Sep 291999
 
New England Patriots 16 – New York Giants 14

Overview: The Patriots were ripe for the taking and the Giants blew it. The defense and most of the special teams played well enough to win, but once again, as was so often the case in 1998, the offense let the Giants down. So did Brad Daluiso.

The Giants are now 0-6-1 in their past seven prime-time TV appearances.

Quarterback: QB Kent Graham was far too inconsistent. He started off sharply, hitting on all five of pass attempts as the Giants marched down the field and scored on their opening drive. For the rest of the half, he was OK and many of the offensive problems resulted from an inability to run the ball. However, in the second half, Graham’s accuracy was off. He seemed unwilling to fire the ball to wide receivers who were barely open but they were open. Kent overthrew David Patten on a fly pattern that might have resulted in a touchdown and he threw late to Pete Mitchell on a play that would have resulted in a score. Most frustrating was that Graham often decided to take off an run with the ball in situations where he would have been better advised to keep his eyes focused down field. On the positive side, Kent finished strongly against a prevent defense. He didn’t turn the ball over either. Graham completed 23 of 36 passes for 216 yards and two touchdowns.

Offensive Line This unit plays “soft”. The antithesis of Giants’ offensive lines that we are accustomed to, the line of Oben, Petitgout, Williams, Stone, and Gragg play more of a finesse game than a smash mouth game. They do alright in pass protection, but struggle to get movement in their run blocks. Is this due to the personnel, the style of offense, technique, coaching, or a combination of all? I don’t know. But unless the line starts moving defenders off the line of scrimmage, the running game will struggle and so will the entire offense. No one played terrible on the line, but no one played well either. There were only two penalties, but one was a costly false start by Ron Stone on 4th-and-1. Stone and OC Brian Williams also did not get low enough on the quarterback sneak on another 4th-and-1 attempt (a quarterback sneak) that was stuffed. Stone and Williams are the best run blockers on the team and if you can’t pick up one yard on a sneak behind those two, then you don’t deserve to win. Williams also struggled at times at getting a hat on MLB Andy Katzenmoyer. RT Scott Gragg was fairly solid, but he did get beat to the inside on one pass rush that I spotted. LT Roman Oben was fine in pass protection, but the Giants weren’t able to generate much movement on any left-side runs. On a positive note, after years and year of futility, it is nice to see the Giants are able to run a crediable screen pass. The blocking on such a play requires a great deal of coordination with the component parts and being able to execute this play should help the offense down the road a great deal.

Tight Ends: Why the hell are the Giants not using TE Pete Mitchell more? Everyone can see he is open most of the time. Is it Graham? Is it the play calling? Whatever the case, the Giants must get the ball more into his hands. Most linebackers simply cannot handle him. Mitchell picked up a key first down on the Giants’ first drive with a seven yard reception on 3rd-and-6. Pete got open deep in the end zone in the 4th quarter, but Graham threw the ball too late. Mitchell showed some power on the last scoring drive down near the goalline. TE Howard Cross did a nice job helping out Graham, who was about to be sacked, by leaving his blocking assignment and becoming a pass receiver.

Running Backs: The Giants are just not getting the job done on the ground. New York rushed for only 57 yards on 26 carries — a 2.2 yards-per-carry average. Aside from a couple of runs on the first drive in the 4th quarter (a short 3rd-and-2 conversion from FB Charles Way and a 9-yard right-side off-tackle run by LeShon Johnson), the Giants just were never able to string together two solid running plays back-to-back. The Patriot defenders were often too quick on outside runs, beating the pulling blockers to the point-of-attack. On inside runs, there wasn’t much daylight. LeShon lacks run vision/instincts and runs to a spot no matter who is there or not. What is ironic is that when he has the ball in his hands as a pass receiver (such as his nice looking screen reception), he suddenly develops vision and shows some moves. Charles Way threw a great block on LeShon’s aforementioned screen. Fassel tried to get the running game untracked by passing early and often and then going to Way in a one-back set. And although the first part of the strategy worked (the passing attack), Way and his blockers just couldn’t pick up any significant yardage. Ball security was an obvious concern with Johnson as I spotted him a couple of times running with both hands on the ball even before contact. Despite this, he came close to fumbling again. Tiki Barber made some nice plays in the passing game. In the first half, he got the Giants out of a big hole deep in their own territory on 3rd-and-very long by catching a Graham pass over the middle and sprinting for the first down. Tiki made three catches on the Giants’ final scoring drive. His hands were solid and he showed good field speed and intelligence in running out of bounds to stop the clock on two occasions. He also made the TD catch on 4th-and-goal.

Wide Receivers: This unit is improving as the young guys develop, but strangely some of the members of this unit remain vastly underutilized. Ike Hilliard had an up-and-down game. Surprisingly, he was able to make some plays early on against Pro Bowl CB Ty Law. But Ike also had a couple of drops, including one costly one on an underthrown sideline pass in the 4th quarter. Ike looks a lot sharper to me than he did last year and I think he is finally past the neck injury, but he has to make more game-breaking plays. However, to be fair to him and WR Amani Toomer, it looked to me that both of these guys were open at times but Graham wouldn’t pull the trigger. Amani Toomer looked real strong on a slant pass in the game and this is the type of play that should become a staple of the Giants’ offense. Toomer is big and strong and he should get open on this route against most corners in the league. I did spot Fassel talking to Toomer quite a bit on the sideline in a fashion that looked like Amani was making some errors. I have no idea why Joe Jurevicius is not being utilized/thrown to more. Is he still having problems running routes? Is it Graham? Is it the play calling? Whatever the case, he should be a greater part of this offense. Joe has the size/speed combo that should cause real match-up problems for defenses, but the ball just isn’t getting into his hands. For example, late in the game, the Giants decided to run a fade to David Patten (the ball was overthrown and fell incomplete). Patten should not be running a fade in the endzone due to his size. This is the kind of play that Jurevicius should be in there to run. David Patten showed some game-breaking speed on one deep go route where he blew by the defender on 3rd-and-long. Patten was open for six, but Graham missed him.

Defensive Line: I thought the best defensive lineman on the Giants was Cedric Jones on Sunday night. Jones was facing a quality opponent in LT Bruce Armstrong, yet Cedric held his own on most runs in his direction. His play against the run would have been even more decisive if his teammates were over there to clean up after he successfully took on the block at the point. On the pass rush, Cedric flashed on a play or two (I spotted him getting mugged by Armstrong on one play, but holding wasn’t called; he also smashed Bledsoe on one play that he wasn’t blocked on), but he wasn’t much of a factor in that aspect of the game. I did like his hustle chasing a receiver down field after a completed pass. Michael Strahan continues to remain a non-factor against questionable competition. He faced back-up Max Lane much of the night, but didn’t get to the quarterback. To be fair to Michael, Ben Coates did provide double-team support on some plays. Still, he has to step it up. Inside, the tackles did a decent job against the run, but aside from one Keith Hamilton sack, they also did not exert enough pressure. I expect more from Robert Harris and Keith Hamilton. They need to start making some plays in the backfield.

Linebackers: WLB Jessie Armstead was all over the place. Unlike last week, he successfully shot the gaps at the point and disrupted runs at him. He also made a very impressive play on the backside by chasing the ball carrier down from behind. Jessie clobbered Bledsoe on one blitz, but Bledsoe got the ball off. MLB Corey Widmer and SLB Ryan Phillips are not doing enough to help their team win. Widmer made a nice stop down on the goalline, but he and Phillips had too much problem disengaging from blocks on running plays. Widmer did defense a 3rd-and-goal pass to Ben Coates (along with Sam Garnes), but he has to make more plays against the run. Phillips seems a step slow on the blitz. While he is more stout than Buckley at the point, he too always seems engaged with a blocker.

Defensive Backs: Jason Sehorn’s return helped to settle down the defense. He is a presence in there and it was great to see him back on the field again. In the first half, he showed solid coverage and Drew Bledsoe was not able to throw in his direction. In the second half, Jason made the same fundamental flaw on three completions against him. On each of these plays, he played his man aggressively at the line of scrimmage by playing tight. This is where Jason is at his best. However, on each of these plays, for some inexplicable reason, against smaller opponents in each case, he did not jam his man. The result was that his man got off the line of scrimmage far too easily. The most damaging of these plays was a slant to Terry Glenn on the Pats’ final field goal drive. A slant depends so heavily on timing and if the corner can disrupt the route, the slant will not work. Jason should have gotten his hands on Glenn. If he had, the Patriots would have had to punt.

CB Phillippi Sparks got burned on a deep post to Glenn that set up the Pats’ sole touchdown of the night. Aside from that play, he was generally solid, but that play was a biggie. I thought the starting safeties played well against both the pass and the run. I’ve been hard on Percy Ellsworth because of his tackling, but his run support against New England was good. Sam Garnes was very active against the run and held his own against Ben Coates (although Coates got a couple against him). Shaun Williams had problems covering his man in the slot, including a 25-yard pass to WR Troy Brown on 3rd-and-8 on the Pats’ first field goal drive.

Special Teams: I’ve never had much confidence in Brad Daluiso in a tight game and obviously he did nothing to convince me otherwise on Sunday night. Arguably, Daluiso’s miss cost the Giants the game. Brad usually does well inside the 40 and outside the 50. But for some reason, every kick between the 40 and 50 is adventure. That is not acceptable. P Brad Maynard reverted to his disappointing preseason form. He had one monster punt, but most of his work was disappointing at best and hurt the Giants in the field position war. The good news was that kick and punt coverage was good. And for the second week in a row, so was the blocking on kick returns and the work of the returners of themselves. Tiki Barber got the ball once again out near mid-field. But it is David Patten who looks more and more confident as a kick returner. He’s looks ready to break one. Punt returns continue to be disappointing as the Giants simply cannot slow down the opposing gunners. Tiki Barber almost made a bone-head play by muffing a punt by bailing out at the last second.

Inactive for the Giants: CB Bashir Levingston, HB Joe Montgomery, HB Gary Brown, CB Conrad Hamilton, OG Mike Rosenthal, WR Brian Alford, and DT Ryan Hale.


                   1ST  2ND  3RD  4TH     TOTAL
                   ---  ---  ---  ---     -----
NY GIANTS           7    0    0    7       14
NEW ENGLAND         0    7    6    3       16

SCORING SUMMARY

1ST QUARTER:

NYG – TD, LESHON JOHNSON 6 YD PASS FROM KENT GRAHAM (BRAD DALUISO KICK), 7:12. Drive: 10 plays, 66 yards in 5:50. Key plays: Graham 27-yard pass to Hilliard to New England 30; Graham 7-yard pass to Mitchell on 3rd-and-6 to New England 19; Graham 1-yard run on 3rd-and-1 to New England 9; Graham 5-for-5 for 49 yards. NY GIANTS 7-0

2ND QUARTER:

NE – TD, TERRY ALLEN 1 YD RUN (ADAM VINATIERI KICK), 6:39. Drive: 6 plays, 64 yards in 3:32. Key plays: Bledsoe 11-yard pass to Jefferson on 3rd-and-4 to New York 47; Bledsoe 45-yard pass to Glenn to New York 2. NY GIANTS 7, NEW ENGLAND 7

3RD QUARTER:

NE – FG, ADAM VINATIERI 38 YD, 6:05. Drive: 9 plays, 45 yards in 4:48. Key plays: Bledsoe 9-yard pass to Jefferson to New England 44; Bledsoe 25-yard pass to Brown on 3rd-and-8 to New York 28; Bledsoe 7-yard pass to Glenn to New York 20; Bledsoe 4-for-5 for 40 yards. NEW ENGLAND 10-7

NE – FG, ADAM VINATIERI 19 YD, 13:28. Drive: 11 plays, 58 yards in 5:18. Key plays: Bledsoe 12-yard pass to Glenn to New York 47; Carter 9-yard run to New York 34; Bledsoe 14-yard pass to Coates to New York 20; Bledsoe 11-yard pass to Brown to New York 8; Bledsoe 3-for-4 for 37 yards. NEW ENGLAND 13-7

4TH QUARTER:

NE – FG, ADAM VINATIERI 41 YD, 11:48. Drive: 12 plays, 45 yards in 5:55. Key plays: Allen 10-yard run to New York 49; Bledsoe 18-yard pass to Glenn on 3rd-and-11 to New York 22. NEW ENGLAND 16-7

NYG – TD, TIKI BARBER 1 YD PASS FROM KENT GRAHAM (BRAD DALUISO KICK), 13:46. Drive: 12 plays, 70 yards in 1:58. Key plays: Graham 22-yard pass to Toomer to New England 48; Graham 12-yard pass to Barber to New England 36; Graham 7-yard pass to Barber to New England; Graham 14-yard pass to Mitchell on 3rd-and-5 to New York 4; Graham 7-for-11 for 67 yards. NEW ENGLAND 16-14

TEAM STATISTICS

                            Giants        Patriots
                           --------       --------
FIRST DOWNS                    19             17
Rushing                         4              6
Passing                        13             11
Penalty                         2              0
3RD-DOWN EFFICIENCY          5-14           5-12
4H-DOWN EFFICIENCY           1-2            0-0
TOTAL NET YARDS               258            290
Total plays                    63             58
Average gain                  4.1            5.0
NET YARDS RUSHING              57             67
Rushes                         26             29
Average per rush              2.2            2.3
NET YARDS PASSING             201            223
Completed-attempted         23-36          20-28
Yards per pass                5.4            7.7
Sacked-yards lost            1-15           1-10
Had intercepted                 0              0
PUNTS-AVERAGE              5-36.4         4-41.0
RETURN YARDAGE                124             61
Punts-returns                 0-0           2-18
Kickoffs-returns            5-124           3-43
Interceptions-returns         0-0            0-0
PENALTIES-YARDS              2-10           3-25
FUMBLES-LOST                  0-0            0-0
TIME OF POSSESSION          29:19          30:41

PLAYER STATISTICS

Missed field goals: NY Giants (Brad Daluiso 41).

NY Giants rushing: Charles Way 8-23, Leshon Johnson 10-18, Kent Graham 6-12, Tiki Barber 1-3, Sean Bennet 1-1.

New England rushing: Terry Allen 20-50, Tony Carter 2-10, Lamont Warren 4-7, Drew Bledsoe 3-0.

NY Giants passing: Kent Graham 23-36 for 216 yards, 0 INT, 2 TD.

New England passing: Drew Bledsoe 20-28 for 233 yards, 0 INT, 0 TD.

NY Giants receiving: Amani Toomer 7-69, Tiki Barber 5-46, Ike Hilliard 4-47, Pete Mitchell 3-30, Leshon Johnson 2-7, Charles Way 1-11, Howard Cross 1-6.

New England receiving: Terry Glenn 5-95, Troy Brown 4-50, Shawn Jefferson 4-35, Ben Coates 3-33, Tony Carter 2-8, Lamont Warren 1-12, Terry Allen 1-0.

NY Giants tackles-assists-sacks (unofficial): Jessie Armstead 9-2-0, Sam Garnes 7-3-0, Cedric Jones 7-1-0, Ryan Phillips 5-2-0, Jason Sehorn 4-1-0, Phillippi Sparks 3-2-0, Corey Widmer 3-2-0, Percy Ellsworth 2-3-0, Shaun Williams 3-0-0, Keith Hamilton 2-0-1, Michael Strahan 0-2-0, Christian Peter 1-0-0, Marcus Buckley 0-1-0, Robert Harris 0-1-0, Bernard Holsey 0-1-0.

New England tackles-assists-sacks (unofficial): Lawyer Milloy 6-1-0, Chris Carter 3-4-0, Chris Slade 3-4-1, Willie Mcginest 2-5-0, Andy Katzenmoyer 6-0-0, Steve Israel 5-1-0, Ty Law 4-1-0, Chad Eaton 4-0-0, Tedy Bruschi 3-1-0, Brandon Mitchell 2-2-0, Henry Thomas 3-0-0, Larry Whigham 3-0-0, Ferric Collons 1-0-0, Sterling Palmer 1-0-0.

Interceptions: None.

Fumbles lost: None.

Opponent’s fumbles recovered: None.

Officials: Referee-Walt Coleman, Umpire-Jeff Rice, Head Linesman-Dale Hamer, Line Judge-Mark Steinkerchner(84), Back Judge-Bob Lawing, Side Judge-Neely Dunn, Field Judge-Bob McGrath.

A: 59,169; T: 2:56.

Sep 241999
 

Regular Season: Giants Lead Series 3-2

Approach to the Game – New York Giants at New England Patriots, September 26, 1999: Once again, this team seems to be at a crossroads. There have been many of those in the 1990’s. The team, and specifically the defense, laid down like dogs last week against the Redskins. Head Coach Jim Fassel and the players say the team has been very business-like and serious this week in practice. We’ll see. Much of this we’ve heard before. All that matters is winning. Winning cures a multitude of sins. Some may say this is a tough game for the Giants…playing a quality opponent on national television…yadda, yadda, yadda. I don’t give a crap. Win the ball game. The excuses from this team are wearing thin.

Giants on Offense: The Giants looked sharp on a few drives last week, but there continues to be far too many three-and-outs. The biggest concern right now is the absence of a crediable running game. All are to blame here v the backs, the offensive line, and the tight ends. HB LeShon Johnson fumbled again last week and aside from one run, HB Sean Bennett couldn’t get untracked. Until Gary Brown gets back (possibly next week), Fassel may turn to FB Charles Way to carry a heavier load. The Giants may use more one-back sets with him. Whoever carries the ball, the Giants have got to pick up more than 1 or 2 yards per carry. This is what is putting New York in these difficult 2nd- and 3rd-and-long situations. The Giants should be able to do some damage on the ground against New England by running the ball straight at them. Their defense is missing All-Pro MLB Ted Johnson and the right side of their defensive line is on the smaller side. The run blocking of LT Roman Oben and LG Luke Petitgout against DE Willie McGinnest and DT Henry Thomas will be decisive. If the Giants are in a one-back, then the tight ends will have to get into the act. When Bennett or Johnson are carrying the ball, Charles Way needs to make solid contact on the linebackers. DT Chad Eaton and DE Chris Sullivan are decent run-defenders, particularly Eaton. If RG Ron Stone can control him, the Giants also may be able to do damage running right. But the backs will have to be read their blocks correctly, get to the hole quickly, and be decisive.

One way to attack the Patriots too is to pass the ball against their linebackers. OLB’s Chris Slade and Ted Bruschi are a tad stiff in coverage. MLB Andy Katzenmoyer is rookie who you can confuse. Passes to TE Pete Mitchell and the running backs might prove productive. The guy who could put a crimp into the running attack and short passing game is SS Lawyer Milloy, one of the more underrated players in the league.

What the Giants desperately want to do is keep out of obvious passing situations. The Patriots have decent quickness in their front seven and guys like McGinnest, Thomas, and the linebackers can get after the quarterback. McGinnest, in particular, has been giving opponents problems. Bruschi also is a good pass rusher. If the Giants play a physical game up front and don’t make a lot of mistakes (something that has been a problem), the Giants might be able to grind the Pats down.

Kent Graham simply is not playing as well as he did in the preseason. He has not been bad, but he hasn’t been good either. Graham cannot afford to make too many mistakes like he did last week when he missed the wide open Ike Hilliard on a bootleg or when he threw that terrible interception that was returned for a TD on the screen pass. Part of the problem is that penalties have prevent Graham from getting into any kind of rhythm. Hopefully, the Giants will make fewer mental errors and Fassel will give him a game plan that will allow him to do so.

At one corner, the Patriots have the very talented Ty Law. He normally shuts down his man, though he had some problems with Marvin Harrison last week. The other corner, Steve Israel, is having a fine season so far, but he is not in the same league as Law. Amani Toomer or Ike Hilliard should be able to do some damage against him if Graham can get them the ball. FS Chris Carter is coming off a nice game where he had to picks, but he is an ordinary player. Really, Law and Milloy make up the strength of this secondary.

Giants on Defense: The Giants’ defense lost a great deal of respect around the league for their performance last week. Teams probably don’t fear them as much now. There is only one way to get that fear and intimidation back v earn it. The Giants must play physical and nasty on defense v but they also must play smart. New England knows the G-Men on defense have something to prove and they may try to use their aggression against them. Watch out for misdirection such as reverses and plays designed to slow the pass rush such as draws and screens.

The Giants will face a familiar face in Terry Allen, who ran very well last week. Allen is a no-nonsense north-south type runner. The same kind of back the Giants faced last week in Stephen Davis. The run defense, particularly on the right side of the defense, will have to be much stronger than it was last week. The Giants will face a decent offensive line that is a bit beat up right now. But with LT Bruce Armstrong on the left side and the Giants weakness defending the run over there, look for runs to the left over and over again. What it will come down to is whether or not the Giants’ front seven wants its more than their opponent. Last week the Giants didn’t.

DE Cedric Jones will face the very talented Armstrong. He is the best lineman the Pats have and Jones will have his work cut out for him. Inside, Max Lane may sub again for the injured Heath Irwin. Lane played decently last week, but has had his problems in the past. It is important for Keith Hamilton to be more of a factor against the pass and run against either one of these two. Same story with DT Robert Harris or DT Christian Peter against RG Todd Rucci. The defensive tackles and MLB Corey Widmer also must contend with rookie OC Damien Woody. On the left side, DE Michael Strahan has been strangely quiet thus far and needs to step up his game v even if it is against double-teams. That’s what he is being paid the big bucks for. He will face either RT Zefross Moss (who didn’t play last week due to injury) or his back-up Ed Ellis.

The Patriots have seen the game film from last week and will surely try to attack the Giants in many of the same ways as Washington did. They saw that Ryan Phillips had trouble in coverage as did the safeties in covering the tight end. New England has the best all-around tight end in the game in Ben Coates. He is a major factor in their passing attack and a security blanket for QB Drew Bledsoe. I would try to match-up Shaun Williams on him as much as I can, but in the base defense, SS Sam Garnes is going to have to play much better than he did last week. Same with MLB Corey Widmer and SSL Ryan Phillips in pass defense.

Defending against Bledsoe starts up front. Bledsoe, like all quarterbacks, does not like to get hit. The Giants’ defense is going to have to get after him and take him out of his rhythm. If he gets into it, he is exceptionally dangerous. But if you take him out of his game and hurt him, Drew can make some dumb plays. Of course, much depends on how well the cornerbacks and FS Percy Ellsworth play. WR Terry Glenn is finally healthy again and is lighting it up. He is a speedster with quick moves. He could give a 100% Jason Sehorn problems v like he did three years ago in the Meadowlands v with his quickness. Sehorn will be tested. He has not played football since the Vikings game two years ago and missed all of camp and the preseason. His instincts and reactions may be way off. WR Shawn Jefferson is a fast player and makes plays down the field. I think I might be more comfortable with Sehorn on him to start with. The Pats may also bring in four wide receivers quite a bit since the Giants are thin at cornerback. If they do, Jeremy Lincoln or Andre Weathers will have to play a lot better than they did last week.

We can talk about this match-up or that match-up. But what it really will come down to is how physical and how smart the Giants play on defense. Intensity and intelligence will win the game.

Giants on Special Teams: Blocking on kick returns and the kick return jobs put in by David Patten and Tiki Barber were impressive last week. Hopefully that continues. Returns on punts has been shaky still. The Giants simply are not getting the gunners blocked. Tiki also has to be much more decisive on his returns. Punt and kick coverage has been improved this year. Let’s hope it gets even better. Some of the hard work the Giants put forth in training camp is starting to show up here.

Sep 221999
 
Washington Redskins 50 – New York Giants 21

Overview: What the hell was that??? One expects the Giants’ offense to stink, but not the defense to come out and play that way. Disgusting. To let a division rival come into your stadium for the home opener and embarrass you like that is simply not acceptable. The fans spoke with their feet. By the third quarter, the stadium was clearing out. Is this the type of football the owners and management want?

Coaching: This team was not ready to play. And for the third year in a row, Head Coach Jim Fassel has not got his troops ready to play the second game of the season. Too many penalties, too many blown assignments, and too much failed execution. Yes the players bear much of the blame, but this is Fassel’s third year. This is supposed to be an up-and-coming team. This is not supposed to be a rebuilding project. I like Jim Fassel. He has a lot of qualities that I think are necessary to make a good head coach. But this is his team and the Giants are simply not getting it done. The next few games will be very important for him and the team. He has to put his foot down…harshly. No excuses. If not, then it is time to get somebody else in here.

And don’t let golden-boy Defensive Coordinator John Fox off the hook. He was clearly out-couched and out-smarted by Redskins’ Head Coach Norv Turner. The Giants looked like a confused group on defense. They were not adequately prepared.

Quarterback: Aside from a couple of very poor passes, QB Kent Graham didn’t play poorly. He finished the day 20-for-31 for 268 yards – good numbers. However, his very poor decision to force a screen pass that was picked off and returned 70 yards for a touchdown really took any chance of a comeback away. Graham also missed a wide open receiver early on in the first quarter on a bootleg. Kent made some very sharp throws such as the dart to Amani Toomer in the third quarter and the nice touch showed on the flea flicker pass to Ike Hilliard. He led the Giants are two very impressive drives in the second quarter for touchdowns. There was improvement over last week. But it was not enough and there were too many 3-and-outs again, especially in the first quarter.

Kerry Collins (3-for-7 for 44 yards) looked sharp on his three completions, but made a poor decision on his 4th down pass and that was picked off.

Offensive Line: Penalties and breakdowns here are killing the Giants. I hate to pick on the rookie, but let’s use LG Luke Petitgout as an example. In the first quarter, Kent Graham completes a pass to Hilliard over the middle for a first down, but the play is called back because of a holding penalty commited by Luke. In the second quarter, the Giants have cut the score to 21-7 and are driving for what may be a touchdown. They have 2nd-and-1, but Luke jumps and the Giants are now in 2nd-and-6. This changes the situation and the play-calling completely. The next play Graham is picked off on the screen pass (returned for a TD). This play never would have been called if it were 2nd-and-1 still. Thus, the score goes from possibly 21-14 or 21-10 to 27-7. Let’s be fair however. The inside guys did a pretty decent job against Dana Stubblefield and Dan Wilkinson. Where the Giants had some problems was with blitzing. Still the pass blocking was decent. The run blocking showed some improvement, but with the score out of hand, the Giants were taken out of this part of their game rapidly. RT Scott Gragg continues to be too darn inconsistent. He got cleanly beat to the inside on a left-side run. This allowed Kenard Lang to nail the Giants’ ballcarrier from the backside (a big “no-no”). Gragg spent too much of the day on the ground. LT Roman Oben did not have a great day as DE Marco Coleman was pretty active against the run.

Halfbacks/Fullbacks: The Giants really miss Gary Brown here. Sean Bennett was better this week and finally showed me some feel on one inside run for big yardage in the third quarter. He finished the day with only four carries, but 45 yards. He was stuffed however on an important third-and-short in the second half. LeShon Johnson (8-for-18), didn’t show much in the way of instincts except for one good looking right side burst where he scored. His third quarter fumble was a killer – he was holding the ball far too loosely for someone knowing that contact was about to be made. Tiki Barber continues to invisible. He also dropped a pass. My patience is wearing thin with him. FB Charles Way made a couple of nice runs, but I’ve been very disappointed with his run blocking this year. I keep spotting him missing his man.

Tight Ends: Howard Cross got his chance to catch a pass and dropped it. What else is new? Dan Campbell dropped a perfectly thrown seam pass from Graham. Pete Mitchell made a Bavaro-like catch-and-run on 4th-and-3 to keep a scoring drive alive. The Giants need to throw to him more.

Wide Receivers: Both Ike Hilliard (8 catches for 114 yards) and Amani Toomer (5 catches for 105 yards) put up good numbers and had some surprising success against Champ Bailey. Hilliard did get called for a damaging pass interference penalty in the first quarter, but at least he showed some life out there. Ike had a nice block on LeShon’s touchdown run. Toomer made a spectacular sideline catch where he showed dazzling footwork to keep his feet in bounds. Joe Jurevicius (3 catches for 36 yards) got involved, but also dropped a pass.

Defensive Line: Disgusting. The Redskins’ offensive line dominated this unit and shouldn’t have. RT Jon Jansen controlled Michael Strahan. Strahan has done nothing in two weeks. I guess he is pretty comfortable with his $32 million and doesn’t feel like he needs to play anymore. Cedric Jones should have outplayed LT Andy Heck and didn’t. The Skins picked up far too many yards on left side runs (not all his fault…more on that in a minute). To make matters worse, he left the game dinged again. Cedric just isn’t getting the job done. Inside, Robert Harris, Keith Hamilton, and Christian Peter were kept quiet too. DT George Williams blew threw the line on one play, but inexplicably missed the sack. No pass rush, inconsistent run defense. The Giants did not come prepared to play.

Linebackers: The entire Giants’ defense played a dumb game. They were out-smarted and out-hustled all day. Norv Turner had the Giants scratching their heads and wondering what was coming next. The Redskins imposed their will on the Giants and not the other way around. The linebackers were as much to blame as anyone. WLB Jessie Armstead talked a big game, but didn’t back it up. Talk is cheap. The Redskins abused him on leftside runs. Astonishingly, I also spotted him running to defend the inside on outside running plays. He was burned in coverage too. Jessie and Michael, the two Giants’ defensive stalwarts and leaders, really let their teammates down on Sunday. So did Corey Widmer. He played the 3rd-and-short play very well and nailed HB Stephen Davis in the backfield, but he forgot one important thing – to make the damn tackle!!! Meanwhile, none of his teammates came over to help finish the play off. At one point, Fox Sports counted almost 20 Giants’ missed tackles. That is a clear indication of a lack of desire and intelligence. SLB Ryan Phillips got burned in coverage by Larry Centers, as expected. Really, the Skins could have taken advantage of this more if they wanted to. MLB Pete Monty saw some action in the 4th quarter and was also exposed in coverage.

Defensive Backs: So much for the vaunted secondary. Poor coverage, poor tackling. CB Jeremy Lincoln was an embarrassment. A veteran corner with decent speed should not be schooled like that. Lincoln got flagged with two big pass interference penalties on plays where he never turned around for the ball. Where the hell is his technique? The Redskins and Brad Johnson repeatedly passed at him for big plays. To make matters worse, Lincoln kept missing tackles on leftside runs and short passes. It was joke and it got so bad that rookie 6th rounder Andre Weathers was brought in and Lincoln was benched. He settled things down a tad. His tackling was inconsistent. Andre made a couple of nice tackles, but also whiffed too. If he hadn’t been so bad, the Skins probably would have passed more at Phillippi Sparks, who continues to have problems covering Michael Westbrook. The safeties for the most part were nowhere to be seen and the Redskins kept hitting TE Stephen Alexander on big plays down the seam. Shaun Williams got burned on one play where his man cut outside, but he kept running inside. Percy Ellsworth missed another tackle near the goalline.

Special Teams: A lone bright spot. Kickoff returns were pretty darn good. The blocking was much improved and Tiki Barber (1) and David Patten (2) made some impressive returns. Punt returns were something else. Tiki Barber has to make the first guy miss and show more decisiveness. Punt and kick coverage were respectable (there was one punt where both gunners missed the tackle). Brad Maynard had one bad punt, but for the most part did well.


GIANTS/REDSKINS

by David Oliver

It’s 11 o’clock and I have just returned home from the game. For the past 4+ hours, on a very long ride, I have been trying to think of how to phrase this report. The game was truly awful; but once again the stats won’t tell you the whole story. We actually passed the ball for over 300 yards, gross- 290 net. End of the good stuff. No one stays around after a loss like this, so I’m on the road by 5. Normally, I’m pretty depressed by the time I hit Philly, after all I get to listen to the whining in Philly and Bal’mer and then D.C.- I’m sick already knowing that I have to listen to every homer in town gloat over the crushing of the mighty Giant D, the coronation of Super Norv and Super Brad and at least 40 other pro bowl bound players.

But today, as I approach the City of Brotherly Love, the sky is bright red with beautiful swirling clouds. It looks as if the sun is setting over Philly- but then the sun is always setting over Philly; or maybe the locals have finally had enough and set fire to the place. No, as I round the bend in Deptford, there is a flaming red orb in the sky- God’s glory is above the Delaware- how strange! Then it happens. Every time I pass Philly I turn on an Oldies station- in addition to cheesesteaks and Rocky, Philly does have some good oldies stations. Lo and behold it is Do-Wop Sunday, the night they play the street corner groups from the 50s and early 60s. Before long I am 14 years old again and dancing at the CYO. Monsignor is patting my fanny and telling me to leave enough room for my guardian angel. And on the slow tunes, we all line up to dance with Gail W, who is the one girl we know wears falsies- we know this because the tissues don’t fill up her bra and we delight in making them pop as we dance with her. Ah! You wouldn’t understand if you weren’t there. The Cleftones, Louie and Frankie Lyman, Booker T and the Memphis Group, the Cherelles and a thousand other one shot wonders singing Ruby, Cherie, why do fools fall in love; and the saxaphone, drive force behind a musical era. So my spirits lift.

I have this music all the way to Bal’mer and I realize how lucky I am. At one end of this journey I have my mom, and at the other end I have my wife- somewhere in between I have my Giants, good or bad and that makes life beautiful. Usually I am alone in this motorized cocoon- I brood, I fret, I am uncomfortably lonely. Tonight I am thinking of you guys, at home, some sulking behind the closed doors of your personal space, others miserably sharing dinner with family, who generally don’t understand, all of you asking, what happened out there? I used to be inconsolable for a week with a loss like this; only dad could talk to me and his message was always this- boy, they were awful today, but they can’t win every game. And I would always answer, no, but they can at least play like winners. That’s the ebb and flow of Giant fandom- at least play hard.

Today is inexplicable, but I’ll offer this. Last week was so intense, so emotional, that there was nothing left for this week. I’ll let it at that and move on. Keep this in mind, my observations are field level, often away from the play, without the benefit of good replay and sometimes obscured because I have a camera iso on a particular player. But also keep in mind, I can see the pain, feel the emotion, smell the rawness of body on body. What I tell you is from memory, without benefit of notes. So look at the game films or your tapes, read everyone else, and take my contribution as a personal note. The afternoon started well. Frank Gifford and son were along the sidelines, Glen Close opened with the Anthem and LeRoy Nieman was doing some sketching. I had a conversation with him and told him I had some photos of him sketching Mario Andretti’s car over a decade ago- he asked if I would send him some, then he said to me that he didn’t know the players and who were the best on the Giants. I told him #98, he said how about 51. I said 59, he said 51 sure looked like a football player to him. I explained that this was young, second-year player and he might want one of the studs, like 30. Mr. Nieman felt, from the artist’s view that 51 looked good, like a football player. OK, I accept Mr. N’s judgment and after the game I teased Pete Monty and told him he now had a lot to live up to as Mr. N had labeled him, football player.

Let me stop here. Rebe, Kent tells me you didn’t send him his favorite dessert last week. Rebe, the man deserves some reward, he’s getting pounded. For all you naysayers out there, listen up- KG made only 2 really bad plays, one that interception. When they brought in Collins I had 2 shots left and I saved them because I told one of my fellow photogs, Kerry is good for three nice throws and an interception, he is just not ready yet. I can’t fault our QB play; I do fault some silly, inconsistent play calling, a line having some problems and the effort to develop a running game which won’t happen until we open up the passing game.

The running backs are having problems finding and getting to holes. To the left side there is nothing. The right side should produce results, but Williams must be cut free to move with Stone and Gragg. Luke is a rookie and he is playing like a rookie- it is going to take 5 or 6 games before he gets a sense of what is going on out there. The wideouts finally got some patterns and made some plays. Ike has the moves, Jurevicius needs more playing time and they need to send Patten on more fly patterns. Amani is just beginning to get into a game groove. We have one ridiculous pattern, which should never have been run against the `skins with their speedy linebackers- the drag across the field, just beyond the line of scrimmage- it is a flat out disaster pattern. KG can’t find the receivers until they are three quarters into the route, and this is too late. This is one of those timing things that KC and DP have down, but no one else does. Right now JJ and Pete Mitchell are our best receivers- throw them the d— ball. We were knocking twice- one stopped by the intercept and then that series on the 6 yard line. Bad play calling, poor execution- no points.

The defense played well for the first two downs of the first two first downs of the first `skins possession. That was it- by the end of the game one of the fans was yelling at Jessie to stop with the throat slashing and the talking and start making tackles. It was that kind of day- no one wanted to tackle. The right side disappeared again. Cedric reverted to normal, Lincoln played himself right off the team and the backers took a little vacation. Harris hustled on most plays but was ineffective, and incidentally Percy Ellsworth was throwing his body all over the field. He had 9 solos, 3 assists and I can’t tell you how many times he stuck a shoulder into the pile- so start recognizing it, Percy is here to stay. Jessie had 10 and 4, Phillipi had 7 and Lincoln had 4, of course, he missed 4 and covered like a noodle.

The `skins report reads like this: Johnson, Davis, Johnson, Johnson, Davis, Johnson, Davis, Johnson, Davis- this is how the entire game went, sounds a little like a mantra- 2 guys beat the hell out of the Giants. The most demoralizing play was the 19 yard Davis TD run. We’re standing in the end zone watching this thing develop; Davis hits a stone wall in the middle, everyone stops dead, Davis turns left and comes around end right to us- we are standing there asking each other, what the heck is that? If I were a `skins photog, it was beautiful, but something funny happens when I shoot another team- the image is always fuzzy. One thing I’m thankful for, this game wasn’t in D.C. and I don’t have to listen to the band playing Hail To The Redskins, nine thousand times. My son just popped his head in and asked what happened? Poor kid, he has the Giants D in his fantasy League- kiss this week adios.

Stats are a funny thing- first half, the `skins have 18 first downs, we have 8(doubled last week’s total already); total net yards, 228 to 186, rushing yards, 78 to 37, passing yards, 150 to 149. Our passing attack: Hilliard 3 for 55; Toomer 2 for 48; JJ 2 for 22, Pete 1 for 15. Final game stats: First downs 28 to 18, net yards 395 to 373, rushing 164 to 83; passing 231 to 290. Go figure. The penalties remain a problem; we had 8 for 106, and they are spread out. Everyone makes a mistake and they all stop drives. I asked JF what he intended to do about the mistakes . He said, “I’m going to think about it tonight and I am going to start on it tomorrow.” This is an all too often refrain. Penalties are mental errors- mental errors come about when a team is not prepared; this is no longer a matter of trying too hard, it is a matter of someone not doing the job. Coach needs to get on with it and address this.

I’m done talking stats-they just don’t tell us anything about this game. The Giants didn’t show up; accept it, get past it, hope they do next week in Foxboro.

In his post game, JF started by saying “we played a bad game of football..I don’t think we played well in any phase.and I’m very disappointed in this football team, in everybody, not just the team, the coaches, everybody… we did not play well, go ahead, I’ll take your questions.” He was asked if he saw this coming and he answered, “no, I did not see this coming at all. I thought we were ready to play football.” He said he was concerned about the depth at corner, but he said ” my attitude is anyone who has a Giants uniform on needs to go out there and play like an NFL player, capable of winning a football game.” He was asked if this was the worst game of football he had ever been associated with and answered “from a personal standpoint, yeah..” On the offense he said, “we did some things that were better, but we still malfunctioned enough that we .self-destructed”. Again, he reiterated that he “was embarrassed about the way we played, and I’ll take the whole brunt of it.” He thought the offensive line played better at times, at times not real good. He thought LeShon was little indecisive on making his cuts, but got better as he got into the flow of the game. On running the ball, he indicated that his attitude going into the game was that “we were going to run the ball, and set it op with the pass.. The problem was they put points up so quick, that to a degree I had to void the run game, if we were going to catch them.”

I talked to Lyle West who was as down as everyone else, but indicated that personally, “he was enjoying it (being on the team) . He told me they “made a lot of mistakes, you can’t put your finger on one thing.” He echoed JF and said “we didn’t play well in any aspect of the game, that includes special teams, defense and offense. We had a few bad luck plays. If you’re playing well you can overcome these, but they kind of compounded all the errors we made.” I asked him what he was working on in his game and he told me that going down on kickoffs “is a lot different than the college level. The kickoff return they had (`skins) they had guys flying down the field looking to take my head off, so I had to have my head on a swivel the whole time. it’s fast out there and you have to be ready.”

Pete Mitchell told me about his play “At that point I think it’s 21 to nothing and it’s fourth down and we needed a big play, we needed to get something going, and I was able to get a ball and make a play with it. That’s what I love doing and I hope we can do it many more times.” I asked about production, and he said they really hadn’t been out there on offense much and it was a combination of everything.

JJ very graciously talked to me while he was dressing, and although he peered at me with only one eye open, he refused to make a big deal out of it. I asked about his routes and some bouncing balls and he said “this is a business where you can never say die, it was an unfortunate thing that happened. I tried to get the ball away with my knee and they’re coming up and kicking it out- it’s uncharacteristic of me, but I think as an offensive team we have to check the films out and be prepared to go to work on Wednesday. this team by no means is down and out, it’s the second game of the season and this is the kind of thing you learn from. There was some improvement from last week and this is the kind of thing you build from. We can’t let too many of those things happen to us.” I asked him if there was a memory imprint of this for the return match in D.C. He said “without a doubt. If you’re any kind of athlete or any kind of competitor, you remember.and this was an embarrassment for the NY Giants, and I don’t see it happening again.”

KG talked about the interception and said it was a screen that broke down. He also said it was important for the offense to come right back and score after the int. He talked about the penalties being drive killers, said the loss hurts, no matter what the score, but didn’t feel it would have any lasting effect. He said he was taken out by JF more or less to keep him from getting hurt. He said he was embarrassed, the team was embarrassed, but he told the team they had to fight to the bitter end. He told me “I thought protection today went fairly well, it was pretty good for the most part.” He said the yardage was a good indication of that. On the fan booing, he said “when you get behind like that early, that happens here. We understand that.”

Michael Strahan said “we let them jump on us.they came ready to play, we didn’t come ready to play.we start slow and you can’t do that.” On the missed tackles he indicated that “last week we had three or four guys to help get the guy down, today we didn’t have that.” He said maybe “it was a lack of concentration, maybe a lack of desire.as a player out there on the field, you have to feel responsible.” He said maybe at the end there was some frustration but that the `skins had a right to be mouthy, they put 50 points on the board, at that point, “just shut your mouth and use that energy to play.” He told us as good as it felt last week, it felt that bad now. Last week they were one of the best defenses, this week one of the worst. But there was too much pride on the team to give up. The O put up 21 points and that should be enough to win a game. When asked about the fans, he drew a laugh when he said maybe “we should reimburse them for gas, or something” indicating they had a right to be unhappy. He said the fans came to see a game and they didn’t get that. He said this was “the most embarrassing loss since he was playing football..to do it at home, in front of your fans, on opening day, there’s nothing worse than that”

It’s one a.m.- what else can I say. I’m going to take a shower and go to bed. I won’t be going to Foxboro next week- night games in that place are ugly. Be back the week after for you know which team. Keep the faith.


TEAM STATISTICS

                              WAS            NYG
                            --------       --------
FIRST DOWNS                    28             18
Rushing                        10              4
Passing                        14             14
Penalty                         4              0
3RD-DOWN EFFICIENCY          7-12           2-10
4TH-DOWN EFFICIENCY           0-1            1-3
TOTAL NET YARDS               395            373
Total plays                    69             57
Average gain                  5.7            6.5
NET YARDS RUSHING             164             83
Rushes                         41             17
Average per rush              4.0            4.9
NET YARDS PASSING             231            290
Completed-attempted         20-28          23-38
Yards per pass                8.3            7.3
Sacked-yards lost             0-0           2-22
Had intercepted                 0              2
PUNTS-AVERAGE              3-42.3         5-46.6
RETURN YARDAGE                156            206
Punts-returns                3-39            2-8
Kickoffs-returns             2-29          9-198
Interceptions-returns        2-88            0-0
PENALTIES-YARDS              5-40          8-106
FUMBLES-LOST                  2-0            3-2
TIME OF POSSESSION          33:13          26:47

PLAYER STATISTICS

Washington rushing: Stephen Davis 23-126, Skip Hicks 8-22, Brian Mitchell 3-13, Brad Johnson 2-11, Casey Weldon 3-minus 2, Larry Centers 1-minus 2, Michael Westbrook 1-minus 4.

NY Giants rushing: Sean Bennet 4-45, Leshon Johnson 8-18, Charles Way 3-15, Kent Graham 2-5.

Washington passing: Brad Johnson 20-28 for 231 yards, 0 INT, 3 TD.

NY Giants passing: Kent Graham 20-31 for 268 yards, 1 INT, 1 TD, Kerry Collins 3-7 for 44 yards, 1 INT, 0 TD.

Washington receiving: Stephen Alexander 5-86, Michael Westbrook 4-59, Larry Centers 4-39, Albert Connell 4-29, Irving Fryar 1-10, Stephen Davis 1-5, Mike Sellers 1-3.

NY Giants receiving: Ike Hilliard 8-114, Amani Toomer 5-105, Joe Jurevicius 3-36, Pete Mitchell 2-28, Sean Bennet 2-14, Leshon Johnson 1-8, Tiki Barber 1-4, David Patten 1-3.

Washington tackles-assists-sacks (unofficial): Champ Bailey 6-1-0, Sam Shade 4-3-0, Leomont Evans 6-0-0, Shawn Barber 5-1-0, Derek M Smith 4-0-0, Greg Jones 2-2-0, Marco Coleman 3-0-0, Kenard Lang 3-0-1, Darryl Pounds 2-0-1, Matt Stevens 2-0-0, Dan Wilkinson 1-1-0, Marc Boutte 1-0-0, Fred Strickland 0-1-0.

NY Giants tackles-assists-sacks (unofficial): Jessie Armstead 10-4-0, Percy Ellsworth 9-3-0, Phillippi Sparks 7-0-0, Ryan Phillips 4-2-0, Jeremy Lincoln 4-0-0, Corey Widmer 4-0-0, Scott Galyon 3-1-0, Michael Strahan 2-2-0, Sam Garnes 2-1-0, Bernard Holsey 2-1-0, Andre Weathers 2-1-0, Cedric Jones 1-1-0, Shaun Williams 1-1-0, Marcus Buckley 1-0-0, George Williams 1-0-0, Robert Harris 0-1-0, Christian Peter 0-1-0.

Interceptions: Washington (Shawn Barber 1 for 70 yards, Matt Stevens 1 for 18 yards).

Fumbles lost: NY Giants (Kent Graham, Scott Galyon).

Sep 171999
 

Regular Season: Giants Lead Series 75-53-4
Post Season: Series Tied 1-1

Approach to the Game – Washington Redskins at New York Giants, September 19, 1999: Very good teams win at home. At worst, they lose maybe one home game a year. But the Giants have let opposing teams come into their house and take away victory celebrations. The Giants lost three home games in 1998; three in 1997 (including the playoff game); five in 1996; five in 1995; and four in 1994. That’s inexcusable. Giants Stadium used to be a place that other teams feared playing in; that is no longer the case.

This must change in 1999, starting with the Washington Redskins. Giants’ fans can make a direct impact on the outcome of this home game. Be noisy and disruptive! “This is our house,” WLB Jessie Armstead says. “We have the 12th man. You’ve got to make it so that when you play at home, everybody knows it’s going to be a win for you when they come here to play. You come into our stadium, we’re going to be cranked up and our crowd is going to be cranked up. It’s going to be a hostile environment when they come in here.”

This game is big. It is a divisional game at home against a team picked by some to win the NFC East. The Giants cannot afford a loss here. “A division game, you’ve got to win a division game,” Armstead says. “Think about last year. If we had won some of the early games before we went on that run, we would’ve been in the playoffs. Some people think you can lose a few games early and catch up at the end, but you can’t. You have to win them now. If there are some guys here who don’t have that message yet, we’ll make sure everybody gets it.”

Giants on Offense: The Washington Redskin defense is not as bad as its showing last week and is very much improved with the additions of CB Champ Bailey, SS Sam Shade, DE Marco Coleman, and DE Anthony Cook. Giant-killer Ken Harvey is gone, but impressive looking WLB Shawn Barber is now in the starting lineup. The Skins were exposed on defense last week when many of their defenders, including Bailey, were out of the lineup with cramps. Their starting unit should not be taken lightly.

Of course, it is hard to imagine the Giants’ offense taking anyone lightly after last week’s disgusting performance. The Giants cannot count on their defense playing as well as it did last week and the Giants’ offense must gain yards, first downs, and points if the G-Men are to win. Much focus will be on the blocking of the offensive line, tight ends, and backs – a very disappointing area last week. LG Luke Petitgout faces another tough customer this week in DT Dana Stubblefield. With OC Brian Williams most likely having to help out on Dana, it will be very important for RG Ron Stone to be able to handle DT Dan Wilkinson one-on-one. Wilkinson did give the Giants problems last year. RT Scott Gragg also needs to control DE Anthony Cook in order to the Giants to get their ground game going and provide better protection to QB Kent Graham. LT Roman Oben faces DE Marco Coleman.

But the line was not responsible for all of the blocking breakdowns last week. FB Charles Way, TE Howard Cross, and TE Dan Campbell missed too many key blocks.

The Redskins will not worry about the Giants’ passing game. They feel confident that CB’s Champ Bailey and Darrell Green will shut down the wideouts. What Redskin Defensive Coordinator Mike Nolan has done against his old team is have his corners jam the Giants’ wideouts at the line and cover them man-to-man. The Giants have yet to make the Skins pay for this aggressive tactic. The Giants may be best served by focusing on the nickel back by throwing to Joe Jurevicius or David Patten in three wide receiver sets. Pete Mitchell and Howard Cross also must step up big in the passing game. Mitchell, in particular, could play a huge role against SS Sam Shade and the linebackers. The Skins’ linebackers are young and aggressive. The Giants should try to confuse them and exploit them in coverage. The one guy to worry about passing against is Shawn Barber. He’s a former defensive back who has a nose for the football in the passing game.

After a solid preseason and despite going 6-1 as a starter with the Giants since last year, Kent Graham is on the spot after last week’s shaky performance. He needs to start making some big plays again (of course with the help of his offensive teammates). The Giants may want to try go at Bailey with some double-moves. Champ tends to bite on the first move quite a bit. However, the Giants will not make a living against him trying to play him straight up. He’s practically averaging an interception-a-game since the start of the preseason and he has amazing closing speed.

The other guys on the spot are Amani Toomer and Ike Hilliard. Both feel like they are bigtime players. Well, bigtime players make big plays regardless of the quality of the opposition. It is important for Toomer to get that vertical passing game going and for Ike to do damage underneath and pick up yardage after the catch. The Giants may also want to take some shots against Green if Toomer or Jurevicius get matched up on him – they do have a big height advantage.

Of course, all of these aspirations may never materialize unless the Giants get their ground game going. Last week, there was no ground game. HB LeShon Johnson is expected to see more time this week, but I still worry about ball security with him as his hand will most likely still be in a splint. HB Sean Bennett has shown no feel for the inside game. Some blocking would help too. I would be tempted to pound the ball at undersized Shawn Barber and Darrell Green with some outside running plays to the left. It’s important for someone (i.e., Charles Way or Brian Williams) to get a hat on MLB Derek Smith, who is a tad undersized too. The running game will largely come down to the quality of the run blocking – but Bennett has to do it when the holes are there.

Giants on Defense: The Redskins are not the Bucs and Brad Johnson is not Trent Dilfer. The defense will face a tough test this weekend. The first key will be to make the Redskins one-dimensional by taking away the running game. That starts up front. It is absolutely imperative that the Giants’ front seven dominate the Skins’ offensive line. DE Michael Strahan must come up with a big game against RT Jon Jansen. Jansen is very impressive for a rookie and looks like he will become a quality player, but Strahan needs to come up big here. So does DE Cedric Jones against the inconsistent LT Andy Heck. This is Jones’ first big chance to make an impact after facing a series of high quality left tackles since the preseason started. DT Robert Harris will most likely return as starter this week and he faces a tough and physical match-up against RG Tre Johnson. Harris has been limited due to injury since 1997 and it’s long past time for him to begin reasserting himself again. If not, I’d play Christian Peter. DT Keith Hamilton needs to come up with a strong game against LG Keith Sims – a guy who is a solid pass blocker, but who isn’t the most physical guy in the world. HB Stephen Davis is an aggressive north-south runner; HB Skip Hicks is more of a move guy who also doesn’t like the physical part of the game. However, he has very good hands and scores when he is near the goalline.

When the Redskins do throw, the front four will be on the spot again. This is where the game will be won or lost. If the Giants can get to Brad Johnson and start to hammer him, they can take him out of his rhythm. If not, it will probably be a long day. Brad Johnson has impressed me a great deal this preseason with his accuracy. “He’s for real,” says CB Phillippi Sparks. “They have him reading his keys and getting rid of the ball quickly. And then every once in a while he will take a shot down the field.” CB Jeremy Lincoln concurs. “Brad is throwing the ball and hitting them on time and these guys are doing a great job of reading coverages,” says Lincoln. “Brad is not scared to throw it in there, and we all know that.”

When Johnson passes, he will have a variety of quality targets to throw to. The underneath receivers, FB Larry Centers and TE Stephen Alexander, are very dangerous. Both are not only capable of keeping drives alive, but of also making big plays. The Giants’ linebackers need to come up big when covering him. I’d try to keep Jessie Armstead on him as much as possible, but there will be times when he is isolated on SLB Ryan Phillips. If Phillips gets burned early, I’d get Marcus Buckley in there. SS Sam Garnes and MLB Corey Widmer will also have their hands full with Alexander. Alexander is capable of spectacular grabs and easy drops. He also is not a top notch blocker. I’d jam him at the line and knock him off his route. If free to run loose in the secondary, he can kill the Giants. Redskin Head Coach Norv Turner has a history of calling passes to his tight ends when he faces the Giants. Last year, he dramatically changed his offense in the second meeting against us with great effect by having his quarterback quickly get rid of the ball – often hitting the tight end or running back underneath or the receivers on slants. Look for more of the same, with a number of shots deeper down the field. Disrupting these quick plays will be critical.

Then there are the match-ups in the secondary. Because Brad Johnson is much, much more poised and accurate than Dilfer, CB Jeremy Lincoln will really be under fire this week when matched up against Michael Westbrook, Albert Connell, or Irvin Fryar. Both Westbrook and Connell had monster games last week and Fryar has long been a thorn in the Giants’ side. Lincoln will need help from the safeties. That will put a lot of pressure on CB Phillippi Sparks to handle his side of the field by himself.

Lastly, the defense needs to keep an eye out for trick plays, especially when Brian Mitchell is in the game. Turner loves to run trick plays (i.e., reverses, double reverses, option plays, halfback passing plays, flea flickers, etc.) against aggressive defenses – especially early on in the game. The Giants need to play smart here.

Giants on Special Teams: Look out for fakes here too. The Skins used a fake field goal against us a few years back in a Giants’ loss in the Meadowlands. Much of the focus rests with keeping Mitchell under wraps as a kick and punt returner. The Giants have had a spotty history with him here. Hopefully, P Brad Maynard and the coverage teams will be as strong as they were last week.

The Giants also need to start helping out their offense with big returns of their own. Again, not only do the returners need to do the job, but so do the blockers.

Sep 151999
 
New York Giants 17 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers 13

by David Oliver

Tampa Bay, City of broken dreams, first tough hurdle on the road to January. It was brutally hot, alternating bright sun and clouds with a little sprinkle and a bay wind in the fourth quarter which made passing and kicking real interesting. Warren Sapp was in his glory, taunting the Jints and psyching the fans – he was also reading BBI this week, as he asked me for the phone number of our guy in Pete’s Corner who said Warren could kiss his blue $#@. I, of course, declined because of the potential liability in any wrongful death action.

How was the game? Well, The Tampa Bay Tribune headlined it on Monday as “Lowly Giants intercept Bucs Offense.” Not flattering, but partially accurate. The defense was awesome, the offense ran into one of the League’s better defenses, but didn’t make any mistakes, which was great; Maynard kicked like a demon and the return coverage team did its job – David Patten was down in Jacquez Green’s face on every punt. Reading the Tampa papers you would think Dave Brown was their QB – they had nothing but venom for poor Trent Dilfer, who didn’t look bad, he looked awful.

Up front, know this, the officiating was horrid, but towards the end of the game when it counted, we got some make up calls. Our receivers were continually getting hooked. Statistically, we were outgained offensively , both ground and air, we lost the time of possession battle, we were on the wrong end of penalty yardage. But we had no fumbles or interceptions given up; they did, and they lost the game.

Sean Bennett did not have a great coming out party; he had 13 carries for 24 yards. Kent Graham was 12 of 23 for 91 yards, but no mistakes. Charlie Way had 6 carries for 2 yards; the receivers were led by Toomer with 36 yards, Mitchell had 25 yards and Ike had 18. Not a day to write Mom about. The line had a rough day, but they were up against the best. DT Warren Sapp and DE Chidi Ahanotu are great players and Sapp controlled the line of scrimmage. WLB Derrick Brooks played like he was a Giant – and our offense was anemic.

However, our D was their equal. DT Christian Peter did a start and finish and was extremely active including his TD rumble. WLB Jessie Armstead was all over the field making key stops. DE Cedric Jones showed up and looked like a ball-player; go Cedric. SLB Ryan Phillips had some nice hits, MLB Corey Widmer had 8 tackles and 2 assists, and the secondary was something else. CB Andre Weathers played and got an interception and TD. CB Phillippi Sparks was popping guys all over the lot, after allowing a few early reception teasers and FS Percy `will you guys get off my back’ Ellsworth, showed his worth by a two-pick afternoon.

The locker room was buzzing, as it always is after a win. An emotionally charged Jim Fassel, who spent part of his game, like the rest of us on the sidelines, screaming at the refs, was proud of his team. And it is HIS team. He told us “I feel very good about the team. We set our course to come down here and win this football game, whatever it took, and I thought the team showed mental toughness; our defensive guys were excited and they kept going out there and there was no `what’s happening?’ and `no nothing’ – we came down here as a team to try to win. I wanted them to play tough, tough, mentally tough physical football, and I thought we could win…”

He also told us “we did some things. I don’t think either offense played the way they could, there were two outstanding defenses, the difference in the ballgame was we didn’t turn it over.” Fassel complimented the kicking game and special teams for giving the Jints good field position and said Jason Whittle “did an excellent job” for never having snapped in a game situation. Fassel said “I mean this sincerely. I don’t know when I’ve had as good a feeling about this TEAM. I had a sense when I talked to them last night and today (that) we were not going to be denied, we were going to fight this thing to the bitter end…They did it…the bottom line, we did it.”

On the offense performance, Fassel said, “quite honestly, I’ve got to give (Tampa) credit. They are one of the better defenses in the League; they’re quick, we struggled with their quickness at times, we got ourselves in long yardage situations…I’ve said right from jump street that we’ve got to win on first down because that’s what this team does. When I looked at cut-ups they have more teams in second and long…then the way they play their coverages…they just really played well…We started out pretty well, we had a couple of runs and had third-and-1…then…we lost our rhythm and our timing…I went to a deeper drop and it wasn’t any good. Kent was getting some pressure…” Coach said, “the biggest thing we have to do right now is getting our offense back on track and the penalties are killing me. The whole game comes down to…both defenses played extremely well, both of them, what it comes down to is we made less of the glaring errors…All I care about is winning. I’m not happy about the way we played on offense. I’ve got to look at the pictures and see how many mistakes we made and how many physical breakdowns we had…but we didn’t make any mistakes that cost us the ball game, and the first thing you have to do on the road is don’t beat yourself. I’m proud of the team because of the mental toughness they showed and that’s one of the things I’ve been pounding at them…mental toughness, no matter how the game is going, no matter what’s going on, you have to find a way to win.”

Jessie Armstead talked about the toughness of the Tampa defense and he said the Jints defense knew “we had to step our game up. We couldn’t put pressure on the offense (to get the job done)…no matter what the circumstances, if we had to play 5 or 6 quarters, we win out there today.” He said as the game went on Dilfer felt the pressure, but keep in mind, he said that “you keep hitting at something, it’s got to break…that was our attitude…at times we got close to making a play and we just kept knocking on the doorand finally we knocked that door in…” It wasn’t just Dilfer, Jessie said, “any QB, I don’t care who the QB is, you put enough pressure on him, you’ll rattle a QB, that goes for anybody…same for a receiver, you hit him enough and he’ll look twice…we got pressure on him and made him make some bad plays…”

On facing four wideouts Jessie said ” it’s a big change. You’re looking at something where you have all DBs in, with one LB. You like to have two LBs sitting in the box, but this time you got 1 LB…and it puts stress on the defense…One thing about TB they’ll flip-flop the tight end to the strong side and make me become the strong side LB. I’m used to playing the weakside, so I’m saying (to the bench when he’s wagging his finger-this in response to my question) hey you can bring anything to me, I can play either side, it doesn’t make a difference – I’m just letting them know – hey, don’t come to my side…”

Andre Weathers told us he didn’t see the pass, it just came up over the top. He said, ” those guys are tall, I’m only 6 ft, it just came out.” He was thrilled with playing the game and said even though nervous in the beginning, the guys got me through it “they were on the field telling me to play my game, if anything goes wrong, we’ll help you.” He told me he thought Tampa’s receivers were real quick, good receivers.

Roman Oben was obviously tired but spent a few moments with me and said he would have to wait for the films to see where the breakdowns were. He said `they did pretty much what we expected them to do…they’re going to get you with that stuff every now and then but everybody has to block their assignments to give us the best opportunity for making a play.”

Kent Graham is one tough dude – from now on he is Kid Timex, takes a licking, keeps on ticking. I asked him what Sapp kept saying to him and he said he was telling Kent that Kent wasn’t going to finish the game. Kent was telling him “yeah, we’ll see.” He also told us that the first thing (Giants’ Quarterback Coach) Sean Payton said to him was “you were real smart today.” That was the key word – Kent acknowledged the deficiencies on offense, said they had tried different things, but basically decided they were not going to make mistakes. He had to throw a few screens away because the coverage was there and there was little opportunity to go deep.

Percy told us he had been hurt by many of the things being written about him. He knows he’s not a hitter, but he says he is a playmaker. He said “I’m determined to prove what I can do…I don’t like a lot of things that have been written about me and I’m determined that by the end of the year I’m going to change everybody’s opinion about me.” Go, Percy.

Time constraints – must end here, but keep in mind this is a TEAM, it is Fassel’s team and is led by Kent and Jessie and a bunch of guys who just won’t quit. Tampa should realize we are not the `lowly Giants,’ and the rest of the League had better be ready. Till next week.


New York Giants 17 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers 13

First Quarter

GIANTS — Peter 38 fumble return (Daluiso kick), 11:37. GIANTS 7, Tampa Bay 0.

Second Quarter

TB — FG Gramatica 23, 14:15. Drive: 15 plays, 71 yards, 8:39. Key plays: Dunn 15 run; Dilfer 18 pass to Alstott; Dilfer 12 pass to Green on 3rd-and-8. GIANTS 7, Tampa Bay 3.

TB — Moore 1 pass from Dilfer (Gramatica kick), 0:16. Drive: 5 plays, 54 yards, 1:26. Key plays: Dilfer 6 pass to McDonald on 3rd-and-2; Dilfer 39 pass to Emanuel to the Giants 1. Tampa Bay 10, GIANTS 7.

Third Quarter

GIANTS — Weathers 8 interception return (Daluiso kick), 3:31. GIANTS 14, Tampa Bay 10.

TB — FG Gramatica 36, :15. Drive: 7 plays, 42 yards, 3:16. Key plays: Dilfer 12 pass to Alstott; Dilfer 26 pass to Moore. GIANTS 14, Tampa Bay 13.

Fourth Quarter

GIANTS — FG Daluiso 36, 12:10. Drive: 4 plays, 6 yards, 1:36. Key plays: Ellsworth 5 interception return of Dilfer’s pass to Tampa Bay 24. GIANTS 17, Tampa Bay 13.

TEAM STATISTICS

                           Giants          Tampa
                         --------       --------
FIRST DOWNS                     4             15
Rushing                         1              4
Passing                         3             11
Penalty                         0              0
3RD-DOWN EFFICIENCY          1-14           4-17
4TH-DOWN EFFICIENCY           0-0            0-1
TOTAL NET YARDS               107            254
Total plays                    49             71
Average gain                  2.2            3.6
NET YARDS RUSHING              27             77
Rushes                         24             27
Average per rush              1.1            2.9
NET YARDS PASSING              80            177
Completed-attempted         12-23          18-42
Yards per pass                3.2            4.0
Sacked-yards lost            2-11           2-11
Had intercepted                 0              4
PUNTS-AVERAGE             12-43.8         8-46.0
RETURN YARDAGE                110             74
Punts-returns                4-25           3-30
Kickoffs-returns             2-23           2-44
Interceptions-returns        4-62            0-0
PENALTIES-YARDS              9-59           3-20
FUMBLES-LOST                  0-0            2-1
TIME OF POSSESSION          27:01          32:59

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING — GIANTS, Bennett 13-24, Way 6-2, Graham 5-1. Tampa Bay, Dunn 15-46, Green 1-15, Alstott 9-12, Dilfer 1-4, Abdullah 1-0.

PASSING — GIANTS, Graham 12-23-0-91. Tampa Bay, Dilfer 15-31-3-174, Zeier 3-11-1-14.

RECEIVING — GIANTS, Toomer 4-36, Mitchell 3-25, Hilliard 2-18, Bennett 1-7, Jurevicius 1-4, Way 1-1. Tampa Bay, Emanuel 3-53, Green 3-27, Dunn 3-26, Moore 2-27, Alstott 2-25, K.Williams 2-14, Anthony 2-10, McDonald 1-6.

PUNT RETURNS — GIANTS, T.Barber 4-25. Tampa Bay, Green 3-30.

KICKOFF RETURNS — GIANTS, Levingston 1-16, Patten 1-7. Tampa Bay, Green 2-44.

TACKLES-ASSISTS-SACKS — GIANTS, Widmer 8-2-1, Armstead 5-2-1, Phillips 5-1-0, Sparks 5-1-0, Garnes 4-3-0, Lincoln 4-1-0, Ellsworth 3-1-0, K.Hamilton 2-2-0, Weathers 3-0-0, S.Williams 2-0-0, C.Jones 1-2-0, Peter 2-0-0, Way 2-0-0, Holsey 1-0-0, Strahan 1-0-0, G.Williams 1-0-0, Buckley 1-0-0, Comella 1-0-0, Johnson 1-0-0. Tampa Bay, Brooks 10-3-0, Nickerson 6-0-0, Sapp 5-2-1, Lynch 2-7-0, Abraham 4-2-0, R.Barber 3-2-0, Culpepper 1-2-0, Quarles 2-1-0, Ahanotu 2-0-0, Kelly 2-0-0, White 1-0-1, M.Jones 1-0-0, Diaz 1-0-0, Dilfer 1-0-0, Dunn 1-0-0, McLaughlin 1-0-0, Palmer 1-0-0, Smith 1-0-0, Young 1-0-0, Robinson 0-1-0.

INTERCEPTIONS — GIANTS, Ellsworth 2-26, Sparks 1-28, Weathers 1-8. Tampa Bay, None.

MISSED FIELD GOALS — None.

Attendance–65,026. No-shows–NA.

Sep 101999
 

Regular Season: Giants Lead Series 8-5

Approach to the Game – New York Giants at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, September 12, 1999: Except for the first season of the decade, the 1990’s have not been very kind to the Giants. Since 1991, the Giants have only made two playoff appearances (1993 and 1997). There have been three 4th place finishes (1991, 1992, 1995) and one 5th place finish (1996). The time for taking one step forward and two steps back is over. No more excuses. Anything less than a playoff win will be a major disappointment.

But the players, coaches, fans, and media should not look at the big picture. The focus should only be on one thing: the game at hand. Don’t look ahead, don’t think about playoff glory. Just focus on beating the next opponent. Find a way to win no matter what the cost. One of the biggest reasons why football is the best sport in the world is that every game means so much at the time you play it. Every game is so very important. The Giants and their fans cannot afford to take any opponent for granted. They cannot accept losing to anyone, no matter what the situation. No lead should be considered safe; no deficit insurmountable.

The long journey starts Sunday against Tampa. The Bucs are one of the best teams in the NFL and the Giants have to play them on the road in a very hot and humid climate. But good teams win tough games on the road against quality opponents. If the Giants had beaten the Bucs last year in Tampa in week five, they would have made the playoffs last year. Yes, the Giants are beat up with key injuries at halfback and cornerback. But find a way to win. No more excuses.

Giants on Offense: From 1994-1998, the Giants’ offense has ranked 28th, 29th, 30th, 27th, and 29th. The passing attack has ranked 27th, 30th, 30th, 28th, and 28th. It’s time to get out of the cellar. But the task will not be easy on Sunday. The Bucs may have the best defense in the league. They are very, very strong up front with DE Chidi Ahanotu, NT Brad Culpepper, UT Warren Sapp, DE Regan Upshaw, WLB Derrick Brooks (a Jessie Armstead-clone), MLB Hardy Nickerson (damn we almost signed this guy a number of years ago), and SLB Jeff Gooch. That’s not to mention first rounder DT Anthony McFarland who comes off the bench. The secondary is also improved with CB’s Donnie Abraham, Ronde Barber, and Brian Kelly. SS John Lynch hits like a linebacker.

The Bucs play a more conservative style of defense. They don’t blitz much (but will send their safeties from time to time). Their defensive backs usually play off the line in order to prevent the big play. They can afford to do this because their front seven is so good. “This defense is totally different than what we’ve gone up against,” says QB Kent Graham. “It’s tough to get big plays against them, tough to get the ball downfield. They play so soft, we’re going to have to be patient.” Still, the Bucs may blitz the Giants a bit more as the G-Men did not look real sharp picking up the blitz against the Jets in the preseason.

The Bucs have seen the improvement in the Giants’ passing game in the preseason. Yet they still most likely will focus primarily on stopping the running game. That probably won’t be that difficult to accomplish. Gary Brown is out. Rookie HB Sean Bennett and HB LeShon Johnson have not demonstrated a consistent ability to pick up tough yards inside the tackles in the preseason. Both have also had a problem holding onto the ball. The fact that LeShon is playing with a soft cast on one of his thumbs does not help matters. It would not be shocking to see FB Charles Way play a lot in a 1-back, 2-TE set or a 1-back, 3-WR set.

Of course, the battle will largely be decided up front. The Bucs play a hybrid 4-3 that places a nose tackle (Brad Culpepper) directly over the center. This ought to keep Brian Williams busy and prevent him from helping out rookie LG Luke Petitgout against All Pro DT Warren Sapp. Sapp has a dangerous combination of power and quickness. Petitgout had a bit of a rocky preseason and it could be a long, long day for the rookie. The Bucs may try to stunt quite a bit too, not only to confuse Luke, but because the Giants have had problems with stunts in the past. Kent Graham may not have the time to hold on to the ball a long time in order to take shots down the field like the Giants did in the preseason. The Giants need the offensive tackles, LT Roman Oben and RT Scott Gragg, to hold their own against Regan Upshaw and Chidi Ahanotu respectively. The Ahonatu-Gragg match-up will also be key. On running plays, one of the interior linemen or FB Charles Way also needs to get a hat on tackling machine Hardy Nickerson.

There are strong indications that Head Coach Jim Fassel is going to open it up, to throw the ball early and often. This change may have been a bigger surprise if Brown wasn’t out. If the Giants go with this strategy, they need the line to protect Graham and they need the receivers to get open and for Graham to connect with them. If not, the Giants are going to face a lot of tough down and distance situations against an aggressive front four. One way to slow down an aggressive rush is to employ a well-executed screen pass. This is something the Giants did with regularity in the preseason (a minor miracle). The Bucs have seen it on tape. The Giants certainly have not hid it. Are the Giants trying to set something up or did they just feel they need to get the execution down? Perhaps they will fake a screen to one side and then go to the other? Perhaps they will just see if the Bucs can stop it. Two flies in the ointment will be WLB Derrick Brooks and Hardy Nickerson. Both are smart, tough defenders. Brooks is one of the best pass defenders at linebacker in the NFL.

The Bucs’ safeties, John Lynch and Damien Robinson, are good run defenders but they can be exposed somewhat against the pass. Fassel should try to get TE Pete Mitchell or WR Ike Hilliard (out of the slot in a 3-WR set) matched-up against these guys. Robinson does not seem to be overly worried. “Graham is a good quarterback…he’s smooth,” says Robinson. “But he has a little bit longer release. We should come up with some picks this week.” If the line gives Graham some time, he should also take some shots deep to WR Amani Toomer and possibly WR Joe Jurevicius or WR David Patten. Toomer and Jurevicius will have size advantages over the Bucs’ corners.

Running the ball will be very tough, but if Bennett, Johnson, and Way are not able to generate any significant yards on the ground, the Giants are not likely to win. Bennett will be on the spot. “He has a level of maturity you can’t find among rookies,” Fassel said of Bennett. “He has a confidence without a cockiness. He has a focus. He plays like a veteran from the standpoint that he’s not hyper, and he’s not making mistakes because he’s confused and the game’s too fast for him.” Let’s hope he right.

Don’t be surprised if Tiki Barber is big part of the offense on Sunday as a pass receiver. Fassel hasn’t shown him much in the preseason. He can break a game wide open.

The other guy on the hot seat is Kent Graham. Graham performed very well in the preseason, but those games don’t count and now he has to get it done with opponents game-planning against him and the offense. Undoubtably, he needs help. The line has to give him time and his fellow skill position players need to make plays. But so does Kent.

Giants on Defense: The Giants’ defense may be one of the best in the NFL, but they don’t match up very well with the Bucs right now. Tampa is a power running team and the Giants have had problems with power running attacks in recent years. If the Giants don’t stop HB Warrick Dunn and FB Mike Alstott, they will not win. It is as simple as that. The Bucs are sure to test the right-side of the Giants’ defense by running at DE Cedric Jones and WLB Jessie Armstead. They will also attempt to power it right at DT Robert Harris, DT Keith Hamilton, and MLB Corey Widmer. The tackling of the safeties and corners could be key in this contest.

How will the Bucs attack the G-Men? Tampa Head Coach Tony Dungy must know that Defensive Coordinator John Fox will focus on run defense. Does he cross the Giants up and allow inconsistent Trent Dilfer to take some shots? The Giants are a bit screwed here if Dilfer plays well. If CB’s Jason Sehorn and Conrad Hamilton were healthy, Fox would probably lock them and Phillippi Sparks up on the the Tampa wideouts and blitz the heck out of Dilfer. Trent has shown that, when pressured, he will make costly mistakes. But can Fox really risk doing this with journeyman Jeremy Lincoln back there? More importantly, since the Bucs now have a number of quality receivers, they like to bring in 3- and 4-WR sets. If Shaun Williams plays the nickel corner (as expected) Dungy would be smart locking the super-quick Jacquez Green up on him. Williams is fine player, but he just doesn’t have the fluidity to cover Green one-on-one. Dungy may also try to match-up Alstott, Dunn, TE Dave Moore, or H-Back Patrick Hape on new starter SLB Ryan Phillips – a guy who should help defend the run, but who can be exposed in pass coverage.

Again, the battles up front will be key. DE Michael Strahan MUST control his battle with RT Jason Odom. DT’s Hamilton, Harris, and Christian Peter need to play stout and strong in the inside. All three will most likely see a lot of time due to the heat and humidity in Tampa. (On on a side note, the Giants’ players need to drink a lot of water in order to prevent cramping). An ominous match-up is Cedric Jones versus LT Paul Gruber. If the Giants can’t get a good rush on Dilfer, he may pick them apart. However, how much pressure will they be able to generate without dangerous blitzing?

I would not send Jessie Armstead too much after Dilfer. He needs to keep an eye on Dunn out of the backfield. Perhaps the guy the Giants need to play the best on Sunday is Widmer. He needs to be a presence on the inside against the run.

In the defensive backfield, as mentioned earlier, Lincoln and Williams will be on the spot. The Giants simply must get a good game out of CB Phillippi Sparks as well – there are too many leaks in the dyke elsewhere. SS Sam Garnes could be a key performer in run defense. He has to watch-out of the play-action however. FS Percy Ellsworth needs to play the run better and make some impact plays against the pass. The Bucs have a very dangerous trio in WR’s Reidel Anthony, Bert Emanuel, and Jacquez Green. Karl Williams comes in on 4-WR sets. The defensive backs need to be physical and aggressive with these smaller, but speedy players.

Giants on Special Teams: This area could decide the game. Jacquez Green is a very, very dangerous punt returner. The Giants need P Brad Maynard to rebound from a terrible preseason and they need good coverage down the field. Dunn and Anthony have the speed to do damage on kick returns as well. Kick coverage will be equally important.

It will be very interesting to see who is returning kicks and punts for the Giants. Will the punt returner be Tiki Barber or Bashir Levingston? Both need to protect the ball. Will LeShon be returning kick-offs? Will Bennett? Will Levington? David Patten should be back there as one of the guys. Regardless, unless the Giants block better, it won’t matter who the returner is.

The game could come down to the foot of Brad Dalusio.

Sep 061999
 
Baltimore Ravens 28 – New York Giants 24

Editor’s Note: I still haven’t seen the game tape. HTS may play it again this week and I may be able to come up with more detailed review. The following observations were made from my endzone seat in the upper deck.

Overview: The Giants came out of this game with the one thing they did not want – a significant injury to a starter. Indeed, the Giants are fortunate that they did not lose HB Gary Brown (knee) for the entire season, as the injury looked far worse on the field than a strained MCL. The injury took away from an otherwise somewhat productive preseason finale. The Giants did lose the contest in a dramatic fashion, but they were able to give the first units some decent work as well as the backups.

Quarterbacks: Kent Graham had an efficient afternoon. He went 8-of-11 for 70 yards (no touchdowns and no interceptions) before giving way to Kerry Collins in the second quarter. In three possessions, Kent led the offense to 10 points. Graham seems to have developed a lot more touch this year on his short passes. Indeed, the screen pass has now become a staple in the Giants’ offense and Kent now disguises this play very well.

Kerry Collins was having a pretty darn good day until his ill-advised underthrown pass to Dan Campbell that was picked off deep in Giants’ territory. Aside from this play, Collins was pretty sharp and looked much more comfortable in the pocket than his previous game. He was not as accurate as Graham (12-of-21), but he did finish the day with 198 yards of passing with two touchdowns and one interception. Kerry seems to have developed a pretty good rapport with WR David Patten and I thought his best throw of the day was his 23-yard strike to Patten in the end zone between two defenders. Unfortunately, Collins was not able to convert any third downs late in the contest that would have prevented the Ravens from getting the ball back on offense.

Running Backs: The loss of Gary Brown to a knee injury really overshadowed all else in this contest. Fortunately for the team, Gary will not miss as much time as originally feared.

In his place, LeShon Johnson (6 carries for 19 yards) did not light the world on fire, but his performance would have looked far stronger if his 31-yard touchdown run was not called back due to holding penalty. On this run, LeShon showed a good feel for his blockers (something that has been a little bit of a weakness) and a very good burst down the sideline. LeShon also flashed some moves that I didn’t think he had on one off tackle run that did not pick up much yardage. LeShon was charged with a fumble, and even though it was the incorrect call, he needs to hold onto the ball even after he thinks the play is over.

Sean Bennett continues to do most things well except for running between the tackles. Bennett will always be limited unless he shows a higher degree of comfort, instincts, and toughness on these kind of plays. Bennett was only able to pick up 19 yards on 13 carries. That’s not going to get it done. Granted that the second team offensive line was not giving him huge holes to run through, but Bennett has to do better. In the passing game, Sean is a natural – especially on the screen. He had another beauty for a 19-yard touchdown on a play where he weaved between defenders. Bennett finished the day with five catches for 44 yards.

Tiki Barber was stuffed on his only touch – a draw play that the Ravens’ sniffed out.

Charles Way had a strong outing despite his limited minutes. He too looked real adept on a screen pass that almost got into the endzone. Way later scored off the left side, carrying a couple of defenders on his back.

Tight Ends: Pete Mitchell once again was the primary receiver over the middle on a third down conversion. Dan Campbell had a very nice reception for 15 yards on a play where he showed some good toughness after the catch. He also had a good block on Way’s one-yard touchdown run. Campbell may not be a big factor in the offense this year, but he has a bright future if he can stay healthy. Howard Cross had one catch on a silly out pattern for one yard – an old Dan Reeves’ favorite.

Wide Receivers: The star of the day here was David Patten who had four catches for 103 yards and a touchdown. On his 23-yard touchdown, he held onto the ball despite getting smashed by one defender as soon as the ball was in his hands. He also showed off his speed on a long catch-and-run in the third quarter. Ike Hilliard also showed off his run-after-the-catch skills again on a first quarter play for 17 yards. His play allowed for a short yardage conversion on the next play and kept a scoring drive alive. Ike was also interfered with on a deep Graham pass on the same drive. Joe Jurevicius (3 catches for 35 yards) picked up a key first down over the middle on the second scoring drive. Amani Toomer (2 catches for 21 yards) remains a Kent Graham favorite. Brian Alford came up with his first reception of the preseason for 17 yards. But he later heard footsteps on a third-down drop.

Offensive Line: The first unit pass blocked fairly well, but run blocking continues to remain inconsistent at best. LG Luke Petitgout continues to have some problems. On some plays, he really handles his man, but on others, he can lose contact with the defender far too easily and get the passer or ball carrier into trouble. He does look comfortable and athletic pass blocking and moving in space – that is a big asset. Luke was called for a holding penalty away from the play early on in the game on yet another screen pass. On the positive side, he had a nice block on Charles Way’s touchdown run. Ron Stone does well for a big man getting out on screens. He is a rock on the right side. RT Scott Gragg had a decent game. I spotted him giving up the inside too easily on one pass rush, but he handled his opponent for the most part. Same with Roman Oben who looks poised for a big year. OC Derek Engler does not get a lot of movement inside. He was called for a very costly holding penalty on LeShon’s 31-yard touchdown run.

As for the second teamers, they too had their problems run blocking. Toby Myles had some problems on the left side. He has the tools, but he has to be more physical and consistent. RG Mike Rosenthal is a big man. He has a lot to learn still and can have problems with quick defenders, yet when he locks on, he is tough to beat. RT Nate Miller was flagged with two false start penalties after coming up with one also last week.

Defensive Line: The first-team line played the run well, but aside from a few instances, did not get after the passer all that well. DE Michael Strahan picked up a couple of sacks – one which was of the garbage variety as another defender caused the passer to run into Michael. Christian Peter actually flashed some on the pass rush too. Cedric Jones, as expected, had his problems with Pro Bowler Jonathan Ogden. He was not too shabby against the run however.

The second-team line had its problems. There was little pass pressure and the second unit was far softer against the run. DT Ryan Hale nailed a ball carrier for a big loss and DE Frank Ferrara came up with a crunching hit, but these kind of plays were too infrequent. DE Rasheed Simmons was blown off the line on the goalline. He didn’t flash against the pass either – his supposed strength. George Williams shot the gap in a goalline situation, but missed the ball carrier. He later redeemed himself with a deflected pass that was picked off in the endzone.

Linebackers: Marcus Buckley had a pretty bad day. He missed two open-field tackles on short passes that led to big gains. Buckley’s strength is defending the pass – he can’t allow that to happen. Ryan Phillips didn’t flash much, but didn’t embarrass himself either. WLB Jessie Armstead’s pass pressure led directly to SS Sam Garnes’ interception. Corey Widmer was solid inside against the run. Doug Colman saw a lot of work and did not make an impact.

Defensive Backs: CB Phillippi Sparks was beaten deep by the talent Jermaine Lewis for a 39-yard touchdown. CB Jeremy Lincoln played decent, but a tad too loose for my taste. SS Sam Garnes came up with a pick on an underthrown ball. FS Percy Ellsworth had a solid game.

CB Andre Weathers had an up-and-down day. He was beat on a play that should have resulted in a touchdown, but the ball was overthrown. However, he came up with a big interception off of a deflected pass in the end zone and then later forced a huge fumble on the goalline that Shaun Williams recovered. Williams played a lot and was a hitting machine out there. His fumble recovery was all hustle as a Raven was actually much closer. New CB Emmanuel McDaniel was flagged with a big 43-yard pass interference penalty. He had solid coverage, but never looked back for the ball. He was later beaten on another play. S Lyle West was up-and-down. He was pretty steady out there except for a few plays. On one safety blitz, he stopped in his tracks (a no-no). Of course, he also gave up the winning touchdown on a play where he was not deep enough. West was trying to prevent the receiver from catching the pass and setting up the tying field goal (there was time left on the clock when he made the catch), but he should have been in position to have made the tackle as well. He’ll learn from this.

Special Teams: I’m starting to get worried about P Brad Maynard. Maynard’s punts last week were terrible except for his coffin corner work. This week, his coffin corner punts were awful. Brad Daluiso was sharp on his two field goal attempts (one was called back due to a penalty). One was a 41-yarder, the other a 51-yarder. Kick coverage was decent.

The blocking on punt returns is a disgrace. On on return, as soon as Tiki caught the ball, there were six defenders and no white jerseys all around him. Bashir Levingston almost took a kickoff all the way back for a touchdown. He was so excited he fumbled the ball out of bounds near midfield without being hit.


Giants/Ravens

by David Oliver

The Baltimore Ravens, at noon, Friday of Labor Day weekend, to conclude the exhibition season, had all the makings for a very dull day. They are calling this Black Friday in the D.C. area because the Ravens, Orioles, Redskins, Bruce Springsteen and holiday traffic are all vying for attention. Now, don’t get me wrong- I like Bal’mer- it is a real City, unlike Baghdad on the Potomac. The people who live here are working people- at one time there were steel mills at Sparrows Point, automobile assembly plants and a bustling Port. Remnants remain, enough to give the City character, after all it is the Charm City. Harbor Place is a wonderful example of how civic pride and money can combine to bring a city back from the dead. Little Italy provides the last refuge of civilized eating until you hit Miami, and Cal Ripken is the living symbol of the athlete-citizen.

When my son was a baby, many years ago, and we had family and friends visiting almost every week, we took them to Bal’mer, bypassing the Nation’s heartbeat after the obligatory tour of the Monuments. It was and is a City that loves its sports, and understands them. It’s people were raised on the likes of Johnny Unitas, Alan Ameche, Big Daddy Lipscombe, Gino Marchetti, Earl the Pearl Monroe, Brooks Robinson, Boog Powell, Jim Palmer and Earl Weaver. A sports party here is not a commemoration of self-importance; it is a rip-roaring, all out celebration of sports love. Sure, they had stolen glory from our Giants in the game that “made the NFL.” Yes, they had gloried when our Yankees struggled; but you can’t hate these people (not like Philadelphia). These are good sportsmen and women, badly abused by the midnight larceny of Robert Irsay, who hijacked their beloved Colts, and now the playthings of the Gods of sports power.

Therein lies another tale. I cut my football photo teeth here with the Bal’mer Stallions the year they won the CFL Grey Cup. Just as those other 25,000 or so fans, I loved the pageantry of two national anthems, the fireworks and the very long, very wide field. There were only a handful of us camera jockeys on those sidelines, so we got to know the players, their families and the team owner, Mr. Jim Speros. I still cherish the game ball I was sent by a defensive end, Grant Carter from Portland, Oregon, who sent it to me because I sent his dad gratis game photos of Grant in action.

The Stallions played in old Memorial Stadium, where I learned to shoot in the mud, wind and late afternoon shadows. The Stadium had a grass (sort of) field and it was actaully open on one side- it was the baseball home of the Orioles and was configured for them. But when you walked through the dark, damp tunnel, through the dugout and onto the field, the whispers of Tom Matte, and Ray Perkins and Mad Dog Curtis followed you along and the spirits of Johnny U and Artie Donovan told you not to linger here. You could hear the roar of the crowd on the day Namath and Unitas set a passing record and shivers ran up your spine as you hit the dugout steps and caught a flickering glimpse of Earl Weaver sitiing in the corner.

Now, I having labored in the belly of the beast for almost 30 years, am prone to believe in any conspiracy theory, having lived through a few and participated in more than I care to reveal. The CFL didn’t make it in America- not because it was bad football, which it wasn’t; not for lack of fan support, even though a few franchises had to move; and not for lack of money. Why then? For lack of a TV contract, a league failed. Who was the reigning King of the CFL? Why, it was the Bal’mer Stallions, flush with money and fans. The Stallions also had Jim Speros and Tom Matte, who had been denied an NFL expansion franchise. But these gentlemen also had TV connections and it appeared that the CFL just might get its contract. Suddenly, that wonderful, traditional team with the ugly uniforms and loud-mouthed fans was allowd to move- to Bal’mer- a city with no NFL facility, a city which had lost a franchise, ostensibly because it was losing money, a city which the NFL had repeatedly denied an expansion team.

The CFL, south of Canada, was dead overnight. Without Bal’mer, no TV. And the Stallions were not going to survive head to head with the NFL. Art Modell was promised a windfall and the people of Cleveland were promised a new franchise, with the team name and the team colors, all in exchange for one blackmailed facility. It just so happened that Mr. Speros owned the lease rights to Memorial Stadium, and he had a 3-5 million investment to recoup. He may not have gotten an NFL franchise, but I can assure you, Mr. Speros does not have to worry about his next meal, courtesy of Mr. Tagliabue and the NFL.

On to the game. Why bother, you ask? Because some won a place on the team, some lost a place on the team, there were injuries, there was drama(replay challenges) and BBI was there in section 512- see photo buried in my photo section. The game itself was the good, the bad and the ugly. The Ravens have a legitimate defense, a suspect offense, a new head coach, a new Stadium and already a new outfit(there is now a Raven on the helmet, most impressive, Ravens, but you don’t dress like an NFL team yet).

The Bal’mer defense was tough as ever, evidenced by the loss of Gary Brown on the second offensive play of the game. Tough, but not impossible, as our first string O did score. Roman Oben looked very good, Kent was in control, Amani and Ike reappeared and LeShon had some nice runs highlighted by a sweep around end for a TD, called back by, guess what? Charles Way ran hard and the interior blocking held up, although there was not a lot of middle running room.

Our first team D was beaten early on a nice Mitchell to Jermaine Lewis TD heave, with Lewis outlegging our guys by at least 5 yards. The obvious weak spots were the sema, with Buckley missing two open field tackles right in front of the coaches. How much longer will this continue? The middle of the line was solid and Michael Strahan promised one of the fotogs something special before he left the game. The promise was immediately followed by a sack, which unfortunately for us took place on the opposite side of the field.

Our kicking game was mixed. Daluiso was in mid-season form. Maynard had a horrible game, missing the coffin corner repeatedly and giving the Ravens good field position. The return game is showing promise with Bennett and Levinston on kickoffs and Tiki on punts. One note of warning for the Ravens. Boulware came up grimacing in pain on one hit and the shoulder obviously needs surgical repair- it is just a matter of when and how tough Boulware wants to be.

Our second team seemed to outplay the Ravens, but was repeatedly victimized by mistakes. Without the zebras on the field, we are actually pretty good. KC looked mostly sharp, with another beautiful timing pass and catch with David Patten, but another poorly thrown interception. To his middle and left, he appears dead on; to his right there is a hesitation and he wither gets rushed, sacked or throws late to that side- watch this and back me up BBIers. Sean Bennett continues to improve and looks like he can carry a full game if needed. Several players remarked on the steady play of Toby Myles , and Mike Rosenthal and Dan Campbell looked as if they may be challenging for playing time before too long. They are both strong, tough kids. Ryan Hale had some nice time in the middle and Pete Monty is showing his real stuff now. Strangely enough, Holsey does not appear to be able to step up and wrest the job away from Cedric. I wonder if he isn’t more nicked up than the Giants are saying?

The end of the game was marred by bad officiating, courageous plays by both Giants and Ravens and a late gaffe by West which gave away the game.

In his post game interview, Coach Fassel indicated that there were still too many mistakes. He said, “they tried to give us the game, but we wouldn’t take it.” He noted that the Ravens “moved a little too quick on our first unit”, talking about the TD pass, that the second unit offense made “too many mistakes” but the second defense made ” some plays down close.” On West’s missed coverage, the Coach said that the Giants were in ‘ a 3 max coverage and you have to be deep.’ West was playing for the ball, not keeping his man in front of him and “he took a flat angle” on the play, missing both the ball and the man.

On Collins, he said “he made some good reads.there were some broken routes.should not have made the interception.” Body language indicated that the Coach was not happy with that play. He has had a ‘bellyful’ of instant replay. nuff said. Giant broadcasters were in the booth next to the replay officials and indicated that there was some surprise there when the call was made on the field.

The Giants locker room on the road is hectic. The guys are scrambling to get their showers, dress and catch the bus. Some of the visiting locker rooms are small so there is a press of bodies in various states of dress, with media guys running up and down aisles interviewing people. This particular room was heavy with emotion as some huys know they will be cut this weekend. The Maras are here and I ask them what they think of the new Stadium. Both father and son indicate that it is a beautiful facility and their response does not appear to be pro forma.

Gary Brown was discussing his injury and his disappointment. He said, ” I tried to get down, but I couldn’t get down soon enough before my leg stuck.it just landed underneath me.” Of his injury, he said,”it hurts.. I haven’t had any sprains before so I really can’t say how bad it is). I can walk.but I don’t know what else.” Gary said “the pain felt like it was much worse than what I was told.-but the pain subsided quickly.” He felt it was “very frustrating because of where I came from- to get back from the motorcycle thing and now this happens, its very frustrating.” He indicated that he was going to get back to work again and that “this will make me stronger, I guess.”

Kent Graham talked to a group of us and said about the loss of Brown “we were really upset in the huddle. The second play of the game and he gets hurt.. Our hearts are with him” Kent indicated that LeShon “was running the ball real well” and Bennett “showed some real promise.” He said that the team got back into it, overcame some penalties and did a lot of good things. He said “we definitely have to run the ball, we have to do both. That’s the sign of a good offense.” He feels good going into Tampa Bay, as “they (the Giants) had a lot of positives.” Now it is time to come out and play.

I asked him if the team was ready and he said ” I think we’re going to be ready.obviously losing Gary has hurt us but we’re going to have to overcome it.” I had my new BBI hat on and spent a few minutes with Kent when the pack moved on. I asked him if he had seen anything different from the Ravens and he surprised me by saying ” to be honest, we didn’t do an awful lot of preparation for them. They are a multicoverage team, so we had to have our heads on.they did some things I wasn’t expecting.brought some corner blitzes, but we were able to see it, adjust accordingly and take advantage of it. That was real good, we did stuff on the rubn like that.”

KC told me he was more comfortable with his reads now and that he knew where everybody was, so he felt good out there. Roman Oben said the Ravens did some things defensively but he didn’t feel anything real unusual. On LeShon’s TD, he said “it was a good reach block for me’, which sprang LeShon to the outside, but there was holding on the inside which nullified the play. Roman said ” you always want to run the ball at least 25 yards (each play).” He told me he feels good “I just have to do some things and we have to see how we can give ourselves the best chance to beat them (Tampa Bay”. He likes “Luke, Rosenthal and Toby. we have some young guys who work real hard.”

Next I talked to Percy Ellsworth, who laughed when I reminded him of the Florida State game. I asked him directly about his tackling and some of his reported comments to the press. He told me “You know too much gets written.I’ve made plays my entire career. Sometimes it gets blown out of proportion because they have nothing else to write .it’s cool, I understand the nature of the game. I’m a guy who talks to the media a lot. I really don’t remember saying all that.” I asked him if he was staying cool and intended to go out and let his play talk. He told me “Yes. I’m going to make plays. You can bring in the best safety in the world and there’s a period where he’s playing less than his ability. That happens to be the period I’m playing in right now. Like everything else, all things come around full circle.” He feels ready and said ” I just have to go back and focus on some more fundamentals. I’ll make the plays and I just want the same things to be siad that are being said now. I don’t want to read it being siad we just needed to egg him on.”

Finally, I caught up with David Patten and asked him about the timing between he and KC. He lit up and told me ” you know, we work together in practice as the second team. Kerry is the kind of guy who anticipates a guy getting open and does a really good job of getting the ball into the open guy. I’ve been fortunate enough to be the guy on the receiving end. He told me “I’m a receiver, being a kickoff returner is just the icing on the cake. I take great pride in both of them, but I want to be mostly a receiver /(slash) kick returner.”

These are all great kids- it’s fun getting a dialogue going with them. But now we’ve reached the point where in the words of the illustrious Mills Lane “let’s get it on.” Next stop, Tampa Bay.

Sep 011999
 

Approach to the Game – New York Giants at Baltimore Ravens, September 3, 1999: The fourth preseason game is usually pretty boring. The starters only play about a quarter and teams keep things very vanilla so their opponents in the opener don’t see too much. The most important thing about the final preseason game is not to win, but to get out of the game healthy. Thus, don’t expect much fireworks and don’t get too disappointed with the results.

Probably the most interesting elements of this game will be (1) the play of Kerry Collins, who will receive the bulk of the playing time, and (2) some roster battles. There are also two starting jobs still open at strongside linebacker and free safety.

Next week, the nature of the previews will shift gear. As long-time BBI readers know, we will focus more on the game plan that Giants should use against their opponent.

Giants on Offense: Get the starters in and out. No need to risk injury. Only guys like Luke Petitigout (needs the work), Derek Engler (who will be starting in place of the injured Brian Williams), and Gary Brown (needs to get back into game shape) may see any extended time. After a disappointing game last Saturday, it is hoped that the starting unit can flash on a play or two before they leave. WR’s Amani Toomer and Ike Hilliard were too quiet. The offensive line and backs did not handle the blitz or stunts well. Kent Graham was not as effective. A scoring drive or two would give the starting unit one last confidence burst before facing a very, very tough Bucs’ defensive team.

But that all being said, don’t expect many fireworks. The Giants will want to keep things close to the vest and not tip Tampa off.

To me, it will be more interesting to see Kerry Collins receive some extended playing time. I wasn’t that impressed with Kerry last week. The rush seemed to bother him. This was something that I noticed in Carolina with him a couple of years ago. He has to stand tougher in the pocket and make plays down the field.

It will also be interesting to see how much playing time Gary Brown receives. The Giants absolutely need him to be ready on September 12th. Due to him missing so much camp time, his feel for the line and stamina are big concerns. Of course, the biggest mystery that still needs to be solved is how many halfbacks will the Giants carry? If they carry four, who goes? HB Joe Montgomery practiced this week so it is doubtful that he is bound for Injured Reserve now. Can the Giants really afford to keep five? Will the Giants only carry one fullback and let Greg Comella go? Is LeShon on the bubble? I also do not have a sense or feel as to how much Sean Bennett will be a factor in this offense early on in the season. Will he actually see the field more than a very few plays?

At wide receiver, David Patten has had a big preseason and seems to be pressing even Joe Jurevicius for playing time. This is a big game for Brian Alford. He should play quite a bit and needs to stand up and be noticed. I don’t really want Pete Mitchell playing too much. We know what he can do – no need to risk him. I’d like to see Dan Campbell get a lot of playing time.

Then there is the offensive line. The success of the offense (and the team) largely rests on this unit in 1999. Rookie Luke Petitigout will receive his baptism by fire in week one. Opposing defenses will have no mercy. He has to get ready. OC Derek Engler should see a lot of action in the pivot on Friday. For depth purposes, the Giants need him to play at least at a satisfactory level. He needs to read the defense, make the correct line calls, and execute the play. There is no telling how long Lance Scott may be out. The Ravens have some very good front seven players (and players in the secondary). With guys like Mike McCrary, Peter Boulware , Tony Siragusa, Ray Lewis, and Jamie Sharper, the offensive line will be tested. The McCrary-Oben match-up will be fun to watch. Boulware is moved all over the place. Let’s see if Scott Gragg can get a helmet on him. Also, watch the blitz pick-ups by the line and backs. The Giants did not do a very good job in this department last weekend.

Giants on Defense: Same with the offense – get the starters in and out. There was some talk that DE Michael Strahan (groin) may not play. That’s fine with me. The run defense on his side may suffer against the Ravens, but who cares? Jessie Armstead doesn’t need the work either. If Strahan does not play, it will be interesting to see if Holsey is shifted over there or if the Giants go with rookie Rasheed Simmons. Having Simmons and Marcus Buckley defending the run on the left side could get ugly. Simmons may end up being a good player, but he needs to add some lead in his pants/strength before he becomes a better run defender. Robert Harris (ankle) won’t play so Christian Peter gets the start. BBI reporter David Oliver thought he played a heck of a game against the Jets. I will be keeping an eye on one of my favorites – DT George Williams.

Last week DE Cedric Jones faced off with LT Jumbo Elliott and was handled. Things get no easier this week with LT Jonathan Ogden, who is one of the best in the business. The Giants need Jones to adequately fill in for Chad Bratzke this year. You can bet your house that Defensive Coordinator John Fox has all kinds of blitz packages installed this year that we haven’t seen yet. Still, the Giants need to get a rush (and solid defense) out of Jones. I will also be keeping an eye on rookie DE Frank Ferrara. He didn’t play at all last week and that is not a good sign. I hope the G-Men can figure out a way to keep him around.

The Giants’ run defense last weekend was awful. The linebackers must step it up. Corey Widmer has to get to the ball carrier and make a play. Nickel backer Scott Galyon didn’t get off blocks well at all against the Jets. Then there is the competition between Buckley and Ryan Phillips. This is the last chance to impress before the games count. How many linebackers do the Giants keep? Who goes? This is a big game for Doug Colman, Pete Monty, and O.J. Childress.

It looks like we can’t count on Sehorn being back anytime soon. Conrad Hamilton is still gimpy as well. He also has the type of injury that can be re-injured fairly easily. For now, Jeremy Lincoln is the man on the spot. A lot of pressure will fall squarely on his shoulders, but this is also a great opportunity for him. The Ravens have a few speed demons in Jermaine Lewis, Pat Johnson, and Qadry Ismail. Depth is still a concern. Reggie Stephens (knee/leg) is out too. The Giants just picked Emmanuel McDaniel off of waivers. Is he just an insurance policy or do the Giants see something in him? Andre Weathers didn’t look real sharp to me last Saturday.

At safety, it finally looks like Shaun Williams is pressing Percy Ellsworth. Both have to start making some plays (Percy against the run and Shaun against the pass). Will the fourth safety be Lyle West or Tre Thomas?

Giants on Special Teams: P Brad Mayard pooched well last weekend, but his regular punting was atrocious. Some final roster spots may be won or lost by who is making plays tackling or blocking on special teams.