The 6 surprising Giants that I never saw coming

Anyone that thought Victor Cruz and Jake Ballard would combine for 57 catches, 983 yards, and 7 TDs through 8 games is either lying or delusional.

William Beatty – In a division in which he’d have to face the likes of Trent Cole, DeMarcus Ware, and Brian Orakpo twice each, as well as a whole slew of other great pass rushers on the Giants’ schedule, I wasn’t buying into Beatty this offseason.  In limited action in 2010, he committed a penalty per every 28 snaps.  But he’s been great.  With Chris Snee missing some time, Beatty has arguably been the Giants’ best offensive lineman this year.

Michael Boley – In 2008, Brian Westbrook was still an Eagle, and still abusing the Giants, specifically Antonio Pierce.  Pierce simply didn’t have the speed to keep up with Westbrook in the passing game.  After losing to the Eagles in the playoffs that year, the Giants had seen enough of that mismatch from hell and brought in the much faster and agile Boley from the Falcons, to the tune of a 5 year, $25 million contract.  As it turned out, Westbrook would suffer a series of injuries from bone spurs to concussions, and would never be the same player again.  The Eagles would simply find new ways to beat the Giants, and Boley, for the first 2 seasons of his Giants tenure, was a big disappointment.  This year, he’s been great.  He’s been flying to the football (he’s on pace for a career high in tackles), and has been very opportunistic, with 3 fumble recoveries, including this one where he pegged some random dude in the face with the football.

Jake Ballard – I never really thought a whole lot of Kevin Boss.  To me, he was “just a guy,” and not someone you would really ever worry about if you had to play the Giants.  I didn’t think that losing him in free agency would be a big deal because I felt that they could replace him fairly easily.  However, the way it worked out, the timing of losing Kevin Boss to the Raiders was a potential disaster.  It was deep into free agency, and by the time Boss left, all the other TEs were off the market.  In fact, here were the list of names that were available at the time:

In alphabetical order: Daniel Coats, Brad Cottam, Alge Crumpler, Greg Estandia, Joey Haynos, Darcy Johnson, Reggie Kelly, Brandon Manumaleuna, Jake Nordin, Gijon Robinson, Tom Santi, Bo Scaife, Derek Schouman, Alex Smith, Jonathan Stupar, and Kris Wilson.

In a word… Ew.

It looked like it would be Travis Beckum, who was working his way toward bust status, but instead, a big lumbering TE rose from the mix.  When I attended Giants training camp, there was one player on the field that I had no idea who he was.  “#85.”  I asked a Giants beat reporter (who shall remain nameless) who #85 was.  Without making eye contact, he said “There should be a roster sheet around here somewhere.”  OK, thanks, I’ll look, but do you know who he is?  Ignored.  Some of my notes on this mysterious #85:

– Sage over the middle to 85 (don’t know who 85 is, but he’s getting a bunch of reps).

– Perrilloux with a 30 yard dart to 85 (OK, somebody find out who 85 is, please).

– Consecutive checkdowns to this 85 guy again.  Still no answer on who 85 is.  (It’s not Hagan – It’s a big lumbering white guy).

– D Line is dominating.  Eli sacked.  Throws anyway to nobody in particular, closest target is 85.  Manning has to stop doing that.  When he knows pressure is coming, he’ll just throw anywhere to avoid a sack.  He had a few of those picked off last year.

Turns out #85 would go on to have 23 receptions, 395 yards, and 3 TDs through the first 8 games.  That would put him on pace for 46-790-6.  Kevin Boss’ best season was 2009, when he put up 42-567-5.  This year?  10-192-1.  I’m pretty sure the Giants are OK with the way that worked out.

Victor Cruz – Victor Cruz’s story is similar to that of the Jake Ballard / Kevin Boss situation.  After what I thought was a disastrous offseason for the Giants, the icing on the cake was the departure of Steve Smith to the Eagles.  Panicked and frustrated Giants fans took to Smith’s facebook page and embarrassed themselves.

I do occasional radio appearances on ESPN Canada with Matt Cauz.  Matt is a Giants fan, and he and I had the following email exchange back in September:

Jimmy: Sorry about SS12, haha.

Matt: Hey anytime you can get a team’s 3rd best wide receiver who has a serious injury well you have to jump on that.

Jimmy: Ha, touche.  Good luck with Victor Cruz.

Matt: We are so fighting on the air.

Whoops.  3 months later… Cruz has proven to be a legitimate playmaker, and has 34 catches, 588 yards, and 4 TDs.  He’s on pace for 68 catches, 1176 yards, and 8 TDs.  He of course also has the luckiest play of the season, when in Arizona the officials bailed him out on what should have been was a game-ending fumble, but we won’t go there (oops, I guess I did – sorry, can’t help myself).

Jason Pierre-Paul – I already kinda knew he was good. I didn’t think he was “on pace for 19 sacks through the first 8 games of the season good.”  If he stays healthy, he should be a fixture in Honolulu for the next decade.

Eli Manning – As noted above, Victor Cruz and Jake Ballard have combined for 57 catches, 983 yards, and 7 TDs through 8 games.  Some credit there has to go to Eli.  He ain’t “ELIte,” but he’s been pretty freaking good this season.

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  20. Free Plax says:

    Hey Jimmy, at the end of the season we should go back to the post you did about who is elite who is good and who is average in the NFC East.

  21. Free Plax says:

    Showing my Giants some love!

    Not so suprised by Beatty, he was getting playing time his rookie year and looked good for a Rook. Last year poor camp than he broke his foot, he ended up coming back and playing decent, I attributed a lot of the penalties to rust. This year he took the next step and won the starting job and never looked back.

    Cruz a lot of us had a feeling about him, he just needed opportunity. Ballard WTF all I can say is who knew.

  22. Shaun says:

    Ok, most of the names up here were high round picks (Manning, Pierre-Paul, Beatty) or an established vet (Boley). Even Victor Cruz is not a shot out of left field because Giants fans were high on him after last year’s pre-season, then he got hurt. Ballard has worked hard and taken advantage of his opportunity to play and has done well. Jimmy, maybe you can pick 6 players from the rest of the divisions’ teams who played good or bad depending on expectations before the season

    1. That was the original plan, but I kept finding Giants that exceeded my expectations, so I made it its own post. Eagles would have a loooooong list of disappointments.

      1. Shaun says:

        So true….we would maybe only have 2…maybe 3 positives (McCoy, Peters, and maybe Babin-without the dumb ass penalties or Cole-without the injury)

  23. brisulph says:

    Ballard was one I was intrigued by in preseason, but he has far surpassed any expectations I would have ever had for him. Hopefully he turns out to be less fragile to injuries around the head (like Boss), as I would be quite content to have that slow moving Giant around for a few years to come.

    As for Beatty, he has been good, not great. However, given the doubts surrounding him, that is still a big victory.

  24. Time's Yours says:

    To Beatty’s credit he was a borderline 1st round talent (probably would have gone in the 1st if he didn’t play at CT) coming out of college. I actually though he would have been a good pick for the Birds at RT.

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