NFL Nation: Brandon Myers

Buccaneers Camp Report: Day 2

July, 26, 2014
Jul 26
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TAMPA, Fla. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Tampa Bay Buccaneers training camp:
  • The Bucs, who had their practice abbreviated by lightning Friday, got their first full workout of camp in Saturday evening and the results were predictable. There was good and bad. No series summarized that more than a couple of plays near the middle of practice. On one play, quarterback Josh McCown threw an interception to strong safety Mark Barron. On the next play, McCown bounced back and hit Vincent Jackson with a perfectly thrown ball. Coach Lovie Smith said he expects the team to be more precise when it puts on pads for the first time on Sunday.
  • Speaking of first practices, Saturday marked the true debut of rookie tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins. He missed the offseason program due to NCAA regulations and was very limited in the rookie minicamp by a foot injury. But Seferian-Jenkins said his foot is fine now and he practiced with no limitations. After missing so much time, though, Seferian-Jenkins might be a little behind the other tight ends – Brandon Myers, Tim Wright and Luke Stocker. “He’s playing catch-up,’’ Smith said. “But he’s catching up.’’
  • It’s usually tough to get players to talk about specific goals, but defensive end Michael Johnson broke that rule of thumb. Johnson set one goal for himself and one for the entire defense. He wants to get back to double-digit sacks like he had in 2012 with Cincinnati. He also said the Bucs want to have the best defense in the league. Those two goals kind of go hand in hand. There’s been a lot of talk about how defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and linebacker Lavonte David compare to Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks, who were the cornerstones during Tampa Bay’s glory years. But a lot of people forget the Bucs didn’t fully get over the top until they got Simeon Rice as an outside rusher. If Johnson can make an impact anywhere close to what Rice did, the Bucs could end up being a very good defense.
  • I came into camp very skeptical about Tampa Bay’s depth at wide receiver after Jackson and rookie Mike Evans. But I’m starting to warm up to this position group. No one stood out, but guys like Tommy Streeter, Solomon Patton, Russell Shepard, Louis Murphy, Robert Herron, Lavelle Hawkins, Eric Page, Skye Dawson and David Gettis each had some bright moments. I think one of those guys will step up and claim the No. 3 job. That may be all the Bucs need because I’m not anticipating a lot of four-receiver sets from this offense.
  • Read into this whatever you want, but Jamon Meredith worked as the first-team left guard and Oniel Cousins worked at right guard. After the departure of Carl Nicks, I think the Bucs still are trying to figure out what they’re going to do at guard. I wouldn’t be surprised if Patrick Omameh and rookie Kadeem Edwards get some looks with the first team.

Best Bucs camp competitions

June, 20, 2014
Jun 20
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With the start of training camp a little more than a month away, it’s time to look ahead to the best battles.

Tight end. Rookie Austin Seferian-Jenkins might be the long-term answer. But he might not get a lot of playing time in the short term. Seferian-Jenkins wasn’t allowed to take part in the offseason program and that could put him behind the competition. Brandon Myers, Tim Wright and Luke Stocker all have more experience.

Right guard. Patrick Omameh worked with the first team through most of the offseason program. But he still needs a good camp to win the starting job. Oniel Cousins and Jamon Meredith also could be candidates to start.

Third wide receiver. This one is far from settled. Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans will be the starters, but the Bucs need production out of some more receivers. Veterans Chris Owusu and Louis Murphy looked good in the offseason program and the team has high hopes for rookie Robert Herron.

Cornerback. Alterraun Verner is set as one starter. But the other spot figures to be a strong competition between Johnthan Banks and Mike Jenkins.

Backup running back. Doug Martin is the starter, but the Bucs want to use a rotation. Bobby Rainey, Mike James, Charles Sims and Jeff Demps will all be vying for carries.

Bucs release TE Tom Crabtree

May, 17, 2014
May 17
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TAMPA, Fla. -- At least for the moment, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have reduced the crowd at tight end.

Veteran Tom Crabtree was released Saturday, coach Lovie Smith said.

“We have some numbers at tight end and it wasn’t looking really good for him,’’ Smith said. “Whenever I see that maybe it’s not going to work out for a veteran, I try to give him an opportunity to get on with someone else. That was the case with Tom. He’s a good football player and he’s played some good ball in the league.’’

Crabtree was signed as a free agent from Green Bay last year and the hope was he could be an all-around tight end. But injuries prevented Crabtree from making much of an impact.

The Bucs knew they had to get better at tight end and that’s why they used a second-round draft pick this year on Austin Seferian-Jenkins. The Bucs also have Tim Wright, Brandon Myers and Luke Stocker at tight end and that made Crabtree expendable.

But the Bucs still could add another tight end to fill Crabtree’s roster spot. Taylor Sloat and Jamel Johnson are trying out during this weekend’s rookie camp.
On Wednesday, we talked about running back being one of the most crowded positions on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' roster.

Now, it's time for a look at another position that suddenly is overflowing with depth. That's tight end.

After using a second-round pick on Austin Seferian-Jenkins, tight end suddenly is one of the deepest positions on the roster. That's a good thing because it was one of the thinnest spots on the roster last year.

Seferian-Jenkins is an all-around tight end with the ability to help as a runner or a blocker. His draft status probably means he'll be the starter. The Bucs also have Tim Wright, Brandon Myers, Luke Stocker and Tom Crabtree.

How does the depth chart line up after Seferian-Jenkins? Teams usually carry three tight ends and that means there will be two odd men out. Things will sort themselves out in training camp and the preseason.

But, right now, I'd say Myers and Wright are likely to stay on the roster while Crabtree and Stocker could be expendable. The Bucs paid decent money to sign Myers as a free agent and Wright caught 54 passes last year as a rookie.

The previous regime had high hopes for Stocker and Crabtree, but those two were dealing with injuries last year and barely made an impact. If Stocker and Crabtree are going to have any chance of making the roster, they'll need to make strong impressions in training camp and the preseason.
There’s an old saying that you can’t judge a draft for at least two years. I think that’s fair.

But we live in a time when immediacy is expected. With that in mind, how do we put an early gauge on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ draft class?

I say the best way to do it is to look to see how many draft picks – at the moment – will be starters on opening day. I’m speculating here, but I’ll say the Bucs got two opening-day starters out of this draft.

I think the first two draft picks, Mike Evans and Austin Seferian-Jenkins, will be in the starting lineup in September. Evans is a very safe bet to be there because the Bucs have no other real threats to win the starting position opposite Vincent Jackson. Evans is a plug-and-play starter and I think he’s got a very good chance to be productive with opposing defenses also having to deal with Jackson.

I also think Seferian-Jenkins will be an instant starter, even though he’s going to have a little more competition than Evans. The Bucs already had Tim Wright, Tom Crabtree, Brandon Myers and Luke Stocker. All four of those tight ends have some positive qualities, but Seferian-Jenkins has the potential to be the most complete player of the bunch.

I don’t want to sell the rest of Tampa Bay’s draft class short. The other four rookies all could end up as starters eventually. But I think running back Charles Sims, guard Kadeem Edwards, tackle Kevin Pamphile and receiver Robert Herron will be backups as rookies.
The awkward part of New York Giants GM Jerry Reese's pre-draft news conference Thursday came when a reporter asked him about tight end. The exchange went like this:
Q: Historically, this team has relied on the tight end quite a bit. Would you be comfortable moving forward with the guys you have on your roster right now?

Reese: Historically we've relied on our tight end?

Q: Well, they've had a prominent role.

Reese: Really?

Q: I seem to remember tight ends catching important passes.

Reese: Yeah, well, we think we've got some tight ends that can catch some important passes. But "prominent role"? We want all of our positions to be prominent roles. I'm not sure if our tight ends have had prominent roles in the past. But we want a competent tight end. We think we've got a couple of young tight ends who have been here for a couple of years who we want to develop, and we'll continue to look as we move forward.
[+] EnlargeBrandon Myers
Brad Penner/USA TODAY SportsIn his one season with the Giants, Brandon Myers caught 47 passes for 522 yards.
I have been on the other end of that exchange in the past. I've been the one who asked Reese a question that posited a certain level of significance for the tight end position and had him reject the premise. Obviously, this does not show Reese at his most polite, but he views this idea that the Giants' offense has relied on a tight end as an especially irksome misperception. And the numbers support his side of it:

  • Brandon Myers' 47 receptions in 2013 were the second-most in a single season by a Giants tight end since Jeremy Shockey caught 57 passes in 2007.
  • Since 2007, the Giants have employed four different starting tight ends -- Kevin Boss from 2008-10, Jake Ballard in 2011, Martellus Bennett in 2012 and Myers last year.
  • Over that six-year stretch, the Giants' leading tight end has averaged 42 receptions for 539 yards and five touchdowns per year, with Bennett's 55 catches and 626 yards in 2012 and Boss' six touchdowns in 2008 the high-water marks in those categories.

Reese is not shy about telling people he thinks he can find a tight end who can catch 42 passes every year, and this is the basis on which he rejects a characterization such as "prominent role." Yes, he could be nicer about making the point, but the Giants' offense has not, in point of fact, relied on the tight end. Shockey was an exceptional case -- an exceptional talent the Giants deemed worthy of a first-round pick. And Bennett's athleticism allowed them to use him a bit more than they've used other guys after they were able to get him on the cheap prior to the 2012 season.

But the thing to remember about Bennett and Shockey is that both were excellent and willing blockers at the position. Bennett's as good a run-blocking tight end as there is in the NFL right now, and the Giants had him on the field a lot for that reason. That his size and speed enabled him to be a slightly bigger factor in the passing game than some of his predecessors were was a bonus, and the Giants were fortunate that he wasn't in demand that year due to the perception that he was a huge disappointment in Dallas. Once he played well for them, he parlayed that into a big free-agent deal with the Bears, and the Giants made no effort to spend to keep him.

So the point to be taken from this is not that the Giants don't like the tight end position but that it's not a position on which they feel compelled to spend major resources. Other than that 2002 first-round pick they spent on Shockey, they've consistently sought cheap solutions at tight end, viewing whoever plays it as replaceable from year to year. They want guys who can block, and if those guys can catch the ball, so much the better.

For that reason, it's easy to convince yourself that they won't be taking North Carolina's Eric Ebron with the No. 12 pick in the first round next week. Ebron may be an exceptional talent as a receiver, and the tight end position leaguewide may have evolved to the point where it's worth spending a No. 12 overall pick to get one who can be a difference-maker in the passing game. But Reese insisted Thursday that the arrival of new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo has not changed the way the Giants evaluate offensive players. And while Shockey was the No. 14 overall pick in that 2002 draft, it's vital to remember that Shockey was a good blocker in addition to a great pass-catcher. Ebron is a pass-catcher only. He'd be a liability as a blocker. So the comparison doesn't necessarily fit.

The Giants could find a tight end such as Jace Amaro or Austin Seferian-Jenkins in the second round if they really feel they need one, but it's possible they don't feel that way. They have 2012 fourth-round pick Adrien Robinson still on the roster and have been eager for some time to see him on the field more. They resisted putting Robinson on injured reserve all last year because they believed he had something to offer if he ever got healthy (which he finally did, only to injure himself again on the opening kickoff of the Week 16 game in Detroit). They signed blocking tight end Kellen Davis and Daniel Fells for depth at the position, and Larry Donnell has been a strong enough special-teams performer to earn more practice reps and show what he can do. That's the group Reese has, and he swears he doesn't feel the need to upgrade it in the draft. If their pick comes around and the best player still on their board plays tight end, sure, they could take him. But Reese isn't hunting for some huge solution at the position next week.

The question is whether he's right. I personally think the Giants would benefit from having a more permanent solution at this position than they've employed over the past four years. I think the way the league is going, it's more important than it used to be to have a big-time weapon at that position who can split out wide and bust matchups in the secondary. But I don't run the Giants. Jerry Reese does. And he and the Giants do things their way, and they believe in it. You can respect someone's conviction even if your opinion differs from theirs. Reese thinks he's OK at tight end -- or at least that he will be. And it's clear when he's asked about it that he doesn't understand what all the fuss is about.
With the first minicamp over, let’s take a look at whose stock is on the way up and whose is on the way down.

FALLING

Carl Nicks. Although the team had said before the minicamp that there was optimism Nicks would be ready to go, he wasn’t. He still is recovering from a toe injury that sidelined him almost all of last season. Nicks said he’s making progress in his recovery and he expects to be ready for training camp. But Nicks also admitted he has nerve damage in his foot and may have to play through pain the rest of his career. It’s time to start wondering if Nicks will be the same player he was before the injury.

Luke Stocker. There’s no clear-cut starter at tight end and Stocker should be in the mix. But he was sidelined with an unspecified injury. Stocker missed most of last year with an injury. He may already have fallen behind Brandon Myers and Tim Wright on the depth chart.

Da'Quan Bowers. He didn’t take part in drills as he recovers from an unspecified injury. Some players can afford to miss minicamp. Bowers isn’t one of them. The defensive end might have trouble even making the regular-season roster.

RISING

Chris Owusu. The Bucs have a glaring need at wide receiver and Owusu used the minicamp to show he can contribute. He’s not in line for a starting job, but could end up as the third, fourth or fifth receiver.

Josh McCown. Tampa Bay’s new quarterback looked exceptionally sharp. His passes were very accurate and he seemed to have a good grasp of the new offense. McCown already is well on the way to establishing himself as a team leader.

Bobby Rainey. The backup running back isn’t a threat to beat out Doug Martin. But Rainey might be on his way to earning some playing time. Rainey looked very good in the minicamp and showed some signs he can contribute as a pass-catcher out of the backfield.

Minicamp questions for the Bucs

April, 22, 2014
Apr 22
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As the Tampa Bay Buccaneers begin a three-day minicamp Tuesday, let's explore some of the biggest questions facing the team.

Is there really a competition at quarterback? Not in minicamp, where most of the time is spent installing the offense. Josh McCown will get the first-team work and Mike Glennon will work with the second team. If Glennon is going to have any chance at surpassing McCown, he’ll have to thoroughly outplay him in training camp and the preseason. Unless the Bucs draft a quarterback in the first round, this is McCown’s job to lose.

Will the offensive line be better? It probably can’t be worse than last year when the line’s play was a major disappointment. The Bucs blew up that line and they’ve overhauled it with additions like left tackle Andre Collins and center Evan Dietrich-Smith. Still, the biggest question is whether guard Carl Nicks, who missed almost all of last season with an injury, can get back to full strength. If Nicks is totally healthy, he might be the best guard in the game and he makes everyone around him better.

Who starts at wide receiver opposite Vincent Jackson? Let’s be brutally honest. That player isn’t on the roster yet. The Bucs may open minicamp with someone like veteran Louis Murphy running with the first team. But Murphy will be competing for the fourth or fifth receiver spot before all is said and done. This team still needs to add a second and third wide receiver.

Who’s the tight end? The answer to that one may come in plural form. Tim Wright did some nice things as a rookie last season. But Wright is limited as a blocker. That’s why the Bucs brought in Brandon Myers. He can contribute as a blocker and a receiver. The Bucs aren’t likely to use a fullback very often, which means there could be a lot of two-tight-end sets.

Aside from Lavonte David, what’s the situation at linebacker? David is set as the weakside starter, which is the most important linebacker spot in coach Lovie Smith’s defense. Mason Foster is the favorite to remain the starter in the middle, but he needs to show he can drop into coverage much more frequently than he’s done in the past. Jonathan Casillas appears to be the favorite to start on the strong side.

Bucs make early splash

March, 11, 2014
Mar 11
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The opening of free agency came with a flurry of activity by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

We already knew former Cincinnati defensive end Michael Johnson was joining the Bucs. But minutes after free agency opened, Adam Schefter reported two other signings. Schefter reported the Bucs signed tight end Brandon Myers to a two-year, $4 million deal and defensive tackle Clinton McDonald to a four-year, $12 million deal.

Those other two moves could give the Bucs two immediate starters. Myers spent last season with the New York Giants, where he caught 47 passes for 522 yards and four touchdowns. Myers is known more for his receiving ability than his blocking. He likely will compete with Tim Wright for the starting job.

McDonald has been a career backup in Seattle, but he’ll have a chance to earn a starting job in Tampa Bay. As a rotational player last season, McDonald had 5.5 sacks and 35 tackles.

The Bucs also will have quarterback Josh McCown in for a visit. McCown could end up competing with Mike Glennon for the starting role. The Bucs also have re-signed reserve defensive back Danny Gorrer to a one-year contract.

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.

Free-agency primer: Giants

March, 7, 2014
Mar 7
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» AFC Free-Agency Primer: East | West | North | South » NFC: East | West | North | South

Key free agents: DT Linval Joseph, LB Jon Beason, WR Hakeem Nicks, DE Justin Tuck, RB Andre Brown, TE Brandon Myers, CB Terrell Thomas, CB Trumaine McBride

Where they stand: The Giants have 23 unrestricted free agents and a crying need to rebuild an offense that bottomed out around quarterback Eli Manning in 2013. They need to find a wide receiver, a running back, a tight end and at least two starting offensive linemen. New offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo is likely to have some input in the kinds of players they pursue in free agency because he's installing a relatively new offense in New York for the first time in 10 years. They will also need to plug holes on defense if they don't re-sign Beason, Tuck or Joseph. And they could use an upgrade over McBride at cornerback.

What to expect: The Giants are trying to lock up Beason in advance of free agency but haven't yet. Once the market opens Tuesday, expect them to be aggressive in their pursuit of interior offensive linemen. If they find an upgrade at center, they can gain significant cap room by designating David Baas a June 1 cut. But they will go after at least one free-agent guard (Geoff Schwartz, Jon Asamoah, guys like that) and possibly more. Improving the protection of Manning is a primary goal for the Giants this offseason. Beefing up the interior of the line would also help them re-establish the run game. As they pursue wide receivers, keep an eye on players like Dexter McCluster and Golden Tate, who could help the Giants' weak return units.

Looking at Giants draft needs

January, 9, 2014
Jan 9
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Our NFL draft team's division-by-division look at draft needs stops today on the NFC East Insider, and -- surprise! -- the top three needs Steve Muench lists for the New York Giants are all on offense. Steve lists offensive line, tight end and wide receiver as the top positions for the Giants to address in the draft, and lists some candidates at each of those spots. It's an Insider article, so I can't give it all away, but here's a piece, along with a list of players Steve suggests as possibilities at those three positions:
Nicks
Improving the pass rush is important, but getting Manning back on track is imperative, so receiver gets the nod for the third need. Hakeem Nicks is expected to leave via free agency, and Louis Murphy isn't under contract for next year. While 2012 second-round pick Rueben Randle has flashed, he's inconsistent.

OL: Alabama's Cyrus Kouandjio* (OT), Stanford's David Yankey* (G), Arkansas' Travis Swanson (C)
TEs: Washington's Austin Seferian-Jenkins*, Texas Tech's Jace Amaro*, Iowa's C.J. Fiedorowicz
WRs: Vanderbilt's Jordan Matthews, Penn State's Allen Robinson*, Clemson's Martavis Bryant*


I can't argue with the idea that the Giants need to address offense in many ways this offseason. The extent to which it will turn out to be a draft priority in May will depend on how they spend their money in free agency. But addressing the offensive line in the draft makes sense, because their problems there stretch beyond the immediate. Their lack of quality replacements in the pipeline behind their injured starters on the line this season was a major issue, and they need to address the line as a long-range project, not as a collection of 2014 roster holes.

Similarly, tight end is worth addressing if there is a quality candidate there in the early rounds. The Giants have changed their No. 1 tight end each of the past four seasons, and sometimes it's been successful and other times it hasn't. Their thought process is that the tight end hasn't been a top target in their offense and that tight ends coach Mike Pope can get the best out of anyone they bring in. But Brandon Myers was a major disappointment this season and ended Pope's run of success with one-year stopgaps at the position. They need someone who can block in the run game, and who can be at least a safety valve for Eli Manning as a receiver. It's possible, too, that a new offensive coordinator would implement a system in which the tight end is more important as a receiver. Either way, drafting a high-end talent at the position would alleviate the problem of trying to replace someone each and every offseason.

Upon Further Review: Giants Week 15

December, 16, 2013
12/16/13
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A review of four hot issues from the New York Giants' 23-0 loss to the Seattle Seahawks:

[+] EnlargeTom Coughlin
AP Photo/Bill KostrounTom Coughlin and the Giants are showing signs of frustration as they trudge down the stretch of a disappointing season.
Locker room strife? The Giants have held together admirably all miserable season long, in spite of an 0-6 start and a generally dismal performance by their offense even during their four-game win streak. But after Sunday's game, coach Tom Coughlin laid the blame deservedly at the feet of the offense, and safety Antrel Rolle strongly indicated that he agreed. Wide receiver Hakeem Nicks bristled at Coughlin's use of the word "pathetic," and tight end Brandon Myers tweeted, "If ppl on this team wanna take shots at me an say I have no passion they are mistaken. I give everything I have each an every week." The Giants aren't going anywhere this season. They can't even finish .500 at this point. But the leaders and the coaches could conceivably face a challenge in keeping the locker room together to maintain some semblance of respectability in the final two weeks.

Nicks' woes continue: It was easy to infer that Nicks was one of the players Coughlin suggested had to "fight harder for the ball," as Eli Manning was 1-for-4 for five yards and three interceptions when targeting Nicks on Sunday, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Manning is completing 56.8 percent of his attempts to Nicks this season with no touchdowns and six interceptions. The Giants entered this season hoping Nicks would have a big year and give them a difficult decision about how much to pay to sign him as a free agent. Instead, he has had a horrible one, and does not appear likely to be back. Amazing that he has fallen so far out of favor after being such a respected figure in their huddle and their locker room for his first four years.

Manning's miserable year: Manning has matched his career high for interceptions in a season with 25. He threw 25 in 2010, but he still has two games to go in this season. He was sacked three times in Sunday's game, extending his career high in that category to 36 for the season with two games to go. He was 2-for-10 with four interceptions on throws of 10 or more yards downfield Sunday. If Victor Cruz is out next week in Detroit, which is possible after he left the game with a concussion and a knee sprain, it's hard to imagine how the Giants' passing game has a chance to do anything. And a run game that gained 25 yards on 14 carries Sunday didn't inspire much confidence that it can alleviate any of the pressure.

One positive: The Giants did a good job limiting monster Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch between the tackles. He gained only 47 yards on 16 carries, though he did catch six passes for 73 yards. That looks like the kind of line top running backs were posting against the Giants back in September, which means the season has come full circle. Which is not, for the Giants, awesome.

Seahawks could give Cruz what he craves

December, 12, 2013
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- No matter how tough the opposing defense, by Thursday the New York Giants' offense is focusing on something about that defense it thinks it can exploit. So while the Giants know the Seattle Seahawks have as good a defense as any team in the league, they're more focused on what they might be able to do than what they won't.

[+] EnlargeVictor Cruz
Al Bello/Getty ImagesWill Victor Cruz get one-on-one opportunities against Seattle's secondary?
"Some of the things they do should give us some chances," offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride said Thursday. "Guys we have who are always clamoring for one-on-one opportunities, they're going to get them."

The guy who most fits that description this year is wide receiver Victor Cruz, who is 27 yards shy of his third straight 1,000-yard season but doesn't have a touchdown since September and has struggled to be as productive and explosive this year as he was in the last two.

"There's no question that we haven't been as effective in some of the other spots, so teams are gearing up to see where Victor is," Gilbride said. "And we've gotten a lot more doubles."

Gilbride wasn't naming names, but everyone knows that wide receiver Hakeem Nicks and tight end Brandon Myers have been disappointments this year as receivers. As the year has gone on and Nicks has consistently failed to play like his old self on the outside, Cruz has seen a lot more coverage. He says he takes it in stride.

"It's tough overall, having to face a double-team, having to face a lot of attention throughout the year," Cruz said. "But it's something you've got to battle and deal with. You want to call yourself an elite receiver in this league, it's something you've got to do."

Cruz says he takes it as a compliment that opposing coaches are scheming for him and concentrating extra attention his way. As for what Seattle will do, he's hopeful but not certain.

"I've seen them double (Falcons tight end) Tony Gonzalez a bunch, and a few other guys," Cruz said. "So we'll see if they do it. They're pretty much locked into a playoff spot, so I don't know if they'll be as risky as they might have been earlier in the season."

Even if he does see single coverage, it won't be easy. Seattle's defensive backs are some of the biggest and most physical in the league, led by 6-foot-3 cornerback Richard Sherman. Gilbride is preparing his receivers to take a physical beating Sunday.

"You've just got to prepare them to realize what they're in for," Gilbride said. "Guys are going to be up in your face, grabbing you, holding you. And if you think it's all going to be called and that's the solution to the problem, you're going to be sorely disappointed, because they have mastered the art."

The Giants are out of the playoff hunt. The Seahawks have clinched their spot and are almost certain to get the NFC's No. 1 seed. The individual matchups on the field will be worth watching Sunday, though, and the way the Giants' struggling passing game attacks Seattle's famed secondary will be as interesting as anything. Who knows? Maybe it's the week Cruz gets going.

Upon Further Review: Giants Week 14

December, 9, 2013
12/09/13
8:00
AM ET
SAN DIEGO -- An examination of four hot issues from the New York Giants' 37-14 loss to the San Diego Chargers.

[+] EnlargeEli Manning
Jeff Gross/Getty ImagesEli Manning threw two more interceptions, bringing him closer to a new career high.
Penalties a killer: The Giants were flagged for seven penalties for 72 yards. The worst may have been Charles James' offside penalty that gave Nick Novak a second chance at a field goal (he missed from 41 yards but then made it from 36), but that was just one of four offside calls against the Giants. "There's no excuse for that," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "Watch the ball. That's what you do all day long. If you watch us practice, we put a ball on the end of a stick, and the player doesn't move until the ball moves. There's absolutely no excuse for jumping offsides." It's easy to use a word like "undisciplined" to describe a team that gets called for too many penalties, but I think sometimes a team that feels overmatched can start jumping early in an effort to tilt the advantage back in its favor. The Giants have certainly felt overmatched at times this season, and Sunday was a strong example of such a game.

Chargers run wild: The Chargers rushed for 144 yards on 40 carries. Ryan Mathews had 103 yards and Danny Woodhead added 42. Justin Tuck grumbled that the total had more to do with San Diego's number of rushing attempts than anything special they did against the Giants' defense. But the 144 was the second-highest single-game rushing yardage total against the Giants this season (Carolina had 194 in Week 3), and Mathews found holes all day. The Chargers ended up possessing the ball for 36:56, which was the second-highest time-of-possession total against the Giants this season, just behind Dallas' 37:10 in the opener.

Third-down woes: The Chargers entered the game with a third-down conversion rate of 46.4 percent, which was second-best in the league to Denver, and they improved it, going 10-for-15 on third down Sunday. The Giants have struggled with third-down defense all season, and rank in the bottom third of the league in that department. But this was especially bad. Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers was 7-for-10 for 128 yards and two touchdowns on third down, and that was another huge reason for the time-of-possession edge.

Eli's rough year rolls on: Hakeem Nicks was able to make some plays down the field for a change, and ended up with 135 yards on five catches. But quarterback Eli Manning struggled again, missing some key throws and once again unable to get the offense into a rhythm. The Giants struggled to protect him early in the game, and he took two more sacks to raise his career-high total to 33 for the season. He also threw his 19th and 20th interceptions of the season, putting him five short of his career high in that department with three games to play. He threw a touchdown pass to tight end Brandon Myers for the third game in a row, but Nicks doesn't have a touchdown all season and Victor Cruz hasn't caught one since September.

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