NFC East: New York Giants

Notes: Giants RBs hope to do more

September, 19, 2014
Sep 19
4:30
PM ET
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- One of the few bright spots for the New York Giants during the preseason was the team's new combination at running back.

Free agent acquisition Rashad Jennings and fourth-round draft pick Andre Williams looked like a potent one-two punch in the backfield.

But, through two regular-season games, the Giants are ranked 29th out of 32 NFL teams in rushing yards per game -- the same lowly spot they were ranked a year ago.

And their average output, 67 yards, is even significantly lower than last year (83.3).

Yes, it's only been two games -- but the Giants desperately need a stronger running game to be successful this year.

Jennings
"I put the running game on us in the backfield," Jennings said Friday. "The offensive linemen, when they get a body on a body, the running back's gotta dig out hard yards and move the chains. I take responsibility for that."

Jennings has 34 carries for 110 yards, averaging 3.2 yards per carry. He also had a very costly fumble in the fourth quarter of last Sunday's loss to the Arizona Cardinals.

Williams has gained just 21 yards on 13 carries (1.6 yards per carry), and coach Tom Coughlin said Thursday that he believes Williams is going through some natural rookie growing pains.

"He missed a couple opportunities the other night and he’s well aware of it," Coughlin said. "He made the error of not believing or not staying with his initial key and kind of getting off and being a little helter skelter and then finding nothing."

Williams, who led the NCAA in rushing yards a year ago at Boston College, doesn't sound like he's lost his swagger, though.

"I think we just have to execute better, play faster, play with more confidence, and just make sure we stick to our fundamentals," Williams said. "I think this week is gonna be a good week for the run game."

The Giants' opponent this week, the Houston Texans, are ranked 18th in rushing defense, allowing 116 yards per game. But they're giving up 5.0 yards per carry -- tied for the worst mark in the league.

If the Giants can't run the ball effectively this week, that's a really bad sign.

Music to our ears: As the Giants were stretching at the start of practice on Friday, loud music was playing, including "Hypnotize" by The Notorious B.I.G.

This is commonplace at Rex Ryan's New York Jets practices, for instance, but not common at all with Tom Coughlin's Giants -- leading to a question about it afterward.

"The players wanted that," Coughlin said. "We’ve done that before; we did it years ago. Just a little bit of noise in the air, like a stadium pregame."

Coughlin added that the topic came up during a meeting with the players' leadership council.

This appears to be another example of Coughlin loosening up a little bit -- but he clearly did not pick the soundtrack.

"What’s an iPod?" Coughlin said. "I see everybody with these things sticking out of their ears all the time. What the heck? What, you need music to run? You can’t exercise without that stuff? What the heck?"
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New York Giants middle linebacker Jon Beason was not on the field again Thursday during the portion of practice open to the media.

Beason
Beason, who aggravated a previous foot injury in last Sunday's loss to the Arizona Cardinals, was also absent Wednesday, but coach Tom Coughlin did not rule him out for this coming Sunday's game against the Houston Texans.

Fellow linebacker Devon Kennard (hamstring), who did not practice Wednesday, either, did make an appearance on the field Thursday, but was just doing some light work on the side.

The same goes for rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham, who is also dealing with a hamstring injury.

Punter Steve Weatherford (ankle) was back in action after sitting out practice Wednesday.

We'll have more later after post-practice interviews with Coughlin and the players.

Texans vs. Giants preview

September, 18, 2014
Sep 18
8:00
AM ET
video
The Houston Texans are 2-0, just like they were at this time last season when they lost in Week 3 and didn't win again all season en route to the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft.

The New York Giants are 0-2, just like they were at this time last season when they lost in Week 3 and didn't win until Week 7 en route to a 7-9 season and an offseason overhaul.

Well, someone should win in Week 3 this season because the Texans and Giants play each other at 1 p.m. ET Sunday at MetLife Stadium. Here are ESPN Texans reporter Tania Ganguli and ESPN Giants reporter Dan Graziano with your preview of the game:

Graziano: Tania, what's going on down there? One thing we thought we knew about Ryan Fitzpatrick was that he would throw interceptions. But so far he hasn't. What's been the key for the Texans' offense in terms of taking care of the ball?

Ganguli: I had an inkling this might happen but was already taking so much heat for predicting eight wins for the formerly 2-14 Texans that I opted to wait and see. What we've seen is a quarterback making good decisions and doing exactly what the Texans have asked of him. He's had a lot of time from an offensive line that hasn't given up a sack, and he's had help from receivers who are keen to make life easy on him with their athletic ability and intelligence. He also hasn't faced very opportunistic defenses, which helps.

I had this game penciled in as a loss for the Texans before the season began, but having seen the Giants these first two weeks, I'm not so sure about that anymore. I guess I have the same question for you. What's going on up there? What do you make of this 0-2 start?

Graziano: Seems like more of the same to me, honestly. I think people in this market are starting to recalibrate their expectations of the Giants, and I don't think it will be long before the perception around the league catches up.

They are a rebuilding team in a league and market that don't allow anyone to say that out loud. Last year's team was one of the worst in the league, and its 7-9 record was deceptively good -- built on a run of backup opposing quarterbacks and some December wins against teams that had shut it down. To the Giants' credit, they didn't get fooled, and they went out in the offseason and rebuilt the roster. They signed more free agents than any other team, which isn't the way they like to operate, but they had no choice given all their holes.

The result is a work in progress. The offense was incompetent in the preseason and the opener in Detroit. It showed improvement (and some competence) in Sunday's loss to Arizona, but it's clear it takes a lot for the Giants to score and they lack any true dynamic threats in the offense. They are also weak in pass protection, especially in the middle of the line, where retirements and injuries have left them a bit short.

As I write that, I'm thinking about J.J. Watt (maybe because he's on every other commercial that comes on my TV). Should a Giants offense that's not very exciting and can't protect its quarterback reliably be panicked about that Houston defensive front, even without Jadeveon Clowney?

Ganguli: They could learn something from the way the Raiders played the Texans. Oakland planned well for Watt and kept him without a tackle Sunday, doubling him constantly. Of course, that was a week after he had one of the best games of his career (blocked extra point, fumble recovery, sack, batted pass, two tackles for loss). I would say, yes, they should panic a little. Beyond Watt, a guy to watch is outside linebacker Brooks Reed, who got a game ball after their Week 1 win, along with Watt.

The Giants should be equally concerned about what's been an opportunistic secondary in the first two weeks. Last weekend, the Texans' secondary forced two fumbles and intercepted Raiders quarterback Derek Carr once. Safety D.J. Swearinger has been part of three of the Texans' six forced turnovers. He is a character, and it's been working great for the Texans this year.

I know the Giants made a lot of changes on their defense. Do you see them ending Fitzpatrick's streak of clean games?

Graziano: Well, they're due, I'll tell you that. But it's hard to imagine they're the team to do it. The Giants are one of three teams in the league -- along with Pittsburgh and Kansas City -- that doesn't yet have a takeaway. Combine that with their five giveaways and the 0-2 record doesn't need a lot more explanation. Tom Coughlin and Antrel Rolle talked Monday about the need to force some turnovers and get some free field position. But especially considering they spent so much on the secondary so it would be the strength of their team, the inability of their defensive backs to get interceptions is one of the more puzzling aspects of their slow start.

The Giants gave up 124 rushing yards to the Cardinals on Sunday, which annoyed Coughlin as well. And they haven't been able to run the ball very well themselves. Do you imagine Houston will be able to control the game on the ground with Arian Foster?

Ganguli: Boy, that description of the Giants and turnovers sounds a lot like the Texans last season. They were never able to break out of it, and the 2-14 record reflected that.

Foster and the Texans' offensive line were dominant against the Raiders' run defense last week. Foster had 28 carries for 138 yards and a touchdown. The Texans ran the ball 46 times, a lot of it during garbage time, and threw only 19 passes. Foster already has 55 carries in the Texans' first two games, a number no running back has reached in the first two games of the season since Chester Taylor in 2006. The Texans aren't afraid to work him, and if they're facing another bad run defense, they'll be able to exploit it.

The Texans had growing pains offensively in their season opener, as it was the first time the entire starting unit played together in a game in Bill O'Brien's system. The Giants also learned a new offensive system during the offseason. Can you attribute any of the slow start to the learning curve there, and have you seen signs of improvement?

Graziano: I think that's part of it, and you definitely saw in the "Monday Night Football" opener in Detroit that there were some issues with Eli Manning's footwork and his timing with his receivers. You see a zone run play every now and then where Rashad Jennings doesn't make the right cut. There's some learning still going on.

But I think the main problem, unfortunately for the Giants, is one they can't solve in-season. I don't think they have enough high-quality players at the key positions to run any offense and make it high-scoring. Victor Cruz is their best receiver, and he's a slot guy who's dropping too many balls. The interior of the offensive line is still a patchwork mess. Larry Donnell is catching passes at tight end, but he's still a liability as a blocker, which is hurting the run game. Will Beatty's performance at left tackle is inconsistent from week to week. They're just not very good, and it's hard to imagine that this 14 points per game trend is an aberration -- especially with another tough defense coming to town.

But we'll see. That's why they play the games and all that. Enjoyed the chat, Tania. Travel safe, and I'll see you Sunday.

video

Preston Parker gets his chance at WR

September, 17, 2014
Sep 17
4:30
PM ET
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Jerrel Jernigan was not a "starting" wide receiver officially. But the New York Giants are in three-wide receiver sets on the vast majority of their offensive plays, and with rookie Odell Beckham Jr. sidelined to start the season, Jernigan was playing a significant role as one of the outside receivers in those three-wide sets.

Parker
Jernigan went on injured reserve Tuesday, which means his season is over. Beckham, who still hasn't practiced with the team since July 22 because of a hamstring injury, isn't ready yet. So the Giants need someone else from their bench to fill that spot opposite Rueben Randle when Victor Cruz goes into the slot. And first up will be Preston Parker.

"He will have that opportunity," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said Wednesday. "He's been in the league. He's very quick. He's played before. He's got a good attitude about it. He's a tough guy, and hopefully he'll make a strong contribution."

Parker made the team as a bench wide receiver and a punt returner because of injuries to punt-return options Beckham and Trindon Holliday. Parker caught one 29-yard pass in relief of Jernigan in Sunday's loss to the Cardinals. He caught 40 passes for 554 yards and three touchdowns as a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2011, but he played in only two games in 2012 and was out of football last season.

"It's an opportunity," Parker said. "It's an opportunity for me to take advantage of and try and make something happen. I remember I was at that high, and I went through those lows and now I'm back to that high again. You have to appreciate that."

The other options at wide receiver right now are undrafted rookie Corey Washington, who became a preseason cult hero with his 6-foot-4 frame and the four touchdown passes he caught in the exhibition games, and Julian Talley, who was added from the practice squad Tuesday. Parker gets the first shot at replacing Jernigan because of his experience. Washington has been used sparingly, when the team goes to four-wide sets and occasionally at the goal line.

Beckham again worked on a side field Wednesday. There's almost no chance he plays Sunday against Houston, and because the Giants' next game is only four days later, he's not likely to see the field in Week 4 either.

Giants OL Eric Herman is back, sort of

September, 17, 2014
Sep 17
3:45
PM ET
video
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New York Giants offensive lineman Eric Herman was suspended for the first four games of the 2014 season for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing drugs. But due to the revised drug policy announced Wednesday, Herman's suspension has been voided and he is eligible to return to the team effective immediately. Herman got this news via a phone call from Giants assistant GM Kevin Abrams while he was driving to work out Wednesday.

"I made a U-turn and got here as fast as I could," Herman said.

Herman
Thing is, though, the Giants don't have a roster spot for Herman right now and would have to release someone from their 53-man roster in order to put him on it. So he wasn't allowed to practice. (The team said he watched practice in pads.) The Giants have applied to the commissioner's office for a roster exemption which likely would give them a week or two to make the necessary moves to get Herman back on their roster if they decide they want to.

Players whose positives tests occurred during the current league year are subject to the rules of the new policy. One of the rule changes is that positive tests for certain stimulants are treated under the substances of abuse policy if the violation occurs in the offseason (though still as performance-enhancers if the violation occurs in-season). So the guess here is Herman's positive test was for a stimulant and it happened in the offseason. He's been following the developments with regard to the new drug policy since late last week, but as of Wednesday afternoon he hadn't even been told the specifics of why he was reinstated.

"I've got to talk to the players' association and figure out what I fell under, so I can tell you guys," Herman said.

The Giants could release any number of extraneous offensive lineman if they wanted to clear a spot for Herman, a 2013 seventh-round pick who's shown promise as a project guard/center. James Brewer, Charles Brown and Adam Snyder are all candidates to go if they want to keep Herman. If they want to add him to their practice squad, they'll have to waive him first and hope no one else picks him up, then release someone from their practice squad. But if the commissioner's office will give them an extra week or so to decide how exactly to handle it, they'll sure take the time.

Play the New York Giants, win an award

September, 17, 2014
Sep 17
2:00
PM ET
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Arizona Cardinals punt returner Ted Ginn Jr. was named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week for Week 2. This is no surprise, because Ginn played against the New York Giants.

Lions linebacker DeAndre Levy was the NFC's Defensive Player of the Week in Week 1. He also played the Giants that week.

In fact, since the start of the 2013 season, the Giants have played 18 games. In eight of those, a player on the opposing team delivered a performance that won him a conference Player of the Week award:

2013

Week 1: Dwayne Harris, Cowboys (NFC special teams)

Week 2: Trindon Holliday, Broncos (AFC special teams)

Week 3: Greg Hardy, Panthers (NFC defensive)

Week 4: Dexter McCluster, Chiefs (AFC special teams)

Week 5: DeSean Jackson, Eagles (NFC offensive)

Week 15: Richard Sherman, Seahawks (NFC defensive)

2014

Week 1: DeAndre Levy, Lions (NFC defensive)

Week 2: Ted Ginn Jr., Cardinals (NFC special teams)

If it seems like a lot, that's because it is. Since the start of the 2013 season, no team has had more opposing players win conference Player of the Week awards than the Giants have. Washington is second with seven. Every team in the league has at least two except the Rams, who've only had one, and the Steelers, who somehow haven't had any. Here's the list:

Most opposing players winning conference Player of the Week awards since start of 2013 season

New York Giants: 8
Washington: 7
Tampa Bay: 6
Indianapolis: 6
Green Bay: 5
Oakland: 5
Dallas: 5
Detroit: 5
Tennessee: 5
New Orleans: 5
Philadelphia: 4
Minnesota: 4
Miami: 4
New York Jets: 4
Baltimore: 3
San Francisco: 3
Arizona: 3
Houston: 3
Atlanta: 3
San Diego: 3
Buffalo: 3
Cleveland: 3
Jacksonville: 2
Carolina: 2
Denver: 2
Cincinnati: 2
Kansas City: 2
Seattle: 2
New England: 2
Chicago: 2
St. Louis: 1
Pittsburgh: 0

Giants practice report: Beason out

September, 17, 2014
Sep 17
1:00
PM ET
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Injured New York Giants linebacker Jon Beason was not on the field during the extraordinarily brief portion of practice that was open to the media on Wednesday. Giants coach Tom Coughlin said he wouldn't put anything past Beason and wouldn't rule out the possibility that he plays Sunday against the Texans, but that seems unlikely due to the foot injury Beason aggravated in Week 2 against the Cardinals.

The Giants said Tuesday that Beason might see a foot specialist this week, and obviously if he's not here, there's a chance he's doing that. More to come on that, but in the meantime with Beason and rookie Devon Kennard (hamstring) sitting out practice, the way in which the Giants will arrange their linebackers becomes an interesting question.

McClain
When Beason had to miss the preseason and training camp due to the foot injury, Jameel McClain moved over from his strongside linebacker position to the middle, and Kennard played on the strong side. Coughlin indicated in Wednesday morning's news conference that McClain and Mark Herzlich would be used in some combination to fill in for Beason and Kennard, though he did not go into detail. Herzlich has experience in the middle, but his shortcomings there last year were among the reasons the Giants felt a need to go out and trade for Beason.

Spencer Paysinger and Dan Fox are the backup options on the strong side, but neither is an option for the middle linebacker role.

In other injury news, first-round draft pick Odell Beckham Jr. was sprinting on a side field during practice, but Coughlin said there are no plans for Beckham to practice this week. Since the Giants play a Thursday game in Week 4 and he won't have had time to practice much if at all before then, the rookie wide receiver appears set to miss at least the next two games.

Punter Steve Weatherford also did not appear to be practicing Wednesday, though he missed time last week due to a sprained left ankle and still punted on Sunday.

Giants' secondary a mess so far

September, 16, 2014
Sep 16
10:45
AM ET
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Aggressive enough to be called for way too many penalties; not aggressive enough to force any turnovers.

This, through two weeks, is the New York Giants' secondary. A unit that was supposed to be the strength of this team has instead been one of the main culprits for their 0-2 start.

Rolle
 You can't have both of these problems. If you're committing seven penalties on point-of-emphasis, downfield contact plays, five of which hand first downs to the opponent, then that aggressiveness needs to be paying off in the form of takeaways. The Giants are one of three teams in the league -- along with the Chiefs and Steelers -- who have yet to take the ball away from their opponent through the first two weeks of the season.

"The no takeaways is an issue now," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said Monday. "This is something that every team counts on in the NFL -- getting an extra field position, bona fide field position from some type of takeaway, whether it be special teams or defense. And we have not had that."

Coughlin lamented a couple of plays from Sunday's game that he believed safety Stevie Brown and cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie could have turned into interceptions, and he seemed to believe the issues were of technique and/or decision-making.

"You've got to be in the right position. Your eyes have got to be in the right spot. You've got to have a good feel for it," Coughlin said. I thought on a couple of occasions, the quarterback was actually staring the ball down where he was goingm and we still weren't influenced enough to go in that direction and be in position to make a play. We do have athletes. They are good athletes. A couple of years ago, we referred to Stevie Brown as kind of a ballhawking guy in center field when he had that opportunity. He's just not there yet. He's not back yet to where he was a couple of years ago, and let's hope he gets there."

In the meantime, the Giants' defensive backs need to keep their hands to themselves. They weren't called for many of those preseason-type downfield contact penalties in the opening-week loss in Detroit, but they had way too many of them on Sunday. And while fans and even some players and coaches may want to sit around and argue about the validity of the calls being made against defensive backs, they are being made, and defensive players have to adjust better than the Giants have done.

"We need to be smarter," safety Antrel Rolle said. "You can't hold a guy. Illegal contact, things like that are going to take place throughout the course of the game. But there are certain things we saw on film. When you're jamming a guy, and you're holding and you're looking at the quarterback, they're going to call that 100 percent of the time. So we have to be smarter."

It would be one thing if the over-aggressive play were leading to interceptions, but they don't have one yet. And while it's still early, this is a unit that needs to be setting the tone for the rest of the team. It's not going to get any easier with nickel cornerback Walter Thurmond out for the year due to a pectoral muscle injury, but the players who remain are good enough to cut down on the penalties and make some plays. At this point, though, the Giants would take just one of those things.

"Obviously, we're not as good at it as we should be," Coughlin said. "So we've got to sharpen it up."

The Film Don't Lie: Giants

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15
4:00
PM ET
A weekly look at what the New York Giants must fix:

The Houston Texans don't throw the ball much, but when they come to MetLife Stadium on Sunday to play the 0-2 Giants, they may be tempted to air it out more than usual. That's because the Giants might help them out if they do.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, there were seven Giants defensive penalties Sunday on 2014 point-of-emphasis plays (illegal contact, holding, illegal use of hands), and those led to five Cardinals first downs.

You can complain until you're Big Blue in the face about the quality of the calls. But the fact is they're being made, both ways, and the Giants' defensive backs need to do a better job of keeping their hands to themselves and not giving out free first downs. Texans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick will see stuff on tape this week that tells him it might be a good idea to take some chances.

W2W4: New York Giants

September, 13, 2014
Sep 13
3:00
PM ET
The New York Giants play the Arizona Cardinals at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday at MetLife Stadium. Here are three things we'll be watching especially closely as the Giants try to avoid an 0-2 start:

[+] EnlargeMichael Floyd
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesArizona has many potent options in the passing game, none more dangerous than Michael Floyd, who had 119 yards in the opener.
1. How will they cover the Cardinals' receivers? Coverage was a big problem Monday night in Detroit against Calvin Johnson, Golden Tate and the Lions, and it's not likely to get much easier this week. The Cardinals love to empty the backfield and load up with multiple-wide-receiver sets. You'll see the Giants in nickel and likely some dime this week, with Trumaine McBride on the field as a fourth cornerback in some situations. The biggest threat right now among the Arizona receivers is Michael Floyd, although rookie John Brown is a speed threat on the outside and veteran Larry Fitzgerald obviously can't be ignored in the slot. The Cardinals also throw to their tight ends and can throw it to running back Andre Ellington out of the backfield if Ellington is healthy. There's going to be a lot to keep track of in the secondary for a Giants team that didn't look to have everything together back there in the opener.

2. Will they get the ball to Victor Cruz? The Giants' best wide receiver said Tuesday that he thinks the offense will work better if he and Rueben Randle see more targets, so it'll be interesting to see whether New York runs plays specifically designed to do that. The Giants threw to Jerrel Jernigan and Larry Donnell a lot Monday because those guys were open, so the question becomes whether Randle and Cruz can get separation from defenders in short range better than they have so far -- and whether Cruz, who dropped two passes Monday, can catch everything they do throw to him. It's an offense that's out of sync, and a lot depends on the ability of the big guys up front to protect quarterback Eli Manning and allow him to get comfortable. But assuming he has enough time back there, it's important to watch to see how his timing with his better receivers looks this week. That's where the improvement has to come.

3. Can they run the ball against Arizona? The Cardinals' defense was the toughest against the run in the entire league last year, and it allowed just 52 rushing yards last week to a San Diego team that wants to establish the run. So it won't be easy, but the Giants still believe the best way to get their offense going is to establish balance and run the ball reliably. Rashad Jennings is the lead back, and if they can get enough run plays into the game (i.e., extend some drives with some first downs), they could work Andre Williams into the mix more as a ball carrier. But they need to find a way to get their bread-and-butter run plays blocked against Arizona's tough front early in the game or they won't be able to operate the rest of the offense the way they want to.

Cardinals vs. Giants preview

September, 11, 2014
Sep 11
8:00
AM ET

The New York Giants were one of the NFL's most disappointing teams in 2013, while the Arizona Cardinals ranked among its most pleasant surprises. Those trends continued into 2014, as the Giants opened with a blowout loss in Detroit and the Cardinals came back to beat the Chargers on "Monday Night Football."

These two teams meet Sunday at 1 p.m. ET, the home opener for the Giants and the first road game of the year for the Cardinals, who have to cross a couple of time zones and play in the early time slot Sunday. NFL Nation Giants reporter Dan Graziano and Cardinals reporter Josh Weinfuss are here with a preview.

Graziano: Josh, I was all set to bill this Eli Manning-Carson Palmer matchup as InterceptionFest 2014, but then I looked at the box score from Monday night and saw Palmer didn't throw any. Is this a typo? Or are things clicking on offense in Arizona? (And if it's the latter, please fill Giants fans in on what that looks like.)

Weinfuss: No, that's not a typo. He didn't throw a pick. But I think we could bill it as ShouldBeInterceptionFest 2014. I bet we can make some pretty cool T-shirts.

Palmer got lucky on a couple passes that should've been picked off, and those misses by San Diego essentially prevented the Chargers from blowing out Arizona. The Cardinals' offense isn't exactly clicking -- although it's probably better than the Giants' is at this point -- but when all the cylinders get fired, it's better than it has been. A lot of what the Cards showed on Monday night looked too much like last season, when Palmer threw 22 interceptions, the second most in the NFC behind Manning. Palmer didn't go through his progressions for much of the first three quarters, which led to Larry Fitzgerald not getting targeted for the first three quarters for the first time in his career. The offense came alive, however, in the final quarter thanks to some nifty footwork by Palmer -- something rarely seen around these parts. The offense looked good late but was far from clicking.

The 341 passing yards the Giants gave up Monday is a hefty number. Was that a product of New York's secondary not playing well and not being able to manage all of Detroit's options? Or was it just that Matthew Stafford played lights out? Like the Lions, the Cardinals have a boatload of offensive weapons. Could Arizona be in for a big passing day against the Giants?

Graziano: Stafford played out of his mind, but the Giants' defensive performance did raise some concerns that linger into this week. Cornerback was supposed to be the strength of their team, and on paper it is, with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Prince Amukamara, Walter Thurmond, Zack Bowman and Trumaine McBride. But their plans for how to deploy all of those corners seemed a bit disorganized and not fully formed Monday night. Sometimes they wanted to single Rodgers-Cromartie on Calvin Johnson. Other times they didn't. And Rodgers-Cromartie didn't always seem to know which it was.

They may need to find a way to simplify their coverages, and especially to do more in zone, because from what I can tell it's not easy to pick your poison with this Arizona receiving corps. Twitter was abuzz all Monday night about Fitzgerald not getting any targets until the fourth quarter. But it's not as though those young wideouts are chopped liver, right?

Weinfuss: Let me just say this first: I'm not a huge fan of chopped liver. But you're right, third-year wide receiver Michael Floyd and rookie John Brown aren't minced meat. Floyd had 119 yards on just five catches in the season opener and is tough to defend for most corners and safeties because of his combination of size and speed. And he's learned from Fitzgerald how to use his body to get separation between himself and the ball. Floyd is quickly becoming one of Palmer's favorite targets, especially on deep passes because he can go up and make catches above defensive backs.

As for Brown, don't blink or you'll miss him. He's fast and shifty, which he showed during his 13-yard game-winning touchdown run against the Chargers. What makes Brown even more dangerous is playing for an offensive mastermind like Bruce Arians. There's a lot of hype for Brown -- and it's only been one week -- but he's been handling it so far.

So much has been made about the Giants' new offense, and by the looks of it Monday night with less than 200 total yards, it's resembling the Cardinals of 2013 in terms of not fully understanding a new scheme to start the season. How long do you think it'll take the G-men -- does anyone in New York call them that? -- to grasp the new offense and start flourishing in it?

Graziano: People in New York sometimes call them the G-men, but right now they're calling them things that aren't quite that nice.

I don't think it's a matter of grasping the offense. There's a little of that going on, but the Giants' biggest problem is one of personnel. They were hoping first-round pick Odell Beckham Jr. would be one of their starting receivers on the outside, with Rueben Randle on the other side and Victor Cruz in the slot. But Beckham missed all of training camp and is still out with a hamstring injury, so they're starting the somewhat overmatched Jerrel Jernigan in Beckham's spot, and teams seem to be devoting extra coverage to Cruz, which makes sense.

They have no reliable option at tight end, and they didn't run the ball well in the opener with Rashad Jennings. It's an underwhelming group of offensive players around Manning, and add in the troubles the offensive line is having in pass protection and you have an offense that wouldn't be able to do much with any scheme. This is obviously going to be a problem all year. If you're counting on a rookie who's never even practiced in the NFL to come in and save your season, you're not in the best shape.

This week looks like another tough test for that undermanned Giants offense, no? I thought Arizona's defense would struggle due to all of the personnel losses, but it looked awfully tough against San Diego. Do the Cardinals have a chance to repeat last season's performance on D?

Weinfuss: By the looks of how the defense played Monday, I think the short answer is yes, it's possible to post a repeat performance. However, it'll be tougher to be that good and that consistent this season because of those personnel problems you mentioned. Add in the recent injuries to defensive tackle Frostee Rucker, who was already replacing the injured Darnell Dockett, and to John Abraham, who has left the team following his latest concussion, and the defense is as thin as it's ever been.

But with Calais Campbell overpowering people in the middle of the line, Matt Shaughnessy still playing at a high level and veteran linebacker Larry Foote looking like he's 24 instead of 34, there's hope that this defense can has the long haul in it. What could be its saving grace this season is the secondary, which is as good as it's ever been in Arizona. Cornerback Patrick Peterson now has another top-flight corner across from him in Antonio Cromartie, which allows the defense to be more flexible on coverages.

The Cardinals' No. 1 rush defense from a year ago doesn't appear to have lost a step, holding San Diego to 52 yards. The Giants had 53 last week. How much of the Giants' offensive scheme is predicated on their running game?

Graziano: After Monday night's loss, Giants coach Tom Coughlin said that the inability to run the ball ranked with the pass protection as his top concern. The passing game remains a work in progress, as we've discussed here, so the Giants would like to be able to establish the run and operate the offense through Jennings and rookie running back Andre Williams. They will not go away from this plan, as they believe it to be their only hope.

Coughlin has said more than once that the inability to run the ball last year deprived the offense of balance and led to the league-leading 40 turnovers, so he and his coaching staff are determined to be able to run the ball reliably in 2014. They spent good money on Jennings in free agency and drafted Williams in the fourth round (which is high for a running back these days!), and they will continue to feed them the ball. But, man, you're right, things don't get any easier with these defensive fronts they're facing early in the season -- Detroit last week, Arizona this week, Houston next week. Life's tough in the big city.

Anyway, thanks, Josh. This was fun. Travel safe and I'll see you Sunday at MetLife.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul came out of Monday night's game briefly with a neck/shoulder injury, but he returned and finished the game. The Giants had some concern that the problem might continue into this week, but so far it has not. Pierre-Paul practiced with the team in full Wednesday and said afterwards that he had no limitations.

Pierre-Paul
"I feel good," Pierre-Paul said. "I'll be out there. Full go."

Not participating in practice were wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (hamstring), offensive lineman James Brewer (back), defensive tackle Markus Kuhn (ankle), punter Steve Weatherford (ankle), linebacker Devon Kennard (hamstring) and defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins (hip).

The Weatherford, Kennard and Jenkins injuries all happened in Monday's game. Jenkins said he expects to play Sunday but couldn't be sure he'd practice Thursday. If he can't go Sunday, that would leave the Giants very thin at defensive tackle assuming Kuhn is still out.

Kennard said he pulled his right hamstring on the first defensive snap of the game (and of his NFL career) when he caught his cleat on the turf. He has no idea when they'll let him practice.

Weatherford got good news on his sprained ankle. He's got some torn ligaments but won't need surgery, and he's not ruling out the chance he can be on the field Sunday.

Beckham fielded some punts at the beginning of practice, which he didn't do last week, but he didn't run with them and continued to work off to the side while the team practiced.
Bruce Arians brought a new offense with him when he took over as Arizona Cardinals coach last year, and it took a while for veteran quarterback Carson Palmer to master it. So when Arians watches New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning right now, he sees a familiar sight -- a veteran going through growing pains as he works to learn a new offense.

Manning
"I don't think there's any doubt," said Arians, whose Cardinals visit the Giants at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday. "It's very hard for somebody to change after they've been in a system. I did this with Carson Palmer last year. He'd been in the same system pretty much nine years and he has ideas and you're trying to reprogram. It's easier getting a rookie and brainwashing him than it is to take a veteran and change him totally into a new system."

The Giants' offense looked poor throughout the preseason and did again in racking up only 197 yards in a season-opening loss in Detroit on Monday night. Manning and the passing game have struggled so badly to get on track that wide receiver Victor Cruz is publicly petitioning for more targets. The problems range from pass protection up front to Manning's continued struggles with the footwork and timing on which new coordinator Ben McAdoo's West Coast scheme is based. And it's possible it's going to be a long time before it looks the way they want it to look.

"I try never to judge a quarterback in a new offense until Week 8," Arians said. "Because it just takes so much time, and you see the same defense all through OTAs and all of training camp. Now, all of a sudden you're seeing a different defense every week and a different game plan, and I think it takes a while to get through a number of different-style clubs and swing it back and really see the improvement in the second half of the season."

That's potentially bad news for a Giants team that started 0-6 last year and was hoping to get off to a faster start this year. But Arians' point is that it takes time, as he saw last year when he had to teach his own scheme to Palmer.

"It was Week 8 for us last year," Arians said. "That's when, all of a sudden, you could see the guys around him start to get it and play faster and play better. Instead of waiting to see a guy come open, he was throwing guys open. When you can throw the ball on time, trust the receiver is going to be there, everything happens a second or a second and a half faster. And that's a lot of time when you're talking about the passing game."

No rest for DRC, Giants cornerbacks

September, 9, 2014
Sep 9
3:00
PM ET
Here's an examination of one thing the New York Giants must do after their season-opening loss to the Lions in Detroit:

Rodgers-Cromartie
The Giants' plan Monday night was to shadow the Lions' top wide receiver, Calvin Johnson, with their top cornerback, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. They offered Rodgers-Cromartie safety help on some plays but asked him to single-cover the game's best wideout on others. This is why they signed Rodgers-Cromartie believing they could use him this way. The results, as you know by now, were not positive, as Johnson caught seven passes for 164 yards and two touchdowns.

Johnson is the toughest test there is, so there's no reason to think the Giants will move away from that "shadow the best WR" plan with Rodgers-Cromartie. But the next opponent on the Giants' schedule is the Arizona Cardinals, and they bring with them a talented corps of wide receivers without an obvious top candidate for the honor of "best."

Is it veteran Larry Fitzgerald, who's in the top 30 in NFL history in catches and receiving yards? Is it the emerging Michael Floyd, who had five catches for 119 yards in Arizona's opener late Monday night and was targeted seven times versus Fitzgerald's four? Could it even be electric rookie John Brown, who also saw more targets Monday (five) than Fitzgerald and caught the game-winning, 13-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter?

My guess is Floyd will be Rodgers-Cromartie's man if the Giants go the same way they did in Week 1. But the broader point here is the Giants need to be open to rethinking their coverage plan with their cornerbacks.

As my colleague Herm Edwards is fond of saying on air, "A plan that can't be changed is a bad plan." The Giants might have signed Rodgers-Cromartie under the belief he was a shutdown corner who could match up with top wide receivers, but the fact is he has not been that, consistently, throughout his career. Prince Amukamara showed some good things Monday night and remains a quality option, as does slot corner Walter Thurmond. The Giants obviously need to play better in zone coverage than they did Monday.

Cornerback is the strongest position group the Giants have, on paper, but it didn't look very strong Monday night. They might need to make some adjustments to the way they're deploying these guys if they want to get the best out of them the rest of the way.
video

DETROIT -- The worst part for the New York Giants was that they didn't have anything they could feel good about. Week 1 is supposed to be about optimism and looking forward with hope. But after a 35-14 loss to the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on Monday night, the Giants couldn't come up with anything positive to say about their performance.

"No excuses. We played very poorly," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "We don't have a lot to be proud of here. It was a nightmare performance."

Coughlin wasn't happy about the pass protection, as the Lions registered two sacks and nine hits of Giants quarterback Eli Manning. He was unhappy about a running game that gained 53 yards on 22 carries. He was upset about the breakdowns in pass coverage that allowed Calvin Johnson to perform like the video-game version of himself to the tune of seven catches for 164 yards and two touchdowns, and that allowed Golden Tate to gain 44 yards on a key third-and-11. He was unhappy about Manning's two interceptions and the inability of receivers Victor Cruz and Rueben Randle to make plays.

Everybody was unhappy. We even asked defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins, who had a good game stopping the run, whether he felt good about that at least. He did not.

"Right now, I don't feel like I did a good job of anything," Jenkins said. "I feel like we could have made it a lot easier on our secondary if we'd played better up front."

Safety Antrel Rolle said "there definitely wasn't enough fight" in his team in its first game of the season. And after the mess they made of last season, all of the changes they made in the offseason and the grief they took from outside critics in the preseason, you would have thought that wouldn't be a problem.

Instead, those who endured last year's 0-6 start seemed to be experiencing a sick and familiar feeling as they dressed and packed and headed for the plane.

"We shouldn't be talking right now about comparing the way we lost to last year," Jenkins said. "We should be talking about what we learned from last year, and how that made us better."

But they weren't, and the reason was the familiarity of the overmatched feeling they felt on the field. The Lions came at them with star players at wide receiver, running back, defensive line and, of course, quarterback. The Giants looked like a patchwork science project of a team whose pieces aren't good enough on their own to scare anyone and don't yet fit together in any kind of productive way.

"How are guys that you don't know going to respond to adversity now?" linebacker and newly minted team captain Jon Beason asked. "We have a new group of guys here. Owning up to what you did wrong is the first step, and it's an important one."

Tuesday and Wednesday aren't going to be fun days for the Giants as they review what went on in their first game of the season. To make sure the feeling doesn't repeat itself, they must correct the mistakes and start playing better. The long-term problem is that they may not have enough quality players on this roster to allow them to do that. The short-term problem is that Monday night's opener didn't offer any evidence to the contrary.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Insider

NFC EAST SCOREBOARD