By Curt Macysyn
Hopefully the New York Giants can push the reset button this week, as last week anything that could go wrong, did go wrong for Big Blue. After an impressive opening drive, the offense regressed significantly as the its offensive line was dominated by the front four of the Philadelphia Eagles. The storyline is eerily familiar from last season, but the team and its coach insist that this is a new squad and a new season.
This week, the Dallas Cowboys come to town, looking for a bounce back from a new starting quarterback, Matt Cassel, who replaces an ineffective Brandon Weedon. There are also rumblings from Big D that injured receiver Dez Bryant (broken foot) will try and make a go of it at the Meadowlands. Both teams have to push the chips to the middle of the table, as the loser of this game puts themselves squarely behind the eight ball in the NFC east race.
After much concern regarding the health of Giants tight end Daniel Fells, the team received good news this week, as Fells returned home after an 18-day hospitalization after he contracted a staph infection. Fells originally went to the hospital on October 2, and doctors had difficulty controlling the M.R.S.A infection that Fells had reportedly acquired through cortisone shots for an injured ankle.
Same Old Giants?
Of course the players and head coach Tom Coughlin are going to deny any similarities between this year’s team and last year’s squad. even though some of the same issues have reared their ugly head, almost to the day after another disappointing loss in Philadelphia. The question was raised on Tuesday, and Coughlin was terse in his response, “That was last year, this is a new year. What am I worried about? I’m worried about getting our team ready for the Dallas Cowboys. Forget about last year. Last year was last year.”
Offensive lineman Justin Pugh also thinks that similarities between the 2014 team and 2015 squad are like comparing apples and oranges. “I can speak for it personally, I know this is a better team than we had last year, and I know we are a resilient bunch,” Pugh said in an exclusive interview. “We are still excited at what we have been able to accomplish thus far this season, and we’re going to keep moving forward because everything we want to accomplish is still right in front of us.”
But some of the similarities bear watching, however, as the offensive line struggled with four of the starting five players being graded below average by Pro Football Focus. Only Pugh (+1.8) was graded as above average, and right tackle Marshall Newhouse continues to get poor grades with an overall (-16.6) on the season. Newhouse is ranked 74th out of 78 tackles in the PFF rating system. If the line cannot open holes for these running backs, then Eli Manning and the offense become one dimensional, and that has rarely worked for New York.
On the defensive side, Jayron Hosley could not hold down the fort in the absence of Prince Amukamara, and Hosley finished the game with a (-3.4) grade. With the lack of a consistent pass rush, a weak link in the secondary will continue to be exploited. The Giants did add cornerback Leon McFadden off of the Cardinals practice squad. How much of the defense he can absorb this week is anyone’s guess, but help is needed. Just like it was needed last season at some of the same positions.
Fells Returns Home
Tight end Daniel Fells returned home on Tuesday after spending almost three weeks in the hospital fighting off the effects of the M.R.S.A. bacterium. Fells reportedly contracted his staph infection through cortisone shots for an ankle injury, and he was placed on season-ending injured reserve by the team. Fells is an eight-year NFL veteran, who also played for New England, St. Louis and Atlanta in his career. He finished this season with six catches for 60 yards in games against Dallas and Washington.
Hopefully Fells can resume his NFL career, but for the remainder of this year, Fells’ presence will be missed on the field and in the locker room. The Giants other tight end, Larry Donnell, continues to be mistake-prone, and he has been graded out as a (-8.9) by Pro Football Focus. Donnell’s ranking puts him 60th out of 62 tight ends who have been graded in the entire NFL. Currently the Giants only have Will Tye as a reserve tight end with the squad. Tye is an undrafted rookie free agent from Stony Brook by way of Florida State, and he has six catches for 70 yards this season, after being elevated from the practice squad prior to the week 4 game against the Buffalo Bills.
Curt Macysyn has been covering the New York Football Giants for the past four seasons for Examiner.com, and he is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA). Born and raised in New Jersey, Curt attended Seton Hall Prep School in South Orange, N.J. and is a graduate of Rutgers University – New Brunswick. Follow him on Twitter @CurtMac23 for the latest NFL and New York Giants news.