Saturday, September 22, 2012
Weekend mailbag: A Unicorn gets his due
By Dan Graziano
Let's just dig right in this week, shall we?
Martellus "Black Unicorn" Bennett from NYC checks in! (No, I don't think it's really him.) He wants to know "how many more monster games do I need to have before you change the narrative on me from 'he'll be used primarily for blocking'?"
Dan Graziano: Yeah, I mean, narratives change themselves, and there's little question that Bennett has shown more as a pass-catcher through three games with the New York Giants than they expected to see. Giants GM Jerry Reese told me in training camp that they got Bennett to help their run game as a blocker and that anything he gave them in the passing game would be a bonus. To this point, it's been a whopper of a bonus. And if he keeps running his routes and catching his passes, Eli Manning will keep using him. He did drop a couple of balls in Week 2, and he did give up on a route just before halftime Thursday night, so you can see the old Dallas problems bubbling up here and there. And there are enough other options in the passing game for the Giants that Bennett likely has some quiet weeks coming. But Manning and tight ends coach Mike Pope believe they can maximize this still-young player's considerable talent, and so far it's paying off. I do think it's important to note that Bennett's contributions as a run blocker have so far been very impressive and significant. The touchdown catches should not obscure that. The dude can really block.
GW from SE, PA is tired of hearing about the nine turnovers the Philadelphia Eagles have committed in their first two games. He wants to know what those turnovers have meant in terms of opponents' points. And while we're at it, he wants to know what the six turnovers the Eagles have forced have meant in terms of Eagles points.
DG: You got it, GW. The Eagles' nine turnovers this year have led to 26 of the 39 points their opponents have scored against them. In the opener in Cleveland, the Browns scored field goals off of the fumble and two of the interceptions, a touchdown off of one interception, and no points off of the other interception. So in that game, all 16 of Cleveland's points came off of Eagles turnovers. The Ravens in Week 2 scored 10 of their 23 points off of turnovers -- a touchdown off of the first fumble and a field goal off of the second interception. The other two turnovers resulted in no Baltimore points. As for the Eagles, they have scored just 14 points as a result of the six turnovers they've forced. They scored no points off of their four interceptions in the Browns game (though they took a knee after the fourth). In the Baltimore game, however, they cashed in both turnovers for touchdowns. LeSean McCoy's first-quarter touchdown came on the drive that followed Cullen Jenkins' fumble recovery, and Jeremy Maclin's touchdown catch came on the drive that followed DeMeco Ryans' interception. Upshot is that the Eagles are minus-12 this year in points off of turnovers and therefore plus-14 when it comes to other points.
Zach from Boston, MA is a Dallas Cowboys fan who thinks Tony Romo struggles too much to get the ball into the hands of his No. 1 and No. 2 receivers. Zach says he read recently that Romo "won't give his first read more than 2.5 seconds to get open," and wonders whether they're not good at getting open or whether he needs to give them more time to do so.
DG: Interesting question, Zach, but I think this is one that gets back to that same old issue of the Cowboys' struggles on the offensive line. It's entirely possible that Romo can't afford to give his receivers any more time to get open, because he's constantly trying to duck the pass rush and get rid of the ball before he gets sacked. So it could well be that the pass-protection problems the Cowboys have had over the past couple of years are forcing Romo to go through his progressions more quickly than he'd prefer to. Romo excels at using his feet to keep plays alive as long as possible, but given what he's got in front of him, that's still not as much time as many quarterbacks get to work.
Andy from Manhattan Beach, Calif. says the number of hits Robert Griffin III has taken in his first two games have given him a greater appreciation for the reasons the Washington Redskins took quarterback Kirk Cousins in the fourth round of the same draft.
DG: Yup. And while it seemed to me and many others at that moment that they would have been wiser to address the secondary or offensive line at that point in the draft, the fact is the odds of finding a defensive back or offensive lineman who can help you in that round aren't a whole lot better than finding one in the fifth or sixth. So, with a quarterback sitting there that he actually liked, Mike Shanahan decided to pull the trigger and deepen the Redskins at the most crucial position. That was the logic all along. Yes, ideally Griffin never misses a snap and they flip Cousins for a high pick or two down the road ala the Eagles and Kevin Kolb. But in the meantime, they have two young quarterbacks on their roster about whom they feel good.
Cheers, all. Catch you tomorrow from FedEx Field.