It'd be hard to find a NFL team that had a more up-and-down, really more like a down-down-up-up-down, September 2012 than did the New York Giants. New York offered several displays of the roster's talent, heart and desire to win, but Big Blue has also largely looked like a flawed side that could be in the middle of a significant Super Bowl hangover. The one statistic that sticks out following the team's first four games of the season is that the Giants are thus far 0-2 against NFC East opponents. I can't blame any fan for being disappointed about that divisional record.
2012 NY Giants September review: Deserved criticism
I have been quick to defend both Eli Manning and Corey Webster throughout the years whenever analysts or fans would criticize either man. While not a perfect quarterback, Manning has more than proved his worth to the Giants, winning two Super Bowls, playing nearly two-thirds of a season on one foot due to plantar fasciitis, and also evolving into arguably the best fourth quarter QB in all of football. Webster has improved with each year to the point that he became the new Terrell Thomas, a shutdown corner and perhaps the most underrated DB in the NFL.
With all of that said, one cannot examine their September 2012 performances with unbiased eyes without realizing just how shaky they were during the first four games of the season. Take away the second half of the game against Tampa Bay and the contest at the Panthers that featured a Carolina defense that couldn't be bothered to show up, and Manning has been an erratic version of the "Bad Eli" that appeared far too often during the early stages of his career. His most costly miscues of the season thus far came during the fourth quarter of last Sunday's game at Philly, when he essentially erased an impressive touchdown drive with two of his worst passes of the season, a costly end zone interception and an unwise and unnecessary ball down the sideline late in the game that ultimately moved the Giants out of field goal range due to an offensive pass interference call.
Webster has, in three of New York's first four games, been somewhere between bad and invisible. There were times during the games against Dallas and Philadelphia when I was convinced Webster wasn't even on the field, something that can't be blamed on a broken hand. Injuries have left Webster as the lone reliable mainstay cornerback on the Giants. He has yet to step up and be the on-the-field leader that secondary needs.
History suggests that we have yet to see the best from both men, and that both will play better as the season progresses. I sure hope so. If not, New York will be, at best, a .500 football team.
2012 NY Giants September review: Familiar concern
It just wouldn't be the New York Giants if they weren't dealing with a boatload of injury concerns before the halfway point of the campaign. The following players are banged up heading into the first contest of October, a home game against Cleveland: Hakeem Nicks, Ramses Barden, Kenny Phillips, Corey Webster, David Baas, David Diehl, Chris Snee, Rocky Bernard, Keith Rivers, Antrel Rolle, Michael Coe, Michael Boley and Jayron Hosley.
The Giants are once again averaging under 90 rushing yards per game, and it's that stat that makes the injuries to Nicks and Barden the most alarming to me at the start of October. Knee and foot problems could keep Nicks sidelined for at least one more week, and Barden, who suffered a concussion late in the game against Philly, will first have to pass a variety of tests before he's cleared to play.
Victor Cruz and Domenik Hixon are both fan favorites, but the game against the Eagles showed everybody that those two being Manning's favorite targets is not what is best for this offense, at least not right now. Somebody, likely Rueben Randle (Randle has just one catch after four games), is going to have to step up at the start of October if the Giants are going to avoid an early fall swoon. Giants fans can joke about the quality of the Browns all they want. We were all making similar jokes four years ago.
2012 NY Giants September review: Random thoughts
The Giants aren't nearly as bad as they looked in the season opener, nor are the Dallas Cowboys as good as they looked on that Wednesday night. Despite the fact that Dallas already has a win over the Giants in hand, I'd still say that Big Blue is in a better position to make the playoffs and even win the division than is Dallas. That's how much of a mess the 'Boys are after just one month.
The Giants aren't nearly as good as they looked at Carolina, nor is the Carolina offense as poor as it seemed to be when dominated by the New York defense. It's hard to say too many good things about the defense of the Panthers considering Carolina has given up at least 30 points in each of the team's past three games, and also the fact that the defense couldn't stop Atlanta at the end of last Sunday's game despite the Falcons being stuck at their own one-yard line with no timeouts and under 70 seconds left on the clock.
I understand that Giants fans are excited about the thought of David Wilson being the team's new "lightning in a bottle" kick returner after he torched the Eagles for over 200 yards on just six returns. Everybody would do well to remember that there is a very good reason he found himself in coach Tom Coughlin's doghouse after just one game. I'd love to see Wilson get multiple chances to display his return abilities against the Browns, but it's very much so a stretch to suggest that he has earned that gig on a full-time basis at this point of the season.
2012 NY Giants September review: Grade
It's difficult to offer up a final grade on New York's September, mostly because we haven't yet seen the Giants at anywhere close to 100 percent. Losses to the Cowboys and Eagles sting, of course, but not a part of me believes that Big Blue can't avenge both of those losses later on in 2012. The key for the Giants now is to win each and every winnable game, starting this weekend against the Browns. A failure to do so could see New York's season quickly get out of hand.
Final grade: Incomplete
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