Hamstrung with Hamstrings

In 2014 we went on the warpath with the soft tissue injuries. I won’t recite the 7 year soap opera from 2009-2015 but you can find it here. Enter 2018 Training camp, and the NY Giants have FIVE hamstring injuries. Coincidence? Dream on, naive and uninformed apologist.

July 29, 2018- Donte Deayon suffers a hamstring injury. He has not practiced since that time. The injury appears to be fairly serious, according to Jordan Raanan.

July 29, 2018- Curtis Riley “tweaks” his hamstring. He has not seen practice since. That’s some tweak. (Edit- Riley rejoined practice in Detroit scrimmages.)

August 3, 2018- William Gay suffers a hamstring injury. He has disappeared from practice.

August 9, 2018- Darian Thompson injures his hamstring during the first preseason game vs the Cleveland Browns. He has been sidelined since the special teams play, and the extent of the injury has not been revealed.

and then today, the coup de grace…

August 13, 2018- Saquon Barkley “tweaks” his hamstring. Of course the Giants staff minimized its significance, but they also minimized the significance of others as well.

The last time I checked, a hamstring injury was not a communicable disease. But you wouldn’t know it from what is happening with the Giants players. We have documented and discussed ad nauseam that soft tissue injuries are mostly, if not entirely, the result of insufficient flexibility training. The fact that we are seeing 5 of the SAME injuries in a period of 16 days gives us a tremendous amount of certainty that this is precisely what is happening.

I know, I know. The Giants are letting these players heal by keeping them out of practice because it is early in preseason. The problem with these injuries is they linger, sometimes the entire season. I am betting we see little or no Barkley until the opener vs Jacksonville. As for the others, they are all in dire straits because: no camp, no roster. And if they rush back they will just reinjure it. Oh, in case you did not notice, three of those hamstrings were at Free Safety. THREE. It’s a good thing that position was locked up before camp started. And oh yah, in case you you did not notice, one of those hamstrings was at CB, a position the Giants are very deep at. Lastly, that guy Barkley, I am not sure who he is, but no matter about him either.

Wonder: “You are entirely correct with your assessment, Andy. There is no reason to get injuries to hamstrings, calves, and quads. If you have the right flexibility training, a world class athlete should almost never incur a hamstring pull. This stuff takes months to implement. That it is happening now means it was not implemented properly in the Spring/OTAs. Who was in their in March during the offseason workout program?

“Barkley? He needs more repetitions and less weight (less strength) so that the hamstring literally lengthens and won’t cramp up/pull. This applies to calves, triceps, biceps, forearms, quads, and adductors (groin). Skill players do not need the heavy weights. You want lean muscle mass. It is the exact opposite of the linemen. The linemen need to be careful too. But the fact that we are seeing this with RB, FS, and CB, all tells me that the skill players are not doing the proper flexibility drills and lighter weight exercises. It takes longer, because you are doing longer sets with more repetition, but that is what professional athletes must do.”

Wonder explains this further: “Just go to the US Open in a couple of weeks in Flushing Meadow. They go two weeks in the heat running around for 3-4 hours every other day in the humidity. Do they pull their hamstrings? NO! The ones who are in shape and condition properly do not tear their hamstring, and they win the titles. These guys stretch and emphasize flexibility with multiple sessions daily. Cardio and stretching, repetitive lifting for lean muscle mass.”

Right after practice, every tennis player stretches for an hour. Do football players stretch before practice and then for an hour after practice? Most likely not. These injuries happen also because the head coach and the strength coach are not on the same page in terms of making the time/commitment. This payroll of $170MM dollars needs and deserves better.

The hamstring situation with the Giants is completely preventable. How many members of the media are asking Wellman or Barnes about the hamstrings? Wonder says it would not surprise him to start seeing calf or quad problems.

Davis Webb

Much has been made of Davis Webb’s performance in the first preseason game this past Thursday night. Giants fans, myself included, have been part of the debate all offseason to draft a QB or take Barkley. Some are already looking at the grass in the neighbor’s yard and seeing Darnold + Mayfield flashing. It’s safe to say that the first, second and third picks have all “hit” on the requisite talent. All 3 showed they belong on the big stage. Can the Giants get their heir apparent at QB?

Webb’s problem is his accuracy. Right now it looks like he has enough command for many of the other parts of the game. I’m not worried about the clock running out at the end of the first half. As long as my coach isn’t Andy Reid, that shouldn’t be a problem. It’s the accuracy. Can that be corrected? Maybe. Maybe not.

There once was a time when it took many years for QBs to find their way in the NFL. Then Dan Marino came along and broke the mold. As the years went on, QBs made more progress earlier, benefiting from playing Pro-style offenses in college. We want QBs to make the jump faster and faster. It’s a question whether Jim Harbaugh, who took ~6 years to get his groove, would make it today.

Webb’s mechanics look better. He was “just” too high and too far on his WR throws. When he checked down to the RB, he was better. Not great. Better. Can he get the accuracy? Bulls are on Twitter saying be patient, it’s his first game in a year. Bears are saying that he should have been much further along. I’ve got a little of both.

Can accuracy be found? Troy Aikman, like him or not, has said that that is what you scout in college. I’m in agreement. Wonder wants the arm, believing that good mechanics can be taught, which will bring requisite accuracy. He explains that a strong arm plus good mechanics enable a QB to make throws with better accuracy over time. I want to see that natural accuracy. There are QBs who have it and everyone else does not.

It’s very early, but it looks like Mayfield and Darnold have that “natural” accuracy. We put that in quotes because anyone who watched Montana would know he had that, but that Bill Walsh would make his players practice the intermediate throws incessantly in the “West Coast Offense” so that the timing/accuracy was there. He strived for perfection because he knew that that delivered the YAC. Can accuracy be found in practice? Absolutely.

QBs like Eli Manning and Phil Simms won Super Bowls. Neither were naturally accurate. They practiced over and over. And then 4 years later Manning hit Plaxico in Green Bay and he looked the part. And then Phil Simms hits Bobby Johnson on 4th & 17 and he looked the part. I’ve never seen a more perfect pass ever than the one to Mario Manningham on the left sideline that set up the go-ahead score to win XLVI.

Davis Webb will either get accuracy in time or he will not. The good news is that Pat Shurmur is the QB whisperer, so if anyone can help him, it’s the Giants head coach. The great news for Giants fans is that Webb still has time. This is what Wonder refers to when he talks about being drafted to the right team. Webb has the right situation here in NY to develop. Patience and time are required. He has both because he plays behind the human gumby.

Kyle Lauletta has accuracy. He looked good. For all of this talking about Webb, Lauletta had greater ease at finding his receiver. We will have to watch that as well.

Gettleman has chosen the roster’s path. The one thing I know I am right about is this: if you give a mediocre QB a solid OL, he’ll be able to play, and if you give a good/great QB a bad OL, he’ll struggle. Keep building that OL and good things will happen. Blake Bortles is a reminder that if you protect your QB you can get it done. The Giants have enough right now at QB. They need more at OL. Maybe, just maybe, by the time Manning is done, Lauletta or Webb will be ready along with an OL that is ready to help them. (It’s really a shame how many years of Manning’s prime were wasted without adequate help up front. That’s a discussion for another day.) For now, Webb has the luxury of time to find his accuracy. I think Manning will have two more years (18 and 19). Webb needs to find his accuracy in that time.

CLE 20 NYG 10

The biggest takeaway is that Davis Webb lacks the touch. He’s got a bazooka arm but needs much better control. Lauletta has better touch.

Baker Mayfield is the real deal.

Saquon Barkley is the real deal, but he needs help up front.

The Giants OL is not good. They tried running right w Flowers and Omameh and there was nothing.

Giants CBs looked porous early.

Landon Collins looks 100%.

Giants run defense was fine but there wasn’t pressure on the QB.

Giants Offense was a lot of checkdowns underneath to RBs.

Back to planet Earth. A lot of work to do on both sides of the ball. Maybe the media puff pieces will slow down a little bit.

Preseason Week 1 Primer

Tonight is the first preseason game vs Cleveland. For new visitors (and a refresher for old) these are the things we look for in general, and specifically here in 2018:

General Preseason

1) Can the Offense move the ball? Sounds simple but in recent years the Giants Offense was dysfunctional in preseason and it was a tell for general malaise in the regular season. So what you look for is, with normal conditions, can they move the sticks? It doesn’t even mean TDs. If penalties destroy drives yet they move the ball otherwise, that’s fine.

2) What does First Team look like? Which unit of the opposing team are they playing against? If my first team can’t do anything vs their second team, not good. So this is the relativity of preseason.

3) The score is irrelevant. Yah, I’d prefer to win at least one game in preseason, but as a reminder, the 0-16 Lions were 4-0 in preseason.

4) Watch individual players. Is speed there? Is strength there? Is technique there? There are so many players missing their assignments that you can lose individual effort when viewing Overal team dysfunction. Identifying individual performance amidst the cacophony is a leading indicator of team success.

5) Watch the rookies. In 2007 this blog was all over a rookie R7 Running back named Ahmad Bradshaw. In 2010 a UFA named Victor Cruz caught 3 TD passes. Both were huge cogs for Super Bowl runs. They flashed in preseason of their debuts. Additionally, are prominent high draft picks looking the part? Jeremy Shockey literally ran over a former Jet (who was plucked for the expansion Texans) in his first preseason game. Highlight reel stuff. He was more than ready for the NFL.

6) Q4 is the Keystone Cops. This is when mayhem breaks loose. Teams are getting looks at the bottom of their bloated rosters to see if guys are capable of (learning and) executing their assignments. Forget about the silly stupid turnovers and just look for a few players who may make the team. Most of these guys will not be on the final roster in September. A few will make it to the practice squad.

7) Special teams tryouts are real. Gunners, long snappers, kickers, & punters get meaningful opportunities to make the squad. If it’s close between two backups, the guy who makes it will be the one who executes on Specials.

Specific to 2018

1) OFFENSIVE LINE. This is what I will be watching. While everyone else is m*******ing to Saquon Barkley, I’ll be watching OL. I’ve said it here and on Twitter- as the OL goes, so will the season. The Giants are loaded with skill players. BLEEPING LOADED. And it doesn’t mean a damn if the OL can’t get it done.

1a) Ereck Flowers still s*ck? Believe it or not, Flowers in the 2nd half of 2017 was not a total zero. He sometimes rose to mediocrity, which is all we need from him this year.

1b) How is Solder on the speed rush? Showing any signs of age?

1c) Will Hernandez- is he looking the part and flashing?

1d) Halapio and Jones blocking it up?

1e) Omameh run blocking anything beyond perfunctory?

1f) Is there anyone else worth anything?

2) Eli arm strength. Zip on the ball?

3) Is Davis Webb capable of not only being a credible backup but also being a legitimate NFL QB?

4) What does the pass rush look like? Bettcher blitzes a lot. Filter.

5) Is Eli Apple the year 1 version (as reported by the media) or the year 2 version?

6) Any sense from the Free Safety lottery?

7) is Landon Collins back?

8) Are Carter and Hill backing up the hype?

9) Preseason is full of surprises. Surprise us. There are a lot of players I specifically did not mention but we already know about. As an example, Etta-Tawo, Latimer and Raymond should all show us something at WR. Goodson, when healthy, will show us something. Ogletree and Vernon will be leaders of the defensive effort. Engram, OBJ (not expected to play) and Shepard are known quantities. Barkley will be special. These are NOT the players I’m going to be watching in preseason.

Football is back. The wait is over.

NFL Matters

A lifelong NY Giants fan just ripped up his PSL and walked away. He’s boycotting the league. Part or all of his action has to do with the anthem protests. His opinion is this: he doesn’t go to games to see politics.. he comes to watch football and escape politics. He’s voting with his feet to no longer attend or watch the games on television. “The NFL put the employees ahead of the customers. I can only let them know my displeasure by no longer buying or supporting their product.”

I have plenty of political views. If you want to get into that, follow me on Twitter and that can be the space for politics. I don’t want my football messed with politics.

Roger Goodell and the NFL handled the matter with incompetence, as usual. Why this guy gets $40M+ per season is baffling. Yah, it’s all about the money. But attendance (ratings) is down. It was going down before the protests and it is going down more after them. People who support the protests worry less about ratings. I don’t get entertained so that I can worry about other issues. Football is a game. It is escape. It is a distraction.

Let’s talk PSLs. This NY Giants blogger has railed against them for many years. It is a land grab by owners to get additional money from fans. The market will pay what it can bear. The problem is that PSLs stretch the goodwill between fan and franchise so far that there is nothing left when something goes wrong. Fans are tapped. $10 beers. $35 for parking. Paying for useless preseason games. Being used as pawns on flex games. Late Sunday night games with work on Monday. Our day jobs pay for the league to operate. Those day jobs, one way or another, pay for PSLs. It’s reaching saturation.

Saturation is where that 20 year waiting list for season’s tickets evaporates overnight. People work plenty hard for their discretionary spending. Economists call this concept of the extra value in a product the “consumer surplus.” It’s that extra value you get by buying something. You can see it first hand when you can buy a jar of Advil for 7 cents per pill and then when you have a headache at the airport you’ll pay $1.00 per pill to get relief. That 93 cents difference is the consumer surplus. PSLs wipe out the surplus. The NFL has saturated its product. They even got the City of Las Vegas to charge visitors more in taxes on their hotel rooms to pay for the new stadium. It’s insidious. Where do you think Odell Beckham’s salary, Roger Goodell’s salary and the $1.7B Met Life stadium come from? It comes from you and me. They have tapped us dry, and therein lies the problem for the legacy of Goodell. There is no more goodwill left. The consumer surplus joy of the product above our cost is gone. We can walk away. And ratings indicate that that is exactly what is happening.

The new Raiders stadium in Las Vegas is going to have PSLs. Club seats are selling for $20K-$75K per seat. Seats for the rest of us are $4K-$15K. Don’t do it… not for your team or any other. If you want to watch a game, just pay for the game through a ticket exchange. Unless it’s a playoff game, you’ll probably get reasonable access at a price pretty close to face value. And you won’t have to be burdened with a PSL, the obligation to buy all 10 games, and then the need/hassle of selling tickets to games that you don’t want.

Why do I bother blogging? Because if I can convince even just one person not to pay for a PSL, I have fought back against NFL greed. Let’s return some consumer surplus joy to the game we all love. Keep booing Goodell. He is the man who lines the pockets of current owners at the expense of the future of the game. He is the man who lacks the creativity to help employees channel change without interfering with an entertainment product.

I believe in Football. I believe in consumer surplus. Fight to protect that by pushing back when the NFL is reaching too hard for your wallet. And be ready to walk away, if that’s what it takes.

Injury and Risk

How do you incorporate injury information into a Drafting decision? NY Giants Underground blogger Glenn Warciski pored over video clips to get GM Dave Gettleman’s additional disclosures on what (tf) happened with the Sam Beal supplemental selection. Gettleman knew about the shoulder injury before the draft. That was all he would say. There was nothing more.

If we know about the shoulder injury to Beal and the significant risk (that he’d potentially be out 2018), the value in the pick is gone and I simply wouldn’t do that. If my MDs said that and that he would be 100% in 2019, I’d maybe use a R5 pick. Not a R3. It’s just not the same selection anymore. Remember, everyone (including us) praised the selection because it also addressed need… and we targeted contributions in the second half of the 2018 season.

Glenn brings up the analogy to Owa Odighizuwa. His reference is to the hip injuries (plural) he had in college before being taken in (coincidentally or not) Round 3 back in 2015. If you take a guy with an injury past, his pick has to drop. Think Armstead. Round 8. He was hurt in college. His value dropped. Another part of the dynamic is that those who are injured get reinjured elsewhere in their body. Like it or not, in football the strong survive and the weak get hurt. Some of that is in the Owa example. This is a Football GM’s life. The best place to start is at the draft. You need to get paid for the risk. Todd Gurley needed to fall. Josh Rosen needed to fall. When the Armsteads hit and they have long Pro Bowl careers, he was a steal. No he wasn’t. There are too many others out there who can’t stay healthy. They all need to fall. If Gurley tears another ACL and his career is shot, everyone who got out of the way will have been smart. If he is injury-free, the Rams are smart. The Rams took the risk and live with that.

What kind of shoulder injury does Beal have? Even now we “assume” it is the kind where a complete recovery is a given. If it is a more troublesome type of injury, Beal’s value drops further. Wonder explains that the shoulder for a CB is very important in tackling. Remember also that Beal is undersized. “If it’s an ACV joint or a labrum, that is a much bigger issue,” said Wonder. Once again, the Giants haven’t disclosed whether the injury was exacerbated by any activity that was reported in rookie pre-camp a week ago.

In the 2010 draft, Wonder had a difficult eval. Where do you draft JPP? He saw the immense upside but openly said I’m not drafting anybody in Round 1 who has 11 college starts. One of the reasons why is because you don’t know about how his body will hold up to the rigors of the game. So Wonder ranked him 33rd overall, at the beginning of R2, and we did not see the “value” in the pick (at 15) in R1. There was a risk/uncertainty that we needed to get paid for, argued Wonder. JPP had a back problem almost immediately (hide and seek?) and contended with many physical issues during his career. His contributions to the 2011 season (XLVI) were enormous, as there is no way the Giants win the title without him (think about the blocked FG vs Dallas alone!). Still, a Round 1 investment needs a pristine track record and the Giants realized both the upside AND the downside in that same selection.

The bottomline: injury issues are a major part of draft evaluation. Risks must be accounted for. The track record performance of a player on the field is scrutinized. The health of a player must be scrutinized just as well. Draft slots are currency. You need to get paid for injury risk when you know it is there. We don’t know all the facts behind the decision to take Beal, but given everything we do know, there was more risk than what was allotted in Round 3.

In Pads

First day of pads at training camp. I like reading the reports of Dan Schneier at 247sports.com He’s well informed and isn’t corrupted by the process. Here’s a summary and our takeaways.

1) It shouldn’t surprise anyone here that Connor Barwin and Lorenzo Carter are dominating the 2nd stringers on the OL. Why? Wonder told us. He said Connor Barwin was “a football player” when he was signed. That’s parlance for… “don’t worry about this guy holding up his end, he’s a gamer and a guy you want on your team all day long.”

As for Carter, the press and fans have been fawning over BJ Hill incessantly.. the other R3 pick. Wonder as a draft analyst isn’t perfect by any means, so we as Giants fans quietly rooted (and root) for Hill to do great things even if we were tepid on the pick. The other R3 pick, Lorenzo Carter, was the one that Wonder was raving about. Carter was an honorable mention in his Top 50 Draft Board, which implied a low 50’s ranking. He went 66th overall and we loved how he played the edge at Georgia. Wonder looked at the Giants depth chart and said on Day 2 of the draft that Carter would start on Week 1. Then a couple of days before camp, the Giants bring in Barwin, a football player. So if Barwin stops Carter from starting, we can live with that. You can’t have enough good LBers in a 3-4.

Now as for the other side of this, jeez Louise. The 2nd string OL. Good God. Cover your eyes. All we can say is, Giants fans pray that no one gets hurt. We liked Jones last year, as he and Fluker did a good job together getting a ground game going as the season wore on. Halapio has taken 1st string snaps. That makes Jones 2nd string. He’s the only guy that gives us any confidence in being a backup at Center or Guard. The rest? We’re praying. The good news is it’s early so maybe someone can improve and rise above the borscht.

2) Mara had one brief sentence about being worried about the hype over Barkley. Stop worrying. He’s the real freaking deal. Wonder had this guy as the #1 player on his Board for the Draft. Gettleman implied this was the best pure prospect he’s seen in the last 20+ years. He. Is. Not. Blair. Thomas.

Our only reservation is the position he plays. While he’s healthy, he’ll deliver. The reports from Spring OTAs were crazy effusive. That continues in Training Camp. Hasn’t dropped a ball. All defenders (including Ogletree) have trouble with him in open space. My only concern is injuries. Call me a worrier. Oh right, I’m a risk manager in my day job. So understand statistically the risks of this guy #2 overall. He can be great for 5 yrs in a row and all of a sudden in Year 6 he gets hurt. That’s my only reservation. So I’m not worried about hype. I’m worried about hurt. Right now let’s stop worrying about anything and enjoy the fact that he’s a stud.

3) Historically it’s not that easy for the Special Teams WR to break into the Offensive rotation. Generally speaking, either they can’t learn the playbook, they can’t run a good crisp route, or they literally can’t catch. So for any of the above reasons, we are cautious about getting too optimistic on Cody Latimer. If he does break through, it would be an incredible bonus. Huge for depth. Show me.

4) Olivier Vernon has the skill. He has the ability. He makes impact plays. Stay healthy please.