By Curt Macysyn
Giants general manager Jerry Reese indicated that his team “had little margin for error” in his remarks to the media this week. New York’s 0-6 start took most pundits by surprise, and it’s 2-6 record at the halfway point represents a number of failings at many different levels. And while Reese would like everyone to believe that improvement can be made in all aspects of the operation, the fact is that some players have performed, while others have not. Here’s a look at the key performers and key culprits in the first half of the Giants season.
Cruz stands fourth in the NFL in receiving yards with 677 yards overall in eight games, and he has clearly justified the contract extension he signed in the spring. Cruz, who technically is in his fourth year, has four touchdowns to his credit, although only one since his three touchdown performance against Dallas in week one. With 47 receptions to his name, Cruz is on pace to break his personal best of 86 receptions set last year. Cruz has been a constant in an ever-changing passing game for the Giants, and routinely he is Eli Manning’s go-to target in crunch time. In addition to what he brings statistically, Cruz brings his lunch pail every game, as the slot receiver has played in 40 consecutive games.
Quietly Amukamara has accumulated 45 tackles, which places him second on the Giants. In addition to his one interception, Amukamara is credited with six passes defended, which is tied for the team lead. More importantly, the third-year cornerback from Nebraska has provided stability in an injury-prone secondary. Amukamara’s ability to set the edge in run defense is vastly better than veterans, Corey Webster and Aaron Ross, and it makes targeting Amukamara’s side of the field, in the run or pass, a difficult proposition for the opposition.
Rolle has been vocal about the need for the Giants to pick up their play, but he has also demonstrated urgency on the field as well. Rolle’s interception against Josh Freeman of the Minnesota Vikings snuffed out a potential scoring drive and put the Vikings back on their heels. Minnesota’s offense would never see the end zone that day, and not coincidentally, the Giants got their first win of the season. Rolle leads the Giants with three interceptions, and he also has a quarterback sack for good measure. His 41 tackles places him third on the team.
The two-time Super Bowl MVP struggled mightily through the first six games (all losses) of the season, when he was on pace to throw 40 interceptions this year. Although Manning curtailed his turnover rate the past two weeks, he still leads the NFL in interceptions with 15. To understand how poorly Manning has played this season, his quarterback rating (68.4) is below that of Geno Smith and Christian Ponder. Manning has thrown 10 touchdown passes this year, the same number as Carson Palmer of the Arizona Cardinals. Even more detrimental than the actual interceptions is the fact that some have changed the momentum of the game completely, like his three interception performance in the fourth quarter against the Eagles in a game the G-men lost 36-21. Or his first play interception against the Dallas Cowboys on opening night that started the parade of follies that was to follow. To be fair, Manning has not had much help from his receiving corps, with the exception of Victor Cruz, so quarterback and receivers have to get on the same page for New York to make a run at the division.
Usually this space is reserved for players, but under the current condition, the Giants record can be attributed to either coaching or the roster in large part. Reese rightfully jettisoned some players after last year’s playoff miss, but also did a poor job of judging their replacements. Clearly David Wilson was not ready for prime time. The first round pick from Virginia Tech had fumblistis against the Cowboys, and it cost New York the season opener. Handing the starting running back position to him and oft-injured Andre Brown was a mistake. Picking up Brandon Jacobs and Peyton Hillis has proven helpful, but Reese should have recognized the need in pre-season. Keeping his draft pick Da’Rel Scott, instead of bring in either Jacobs or Hillis at that time, could have prevented the loss in Dallas. In addition, consider this, in four games newly acquired Jon Beason has more tackles than Keith Rivers does in eight games. The linebacking corps was a wish and a prayer from mini-camp and more help should have been targeted in the draft or via free agency. Finally, Reese used his second, third and fourth round picks on two defensive linemen and a quarterback, when clearly there were other pressing needs that needed to be addressed. It has not been a stellar season for the Giants general manager, who at times, seems overly committed to his own draft picks (i.e. Da’Rel Scott, Jernal Jernigan, Marvin Austin).
Having 34 catches for 521 receiving yards should not get you onto this list, but in Nicks case, more is expected and needed. Nicks has been credited with six drops on the season, which is third-most in the NFL. Nicks also does not have a touchdown grab this season, when the Giants can use some red zone help in the worst way. Even in the Giants victory against Minnesota, Nicks caught only two passes for 28 yards, when he was targeted 10 times. He was also credited with two dropped passes that game. Nicks sat out mini-camp, and at times, he looks disinterested in going into traffic, which had been his strong point. The Giants red zone woes will not turn around until Nicks commits himself to better play.
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Curt Macysyn has been covering the New York Football Giants for the past two seasons for Examiner.com. Born and raised in northern New Jersey, Curt has followed and covered the New York Metropolitan sports scene for 35 years. He attended Seton Hall Prep School in South Orange, NJ and is a graduate of Rutgers University, New Brunswick. His work can be found on Examiner.com.