NFL Nation: Eli Manning

Giants vs. Cowboys preview

November, 21, 2014
Nov 21
8:00
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video When: 8:30 p.m. ET Sunday Where: MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford TV: NBC

The 7-3 Dallas Cowboys have a chance to mathematically eliminate the 3-7 New York Giants from the NFC East race on Sunday night. ESPN Cowboys reporter Todd Archer and ESPN Giants reporter Dan Graziano hereby present your game preview:

Graziano: Hey, Todd, the Giants haven't won a game since the last time we did this, so I'm eager to see what questions you've come up with. But during their current five-game losing streak, the Giants' best offensive game was the loss in Dallas. It was the only game in the streak in which they've rushed for 100 yards and the only one in which the opponent didn't generate consistent, disruptive pressure on quarterback Eli Manning. How is that Dallas front seven looking these days?

Archer: The easy answer is not bad, but for those used to seeing DeMarcus Ware for close to a decade, he's not walking through that door again. The good news for the Cowboys is that they are getting healthier whereas last year they were signing guys on a Tuesday and playing them on Sunday. Tyrone Crawford did not play against Jacksonville, but he should be back. Rolando McClain didn't play against the Jaguars, but he will be back. Henry Melton has been much more active. Rookie defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence didn't play in the first meeting because of a foot injury but he is coming on. Josh Brent is eligible to play but I don't think he will be on the 46-man roster Sunday. They have been decent against the run but have had some breakdowns. The pass rush has been better but it's still not good enough. Like the defense as a whole, the front seven is getting by.

I'll keep it simple off the top: Is this the end for Tom Coughlin?

Graziano: Well, this game surely isn't. Coughlin will certainly coach out this season, and I honestly think his future as the Giants' coach will depend a lot on how the Giants do in their final six games. If they rally against a December schedule that includes games against Jacksonville, Tennessee, Washington and St. Louis and get back to 7-9 as they did last year, it'll be easier for Giants ownership to justify giving Coughlin another year of this rebuilding project. If they fall completely apart and finish, say, 4-12 or 3-13, I imagine all bets are off and no one is safe. A lot of people want a definitive answer on Coughlin's status, but I don't believe ownership has made one yet. They love him and love having him as their coach, and if he does decide to leave or if they decide to move on from him, they know they'll need a good plan in place for how to replace perhaps the best coach in franchise history (apologies to Bill Parcells). So it's no sure thing, but the way this team is playing and the inevitable fact that they'll miss the playoffs for the fifth time in six seasons does not work in his or any other coach's favor.

What's Jason Garrett's status these days? Has the Cowboys' surprisingly good season done anything to quiet those who perpetually call for his head?

Archer: A little bit it has, but if they don't make the playoffs then the calls for his job will be heard again. I've written that he deserves to be extended. I think the plan he has put in place has started to come together. But it will all be determined by what they do from now on. As you know, they have lost three straight winner-take-all season finales to the Giants, Redskins and Eagles. At least Garrett had them in position to win the division, but this year they have to get over the top. Jerry Jones has been patient with Garrett and often talks about wanting him to be the coach long term, but he hasn't backed those words up with a new deal. Along with the contractual statuses of Dez Bryant and DeMarco Murray, this one could get juicy here down the stretch.

How much of this Giants mess is on GM Jerry Reese? They have let guys go and not had replacements ready, especially on the offensive and defensive lines.

Graziano: I think it's almost all on Reese, Todd, and you've hit it right on the head. His drafts have been flat-out terrible from the standpoint of finding players who have turned out to be foundation pieces. Do you know that, since Reese became Giants GM in 2007, only three of his draft picks have signed second contracts with the team? And none of those three was a first-rounder? (They're Will Beatty, Ahmad Bradshaw and Zak DeOssie.) You're right that the Giants haven't done a good enough job of finding and developing players to replace those who have left, and the result was that last year's roster got so hollowed out that they had to sign more free agents than any other team in the league just to fill out a 53-man roster. That's why I say this is a rebuilding project that has to take more than one year, and why I blame Reese much more than I blame Coughlin or the coaching staff for the mess this team is in. The Giants don't fire GMs as a matter of policy. They've had only three of them in the past 38 years. But as I said when we were talking about Coughlin, if things get really ugly over these final six weeks, all bets are off.

Let's move the discussion to the field. When the Giants and Cowboys played in that Week 7 game, Murray have to leave for a while with an injury. He came back and seems to have been fine since, but are there any signs of his extreme workload wearing on him? And are they doing anything to keep him from wearing down?

Archer: There really hasn't been any drastic change in his production. He has had 100 yards in every game but one this season and even in that Arizona game he averaged 4.2 yards per carry. He had at least 22 carries in the first seven games of the season but has maxed out at 19 in each of the past three. I don't know if that is by design. Some of it has been dictated by the circumstances of the games. They are using Joseph Randle and Lance Dunbar earlier in games to spell Murray some. Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said he is not worried so much about the carries as he is the snaps Murray plays. He's a three-down back and has 36 catches. It's a tricky balancing act the Cowboys have to follow because Murray is so valuable to what they do. He said he felt refreshed after the bye week and largely stayed off his feet. Whatever the Cowboys do in their final six games will be with the same formula they used in their first 10 games: a lot of Murray.

When these teams met in October, it looked like Manning was feeling his way through the change in offense pretty well. Is this scheme a fit for what Manning does best or is he held back by what's around him?

Graziano: The group around Manning sure has taken a pounding. The Giants lost top wide receiver Victor Cruz to a season-ending knee injury in Week 6, and they were without starting running back Rashad Jennings for four games due to a knee sprain. Jennings was back last week, and I thought the offense would look better as a result, but then Manning went and threw five interceptions, nearly doubling his season total. (He'd thrown six in his first nine games.) You're right that Manning was looking comfortable in the new offense until last week, and I think all eyes are on him Sunday night and the rest of the way to see whether this last game was a fluke or whether it's a sign that "Bad Eli" is always potentially around the corner no matter what system they put him in. One thing he has dealt with is a lot of pass-rush pressure, and that crescendoed a bit last week against the 49ers. They may make some changes on the offensive line this week, and if those changes help protect him better, I think he gets back into that rhythm he was in earlier in the year.

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- On Tuesday we discussed the difficult decision the New York Giants could be facing this offseason (or next) with regard to quarterback Eli Manning. A two-time Super Bowl MVP and franchise icon, Manning is a very expensive quarterback who threw a lot of interceptions last year and then out of nowhere threw five in the same game Sunday. The Giants are clearly in a rebuild, coach Tom Coughlin's job status remains an unresolved issue that could depend on the way this season ends, and obviously the future is uncertain for a lot of people around these parts.

Manning knows this, but he says his hope is to ultimately land a contract extension that keeps him a Giant for the rest of his career.

"I think you always hope that. That's always the mindset," Manning said Wednesday. "I'm playing as if that will be the case, but I never thought Peyton would play for another franchise, and I don't think he did either. I'm just going to try to do my job and do it well enough to where the franchise wants to keep me here."

Manning has one year left on his contract after this year and is scheduled to make $17 million in salary in 2015. The Giants could sign him to an extension this coming offseason, but with the salary cap projected to escalate significantly in the next two years, they also could wait and see how he plays, risking that he hits the free-agent market two offseasons from now. It's possible they are a ways from a final decision on Manning's long-term future with them, and the way Manning finishes out this season will go into evidence as they deliberate it.

"Obviously last season was not good, but this season I thought I've been playing better," Manning said. "This last week wasn't good, but hopefully we can get on a hot streak and I can play well. I feel I can still make plays and make all the throws. I still feel energized every week. I work extremely hard, and I love what I'm doing. I feel I can play at an extremely high level and take over games and do my job."

Manning said he's not worried about his contract situation and that he's still enjoying football, in spite of the tough stretch the Giants are enduring right now. At this point, he said, all he knows is that he'd like to keep playing.

"Yeah, until it's not fun anymore, or you're hurt, or you don't feel you can play at that level that can win games for your team or win championships," Manning said. "I don't know when that point comes, but I guess I'll know when it does. You always hope to go out on your own terms, but it doesn't always happen. We'll see.

"This is the only franchise I've been a part of and I think it's the best one. I don't want anything else but to be here, play here and win another championship here."
One of the bigger decisions facing the New York Giants this offseason is the one they must make about quarterback Eli Manning. He has one year left on his contract with a nonguaranteed base salary of $17 million and a salary-cap charge of $19.75 million for the 2015 season.

Their options at the start of the offseason will be as follows:

[+] EnlargeManning
AP Photo/Bill KostrounThe Giants will have to make a decision on Eli Manning's future during the offseason.
 1. Do nothing, and let him play out the final year of his deal as the third-highest paid quarterback in the league behind only his older brother and Drew Brees.

2. Extend his contract, potentially picking up cap room in 2015 but committing to the two-time Super Bowl MVP (who turns 34 in January) at a premium quarterback cost for another half-decade. (Manning's not likely to cut the Giants a deal, considering what the market would bear.)

3. Release Manning, saving $17.5 million against the cap in 2015 but starting over at the most important position on the roster with either untested Ryan Nassib or an undetermined player who's still in college at the moment.

The third option is the least likely by far. If the season ended today, the Giants would hold the No. 7 pick in the draft. They could move higher, of course, but their remaining schedule and the condition of the teams above them make it unlikely they could get into the top three or four. And even if they did, there's no guarantee they find their long-term answer in the draft. Nassib, Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston would do well to even have half the career Manning has had, and if you had to bet on which of the four will be the best NFL quarterback in 2015 and the three or four years to follow, you'd still bet on Manning, because there are no sure things these days in a non-Andrew Luck quarterback draft.

The merits of Manning as a player aren't at issue just yet. He had a terrible game Sunday, obviously, with five interceptions, but it was his first truly bad game of the year, and in the nine games prior he'd shown smoothness and reliability in the new offense. Sunday's interception total nearly doubled his total for the season, and unless he continues to turn it over at an alarming rate over the final six games, it'll be easy to look at Sunday as a fluke and the rest of the season as representative of what the Giants can expect of Manning.

The question is whether the Giants need a $19 million quarterback in Ben McAdoo's system, and that's where it gets interesting. Manning's salary is as high as it is because of his Super Bowl heroics, and the Giants haven't blinked at committing 17-18 percent of their salary cap annually to Manning because he has been so reliable. He never misses a game, never causes drama inside or outside the building and he has, in the past, demonstrated an ability to elevate the players around him to a championship level. In this day and age, when 32 teams are looking for franchise quarterbacks and there aren't 20 walking the Earth, there's no such thing as overspending to get or keep one.

But under the new offensive system, the requirements for being the Giants' franchise quarterback may be changing. The Giants don't really throw the ball downfield anymore, and McAdoo's offense is designed to eliminate risk. It won't be asking Manning to make the heroic throws he made in the past in playoff games and Super Bowls. Part of Manning's magic has always been his fearlessness of tough throws and his ability to hit them in the clutch. In a timing-based offense that rarely asks the quarterback to throw the ball more than 10 yards past the line of scrimmage, those qualities may not be worth a premium price anymore.

Manning accounts for 17 percent of the Giants' salary cap this year. Assuming the cap rises to around $142 million next year, and they do nothing with his contract, he'd take up 14.4 percent of next year's cap. Only the Saints, Cowboys and Broncos are currently scheduled to spend a larger percentage of their cap on their starting quarterbacks in 2015. The Giants may still decide it's worth it for a player whose durability alone keeps them from the cringe-worthy quarterback juggling act you see half the teams in the league go through every year. But with so many other needs still to address, and as they think about what they're going to be on offense in the future, the question of cost looms larger than ever with regard to Eli Manning.

The Film Don't Lie: Giants

November, 18, 2014
Nov 18
11:00
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A weekly look at what the New York Giants must fix:

The Dallas Cowboys are one of five teams in the league that have fewer sacks this year than the New York Giants do. So the Giants' most important task this week shouldn't be too difficult, and it's to protect quarterback Eli Manning better. Manning was pressured on 15 dropbacks in Sunday's loss to the San Francisco 49ers, which ties the Week 6 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles for the most pressures he's faced in a game this season. He was 3-for-13 for 48 yards and two interceptions on the 13 of those on which he was not sacked.

During the Giants' five-game losing streak, the only game in which Manning wasn't pressured at least 12 times was the Week 6 loss in Dallas. He faced only seven pressures that day, was not sacked and completed three of seven passes for two touchdowns and no interceptions when facing pressure. Manning was able to handle pressure better that day because it was far less constant. He can shake off the occasional pressure or hurry, but when he feels under siege all game, Manning gets out of his rhythm and his comfort zone, he stops trusting his footwork and starts forcing throws. That's what happened Sunday, and it's the most important thing for the Giants to avoid Sunday night in the rematch against the Cowboys.

The Giants may finally have guard Geoff Schwartz in the lineup Sunday night, as he's back from his preseason toe injury and available to play. That could help them achieve their goal of keeping Manning at least as clean as they kept him in Week 6, the last time they faced Dallas.
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- We are at the point in the New York Giants' season when fans want to fire the coach and replace the quarterback and talk about all the very rash moves they'd like to see in the offseason because they want blood.

You pay -- with your money and your heart -- to follow this team, and you're just sick of it all. The Giants are 3-7, worse after 10 games than they were last year, and all but assured of missing the playoffs for the fifth time in six years. You're hurting, and no one can blame you.

But what's wrong with the Giants isn't the coach. You can't watch these past two games and think they're not playing hard for Tom Coughlin. Until Eli Manning threw five interceptions Sunday in a 16-10 loss to the San Francisco 49ers, you really couldn't put it on the quarterback -- not this season.

[+] EnlargeEli Manning
AP Photo/Bill KostrounEli Manning had a terrible day against the 49ers, but it wasn't all his fault.
The problem with the Giants is a roster that eroded due to years of lousy drafting and remains in the early stages of an extensive and much-needed rebuild. The Giants entered the past offseason with more than one offseason's worth of work to do, and they'll hit this offseason with a great deal more still to do. No matter who the coach and quarterback are next year or the year after, the Giants retain a crying, fundamental need to fix their foundation -- specifically the offensive line.

It was just too easy for the 49ers' pass rush Sunday, especially once starting right tackle Justin Pugh went out early in the game with a quad injury. The 49ers ran every kind of pass-rush game they could think of at the right side of the Giants' offensive line, where Charles Brown and John Jerry were overwhelmed even when they were one-on-one, and they whacked and harassed Manning all day. They sacked him twice and hit him seven times.

You can say Manning should handle pressure better than he did, and you'd be right. But it's the organization's job to keep the pressure off Manning, and it's painfully obvious this organization still isn't doing a good enough job of it.

"He had great pressure today," Coughlin said of Manning. "I don't think anybody's going to argue with that one, especially when they run a simple T-E up front and hit him full-steam two or three times today."

It's troubling that Jerry and Brown are playing full games at right guard and right tackle this late in the season. The Giants went into free agency and the draft with a mandate to fix the line, and part of what they claimed to do was find enough veteran depth to cover them in case of injury this year. But while Brown and Jerry are both veterans, they're cheap, Band-Aid solutions to a significant problem that can only be fixed through drafting and development. As much fun as rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. is, you can still make a convincing case that a first-round offensive lineman would have been a better choice if the Giants were really thinking long-term about their foundation.

They did take Weston Richburg in the second round, and he has started every game so far at left guard. They did sign free-agent guard Geoff Schwartz, who has yet to play because of a toe injury. But the fact that so many leaks still remain speaks to the severity of the problems they were confronting the past offseason. They're still in the early stages of this project. Is Pugh a long-term answer at tackle, or does he need to move to guard? Is Will Beatty really a franchise cornerstone at left tackle, or do they need to make a major investment there? Is Richburg's future at center, or is J.D. Walton a keeper?

The team coming to town next week, the Dallas Cowboys, provides a prime example of what the Giants need to do. After years of neglecting the line and paying the price with underachieving teams, the Cowboys have used their first-round pick on an offensive lineman in three of the past four years and now boast one of the best lines in the league. It's not brain surgery. Looking for cheap solutions in free agency or the middle rounds of the draft is no way to build the most important part of your offensive foundation. You have to spend -- either free-agent money or high picks or both -- to build the line you need in today's NFL.

The Giants have started to at least look like a team that gets this, as they took Pugh in the first round in 2013 and Richburg early in the second this year, but they need to keep after it. They need to make the line a high priority item on which they spend significant resources. Because whatever they end up doing with Manning, and whoever's coaching them into the future, they're not going to be able to score points reliably until they're better up front.

49ers vs. Giants preview

November, 14, 2014
Nov 14
8:00
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When: 1 p.m. ET Sunday Where: MetLife Stadium, Meadowlands, N.J. TV: FOX

The 5-4 San Francisco 49ers travel to New Jersey this weekend to face the 3-6 New York Giants. ESPN Giants reporter Dan Graziano and ESPN 49ers reporter Paul Gutierrez are here with a preview:

Graziano: Paul, I see Aldon Smith is back from his suspension just in time to face the struggling Giants. What do the 49ers expect to be able to get out of Smith in his first game?

Gutierrez: Are we talking realistically or hopefully? For the purposes of this conversation, let’s go with a combo. Look, Smith has been able to work out at the Niners' facility during his nine-game suspension and attend team meetings, but he was banned from team practices and games. So there's no telling what kind of football shape he'll be in.

That being said, his skill set as a pass-rusher is needed badly in Santa Clara. The Niners have just 15 sacks, tied for 24th in the league, and all they need from Smith is for him to pin his ears back and rush Eli Manning. There's not much scheme involved there, really, especially if the other linebackers are coached up. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said a couple of weeks ago that he expected Smith to be full-go and without limitations when he returns. Jim Harbaugh was a little more hesitant. I’d lean toward Fangio on this one.

Do the Giants expect Smith to be back to his sack-happy self, meaning they’d have to go max protect for Manning, and if so, how does that affect what the Giants want to do offensively, particularly running the ball? And what is the latest on Rashad Jennings?

Graziano: Jennings returned to practice Wednesday, and barring a setback they expect him to play Sunday and resume his role as the bell cow in their offense. They're 0-4 without him, averaging 83 rush yards per game as opposed to the 121 they were averaging with him. He's a three-down back who can pick up the blitz and catch the ball out of the backfield as well as pick up those "dirty" yards (as he calls them) on first and second downs.

The Giants' offense will run much better with Jennings back in the lineup, assuming he's fully healthy. And that's a big part of their ability to contain Smith and the 49ers' pass rush -- forcing San Francisco to respect the Giants' ability and determination to run the ball. Leaving their tackles alone to handle Smith would be a bad idea at this point, as they are not playing well. The offensive line is one of many weak spots on this team, and the only time it's looked good was earlier in the season when the Giants were running their up-tempo, run-based offense with all of their weapons. They still won't have Victor Cruz, who's out for the year, but getting Jennings back will help in many ways.

Overall, how different is this 49ers defense from the dominating unit of the past couple of years, and what is the impact of losing Patrick Willis?

Gutierrez: It's a completely different unit. Not only is Willis gone for the season with that chronic injury to his left big toe, but nose tackle Glenn Dorsey is still working his way back after suffering a torn left biceps in camp and NaVorro Bowman is still recuperating from the devastating injury to his left knee from the NFC title game in January. Oh, and Aldon Smith has been out all season serving his nine-game suspension for general malfeasance, though, as you noted above, he's about to make his season debut.

Yet, the defense has not really been the Niners' problem this season; that would be an inconsistent offense that goes from being a pass-happy attack to a power-running attack and back again. Consider: Even with all of the attrition and injuries, the Niners' defense is the No. 2-ranked total defense in the NFL. The loss of Willis would seemingly be a crushing blow to a team with Super Bowl-or-bust aspirations, but it is cushioned with the inspired play of rookie Chris Borland, who has had 18 and 17 tackles in the past two games, and recovered the key fumble in OT Sunday that led to the game-winning field goal at New Orleans. Borland is no Willis, but then again, no one is.

The Giants gave up 350 yards rushing to the Seattle Seahawks last weekend, their most given up on the ground since the Carter administration. Why should the 49ers not run the ball in New Jersey?

Graziano: The only reason would be if they didn't want to win. What the Giants showed Sunday in Seattle was a complete inability to handle Seattle's basic zone-read run game. They bought the play fake every time, and the only time they stuck with the quarterback was when he did hand it off to Marshawn Lynch. If they'd gone into the game intentionally trying to make the wrong play on every zone-read play, they couldn't have done as good a job of it as they actually did. It was a fiasco.

The Giants are without three of their top four cornerbacks, a couple of whom were actually big helps in run support, and they're without middle linebacker Jon Beason. They'll also likely be without weakside linebacker Jacquian Williams this week, as he's struggling to work his way back from a concussion. So they're thin on defense, but the guys who are playing up front -- Jason Pierre-Paul, Robert Ayers, Jameel McClain, Mike Patterson -- have to do a better job of stopping the run than they did last week, or it's going to be ultra-simple to control the clock and beat them.

Part of the success the Seahawks had running the ball was the 107 yards Russell Wilson had on the ground, including 64 on read-option runs. How similar is the 49ers' and Colin Kaepernick's run game to what the Seahawks do?

Gutierrez: Are we talking this season, or last? Because while there is no doubt that the read-option was a huge part of Kaepernick's arrival on the national consciousness, it has been virtually nonexistent as a play call this season. Sure, Kaepernick is averaging 5.1 yards per carry and is on pace to rush for a career-high 530 yards, but his running game has been more threat than design, if that makes sense. It's all part of the Niners' desire to keep him healthy, obviously, and to make him more of a pocket passer. Still, given the way the Seahawks shredded the Giants' run defense, I would be shocked -- shocked! -- if the Niners shied away from pounding the rock with Frank Gore to set up the read-option for Kaepernick.

OK, perhaps trite or maybe even a tired question at this stage of his career, but can you still spell "elite" without "Eli"?

Graziano: I never liked getting into the "elite" game, because I don't think there's more than three or four quarterbacks in the world who truly fit that word; otherwise, what does the word really mean? But Manning is the least of the Giants' problems. He's on pace to throw 30 touchdown passes and 11 interceptions, which the Giants would have signed up for in a heartbeat after he threw 27 interceptions last year. He has thrown only two since Week 2, and he has clearly taken to a new offense designed to lean on the run game and the short, high-percentage passing game and limit turnovers.

The offense has fallen apart around Manning due to the Cruz and Jennings injuries, but he's got a really nice thing going with rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. right now, and he even got Preston Parker into the mix with a big game Sunday. I think the story of the Giants over the next couple of years will be about how well they can rebuild the team around Manning, who's holding up his end of the bargain as steward of the new offense under new coordinator Ben McAdoo.

Good stuff, Paul. I know you have another long flight coming this week, so travel safe and I look forward to seeing you Sunday in my home state.



SEATTLE -- The New York Giants are 3-6, which is the same record they had at this point last season, and if you're a Giants fan you're not real happy about much of anything right now.

But whether you like it or not, this year for the Giants is about showing progress in their new offense, and rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. is showing quite a lot. Beckham caught seven of the nine balls that were thrown his way Sunday for a total of 108 yards. He couldn't come down with a miracle catch in the end zone on a play that ended up being a costly interception in a 38-17 loss, but he impressed his opponent quite a bit.

[+] EnlargeOdell Beckham Jr.
AP Photo/Elaine ThompsonOdell Beckham Jr. caught seven passes and the Seahawks' attention on Sunday.
"I thought Beckham was really good," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "He really came out of there and was the big factor early on. I thought he showed that he was a really good football player today. They've got a great one in that kid."

The Seahawks clearly saw something on tape that impressed them about Beckham. They don't usually move their cornerbacks around, but they did switch up top corner Richard Sherman a few times to get him on Beckham. Beckham beat Sherman for a long one in the first half (with the help of a perfect throw by Eli Manning), but the Seahawks made some coverage adjustments in the second half to slow him down a bit.

Regardless, Beckham looks like a rising star in the Giants' offense and a player on whom Manning believes he can rely.

"He's doing some good things," Manning said. "He made some big plays for us, had a couple of third-down conversions, finding holes in the defense. He's definitely doing some good things."

For his part, Beckham seemed to enjoy the challenge of competing against Sherman, who complimented him after the game and let Beckham have his jersey as a souvenir.

"When you go up against a great defense like that, you can't just sit back and not try to attack," Beckham said. "You have to go at them. I think we did a great job of that tonight, we just didn't execute as well in the second half."

For a rookie who missed all of training camp and the first four weeks of the season with a hamstring injury, Beckham is at least meeting expectations if not exceeding them on a weekly basis. If you're a Giants fan looking for something to feel good about over the final months of this season, Beckham is where you should look.

The Film Don't Lie: Giants

November, 4, 2014
Nov 4
11:00
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The New York Giants may have been trying to throw deep more than they usually do in Monday night's loss, and that formula isn't likely to help them Sunday against the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks.

While Seattle struggled against the deep ball in its first seven games this year, allowing a 49.3 completion percentage on throws longer than 10 yards downfield, according to ESPN Stats & Information, it held Oakland's Derek Carr to a 30 percent completion rate on such throws Sunday and intercepted him twice.

The Giants' Eli Manning has 10 years' experience on Carr, but the Giants' offense right now isn't built to throw it deep. Manning was 0-for-7 Monday when throwing the ball 20 or more yards downfield and is 3-for-24 on such throws this season, according to ESPN Stats & Info. He also overthrew his receiver on 11 pass attempts Monday, including four of the 20-plus-yard throws, which indicates that he was trying to force some things.

The Giants are banged up at wide receiver and limited in what they can do offensively. And until Rashad Jennings returns, the run game is going to be unreliable. But forcing the issue downfield is no way to combat the problems. Manning and the Giants in 2014 just don't have what it takes to operate that way. And if they try it in Seattle, where the Seahawks are 20-2 since the start of the 2012 season, it's likely to go quite poorly.
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The 2014 New York Giants are not a very good team. They never were a very good team, and now that the big injuries have set in, they don't even look as though they can be competitive with the league's legitimate contenders. The Giants are 0-5 against teams with a winning record and 3-0 against teams with a losing record, and Monday night's 40-24 home loss to the Indianapolis Colts did little but reinforce what we already knew.

Coach Tom Coughlin challenged his team last week to "play above the X's and O's," but given the Giants' health situation, their inexperience and the talent level of their personnel, that's too much to ask at this point. The alarming thing about Monday night was the extent to which the Giants played below the X's and O's: the touchdown given up because the defense wasn't ready; the inability to convert a third down; the maddening, continued, fruitless search for a running game.

"You've got to have a lot of passion about this game," safety and defensive team captain Antrel Rolle said early Tuesday morning. "We're not taking it. We have to fight harder."

They do. The Giants have eight games left in this season. The rules say they have to play all eight. Coughlin will demand they prepare and play their absolute best in all eight, whether they're contenders or not. So the question becomes, What can they get out of the second half of another lost season? The answer: quite a bit.

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Al Bello/Getty ImagesThe 2014 season has been frustrating for Eli Manning and the Giants, but the next eight games will be used to weed out the roster for 2015 and beyond.
The final eight games of this Giants season will be about finding out who's part of the solution and who isn't. The Giants began a rebuilding project last spring, and as they brace for the extreme likelihood of missing the playoffs for the fifth time in the past six years, they must carefully evaluate the ability, desire and fit of every player they have. They need to know what they have that's worth building on.

"You can't say we're not prepared, we're not focused, not practicing hard," cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie said. "That's one thing about Coach Coughlin -- he's not going to let that happen."

Those who demonstrate an ability to function in the Giants' program will stand in good stead for 2015 and beyond. Those who don't, no matter how much they make or in which round they were drafted, will not. The evidence for this was on the field Monday night wearing a Colts No. 14 jersey: former first-round pick Hakeem Nicks, who yawned his way out of town with a miserable contract year in 2013. Just 26 years old and a Giants Super Bowl champion, Nicks was clearly not into what they were doing here anymore, so they decided in the spring not to make him a part of what they were doing in the future, either.

So, yes, you'd better believe people are playing for jobs right now. The group the Giants are running out there on a weekly basis is very young and still learning, but the people who run the team are going to be watching closely to see how hard those young players are working, what the competition means to them and how they're developing in the system. Former first-rounder Jason Pierre-Paul is where Nicks was a year ago, and if he's looking for a big contract in free agency, he's got to deliver big to convince the team to give it to him. Left tackle Will Beatty, who signed a big free-agent deal two offseasons ago, needs to play like someone who deserves to keep it. Rolle is an impending free agent. Heck, Eli Manning is going to be looking for a contract extension at the end of this year.

And this goes for the coaches, too. It's hard to imagine a Coughlin team bottoming out and finishing 4-12 or 3-13 -- especially after last year's hollowed-out husk of a roster didn't. But if such a thing happens, Coughlin is not automatically safe. If Perry Fewell's defense keeps giving up big plays, he's not guaranteed a job in 2015. It's hard to see them cutting offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo loose after just one year, but the first-year playcaller is like every other rookie around here -- he has to show promise in order to make the Giants feel good about sticking with him beyond 2014.

These are tough times around the Giants. No one likes losing, and no one likes the feeling of not being good enough to compete week to week. If it's all pointing to better things in the future, it's easier to take. But those who want to stick around and be part of those better things need to spend the final eight games proving they can help make them a reality -- or they won't get the chance.
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- At long last, the New York Giants are back, playing a "Monday Night Football" game on ESPN against the Indianapolis Colts. If it feels like it's been a long time since the Giants have played, it kind of has. A bye week followed by a Monday night game makes it feel that way. Heck, the Pittsburgh Steelers have gone 3-0 and scored 124 points since the last time the Giants played a down.

And if that sounds like a lot, it's probably because the Giants have scored 154 points all season. Which brings us once again to last week's popular topic: The Giants' offense and whether it needs to be (or can be) more aggressive and explosive. Giants GM Jerry Reese touched off this debate a week ago when he said he'd like to see the offense be more aggressive. Quarterback Eli Manning said later in the week that he's all for more big plays, but that he doesn't think changing the conservative approach that's done such a good job of limiting his interceptions is a great idea right now. The coaches said various things, mostly along the lines of, "Yeah, we'd all love to score more points, but we're not going to force things if opportunities aren't there."

[+] EnlargeManning
Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsDon't expect drastic midseason changes from quarterback Eli Manning and the Giants' offense.
The main reason the Giants can't get hyper-aggressive on offense right now is that the group around Manning is so young. Especially because of the injuries to Victor Cruz and Rashad Jennings, the Giants are counting on very young players to handle very important roles. The Giants will start three rookies (Weston Richburg, Andre Williams and Odell Beckham Jr.) and two second-year players (Larry Donnell and Justin Pugh) on offense Monday. Manning has started 158 NFL games. The 10 other players the Giants will start on offense tonight have combined to start 205.

"It may change some things you do, simply because you want to tailor what you do to the players and their strengths," offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo said last week. "But it doesn't limit us. We have a lot of confidence in the guys that have come in and played. Our young guys are very conscientious guys. They're hard-working. They're bright. And we expected, the more we play, and the farther we get into the season, that is really going to show up and help us."

Agreed on the last part. Beckham, Donnell, Pugh, Richburg and Williams all have flashed enough talent to make the Giants feel good about counting on them long-term. But they've also shown plenty of the fully understandable inconsistency that young players have to endure. That is why they can't start tearing up the playbook and taking more deep shots just because they're not scoring as much as they wish they were scoring right now. These young players have to learn and develop and grow together, and like it or not, that takes time. You can't expect progress to be an unbroken chain. The Giants could look fantastic on offense Monday against the Colts, but that still wouldn't mean everything was fixed and ready to go.

"The biggest thing for me is still trying to eliminate that feeling of, 'Oh man, I messed up,' and just get over it and move on to the next thing," Beckham said Friday. "That's something I'm still learning, how to deal with that feeling when it happens during a game."

Beckham is starting his third NFL game Monday night. He looks like he might be a special player. But he is 21 years old and has a long way to go until we know for sure. While he and his fellow youngsters on the Giants' offense continue to learn the basics and develop as NFL players, expect the Giants to keep things simple on the offense. It's the right thing to do.

Colts vs. Giants preview

October, 31, 2014
Oct 31
8:00
AM ET
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The Indianapolis Colts had won five games in a row before last week's 51-34 loss to Pittsburgh. The New York Giants had won three in a row before losing in Philadelphia and Dallas prior to last week's bye. These two teams are looking to remind everyone of better times as they meet at MetLife Stadium on "Monday Night Football."

ESPN Colts reporter Mike Wells and ESPN Giants reporter Dan Graziano are here with your game preview:

Wells: Dan, the Cowboys went from Super Bowl contenders to having to worry about Tony Romo's back, and the Eagles are coming off a loss. Do you feel like the Giants have a realistic shot at winning the NFC East?

Graziano: It's not impossible, but I don't think it's realistic. They trail Dallas by 2½ games and Philadelphia by two, and they lost to each of those teams before the bye. The idea that they could catch both is far-fetched, especially since they can't go 2-0 against either.

Fundamentally, I just don't think the Giants are very good. Eli Manning is playing well in the new offense, but the group around him is made up of young guys and backups. Injuries to Victor Cruz (out for the year) and Rashad Jennings (who will miss a third straight game) have sapped the offense of much of its explosiveness, and guys such as Odell Beckham, Rueben Randle, Larry Donnell and Andre Williams have shown promise but are still developing. The offensive line, also quite young in spots, has been inconsistent. On the defensive side, they're extremely banged up at cornerback and they just lost middle linebacker Jon Beason for the season.

The Giants are a team with a clear vision for the future and they've already shown progress in the new offense, but they're going to be outmanned most weeks.

How about the Colts? The group around Andrew Luck seems to have come together better than I expected it would. What are the main reasons (other than himself) that Luck is leading the league in passing yards?

Wells: The main reason is that Luck's ability to spread the ball around makes it difficult for defenses to key on one area. He had back-to-back games earlier this season where he completed passes to nine different receivers. Another reason: Two key players -- receiver Reggie Wayne and tight end Dwayne Allen -- are back after having their 2013 seasons cut short. Wayne is second on the team with 434 receiving yards -- trailing only T.Y. Hilton -- despite missing the Pittsburgh game. Allen is tied with former Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw for the team lead in receiving touchdowns with six.

Offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton took a lot of criticism last season for being determined to make Indianapolis a power-running team despite having Luck at quarterback. Hamilton is more comfortable in Year 2 as an NFL coordinator and it's showing, as the Colts run the ball just enough to keep defenses honest.

Manning is 22nd in the league in passing yards. Would it be safe to say he's on the decline of his career, or does he have enough left in the tank to win his third Super Bowl ring at some point?

Graziano: I don't think he's declining. They just totally changed the offensive system. Longtime coordinator Kevin Gilbride "retired" (cough, was forced out, cough) and was replaced by Ben McAdoo, a former Packers assistant who brought Mike McCarthy's West Coast offense with him. The emphasis for Manning has been on avoiding turnovers after leading the league with 27 interceptions last year, and as a result the Giants are leaning hard on the run and the short-passing game. A whopping 67 percent of Manning's throws have traveled fewer than 10 yards down the field, compared with 61 and 62 percent the two seasons prior.

It's possible the offense develops more of a downfield element as everyone continues to develop -- especially first-round rookie Beckham, who has field-stretching speed but has only played three games. GM Jerry Reese said Monday that he'd like to see the offense be more aggressive, but coach Tom Coughlin has insisted that they're not looking to take more chances downfield and prefer to play it close to the vest so as to avoid a recurrence of last year's turnover problems.

Long term, I think Manning has enough time to win another Super Bowl if this new group develops around him. I imagine he'll get his contract extension this offseason, and the way the league is set up for quarterbacks right now, it's not crazy to think he has five or six good years left.

When we talked to Eli on Monday, he said he'd watched the Colts' past two games and noted the significant difference in the number of points they surrendered in them. His take was that the defensive scheme wasn't different but that Pittsburgh did a great job against it, while Cincinnati obviously did not. What on earth went wrong Sunday, and which Colts defense is the one we should expect to see Monday?

Wells: I'm not even sure the Colts know what went wrong against the Steelers. There wasn't a defense in the league that probably could have stopped Ben Roethlisberger. Defensive lineman Ricky Jean Francois summed it up best when he said they got a wake-up call and Roethlisberger was a step ahead of them the entire game. He found the soft spots of the defense when they played zone and torched them when they blitzed. He also laid out the blueprint on how to beat a Colts defense that had 20 sacks and nine turnovers in the five games leading up to that matchup. Indy's front seven couldn't get any pressure on Roethlisberger; it was the first time since Week 2 that the Colts didn't have a sack.

Luck has thrown for at least 300 yards in six straight games. The Giants are 25th in the league against the pass. How do they expect to slow Luck down?

Graziano: Their best bet is that the offense clicks and they put together long, sustained drives that keep Luck off the field for long stretches. Their pass defense is in tatters. Top cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie has been trying to play through leg and back injuries, and he doesn't seem to have improved much over the bye. They lost nickelback Walter Thurmond (arm) and backup nickel Trumaine McBride (thumb) to a season-ending injuries.

To overcome those losses, they've been putting Prince Amukamara on the opposing team's top receiver and experimenting with a three-safety look that includes Antrel Rolle, Quintin Demps and Stevie Brown, who was demoted earlier in the year due to ineffectiveness. It would help if they could generate more pressure on opposing quarterbacks, but in spite of a solid performance against the run, Jason Pierre-Paul and the rest of the defensive line have not been getting sacks. (As a team, the Giants have only 13 in seven games.) Luck has a chance for a big night.

If Luck does have a big night, however, it doesn't seem as though former Giant Hakeem Nicks will be a part of it. Has he been as much of a non-factor there as he was here last year, and if so, why do the Colts think that is?

Wells: The Colts are saying the right things publicly, but it's been a mystery why Nicks hasn't been a factor. Last weekend's game basically summed up his time with the Colts. With Wayne out with an elbow injury, Nicks was the No. 2 receiver, but he was clearly outplayed by rookie Donte Moncrief. Nicks only caught one of the six targets from Luck for 27 yards while playing 60 of 66 snaps. Moncrief only needed 40 snaps to catch seven passes for 113 yards and a touchdown. You would have thought having a bigger role in the offense would help Nicks. Now you have to wonder if he'll fit in at all this season because Wayne will likely play Monday and Moncrief's performance may have been good enough to move him ahead of Nicks as the third receiver.

Graziano: Thanks, Mike. Travel safe and I'll see you Monday.

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- It would be another 10 hours before previously-red-hot Dallas lost at home to battered Washington on "Monday Night Football." But had New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin been able to see that far into the future, he'd have found another useful data point for the passionate speech he was giving his team at the end of Monday's practice.

"You look around the league, and you see teams that are playing superbly that maybe hadn't been playing superbly," Coughlin explained a few minutes after the speech concluded. "So to me, we've got to play above the X's and O's. We've got nine games to play as well as we can possibly play. Anybody in that locker room can do that. They just have to realize the amount of the season and the schedule that's gone by and yet we have nine opportunities. Let's go."

[+] EnlargeTom Coughlin
Eric Hartline/USA TODAY SportsTom Coughlin isn't giving up on this Giants team, despite a 3-4 record to kick off the 2014 season.
The message: Yeah, you're 3-4 and coming off two tough division losses, but crazy things happen every week in this league, and you have to be ready to take advantage when they do. Just look at the Indianapolis Colts, who happen to be the Giants' next opponent. Two weeks ago, they looked incredible in beating the Bengals, 27-0, for their fifth win in a row. This past week, they gave up 522 passing yards and 51 points in a loss to Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers.

Coughlin's message to his players is the inconsistency around the league offers opportunity for a team in the Giants' position to get hot and take advantage. To "play above the X's and O's" is to outplay expectations. Don't just run the plays that are called, do something exceptional with them. Don't just win your individual matchups, dominate them consistently.

"This is exciting," quarterback Eli Manning said. "We have a good opportunity ahead of us. The way we've played to start the year, we've made it tough on ourselves. But we have to get hot. We have to handle our business and start playing at a higher level."

As you know if you read me regularly, I believe it's important for fans to look at this Giants' team in a broader perspective than just this one season. I think it's a rebuilding team that doesn't yet have all of its pieces in place and has developing players in key roles. But there's enough mediocrity in the NFL that you can make the playoffs during a rebuild, and it's not out of the question that this Giants team could get hot in the second half and sneak in.

More importantly to the current point, however, is that it's not the job of Coughlin or the players to take that broader perspective. It's their job to try as hard as they possibly can to win every game, not to worry about whether they're outmanned in a given week due to injuries and/or roster insufficiency. And this is where Coughlin remains this team's greatest strength. Coughlin's teams never play below the X's and O's. There's no coach better at consistently making sure his team wins at least as many games as its talent level dictates, if not more. And you don't need me to tell you that if Coughlin and Manning get into the postseason, they know how to win games there.

"One thing I'll never do: I'll never bet against Tom Coughlin," Giants GM Jerry Reese said Monday. "When his back is against the wall the most, that's when he seems to come out swinging and get his football team ready to go. And I expect him to do the same here going down the stretch. This is a big moment for all of us, the second half of this season. I think Coach will get it done."

If not, I don't still don't think cataclysmic change looms for Coughlin and the Giants in 2015. As long as this team shows progress by the end of the year (and honestly it already has), I think they'll get to continue the rebuild that began in March for at least another season. If they fall completely apart and finish 4-12 or something like that, then all bets are off. But Coughlin is hard at work on making sure that doesn't happen. And I agree with Reese that it's folly to bet against him.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Don't think the New York Giants are taking enough shots downfield in their new offense? Well, you have some high-profile company. Giants general manager Jerry Reese agrees with you.

"I just think, as an offense, we have to be more aggressive," Reese said in his annual midseason news conference Monday. "At times, we're a little bit almost too cautions with what we're doing offensively. This is the National Football League. You've got to go out there and you've got to win the game. You can't expect something to fall into your lap. You've got to take the game. And I think we've got to be more aggressive offensively.

[+] EnlargeEli Manning
Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsMore than two-thirds of Eli Manning's throws this season have been for fewer than 10 yards downfield.
"I appreciate Eli taking care of the ball and not turning it over, because that's what leads to wins a lot of the time. But you can't be too cautious. You've got to throw the ball down the field. You've got to score points in this league to win."

This was a startling comment because it runs directly counter to everything that quarterback Eli Manning, coach Tom Coughlin and offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo have been saying about this new Giants offense. Manning spoke last week about how he's learned to get rid of the ball rather than take chances with tough throws he used to take (and how much he likes that change). And Coughlin spoke last week about the team's reliance on the run game as a means of avoiding turnovers following Manning's 27-interception 2013 season. Each made it clear that the plan would not change. But Reese made it clear Monday he'd like to see some changes.

"I'd like to see us be more aggressive going down the stretch," Reese said. "If you turn the ball over, you're going to lose in this league. But you still can't be too careful. You have to throw the ball down the field. You have to be more aggressive. You have to give your receivers a chance to make plays. You've got to score points. If you don't score points, it's hard to win."

The Giants (3-4) rank 22nd in the league in points per game. According to ESPN Stats & Information, 67 percent of Manning's passes this season have been thrown fewer than 10 yards downfield, up from 61 percent in 2013, 61 percent in 2012 and 60 percent in 2011. So this is a conscious and determined change, whether Reese likes it or not. That has not stopped him from communicating his opinion on the matter to the coaching staff.

"I'm just giving you what my opinion is," Reese said. "We talk every week about, 'How do we win the next game?' Every Monday we meet. And we don't sugarcoat anything. We go in there and talk real talk. So we've had conversations about this, yes."

Very interesting. My take on this is that, in an organization with less secure leaders, this could be an issue. With the Giants, less so. I found it surprising that Reese, who only makes himself available this one time during the season because he wants to let the coaches coach the team and not appear to be meddling, would admit publicly to disagreeing with Coughlin and his staff on such a significant matter. But I believe him that he's expressed his opinion in meetings, and it's obviously possible that the coaching staff has thanked him for it and told him they would continue trying it their way. And that such conversations will continue as part of the regular weekly course of things.

By the way, this wasn't the only such issue that came up. Reese shares an opinion with the vocal portion of the fan base about second-year defensive end Damontre Moore as well.

"I think he needs to play a few more snaps," Reese said of his 2013 third-round pick. "I think, when he gets into a game, he makes something happen. So I think he's progressing, but I think he needs to play a little bit more."

Again, on this matter, Reese has made his opinion known and then stepped back to allow the coaches to do what they want with it. Moore is still very young and hasn't yet earned the trust of the coaching staff to an extent that would allow his role in the defense to expand.

"We have conversations about everything," Reese said. "We don't sugarcoat anything. I don't coach the game. It's the heat of the moment. And those guys, they've been coaching a long time. They know who to play."

And they also, apparently, don't have to wonder who (or how) the GM wants them to play.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Eli Manning didn't get to watch his older brother set the NFL's all-time record for touchdown passes Sunday night. Manning and the New York Giants were on a flight back home from Dallas when Peyton Manning whizzed past Brett Favre and into first place all time with 510 touchdown throws. But Eli knew what was going on and was excited to see the highlights when he landed.

"You never play for individual awards and records, but the touchdown record is pretty special," Eli Manning said Monday. "And I think it has a chance to stick around for a long time."

Eli said he sent Peyton a text, but as of 3:30 pm ET on Monday he still hadn't had a chance to speak to him. Peyton Manning and the Broncos are preparing for a quick-turnaround Thursday night game this week, and so the schedule is a bit off.

"I just sent him a text message, told him congratulations and that I'm proud of him," Eli said. "Obviously, I know he was proud to get the win with it."
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ARLINGTON, Texas -- The two weeks that were going to tell us all about the 2014 New York Giants went about as poorly as they could have gone and told us everything we needed to know.

The Dallas Cowboys beat the Giants 31-21 on Sunday at AT&T Stadium to improve to 6-1. They lead the NFC East by a half-game over the idle Philadelphia Eagles, who are 5-1 and beat the Giants 27-0 last Sunday. The Giants are 3-4, well behind two teams that just beat them, and as they head into their bye week, they look absolutely nothing like a team with playoff hopes.

"This is our bye week, and when we come back, we want to be a great team," defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul said. "We have a good football team. When we get those kinks out of there, we'll be all right."

That is the right way for the players in the locker room to think, because their job is to take the field every week and give an honest effort to win games. But to those of us who stand on the outside and evaluate these teams against one another, it's clear that these Giants are not that good. They're not a terrible team, as they were this time last year, but they're not a contender either. They are a rebuilding team and clearly have been since they changed up the offense and blew out the free-agent budget in the offseason, signing more free agents than any other team.

And while the remainder of this year is likely to feature periods of encouraging progress, right now the Giants just don't have enough good players to hang with the top teams in the league.

"We've got to figure out a way to get better," quarterback Eli Manning said. "We have to eliminate the mistakes and the little things so we can execute better and find a way to sustain more drives."

The Giants were penalized six times for 40 yards, and the timing of the penalties was backbreaking. They lost two fumbles, the first of which came at a point when the game was still in question.

These are the mistakes to which Manning refers, and the Giants aren't a team that can overcome such mistakes. Given their significant personnel deficiencies relative to their division rivals, they need to be just about perfect to win games.

The Cowboys' offensive skill-position players Sunday around quarterback Tony Romo included Dez Bryant, DeMarco Murray, Terrance Williams, Jason Witten and emerging tight end Gavin Escobar. Their opposite numbers on the Giants were Rueben Randle, Andre Williams, Odell Beckham Jr., Larry Donnell and Daniel Fells. Size those groups up against each other and there's no reason to believe the game should have been close. That Giants' core has talent and promise, but no neutral observer could think it compares to the Cowboys' offensive personnel at this stage in the careers of the people on those lists.

Add in the fact that the Giants are missing top wide receiver Victor Cruz, starting running back Rashad Jennings, top cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and starting middle linebacker Jon Beason due to injury and lost starting defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins early in Sunday's game. These are significant losses to overcome, and the Giants at this stage in their roster rebuild don't have the depth to overcome them.

"We keep forgetting about that, because we have to come back and play next week," cornerback Prince Amukamara said. "But when you do lose key players, it definitely can hurt your team."

It's crippling the Giants, who needed everything possible to go right to contend this year. In the end, the best they can hope for this season is to be able to say at its end that they made progress in the new offensive scheme and have a plan for patching the remaining holes next offseason. Any talk of firing coaches is likely to be unjustified -- as it usually is -- because this is a roster-in-progress and a project that likely needs at least two years to bear fruit.

That's the reality of what the Giants are dealing with in 2014, and it always has been. Players like Beckham offer hope for the future, and this Giants team is likely to be better this time next year than it is right now. But right now, the simple fact is it's not good enough to be a contender. Not this year.

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