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The first and final pre-season podcast focusing on the 2011 New York Giants.

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The Giants wrapped up their final roster yesterday and added six (6) previously cut players to their practice squad.

If one looks at my blog post from a few weeks ago, they’ll see that my roster selections were 113% correct for the 32nd straight year (I admit in ’78 I thought Doug Kotar wouldn’t be able to make it so I got one wrong that year).  Kotar was diagnosed with cancer during his career and sadly died in 1983 of a brain tumor.  In the spirit of Kotar it was nice if not downright inspiring to see Mark Herzlich nab a spot on the roster after his own cancer fight and what was best is that the B.C. product deserved it.  He played really well and was among a slew of Giants rookie linebackers to make the squad on a team that was in need of an influx of new blood at that position.

So let’s take an analysis of the 2012 New York Super Bowl Bound Football Giants.

QUARTERBACKS

The battle here of course was for the back-up job and a bad back, a case of strep throat and a scandalous campaign donation to Rick Santorum’s presidential campaign (or was that Jeff Feagles) handed the job to David Carr, who the Giants probably wanted to give the job to anyway. It’s interesting that Rosenfels was placed on IR (putting him out for the year) as opposed to just coming up with an injury settlement and waiving him where he’d have a chance to sign on with another team.  Last I heard Strep Throat is not a season ending injury, unless your Max Hardcore starlett Catalina.  She runs a day care in Calabasas now.  Watching Carr play he gives me more confidence than Rosenfels (I have no idea why) but his slinging throwing motion keeps getting lower and lower.  People say Vince Young has a side-arm delivery but Young is positively Elway-like compared to Carr.  Kent Tekulve had a higher release point than Carr….but he wasn’t nearly as good-looking.

I always find it fascinating when every year Giants fans post notes about how they thought the young QB would make it as a 3rd Stringer.  The young QB for the Giants NEVER makes it.  Ask Andre Woodson and Rhett Bomar.  And unlike Woodson, Bomar wasn’t truly awful. And neither was Ryan Perriloux, the LSU problem child.  Ryan didn’t play much but he actually looked better than I would have thought and certainly showed some comfort in a pro-set that I think few would have anticipated after watching him at LSU (or Jacksonville State I assume if anyone actually ever saw him play there).  So I was glad he made the practice squad because he does have some upside.  It’ll be fun watching him next pre-season before the Giants cut him again.

Of course all these players are likely going to be an afterthought as what Giant fans really will be focusing on this year is hoping Eli Manning throws less interceptions…and fumbles less…and keeps doing those Oreo commercials with his quickly aging brother and the Williams’ sisters.

RUNNING BACKS

With Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs assured of spots it was nice to see Jacobs get tossed from the Jets pre-season game just to remind us what an a destructive hot head the Big Saluki can be when he puts his mind to it.  At least he managed to hang onto his helmet.  It was assumed that D.J. Ware would make the team and he played well enough to earn another spot and I believe (as does BK) that Ware could be a bigger part of the offense and be effective while giving Bradshaw and Jacobs a little more rest.  But that probably won’t happen.  The real comer here turned out to be Da’rel Scott, the speedy late round pick out of Maryland.  He had two monster runs during the pre-season and to his credit absolutely earned his spot on the team.

Most probably felt coming into pre-season that Da’rel was practice squad bound but instead that honor went to Andre Brown, who under normal circumstances probably played well enough to make a spot.  Brown’s just a tough luck guy, from his injury in ’09 to the 2nd year in a row getting cut by the Giants even though he didn’t perform poorly.  I’d say there’s a decent chance Brown finds his way onto the Giants sometime within the first 6 weeks of the season or he’ll end up signing with another team.  Much to BK’s disappointment, Charles Scott never really got a fair chance primarily lining up as the team’s 3rd fullback and was cut.  This is yet another time when BK predicted greatness and it turned out less than that (I don’t want to have to bring up his championing of The Bogmen back in mid-90’s).

Henry Hynoski wasn’t great in the pre-season but as the only pure fullback in camp he would have had to have been terrible not make the team and he wasn’t that.  But he wasn’t great either which is why the Tight End-depleted G-Men will inevitably start hybrid Ten Toes Pascoe at FB to open the season.

WIDE RECEIVERS

The injury and eventual departure of Steve Smith meant that Mario Manningham would be the undeniable starter alongside 2012 Pro Bowl selection Hakeem Nicks.  The battle would be (and really still is) for the 3rd WR position.  Despite a sloppy game on specials Devin Thomas made the squad and joins Domenick Hixon and Victor Cruz as 3rd wide receiver options.  Hixon and Thomas will also spend some time battling for the kick return position.  The Giants 2012 draft class is quicky going down an infamy.  A broken foot postponing the debut of 1st round pick Prince Amakamura, a season-ending injury to 2nd round pick Marvin Austin and then there’s the tale of Jerrel Jernigan.  Let’s be honest, the only reason Mark Clayton isn’t on this team is because the Giants spent a 3rd rounder on Jernigan. If he’s a free-agent or even a late-round pick Jernigan is practice squad bound if not cut altogether.  But the savvy vet Clayton is let go and Jernigan gets a chance but my guess is he doesn’t see the field much in ’11.  Ramses Barden starts the year on the PUP and whether or not he’s given a chance to be a factor this year will probably depend on what Hixon, Cruz and/or Thomas do when on the field.

TIGHT ENDS

You’ll be hard pressed to find a more questionable set of tight ends on a NFL roster this year than the Giants of the Meadowlands.  Travis Beckum falls into the starting position, but he doesn’t block well, hasn’t proven he can run the seam pass that basically was Kevin Boss’ bread and honey with banana and flax and has never really created the mismatches with linebackers that he was supposed to when he came into the league from Wisconsin as an undersized Tight End.  But with Bear Pascoe playing fullback (and let’s face it, his hands aren’t so strong) Beckum will be backed-up by gigantic Jake Ballard, who has very limited NFL playing experience.  Yet apparently he was considered a better option than 270-pound free-agent Daniel Coates which doesn’t say much for Coates.  Christian Hopkins was signed on to the practice squad but you almost get the feeling that placement was more out of desperation than a true belief that Hopkins is possessed by a pool of potential.  Perhaps the Giants will take a chance on recently cut Cornelius Ingram or Desmond Clark, but who knows if that would be any better.


OFFENSIVE LINE

The Giants revamped Offensive Line was a mixed bag this pre-season.  Since you can basically throw out the 4th pre-season game because no one played, the Giants had one very good offensive game (Chicago) and two pretty bad ones (Carolina and the Jets).  The line wasn’t terrible though.  The Giants ran the ball generally well and Eli managed to go the entire pre-season without blood gushing from his forehead so that’s one way to judge progress.

Will Beatty played well enough that the battle for the LT job with Stacy Andrews never really materialized with Andrews tucked neatly in as his back-up.  Fourth-rounder James Brewer didn’t show much but similarly to Jernigan was going to make the team regardless which means it’s possible none of the first 4 draft picks for the Giants this year will have any impact.

There was some disconnect between Eli and David Bass this pre-season but it should be fine as will all the guards on the squad (Snee, Diehl, Boothe, Petrus) and RT Kareem MacKenzie.  What’s interesting is the cutting of Chris White, a back-up center who saw significant action in the pre-season.  With Adam Koets on the PUP and the cutting of Jim Cordle (who Coughlin called an “outstanding young guy” which is nice considering in 2 pre-seasons he received no significant playing time) the Giants will go into the season without a proven back-up center.  If Bass goes down, the Giants will have to move Snee or Petrus to the middle.  Giants fan should hope that scenario doesn’t occur.

DEFENSIVE LINE

The 2009 Giants defense was truly historically bad.  The 2010 Giants D was better although faded badly at the end of the year.  Unfortunately, like Amy Fisher trying to pick-up the pieces of her life again, the Giants ability to improve on the defensive side of the ball in 2011 may be greatly inhibited by injuries (as well as addiciton to alcohol and prescription pain killers).

On the defensive line, one will only hope that Osi Umenyiori comes back from a pre-season off to regain the form that made him a pass-rushing force in 2011 (although being a little more stout on the run would be nice). However the emergence of Jason Pierre-Paul and the return of Mathias Kiwanuka (who will be jumping back and forth between OLB and DE) should help hold the fort down if it takes time for Osi to round into shape.

The biggest concern will be in the interior, where their best DT from 2010 Barry Cofield jumped ship to go the Redskins (because Barry loves pain…he’s actually relocating his Dominatrix Mistress Amy to DC because playing in the Cock and Ball Torture that is Dan Snyder’s Washington Redskins apparently isn’t enough) and 2nd round pick Marvin Austin will spend his time rehabbing with Terrell Thomas and taking money advice from Sage Rosenfels on the IR.  So basically a collection of journeyman – Chris Canty, Rocky Bernard, and recently signed ex-1st rounder Jimmy Kennedy – will join future journeyman Linval Joseph in what could be a real weak point for the Giants unless someone turns out to be a lot better than anticipated.

Dave Tollefson continues to find a way to make the squad, which was bad news for Alex Hall and Ayanaga “Don’t Call Me Hal” Okpokuwuruk, both of whom made impact at various times in the pre-season. Interestingly the Giants chose to keep less impressive pre-season performers – Justin Trattou and Dwayne Hendricks – on the practice squad. Hendricks was, like Hopkins, a move made more out of a desperate need for depth than anything else.  But why Trattou?  It’s like the time BK chose to have a mid-life crisis at the age of 30 and bought a porsche.  Why would you do that?  The parts alone make cost of ownership prohibitive. That’s why I drive a Schwinn.

The fact that Jimmy Kennedy, who was in camp about as long Men Without Hats was popular, beat out Gabe Watson for a spot doesn’t speak much for the once promising Watson.  But it did seem that Watson had a unique ability to find himself on the receiving end of pancake blocks this pre-season so I can’t say his dismissal was surprising.

LINEBACKERS

All hail the rooks! Welcome aboard Greg Jones, Jacquian Williams, Spencer Paysinger and Mark Herzlich.  All four players deserved to make the roster and it was good to see the Giants reward performance.  In a strange way Clint Sintim’s injury made keeping all four easier.  The cutting of Phillip Dillard would have been a surprise had you predicted it at the start of the pre-season but not after watching him play.  It wasn’t that Dillard was terrible, he wasn’t.  He wasn’t a terrible draft pick in the 4th last year.  He wasn’t terrible at the University of Nebraska.  But he’s one of these guys who’s always going to be replaceable because he’ll never start in the league and he’ll never be good enough to have a coaching staff keep him over a better performer.  Like Peter Scolari.

The starters will be Michael Boley, Jonathan Goff and the converted (again) Kiwanuka.  But my prediction is the end of the year starters will be Greg Jones manning the middle alongside Boley and probably Herzlich.

Zak DeOssie is no longer even listed as a linebacker but rather just “Long Snapper.” I don’t know how I’d feel about that if I was Zak.  It’s kind of like being listed as just a “fluffer.” Or just the “bass player” for Van Halen. Of just “Vice President Biden.” But when in doubt, two of those three could step into the job if asked to…and so Zak could play middle linebacker if absolutely necessary, but I can’t imagine a scenario where that would occur.

DEFENSIVE BACKS

Well, the injury issues with Terrell Thomas and Prince Amakamura (who is on the active roster although out until October) have been well-discussed.  So let’s focus on who is ready to play.

The starters will be Corey Webster and Aaron Ross as the corners and Antrel Rolle and Kenny Phillips patrolling the deep middle as safeties.  Deion Grant will often be brought in as a 5th DB and truthfully that’s better than average.  It’s the lack of depth where lay the concern.

Late signee veteran Brian Williams and sometimes good, sometimes not so good Michael Coe basically become the back-up corners by default as none of the other (healthy) corners in camp did anything to show they belonged on a NFL roster.

6th Rounder Tyler Sash was okay and Darrick Martin apparently had a good enough game against the Pats to make the team as a 10th defensive back.

KICKERS AND PUNTERS

Let’s face it, Lawrence Tynes is no Raul Allegre (other than the fact that they both get hurt a lot).  So when Rhys Lloyd came into camp for an injured Tynes many a Giant fan hoped the healthy-eating Lloyd could kick Tynes out of a job.  But anyone who saw either the Jets or Pats pre-season game know that wasn’ t going to happen.  So now we have a mediocre professional kicker coming off a thigh injury and four-weeks of inaction opening the season.  Everything’s turning up Giants this year.

The fiercest battle in camp was for punter where ex-Jet vet Steve Weatherford beat out last year’s rookie disaster Matt Dodge.  Dodge did kick better this pre-season, but ultimately Weatherford is just the safest vet.  Apparently Dodge wasn’t that upset about being cut.  He just downed a Whey Protein and Creatine shake and hit Gold’s gym for 2-hours to work on some lat fly’s.

As for Weatherford, he’s not exciting but he’s solid and should create less stress for the Giants, which should be a relief since based on this pre-season the Giants may be punting a lot.

FINAL ROSTER THOUGHTS

This is the most uncertain Giants team heading into the season since Coughlin’s fist year as coach in 2004.  The Giants just seem flat below average at Tight End, Interior Defensive Line and Linebacker and have become suddenly very thin at receiver and cornerback.  However, they have a good quarterback, playmakers at wide receiver and defensive end and an excellent set of running backs.

So how will the Giants fare in 2011?  Stay tuned for the next podcast when BK and I discuss just that.

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I’d been meaning to write this blog post forever.  Before the Giants pre-season game against the Carolina Panthers.  Before the Giants pre-season game against the Chicago Bears.  Before Terrell Thomas’ injury.  Before Hurricane (make that Tropical Storm) Irene flooded the Jersey Shore.  But one needs to understand that I have a thriving business, an active social calendar, a pregnant wife and…who am I kidding, you don’t care.  My throngs of loyal readers need my blog posts the way a gambler needs a blackjack table, the way an addict needs Oxycontin, the way Jennifer Love Hewitt needs men to dump her.  They can’t get enough.  For example, take this email I received last week from delossantos4u@rocketmail.com: “Shit for Brains.   All Praise Jehovah, you’re blasphemous posts have stopped.  I need to read another example of your juvenile rambling like I need an anvil up my ass.  Fuck you cocksucker.  Cordially yours, Susie.”  I emailed Susie back, thanked her for the correspondence, reassured her this long-awaited blog post was coming and then told her she used the wrong “you’re” (it should be “your”).

The Giants off-season got off on the wrong foot from the get go.  I distinctly remember sitting in front of my Panasonic 40-incher watching ESPN when John Clayton came onto the screen.  As usual, my heart went aflutter.  We were about 2 days from the end of the lockout and he spoke about which team would be most behind the 8-ball under the new CBA and wouldn’t you know who he mentioned first – The New York Super Bowl Bound Football Giants. 11+ over the cap.  I felt like Paul Newman when he gets hustled by Forest Whitaker in The Color of Money.  It’s in the way that you use it, baby, and I felt like a now deceased purveyor of quality low-fat salad dressings and canned dog food.  How did the Giants management get caught so flat-footed?  Why did we sign Chris Canty to all that money? How did it take that long for Newman to get an Oscar?

So the Giants cut three offensive linemen – Shaun O’Hara, Rich Seubert and Shawn Michaels, who for some reason didn’t want to re-structure his contract.  Like there’s a huge market for manic-depressive offensive linemen who haven’t started in 3 years.  This was the biggest mistake in judgement since BK passed up on going to Subway off a highway exit near Fresno becuase he thought he could find something better.  Six exits later, he had to settle for a Sardine and Potato Bug Panini from the Jack in the Box.  It was either that or the Teriyaki Bowl and you’ve all read the Snoops on the Jack in the Box Teriyaki Bowl.

The issue wasn’t so much that the 3 players cut were going to be reserving their 2012 tickets to Miami for the Pro Bowl (although Seubert played well last year) but this shuffle would result in a new ass for QB Eli Manning to stick his hands under and only slightly less disturbing would require the introduction of William Beatty, the talented but hardly confidence-inducing 3rd year pro from UConn, to protect Manning’s blind side.  You may not have realized this, but Eli’s not the best at anticpating weakside pressure.

Of course those depatures pailed in comparison with the Osi Unemyiora drama.  Osi claims that GM Jerry Reese promised he’d re-nag his contract if Osi played at a certain level.  What this level was or how it would be measured by was apparently never discussed nor was this agreement ever codified on paper.  It’s like the pre-nup with my ex-wife.  She said she’d be able to sleep around if I didn’t perform at a certain level.  I assume she meant we were going to go by the “Play-60” standard famously established during the 2006 Arianne Jollee Gang Bang Video “All I need is 60 from 60”.  But apparently “Play-60” refers to minutes not seconds and apparently also refers to getting kids to go outside and play for at least 60 minutes and was unrelated to the Jollee opus.  Or so said the mediator.

Osi demanded a trade but the Giants demanded on a 1st or 2nd round draft pick in return.  That’s like Julie Benz turning down a supporting role on the new ABC series “Pan Am” because she’s holding out to get the Catwoman role.  I know Benz is the centerpiece around the mind-numblingly satisfying season finale of Dexter, Season 4 but she’s no Hathaway. And Hathaway’s no Pfeifer.  And Pfeifer’s no Kitt.  And Kitt was no Julie Newmar.  But it seems to me as if the suave Umenyiori is doing just fine for himself Thank You Very Much.

So first Osi holds out.  Then he shows up to camp but doesn’t play.  Then right before he says he will play it turns out he can’t because he needs surgery and will be out the rest of the pre-season.  It was like the time BK got pinned in less than a minute in the first round of the NJSSFW Playoffs.  That was a Play-15.  He claimed illness, but I wanted to know where was the heart.  Osi’s a good player.  He’s a very good pass rusher.  But I sort of felt despite the big sack and fumble numbers last year he wasn’t irreplaceable, especially with the maturity of Jason Pierre-Paul and the return of Mathias Kiwanuka.  It’s just that it was more turmoil for a team that didn’t need it.

The rest of the off-season was also a hodgepodge of disappointment with little to cheer us up, other than the Ahmad Bradshaw re-sign.  We lose Kevin Boss – again in and of itself not an unrecoverable loss – but the guy we end up trying to replace him with retires after one day because he decides he has familly issues and would rather work as a stocker at Petco than go through Giants camp.  And it wasn’t like Ben Patrick was a particularly inspired choice to replace The Big Concussion anyway.  We brought in Daniel Coates to take his place and he’s a lot like former Patriots star tight end Ben Coates – in the sense that they have the same last name.  In every other way, Daniel Coates is much much worse.

The draft class performance hasn’t been particularly noteworthy either, with the exception of Greg Jones and some spark if nothing else from Marvin Austin.  The Prince held out, practiced a day and then broke his foot.  And BK’s favorite Jernell Jernigan through two pre-season games has been…oh what’s the word…let me see, oh that’s right – TERRIBLE. BK doesn’t want to hear it but it seems like we may have replaced Sinorice Moss with Sinorice Moss.

The Giants were atrocious during the first pre-season game in Carolina, a team that looks to be every bit as inept this year as last.  Take away Pierre-Paul and there was nothing to be excited about in the game and let me tell you the Panthers local broadcast of that game – which is was NFL Network showed – was terrible too.  Graphics straight out of 1997, questionable direction and camera work on punts and an announcing team that can be described as…oh what’s the word…let me see, oh that’s right – Jernell Jernigan like.

And then we had the Bears game and that seemed like just what the doctor ordered.  The Bears helped the Giants get well during the regular season last year and they were primed to do the same in the 2nd pre-season game.  Nothing like the site of Lovie Smith on the sideline and Jay Cutler, who despite that ESPN The Magazine Puff Piece is still as big a prick as ever, to give an opposing team confidence.  I mean look at the Bears this year…really look at them and then the rest of the division.  They have 6-10 written all over them.

And if it wasn’t for one play in the final minute of the first half that’s exactly what Chicago’s softest sports franchise would have provided the G-Men.  Solid Offense, Solid Defense, Spectacular Specials and a door slammed shut to end the misery section of this pre-season.  But the injury of Terrell Thomas was devastating.  I don’t want to overstate injuries.  I think we can recover from injuries to Osi or Ramses Barden and we’re likely better without Lawrence Tynes.  I think the O-Line will be serviceable, but Thomas’ injury now leaves us with inconsistent Corey Webster and Aaron Ross and his paper maiche hammy’s.  With the exception of Justin Tuck, there is not one player on the defensive side of the ball the Giants could have afforded to lose less.

But let’s face it, the real reason the Giants off-season has been so sad is not merely their internal travails, but what the hard to stomach Eagles have done.  After signing Nnamdi Asomugha, Jason Babin, Cullen Jenkins (not to mention more sizzle than steak signees Vince Young and Ronnie Brown), the cheap hit artists from Cheese Steak USA took Steve Smith away from the Giants.  Maybe the Giants dragged their feet…maybe the Eagles made him an offer he couldn’t refuse…or maybe Smith just wanted to leave Coach C, Eli and the rest.  But for whatever reason, it seemed as if re-signing Smith was a fait accompli and then he goes not to the Texans or Titans or even the Jets…but to the Eagles.  It’s as if the Eagles did this just to spite the Giants and the G-Men management seemed more bewildered than this cat.

Luckily for the Giants, the Eagles can’t get out of their own way.  Vince Young called the Eagles the “Dream Team” which is pretty ballsy from a guy who won’t play, quit on his former team twice and was once put on a suicide watch.  And while it’s hard to believe Nnamdi won’t be great, the rest of the signings won’t make the Eagles that much better.  Babin is a journeyman coming off a couple flash in the pan years, Jenkins is good not great and that offensive line is terrible.  I mean the Eagles first-round draft pick is 3 years away from applying for Medicare. Finally, we all know Andy Reid can’t win the big one.

It doesn’t seem it can get any worse for the G-Men, who have had glimpses of hope – Devin Thomas looks like a special teams maven, Dominick Hixon may solidify the 3rd receiver position and the Giants rookie linebackers Jones, Herzlich, Williams and Payslinger all look good putting the likes of Clint Sintim and Phillip Dillard from being sure-fire roster spots to fighting for their roster lives.  And there’s J-P-P.

So now the Giants play the Jets on Monday, which has become a depressing game since this is the first time I can remember where the Jets had really proven themselves undebatably as the better New York area team heading into the season.  But at this point, there’s no place for the Giants to go but up this pre-sesaon. Let’s just hope win-or-lose Monday night, the Giants stay healthy and just for our sense of self it would be nice if Plax didn’t have a big a game either.

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