Aug 282000
 
Baltimore Ravens 24 – New York Giants 17

Overview: The starters were in and out before the end of the first quarter. Then the game got real sloppy and unexciting except for the play of a few young guys: Ron Dixon, Ron Dayne, Brandon Short, and Ryan Hale in particular. The best news is that there were no serious injuries. Now we can all focus on the real games!

Quarterback: Kerry Collins (3-for-7 for 29 yards) was not as sharp as he has been this preseason. To be fair, he played less than a quarter and didn’t get into the rhythm of the game. Also, the Raven pass rush was putting more pressure on him than he has seen this season. One or two of his throws were way off target out of bounds as he was or was about to get hit. Hopefully, this will not be a precursor of things to come. He did look sharp hitting Ike Hilliard on a slant once again. His best throw of the night was a deep sideline play-action pass to Ike that put the ball on the five yard line. After a big-time hit on the next drive, Collins came out of the game.

I thought Jason Garrett (6-of-15 for 68 yards) played poorly. He was very jumpy in the pocket, never looking comfortable. Accuracy has been a relative strength of his in camp and against the Jets last week, but he didn’t display that consistent accuracy against the Ravens. For a veteran who has been around the league a long time, he seems to get a bit frazzled when his intended receiver isn’t open (at least he looked this way against the Ravens). He took one costly sack in field goal range on a play where he should have thrown the ball away. Garrett does have a good passing relationship going with Joe Jurevicius now and those two connected quite a few times again this week.

Mike Cherry did not impress again. One of the things that pisses me off the most about him is his tendency to start scrambling around in the pocket when he doesn’t have to. He has very nervous feet. At the end of the game on 4th-and-long, he stepped up into the pocket and had no one around him. He could have set up and made a very accurate throw, but he rushed the pass without his feet set and the ball landed nowhere near his intended target. Earlier in the game, he scrambled right into a sack on a play where he didn’t have to move.

Running Backs: Ron Dayne is by no means anywhere near close to the back he will be, but he’s getting there. He had his best game of the preseason against the Ravens running for 60 yards on 15 carries and a touchdown. Most importantly, we saw a glimpse of how he will help Collins and the passing game. On the Giants’ scoring drive in the first quarter, Dayne started off the drive by running left for five yards. Then he went up the gut for three yards. On third-and-2, he picked up six yards on a pitch around the left side. All these plays came against a very talented, aggressive, and quick Raven defense. The stage was set. With the defense getting more determined than ever to stop the Heisman Trophy winner, Collins nailed them with play-action on an easy pass-and-catch to a wide open Ike Hilliard on the five yard line. The very next play, Dayne took a pitch to the right, read his blocks beautifully and waltzed into the end zone after displaying a quick burst through the hole.

Interestingly, Dayne seems much more comfortable with the pitch. This play allows him to read the defenders and his blockers easier from a distance and build up some momentum. Later in the game, running behind the second team offensive line, Dayne broke off a couple of decent sized runs – a nine yarder that he bounced outside and a 13-yard gain on third-and-1.

Tiki Barber didn’t play much at all. FB Greg Comella caught a short pass out of the backfield, but was tackled immediately by a big hit. He did a good job of holding onto the ball.

Joe Montgomery didn’t impress. Granted, he was running behind a second and third team line that wasn’t creating much movement. Indeed, sometimes Joe had no chance even to get out of the backfield. But there were a few runs where he had some room to run, but didn’t appear to see it. He also hasn’t done much with the ball in his hands after the catch.

I was very unimpressed by FB Craig Walendy. Craig was more of a pusher than blaster on running plays and sometimes even pushed his man right into Joe Montgomery.

Tight Ends: Not much of a factor at all. Howard Cross did a good job of aiding Dayne on running plays. Interestingly, he was kept in a lot to block on passing plays. Was this fear of the Raven pass rush and the desire to give Luke more help or were the Giants just being extra cautious with Kerry Collins? Adam Young saw some playing time with the first unit, but wasn’t passed to.

Wide Receivers: With the first unit out of the game quickly and Ron Dayne seeing much of the early action, the first string receivers saw little action. Amani Toomer was very quiet and the two times that Collins did throw the ball his way, the pass was way off the mark (some of this had to do with the pressure). Ike caught the two passes previously mentioned.

Joe Jurevicius continues to play well and made a real nice catch over the middle. He made a circus grab of a poorly thrown Collins pass that was unfortunately ruled out-of-bounds. Ron Dixon is making more noise in the passing game too. He caught an 18-yarder on 3rd down from Garrett and then came up real big on 3rd-and-17 with a 21 yard reception. This play set up Brad Daluiso’s field goal right before halftime.

Kevin Prentiss did not help his cause with a costly drop that would have kept a drive alive. Brian Alford caught a pass but did not see much action at all. Thabiti Davis was only ordinary in the receiving department.

Offensive Line: I can’t give you a real good breakdown this week as I couldn’t pickup the game on the dish. Kerry Collins was under much more duress this week, but some of this seemed to the scheme or mental breakdowns. There was one play where Lomas Brown blocked an inside man and the outside man came free and was engaged by a man in the backfield (it was either Walendy or Young). This is a mismatch and Collins almost got killed. The first-team run blocking was surprisingly strong against a very good Raven defense. I got a big scare when I noticed that Ron Stone wasn’t in the line-up. (He was taken in for x-rays on his foot that turned out negative). Mike Rosenthal subbed for him and quickly was flagged with an obvious holding call.

The second team unit did not impress at all. The run blocking was piss-poor, especially on a number of 3rd-and-1’s. To make matters worse, this young unit with very little cohesion, was called upon to do a lot of pulling in these short-yardage situations on outside runs. The plays were easily disrupted for no gain or a loss. The pass blocking was a little better. There were a few sacks, but some of these I blame on Garrett and Cherry for poor decision-making in the pocket.

Defensive Line: Like the starters on offense, the starting defense didn’t play much at all and it was tough to get a good read on them. The run defense seemed pretty solid though there were times when I spotted Michael Strahan and Cedric Jones having some problems disengaging quickly from blockers. At least they helped to tie things up and help out the linebackers. Keith Hamilton and Christian Peter were very stout inside. The pass rush from the down four was ordinary. Jones did pressure the quarterback and hit him just as he was throwing the ball, but too often he rides himself too wide of the pocket by taking too wide and deep a charge. Strahan has been trying to muscle past his man all preseason. Perhaps he is saving some of his best pass rushing moves for the season, but I’d like to see him use a bit more finesse.

As for the reserves, I thought DT Ryan Hale had a very strong game both playing the run and rushing the passer. He was disruptive. Cornelius Griffin, playing left defensive end, did not flash as a pass rusher, but he was strong in run defense and I like his hustle. He chases the ball all over the field. Jomo Cousins was moved to right end. I spotted a couple of good plays in run defense by him, but I want to see more pass rush. George Williams was fairly quiet. I saw him shoot the gap on one play. DE Frank Ferrara was back on the right side, where he looks more natural. He is all hustle, but he didn’t make enough plays this preseason.

Linebackers: Jessie Armstead is starting to gear it up. He looked a little more lively, especially in run defense. He was blitzed a few times, but picked up. Michael Barrow also appears to be getting more comfortable with the defense. Ryan Phillips was quiet again.

Brandon Short played his best game of the preseason. I thought he stood out in both run defense and coverage. He made a crushing hit on a receiver over the middle and did a good job of plugging holes. When in coverage, he usually was right with his man. O.J. Childress and Jack Golden are both very athletic players who can run. O.J. got beat for a 4-yard TD pass, but it was a perfectly thrown ball from Chris Redman.

Defensive Backs: Jason Sehorn looked pretty sharp this week. His coverage was much tighter and more aggressive. He did a great job of sticking close to Jermaine Lewis (a receiver with very quick feet – the kind of guy who can give Sehorn problems) on a comeback route. Sehorn stopped and came back as soon as Lewis did and knocked the ball away over his shoulder without touching him. Very impressive. There was a flash of the old Sehorn on a corner blitz too. Last year, Sehorn ill-timed many of these, but not against the Ravens. Baltimore was lucky to get the ball off.

Dave Thomas was fortunate that a deep pass where the wide receiver had a step was underthrown a bit, but he did a good job of recovering and knocking the ball away. On a couple of isolation feeds from the Baltimore station, Thomas was spotted sticking right to his man.

Emmanuel McDaniel had an up-and-down night. At times, he had excellent coverage. But he was thrown at a couple of times for completions. He was also flagged for a costly pass interference penalty late in the game that set up the winning score. McDaniel also needs to wrap up better when tackling. Reggie Stephens made a superb interception on a very poorly thrown Trent Dilfer deep pass. Stephens made a very athletic, diving catch and then returned the ball 31 yards.

The starting safeties were fairly quiet. Tawambi Settles continues to disappoint me as a tackler. His missed turned a short completion into a touchdown in the third quarter. At least he picked off a pass. Tinker Keck made a big hit.

Special Teams: Mostly positive. There were a couple of breakdowns on punt and kick coverage, mostly resulting from poor execution (i.e., I believe I spotted Reggie Stephens losing outside contain on one return; Walendy missed an easy tackle on another). At least they do seem to be getting better as between last week and this week, there are more times when the returner goes nowhere. Quite a difference from the first two preseason games. Ralph Brown was getting killed by the double team as a gunner.

The blocking on returns is getting better too. Tiki Barber broke a big punt return up the middle for 31 yards in the first quarter. Then there was Ron Dixon’s return. The Giants did a good job of setting up the alley, but it was Dixon’s amazing burst of speed up the right sideline that was simply jaw-dropping. The Ravens seemed to stuck in cement as Dixon exploded past them all. 90 yards later, a touchdown and a 17-7 lead. Dixon also did a good job of getting down the field as a gunner and causing fair catches. I’m not sure he knows what to do yet when he gets there – but he does get there.

Kevin Prentiss did not help his cause with a fumbled punt – luckily it went out of bounds. He just looks too slight to me as well. George Williams blocked a field goal – the Giants’ second of the preseason.

Brad Maynard looked good early – especially on his coffin corner kick inside the five. He had one punt blocked, but it was because Walendy let his man come free. His last two punts, however, were uninspiring including a short-line drive that help Baltimore steal the game late. Brad Daluiso hit his only field goal attempt perfectly. His only kick-off landed at the eleven yard line.


Giants-Ravens

by David Oliver

“Are you ready for some football?” (Hank Williams, Jr.), “Let’s get it on” (Judge Mills Lane) “they played the way I wanted them to…played solid up to a certain portion of the game” (Coach Jim Fassel; so ended the pre-season, so begins the New Millennium).

The Giants finished against the Ravens, nee the Browns, GM Ernie Accorsi’s old team, built as a fun house mirror image of the Giants- good defense, no offense, both teams now led by offensive gurus, both hoping they have found a QB capable of NFL performances, both led by defensive stalwarts from Miami University. A tale of two cities, fans built of industrial grit, now gentrified, spoiled by past success, driven by memories of players such as LT, Simms, Conerly, Tittle, Gifford, Robustelli and Huff, and Big Daddy Lipscombe, Johnny Unitas, Gino Marchetti, Artie Donovan, Raymond Berry, and Alan ‘the horse’ Ameche; united by memories of what is called ‘the greatest game ever played’.

Friday night they played a meaningless game, before a yawning crowd which could have fit in Eric’s living room; one team led by a journeyman QB, whose claim to fame is that he was the one starter cut from a team that went on to win the Super Bowl; the other led by a QB whose career has paralleled a DOT. Com stock in the Greenspan Age, early success, high flying profile, total crash and burn and slow rise through reorganization hoping to establish that he is really a solid performer and now a value buy. The game was meaningless in every sense, except if you were Brian Alford, Frank Ferrara, Pita Elisara or Tinker Keck. For them it was a game of survival – they didn’t, unless it as a practice squad member.

There was an Umpire named Quirk and a Field Judge named Cheek, but it was one of those quirky games in which neither team would turn the other cheek, until the Ravens put us all out of our misery by scoring late and preventing overtime, which would have been an ugly indignity. The game was spiced up by the kickoff return of Ron Dixon, the emergence of life in Ron Dayne and the appearance of the Ravens QB of the future. The disquieting part of the game was the three sacks recorded by the Ravens #6 draft choice and a Giants replacement secondary just as porous as its first unit.

The Giants had more time of possession, but showed less offense, albeit mostly second and third units played. The most notable stat was third down efficiency, with 9-out-of-20 for 45% – not bad for a Giants’ offense. Ron Dayne rushed 15 times for 60 yards. JOMO was a non-factor but did have a couple of positive yardage runs. For Cherry-bashers, it is of interest that he was 6-of-13 for 66 yards, 1 interception, Garrett was 6-of-15 for 68 yards, no interceptions. The point, statistically speaking, is that it is a wash between the backups.

The receivers again looked good – Davis has made the team, Alford probably not (written before cuts), JJ has stepped up and solidified the third spot. More on these guys later. Reggie Stephens and Tawambi Settles both had nice interceptions. Maynard was busy punting 9 times for 324 yards with a long of 48. Tiki had a nice punt return and Dixon had the kickoff return. Surprisingly, for second and third teamers, there were few fumbles. On defense, B. Short and E. McDaniel were active, each having 6 tackles, Short with 3 assists, McDaniel with 1 assist.

The Giants had their first scoring march with the first team still in, taking 2 and a half minutes to move 39 yards with a nice KC to Ike pass setting up a 5 yard TD run by Dayne. This unit had 2 first downs running, 2 passing, showing nice balance. In the first quarter, Dayne ran to the left side, in the second quarter, to the right side, with success marginally better to the right. JOMO also ran to both sides with mixed results, but had a positive yardage run to the right and a run in the center. It appears as if the Giants were consciously calling plays like this to see where the strength had developed along the line.

The third quarter was 3-and-out, 3-and-out, the Ravens had possession for 10:19. The Giants went 4-and-out, a last drive of 7 plays, all out of the shotgun. Cherry hit Davis twice and BA once before an interception in the end zone – interestingly enough, on the play, Cherry tried a little touch and short-armed the pass. This was a classic preseason ending game: punt, TD, punt, punt, punt, punt, FG, TD (KO return), punt, punt, punt, punt, INT.

So much for the statistical analysis. Now, who looked good, not good, got lucky? Tiki had a beautiful punt return and again showed that he will account for at least one third of the Giants’ offense. Kerry looked average, but hit the nice pass to Ike and had one nullified to Amani by a penalty. Dayne is looking stronger and stronger. To the Dayne-bashers, duh!! Go get a primer on football. All 15 of you couldn’t bring him down if he were standing still. I can’t wait until late October and November. If Emmitt Smith is the Ferrari of running backs and Terrell Davis the Audi Rallye, then Ron Dayne is going to be the Monster Truck of the League. I remember playing in a game when I was young. We had two 280 lb linemen. We were playing a tough team from Orange and weren’t having success. We decided to give the ball to one of those 280 lb linemen and then just watched as he carried 3, 4 and 5 guys down the field. I had a flashback watching the Great Dayne carry defenders along for the ride. He is as powerful as Okoye, but he has a shiftiness that big backs seldom have. The Giants have done well here!!!

Toomer, Ike and JJ are a strong first unit and give the Giants a legitimate passing attack; it won’t be fast and flashy like the Rams, but it will be capable of scoring at any time from any position on the field. Throw in a developing Dixon and Davis and the receivers go from ‘no fear’ to ‘fear this’. The aerial circus should give the fans plenty to cheer about.

The QBs are an interesting enigma. One more time, as goes KC, so go the Giants. He will be up and down, that appears to be the nature of his game, but he has the ability to hit the big play each and every time he touches the ball. If he can keep his head in the game for 4 quarters and if the line and Dayne can keep him from getting hit, he will put points on the board. Garrett reminds me of Rutledge, smart and battle hardened, but lacking the natural ability to be a starter. He holds the ball too long in the pocket, which may have been ok in Dallas, and he locks in on his receivers big time. But he is not afraid to throw the ball over the lot and he can move the team. Mike Cherry has shown enough to indicate that with reps he can be an adequate backup.

On defense, it was interesting to see who was on the field at the end of the game. Brandon Short was out there, and very active. Cornelius Griffin was in the mix and exhorting his team mates to stand firm. He has shown not only talent, but leadership ability and will be a super star and anchor for the Giants. He will replace CJ before we play Washington. Jack Golden was out there and Reggie Stephens, Ryan Hale and George Williams – this, guys, is the future of the Giants emerging.

Other observations: Jason Sehorn showing his speed on a corner blitz and several nice pass defenses; Thomas beat again early, but the Ravens receiver dropping the ball – the Ravens dropped several balls and Banks and Dilfer played as Banks and Dilfer. When Redman came into the game, the secondary showed some weakness and that’s why several of these guys didn’t stick. However, Keck and Settles have shown enough to make it somewhere if not on the practice squad. Jessie was tutoring Golden on the sidelines, Ziemann was getting some medical attention as he either got poked in the eye or had his bell rung; the LBs were clustering on the bench and developing a real nice chemistry. Short showed tremendous range and is really suited to play the middle. It’s too bad the Giants feel they need help on the SS, because I would love to see Short in the middle of a future D – his range, his instincts and his tackling all have superstar written on them. Short, Monty and Golden, the next crew from Linebacker central in the Meadowlands.

JF really let Payton alone in this game, Charles Way was active on the sidelines, Fox was screaming at his unit, as usual, beseeching them to do their jobs and hold fast. There were so many coaches walking up and down the sidelines in front of the bench that it looked like the runway at Chanel’s Fall Fashion show. I wonder who was upstairs?

In his post game JF indicated that he looked forward to the end of this preseason and that it was time now to play and to really evaluate the progress of this team.. He said there were some screw ups with Dayne, that he was in the game when JF wanted him out and out when JF wanted him in (understandable with Skipper’s leaving – the new guys have to get the communications down). JF indicated he wanted Maynard to drive his punts, to cut down the floaters and that he was concerned with the young guys on specials – but they would stay in until they proved they couldn’t do the job. On Dixon, he indicated they were working to cut down the moves but that “he showed great instincts in running in a lot of traffic.” JF said, “No question, he’s got a 5th gear.”

He finished on the subject of cuts and said it was very difficult for him, that regardless of what you might say about talent or ability to play, that “it means a lot to that young man.” That “it’s his dream and a lot of effort goes into it”, so JF takes time to meet with each cut player individually. I admire that in the man. To tell you the truth, there are some a-holes who have shown up lately in the Corner Forum that I would cut summarily, no explanation, no remorse, no adios – stated plainly, some of these sociopaths don’t belong in this league, and you know who you are!!!!

(Box Score – Baltimore Ravens at New York Giants, August 25, 2000)
Aug 232000
 

Approach to the Game – Baltimore Ravens at New York Giants, August 25, 2000: I hate the last preseason game. Who wins-loses never really matters as the starters leave after a quarter and usually only bad things (i.e., injuries) can happen. My main concern and focus tonight is to make sure that everyone gets out of the game healthy.

Giants on Offense: The Giants’ starters probably won’t look as sharp tonight because, in my opinion, the Ravens have the very best defense in the league. They make a lot of teams look bad and generally take the preseason very seriously. If I’m Head Coach Jim Fassel, I get my “big three” out of the game fast: QB Kerry Collins, HB Tiki Barber, and WR Amani Toomer. These three guys are ready to go and don’t need the added work. I would also be careful with TE Dan Campbell since his hamstring still isn’t 100 percent.

HB Ron Dayne finally got in some solid work with the first string line in the third quarter of the Jets game and he didn’t look bad at all – mainly because they finally had him running between the tackles. I’d like to see him get a lot of work in the first half in order for him to feel even more comfortable. FB Greg Comella is going to be a bigger part of this offense than most people realize – especially with the loss of Sean Bennett.

The main emphasis of this game will be to make some final roster decisions with the non-starters. How many wide receivers, fullbacks, and tight ends will the Giants keep? Do guys like Brian Alford, Craig Walendy, and Adam Young make the team? How many offensive linemen do the Giants keep?

Giants on Defense: The press was all over the Giants pass rush last week, but I’m not as worried. I just didn’t see the intensity in that game that will be there once the real games start. My big concern is with CB Dave Thomas, who was simply abused by the Jets. If Thomas continues to struggle, the Giants must bench him. Hopefully, a guy like Reggie Stephens (who has been very quiet this preseason) can step it up. The coaching staff seems to like Emmanuel McDaniel more as a nickel back. Are Ralph Brown and Andre Weathers on the bubble?

Lyle West continues to see a lot of work, but I’m not comfortable with any other of the back-up safeties. I wouldn’t be shocked if none of them made the team and the Giants picked up some cast-offs from other teams here.

DE/DT Cornelius Griffin is the chief reserve on the defensive line, but who else will make it? Do the Giants keep George Williams or Ryan Hale? This is probably Frank Ferrara’s last hurrah.

The rookie linebackers have looked like…well…rookies this preseason. Brandon Short has not impressed. Jack Golden makes a nice play, then screws up. O.J. Childress flashed for one game. All have been very vulnerable to misdirection. MLB Mike Barrow is a very strong blitzer.

Giants on Special Teams: The special teams play against the Jets was very much improved in all phases (except for field goal kicking). Coverage was very strong and the blockers even opened up a good return lane for McDaniel. Jack Golden and Thabiti Davis have the team made on their coverage ability alone. Ron Dixon finally got untracked as a kick returner too.

Aug 212000
 
New York Jets 27 – New York Giants 24

Overview: Sorry for the delay in the game review, but the bar I was at couldn’t pick up the satellite feed. BBI contributor Ed A. was kind enough to send me a copy of the game.

Overall, I wasn’t as disappointed as I expected after watching the game. The offense was very impressive – both passing and running the ball. Special teams were very much improved. The big negatives were the play of the defense and the number of penalties.

The best news is that the Giants came out of the game with no major injuries.

Quarterback: I am so impressed with Kerry Collins and the Giants’ passing game that I can’t believe it. Let’s pray that Kerry and his offensive teammates stay healthy and focused, because if they do, they will put up some big time numbers this year. Physically, Collins is the most impressive quarterback I’ve ever seen play for the Giants (Y.A. was before my time). He has an incredibly strong arm and a quick release. He is accurate and he can maintain his accuracy even when under heavy pressure. Collins’ ability to deliver the ball on the numbers even when not using the best mechanics continues to amaze.

Right now, Collins throws the slant pass better than even Phil Simms. He really guns the ball in there even when the receiver is well-covered – he has to be a bit careful of this. There was one throw in the Jets’ game where he just fired it into Ike and the defense didn’t have a chance. He also did this again in the third quarter to Ike for a touchdown between two defenders. But the connection that really is a joy to watch is Kerry to Amani Toomer. Behind perfect pass protection, Collins cranked a 73-TD yard pass to Toomer, hitting him in full stride. A perfect throw. Later in the game, Collins again found Toomer for a long completion down the right sideline on 3rd-and-long. The look on the dazed Jets’ CB who had solid coverage said it all – how do I defend against that!?!

Collins’ best throw of the night? On 3rd-and-25 inside his own ten yard line, Kerry launched a perfect touch pass down the seam to Joe Jurevicius, who was surrounded by three defenders. Amazing! Collins also later rolled out and hit Joe on a sideline route that was thrown on a rope – again, the defender had no chance.

I thought Kerry’s worst throw of the night was a poor decision to try to hit Ike in the endzone when he was double-covered. He was lucky the pass was not picked off.

This was Jason Garrett’s best game of the preseason. He played the last quarter and did a good job moving the team with mostly short throws. He did hit Ron Dixon with a good-looking deep sideline pass however. It is obvious that Garrett just doesn’t have the tools to stretch the field. He’s a perfect back-up if he only has to play a game or two; more than that and the Giants may be in trouble.

Running Backs: I was very impressed with Tiki Barber’s running game against the Jets. This may have been his best all-around game as a pro. Tiki was a feature back at the University of Virginia carrying his offense on a quarterback-weak team. Against the Jets, it looked like the old UVA Barber tearing through the Jets defense on both inside and outside runs. He showed good vision, instincts, and acceleration on almost all of his runs. As for his work as a receiver – I still would like to see him look a little smoother trying to make a guy miss and getting up the field.

Ron Dayne’s stats may not show it, but this was his best game as a pro thus far. Yes, there was one 3rd-and-1 carry where he was stuffed (by three Jets in the backfield mind you), but he generally picked up good real estate in the middle of the defense between the tackles. They were not big runs (I think an 8 yard carry was his longest of the night), but he put the offense in a lot of manageable down-and-distance situations – a big change from last season. The best news is that the Giants started to finally run him more between the tackles – where I think he is most comfortable. Ron also showed his power by easily picking up another 3rd-and-short later in the game. Keep one thing in mind too – he’s so damn big and the defense is so focused on stopping him that he is already opening up lanes in the passing game.

FB Greg Comella had a mostly positive night. He got pushed back into Collins on a LB blitz that he should have handled better, but he did a nice job of lead blocking and made a big reception on 3rd-down to convert. Comella has very soft hands and better speed than people realize. The one time I spotted Joe Montgomery lead blocking, it was ugly. The play was well blocked except for Joe’s man who made the tackle. He also didn’t really stand out running or catching the ball – though this was with the scrubs in the 4th quarter.

Tight Ends/H-Backs: Collins threw twice to Howard Cross and he caught both – but Howard has the hardest time even picking up one yard after the catch. On the play before the Dayne stuff, he caught a very short pass on 3rd-and-2 or 3 and couldn’t run over the defender – a guy who he should have been able to bulldoze. The good news is that this will be a Pete Mitchell or Dan Campbell play when both are healthy.

Wide Receivers: It was boom or bust for Ike Hilliard who made a number of nice plays including a touchdown, but also dropped at least three passes. Hilliard gets open – he just needs to hold onto the ball. Amani Toomer continues to dominate. He had well over 100 yards receiving including a 73-yard catch and run that looked just too easy. Both he and Joe Jurevicius benefitted from some incredible throws from Collins – all they had to do was catch the ball. Jurevicius was very active on Friday in the second half. He made a superb TD grab with the defensive back all over him. He also almost came down with another TD on a jump ball from Garrett. Joe showed a lot of guts on his 3rd-down conversion surrounded by three defenders. Perhaps this was the breakout game he needed.

Ron Dixon did a good job keeping his feet in-bounds on a deep sideline pass from Garrett for good yardage. He also demonstrated some clutch-ability by cleanly fielding a low throw on 4th-and-long and keeping the final TD drive alive. Brian Alford made a nice little move after one catch. Kevin Prentiss caught a slant and then dropped a wide-open pass.

Offensive Line: For the most part, very sharp. Luke Petitgout was cleanly beaten by Brian Cox, who used a swim move. Glenn Parker was also slow to pick up a delayed blitz. But Collins had decent protection, despite a lot of blitzes from the Jets. Of course, Collins makes his protection look better with his quick release too. The run blocking was also pretty good this week as the Giants were able to run both inside and outside. Lomas Brown is really starting to impress me. He just looks and plays very naturally in all phases of the game. OC Dusty Zeigler got pushed back into the pocket by the Jets’ nose tackle and the result was a failed 4th-and-inches QB sneak conversion. He also tackled his man on a reverse and was called for holding. But overall, I’m very comfortable with this starting line.

As for the reserves, the one thing that stood out to me was how bad LT Pita Elisara looked. He was simply awful in pass protection. Chris Ziemann does look like a stud and the inside guys certainly did not embarrass themselves.

Defensive Line: This was not a very good game for the front seven on the Giants defense. However, much of the credit has to go to QB Ray Lucas and HB Curtis Martin – both who made some simply wonderful plays of their own. There were times when the Giants’ played the run almost perfectly, but Curtis would cut back and find some small opening to dodge through. I was more mad at the linebackers for not cleaning up on these plays than I was with the line. The Jets did run quite a bit successfully at DE Michael Strahan (though one of these plays was a 3rd-and-long toss where Strahan was stunting inside). Michael will turn it up when the games actually count – bet on it. I did see him smack Lucas pretty good on one play. The Giants did not get a very good pass rush against the Jets either. Part of this was due to the fact that the Jets were running the ball effectively. Part of it had to do with the shorter drops Lucas was taking. Much of it looked like a general lack of intensity. It just looked like the game mattered more to the Jets. Christian Peter did a good job not getting faked out on play-action and pressured Lucas for an incompletion.

I was actually more disappointed by the reserves. Ryan Hale and Jeremiah Parker in particular were pushed off the ball too easily by back-up offensive linemen. Parker was also very susceptible to misdirection and was caught out of position on a few plays. Griffin certainly looks the part, but he didn’t flash to me this week. Jomo Cousins was very quiet.

Linebackers: Not a very good game for this unit at all. Jessie is simply in cruise control right now – saving his energy for when it matters. It is very obvious. Ryan Phillips has to start taking the bull by the horns and make some plays. Too often I see him wired to blocks. Much of Curtis Martin’s success was because the linebackers were getting handled. Mike Barrow had an up-and-down night. He was flagged twice – once for illegal contact down field and a second time for defensive holding. He also looked a step slow on some outside runs (not that he is slow – just that his timing wasn’t down yet). The good news is that he looks like a very strong blitzer. He sacked Lucas once and the Jets QB narrowly escaped a second sack from Barrow.

The reserves did not shine either. All bit on misdirection. Brandon Short certainly plays hard, but he (like Phillips) is not making any plays. Jack Golden made a couple of nice hits, but also got exposed in coverage for a TD (along with Tawambi Settles) by a tight end. O.J. Childress was flying around, but rarely getting to the ball carrier in time – he too got burned by the misdirection too often.

Defensive Backs: Jason Sehorn had a quiet night because Lucas went after Dave Thomas all night and for good reason – Thomas was atrocious. It didn’t matter who he was covering, the man beat him. When the Giants blitzed, Thomas was so afraid of getting burned deep that he gave up the easy reception in front of him – including a wounded duck that should have been easily defensed. Almost all the Jets’ passing yards seemed to come at Thomas’ expense. Hell, Thomas’ man dropped a couple of receptions on him or it could have been worse. Dave had better suck it up or he will be out of a job.

The safeties got burned badly on the flea flicker to Chrebet. That sh*t happens when you allow the opposing team to establish the ground game. I did think Lyle West looked a little steadier this week – he almost came up with an interception (something that Giant defensive backs seem to avoid like the plague now). The other reserve safeties are not good ball players.

As for the reserve DB’s, it was hard to get a feel for them. The second string Jets’ offense ran the ball most of the time and when they did pass, they mostly went after the linebackers.

Special Teams: Very much improved. Punt and kick coverage was very solid with Jack Golden and Thabiti Davis standing out to me. Emmanuel McDaniel had a very strong return with some excellent blocking. Ron Dixon almost took it the distance on a 51-yard kick return where he did most of the damage on his own. Both Tiki Barber and Kevin Prentiss looked sharp returning punts and both almost broke long returns. Jason Whittle made a very bad snap over the head of Brad Maynard but Maynard did a fantastic job of keeping his composure, running the ball down, and still getting it off. He does need to work on his coffin corner punting however. Brad Daluiso missed another 40-49 yarder – it might have cost the Giants the game. Cedric Jones blocked a field goal attempt.


Wide Receiver Breakdown

by Emil Thomann

Although this review of the WRs in the Jets game is a week late, the play of the WRs we saw against the Jets paints a very telling picture of things to come.

First of all Amani Toomer, what can I say, the man is up there with the top WRs in the league in my opinion. He has the physical tools, and now he has the consistency. During the Jets game he repeatedly made sideline catch exhibiting great footwork. He has shown this ability consistently all preseason. There is no reason to think that he cannot do it in the regular season.

Believe it or not Toomer has a hidden asset. He has very deceptive speed because he is a strider. If you see Ike run you would think that he is faster than Toomer, but that is the deceptive part of this phenomenon. Ike looks faster because he is not a smooth strider. Ike’s running style allows him to make quick cuts and ankle breaking moves. Toomer lulls his man into a false sense of security with his strides and then before the defender knows it he is by him. Toomer displayed this ability on the 73 TD catch. Toomer has developed into a multi-dimensional starting WR that will help this offense get over the hump.

Ike Hilliard, well Ike had a game that can be best described as THE GOOD, THE BAD, and THE UGLY. First the Ugly: Ike had a ridiculous drop in the flat where it looked like he was fighting the ball the whole way. It looks like Ike is getting concerned with what he going to do once he catches it than before he catches it. The Bad: Collins put a perfect pass on Ike’s numbers and Ike lets it hit his numbers and it bounces off. He needs to extend his hands like Toomer. The Good: Ike caught a few clutch passes, displayed good run after the catch ability as usual, handled blitz reads very well, and looks great on slants, especially that one for the TD. The defender never had a chance. It is true what they say. Ike is always open, lets just hope he catches the ball.

Jurevicius had a great game. In fact it was the most consistent game I had seen out of him. The man amazes me because he does not having blazing speed, but he avg about 17yds a reception against that Jets. He also used his body well to shield the ball in some situations and caught balls in Traffic. One good thing to see was that the QBs were throwing the ball to only where JJ could get it, up high. JJ showed no fear and went up for it. His huge 3rd down conversion was a thing of beauty, and that TD catch was spectacular. If he plays like this in the regular season there is no reason why he is not the 3rd WR all season.

Ron Dixon rebounded well from the Jacksonville game. He showed good concentration and footwork on a key sideline grab, and was consistent presence in the offense. He also looked better on KO returns. He is raw but his physical talents will help this offense. When he is on the field defenses will have to account for him.

In my eyes Davis has moved ahead of Alford based on Special Teams play. Davis has shown an ability to be a gunner (great tackle against the Jets) punt blocker, and he blocks very well for a WR. TO me this spells the end of Alford. Alford again made no impact and I agree with Eric, your 5wr needs to play specials and play them well. Which ALford cannot do. He is fast but not physical and when you are a WR and can’t catch you better be physical. I think Alford could still rebound and if the team keeps 6WRs they will keep him, but I feel Fassel would like to use that roster spot on the DBs, LB, or OL

Going into the season these WRs will proved Collins with his playmakers down the field. I am confident that the top 4 WRs can carve up most Defenses, and Toomer could be a pro-bowler, Ike should catch over 1000 yards. Even though the offense had some ugly moments against the Jets, the overall reaction is a good one. I am glad that Fassel got on the team for their performance, they need to stay sharp. Aside from Ike’s drops the WRs were dominating a Jets secondary that has some solid corners. When I look at this offense on paper I can compare this team to the Jacksonville Jaguars. If Dayne comes through we have 2 solid RBs, dangerous WRs, and a solid TE in Mitchell. We have weapons at every option and that will only make the WRs better as less attention can be focused on them.

I don’t know about you guys but I can’t wait for September 3.

(Box Score – New York Giants at New York Jets, August 18, 2000)
Aug 162000
 

Approach to the Game – New York Giants at New York Jets, August 18, 2000: This is the most important preseason game in terms of getting the starters ready for the opener. They will see approximately three quarters of action in this game, while probably only seeing about a quarter in the last preseason game.

But the preseason injury cloud has once again dampened prospects. It looks as if the Giants will lose HB/FB/H-Back Sean Bennett for the season. He was to have a very significant role in the Giants’ revamped offense – creating mismatch problems for opposing defenses. Making matters worse is the fact that TE/H-Back Pete Mitchell (knee) has missed much of training camp and probably won’t play until week two or three. TE Dan Campbell (hamstring) has missed much of camp too and this has hurt his development and readiness. The Giants will need HB Tiki Barber, FB Greg Comella, HB/FB Joe Montgomery, and perhaps even TE Adam Young to step it up.

As for the game itself, I expect the Jets to take this game far more seriously than the Giants – given their 41-28 humilation to the Giants last season. The focus on the part of the Giants may also not be there given the fact that they have just broken camp and re-joined their families, wives, and girlfriends.

Giants on Offense: Crap! The loss of Bennett is big – bigger than most fans realize. Much of the new playbook was geared towards Bennett and he probably would have had a big role in the game plans against the Redskins. Mitchell and Campbell are bound to be rusty when they return. Once again the injury bug strikes the Giants hard at one position (TE/H-Back).

Howard Cross is just as likely to drop the ball as he is to catch it and he never does any damage after-the-catch. I’d like to see how Adam Young fares this Friday – both blocking and catching the ball. He looked good in the latter last week, but we still don’t know how strong an in-line blocker he is. My guess is that with his Dartmouth background and lack of bulk, this may be a problem. FB Craig Walendy also has a chance to stick – but his key to success may still lie on special teams.

My main focus offensively against the Jets will be to see if the team can get HB Ron Dayne untracked with the first team unit. It is pretty obvious Dayne will see most of the carries on opening day and the Giants need him to get in sync with LT Lomas Brown, LG Glenn Parker, OC Dusty Zeigler, RG Ron Stone, and RT Luke Petitigout. A strong running game will allow QB Kerry Collins to use play-action as an effective weapon. It will also slow the opposing pass rush.

In the passing game, I’d like the Giants to work on their screen a bit. They have tried a few screens in the first two games, but they haven’t looked real sharp. Collins also needs to get more in sync with Tiki Barber on swing passes (a tough pass for some strong-armed quarterbacks to throw). Collins and WR Amani Toomer already appear very much in sync. Reports out of practice also continue to point to big plays to WR Ike Hilliard – I’d like to see more of these on the actual playing field.

The real battle is among the back-ups at wide receiver. Joe Jurevicius has been limited with a shoulder injury and last week Brian Alford and Ron Dixon did not catch a pass. Head Coach Jim Fassel said this week that Alford was coming on in practice while Dixon was slipping a bit. I’d like to see both make a positive statement on Friday. With starters playing three quarters, I would think that both will see some time with the first unit. Thabiti Davis continues to lurk in the shadows and he didn’t hurt his cause last week with some solid play on special teams.

The starting offensive line looks particularly sharp pass blocking – it’s time for them to open up some holes for Dayne. As for the reserves, we learned this week from the BBI interview with General Manager Ernie Accorsi that the organization thinks so highly of RT Chris Ziemann that they may be planning for him to be a future starter (with Luke Petitgout moving to left tackle). This won’t transpire in 2000 unless there is an injury. But it could be the line-up in 2001 or 2002. It would also be nice to see one of the other youngsters coming on. Pita Elisara and Chris Bober split time at left tackle last week. Jason Whittle, Mark Nori, and Derek Engler have seen extended playing time inside. Who will Mike Rosenthal – who has missed all of the preseason with a shoulder injury – push off of the roster?

Giants on Defense: I’m excited to finally see MLB Mike Barrow in action. When I was at camp, I could see why the team was so high on him. He is a high-energy, vocal leader who makes plays all over the field – including in the backfield. He’s also a good blitzer. Hopefully, his knee is coming along OK and he won’t push himself too hard. I can’t wait to see him and Jessie Armstead feed off of each other. On the strongside, BBI’ers learned an important lesson that I tried to harp on since after the draft – rookies rarely start, especially at linebacker given Defensive Coordinator John Fox’s complicated schemes. Brandon Short may end up being a fine, fine player for New York, but right now it appears as if Ryan Phillips has a lock on the position.

Depth at linebacker is now a very, very serious concern. Scott Galyon is in Miami. Dhani Jones and Vernon Strickland are out for the year with knee injuries. Pete Monty, the only remaining back-up with experience, is out for 2-3 weeks with a broken thumb. The spotlight now falls upon Short, WLB Jack Golden, MLB O.J. Childress, and LB Kevin Lewis. Not a pretty picture.

The secondary also remains a big question mark. CB Dave Thomas has not embarrassed the team in the preseason thus far. Hopefully, he can keep that up. FS Shaun Williams (toe) is still out and is likely to be rusty as hell when he does get back (supposedly next week). CB Emmanuel McDaniel appears to be leading in the race for the nickel back spot. We all look for continued improvement from him, CB Reggie Stephens, CB Ralph Brown, and CB Andre Weathers.

Depth at safety is very shaky and the Giants may be scanning the waiver wires for help. The team also needs Lyle West to continue to improve. None of the other players on the roster at this position inspire confidence.

Giants on Special Teams: Will this unit begin to settle down this week? If not, it could be a long season. The Giants spent a ton of time on special teams the previous two weeks, with kick/punt coverage and kick/punt return blocking being particularly sensitive areas. Fassel said he will try Ron Dixon as a gunner this week on punt coverage to see if that helps. He has the speed; does he have the killer instinct? With Bashir Levingston not a factor (right now and possibly for the entire year if the Giants can’t find a roster spot for him), Dixon also needs to start making an impact as a kick returner (as does Reggie Stephens).

Aug 152000
 
Q&A: New York Giants General Manager Ernie Accorsi

From x meadowlander: Ernie, what I would like to know is what YOUR expectations of this Giant team are? What kind of record do you EXPECT this team to have at the end of this season? (Barring Catastrophic Injuries).

Accorsi: It’s very difficult to place a won-lost goal or expectation on the season because so many incredible things can happen during a game (I really don’t have to go much farther than last Friday to provide the most extreme example). But I have expectations for this team because I think we have explosive offensive players now. Some of them are a little unproven, Bennett, Montgomery, Dayne and Dixon, on the pro level. But the talent is there. If we can protect the quarterback and get him in play action situations, we will score.

I am much more confident about the defense this year because of the health of Sehorn and the addition of Griffin and Barrow, in particular. I also think Strahan was stung by the criticism of his season last year and will play with something to prove.

You have to build a team now for a three-four year run. We have started that process. I don’t know what the record will be. I just think we will be headed in the right direction.

Pete from Woodstock and Giant Mike: Ernie, will there be anymore free agent signings after cuts this year to strengthen certain positions, and if so, which positions are you concentrating on? Any truth to rumors of a possible trade or two?

Accorsi: Free agent acquisitions at this point won’t be significant because everyone has 80-plus players and what is left isn’t going to make impact on a team. It’s possible that we could claim someone off the final cut that could contribute depth for us, either in the offensive line or the defensive secondary. We are being very vigilant to a possible trade. I can’t promise one because I have no control over what other clubs might make available. But, although we have been reluctant in the past to give up draft choices, I would trade one for a corner who could come in and play well for us.

RAZE in Poughkeepsie and Steve in Vegas: Given this year’s free agent acquisitions & veteran signings, are the Giants still as well positioned to be bigger players in free agency in 2001 as you thought earlier this year? Which position would you seriously consider upgrading through free agency?

Accorsi: It’s difficult to answer that until I see what the resolution of the 2000 season is, but always we would be on the lookout for defensive corners. They at a premium and you never have enough, especially with teams coming right out on first down with three and four wide receivers.

Milton: Evaluating college talent is a tough job. But as a fan, it’s surprising to me how some players who are so highly regarded (Blair Thomas, Aundray Bruce, etc.) can be such utter disappointments. And also, how a guy like Terrell Davis or Jessie Armstead could slip so far below the radar. As a talent evaluator, what is it that makes the job such guesswork (even after viewing thousands of hours of film, working the players out, interviewing them, and testing them)?

Accorsi: That is a very good question, because you just touched on the mystery of the game. How can absolutely no one be interested in either drafting or even signing Percy Ellsworth after his senior year at Virginia? The only reason we signed Ellsworth was that we lost three or four safeties in the post-draft signing frenzy and he was sitting there with no interest. I had scouted the Virginia-Florida State game (which was Florida State’s first loss in the ACC) the night that Ellsworth intercepted Kannel twice. I said, if we drafted Kannel, we might as well sign the guy who intercepted him twice. Another example, we debated between Jeremiah Parker and an offensive lineman in the seventh round in this past year’s draft. We decided on the speed rusher. A few days later, we signed a big offensive lineman from Michigan named Chris Ziemann, who had to fax us and beg us to sign him. The coaches feel right now, they would not be afraid to start him at right tackle if they had to (in the event we had an injury). We also hit on a tight end from Dartmouth named Adam Young who was cut by his NFL Europe team to make room for two allocated tight ends. You just never know. That’s the intangible element of the game. How could the Steelers cut Unitas?

Giant Great and George from PA: Why was the 1998 draft so unproductive? What is the strength of next years draft that you will concentrate on?

Accorsi: Shaun Williams was played out of position his first two year because he was versatile and we had Percy Ellsworth to play free safety. He has made big plays when he has had the opportunity and will be one of the best safeties in the league this year as soon as he comes back from this toe injury in my opinion. Joe Jurevicius is a weapon who just hasn’t had the chance to play. You have seen what he can do when he makes a play. We need a big year out of him. Brian Alford hasn’t gotten on the field. The coaches have a problem with his drops in practice but if you studied his college film, he had very few drops. He is a little bit of a mystery. Myles and Fricke have made other teams. Fricke has played for Dallas and contributed. Oakland likes Myles. I don’t know if he will make their team. He has ability. I think Williams and Jurevicius will contribute significantly to our season and Alford has a chance. To be totally honest with you, however, that’s not enough. We should have six and possible six players out of this draft (Dhani Jones is out for the season but will be an outstanding player). You have to have more than two.

English Alaister: I would be intrigued to know what, if any, limits the team would place on first round draft selections in terms of position? There has been some lengthy discussion on this board as to the merits of taking safeties, interior linemen, middle and strongside linebackers in the first round. Many people have argued that first round picks should be used only for difference makers. The skill positions on offense, quarterback of course, left tackle (assuming a righty QB) defensive end, cornerback and impact linebackers. However, in your first two drafts as general manager the team selected a safety and then a linemen now playing right tackle. But this draft there seemed to be a movement towards the impact offensive positions early and the use of free agency to fill the offensive line. Is this a trend predicated on the way you believe the NFL is developing (cheap veteran line help but not much offensive talent) or was it merely the way the chips fell? If (and I’m sure we all hope desperately that this will not be the case) the Giants have a top ten draft pick sometime in your tenure are there any positions you would not even look at to start with?

Accorsi: You are probably going to be puzzled by this answer, but over the past 20 years, if you asked me the two positions I would be least likely to select in the first round, it would safety and offensive line. My first draft, the system dictated Shaun Williams. He’s a good player, but I agree with your definition of impact players and safety generally is not one. The second year, I felt we had to have a left tackle. Luke Petitgout is a left tackle. He’s playing right tackle right now because Lomas Brown is playing left. He is having an excellent pre-season. He is more naturally at tackle than guard and is even more natural at left tackle. He is going to be a good player. But generally, I like impact players. Big play players. Quarterback first, if you have the opportunity to pick a great one. I was with Unitas, Bert Jones, and that is why I picked Elway in Baltimore in the face of overwhelming protests from his agent, from him and from the media. After that pass rushers, corners and backs and receivers. The inside linebacker has diminished in glamour because of the proliferation of spread formations. He is taken off the field unless its a run down. One year when I was in Cleveland and the Detroit Lions were playing the run and shoot, our middle linebacker (a very good player named Mike Johnson) didn’t play a down. That is why Brandon Short’s value dropped. But we are using him at strong side linebacker right now.

bw in dc: Why didn’t you get involved in the Kevin Mawae sweepstakes three years ago? Which non-Jints free agent over the last three years do you regret not pursuing? Why did the brass wait until 1999 to finally hire a full-time cap specialist?

Accorsi: We had Brian Williams in the shadow to be quite frank, we had no cap power to pursue a high priced player like that. I hired our cap specialist in my second year on this job. But I wanted the right one and in Kevin Abrams I got the right one. We were $10.6 million over the cap 11 days before the deadline in February. We got under and then signed six free agents, five of them who will start and the sixth is the backup quarterback. As far as regrets, I don’t look back. But the player we should have tried to trade for (he wasn’t a free agent) was Marshall Faulk.

Hbart: Assume that this season is reasonably successful and you feel strongly about the teams chances next season. Would you be inclined to take a Redskins/Snyder type approach of using free agency to fill holes and add depth without much regard for the cost and cap implications? Or would you continue with the approach we’ve seen of emphasizing value in FA acquisitions and looking mainly to the draft for depth?

Accorsi: I am not tied to any restrictions as far as avenues we would take. I basically like building with young veterans but I certainly would bring in an older player to plug a hole as we did this year with Lomas Brown and Glenn Parker. To just summarize, I will do anything I feel I have to do to win and still live with the cap. What has happened with the cap is, most clubs, including us, will pay a future price to win a championship. While you are building, you have to be careful. But once you think you have the team to win, go for it. If you have cap problems in the future because of it, you can relieve the burden by walking in the lobby and looking at a Super Bowl trophy. That is what we are all in this to do. Nothing less.

Mark S: When in the “targeting” phase of the personnel acquisition process (pre-draft, FA signing period, etc.), how much input do you receive from Jim Fassel, John Fox, and Sean Payton? Specifically, does management sit down with key members of the coaching staff and strategize about targeting specific players or specific “types” of players for the current/future offensive/defensive schemes?

Accorsi: Our scouting and personnel staff currently has a great working relationship with the coaches. We meet constantly so that the scouts can get a feel for what the coaches like in a player. But you have to be careful. You have to have a New York Giants philosophy, which has changed in recent years because the game has changed. You can’t just tailor everything to a coach then when the coach leaves you have to revamp your entire team. You have seen that when some of the run and shoot guru’s have left teams with no tight ends or running backs. It’s a blend. What you need the most is harmony between the two elements. We have that.

Kenney in CA: How do you evaluate your scouts? Since it can take years for an NFL player to develop, it seems it could take even longer to grade a scout’s job performance. Do you keep track of who a scout has liked, and how those players perform if they’re picked by other teams? Or do you feel there are too many variables to do be able to do that fairly?

Accorsi: That is a more important job for me than evaluating college players. I scout games and look at a lot of tape and have my opinions, particularly among the top-rated players, but so much of our decisions is based on the full time guys who do it for a living and for 365 days a year. I spend a lot of time evaluating the scouts. For example, if there are some low draft choices or free agents from a particular scout’s area that made it, I will go back and read his reports on that player and question him as well as the cross checker on why we didn’t draft him. This is particularly important in the later rounds. Sometimes earlier, you want a player but you just don’t get him because he is picked right ahead of you. I am very hard on them sometimes and I don’t think they are very happy about that. But the stakes are high. I don’t like to miss on anyone. I had a scout tell me once when I questioned him on a free agent who went to another club and played well, “The day i was there he wasn’t impressive.” My answer to that is, you are responsible for that school 365 days a year and once every four years 366 days.

Joe in massapequa and Eric from BBI: Are there any plans for next year with the aging vets we now have on our line to upgrade through free agency next year and the draft to get younger, meaning really: ( a) Are these guys stopgap moves? and (b) Has the organization come to the conclusion that more emphasis will be spent on free agency than the draft when it comes to improving the quality of the offensive line?

Accorsi: I sort of answered that question earlier, but this is the way I look at our offensive line: two older players (Brown and Parker), two very experienced young players (Ziegler and Stone), three young players with size and a future (Petitgout, Rosenthal, Ziemann). That is a good blend. We will obviously have to replace Brown and Parker shortly and we will do it both ways that you mentioned.

In summary, I would like to make one point to all of you. When I assumed this position, we were coming off of a divisional title. Most of us, however, didn’t think we were that good. We went one more year with essentially that team and found out for sure we weren’t that good. In the past two years we began to reshape this team. The major move was Kerry Collins. In this organization, there is a conviction that we have a big league quarterback we can win with for the first time since Phil Simms. This past off season, we made a lot of changes in the offensive line, skilled positions, and defense. The only thing we didn’t address was depth, which will be next, because we were fortunate to be able to do what we did. There is a buzz of excitement around the club. Now, I don’t expect fans to buy into it until they see results. And, I don’t know how quickly they will come, maybe they will or maybe it will a little while. But we have a chance now.

Most importantly, I appreciate your passion. I have been with three great franchises all with famous fans – the Baltimore (not Indianapolis, by the way) Colts, the Cleveland Browns and the New York Football Giants. I have never experienced a love of the team like Giants’ fans. Our only goal is to win for you.

Aug 142000
 
Jacksonville Jaguars 16 – New York Giants 13

Overview: My immediate reaction to the Jack Golden-Fred Lewis fiasco at the end of the game was one of utter disappointment and anger. “Only the (freaking) Giants could lose a game like that!,” I yelled. A few more expletives and storming around the room helped little. Then I calmed down and put things into perspective – this was only a preseason game. It was game largely dominated by the Giants’ first and second teams against a Superbowl contender on their home turf – against a coach that doesn’t like to lose ever in the preseason. If it weren’t for a few dumb errors, the game would not have even have been close. “I’m not going to let one play ruin all the good things I saw out there tonight,” Head Coach Jim Fassel said. “It’s a disappointing way to lose a game, but there were a lot of positives. We came down here, faced the best team in the AFC last year, played them tough on the road. We played hard. That’s what I’ll take from this.”

The starting offense (especially QB Kerry Collins, WR Amani Toomer, HB Tiki Barber, and the offensive line) was particularly sharp. “It’s just another step in progressing,” said Collins. “We saw big-play potential tonight, and that’s good. Amani did a great job of getting to the ball. It was a freak play at the end, and a loss is a loss. But everybody has a good feeling. We’re on our way.”

Still, it would have felt much better had the Giants had won. Perhaps Head Coach Jim Fassel, his assistant coaches, and his players learned a valuable lesson against Jacksonville: when you have a team down, put them away and don’t give them any chance for hope at the end of the game.

Quarterback: Kerry Collins (10-of-19 for 110 yards., 1 touchdown, 1 interception) started off incredibly hot. The Giants racked up 203 yards of offense in the first half and much of this was due to the play of Collins. Indeed, if it weren’t for three dropped passes and a really bad call on a supposed incompletion to Amani Toomer, Collins numbers would have been pretty amazing. Collins drove the Giants 62 yards on their first drive, culminating on 22-yard touchdown pass to Toomer. He started the drive with a 19-yard pass to Toomer down the left sideline. What was amazing about both throws is that both were thrown while he was passing off his back foot – yet both were thrown where only Toomer had a shot at the ball. Kerry’s best looking throw of the night was probably his deep sideline toss to Ike Hilliard that Ike dropped – the ball couldn’t have been thrown any better in terms of touch and accuracy.

Collins and the first team Giants’ offense also continued to show their resiliency in converting key third downs to keep drives alive. Collins read the blitz well and found the open receiver. “I think the first unit was very aggressive,” said Collins. “No matter what happened with the penalties, we went back to the huddle and lined up. For a preseason game, I think we played well.”

Collins started the game going 4-for-5 (including the dropped pass by Ike). He then cooled off a bit. Part of this was due to two more dropped passes and a completed deep pass to Amani that was ruled incomplete. But he also tended to get a bit sloppy with his mechanics (i.e., throwing off his back foot when he wasn’t forced to) – something Phil Simms pointed out very nicely during the game. Worst of all is that we saw one of those bad decision-type plays that haunted him last year when he attempted to force the ball into a well-covered Howard Cross. The ball was easily intercepted. If Collins is truly to emerge as an elite quarterback, he must maintain the consistency of excellent play that he demonstrated in the first quarter, play with proper mechanics, and stop trying to force the ball. The other item that still worries me (and this is something I’ve harped on before and something that Simms also brought up) is that Collins sometimes doesn’t stand strong in the pocket. He sometimes feels pressure that isn’t there or doesn’t show that toughness to take the big hit in order to get the ball off. Still, this is a tad on the nit-picking side. The important thing is come away with is the realization that Kerry Collins looks like the real deal and that he should be up some great numbers this year if the Giants stay healthy.

The Giants didn’t pass much in the second half, preferring to get HB Ron Dayne untracked instead. When QB Jason Garrett (3-of-4 for 23 yards and one interception) did drop back to throw, I felt he did not do a good job of making quick decisions. Perhaps it was because his receivers were not getting open or were running the wrong route. But he looked very Danny Kanell- and Kent Graham-like to me in that he was dancing around back there instead of taking what the defense was giving him. Garrett needs to realize that he is not a scrambler and he needs to dump the ball off if the primary receiver is not open. Jason was also hurt by the fact that he might have had a big play taken away from him when WR Thabiti Davis fell down on his sideline route and the ball was easily intercepted by the safety. Garrett left the game early with a deep cut on his leg, but he should be fine.

Mike Cherry (2-of-3 for 30 yards) didn’t see much work at all. Indeed, it seemed as if the Giants’ coaching staff was more interested in running out the clock and not risking a loss with the ball in Cherry’s hands. And I get the sense that the coaches are correct. Cherry is a bust – plain and simple. He makes even the simplest throws to the running backs looks difficult and almost fumbled the ball away on the goal line by not controlling the snap properly. Mike has been so uninspiring that I would consider waiving him if some other developmental-type prospect becomes available during the final roster cuts.

Running Backs: HB Tiki Barber (7 carries for 83 yards; 4 catches for 27 yards) once again displayed his excellent versatility, quickness, and big-play ability. For all you Tiki detractors out there, you need to get one thing straight – Barber is one of the most explosive and best players on this team. Period. He may drop a pass now and then (like he against Jacksonville) or fumble (this element of his game still makes me a tad nervous). But he is a nightmare for linebackers to cover and once he gets into the open field, he has the speed and moves to go all the way. Sean Payton must be sure to get the ball into his hands about 10 times each and every game. Tiki’s big play of the night was his 55-yard scamper off the right side when he bounced an inside-run outside. Barber also looked sharp on draw plays between the tackles. He does need to be careful that he doesn’t dance too much after-the-catch and take the ball up the field.

HB Ron Dayne (17 carries for 66 yards) really started to scare me in the first half. My original impression was that he looked very sluggish and hesitant to me. But after watching the game tape, it was clear that he didn’t have anywhere to run the ball on his first few carries – the line wasn’t creating space for him. Dayne only picked up ten yards on seven carries in the first half. But in the second half, running against the Jaguar second-team defense and with the Giants’ second team offensive line, Dayne started pick up some decent chunks of yardage (56 yards on ten carries). It appeared as if his confidence was back and he ran much more aggressively when given some space to run through. This culminated in a bruising 16-yard run that is vintage Dayne: showing moves and power and punishing tacklers. “I guess I was running harder in the third quarter,” Dayne said. “I didn’t really get into a rhythm. Just getting into the speed of the game is something I need to improve on. Once I do that, I’ll be okay.” Still, I want to see him run as aggressively and confidently against a first team defense.

I felt Joe Montgomery (13 carries for 37 yards) ran pretty well when given some room to operate. He attacked the line of scrimmage when not forced to dodge tacklers in the backfield. It’s pretty clear that this “open competition” for the starting job is not really transpiring. Joe never got a shot to run the ball with the first team offensive line and it was obvious the major goal was to get Dayne untracked. But Montgomery will be needed this year and he provides quality depth. Interestingly, Joe saw some time at fullback. “There are a lot of things we can do with him there,” Fassel said of Montgomery. “He knows the plays and the blocking schemes, and we can keep him in the backfield and send the halfback out wide. Besides, it’s another way to get him on the field.” Montgomery and Collins didn’t appear to be on the same page on a 3rd-and-5 play inside the redzone. It looked as if Joe was supposed to cut his route short, but he kept going up the field.

Greg Comella did not play and Sean Bennett was a non-factor (they may be hiding him). He had a solid lead block on one Tiki run in the red zone in the first quarter. FB Craig Walendy is not a very athletic or agile player, but he looks like a tough, blue collar-type who made two catches for 16 yards – one a very good catch of a poorly-thrown ball by Mike Cherry. Walendy also seemed to do a nice job of lead blocking when I kept my eye on him. FB Mike Jones didn’t look bad blocking or receiving in his limited playing time.

Tight Ends/H-Backs: It’s painful to watch Howard Cross (1 catch for 3 yards) in the receiving game. When he does catch the ball (like his short reception in the first quarter), he moves as slow as molasses after the catch. Howard needs to turn the ball up the field as soon as he can because he’s not going to elude anyone. Cross also dropped a very easy third-down pass when he was wide open. Why he is even game on third-and-long is a complete mystery to me.

The guy who stood out in the receiving game was Adam Young (2 catches for 30 yards). Young made a great, diving reception of a slightly off-target Collins’ throw. He also made a nice open field block to help spring FB Mike Jones late in the fourth quarter.

Wide Receivers: Amani Toomer (2 catches for 41 yards and one touchdown) is simply on the top of his game right now. His rising confidence is palpable. Amani is a natural pass catcher and now he is using his fine athletic ability to make catches in traffic, catch errant throws, and do damage after the catch. On the “incomplete pass” where Amani was robbed, Kerry (due to pressure) threw the ball behind and on the wrong shoulder of Toomer’s. Amazingly, Amani twisted himself around while still running forward and made catch. It was one of the better catches that I have ever seen a Giants’ wideout make. Toomer was flagged with holding call on that brought back a good-looking Ron Dayne run off of the goal line.

Ike Hilliard (2 catches for 23 yards) had no problems getting open. However, he once again displayed inconsistent hands by dropping a perfectly throw pass from Collins. Neverthless, Ike and Amani present some serious problems for opposing defenses. Can you believe it? The Giants have a downfield passing game!

The other receivers were non-factors. Jurevicus did not play. The running game was the focus in the second half so Ron Dixon, Thabiti Davis, and Brian Alford did not get many chances. Davis (1 catch for 5 yards) fell down on a play where he might have set up the Giants for a score and the pass was intercepted. Garrett never threw at Dixon or Alford. Perhaps he tried to on one of those plays where he was spotted scrambling around.

Offensive Line: I didn’t realize how bad the Giants’ offensive line was last year until I saw this year’s unit. It’s early, but the starting line-up of Lomas Brown, Glenn Parker, Dusty Zeigler, Ron Stone, and Luke Petitgout looks like a very capable unit that does not get rattled – especially in the pass protection department. Kerry Collins wasn’t touched last week and this week he was only hit once on a passing play. Just as encouraging is the lack of penalties. The Giants are not making many mistakes up front and as long as everyone remains healthy, this unit should only get stronger as they become more cohesive.

My biggest concern right now is with the run blocking and whether this group is compatible with Ron Dayne’s style. Tiki does alright with this group because all he needs is a crease and he can use his lateral quickness to his advantage. Dayne needs a hole and he needs his line to generate some movement. The starting offensive line did not generate a great deal of movement for Dayne. The good news is that this group stays at it when run blocking and I spotted many of the linemen continuing to block guys down the field. I saw Glenn Parker take out two down field defenders this way on a Tiki run in the second quarter.

I was also pleased with the work of the second unit, despite the absence of Mike Rosenthal. Heading into camp, depth was a big concern on the line, but Offensive Line Coach Jim McNally seems to be doing a good job of developing guys like LT Pita Elisara, LG Mark Nori, OC Derek Engler, RG Jason Whittle, and RT Chris Ziemann. Chris Bober saw quite a bit of time at left tackle too, but Pita looks like a much more athletic player to me at this position. The second team line dominated the line of scrimmage against the second team Jaguar defense in the third quarter. Jacksonville knew Dayne was coming, but the Giants pounded them all the same. There were some breakdowns and penetration; that is to be expected of a preseason second unit. The run blocking was not as strong in fourth quarter and Montgomery suffered because of it.

Defensive Line: The starters were very strong against the run and flashed some pass rush. DE Michael Strahan gave the Jags’ right tackle problems with his power and he shared a sack with Cedric Jones. Jones picked up another sack and did a good job staying at home on a reverse. He played the run well to his side. He was well-positioned to defend the bounce out by Fred Taylor on the second play of the game, though he missed the tackle. Jones then made a great play later in the drive by taking on the double-team low and upending the back at the line of scrimmage.

Inside, DT Christian Peter continues to impress with tough run defense and an occasional pressure. He did a good job of reading a screen pass on the first drive. Christian did pick up a garbage sack when the QB was tripped up pulling away from the center. On the negative side, he was flagged for roughing the passer. DT George Williams made an incredibly stupid play by hitting the QB well out-of-bounds. This kept a drive alive that resulted in a field goal. Williams did make a very nice play by penetrating into the backfield and nailing the runner for a loss on the goal line at the end of the third quarter.

The reserves played well. I was very impressed with the run defense of DE Jomo Cousins. Cousins has a reputation as an athletic pass rusher, but it was his stoutness against the run on the strong side that stood out to me. He not only held the point of attack, but also made the play on a few occasions. DE Jeremiah Parker picked up a sack on a play where he was knocked down, but stayed with it and demonstrated a nice closing burst. Cornelius Griffin is a very active and quick disrupter who has a bright future if he stays healthy and focused. He made a number of plays against the run in the second half by quickly playing off the block and wrapping up the back. Lavell Ellis helped to collapse the pocket on an inside pass rush in the 4th quarter.

Linebackers: The guy who really surprised me here was MLB O.J. Childress. Childress played most of the game due to injuries to Mike Barrow (who was held out) and Pete Monty (who left early with a broken thumb). Childress, who did not impress me at all in NFL Europe, was spotted all over the field, flying to the ball, and making plays. There was one play near the end of the third quarter where the tight end got down the center of the field for a 21-yard reception and it looked like Brandon Short or Childress blew the coverage. Short didn’t get much of an opportunity to demonstrate his run defense as Jackonville was mainly throwing in the second half. Same story with Jack Golden (who gave up a short reception in front of him). Short did a good job of filling the hole with Griffin on one running play in the third quarter.

Defensive Backs: I was disappointed with the play of Jason Sehorn. To be fair, Jimmy Smith is a very good receiver and he will make his plays. Perhaps my expectation level is too high. But Jason gave Smith a lot of room to make catches in front of him. He also was shaky in the tackling department – as was CB Dave Thomas (ironically, this is supposed to be a strength of the two huge corners). Surprisingly, thus far in both preseason games, opposing starting quarterbacks have gone after Jason, not Thomas. Sehorn also got tangled up with Smith on the first play of the game and was flagged for interference. Thomas’ poor tackle on TE Kyle Brady led to big yardage. Keenan McCardell also caught a couple of passes in front of him on the Jags’ first scoring drive. But aside from those two plays, he wasn’t heard from and that is generally a good sign.

SS Sam Garnes was active in run support. FS Lyle West was fairly quiet and that is probably good.

As for the reserves, it is tough to tell. Was it the quality pass defense that made the Jacksonville passing game look so bad or was it the play of the back-ups on the Jaguars? CB Reggie Stephens was a couple of steps behind his man on the first drive, but fortunately the ball was overthrown – he does close well however. On Jacksonville’s first drive in the second half, Reggie whiffed on a sack chance and then was beaten inside on a 3rd-and-long for a first down. CB Emmanuel McDaniel made a real nice play on a very accurate deep pass to Jacksonville’s first round speedster, R. Jay Soward. He also made a good play in run support. Aside from the last drive, the reserves either covered well or the Jacksonville quarterback couldn’t find the open man because the Jaguars could not move the ball through the air. Jonathan Quinn, the third string QB, was not particularly sharp however. I didn’t see a pass thrown in the direction of Ralph Brown.

The guy who did not stand out was Fred Lewis. Fred played too far off the ball and gave up an easy completion on 4th-and-15 (inexcusable). Lewis was then beaten badly on what should have been a long touchdown on a fly pattern late in the game. He did intercept the last Jaguar pass of the game, but this was marred by his fumble when Jack Golden knocked the ball from his grasp in his attempt to keep him in the end zone. It was somewhat of an understandable play in that Lewis may have feared for being nailed for a safety (I’ve seen it happen in games – it’s a judgement call on the part of the official). Golden was only trying to keep him from running it out.

Special Teams: Not good. On the positive side, kick and punt coverage were improved. But the Giants gave up another huge kick return. Thabiti Davis looked good covering a couple of kicks. Blocking on kick and punt returns continues to be mediocre at best. Brad “Mr. Inconsistent” Maynard punted well until his once-a-game poor effort. Brad Daluiso missed yet another 40-49 yarder (a 42 yarder). Ron Dixon badly muffed two punts – one resulting in a turnover on the four yard line and three points for Jacksonville. Dixon made the muff even worse by trying to pick up the ball instead of falling on it. Just keep in mind that Dave Meggett had the same problem in his first preseason game.


Offensive Line Breakdown

by Chris Jacobs

Grading system – The lineman will be graded each week, the grading system I’m using is the same that we used when I coached. If the player gets the job done he gets a check, if he doesn’t get it done, or is penalized he gets a minus, and any extra effort or spectacular play gets a plus. So a player can actually grade out over 100%, with an outstanding game. (It’s rare).

Luke Petigout – 90% A
Did a great job pass blocking, only had one bad play with pass protection where the DE tried to speed rush around him and he didn’t move his feet resulting in pressure on Collins. Got his only + of the night on Tiki’s 59 yard run. Stayed with his block and after Tiki cut off his ass he left his man and got a piece of the LB. Did an ok job run blocking, I’d say at this point he’s better at pass protection than run blocking but did a good job overall. There was one toss sweep away from him that he had to block the DT lined up over Stone, Stone went after the LB and Luke tried cut the DT and missed him. It was a tough block to make but he missed him.

Ron Stone – 93% A
Played solid, didn’t do anything spectacular but rarely made a mistake. There was one toss sweep to Dayne that he missed the LB, and one pass play that his man got around him but Dusty Ziegler helped him out which I’ll mention more about below.

Dusty Ziegler – 100% A+
This guy is good. He didn’t play a perfect game, he had four – plays but four + plays made up for that. Twice in pass protection he abandoned his man to help out the guards (Stone once, Parker once). Seems like he has good football instincts, sees the guy next to him needs help and gets there. This is a sign that they are meshing as a unit. Also got a + on Tiki’s big run, stayed with the block and fought his guy hard, didn’t give up and gave Tiki just enough time to cut it outside.

Glen Parker – 84% B
I was tough on him, you’ll be surprised to know that he got a minus on the TD pass (he was too high and was pushed back into KC, that was also the play that DZ helped him out) and he got a minus on Tiki’s big gainer (he missed the backer, although it didn’t matter). Then there was a toss sweep that he and Stone both missed the LB’s and Parkers man made the tackle on a play that could have gone for 10+ yards. (I’ll mention more about this in Dayne comments). All around did a good job, his one plus came on an inside running play where he put his man on roller skates and drove him about 4 yards off the ball. Tends to get a little high on pass blocking.

Lomas Brown – 87% B+
Solid, no glaring mistakes, does a great job with influence blocks (pretending it’s a pass play and backpedaling off the snap causing the DE to head upfield taking him out of the play). Usually used on a sprint draw, which they ran successfully in the second half) . Did a great job pass blocking, I think he’ll do well with the speed rushers where Oben struggled last season. (e.g. Rice)

Some other thoughts –
Overall an upgrade over last years O-line, (although Gragg may be the worst tackle of the modern era so anything is better) if they stay healthy expect good things.

I like what Payton is doing, last week I mentioned the trips right formation that they ran a sweep to the strong side, well this week they ran weakside, I expect some play action out of it in the future keeping the defense off balance.

Kerry Collins – Looks very, very good, has to stop throwing off his back foot, I’m sure QB guru JF will put an end to that.

Ron Dayne – Don’t let the first half #’s fool you, the Jag LB’s were flying at him in the first half (that’s why play action was working so well). Plus there were 2 plays that were very poorly blocked when he got the ball, one being the toss sweep that Stone and Parker whiffed on the backers. Not only did he run the ball well in the second half, he threw some good blocks. I was hoping for Shawn Alexander but I’m starting to like him.

Joe Montgomery – Used as a fullback in the first half, did an ok job, but he’s no fullback. Did a good job running the ball in the second half, has speed to get outside, and runs tough.

Toomer – May be vacationing in Hawaii in Feb 01

Hilliard – Catch the damn ball son.

Corrections from last week’s comments – Two people were kind enough to point out some mistakes I made last week. One was a missed blitz pickup that I said Comella missed, it was actually Bennett. It was also pointed out to me that I said Comella was “manhandled” on 2 separate occasions, I went back and watched the tape, if I would have graded that game like I did this week, he would have actually got checks on both of the plays I mentioned. It was an unfair assessment.


Wide Receiver Breakdown

by Emil Thomann

After watching the game this weekend, despite our newest preseason version of “the fumble”, I have to say I am more than pleased with the play of our WRs so far. There is little doubt that for this offense to be effective Kerry Collins must play well and for him to do this he must have competent and threatening WRs. After Friday Night, there is little doubt in my mind that Amani Toomer and Ike Hilliard can be just that if they are not already.

Lets first start with Toomer. Amani opened the game with a great catch up the sideline for 19 yards. On this play Toomer changed his body position, and used his body to shield the defender away while catching the ball with his hands and getting both feet in bounds. A truly athletic play, showing great balance. The pass was not a perfect throw by Collins, but he got it to where only Toomer could catch it.

Toomer outdid his athletic first reception by catching a 22 yard TD pass on 3rd down. Again the Jags blitzed and Toomer was matched up one on one with the corner. If you saw the replay you could see that Toomer recognized the blitz and cut his route down appropriately. He was running a post corner route which is usually 8yards up 3-5 in and then out. You can see that Toomer shortened his first stem to 5 and his second to 2-3. The Corner was completely turned around and had it been a perfect pass by Collins it was a sure TD. However, Collins was under pressure again and while he did not put the perfect pass out there he put where only Toomer could get it. Toomer is looking over his inside shoulder (he should not be on a post corner) notices the ball is behind and outside, and turns his body to accept the pass, and shield the defender. Once he catches the ball he showed great awareness in getting to the pylon.

Unfortunately this where Toomer’s night pretty much ends. The deep pass, that definitely looked like a catch to me was a thing of beauty. Toomer had his man beat again, but Collins was hit as he threw. The ball was behind and on Toomer’s left (he was looking to his right). Toomer adjusts his body yet again turning to the reaching out and snaring the ball. I felt that he had it clearly tucked away and could not believe that the ref upheld his call. But props to Fassel for having the guts and doing the smart thing. Props to Payton for taking a deep shot, and to Collins for taking the opportunity to throw deeep in the face of a blitz and on another day that ball is caught for a highlight reel play.

The only down side of Toomer’s game was his holding penalty on Dayne’s best run of the first half. There is no excuse for a WR to hold ever, but on on the bright side when Toomer came back to the huddle the whole team and especially Hilliard lifted him up and let him forget about it. All in all if Toomer plays like this often this season, he is a shoe in for the Pro Bowl.

Ike Hilliard had a good game, really the only bad spot was the dropped ball. The pass was a perfect throw from Collins, but Hilliard let it hit him in the pads and it bounced off him. Ike’s only problem is confidence in his catching ability. Toomer has it, he reaches out for the ball every time. He trusts his hands. Ike is still a little hesitant, but it will come.

Hilliard had a great reception on a third down conversion. It was an excellent slant pattern against a blitzing Jags D. Personally this is the kind of route I would want Hilliard to run more in this situation. The Giants also kept Hilliard in motion much of the game which I would also do more often. Keeping Hilliard in motion keeps him from getting jammed and lets the offense run more smoothly. Also, it obviously keeps the D guessing. With Toomer and Hilliard I feel the Giants can convert those long third downs that have plagued them in the past, and they can also take it to the house. The most telling happening of the game was when the Jags D had to call a timeout because they did not recognize our offensive set. I know it is only preseason, but that tells me we are now less predictable.

Unfortunately the reserves did not have much of an opportunity to shine because the Giants were working on the ground game. But Davis made a nice catch in traffic for 5, and blocked very well. He totally took the legs out from under the DB one time. I like this guys chances to make the team. He is big, fearless, decent hands, and plays specials.

Sadly Brian Alford did not get much of a chance to rectify last weeks debacle. I saw that he went in motion often, which could be good for him too to let him get into his route easier, and he ran better routes. But I think the ball was only thrown his way one time. I really feel for Alford. He could help this team if he could put it together, but you can tell it is a mental thing with him and not a physical. I want Alford to succeed but it appears his days are numbered, and he is not seeing many chances in a game situation to change that.

Dixon had a terrible night that I think we all should forget. He did not see the ball in the passing game, and his punt returning is better left undiscussed. But it is plain to see this guy can play in this league and I wish they would give him the ball in the game. I would like to see a WR screen run with him, which would take advantage of his instincts and quickness and get him involved easily.

I consider Kevin Prentiss practice squad material at best. All in all the Giants WR played well last Friday. Well enough to win, but we all now what happened there. Toomer is stepping up and Ike gets better everyday is seems. There are many teams which would love our two starting WRs, and that is something the Giants have never been able to say. This season should see a re-birth of the running game, but an explosive passing attack is going to be a beautiful compliment to that ground attack.


Defensive Front Seven Breakdown

by Jim Jacobs

I do not have the coaching credentials that my brother (Chris Jacobs – who provided BBI with the offensive line breakdown) has but I have played both high school and college football and like my brother regularly tape and review Giants games. I mainly played middle linebacker, hence defense is my first love and the area that I am most knowledgeable in. I will say that I am not that familiar with coverages so I will mainly limit my comments to the front seven.

Defensive Line:

Christian Peter – Roughing the passer penalty not withstanding he played a very impressive game. He was is usual strong self against the run and showed more pass rushing skills than last year. Ran crossing stunts with George Williams throughout the first half which the Jags o-line had difficulty blocking. This stunt allowed him to come free on the roughing the passer penalty. It’s my belief that Cornelius Griffin is pushing him and he’s turning the engine up another notch to meet the challenge.

George Williams – Played fairly well except for the bonehead roughing the passer penalty. There were a couple of occasions at the point of attack where is played to high and got pushed off the line of scrimmage but made a great play on the goalline stand darting into the backfield to make the tackle.

Michael Strahan – Credited with half a sack with Cedric Jones. In my opinion it was more of a coverage sack. Brunell was looking to hit the WR on his right on either a slant or post pattern that Dave Thomas had covered. He made a great inside move where the Jag O-Lineman was called for a “hands to the face” penalty and flushed Brunell out of the pocket a couple of other times. Played well for his first game action coming off the back problems.

Cedric Jones – Played a great game against the run. He really controls his man at the point of attack. On a sweep outside he grabbed the tackle and turned him inside so he could see into the backfield and peeled off when the back got to him to make the tackle. I would like him to put more pressure on the QB’s but the majority of the time Brunell was taking only three step drops.

Cornelius Griffin – I have to admit that I didn’t watch a lot of the other reserves because I couldn’t take my eyes off this guy. When he first came into the game he flashed into the backfield on at least three separate occasions to get a hand on the RB or disrupt the play. The Jags then double-teamed him on almost every play. Even then he was able to push into the pocket on passing plays. He made an outstanding athletic play on the goal-line stand when his man cut him to the ground, he got up, moved to his left and made the tackle for only a 1 or 2 yard gain. Getting him in the second round was a steal. I will say that we are very lucky he did not blow out his knee when the fullback chopped blocked him while he was engaged with the guard. That could have been a huge loss.

Again, I didn’t see too much of the other backups but I do remember Jomo making some nice plays. Overall this unit has the potential to be very disruptive. I think they will be very good against the run and hopefully they’ll be able to generate a pass rush to protect the secondary a little. We will have a nice DT rotation with Hamilton, Peter, Griffin and Williams.

Linebackers:

Jessie Armstead – I won’t say much about #98, we all know what he’s capable of but I will say that I didn’t see any effects of the ankle injury. On two occasions he took the lead block on dive plays and absolutely blew up the fullback. Big-time collisions.

Pete Monty – Was not in the game long. I remember more from the Bear game than the Jags game. He is very quick into the hole and takes on lead blocks very well. Hopefully he won’t be out an extended period of time. However, his replacement….

O.J. Childress – Wow. I didn’t know he had the capability to play like that. He was very active and was running sideline to sideline but there was one play that really stood out. Jax ran a dive off-tackle in Giant territory. Childress knifed thru the line and made the tackle for no-gain. Never hesitated. I hope all the pieces are starting to fall into place for this kid because with the mounting injuries to this unit we might have to rely him sometime during the season.

Ryan Phillips – I didn’t see anything different from him in this game than I have in other games, all things that have already been posted somewhere on BBI. At the point of attack he catches blocks instead of attacking them, doesn’t fight off blocks well once his man engages him. There was not one play where he stood out. Of the 11 starters I think this is our weakest point. Unfortunately I don’t think the backup is ready to step up…..

Brandon Short – He looks confused. I have read some things about Arrington and how he is struggling because he was allowed to free lance at Penn State and that may be the case with Short also. While his instincts look sound and he has speed to cover the whole field as evidenced by him chasing down the Jags QB on a scramble, I don’t think he’s ready to start.

Jack Golden – Looks more ready than Short. Forget the play at the end of the game. It’s was a preseason game and a learning experience for a guy with a lot of talent. I want to go back and look at him more (again I was trying to pry my eyes off of Griffin) but he has great speed and a knack for being around the ball. I will try to watch him closer in the Jet game on Friday.

It will be very interesting to watch this unit when Barrow is healthy. I will say that we are very solid in the middle and in my mind a significant upgrade over Widmer even without Barrow. However, we must stay healthy.

Overall the defense has played extremely well in both preseason games. We faced two potentially explosive offenses and the first team defense shut both down. We have been extremely good against the run, without Barrow and Hamilton so we should only get better. I am holding out hope that Sehorn is just getting his feet wet after missing almost two full years. Once 9/3 rolls around he can’t be giving the kind of cushions he was giving to the Jax WR’s. I haven’t seen anything from Dave Thomas yet that has me overly concerned although I can see how small darting WR’s will give him some trouble. He should get a good test against the small fast Jet WR’s on Friday.


 THE NEW MILLENNIUM GIANTS

By David Oliver

The curtain is about to come up on the 2000 season NY Giants, with their shiny helmets, NY logo and red and white traveling outfits. They have been reskinned and reshaped in such a way that the players still need introductions to each other; the Coach has become a New Age Leader, taking the boys out on golf outings and to the movies. Well, at least they went to see GLADIATOR, which should have taught them a thing or two about leadership – stand together and we live. (BBI, listen up!!!)

Ernie Accorsi has graciously provided us with some rationale for the off season maneuvers, but in 10 questions it is difficult to gauge the soul of the man; there have been so many reviews of the Jax game and summer camp that on re-reading them all I am convinced that every player and coach we have is a bum and should be consigned to the Arena League immediately, or is a Pro Bowl caliber player or Coach – take your pick We have been enlightened as to the new spirit on the team and leadership in all of its many forms. But is there anyone out there who can actually say he or she knows and understands this team?

I watched the Jax game on TV as many of you and I was struck by the difference in vision from the telly and the field. You see things differently. There is a much better view of the line and backfield, but a terrible view of how the play develops down field. If you suffer from ADD, the second half can drive you crazy, and the incessant babbling of the commentators and commercial breaks can give you ADD. Although, I must confess that I enjoy Phil Simms, who brings a refreshing honesty to the booth.

I had a lot of time to think about that game and the coming season from my camper berth in Loudonville, Ohio, where I spent the weekend covering the Miller 200 at Mid-Ohio racetrack. Central Ohio is one of those places where it must be great to raise a family- but I don’t think I could ever live there. Towns like Hayesville, with flags on the porch, rolling fields and hay, creeks and quiet, quiet, quiet. I stay at the Mohican Reservation Campground which borders the Mohican Wilderness. The Mohican River wanders through it and days are filled with canoes up and down its length, then the campfires, and by 10, silence. I had to get up by 4 a.m. to drive to Cleveland to catch my flight home, and I was pretty hyper about getting up. I bought a travel alarm and set it, but I didn’t need it. I had one of those mystical experiences that occur in such places. At 3 o’clock in the morning, exactly three, I heard a short barking like noise right outside my door. At first it sounded like a deer. But it became more insistent and then piercing- it was either a screech owl or a hawk, it was right outside and it kept up until I was fully awake. Then, it just flew off. Keep in mind that I have been here several times and never heard such a creature. There are tents and campers throughout and usually these birds won’t come so close, and make such a racket. I felt its presence, and I was thankful.

Ok, Ok, I know, what’s that got to do with football, and there he goes again, wasting our time with this silly bullshit. Let’s set the record straight here and now and be done with it for the season. Eric, the reporter coaches and everyone else who “reports” for you on this site gives you damn good accounting of what went down in practice and the games. I am the columnist. I’ll add some Xs and Os, but for me the NY Giants is about the stories, not the words. So hear this! If you don’t like it, don’t read it. If you are a premature ejaculator, get therapy. If you don’t like foreplay and lovemaking, find yourself an 18 year old. As Christina Aguilera sings: “If you want to be with me, there’s a price to pay. I’m a genie in a bottle, you gotta rub me the right way.” Genie in a Bottle. What brought this about? Well, I’m sitting here in my little home office, surrounded by helmets, books and pictures and I glance up. There is a photo album from the glory days, Bill Parcells is the cover photo. I pick it up and page through and look at LT, Harry Carson, Gary Reasons, Phil Simms; they are in camp at Fairleigh. Then there are photos from a Giants/Jets game, deja vu all over again.

The I’m reading my local paper and a young lady who writes for the paper, well, young for me because 25 years ago I hung out with her parents, writes about stories. She says, “I’d be deluding myself if I were to assume that what catches folks’ attention is my prose…What matters are the stories. I reach into my pocket and pull out some tale…Then someone calls and pulls out a story…What triggers the response, I think, is the intensity with which people lay claim to their piece…To tell the truth, I am delighted whenever anyone calls to say a paragraph I wrote caused them to look out their window differently, linger a little longer in conversation…or recall…”

See, this is how I view BBI and the NY Football Giants. It is my link to something bigger, and I hope for a few of you, it is that same sense of community that brings you here. Lord knows, there’s plenty of pure football here, and elsewhere, and many of the whiners here are about as loyal as an iguana, here today, gone elsewhere tomorrow. This is a business, but it is a business built on family and community; we love our Giants, we remember the corner bakeries in Little Italy or the delis in Brooklyn, the Stage Plays, the porn shops, the subways, the Village and the Jersey suburbs and shore. The Giants are not just a football team, they are a bond, a link, a connection, and that’s what Ernie meant when he said NY Giants fans had intensity.

I’ve been to camp once, seen one game in person, and watched one on television, and to tell you the truth I am unsure of what I am seeing. Looking through my photo album, I see Phil Simms about to get knocked into next week, but holding the ball up in position, focused downfield, ready to throw and unconcerned about the whack. Then I close my eyes and I see Kerry Collins in the Jax game, he looks downfield, counts to two and he is backpedaling. But everyone raves over his talent, his new found leadership abilities. This is a 5th year player, with potential – kind of like me, he is in danger of becoming one of yesterday’s bright young men. Am I anti-Kerry? No. Someone in a thread following the game said, “Is this guy Oliver a Kent Graham man?” No, because he is a Steeler now. But he studied Phil, and for all his inadequacies, he was a leader because he would take one for the team. Forget him, he’s history. The question is this, has Kerry shown enough to convince you that he is more than potential? Maybe so for the premies among you, BUT FOR ME STATS ARE IRRELEVANT – scores count. I’m one of those orgasm guys, TDs are like orgasms, the rest is just build up. To date, KC has shown no ability to find the end zone and thus I question his sainthood.. When he consistently throws for 3 scores a game, I will vote for his canonization

Next up is the sense of urgency on the coaching staff. Well, excuse me, 8 points and what, 12 points, don’t seem to indicate urgency in my book. Like the old Star Kist add said, “Charlie…doesn’t want tuna with good taste, they want tuna that tastes good.” When is the team going to show the new offense; when are the coaches going to take off the wraps? Are they waiting for half the squad to hit the IR, and then tell us they couldn’t implement the schemes because of the injuries?

Jax – Toomer looks Pro Bowl throughout. He repeatedly makes nice catches, difficult catches and I’m beginning to hear these drumbeats, “just throw it up and let your receiver make a play.” So as sharp as KC looked, Toomer looked sharper. Strahan and CJ looked awesome. They were consistently in the backfield, forming a nice pincer tandem. OK so there was no Boselli and Searcy, but then, most teams don’t have Boselli and Searcy. CJ played his best game as a Giant. From my vantage point, he did not always go straight up field. He had some nice direct tangents into the backfield. Hopefully he can keep it up. The middle of the line is solid. You want leadership, look no further than Christian Peter, who is stepping it up. The man has intensity, grit. Cornelius Griffin looks ready to step in and step up. Look for these two guys to inspire the D and together with Mike Barrow and Jessie to give us a kamikaze front 7.

Tiki, Tiki, Tiki, what movie have the Giants been watching. The Tiki looks great, the Tiki has stepped up, the Tiki is spokesman for the offense. He loves JF, he loves his role, he loves KC, he loves the new harmony; he is so corporate, it makes me want to puke. But he is the Tiki Barber I remember at Wahoo U, he’s good, he’s damn good. Hey, if he gets 100 yards on his 15 touches, so what if he’s the poster boy for karma.

The second quarter was really interesting. Dayne stuffed in the backfield, Collins misses on deep out, Toomer looked unhappy about something; Then a punt, fumble, Giants special teams swarm to the ball. KC hits a nice pass down the middle, Toomer makes a beautiful adjustment, the zebras get in the act. JF has a challenge, loses again. Then Tiki up the middle, Tiki up the middle for a 1st down – there was a good hole in the middle, which leads to the line. Dusty Z may just be the real thing. He is active, moves laterally and clears space. Next a screen to Tiki, but no one blocked the end on the play, Tiki again for a few yards. Stone hands Cross strikes again; JF not happy with this drive. Even Brad D pulls a kick, no points. The Giants showed some new offensive formations, including the wing stacked receivers, but there wasn’t as much motion as I expected. Again, the commercial ad “Follow the evidence, there’s always a clue” What does this tell us about the offense 2000?

Cousins has a nice defensive stop. Jamie Martin makes the Giants look bad, roughing call on Peter, nice stop by Thomas, good pursuit by Cousins, nice defense on a draw (looked like Golden), drive stalled because of offensive interference. Jax downs punt on 5.

Now the Great Dayne begins to show some moves. My son is again heckling that he is slow, I say hmpph!, this is a freight train, give him time. Then Dayne pushes the pile. Toomer showed spirit on that play, running back and pulling guys off the pile – again leadership. Collins nice pass, Adam Young, nice catch, laid out for it. This may be a case of a guy stepping up, he wants it, good for him. Mark Thomas may have better hands, but young looks to be the more complete tight end. Dayne runs out of the deep I, not impressive. This play looks as if it will only work late in the game when the D has been beaten down. Dayne needs to run up closer to the line. Collins tried to force one in to Cross – Kerry, what are you thinking? Fortunately, it wasn’t intercepted.

Jax ball. CJ in the backfield again, Peter makes two nice tackles. Third-and-15, receiver wide open, no defender in the picture, Jessie is the closest cover guy. Cousins makes another nice hit and stop, Sehorn makes a nice tackle.

On the kickoff, Dixon carries back to the 25; he is around this area on his kickoff returns. Punt returns are awful, 2 fumbles, one lost. Middle hand off to Tiki, then Collins to Tiki, another Collins to Tiki, Collins to Hilliard, but Collins is starting to show happy feet. Even Phil Simms is tempering his praise and pointing out miscues which seem to be visibly disappointing Phil. Collins also showing some bad decision making. Good stats but he was losing intensity as the half ended.

In the second half, the Great Dayne came alive as our second team again bested theirs. Garrett threw to Thabiti Davis, then to Walendy, who did too much dancing, but did show some stuff. Dayne pushed for a 1st down. Then he got behind the big guys and pushes forward. Pita Elisara shows some nice blocking skills – could he be better suited to guard?

On D, Griffin shot in for a tackle, Quinn was flushed and chased out by Short, Cousins was in on the chase, but couldn’t close for the kill, then Jax hit up the middle on a 3rd- and-17. McDaniel made a tackle, then a great rush with push up the middle and pressure from the ends. Coverage by McDaniel for no catch. Dixon fumbles punt. Griffin was just mauling the Jax second unit line.

Dayne was rumbling now, running behind Elisara. JOMO made a beautiful run around end, then slammed in the backfield for a loss. Dayne again up the middle, Dayne again for nothing, Bober standing up looking around. Jax was yelling “run, run, run”, Dayne up the middle for positive yardage, Garrett sacked.

Jax next possession much better. Our second/third unit losing intensity, but stiffens on some good rotation and holds.

In the fourth quarter, players were getting a look. Adam Young is receiving some attention, JOMO and Walendy are out there a lot. Can JOMO be a fullback? An old style, belly carrying, dive fullback. I think, yes, but I wouldn’t want to see his talent wasted by making him a blocker. Reminds me a little of Kenyon Rasheed, or was it Rasheed Kenyon? Damn foggy memory. Walendy couldn’t handle his man on one play- looks like a better runner than blocker. On D, Jeremiah Parker showed his speed again and this young man will make the team. There was a safety blitz, great call. It didn’t get there, but it’s a nice wrinkle. Prentiss back on punt returns – someone is going to make the team as a punt returner. Cherry came in and looked decent until the fumbled snap. JOMO showed speed and power around end, then stopped short by 2 inches.

Chicago and Jax have shown that the offense can move the ball, but again has red zone-itis. The line looks solid, led by Ziegler – it is a blitzkrieg line, built for a mobile attack. But it is time for the QB to stand up and make his presence felt. Hell, Jonathan Quinn showed me more gumption. The running backs are a solid tripartite attack mechanism. Tiki is surprisingly effective up the middle, Dayne around the end. JOMO is just going to come in and pound the hell out of people. Howard Cross, poor Howard, is again totally ineffective as a receiver, great as a blocker. Young may have some talent, he certainly has will to succeed. The receivers – the Giants are deep in receivers, could easily keep 7 if they had room.

All past is prologue – the Jets game will provide a lot of the answers. Another statistically sound, points poor performance and it will be another lonely winter. It’s time to unleash the attack. Go, Giants!!!

(Box Score – New York Giants at Jacksonville Jaguars, August 11, 2000)
Aug 092000
 

Approach to the Game – New York Giants at Jacksonville Jaguars, August 11, 2000: As I said last week, the first preseason game is usually nothing more than an official-looking scrimmage. The second and third preseason games are far more serious. These are the two games where coaches want to see their team start putting things together. As evidence of this, Head Coach Jim Fassel intends his starters to play half the game. Keep in mind that fearing injury, starters rarely play long in the final game.

Playing on the road in Jacksonville, a Super Bowl contender, is a great test for the G-Men. The Jaguars usually rough up the Giants pretty good – both in the pre- and regular seasons. It will be interesting to see how well the Giants compete.

The biggest concern, of course, is coming out of the game with no injuries.

Giants on Offense: There is absolutely no love lost between QB Kerry Collins (former starter in Carolina) and Jaguar defensive coordinator Dom Capers (former head coach with the Panthers). It was Capers who accused Collins of quitting on the Panthers and his teammates – a statement that was the catalyst that led to a series of developments that found Kerry coming to New York. Consciously or subconsciously, Capers may blame Collins for his own ultimate demise as head coach. And since Capers is considered a “guru” of the blitz-happy zone defense, I honestly look for him to come after Collins hard and try to hurt him – both mentally and physically.

Regardless of the motivation, make no mistake about it, Jacksonville takes preseason games more seriously than most and will be bringing the blitz from a variety of angles. This game will be a great test for the new Giants’ offensive line. Can this group, with three new faces and a fourth playing at a new position, show enough cohesion this early to effectively pick up stunts and blitzes? However, if sacks do result, don’t immediately blame the offensive line. Often times it is the responsibility of the running back to pick up the blitz. Blitz pick-ups are usually very difficult for inexperienced players so it will be particularly interesting to see how Ron Dayne, Joe Montgomery, and Sean Bennett fare in this department. “I think we’ll get a heavy dose of dog and blitz and other things we need to handle,” Fassel said. “It’ll be interesting to see how we handle that.”

Also, often times blitzers come “hot” – that is, there is no man assigned to block him because there are more rushers than blockers. In this situation, it becomes the duty of the quarterback and the receivers to read the play correctly. The receivers normally have to break off their routes and the quarterback has to get rid of the ball very quickly. There is little time to act. Kerry Collins’ decision-making process will be put to the test. “I think it’s a great opportunity to work on a lot of things,” said Collins. “You just see so many more exotic blitzes these days. That’s just the way it’s going to be. We have to be prepared for everything and be ready when the opportunity presents itself to take advantage of the blitz. It will give me a chance to work on getting the right read. We have to work on it, because we’re going to see it.”

The other major focus offensively will be the competition between Dayne and Montgomery. I feel that Joe still has a legitimate shot at being the starter on opening day. Dayne is still learning and therefore may be more hesitant. Joe wants to prove to the world that he is the real deal. It would not surprise me at all if Montgomery did not out-perform Dayne in the short-term. Montgomery needs to demonstrate a feel for finding holes; Dayne needs to break off some big runs. Of course, regardless of who carries the ball, the men up front must create some holes. The starting offensive line was far sharper last week blocking for the pass than the run. The zone blitz can also be highly disruptive against the run as it can cause confusion among the offensive line, tight ends, and fullbacks on who to block. But if the play is executed properly, good running teams can hurt the zone blitz badly.

Offensive sideshows include the impact of the injury situation. With tight ends Pete Mitchell and Dan Campbell out of the game, Mark Thomas and Adam Young may get a big chance to make their mark. Joe Jurevicius and Greg Comella are also out – two guys who would normally help to alleviate the loss of Mitchell. Thus, we should see a lot of Sean Bennett. Then there is the battle for the fifth wide receiver spot. With Jurevicius sidelined, Brian Alford and Thabiti Davis could see a great deal of action in the second half. It will also be interesting to see how much action Ron Dixon gets with the first unit with the injury to Joe.

Giants on Defense: The Giants’ defense is still not at full strength due to injuries to DT Keith Hamilton, MLB Mike Barrow, and FS Shaun Williams. The big concern on defense right now is the situation in the secondary, especially at free safety. How long will Williams be out? That is not known for sure. His replacement, Lyle West, was not overly impressive last week. He needs to get better fast or the Giants need to find a veteran guy after roster cuts. CB Dave Thomas returns to his old stomping grounds and should be tested often by superb wideouts Jimmy Smith and Keenan McCardell. Depth is also an issue at corner and this will be another opportunity to gauge the progress of Emmanuel McDaniel, Reggie Stephens, Ralph Brown, and Andre Weathers.

Another area to focus on in pass defense is the play of the linebackers in coverage. SLB Ryan Phillips will be matched up on TE Kyle Brady for much of the first half. MLB Pete Monty must also show that he can provide quality coverage against top players. A good pass rush will help. Will Defensive Coordinator John Fox come after Mark Brunell as it is anticipated that Capers will come after Collins? If he does, watch out for blitzes from the defensive backs and linebackers. It’s too bad that Barrow isn’t playing because I think he’s going to have a good year dogging the quarterback.

Up front, with Hamilton out, impressive looking DT Cornelius Griffin should see quite a bit of action. It was reported in one of the papers this week that Griffin may see some time at defensive end too. Christian Peter is playing well, but the Giants need another defensive tackle to step it up. Ryan Hale and George Williams are the focus there. At end, Michael Strahan returns. Will he flash his excellent play of 1998 or disappointing play of 1999? Cedric Jones must get more heat on the passer. And the Giants really need Jomo Cousins to provide quality depth.

The Giants’ defense normally plays very well against the ground game, but they will be tested Friday night by superstud Fred Taylor.

As for the reserves, the guy I want to see step it up is LB Brandon Short.

Giants on Special Teams: The coverage units need to get a lot better soon or the Giants will be in deep trouble. Too many players were out of their lanes and no one showed that headhunter mentality of former Giant coverage greats such as Larry Flowers and Reyna Thompson. As Fassel said last week, jobs will be earned or lost by play on special teams. These young men had better understand that point right now. Ron Dixon also needs to stop dancing around on his kick returns and head straight up the field.

Aug 082000
 
Chicago Bears 20 – New York Giants 8

Overview: Given that this was the first preseason game, there was a lot of positives to note from the Giants’ 20-8 loss to the Chicago Bears. First was the play of the first team offensive line, which performed very well blocking for the pass. Kerry Collins didn’t make the dumb mistake (other than a botched snap from center). The first team defense, aside from a couple of breakdowns in the secondary, also looked fairly sharp despite missing a number of key components. Most remarkable was the lack of penalties – not only because this was the first game, but also because of the complexity of the new motion offense.

The bad news? The Giants may have suffered a devastating loss if TE Pete Mitchell did in fact tear up his left knee. Special teams continue to be a disaster. There appeared to be a number of breakdowns among the reserve safeties. Mike Cherry and Brian Alford look like busts.

Quarterback: The numbers (15-out-18 passes completed for 117 yards, no interceptions) look slightly better than Kerry Collins actually played, but Kerry played quite well. He had to make his receivers really work on a few passes that were thrown behind the ideal target point, but he got the ball there in a very decisive manner. Most importantly he didn’t make the “dumb” throw that haunted him a bit in 1999. Most impressive was his ability to convert on third down, including a 20-yard pass to Ike Hilliard on 3rd-and-ten and a 29-yard pass to Amani Toomer on 3rd-and-16. The first team had little trouble moving the ball, but stalled in the red zone. I’m not overly worried because teams generally don’t look real sharp in the red zone in the preseason and often times, coaches hide their best red zone plays then too. One area that concerns me a bit is the center-quarterback exchange. Collins had some problems with this when I was in camp with Dusty Zeigler and he had another botched exchange on Saturday night. Perhaps a comfort zone hasn’t developed there yet with those two players.

Jason Garrett (9-of-16 for 79 yards and one interception) played as advertised – pretty sharp on the short stuff, but he doesn’t have a real strong arm and this limits the kind of passes he can throw. On his deep throws, he does put a lot of air under the ball (except for the last pass right before the end of the half to Ron Dixon) and this does allow the receiver to make a play on the ball – as evidenced by Garrett’s first pass to Dixon (which was ruled out of bounds) and his later completion to Joe Jurevicius. Garrett’s worse play of the night was an intermediate throw over the middle that he tried to squeeze over the linebacker, but the backer made a great athletic play and intercepted the ball. His best throw may have been the touch pass to Dayne out of the backfield over another linebacker. On a side note, it was nice to see the camaraderie between Collins and Garrett on the sidelines.

Mike Cherry (11-of-24 for 124 yards and an interception) was pretty bad once again. He warmed up a bit towards the end of the game when he seemed to be in sync with WR Thabiti Davis. He was also victimized by a Brian Alford drop of a nice pass which should have resulted in a touchdown. But too often, Mike “birddogged” his primary receiver, threw into double coverage, and badly overthrew his intended target. Mike has been in New York for three years now and shows no significant signs of improvement. His pick, which was thrown with a man in his face, was a very poor decision and resulted in a turnover in the redzone. Too often, it appeared as if Mike had already decided where to throw the ball regardless of whether his man was open or not.

Wide Receivers: Starters Amani Toomer and Ike Hilliard look ready to go. It’s nice to see that the Giants finally have some established receiving threats that can cause problems for opposing defenses, even in obvious passing situations – such as Collins’ third-and-long completions to Toomer and Hilliard mentioned above. One got the sense in the Chicago game that the Giants could have really put the Bears away early if they wanted to employ these two to their fullest advantage. Instead, it looked as if Head Coach Jim Fassel and Offensive Coordinator Sean Payton wanted to work on the short passing game to the running backs.

Joe Jurevicius had a good game with a nicely played 23-yard reception on a jump ball from Garrett down the left sideline. He also made a tough catch on a shorter throw later in the game. I would have prefered to have seen the Giants use Jurevicius on their 4th-and-goal attempt that fell incomplete rather than Hilliard. To me, Joe is built for those kind of short, lofted passes in the end zone. The Giants took a few shots with Ron Dixon deep, but the first attempt was competed out-of-bounds (Dixon may have run his route too close to the sidelines) and on the other chances, the quarterback couldn’t get him the ball. Where Dixon really showed his explosiveness was on his 17-yard double reverse where he just exploded up field and almost broke it.

Brian Alford had a terrible night. He dropped two passes, including a sure touchdown from Mike Cherry. Brian needs to show that he belongs by making plays when given the opportunity. He did not deliver on Saturday night.

One guy who may have played himself into the picture is WR Thabiti Davis – a NFL Europe Player. Davis isn’t very fast, but he combines good size and hands. Davis also showed his toughness by leaving the game with a stinger, but immediately coming back in on the next play and make a reception over the middle. He finished the night with six catches for 84 yards. Kevin Prentiss and Anthony Tucker didn’t stand out.

Tight Ends: If Mitchell is done for the year, the loss is huge. He is the only tight end on the roster (though he is more of an H-Back) who has demonstrated ability to cause defenses problems in the receiving department. TE Howard Cross made a reception over the middle on the Giants’ first drive. The ball wasn’t thrown in Dan Campbell’s direction, but both he Cross blocked fairly well.

Offensive Line: Not bad – not bad at all. Indeed, the Giants largely controlled the line of scrimmage. The Giants took an 8-3 halftime lead largely because of this. At halftime, the Giants held the edge in first downs (12 to 3), total yardage (215 to 70) and time of possession (22:05 to 7:55). The first team unit performed very well in the pass blocking department. In fact, Collins may not have been hit and he had plenty of time to throw. The run blocking was not as strong, but it was by no means terrible. There were a few breakdowns where there was penetration, but that is to be expected in the first preseason game. I thought both tackles played particularly well. The only penalty was a holding call on RG Ron Stone.

The second unit wasn’t that bad either. Mike Rosenthal didn’t play, but guys like Chris Ziemann, Pita Ellisara, Jason Whittle, Mark Nori, and Derek Engler held their own. Again, it was the pass blocking that was ahead of the run blocking.

Running Backs: It was an OK debut for HB Ron Dayne. His statistics (48 yards on 17 carries, 2 receptions for 18 yards) don’t look great. This is partially due to that he carried in a large number of short yardage situations and that he was nailed a couple of times in the backfield before the play developed. But when given some blocking, he showed good vision, very good feet for a big back, and some nice power on inside runs. What I would have liked to have seen is him break a run or two by using his combination of moves and power. However, the Giants now an inside running game once again with Dayne, and this will make all the difference in the world. Opposing safeties may now need to start creeping up towards the line of scrimmage to deal with him. “I really didn’t have expectations going in,” Dayne said. “I just wanted to go out and do everything right. I think I did all right after I knocked some of the cobwebs off and after getting used to running behind two different offensive lines. But there’s a lot of room to improve.” Giant fans do have to come to one realization – Dayne is not a sudden player. He can and will make big runs, but it won’t be because of an explosive quality. It will be because of his patience, vision, and size/athletic ability combination.

HB Tiki Barber (4 carries for 14 yards, 5 catches for 22 yards) showed well in the receiving game and has a couple of decent runs. He wasn’t able to elude defenders very well after the catch however. Neither did Sean Bennett. Sean probably will never be the kind of shake-and-bake back that David Meggett was. Sean’s strength are his hands, size, and straight-line speed. Get the ball in his hands while moving forward. Too often on Saturday, he was found running parallel to the line of scrimmage and too easily tackled. FB Greg Comella lost the handle on one ball near the sideline. His ability to maintain possession still makes me a tad nervous. But it does look like he will be used quite a bit in the passing game. Both Comella and Bennett may become VERY important to the offense if Mitchell is done.

Defensive Line: The starting unit was fairly strong in run defense, but didn’t get a great deal of pressure on the passer. Keep in mind that Keith Hamilton and Michael Strahan were both out. DE Cedric Jones flashed a couple of times in the pass rush, but too often he was pushed harmlessly wide of the pocket. DE Jomo Cousins didn’t really stand out rushing the passer and that was disappointing. He had one shot at a sack, but allowed the quarterback to scramble away from him. Inside, DT Christian Peter was pretty active. He sacked the quarterback for a safety on a play where he was not fooled by the play-action to the running back heading in the opposite direction. The Bears also had all kinds of problems moving Christian off of the ball. DT George Williams also made it tough to run up the middle.

The star of the defensive line was probably Cornelius Griffin. Griffin accumulated two sacks and came very close to intercepting a pass. Indeed, even though Griffin bobbled the ball because he was looking to run with it before he had possession, it was a very athletic play on his part just to be in position to do so. Cornelius was very active and was seen making quite a bit of penetration. He also nailed Curtis Enis in the backfield for a six yard loss on a key 3rd-and-2 play in the first quarter. By the second half, the Bears were regularly double-teaming him. With him, Peter, and Hamilton, the Giants have a very nice DT rotation inside. None of the other reserves really stood out, but Jeremiah Parker does flash athletic ability.

Linebackers: Michael Barrow didn’t play while Pete Monty filled in for him. Monty seemed to be around the ball a lot in both run defense and pass coverage. He’s not as explosive or dramatic as Barrow, but he did a very solid job. WLB Jessie Armstead and SLB Ryan Phillips made it tough to run the ball.

I was disappointed not to see more from SLB Brandon Short and WLB Jack Golden. Golden made a nice play on the goal line by tripping up the runner, but I wanted to see more. Short was too quiet.

Defensive Backs: There were two big breakdowns when the first team was in there. On the first, the wideout who Jason Sehorn started off covering cut across the field and found too much open ground in the middle of the defense for an easy reception. I’m not sure who was at fault here. Sehorn stopped running after him so it looked like a zone coverage, but I only spotted Pete Monty in the middle. Either Sehorn was supposed to continue sticking to the guy, Monty didn’t drop enough, or a safety blew his coverage assignment.

On the second breakdown, the receiver got deep on Sehorn where again Sehorn broke off his coverage. This looked like a two-deep package where the safety was supposed to provide deep support (probably Lyle West). Luckily, the receiver dropped the ball.

The good news is that all the corners seemed to play fairly well, including the reserves. Dave Thomas wasn’t heard from (and that is good). Emmanuel McDaniel, Reggie Stephens, and Ralph Brown didn’t embarrass themselves. Brown almost came up with a diving interception, but the ground jarred the ball loose.

The bad news is that the situation at safety makes me nervous. I think Tawambi Settles (could have been West too) blew the coverage on the deep pass to TE Alonzo Mayes for 30 yards. Settles and West did make a number of nice plays in run defense, but the Giants need them to do the job against the pass too.

Special Teams: A joke. Special teams breakdowns may very well cause Fassel his job. Since Fassel has been here, the players on special teams keep changing, but the coaching of Larry MacDuff remains constant. At some point, you have to wonder if Larry simply is a bad coach. The Giants gave up a 65 yard kick return and a 50 yard punt return. The sad thing is that these breakdowns occurred when the players on the field were most of the players who will start on specials when the regular season starts – these were not camp fodder guys. “I’m disappointed in a number of aspects, especially the special teams,” Fassel said. “We were running out of our lanes. I knew there would be some rough spots, but we have more to coach now than I could have imagined. Some of these guys have to realize that special teams is how they’re going to make this team.”

Thabiti Davis ran into the punter and was flagged. Blocking on punt and kick returns remains ludicrous. Ron Dixon looked too indecisive on his returns – too much dancing, not enough upfield movement.

The good news is that Brad Daluiso hit both of his field goal attempts and Brad Maynard has a solid evening of punting. But that alone doesn’t get it done. The Giants may have the worst special teams in the league.


Overview of the Blocking Up Front

by Gfan

The offensive line played very very good as a unit. Now not knowing the Giants playbook, I wouldn’t be sure if there was a missed assignment. But barring a couple of plays that Petitgout struggled I thought they all did an excellent job. Now this can be taken as good news but at the same time it reflects poorly on Dayne, there were two occasions where the entire right side of the defense was collapsed by Stone Petitgout and Cross, Hilliard had the corner pinned inside and Dayne ran in to Zeigler’s back, put his head down and plowed for two yards. If he has the great vision they say he does, he would have recognized it and turned them both into big gainers. Actually when they had 1st-and-10 on the 14 in the second quarter they ran a dive up the middle, if he would have bounced it to the right it would have been six. I’m sure they pointed it out to him on the film.

The other thing I noticed about this O-line in comparison to last year’s is that all of these guys are quick enough to pull. Gragg and Oben were statues but L. Brown and Petitgout are both quick enough to pull and kick out a backer or a corner. Parker is very quick. Stoney might be the slowest of them all which resulted in his holding penalty the other night but it wasn’t even that bad, it was a questionable call.

Bama Bish was concerned because he saw Stone on the ground a couple of times in the first second series. Well, on the first play of the game Stone took his guy out of the play and then kind of tripped over Petitgout, but his guy was not in on the play, it wasn’t his best play of the night but he got the job done. A few plays later he cut block his man to get his hands down, this gave Collins a passing lane to hit Cross over the middle on a quick hitter. This looked like a designed play because Stone didn’t cut block anyone else the rest of the half.

Some other things I noticed. Comella is average at best, he whiffed on a block, and missed picking up a blitz. And on more than one occasion he was manhandled on an isolation play on the linebacer. I expect a lot of spread formations and trap blocking when the season begins. Here’s why; Toomer, Hilliard, Jurevicious, and Campbell are excellent blockers, and the lineman are all quick. There was one play they ran that I loved – trips right with Comella, Hilliard, and Toomer. Hilliard cracked the OLB Toomer took out the DE. Luke and Comella pulled around and Petitgout just crushed the corner coming up on run support and Dayne followed Comella up into the hole and took it for about six yards. There was one other sweep they ran that Parker pulled from the opposite side, (example of his quickness) and took out either a corner or a safety, but he just hammered him. Good stuff. The pass blocking was excellent, there will be no speed rushing around Lomas Brown.

Some negative thoughts – Chicago blitzed twice and neither was picked up, (one was a missed assignment by Bennett). Collins dumped it off quick both times and completed the passes. A far cry from Dave Brown days. I cannot name one player on the Bears defensive line, and they didn’t stunt once.

I don’t think this was a good test. Last negative thought, they tried to set a screen in the first Quarter, it was a cluster f—! Luke whiffed which resulted in Collins getting chased out of the pocket, Stoney tripped over Luke, Dusty never made it over there, and the ball ended up being thrown away. It was ugly.


GIANTS/BEARS

by David Oliver

Something borrowed (motion offense from Redskins and Rams), something blue (new uniforms), something old (same redzone offense) and something new (grass field, Ron Dayne, offensive line), ah! Pre-season, the Giants and the Bears, two storied, and gloried franchises, each coming into the game looking for answers, and leaving, still pilgrims.

Regardless of whatever you may have read, this one was a yawner, it wasn’t even plain vanilla, it was just plain boring. The Giants staff had decided they weren’t going to show the Bears, or anyone else, anything new – except for that double reverse. I can’t figure out the reasoning. Last year, the Giants opened pre-season against the Vikings and blew their doors off. By December when they played them again, do they think the Vikings learned enough in that pre-season outing to in turn blow the Giants’ doors off? Nah. I was talking to a gentleman on the sidelines who just happens to be the executive in charge of Bears’ TV. He told me he had asked Dick Jauron (Bears Coach) this question the night before, and that Jauron had told him, in effect, that he worried only about the Bears, and how the Bears played, that he really didn’t care what other coaches or teams saw. You would think that a home opener with new grass, new uniforms, 250 new plays and a new attitude and commitment to winning would inspire a coaching staff to show the fans and the league what they have. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, this staff would be very comfortable working in the Federal Government. Believe me, I’ve worked with this personality type for a lifetime, no decision is a decision, don’t be rash, let it play out, test the political winds. By the end of this game, there wasn’t an Arena League crowd left in the Stadium.

Overall impression – same old Giants; move the ball, look good statistically, good defense, fail to win because of special teams breakdowns. And look boring while doing it. Everyone in the stadium was mesmerized except the creatures who now reside in the grass who fed all night long on our ankles. I’m still itching from the bites.

I’ll try to make this brief. First quarter with the regulars. Well, the coaches and the beat writers are all saying Kerry Collins looked sharp, that he moved the team. Statistically he was 15 / 18 for about 115 yards. What I saw was an offense with no vertical game. KC’s stats average out to about 7 yards a play, not bad for a running attack, not good for a passing attack. What I saw were a lot of three step drops, look left and throw to Tiki, or to Comella at the line. They are flat passes, very dangerous come September as some corner or linebacker is going to time one and go the other way. The blocking in the flat did not stand out. This wasn’t the game I saw in Albany. Again, if you play the game to not give away your plays instead of to perfect your plays, why play the game?

The running game – tough to assess. There wasn’t much movement up front, but the Bears are a good defensive unit. Ron Dayne showed what we needed to see; he can carry the ball. He played too much with the second and third units for my money. The fans booed when they took him out after a couple of plays, and cheered when they sent him back in. He is winning the fans over and will be exciting. JoMo was on the sidelines and is obviously unhappy. He wants his chance to show what he can do. It seems the staff is dicking with him, trying to break a stallion. Good luck. My TV executive commented to me that if there was one place you would think politics is not involved in decisions it would be in the NFL. But, we both acknowledged it’s as bad, if not worse here. He watched Dayne all through school and loves him. Some writers are saying he looked more like Gary Brown than Rodney Hampton; tell you what, he looked like Ron Dayne, and before long the other comparisons will fade. Tiki was active and looked good; Comella was a work horse and was taking a beating in there, but he’s a gamer and he looked as if he was loving every play.

The defense looked good – real good. Everyone is concerned about the D, forget it. Christian Peter is stepping up to the challenge and was a force inside including that beautiful safety sack. He better be careful, though; if he makes too many nice plays, scoring plays, he’ll be shipped off to the Browns. Jomo Cousins looked good, slipping his blocker a couple of times, but he was unable to bring down anyone in the backfield. Monty was very active in the middle and could probably see regular duty on many teams. He won’t beat out MB here though. The secondary looked fine.

Special teams – they flat out sucked on coverage, not bad on field goals and returns.

Rest of the game – Garrett was given more latitude to go vertical and hit some nice passes, the first big gainer when the defender slipped on a pass over the middle to Amani. Garrett threw an ugly interception, but otherwise looked fine for a backup. Mike Cherry started rough, gunning a few for the cheap seats. But Payton tightened up the game, went with shorter routes and Cherry settled down. He needs more reps with players, the first team to build some confidence. It’s unfair to use him in the Bobby Clatterbuck role (3rd string behind Conerly and Heinrich), to just come into the last minute and throw the ball as far as he can. Pete Mitchell went down on a nasty hit – knee sprain – and Howard Cross actually caught one, a nice pass over the middle with his back to the other team. Brian Alford started poorly, missing an easy one and dropping another, then came back with a nice catch and some effort, although they said he ran a few routes wrong. I started to sing, ‘turn out the lights, the party’s over,’ but his late play may have saved him for another game.

Most impressive receiver after Amani – Thabiti Davis who went over the middle for a couple, and even came close to blocking a punt on specials. He told me he, “should have made the block on the punt, but, I just have to come back and perform well the rest of the game, so I put my mind to focus on it and that’s what I was able to do with the help of my team mates, Mike Cherry getting the ball to me the way he did, the offensive line giving him time to do it, this is not about me…” I asked him if he felt he had gotten his chance out there and he told me, “It was humbling for me; I think it was a situation where, if the opportunity was going to present itself, I had to take advantage…I was fortunate that it did…I made the plays at the right time, I think. Now, we’ve just got to move on and get ready for Jacksonville. We’ve still got a lot of work to do, me personally, it’s just a matter of continuing to perform on the special teams.” He said this week would be studying the tape and correcting the mistakes and getting focus. He knows making the team will be on special teams and I asked him if he would block a kick this pre-season. He said, “Yes, definitely,” and he laughed.

Noticeables – Carl Hansen made a beautiful stop and looked good in there; Parker showed his speed on the tackle where he injured his shoulder; Coach Fox was not a happy camper with units 2 and 3. O.J. Childress made a couple of nice plays, but did something that merited personalized instruction from Coach Fox after the Bears last TD. Cornelius Griffin was very active, Jack Golden played like a maniac and was excited after the game. He told me the Bears had great special teams and we talked about his ex-teammate McQuarters, who was sporting an Edgerrin James hairdo. Golden told me he was trying to grow his hair long enough to do the same. He said he made too many mistakes out there, which he had to correct, but he was very excited. Frankie Ferrara was not happy with himself and was uncomfortable with being switched to the left side, which speaks volumes about CJ’s play so far.

Craig Walendy got some playing time and his bell rung pretty good. The young guys were into it; some even standing on the bench, something not often seen on the Giants sidelines. Daluiso looked good and was pumped; Maynard had some nice hang time. My exec friend told me Brian Schmitz has always been a big time talent but somehow has always been overlooked – basically, he had no college scholarship offers and made the team at North Carolina as a walk-on. He won’t stick here but remember his name. Kevin Prentiss showed promise as a return man, Bashir told me the boot was coming off Sunday and that he would be running in a week or so. Mike Rosenthal said his shoulder felt good and he would be back in action soon.

Coach Fassel said he was “disappointed” in some aspects of the team’s play, particularly special teams where too many players broke lanes, etc. etc. – the old broken record. Coach McDuff may be a nice guy, which he is, and he may have been part of the Desert Storm defense, but it’s time to face the obvious here, he doesn’t appear to be a special teams maven, and the Giants are running out of excuses.

That’s it – a wash – a few guys played themselves off the team, many didn’t get any opportunity and one or two will get a closer look.

(Box Score – Chicago Bears at New York Giants, August 5, 2000)
Aug 032000
 

Approach to the Game – Chicago Bears at New York Giants, August 5, 2000: Don’t read too much into this game. The first preseason game is normally not much more than a more official-looking scrimmage. The experienced veterans don’t usually play more than a quarter and the play is often sloppy. After all, this is what preseason is for – to work the kinks out. The game plan on offense and defense is as vanilla as you can get and teams don’t really scheme for each other either. The main focus of the first game is to give the vets a bit of work and then to focus the rest of the way on the young players. That’s what you really want to look for – guys like Ron Dayne, Cornelius Griffin, Ron Dixon, Brandon Short, etc.

Giants on Offense: One gets the sense that Jim Fassel finally has some tools to work with for a more aggressive, high-powered offense. Amani Toomer, Ike Hilliard, Tiki Barber, and Pete Mitchell have talent. So does trigger-man Kerry Collins. But Kerry needs to stand tough in the pocket and cut down on the number of turnovers he commits. On Saturday against the Bears, we get our first opportunity to see if he is taking steps in the right direction. Collins simply has to get the ball into the hands of his play-makers. The Bears significantly upgraded their defense in the offseason via the draft and free agency, but they are not a top unit. The Giants should be able to move the ball on Chicago and put some points up on the board. Of course, penalties are drive killers and it will be interesting to see how much trouble this new motion offense the Giants are going to employ causes problems. Will the Giants be flagged a bunch for illegal motion and jumping off-sides?

Of course, much of the focus will be on first rounder HB Ron Dayne and the new offensive line. While I was at camp, I saw a lot of sweeps called with Dayne – sweeps that often ended up for negative yardage due to penetration by the defense. While it is important to keep defenses off-balance by running wide and doing so with Dayne, I would think the strength of his game is the off-tackle run and I would like to see a steady diet of that behind Ron Stone, Luke Petitgout, and the tight ends. The Giants did run quite a few sharp-looking counter plays while I was in camp too – watch for this. It will be interesting to see Joe Montgomery in action. Keep in mind we hardly saw him at all last year – including the preseason. He still is very much an unknown commodity.

In the receiving department, keep an eye on Joe Jurevicius and Ron Dixon. I think they are competing against each other for playing time. Dixon looks like the real deal, but he has to prove it in game conditions against aggressive corners. He is still also learning. Jurevicius says he is more focused this year – actions speak louder. The man really on the spot is WR Brian Alford, who was downgraded to the third team this week. He’s fighting for a roster spot against guys like Thabiti Davis, Kevin Prentiss, and Jeremy Watkins.

Another guy to watch is Dan Campbell – someone who I would like to see replace Howard Cross sometime soon. On the offensive line, behind the starters, keep an eye on RT Chris Ziemann and LT Pita Elisara – the Giants are thin at the tackle spots.

The guy who may be most on the spot is Mike Cherry. Mike isn’t likely to remain on the roster next year if he doesn’t shine this preseason. He’s had a rough camp so far this year again.

Giants on Defense: Defensive Coordinator John Fox is not likely to show his large variety of blitz packages on Saturday so this game most likely won’t be a good measuring stick of where the Giants are on defense against what was an explosive Bears’ offense last year. Also hampering the Giants is that DE Michael Strahan and FS Shaun Williams will be out – as most likely will DT Keith Hamilton. Players such as Jessie Armstead, Michael Barrow, and Jason Sehorn probably won’t remain in the game long either. I’m going to try to keep an eye on Cedric Jones – who needs to keep improving for the Giants to be successful.

Again, the focus and interest level will be directed at the youth. DT Cornelius Griffin, DT George Williams, DE Jomo Cousins, DE Frank Ferrara, DE Jeremiah Parker, SLB Brandon Short, MLB Pete Monty, WLB Jack Golden, FS Lyle West, and all the young corners are the guys to watch. Indeed, Cousins will be starting for the injured Strahan. The Giants really need someone to step up at back-up defensive end and, right now, Cousins is the leading candidate. It will be interesting to see how a starting line of Cousins, Christian Peter, George Williams, and Cedric Jones does.

Depth is also shaky at linebacker due to inexperience. The loss of Dhani Jones (knee) also hurts. Short, Monty, and Golden may be key reserves this year. Another roster spot opened up with the loss of Jones and players such as Kevin Lewis, O.J. Childress, and Vernon Strickland now have a chance.

One of the big worries is the secondary. Starting LCB Dave Thomas has not impressed at camp. Let’s see how he does once the whistle sounds. It is also critical that the Giants get some solid play from youngsters Emmanuel McDaniel, Reggie Stephens, Ralph Brown, Andre Weathers, and Fred Lewis. Which one of these guys will step up? Will any of them?

Depth at safety could be a mess too. With Williams out, West gets the start and should see a lot of action. Behind him are no-names Tawambi Settles, Tinker Keck, B.J. Williams, and Greg Williams.

Giants on Special Teams: Brad Maynard impressed me in camp this year and may be set for a breakout year. Of course he and kick-off artist Brad Daluiso need more help from the coverage units than they got last year. Roster spots are often earned on special teams. Focus on the reserve defensive backs, linebackers, running backs, and Jeremiah Parker. In the kick return game, with Bashir Levingston out, Ron Dixon would seem to be the main man there. Finding another solid returner to team with him is important. Tiki is set as the punt returner. Will the blocking be there for both punt and kick returns?