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Evaluating Jerry Reese's Year Thus Far

Jake Ballard, Victor Cruz make Reese look pretty smart.

By Josh Alper
|  Thursday, Oct 20, 2011  |  Updated 3:46 PM EDT
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Evaluating Jerry Reese's Year Thus Far

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Ballard has made Reese look smart through the first six weeks.

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In these pages and others, Jerry Reese came under some heat during the preseason for his relative inactivity.

The Giants said goodbye to more players than they brought in, with longtime mainstays of the lineup Shaun O'Hara, Rich Seubert and Steve Smith among those given a handshake in lieu of continued employment with the Giants. Reese started off defiant, saying that he guaranteed a playoff spot before someone in the Giants hierarchy reminded him that saying bold things was reserved for the city's other team.

With the Giants on their bye, we thought it would be a good time to revisit Reese's decisions now that there's actual evidence to support any judgments. The results look pretty good for the G.M., although you could probably get that from the 4-2 record.

His two biggest hits were the two moves that brought him the most flak from the Giants faithful. Reese chose not to match offers for Smith or tight end Kevin Boss and both men left for other teams as free agents.

Jake Ballard has proven to be at least as good and probably better than Boss ever was as a member of the Giants. Eli Manning loves to throw the ball to Ballard and Ballard has shown a tremendous ability to catch the ball, although his subpar run blocking is part of the reason why the Giants have struggled in that phase of the game.

The big question with Smith was his health and the Giants decided they'd rather go with Victor Cruz -- well, they decided to go with Domenik Hixon, but he got hurt -- than worry about Smith. It was a smart call as Cruz has shown a big play spark that Smith didn't have.

It must be said that Smith's steadiness also would have eliminated the two flubs by Cruz that led to the loss against Seattle and the fumble that would have lost the game to the Cardinals if not for a little help from the refs, but, given the state of the run game and Mario Manningham's inability to blossom, Cruz's knack for big plays is a welcome addition. The only demerit to the Ballard praise is that Travis Beckum, the real reason Boss was allowed to leave, continues to be a major dud.

Letting Barry Cofield walk away to the Redskins has also amounted to little more than status quo as Rocky Bernard and Linval Joseph have done a solid enough job at defensive tackle. The Giants struggle stopping the run, but that has as much to do with Reese's unwillingness to acquire sturdy linebackers as it does with the tackles.

The offensive line hasn't played particularly well, but it is hard to imagine that the broken-down O'Hara and Seubert, who haven't found work in a league short on competent blockers, would have done any better. If Will Beatty turns into a player, a big if at this point, and if the team finally gives up on the overmatched David Diehl, they'll have moved in the right direction.

Feel free to give Reese credit for signing Steve Weatherford, although a blind poodle would have known that Matt Dodge, who Reese kept long enough to ruin the 2010 season, didn't belong in the NFL. The rest of the special teams has been blah, a continual problem in the Reese era.

The one spot where Reese looks bad is that he wasn't moved by the injuries to Terrell Thomas, Prince Amukamara and Brian Witherspoon to shore up the defensive backfield before the start of the season. They've been bad all year and shoulder much blame for the two losses, although Reese can mitigate his failure there if Amukamara proves to be worth the hype upon his post-bye return.

In the end, give Reese credit for knowing that he had players who could fill the roles left open by departing players. The question over the next 10 games is if those players are good enough to reverse recent history by not falling to pieces when the pressure is turned up a notch.

Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.

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