New York Giants: Rueben Randle

QB snapshot: Eli Manning

December, 23, 2014
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A quick observation of quarterback Eli Manning and the way he played in the New York Giants' 37-27 victory in St. Louis on Sunday:

Manning
If this season has been about showing progress in the new offense, then based on Sunday Manning surely is trending in the right direction. This was his best game of the season -- 25-for-32 for 391 yards and three touchdowns.

Yes, he targeted Odell Beckham Jr. 12 times and no one else more than six, but in spite of that the target distribution was more even than it had been. Rueben Randle went over 100 yards and caught a touchdown, each for just the second time this season. Manning was, as Tom Coughlin put it, "as focused and as zoomed in on what he was looking for in this game as any game we have seen this year." He checked in and out of run plays like a surgeon and threw the ball with complete confidence.

This was an excellent game for Manning to put on tape with the offseason and a second year in Ben McAdoo's offense around the corner.
Tom Coughlin has 46 years on Odell Beckham Jr., so if the New York Giants coach's message to his young wide receiver were a stereotypical, get-off-my-lawn sermon about the evils of end-zone celebrations, Beckham likely would tune it out. Coughlin knows this, and besides, he doesn't have anything against guys expressing themselves as long as it doesn't cost the team penalty yards.

And so it was that Coughlin's postgame chat with Beckham on Sunday night was infused with nuance and an understanding of his blue-hot young star. Coughlin, 68, enjoys Beckham's energy and "exuberance" (his word) and doesn't want to deprive him of it. What he told Beckham was that he wants him to understand the specifics of when and where those things can have a negative effect, and to try to steer clear of those situations.

"He looked at me and said, 'Coach, stay after me,' " Coughlin said Monday. "He wants to learn and he wants to continue to improve and be better. I think he will and I think going forward, as he understands the professional game, that he will understand that some of the things that take place give the wrong message or send the wrong message."

[+] EnlargeTom Coughlin
John Munson/NJ Advance Media for NJ.com/USA TODAY SportsIf you've doubted how much Tom Coughlin still cares about coaching, look at how he's handling his young receivers.
Coughlin has another young wide receiver, third-year man Rueben Randle, whose circumstances are far different. While Beckham has raced to the stratosphere in his first 11 NFL games, Randle has failed to take the step forward the Giants hoped he would take this season. He also has been benched for parts of two recent games because of issues he's had regarding meetings and practices during the week. Coughlin has not divulged specifics, but he's also made no secret of his disappointment in Randle's "issues" (his word).

Randle had a big game Sunday, and Coughlin made a point of addressing Randle's "preparation" Monday -- a strong hint about weekday habits for a guy who's had trouble with them.

"As I have said all along, Rueben Randle is very talented," Coughlin said. "The way in which he approached this game, I would hope he would stamp on the back of his hand to remind him of how he prepared for this one and how well he played. We need him to play like that."

This is not a double standard. It's just two different approaches to two different players in two different situations. What Randle has done is not acceptable, and Coughlin has made it clear to him in no uncertain terms that it won't be accepted -- that if he keeps it up, he won't play, no matter how much the team needs him. What Beckham has done is acceptable, but it's also the kind of thing that could lead to occasional problems if he lets it get out of control, so Coughlin's talking to him about ways to keep it under control.

What makes Coughlin a good coach is his ability -- nay, his determination -- to first understand his player and/or team before deciding how to coach that specific player and/or team. Beckham on Sunday needed a casual, man-to-man chat about specifics. Randle over the past month has needed a proverbial kick in the you-know-what. Sunday's results indicated the still-vibrant ability of Coughlin to deliver both.

At this point, I expect Coughlin to return as Giants coach next season. And if you're using his current behavior as a gauge, you certainly don't see a guy who expects to coach only one more Giants game.

"I look at this as, I am a teacher, and I can bring a wealth of experience to a young player like this and try to help him avoid some of the potholes, if you will, that occur for young guys," Coughlin said. "The ability to establish who they are, what they represent, the quality of the player that they are and also the quality of the person that they are."

Coughlin is a true professional who will operate this way until the end of his career, whether that's next week, next year or five more years down the road. But if you happened to wonder whether he's still got it or whether he still cares as intensely as he ever did, look at what he's doing with these two young receivers and realize there are few working harder on the most important nitty-gritty, day-to-day aspects of his job than this guy is.
ST. LOUIS -- There are eye-popping numbers all over the box score from the New York Giants' 37-27 victory over the St. Louis Rams on Sunday. Rookie Andre Williams ran for 110 yards. Eli Manning passed for 391 yards and three touchdowns. Odell Beckham Jr., of course, had his usual eight catches for 148 yards and two touchdowns. Orleans Darkwa had a touchdown run. This was a serious group effort right here.

[+] EnlargeRueben Randle
Jeff Curry/USA TODAY SportsGiants receiver Rueben Randle had a breakout game against the Rams, notching his second 100-yard game this season.
But of all the offensive contributors, few were as flat-out relieved to have a big game as wide receiver Rueben Randle, who caught six passes for 132 yards and a touchdown.

"Yeah, I guess you could say that," Randle said. "I'm just out there trying to make the most of my opportunities. But the coaching staff was expecting a big game from me, and I was able to deliver, so I'm happy about that."

It's been a rough season for Randle, a player the Giants hoped would take a big step forward in his third season. Sunday was only his second 100-yard game this season, and his touchdown catch was his first since Week 5. Moreover, he'd been benched for parts of two of the previous three games by coach Tom Coughlin for disciplinary reasons relating to being late for meetings.

Neither Randle nor Coughlin have discussed the most recent benching in detail, but Coughlin made it clear last week he believed the issues with Randle could and would be resolved, and Randle was on the field for the very first play Sunday. He also was on the field for the fourth play, which was a 49-yard second-down completion that moved the ball from the Giants' 33-yard line to the Rams' 18 and helped set up the Giants' first field goal.

"I usually don't get the ball on that one," Randle said. "I'm the decoy on that play. But I guess everything else was covered, so I was happy I was able to make the play."

It was the kind of play the Giants hope to see more from Randle, as he used his size to go up and out-fight the defender for the ball.

"I was real happy to see him get back in the end zone," said Beckham, who's been stealing Randle's thunder and basically all of the touchdowns lately with his own brilliant run.

As for all of the other stuff, Randle insists he's focused on finishing strong with another big game next week and "just trying to move forward from here on out."

Coughlin had no comment on Randle, because he cut his news conference short and stormed out after he didn't like the first few questions.

Rapid Reaction: New York Giants

December, 21, 2014
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ST. LOUIS -- A few thoughts on the New York Giants' 37-27 victory over the St. Louis Rams on Sunday at the Edwards Jones Dome:

What it means: If the Giants are looking for reasons to feel good about their team going into next season, this game was loaded with them. The Rams had not allowed a touchdown since Week 12, but the Giants scored four of them and rolled up 514 yards in the process. Quarterback Eli Manning was 25-for-32 for a season-high 391 yards and three touchdowns. Odell Beckham Jr. was incredible again, with eight catches for 148 yards and a pair of touchdown catches, including an 80-yarder in the third quarter. Rueben Randle went for more than 100 receiving yards and caught a touchdown. Andre Williams had 100 rushing yards. Orleans Darkwa scored a rushing touchdown. I mean, everybody was into the act here. It was as complete an offensive performance as the Giants have delivered all season, especially when you consider they were facing one of the league's toughest defenses.

Stock watch: Randle -- Up. Few Giants needed a big game more than Randle did. The third-year wideout has been clearly surpassed by his former LSU teammate, Beckham, all season, and he's been benched twice in the past month by Tom Coughlin for being late to team meetings. But he started Sunday's game and played very well in catching six passes for 132 yards and a touchdown. In doing so, he likely helped his own confidence and the team's faith in him moving into next season.

Ugliness: The Rams clearly wanted to be physical and deliver messages to Beckham, and things got out of hand in the second quarter. Rams linebacker Alec Ogletree delivered a completely unnecessary late hit out of bounds on Beckham, then the two of them shoved each other in the face on the ground, which touched off an ugly brawl that saw Giants receiver Preston Parker, Giants defensive end Damontre Moore and Rams defensive end William Hayes ejected for fighting. It appeared Moore also was called for a foul on an official, which could result in a suspension for him.

Game ball: Manning. The Giants' QB was on the money all night, in full command of the offense and pinpoint with decisions and throws. He was 25-for-32 for a season-high 391 yards and three touchdowns and completed passes to six different receivers. He checked into a run call on a play that resulted in a 45-yard Williams run. It was the most comfortable and in command he's been all season.

What's next: The Giants will wrap up their 2014 season with a 1 p.m. ET home game Sunday against the 9-6 Philadelphia Eagles, who were eliminated from playoff contention with the Cowboys' victory Sunday. It will be the fifth game in a row in which the Giants and their opponent have both been eliminated from playoff contention. The Eagles beat the Giants 27-0 in Week 6 in Philadelphia, in the game in which Victor Cruz suffered his season-ending knee injury.

Twitter mailbag: What might have been

December, 20, 2014
Dec 20
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Last spin of the year through Newark Airport as I head off to St. Louis. Might as well take some New York Giants questions. Let's see who used that handy-dandy #nygmail hashtag on Twitter this week...

@DanGrazianoESPN: So many choices from among the 22 Giants players on injured reserve. Wide receiver Victor Cruz is the most obvious answer, as the offense seemed to be clicking and Odell Beckham Jr. had just returned from injury when Cruz blew out his knee in Week 6 against the Eagles. And based on the Giants' preseason plans, they'd likely give a nod to middle linebacker Jon Beason, who never recovered from a minicamp foot injury, but I don't know that we can put the Giants' defensive struggles solely on the absence of Beason. I think the potential impact of Walter Thurmond as the nickel cornerback was a major one, and he went down early. He could have solidified them in the slot, and he could have played on the outside once Prince Amukamara went down with his injury. With a nod toward offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz, I'm going to go with Cruz and Thurmond as my answers here. But as I said, lots of strong choices, unfortunately for the Giants.

@DanGrazianoESPN: In spite of this odd disciplinary fracas between wide receiver Rueben Randle and coach Tom Coughlin, I don't see any reason the Giants wouldn't bring back Randle next year. He's only going to be making about $800,000, and he'll only cost about $1 million against the salary cap. He's on pace to finish this season with 67 catches for 741 yards. He caught six touchdown passes last season, when he was the No. 3 wide receiver on the team. None of those numbers are dazzling, I'll grant you, but he's obviously a competent NFL receiver, and no one's roster has 53 superstars on it. The Giants believe Cruz will return to full health, which would make Randle a pretty good-looking No. 3 behind Cruz and Beckham (likely playing outside with Cruz in the slot in their preferred three-wide receiver sets), especially for the price. Again, it's possible that the issues he's having with being late for meetings and whatever else is ticking off Coughlin could pave the way for Randle to head out of town and be replaced by someone from the mid-range receiver market. But I find that unlikely, especially since they just used a second-round pick on him two years ago and the Giants are not inclined to give up on draft picks this soon.

@DanGrazianoESPN: Hey! That's two questions! Pretty good work for 140 characters. In spite of the Justin Pugh pick from 2013, I still think the Giants are disinclined to use a first-round pick on the offensive line. Considering where they'll likely be picking (7-to-9 range), and considering that this draft seems more top-heavy with defensive linemen than it does with offensive linemen, my way-too-early prediction is that they go with a pass-rusher in the first round and maybe hit the offensive line in the second or third. Or, as you said, free agency. As for Larry Donnell, I would not say he's "done enough to trust as a starting tight end next season." But I would say he's shown enough to make the Giants believe he'll continue to develop as that, and that at this point their plan would be to go into 2015 with him as their starter at the position. That'd be the first time since 2010 (Kevin Boss) that they didn't change starting tight ends in the offseason, but they like Donnell and believe he can blossom into a major playmaker for them.

@DanGrazianoESPN: Just rumors and inside whispering, but yeah. At this point, I think the odds are better that Coughlin is back than that he's gone. They're not planning to cut bait with offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo after just one year. I think a lot of people would be surprised if defensive coordinator Perry Fewell is back, and if they do make a change there you'd have to think some of the other defensive assistants would be in trouble as well, since a new coordinator would likely want to bring in at least some of his own people. And don't rule out a little bit more tinkering on the offensive side of the ball in McAdoo's second season. Offensive line coach Pat Flaherty is a good coach and well respected, but it was a bit of a surprise that spot didn't turn over last year when they made moves to get younger on the coaching staff. He might not be safe this time around if they do make more changes.

Thanks for the questions, and enjoy the start of bowl season.

What Ben McAdoo has learned in his 'rookie' year

December, 19, 2014
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- We've talked a lot about the development of the New York Giants' young players, and you know every case is different. Rookie Odell Beckham Jr. is a comet; third-year receiver Rueben Randle continues to frustrate. Second-year defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins is having a dominant season, while second-year end Damontre Moore continues to make slow progress in understanding his responsibilities in the defense.

Lost in this, on occasion, is the fact that Giants offense coordinator Ben McAdoo is himself a rookie. Prior to this year, the 37-year-old McAdoo had never been a coordinator at any level and had never been an in-game playcaller. He's been both for the Giants this year. On Thursday, I asked him what he's learned this season and how he's different as a coach than he was a year ago.

"You don't fall into the trap where you think the system is everything," McAdoo said. "In tough times, you think about players, not plays. That's the first thing that comes to mind."

McAdoo said expanded exposure to a variety of viewpoints has helped educate him about his new job as he's done it. Having been a position coach (tight ends and quarterbacks) during his time in Green Bay, he's now in a position to hear a variety of opinions and perspectives as a coordinator overseeing several different position coaches. And the on-the-job lessons about in-game play calling have helped as well, as there's no better teacher than experience.

But I found it interesting, especially as we watch the offense run through the red-hot Beckham every week instead of a run game that has faltered, that McAdoo's first answer to the question of what he's learned is that there are times when you have to rely on your personnel rather than your plan or your scheme. Understanding that is the mark of a good coach, I believe.

"Simply, the best play may not be the best play because it doesn't get the person the ball who gives you the best chance to win the game," McAdoo said. "Getting the ball to the right guy at the right time is critical."

McAdoo stands as an interesting figure for the Giants in the coming years as a young, developing offensive coordinator the team views as a potential head coach. It should be fun and interesting to track and analyze his development along with that of the players.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Right? You guys ask, like, all the time why New York Giants rookie wide receiver Corey Washington isn't getting more reps on offense. Even with Rueben Randle in the doghouse, Kevin Ogletree was in the game ahead of Washington on Sunday, and those who remember Washington's preseason heroics continue to wonder why.

Washington
Well, Giants coach Tom Coughlin talked about it Wednesday. And while you Washingtonheads out there may not like the answer, you can rest assured there is a reason Washington remains so far down on the depth chart. It just has nothing to do with his ability to actually play wide receiver.

"My standard operating procedure is that I'd like the fourth and fifth wide receivers to be outstanding contributors on special teams, and we're not there right now," Coughlin said. "That would help a lot."

Coughlin said Washington hasn't done a good enough job on the punt return and kickoff return teams to warrant a promotion to a larger role on offense, even though he spoke highly of his ability to perform when put into the game at wide receiver.

"No. He does a good job and can play multiple positions, and from the standpoint of knowing what to do, he's done that from Day 1," Coughlin said. "But he does have to become better at his job."

So there's your answer, folks. Washington's path to more playing time on offense is being blocked by his failure to excel on punt and kickoff returns.

Told you you wouldn't like the answer.

Giants bench Rueben Randle, again

December, 14, 2014
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Odell Beckham Jr.'s season keeps getting better and better, and Rueben Randle's keeps getting worse and worse.

Randle was benched for the second time in three weeks Sunday, sitting out the entire first quarter and playing sporadically after that in the New York Giants' 24-13 win over the Washington Redskins.

Randle
Two weeks ago, Randle sat out the first quarter against the Jacksonville Jaguars, and revealed afterwards that he had been late to a team meeting two days before. This time around, Randle wasn't as forthcoming.

"Coach said he's gonna answer that, so I'm gonna leave it up to him to answer that," Randle said.

"That's between Rueben and I," coach Tom Coughlin said.

Preston Parker, Kevin Ogletree and even Corey Washington saw action at wide receiver before Randle did Sunday. Parker was out of the NFL last season, Ogletree was out of the league until the Giants signed him in mid-October, and Washington is an undrafted rookie out of Newberry College.

Randle was a second-round draft pick out of LSU in 2012 -- a big-time prospect who appears to be rapidly falling out of favor in his third season with the team, although Randle hasn't fallen behind Parker and Ogletree on the depth chart, according to Coughlin.

"No, I think they all mix in and play," Coughlin said. "Parker's played steadily since the beginning of the year. Ogletree's had a chance to work his way in this week and did a pretty good job, so the more people you have, the better."

Once Randle did enter the game Sunday, he dropped the first two passes thrown his way -- the second of which came on a third-and-7 at the Washington 46-yard line, a ball that went right through his hands.

Randle said his benching had nothing to do with the drops. "They're just plays I have to make," Randle said. "That's it. No frustration."

Things did get better. In the fourth quarter, with the Giants facing a third-and-8 at the Redskins' 24, Randle made a tough catch over the middle for an 18-yard gain, setting up the touchdown that sealed the victory. He also had another catch, for 12 yards.

But that was it. Four targets, two catches, 30 yards, from a player the Giants expected big things from this season, elevating him to a starting role after the departure of Hakeem Nicks.

Randle said he's not worried about his relationship with Coughlin or his future with the Giants. "No, everything's fine," he said.

But things aren't fine, really. And you have to wonder if Randle's tenure with the Giants is coming to a close.

"Yeah, you don’t like to see that. You don’t like to see your starting receiver get in trouble," quarterback Eli Manning said. "It can throw off the rhythm of things."
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Observed and heard in the locker room following the New York Giants' 24-13 victory Sunday over Washington:
    Grimes
    Beckham
  • The talk was, of course, of rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and his three touchdown catches. Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul said, "He's the fire of the offense." Safety Antrel Rolle said, "Nothing this guy does amazes me." And fellow rookie Andre Williams said, "Odell is playing at the highest level. I catch the 'wow' moment at the end. I don't see him run his routes or anything. I just see him in the end zone, mostly."
  • For Beckham's part, he believes he can do more. He chided himself for a first-half play on which he believed he should have gotten both feet in bounds, and of course for his error on the final punt return of the game. "I apologize to my special teams coach," Beckham said of the muff. "There's no better feeling than seeing your offense run on the field to take a knee at the end of the game."
  • Tom Coughlin declined to explain Rueben Randle's latest benching but indicated it was more than just a first-quarter benching like the one in Jacksonville two weeks ago. This time, Randle declined to discuss it as well. My impression was that his entry into the game would have been delayed even longer had Kevin Ogletree not had to leave briefly to be checked for a head injury.
  • Coughlin said running back Rashad Jennings re-injured his ankle on the first play of the game. Jennings did not return. He had been hoping to get through this game and be at full strength for next week, but it's unclear whether this latest development changes those plans.

Reuben Randle's role in Giants offense receding

December, 11, 2014
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants have two wide receivers from LSU.

One is an emerging superstar. The other, it's fair to say, has been disappointing this season.

Odell Beckham Jr. has only played in nine NFL games, and his jersey is already in the Hall of Fame. Rueben Randle is now in his third NFL season, but the former second-round pick has failed to make the leap to the next level in his first year as a starter, replacing the departed Hakeem Nicks.

In fact, in four fewer games, Beckham (59 catches, 829 yards, six touchdowns) has eclipsed Randle (57 catches, 618 yards, two touchdowns) in the major statistical categories. Randle is also averaging a career-low 10.8 yards per reception, although that may be partly due to the new West Coast system the Giants are employing.

"I think that he’s had games where he’s played well, very well. Other games, not so well," coach Tom Coughlin said Thursday. "You’re always striving for the consistent performer and I think he would agree with that. Try to get better, that’s the whole deal."

Randle did have one 100-yard receiving game this season, with seven catches for 112 yards in the Giants' 16-10 loss to the 49ers in Week 11. He was targeted a whopping 15 times in that game by Eli Manning, and at least nine times in eight straight games up to that point.

But in the past three games, he's only been targeted 10 times combined. He was suspended for the first quarter of the Giants' loss to the Jaguars, reportedly for being late to a team meeting. Despite Manning completing 26 passes for 260 yards in the 36-7 win over the Titans last week, Randle had a season-low one catch for nine yards.

Offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo said Thursday that the Giants have not been staying away from Randle on purpose.

"We like to distribute the ball," McAdoo said. "The coverage tells us where we’re going to go with it. It just happened to fall like that last week."

For what it's worth, it doesn't sound like the coaching staff has given up on Randle.

"He’s been a little bit streaky. Some days better than others," McAdoo said. "We have a lot of confidence in him and expect him to continue to grow, get better. He’s still a young player and we feel his best days are ahead of him."

As for Randle, he said he sees himself getting open on film. "I can only control what I can control," Randle said. "The ball come my way, I gotta make a play."

When asked if he feels not enough balls are coming his way, Randle said, "That’s not really my job to say that. As a receiver, my job is to go out there and do what I’m asked, and that's what I'm trying to do."

We'll see what happens in these final three games. Maybe Randle is still part of the future, or maybe the Giants need to go looking for another wide receiver.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants have had the Odell Beckham Jr. pass play in the playbook for a while now.

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Beckham
"I don't want to say the Atlanta game, which was his first game," offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo said Thursday. "But we had it in there pretty early. He's a talented young man, and the more you can do in this league."

The play on which the Giants' rookie wide receiver threw a 60-yard deep pass toward Rueben Randle in the end zone (incomplete) against the Titans on Sunday doesn't require Beckham to throw the ball. It gives him the option to do so. And when Beckham took the pitch and ran out right, he saw a defender crashing toward him and decided it was worth a shot.

"He draws a lot of attention once he puts his hands on the ball," McAdoo said.

Beckham said after the game, seriously, that he should have looked for his second option on that play, as Preston Parker was wide open. But McAdoo said he doesn't expect his wide receivers to necessarily work their way through their progressions the way quarterbacks do when they drop back to pass, especially when they're being pursued by defenders.

Unfortunately for the Giants, the play didn't work this time, and therefore won't be a surprise to the next team against whom they try it. But McAdoo said that won't stop them from using it again.

"Anytime you use a 'deceptive,' you'd sure like to hit it," McAdoo said. "But with that being said, they're like screens. Any time you call one it helps you, because it slows down the pursuit."

It was pointed out to McAdoo that the play didn't seem like a Tom Coughlin-style play, as the Giants' head coach is generally thought to lean toward the conservative side. But McAdoo made it clear that Coughlin was well aware of that play's presence in the playbook and the chance that the Giants might use it in a game.

"You don't ever want to make a call like that without the head coach being involved," McAdoo said.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Observed and heard in the locker room following the New York Giants' 25-24 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday:
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    Coughlin
    Giants coach Tom Coughlin was at a loss to explain how his team blew a 21-0 lead by letting the Jaguars score two touchdowns on fumble recoveries in the second half. "This team [Jacksonville] is 0-4 when it loses the turnover battle," Coughlin said. "It's 100 percent. And we turn it over three times? Two for touchdowns? And we get nothing? It just doesn't make any sense. We could have knelt on the ball in the second half and had a better chance to win."
  • Guard Geoff Schwartz had his injured left ankle in a boot and left the stadium on crutches. He did not sound optimistic about his prospects for playing again soon. Coughlin said Schwartz had tendon damage. ... Coughlin also said he had no information on Robert Ayers' pectoral muscle injury, but that if it's torn, that would end Ayers' season. ... Running back Rashad Jennings said he tried to push off on his injured right ankle and couldn't, which is why he couldn't go back in the game in the fourth quarter, but he's not worried about the injury costing him more time. ... Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie said he injured his shoulder early in the game, and that's why he wasn't on the field at the end. ... Rueben Randle said he was benched for the first quarter because he was late for a meeting Friday.
  • And in perhaps the most shocking quote of the day, safety Antrel Rolle said, "I'm at a loss for words," though he did continue to talk after that.
I am off to Jacksonville for a Week 13 clash of NFL powerhouses. But in the meantime, I'll take your New York Giants questions via Twitter and the ever-useful #nygmail hashtag.

@DanGrazianoESPN: My gut still says that neither coach Tom Coughlin nor GM Jerry Reese gets fired at the end of this season, but John Mara's gut matters far more in this case, and I continue to remind people that the remaining games on the schedule still matter in the final evaluation. If the Giants finish 4-1 and end up 7-9, things look a lot different than if they finish 2-3 and end up 5-11. In the latter case, I believe all bets are off and no one's safe. The Giants don't fire GMs. They've had only three in the last 38 years. But Reese's two predecessors did better jobs than he's done, so it wouldn't be crazy to think they'd break from that organizational philosophy if they felt it was time to flush out the whole thing and start fresh. As for Coughlin, the two-time Super Bowl-winning coach of the Giants isn't getting "fired" in any traditional sense. If offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride was allowed to leave on his own terms a year ago, surely any parting with Coughlin would be presented as a retirement and a celebration of his career with the Giants, as it should be. Coughlin is invested in this organization and its long-term health as well as its short-term health. If there's a decision to be made about whether it's time to change coaches, I believe he'll be a part of that decision, not merely a victim of it.

@DanGrazianoESPN: If Victor Cruz were healthy right now, he'd be playing the slot receiver spot currently manned by Preston Parker, with Odell Beckham Jr. manning the same outside receiver position he's playing right now. So the answer to your question is that the offense would be better by whatever the difference is between Parker and Cruz, which is significant. No offense to Parker, but Cruz is an elite slot receiver, and assuming he bounces back to pre-injury levels of speed and explosiveness, the Giants would be in a good spot. Beckham's ability to stretch the defense with his deep speed would force opponents to make a decision on which guy to cover, and Eli Manning could lean on whichever one was open depending on that week's opponent's game plan. The bigger question to me is what happens at that other outside receiver spot. Is Rueben Randle good enough, or do they look to upgrade there? Randle is not guaranteed any money for next year, but his cap number would only be around $1 million. Once Cruz is back, that will help Randle or whoever is in that spot a great deal as well. And they still believe tight end Larry Donnell is developing into a potentially big-time weapon. So I think if they can keep plugging away on offensive line improvements and Cruz comes back, there's lots of reasons to be optimistic about the Giants' offense for the future.

@DanGrazianoESPN: If the season ended right now, the Giants would hold the No. 7 overall pick in the NFL draft. It's going to be tough for them to get much higher than that, though they could pass Washington and move into the No. 6 spot if they lose to them in a couple of weeks. But I think the furthest they could fall is to right around that No. 12 spot where they picked last season. I don't know what's going to happen in the next four games when the Giants face off against non-contenders, but my guess is that they'll win either three or four of their remaining games. So if that's the way it goes, I'll predict they end up picking No. 10 in the 2015 draft. And in answer to the questions that come with this, it has to be a lineman, either defensive or offensive. This is a strong pass-rusher draft at the top, and the Giants desperately need to improve their pass rush. And the offensive line... well, anyone who reads me regularly knows how I feel about the line and the way the Giants have neglected it in the early rounds of the draft for far too long. They need more star-caliber talent on the line.

@DanGrazianoESPN: (I agree that he shouldn't.) Not sure about your point on the conditioning. Are you referring to the rash of injuries the Giants have suffered? A lot of that is bad luck, and it really does happen to every team. The Giants' problem is that their roster still isn't deep enough to weather the kinds of injuries they've had without significant dropoff. They weren't a great team to begin with, and once the injuries set in they became a very bad one. But as for who takes the fall, I think the defense's performance has been the kind that gets defensive coordinators fired. Perry Fewell is a good man and a good coach, and the Giants like him a lot. But if they're not getting rid of the head coach or the GM, I think the response to this season will end up being an overhaul of the defense akin to the overhaul they made on offense last year and that it'll start with the hiring of a new coordinator. I also wouldn't be surprised to see a couple of other staff changes on offense in the second year of Ben McAdoo. Some of the holdover coaches (offensive line?) who kept their jobs through last year's change could be on shaky ground. But again, we have to wait and see how this final month goes before we can make any truly informed predictions.

Thanks for all of the questions. Enjoy your leftovers.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The 49ers were trying so hard to give the New York Giants the game Sunday. Even after four Eli Manning interceptions, the Giants were moving the ball in the final minutes with a chance to take the lead. On a drive that began on his own 35-yard line, Manning moved the ball into San Francisco territory with a 26-yard completion to Rueben Randle on third-and-long, and two plays later Odell Beckham Jr. made an incredible sideline catch to set the Giants up with first-and-goal from the 4-yard line.

lastname
Coughlin
The Giants trailed 16-10 with 5:04 left on the clock and four yards away from the touchdown that would give them the lead.

But they couldn't get it.

The first play was a fade route to Beckham that didn't connect. The second was another attempt at a fade, to Randle, and that didn't connect, either. By this point, third-and-goal from the 4, the Giants were committed to the pass -- specifically the fade -- even though coach Tom Coughlin already had decided to go for the touchdown if it got to fourth down.

"In hindsight," Coughlin said, "we should have run the ball."

They did not. They threw another fade, this one to tight end Larry Donnell, who went way up in the air and had the ball in his hands but lost it as he and the defender came crashing hard to the ground. With 4:50 left on the clock and their defense playing well, the Giants could have opted for a short field goal that cut the lead to three and tried to get back in field goal range to tie it. Instead, they lined up in the shotgun and Manning tried to force one to Preston Parker over the middle. The pass was tipped, and linebacker Chris Borland corralled it at the 2-yard line for his second (and Manning's fifth) interception of the game.

The Giants would get the ball back, but at their own 15 with 1:09 to go. They obviously never got nearly that close again.

Justin Pugh (quad) the latest injured Giant

November, 16, 2014
Nov 16
7:05
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New York Giants right tackle Justin Pugh exited the team's 16-10 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the first half due to injury, and did not return.

The Giants labeled Pugh's injury as a strained quad, and coach Tom Coughlin revealed after the game that Pugh actually first suffered the injury in last week's defeat in Seattle. But he practiced all week and did not appear on the Giants' official injury report.

"That was the shocker. The kid worked his tail off in practice, I don't think he ever missed a snap," coach Tom Coughlin said.

Charles Brown replaced Pugh, and struggled. Coughlin had no update on Pugh's status after the game.

Speaking of the injury report, cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie also did not appear on it this week, for the first time in several weeks.

But he was shuffled in and out of the lineup again Sunday, didn't look 100 percent when he was on the field (he was beaten on Michael Crabtree's 48-yard touchdown) and finished the game on the sideline with his right leg heavily wrapped.

Rodgers-Cromartie said he's dealing with the same injury that has hampered him in the past few games.

"It limits your movement, the things you need to be able to do as a defensive back," he said.

Chykie Brown, whom the Giants picked up off waivers from the Baltimore Ravens earlier this month, served as Rodgers-Cromartie's replacement.

Giants wide receivers Rueben Randle and Preston Parker both got dinged up Sunday but returned to the game.

Parker suffered a sprained ankle. Randle was dealing with cramps and also took a couple of hard shots, but said he was OK afterward. He finished with seven catches for a career-high 112 yards.

Running back Rashad Jennings returned to action after missing four games with a sprained MCL. But he gained just 59 yards on 18 carries (3.3 yards per carry), and was stuffed on a critical 4th-and-1 play late in the third quarter.

"I didn't make enough plays," Jennings said. "The ball is in my hands and I have to make the play."

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