Carolina Panthers 34 – New York Giants 7
Overview: If you read the review of the game or even if you saw the game, you may disagree with us. You may even say we’re crazy, but we saw some very positive signs from the Giants during their 34-7 loss to the Carolina Panthers. However, and it is a very big however, we see two huge problems with this team: (1) a major lack of confidence in itself, and (2) coaching. Going 1-3 in the preseason is obviously not the confidence building experience that this team desperately needed…especially given the fact that the losses came against an expansion team and two teams that had a worse record than the Giants did last year…especially given the fact that two of the losses were embarrassing blow outs…especially given the fact that this team is young and unproven. Everyone believes the Giants will be a terrible team this year — the national and New York media, fans all over the country, and even opposing players and coaches. This lack of respect can’t help but negatively influence the Giants’ players. Regardless of what they say to the press, they must be questioning themselves. The Giants are not devoid of talent. They have the makings of a VERY good offense and they have some good players on defense…however, if they do not believe they will be good, they will not be. We firmly believe that half the game is mental. The other problem we see is the coaching, and not just the head coaching. In our opinion, Reeves and his staff do not put their players in the best position to succeed. Offensively, the Giants are even more predictable than they ever were under Bill Parcells — and that’s saying a lot! Run, run, pass…run, run, pass…the opposing defense always knows what’s coming and when the opposing defense knows what’s coming, you will not succeed on offense. Now to the specifics…
Quarterbacks: A very, very strange game for Dave Brown. Dave started the game on fire. He was as sharp as we’ve ever seen him. However, it all came apart in the second quarter as two passes turned Dave’s solid performance completely around. On a 3rd-and-long play (yet again), the Panthers called a beautiful blitz. CB Tyrone Poole of the Panthers was following the motion WR across the field…but as the ball was snapped, Poole turned up field and caught the Giants (namely Keith Elias) flat footed. It was as well a disguised blitz as we’ve EVER seen. Regardless, Brown was under severe pressure as soon as the ball was snapped and instead of taking the sack, he tried to force the ball into H-Back Aaron Pierce’s hands. The pass was very close to being completed, but MLB Sam Mills made an incredible play as he played off the block of the lineman and made a spectacular one-handed interception, which he returned for a TD. When we saw the replay, we said to ourselves, “well, that was just an amazing defensive play…that happens sometimes…you can’t blame Brown too much for that.” However, when Brown came back into the game, after a couple of very nice passes, he made his worst mistake of the preseason…a play hauntingly reminiscent of Brown’s rookie season when he threw an out pattern to Keith Elias who was well-covered. The ball was picked off and returned to the Giants’ 14-yard line, which set up another score. For the remainder of the first half, Brown was obviously somewhat shaken and became overly cautious. He had Chris Calloway deep on one play and decided to check off to the short man. Yet once the 3rd period started, he regained his composure became very sharp again. As we said, it was a very strange game for him. We saw him make four bad plays, but aside from that he was nearly perfect. The four bad plays were the two interceptions, not throwing to Calloway deep, and holding onto the ball too long on a play-action pass on 3rd-and-goal (luckily for Brown and the Giants, the Panthers were offside on the play). The rest of the game, as we said, Brown looked as sharp as we’ve ever seen him. He threw a great seam pass to Howard Cross (hooray! the seam pass to the TE!) and he was sharp on out patterns to Calloway and Lewis. He hit Toomer on a slant and was effective throwing to Pierce on short routes. When flushed out of the pocket, twice he made very nice plays where he kept his composure, scrambled right, directed the WR down the field, and threw a beautiful pass (one of which was dropped by Calloway). He also picked up a big first down running the ball on 3rd-and-long. What hurt Brown the most was the play calling…run, run, pass…run, run, pass. The Panthers’ defense, like every defense the Giants will face this year, stacked the line of scrimmage on first and second down and dared the Giants to pass the ball…which they didn’t. We see this, the commentators see this, the fans see this, the media sees, the opposition sees this…why doesn’t Dan Reeves see this? Twice, when the Giants did pass on first down, the passes were easily completed. In order to open up the running game, the Giants must start hurting opposing defenses by passing the ball on first and second down. Then once the defense backs off, then you can start running the ball — then you have the defense on its heels. The Giants have the WR’s now to employ this strategy, unlike last year. Brown was 11-of-18 for 110 yards. As for Stan White, he like Brown, started the game on fire, quickly cooled off, and then played well once again. White’s strengths when throwing the ball are his decisiveness, his strong throws on intermediate routes over the middle, and a nice touch on his deep throws. His weaknesses are that he doesn’t have a strong enough arm for the deep out (which will severely limit him whenever he plays) and he doesn’t know when to take the sack. When White came into the game midway through the 3rd quarter, he started off playing well, looking good on play-action passes and the intermediate stuff. What also helped him was that Reeves allowed him to throw on first down, unlike Brown. However, White threw two interceptions and threw another pass which also should have been picked off. He made an incredibly stupid play when he was being sacked in the endzone for a safety. Instead of eating the ball and taking the safety, he tried to throw it away. It was picked off and returned for an easy TD. To be fair to White, he was under siege the entire game. He was sacked time and time again and when he wasn’t sacked, he was hurried and knocked to the turf. The other thing that hurt him was the playcalling once again. Up by 14-27 points and knowing the Giants were going to pass in order to get back into the game, the Panthers’ defenders got into the pass rush mode and just went after the quarterback. The Giants added them immensely by continuing to call play-action passes. Play action takes too much time when the opposing defense knows you’re playing catch-up ball. White never had a chance and the Giants never stopped the play-action. Stupid! White was 7-of-15 for 70 yards.
Running Backs: Rodney Hampton must wish he ended up with the 49ers. Rodney is a very talented back and the Giants are going to have a very good offensive line, but it’s not going to matter much when the opposing defense knows you’re going to run and stacks the line of scrimmage. We know we keep repeating ourselves but this is getting pathetic. Run, run, pass…run, run, pass. There are more bodies to block than there are bodies to block them. The Panthers had all their linebackers and their strong safety playing within five yards of the line of scrimmage — and EVERYONE went for Hampton as soon as the ball was snapped. Where is the deception? Where is cleverness? Where is the intelligence? Hampton carried the ball 17 times for 36 yards (a miserable 2.2 yard per carry average). He had a couple of nice runs up the middle and to his left. The Giants also had some different kinds of running plays — the ran a toss sweep and ran a good looking play where Hampton started on the right side of the formation, but accelerated to his left out of his stance as the guards pulled to lead him — however, it didn’t matter because there were too many people to block. Charles Way looked good blocking for Hampton, particularly on Hampton’s TD run. Keith Elias is no longer our “Mr. Preseason.” He is now our “Mr. Journeyman.” Elias, just like against the Ravens and Jets, did nothing positive at all and was stuffed at the line of scrimmage. He shows no moves, power, or instincts. Robert Walker saw quite a bit of action in the 4th quarter, but didn’t excite. He carried the ball 6 times for 12 yards.
Tight Ends/H-Backs: Hooray, hooray, hooray!!! The Giants threw both to Howard Cross and Aaron Pierce…they also threw the seam pass to Cross. Howard made up for his dropped TD last week by coming up with three nice catches for 33 yards. Pierce was heavily involved in the offense, but during the opening series, he did not run his pattern deep enough to pick up the first down on a 3rd-down pass and the Giants were forced to punt…that’s a big no-no! It looks like the Giants will use Pierce a great deal this year on play-action role outs. Pierce caught 4 passes for 35 yards in the game. The Giants even threw to Brian Saxton in the game and he didn’t disappoint. He caught 2 passes for 25 yards.
Wide Receivers: Run, run, pass…run, run, pass. With all the running and all the turnovers, the Giants’ WR’s didn’t get much of a chance to show their wares this week. Thomas Lewis (hamstring) toughed it out and started the game. He picked up a nice first down during the first series. Chris Calloway (2 catches for 22 yards) also picked up a first down on a third down pass, but dropped a perfect pass from Brown on a deep crossing pattern. Amani Toomer (2 catches for 20 yards) made a nice play on yet another 3rd down pass for a first down, but also dropped a pass. Lawrence Dawsey (no catches) was not a factor once again. Arthur Marshall made a nice play on a 17-yard completion from Stan White. Omar Douglas showed his toughness on one play where he held onto the ball while getting levelled.
Offensive Line: This line is coming together, but there are still some trouble spots. LT Greg Bishop had some problems with the pass rush, particularly from DE Shawn King (who gave the Giants fits all night — this is a guy who we liked in the draft a lot last year). Except for one series where Bishop had problems with King, we thought the line did an adequate (but not great) job in pass protection. Most of the Giants’ problems in pass protection for the first unit came from Panthers’ Head Coach Dom Caper’s complicated blitzing schemes. The good news is that this is good practice for the Giants for the regular season. It was tough to judge the run blocking because there were so many opposing defenders near the line of scrimmage. From what we saw, however, we thought Zatechka, Stone, and Gragg had a good game run blocking. Stone had to leave the game with a sprained ankle — let’s hope he will be alright for the opener. The second team offensive line did not distinguish themselves at all. Both the tackles, Roman Oben and Jerry Reynolds had a rough night. In addition, Carolina blitzing gave the interior trio all they could handle. What made matters even worse is that the Giants (again the coaching) did not have enough backs in the backfield to pick up these blitzes — it reminded us of Florida and Nebraska in last year’s Collegiate Championship Game.
Defensive Line: The starters (Bratzke, Agnew, Hamilton, Strahan) were not horrible, but they were not good either. The Giants did a decent job against the inside running game for most of the first quarter, but had problems when Tim Biakabatuka bounced the play outside. Once again, it was the right side of the Giants’ defense that had most of the problems against the run. Chad Bratzke is not a good run defender and Ray Agnew looks like he’s regressing to us (though he did have some moments). It clearly helps the Giants when Keith Hamilton is in there. The starting defense gave up only one long drive of the night and the Panthers’ drive was only kept alive by stupid mistakes by the Giants (i.e., offside penalties, bad tackling, etc.). However, as the long drive wore on, the Giants had more and more problems against the run. Surprisingly, DT Bernard Holsey saw a lot of work in the second quarter with the first unit and he didn’t look that out of place. Cedric Jones played quite a bit and aside from one excellent defensive play against the run, didn’t do too much. He still looks like he’s playing catch-up due to all the time he missed in camp. Reeves and Nolan played many of the starters late into the game. We saw Strahan, Harris, and Agnew taking snaps in the 4th quarter. As the game wore on, and as it became very clear the Giants were out of it, the line became less and less effective. These guys need a boost of confidence quickly, but we’re afraid that they are not going to get it from Buffalo or Dallas.
Linebackers: Again, not terrible, but no one stood out and no one made any big plays. Corey Widmer made an excellent play in pass defense early on but was rarely heard from for the remainder of the game. He was completely fooled on a play-action pass down on the goalline and left his man wide open for an easy TD. On many off-tackle runs, we didn’t see him in the picture and that is very disconcerting. Coleman Rudolph had his best game this preseason (which isn’t saying much). He made a nice stop behind the line of scrimmage during a run blitz and looked more comfortable out there this week. However, he was annihilated on the goalline when Carolina scored their rushing TD after Brown’s second interception. Carolina had decent success passing into the flats and we blame much of this on Jessie Armstead and Corey Miller. Both Doug Colman and Scott Galyon made nice plays in pass defense, but both didn’t distinguish themselves against the run either.
Defensive Backs: This unit played well once again. CB Jason Sehorn made a bone-head play when he completely whiffed on an open field tackle and allowed the receiver to pick up the first down on a 3rd down play during Carolina’s one and only long TD drive. Sehorn looked as bad as he did when he was a rookie on this play. CB Thomas Randolph made a great play as he stayed stride-for-stride with his man on a deep sideline pattern down the left side line. Phillippi Sparks looks like he’s ready to go as he came very close to picking of a pass in the endzone. Tito Wooten can hit and Rodney Young had nice coverage on an intermediate route near the goalline. Willie Beamon played quite a bit, but looked terrible trying to tackle the ball carrier on a few occasions. Unfortunately, Conrad Hamilton sprained his knee (a turf injury all the way) and left the game early — let’s hope it’s not serious because this guy is someone who the Giants were counting on. Carolina did not do much damage in their passing game (only 79 yards) as the secondary held its own once again.
Special Teams: The punt and kick coverage units were much improved as Marcus Buckley and Keith Elias made some nice plays. However, the blocking for the punt and kick returns is as bad as we’ve ever seen on any team — and not just for this game, but all preseason. Against the Panthers, it was a jailbreak as the returner, no matter who it was, never had a chance. It doesn’t even look like the Giants are attempting to block potential tacklers. Interestingly, the Giants had Chris Calloway returning one punt — Arthur Marshall was in there the rest of the time. Omar Douglas and Arthur Marshall returned kick-offs — those two aren’t going scare anyone on specials. Brad Daluiso missed a 40 yard field goal and remains a huge question mark. Mike Horan’s punts were average. Overall, it doesn’t look to us as if the special teams are ready to start the season. Mark our words — this will cost the Giants dearly.
Coaching: The offensive play calling is inept and the special teams are poorly coached. There are too many defensive line men being switched from position to position and not enough timely blitzing on passing downs. This team is young and inexperienced, but it does have talent and it has more offensive talent than quite a few teams in the league. However, the team does not look ready to start the season. It looks ill-prepared and confused. Alas, only if we had Jimmy Johnson coaching this team!