At least we knew the Giants had big-time talent on the defensive line. We knew they’d be pretty good on the O-line, though David Diehl was a question mark at left tackle. We knew the running game would be pretty good, the receivers fine, the special teams OK.
But the secondary worried us from day one. Sam Madison looked like he had lost a step, or two, with his early season play. We were very close to labeling Corey Webster a second-round bust. And our concerns were brought to life when Webster was benched after week three in favor of another recent high-round pick, rookie Aaron Ross.
Ross became one of the real bright spots in the Giants’ season. But he made some rookie mistakes, like that time he missed curfew leading to the Jets’ game, and Madison still had shaky moments.
Then Madison gets hurt in the New England game, Webster starts the wild-card game at Tampa Bay and shuts down Joey Galloway. Just to prove it’s no fluke, Webster does a good job on Terrell Owens. And just to prove he wasn’t taking advantage of a gimpy Owens, Webster comes back from getting toasted by Donald Driver early in the Packers game to make the interception that leads to the Giants’ overtime win.
Webster’s been unbelievable. Who better typifies a Giants team that doesn’t get down after making mistakes?
Then there’s Madison, who came back and played a solid game – minus the 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty – at Green Bay after missing the previous two playoff games with an abdominal injury.
And don’t forget R.W. McQuarters. Talk about a guy who gets back up after being knocked down. Don’t forget, McQuarters started the opener before playing primarily in nickel and dime situations. So he dealt with all kinds of roles this season.
He has late-game interceptions to clinch the first two playoff games, including an acrobatic grab against Tampa Bay, then almost fumbles away the Packers game. We might be thinking a bit differently about R.W. had one of those Packers recovered his fumbled punt return late in regulation. But Domenik Hixon made a clutch recovery and McQuarters was saved.
He’s another one of those guys who will never go to a Pro Bowl but has tremendous influence in the locker room. He’s a 10-year veteran and, just like Madison, spends a lot of time helping players such as Webster and Ross learn the nuances of the pro game, on and off the field.
Madison was one of the people most disappointed when Ross missed curfew. Madison talked about Ross’ need to focus on doing the right thing for the sake of himself and the team, and you can bet Madison spent a lot of time counseling Ross on the matter.
All in all, the secondary has become a hodgepodge of youth and experience, a mix of great talent and average talent. But it’s a group that has worked tremendously hard to improve each week, and the results have shown.
Balancing act – Ahmad Bradshaw’s balance is as good as any young back I’ve ever seen. This guy has an incredible ability to withstand hits, be three-quarters of the way on the ground and stay upright on his way to a long run.
He did that on his 88-yard TD run against Buffalo, when he broke through the line, got hit and almost went down, stayed up and went much of the rest of the way untouched.
Bradshaw is on his way to becoming a special back if he stays healthy and keeps the right attitude. Because this guy doesn’t only break tackles. He can run away from defenders. And that’s a combination that gets you in the Pro Bowl.
The Giants might wind up being in a dilemma if they have to choose between Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs and/or Derrick Ward. I think Bradshaw’s the most talented back of the three. But I love the way Jacobs and Ward can wear down defenses as well.
I like the way the Giants are having Bradshaw and Jacobs complement each other. It’s an ideal scenario for Giants fans. The question is whether one of them at some point demands a larger role. Will all three backs be happy sharing the load next season?
Or will the Giants eventually have to choose one or two between the three? And I haven’t even mentioned Reuben Droughns, who has been buried on the bench lately.
It’s a nice problem for the Giants to have at the moment. Hopefully trying to satisfy three or four backs doesn’t present a real problem in the future.