NFL Nation: New York Giants

The New York Giants on Tuesday placed linebacker Jacquian Williams and offensive lineman James Brewer on season-ending injured reserve due to lingering concussion symptoms. The moves raise the total number of Giants players on injured reserve this season to an absolutely stunning 22 -- enough to field a full offense and defense (though they'd be without a quarterback, a tight end and a couple of other key positions).

To replace Williams and Brewer on their roster, the Giants promoted defensive tackle Dominique Hamilton from their practice squad and signed guard Adam Gettis from the Pittsburgh Steelers' practice squad.

Williams was the Giants' starting weakside linebacker and leading tackler for the first nine games of the season, but he never fully recovered from the concussion he suffered in the Week 10 loss at Seattle. He'd been cleared to return to the practice field a couple times since then, but he would develop symptoms again after practicing and had to be shut down.

Brewer was inactive for the first 10 games of this season but was playing right tackle in Week 13 in Jacksonville when he suffered his concussion.

The Giants also signed safety Thomas Gordon to their practice squad to fill Hamilton's spot.

Here's the full list of Giants on injured reserve:

CB Prince Amukamara

DE Robert Ayers

LB Jon Beason

OL James Brewer

RB Michael Cox

WR Victor Cruz

WR Marcus Harris

RB Peyton Hillis

KR Trindon Holliday

CB Travis Howard

WR Jerrel Jernigan

DE Mathias Kiwanuka

OL Troy Kropog

LB Terrell Manning

WR Mario Manningham

CB Trumaine McBride

OL Geoff Schwartz

OL Adam Snyder

S Cooper Taylor

CB Walter Thurmond

LB Jacquian Williams

RB David Wilson

QB snapshot: Eli Manning

December, 16, 2014
Dec 16
A quick observation of quarterback Eli Manning and the way he played in the New York Giants' 24-13 victory over Washington on Sunday:

 You cannot evaluate Manning right now without intertwining him with rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. All three of Manning's touchdown passes Sunday went to Beckham. Manning was 12-for-15 (80 percent) when targeting Beckham and 11-for-19 (57.9 percent) when targeting anyone else. His yards per attempt when targeting Beckham were 9.5, compared to 5.6 on his other targets. Manning is acutely aware of which side his bread is buttered.

Overall, once again, the numbers from Sunday look good. Manning threw for 250 yards and no interceptions, and he has only two interceptions in the four games that have followed his five-pick Week 11 meltdown against San Francisco. He's in a comfortable little groove right now, avoiding mistakes and completing a high percentage of his passes. But as you saw Sunday, it's pretty much all about Beckham.
Jason Pierre-Paul AP Photo/Bill KostrounNew York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul has turned up his production in recent weeks.
Six sacks in his last three games have raised Jason Pierre-Paul's season total to 9.5, which isn't an elite-pass-rusher number, but Pierre-Paul says it doesn't matter.

"Just numbers, man," the New York Giants defensive end said after his big game Sunday against Washington. "If you look at the film, really break down all the statistics, I'm having a great season."

The Giants, as you know, are not. But if Pierre-Paul truly is, he's setting himself up well for a free-agent contract push that could force the Giants into an interesting offseason decision.

Pierre-Paul turns 26 in two weeks and is eligible for free agency a couple of months after that. Given his age, the brilliance he flashed during the Giants' 2011-12 Super Bowl run and what's shaping up to be a strong finish to his walk year, he's likely to generate a high level of interest on the open market. Elite pass-rushers are a rare commodity, and if Pierre-Paul can sell himself at that -- at his age -- he has reason to dream of a deal in the $12 million or $13 million-a-year range.

The Giants will have enough cap space to do a deal like that if they want to keep Pierre-Paul. But they have many other needs as well, and the way the Giants generally act with their free agents is to set a price they think is fair and tell the guy he's welcome to go try to get more elsewhere if he thinks he can. It's unclear at this point whether the Giants would break the bank to keep their 2010 first-round draft pick, though they are happy with the way he has performed in 2014.

"JPP is playing very well," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said Monday. "Technically, early on, he was doing some things that we could correct and help with, and we did, and he has really adapted his game again to the way and manner in which we would like him to rush."

The Giants' pass rush as a whole has taken off the last three weeks in games against Jacksonville, Tennessee and Washington. After recording a total of 19 sacks in their first 11 games of the season, the Giants have 22 sacks in their last three games, pushing them all the way up to No. 4 in the league in that category. Much of that has to do with the contributions they're getting from young players like linebacker Devon Kennard, defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins and defensive ends Kerry Wynn and Damontre Moore. But Pierre-Paul is the centerpiece player -- the all-around defensive end who can take on left tackles, play the run and find his way to the quarterback with his speed and instincts. That's the player they saw in 2011, and after two injury-plagued seasons that followed, the Giants believe they're seeing that player again this year.

They will need a foundation piece for the pass rush this offseason. If it's not Pierre-Paul, they'll have to find it somewhere else -- either in free agency or with a first-round draft pick that currently would be No. 8 overall. I can't tell them how to spend their money, and I understand being hesitant to commit five or six years and $12 million or $13 million a year to a guy who's struggled to stay healthy. But Pierre-Paul may end up being their best option.

He also would be the first of GM Jerry Reese's first-round draft picks to sign a second contract with the team. Aaron Ross (2007), Kenny Phillips (2008) and Hakeem Nicks (2009) all went elsewhere at the end of their rookie deals for reasons of injury or ineffectiveness. Prince Amukamara (2011) is no sure thing to break that trend. They hold a 2015 option on him and it remains to be seen what effect his season-ending injury has on their long-range assessment of his value. David Wilson (2012) had to retire in August due to neck injuries. And it's far too early to know what the future holds for Justin Pugh (2013) or brilliant rookie Odell Beckham Jr. (2014).

First-round picks are supposed to be long-term foundation pieces. The questions for the Giants are whether they believe, after five years, that Pierre-Paul is a foundation piece and how much they're willing to bet on it.
New York Giants running back Rashad Jennings re-injured his sprained right ankle on the first play of Sunday's victory against Washington and did not return.

"He did have a reoccurrence of the ankle and was not able to go back in the game," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said Monday. "Whether or not we are all the way back to Square 1, I don't know yet. I don't have anything on that today yet."

Jennings sprained his ankle in the Week 13 loss in Jacksonville and played a minimal role in the following week's victory in Tennessee. He was slated for a slightly larger workload Sunday, as evidenced by the fact that he got the first carry of the game. But says he "tweaked" the ankle on that very play, and now his status for the final two games of the season is obviously in doubt.

Assuming the injury is where it was after the Jacksonville game, it's impossible to count on Jennings for Sunday's game in St. Louis, and it's possible they could just shut him down for the rest of the season and give the starting running back work to rookie Andre Williams. We likely won't know for sure until Wednesday, when the Giants return to the practice field. But it's obviously not looking good for Jennings to have the strong finish to the season for which he was hoping.

Jennings is in his first year with the Giants, having signed a free-agent contract in March. Early in the season, when the offense was having success, he looked like a good fit as the all-purpose starter at running back. He had 176 rushing yards in the Week 3 victory against Houston and averaged 4.35 yards per carry during the Giants' first five games. But he injured his knee in Week 5, missed the next four games and wasn't back to full strength until the Jacksonville game, in which he injured the ankle. So Jennings' first Giants season will turn out to have been about injury and time missed, and his health issues will make him one of their question marks going into 2015.
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Play: San Francisco 49ers linebacker Nick Moody penalized for roughing the passer after hitting Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.
Referee: Ed Hochuli
Analysis: Moody blitzed Wilson and hit him an instant after release of the ball on a key third-down play in the red zone. Slow-motion replays show Moody's helmet and face mask made contact with Wilson's chest at the level of his No. 3.

[+] EnlargeRussell Wilson
Elaine Thompson/AP PhotoWeek 15 games had several questionable calls, including a roughing the passer penalty by the 49ers on Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.
Standing in his position behind Wilson, Hochuli craned his neck to view contact he appeared to be blocked from seeing. In announcing the penalty, Hochuli said Moody put his "helmet on the chest of the quarterback." The call was counterintuitive to the general public assumption that the NFL wants defensive players to avoid hits to the head and neck, which Moody did. He lowered his 6-foot-1 frame enough to hit the 5-foot-10 Wilson well below that priority area.

Most of us know that the NFL prohibits a defender from lowering his head and hitting a quarterback with the crown of his helmet. Moody avoided that type of contact as well. So what, if anything, did he do wrong? In speaking to a pool reporter afterward, Hochuli referenced contact by the "hairline" of Moody's helmet.

That explanation seemed to reference a lesser-known part of the NFL's rules for roughing the passer. Here's what Rule 12, Section 2, Article 9(c) provides as one cause for penalty:
"A defensive player must not use his helmet against a passer who is in a defenseless posture -- for example, (1) forcibly hitting the passer's head or neck area with the helmet or face mask, even if the initial contact of the defender's helmet or face mask is lower than the passer's neck, and regardless of whether the defensive player also uses his arms to tackle the passer by encircling or grasping him; or (2) lowering the head and making forcible contact with the top/crown or forehead/'hairline' parts of the helmet against any part of the passer's body. This rule does not prohibit incidental contact by the mask or non-crown parts of the helmet in the course of a conventional tackle on a passer."

If you freeze the replay at the point of contact, you basically see Moody's face in Wilson's chest. Was the head lowered? No. But did the hairline make forcible contact, as Hochuli implied?

That would be an exceptionally difficult argument to make, one that and not even vice president of officiating Dean Blandino was willing to make. Speaking Monday morning on the NFL Network, Blandino said: "Moody's head is up, he hits with more of the side and the face mask to the body of the quarterback, and in our review, with the ability to look at it in slow motion, it's not a foul."

Entering Week 15, Hochuli's crew was tied for the second-fewest roughing the passer calls in the NFL. So it's not as if he has been trigger-happy on such calls this season. Did he truly see hairline contact by Moody during live action? Based on his positioning to the play, that seems unlikely. Or did he see it postgame via replay, prior to speaking to the pool reporter? I'll let you ruminate on that one.

Play: Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III is ruled to have fumbled at the goal line.
Referee: Jeff Triplette
Analysis: Griffin attempted to run for a touchdown near the right pylon just before halftime against the New York Giants. Holding the ball with his right hand at the 3-yard line, Griffin started to extend toward the goal line. He brought his left hand up to secure the ball but ended up losing possession for a moment.

Although Griffin regained control as he went airborne into the end zone, the ball again squirted loose when he landed. By the time he grabbed it for the final time, both Griffin and the ball were out of bounds.

The play happened fast, and Triplette's crew originally ruled it a touchdown. A replay review, however, provided a clear view of what happened. Once again, we're left to explain the NFL's quirky "process" rule that applies to possession of a ball when going to the ground.

We discussed this last week relative to a loose ball involving Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce. As a reminder, here is part of what Rule 3, Section 2, Article 7, Note 1 reads:
"A player who goes to the ground in the process of attempting to secure possession of a loose ball [with or without contact by an opponent] must maintain control of the ball throughout the process of contacting the ground, whether in the field of play or the end zone. If he loses control of the ball, and the ball touches the ground before he regains control, there is no possession."

While Griffin did regain possession, his initial bobble made the play fundamentally different than a runner who crosses into the end zone without first fumbling. That instance is a touchdown, and anything that happens afterward is moot. Griffin, however, had the added requirement of maintaining possession through "the process of contacting the ground," and as counterintuitive as that might seem, he clearly did not hit that threshold. With a big assist from replay, Triplette landed on the right call according to the rulebook.

Play: The Buffalo Bills are awarded a safety late in the fourth quarter against the Green Bay Packers.
Referee: Bill Leavy
Analysis: Bills defensive end Mario Williams knocked the ball away from Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers at the 3-yard line. The ball bounced back into the end zone, where Packers running back Eddie Lacy picked it up and tried to run with it.

It's not clear if Lacy got the ball out of the end zone before he was tackled, but it was a moot point. The play was the first after the two-minute warning, which triggered an exception to the rules for advancing a fumble.

Rule 8, Section 7, Article 6 states that the offensive team can only advance a fumble after the two-minute warning if it's by the player who fumbled. Otherwise, the ball is dead at either the spot of the fumble or at the spot of the recovery, whichever is further back.

So in this case, Rodgers was the only player who could have advanced the ball out of the end zone and avoided a safety. Leavy was correct to whistle the play dead as soon as Lacy touched it.

The origin of this seemingly random exception is the 1978 "Holy Roller" play, when two Oakland Raiders teammates batted the ball some 24 yards into the end zone after a Kenny Stabler fumble. Raiders tight end Dave Casper fell on it for a touchdown. There was some controversy about whether the Raiders intentionally pushed the ball toward the end zone, but the NFL amended its rules the following year to eliminate the incentive to do so in a potential game-winning situation.
Over the past six seasons, Tom Coughlin's record as coach of the New York Giants is 52-46. That counts the three playoff games and the Super Bowl he won during that stretch, and, no, it's not a very good record at all. Better than some? Yes. Enough to justify the kind of job security Coughlin has? Not by most teams' standards, no.

[+] EnlargeTom Coughlin
Kathy Willens/AP PhotoTom Coughlin is the public face of the Giants, a role ownership places a high priority on.
But Coughlin doesn't work for most teams. Coughlin works for the Giants, and in spite of the guarantee of a second straight losing season and a fifth season out of six without a playoff appearance, the strong likelihood is that Coughlin returns next year for a 12th season in his current job. I'm not able to put a percentage on it as the New York Post did, but the sense I get from talking to people in that building is that a lot of minds would have to be changed in the next two weeks for the Giants to decide to replace Coughlin.

Which means that wins and losses aren't the only criteria the Giants' owners are using to assess Coughlin. If they were, it would be extremely easy for the Giants to stand up at the end of this season, point to that .531 winning percentage over the last six years, proclaim that it's not up to their standards, thank Coughlin for his long and meritorious service to the organization, and move on to someone else. That is what most professional sports teams in their situation would do.

But the Giants, quite proudly and stubbornly, do not operate this way. Not with this two-time Super Bowl-winning coach. Not with a general manager, Jerry Reese, whose lousy draft record is the real reason for the playoff drought. Both of those men appear safe in their current jobs as the offseason looms, and the reason is that the Giants view themselves as more circumspect than most organizations.

The Giants' decision-making process on these matters contains a level of nuance that doesn't jive with today's knee-jerk sports-fan sensibility. Most people see a coach consistently missing the playoffs, or a GM consistently missing on important draft picks, and decide the answer is change for change's sake. Fans (and quite a few team owners) view coaches and GMs as disposable or replaceable. They seem to believe that the key to success is shuffling new people into those positions until one of them wins a Super Bowl.

Not so the Giants, who will arrive at their offseason two weeks from now determined to find solutions but not prejudiced toward any one particular path. Before deciding to part ways with a head coach who's ingrained in the franchise's history at a celebratory level, the Giants will ask whether such a move is likely to solve their problems. The bet here, as I've said, is that they'll decide it won't and will instead involve Coughlin in the search for solutions.

If the Giants believed Coughlin was among their biggest problems, they likely would make a change. But the Giants don't view Coughlin as a collection of wins and losses. They look instead at the tone he sets week to week in the locker room and in the meeting rooms, the energy he brings to the job, the way the players respond to him and the public face he puts on the organization as the one who has to face the public on a daily basis. These are all very important aspects of a head coach, and the Giants choose to prioritize them on a high level -- maybe even higher than they prioritize the win-loss record, which they view as subject to the whims of injuries and week-to-week tumult in an unpredictable league. There is evidence throughout Coughlin's career that a decision to stick with him through lean times can bring the sweetest of rewards, and the Giants choose to focus on that when deciding he's still the man for their biggest job.

You may disagree. You may want change for change's sake. You may believe Coughlin is simply not good enough a coach, or that his time has passed, or that the Giants aren't far enough into their current rebuild to justify the return of a coach who'll be 69 when next season starts. It is your perfect right to believe any or all of that. But to this point, the people deciding Coughlin's fate continue to believe he's the right man to coach their team. And they're looking well beyond his record to arrive at that decision.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Rashad Jennings was the New York Giants' starting running back Sunday, but that's quite literally all he did. After carrying the ball for three yards on the first play from scrimmage, Jennings left the game and did not return. The Giants beat Washington, 24-13.

Giants coach Tom Coughlin, asked whether Jennings re-injured his sprained right ankle on that play, said, "Yeah, right away, he did."

Jennings wasn't around after the game to ask, which lends credence to the idea he did indeed re-injure the ankle and that it could be a problem that lingers into the season's final two weeks.

Jennings sprained his ankle two weeks ago in Jacksonville, and while he was active last week in Tennessee, he was the backup to rookie Andre Williams and played a minimal role as the Giants blew out the Titans. My understanding as of Friday was that Jennings' ankle was feeling better but not 100 percent even though he practiced all week, and that the Giants would try to use him in a bit of a lesser role for one more week before letting him loose again next week in St. Louis. They did not get that chance, and we'll wait to hear Monday whether there's a negative prognosis that could cost Jennings a chance to play in the Giants' final two games.

Williams had 131 yards on 24 carries last week against the Titans' No. 32-ranked run defense, but only 44 yards on 18 carries Sunday against Washington's top-10 run defense that loaded up to stop him. If Jennings can't play in the final two games, you can expect the Giants to give Williams a heavy workload, and the benefit of that would be a chance for him to develop and for them to evaluate him in advance of next season.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Odell Beckham Jr. is collecting superlatives as quickly as he's piling up touchdowns. His one-handed catch against the Dallas Cowboys was hailed in some circles as the best ever. He's a late entrant into the rookie of the year race. He's breaking records. He's having dinner with LeBron James. He's trying out for the new "Avengers" movie.

(All right, yeah, I made up that last one. But how surprised would you have been, really?)

The thing is, while we all sit here dazzled every week by what the New York Giants' rookie wide receiver is doing, it turns out he's just doing what he was told.

"I set expectations as high as possible," Beckham said after catching a ho-hum 12 passes for 143 yards and three touchdowns Sunday in the Giants' 24-13 victory against Washington. "Back in Week 5, when I played my first game, Antrel [Rolle] came up to me and said, 'Don't forget, you still owe me 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns.'"

It's entirely possible that Rolle was kidding -- a veteran team captain just trying to motivate a rookie who'd missed the first four games of his career with a hamstring injury. Asking a guy who'd never played in the league before to run up 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns in three-quarters of a season is a bit much.

Unless that particular guy is a Marvel superhero.

"Nothing this guy does amazes me," Rolle said Sunday afternoon.

With two games left in the season, Beckham has a Giants rookie record 972 yards to go with nine touchdown catches. A little quick math indicates that he needs only to average 14 yards and half a touchdown per game the rest of the way to complete the homework assignment Rolle gave him in October. Since Beckham has had 90 or more yards in each of his past seven games -- and 100 or more in five of those -- it's difficult not to like his chances.

"The young man is having outstanding success," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "He's a very good football player. He has the ability to go the distance any time he gets it, whether as a punt returner or as a receiver. He can run the football, he can throw the football, so we've tried to create a lot of situations for him. He has the talent to exploit the defense in a lot of different ways."

For Coughlin, that's straight-up gushing. See, everybody in the world saw THE CATCH against the Cowboys three weeks ago. But what those of us who are watching him every week see is consistent brilliance, snap-to-snap. Beckham does spectacular things in games and practices. He's a sizzling ball of energy who'll catch your eye with touchdown dances and bark right back at defenders who are trying to get in his head. But he's also a precise route runner with reliable hands and a good head for the game. And if you're a Giants coach, teammate or even a fan, you have to like that he's not too caught up in the brilliant stuff.

"They broke up one pass in the end zone that's going to give me trouble sleeping at night," Beckham said. "Earlier in the game, I was frustrated. There were plays, I think it was a third down where I didn't get both feet in bounds. The throw in the corner of the end zone that I feel I should have caught. There was another one I feel I should have caught. Whenever I get a chance to make a play, I feel it should be made."

And yes, he was down on himself for muffing the punt at the end of the game that put Washington's offense back on the field with seconds left on the clock instead of letting the Giants on the field to kneel on the ball and end the game.

"I was being lackadaisical. Too relaxed," Beckham said. "I went and apologized to our special-teams coach, because that is just not acceptable. There's nothing better than having the offense run on the field in victory formation."

He is surely forgiven, but it says a lot that Beckham is the one reminding us all how young he still is. Sunday was only his 10th game in the NFL, which means that he has room to grow and -- gulp -- get better. If the Giants' near future has another Super Bowl title in it, it's going to be with this young man as its brilliant centerpiece.

"He's the fire of this offense," Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul said. "We lost Victor Cruz early in the season, but I can only imagine. I can't wait to see those two guys on the field together."

Beckham gives the Giants license to dream of a big, bright future. And it's not because of one great catch or one great game. It's because of what he's doing every single week, at the highest possible level. The most eye-popping thing about Odell Beckham Jr. right now is that he's making the eye-popping stuff routine.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Observed and heard in the locker room following the New York Giants' 24-13 victory Sunday over Washington:
  • 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.

Rapid Reaction: New York Giants

December, 14, 2014
Dec 14
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A few thoughts on the New York Giants' 24-13 victory over Washington on Sunday at MetLife Stadium:

What it means: The Giants will finish in third place in the NFC East and, at 5-9 with two games to go, still have a chance to match last season's 7-9 record. They have won two games in a row after losing seven straight.

Stock watch: Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, UP. He had 2.5 sacks to increase his walk-year total to 9.5 -- the most he has had in any season but his 16.5-sack 2011 season. Pierre-Paul appeared to hurt his left shoulder on one of the sacks but stayed in the game and wreaked havoc, especially once Washington left tackle Trent Williams left the game with a shoulder injury of his own. Pierre-Paul has six sacks in his past three games and is making a push to persuade the Giants to give him the lucrative long-term contract he seeks as a pending free agent.

JPP has company: The Giants' defensive front as a whole is on an impressive run. After recording just 19 sacks in their first 11 games of the season, the Giants have 22 in their past three games, including the seven they got Sunday. Impressive second-year defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins had 2.5 of his own Sunday. Reigning NFC defensive player of the week Devon Kennard had another half-sack and batted down a pass. The Giants knocked Washington quarterback Colt McCoy out of the game early and stayed after Robert Griffin III even after his impressive start.

Game ball: Redundant though this may be, rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. was quite simply the best player on the field. The target of intense defensive attention and physicality by the Washington defense, Beckham still finished with 12 catches for 143 yards and three touchdowns. His 35-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter gave him 904 receiving yards for the season and broke Jeremy Shockey's Giants rookie record. Beckham is now up to 972 yards for the season and will need only 28 in his final two games to become the first Giants rookie with 1,000 receiving yards. This was only Beckham's 10th game, as he missed the first four after a preseason hamstring injury.

What's next: The Giants travel to St. Louis for a 4:05 p.m. ET game against the 6-8 Rams on Sunday afternoon.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New York Giants running back Rashad Jennings hasn't been on this week's injury report, and he has been a full participant in practices all week. But if you're counting on him to help you win a fantasy playoff game this weekend, you might be disappointed.

Based on the conversations I had at the Giants' team facility today, Jennings' sprained right ankle still isn't fully recovered and is likely to limit his workload at least somewhat in Sunday's game against Washington.

Last week, you might remember, Jennings was a game-time decision and rookie Andre Williams was announced as the starting running back. The plan was to use Jennings on passing downs and see how his ankle responded, but Williams got 27 touches and Jennings only three as the Giants blew out the Titans.

This week, Jennings will surely be active, but it remains to be seen how the work will be split between him and Williams. The Giants don't believe they'll have as easy a time running the ball against Washington's No. 10-ranked run defense as they did against Tennessee's No. 32-ranked run defense, and it's entirely possible Jennings will get more work than he did last week just because the Giants find themselves in more passing situations than they did last week.

One person close to the situation told me the hope was to coax Jennings and his banged-up ankle through one more week in the hope that he'd be back to 100 percent in time for the Week 16 game in St. Louis. If that's the case, and if this game does get out of hand early in the Giants' favor, you're likely to see Williams handle the carries as he did last week. As of now, the Giants feel better about Jennings' status than they did a week ago and believe he'll be of some use to them Sunday. They're just still not sure how much.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- It was all a big joke to New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning, the idea that he'd shown up on Wednesday's injury report. He talked about how the coaches came to him and told him they had to list him because external suspicions had been aroused. He even asked the reporters at his locker which body part the team had picked to list as injured, then nodded and said, "generic enough" when told it was his back.

Point was, Manning is playing Sunday, as he always does. This is a guy who had ankle surgery in the spring and practiced three weeks later. He'll make his 165th consecutive start at quarterback for the Giants, and yeah, his back or his leg or his arm might not feel as great as he'd like it to feel, but that doesn't matter. What matters to Manning is that he plays.

[+] EnlargeEli Manning
AP Photo/Julio CortezEli Manning certainly gets his share of criticism, but there's no denying his toughness.
"I want to be there for my teammates," Manning said when asked about his streak Wednesday. "I want to be there for the organization. We have a lot of guys who are banged-up and hurting, they're out there practicing, they're playing on Sundays, and I want to do the same for them. Always."

That's the Eli Manning mantra. And as another playoff-free Giants season unravels into irrelevance and discussions about Manning's performance and his future, it's important to step back and understand the value inherent in the fact that, for the past 10 years, the Giants haven't had to worry or wonder about who their quarterback was going to be on a given week.

"We've been able to, for a number of years, have a starter that's been in his position no matter what, game in and game out," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "No question, that's a solid, solid plus to be able to do that."

That's understating the case. Look around the league at the stunning number of teams who can't do that. The Washington team the Giants are playing this week has no idea who its quarterback should be this week, next week or next year. Coach Jay Gruden called his situation a "merry-go-round" Wednesday, and you can hear the weariness in a coach's voice when the topic is quarterback and he doesn't have an answer.

But Gruden isn't alone. A quick look at the standings reveals 11 teams that have immediate-future question marks at quarterback. Some of those teams, such as the Eagles, Texans and Cardinals, are playoff contenders in spite of the fact. Philadelphia could win this year's Super Bowl and still head into next year with uncertainty at quarterback, and if you don't think that eats at even the bright and ultra-confident Chip Kelly a bit, then you're kidding yourself.

"Eli is the kind of guy, he might not get the attention he deserves for his physicality because of his demeanor or his approach to the game, but he's one of the toughest quarterbacks I've been around," Giants running back Rashad Jennings said. "Nobody takes him for granted. As a player and as a human being, sometimes you don't recognize what you'll miss until it's not there. But we understand how important he is to this team, and he's a guy you want to play for."

The warts are all there, and they're undeniable. Manning will drive you absolutely bonkers with a poorly timed bad decision that results in an interception. Eli is not his brother, and he's the first to admit it. Does he belong in the conversation for best quarterback in the league along with Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, etc.? Of course not -- not even with double the Super Bowl titles of three of those guys.

But my goodness, Giants fans, could you do worse. And the exceedingly rare occasion of Manning's presence on the injury report serves to remind just how valuable it is for a team to know it has a quarterback on whom it can rely. Every week. No matter what.

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Three games remain in the New York Giants' season, and possibly in Jason Pierre-Paul's Giants career. The 2010 first-round pick is eligible for free agency after this season and so far has not had any talks with the team about a long-term contract. He insists he's not thinking about it.

"I don't think about it at all," Pierre-Paul said after Giants practice Wednesday. "I think everything's going to fall into place for itself. I'm playing great, and we'll see what happens. I'm focused on getting to the offseason and sitting down and seeing what I did wrong and what I can do better for next year."

Pierre-Paul turns 26 next month and is enjoying his first fully healthy season since 2011, when he had 16.5 sacks in the regular season and helped the Giants win their most recent Super Bowl title. The 3.5 sacks he has registered in his last two games have doubled his season total to seven, which is the second-highest single-season total of his career. It's not a very high number, but he has earned praise from his coaches for the consistently effective way he has played against the run.

And when the offseason does arrive, the Giants are going to have to decide whether to pay him the pricey, long-term deal he seeks or look elsewhere for the foundation piece for the future of their pass rush.

"If I could stay here, I would love to be a Giant for life," Pierre-Paul said. "But who knows? I don't know what's going to happen, and I don't worry about it. My agent will handle it with the Giants when it comes time to talk."
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Quarterback Eli Manning will show up on the New York Giants' injury report Wednesday with a back injury. But while all of my two decades' worth of sportswriter training has taught me never to underplay an injury, I'm having a hard time taking this one seriously.

First of all, Giants coach Tom Coughlin said in his Wednesday morning news conference that Manning would "practice as he normally does" but that the team would list him as "limited" on the injury report basically because reporters all noticed that Manning took an extra-long time to get out of the trainer's room after Sunday's game. Especially after the NFL said last week that it was looking into whether the Dallas Cowboys hid a Tony Romo injury by not putting it on the injury report, it's possible the Giants are just making sure to cover their bases.

Secondly, during the open portion of Giants practice, Manning did not look in any way limited or challenged. And when we asked him about his first appearance on the injury report since 2011, he could not have been more dismissive of it.

"Feels great. No issues," Manning said. "Coach wanted me to take a few reps off, so that's fine. Nothing that will limit me in my preparation for the game. Just one of those things you have to go through these days in the NFL."

Manning's reaction indicated that this was truly a procedural move resulting from media attention on his unusual postgame routine Sunday. He said he didn't even know which body part the team had listed next to his name on the injury report.

"What did they go with?" he asked, and was told back. "Back? Generic enough, I guess. They told me they had to list something. But I don't consider myself injured."

Manning has started 164 consecutive regular-season games since being named the Giants' starting quarterback in 2004, and if he's practicing on a Wednesday like nothing's wrong, then I think you're safe to assume he plays Sunday against Washington.

QB snapshot: Eli Manning

December, 9, 2014
Dec 9
A quick observation of quarterback Eli Manning and how he played in the New York Giants' 36-7 victory over the Titans in Week 14:

Manning's numbers Sunday were fine -- 26-for-42 for 260 yards, a touchdown and only one interception. His Total QBR of 84.1 was his fourth highest in a game this season and his highest since a 92.9 in the Giants' Week 7 loss in Dallas. But he wasn't asked to do very much. He averaged 6.19 yards per pass attempt, his lowest figure since Week 1, and the Giants' offense stalled out in the red zone consistently enough that Josh Brown had to kick five field goals.

It's also worth pointing out that, while it didn't cost the Giants anything in a game they won easily, Manning's interception came on a terrible decision and throw and was returned for a touchdown. No matter how conservative the Giants' offense gets or how comfortable Manning gets within it, he's always going to have a tendency to make an inexplicably poor decision at a rotten time. Moving forward, the Giants are going to have to continue to find ways to minimize the negative impact of that tendency.


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