While it may not be accurate to describe the Giants psyche as “terrified” coming into this Sunday’s matchup with the 3-0 Bears, its certainly a far cry from confident. Holes in the offensive line, problems on special teams, and now the loss of their top receiver, all coming after two straight weeks of lackluster play, are creating some major worries in the Big Blue Nation.
The Giants have been peppered with questions about Julius Peppers this week — where will he line up, how big and scary he is, how he can make the G-Men look like little kids on a Pop Warner squad. While all signs point to the Jints being ill-prepared for the showdown with Peppers, part of me does believe the hyper-worry and hyper-preparation for Peppers may control the huge lineman, even if to allow “other players to beat you.” Which they may gladly do in fact.
A whopping 52% of giants.com poll respondents believe the O-line is the most glaring weakness coming into Week 4, more than three times as much as any other area. However, the almost equally crappy play of special teams can’t be far behind. Coach Tom Coughlin has had to field a potpourri of questions this off week concerning their very green punter Matt Dodge, and in particular the very dangerous man Dodge will be kicking to, Devin Hester. ”Kick it out of bounds. Don’t let him have the ball.” was Coughlin’s succinct advice for his punter. Not an odd strategy by any means, and yet it smacks of a lack of confidence from which this team seems to be suffering.
The likely loss of leading receiver (by yards gained) Mario Manningham, due to a concussion, really hurts. He was the Giants most consistent (= only?) playmaker during weeks 1-3, and without him Big Blue will turn to the likes of Victor Cruz and Ramses Barden. The on-the-job training of these inexperienced wideouts may come at the expense of ball safety, particularly given Eli Manning’s tendency to fling the ball into traffic with reckless abandon. At least half of Eli’s six interceptions could have been prevented if the Giant receivers didn’t insist on tipping and volleyballing catchable balls to defenders.
The Giants seem caught of guard by Manningham’s concussion, and were not expecting the “slowdown” they saw from Mario in practice as a result. While I’m glad Manningham didn’t have a devastating injury and that he has not apparently suffered from bad headaches (if you believe Coughlin), the concept of Manningham’s synapses not firing properly as he sleepwalks through practice is somewhat grim. Don’t get me started on concussions, a vastly misunderstood area of sports medicine in which misinformation and the aggressive desire to win can cause players to return too soon and to possibly suffer long term consequences later. Not that there is a shifty doctor a la James Woods in “Any Given Sunday,” making decisions, but please Giants, lets be conservative on Manningham’s return timetable so we can enjoy a long and prosperous career from this talented former Wolverine.
Well, if my doom and gloom analysis is not getting you hyped for the game, perhaps the Giants unveiling of their Ring of Honor will be the most exciting thing that happens Sunday night. The Giants have not yet revealed the thirty names that will be in The Ring, (including players as well as coaches and management) so there will be some potentially interesting conversations about who made the cut and who didn’t. The timing of The Ring is a little odd, because the greatest player to ever suit up for the G-Men is now a child raper (allegedly). It would be ludicrous to leave Lawrence Taylor out of The Ring, yet to celebrate him at the moment just feels wrong as well. Ah, Lawrence, why couldn’t you just stick to smoking crack and at least leave us some ground to appreciate you.
Also, I wonder if Tiki Barber will be included on The Ring based on his deserving on-field accomplishments, or if the perception that he was as bad a teammate as he is a broadcaster will keep him out. I do hope some of my alltime favorites such as Mark Bavaro, Maurice Carthon, Otis Anderson, Amani Toomer, Carl Banks and Rodney Hampton all make it, but they may be viewed as somewhat marginal elements in the Giants story, even though for my money they are key components of the Giants image and legacy.
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Written by Mark Reichman