Friday, October 2, 2009

Giants Wk. 4 Outlook: Light at the End of the Tunnel

(Giants' Steps takes stock of the Giants' injury prospects and reviews some Week 3 storylines.)

Before I say a word, let me preface this article with this:


The Giants have been bombarded with injuries through the first three weeks of the season. They started off Week 4 with 11 players listed on the injury report, including key contributors DE Justin Tuck, WR Domenik Hixon and RT Kareem McKenzie, projected starters DT Chris Canty, CB Aaron Ross, and surprise addition RB Ahmad Bradshaw. Although it is the longest injury report of the season for Big Blue, things might actually be turning a corner on the injury front…

Speaking of Corners

In spite of the absence of one of last year’s starters, Ross, and last year’s primary nickleback, Kevin Dockery, the Giants secondary has been stellar in 2009. The Giants boast the league’s best pass defense, allowing only 124 yards per game through the air, and they are tied for fifth in the league in interceptions with 5. Perhaps most impressive, they’ve done it with only three healthy corners.

Corey Webster has continued to build off of a Pro Bowl-caliber season in 2008. He consistently shuts down the opposing team’s primary target. His tip-toe sideline interception in Week 1 was one of the sickest picks I’ve ever seen. Second year man Terrell Thomas continues to mature with every passing week. His coverage skills are very impressive and as his awareness develops, this will only lead to more turnovers. Rookie FA Bruce Johnson has been one of the best surprises of this young season. And then there were four:

What's up Dock?

With a full week of practice under his belt, Dockery is expected to return to the mix against KC. The defensive backfield has been outstanding at about 60% strength. How good can it be at 75%? At 90%? Opposing offenses are about to find out.

Is the Giants Passing Attack About to Get More Dangerous?

While some savvy Giants fans may have predicted the team’s pass defense would shine in 2009 (author included), I don’t know that any realist could have anticipated the success Eli Manning and company have enjoyed with the passing attack. The Giants’ QB has been stellar in the early stretch of the season, completing 65 percent of his passes, with 5 touchdowns, 1 interception and the third best QB rating in the league at 104.1.

His targets have been equally superb, despite two of the top four wide receivers missing time. The two – Hakeem Nicks and Hixon – appear poised to return this week. In their absence, Steve Smith and Mario Manningham have become the top receivers in the NFC. Smith leads the way with 277 yards, and Mannigham is close behind with 263. Both players have caught two touchdown passes through three games.

Nick flashed speed and play-making ability in the pre-season.

Inject first round pick Nicks, who led the league in receiving yards during the pre-season, and the steady Hixon back into the fold, and I don’t know that defenses will know where to focus their energies at the position.

The 36-5

When the Giants finished massacring Tampa Bay last week, with LG Rich Seubert on the sidelines with a sore shoulder and RT Kareem McKenzie in the locker room with a knee sprain, it appeared an impressive streak might be in jeopardy for the most consistent offensive line in football.

A major piece of the Giants’ successes in recent years has been the fact that the same five men have started 35 consecutive regular season games. With Seubert not even on the injury report Week 4 and McKenzie practicing fully all three days, the legend of the “Iron Line” grows…

Kenny Phillips Elects Surgery

While the line manages to stay on the field, there was some off-the-field news from Giants Land this week. Safety Kenny Phillips, placed on IR last week, underwent successful micro-fracture surgery on Tuesday. He broke the news on his blog.

Phillips will not be allowed run to for at least four months, but he was back at the Meadowlands for treatment on Thursday. Phillips feels extremely confident he will be back on the field ready to go next season. He is already able to put weight on the knee and claims he is feeling no pain. Encouraging signs – attitude and physical indications both – for the young Giants play-maker’s recovery.

Getting Stronger

Bradshaw, Tuck and McKenzie are all slated to play Sunday, and Dockery, Nicks and Hixon could all return to action as well. Rookie LB Clint Sintim has been getting increased reps and should be back very soon. The upcoming games against the Chiefs and Raiders are critical for the younger players, and those that haven’t seen the field in a while, to get reps in before a very difficult four-game stretch against playoff caliber teams.

The Giants have been impressive in spite of the injuries, but with this current crop returning to the field, it’s about to go up a notch. The tunnel is long, but there appears to be light ahead…for the Giants at least.

Other teams? They won’t see light…just blue.

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Giants 3 - 0
Sack Count: 3
Take-away Count: 7

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