By Bobby Cole
So first things first, Jerry Reese has an unbelievable eye for talent. We’re starting a washed up right tackle that no one wanted in Sean Locklear, an undrafted free agent at left guard in Kevin Boothe. A castaway backup in David Baas at center and I haven’t even gotten outside the offensive line yet! Giants fans have been hearing for a long time about the potential of some of these backups, but with so many established starters down with injuries this week you had the feeling this one could have gotten ugly. Tom Coughlin and his coaching staff deserve a lot of credit for getting these guys ready to play in less than ideal circumstances. The team has obviously bought into what he is preaching and they have a “Next Man Up” mentality.
The Giants moved the ball pretty much at will and it seemed like there was no hangover from the fourth quarter explosion Eli Manning had last week. The ground game was solid while the starters were in there and Eli distributed the ball well through the air. Ramses Barden played above and beyond expectations. All the measurables are there for this guy. He’s 6-6, runs a good route tree, attacks the ball at its highest point and catches it away from his body. I’ve heard through the grape-vine that the coaches believe he has the best straight line speed on the team. If you look back to the Jets game last year on Victor Cruz’s (we’ll get to him in a minute) 99 TD reception, you can actually see Barden gaining ground on him to try and block downfield. Once Nicks gets healthy I think this WR group can be scary with Cruz in the slot and Barden at the X.
The tight end situation was something that a few fans were worried about in the preseason. Martellus Bennett was a guy, who like Barden, had all the vitals to be a great NFL player. His biggest problem (and it probably helped in his development) was being behind Jason Witten in Dallas. He served mainly as a blocker and didn’t really get to show off his athleticism too much. Bennett was a big-time basketball recruit coming out of high school and had a great career at Texas A&M. He’s exactly the type of guy that Eli needs. He’s going to work the seam up the middle, expand the linebackers so Cruz and the other guys can work underneath and like we saw against Tampa Bay he’s fast enough and athletic enough to run that wheel route up the sideline that Kevin Gilbride likes so much.
Victor Cruz was solid on a night that he was facing double teams as soon as he got off the bus in Carolina. His stat line was 6 catches for 42 yards. Nothing spectacular but on a night when he was the biggest offensive threat the Giants had going into the game you wouldn’t expect there to be much room for him to work. I’m sure Tom Coughlin and receivers coach Kevin Gilbride Jr. have been telling him that he’s got to stop dancing so much after a catch, but that’s just the way he plays the game. We’ve seen him make some big plays as a result of him looking for those extra yards, but that’s just not the way the Giants play football. Take what’s there and live to play another down. I hope I’m wrong but he’s going to get blindsided one day and it’s going to cost the Giants big time.
Game Ball goes to the offensive line on this one. One would think that with David Diehl out the offensive line was going to be a weak spot that the Panthers might be able to exploit. Eli stayed on his feet the entire night and Andre Brown found plenty of room to run in his first NFL start (all the while putting up 38 freaking points on me in fantasy). Not much to say here because the NFL Network sucks at live broadcasts and doesn’t show coaches film all that much in the replay. But from what I saw Chris Snee dominated at the point of attack tonight and David Baas also had himself a heck of game.
Henry Hynoski has been an unsung hero for this team the past two years. At Pitt he got some goal line carries and also worked himself into the run game. But besides having an awesome last name and being the pride of Elysburg, PA he’s a devastating blocker and rarely misses an assignment. He provides Eli with a safety net out of the backfield and falls forward each time he touches the ball. He’s the prototypical fullback in a system that reminds people you can still throw the ball and run the ball to win games.
Not much to say about Carolina other than they held the Giants to 5 field goals attempts. If Eli and the offense were able to punch it in a few more times than this one would have been a lot uglier. Cam Newton is still an athletic freak, but last night the Giants did a good job of mixing their pass rush and blitzes and Cam didn’t seem comfortable in the pocket. Typically this is a quarterback that the Giants have trouble with (see: Michael Vick, Donovan McNabb and Vince Young). When things break down in the pocket and these guys make things happen with their feet the Giants have a tendency to break down in their coverages and that’s when the big play happens.
Ron Rivera has a young team that can grow but as a defensive minded coach he’s got to hang his hat on playing hard-nosed, stout D week in and week out. The linebackers were a step slow in coverage and didn’t fill their lanes in run support. As much as the Giants showed up offensively the Panthers were equally not present defensively. Like I said before, credit them with keeping the Giants out of the end zone for five drives but at that point we’re splitting hairs looking for praise.
Offensively the talent is there for the Panthers to be a dangerous team. I think they have to get back to the basics with what they’ve been successful with in the past. That means running the ball with their three backs in DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert. Get Cam Newton into space by rolling him out, running the zone read and making the game easier for him by cutting down on his progressions. Above all it means use the run-game to set up the play action and let Steve Smith work downfield for the big play.
Next up for the Panthers will be the Falcons in Atlanta. Matty Ice is probably the only quarterback who has looked better than Eli Manning so far this season but their run game has been under the influence lately (see what I did there?). The line on this game will probably be huge for NFL standards and I, for one, won’t be blaming Vegas one bit for that. The Panthers looked THAT bad last night.
The Giants get the Eagles in Philly on the 30th and that should be an interesting matchup. Sunday Night Prime Time with two NFC East teams is always fun to watch. Has there been a 2-0 team that has tried everything in their power to lose more than the Eagles have? It depends what the Eagles do this weekend, but I think they will be favored at home by the standard -3. Having said that, I wouldn’t touch this game with someone else’s dick. This is just the typical trap game for either team. Giants are hyped after a blowout in Carolina when they didn’t have some starters and the Eagles will be 3-0 since they play the Cardinals this week.