Behind Enemy Lines: Giants Edition

Rick Laughland of The Giants Beat took time out to answer five questions regarding his team, from Eli Manning to changes on the defense.

With Ben McAdoo as offensive coordinator, Eli Manning's completion percentage has significantly improved, especially over the last three weeks. What's been the most noticeable change in Manning's game?

I think everything is finally starting to click for Eli Manning. After spending nearly ten years in one offensive system, No. 10 has adapted to McAdoo’s West Coast system slowly but surely. Even though the Giants were 5-0 during the preseason, the timing and rhythm of the offense looked off kilter and Manning endured some growing pains in trying to speed up his footwork and develop a quicker release. McAdoo and company told reporters during the preseason that the team targeted a 70 percent completion rate for Manning which most fans and the media scoffed at. Meanwhile, Manning has completed at least 70 percent of his passes two of the last three contests and looks much more comfortable in timing his drops and slinging the ball to his receivers and running backs in open space. The adjustment to a new offensive system was a rough one at first, but I think it’s going to pay huge dividends to the Giants in the long haul. I’m surprised at how quickly Manning has absorbed the new playbook and quickly went from zero to hero in the minds of Giants fans.

If Rashad Jennings is to miss any length of time with an MCL sprain, how big is the drop off from him to Andre Williams?

Rashad Jennings is a special runner and more importantly a locker room leader. The former Raider is adept at finding hidden yardage and features a deadly combination of speed, elusiveness and power. Jennings was the NFL’s third leading rusher before he went down with the MCL sprain in Week 5 and appeared to be well on his way to a 1,000 yard season. Tom Coughlin is treating Jennings injury as day-to-day and while Jennings takes exceptional care of his body and is a notoriously fast healer I’d be shocked if he saw the field any time before the Giants Week 8 bye. As for Andre Williams, the former Boston College standout has wowed both coaches and teammates with his sheer power and wrecking-ball running style. Williams is as physical as they come at the running back position and while he delivers his share of punishment, his brutish style opens himself up bumps and bruises along the way. Williams is a North-South runner that is nearly impossible to stop in short yardage situation, but without Jennings in the lineup Big Blue is missing a true home run threat out of the backfield.

Would you go as far as to say that Will Beatty's improvement on the offensive line (one sack allowed in five games) is the biggest game-changer on the offense?

Will Beatty has put his nightmarish 2013 season behind him and is playing some of the best football of his career. The veteran lineman was under fire last season and has come out of the gate this year with a chip on his shoulder and has emerged as a leader of his unit. New York’s offensive front was a makeshift group last year with David Baas, Chris Snee, David Diehl and eventually Beatty going down to season-ending injuries. Through the draft, free agency and rest, the front office retooled its front five and turned what was once thought of as the team’s Achilles heel into a strength. Manning hasn’t been under duress this year in large part to the West Coast offense and his quick drops and release not exposing him to hits in the pocket. The combination of improved offensive line play and an up-tempo offense has helped the Giants signal-caller stay upright in 2014.

The acquisition of Robert Ayers is immediately paying dividends, thanks to his constant pressure. How would you compare him to the departed Justin Tuck?

To be perfectly honest Ayers has been relegated to a situational pass-rushing role and while he has tallied two sacks on the season he’s not been utilized as an every down player for New York. Justin Tuck in his heyday was a one-man wrecking crew and when paired with the likes of Jason Pierre-Paul, Osi Umenyiora and Michael Strahan he was one of the best leaders on and off the field that Big Blue ever saw. Ayers is a third down pass-rushing specialist who can makes some plays in key spots, but I don’t think his impact on the game or ability to rally his teammates is even in the same stratosphere as Tuck.

Reading through Pro Football Focus, it seems that Prince Amukamara is the only defensive back that is playing at a consistently-high level. How would you assess the secondary, and where do you feel the weak links lie?

It’s fair to say that the Giants secondary is the most talented unit they’ve had since the Tom Coughlin era began in 2004. Prince Amukamara is really coming into his own and while he has not reached shutdown cornerback status just yet, if he keeps up his level of play he could be headed to the Pro Bowl. Dominique Rogers-Cromartie has been slowed by hip and ankle ailments and while his tackling has been in brought into question, his fluidity in coverage and great recovery speed makes him one of the NFL’s best No. 2 cornerbacks. Antrel Rolle is a playmaker in the secondary who does his fair share of talking during the week and on Sundays. Quintin Demps had taken over the starting role from Stevie Brown and his range in coverage and ball hawking nature make him a dangerous weapon for Nick Foles and company to be wary of.

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