Eli Manning of the New York Giants drops back to pass in the first half against the New England Patriots on November 6, 2011 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Grading the 6-2 New York Giants at the midway point of the 2011 season
The New York Giants have hit the halfway point of their 2011 season with a 6-2 record, tops in the NFC East. Can the Giants, who missed the playoffs the last two seasons, stay there? The remaining schedule is brutal, but that, really, is a question for another day.
Today, let's hand out some first-half grades. We will go position-by-position, and try to grade each.
Quarterback -- Eli Manning has been terrific for the Giants, leading five fourth-quarter come-from-behind victories. His 98.8 passer rating would be the best of his career if he maintains it. Is he elite? Is he an MVP candidate? What I know for sure is he is the most important Giant. Grade: A+
Running Back -- The running game has not been up to par for the Giants. That is not necessarily the fault of Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs, but neither back has done anything extraordinary, either. Jacobs (18 carries, 72 yards) showed signs last week, and the running game has improved somewhat. It still is not good enough, however. Grade: C
Fullbacks: Rookie Henry Hynoski and TE/FB Bear Pascoe have done OK here, but the running game has not been great. Thus, you can't say either of them has been great. Grade: C
Wide Receivers: Hakeem Nicks is one of the best in the league, Victor Cruz has emerged as a weapon and Mario Manningham is always a threat to make a game-changing play. Add Ramses Barden to the mix and this is an explosive group. Grade: A
Tight Ends: Jake Ballard has been much better as a receiver than anyone ever dreamed, becoming a real weapon. Surprisingly, it is the 275-pound Ballard's run-blocking that has drawn some criticism. Still, he is a great find for the Giants. Travis Beckum is once again a huge disappointment. Bear Pascoe has flip-flopped from tight end to fullback and done OK. This grade would be higher if Ballard was the only one being judged, but he isn't. Grade: B
Offensive Line: Will Beatty has been solid in his first season at left tackle. Kevin Boothe has done a decent job filling in when called upon. Everyone else on this line has been a disappointment, which is largely why the running game has not been up to usual Giants' standards. Grade: C ... and this would be a D if it wasn't for Beatty.
Defensive Ends: Jason Pierre-Paul and Osi Umenyiora have been terrific. Dave Tollefson has given the Giants some good play. Justin Tuck is a great player who has not been able to show it due to injuries. Mathias Kiwanuka is a terrific pass rusher when the Giants line him up at the end spot. Grade: A
Defensive Tackles: an under-appreciated part of the Giants' defense. Linval Joseph, Chris Canty and Rocky Bernard have all played very well. Fourth tackle Jimmy Kennedy was suspended for violating the league's performance-enhancing drug policy. The only concern here is how much fault the tackles may or may not deserve for some of the long runs the Giants have surrendered. Grade: A-
Linebackers: Michael Boley and Mathias Kiwanuka have been terrific. Rookies Greg Jones and Jacquian Williams have flashed potential, but have also made mistakes that have led to some of the big plays the Giants have given up. Grade: B ... Boley and Kiwanuka would get As, Williams and Jones Cs, thus the overall grade in the middle.
Cornerbacks: Corey Webster has been terrific, and Aaron Ross much better than expected. Justin Tryon was playing well before getting injured, and Michael Coe played well last week as the third corner. There is no true 'shutdown' guy in this group, which should get first-round pick Prince Amukamara back soon, but they have all played well. Grade: B+
Safeties: Kenny Phillips has been solid. Antrel Rolle has been excellent in run support and has done the best he could playing out of position much of the season in the slot. Deon Grant had a nice game Sunday, but he has been picked on some by opposing teams and seems to have slowed somewhat. The best thing is that this group has not given up the big plays as frequently as it has the past couple of seasons. Grade: B
Special Teams: Steve Weatherford has been terrific punting and placekicker Lawrence Tynes has been OK. The kick and punt coverage has been improved over the past couple of seasons, though it's hardly perfect. Aaron Ross has done a good job in punt returns since replacing the injured Domenik Hixon, and Devin Thomas has been dangerous -- to both the opposition and to the Giants -- returning kickoffs. Grade: C+
Coaching: Head coach Tom Coughlin gets an A+ for keeping this group together despite all of the injuries and free-agent defections. Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell gets a C. His group has been too inconsistent, and his insistence on using a three-man pass rush -- often negating what his team does best -- is mystifying. Offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride gets a B. The offense is good, but it can be better.