Carolina's Cam Newton ran for 45 yards and a touchdown against them in Week 3. Philadelphia's Michael Vick picked up 79 yards on seven carries in Week 5 before pulling his hamstring in the second quarter. Kansas City's Alex Smith ran for 37 yards on seven carries. Even Chicago's Jay Cutler managed 20 yards on three rushes. Opposing quarterbacks are averaging 5.42 yards per carry against the Giants this year. Pryor is averaging 7.7.

"I don't really go into the game thinking about running," Pryor said Wednesday. "I saw that (NFL Network) special on Randall (Cunningham), and his coach was telling him to run first and pass second. I can't really go in thinking like that. If something happens where I have to get out and make a play, so be it. But I want to sit back and see if I can find some guys downfield and get some explosive gains in the passing game."

The Giants likely would be pleased if that was all they had to worry about with Pryor. No offense to his arm, which is formidable, but it's Pryor's footspeed that makes him a challenging matchup for a defense. Sometimes when they face running quarterbacks, the Giants will use a "spy," assigning one defensive player to account for the quarterback in case he takes off and runs. Sometimes they prefer to play it straight-up. The players this week made it sound as though they prefer and expect the latter.

"I don't think it's gotten that serious yet, to where we need a spy," cornerback Prince Amukamara said. "I like the way the guys in our secondary and our linebackers make adjustments, and I think we can trust ourselves to make the right ones."

If there is to be a "spy," a strong candidate would be speedy linebacker Jacquian Williams, who was a big part of the defensive game plan two weeks ago against the Eagles and is likely to be one again this week. Fewell called Williams "one of our better assets" against Pryor due to his speed, and Williams said it was a role he'd be happy to play if asked.

"Judging from film, he's a bigger guy and faster than the running quarterbacks we've seen so far," Williams said. "For me, being one of the faster players on our defense, that's something they could maybe look for me to handle. But whatever I'm called on to do, I'll be happy to try it."

Pryor's the kind of player who's likely to force the Giants to change what they do a lot during the course of Sunday's game. The key will be to stay fast and loose and alert, and try to limit the damage done by the big runs of which the Raiders' exciting young quarterback is capable.

Upon Further Review: Giants Week 8

October, 28, 2013
10/28/13
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An examination of four hot issues from the New York Giants' 15-7 victory over the Eagles:

[+] EnlargeNew York Giants strong safety Antrel Rolle
John Geliebter-USA TODAY SportsNew York Giants strong safety Antrel Rolle tallied one of the Giants' season-high four sacks against the Eagles on Sunday.
Sacks! The Giants got four sacks Sunday, which is a stunning number for a team that had only six in seven games all season prior to Sunday. Two of the sacks came from defensive backs Antrel Rolle and Terrell Thomas, one from defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka and one from defensive tackle Linval Joseph, who said he was relieved when slippery Michael Vick was replaced at quarterback by the more stationary Matt Barkley (whom he sacked). Defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins said it wasn't "the most ideal situation" for the sacks to come from the defensive backs, but the Giants would take them any way they can get them -- especially the Thomas one that forced a turnover just before halftime.

Balance on offense: The Giants ran the ball 33 times for 81 yards, their third-highest single-game rushing total of the season and their season high for rush attempts in a game. (They had 32 against Minnesota in Week 7.) It helps that they've actually had halftime leads the last two games, which they did not in the first six. And it helps that Peyton Hillis has added a dimension as a receiver out of the backfield for which teams have to account. Everyone's interested to see how it'll work when Andre Brown is eligible to return from injury after the bye.

Incremental progress: The Giants were 8-for-19 on third downs in the game and are 22-for-49 (44.9 percent) on third downs over their last three. Through their first five, they were last in the league at 26.2 percent. It was also Eli Manning's second straight game without an interception after throwing 15 in his first six. So while it frustrated the Giants that they didn't score a touchdown, they are seeing improvement in key areas on offense.

Practicing what they preach: Through the six-game losing streak that began their season, the Giants spent a lot of time talking about the importance of sticking together and focusing on the game in front of them. Those things can sound like cliches, but this team has meant -- and lived by -- those words, and now it's paying off. We see teams every year in the NFL fall apart after falling out of contention, but that hasn't happened to the Giants. There is ample pride on display in the individual performances of guys like Rolle and Thomas and Joseph and Jon Beason and the like. There's no finger-pointing, no woe-is-us moping and no stewing over what's come before. A month ago, they likely would have lost a game as close as the one they played Sunday. But they're playing better now, and while it's not likely to matter in the big picture, Giants fans should feel good that they'll continue to get an honest effort from their team every week.
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: A winning streak

October, 28, 2013
10/28/13
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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: The Giants won their second game in a row, beating the Philadelphia Eagles 15-7 to head into their bye week with a 2-6 record. For the second game in a row, the defense did not allow any points, as the Eagles' touchdown came when they recovered a botched punt snap in the end zone in the fourth quarter. The Giants' defense got four sacks, which represents two-thirds of its league-low season total from the first seven weeks of the season. It also forced three turnovers, including Will Hill's final-minute interception that sealed the victory. They were upset that they couldn't score touchdowns and instead had to settle for five Josh Brown field goals, but a Giants team that couldn't find a way to win for the first six weeks of the season wasn't complaining about much of anything after this one. Two of the sacks came from defensive backs, and some of the defensive linemen joked that maybe that was the spark the pass rush needed. "It's not the most ideal situation, but you'll take it," defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins said. "Especially if they're out there forcing turnovers like they were."

Behind enemy lines: It was pretty apparent that Eagles quarterback Michael Vick should not have been playing on his bad hamstring. Multiple Giants defenders said Vick didn't look like himself, and Justin Tuck said he thought Vick "just tried to will himself to play hurt." Vick declined to say after the game whether or not he thought it was a good idea for him to play, but he did say it was a worse hamstring injury than any he's ever had and that he's going for further tests this week. "I tested it many times, but there's nothing like game simulation when guys are coming at you and they're going to hit you," Vick said.

Around the division: The first-place Cowboys looked poised to improve to 5-3, but they gave their game away late to Calvin Johnson and the Lions, and so they fell to 4-4, which as everyone is pointing out is only two games better than the Giants. (Three, really, since they beat the Giants head-to-head.) Jason Garrett has a good team that hasn't yet learned how to win its big games against tough opponents, and as a result the division race remains up for grabs.

Around the league: Top of my head, I'm thinking the Saints, 49ers and Bengals get serious looks at improved standing on my Power Rankings ballot as I put that thing together today. The Bengals' victory over a Jets team that just took out the Patriots a week earlier was something of a serious statement.

Locker Room Buzz: New York Giants

October, 27, 2013
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PHILADELPHIA -- Observed in the locker room after the New York Giants' 15-7 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles:

Tuck
Schadenfreude: A group of Giants watched the end of the Cowboys-Lions game, in which Dallas blew a late lead and fell to 4-4, leaving the Giants just two games back in the NFC East standings. There was an audible cheer and laughter from the back room in which they were watching, though the party line in the interviews was that they weren't worrying about other teams' games. "We've got to put the blinders on," Justin Tuck said. "We're in a hole. We've still got a long way to go. We can't worry about what Dallas does or what anybody does."

My bad: Tom Coughlin said Antrel Rolle apologized to him immediately following the 15-yard penalty Rolle drew for a group celebration after his first-quarter interception. Rolle said he felt it best to get to Coughlin before Coughlin could get to him because "it was a bonehead move on my part, and it won't happen again."

Good to see you: Linval Joseph said he "almost" sacked Michael Vick a couple of times early, but his actual sack came later in the game after the Eagles had changed quarterbacks. "I'm glad it was Matt Barkley back there and not Vick," Joseph said. "Vick's too fast."

Rapid Reaction: New York Giants

October, 27, 2013
10/27/13
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PHILADELPHIA -- A few thoughts on the New York Giants' 15-7 victory against the Philadelphia Eagles:

What it means: The Giants have won two games in a row for the first time since Weeks 7 and 8 of last season. This was their first road win since Oct. 28, 2012, in Dallas. Their defense hasn't allowed a touchdown since Week 6 in Chicago. And Eli Manning has played two full games without throwing an interception after throwing 15 in his first six. The Giants also picked up four sacks of Eagles quarterbacks Sunday, a stunning number considering they had a league-low six sacks as a team coming into the game and only nine sacks in their past 12 games dating back to last season. They have played teams the past two weeks that have major quarterback issues, but give the Giants' defense credit for taking advantage of their opponents' problems.

Stock Watch: Peyton Hillis: up. With Brandon Jacobs inactive again, Hillis got the bulk of the workload at running back for the second week in a row. Hillis isn't a very dynamic runner, but he's an asset in the passing game as a receiver out of the backfield and as a blocker in pass protection. With Andre Brown due back after the bye, it'll be interesting to see how things get divided in the backfield.

Turning it over: Another thing with which the Giants' defense has struggled this season is forcing turnovers. But the first two they forced Sunday -- an Antrel Rolle interception of Michael Vick and Jacquian Williams' recovery of Terrell Thomas' strip-sack of Matt Barkley -- were critical. And the third -- Will Hill's interception with 13 seconds to go -- sealed the game.

Eventful day: Rolle had a sack and an interception and recovered an onside kick in the fourth quarter after the Eagles cut the lead to 15-7. A big enough all-around contribution to mitigate the incredibly stupid group celebration he led after the interception that cost the Giants 15 yards in the first quarter.

Getting his kicks: Josh Brown's five field goals tied his career high and came one short of the Giants' team record set by Joe Danelo in 1981.

What's next: The Giants have a bye next week. They'll gather in East Rutherford for their regular Monday meetings and film sessions, but then they're off again until they return to practice next Monday. Their next game is Nov. 10 at home against the Oakland Raiders.

Halftime thoughts: Giants in control

October, 27, 2013
10/27/13
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PHILADELPHIA -- Until the past two weeks, you thought the New York Giants had a quarterback issue. But after watching Minnesota on "Monday Night Football" and the Philadelphia Eagles so far Sunday, those 15 interceptions Eli Manning threw in the first six games don't seem like such a big fiasco anymore, do they?

A strong defensive game plan and execution have helped the Giants take advantage of the Eagles' quarterback mess, and the Giants have their second halftime lead of the season. They lead the Eagles 12-0 on the strength of four Josh Brown field goals.

Has it been pretty? Of course not. When you're 1-6, it's hard to make it look pretty. The Giants have outgained the Eagles 229 yards to 72 but have not scored a touchdown. They have seven penalties for 58 yards, including an astoundingly idiotic group celebration penalty after Antrel Rolle's first-quarter interception of Michael Vick. But the Giants are winning the game, and with an obviously injured Vick having already been replaced by rookie Matt Barkley, you have to like their chances of holding onto it.

The main reason is of course the defense. A Giants team that had nine sacks in its past 12 games and a league-low six for the season coming into Sunday, has two already in this game and also forced an intentional grounding penalty by Vick. Both of the sacks were by defensive backs -- Rolle and Terrell Thomas. Both forced fumbles, and Thomas' strip was recovered by Jacquian Williams deep in Giants' territory to snuff out a potential Eagles touchdown drive in the final two minutes of the half. The Giants' defense has struggled all season to pressure quarterbacks and to force turnovers, but it has managed to do both so far in this game.

On offense ... still a little spotty. But Manning looks much more comfortable, and I think you can tell by the way he's ducking pressure and keeping his eyes downfield while he does it. Peyton Hillis isn't going to run for more than what's blocked, but he does appear to be an asset in the passing game, both as an outlet receiver out of the backfield and as a blocker who can pick up the blitz. The Giants also are 5-for-10 on third downs, a very positive percentage for the third game in a row after ranking last in the league in that category through the season's first five weeks.

So it looks better, Giants fans. Though the best you can hope from the day is improvement to a dismal record of 2-6, at least there are continued signs that the rest of the season might be more watchable than the early part was. If the Giants hold this lead, they'll have won a road game and a second game in a row for the first time in 364 days.

Brandon Jacobs inactive as expected

October, 27, 2013
10/27/13
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PHILADELPHIA -- New York Giants running back Brandon Jacobs, who did not practice all week and was listed as doubtful on the team's most recent injury report, is officially inactive for the second game in a row due to his hamstring injury. Peyton Hillis and Michael Cox will share running back duties for the Giants on Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles as they did in Monday night's victory over the Vikings.

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

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

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

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

W2W4: Giants at Eagles

October, 26, 2013
10/26/13
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The New York Giants are looking for their first two-game winning streak since Weeks 7-8 of last year as they travel to Philadelphia to take on the Eagles in a 1 pm ET game Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field. Here are a couple of things to look for as the Giants try to avenge their 36-21 Week 5 loss to the Eagles at MetLife Stadium.

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

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

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

Big Blue Morning: Checking in on JPP

October, 25, 2013
10/25/13
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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: Jason Pierre-Paul doesn't always stop to talk to the media, but my goodness did he talk Thursday. For a long time. About his back issues and his poor season. The big-news element of the whole thing was Pierre-Paul's admission that he believes he'll need a full 2014 offseason before he's back to full strength. In my opinion, this starts to feel like the Hakeem Nicks situation all over again, and I wonder if it could end up making Pierre-Paul the Nicks of 2014 -- a guy who'll have to have a prove-it year before the team decides if it wants to give him a long-term contract.

Behind enemy lines: The final test for Michael Vick before he and the Eagles decide he's ready to start at quarterback for the Eagles against the Giants on Sunday? Vick's going to run a 100-yard dash Friday as fast as he can, and if his injured hamstring doesn't give him any trouble, he's going to be good to go. If it does... well, then yeah, the Giants could conceivably face Matt Barkley. Which would be good for the Giants.

Around the division: Robert Griffin III says he thinks the NFL will begin moving away from drop-back passers and toward the kinds of quarterbacks that he himself represents -- mobile ones who can make plays with their legs and give coaches more options as offenses diversify. His theory is that college offenses are moving that way, so they'll produce more of those kinds of players. I can see where he's coming from, but it's still hard to believe that college football is all of a sudden going to start producing more athletes like Griffin -- and especially enough to populate the quarterback rooms of 32 NFL teams.

Around the league: If you laughed as long as I did about Adam Schefter's report that the Rams reached out to Brett Favre, I don't blame you. But Kevin Seifert makes a good point about what the Rams' desperation says about the state of quarterback in the NFL.
Your daily morning check-in on news and notes about and of interest to the New York Giants

The news of the day: On a short week following their "Monday Night Football" victory over the Vikings, the Giants get back to work today and begin their preparations for Sunday's road game in Philadelphia. Tom Coughlin spoke on a conference call Tuesday, and one of the topics he addressed was the extent to which in-season acquisitions such as Jon Beason and Peyton Hillis have helped spark and inspire their new teammates. That's the kind of thing that makes the Giants believe they can build on their first win of the season and start playing more representative football each week than they have to this point. Which would obviously be nice for those of us who watch them every week. Anyway, they practice much later than usual today so it'll be a while before you get your usual Wednesday updates. Don't worry. I haven't forgotten about you.

Behind enemy lines: Reports indicate that the Eagles expect Michael Vick to start Sunday after leaving the Week 5 game against the Giants with a hamstring injury and missing the two games the Eagles have played since. The question, of course, is whether Vick will be healthy enough to run the ball the way he did against the Giants in that Week 5 game, when his legs were the Giants' biggest problem in the first half. And we're not going to know the answer to that until sometime Sunday at the earliest.

Around the division: He is not the Giants' problem until December, but indications are that Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III is rounding into something resembling his 2012 form as he continues to put distance between himself and that reconstructive knee surgery he had back in January. Griffin is, I think, fine physically but needs to continue to work on playing with the confidence, the consistent intelligence and the somewhat controlled aggressiveness that made him so great as a rookie. Sunday was clearly a step in that direction.

Around the league: The undefeated Kansas City Chiefs are at the top. An NFC East team (the Cowboys) cracks the top 10 again at long last. And the Giants at No. 29 are at their highest point in the past month in the latest edition of the ESPN.com Power Rankings. Enjoy.
Your daily morning check-in on news and notes about and of interest to the New York Giants

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

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

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

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

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