Baltimore Ravens 14 – New York Giants 6
Editor’s Note: I missed half of the first quarter of the game.
Overview: This is a game that Giants’ fans have to take with a grain of salt. From our vantage point, it looked as if the Giants kept things very vanilla on offense and defense in anticipation of next week’s season opener against the Redskins. We thought the Ravens did the same. So we feel it would be inappropriate to read into too much of what transpired in this contest. Let’s look at some of the individual performances.
Quarterbacks: QB Danny Kanell was not sharp. His best throw of the night was a pretty looking quick slant to WR Chris Calloway at the start the of the second quarter that picked up the Giants’ first first down of the game. However, on his next two passes, Kanell badly overthrew a wide open Ike Hilliard and Chris Calloway — both passes over the middle of the field.
Kent Graham had an up-and-down night. Honestly, we don’t really think he fits this offense very well and we don’t really understand why Fassel was interested in him because of that. Graham’s style of play is reminiscent of Jay Schroeder’s in that the strength of Graham’s game is the deep throw. But when he is called upon to dump the ball off to the backs or show touch with short passes over the middle, he telegraphs his throws and passes with too much velocity. He also continues to hold onto the ball far too long. The responsibility for his sack and turnover deep in Giants’ territory in the fourth quarter was all his — he must learn to realize that he can’t hold onto the ball that long. He missed a wide open Joe Jurevicius earlier in the game, but came back to throw a nice looking deep strike to him that set up the Giants’ second field goal. Though a wobbly pass, his deep sideline pass to Jurevicius was also on the mark. Strangely, for a tall guy, Graham seems to get an inordinate number of passes knocked down at the line of scrimmage.
On a side note, one play that the Giants have run a couple of times this preseason that we don’t like is the short pass to the back in the flat inside the five. Both times the Giants have run this, it has been for minimum gain. We feel it places to much reliance on the ability of the back to break a tackle in a situation where there are a lot of defenders near the line of scrimmage.
Mike Cherry did a nice job on his first pass attempt by looking off the safety and then coming back to Amani Toomer. He wasn’t helped on his first series by bad blocking from RG Bryan Stoltenberg or a dropped pass by HB Gary Brown. On his second and last drive with under 30 seconds left in the game, he hit Bryan Alford on a deep pass, but Alford had stepped out-of-bounds. He then showed good composure throwing a deep strike to Joe Jurevicius over the middle by stepping up in the pocket. After that, his last two plays were a couple of Hail Mary’s.
Wide Receivers: Since the starters were out quickly and Kanell was off most of the night, we didn’t get a real good look at Ike Hilliard or Chris Calloway. Both receivers seemed to get open relatively easily however. We thought the stars of the game were back-ups Joe Jurevicius and Amani Toomer. We have been saying since before the draft that Jurevicius is not another Ed McCaffrey; that he is faster and smoother and could get deep — as evidenced by his superb yards-per-catch figures in college. Well friends, Joe is doing the very same thing in the pros. He lulls defenders to sleep with his deceptively fast long-strides. He ran right by Ravens’ speedster first round draft pick Duane Starks twice on deep passes. He also showed excellent concentration in keeping his feet in bounds on a wobbly Kent Graham pass to the sidelines. Amani not only caught everything thrown his way, but he showed some real nice toughness breaking tackles and run-after-the-catch ability. Though the stats don’t show it due to a penalty, he also came up with a long Hail Mary pass at the end of the game where he outfought several Raven defenders. Head Coach Jim Fassel faces a real dilemma on how to divvy up the playing time between Calloway, Hilliard, Jurevicius, Toomer, and Patten this year. Bryan Alford also made his first catches of the preseason — one a fine looking deep catch that was disallowed because Alford had touched the out-of-bounds line earlier in the route.
Tight Ends: Howard Cross once again looked sharp blocking. On one play, he did a real nice job of handling Peter Boulware on a running play. Andy Haase caught a 19-yard pass on a crossing route and shows real reliable hands. Grant Baynham caught his first pass in a Giants’ jersey. We really don’t like the play called — a one yard pattern to the sidelines. This kind of play is reminiscent of the Reeves’ era.
Halfbacks: Readers know we like Tiki and that we root for Tiki, but Tiki Barber makes us nervous. Almost every time he touches the ball it is an adventure. Coming off the goalline late in the first quarter, the Giants fed the ball to Tiki three times in a row. On the first carry, he did a nice job and picked up five yards. But it seemed as if he almost lost control of the ball. On the next play, he had a nice run to the opposite side where he picked up four yards. On the third play, on 3rd-and-1, Tiki was stuffed by the middle linebacker for no gain — and worse, it looked like he almost was about to fumble the ball. Short yardage is not the strength of Tiki’s game. We hope Fassel is only running him in such situations this preseason in order to throw the Redskins off. In such a situation, only Gary Brown or one of the fullbacks should be touching the ball. Tiki is a fine back, but he is not big or strong enough to consistently break tackles or move the pile in short yardage situations. On another carry later in the ball game, instead of taking what was there and hitting the hole for a minimum gain, Tiki started dancing around in the backfield and took a loss — a big no-no in our book.
Gary Brown was not that impressive. He dropped three balls and only picked up three yards on three carries — though there wasn’t much blocking on those chances either. Really, the guy who we were most impressed with was Tyrone Wheatley (9 carries for 51 yards). Wheatley ran like a man possessed. Tyrone ran with power, aggression, toughness, and attitude. He broke tackles and ran over people. He showed good speed and did a nice job setting up his blocks. Indeed, it may have been the best performance we have ever seen out of him since his Michigan days. Now if he would only play like this in on a consistent basis, Fassel would be forced to play him. He did drop one pass.
Fullbacks: We really are impressed with the blocking of rookie free agent Greg Comella. Coming out of Stanford, Comella did not have the reputation of being a good blocker. But almost every time we keep our eyes on him, he is taking out his man on running plays with conviction. Comella also caught three passes. Charles Way (ankle) didn’t play.
Offensive Line: We thought these guys once again did a decent job in pass protection, although there did seem to be a little more of a push up the middle this week. Greg Bishop was also called for an obvious holding penalty where he grabbed Michael McCreary around the head. But for the most part, these guys remained sure and steady. Run blocking was a mixed bag. We saw some real nice things and also a couple of break-downs.
As for the second unit, we thought this was their best performance of the preseason by far. The acquisition of OG Lonnie Palelei really seemed to settle down the line — though we do think he screwed up royally by pulling on a play where we think he was supposed to block straight ahead on the goalline. But such a mistake can be excused given the fact that he just signed with the team. The weak link to us on the second unit is Bryan Stoltenberg. He had problems in pass protection where he was pushed back into the pocket and he was also flagged for holding. RT Jason Whittle was flagged for a false start and holding on back-to-back plays. LT Toby Myles was up-and-down. A couple of times he allowed his man to hit Graham from the blindside. He has the tools, he just needs better technique and focus.
Defensive Line: The one thing we really noticed about the defense in this game was their overall speed and quickness in comparison with the Ravens. The Giants’ defenders just seemed much faster and quicker. We were also impressed with the gang-tackling. Michael Strahan was in mid-season form against a solid opponent in Orlando Brown. Strahan dominated Brown — both against the run (he made one superb play in the backfield) and against the pass (Orlando was forced to hold Strahan on a number of occasions). We also liked the work Chad Bratzke put in. He cleanly beat All-Pro Jonathan Ogden very badly, nailing Jim Harbaugh just as he threw the ball. The defensive tackles also did a good job and the Ravens’ first unit had problems running the ball.
As for the reserves, it was really an up-and-down night. Either they were making superb plays or getting their butts kicked. There is no better example of this than Bernard Holsey. On a few plays, Holsey was a highly disruptive force, playing both tackle and the left end spot. He not only picked up a sack, but pressured Raven quarterbacks on a number of occasions. His 4th quarter pressure led directly to Percy Ellsworth’s interception. He also made a couple of nice plays against the run. On the other hand, there were too many runs off the left side of the defense where Holsey was controlled — including Errict Rhett’s long touchdown run. The Ravens also picked up good yardage running at Holsey late in the game, when they were able to control the clock and put up the final touchdown. DE Cedric Jones also had an up-and-down night. He picked up his second sack of the preseason — another great looking outside rush — and continued to be more active than we can remember. The best thing we have seen out of him is that he seems to be hustling far more than he ever did — chasing the ball even when the play is run in the other direction. However, Cedric also had his problems with the run at the point of attack. Inside, we thought Christian Peter played a decent game. Though not as spectacular as the others, he was far more consistent. There were a couple of plays against both the pass and run where he got good penetration. However, he was flagged with a couple of costly off-sides penalties — one that gave the Ravens a first down on third down. We also think that George Williams has outplayed Nate Hobgood-Chittick. Though Williams got destroyed on the Ravens’ final touchdown run up the gut and spent a little too much time on the ground in general, his quickness was evident on a number of plays where he disrupted things in the backfield against both the pass and run.
Linebackers: MLB Corey Widmer was back and was sharp against the run and decent in pass coverage. Jessie Armstead looked good on one blitz off the left side where he almost got to the quarterback. Marcus Buckley played well — showing some feistiness we haven’t seen from him before. He played the run well and was very solid in coverage. We thought Scott Galyon had his worst performance of the preseason. He was beat in coverage on one play and called for illegal contact on another play. He also seemed to have problems disengaging from blockers on running plays run right at him (maybe that’s why we don’t see him being considered on the strongside). Doug Colman also got handled too much for our tastes, but was fairly active and did play the run well on a few occasions. He and Ryan Phillips were neutralized on Errict Rhett’s long TD run. Ryan had his problems at the point-of-attack on a few occasions. Phillips was so-so in pass coverage. He was real solid in coverage on two plays, but got beat on two others. Jason Nevadomsky showed some good things at times, like when he stuffed a 3rd-and-1 play for no gain. But there were too many times where he trouble disengaging from the block too. He might be worthy of the practice squad.
Defensive Backs: Conrad Hamilton held up well against a quality opponent, though we don’t think the Ravens really tested him. Conrad did get flagged for pass interference on a quick slant to Michael Jackson, but it was an aggressive play and Conrad only mistimed the hit by a half second. We thought Phillippi Sparks played his best game of the preseason since the opener. SS Sam Garnes was once again very active against the run, showing real speed and instincts on one sweep to the right where he nailed the runner in the backfield. FS Tito Wooten also looked sharp in run support.
As far as we could tell, CB/S Shaun Williams remained the whole night in the slot or at safety. For the most part, it seemed as he played well as the Ravens didn’t throw much in his direction. However, he was beaten pretty badly on one play over the middle. He also was effectively handled on Rhett’s TD run. Other than that play, he was very aggressive in run support — Wooten and Ellsworth could learn a lot by watching how this guy tackles. CB Robert Massey, due to his lack of speed, is forced to play way off the ball and opponents have been taking advantage of this. CB Jeremy Lincoln always seems to get beat and never makes plays. CB Kory Blackwell’s man always seems to have a step on him — though Blackwell did look good coming up to tackle the running back on one short pass. His play on run support was terrible. FS Percy Ellsworth (two interceptions — one on a Hail Mary) just has a nose for the football. Now only if the guy could tackle. We simply don’t understand how someone as big as he is can be such a poor tackler. In the future, he may be better advised to knock Hail Mary passes down rather than go for the interception. S Brandon Sanders was around the ball a lot. He got beat on one play, but also came up with a couple of major league hits.
Special Teams: The best news of the night was that the Giants’ specials played a good game against a team renowned for its solid special teams play. Kick and punt coverage was good with Shaun Williams standing out on both. Scott Galyon made another play as well. On punt returns, Tiki Barber and Amani Toomer didn’t have many chances — being forced to call for fair catches or let the ball go into the endzone on a number of occasions. At least there were no muffs or fumbles. Kick returns were ordinary. The blocking on one Toomer return was excellent and he picked up decent yardage; we thought he could have done even more damage if he hadn’t danced around at the end of his run — he needs to keep in mind that while he can do that on punts, it won’t work on kicks. P Brad Maynard was only OK. He didn’t nail the ball like he has all preseason and did a poor job on one coffin corner punt opportunity. PK Brad Daluiso hit a long field goal and performed much better on his kick-offs than he did last week. However, his one kick-off out-of-bounds was inexcusable.