Dave Klein was the Giants' beat
writer for The Star-Ledger from 1961 to 1995.
He is the author of 26 books
and he was one of only three sportswriters to have covered all the Super Bowls
up until last year. Dave has allowed TEAM GIANTS to reprint some of his articles.
During this prolonged, or does it just seem that way, preseason period, our Scott
Landstrom has found time to research the eerie similarities between the 2007 Giants,
who "shocked the world" and took a 9-7 record into the Super Bowl where
they beat the undefeated New England Patriots, and this year's version, the 2022
Giants, who seem to be gifted with the same incredible improvements. This year's
Giants have been picked the second-most likely to "shock the world"
yet again. Read on see if you agree.
Well, the other day
I had some work to do on my laptop computer, but had ESPN on in the background,
with the entertaining "Keyshawn, JWill, and Max" show being aired.
Their subject for can be paraphrased as follows: "The 2020 Cincinnati Bengals
finished in last place in the AFC North with a 4-12-1 record. Yet the very next
season, 2021, they won the AFC Championship and came one solitary play from upsetting
the Rams and winning the Lombardi Trophy. Which teams, if any, are capable of
being this year's Cincinnati Bengals miracle team, and "rising from the ashes"
So the three of them conducted a poll and concluded there
were four teams capable of (read: not that it's likely, just that it's possible)
a deep playoff run in 2022 after doing really poorly in the 2021 season.
as I typed away on my computer, I heard that their number one selection was the
Jacksonville Jaguars, which I didn't find all that surprising. While their record
was terrible, Urban Meyer was running a "clown show" of bad judgments,
bad motivation, and off-field embarrassments. They ended up having three different
"signature wins," all three against winning teams - beating Miami, Buffalo,
and Indianapolis, the latter by 26-11 on the final day of the regular season.
AND they have an uber-talented young QB in Trevor Lawrence and a pretty decent
defense. I shook my head in agreement and waited for which team would be next.
And would you believe it - their No. 2 choice for a team that could "shock
the world" after being bad last season was none other than your New York
Let me try to paraphrase their logic as follows.
After years of
wallowing with a "bottom three" offensive line, New York has FINALLY
fixed it, and will likely have an above average O-line this season. Saquon Barkley
has looked as healthy as a thoroughbred racehorse this summer, which makes sense.
This is his second season back after ACL surgery, and this is a kid who had over
2,000 yards of total offense in his rookie season behind an atrocious run blocking
line. Imagine what a healthy Barkley could do with a semi-elite run blocking line?
AND a tight end who relishes run blocking (rookie Daniel Bellinger) instead of
a tight end who HATED it (Evan Engram).
Moreover, Daniel Jones has never once
played a season in which his offensive line did NOT finish in the dregs of the
league in "Pass Block Win Rate," finishing 28th in 2021, and dead last
(32nd) in 2020. Imagine what the kid can do if they actually pass block for him
and give him some time in the pocket?
Then, they argued, you mix in one of
the top "offensive minded" head coach/offensive coordinator combinations
in the entire NFL in Brian Daboll and Mike Kafka, and this offense could dwarf
the output seen the past few seasons.
They then went on to talk about defense,
and the value of getting "tackling machine" Blake Martinez back from
a knee injury and adding the "best defensive player in the draft" in
Kayvon Thibodeaux to a young defense that already had rising stars Xavier McKinney
and Azeez Ojulari, both on track to make some Pro Bowls soon in their careers.
Then you add two above-average defensive tackles with Dexter Lawrence and Leonard
Williams, add "top-five" rated coverage cornerback Adoree Jackson and
Wink Martindale to dial up some exotic blitzes, and they could clearly be "cooking
with gas" on defense.
So apparently, I am not the ONLY one that is "drinking
the Kool-Aid" that Joe Schoen and Daboll are concocting and serving. And
exactly then is when it hit me. These three sports analysts were trying to get
a read on any team that could "shock the world" in the manner the Bengals
did, going from last place to deep into the playoffs (in fact, one missed pass
from winning the Super Bowl.) And when I think of a Giants' team that clearly
"shocked the world" it is obviously the 2007 team, which beat the mighty
17-0 New England Patriots as 18-point underdogs in Super Bowl 42, showing up with
a 9-7 regular season record against an undefeated opponent.
And do you know
what? This 2022 Giants team has some eerie similarities to that "shock the
world" 2007 team. Some of them are such remote possibilities that it is "spooky."
Check it out as follows:
Both teams had/have first year offensive AND defensive
The 2007 team hired Steve Spagnuolo to run the 4-3 defense and
Kevin Gilbride as OC, who would remain in that role for six more seasons until
his retirement. Both coordinators played central roles in their miracle playoff
run. The 2022 team has Martindale as DC and Kafka as OC, both completely new to
the team this season.
When you are on a team coming off a 4-13 season, losing
the last six games consecutively by an average of 14 points, having some "new
blood" in the top coordinator ranks is a good thing.
Both teams had elite
first round drafted QBs from southeastern schools, both coached in college by
David Cutcliffe, each was/will be playing in their fourth NFL season, who both
stood 6-5 in stature:
It is pretty frightening the number of parallels that
Daniel Jones has today to a young Eli Manning going into the 2007 season. If he
can only capture the same "play your best when the lights are brightest"
that Elisha captured that season, we could be in for a great ride.
were/are deep in talent at the WR position:
In fact, if you look at the physical
characteristics, the "top three" receivers on both teams include: a)
a tall, physical "possession receiver" who can be a red-zone threat
(Plaxico Burress in 2007, who actually caught the game winner in the Super Bowl,
and Kenny Golladay of the modern team, who led the NFL in TD receptions just three
seasons ago). Then both teams also include b) a wily and shifty veteran who leads
the entire team in tenure with the Giants at the time (Amani Toomer for the 2007
team, Sterling Shepard for the modern team).
Finally, both teams included
c) an explosive second-year receiver who is extremely difficult to cover (Steve
Smith for the 2007 team, who would later catch over 100 passes in a season for
NY, Kadarius Toney for the 2022 team, who just OOZES talent and "uncoverable"
attributes). So the formula that "fits" both receiver units is big,
tall possession receiver, shifty talented veteran, and an explosive and uncoverable
second year player.
Both teams emphasize a RB who is perhaps unparalleled
in the league at that time in size/speed/power ratio:
The 2007 team starred
Brandon Jacobs, who was the biggest, most powerful starting RB the league has
seen before or since at 6-4, 264 pounds. And for a man that size, his 4.52 forty
time was exceptional. The current team boasts "Sa-quads" Barkley, who
can "squat" an amazing 650 pounds and runs a 4.40 forty (second best
of all RBs at his combine) at 6-0, 234 pounds, and whose vertical jump was an
amazing 41.0 inches, leading all running backs in that event.
Both teams featured
late round draft choices who were powerful blockers with great hands, who were
replacing long time first-round drafted starters:
Everyone remembers the David
Tyree "helmet catch" as the most spectacular individual play in Super
Bowl history. But that play never happens without fifth round draft choice Kevin
Boss' 45-yard catch-and-run down the right sideline to get the Giants off their
own goal line and in position for the Tyree pass.
Boss was replacing Jeremy
Shockey, of course, who was injured and lost for the season. The 2022 team has
rookie fourth round draft choice Bellinger, a tenacious blocker who didn't drop
a single pass his senior season at San Diego State, and is replacing long-time
starter, first rounder Engram, who the team allowed to "walk away" in
Both teams feature THREE "elite" linemen on their offensive
The 2007 team featured Shaun O'Hara at center, head coach Tom Coughlin's
son-in-law Chris Snee at right guard and Kareem McKenzie at right tackle. That
turned line into a very "right handed" unit in terms of its designed
runs. The 2022 team has left tackle Andrew Thomas (who was a "top 12"
tackle last season in PFF), right guard Mark Glowinski (who was a "top 18"
guard in PFF) and man-mountain rookie Evan Neal, all 6-7, 350 pounds of him out
of Alabama who may be the greatest offensive line prospect to come out of college
since guard Quinton Nelson out of Notre Dame in 2018.
In fact, I will say
it right now: The Giants have gone from being pathetic at offensive tackle in
2020, and leading the NFL in sacks allowed by tackles, to a place where I would
not even think about trading the combination of Thomas and Neal for any other
team's starting tackles, given their talent levels and youthfulness.
both teams have explosive 250-260 pound "edge rushers" on both sides
of the formation:
The 2007 team had Hall of Famer Michael Strahan at left
end, who was in his last season, and had reduced his weight from 270 pounds to
255 pounds, and lightning-fast 252-pound Osi Umenyiora at right end. Oh, and if
either of them got tired, they put in future star Justin Tuck.
team features Ojulari, who broke the franchise rookie record for QB sacks (eight),
despite getting very little help from the other side of the formation, and showed
up this camp as the "Hulk," up from 245 to 255 pounds, and "explosive"
pass rusher 256-pound Thibodeaux, who some teams (I am looking at you, Jerry Jones)
had rated as the best overall player in the entire 2022 Draft, regardless of position.
And perhaps (to be determined) someone like Oshane Ximines or Micah Fitzpatrick
in the "role" of Tuck (first reserve edge rusher into the game).
teams featured a veteran "tackling machine" at "MLB" obtained
from another team:
The 2007 team could not have gotten nearly as far in its
playoff run without MLB Antonio Pierce, traded over from Washington, calling the
defensive signals and having over 100 tackles on the season for them.
we all saw how the 2021 defense suffered massively the instant Martinez went down
for the season with a no-contact ACL tear. By all accounts, Martinez will be ready
for opening day, and since he tore his knee in the second week, he will have had
almost a full year to rehab. Martinez' total of 151 tackles in 2020 set a team
Pretty eerie list, no? Now just to be clear, no analyst in his right
mind would predict this 2022 Giants team to duplicate the accomplishments of the
2007 world champions, or even the 2021 Bengals, but the point above is that the
"formula" being used seems spookily familiar in many ways, in building
this team back up to a competitive team that can be talked about as highly as
the ESPN analysts were articulating the other day.
Oh, and one bit of an "epilogue."
I have seen so many "talking heads" saying that losing CB James Bradberry
due to salary cap constraints is a huge blow to the team. This makes me recall
a saying we used to utter in semiconductor engineering when presented with difficult
problems… "In God we trust - all others bring data!" So here is the
"data" on Mr. Bradberry, who Mr. Gettleman had committed to pay $21.2
M this season.
He was coming off a superb 2020 season in which he made the
Pro Bowl, was fifth in PFF coverage grade with a 79.9, had a superb "QB rating
against" of 70.1 and only allowed three TD passes all season.
let's examine how he did in the 2021 season, shall we. This is "more current"
data, right? Well, his PFF season "coverage" grade dropped 15 points,
and was 65.0, good enough for 33rd out of 72 CBs who played at least 425 snaps.
In other words, he went from being a Pro Bowler in 2020 to an "average"
CB in 2021 according to PFF. His "QB rating against" rose OVER 30 POINTS,
and was 100.3, good for 50th out of 72 (bottom third of the league), and his "touchdown
passes allowed" went from three to eight - tying him for the league DFL position
in that metric.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the formation, Adoree Jackson
had a coverage grade of 80.9, good for fourth place in the NFL among qualified
CBs, his passer rating against was 72.3, good for ninth best, and his touchdown
passes allowed was two.
Seems to me like we clearly kept the right player
and let the declining player "walk" and share his gifts with none other
than the hated Philadelphia Eagles. And while Bradberry was great at breaking
up passes, he simply got beat too often to play "lock down corner" for
the Giants. Plain and simple.
Enjoy his 100.3 "QB rating against"
Eagle fans, as well as James leading the NFL in allowed TD passes!!
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