Sep 032001
 
Baltimore Ravens 38 – New York Giants 9

Game Overview: This game wasn’t as bad as the final score indicates – am I’m not just talking about the performance of the Giants first team offense and defense – both of which played well. People may accuse me of wearing rose-colored glasses, but there were plenty of positive performances by second team players. There were many contributing factors to the blow out. On defense, Defensive Coordinator John Fox played it straight up with the second and third teamers – while on the other hand the Ravens’ second and third team offense schemed quite a bit (i.e., worked to isolate wide receivers on Giants’ linebackers). The Ravens also employed their first teamers against the Giants’ second teamers for a time in the first half and used guys like WR Jermaine Lewis into the 4th quarter. Finally, the inability of the Giants 2nd/3rd team offense in the second half to move the ball also led to the 2nd/3rd team defense being on the field an inordinate amount of time on a very humid day – the defense simply wore down.

On offense, the play of the second string offensive line was not as bad as advertised (more on that below). Damon Washington continued to impress as well.

Special teams continue to be a problem, though there was improvement this week.

Special Teams: Now we know why P Rodney Williams doesn’t kick off – he stinks at it. His kick-offs were VERY low line drives that did not reach the endzone. That experiment is over. Look for Owen Pochman or Morten Anderson to kick-off in the regular season.

Rodney Williams punted a lot. His first punt was not impressive. Neither were his last two. But everything in between was excellent – with very good distance and height. He’s improving his consistency.

Will Allen demonstrated the same shaky hands while fielding punts as he did at camp and his fumble led to a turnover that opened up the flood gates in the second half. Look for Tiki Barber to return punts again this year. The blocking on punt returns remains dubious at best – again opposing coverage men seem unimpeded at times. Jack Golden was flagged with an illegal block as well. Blocking for kick returns is improving. I saw a number of nice-looking wedges being formed. Unfortunately, on his one return, Ron Dixon didn’t do a good job of following his blockers.

As for the coverage teams, they looked improved this week (which isn’t saying much). Kick-off coverage was hampered by Williams’ poor kick-offs. There was one punt return that picked up big yardage when no one contained on the opposite side of the field. DeWayne Patmon was active.

Defensive Line: The stars of the first team defensive line were the usual duo: Michael Strahan and Keith Hamilton. Strahan gave the Ravens fits – even when double-teamed. You could tell that Keith Hamilton was fired up for this game and he dominated in the middle of the line. On one play, both crushed Elvis Grbac as he just got rid of the ball. Strahan later beat a double-team block to pressure Grbac again; he later didn’t fall for a play-action fake and flustered the quarterback on a roll out. This was Kenny Holmes’ first game back in a long time and he was facing Jonathan Odgen. The bad news is that he didn’t get any pressure on the quarterback; the good news is that he did not get blown off the ball in run defense. Ryan Hale did not impress (and has since been waived).

The second team defensive line flashed at times, but did not apply consistent pass pressure and their run defense was spotty at times. Part of this was due to scheme. During much of the preseason, when the Giants’ first team defense was in the game, John Fox continued to blitz and mix things up. The Giants didn’t do that with the second and third teamers against the Ravens. Cedric Scott was very quiet early on and I was starting to get real down on him, then he started to finally make some plays by penetrating into the backfield. The one thing he needs to do better is wrap up. I noticed this at camp too. He will often get into the backfield and have the ball carrier right in his sights, but then not wrap up and finish the play off. This happened 2-3 times against Baltimore. Scott did come up with a sack by keeping with it when there was good coverage by Will Allen and Will Peterson down the field. He also made some plays against the run, and on one play pressured the quarterback by not falling for a play-action fake. On the big 70-yard run, however, he did a good job of getting penetration into the backfield to disrupt the play, but didn’t see the ball carrier until it was too late as he ran right by him. In a way, his fine penetration caused the hole in the defense.

At the other end, Frank Ferrara fought extremely hard and did an OK job of stringing out sweeps to his side. He also combined with Ross Kolodziej on a stunt where both pressured the quarterback (leading to an incompletion on 3rd-and-8). But Frank had his problems at the point of attack and was overwhelmed a couple of times.

Inside, Ross Kolodziej and Lance Legree flashed at times. I’m glad to see that both made the team. Legree made two fine back-to-back plays where he first pressured the quarterback on a bull rush and then avoided a block, flowed down the line, and nailed the ball carrier. Legree probably played more than any other Giant on Friday and was on the field a lot; he eventually started to wear down a bit. Kolodziej is not as stout as Christian Peter at the point of attack, but he has better movement skills.

DaMonte McKenzie cost the Giants when he jumped offsides on 3rd-and-4. The penalty was called on Ferrara, but it was McKenzie who jumped.

Linebackers: The starting trio of Mike Barrow, Jessie Armstead, and Brandon Short played well. Barrow was very active against the run, had decent coverage against Shannon Sharpe on one play, and then beat Sharpe to the outside for a crushing sack on Grbac. Jessie Armstead made a nice play defending the run on a cutback.

As for the reserves, Jack Golden was active. He made a number of good plays in run defense and did a decent job in pass coverage. I was disappointed to see that Dhani Jones was not more active. Kevin Lewis did a good job against the run at times, but had his problems in coverage. Something that Phil McConkey pointed out was correct – the Giants didn’t jam the tight ends at the line and allowed them too easy of a release. This makes pass coverage by the linebackers much more difficult. Also, the Ravens kept two scoring drives alive that should have been stopped by matching up fast and quick wide receivers (Quadry Ismail and Jermaine Lewis) against Kevin Lewis in coverage. The Giants either need to give Lewis help in that situation or Lewis has to smack the hell out of the wide receiver within the five yard area. Clayton White played quite a bit but didn’t make much noise.

Defensive Backs: Emmanuel McDaniel was not heard from and that is good news. He must have done a good job of covering his man or Grbac never bothered to throw his way. Dave Thomas had great coverage on a 3rd-and-10 play and should have come up with the interception, but the ball went right through his hands for a completion. He did OK otherwise. SS Sam Garnes got beat by Shannon Sharpe for a 22 yard completion when Sharpe got a clean release off of the line and split the safeties. Garnes was active in run defense and made one real hard hit. Shaun Williams was quiet.

Will Allen got a bum deal from many in The Corner Forum. He got blamed for two big plays that really weren’t his fault. The first was a deep pass to Brandon Stokley when the Giants were in two deep coverage. Allen’s job was to redirect the receiver to the sidelines (which he did) and then play the short zone. When he saw that Clarence LeBlanc wasn’t going to get over in time to cover the deep zone, he chased after Stokley. Looking at the play, it looks like Allen is trying to cover up his mistake – but he was trying to cover up LeBlanc’s mistake.

The second play was the touchdown to Jermaine Lewis. For some reason, Fox had the Giants playing a loose zone down near the goalline. Allen lined up against Lewis but backed off to the outside zone of the endzone. Lewis faked a slant then ran straight back to the back of the end zone against Omar Stoutmire. In effect, Stoutmire was trying to cover the extremely quick Lewis (a big mismatch). Allen shot over to help Stoutmire when he saw what was happening – but again, it wasn’t his man.

Phil McConkey mentioned that Allen had very tight coverage a couple of times and Allen was not playing against chopped liver. Much of the time he was facing Travis Taylor (the 10th player taken in the 2000 NFL Draft). The only time I wasn’t thrilled with his coverage was on a deep pass to Taylor that Taylor dropped. Allen had good position, but he didn’t play the ball (though Allen contends he was pushed off on the play). Will Allen made a nice play in run defense on a sweep, but didn’t wrap up later on after a short completion.

Will Peterson wasn’t heard from much and that is good news. He did get beat on a slant on 3rd-and-7, but he had tight coverage on the play (it was a perfect throw). Peterson did a great job of hustling down field and fighting off a block to bring down the running back on the 70-yard gain. CB Ralph Brown made a very good tackle on one short pass and then immediately followed it up by a very poor attempt on 3rd-and-long; the receiver broke his attempted tackle (and an attempted tackle by Stoutmire) and scored. CB Kelly Herndon also missed a tackle after a short completion.

The back-up safeties were up and down. They hit well (especially LeBlanc and Stoutmire). But DeWayne Patmon took the wrong angle on the 70-yard run. There were also the aforementioned problems in coverage by LeBlanc and the tackling problem by Stoutmire.

Quarterbacks: I thought Kerry Collins was so-so (I have higher expectations for him). He did a good job of moving the offense between the 20’s, but he wasn’t terribly accurate in doing so. If Collins doesn’t slightly overthrow Amani Toomer on the game’s first play, Toomer scores (the ball was completed by Toomer had to dive for it). Collins also underthrew Joe Jurevicius on 3rd down inside the redzone on one occasion and later overthrew him on 3rd down in the redzone on another occasion. Collins was sharp on his out passes however and his best pass of the day was the extremely accurate slant pass to Toomer that kept a drive alive. His worst decision came on a roll out to the right where he threw against the grain deep into double-coverage. If Toomer didn’t turn into a defensive back on the play, the ball would have been intercepted. Collins also did a bad job of “selling” the screen on the screen pass to Damon Washington that Ray Lewis stuffed.

Jason Garrett was efficient…that’s his game. He won’t make the spectacular play but he will nickel and dime you to death. He makes smart decisions (for the most part) and takes what the defense gives him. Jason doesn’t get flustered much either. He had a poor throw on the attempted screen to Washington that was intercepted – the ball was nowhere near Damon as it hit the back of a lineman and was tipped into the air. But aside from that Garrett did a good job of getting rid of the ball quickly and moving the team.

It was tough to judge Jesse Palmer. There were plays where he looked sharp and others where he did not. Part of that had to do with some breakdowns in pass protection (though some of that was his fault – more on that in a bit) and he was also hurt by drops. Jesse has to learn to throw the ball away when no one is open (or he doesn’t see anyone open). Too many times he took a hit or sack because he wouldn’t throw the ball away.

Offensive Line: I was very impressed with the work of the first team line. They pretty much controlled the line of scrimmage against a top-notch front seven. What really stood out to me was the way each linemen would block the man immediately over their head and then break off quickly to engage another defender. That’s the kind of tactic that OL Coach McNally teaches over and over again. The left side of Lomas Brown and Glenn Parker finally played well together and Ron Dayne was able to pick up good yardage to their side of the field. I was very much impressed with the work of Dusty Zeigler in this game and loved it when he effectively took Ray Lewis out of the play on one Dayne run to the inside (Zeigler also clobbered a defensive back on the play). Zeigler and Ron Stone also so effectively made blocks on a right-side run that it didn’t matter that Luke Pettitgout whiffed on his. (Dusty did miss one run block however when his man disrupted the Dayne run in the backfield). Pass protection was equally strong. All around – a great effort.

After reading comments in The Corner Forum and not seeing the game until later, I thought the play of the second team line was going to be a disaster. It wasn’t. There were a few rough moments, but these guys did a decent job against a very deep and experienced Ravens’ defensive line. The second team line of Chris Ziemann, Rich Seubert, Jason Whittle, Mike Rosenthal, and Chris Bober did a good job as the second team offense moved the ball well in the second quarter. In fact, the first drive against the first team Ravens’ defense was stopped due to a dropped pass.

One guy who I kept an eye on a lot was Rich Seubert. There was one play I loved where Seubert drove Ray Lewis about 10 yards down the field on a Washington carry to the right side. Seubert gets movement in his run blocks, but still has some problems in pass protection. If he can improve in that area, the Giants may have a player there.

Also inside, I liked the way Jason Whittle handled himself pretty much handling a defensive tackle over his head all by himself. There was one play where Whittle and Mike Rosenthal started to block the tackle, but then Mike broke off to help out with Bober outside – a head’s up play by Rosenthal.

Chris Bober got a bad rap in this game. He didn’t play a particularly strong game, but he wasn’t as bad as some said. He had two breakdowns in the first half. He got beat to the outside too quickly on one play where Garrett was forced to unload quickly. Bober later was ineffective in his cut block attempt on the screen pass that was intercepted. But a sack in the second half “credited” to Bober was not his fault – it was Palmer’s fault. Let me explain. The imaginary “pass pocket” is not just the area to the sides and front of the quarterback, but to the back as well. An offensive lineman is taught in many instances to push the rusher wide of the pass pocket. This is what Bober did on the play in question. However, not only did Palmer hold onto the ball too long, but he drifted back outside of the pocket right into the charge of the defender. Bober looks bad on the play, but it is Palmer who made the mistake.

Bober looks to me like a perennial back-up type. Like a Jumbo Elliott, he doesn’t have super quick feet. But he also lacks Jumbo’s long arms to compensate. If Bober if forced to play left tackle this year, I think the Giants are going to have to help him out with a tight end or H-Back against top-flight ends. RT Chris Ziemann looked good at times in the running game (he also badly whiffed on one block), but struggled at times with outside quickness in pass protection. I still think he has promise and am glad to see him on the Practice Squad. Terrence Sykes got badly beat for the sack that caused the defensive touchdown.

Tight Ends: I didn’t see keep my eye on Dan Campbell as much as I would have liked in terms of blocking. They did not throw in his direction. Marcellus Rivers did a decent job run blocking on one occasion and then didn’t sustain long enough on another and allowed his man to make the play. He seems to be improving however.

Wide Receivers: Amani Toomer looked real sharp, but he was playing against a rookie. Still his diving catch was great, he looked sharp on his out patterns, and did a good job on his trademark slant route for a big play. I really liked the work Toomer did as a blocker on one of Dayne’s runs.

Joe Jurevicius got open quite a bit but Collins didn’t get the ball to him. Ron Dixon dropped an easy chance on a quick pass to the outside (that damn inconsistency again!). Thabiti Davis had two drops and that hurt, ending drives. He did make one nice reception in traffic over the middle. Pat Woodcock didn’t look bad.

Running Backs: The first thing I want to mention is the great job Greg Comella did run blocking this week. He really did an excellent job of leading Ron Dayne into the hole and taking out defenders. Ron Dayne was sharp. He is getting more and more comfortable and the line finally gave him some room to operate. Ron was a shoe-string tackle away from turning a big gain into a huge gain. He’s doing a better job of reading his blocks as well as setting them up.

Damon Washington had a good game. When he’s teamed with quality players on the field, his impact is more apparent. He did a good job of picking up a first down on pass on 3rd-and-12. Later he made good yardage on an inside run. Damon also did a good job of picking up the blitz on one occasion.


by David Oliver

I like to take along a CD on my daily walk. Today it was a Willy Nelson Album of the old standards. Right out of the box came Time Just Slips Away, followed by Crazy (damn I just love the Patsy Cline version). Both songs could be theme songs for Giants fans. The old ballad (Time) goes something like this:

Isn’t it funny
How time just slips away

Yes it is. Wednesday of last week was my son’s 32 birthday. On Friday, Mr. Rogers hung up that sweater for one last time, after 33 years. Also on Friday, the Giants played the Ravens, culminating the Ring of the Niebelung cycle which began last January. A loss in the Super Bowl and a loss in the PSI wastelands, both followed by the endless angst of we, the faithful, here at BBI.

I have waited until the cuts were made before posting this review for a number of reasons. That has given me the benefit of reading through the various threads and analyses posted in The Corner Forum. And good they were. I talked to many of the “questionable” keepers after the game, and some of the cut players as well and their comments might shed some light on the topic.

The game itself was the longest, quickly played game I have witnessed in some time. From mid-way through the 3rd quarter, it seemed interminable. But these kids, on both sides, were fighting for their lives. “Is it going to be a nervous weekend? It’s my life,” Clarence LeBlanc told me in the locker room. He felt he had a good camp, but as he didn’t make the decisions, he just did his best and hoped the coaches saw something. That pretty much sums it up for these players. The first unit went out and they played as if they had something to prove. Forget the chatter about just a game. Michael Strahan and Shannon Sharpe could be seen having a very animated discussion over the Greenspan cuts and the impact on their investment strategies Jim Fassel (JF) had his new gameday face on, and it’s not pretty – this man is aging quickly. Brian Billick, on the other hand, looked like King of the Manor – enjoy it, Coach, fame is fleeting. The backups went out to solidify position, knowing full well that at least one or two of them weren’t going to survive. Surprisingly enough, it didn’t appear as if those really in jeopardy knew it or somehow they failed to seize the opportunity. And then there was the helter-skelter – guys scrambling all over the place, often not really knowing what was happening, just trying to grab attention. In some cases it worked. Through it all, there were only two guys who noticeably had laid it all out, Frank Ferrara and Lance Legree. They were tired, no, spent, with barely enough energy to dress, trying valiantly to keep their composure under stress. Most of the guys in the locker seemed comfortable. LeBlanc and Pat Woodcock concerned, Rich Seubert and Chris Bober confident, Cedric Scott now knowing what it is he is up against.

Kevin Lewis (Klu) told me after the game that it was wild out there. I asked about communication, and he told me, “It’s all those things, and then you start mingling in the third unit…and you’re yelling, screaming at each other, you know…and then the crowd becomes a factor, and because you’re trying to hear you have to yell and scream to make sure the other guy gets it; sometimes he does and sometimes he doesn’t…and then, the same guys you saw playing the game are the same guys you saw running up and down the field covering kicks, playing defense, running back down the field, and that’s a definite factor as well.” These are the guys fighting for their football lives with the deck stacked against them. Klu went on: “The coaching staff told us before the game that they wanted to see guys running around out there and playing hard. There were definitely a lot of cases where you saw guys flying around and playing hard, attempting to make plays. As we develop (as a team) we’ll get better because we’ll start making those plays.” I asked him about that very thing and told him that from the sidelines it looked as if those plays weren’t being made. He said, “It’s hard; you have to suck it up for every play. Like my linebacker Coach, Coach O (Tom Olivadotti) always tells us, you take each individual play, you play one down at a time and that’s how you get through games, one down at a time. With the second and third unit out there playing, although you’re tired, you have to suck it up, play that play, and then you go back to the huddle and get it up for the next play. A lot of guys are carrying that tiredness to the next play, they’re carrying (the feeling), oh, I messed up on the last play, and that screws up the next two plays.” Lewis is one of the smartest guys in the locker, always affable and smiling, in a quiet way and has made some friends on the team. Unfortunately, he just couldn’t find a way to stand out. It’s as if JF needs a new linebacker every two years just to change the faces, as in O.J. Childress begat Lewis who begat Clayton White. I’ve never talked to White, couldn’t pick him out of a crowd, and don’t remember seeing anything which would lead me to believe he’s a better ball player than Lewis. But JF likes the way he runs down field on kickoffs. To be honest, preseason coverage was so atrocious, I didn’t even notice him there.

The line play was ferocious, even in the late going as these kids were banging heads out there. Cedric Scott told me a little of his development and said “trying to work on my technique and get all this stuff down, that the coaches ask for, because it’s a totally different game from college. This game here is all about technique, playing with leverage. In college, if you’re bigger and stronger, you can get away with a lot of things. In this league, you’ve got to do every thing right to make plays.” We talked about his development and he showed how grounded he is as he told me, “I’m not real consistent yet, I’ve got to use my hands better, but I’m going to keep working at it.” We talked about the speed of the pro game and he told me it was a “little faster” and we discussed the tackles. He said they were bigger and “quicker, they move their feet better, sometimes you can give a move to the inside and they’ll bite on it, but these guys are so much more technically sound, they move their feet real good.”

Phil’s favorite ball player, Pat Woodcock, responded, when I asked him how he felt, by telling me, “You know what, I don’t know how I feel. It’s a little disappointing to be in my position and go out and play like we did in the second half, it’s a little bit disappointing to not be able to go out and make a play, in order to secure yourself, maybe…I think I’ve worked hard and I hope I’ve shown the coaches what I’m capable doing and hopefully that I can help the team win football games.” I asked him what he liked best about camp and he told me, “The teammates. All the guys have helped out and been supportive in every way, better than I could have ever expected.” I asked him what were his expectations and he said, “I really don’t know. I’ve never done this before, so, I’m just hoping that my work on the field has spoken and that I’ll be around next week.” Hey, Phil in L.A. ever had a case of sweaty palms and she told you, no, we don’t know each other well enough. Yeah, I think so. You and Woodcock have something in common. Now that’s a story I’ll buy into.

What else can you say about the game. First unit looked decent, second unit held it’s own against first unit Ravens, third unit mixed in, and there was a fumbled punt, a breakaway run, and general ugliness. Did it signify anything? I guess if the Giants have to play their second-third units for a whole game, it could be Little Big Horn déjà vu. But short of that happening, it cost two semi-veterans their jobs and earned a little respite for four or five rookies. The most glaring lesson of the day was Special Teams – they still suck AND keep Will Allen off the field during punts.

I talked to Bober and Seubert. Both have impressed me all preseason, but neither looked particularly good out there against the Ravens. I chided Bober by saying, hey, you had a rough game out there today, and his answer made me feel Canadian, as he looked at me and said, “Eh! What do you mean?” We talked and he told me that he thought he had a pretty good game. So I asked if he and Seubert saw anything different out there and the answer was, “They played straight up. They didn’t do as many games as we thought they would.” Seubert told me he felt pretty good but that he’s be nervous this weekend. He told me he was just trying to learn from the older players. He said, “Camp was an experience. I thought they were going to mess with us a little more, but everybody helped out, the older guys showed us around and taught me a lot of things. I learned more in camp than I learned in my 4 years of college.” As we talked, his confidence grew and he told me, “I’m a little nervous before a game, but once it starts, it’s just another guy. I go against one of the best defensive linemen in practice, so practice gets you ready for games like this.” Bober was very confident and seemingly knew he was on the team. Frankly, as we discussed it, he convinced me as his man was getting penetration, but he didn’t give up the big one. He was riding his man, locked on, and showed technique. In retrospect, after the game, I could see a lot of the Lomas Brown technique in pass blocking. Seubert was beaten a couple of times and Terrence Sykes looked horrible (sorry, Eric).

Jack Golden was a wild man out there, leaping over guys and making plays. JF’s warning hit home and Jack realized this was for the right to stay – he showed up. It gives him something to build on. Lance Legree was active in the middle. I saw him miss a tackle or two, but he was grabbing, reaching, submarining and generally breaking things up so the backers could make a play. Dhani Jones was also a wild man and as he plays he is picking it up. I feel a lot more comfortable should he have to play to spell Barrow, but if he’s forced into full time duty, there will be some growing pains. Jason Garrett got hit enough times out there to convince him that he ought to leave this stuff to younger guys. Damon Washington showed his mettle again – he is a tough, shifty runner; a nice blend of Tiki and Dayne. The tight ends again did nothing. The secondary, 2 and 3 units, showed their youth, but heck, Randall Cunningham was pitching and that was kind of unfair.

Well, that was about it for the Ravens game. Hopefully during the week, I’ll get a chance to do a little analysis for you as to how I think the team has shaped up. I am not planning on going to Denver. Just as Ernie Accorsi and JF, the damn salary cap in the Oliver household is forcing some tough decisions. Go Giants!

(Box Score – New York Giants at Baltimore Ravens, August 31, 2001)
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Eric Kennedy

Eric Kennedy is Editor-in-Chief of BigBlueInteractive.com, a publication of Big Blue Interactive, LLC. Follow @BigBlueInteract on Twitter.

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