Tuesday, September 15, 2009

At Giants, After Further Review

Room to improve

Without full time to digest the entire chattering class, that likely will come tonight, I have some additional thoughts on the Giants game.

First, it sucked watching the Redskins lose. It would have sucked to lose to anyone on Opening Day after an injury free preseason dedicated to the improved awesomeness of the Washington defense and the no really look how much better Malcolm Kelly and Devin Thomas ares for eight weeks. Division losses just hurt that much more.

Second, if there is a conventional wisdom about the game, it seems to be all over the place but none of the comment or criticism is necessarily mutually exclusive; it is obvious to me that while each of us saw a different game, similar takeaways emerge. There was poor execution and poor coaching, enough to go around and let everyone come to their own conclusions.

Santana Moss
I thought the Giants did a fine job neutralizing the Redskins lead receiver, the team's principle deep threat finished with two catches for six yards, Santana waited until the end of the second quarter to get his first catch, for a two yard loss, then waited until deep in the fourth quarter to get his second and positive yards.

James Trotta from the NFL-Giants blog commented on today's gamewrap:

Interesting that you say the Giants gameplanned to take Santana Moss out of the game. All they really did was put Corey Webster, probably the Giants best player, on Moss. Webster seemed to take care of Moss all by himself.

Yes true, Corey seemed to get into Santana's head early and it kept him off his game. As the game wore on I also saw defensive backs in zones cheating over on Santana, several times when the camera caught Santana's route it sure looked like it was Corey in man coverage for fifteen yards, then a cheating safety to run the route to ground, said safety being not challenged by much of anything but Antwaan Randle El.

So add up Corey Webster, Santana's temper, downfield double teams and the Giants bringing the blitz to force Jason Campbell to find other outlets and you have a gameplan that neutralized the Redskins principle receiving threat.

Clinton Portis and the running game
Nothing. There. Giants linemen stuffed the gaps and the linebackers read the plays immediately. Predictable playcalling? Poor run blocking? I vote both on this one. All concerns about Jason Campbell and the passing game aside, if the Redskins cannot run the ball effectively they are fucked.

Jason Campbell and the passing game
Probably the most diappointing aspect of the game, for the most part Jason had all the time he needed to pass the ball, there were simply no obviously open routes and Jason was hesitant to try and force it. Yes the fumble, Jason should have stepped up in the pocket, Chris Samuels did not get torched but he sure did get beat on by Osi Umenyiora on that play.

Beginning with Terrell Suggs last season against the Ravens we will now see Chris Samuels get pushed around more and more by the other team's premier pass rusher.

As for Jason, unfortunately the coverage hit-fumble looks that much worse when you make other glaring errors, like throwing an illegal forward pass beyond the line of scrimmage and then have it intercepted because you waited for your receiver to fall out of bounds, it was to Santana that Jason Campbell was throwing to on that play, Giants cornerback Corey Webster really just stood there and caught it as Santana fell out of bounds. Enough mistakes by Jason on that play alone to keep the Redskins video team up all night cursing and chugging Mountain Dew.

The pass protection was adequate given the opponent. Jason needs to step up his decision making and make throws. I already read somewhere this morning, I think on Twitter, that the team does not want Jason to make too many downfield passes because he is not accurate beyond 30 yards. I say he has no confidence in where his receivers not named Santana, Chris or Antwaan will be when the ball gets there. Maybe this gets better with repetition, maybe it does not.

Speaking of, Antwaan and Chris Cooley were excellent, we need more than that, can I get a second year receiver to step up one time? Jamie Mottram at Mister Irrelevant puts starter Malcolm Kelly in the loser column for this game, one catch for six yards.

And at this point the story bends back to the beginning with Santana Moss, with no other serious downfield receiving options making plays the Giants could afford to put an extra man on Santana, and force the run, when the run did not go Jason was forced to look beyond Santana and Clinton and options were limited.

Defensive line and pass rush
It was Tony Almeida that noted early in the game that the Redskins at one point rushed only two linemen, that sort of set a tone we noticed all day while watching the game, a hesitation to bring serious pressure consistently, presumably for fear of big runs and Eli finding a hot route.

I saw consistent pressure at the line when the play called for it, Albert Haynesworth and Brian Orakpo both spent time behind the line, I just think the defensive coaches chose not to bring it as often as they should have, four or five times a player got a glove on Eli, he danced away and made a throw, most of the time you could see players dropping back or freezing and reading run. I lay this on the coaches.

I think this is consistent with those like Brian Hunter and Rob K in comments that were not impressed with the pass rush, they are looking at results, I think I saw playcalling.

A final note on the line as well, it is ok to say it: Albert Haynesworth gets winded easily, while the weather is warm the team will simply have to manage it. We will know by midseason if it impacts the team in a significant way.

Defensive backs
Awful. The Giants went to camp with ten receivers looking for someone to replace Plaxico Burress, then they cut Super Bowl hero David Tyree. In no way do I disrespect the Giants receivers, Steve Smith and Mario Manningham caught those balls Eli threw off balance running from a pass rush, they just made plays.

So if you concede that Eli can make good throws quickly and he knows how to get to his receivers, and they can catch it then you are still left with a big matzoh ball of plays the defensive backs should still be able to make.

Tackling: terrible. Mario Manningham got through Fred Smoot (and Andre Carter) and DeAngelo Hall on his way to the end zone. Carlos Rogers dropped another interception, then disappeared until the fourth quarter. LaRon Landry had a critical late hit penalty. Chris Horton had the best game of the defensive backs, hanging near the line and contributing to run defense, including one excellent dash unblocked into the backfield for an unassisted tackle for loss of Brandon Jacobs. In passing Chris got caught behind the play a couple of times.

After leading the league in three and outs last season on the strength of these defensive backs, as Mark Newgent points out, the Redskins generated none yesterday.

To be fair, one touchdown and three field goals, sixteen points, that is what the Redskins defense allowed, that looks a lot like last year, the Giants are just a good team and the Redskins needed to do better on offense.

Jason Campbell: Bill Kostroun / AP photo from here.