May 302002
 
Q&A: Offensive Tackle Chris Bober

by David Oliver

Chris Bober is listed as 6’5″ tall and 305 pounds. He is entering his third season with the Giants as the de facto starting left tackle. Many questions surround Chris, particularly about his ability to handle the speed rushers at the NFL level. Although an undrafted free agent, Chris had a nice career at small school Nebraska-Omaha, where he received All-America selections by several groups.

Chris is an easily approachable and fluent young man. I spoke to him after the last game last season. He had a good grasp of the situation and was looking forward to showing his capabilities. I remember my first look at Chris, in mini-camp his first season. He looked raw and not at all ready. He disappeared off the screen that year, spending some weeks on the practice team before moving up to the squad, but he never got game time. I also remember being wowed by his improvement in camp in his second year on the roster. He got some reps during the pre-season, but was not particularly impressive. However, he kept working, and finally got a few reps in a game at the end of the year.

I asked him what he thought of the situation in which he currently finds himself.

CB: It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity, to come from a small school and make it up here for a couple of years, and start. I hope to go out and make the most of it.

I continued by asking him about his confidence, whether there was any self-doubt.

CB: It’s going to be a little different because I’m playing against a lot better guys, but at the same time, I’ve gotten a lot better. I’m looking forward to getting into action out there, looking forward to banging heads. I think all of us on the offensive line are young, so we’re going to be like that. We’re getting ready to go and we’re just going to go out there and play football. We don’t have anything to lose.

I explored just how he was getting ready and talked about the difficulties he might face.

CB: We’ve been watching a lot of film. We’ve changed some things this year. It’s kind of funny because when we change them, the coaches, and the players, because we talk a little bit, agree that we’ve changed some things that obviously make it better; just different ways we do a couple of things that are going to make it so much easier on ourselves to get those blocks done, where before we were trying to do something that was very hard in a lot of different respects.

I asked who had made the changes, was it Coach McNally and he told me that it was Coach Payton, with Coaches McNally and Pope, all working together. Chris went on:

CB: There were so many things that we were doing that these days, where defensive linemen and linebackers are so fast, that you can’t do it like you did in the old days. You have to use angles to your advantage, where before we would take a guy one on one and try to cut him off on the backside; it’s almost impossible because these linemen are so fast. We’re helping each other and we’re getting things done; we’ve changed the plays a little, as far as making them clear and distinct; just changed the numbering system a little bit, and we’ll change some angles so it’s going to help us out. If we can function out there as a unit, I think we can be really successful.

I went on to the speed rushers and asked what he was doing to prepare that element of his game.

CB: I’m watching a lot of film. I try to watch the good tackles, like Boselli. I just try to see what they do against different moves, and at the same time, I try to watch what the defensive linemen are doing to see how they react; just to get it all in my head, so that I have it in my memory, what I can go to; and then during practice and during our sessions when the offensive line works together, try out these things so that if it ever happens in a game, you have already done it, so you can react to it right away.

I asked if he had concerns about this element of the game.

CB: I’m not going to say concerns, but at the same time I know I have to get better. I think that technically, I’ve been real solid. I’ve got to do it over and over so it becomes like a habit for me, so when there’s a lot of pressure out there, it’ll be like second nature to do that. If I keep on working at it, I think it will be all right.

I switched over and talked about run blocking and the power game.

CB: That’s fun. It’s playing football. It’s my job, but at the same time, it’s my passion. If you go out there and give it your best and get after it a little bit, it’s a lot of fun, it’s not like a job.

I asked if he had noticed any of the new guys on defense.

CB: We’ve got some guys out there that are pretty quick. Those linebackers are pretty quick, the new ones. Guthrie is a pretty good rusher, he’s quick and he’s a big guy.

I went back to the line and asked about the rapport among the guys.

CB: As an offensive line, for the last couple of years we all hang out together, we are all buddies, we go to dinner with each other and our wives hang out together; it’s one of those things where we are all friends. It’s going to help out on the field because we’re going to be out there pulling for each other; I know what the guy next to me is going to do, we’re all on the same page. I think it’s going to be beneficial for the offense and for the team in general.

Finally, I told him that Joey in Virginia didn’t think much of the line. Chris laughed and told me that if Joey felt that way, Ben must certainly feel that way. Then he finished the conversation on the upside.

CB: I feel real good about it (the O-Line). There are a lot of people who are doubting us, but that’s ok. Someone is always going to doubt you, especially if you are unproven, and we are unproven, that’s a fact. At the same time, we’re talented, we’re young and we have a very high upside. If we just get out there and get some experience, we’ll be a pretty good group.

Chris has a lot of confidence. He feels ready and is looking forward to the challenge, loves the game and wants to go hit. I’m rooting for him.

May 302002
 
Q&A: Guard Rich Seubert

by David Oliver

Rich Seubert, undrafted free agent in his second season. Listed as 6’5″ tall and 295 pounds. Played at Western Illinois, in the Gateway Conference. Started his career as a tight end. Rich has developed a reputation for playing “tough”.

I started by asking where was he “mentally” right now?

RS: I think mentally I’m all right. It’s going to be a big change for me, a big step, but I’m looking forward to the challenge. I hope everything works out…Chris (Bober), and I and Rosie (Mike Rosenthal), out of the three of us, two of us have to step up and play well this year.

I asked if he didn’t mean all three, and he readily agreed that yes, all three had to step up for the season to work. I told him that the defensive guys considered him to be tough.

RS: I just play hard. I just like to give it my all every play in practice. I think the guys I’m going against every day in practice, Grif (Cornelius Griffin) and Hammer (Keith Hamilton), help. To be the best, you have to go against the best and going against those guys on the defensive line really helps me out. I learn a lot…going against Hammer, especially, even this week, he’s so slick with his hands, and I know what I have to do to get better if I want to compete at that level. Even Grif, he’s been around a couple of years now and he knows some moves, so I think if I can stop those guys in practice, I’ll be able to stop anybody who we play against…I work on technique, form, footwork and all that good stuff.

We talked about the opportunity, for him and the other young players.

RS: I just want to step on that field and play. Last year I played on a couple of kickoff returns. I just want to get out there and get my first game in, get my first play in. It’ll be exciting. I’m already excited. I’m looking forward to camp, looking forward to the pre-season, just to prove to people that I can play; being an undrafted free agent from a smaller school, I just want to make a point and prove to people that I can play.

We talked about the difference between offensive and defensive players and the belief that defensive players had a “crazed” mentality.

RS: I don’t believe in that, like defensive linemen are more crazy than offensive linemen because we have to come just as hard or else we’re going to get pushed back. Playing in the trenches, it takes a different kind of person to play down there, the battle every play, to be banging heads with somebody 300 pounds, it takes a different kind of person. But defensive-offensive linemen, I think we both have a little bit to the crazy side…no fear.

I asked if he had a preference between run or pass blocking, and his answer was very interesting. As he thought about it, he changed emphasis without missing a beat.

RS: I like doing one-on-ones; they’re tough; but one-on-one pass blocking, I like to do. Run blocking is fun, too. I like blocking when I have someone with me. Two-against-one is always better than one-on-one.

So it looks as if he enjoys the one-on-one contest in the passing game, but doesn’t mind a little team mauling in the run game, so I asked him about Madden always talking about the line loving a running drive and the ability to pound it out.

RS: That’s a good time, when you get down there at the goal line, if you can just punch in right over the top of their defense, right over the heart of their defensive line, that’s a big thrill, that’s what every offensive lineman likes to do, put a guy on his back or knock a guy back 3 yards. That’s what we work for.

I next asked him if he was up to it.

RS: Oh, I’m up to it. I’m not nervous. I have a few jitters, but when it comes time everything will be thrown out the window. I’m just going to go out there and play, and go 100% every play. What happens, happens. I’m pretty positive I’ll be able to play. I’m looking forward to the challenge. It’s going to be fun out there.

I then asked him if he had a little chip on his shoulder, being a small school guy.

RS: Yeah. Like Jason Whittle and I always talk about, we’re from the Gateway, so we have a little Gateway connection. Some people talk about how many guys are from Notre Dame, and how many guys are from different schools, and we always say, the Gateway Conference because we don’t have that many, but it’s fun. I have a little chip on my shoulder, I went to a smaller school. I got to play at a smaller school, I got my chance, that’s all I can ask for, not too many people get the chance and I’ve got the chance to play and I’m just going to make the best of it.

I finished up by asking him what we should look for.

RS: 100% effort.

Before leaving the linemen, I stopped by for a chat with Dwayne Pierce. He told me “It’s taking a little while, but its coming. My technique is coming back.” He told me he was working on being consistent, that he feels great, then he said “I’m waiting to get the shoulder pads on; then I can really show them something.” He was grinning from ear to ear.

May 302002
 
Q&A: LB Quincy Monk and WR David Thompson

by David Oliver

I finished up the interviews with a couple of rookie prospects, one on defense, Quincy Monk, linebacker, who I will refer to as Q, and the other on offense, free agent, tall, wide receiver David Thompson. The guys were sitting around the locker room, in various positions, some studying the plays, others just chilling for a couple of minutes before the next round of meetings. One hopeful was actually sitting in his locker, recessed so deep you had to look to find him, meditating on his chances. Several were just sitting on their stools catching their breath. Q was lying on the rug, relaxed, talking and joking with several colleagues. DT was chattering at him, all the while looking at his play book. I got down on a knee to talk to Q. He is an intriguing prospect. Almost overlooked by everybody although he had outstanding production, relaxed as if he were a veteran, comfortable with himself.

I started by asking him why he was overlooked and he laughed and said that he would also like to know why. I went on and asked him about his experiences now that he was in his second camp.

Q: It’s fun. It’s just a learning process; it’s not the game. It’s so much faster…part of getting adjusted to the NFL.

Here, DT starts busting Q’s chops from across the room and Q laughs, then goes on:

Q: It’s been cool, playing with the veterans, people like Strahan and Barrow and all those guys. It’s just a pleasure, because, you know, this is like a kid’s dream to be in the NFL.

But, Q is not just a golly gee guy. He is acting as if he belongs, with a quiet confidence that promises good things. I ask him what is the most striking thing to him about what he is seeing.

Q: The speed of the game. Everybody has talent here and it’s just recognizing the play fast and just going out there and making plays. As rookies, they throw a lot at us. It is totally different from college so you’ve got to pick it up as fast as you can.

As a tight end, I figured he would be a good source about Shockey, so I asked.

Q: He’s pretty good; he’s real good. I think he’s going to have a great year because he’s big and strong and fast. Right now they’re working him a lot in starting formations.

Then back to Q.

Q: As a rookie, I’ve got the jitters out of the way, so I’m out there having fun.

I teased him about being the stud and he responded in kind, saying “I’ve got to be. I’ve got to be. No fear.”

David Thompson was sitting across from us studying his play book. I asked him if he had talent and he answered that he did. So I walked over, pulled up a stool and began to chat with him I asked him how he stacked up against the legion of wideouts in camp.

DT: Personally, when I first got here, just little nervous touch. Now that I’ve been out there a couple of days, I’ve got a chance to see some of the starters, some of the veterans. It felt good to be out there. Amani Toomer’s been a great help to me. He’s giving me some good help, and Ike Hilliard as well. I got a chance to see them work out and I feel pretty good. I feel like I’m doing pretty good; it’s just that sometimes I make a couple of mistakes with the plays. I think that’s the key factor here; it’s just getting all the plays because it comes at you so quick. I think everybody has the talent out there, across the board, as receivers, but it’s just sometimes hard for rookies to get all the plays, that’s the hardest thing for me. Once I get the plays I think my talent’s going to be able to step up and I’ll be able to show myself.

We talked a little about the whole deal of coming into a camp like this. I told him that I was a lawyer and about how Billy Taylor came over to talk to me the first year in Albany because I was sitting by myself. BT thought that the regulars weren’t particularly gracious because I was carrying a camera and he told me how he had been less than warmly received by the crew when he first started as a journalist because after all, he was a football player. DT told me he had taken pre-law courses in college and he understood the business of the game. He knew he was an underdog and certainly has a failsafe. He got kind of quiet and then told me that he just wished he knew what the coaches were looking for, what they wanted. I told him a little about Jimmy Robinson and told him not to be afraid to ask. Then he told me how really difficult it was for the free agents because the draft guys, or highly recruited guys were getting multiple reps, but the street guys would get one or two balls and it was so difficult to make an impact under those circumstances. I teased him about his “sneaky” speed, which is obvious when you watch him.

DT: Sneaky, yes, that’s deceptive, I like it, you know, it looks like that because I have the long stride; I’m not tapping real quick, I don’t have real quick foot speed so it looks like I’m kind of slow; but I like that; a cornerback has a tendency to sit out, then when you get up on him, it’s too late. So that’s something good. I’ve done it through college. I’ve always had to deal with the CB sitting and waiting and I just run by him, so hopefully that will help me here.

I asked him how he liked working with a pro QB.

DT: You mean Kerry Collins. He introduced himself to me today. Real nice guy. I haven’t had a chance to sit down and chat with him yet, but he seems like a good guy, helpful. He was helpful on one route when I had to run the route against Will Peterson and I got caught up in the route and he (KC) was telling me some things I could have done to make it a lot better. He has a nice touch (on his passes). I like his touch, and he looks real comfortable back there. I’m just trying to stay on top of these plays. Once these become second nature, I really feel like it’s going to be a great thing out there, a great show.

That’s it for the interviews. Young guys, hopeful, pressing, trying to act like they have done it before and like they belong here. There is a lot of pressure at this level. The brass ring offers great rewards, but for many of those who don’t make it, there is a tough adjustment. This is a pretty relaxed group of young men, as far as football hopefuls go. There is some bona fide talent walking through this locker room. The odds favor the seven draftees. The rest need a break. Next week, final analysis of this mini-camp.

May 142002
 
Unfinished Business: Preliminary Look at New York Giants 2003 NFL Draft Needs

The preponderance of teams in the NFL have more needs than can ever be successfully dealt with in one draft and the New York Giants are no exception. So while the Giants hopefully addressed the tight end, wide receiver, tackle, and linebacker positions on April 20-21, other potential areas of concern remain.

Writing a “needs” article before the upcoming season has already been played is a dicey task. It is impossible to predict which players will excel, those who will disappoint, injuries, and the status of contract discussions. For example, it is quite possible that some rookie free agent the Giants have signed could really surprise and become an acceptable eventual starter. It is also possible that some veteran who the Giants were counting on turns out to be a dud. Will the Giants be able to re-sign Kerry Collins? Will they want to? What about upcoming free agents Michael Strahan, Luke Petitgout, and Dan Campbell? Who might suffer a knee injury that shortens a one promising career? It’s impossible to say.

So keep in mind these ever changing variables while I attempt to take a preliminary look at what positions the Giants may look at first and foremost in April 2003.

  • Defensive End: It is not likely that Michael Strahan will duplicate his stellar 2001 campaign, but he is still one of the very best – if not the best – defensive ends in the game. However, his unresolved contract status is a major cause of concern. Take away Strahan and the quality of overall defense changes dramatically for the worse. Strahan is a difference-maker and those players are hard to find. Even if Strahan is re-signed, there is no proven depth behind him or Kenny Holmes. It is hoped that Cedric Scott develops into a fine player, but that’s not a given. The only other players in the picture are no-names such as Dwight Johnson, Frank Ferrara, Rachman Crable, Sean Guthrie, and Matt Layow. Then there is Kenny Holmes – a high-priced free agent disappointment who may not remain on the roster unless he really comes on in 2002. There is a chance that the Giants may need TWO new STARTING defensive ends in 2003.
  • Defensive Tackle: The Giants are set with Cornelius Griffin and Keith Hamilton as starters. But there is always a chance that the Giants could move Griffin to defensive end if there is a crying need at that position and quality depth behind these two is still a concern. It is hoped that Lance Legree, Ross Kolodziej, Ryan Fisher, Matt Mitrione, or Brad Harris turns into a capable reserve. There is also a chance that Christian Peter could return. But adding a top-notch tackle would dramatically improve the quality of the defense by adding another play-maker to the rotation (keeping everyone fresher) as well as increasing overall flexibility in case the Giants do want to move people around.
  • Free Safety: For now, Omar Stoutmire is the designated starter and while some may fret over this, Stoutmire is a proven commodity who has started with the Cowboys and Jets. I am willing to bet that the combination of Shaun Williams at strong safety and Stoutmire at free safety will be a big upgrade over Williams at free safety and Sam Garnes at strong safety. That being said, getting a big-time play-maker at free safety would be a great move for the secondary.
  • Offensive Line: The big problem is assessing this position is that we have virtually no firm information to work with. It is possible that Chris Bober, Jeff Hatch, Rich Seubert, Jason Whittle, Mike Rosenthal, and Tam Hopkins will develop into capable players. It is also possible that some of these guys will not. Who develops and at which position will determine the drafting priority in 2003. Let’s pray that the line isn’t a big need in order for the Giants to address the defensive line instead.
  • Wild Cards: To me, the most significant potential variables to this analysis are (1) Kerry Collins, (2) Jason Sehorn, (3) Michael Strahan, and (4) the offensive line. Collins played well in 2000, but did not in 2001. The kind of performance he puts together in 2002 will go a long way in determining his future with the Giants. Plus, how realistic will his contract demands be? It is possible that the Giants may have to draft a quarterback high in 2003 if Collins stinks or wants too much money.The Giants are paying Jason Sehorn too much money to have him play yet another year either hurt or underachieving. Unless he returns to a consistent, upper-echelon performance, it may be best for the Giants to part ways with him and draft another young stud at cornerback. My guess is that this won’t be necessary, but it is certainly a possibility.As I mentioned above, it all depends on the contract with Michael. If he wants too much money, the Giants may have to let him walk.It is simply impossible to predict what will occur on the offensive line. The line could range from a hugely pleasant surprise to a downright nightmare. I’m not as concerned as most though my gut feeling tells me that the team needs to add a top-notch guard still.

What about the wide receiver and linebacker you ask? The Giants have a lot of young prospects at these positions with talent. It’s time for this talent to be developed on the playing field. I am reasonably confident that two of the young receivers and two of the young linebackers will become good players.

You can tell what my priority would be in 2003: the defensive line.