Shurmur Insists There's Progress; Guarding Against Rodgers' Hard Count and Other Giants Notes
With no hope of finishing with at least a .500 record for the third straight year and for the fifth time in the last six seasons, the Giants, under head coach Pat Shurmur, are making progress behind the scenes, or so Shurmur keeps claiming.
"I love the way our guys train," he said Friday. "I love the way they work. There are many things that happen in the ball game that is really good football."
besides maybe the play of some of the youngsters like Daniel Jones, Darius Slayton and Dexter Lawrence, and perhaps the play of veteran Markus Golden, it's unclear what Shurmur is referring to as being "good football."
Even if he's referencing the play of those few steady and consistent performers the team has, it hasn't been enough to put the Giants on a path toward a winning record.
Deep down, Shurmur must understand this, but these days he sounds like a man who is looking for the tiniest sliver of light in what's otherwise been a darkened world of Giants football that has seen the team go 10-33, a stretch akin to the heart of the wilderness years in which the team's record from 1973-78 was a dismal 23-62-1 .
"We just need to keep fighting through it," Shurmur said of the big plays, turnovers, untimely penalties and other mistakes that seem to pop up at the worst possible times to sabotage the games.
"The games have been close, and so we just need to find a way to get over the top. That will change the way we feel about ourselves, it’ll change the way the fans feel, and it’ll change the way everything feels when you finally get over the top."
Perhaps the biggest question of all is whether Shurmur is the right man to get the team over the top.certainly on paper, at least the Giants' talent is not a 2-9 group, yet that's precisely where they are.
Some of the second-year players like Lorenzo Carter and Will Hernandez haven't quite taken the leap forward to Pro Bowl status that many believe they're capable of achieving.
Then there is B.J. Hill, who didn't take enough of a step forward to prevent general manager Dave Gettleman from adding Leonard Williams in what remains a head-scratching trade
The rookies? Quarterback Daniel Jones has played well, but it's certainly fair to question if he was pushed out there as a starter before he was ready given his struggles to identify certain defenses pre-snap and adjust. Cornerback DeAndre Baker has struggled so much so that he's now splitting reps with second-year man Sam Beal who should probably be splitting his reps with Janoris Jenkins.
This tendency of Shurmur as the offensive play-caller to have at least one in-game management issue per week, or the insistence of running Saquon Barkley up the middle instead of getting him out in space almost seems to be Shurmur's subconscious way of saying, "We're going to continue to do it my way until we do it right."
So why should anyone who isn't privy to what happens behind the scenes feel good about the franchise's direction?
"Even though (winning) has not happened, I’ve seen the improvements behind the scenes that I think are necessary as we reset this thing and move forward," he said. "When we start winning and start winning consistently, then people can change their opinions of what’s going on."
Until that happens, don't expect the Giants fans to back down from their justified grumblings about the state of the franchise.
Keep Your Eye on the Ball
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers does a lot of things well with the ball in his hands. And one of the things he has developed a reputation for having mastered is drawing opponents off-side with a hard count.
So how can the Giants and their relatively young defensive front who last week had three neutral zone infractions, make sure they don't fall victim to Rodgers' hard counts this weekend?
"You gotta focus on the ball, and when that ball moves, you move,” said edge rusher Markus Golden, who last week was flagged for one of the Giants off-sides penalties.
"What gets people is they listen to his voice instead of watching the ball. Since you’re seven years old, you’re taught when the ball moves, you move. So you gotta go back to the old days.”
Golden, who has played against Rodgers before, said that the Green Bay signal-caller has an excellent hard count that can catch guys off guard if they are tired or not paying attention, but he stressed that so long as a defender is on his toes and watching the ball, he won’t end up getting fooled into giving the Packers a free play.
Golden said that the Giants have been practicing drill since training camp to keep the defensive linemen from jumping off-side on a hard count, the most notable drill being the one in which a ball is attached to a stick, and the players are instructed to keep their eye on that ball.
"It's really that simple," Golden said. "There ain't no magic formula; it's about being disciplined enough to move only when the ball moves."
The Music Returns
After a multiweek absence, the music was back for the start of Giants practice.
Shurmur, who several weeks ago when the team's record took a turn for the worst, initially shut down the music to allow for the players to better hear the coaches.
So why bring it back despite the continued struggles to win games?
"Just for stretch," Shurmur said.
Apparently, that won't be the only time the music will be part of the practice, even if it's at a low volume.
"When we’re on the road on offense, we certainly will turn the music up during team periods," Shurmur said.
"But we can coach them, and they can get the coaching points immediately not having to work over the noise."
Abou that Punt Safe Fiasco
Special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey was asked what happened on that punt-safe fiasco toward the end of the Bears game last week and why they didn't put their punt return team in there.
"It’s just a decision we made. Players have to do their jobs. Regardless of how we would have switched it, we would have put our gray team in and it’s basically the same exact people minus the returner, just a different returner," McGaughey said.
"It’s just a matter of getting hands on people and stopping them from being able to get to the ball."
But like head coach Pat Shurmur, McGaughey doubled down on the fact that Janoris Jenkins, who went back to field the punt, has "has returned punts in this league for years and had success."
It's unclear what McGaughey considers "many years of success," but according to Jenkins' NFL stats page, he's returned 10 punts for 51 yards, 1 fair catch and three muffed punts, his punt return opportunities coming in 2012, his rookie season, and his last return in 2015.
If that's what the coaches consider "success," then maybe it's time to raise the bar a little higher.