Packers scouting report: Giants boast dominant front four, high-end receiving corps

2012-01-11T09:00:00Z 2012-01-11T17:15:56Z Packers scouting report: Giants boast dominant front four, high-end receiving corpsPETE DOUGHERTY | Green Bay Press-Gazette | pdougher@greenbaypressgazette.com | Twitter: @PeteDougherty madison.com

GREEN BAY — Following is a scouting report of the 10-7 New York Giants based on interviews with NFL coaches and scouts: 

Run offense

 

The Giants rank No. 32 in rushing yards and yards per carry, but with Ahmad Bradshaw at full strength, they are much better than that ranking suggests.

Bradshaw averaged only 3.9 yards a carry this season but missed four games in November because of a foot injury and wasn't his normal self when he returned against the Packers on Dec. 4. In the Giants' wild-card win over Atlanta last week he averaged 4.5 yards on 14 carries and looked more like the featured back he was in rushing for 1,235 yards last year.

Brandon Jacobs looked like he suddenly was washed up a couple years ago, but at age 29 he's proving to still be an imposing (6-4, 256), physical change-of-pace runner. He pounded the Falcons for 92 yards on 14 carries. When allowed to run north-and-south he can be a freight train, but when made to move laterally he's pedestrian at best.

The Giants' offensive line is OK. Center David Baas (6-4, 312), who missed the last meeting against the Packers because of a concussion, is the weakest link.

 

 Pass offense

 

The Giants have become a passing team, in part because of Bradshaw's injury, but the bulk of their offensive talent is in the passing game too.

Quarterback Eli Manning, 31, had probably his best year statistically and for sure subjectively. He was 67 yards short of being the fourth quarterback this season to throw for at least 5,000 yards, and his 92.9 passer rating ranked No. 7 in the NFL.

He has good size (6-4, 218), a strong throwing arm and good touch. He's not a scrambler but has a great feel for sliding in the pocket and finding throwing lanes, much like his brother Peyton.

He's still prone to the occasional bad game (44.5 rating in a home loss to Washington four weeks ago) but has been more consistent than in the past and cut his interceptions from 25 last year to a more manageable 16 this season.

His receiving corps isn't quite as good as the Packers' and Saints' but probably ranks in the group behind them. Victor Cruz (6-0, 203) and Hakeem Nicks (6-1, 208) are No. 1-caliber receivers and command regular double teams.

Cruz, a second-year pro who made the Giants as an undrafted rookie last year, has blossomed into a playmaker and ranked No. 3 in the NFL in receiving yards (1,536 yards, 18.7-yard average, nine touchdowns) and No. 9 in receptions (82). He plays faster than Nicks and catches the ball well even though he had two drops against Atlanta.

Nicks (76 catches, 15.7-yard average) is more physical and the better red-zone threat, though he'll have the occasional drop.

Mario Manningham (6-0, 185) missed four games in the second half of the season because of a knee injury, is a good No. 3 receiver (39 receptions, 13.4-yard average), though after him the talent drops considerably to Ramses Barden (nine catches, 10.4-yard average).

The Giants ranked No. 6 in sacks percentage, though that's as much because of Manning's feel in the pocket as it is the offensive line. David Diehl (6-5, 304) is a little miscast at left tackle and probably should be playing guard.

 Run defense

 

Coordinator Perry Fewell has the best defensive-line rotation in the NFL. The Giants ranked only No. 19 in rushing yards allowed and No. 23 in yards allowed per carry, but they had injury issues the first half of the season and have the talent to control the line of scrimmage.

Atlanta's Michael Turner, who rushed for 1,340 yards and a 4.5-yard average, gained only 41 yards on 15 carries last week.

On early downs Linval Joseph (6-4, 323) and Rocky Bernard (6-3, 301) split snaps at tackle with Chris Canty (6-7, 317). Jason Pierre-Paul (6-5, 278) has been a revelation as a pass rusher in his second season but has played the run well also.

Against Atlanta, the Giants twice stuffed Matt Ryan on fourth-and-one quarterback sneaks in game-turning plays.

 

 Pass defense

 

The Giants can generate as much heat with four rushers as any team in the league, but shortcomings in the secondary have been an issue for a defense that shockingly ranked No. 29 in the NFL in passing yards allowed and No. 20 in yards allowed per pass.

Pierre-Paul has gone from a raw rookie last year to one of the game's dominant defensive players and finished No. 4 in the NFL in sacks (16.5). He can win with speed and power.

End Osi Umenyiora (nine sacks) at age 30 still has speed as an outside rusher on nickel downs, and starting end Justin Tuck (five sacks) moves inside on passing downs as a third rusher offenses have to account for. Even Canty (four sacks) and Dave Tollefson (five sacks) offer something as inside rushers.

Cornerback Corey Webster (6-0, 200) is their best cover man. He runs only OK but is physical and changes directions well. Aaron Ross (6-0, 190), a first-round pick in '07, is average. He sustained a head injury last week against Atlanta, but the Newark Star-Ledger is reporting he might not have had a concussion and is expected to play this week.

If by chance Ross can't play, first-round pick Prince Amukamara would start in his place. The No. 19 pick overall this year has size (6-0, 207) and talent but hasn't held up well when forced to play after missing most of camp and the first nine games because of a broken foot.

Amukamara's struggles mean Antrel Rolle moves from safety to inside cornerback in the nickel. Slow-footed Deon Grant, 32, replaces Rolle at safety.

 

 Special teams

Lawrence Tynes is a solid, accurate kicker who has made 80.9 percent of his field goal attempts in his eight-year career, including 19 of 24 this year.

In 2007, his 47-yarder in the brutal cold at Lambeau Field won the NFC championship game in overtime. Tynes ranks No. 16 in the NFL in touchbacks (34). Punter Steve Weatherford, signed as a free agent from the Jets in the offseason, ranks No. 13 in net average (39.2 yards) and No. 14 in gross average (45.7 yards).

The Giants lack a dynamic element in their return game. Receiver Devin Thomas handled kickoffs (24.7-yard average, No. 14 in the NFL) most of the season but has a long of only 40 yards and has given way to Da'Rel Scott (24.4-yard average) and rookie Jerrell Jernigan (23.3-yard average).

Former Packers return man Will Blackmon hasn't been as quick or explosive since having ACL surgery in 2009 and averaged only 4.2 yards per punt return in the regular season since the Giants re-signed him in late November, and then 5.6 yards on five returns last week against the Falcons.

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