Before I get started, let me remind everyone that the following is just a sampling of the evaluations done on the players who took part in the most recent game.
Yes, there are others who had a good showing and yes there are others who didn’t, and no, they’re not mentioned here. That’s what the Inside Football Giants-Steelers post game issue is all about.
Imagine, for a moment, a world where we didn’t have to work for anything, where we had a defined role that was ours regardless of the circumstances, regardless of how we performed.
Sounds pretty sweet, right?
But then what would we have to work for? What incentive would there be to get better?
Fortunately there is no such world, certainly not in the NFL, where for the majority of the guys on rosters, they must prove themselves over and over in what’s a highly competitive atmosphere.
The mere presence of competition has an interesting effect on a person’s psyche. When faced with a challenge, a person is either going to rise up and work to earn what’s in their sight, or they’re going to throw their hands in the air, take their ball and move on to another environment where they can be the ruler of the castle.
So what does this have to do with the Giants’ 18-13 win over the Steelers?
Glad you asked.
This game was a chance to see just what certain players are made of when faced with competition that comes in the form of either veterans who are signed to one-year “show me deals” because no one else really wanted them badly enough to offer them a bigger contract, or draft picks that on paper are studs in the making, but who have much to prove when they come in the doors to earn a roster spot.
There are guys on NFL rosters that are just happy to be able to say they’re in camp with a pro team, and who strut around flaunting it like they just scored a brand new sports car that was handed to them by a supporter.
Then there are those who you just know are somehow going to be okay because of how they respond to the competition that’s put in front of them for their job.
In this week’s game, there are two guys that come to mind. The first is linebacker Spencer Paysinger, who is the incumbent starting strongside linebacker. Two years ago, Paysinger came to the team as an undrafted free agent. About two weeks into camp, he was suddenly working with the starters when Michael Boley, then the starter, was hurting.
Paysinger, who is in a battle with Jacquian Williams, a draft pick, this summer, has done all the little things that can mean the difference in being successful and being a flop. Al you need to do is read this piece that I wrote about Paysinger back in April, and you’ll see just how serious Paysinger is about hanging on to the opportunity that he has.
How about safety Tyler Sash? A 2011 sixth round draft pick, a vast number of people left Sash’s career for dead when the team signed veteran Ryan Mundy this offseason and then drafted Cooper Taylor, who was the toast of the spring.
What did Sash do? He stood up to the challenges and pushed himself to the limit to get better.
And while no one is ready to hand him a starting job just yet after one strong preseason performance, if you come away with nothing else regarding Sash, you should at least realize that he’s a competitor who, despite being a sixth round draft pick, obviously received the message loud and clear that he was not going to be handed a roster spot just because he was drafted or because he helped contribute to the 2011 Super Bowl season.
The moral of this story is that it’s not always the competition we see on the field that helps separate the men from the boys.
It’s the stuff done behind the scenes which can often times mean the difference for guys who might not be the most physically gifted in the world, but whose desire to succeed often means the difference in making it at this level and being sent home.
Damontre Moore: I have to confess that I didn’t think “DaMonster” was going to be anything more this year than a situational pass rusher. Well, based on this game, I was wrong. Moore played lights out, hands down, and his stats don’t even begin to tell the story of his contributions, which included a lot of solid plays that helped benefit teammates. This kid has looked pretty darn good in practice and the best thing is he’s yet to even come close to scratching the surface of his potential.
Tyler Sash: Sash was one of those guys who a lot of people left for dead after the team added Ryan Mundy through free agency, and drafted Cooper Taylor this year. Well it’s only one game, and granted, it happened against the second and third-string players, but let’s give credit where it’s due. Sash, who played lights out this week not just on defense but also on special teams. He was around the ball a lot and played a very alert game. His performance probably doesn’t get him completely off the chopping block as he’ll have to do it the rest of the preseason, but he certainly made a strong case for more playing time, which he’ll certainly get if Taylor continues to be sidelined with a balky hamstring.
Dan Conner: I though Conner had a much more solid showing in relief of starter Mark Herzlich. Yes, Conner was left sucking wind chasing after the quarterback on that one play, but he was also far more active in shedding blocks and getting after the ball. He was also solid in coverage, showed discipline in not over pursuing, and was aggressive in attacking holes. Don’t be surprised if you read this week that Connor gets more snaps with the starters in practice.
Eric Herman: Back in the spring, I used to cringe when I watched Herman move because his footwork was so awkward that it was hard to understand how he made it this far. Well the good news is that he’s taken major steps in his improvement, and while not a finished product, he’s on the right path. The kid moves well and can hit on the move at that, doing a nice job of getting to the second level. While he did give up two sacks this week, Herman did more than enough to stir up memories of another hard-nosed Giants offensive lineman – Rich Seubert, who when he hit you, you knew it, and who was a problem to deal with at the second level.
RB Da’Rel Scott: Scott might have blinding straight line speed, but that he can be easily brought down by arm tackles is not exactly the way to separate yourself from the pack for that last running back spot.
Mark Herzlich/Keith Rivers: Two third of the starting linebacker unit who had looked so good in practice just didn’t deliver the goods when it came time to step on the field, and that was disappointing.
I’ll start with Herzlich. It’s hard not to root for this guy, but two years in a row, he’s looked like a stud in practice only to lose something when he steps on a live playing field.
This week, he simply had trouble with contain and with getting off his blocks. He was also a step too slow in getting into position, and I think he was part of the problem the first team was having against the run.
Rivers? I’ve said from day one he has a load of talent and if he puts his mind to it, he can be a major stud. His problem is that he was too much of a live wire, over reacting to running plays, which resulted in him taking himself out of the picture. Case in point was when he overreacted to a pass to the fullback in the flat on a third and short, the fullback whizzing by him.
A combination of ‘Hits’ and ‘Misses’
Josh Brown: I no sooner tweeted that I thought Brown was having an outstanding début as a member of the Giants when he missed a 38-yard field goal attempt wide left. With his leg, he has to be automatic inside of the 40, no questions asked. On the plus side, his kickoffs were fairly solid – three of the four went into the end zone, and only one of those three was brought out, the other two going for touchbacks.
Ryan Nassib: Did he have a rough start on his very first series? Yes. Should he have maybe tried to recover the high shotgun snap that went over his head? Yes. Did he complete just one of his four passes for 29 yards? Sure, but all that aside, Nassib showed poise and leadership in shaking off the bumpy start and settling down as the offense’s leader.
He does still have a long way to go, but as we have seen with some veteran quarterbacks, sometimes when they get rattled early, they just don’t recover. The ones who forget about the earlier series are usually the ones who turn out to be the guys you want slinging the ball for your team.
RB André Brown: He blocked well in pass protection – I’ll even go so far as to say I thought he was the best of the running backs in this area. However, there is simply no excuse for his fumble, which occurred when he took his eye off the ball for a split second to study the rush that was coming at him. We’re talking basic football – secure the ball and then run.
At the start of training camp, general manager Jerry Reese gave everyone a couple of numbers that meant something to him.
I’d like to play along and give you one number that stuck out to me after the Giants’ 18-13 win over the Steelers.
That’s the number of new players who started for the Giants last night. The breakdown included five different starters on offense – receiver Rueben Randle, right guard Brandon Mosley, tight end Brandon Myers, fullback Bear Pascoe, and running back David Wilson.
It also included six on defense, defensive ends Mathias Kiwanuka and Cullen Jenkins, defensive tackle Shaun Rogers, and linebackers Keith Rivers, Mark Herzlich, and Spencer Paysinger.
Now obviously some of those new starters were starting because of injuries to the incumbent from last season – Pascoe for Henry Hynoski, Jenkins for Justin Tuck, Kiwanuka for Jason Pierre-Paul, and Mosley for Chris Snee all come to mind.
The point I’m trying to make is that while the win over the Steelers wasn’t perfect, I wonder how much of the issues were a result of the new personnel.
For example, in the front seven of the first team defense, you had six new faces. That’s a significant turnover considering these faces have only really been working together in full pads now for about a week and a half.
On the offensive side, four of the five newcomers are responsible for pass protection with the fifth guy, Randle, just now getting his chance to show that all the progress he made in practice isn’t a fluke.
So how much of the first team offense’s shortcomings were a result of choppy pass blocking or perhaps a result of Randle and Eli Manning not being on the same page where the receiver was where he was supposed to be when the ball was thrown?
So if you’re sitting there wringing your hands because the run defense stunk, the linebackers stunk, the red zone offense stunk, remember that there’s nowhere to go but up, and as the regular personnel returns from their respective injuries the quality of play should ultimately rise.
As a reporter, I’m supposed to be objective, but I can’t help but feel for guys like receiver Kris Adams, who suffered a gruesome ankle injury when his leg got caught on the turf and bent in a way that ankles just aren’t supposed to bend.
This is a young man who showed some potential in camp and who might have had a chance for a spot on the practice squad with a solid preseason showing. Instead, he’s dealing with a fracture to a part of his body that a receiver needs to make his living, and his immediate future is in doubt.
That, to me, is a far bigger travesty than the sloppy run defense or the sluggish red zone offense that took place in a game that doesn’t mean a thing at the end of the day.