Paul Schwartz: Now that the bye week has come and gone, it's time to take stock of what the Giants did and did not do in that first block of games. What was the best thing to happen before the bye? Gee, there's so much to choose from. There was that stirring comeback in Philadelphia. Let's see, there was that comeback in Philly, and also that come-from-behind victory over the Eagles. Hmm, what else comes to mind? Oh, none of the Giants deflated the tires of Tom Coughlin's car, no one filed a missing persons report on LaVar Arrington, no one sent the defensive backs for hearing and vision tests and no one started figuring out who will be available next spring when the Giants get a high draft pick. And by the way, the Phillies didn't make it into the playoffs, which continues a long line of athletic disappointments for Kenny "Wait 'til next year'' Palmer. Actually, there was something significant and entirely positive prior to the bye: Eli Manning's actions on and off the field. Other than two bad interceptions in Seattle, Eli's improved accuracy and command of the offense is readily apparent. What I liked best about Manning was the way he professionally and forcefully came down on Jeremy Shockey for his "outplayed and out-coached'' salvo following the loss to the Seahawks. Of all the fairly bland reactions to Shockey's quote, Eli sounded the strongest, calling the comment "unacceptable'' and saying, "We don't need anything to affect the chemistry of this team and the coaches and get everybody on a bad page or a bad note with each other.'' Some misguided observers felt Eli didn't go far enough, that he should have gotten in Shockey's face and told him to pipe down. That's Coughlin's job. Manning said what needed to be said and again took steps to raise his standing as a leader.
Ken Palmer: The main positive to come out of these first three games is the fact that New York left itself a ton of room for improvement. The fact that Big Blue came away from its first three contests with only two losses is a blessing in disguise. This team has shown plenty enough to make everyone think that there might not be more than another handful of wins left in New York's kitty. There are so many things this team needs to improve on that it's not even funny. The pass rush is nonexistent, the coverage even less so. The linebackers…well, through no fault of his own, New York's $35 million man, LaVar Arrington, has yet to be a factor. We can all thank Tim Lewis for that. Offensively, one of the league's most talented units has yet to be able to start a game with any kind of consistency. Yes, I know they marched right down the field on their opening possession in Philly, but after that, they couldn't do anything until after the Eagles took their foot off the gas. The biggest positive to come out of the first three weeks is that there were still 13 weeks left for Big Blue to work out the kinks.
PS: Now, for the worst thing to happen before the bye. My first inclination here was seeing how Kenny got his hopes up, as he always does, for a big year out of Penn State, only to see his beloved alma mater all-but knocked out of the BCS Bowl picture in the first month of the season. Around the Giants, there were plenty of "worst moments'' to choose from. Picking on the dismal defensive showing is an easy mark, one I anticipate Kenny jumping on, considering he is usually a master at stating the obvious. I will delve a bit more deeply and come up with this: The worst thing the Giants did prior to the bye was to give so much credit to their opponents and pay so much heed to the toughness of their schedule. Sure, we know facing the Colts, Eagles and Seahawks to start the season was a killer but get over it. The Giants talked all summer about their Super Bowl aspirations. Well then, if that's the case, the Giants are supposed to be one of the most difficult games on everyone else's schedule. The Giants acted as if they wanted to get Peyton Manning's autograph rather than sack him. The Giants for nearly three quarters in Philly acted as if the Eagles were a combination of the '85 Bears on defense and Joe Montana 49ers on offense. The Giants recalled how they should have won in Seattle last season and then on the return trip this year made the Seahawks look like world-beaters. Get over the rugged schedule and start playing like a rugged team.
KP: You're right on this one buddy – I will grab the obvious…because only a fool would overlook it. This team talked all offseason about being one of, if not the, best defenses in the entire league. Not even close. To think they even considered themselves good and responded with this type of effort in the season's first month is a total joke. You can only blame Tim Lewis so much, even though he asked that all blame be placed on his shoulders. At the end of the day, the players need to eventually make a play or two – whether they're in the perfect scheme or position on not. Someone on the D-line eventually needs to beat his man one-on-one and make a play here and there. There's no doubt these guys on defense are athletically capable of getting the job done, which leaves it as a question of desire or preparedness – or potentially both. Paul can drone on and on about my playoff-less Phils or Nittany Lions, who, by the way, have the fourth-toughest schedule of the 119 Division 1-A schools, a group that, of course, excludes the minor league Albany Great Danes. But he clearly is missing the boat by giving the defense a pass. There's no question that there's one reason – and one reason only – why New York got off to such a sorry start – the tough-talking, soft-playing defense. It's paramount that Lewis turns his troops around ASAP.
PS: Just as I predicted, Kenny would pound on the defense. Well, it's hard to argue so score one for Palmer. Now, looking forward, here's the key element for the Giants to improve on after the bye: Third down defense. It's as simple as that. Through three games, the Giants were dead last in third-down efficiency at 58.7 percent. That's pathetic and must improve dramatically or else the Giants aren't going anywhere but down. There it is, no need to get too wordy here.
KP: You too wordy? That's like calling Tom Coughlin business-like. You want to win games going forward? How about a TD before halftime? Yes, there's the one at the end of the first half on opening night after the Giants fell behind Indy, 13-0, and also the one to start the game in Philly. Beyond that? Nothing. Zilch. If the Giants want to win games – and not just make them interesting in the second half – Eli and his magic offense need to get the club some early points and, God forbid, an occasional lead. Then, maybe just maybe, the defense won't look so awful.
Double Coverage: Bye Bye to Giant Problems?
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