BEWARE THE “NO PLAXICO, NO PROBLEM” “EXPERTS,” ESPECIALLY IF YOU’RE A GIANTS FAN

                                Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas

Well, the Giants young receivers have really lit it up the first two weeks of the season.  Steve Smith and Mario Manningham have crashed the party and emerged as bona fide NFL receivers.  But before you (the hard-core Giant fan) buy into the fact that the Giants don’t need a Plaxico (or even an Amani Toomer), have an understanding of what the other teams are doing to defend the Giants. 

Steve Smith has caught 16 passes for 214 yards and one touchdown in the first two games.  Mario Manningham has been just as good, if not better, catching 13 passes for 208 yards and two touchdowns.  These are stunning numbers.  But it’s also pretty obvious what defenses, at least in the first two weeks of the season, are doing when they play the Giants.

WHY SO MANY PASSING YARDS?

That’s pretty easy to break down.  Clearly the game plan of both the Washington Redskins in Game 1 and the Dallas Cowboys in Game 2 was to stop Brandon Jacobs.  Jacobs seems to have been virtually invisible in the first two games, carrying 16 times for 46 yards against the Redskins and 16 times for 58 yards against the Cowboys.  But what that really means is that defenses decided from the get-go to put eight guys in the box most of the time, something that rarely, if ever, happened when Plaxico Burress commanded double-teams on virtually every play.

With virtually no double-teams on the wide receivers, Eli Manning, Smith and Manningham (with protection from an excellent offensive line) went to town and put up great numbers the first two weeks of the season.  But both of the teams they played did what they originally planned to do:  shut down Brandon Jacobs and the running game.  The Giants are only averaging 100 yards rushing per game – not the stuff playoff wins are made of (which is what you’re really talking about if you’re a hard core Giants fan).

WHAT WILL DEFENSES DO NOW AGAINST THE GIANTS?

At some point (probably sooner rather than later), since the Giants have shown they can throw the ball, defensive coordinators will have a tougher decision to make.  Should they not gang up on Jacobs and leave seven in the box?  Or should they do what the Redskins and Cowboys have done – shut down Jacobs but potentially get exposed in the passing game?

Well, that will be the week-to-week decision that defensive coordinators will have to make when they play the Giants.

BACK TO NO PLAXICO

It’s very clear to an intelligent Giants fan how much the loss of Plaxico really hurt the Giants last season.  It was never more obvious than in the playoff loss to the Eagles (see Kallas Remarks, 1/13/09, It (Virtually) All Goes Back to Plaxico). 

You may recall the play.  Very early in the game, the Giants drive down the field and have a third and eight from the Eagles nine with the game barely four minutes old.  This was Plaxico time:  you know, that Eli Manning fade into the end zone where Plaxico goes up and jumps over the two smaller defensive backs trying to defend him.  But with no Plaxico, Eli throws a short pass to Derrick Ward out of the backfield for five yards.  The Giants settle for an unsatisfying field goal — and it only got worse from there.  

So the Giants can and should get enormous credit for quickly developing a passing game.  But what’s really happened is that they’ve been successful against defenses geared to stopping the run.  If and when defensive coordinators believe they have to go double-team a Steve Smith or a Mario Manningham, you’ll see their numbers go down and Jacobs’ rushing yards go up.

That’s one of the beautiful things about football:  it’s a balancing act between rushing the ball and passing the ball.

SO WHAT’S THE PROBLEM IF YOU’RE A GIANTS FAN?

The problem is that, come the swirling winds and cold of maybe November, and probably December and January, it’s hard to throw the ball all over the field, especially at Giants Stadium.  So the balancing act is skewed towards stopping the run later in the season.

That’s when the real test will start for the New York Giants.  They’ve passed the first test in nice weather.

But it will be very hard for them to pass the final test in a playoff game in January because, no matter what you hear, they still haven’t replaced Plaxico.  Beware the “No Plaxico, No Problem” “experts.”

We’ll see what happens.               

© Copyright 2009 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.

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