New York Giants tight end Jake Ballard. That's one big dude to be out catching passes.
It's time once again to start ramping up for another Miami Dolphins game. This week, the Dolphins travel to a familiar stadium, in unfamiliar colors. That's right, Miami is heading to New York to take on the Giants - and not the Jets, for once.
And, to get a better understanding of the Giants, I asked Ed Valentine of SB Nation's Big Blue View some questions. Here are my questions with his responses:
The Phinsider: Tom Coughlin is a pound the rock type of coach, wanting to jam the ball straight down a defense's throat. The Giants, this year, seem to be hit or miss on the run game, with some games barely breaking 50 yards. Meanwhile, two weeks ago, Ahamad Bradshaw found pay dirt three times and broke the 100 yards rushing mark. Is it just dependent on the defense you are facing, or is there something you can point to about the Giants in these fluxes?
Big Blue View: The funny thing is, Coughlin is not nearly as much a 'pound the rock' type coach as his reputation suggests. He was a wide receivers coach back in the day, and he loves the passing game. That said, he recognizes the importance of the run game and a balanced offensive attack, and Coughlin-coached teams have always been able to run the ball well. This team, not so much. They have lots of new pieces on the offensive line, a new tight end, a new fullback. It's mainly a matter of consistency -- the Giants have been consistently inconsistent in run-blocking all year.
TP: Eli Manning is probably one of the biggest enigmas in the league. You never know what you are going to get from the younger Manning. And, it seems like, every week, one "expert" will complain that Eli made too many mistakes, while another will talk about how great he plays. How do you feel he is playing this year, and what do you expect to see from him on Sunday.
BBV: Eli will fight that reputation his entire career. Thing is, he has played probably the best football of his career -- and definitely the best since the Super Bowl run -- so far this season. He has a 101.1 passer rating, which is well above his career-best for a full season. I think he has thrown two, maybe three really questionable balls all season. Sunday I expect him to continue what he has done so far this season, getting the Giants into the right play at the line of scrimmage, making big plays when they are there and not forcing throws and creating unnecessary turnovers. Coughlin has pounded home the "protect the ball" mantra since Day 1 this season, and it seems Eli and the Giants are listening.
TP: Osi Umenyiora is a guy. who it seems, really wants out of New York, but a trade never happens. Meanwhile, Dolphins fans always seem to find a way they think Miami can pull Osi from New York. Now that Umenyiora is back on the field, how is he looking? Is still the biggest pass rush threat for you guys, or has Jason Pierre-Paul overtaken Osi?
BBV: Osi is just one of those guys who is determined to never be happy. Problem is, he thinks he is a top 5 defensive end in the league and he's not. In fact, when Justin Tuck is healthy (which he has not been all season) Umenyiora is the third-best defensive end (behind Tuck and Pierre-Paul) on his own team. Now, that does not mean he is not a game-changing force He most definitely is that rushing the passer, and he has perfected the "strip/sack," flying past a quarterback and swatting the ball out of his hands. Tuck and JPP, though, are better, more complete players. It really is an embarrassment of riches at the defensive end position.
TP: Not that there is a lot to be scared of when you look at the Miami Dolphins this year, but what are your biggest concerns this week?
BBV: No offense to the Dolphins, but my biggest concern is the Giants themselves. To be honest, that is always my biggest concern. For the Giants it is always about not turning the ball over, not making stupid assignment mistakes on defense, not relaxing. The Giants are good enough to beat any team in the league. The frustrating part of watching the Giants is that they are also quite capable of laying an egg and losing to any team in the league.
TP: Miami travels to MetLife Stadium for the second time in two weeks on Sunday. The good news is, the stadium will be in Giants blue rather than green. Unfortunately, playing the Giants means, we don't know as much about you guys. Can you give us an offensive and a defensive player to watch for, who we might not otherwise know?
BBV: Offense: Jake Ballard has emerged as a viable option for Manning in the passing game. An undrafted free agent out of Ohio State, Ballard is a slow-footed 275-pound tight end who was thought of as strictly a blocker. He already has 15 catches, though, including five in the Giants' last game. He catches everything, and he isn't easy to tackle. And yes, he can block.
Defense: How about we talk about a guy whose name you should recognize? That would be rookie linebacker Jacquian Williams, out of South Florida. Lots of eyebrows were raised when the Giants drafted Williams in the sixth round -- he was expected to be a UDFA. The guy has been excellent, though. He is playing much more than anyone anticipated, partially due to injuries and partially due to the fact that he keeps making plays. He makes his fair share of mistakes, too, but he is the most exciting young linebacker the Giants have drafted in a long, long time.
I can't help but agree with Ed when he says his biggest concern for the Giants this week is the Giants. With the way the Dolphins have been playing, is there really anything to scare an opponent. Okay, other than a fist pump, and Brandon Fields actually kicking a ball out of the stadium.