Aug 292001
 

Approach to the Game – New York Giants at Baltimore Ravens, August 31, 2001: The starters will only play about a quarter. The most important thing is to get them in and out of the game without injury. Forget about the revenge angle – you can’t avenge a Super Bowl loss.

Giants on Special Teams: The only kicker the Giants ever had that made me feel confident was Matt Bahr. With the game on the line, he almost always came through. I think I’m going to have that same feeling with Morten Andersen back there. If you remember my Key Questions Heading into the 2001 Training Camp, the kicking game was my number one concern. Well, the Giants have appeared to have addressed that. Let’s just hope he does a decent job on kick-offs as well.

P Rodney Williams needs to more consistent fast. The poor Giants’ coverage teams can ill-afford him sending off a lot of line-drive punts with little hang-time.

As for those coverage teams, it looks like the Giants will be condemned to yet another year of letting the opposition make big plays on returns. The front office did not bring in any special teams demons. That is going to cost the Giants again.

The return game won’t get untracked unless the blocking gets better. That is a doubtful proposition as it has been poor all preseason.

Giants on Defense: Unfortunately, Kenny Holmes didn’t get much playing time with his new compatriots this preseason. He will most likely see a quarter at most on Friday. DT Keith Hamilton has also missed a lot of time. How out of sync will these guys be? It will be interesting to see if DT Cornelius Griffin (ankle) plays.

As for the reserves, there is a big battle going on between Ross Kolodziej, Lance Legree, and Frank Ferrara for roster spots. This is their last chance to impress before the cut down day. Cedric Scott is safe, but he needs to make more plays.

At linebacker, Mike Barrow (arch) should be back. Jessie Armstead needs to get it going. The learning process for Brandon Short continues. Dhani Jones is safe. Will the Giants keep both Jack Golden and Kevin Lewis?

The corner situation is a bit of a mess. Jason Sehorn is out at least one more week. Emmanuel McDaniel and Dave Thomas have not been impressive. Will Allen and Will Peterson aren’t there yet, but flash ability. Ralph Brown has quietly had a very good camp and preseason. Shaun Williams, Sam Garnes, and Omar Stoutmire are set as the top three safeties. To me, the big battle on defense this last week is between Clarence LeBlanc and DeWayne Patmon.

Giants on Offense: If Kerry Collins can become more consistent, he could challenge for a Pro Bowl spot. If he doesn’t, the Giants will struggle to make the playoffs. It’s that simple. He’s the most important performer on the team.

Ron Dayne looks primed for a good year. How rusty will Tiki Barber (hand) be when he gets back after this game? Damon Washington is a good third back. At fullback, Greg Comella will be an instrumental part of the offense – especially with the problems at tight end. Will the Giants keep a back-up fullback (Anthony Green or Adam Wright)? They did not last year.

Amani Toomer has missed a lot of time with an ankle injury…let’s hope he reverts to his earlier form at camp where he looked very sharp. The Giants are going to miss Ike Hilliard. Joe Jurevicius has had a good preseason and Ron Dixon had a big game last week, but Hilliard is more talented than JJ and more polished than Dixon. How many receivers will the Giants keep – five or six? What do they do with Jonathan Carter, who has missed much time with a knee injury?

At tight end, Howard Cross (knee) has missed a ton of time and won’t play again this week. How rusty will he be? Dan Campbell didn’t do anything in the passing game last week after a big week of practice. Do the Giants keep Marcellus Rivers or Adam Young? My bet is on Rivers. Is Taman Bryant safe on the practice squad?

I am concerned with Lomas Brown. He has not been sharp. If he doesn’t do well, the Giants only options are to move Luke Petitgout over there or play Chris Bober. If you move Petitgout, who plays right tackle? Even if Lomas and Glenn Parker do play well again this year, can they stay healthy? The interesting battles on the offensive line is to see which rookies are kept: OG Rich Seubert and/or Terrance Sykes. Does Scott Kiernan finally make it?

Aug 282001
 
New York Jets 17 – New York Giants 14

Game Overview: This was a strange game and after watching the tape, I wasn’t as ticked off after hearing of the results. But there is plenty for me to still worry about.

Since both teams had a few time-consuming, length-of-the-field-type drives in the game, there weren’t many drives. The four starters missing on the Giants’ defense were very much missed (more on that below). Offensively, the big areas of concern for me are Kerry Collins’ inconsistency and the play of the offensive line. Defensively, the cornerback situation opposite of Jason Sehorn is in a bit of a short-term mess. Special teams remains a disaster area.

Special Teams: P Rodney Williams had a very poor game, not withstanding the great athleticism he demonstrated on his impromptu fake field goal (he is the fastest punter I’ve ever seen). It seemed to me that almost all of his punts were line-drives with very little hang-time. I felt great about our punting situation after the Jacksonville game, but now I’m a bit more worried. Nevertheless, I still have a good gut feeling about Rodney. One thing to keep an eye on is that punt protection remains shaky as the Jets came close to blocking a punt.

Jaret Holmes missed a 44-yarder and has since been cut. John Markham has not attempted a field goal in the preseason. His kick-offs against the Jets were pretty good. One landed on the 2-yard line and the other went into the endzone.

Kick-off and punt coverage remains horrible. On one play, Dave Thomas didn’t maintain contain on the left sideline and allowed the returned to get up the field. There doesn’t seem to be any go kill ‘em, head hunter-types on this team. Oh how I long for the days of Larry Flowers and Reyna Thompson!

Blocking for punts and kicks is also bad. Opposing gunners are getting down field too easily. Phil McConkey remarked during the game that he thought it was a bad idea that the Giants were only blocking the gunners with one man each. The good news is that Will Allen looked pretty sure-handed fielding punts in fair catch situations.

Defensive Line: The lack of a pass rush on Saturday was a bit misleading. On many plays, the Giants would drop Cornelius Griffin off into coverage and only rush three (this was no zone blitz as no one was blitzing). Thus, you often had three rushers against five blockers. Incidentally, Griffin is pretty damn athletic for a defensive tackle – he broke up one pass.

DE Michael Strahan was pretty quiet. There was one play where he got pinched inside and this allowed the running back to pick up good yardage around the left side of the defense. DE Cedric Scott was disappointing. Last week, he had a good excuse as he was facing arguably the bet left tackle in football. But this week, he got very little pressure on the pass rush and got handled too often against the run. There was one play where he flashed chasing the ball carrier from the backside and making a play in the backfield.

Inside, Griffin flashed his power and quickness on the sack that was called back due to a bogus penalty on Jessie Armstead. I understand the Giants want to disrupt the timing of opposing offenses by occasionally dropping him into coverage. But I wouldn’t do it too much – he’s too much of an asset as pass rusher. Ryan Hale had an up-and-down night. There were times when he split the double team in run defense and made the play and there were other times when he got crushed by the double-team. He had a one decent pass rush that I spotted. The Giants also dropped him into coverage on one play – a big mistake. Having two back-ups on the strongside against a power running team like the Jets hurt. Keith Hamilton and Kenny Holmes were missed.

Frank Ferrara made a play in the backfield. Ross Kolodziej and Lance Legree were not as active as they have been.

Linebackers: Not a great night for this group though they may have been disadvantaged by the up-and-down performance by their teammates up front. Jessie Armstead has been invisible this preseason and continued to be so on Saturday. He was blocked too easily. In fact, on Curtis Martin’s big gain to the left early in the game, all three starting linebackers (Armstead, Brandon Short, and Dhani Jones) got taken out of the play with good blocks.

Brandon Short was up-and-down. He got badly suckered on Martin’s 3rd-and-10 draw play that led to a first down on the first TD drive. But then there was the play later in the game where he attacked the line of scrimmage and nailed the running back for a loss. He did a nice job of defending a pass on 3rd-and-short.

Dhani Jones was inconsistent too. He made a good play on the goalline. But there were a few plays where he got taken out of the play by a blocker.

Defensive Backs: My worst fears are becoming realized: the Giants are not going to be able to count on Emmanuel McDaniel and Dave Thomas against quality receivers. E-Mac was abused most of the night. The few good plays he made against the pass and run were offset by the times he was beaten like a drum. He had a lot of problems covering Laveranues Coles. He also got beat by the tight end for a first down on 3rd-and-7.

Dave Thomas also did not play well. He got beat by Wayne Chrebet a couple of times, including for a touchdown on a play where he never turned around to look for the ball.

The youngsters were up-and-down (like most of the team). Will Peterson got beat on a deep sideline pass to Coles that set up first-and-goal. But he also looked pretty darn good in coverage, including on a deep pass into the endzone. He was pretty aggressive as a tackler too. Will Allen looked pretty sharp in pass coverage, but missed a tackle on a short pass that led to a substantial gain after the catch. He also looked a bit confused (or Omar Stoutmire was) on one sideline pass while the Giants were playing a two-deep zone. These two may not be ready yet, but let’s hope they are soon.

I’ll tell you one thing. I wonder if the guy who should be starting opposite of Jason Sehorn should be Ralph Brown (at least for the short-term). He is more experienced than the rookies (he has two training camps and two preseasons under his belt) and has done nothing but impress me this year. He nicely defended his two chances – another deep pass and one over the deep middle of the field.

As for the safeties, Sam Garnes made a big hit in run support. Omar Stoutmire was very active and aggressive against the run. So was Clarence LeBlanc, who played a lot.

Quarterback: I don’t buy the argument going around in The Corner Forum that Kerry Collins is more prone than other quarterbacks to get nervous when facing severe pass pressure. Pass pressure makes ALL quarterbacks look pretty bad at times – even the great ones such as Dan Marino, Joe Montana, Dan Fouts, etc. Also, Kerry has proven that he can beat super-aggressive defenses such as the Eagles and Jaguars. But where Kerry still needs improvement is to not force the ball. There are times when he must accept that the play is busted and take the sack. He didn’t do that against the Jets.

Part of his problems resulted from poor play-calling. Let me give you an example. Last week, the Giants ran a play where they faked a left-side run to Dayne, rolled Collins to the right, and tried to hit an open receiver with the defense biting on the fake. On this play, the Giants counted on the strongside end and coverage to bite on the fake (the end remains unblocked). The play worked last week for a TD despite the fact that the end did not bite. Why? Because the coverage was fooled and Collins’ quick release allowed him to get rid of the ball before he was sacked. My problem was that this week they tried it on 3rd-and-5 – a situation where the defense is less likely to buy the fake. The end immediately was on top of Collins (unblocked as designed) and the coverage was not fooled and Collins got picked off.

The one play that makes me nervous with Collins is the screen. The screen is one of my favorites and the Giants often do execute it well. But when the defense does a good job of reading it, Collins tends to still try to force the ball in there. He did this against the Jets and only a drop by the defensive lineman prevent a pick returned for a touchdown.

Take away these plays and a couple of others and Collins was pretty sharp on the night. It still amazes me how much better the Giants passing game is with him at the helm as opposed to some of the other dogs the Giants have had the past ten years. 3rd-and-long no longer spells doom for the G-Men with Kerry at the helm. I also loved his toughness leading Ron Dixon on the reverse.

Jason Garrett was impressive except for two throws. He showed his vulnerability (lack of arm strength) when attempting a deep out (this is the one pass he can’t throw consistently well). He also made a poor decision when his pass was picked off near the goalline and returned for a TD (luckily, the Jets had too many men on the field). Other than those plays, he was accurate and composed. I liked it that he was spotted screaming at his offensive line in order to elevate their performance.

Running Backs: Ron Dayne’s stats are deceiving (see below). I thought he played a very strong game. There were three or four runs where I let out a “Wow!” when he carried the ball. His stats look bad because he was “credited” with a 19-yard loss after a fumble (his one big negative on the night) and there were more than a few plays that were poorly blocked and he got hit in the backfield. Indeed, even on one of these plays, Dayne managed to get away from the defender and turn a 3-yard loss into a 2-yard gain. I liked the fact that he was able to squirt through some small openings this week and carry defenders for extra yardage. His enhanced quickness and speed was demonstrated on the 4th-and-1 play that he bounced outside for a first down and he had a real nice cutback run for a TD on his last carry of the night.

Damon Washington looked sharp again both carrying the ball between the tackles and as a pass receiver. I like the way he explodes up the field after the catch and he has a bit of elusiveness in his game.

Greg Comella had a big night and looks primed for a good year if he can stay healthy. He caught a lot short passes and did a good job with the ball after the catch. He also looked sharp on an inside draw play that he bounced outside. His blocking was good when I kept an eye on him.

Wide Receivers: Ron Dixon had the kind of game that I have been expecting from him. He made a fantastic diving, fingertip catch over the middle for 36 yards. Then there was one series where he made three very strong plays in a row. He got open for a 25-yard catch-and-run on 3rd-and-10. Then he caught a short pass, broke a tackle, and picked up some good yardage after the catch. Then he flashed his speed and moves on a reverse. He finished the game with a touchdown catch in the back of the endzone. His route running is improving, though he failed to get inside position on one slant pass that was broken up.

Joe Jurevicius also played well. He got open for good yardage on a catch over the middle and was active on the Giants’ hurry-up on the first drive after halftime.

Quinton Spotwood dropped a pass and did not step it up in a situation where he needed to with all the receivers who are hurt. Pat Woodcock made two catches, including a nice sideline reception.

Tight Ends: Dan Campbell had one chance at a reception over the middle but was covered. He seemed to do OK as a blocker, but he still doesn’t seem to get much movement. I also spotted him missing a block early on. Marcellus Rivers made a nice reception on a crossing pattern despite tight coverage for a first down on 3rd-and-8. Adam Young couldn’t come up with a low throw from Garrett on what would have been a TD.

Offensive Line: Lomas Brown had better step it up soon because he is having a terrible preseason. His biggest problem is that he keeps getting bull-rushed right back into Kerry Collins’ face. But he also got burned to the outside once against the Jets. I actually thought Luke Petitgout didn’t fair too badly against a super-quality opponent in John Abraham. His biggest problem were the two penalties (holding and a hands to the face). Dusty Zeigler looked good on the move, including leading Dayne outside.

As for the reserves, I liked what I saw out of RG Rich Seubert. On one running play, he really went after the defender and kept going after him down the field. Chris Bober did a nice job at the left tackle spot, though he did get beat outside by Shaun Ellis on one play. Chris Ziemann had problems in pass protection on the strongside.


Offensive Line Review – The Annual Preseason Jet Debacle

by Chris Jacobs

I really never look forward to this game, as a matter of fact I down right despise it. I got that same sick feeling in my stomach when I saw Cornelius Griffin in the back of the golfcart/ambulance, that I did in 98 when Jason Sehorn tore his ACL. One of the other things I hate about it, is it always gives the Jet fans false hope that the Jets are better than the Giants. In recent memory (the last 20 years) it’s only happened once, and the Jets we’re knocked out of the AFC Championship in Denver. What scares me is that the Jets still haven’t recovered from that game and I fear that last years Super disaster will have the same effect on the Giants. They already appear to be going through the motions this preseason. I don’t see anyone playing with a fire in their belly, maybe Brandon Short, and Greg Comella always puts out 100%. But before I give my O-line preview for this game I want you fellow Giant fans to know that I’m worried. I think there are eight games on the schedule that they will win. The games I’m worried about are the four games that decide whether you go home in January or not. I know that everyone who reads this is thinking the same thing…Preseason doesn’t count, they don’t gameplan, half the starters are out, and those that are playing have their starting jobs secured. All true, but the same thing is true for the opposition. And the truth is the Jets dominated in all phases of the game. The Giants don’t look like the same team I saw last preseason. The one person on the team who does seem to have a fire in his belly is Jim Fassel. I hope he can get these guys going, he’s got two weeks.

The New Grading System:

This season I’m giving letter grades to the lineman based on how I feel they performed. It’s not easy to grade the line as a fan, last season I tried to be as impartial as possible but sometimes a guy grades out ok even though he didn’t play great. The perfect example was the Titan game last year, they all graded out ok because there were no blown assignments (as far as I could tell), but they only ran 17 plays in the first half and had 0 yards rushing, the line has to be partially responsible for that. So my grades will be less technical this year, but I will still try to be as fair as possible.

Lomas Brown – C:
Not terrible, but as I mentioned above, no fire in the belly. I give him the benefit of the doubt because of his age, and I hope with that much experience he can turn the switch on when the season begins. Here are some good things he did. His pass blocking is very good, he did get beat once or twice where Collins got hit just as he released, but the pass protection is his strong point. On the 4th-and-1, he threw a cut block and took out two Jet defenders. His run blocking was ok, he doesn’t really have the strength to drive guys off the ball but he’s good at turning and riding guys out of the play. Did a decent job when he was lined up against Abraham.

Glen Parker – C:
Certainly not close to as well as he can play, it seems as if he is still feeling the effects of missing the first two weeks of camp. Once again, only one or two blown assignments (one that really irked me) but just seemed like he was wearing cement shoes. Ok here’s the play that I wasn’t all too happy about – they run their bread-and-butter running play – the one in the Stone-Petitgout gap and where Parker pulls and seals inside. The TE then kicks out and Comella leads Dayne into the hole. Well Parker…let’s just say he never made it – his first step was very sloppy and his feet got tangled up somewhere and Marvin Jones makes a solo tackle for no gain. The thing was there if he would have made it out. It’s a mental error more than anything and I guess that’s what preseason is for.

Dusty Ziegler B+:
If you want everyone on offense to have one of those catchy nicknames, this guys nickname should be glue. He’s just very, very good at sustaining blocks, once he makes contact with a guy he sticks with it. Defenders seem to have a tough time separating themselves from him. The one that impressed me the most was on the Dixon reverse, he laid into a safety about five yards downfield and stayed with him till the play was over. Not easy for an O-lineman to do.

Ron Stone C+:
Again, like the other two guys, seemed to just be going through the motions, nothing bad. I did make a note here and there that he seems to struggle with sustaining blocks, but it is preseason so I won’t hold it against him. As far a percentage grade goes he scored about a 92% but I’m giving him a C+ because on the Dayne fumble it seemed like he took the play off and his man was in on the tackle. He also lost points on the 4th-and-1 toss away from him where he blocked no one. However, on the Dayne TD he did push his man about 10-yards downfield. So that tells me that he has it, it’s just if he’s willing to use it. I fear this contract thing is going to distract him in the long run…

Luke Petitgout B-:
Yeah I know, he had some bad penalties, there was another play where he held #95 but it wasn’t called. And I thought the hands to the face was bullcrap. Anyway, he got a better grade than he deserved because of the job he did against Abraham. The kid is a stud and every time he had to block him alone he got the job done. He had a bad first half and he came out in those first two drives of the second half and redeemed himself. He’s most likely going to be the left tackle next season (possibly this season) and that’s the kind of things you want to see from a guy.

A quick note on Dayne before I briefly mention the 2nd stringers…

He has his head up, he’s cutting to hole instead of running into blockers backs. It’s the first time I’ve seen this from him, they are working with him to run with patience and it showed in this game, I like what I saw.

The backups…

I’m not going to grade them individually, but I’ll make some quick points. They looked atrocious in the first series against the Jets starting D-line, but that is expected. It’s tough coming off the bench and going against a guy who’s been playing for three quarters. Against the Jets backups, they dominated. I liked what I saw from everyone. Chris Bober was impressive, the only block I noticed he missed was on the first-and-goal from the 8, in the fourth quarter where his man just ran around him. Mike Rosenthal (Rosey) was solid as usual, he really looks more like a tackle than a guard, but he did a good job. He needs to stay put when they are running a twist stunt, as a matter of fact the entire 2nd string line seems to struggle with that sometimes. Jason Whittle is pretty good, I think he’s a solid backup who could be a starter in a couple of years. Rich Seubert did a good job also, pass and run blocking. One running play he drove his man 4 yards off the ball, nice job. Chris Ziemann struggled a little. I like him and I think they are grooming him for the right tackle job when Lomas retires and Petitgout moves to left tackle. There was one blown assignment that was a pass play and he ran about 5 yards downfield to get a backer, luckily Jason Garrett was chased out of the pocket and ran, no penalty. The other thing I noticed is that he struggles when the guy tries to speed rush around him. He needs to work on his foot work, he’s playing in quicksand a little and that scares me, but technically this is his first season so I think they can break him of that habit.

One last note….

Dan Campbell has to step up. He looks great on some plays and terrible on others. He needs to become a more consistent blocker, and has to find the open areas on his pass routes. He’s the one guy who is seriously disappointing me so far, I was hoping that with Mitchell gone he would have a breakout year. I’ll be keeping a close eye on him from here on out.


THE YO-YO FACTOR

by David Oliver

Your reporter waited until things got real quiet at the post game Press Conference and then asked, coach, were there any positives? Coach turned to glare at me (I was off to the side, near the door) and shot back “the game is over.” He continued to stare, as if waiting for a follow-up, or smart ass remark, but heck, if he didn’t see anything positive, I wasn’t going to beat the drum. The tone was the same in the locker. Many of the guys were talking about being flat, not making plays, etc. So I asked Brandon Short. I told him I would have thought that guys fighting for jobs would come out and make plays, but there seemed too little of that. Instantly the line changed and he pointed to the nice catch made by Marcellus Rivers, the good game that Ron Dixon had, the pass defensed by Ralph Brown and similar plays, and he told me these were all guys fighting for jobs, or game time.

Upshot – it was a bad game, very bad game, but not so bad that some things won’t be viewed positively on the film. So continues the yo-yo pre season of the Giants. At camp, on Thursday, everybody looked crisp and ready. Saturday night, the other guys, the doppleganger Giants showed up in the uniforms – my theory – it’s the lighting at the Meadowlands. Brandon Short told me that he “couldn’t tell me exactly what happened until we look at the film”, but he felt they came out a little flat. He said he could “only speak for himself and the teams that I play on” (defense and specials) and that “we can’t afford to do that when the regular season starts…it’s unacceptable.”

Damn straight it’s unacceptable. I wouldn’t want to be in that locker room this week with Coach JF. He is going to get someone’s attention. Jack Golden knows it and relishes it. Jack told me that Coach has “got to grab our attention before that first regular season game – because it’s a big game; that game can make or break the season.” Jack followed that up by telling me “you will see a different team next week, I promise you.” I chided him and Brandon a little and told them it had better be a different team because the Ravens were looking to lay a big one on their asses. Both shot up at once and said they were looking to lay one on the Ravens, and there would be none of that Raven smack in their minds. Well, one consolation, a small one at that, is the old cliché which Golden repeated for me “you are never as good as you think, and it’s never as bad as it looks.”

Which on Saturday night looked pretty grim. Just as I started giving Kerry his props, he comes out and throws a couple of, well, I don’t know what they were, but they were ugly. The Jets have a big, pressing defense and once again, the Giants line melted under the pressure. In defense of Kerry, his bad passes were thrown under heavy, break through pressure. That’s an explanation, not an excuse. He didn’t have to throw them to, or was it at, the onrushing Jets. He recovered, found Dixon a couple of times, Comella a couple of times and in the end, his performance was acceptable. Jason Garrett was happy all night and he was all smiles after the game. He had a gaudy 12-of-15 for 103 yards, but somehow never seems to look good doing the job.

The receivers looked fine, considering the absence of Ike and Amani. Dixon had 6-for-87 yards with one long beauty, some nice moves and almost made another tough catch on a high rocket. Greg Comella looked very good coming out of the backfield with 6 catches for 48 yards, but I was surprised that Damon Washington also had 6-for-49. Joe Jurevicius (JJ) was in the game with 5-for-66 yards. Woodcock (2), Rivers (1), Spotwood (1), and Wright (1) completed the receiving stats.

Rodney Williams boomed one, had none blocked and was down field all night. He also took a high snap and converted it into a first down with a nice end run. On the return side, Will Allen looks a little shaky, well, actually, a lot shaky. He was avoiding the ball like it had west Nile. Coverage on all kicks was porous. The Giants run down field and converge on the ball carrier. No one seems to stay out on the wing in prevent. One good block and one good move and a fast returner seems to turn the corner and go. As I said last week, the Baron is now deep in the Augean stables and this week he will feel the wrath of Jim. Maybe it wasn’t MacDuff after all?

The play calling seemed more diversified this week as Sean Payton is working on more of the play book. The running game somehow got 80 yards on the night, with Dayne amassing 13 of them on only 11 carries (hmmm). Dixon had the longest run and Damon Washington added 23 yards on 5 carries.

Part of the problem here is working back to a regular starting line. Glenn Parker is not ready. He looks pensive and that is understandable. Maybe the regular season is the tonic this warrior needs to get his mind off the other battle. Lomas has been blocking better this year than in a while. He is catching his man and riding him beyond the play. Several of my photos show him occupying a defender somewhere behind the line of scrimmage. This is very positive. Stone is obviously troubled by the contract thing. He is even telegraphing some of his blocks by an almost imperceptible lean on some plays. But here’s the thing. If the Giants ever get their starting unit on the field, the pace of the action and the misdirection are there. The offense rolled up a lot of yards even though undermanned, against a very tough defense – and it wasn’t all in the last quarter.

The defense was very interesting. A lot of guys were missing which gave a lot of guys an opportunity. Who stepped up? Clarence LeBlanc had 5 tackles and an assist, Dhani Jones had 2 tackles and 3 assists and Frank Ferrara and Cedric Scott each had 2 tackles and 2 assists. Shaun Williams and Sam Garnes were steady with 4 each, but having the safeties make so many tackles indicated that some guys were missing up front. EMac had 4 tackles and 1 assist, but started the game a little shaky. Jack Golden picked it up a little, with 1 and 1 and got his man upset on a kick return which was nullified when the refs threw the flag on the Jets. Did anyone win a job, or lose a job on this effort? Probably not, except for the swing position. If it’s between Ferrara and Legree, his effort on the night may have done it for FF. As he told me, “I try my best. I’m a kid from NY; NY Jets vs. NY Giants, if you don’t come ready to represent, what is it?…Tonight was a great opportunity, a lot of fun, a great night…I made some good plays out there; I played well; of course, you can always do better, but I had some fun.”

Ralph Brown made a nice play, reaching up and knocking a pass away. I’m now calling him Big Hands Brown. He’s having fun and that’s good to see. Last year, when he came in he was tighter than, well you get the drift. He told me, “I don’t know how many times in the preseason I’ll get in, so when they put me in, I try to take advantage of it; I took advantage of a football they threw at me; I just try to do my best, whenever they use me, I’m going to give 100%.” Even he acknowledged that the team came out flat and he sort of shocked me by saying “guys were relaxing all over the field, offensively and defensively.”

Greg Comella looked real good tonight, playing in front of a large family contingent. Unfortunately for them, most of his pretty plays were at the opposite end. Greg is about as straight forward as they come, in the locker and on the field. He is an inspiring kind of guy – effort and talent as a role player, who will deliver the goods. He is the ultimate team player and acknowledges that his touches are limited, but he never complains. He told me, “One of Sean’s (Payton) strengths is his ability to continue to recreate the offense, that includes spreading the ball around to different people. With the weapons we have on this team, I understand I’m only going to touch it a couple of times. When I am called on to touch the ball, I have to make plays.” He told me they were working on the 2-minute drill and that when a team goes 2 minutes, the defense often relaxes, which leaves open the underneath stuff. But, again, he said Tiki is the 2-minute back. I asked him if Sean was working on anything special for him. There was dead silence, then he said “again, with guys like Amani Toomer and Tiki and Ike Hilliard, I’m going to see my touches, but they will be limited when you have guys like that on the field.” Okay, Greg, and are they working on anything special for you?

So where does that leave us? This was the bounce of the yo-yo, but it was a strange game because there were so many “weapons” not in action. Seemingly outplayed, the team amassed some nice stats while looking at a lot of people. This is how good teams get it done. It reminds me of when I was a caddy. I was out with a pro one day, name, Charlie Harmon. He was Claude (Winged Foot) Harmon’s brother. He popped his drive onto a rock pile, walked over, asked me for his driver again, and whacked that thing off the rock and right up to the green. It wasn’t pretty. But he was a pro. No panic, no confusion, no fear, he just got the job done and he used the tools in his bag. It is possible and this Giant team just might have to do that. If all the weapons aren’t available, use the tools on the bench. The Super Bowl isn’t about style points, it’s about winning; just look at the current Champs.

I caught up with Dhani Jones and teased him about all the bad words he was using out there. He laughed as in yeah, how would you know. When I told him what I had heard, he believed I did hear. On the sidelines, we hear a whole lot. So Dhani said “that’s what happens when you don’t perform up to your expectations. My coach in college told me that expectations are for the position; an expectation for a linebacker is to make plays; I have to be more active, to make those plays that people don’t think I can make.” He went on, talking about the Mike position, telling me “that’s a responsibility that you carry, you have to be harder on yourself than anybody else can be.” He said he felt better than last week, but not as good as he should and that he hoped he never felt as good as he should because he always wanted to be reaching for the next level.

I teased him about Kevin Lewis (Klu) saying he was always yelling and Dhani told me, “I have to yell, I use my voice; you’re a field general, you have to command respect, that’s the position, like the QB, if you don’t get the defense up, that’s all on you.” He continued to tell me that the Mike linebacker is in control when the defense is on the field, that “when we make plays and when we don’t make plays, it’s on the Mike linebacker.” He said his field vision was improving each week and that with time and film study, he would continue to improve. I asked him if he had taken any positives from the game. He told me, “I have the ability but I have to work harder.”

That’s the moral of the game, of the yo-yo. The Giants have the ability, they just have to work harder. I hope that’s the message Coach Fassel has told us to bet our asses on. Because when I bet my ass, I won’t settle for anything less.

On a personal note, today is cut day. Most of the time around here there is good, reasoned discussion. But every once in a while, terms creep in which really get me; terms like camp fodder, or talentless, you get my drift. Now some of you are lawyers, some doctors, some teachers, some the finest computer specialists I have had the pleasure of knowing. But very few of you have ever played the game at this level. Some at college, some big time, some not since high school, but most, never. Me, I’ve never been really good at any damn thing and I admire everyone who is good at anything, anyone who has a dream, anyone who has ever done anything in their lives. I’m very fortunate in that I get to meet these kids on a personal basis. Many are like a son once removed for me and I feel fortunate to have shared some time with them They are white, black, Samoan, some come from families of means, some from the streets. But they have all done something that I wanted to do all my life – they have worn the uniform of the NY Giants. I was never big enough, or fast enough, and when I was younger I had other goals, but always in my heart, as my sister recognized about 10 years ago, I have never wanted to do anything, anything, other than be a linebacker for the NY Giants.

Last year I lived through the terror of Bashir Levingston, the night he was cut, following the Detroit game. It was tough for him, it was tough for me because I liked the kid. This year, I met a young man in camp that I had watched in another League. He didn’t have a good chance, at best, but he got hurt early, which gave him no chance. The media, for all intents and purposes, ignored him. But he was a good football player and a helluva guy, so I would interview him, talk to him and share a little of camp life. He was close to another player inc amp, another of my favorites. We laughed and joked on the field after the game Saturday night. In the locker room, he grabbed me and he said, “Thank you, for every thing.” Everything, folks, was the simple act of talking to him as if he were a human being. He’s got a future in a successful family business, but he’s got a dream, and I believe in his dream; he will be on an NFL team somewhere soon. He asked me to stay in touch and we promised to get together when he landed somewhere. He knew he wasn’t going to stick. His injury decided that and his only regret was that he never had an opportunity to “show us (you and me) how good he could play.” Today he was cut. I can only say Good Luck and God Speed. My prayer is that your dream becomes reality.

Next week West Nile comes to the Ravens.

(Box Score – New York Jets at New York Giants, August 25, 2001)
Aug 232001
 
August 23, 2001 New York Giants Training Camp Report

by David Oliver

Crazy day. Got up at 4:30 a.m., out of the house by 5:20 for the drive up to Dr. Joe’s and on to BWI for the flight to Albany. Dodged a bullet when I barely heard an announcement about an accident on the beltway at the center lane of a construction area with split traffic lanes. I never take the outer lanes but did so this morning. Had I gone inner I would not have made the flight. Albany – why would anyone choose to live there, let alone have a practice camp? It cost me as much for the rental car as for the plane ticket, presumptively because all the swells are in town for the big weekend at Saratoga. Ouch! Got over to camp only to discover that morning practice had been canceled. Had some time, so we caught up on the news and waited to do some interviews.

The team was in meetings all morning and by the time they broke for lunch, the coaches were in a relaxed, even effusive mood and were very generous with their time. Jim Fassel (JF) briefed the media on Jason Sehorn’s status and said it definitely was not an injury. He discussed the procedure and his optimism for a quick return. How many times have we been down this road? All of these ‘minor’ injuries are making the Giants’ camp look like a mash unit. A couple of knee braces, lot’s of knee wraps, assorted limps and dings, can add up to a liability in the start the Giants must have this year.

The practice was without pads, which had already been shipped to the Meadowlands. Marty in Albany has already given us a good account of the basics, so I’ll just fill in with some observations and some things from the field view that he may not have heard or seen. As he reported, “Bandana Man” has become a celebrity and is now on a first name basis with some of the players, the Mayor was present, some local sportscasters and a large group of fans for an ugly Thursday afternoon.

There was a lot of coaching happening. Von Appen was forcefully leading his charges up and down the field; for this unit the anarchy of the past is a done thing. The Baron wants it done right and he is leading, pushing, cajoling his troops to get it down. As Rodney Williams told me when I asked if he had established a relationship with the Baron: “He’s developing a rapport with me. He’ s laying down the law, letting me know exactly what he wants and what he doesn’t want and what he’s going to take and what he’s not going to put up with, so, I’m ENJOYING all of it, I’m LOVING it.” (laughing). I’m starting to like the Baron more and more.

A certain coach was working with his unit in a hands on manner. He was showing them positions, guiding them through the steps. And then I heard the instruction of the camp as he shouted to his troops, “Pinch down on them. Pinch like a motherfucker!” It made me want to grab a helmet because I’ve been called that so many times, it’ s one thing I could do well on the field. Sean Payton was showing his offensive unit the film after every play. JF walked over and joined in the instruction.

Coach Marcin was working his troops through agility drills when JF called out, “Hey Denny. Did you see that photo in The Giants Insider of Kenny Holmes. It was a game photo. And he was in a Giants uniform. A game photo. Where do you think they got that?” Then seeing Kenny Palmer on the sidelines, he called, “Hey, Palmer, did you guys superimpose that or something?” JF was loose, but watching everything, at one point when changing drills, he appeared unsatisfied with the pace and yelled, “Who’s walking out here?”, which drew an immediate response as everyone put it into gear. Strahan again appeared feisty as he started busting Frankie Ferrara’s chops, first about his footwork, then asking, “Hey, Frank, when is your movie coming out?” Frank is also intense out there and doesn’t like being called out. He frostily responded, “Which one?” Strahan appeared to take objection to the response and started jabbering, “There’s more than one? Well, the first one? When is the first one coming out?” There were a few more words, but it didn’t seem like a real friendly exchange. It’s a good thing Strahan is coming home today and he can start taking it out on somebody else, like the Jets. He has a great camp, looks solid, but suddenly he’s a little cantankerous.

The scrimmage was a lot of position drilling, but when they went to the passing drills, several things were quickly obvious. Kerry Collins is razor sharp. He is barking out his commands, looking over the entire field and hitting his receivers dead on. So after my early season doubts last year, I can say this – Kerry has made me a believer and I think he is ready to step up in class. If he has the kind of season that he’s already started, he will be better than the Mark Brunell, Brad Johnson, Brian Griese, Vinnie Testaverde-class and will be mentioned in the Farve, Elway, and maybe even Marino class. He has the arm, the Giants are giving him the receivers and game plan. Once he decides to grab the ring, his potential is truly unlimited. He does not have the outer fire of Farve and Marino, but I think he has the will. This year will tell us a lot.

The stories coming out of camp about the turn around of Dan Campbell appear to be true. I had to look under the helmet to make sure this was the same guy under there, as he was catching everything tossed at him. He was moving laterally, with speed, coming back, going up, and looked like a tall, rangy wide receiver out there. And he was hand catching. I don’ t know what happened or how, but this is a tight end emerging. The other surprise was Joe Jurevicius (JJ), who was running crisp routes and also hand catching the ball. On one pattern, straight down the middle of the field, Kerry fired a zinger, maybe 10 feet high and on fire. JJ never broke stride, put his hands up at shoulder level and the ball hit him squarely in the hands, where it probably melted enough flesh to lodge for a couple of hours. Let me tell you something. With Dan Campbell running an underneath pattern and JJ going out another 10 or 15 yards, it is an impressive site – 2 very tall , very solid receivers out there. I hope this continues because it is awesome to watch. And the little guy is hanging in there. Everyone has Pat Woodcock destined for the cut bin, but I’ll tell you what. It wouldn’t surprise me if he somehow makes the practice squad. Okay, so that’s at least 15 players I think will be on that squad, but some of these kids have looked real good. And talk about athleticism. How about DeWayne Patmon playing wideout and actually catching the ball.

The running game still looks iffy. The team was working on a play where Dayne takes a pitch, moves two steps to his right, in which direction all the blocking is flowing, then stops and cuts back to the left, through a huge hole – yeah, right, this one I have to see against a defense – by the time Ron pivots, a swarming linebacker or defensive end will be in position to ‘keasterize’ him. There are too many reverses in the playbook, they look too deep, too far out, and too slow. Other than that, we need to see some game film. The more I see of this kid FB Anthony Green, the more like a legit fullback he looks. Could he be a sleeper? I don’t know. A lot of people favor Adam Wright, but Green looks more adept at hitting people.

Rodney Williams continued his good kicking. I asked him if he would rather make his mark as a punter, or as a ‘black’ punter? I asked this because too much is made of guys like Rodney and Jason Sehorn because of their positions and skin coloring. It is always Jason Sehorn, the only white corner, or Rodney Williams, black punter. Rodney blinked a couple of times and said “Punter. I think so.” End of story. Rodney Williams is a punter, soon to be NFL punter, book it. I asked him about his 3 step technique. “I haven’t heard any complaints from the people that really make a difference on decision making and my game planning,” he told me, then he went on, “I can change my steps if I needed to, I did in college. I just changed to a 3 step punter because I could get the ball off just as fast with the same amount of time. If you look at the games, or the film, all my times are right where they ask me to be for the game, but we’re still working on getting me a lot faster, because it doesn’t hurt to get the ball off faster; it cuts down on the amount of time these guys have to protect and then they have more time in coverage.”

We talked about his improvement in camp and he said, “I feel the improvement myself. I usually start out like that (inconsistent) because before I came here I took a few weeks off, from Europe, so I could be sure everything was fresh. I’m a little more comfortable with the snappers, a little more comfortable with the protection, and a little more comfortable with myself and being confident that I can hit like that every time.” He also said he didn’t notice the breakthrough on the blocked punt until the guy was, “Right in front of me, so I just had to react and make sure we got the ball out of bounds…but I realized when it went so far that we really didn’t have much of a chance. ”

Finally, we talked about Europe and he told me he loved it, that he had a great time and that the team didn’t require him to go, they gave him an option. He said, “I think more than anything, I learned a lot about personalities and people and working with people of a different culture, people that see things completely differently than you. You learn from body language and things like that and it translates over to the football field.”

I normally don’t get to talk to the kickers a lot, but I like Rodney. He seems to be a pretty cool guy and I’ll have to sit down with him more as we get into the season.

I also talked to a couple of ‘bubble’ guys, although I don’t know how the Giants could cut a player like Kevin Lewis and go with fewer backers. Kevin Lewis is a really affable guy and we get a chance now and then to talk a little. I asked him about his earlier session with Barrow, where it seemed he had a little self-doubt. But he said he felt good about himself and that listening to Jessie and MB “they just give you so much confidence and help you, correct you, let you know how this NFL thing works”, that it made for a tight knit group. He said the younger guys were “always joking around with each other, we laugh at each other when we get knocked on our butts…” He also told me that last year he didn’t know what to expect and that “I was just running around trying to be in the right spots, but this year I know a little about what to expect…I know where I’m going this time.” We talked about Dhani Jones’ statement about going to the ball and Klu laughed heartily and said, “Oh, my gosh, that’s it, run full speed, get to the ball, knock him out.” And when I asked about the younger guys communicating on the field, he said, “You don’t hear Dhani? (laughing) He’s always yelling at us. We kind of give each other calls and we help each other before the plays, and especially during the play when it’s really important. We’re all just trying to get to the ball, every time…” I asked if the focus among the younger guys was looking up to the starters or developing a bond among themselves. He told me it was “looking up to the older guys; they set the tone and we know that we have to get our level of play to where they are – and that’s very difficult., but that’s our mark, the younger guys’ goals – they help us along the way.”

Lance Legree is a solid kid, Notre Dame background. I referenced that he was obviously a “bubble” guy and asked him if he thought he had made an impression in camp. He told me, “I don’t really think of it in that way. I just go out and try to do my best every day, hopefully they’ll see some good things and it’ll work out for me.” It’s got to be nerve wracking for these kids at this time. He told me he felt that he has done pretty well in camp, that he “tried to learn and do the things they’ve taught me, I feel good about what I’ve done.” We discussed Mendenhall a little bit and I asked him, after I described M’s level of play if he thought he had that kind of motor. He said that the coaches at Notre Dame instilled it in him and the coaches here also coached him to “go in there and play with a never ending motor” so, yes, he thought he did have those qualities. We talked about playing time and he acknowledged that it was going to be short with the starters scheduled to go three quarters. But he said he was looking to “go out there and do my best. If I go out there and on every play give a 110%, I feel like I’ve done my job.” We discussed the practice squad and he told me “that would be all right, I just want an opportunity, if the opportunity is there, that would be great for me…” We discussed his strengths and he said, “Playing against the run, I read run blocks well…” I wished him well and I meant it. This is one kid who belongs because he is a solid, smart, effort player.

Defensive Backs Coach Johnnie Lynn was generous with his time with everybody. He talked about the two Wills (Allen and Peterson), said EMac (Emmanuel McDaniel) would be first in, that Dave Thomas knew what he was up against and came to play. He talked a lot about Peterson and said EMac, then Will Allen in the nickel, Peterson in the dime and Ralph Brown in the quarter (4 wideout sets). He likes all of these kids and said, “I coach the position, not the player” which was said to indicate a neutrality about personalities and an expectation that the players would be multi functional. Peterson was holding court with a gaggle of media and he said, “I want the ball thrown at me as much as the QB will throw it. That way, I’ll get an opportunity to make some plays. I want to come out of the game with something that will satisfy me, just making plays. If the ball is thrown my way, I’m going to knock it down or take it away. I’m going to be an aggressive tackler, and most importantly, I want to play the defensive schemes that are called.”

Both Peterson and EMac drew a crowd after JF gave the news about Sehorn and Peterson was asked if he felt he was competing against the other Will (Allen). He said no, “I feel like I’m going out there to make plays, we’re going out there as a team, me and Will will probably be out there together.” And he said he looked forward to being out there together with Allen as “there’s always an excitement when they are on the field together in a practice…this weekend we’ll finally get out there together and the people will see.” I talked to him a little after the crowd had moved on to Strahan and asked about Patmon, his roomie in college and here, and he told me he was excited about playing with him “because that’s like a safety net, because I know he’s going to make the calls, and I know his style of play.” He said they had good communication on the field as “we go back, we have a history together.” He told me they had stayed in touch and that he had gone to see Michigan games and some of the Michigan players had come up to see his games. I asked him, as I asked them all, if he knew the significance of this game and he said yes, he had heard Giants/Jets was always a good one, but that you never really knew till you experienced it yourself, so “I can’t wait to get in there.”

My parting advice to each and every one of them – show up in the Jets game and you leave an impression. Well, the deck has been shuffled. Injury has cost a few of these kids their shot at the brass ring. Some know they’re gone so they are playing for the joy of saying they were in an NFL camp, and with the Giants at that. Others are probably near nervous exhaustion about now. But they are a solid bunch of kids. Some will go on to other teams, other leagues; some will make it in life as educators, doctors, lawyers, some may fall by the wayside and wind up with us here on BBI. Not so bad all the way around, eh, friends!

Aug 232001
 
Q&A: Defensive Line Coach Denny Marcin

by David Oliver

Camp was winding down and the coaches were in a relaxed mood. One more day of Albany, then on to football. I button holed Coach Marcin and we had a very relaxed one on one, in which the Coach was personable, straight forward and shared some insights with us.

I began by asking him if he had anything with this group of linemen. He told me he thought so, but “I haven’t seen them all together in a while.” So I followed up by asking if that was going to be a problem. He answered, “Well, yeah, it’s a little bit of a problem right now; like Kenny, I gotta see how it all fits together and I haven’t seen it. Yes, it is a little bit of a problem.”

One of the things that kept coming into our conversation was the point that this isn’t rocket science, that there is a lot of guesstimate and a synergy between the position Coach and the player. Which I found interesting from a personal perspective. See, I’m one of those guys who, for an entire career lifetime was classified as unmanageable or incapable of supervision, if not down right insubordinate. Just a personality flaw. I always tell me not to ever give me an order, a simple request will do. When people asked for whom I worked, I always said I worked for no one but I worked with a lot of people. I’ve found Coach Marcin to be one of those rare guys, a leader I would do some things for, if I had the chance, because he’s been there, done that. In the words of the Marlon Brando character in ON THE WATERFRONT (rough paraphrase), if I had the luck to be with a Coach like this when I was younger “I couldda been a contender.” So his insights into the game and the players interests me.

I asked him if any of the young guys had caught his eye. His answer:

“Put it this way, a lot of the young guys have done a good job; they’ve picked up the stuff fairly well and they’re giving good effort, and, you know, we’ll have to wait and see how it all shakes out.. There are a couple of guys, well, like I told them all when we started, a couple of guys are going to make this team; I don’t know who you are…so, we’ve got another week or so to see what’s up.”

Now, here are some keys to making the Giants I picked up in our conversation. I’ll cap them as they come up for emphasis.

Starting with the premise that everyone has some talent (more below) GIVING GOOD EFFORT IS IMPORTANT.

I followed up by asking about decisions and discussing the guys on the bubble. I asked Coach if he went into the meeting with a list of does this well, can’t do this, could be trained to do this. He answered: “Oh, yeah, you have to, because you have to see some quality; some have better strengths; if you have the ability to rush the passer, that’s a pretty important thing for a young kid because most young kids out of college, they don’t do that very well. In college there’s so much running the ball, and even though some teams are throwing the ball now, they don’t practice it (pass rush) nearly like we do., so there is a big difference in that aspect. If you find a kid who can do some of those things, that’s where it really helps, and it aids them, and I told them that. I said you young guys, if you can rush the passer and I see that, it makes a big difference.” He continued on to tell me that they all have “these little things and you as a Coach have to figure out what’s going to be important down the road, say, these guys make your team and do this and do that, contribute.”

Okay, so you have some talent, and you have a motor. DO YOU HAVE THE ABILITY TO GENERATE A PASS RUSH? See Christian Peter and Cedric Jone in this regard. When taking a look at the current guys, check out Lance Legree and Ross Kolodziej this week. And don’t forget Frank Ferrara. We discussed bringing guys into camp, and Coach said the Giants try hard to do a good job to bring kids in that have something, that could make the team. He said that there are a lot of factors including college coaching. He used an example of one kid who was doing things a certain way and he asked why. Turns out the kid had three different line coaches in college. So he was a prospect, but a lot of teaching would be involved.

I asked him if he still had the fire in his belly and he laughed and said “Fire – I still have more fire than a lot of young guys, for Pete’s sake. Yeah, I got some fire.” I asked him if he would be satisfied to finish his career as a position coach or did he have aspirations to move up, or on. He told me he’d be happy if someone would tell him he could stay with the Giants and finish his career, that “I’d be a happy camper.” He said that he liked it with the team and that “I don’t need to move anymore. My next move is down to north Carolina to retire, whenever that is. I just bought a lot down there between Wilmington and Myrtle Beach. I coached there for 10 years (UNC).”

I asked, hypothetically, how this unit, if it ever plays together, stacks up against previous Giants’ fronts. He told me “this possibly could be the best year we’ve had, but again, it’s a big ‘if’ because, like I say, right now we’ve got two of the front four, that’s it. And, you have to remember, because people forget that about Corenlius Griffin, most of his reps last year were rushing the passer, not playing the run, so there’s some learning yet; we didn’t put him in the Hall of Fame, yet, you know.”

I continued on this line asking about the coordination with Brandon Short and the new corners and he said, “Oh, yeah, there are a lot of things in there, but I think all that will work out, but, you know, there’s still a learning factor. It took Strahan and these guys a couple of years to learn what we are trying to teach. It’s not easy. In fact, the we play our ends a little bit different than most people, so it takes a little bit more potty training.”

So you have a motor, you can rush the passer, but YOU CAN’T BE ONE-DIMENSIONAL OR SITUATIONAL. FLEXIBILITY AND SMARTS ARE ESSENTIAL TO THIS DEFENSE.

In that respect I asked about Cedric Jones (CJ) and opined that I was a little confused as it appeared to me that last year, for the first time CJ had shown something and poof, Ernie Accorsi says sayonara. There was a whimsical half laugh, almost sardonic and then he said, “One thing about Cedric, he was a very smart player and was never out of place. Now, you wouldn ‘t always say, well do this or do that, but he was always in the right place. If you ran a reverse, Cedric would be right there, you know; he’s not down the line somewhere else; a very intelligent player, but see, everybody’s got these little traits and you’ve got to make sure they use their traits. Coaching to me is one thing, it ‘s motivating your players; if you’ve got good players and they’re not playing good, something is wrong. You’ve got to find out what it is; that’s all coaching is, as long as you are sound in what you are doing, and they play hard for you, that’s the key, you’ve got to play hard, and if they do that, you are going to be all right.”

MOTOR, PASS RUSH, FLEXIBLE AND SMART, PLAY HARD.

We talked a little about the kind of camp it has been for him and again he evinced some frustration with the injuries, especially because, he told me, his unit generally hadn’t been hit so hard. But, with some resignation, he told me “things happen you know, but as long as they’re minor, that’s just part of the game.”

We concluded on the process of cuts and he was sincere as he explained, “It’s always tough because there are always a couple of kids that are right there and you have to try to make sure you make the tight decisions; this is like taking griffin in the second round. I had him projected first, he could be gone already, and boom, he’s still there, so that’s important because, you know, you could have that first rounder that’s not very good and everybody gets all over you. There are always these…you have to project a little bit because you’re not going to see everything.”

There you have it. An engaging personality, a good, tough Coach who loves what he’s doing, loves the game, loves the Giants. If you want to play for Denny Marcin, he’s laid out the keys. Not cliché, just simple straight forward elements he looks for in assessing his players.

Tomorrow is the last preseason game. As you watch the tape, see if you can pick out who will stay, who will go.

Aug 232001
 

Approach to the Game – New York Jets at New York Giants, August 25, 2001: Coaches normally consider the third preseason game the most important. They want their teams to do well in this game as this is usually the last time the starters will see extended playing time before the regular season. In fact, starters often see action into the third quarter.

The Giants-Jets preseason “rivalry” always seemed a tad strange to me. I don’t think the most Giants’ players or fans dwell on the Jets too much – but I’m not sure the opposite is true. Thus, rightly or wrongly, I feel the Jets take the game much more seriously and put more effort into it. That increased intensity level can be good as it helps to mentally prepare the team for the regular season – just as long as no one seriously gets hurt.

Head Coach Jim Fassel is going to baby his injured starters a bit. Much of the heart of the will most likely be missing from action: HB Tiki Barber, WR Ike Hilliard, WR Amani Toomer, and TE Howard Cross; and DE Kenny Holmes, DT Keith Hamilton, MLB Mike Barrow, and CB Jason Sehorn on defense. Ouch! I wouldn’t expect a great performance with so many key people missing.

Giants on Special Teams: Jaret Holmes is very close to sealing the deal to become the place kicker. The last thing he needs to do is come up with a negative performance here. Expect John Markham to get a few more shots in this game, but the players appear to have more faith in Holmes. If both fail, a veteran still out there on the open market awaits.

Rodney Williams will be the Giants punter this year; he only needs to upgrade his consistency level. He looks to be a better player than Brad Maynard – and much cheaper. Let’s see if the Giants do a better job of protecting the punter this week.

The big area of concern remains kick-off and punt coverage. Last week they were terrible. As I said before, someone will make this team based on special teams play. Likewise, someone is going to lose their job because of it.

Giants on Offense: The passing game will be severely hampered by the absence of Hilliard and Toomer (there is a chance Amani may play). Joe Jurevicius and Ron Dixon will see a lot of playing time. Joe played well last week, but the lack of consistency and an inability to stay healthy has plagued him in the past. Let’s see if he can put together two strong back-to-back performances. Ron Dixon has yet to make a big play this preseason. At camp, he’s been capable of the spectacular play shortly followed by botching the routine one. That’s got to stop if he wants to reach the next level. More than individual accomplishment, his team NEEDS him to perform better.

The rest of the wide receiving corps is also bit banged up right now. Jonathan Carter (knee) is out. Thabiti Davis (hamstring) and Quinton Spotwood (thigh) also missed time this past week. Pat Woodcock and Anthony Tucker probably won’t be around much longer.

To me, one of the most important aspects of this game (if not the most important) is for the starters on the offensive line to build cohesion. That hasn’t been easy this summer with LG Glenn Parker and OC Dusty Zeigler missing extended practice time. For the first time this summer, all five starters will be playing together. Last week, I felt that LT Lomas Brown and Parker played a sub par game. Let’s see if they rebound.

Another interesting facet of the offense to watch will be the play of the tight ends. By all reports, Dan Campbell had a great week of practice catching the ball. Will that translate to the playing field? If Dan can elevate his game, the Giants’ offense will become much more dynamic once the regular season starts. Marcellus Rivers also had a good week of practice catching the ball, but his blocking remains suspect at best. Does he or Adam Young or Taman Bryant have a role on this team? The Giants can’t keep them all. Young is the better blocker, the Giants seem high on Rivers, and Bryant is the kind of hybrid player who intrigues. This is an important game for all three.

Ron Dayne should see extended playing time again with Barber and Sean Bennett (hamstring injury suffered five months ago) out. He played well last week. Like Jurevicius, can he put two strong games together as well? Damon Washington has made the team easily.

Giants on Defense: The Giants’ defense very well could contend for the top spot in the league this year, but they will be missing many key parts on Saturday. I think Mike Barrow is the best linebacker on the team. Keith Hamilton still is the best defensive tackle. Jason Sehorn is the best corner. Also missing is the pass rush from the right side in Kenny Holmes.

If Barrow doesn’t play, I would expect Dhani Jones to get the start. It will be VERY interesting to see how he performs with the starters. He is very bright and flashes ability as a play-maker. This game also represents another chance for Brandon Short to gain experience on the strongside. It’s time for Jessie Armstead to start revving up his game a bit. Jack Golden did not play well last week, but Kevin Lewis did.

Up front, if Hamilton does not play, this will be our second look at Ryan Hale as a starter. Same story with Cedric Scott at weakside end with Holmes out. Will Ross Kolodziej and Lance Legree continue to impress in a reserve role? Is this the year Frank Ferrara makes the team?

Emmanuel McDaniel and Dave Thomas will both be on the spot again. Jason Sehorn won’t be there to take away half the field. The good news is that Will Allen, Will Peterson, and Ralph Brown should see a lot of action. Due to the numbers, it seems impossible that Kelly Herndon will make the team, but he has made some plays this preseason. Right now, the Giants appear caught between a rock and a hard place. Thomas and McDaniel are the kind of guys who can get killed by quality receivers. At the same time, the youngsters are not ready yet. That was to be expected – it takes time to learn the pro game. When will the transition be made? How many games will be lost until this transition is successfully completed?

At safety, the three top spots are locked up: Sam Garnes and Shaun Williams as starters; Omar Stoutmire as the chief reserve. The Giants seem high on DeWayne Patmon and he probably has the inside lock on the fourth safety job (if the Giants keep four safeties). But Clarence LeBlanc and Emile White have looked good too. A decent player or two will be let loose and that’s kind of sad.

Aug 192001
 
New York Giants 27 – Jacksonville Jaguars 5

Game Overview: This was about as positive of a performance as one could hope for, with the exception of a couple of down notes. Specifically, the big negatives were the injuries to WR Amani Toomer and TE Howard Cross as well as continued shoddy special teams coverage work.

However, the positives heavily out-weighed the negatives. By halftime, the Giants had a 191-60 advantage in total yards; by game’s end, they out-gained the Jaguars 313 to 169 yards. On offense, QB Kerry Collins was extremely hot, HB Ron Dayne looked much improved, and WR Joe Jurevicius made some plays. Defensively, the starters shut down the Jaguars though they benefitted from some sloppy play by the Jacksonville offense (there were times when the defense was bending a bit too much). On specials, the Giants seemed to have a real weapon in P Rodney Williams. PK Jaret Holmes stood out.

Quarterbacks: Collins was darn near flawless. He was 8-of-11 for 89 yards, 1 touchdown and no interceptions. Two of his incompletions were drops. What really impresses me about Collins is although he is not the nimblest of quarterbacks, he does a great job of escaping sacks. The way he does this is with just enough movement skills (usually falling backwards or drifting to his right) combined with a quick release. Against the Jaguars, there were many times when the offensive line did not afford him decent pass protection, but Kerry was able to get rid of the ball. It’s his strong arm that allows him to throw strikes while not being able to set up properly at times. This happened on the TD pass to Comella. While the play-fake took most of the defenders with Dayne, one rusher was right on top of the play yet Collins still managed to throw for the score. His only “bad” pass of the night was his last one when he tried to squeeze the ball into Ron Dixon’s hands in the endzone despite solid coverage.

Jason Garrett (5-of-10 for 38 yards, 1 touchdown, no interceptions) was steady and led the Giants to a last second TD right before halftime. He threw a very accurate pass against tight coverage for the touchdown on 4th down with no time on the clock. Also on that drive, he made a couple of quick throws from a 3-step drop that picked up first downs.

Jesse Palmer (8-for-12 for 98 yards, 1 touchdown, no interceptions) played well and it wasn’t his fault that the offense stalled in the third quarter. Drops by Thabiti Davis and Pat Woodcock led to two three-and-outs. The drop by Davis came on a perfect strike over the middle. He made a real nice play when he scrambled a bit to his right away from pressure and hit Pat Woodcock over the middle for a first down in the fourth quarter. His best pass was the extremely accurate one to Jonathan Carter on the fly pattern for a 44-yard touchdown. What’s impressive about Palmer is looks pretty darn advanced for a rookie. He’s poised and confident to boot.

Wide Receivers: WR Amani Toomer sprained his ankle early and did not contribute. WR Joe Jurevicius (7 catches for 68 yards and a touchdown) had a rough start. He bobbled one pass and dropped another (even his TD reception was bobbled). But he seemed to calm down and finally make some plays. It was pretty clear that Collins was looking to Jurevicius and Joe was a factor in keeping the chains moving and putting the Giants into scoring position.

Ron Dixon (2 catches for 30 yards) didn’t do enough. There was one exciting play where he caught the ball over the middle and showed some good run-after-the-catch ability on 3rd-and-10, but with Toomer and Ike Hilliard both out, he should have been more of a factor. He dropped an early slant pass from Collins that stalled a drive on third down.

WR Thabiti Davis had two catches for 20 yards against the Jags’ starting defense – both catches picked up first downs. However, he also dropped a superb throw from Palmer deep over the middle. WR Pat Woodcock (1 catch for 15 yards) dropped one that hit him right in the mitts – he’s a goner soon. Jonathan Carter (1 catch for 44 yards and a touchdown) flashed the deep speed the Giants drafted him for. He made a nice catch despite decent coverage too. WR Quinton Spotwood and WR Anthony Tucker were not factors.

Tight Ends/H-Backs: This position is starting to concern me. The good news is that Dan Campbell looked the part on the one pass thrown his way (for seven yards). His run blocking was also pretty solid. Dan doesn’t get much movement, but he is getting better at sustaining the block. The bad news is that he dropped a pass in traffic.

Marcellus Rivers (2 catches for 12 yards) looked pretty bad as a run and pass blocker. He gave up one sack in pass protection. As a run blocker, he gets no movement whatsoever and usually gets pushed out of the way. Adam Young (1 catch for two yards) made a good block from the fullback position that sprung Omar Bacon on his best run. Taman Bryant showed nice concentration and some suddenness in catching a tipped ball from Palmer. But he’s awfully small at 230lbs.

Halfbacks/Fullbacks: The Giants let Ron Dayne finally get into a bit of a rhythm and he responded with 43 yards on 12 carries, despite a few chances that were stuffed in the backfield before the play got going. Dayne looks much quicker and faster at his reduced weight, and he is finally keeping his feet moving on contact. What really impressed me was the way he cutback against the grain with sharp, quick moves. Though he did most of damage between the tackles (and his biggest runs came on cutbacks), I really like the play where they pitch the ball to him outside. This lets him get some momentum going forward.

Damon Washington (7 carries for 18 yards) looked real sharp and explosive on his draw play on the last drive before halftime, but got stuffed pretty easily on some short yardage efforts in the second half (the poor run blocking in short yardage didn’t help).

Omar Bacon (9 carries for 40 yards) didn’t look bad and had one good looking run late in the fourth quarter, but doesn’t flash any special qualities.

At fullback, with the tight end being a problem area, look for the Giants to use Greg Comella (2 catches for 11 yards, 1 run for 4 yards) even more heavily in the passing attack this year. He did a nice job of getting into the endzone after his short reception from Collins. FB Anthony Green caught one pass for six yards.

Offensive Line: On the first team, I wasn’t too pleased with the performances of LT Lomas Brown and LG Glenn Parker. Brown had a lot of problems with DE Tony Brackens in pass protection, often getting bull-rushed straight back into Collins. He also missed a run block pretty badly that disrupted a Dayne run. Parker had a couple of down plays as pass and run blocker as well. Both of these veterans seemed to make some mental mistakes too as there were a couple of plays where defensive linemen on their side came free untouched. The right side was pretty solid with RG Ron Stone and RT Luke Petitgout (though both did have problems once on separate pass rushes). Scott Kiernan blocked better for the run than the pass. He got some movement in his run blocks, but got beat by quickness in pass protection on a couple of occasions.

The back-ups didn’t look too bad. Jason Whittle (hip) did not play. Chris Bober got a few snaps with the starters at left tackle when Lomas Brown left a bit early. Brackens gave him some problems too. Bober was a bit clumsy on his first effort as he fell to the ground. On his next chance, he was hanging on for dear life as Brackens tried to speed past him. Bober also didn’t respond particularly well to a late dog by the outside backer. In the second half, Bober played exclusively at center and faired better (it helped that he wasn’t facing Brackens too).

RT Chris Ziemann was flagged with a false start, but looked pretty solid. Terrance Sykes seemed to do pretty well at left tackle. He needs a lot of working in the weight room, but he moved his feet pretty well and always seemed to engage his man. Jim Goff played a bit at right guard before giving way to Rich Seubert. I’d didn’t notice any major gaffs by Goff, but Seubert did have some problems with one inside move (Ziemann also got beat on this play) on a running play. There were a couple of mental mistakes too where guys came free untouched, but that is to be expected at times with the reserves in preseason. The problems appeared to be more with the backside. Short-yardage run blocking by the second team wasn’t very good. Mike Rosenthal played at left guard. Josh Warner came in later at guard. He looked a little clueless on one pass block effort as the rusher ran right by him; he did better as a run blocker. But all in all the reserves provided decent pass protection and good run blocking.

Defensive Line: So-so. Not as good as the score would indicate. The run defense against Fred Taylor was ordinary, and not too impressive in short yardage in particular. DE Michael Strahan had a real nice pass rush on a stunt on a play where Mike Barrow cleaned up on the sack. He also got held badly on another play that wasn’t called and had another good looking outside rush that forced the quarterback to throw the ball away. But he didn’t play as well against the rookie right tackle as expected. DT Cornelius Griffin has not stepped it up yet this preseason. I liked the athleticism he flashed in chasing Mark Brunell outside of the pocket on one play, but he was getting stymied too much at the line of scrimmage. I do like his effort. DT Keith Hamilton was too quiet. He forced one holding call that brought back a big play. DE Cedric Scott didn’t make much noise (he was facing All-Pro Tony Boselli), but I thought he showed good hustle and certainly didn’t look out of place. He has great size for an end. Nevertheless, the Jags were able to run the ball a bit in his direction in the first quarter.

Kenny Holmes (knee) and Ryan Hale (ankle) did not play. I really liked the work of back-up defensive tackles Ross Kolodziej and Lance Legree again. Both made a number of plays against the run and flashed on the pass rush. Some of Ross’ efforts came against the first string line of Jacksonville too. If you ask me, right now both look like steals. DE Frank Ferrara was a factor. He forced one holding call that called back a touchdown and slammed into the quarterback on two other occasions. Frank certainly out-performed Cedric Pittman in the pass rush department.

Linebackers: Brandon Short certainly doesn’t look out of place. His crushing hit on the quarterback for a sack was pretty inspiring (though he was unblocked on the play). But there were a few plays that showed that he still is learning. He got suckered on the reverse where Garnes’ strip saved the day. I also spotted him getting pinched inside on a right-side run. Short also still looks a little awkward to me in pass coverage.

I love the way MLB Mike Barrow plays. Even in the preseason, he has fire in his belly. Smartly, Defensive Coordinator John Fox has recognized his ability as a pass rusher and no longer hesitates to send him. When the Giants need a play, Barrow is usually blitzed.

The Jags were able to run on Jessie Armstead some. He got caught too far inside on Taylor’s big run to the left in short-yardage. It’s tough to get a good read on Jessie as one gets the sense that he doesn’t take the preseason that seriously.

As for the reserves, I thought Jack Golden played a very poor game. He badly missed an open field tackle that directly led to the biggest offensive play by Jacksonville of the night. He also looked pretty bad in coverage. To his credit, he showed well on two blitzes where he almost got to the quarterback. The guy who stood out more this week was Kevin Lewis. Kevin did a great job of sniffing out a screen pass as well as defending the pass on two occasions. Dhani Jones was quiet this week..

Defensive Backs: CB Jason Sehorn (knee) and CB Will Peterson (knee) did not play. CB Emmanuel McDaniel looked a bit shaky to me again this week. While he forced his man close to the sideline on a deep pass early, he never looked back for the ball and was lucky the pass was thrown out-of-bounds. He also fell down on another chance that led to an easy completion.

CB Will Allen was up-and-down; he’s learning. Allen looks like the kind of guy who you will never beat deep, but who needs to play a bit more aggressively against the underneath stuff. He did a great job of cutting off one deep route. On two shorter routes that were completed in front of him, he whiffed badly on one tackle and made a nice solid hit on another. CB Ralph Brown did a great job staying with a speed receiver on a deep pass. One guy who is starting to impress me is Kelly Herndon. Herndon did a nice job of reading the quarterback and coming up with an interception. He also looked sharp providing close coverage on a slant.

SS Sam Garnes was fortunate to punch the ball out of the receiver’s hand on a reverse that had big yardage written all over it. Garnes whiffed on the tackle but managed to tap the ball out just as the ball carrier passed him. Omar Stoutmire did a great job of timing a run blitz and making a sure, ankle tackle in the backfield. FS Clarence LeBlanc made a spectacular interception on the sideline, but the play was called back due to defensive holding on Will Allen. DeWayne Patton made a head’s up play by recovering a fumble. SS Emile White did a good job staying stride-for-stride with a receiver on a deep pattern – if he had picked up the ball, he might have intercepted it. He later forced an incompletion with a big hit on the intended target.

Special Teams: Some good news; some bad. First the good. Rodney Williams looks like a real player as a punter. He boomed his kicks all night with height and distance. If the Giants’ coverage teams had gotten their heads out of their collective asses, he also would have had two downed inside the 10 yard line (including one on the one yard line). In addition, his free kick after the safety must have gone about 70 yards. Jaret Holmes also looked very good. He had one kick-off go into the endzone and one right to the goalline. His two field goal attempts were perfect – right down the middle with plenty of room to spare, including a 45 yarder. PK John Markham did not attempt a field goal, but was poor on his kick-off attempt. Did the Giants even bother to scout this guy? If so, whoever wrote the positive report should have his eyes examined.

The bad news was the atrocious kick-off and punt coverage. For all the booming kicks and punts, the coverage men had plenty of time to get in the picture. Too many tackles were missed by men who did not bring themselves under control first. On kick-offs, there were a couple of returns where no one was in the picture as the returner easily ran up the sideline unmolested. This is inexcusable – especially given all the time the Giants are spending on this in practice.

Will Allen had a nice looking 23 yard punt return where he showed off his speed and explosiveness. Pat Woodcock made a bonehead play by fair catching a punt with no coverage man in the picture. Rodney Williams had a punt blocked when Clayton White let his man run right up the middle and up-back Omar Stoutmire didn’t pick him up.


by David Oliver

Hey, this was an enjoyable game to watch. Opening day is always special for me. When I worked for the Government, I used to love flying back into Dulles Airport. Most people don’t realize the missions and adventures of designated “civilians” who go out of the country for any number of “official” and some “unofficial” purposes. The Customs and INS agents at Dulles know as soon as they see that Government passport, that the individual may have had a rough trip, been in some pretty bad situations, may be pretty tense. I had a few of those in my time. So when you hit Dulles and that official checks you in, looks in your eyes, and says, “welcome home, sir”, there is no feeling like it. The tension, the pain, the tiredness, the fear all disappear in an instant.

So is it on that first visit back to Giants Stadium. This summer, in particular, has been stressful for many reasons, but walking into and through the tunnel, greeting and being greeted by the security guards, walking around the field and shaking hands with them, “Hello, Counselor”, “Hey, what do you think of the new arrangements?’ “How was the off season?’ “How is Mom?” Well, it’s not much different than that entry into Dulles. It is a warm fuzzy; it is home. I have two connections left with NJ, to the past, Mom and the Giants. Tough as this business is, and every year it becomes harder to make the commitment, it is hard to replace that feeling of welcome; these are friends, in a loose sense, this turf is my little place in the world now. Like returning to school, all the fotogs catch up with each other, who’s here this year, who’s not and why? What’s been happening, a quick Babe check, and a look at the new crop of players.

A Super Bowl appearance changes things. The team appears more relaxed, but at the same time, more resolute. It is more professional. These young boys are growing into men and the men are becoming elder counselors. The coaches seem to have concluded their Vulcan mind meld, and they interact more as one instead of individual units. Sean Payton has the look in his eyes that he’s got it down, now. Jim McNally, well, he always look hassled this time of the year as he has to get this group of behemoths thinking and playing together. John Fox knows this one is for the next level, in so many ways. Johnnie Lynn is having some fun as he has a good unit and some nice personal prospects for the future. Denny Marcin has been there, done that, his expression never changes and the Baron now realizes that he has entered the Augean stables of professional football – he is the Special Teams Coach of the NY Giants.

The seating arrangement – looks great for whoever gets the seats, real pain in the ass for us on the field. With the TV camera rolling around like some misplaced siege machine, the restricted area being moved back another couple of yards, and the hyperactive paranoia of the NFL blossoming like the locust cycle, it’s going to be crowded down there. Everyone takes notice of the blonde in the Simms jersey who will sing the Anthem, the teams run through a perfunctory practice, then game time. As the Anthem is sung, the teams stretch out from the bench, each player locked into his own personal space. As I said in a thread last night, I am standing behind JoMo (Joe Montgomery) and Sean Bennett, next to each other, twin careers entwined in frustration. Joe keeps his spirits up; Bennett is riding this latest injury out. I wonder what Omar Bacon, Anthony Green and Lloyd Clemons are thinking as they look at these two – their one, slim to none chance at the big time is riding on these two standing on the sidelines.

The game itself was eerie in its simplicity and ease. Is this the same team that I followed in last week’s threads, playing sloppily against the Pats? The City of Albany must have put something in the water last week because these guys had no real trouble with a jacked up Jaguar team, and don’t kid yourselves about it, the Jags knew it. There were no individual standouts on the front seven of the Giants but they pistol-whipped the Jags front line. The Jags were confused and frustrated. Boselli did a good job, but he was King Canute against the entire Giants package. Incidentally, Tony Brackens was much more slender than I thought and when he stood around the offensive linemen, he looked more like a receiver than a line stalwart. The Jags have a lineman named Long, who really looked more like Goliath from my angle – keep an eye on him.

What can I say? The Giants actually looked like a Super Bowl team. Sure #28 (Taylor) had some yardage, but not significant enough to diminish the effort. At times it looked as if there were 8 or 9 D-Backs on the field because the passing lanes for Mark Brunell were crowded. Brandon Short looked real good and Mike Barrow looked terrific. The defense was rotating nicely, there was good play recognition and there was some considerable energy out there. This to me is the significance in pre-season – play recognition, not individual performance. The Giants were not fooled and they were not physically driven off the ball or out muscled. So, I saw a lot of defensive positives. And, Coach Fox was sending the dogs, which I like to see. In last night’s game, the Titans and Rams, Madden made the comment that the new Rams d coordinator, from Tamp Bay, had put in a system where the front seven just moved, no read and react, more go get them. I like that defensive style. Coach Fox uses a modified system, but if last night was any indication, Ray Lewis really pissed these guys off and we are going to see some Giant charges this year. We are apt to see any of the 11 out there in the backfield at any time.

Interestingly enough, this trend continued with the Giants #2 unit against the Jags #2 unit. Omar Stoutmire looked particularly impressive. He was a starter quality player on the field with and against legit back ups. Lance Legree deserves a shot. He looks better than our former tackle/end (now with the Colts, from Duke who ended Brian Williams career), and as I said on another thread reminded me of John Mendenhall. Frankie Ferrara has the biggest heart on the field. His motor is still running. He knows his deficiencies; the tackle catches him up too much. But Howard Cross and Coach Oliver are working with him. All you guys writing him off – not so fast. He is one good move away from the team. Like all good fastball throwers, he needs that slider to make him a pitcher. I’m losing my mind waiting to get a look at Adriano Belli. His chances are ebbing away and that’s a shame, because he’s a bigger Frankie – lot’s of intensity, good physical tools. Ross Kolodziej probably makes the team as a draftee with some skills – I just don’t see the comparisons to Christian Peter, but I’ll watch more closely next game.

The safeties are where the play has landed this year. Last year, the Giants were a safety deficient team after the first three. The scouts have done a marvelous job. Emile White not only hits, he covers; Clarence LeBlanc not only hits, he has hands; and DeWayne Patmon is a booming cruncher. Special teams may decide who gets to play the regular team and who plays the scout team. I’d be comfortable with any or all of these guys.

The #1 unit offense was deceptively tuned. Kerry looked great; he even looked off on a couple of throws. Dayne is in his early season form. Comella made some nice catches – his problem is that he doesn’t get the ball often enough and when he gets it, he isn’t always running like Tiki, so he gets popped by the D-Backs. The Giants need to give him more of the plays designed for Bennett, flow plays where he can get the ball on the move. He may not break many, but 8 to 15 yards a play wouldn’t be so bad. Joe Jurevicius looked good; he can get open but doesn’t seem relaxed enough, yet. He fights the ball even on his good catches. He is a tough, middle distance, sideline-to-sideline receiver. I’d like to see them stretch his range about 10 more yards down field. Thabiti Davis had a drop, got angry with himself, and then came back as his usual steady self. Pat Woodcock had both a drop, then a nice catch. He’s good, but not Coors Light good. Barring injury, he just isn’t ready for Prime Time, but may be a candidate for the Practice Squad. Well, I’m into the second unit so let’s talk Jonathan Carter – similar trajectory to Dixon – the kid can motor and he did well with the long pass coming over his head. He promises some excitement and has me wanting to see more.

I’m just not sold on Dan Campbell yet – certainly not as anything more than a situational pass receiver and his blocking is often very quiet. He is good on a push down the line, less impressive in picking up tacklers in runs around end. Marcellus Rivers still shows some nice hands. He’s not afraid to go get it, but he is a real soft blocker. The lack of a real stand out tight end only accentuates the need for a big blocking full back. This is the most glaring need for the G-Men – either a blocking tight end who can catch or a blocking fullback (hands are nice, but that Comella’s specialty).

The O-Line had some confusion late in the game when the #3 unit was on the field, but there are some prospects here. I still like Rich Seubert and think his overall performance was good, which is better than not bad or bad. Chris Ziemann is a big, lumbering kid, whose forte is strength. He’s not quite mobile yet, but he’s stronger than Lurch and has more presence. Finally got a close look at Josh Warner – physical presence, I can see why they are giving him a look. I thought Chris Bober did a decent job; here’s the rub – Bober or Scott Kiernan? This is going to be interesting.

Linebackers: Both Jack Golden and Dhani Jones were frustrated with their play. This is good because I didn’t see anything out there to make me think less of either’s potential. Kelly Herndon shows up again.

Jessie James Palmer looked real nice out there. Handled the rush well, found his receivers; he looks comfortable and he looks big time which is far more than you can ask from many young QBs. Jason Garrett steady, but don’t ask him to throw the deep out, he’s more a Billy Kilmer type; it may get ugly, but he is efficient. Gosh, that sounds like describing a blind date to your best friend, well, she’s not glamorous, but she sure has personality. OK, that sells for a lot of folks, as most of us aren’t real glamorous. That’s Garrett, he’s not Joe Unitas, but neither is he Glynn or Jerry or a whole slew of guys who have been here.

Finally, the kicking game. The kickers looked decent. Rodney was booming his kicks; the blocked punt was a breakaway – strangely enough, I didn’t see it because I was focusing on the middle three – I had seen something I didn’t like and I just had one of those feelings. One of the kickoffs came down on the 10 but most went deeper; there was some wind, so it’s hard to say what the real deal is without more looking. Jaret Holmes showed some foot in his FGs also. He seems to be fairly popular with the players, so it looks as if John Markham has his work cut out.

Overall, this was a positive game. It gave the coaches an opportunity to see some prospects, to get a good look at some guys who will be leaving soon and it showed Jim Fassel could still motivate his guys. I feel a lot more comfortable, now, but let’s see what happens with the Jets, which is always the game that decides careers for both teams. Don’t be fooled – players who look good in this game will be here in September and those who don’t, won’t.

(Box Score – Jacksonville Jaguars at New York Giants, August 16, 2001)
Aug 172001
 
August 17, 2001 New York Giants Training Camp Report
The Season of Questions and Self Doubt

by David Oliver

Summer camp and pre-season combine for a season of immense pleasure and pain for football players and lovers of the game. The new guys taste the joy of putting on the pads and practicing and playing a game they have loved all of their lives. It is fun, of the highest order. But, of course, this is a term which can be interpolated in many ways. How can that be fun, my wife would ask, as I walked to the car after a marathon, blood sometimes filling my socks, knees grinding, pain everywhere? It got worse when I started triathlons, because I hated the water and I wouldn’t sleep the night before a competition. But the sheer joy of the contest, the start of an event, with everyone’s adrenalin blowing full blast, the ease of hitting the 15 mile mark and going on autopilot, and the thrill of seeing the finish line, of knowing that your body was functioning at max, that you were in control – ah, that is fun.

Well, football is not much different. As Chris Zieman told me, “Heck, we’re PLAYING FOOTBALL for a living, you know.” (Emphasis on playing). In a winning locker room, any winning locker, after any kind of competition, there is a lot of exuberance, joy. Mostly everyone feels good in the moment. But even in this fun, there is the reality that some have not measured up, either to their own standards, or to the coaches or the fans. There is self-doubt and introspection. And, of course, there is always redemption, for there is always another competition, another chance to do well; another chance to have fun.

So it went this week in the Giants’ locker room. A lot of exuberance, joy, some self-doubt and frustration, a lot of questioning and awareness that tomorrow another level had to be reached. So I spent some time with the younger guys, a couple of backers and a couple of linemen. This kid Chris Bober amazed me when I talked to him. His straightforward self-confidence was refreshing. Here was a young man who showed so little in that first mini-camp last year, in the bubble because it was raining, that I didn’t think he would make it to summer camp. I thought he was overweight and slow and that continued through last summer. But Coach McNally saw something and the kid responded. This year at mini camp I began to see a new creation here, a football player. He looked good on my visit to camp and he looked good in the Jags game. He told me straight up, “It felt good to get out there and play, get a lot of reps, get some film; this way I can get better next week.” I asked him if he had been working at guard in camp and he told me not much, that he had worked some at mini camp. He told me he would play “pretty much wherever they want to put me, that’s where I’m going to go.” That’s a common refrain in the locker room – you know, I’ll play anywhere. Ralph Brown told me, “Nickel, corner, safety, if they put me out there, I’ll do my 100% on every play.” And Dhani Jones told me he was switching around because “the more positions you know, the more equipped you are, the better you are; all of us as linebackers have to know every position because, you know, any given Sunday…” But some guys are frustrated with being asked to change positions. Jack Golden is a WILL backer, but he has been asked to move to SAM and it’s coming slowly to him, at least, he feels it is. And he’s a little down on himself. As he said “the WILL position, I love it.”

So what is it that makes it fun and difficult. Well, it’s kind of like dating when you are younger. It sure is nice seeing 10 young ladies, different kissing styles, movie tastes, musical likes, etc., you get the drill. But if you happen to fancy one more than the rest, but she thinks maybe it’s better if you both see different people, well, that’s pretty tough. Bober told me, “You have to go in there and work with different guys. When I was a tackle, I was working next to Glenn Parker. He has a distinctly different way of working than Mike Rosenthal. It’s just getting used to the guy, getting used to how they set and play.” I asked Brandon Short about adjusting to the players around him and communicating with them and he told me, “We talk to each other…I’m starting to get a grasp of what everybody around me is doing and that makes me a better player…but the safeties are phenomenal, they talk up so much…”

Bober told me it felt good to play worry free in that he has the plays down and unlike last year “your head’s not going crazy all the time.” He acknowledges that he has a long way to go, but he says, “I’m going to sit down and look at the film and try to go out and make some corrections next week.” Ziemann is having a lot of fun also. I get such a kick out of this kid. Off field, he has this huge grin. He reminds me of a buddy I once had who came from Georgia. Wouldn’t be comfortable at an opera or ballet, but put him in a union hall or a church basement, lay out a spread of chicken and sausage, fill the place up with Aunt Matilda and Uncle Waldo, and man, heaven. He doesn’t look ripped and ready for the swimsuit competition but I’ll bet he could throw a hay bale on a rig one-handed – just like my old buddy. Talk football and it’s all about ‘focus’ and ‘intensity’. Oh, yeah, when I asked him about the hitting, he said, “Hitting is great, I love it.”

Brandon Short and I discussed his comfort zone and he seemed genuinely happy. He told me, “Every day I get more comfortable with the position, I learn the position better and I feel better.” He talked about practice and the uncertainty in the beginning and said, “When you’re not absolutely sure of what you’re going to be doing, you’re not going to play as well.” I asked him about his responsibilities and used a back coming out as an example. He told me, “It depends on the coverage. If the flat is my responsibility and I’m on the backside and he’s my man, I’ve got to go get him, but if the flat is my responsibility and he just flares, I’ve got to go with the curl. Coverage is called depending on whatever formation they come out in.”

Ralph Brown, who along with Ziemann and Dhani Jones hasn’t been playing because of an injury told me, “It feels great being back on the field this year, having fun, we’ve got a good group of guys back there.” I asked him if the competition was as brutal as it seemed and he said, “Yes, but its fun, though, it’s fun.” He said, “Everything is coming back, I feel renewed, fresh, it just feels good being out there, trying to do my best for the team.” The team, a concept not familiar to a lot of people in this self-indulgent age. Sure there are a few athletes out there who are glorified Neanderthals, but it is so refreshing to hear talk of a team. Hell, I worked 30 years for a “family”, a “team”, and although I don’t have much to say for the leadership the last few years, many of my colleagues made sacrifices for the “team”. If you’ve never been part of one, you wouldn’t understand why that kind of talk resonates deep in my psyche.

I wrapped up with Golden and Jones and both had a little edge off. Jack was obviously a little low. SAM is coming to him, but with difficulty. He misses the WILL spot, infinitely more glamorous and for a banger like Jack, a position where the action lies. He told me, “I’m really not used to playing the SAM and I’m not liking it, but I’ve got to stay with it.” I asked why and he told me, “You’re up there on the line and I feel like I’m a better stack player…” I asked him about his relationship with Brandon since he was moved over (good buddies) and he told me their relationship had not been affected, “No, not at all, I can learn a lot from Brandon. He played the position last year, you know, now it’s made our relationship a lot stronger; the competition will always be there, but it will never be like that (a bad thing) between us.” He even mentioned that he felt a little slow on specials, that he had pulled an ab muscle, but he assured me he wasn’t forgetting that his place was on specials. He said, “I understand my role on this team is to be a special teams player and to be productive on special teams and also to prove that I can back up Brandon. I understand my role.” Jack has gained 10 pounds, bulked up as he said it, to play the SAM position. I told him it looked a whole lot better on him than it would on me, and that I intended to start telling people that I play the SAM position on BBI – so it’s Eric’s fault if I appear heavier.

Finally Dhani Jones. I asked him if he was having fun and he said, “Not wild enough, I’m not wild enough.” He told me he had messed up twice “and I was kind of disappointed with myself about that.” He went on “you have to be consistent when you’re in this league, on every play. My motto this whole time is if you don’t make any plays, you can’t stay.” You know, I felt the exact same way the first couple of times I made love, so I hope that Dhani, like me, realizes that he’s being a little hard on himself. So I asked him about the two plays, did he miss the call? He said, “Yeah, well, I made the call but I missed the responsibility, I’m disappointed in myself in that respect; but, it’s pre season, you’ve got to get better.” He went on, as if convincing himself as much as talking to me “that’s the one thing, you’ve got to put things behind you, get coached on it, you’ve got to learn from it, you’ve got to hustle to the ball all the time – that’s the thing regardless of whether I mess up or not on a play, I’m going to be at the ball. That’s the thing I learned at Michigan, one thing all these guys learned, Brandon from Penn State, Golden from Oklahoma State, Kevin Lewis from Duke, everybody is taught to go to the ball, that’s the impression on their mind. When they put together this team, the Maras, Mr. Accorsi, the Coaches, they wanted guys that are going to go to the ball – that’s our job.” Dhani is happy to be getting back into the flow of things, and even when “there are times that I doubt, and I can’t doubt myself…I’ve got to trust in God that he’ll make a way for me. Sometimes it’s pain and you just have to play through that pain.”

Pleasure and pain, fun and self doubt – yeah, summer camp and exhibition season; think about that as you watch the Giants and the Jets play.

Aug 142001
 

Approach to the Game – Jacksonville Jaguars at New York Giants, August 16, 2001: It’s important for the Giants to get their offense more in sync this week. The third preseason game is usually the most important, but the Giants want to come out of this second game feeling good as well. “I want to get in a rhythm,” says Head Coach Fassel. “We didn’t look like we were in a rhythm (last week against the Patriots). We just looked like we were out there executing plays. We weren’t aggressive with the run or quick with the pass. I want to see us pick up the tempo.”

Defensively, I would like to see more plays made on the ball by the corners.

On specials, it will be important to get a good look at the kickers in the kick-off and field goal departments. Evaluation time is running out.

Giants on Special Teams: Rodney Williams has won the punting job and hopefully now his can focus completely on improving his consistency. But we still do not know who the Giants’ placekicker will be and how effective that person will be. Last week, neither Jaret Holmes or John Markham attempted a field goal and only Holmes kicked off. The Giants need a better look at both this time around.

The Giants also need to find someone steady to return punts when Tiki Barber is out. Pat Woodcock was uninspiring last week and Will Allen didn’t field his chance.

The punt coverage men got down the field pretty good last week, but they missed too many tackles. We didn’t get a look at kick coverage because the Giants’ one kick-off went into the endzone. There are some roster spots to be won or lost here.

Giants on Offense: With Tiki Barber, Ike Hilliard, Dusty Zeigler, Sean Bennett, and possibly Jason Whittle out, the Giants will not have their full offensive arsenal. That’s no excuse for looking as pathetic as the team did last week. QB Kerry Collins needs to get into a rhythm and make some plays. So do his receivers. Joe Jurevicius made some plays this week in practice, but he needs to translate that effort to the playing field against quality opposition. Ron Dixon must stop screwing up basic plays. The Giants need these two to elevate their respective games.

There was a lot of talk this week in the press (New York Post) and in the BigBlueInteractive.com training camp reports (Walter B.) about how the lack of a passing threat from the tight end position is hurting the Giants’ offense in the short-to-intermediate area over the middle. This is exacerbated by the fact that Ike Hilliard is out; despite his size, he runs a lot of short routes over the middle. Dan Campbell has stagnated. If he is unwilling or unable to meet the challenge, the Giants need to take a hard look at Adam Young. Marcellus Rivers and/or Taman Bryant are probably a year away (and both probably won’t make the team).

Besides letting Collins get into a rhythm, Fassel needs to let HB Ron Dayne do so as well. I’d give him the ball at least 10-15 times in this game. How effectively the starting line can help him remains to be seen. Both the starting and possibly back-up center will be out. LT Lomas Brown’s leg injury must be watched. LG Glenn Parker is still trying to round into form after missing much of the early practices. The bad news is that the Jags have a couple of very strong run defenders at safety in Donovin Darius and Carnell Lake. The linebacking corps of Kevin Hardy, Hardy Nickerson, and T.J. Slaughter is also excellent.

As for the back-ups, particular attention should be paid to LT Chris Bober, and RT Chris Ziemann, OG Mike Rosenthal. I would also like to see some marked improvement by QB Jesse Palmer, WR Jonathan Carter, WR Quinton Spotwood, and WR Thabiti Davis in the passing game. They guys were too quiet last week.

Giants on Defense: The good news is that DT Keith Hamilton (wedding) is back; the bad news is the DE Kenny Holmes (knee) is out. In his place will start rookie DE Cedric Scott. Assuming Jags’ LT Tony Boselli plays, Scott is in for a rude awakening. The pass rush last week was pretty impressive from the front four. They will face a far tougher test against the run by facing old nemesis Fred Taylor. It will be interesting to see how DT Cornelius Griffin fairs against the run.

As for the reserves, a trio of tackles stood out last week: Ryan Hale, Ross Kolodziej, and Lance Legree. The Giants need more noise from the back-up ends.

At linebacker, all eyes continue to remain on SLB Brandon Short – who played well last week. Still, he needs improvement in coverage. I’d like to see him tested by TE Kyle Brady. Reserves Dhani Jones and Jack Golden look to continue to build upon last week’s strong performance as well. I’d like to see Clayton White show something as he flashed on special teams last week.

I was disappointed in the play of the corners last week. No one made a play on the ball. Dave Thomas and Emmanuel McDaniel were burned badly. Facing QB Mark Brunell and WR Keenan McCardell will be an excellent test. Will Allen flashed ability and hopefully he will start to make some plays. Same story with Ralph Brown. Will Peterson (knee) remains sidelined.

Aug 132001
 
New England Patriots 14 – New York Giants 0

Game Overview: I need to preface my remarks with the fact that since I was not able to pick the game up on DirecTV, I was forced to view the contest from a local sports bar. Thus, I do not have the benefit of the game tape and thus most of my review this week will be general impressions and observations. Unfortunately, this will most likely be true of the upcoming preseason games against the Jets and Ravens. However, BBI analyst Chris Jacobs will break down the game film and should have a more in-depth report provided below this one.

This was an ugly game. The good news is that the Giants appear to have come out of the game with no serious injuries, though LT Lomas Brown was forced to leave with a sore Achilles’ tendon and important back-up DT Ryan Hale suffered a high ankle sprain.

The worst thing that came out of last night’s game was that the place kickers were never given a chance to demonstrate their ability. The Giants’ “offense” was so poor that the team only ran two plays inside the Patriots’ 44-yard line. Thus, with three preseason games left, we still do not have a good read on Jaret Holmes or John Markham. Holmes did boot one wind-aided kick into the endzone on a kick-off, but that was the only action either saw.

How bad was the game? Offensively, the Giants only ran 49 plays for 92 yards. The Patriots, on the other hand, picked up 338 yards on 76 plays. The Giants picked up six first downs; the Patriots picked up 19.

What it comes down to is this – the Patriots were emotionally and physically ready to play the game; the Giants were not.

Quarterbacks: Terrible. Kerry Collins (3-of-8 for 18 yards and an interception) was very inaccurate other than one nicely thrown slant pass to Amani Toomer. A couple of his throws were so wild that it was embarrassing. The fact that he didn’t force the ball on a few plays by throwing it away was offset by his terrible interception where he didn’t see LB Bryan Cox in the middle of the field and threw it right to him.

The statistics for Jason Garrett (2-of-6 for 10 yards) speak for themselves. However, to be fair, WR Ron Dixon dropped two catchable balls from Garrett, including a deep pass that would have set up the Giants inside the Pats’ 5-yard line.

Jesse Palmer (4-of-14 for 23 yards) looked more like Mike Cherry back there than the Jesse Palmer we saw in the scrimmage. Again, to be fair, his pass protection was not good and Palmer was often running for his life. But Jesse was not very accurate and was lucky a couple of his passes were not picked off. He had a number of passes batted down as well.

Wide Receivers: I am not worried about Amani Toomer (2 catches for 12 yards). Once the bell rings, he will be fine.

It is very hard to get a read on Joe Jurevicius (no catches) because Kerry Collins was so bad. However, Joe continues to play somewhat of a disappearing act when the Giants need him to step it up. This is his fourth year and other than a couple of games, he has made virtually no impact on this team.

Ron Dixon (1 catch for 1 yard) dropped two passes, including the aforementioned deep ball from Garrett. The Giants need him to make the ordinary play as well as the spectacular one. They are counting on him.

No other receiver got involved in the offense. There looked to be miscommunication between Jonathan Carter and Jesse Palmer on one route. Quinton Spotwood dropped a pass. Thabiti Davis, Pat Woodcock, and Anthony Tucker were not heard from.

Tight Ends/H-Backs: Unfortunately, without the game tape, I can really remark on the blocking, though there were a few nice outside runs by Damon Washington with guys like Adam Young (2 catches for 9 yards) leading the way. Dan Campbell was flagged for holding, but I thought it was a ticky-tack call. Marcellus Rivers made a nice five yard catch by pulling the ball in with one hand.

Halfbacks/Fullbacks: Ron Dayne only carried the ball four times (for 11 yards). He looked pretty good on one inside charge where he dragged some tacklers with him. But the hesitation in his step coming off the goal line in the first quarter was reminiscent of last year. “I still need to hit the hole harder and make quicker decisions,” said Dayne after the game. Still, he looks like he is in great shape and that is a huge plus.

Quite a few BBI‘ers have been touting Damon Washington (9 carries for 41 yards, 1 catch for 9 yards) and he did not disappoint. He showed good speed on his outside runs and good toughness on his inside charges – despite being a bit beat up. He doesn’t have a lot of power however and is brought down pretty easily. I’d like to see him break one – you just get the feeling that he will.

Omar Bacon (3 carries for 3 yards) looked ordinary at best. (Note to Sean Payton: Don’t run outside runs out of your own endzone – they tend to result in safeties).

FB Greg Comella had one catch for six yards. He is in great shape and I expect big things from him catching the ball this year, but it is a shame that he doesn’t play with more natural power as a blocker. He does have the kind of “going to war” attitude that every team needs.

Offensive Line: I will defer to Chris Jacobs below for the offensive line review since he has the game film. Jason Whittle started at center for the injured Dusty Zeigler and Chris Bober subbed for Lomas Brown when Lomas left the game. I thought the second team offensive line did a good job in the run blocking department.

Defensive Line: The highlight of the night for the Giants was the pass pressure the starting front four was able to mount despite the absence of DT Keith Hamilton. Indeed, if the Giants had not let Drew Bledsoe escape a couple of times, the carnage would have been worse. DE Kenny Holmes flashed great outside quickness and gave the Pats’ left tackle fits. DE Michael Strahan looks to be in All-Pro form as he was in on a couple of sacks. Even Ryan Hale showed some decent pass rush ability (hopefully his ankle sprain isn’t too serious). The quietest guy ironically was Cornelius Griffin. Run defense was decent, though tackling by both the line and linebackers needs improving (that’s what the preseason is for).

The only thing I didn’t like with the starters is after they “made their noise” early in the game by getting some serious heat, the line seemed to coast until they were pulled.

The reserves didn’t look bad either. Cedric Scott flashed on the pass rush and against the run. He did get pinned inside on one big Pats’ run outside however. Ross Kolodziej and Lance Legree looked pretty stout inside and got some push.

Linebackers: Jessie Armstead and Mike Barrow looked to be coasting a bit – wait to the bell rings. Brandon Short looked good. There was one early pass where he looked a bit awkward covering the flat (my biggest worry), but he looks like a much more active and aggressive player than Ryan Phillips. He got in on one sack and was very stout on runs in is direction.

Dhani Jones was around the ball a lot and looks like a player. Jack Golden was not as active, but he looks to be improving as well. The biggest problem were all the missed tackles, but that should come.

Defensive Backs: This was an area of disappointment to me. The positives were that SS Sam Garnes and FS Shaun Williams made some nice plays near the line of scrimmage. The bad news was that there seemed to be too much separation between the corners and wide receivers. Dave Thomas had a horrible game. He was burned badly bu David Patten for what should have been a touchdown, but the ball was overthrown. He then gave up a 22-yarder over the middle to Troy Brown. The Pats didn’t appear to challenge Jason Sehorn.

I thought Emmanuel McDaniel had a bad game as he was barely in the picture on a couple of easy completions when he got a chance to start at right cornerback. Will Allen didn’t look bad at left corner, but he didn’t impress too much either. His best plays were a well-covered fly pattern and his blitz where he shot into the backfield like a cannon. However, with a guy with as much speed and quickness as he possesses, he should have been closer to his man in coverage on the shorter stuff. CB Ralph Brown was so-so. CB Quincy Coleman made a big hit (one of the few on the night by the Giants), but later gave up decent yardage after missing an open field tackle.

To be honest, without the tape, I cannot provide an accurate read on the back-up safeties though Omar Stoutmire was around the ball a lot.

Special Teams: The biggest negative from this game is that the Giants are no closer to discovering what kind of placekickers they have than they did before the game. There was only one kick-off (a wind-aided kick by Holmes that made it into the endzone) and no field goal attempts.

Punter Rodney Williams had an up-and-down night. A couple of his early punts into the wind were very high but short (35 and 32 yards). I also saw him do better in NFL Europe on his pooch punting. Williams also had a low line-driver that was pretty ugly. There was one big punt with the wind and a monster 71-yarder INTO the wind that was “Landetta-esque”. You can see why the Giants like him if he can just cut down on the inconsistency in his game. The Pats did get too much pressure on the punters.

Punt and kick returns were uninspiring. Pat Woodcock didn’t look good back there and muffed a punt that bounced out-of-bounds. Punt coverage was alright, but there were far too many missed tackles. The kick coverage unit did not have a chance as the only kick was downed in the endzone.


Offensive Line Review

by Chris Jacobs

After watching the game live it took me a day and a half before throwing the tape in due to the lackluster performance I witnessed on Friday night, so I just tried to look for positives. Not only from the O-line but also from other areas. The only major negative thing that I noticed, or rather the reason why I thought the first team offense looked so bad is because they all pretty much have their jobs locked up. There is really no competition for a starting job so who is going to give a crap about the first preseason game. and that’s exactly how they played. One other point, Fassel may want to think about game-planning a tiny bit for the upcoming preseason games to give these guys some confidence. Palmer is never going to have a chance to complete a pass in any of these games, when the opposing team is sending 6 guys in the fourth quarter and you have all young guys in there that don’t know what to expect. The Patriots were stunting and blitzing all over the place and the second/third string line and running backs we’re confused.

First Stringers on Offense: About the only thing I can say, after only about the10 plays that these guys were in there, was that I thought OC Jason Whittle did a really good job. He got good drive on running plays, and on one pass play he peeled off his man to help out LG Glenn Parker who had to peel off his man to help LT Lomas Brown. I thought it was a heads up move, he seemed aware of what was going on and didn’t make any mistakes as far as I could tell. It’s early, but right now I wouldn’t be uncomfortable seeing him in there if Dusty Zeigler went down. As for the only negative, RG Ron Stone missed LB Bryan Cox on a running play that looked like it could have gone for a big gainer, this thing was blocked perfect and Stone completely whiffed. He was visibly disappointed afterward. Stone was also stood up on the play that Dayne couldn’t get it out of our own endzone. On the whole the entire starting offense looked a little sluggish, it was obvious there was no urgency.

Defense: I just want to mention a couple of things about the defense, first and second team guys. First off, everyone needs to work on tackling, I must have yelled “wrap, damn you” about 20 times. Again, lackluster play from a team who seems to now pride itself on “0-4 preseason/Superbowl”.

There were some bright spots however:

  1. Brandon Short: First play from scrimmage, he makes a beautiful read, splits the guard tackle gap and pops JR Redmond a yard behind the line of scrimmage. Now, he didn’t tackle him and it ended up being a 5 yard gain, but I’m sure the coaching staff will point that out to him. Why is that a positive? I can’t remember Ryan Phillips ever hitting anyone behind the line of scrimmage (LOS), unless it was a blitz. He did some other good things too. It wasn’t his fault he was left to cover a wideout on one or two plays. (Again, no game plan)
  2. Kenny Holmes: I wasn’t going to make a big deal out of this but, I mean, the guy is a TERROR. Playing the run and on the pass rush. Again, an upgrade from last year. Teams are going to be going nuts game-planning to protect the QB against this front four.
  3. Ryan Hale: If you watched the game, you heard Governor Phil McConkey praising him left and right. It was well deserved, he really did a very good job from what I could tell. What impressed me the most was recognizing when the Pats were setting up a screen and going after it. Was also very good against the run. A good backup.
  4. Dhani Jones: Did this guy really blow out his knee. He was all over the place, runs like a deer, hits like a truck. I like him.
  5. Lance Legree: I really don’t know much about this guy, I don’t know if he’s going to make the team or not. I thought he played really good. They we’re double teaming him and he was still getting in the backfield. I’m only commenting on guys who made and impression on me and I thought he played really well. Good motor, good nose for the ball, and strong.
  6. Cedric Scott: Another guy that I thought played well. Has a quick outside move to get around the tackle. Seems like he needs to put on a couple of pounds and work on strength, but no doubt promising.
  7. Will Allen: Not spectacular, but did look like he was shot out of a gun on a corner blitz. And did get himself behind the receiver on a go pattern. He definitely has wheels.

Second String Offense: As I mentioned earlier, it seemed the Pats were really doing a lot of things up front to try and confuse them. I can’t say I agree with blitzing in the fourth quarter of a preseason game when you’re up by 10 or so points, but what are you going to do. I will say this, you could tell these guys are all fighting it out for a couple of roster spots because everyone played really hard. Before I make a few bullet points on some guys over all the run blocking by the backups was excellent, along with Damon Washington. What was most impressive about Washington was his ability to feel the open areas. Not run where the hole is suppose to be, but where there is some daylight. Something that Skinny Boy (I can’t call him Fat Ass anymore) seems to struggle with. They changed personnel a few times so I did the best I could.

LT Chris Bober: Decent job, can’t say anything bad about him. Stayed with his blocks on the runs, moved his feet well in pass protection. He may be the first backup tackle to come in if someone goes down. I’m going to try and really focus on him next week if he ends up starting. (I have a feeling they are going to rest Lomas).

OG Mike Rosenthal: Just seems to be getting better, like everyone else he did a real nice job run blocking, he seems too big for the guard spot but he’s quick enough. Did a nice job recognizing a corner blitz and rushing back to pick it up right at the snap. If Jason Garrett would have stepped up he would have picked it up, but instead Garret ran out of the pocket. It seems like I’m reaching but it was hard to find positives when they were sending six guys all night.

Scott Keirnan: Not much to say here, no mistakes, nothing spectacular. Solid play, got some good drive off the line on the runs and did a good job in pass protection.

Ray Redzniak: I think he was in there a lot in the third quarter, which put him on the opposite side from where the camera was and it made it tough for me to see what was going on. But from what I could tell he did a decent job, no big mistakes.

Chris Ziemann: this is the guy I was most excited to watch. I really liked what I saw from him last preseason. There is a possibility that he’s not back 100% from his knee injury, that’s not to say he played poorly, he did very well, but didn’t seem like the same guy from a year ago. Did a real good job on one sweep where he clocked Bryan Cox and Damon Washington picked up and extra 3 yards. (That’s the other thing I forgot to mention, in the second quarter the second line was playing against the Pats first stringers.) Anyway, it was really hard to tell how anyone did because the plays were all so vanilla.

One last point, I know I left some names out here, if anyone has any questions they can e-mail me. If anyone is worried about the offense after this performance, don’t be. It was very, very basic. Most of the game they were base blocking, and just running dives and sweeps. Last season it was a new offense so they had to do more in the preseason to get the starters use to it. I’m not worried yet. I don’t expect to see much different this Thursday, but I’m hoping there is a little fire in these guys for the Jets the week after.

(Box Score – New York Giants at New England Patriots, August 10, 2001)
Aug 082001
 

Approach to the Game – New York Giants at New England Patriots, August 10, 2001: It’s important not to take the preseason too seriously. Last year the Giants went 0-4 in the preseason, yet made it to the Super Bowl. The most important aspect of the game, if you ask me, is to come out healthy. Any other positive after that is simply icing on the cake.

The purpose of the preseason is to work out the kinks and get into football shape. The first preseason game is usually ugly and boring. The starters will only play about a quarter, the second team a quarter and a half, and the third team will go the rest of the way. Most third teamers won’t even make the team. Since teams normally do not like to advertize their best plays in the preseason, both offensive and defensively, look for very vanilla game plans. The Giants will not do a lot of attacking on offense and defense. The tempo of the game and resulting production will likely be disappointing to many viewers.

My advice? Use this time to take a look at the young players. Don’t read too much into the performance of the starters. Pray for no injuries.

Giants on Specials: This is the biggest worry the Giants have so I have placed this first, instead of last, as I usually do. John Markham and Jaret Holmes have not impressed thus far in the kicking game. This will be the first time we get to see them in a real game situation this year. If both continue to struggle, the Giants will have to go out and find a new kicker. Keep an eye not only on their field goal attempts, but the height and distance they get on kick-offs.

Rodney Williams is clearly ahead of Tony Umholtz in the punting department. But the lack of consistency could be troubling.

The Giants need some players to step forward on the kick and punt coverage units. Damon Washington did so last year. Thabiti Davis, Omar Stoutmire, and Jack Golden flashed at times. Gone are Pete Monty, Lyle West, and Reggie Stephens. The Giants need some headhunters to step up. This is where rookies and first year players can really shine.

With Tiki Barber out, a few players may get a shot at returning punts, including Ron Dixon.

Giants on Offense: The big area of interest will obviously be Ron Dayne. He’s lost a ton of weight and he has looked sharper at camp. Now we get to see him in a real game situation. Please keep in mind, however, that rushing attacks usually look pretty bad early on in the preseason as it takes time for the backs to get in sync with the line again and for the line to get in sync with itself. If Dayne doesn’t pick up much yardage, ask yourself if the blocking was there.

Another guy to watch is HB Damon Washington. With Joe Montgomery out for the year and Tiki Barber out of the preseason, Damon has a real opportunity to see some serious playing time and make an impression. He really impressed me at camp with his speed and toughness.

It will also be interesting to see how Joe Jurevicius and Ron Dixon perform as it is looking increasingly unlikely that Ike Hilliard will be able to play early in the season. Jurevicius will get the start and has an edge due to his experience. But Dixon is the better athlete. Thabiti Davis also looks like a lock to make the team. Behind him, Jonathan Carter, Quinton Spotwood, Pat Woodcock, and Anthony Tucker are all looking to stick. At most, only one will.

Then there is the offensive line. We know whom the starters will be. But it is the back-ups who could play a critical role this year if someone gets hurt. Specifically, keep an eye on Chris Bober at left tackle, Jason Whittle at guard and center (he probably will start at center for the injured Dusty Zeigler), Mike Rosenthal at guard, and Chris Ziemann at right tackle.

The tight end position is in bit of a flux. Howard Cross will most likely start when the season begins, but the Giants really need someone like Dan Campbell, Adam Young, Marcellus Rivers, or Taman Bryant to step it up. Don’t look just at the ability to catch the ball, but the ability to block as well.

At quarterback, rookie Jesse Palmer will see a lot of action.

Giants on Defense: The Giants will keep it very vanilla so don’t expect the same type of production and intensity that you will see when the games really count. The players I will be most curious to see are the new starters: DE Kenny Holmes, DT Cornelius Griffin, and SLB Brandon Short. In particular, watch to see if Short is improving in coverage – an area he had some problems with last year.

It is also important for some back-ups to provide depth on the defensive line. The Giants need guys such as DT Ryan Hale, DT Ross Kolodziej, DE Cedric Scott, and DE Cedric Pittman to show something. Same story at linebacker with SLB Jack Golden, MLB Kevin Lewis, and WLB Dhani Jones.

In the secondary, all eyes will be on Will Allen – especially with Will Peterson (knee) out. He’s a rookie – so expect mistakes despite his superior speed and quickness. The guys with a real opportunity to make a statement are the back-up safeties. Omar Stoutmire is the only sure thing. DeWayne Pattmon, Clarence LeBlanc, and Emile White are the other candidates.