My friend Brad Stratton (not pictured), a sportswriter turned educator, is back for some more guest prognosticating about his beloved New Yorker Football Giants who play the Washington Redskins this weekend in our native New Jersey.
WFY: Everything was lined up for the 2015 New York Football Giants. They were 5-5 coming out of the bye in a mediocre NFC East and in position to sneak into the playoffs, run the table and win the Super Bowl like they had 4 and 8 years earlier, respectively. Yet, they failed to do so, seemingly in defiance of the social contract. The New England Patriots must have been thrown off, because they couldn’t even beat the other Manning QB to advance to the Super Bowl. What went wrong?
BMS: The Giants’ defense was bad last year. They were 32nd in yards allowed, 32nd in passing yards allowed, and 30th in points allowed. Our pass rush was as nonexistent as you can get. In fact, our “savior” on defense returned in midseason with only eight and a half fingers. Yet if their games ended 75 seconds earlier last year, they would have been 11-5. The offense was Top 10, but the defense couldn’t hold a lead.
WFY: Big Blue is undefeated having beaten Dallas and New Orleans. How have they looked so far? Might Ben McAddo not be the next Ray Handley? How is Eli Manning doing with both Victor Cruz and Odell Beckham?
BMS: The front office poured a ton of money into the defense over the offseason, bringing in DE Olivier Vernon, DT Damon Harrison, and CB Janoris Jenkins from the Dolphins, Jets, and Rams, respectively. Pierce-Paul’s hand has healed enough to wear a special glove, so they gave him $10 million in a one-year deal. And those investments have, so far, paid off. There is a legitimate pass rush. The secondary is being left out to fend for themselves. The run defense has been outstanding. The Cowboys’ offensive line might be the best in football, but highly-touted rookie Ezekiel Elliott only averaged 2.55 yards a carry. Last week, the Saints only managed 41 yards rushing.
Definitely, one of the feel good stories so far has been the return of Victor Cruz. He hadn’t played since.Week 8 of the 2013 season, when he torn his patella tendon (imagine your knee cap going into your thigh). Last season, he struggled with a persistent calf injury that kept him sidelined all year, and on top of that, he’s about to turn 30. The odds were he might be done, and when he dealt with a groin issue during training camp, it looked that way. But he had the winning touchdown catch against Dallas, and made a huge sideline catch against New Orleans that set up the winning field goal.
And no, I would not compare McAdoo to He Who Must Not Be Named. McAdoo has been running the offense for two years, and running it well. You Know Who looked like an incompetent accountant.
WFY: How much are you looking forward to Beckham vs. Josh Norman?
BMS: Beckham is interesting. He’s played fairly well, but nothing like what we’re used to. One play before Cruz’s big catch against the Saints, he dropped an easy touchdown catch. He hasn’t found the end zone yet. His yards after the catch haven’t really been there. And then he’s got Josh Norman this weekend. I don’t think they will get as animated as last year, but Norman has proved able to get inside Beckham’s head, so we’ll see.
WFY: Now onto something important, uniforms. White pants and white shoes at home? Ugh. If they are going that direction, better go all the way and drop the gray striping and gray facemask too. On the other hand, the Color Rash uniforms are basically 1980s whites (sans blue socks) and GIANTS on the helmet and you seem pretty excited about it. Do you want want them to dump the gray completely? I love the current roadies.
BMS: I am beyond elated that the color rush jerseys are essentially the 1980s uniforms. For a while, the word out of the Giants was that we would never see the old GIANTS helmets again. Instead we got the ugly red jerseys, and I was frankly worried about what the color rush jerseys would look like. For the regular uniforms, I’m indifferent about white vs. gray pants. I like both.
WFY: Have you seen the Timeline episode, Jersey Guys? Being a Jersey Guy, did you enjoy it? Have you talked to older Jersey Guys, who were around when the move happened about it? I have seen bits and pieces of it (hasn’t made it to youtube in its entirety) and enjoyed what I saw.
BMS: I have only seen a little bit of Jersey Guys. We got rid of cable back in December, so I wasn’t able to see it the first time. I did manage to see some of Jersey Guys on the net on Monday night, but it was on late and I fell asleep in the middle. It was a dick move by Ed Koch to not let the Giants go down the Canyon of Heroes in ’87 (editor’s note: Brad did finally get to a ticker tape parade in 1999 for the Yankees. Sort of). I did enjoy A Football Life: Bill Parcells.
WFY: I’m skeptical the burgundy and gold can put it together and beat a good team having been dominated by Sam’s Steelers (at home) and losing to Dallas. I’m going with Giants 24-17, what about you? I also think the Giants should take the division and I’m not saying this to jinx you.
BMS: While the Giants are 2-0, we don’t quite know how good they are so far. They ran effectively against Dallas, but were pretty ineffective against New Orleans. They dominated the Saints, but won with a last second field goal because they were their own worst enemy (three fumbles, a missed field goal, a failed fourth and goal, and drive killing penalties). Marshall Newhouse graded out at the best offensive lineman in the league in Week 1, but looked lost at times in Week 2 (he is out for Sunday).
As for Washington, they are a desperate team. Even at 0-2, a win on Sunday and the Browns in Week 4 could put them at a manageable 2-2. But 0-3, with two losses in the division, that’s the stuff that murders your season early. Look for who is able to get off to the quick start on Sunday. If it’s the Redskins, all the doubt could creep away and they could have a good shot in this one. But if the Giants start strong, that could be the nudge Washington needs to go from desperate to careless.
I’ll agree with your score. 24-17 Giants, but 24-17 Redskins wouldn’t surprise me.