We have all heard about the bounties before. Defensive coaches would offer up smaller cash rewards for taking a player out of the game. Heck, any Giants fan (who's old enough) remembers that Buddy Ryan did it all the time back in the 80's.
On Friday we learned that DC Gregg Williams of the New Orleans Saints offered bounties on taking opposing players out of the game. This allegedly occurred while he was there in 2009, 2010 and 2011.
So why is it different this time?
Welcome to the NFL of 2012, where player safety cannot be taken seriously on one play when a player's head is taken off and then ignored when a coach is offering up bounties. If player safety is going to be a priority for the league, it must be enforced 100% of the time without inconsistent enforcement.
My own take is simple. If you want to remove (or add) anything from the league, start taking away draft picks. George Young never liked trading away his #1 pick for anything because of two reasons: (1) they can never second-guess you for the trade you never made (something which I inherently disagreed with, a topic for another post) and (2) it hurt your organization the following year when you could not participate in the renewal of the draft. So taking away a team's first round draft pick is painful punishment. It's your lifeblood. Taking away draft picks hollows out your organization, and it guts your soul.
If the evidence confirms that the Saints offered bounties, take away draft picks. The Saints will surely get the message and so will the rest of the league too. Money, fines, and suspensions are one thing. Take away those draft picks and it really hits the organization at its core- that will get the attention of all 32 teams and the bounties will disappear swiftly.
Seems like that is it for the Manningham Era with the Giants. People can now come out of the woodwork and nitpick the guy as he is out the door--He drops balls, He drifts on his routes (this one isn't original. We all heard Cris Collinsworth say it during the Super Bowl. Sure happy Mario "drifted" on his 38-yarder)--but the bottom line is that he is a damn good (and improving) football player and more likely then not, our replacement will be a downgrade. Reese has mentioned looking in-house to fill the potential void but lets look at free agency too. Domenik Hixon -The two-year long ACL battle really hurts his case but Hixon is a hard-worker and the kind of guy who will rehab dilligently . When he's healthy he's a pretty damn good receiver with a nice set of hands on him. We all know about his catch this season. Hixon did catch 43 passes in 2008 and played pretty well after Burress went down considering the enormitiy of the situation he was thrown into. On a side note---it's going to be refreshing to see a healthy Hixon get a shot at his punt return job back. The Giants see something in Hixon (or else they wouldn't have kept him around for this long) and appear set to re-sign him and give him a chance to prove himself this summer. If he is healthy, I truly think he can be a producer. He certainly has the ability to fill in for Manningham, especially with the guys around him. If healthy, he deserves a shot.
Jerrell Jernigan -Jernigan certainly progressed as the season went on, or else the Giants wouldn't have given him chances as the season wore down. We even got some appearences from him in the playoffs. From the sound of things Reese is willing to give Jernigan the chance at the spot, but how does he fit in with Nicks and Cruz? Just from the eye test, not that well. While I have no doubts Cruz is good enough to run the whole route tree from any spot, I just can't see Jernigan on the outside, but this guy....
Ramses Barden The 6'6'' frame is just too hard to pass up on and it seems the Giants feel this way as they are going on year four with Barden despite a career filled with limited opportunites and some injury issues. He made a pair of nice catches in New England this year in a pretty big/difficult spot but didn't look out of place in the moment. Why doesn't he get more of a shot? The Giants must not trust him yet. Who knows, maybe Barden feels the pressure of year four (maybe his last chance to prove himself) and turns in a nice effort in camp.
-Let's not get too wrapped up in giving the outside position to just one guy. There's no reason (although it is not likely) that all three of these guys can't come into camp and impress enough that they all earn some reps in 2012. That would be ideal for the Giants, who seem to like what each guy brings to the table in one way or another.
Pierre Garcon Probably will be a bit out of the Giants' price range but he is at least worth the look. Odds are he will go for something in the range of what Manningham will get (whoever signs first will set the market) but Garcon is a good, young player who too has turned in an impressive Super Bowl game of his own and had a great season in a miserable situation in 2011.
Jerricho Cotchery Doesn't seem like Pittsburgh is going to let him loose and that is probably a smart move. Cotchery is a gamer. He's someone who earned Ben's trust and is someone who Roethlisberger sees as a replacement for Hines Ward. That is the kind of guy who would be a good compliment to Nicks and Cruz if you ask me.
Eddie Royal Speedster from Denver who can get over the top and turned in an impressive rookie year in 08 with nearly 100 catches and 1000 yards and has gone downhill ever since. Not to make excuses (since Lloyd was great in Denver) but a rocky QB situation, at least in the last few years, has really hurt the stock of any receiver to wear orange and blue. He still has a ton of upside and he is someone that can come in for around $1 million, which is worth a look.
It's still early and Mannigham hasn't even left yet so this may all be premature. I'd love it if Manningham returned and all this proved to be a moot discussion. With the free agents, it's all a guessing game. Discussion is all we really have this time at this moment, but it does prepare us for some of the "route trees" that face the Giants in 2012.
There are many attributes of a good to great quarterback. We hear about today’s elite quarterbacks in Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Tom Brady having great accuracy, arms strength, ability to read defenses, decision-making and leadership. But there are other intangibles that are terribly difficult to quantify in the combine, much less individual workouts. Two of these attributes Eli Manning has begun to demonstrate a mastery of: pocket presence and poise.
One of those attributes, pocket presence, is basically the ability to evade the rush while reading his progressions. Many good quarterbacks have many quantifiable attributes but lack “feel of the pocket.” Think Jay Cutler or even Michael Vick.
The other is 'courage/poise” or in layman's terms, not buckling under pressure and knowing how to win. Ernie Accorsi wrote in his scouting report back in 2004 the following:
He has enough athletic ability to get out of trouble. But he has a feel for the pocket. Feels the rush. Most of all, he has that quality you can’t define. Call it magic. As [former Baltimore Colts defensive back] Bobby Boyd told me once about Unitas, “Two things set him apart: his left testicle and his right testicle.”… Peyton had much better talent around him at Tennessee. But I honestly give this guy a chance to be better than his brother. Eli doesn’t get much help from the coaching staff. Eli had to carry his team on his back. These guys are rare, you know.
Since 2007 Eli has the most combined 4th quarter comebacks and game winning drives with 20 (He set the record this past season with 8). Those behind him are Peyton with 18, Brees with 18, Big Ben with 16, Ryan with 16, Rivers with 12 and Brady with 11. I am sure Eli would rather let Drew Brees take home all the individual records while he continues his quest of compiling statistics to show how he wins when it counts.
Two weeks ago we wrote about the issues at the tackle position for the Giants’ offensive line. Diehl ranked dead last in the league in pass blocking efficiency (he also ranked dead last at guard as well) with McKenzie finishing only 6 spots better and Beatty ranking 50 out of 75 tackles in a study by Pro Football Focus. Given these individual numbers the Giants’ offensive line finished dead last in terms of pass blocking efficiency with a rating of -99.2 (run blocking they were rated 29th in the league). Yet we need to take into account the added pressure on the offensive line by the play calling. Eli led the league with 109 deep ball passes versus an average of 72 in another study by Pro Football Focus. As a result of these numbers, Eli was under duress 244 times out of 627 times he dropped back to pass with the next highest total for the league, 208, by the Panthers. Therefore, Eli was under pressure 39% of the time. You would expect a quarterback to become very average from this amount of pressure. But remarkably, Eli led the league in accuracy under pressure with a 69.4% accuracy rating. The next highest was Brees with a 69.2% accuracy rating who conversely was pressured on just 25% of his drop backs versus Eli’s 39%. Let us also take in to consideration that Brees is a timing and rhythm passer who relies more on short to intermediate throws.
Before the beginning of the 2011 season we heard Coughlin preach about how Eli needs to make better decisions with the ball to avoid the elevated interception ratio he achieved in 2010. In 2011, under duress Eli threw the ball away 25 times versus the league average of 14. This was a big improvement from last year, when he threw it away just 12 times under pressure and achieved a 57% accuracy ratio.
Don’t be surprised if, in the words of Jerry Reese, “there will be change this time” again. That change was the waiver of Shaun O’Hara and Richie Seubert last year. David Diehl almost never misses any starts, and that alone makes him a favorite of the coaches. Just expect there to be turnover on the OL, with plenty of jobs up for grabs.
Eli's poise and pocket presence enabled him to be a much more effective QB than the passing and pass blocking statistics would otherwise indicate. The NY Giants QB has become elite by evading the rush, throwing the ball away, taking more sacks instead of interceptions, and still managing to go deeper down the field. In short, Eli is elite because he has put together all of the intangibles.
Opposing teams will make Eli Manning go to someone else. Because WR Mario Manningham, one of the Giants' heroes from Super Bowl XLVI, will be playing for another team in 2012. His spectacular post season will land him a lucrative free agent contract. Yesterday, at the NFL Combine located at Lucas Oil Field, Giants GM Jerry Reese spoke about Mario Manningham's situation.
“He’s a good football player, and obviously players, when free agency comes around for them, they want to make as much money as possible,” Reese said today. “So we’ll see how it unfolds. But he is a good football player, and we’re glad he’s been a Giant for us and his contributions are outstanding for us. We’ll see what happens moving forward with respect to that.”
Reading between the lines, the Giants and Manningham are going to part ways. Like Gibril Wilson and Kawika Mitchell four years ago, Manningham will get a significant raise in a month. In the meantime, with the expected departure of Manningham, the Giants will have to find their third wide receiver. Is this guy on the Giants roster? Perhaps, the oft-injured Ramses Barden can fill this void. Or last year's rookie Jerrel Jernigan can step up. Let us not forget about Domenik Hixon. Can he make a full recovery from knee surgery? We shall see.
On Friday, we learned THREE Giants' defensive linemen underwent off season surgery. Justin Tuck, Linval Joseph, and Chris Canty all went under the knife. Tuck had work done on his shoulder. While Joseph had bone chips removed from his ankle, and Canty's knee was "cleaned" up. Because three defensive linemen had surgery, does this mean the Giants will extend Osi Umenyiora's contract? At this point, it sure seems like Osi is a lock to remain a Giant until he retires. Clearly, Reese's belief system has been the defensive line is the cornerstone of the Giants defense. With three starters having surgery, and last year's rookie Marvin Austin coming off a lost season, it seems to me Reese's hand is forced. Factor in the fact the Giants caught fire when Osi, Tuck, and JPP were all playing at the same time. Yesterday, Reese commented about Osi.
“We are open to everything right now,” Reese said. “But we don’t know what we can do yet. We don’t even know what the cap number is going to be. There are a lot of issues that we have to fix and address. So we will see what will happen, though.”
Sure-handed Patriots' wide receiver Wes Welker dropped albeit a difficult ball, without question, was the turning point of Super Bowl XLVI. With the Patriots up 17 to 15 and with exactly 4 minutes left in the contest, Welker could not corral Patriots quarterback Tom Brady's throw. If we look back at this crucial play, on the surface, Brady did not make an accurate pass. Thus, this caused Welker to twist his body around to look for the ball. Consequently, Welker let the ball slip throw his fingers. Instead of the Patriots adding to their lead and perhaps winning this Super Bowl, they were forced to punt. Then it was Eli Time.
Boston Globe's Greg Bedard wrote an article about this infamous drop which will forever be part of Super Bowl lore. Unlike Jackie Smith's regrettable dropped pass from Roger Staubach in Super Bowl XIII, Welker's drop had a higher degree of difficulty. Bedard asked NFL coaches about this play. One is an anonymous quarterbacks and the other a receivers coach. Here is their take:
Two veteran NFL assistant coaches - a quarterbacks coach and a receivers coach - were asked about the play. They don’t know the exact play-call and how the Patriots teach the play, but they agreed that the back-shoulder throw was not the type of pass Welker expected.
“You don’t have to throw a back-shoulder on that because you’re in the seam, and if you’ve thrown it properly, you beat the safety by taking some air out of the throw,’’ the quarterbacks coach said. “I think that was an inaccurate ball. Anytime you get an inaccurate ball, that’s a tough catch when you’re running vertically toward the goal line like Welker was.
“I wouldn’t count that as a drop if I were charting my football team.’’
The receivers coach agreed, to a point.
“You expect that ball to be in front,’’ he said. “But in the end, it was a catchable ball. Was it where it should have been? No, it’s not where you normally expect it. You’d like it out in front and just run into it.
“It was behind him and it would have been, not a great catch, but a good catch. And he just missed the ball.’’
On the contrary, according to Eric Edholm at Pro Football Weekly, he looked at this play through a different prism. Brady floated a pass that hit Welker in the hands. He twisted around, the pass not quite perfect but darned good, and dropped it. Furthermore, the Giants secondary blew their coverage. The Giants botched their coverage on the play, rotating from a two-deep to a single-high safety look. One problem: Not everyone got the message. Kenny Phillips was out of position, and it allowed Welker, who was running up the inside edge of the numbers, to get free, more wide open than he — or any other Patriots receiver — had been all game. "We were in a man-coverage concept, and the set they came out in (five wide receivers) moved us to a different concept," Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said. "We tried to communicate that; everyone wasn't able to hear it."
Based on Edholm's analysis, Brady's throw not perfect but darn good, a busted coverage which allowed Welker to find an open space in the Giants defense, and a reliable receiver not being able to secure the football. Was there something else going on here?
Using physics, Dr. Eric Goff, Associate Professor of Physics and Chair of the Physics Department at Lynchburg College, provided his explanation on Welker's dropped pass. "Though not perfect, Brady's pass found Welker between three Giants defenders. Welker was rotating clockwise in an attempt to make the catch. Newton's laws tell us that initiating rotation takes a torque, which is a force multiplied by a lever arm distance," Dr. Goff said. He goes on. "In Welker's case, the force came from friction between his shoes and the turf; the lever-arm distance was the distance from his shoes in contact with the turf and the vertical rotation axis passing through his head and torso. Catching a ball while rotating is tough, but Welker had made tougher catches in his career."
Goff is much smarter than me. However, in his analysis, he does not account for the playing surface. Even though Lucas Oil Field has been praised by players for being an outstanding surface, unfortunately, it is an artificial surface. And artificial turf does have its limitations. According to Skylar Christensen of naturesfinestseed.com: Artificial turf has a higher coefficient of friction, meaning that players are more likely to “stick” to the surface instead of sliding naturally across it. After viewing the replay on of this play in slow motion, it appears, Welker's foot gets "caught" in the turf. As a result, he was unable to gain his balance. As Goff did state, the force came from the friction between his shoes and the turf. Nevertheless, the force of friction is much greater on an artificial surface than grass. Putting this together, one can deduce this is why he did not make this catch.
In a season in which this Giants team caught many breaks, the biggest break happened to be the playing surface at the Super Bowl. If this game was played on grass, perhaps, Super Bowl XLVI could have had a different outcome.