Aug 302002
 
2002 New York Giants: Pre-Season Is Thankfully Over

By BBI Reporter/Photographer David Oliver

It has been the mother of all Augusts. Too much football on the tube – can there ever be too much football? Yes, Matilda, there was too much. Monday night, Thursday night, Friday night, Saturday night and Sunday night, then a steady stream of Australian rules football, and some of those other ball sports where they actually use their feet. You would think after Babe Chandler, Sean Landeta, Pat Summerall, Dave Jennings and Ali Haji Sheik (this one is for Paulie Walnuts) that the Giants would understand the meaning of ‘foot’, as in kickers who use their feet. Maynard, gone, R.Williams, gone; a whole host of guys who passed through Giantdom now playing successfully for other teams around the League. So does this mean I am singularly unimpressed with Owen Pochman? To this point, yes. Strong leg, still too erratic. And the competition. Not as strong, but improving and more reliable. The punting. OK, so we now have a pop-up specialist. At least the Ravens couldn’t run it back. But don’t get too excited. When the big boys start running, it’s going to get interesting.

After seeing the Skins 4 times, the Ravens 3, the Steelers 2, the Eagles 2, the Bucs, 49ers, Jets and Pats, pre-season showed nada. The Steelers, Jets, Pats appear for real. The Skins don’t, the Eagles looked suspect and the Bucs looked iffy. Rob Johnson sucked in Buffalo and he will suck in Tampa. Watching him made me think we are very lucky to have Kerry Collins (KC). Neither can find a receiver, but KC at least only counts to 2 before getting rid of the ball. Rob Johnson looks as if he would be comfortable holding the ball for most of the quarter before making a decision. Oh, and the Rams may have lost a little electricity, but they are still light years ahead of the rest of the field. Speaking of the Rams, why all the disappointment over not getting Cameron Spikes? Why do Giants fans always think the waiver wire will bring them a cornucopia of talent? If it ain’t a vet, why bother?

The new look Giants are going to be entirely different. JF looks like he has an offense closer to his liking, but the defense may not be a traditional Giant D. The interior front line looks porous. I wonder if Hammer (Keith Hamilton) hasn’t overstayed and may now be more of a situational player, or was he dogging his way through the pre-season. And Grif (Cornelius Griffin) shows spurts – only spurts. So again this year, I will repeat my mantra. EA’s biggest mistake last year was not signing Christian Peter. EA showed this year that he hasn’t learned. Another mistake, not signing Christian Peter. But, Dan Mitrione may develop, and if he does, everything will be OK again in the mosh pit. Lance Legree is rounding into shape. Ross Kolodziej showed nothing until the Ravens game where he abused the third string Ravens offensive line. The fol de rol over FF (Frank Ferrara). He is not the least talented end in the League. There are not that many great right defensive ends playing currently. Will he supplant Kenny? Probably not. Just another of Jim Fassel’s mind games. Everyone focused on FF going against Ogden. Gee, is it any surprise he was shut down. Name me one RDE who consistently beats Ogden? Umm, thought so. FF or Holmes, the inner line looks weak. Concentrate on Hammer. He’s the key.

The backers look serviceable. Mike Barrow will continue to be the cornerstone, Dhani Jones is improving, but so is Wes Mallard. The strong side guys will only be heard from when they make a mistake. It is the unheralded position on the D. I have been reading the comments on Monk – Monk should be cut, Monk will be cut. Maybe I’m seeing different levels of performance, but Monk is playing as a rookie and has done nothing poorly enough to merit such excoriation. All the draft backers will stay. The real surprise has been the steady improvement of Kevin Lewis. He may go if Fassel keeps 2 kickers. Otherwise he stays. Nick Greisen is a player – Looks tough and smart. He gets beaten on some plays, but who doesn’t. For a rookie, he has been a nice surprise.

The corners – after the first 3, Katie bar the door. No one stands out. They look big, but slow and not particularly instinctive. But Will Peterson and Will Allen are ready to strut their stuff – and if the Giants can’t mount a pass rush, they will need to. Same with the safeties. Oh, and the big mistake again was throwing a bushel of money at Serena, er, Shaun Williams – who gets one big hit every 4 games, then sits out 2 to recover from his energy expenditure. SW fan boys – don’t make your reservations in Hawaii just yet.

One observation on the defense overall: for all who said John Fox ran a read-and-react – modified or otherwise – the real read-and-react is creeping back into the playbook. The first team D looks positively passive. Interestingly, the second team D appears to have much more latitude in letting it go. I am watching this closely. In the East Division, the Eagles have shown that an aggressive defense can rattle any offense, the Skins have shown that their ‘chuck and duck’ is susceptible to an aggressive defense, and Dallas is showing that speed kills, either way. To me, this means the Giants had better be prepared to bring the farm, otherwise they could have a tough time in the Rising 4 Division.

The offense has enormous potential. The FB position is weak. Darian Barnes will be cut. Charles Stackhouse is learning that the backers in the NFL hit hard. In the Ravens game particularly, I kept seeing Giants’ fullbacks going backwards, or running into a hole alone. Those of you who hated Greg Comella – you are going to be very quiet this year. The line is hard to gauge because it hasn’t played as a line the entire preseason. Now, how about this for an augury: last year, just before the season Defensive Line Coach Denny Marcin told me he wasn’t sure about ‘the greatest front four ever’ because they hadn’t played together in the pre-season. Same will hold true for the offensive line this year. There is a difference between bringing in a Ziegler, Brown and Parker, and starting a Seubert, Rosenthal and Whittle, or Bober. I fear for the consistency. They are tough, strong and willing, all of which go a long way. They should be able to handle SF, maybe even the Rams – but when the Eagles and Cowboys come to town, it could get ugggly.

The skill players are a notch up. If Kerry doesn’t get goofy, these guys fly all over the lot. Shockey, Tiki, Ike, Carter, Dixon and Amani, with Bennett in line, give KC so many targets that he should have a 4,000+ year. And if he does go down, Jesse James brings another dimension – he can move and he has good field vision. It appears as if Antonio Warren has played himself back to Canada. A punt return specialist must catch the ball. Delvin Joyce has shown sparks – the question is durability. Jonathan Carter started the mini-camps looking sharp, and ended against the Ravens looking sharp. He and Dixon may be undisciplined, but anal Fassel will just have to adjust to the newer generation. They are too electric to dismiss. Derek Dorris has shown ability, but I fear he will be the odd man out. The tight ends – Shock and Campbell, with Dinkins as the reserve. Bryant and Rivers are showing very little improvement and should not be kept at the expense of another wide out or linebacker.

Well, that’s it for now. Early season favorites: Steelers, Rams, the entire AFC East. I don’t think we will know about the Giants until the bye week, but I do think we will know pretty quickly that they won’t finish behind the Skins. The Cryboys are a QB and a year experience away from challenging. The Beagles are solid, but are they overwhelmingly solid? Next week begins the tale.

Aug 272002
 

Approach to the Game – Baltimore Ravens at New York Giants, August 29, 2002: I’ve never seen a more meaningless preseason game for the Giants in my life. Any Giants fan who makes too much out of the outcome of this game is nuts. Look who is not playing:

QB Kerry Collins, HB Tiki Barber, TE Jeremy Shockey, WR Tim Carter, WR Daryl Jones, OC Dusty Zeigler, SLB Brandon Short, and SS Shaun Williams. HB Ron Dayne and CB Jason Sehorn may not play as well. MLB Mike Barrow will only see a few snaps, if that.

Simply put, the Giants are missing many of their best players and Head Coach Jim Fassel is in no mood to put anymore of them at significant risk. Thus, not only will the Giants be talent-depleted, but they will likely pull their starters pretty quickly. Only some of the players who need the work (i.e., the young guys on the offensive line, LB Dhani Jones, DE Kenny Holmes, etc.) will probably see extended playing time.

The most important thing is to get out of the game healthy. Period. I don’t care if the Giants lose 40-0. (Well I care, but I’m not going to lose any sleep over it). Second most important thing is to show improvement on special teams.

Giants on Offense: It will be interesting to see Jesse Palmer with the first unit. He will have better pass protection and more consistent receivers to throw to. TE Dan Campbell is back, but I hope he doesn’t play long as I don’t want him to put that ankle at risk.

This will be the last dress rehearsal for the offensive line of Luke Petitgout, Rich Seubert, Chris Bober, Jason Whittle, and Mike Rosenthal. OC Dusty Zeigler started running this week without a lot of pain. That is good news, but we still don’t know when he will return.

This will also be the final round of Ron Dixon versus Jonathan Carter for the third wideout job. Daryl Jones and Tim Carter have great ability, but they could never stay healthy this summer.

Final round for Antonio Warren versus Delvin Joyce this week as well. If Barber and Dayne both do not play, each should see a lot of touches. Darian Barnes was held out of a practice with a tight hamstring. He needs to play to hold off Charles Stackhouse for the fullback spot.

Giants on Defense: Get Michael Strahan, Keith Hamilton, and Cornelius Griffin out of the game fast. Don’t risk them. Frank Ferrara moves up with the first unit and has the unenviable job of facing Jonathan Odgen in his first start. It will be interesting to see how Kenny Holmes responds with the second teamers.

At defensive tackle, Ross Kolodziej, Matt Mitrione, and Dwight Johnson are most likely all battling for one roster spot. Mitrione has made more plays, but needs to be more consistent. We also need to see improved play from DE Cedric Scott since he will be the player who gives Michael Strahan a breather this year.

At linebacker, it would be nice to see Brandon Short rebound from a rough game against the Jets. Wes Mallard returns after missing last week’s game. Do both Kevin Lewis and Quincy Monk make the team?

In the secondary, it will be interesting to see if Jason Sehorn plays. Ralph Brown needs to bounce back from a rough game against the Jets. Nate Coggins appears to be fighting Ryan Clark for a roster spot – I believe the latter has the upper hand. Do the Giants see enough in CB David Mitchell to keep him?

Giants on Special Teams: The Giants will have a new long snapper (DE Bob Jones) and punter (Matt Allen) for this game. Neither is guaranteed a roster spot. Owen Pochman’s knee is acting up and he may be on his way out. Matt Bryant has no chance of sticking.

My chief concern – as always – is punt and kick-off coverage. I want to see continued improvement there.

The return game has been sabotaged by the injuries to Tim Carter and Daryl Jones. Who is going to return kicks and punts on opening night?

Aug 262002
 
New York Jets 28 – New York Giants 7

Game Overview: The game wasn’t as bad as the score would indicate but there were some troubling signs. Most significant were the injuries QB Kerry Collins (shoulder) and HB Tiki Barber (hamstring). Both injuries are said not to be serious, but only time will tell. Also disconcerting has been the lack of a consistent pass rush from the starting front four on defense. The Jets’ offensive line pretty much kept these guys under wraps.

Quarterbacks: QB Kerry Collins (8/13 for 55 yards, 0 touchdowns, 0 interceptions) was pretty efficient before he was forced to leave with a bruised shoulder. His first pass was tipped at the line of scrimmage and his second he had to throw into the ground as a screen to Tiki Barber was sniffed out by the defense. On 3rd-and-5, he made a nice throw to WR Amani Toomer for 8-yards and a first down. Later on the opening drive, he found Toomer again for 14 yards. On another 3rd-and-5, Ron Dixon dropped what would have been another first down. On 4th-and-5, Luke Petitgout missed the snap count and Collins was easily sacked.

On his second drive, Barber dropped the first pass. On 3rd-and-10, Collins found Toomer for 16 yards – Collins and Toomer seem to be more in sync than ever. Three plays later in 3rd-and-8, it was once again Collins-to-Toomer (this time on a slant pass) for 8 yards and a first down. The drive ended three plays later when on 3rd-and-11, the corner just barely broke up a pass intended for Toomer again. That was it for Collins.

Jason Garrett (7/9 for 28 yards, 0 touchdowns, 0 interceptions) just seems very natural behind the center. However, his lack of arm strength really limits him in that he can’t really throw the deep out pass. Garrett did a nice job of hitting WR Ike Hilliard for seven yards on 3rd-and-5 on the Giants’ third drive, but this was the drive dominated by the running of Barber – not the passing of Garrett. On the Giants fourth drive (and last of the first half), Garrett hit Taman Bryant for 9 yards, but then tripped dropping back on 1st-and-10, putting the Giants in a 2nd-and-17 hole that they couldn’t recover from. Three short passes later, the Giants turned the ball over on downs.

In the second half, Garrett was hampered by the misfits on the back-up offensive line. But he also made a poor throw to Tim Carter on the play where Carter got nailed in the back again – the throw was too far behind Carter, thus exposing his sore area to another hit.

Palmer looked sharper and I think he deserves to be the #2 guy on his own merit. The Giants’ only touchdown drive of the game came when he entered the contest. He fumbled one snap from center, but he hit Jonathan Carter for 7 yards, Delvin Joyce for 11 yards, and Ron Dixon for 9 yards on the drive.

Offensive Line: The starting offensive line did a decent job again. There were a few mistakes, but it has been encouraging to see how well the group has played. Keep in mind all of the changes: Luke Petitgout moved all the way over to left tackle (the hardest line position to play), Rich Seubert is new at left guard, Chris Bober is new at center, Jason Whittle is new at right guard, and Mike Rosenthal is new at right tackle. Five new players at each position – the fact that they are playing this cohesively at this stage is a minor miracle.

The most encouraging thing to me has been the solid run blocking, especially between the tackles. The Giants have consistently gotten a good push up the middle all preseason and this was true against the Jets as well. The group was very strong on the Giants’ third drive of the first half when Tiki ran the ball seven times (runs of 2, 9, 4, 7, 4, 3, and 54 yards). The 54 yarder may have been the highlight, but on the lesser runs, the offensive line got a good surge. There were good blocks by Bober, Seubert, and Petitgout in particular (as well as two solid lead blocks from Charles Stackhouse and one by Darian Barnes). There was also some good run blocking on the first drive with Whittle and Bober opening up a big hole. The only big snafu in the run game was a play where Seubert and Bober allowed the DT who they were double teaming to squeeze between them and tackle Barber for no gain on the second drive.

The one lineman who is a little bit shaky at times is RT Mike Rosenthal. There was one play where he got bull-rushed right back into Collins again; and once again he looked clumsy on a pull to the right (where he got knocked on his ass by the linebacker). Earlier, on the first drive, he got beat to the outside and Collins was clobbered despite completing the pass to Stackhouse (I think this is the play where Collins bruised his shoulder).

Pass protection was generally solid. Luke Petitgout must have missed the snap count on the 4th-and-5 play on the first drive because he never got out of his stance as his man sacked Collins. That was a mental mistake – not a physical one. The one thing that is driving me nuts is the pass protection design on those plays where the Giants call upon the guards to pull to the opposite side and take on the outside rusher. It makes no sense to me to have Jason Whittle block the weakside end or Rich Seubert to block the strongside end. Inevitably the pass protection is shaky on these plays as it was twice on the second drive. I don’t blame the players – I blame the coaches.

The second team offensive line was more of the same. Tam Hopkins appears to be the only real prospect and he even screwed up on one play. On the Giants first’ “drive” of the second half, he didn’t pick up a late blitz by the linebacker, Garrett was sacked and the ball was fumbled. However, Hopkins is a decent drive blocker and I got a big kick out of a play where he crushed his man and then hooped and hollered out there about doing it. At least he has some life to him. LT Ryan Deterding continued to struggle as both a run and pass blocker. He has no technique or strength to his game, although at times he makes decent blocks on pulls to his left. RT Andy Stensrud didn’t look bad on one pull to the right and seemed to do a decent job of engaging his man when run blocking on some plays.

Running Backs: Tiki Barber (13 carries for 96 yards; 1 catch for 2 yards) is still the Giants’ best offensive player (until Jeremy Shockey proves otherwise). He’s the guy that makes the other team nervous. There were two runs where I didn’t like his decision-making: instead of following his blocks inside, he chose to bounce it outside (and I thought prematurely). Tiki has to learn to trust this group of linemen more than last year’s group – they are much better run blockers. But aside from those two runs, Barber was pretty darn consistent with his inside runs, occasionally demonstrating that cutback style that makes him so dangerous. Then there was his spectacular 54-yard run that would have resulted in a touchdown if he had not strained him hamstring on the play. He swept right behind a great block from Darian Barnes, eluded some congestion, and then reversed his field. He avoiding a couple of tackles by leaping over them and allowed his blockers to set up in front of him down the field. However, Tiki never switched the ball to his opposite hand and was stripped from behind at the 1-yard line when he slowed down. Tiki did drop one pass.

HB Delvin Joyce (6 carries for 41 yards; 3 catches for 11 yards) impressed me with his quickness and moves as both a runner and receiver. He made some nice cutback runs and scored the sole touchdown on one such cutback. However, he still has a lot to learn on his blitz pick-ups, where his size is also a liability.

FB Charles Stackhouse (2 catches for 4 yards) is improving and made a number of nice lead blocks in the first half that helped to spring Tiki Barber. FB Darian Barnes got a very good block on Tiki’s big run in the first half and I thought he did a fine job in the second half against second teamers, especially on a drive near the end of the 3rd quarter with three good lead blocks. The Giants have a tough decision here.

Tight Ends/H-Backs: The Giants were really limited on offense by the fact that the only two true tight ends on the roster didn’t play (Jeremy Shockey and Dan Campbell) and that H-Back/TE Marcellus Rivers was also out. Taman Bryant (1 catch for 9 yards) played quite a bit and got a real nice down field block on Tiki’s long run as well as a 10-yard run by Tiki on the first drive. But I don’t think he has a chance to make the active roster.

Wide Receivers: Amani Toomer (5 catches for 50 yards) is having a real nice preseason and looks very confident out there. He was Collins’ go-to guy again in this game. If Toomer can have a big year, the Giants will be very difficult to defend with him, Barber, and Shockey on the field together. He was flagged with a false start penalty however.

Tim Carter got hit in the back right where his sore spot is and was limited after that – a bad twist of luck if you ask me. Jonathan Carter caught a pass, but also dropped one in traffic later in the game. Ron Dixon caught a short pass on the sole TD drive, but also was guilty of a bad drop on 3rd-and-5 on the Giants’ opening march.

Ike Hilliard (2 catches for 7 yards) could be the one guy that defenses forget about this year as they concentrate on others – and Ike can make them pay. I liked they way Ike worked at his run blocking against the Jets.

Defensive Line: I don’t think the front four starters on the line played very well this week. The pass rush was lacking and the run defense wasn’t that much better. It’s almost like these guys didn’t take this game very seriously. Strahan made some plays, but was too quiet. He got handled at the point-of-attack on a 3rd-and-1 play in the first quarter and was again on the next two plays that picked up 25 yards on the ground. Then, to his credit, he got a good pass rush that helped to force a quick throw. Two plays later, he combined with Brandon Short to stuff a run in his direction. It was interesting to note that on one pass play, the Jets had three men blocking Strahan – he draws that much attention even in the preseason.

Everyone else in the first half was practically invisible: DT Keith Hamilton, DT Cornelius Griffin, DE Kenny Holmes, and DE Frank Ferrara. There was one play where Hamilton got crushed by the double team – something you don’t see often. Ferrara made more plays against the back-ups in the second half. He had one sack, a pass pressure, and nice play against the run. However, he and CB David Mitchell badly missed a tackle on Laveranues Coles.

DT Ross Kolodziej made a couple of nice plays in the first half – once against the run and once on a pass rush. His solid play continued in the second half, especially during one series at the beginning of the 4th quarter. He had two back-to-back pass pressures on Chad Pennington and then followed that up with an excellent run defense where he played off a double-team and made the tackle. A few plays later, on Ferrara’s sack, Ross was in the vicinity too. Late in the game, Kolodziej seemed to wear down a bit as the Jets were able to run at him some while trying to run out the clock.

DE Cedric Scott was too aggressive on one play and didn’t contain on the backside on a play that Curtis Martin cutback for 7 yards. However, on the very next play, he did a good job of fighting off the block, keeping contain, and teaming with Nick Greisen to limit Martin to a 3-yard gain (Will Allen was in on this tackle as well).

Linebackers: The Giants had some problems covering the backs out of the backfield. They had better get that sorted out because the 49ers will eat them alive in that department. On one play, no one bother to cover the back coming out of the backfield. I also don’t understand why teams such as the Giants let a tight end escape the line of scrimmage without a quick jam. There was one play to start the second half where facing a 3rd-and-2, the Jets easily converted on a short pass to the tight end against Nick Greisen. Greisen never had a chance because all the tight end had to do was run a couple of steps, turn, and catch the ball. It was too easy.

SLB Brandon Short played a very poor game, especially on the Jets’ first drive of the game. On two of those right-side runs where Strahan got taken out, Short was also blocked out of the play effectively. Then to make matter worse, he looked terrible in pass coverage: getting beat by the fullback on 3rd-and-2 for the first down and then getting beat again by the fullback for a 16 yard touchdown. In the 3rd quarter, he combined with Ferrara on a nice run stop, but then really hurt the team by being flagged for defensive holding on an incompleted pass on 3rd-and-7. Instead of punting, the Jets went on to score a touchdown on that drive.

WLB Dhani Jones played decently. He is much faster than Jessie Armstead and he does a good job of reading plays, but he does need to finish better (he is missing too many tackles and tries to make too many ankle tackles). The good news is that he seems to have a feel for the game. He did a good job of stuffing Curtis Martin for a 1-yard loss on 1st-and-goal from the 5-yard line. Later, he tackled Martin for no gain on a flat pass.

Nick Greisen started and played fairly well. I still see a few plays where he gets blocked such as Martin’s 19-yard run where Strahan and Short also got handled. On Martin touchdown run that got called back due to a penalty, Greisen, Short, and Holmes also got taken out. In the 2nd quarter, he made a real nice play in the hole on a run to left. Greisen made another excellent play midway through the 3rd quarter when he scrapped off a block and nailed Lamont Jordan.

Quincy Monk was pretty quiet. He made a sure tackle after a short pass to the back. Kevin Lewis got fooled pretty badly on a bootleg pass to the left after misdirection to the right. This led to a 7-yard completion on 3rd-and-2.

Defensive Backs: The starting defensive backs played decently. SS Shaun Williams would have ended the Jets’ first drive with an interception had FS Omar Stoutmire not run into him.

Will Allen had nice coverage on two deep passes against him in the first half – on one the receiver had to break up what almost was an interception. He later almost came down with another inception on a crossing route over the middle – excellent coverage. However, Allen missed a tackle on a short pass to the halfback. At the start of the second half, Allen missed another tackle. He was then beat by Wayne Chrebet for 32 yards down to the 1-yard line. However, Allen had excellent coverage on the play and he just missed swatting the ball away on a perfect throw.

Will Peterson got beat on a crossing pattern over the middle by Santana Moss for 17 yards. Later in the first half, he had solid coverage on Moss on a pass that fell incomplete. At the start of the second half, he had good coverage on Laveranues Coles who fell down.

Ralph Brown had a rough game. On the Jets’ second drive of the second half, he got beat by Moss for 20 yards. A few plays later, he was badly beaten by Moss for an 18-yard touchdown. On their third drive, Kevin Swayne beat Brown for 15 yards on 3rd-and-9, thus keeping the drive alive. On 3rd-and-11, Swayne then beat Brown for a 24-yard touchdown. Brown had good coverage on the play, but once again didn’t make a play on the ball. You see the potential there in Brown, but he needs to make more plays on the ball.

Special Teams: On kick returns, Jonathan Carter is more decisive than Ron Dixon. His only return went for 23 yards, but at least he took it straight up the field. Dixon’s only return went for 12 yards. Despite his injuries, you can see the explosiveness in Tim Carter. His return went for 23 yards as well, but he looked very fast. Antonio Warren fell down on his one return (19 yards). Sean Riley had the best return of the night (35 yards), but he was released after the game.

The only punt returned by the Giants was fumbled away by Antonio Warren at the end of the game.

Rodney Williams’ first punt was a had no hang-time, but it was well-covered. His second punt was much better, but the Giants’ coverage team did a poor job and Santana Moss returned the ball 33 yards. Gabe Lindstrom’s sole punt was pretty bad – no hang-time, short, and low.

The Giants only kicked off twice. The first kickoff was by Matt Bryant to the 10 yard line and the Giants did a bad job of covering the kick as the returner picked up 34 yards. The second kickoff was returned 24 yards.

The Giants had two many men on the field during a botched extra point attempt by the Jets, giving them a second chance to kick the extra point.

(Box Score – New York Giants at New York Jets, August 24, 2002)
Aug 222002
 

Approach to the Game – New York Giants at New York Jets, August 24, 2002: The next-to-last preseason game is generally taken the most seriously. Starters usually play about three quarters as the game – not the last preseason game – is considered the primary tune-up. Coaches generally don’t like to push their starters much in the last game in order to avoid injury.

However, the Giants will be limited a great deal offensively in this game due to the fact that their top three tight ends (Jeremy Shockey – ankle, Dan Campbell – ankle, and Marcellus Rivers – ribs) will not play due to injury. MLB Mike Barrow (knee), one of the best players on the team, will not play either. Neither will CB Jason Sehorn (knee).

Since the Giants have played an extra preseason game, the starters will only play two quarters. If the Jets play their starters for three quarters, the 3rd period could prove to be a huge mismatch – especially with DT Lance Legree (knee) and WLB Wes Mallard (ankle) being sidelined.

More important than winning or losing is getting out of this game healthy. The regular season starts in less than two weeks and the Giants can ill-afford any key player getting nicked up now.

Giants on Offense: This game will be very strange for the Giants’ offense due to the fact that the team will in effect be playing without a tight end. This will SEVERELY limit their flexibility on offense and probably cause all kinds of problems with respect to the running game. Not having Jeremy Shockey will hurt in the passing game as well. Taman Bryant is really an H-Back who won’t make the team. Darnell Dinkins was just moved to H-Back and still really has no clue to what he is doing out there. He will make the team solely due to his special teams play.

The key offensive questions the Giants need to find answers to tonight are:

  • Will the Giants Be OK With Mike Rosenthal at Right Tackle and Chris Bober at Center?: The persistent and nagging injury to OC Dusty Zeigler has screwed things up quite a bit and we still have no idea when (or if) Zeigler will return this year. Chris Bober was supposed to compete (and probably win) the starting right tackle job. Now he is stuck at center where he has played decently. Mike Rosenthal has not been bad, but he has had some rough moments in pass protection and in space on running plays. Tonight’s game will be important for both.
  • Who Will Nail Down the Third Wide Receiving Job?: The four-way competition between Ron Dixon, Jonathan Carter, Tim Carter, and Daryl Jones has proven to be a big disappointment. Tim Carter (back) and Daryl Jones (knee) have missed a lot of time with injury. Tim Carter was impressive early in camp, but he still isn’t 100 percent healthy even though he will play tonight. Jones has missed most of the preseason and won’t play again tonight. Ron Dixon has improved this year, but still isn’t making plays on a consistent basis. Same story with Jonathan Carter. Meanwhile, Derek Dorris, who is not expected to make it, keeps making plays. With no tight ends tonight, we should get a chance to see quite a few 3- and 4-WR sets. This is big chance for these players.
  • Who Will Win the Fullback Job?: The competition is really between Darian Barnes and Charles Stackhouse. Barnes looks quicker and more explosive, but Stackhouse is bigger. Both have been inconsistent. In reality, since both are rookies, neither one may play all that much this year as the Giants are using Dan Campbell a lot at fullback with the starters. Still, there is a roster spot here to be won and the winner will play on Sundays. Stackhouse gets the start tonight. It will all come down to run and pass blocking – and special teams play.
  • Will the Giants Keep Four Running Backs?: Tiki Barber, Ron Dayne, and Sean Bennett are on the team. It seems as if Damon Washington is history. Do the Giants keep either Antonio Warren or Delvin Joyce? Personally, I am hoping they find a way to keep Warren. I just wish the second team offensive line would give either one of these guys a chance to show their stuff. Doubtful at best.
  • Who Will Be the Game Day Back-up at Quarterback?: My guess is that Jason Garrett will be the short-term and primary back-up if Kerry Collins has to be replaced during a game. Garrett needs to be active on Sunday because he is the best holder for snaps on field goals/extra points. On the other hand, if Collins has to be replaced before a game, I think Jesse Palmer gets the start.

Giants on Defense: What will be interesting to see is how Nick Greisen performs with the starters against the Jets. Greisen, Quincy Monk, and Wes Mallard (who won’t play tonight) all played like crap last week.

Questions for the defense:

  • Will the Giants Be Alright with Dhani Jones on the Weakside?: Reviews thus far have been mixed. He looked decent against the Patriots and not so decent against the Falcons. Tonight is an important game for him personally as he needs to convince his teammates that he is a player.
  • Will the Giants Be Alright with Omar Stoutmire at Free Safety?: Stoutmire hasn’t looked bad, but he hasn’t looked good either. One really hasn’t noticed him all that much in the preseason. That can be good news in the sense that we at least don’t seem him at the other end of a lot of completed passes. Still one wonders if other teams have targeted him yet. Tonight he plays against one of his former teams.

  • Who Will Be the Starter at Right Defensive End?: DE Kenny Holmes has been a colossal disappointment. He’s out of excuses. This is his second camp and he should know the system and he is healthy. So what’s up Kenny? Meanwhile, Frank Ferrara, who has more heart than ability, keeps making plays. My guess is that Holmes and Ferrara rotate regularly during the regular season – especially since Ferrara can get worn down due to his high-revving motor. If there was any depth at defensive end on this team, I think Holmes would be one of the cuts on Monday.
  • Who Will Be the Back-Ups on the Defensive Line?: The back-ups were terrible last week. I think Lance Legree (who is out tonight) is safe. There is a big battle brewing for the last defensive tackle spot between Ross Kolodziej, Matt Mitrione, and Dwight Johnson. Mitrione has made the most plays, but Kolodziej is the one who has gotten the playing time with starters. At end, we all know Cedric Scott has made the team. He’s lucky there is no one seriously competing against him. The Giants really need to address this area in the draft next year. Can you imagine how bad the situation is going to look once Michael Strahan is an Eagle or Redskin next season?

Giants on Special Teams: The good news is that kick-off coverage was much improved last week. Let’s see if that was an aberration or a trend.

The questions:

  • Who is the Punter?: Rodney Williams has been a huge disappointment thus far. He is way too inconsistent and is on the verge of being cut in my opinion. The fact that he is still the first team punter doesn’t bode well for Gabe Lindstrom either. I have a feeling the Giants are scanning the waiver wire.
  • Who Will Be the Kicker?: Same story with Owen Pochman. His kick-offs are decent, but missing that 23-yarder was inexcusable. The problem is that he hasn’t gotten many opportunities to kick field goals this preseason. Don’t be surprised if the Giants run some idiotic 3rd-down plays in field goal range just so than can test Pochman. If he misses again tonight, I think the Giants bring in a veteran.
  • Who Will Be the Long Snapper?: Jody Littleton or Morris Unutoa? The answer may decide if LB Kevin Lewis or another offensive lineman is kept.
  • Who Will Be the Primary Kick Returner?: This has been another disappointing area. The injury to Tim Carter hasn’t helped. Ron Dixon still is too indecisive. Jonathan Carter has be OK, but hasn’t gotten many chances. Antonio Warren and Delvin Joyce have been mediocre.
  • Who Will be the Primary Punt Returner?: The scary thing is that the Giants’ lead candidate – Daryl Jones – has only returned one punt this preseason. And on that return, he not only hurt his knee, but fumbled. Returning punts helps Antonio Warren’s cause. Will Tiki Barber need to be pressed into service again on September 5th? My guess is yes.
Aug 202002
 

New York Giants 2002 NFL Draft Review

FIRST ROUND – TE Jeremy Shockey, University of Miami, 6-5, 255lbs, 4.65: This is a good pick for the Giants and the team feels it is a superb pick as they see Shockey as a true impact football player. The only thing that stinks is that the Giants gave up their 4th round selection to the Titans in order to move up one spot to ensure, at least in the minds of the Giants’ hierarchy, that no other team would steal Shockey from them. Press reports indicate that Seattle was very interested in Shockey, but if the Giants’ feared Seattle, I think they got snookered. No way the Titans drop down to Seattle’s pick as they would have lost any chance to draft DT Albert Haynesworth or CB Phillip Buchanon (incidentally, I don’t buy the reports that the Seahawks didn’t want Shockey – that is damage control PR on their part). But if the fear was that Cleveland was the more serious threat, then trading up made sense – provided the Giants are correct in assessing that Shockey is a much better prospect than TE Daniel Graham. Personally, I do think it was Cleveland who scared the Giants the most. Regardless, let’s hope Shockey turns out to be a heck of a football player – especially since they passed on Haynesworth themselves.

Before I discuss Shockey’s talent and how he will help the Giants, I do want to mention to things: (1) losing the coin flip to the Titans cost the Giants a 4th round pick; (2) the Giants really need to plug the leaks coming from inside the organization. In 2000, all the New York/New Jersey papers knew that Dayne was the halfback they wanted and this year they knew that Shockey was the man from the get-go. Heck, Paul Needell even reported the morning of the draft that the Giants were willing to trade up to make sure they got Shockey. These loose lips may have cost them a 4th round draft pick as well. Next time, they will lose another pick or lose the player.

Now on to Shockey. Shockey combines good size with excellent athletic ability. He is fast (has been timed in the 4.55-range), quick, and fluid for a tight end. As a receiver, he gets a clean release from the line, runs good routes, gets open, adjusts well to ball, and has excellent hands. Simply put, Shockey is a top notch receiver. Unlike most tight ends, he has the speed to get deep and make big plays. He also is a clutch player who wants the football at crunch time. He is very confident in his ability to make an impact in every game. Jeremy runs well after the catch too.

Shockey is solid, improving blocker, but he needs to continue to develop in this phase of his game. Adding more strength should help him. Right now, he’s more of a positional blocker than a blaster, but he does sustain his blocks pretty well. He’s quick off of the snap, plays with fine leverage, and has a little pop in his blocking. His agility will help him hitting targets at the second level. Remember, the Giants like to put their tight ends/H-Backs in motion quite a bit and have them lead at the point-of-attack.

Shockey has that “special player aura” around him. It’s not just because he is a talented prospect, but it is the belief in himself, the ability to make clutch plays, and his leadership that separate him from other prospects. If he stays healthy, Shockey should be a Pro Bowl regular and give the Giants their second “scary” player on offense after Tiki Barber. His mere presence alone will help to open things up for both the passing and running game. Opposing safeties and linebackers will now be less able to keep an eye on the wide receivers and Barber. “I know in my first year I want to dominate and I want to make a lot of plays and do what I can to make plays and stretch the defense to get the receivers open on the outside,” said Shockey after he was drafted.

Fassel on Shockey: “I’m really happy because he brings a lot to the organization, not only from the standpoint of ability. The thing that got me really excited about him were the things I heard about and saw about his competitiveness and his desire to be a winner. When he was here for a visit and we sat down and talked, he expressed an interest to be here and he’s not the type of guy that tells every team he wants to be there. I really think he had a genuine interest in wanting to be here. He was excited when I got him on the phone. There are three things that I thought about: he has tremendous ability to be a great tight end, I think he has big upside potential, and he’s still raw in his ability to continue to get better. He’s going to get better. One of the key things we have to do is not only pick the best player right now, but we have to say who’s going to be the best player in two, three, four years from now. I think he will. The other thing is the competitiveness…I think with the maturity level that he has and his competitiveness, the league is not going to be too fast for him right off the bat. He’s a competitive guy, so he’s not going to come in and be shy and timid and all that type of stuff. He’s a respectful person, so there won’t be any arrogance. I think he has the ability. The type of tight end that I’ve always wanted since I came here was a guy that has big play pass catching capability. Although I really think that Dan Campbell and Marcellus Rivers have improved, I think this guy can bring some things to us that can help. You have to look at the trends and how people start to play. People are playing a lot of cover two in passing situations and the number one thing for that is to get to the middle of the field. Unless you’ve got a guy that will scare them, they can just roll up on your receivers and make it very difficult for them to get the ball.”

At Miami’s Pro Day: Did 16 reps at 225lbs and ran times of 4.57-4.61.

SECOND ROUND – WR Tim Carter, University of Auburn, 6-0, 190lbs, 4.35: At this point in the draft, I thought the Giants would draft a receiver, defensive lineman, linebacker, or offensive lineman. If you read my draft preview, you know that I had a feeling that the Giants were eyeing Carter. What is interesting is that they liked him more than such available receivers as Antonio Bryant, Andre Davis, and Reche Caldwell. It will be interesting to compare how Carter does vis a vis these other players. According to Carter, the Chiefs and Jaguars had interest in drafting him in the second round.

Carter was one of the fastest players in the draft along with WR Donte Stallworth and WR Javon Walker (both first rounders). Carter saw limited playing time as a receiver at Auburn until his senior season. Before that, he was mainly used on special teams where he excelled as both a kick returner and gunner (the Giants REALLY need a top-notch gunner). In 2001, he was Auburn’s leading receiver and the guy on their team who the opposition focused on stopping.

Carter is an excellent athlete with outstanding speed (sub 4.4) and quickness. He also has the extra gear to pull away from people. Carter uses this as a returner, receiver, and on end-arounds. As a receiver, he has decent (not great) hands, but he will need work on his route running. He’s very quick in and out of his cuts and adjusts well to the football. There are a couple of draft reports that say he needs to be a bit tougher going over the middle of the field, but the Giants say that toughness is one of his attributes.

Carter made a strong impression at the Senior Bowl practices with his ability as a receiver. He should make an immediate impact on special teams as both a returner and gunner. How fast he learns to run routes at the pro level will determine how quickly he sees the field as a receiver.

Marv Sunderland on Carter: “Carter brings you a lot of athletic ability, speed, return ability, special teams. All you have to do is take a look at his background and find out the people in his family that have been special, and I think this kid can be the same way. I don’t think there is any question that he has the athletic skills, that he is a tough kid, a competitor and he is smart. He has everything that you are looking for production wise. A lot of players are under certain circumstances on offenses, what is used, what is not used, rotations. That is not an indictment on the schools or the coaches, that is just what people have to do to be productive. This kid was productive when he had the ball in his hands and that’s all you can ask for. He showed us enough to be special. At the Senior Bowl, he jumped out at everybody with the top players in the country, so I think his upside is huge.”

At the Combine: Ran 4.34, had a 39” vertical jump, and a 10’6 broad jump.

THIRD ROUND – LT Jeff Hatch, University of Pennsylvania, 6-7, 300lbs, 5.10: At this point in the draft, it was pretty obvious that the Giants would draft offensive or defensive line or linebacker. Jeff Hatch is interesting developmental prospect who the Giants considered the last truly talented left tackle in the draft. He’s a small school prospect who the big colleges had some interest in, but he chose to go to the Ivy League for the superior education.

Hatch combines excellent size with athleticism. For a big man, he’s very light on his feet. Even though he is 300lbs, he looks thin. He has the ability – and the need – to add much more strength (in his lower body) and bulk. Great intangibles – smart, hard-working, and competitive. Has a bit of a nasty streak. His excellent athleticism shows up in the pass blocking department where he demonstrates quick feet. Has long arms which help him keeping pass rushers away as well. Works hard at his run blocking, but he needs to play with better technique and add strength to his lower body. Stood out at the Blue-Gray All-Star Game. Hatch is the kind of lineman that Offensive Line Coach Jim McNally loves working with. The big question is how quicky can the Giants get him ready to compete as a starter at the pro level?

Accorsi on Hatch: “We feel he’s got certainly everything you’d ever want in size, intelligence, quickness and toughness. If you watch the Blue-Gray game, they were taking runs at him and he didn’t give any quarter at all. There was a time in the game when a kid hit him late and snapped his helmet back and he turned around with one hand and knocked the kid’s helmet off and knocked him to the ground. There’s enough nastiness in him that he didn’t give in at all down there and I think he won their respect.”

Sunderland on Hatch: “Hatch is a kid that can play major college football. He showed that when he was dominant in the Ivy League. He is big, athletic, smart, and there is not much he can’t do. He can play at any level and he dominated throughout his career at Penn. He played pretty much the whole Blue-Gray Game against so-called upper level players, but he has all the physical attributes and the one thing I like about him is he is mean. He doesn’t play like a kid that hasn’t played major college football. He plays with attitude, he plays with strength, he plays with competitiveness and he is definitely smart.”

At Penn’s Pro Day: Hatch ran 5.08 and benched 225lbs 31 times.

FIFTH ROUND – WLB/MLB Nick Greisen, University of Wisconsin, 6-1, 240lbs, 4.88: I expected the Giants to focus on defense from here on out after taking three offensive players with their first three picks and that’s pretty much what they did with the exception of the quality receiver they got with the first 7th round pick. However the selection of Greisen really surprised me as he didn’t really fit the Giants’ new mold of going after speed players on both sides of the ball.

Greisen is an old-fashioned tough guy linebacker who was super-productive at Wisconsin. He accrued an amazing 146 tackles in 2000 and 167 tackles in 2001. Greisen has top intangibles – he’s smart, instinctive, competitive, and works very hard. He always seems to be around the ball. However, he is not a gifted athlete and doesn’t time particularly fast – this deficiency shows up in coverage at times. Also, he’s not a particularly powerful player. Yet despite his lack of speed, Greisen is often seen chasing from sideline-to-sideline so he seems to play faster than he times. His ability to play pass defense and continue to demonstrate adequate range at the pro level will be the key to his success.

Three more positives: (1) the Dolphins tried to trade up to draft Greisen in the 5th round by offering their 2003 4th round selection; (2) Greisen showed very good quickness in agility drills; and (3) Greisen should help out on special teams as both a coverage man and long-snapper.

Accorsi on Greisen: “Greisen is one of those guys that the scouts and coaches just had a special feeling for. He’s not going to look good when it comes to the stopwatch, but he’s just one of those guys. He’s one of those guys that makes plays. He had 101 tackles and he’s just the type of guy that coaches will fall in love with. He can play Will (weakside linebacker) or in the middle. He doesn’t run particularly fast in the 40 yards, but he’s got terrific quickness. He’s just one of those guys that when you diagnose, the way some of these guys do, he saves you three steps. That is what he does…You’ll see what I mean when you see Greisen, he’s just one of those guys that hits everything that moves.”

Fassel on Greisen: “To me, he has great instincts. We have all the times, the 10, the 20, the 40, but that is the one position that is so instinctive that you may not have a great 40 time but when you watch a guy, he can look so much faster than timed speed. You see something and you attack it, and that’s reaction. I watched him play and I’m thinking this guy plays like a 4.5 guy, but he’s quick and sometimes quickness is quicker than fast. More than any other position, that is the one that will jump out at you. You’ll see a guy and say he’s quick and then you get a 4.9 time on him or you have guys who are 4.6s who play like a 5 flat. He’ll come in here, and I think he can probably play Will (weakside linebacker) and Mike (middle linebacker). Because Dhani (Jones) is in his first year as a starter, that’s probably where we will start Greisen and create some competition with Dhani.”

SIXTH ROUND – WLB Wesly Mallard, University of Oregon, 6-1, 221lbs, 4.50: With the selection of a second linebacker in a row (and the later selection of a third linebacker), it is obvious that the Giants not only felt it imperative to improve the quality of their back-ups, but also provide more depth and competition overall. Mallard fits the Giants’ new emphasis on speed much more than the Greisen pick.

Mallard has played both linebacker and safety, but the Giants see him as a nickel linebacker. In actuality, I see him as legitimate competition for the weakside starting spot. Critics will point to Mallard’s lack of size, but he is no smaller than Jessie Armstead when Jessie came to the Giants and plays a similar style of game. Mallard is very athletic with outstanding speed for a linebacker. Has the tools to stand out in coverage, but he needs work in that department as he was primarily a forward-mover at Oregon. Tough and physical for his size with good strength. Takes on blocks well, but must disengage quicker. Not real instinctive…sometimes hesitates. However, due to his great speed, once he makes a decision, he closes incredibly fast.

Mallard is also an excellent special teams player – a constant theme in all the Giants’ picks. He should become a real factor on both coverage teams. As for his potential future as a linebacker, it all depends on his ability to play the run tough at the point-of-attack.

Accorsi on Mallard: “He’s a nickel linebacker who can run. He’s one of those smaller guys that have a lot of speed…The one that is really exciting to me is Mallard because he can run so fast and because he’s such a good special teams player.”

At the Combine: Ran a 4.5 with a 41” vertical leap, a 9’10” broad jump and did 22 reps of 225lbs. His 1.55 10 yard sprint time was the best of any linebacker.

SEVENTH ROUND – WR Daryl Jones, University of Miami, 5-9, 180lbs: Jones is a guy who I was very high on going into the draft and a guy who I thought could be a steal (see my “Draft Prospects” article). Jones didn’t have the career at Miami that most expected from him. He was hampered both by injury and the fact that Santana Moss and Reggie Wayne (both first rounders last year) were on the roster much of the same time. Sprained his right knee in the season opener in 2001 and played in only six games. Later was hampered by an ankle injury.

Jones is short, but he is a well-built player with very good speed and quickness. Has a burst to his game as well. Due to his lack of size, he operates best out of the slot. Runs good routes and has decent (not great) hands. Elusive – runs well after the catch. Confident in his own ability. Very good punt returner with the quickness to make people miss and the speed to go the distance.

Accorsi on Jones: “I wanted to get a (punt) return guy. He’s also a receiver and we just felt we didn’t want to get involved in a bidding war after the draft. First of all, we thought we would lose him to Cleveland because of his former coach. If not in the draft because they had a pick between us, then certainly in free agency. We had information that they probably had interest. He averaged 16 yards a punt return in his junior year and that was with Santana Moss. Last year, he got hurt and missed five games with a high ankle sprain. When we went down to look at Shockey, he worked out and ran a blazing speed on the wet grass that day. We essentially got him as a return guy, but he can play receiver. We wanted a return guy and once the draft was over, it was going to be a dogfight to try to sign one. We didn’t want to mess around with it…Jones really has the potential to be weapon…When we went to the work out, he really caught your eye.”

SEVENTH ROUND – SLB Quincy Monk, University of North Carolina, 6-3, 250lbs, 4.80: Monk is more like Greisen in that he is a slower linebacker than I anticipated the Giants looking at. The Giants see him as a possible back-up to Brandon Short on the strongside as well as a special teams performer. With the selections of Greisen, Mallard, and Monk – provided they all make the squad – the Giants really upgraded their depth at linebacker in this draft.

Monk, like Greisen, is an old-fashioned, tough linebacker who plays a physical game. Also like Greisen, he was super-productive in college with 125 tackles accrued his senior season. He’s a fairly instinctive guy who is improving and plays quicker than he times. Has a burst and good short-area agility. However, he is not a real fluid athlete and this can cause him problems in pass coverage at times. Takes on blocks well against the run – has some power – but he needs to shed quicker. Like Greisen, his success at the pro level will largely be determined by his ability to play in space in coverage.

Accorsi on Monk: “(Monk) is strictly a Sam linebacker, a strong, stout, big guy that Jim really felt that we needed to make sure that we had depth at linebacker. We’re young but we’ve now protected ourselves with depth at the linebacker position…Monk is just a big guy.”

Sunderland on Monk: “Monk is a kid that is a tough, hard-nosed player. He is a strong kid with good instincts, productive, athletic, big and I think he brings something from the standpoint of playing inside or SAM linebacker. I also think he can play special teams.”


Rookie Free Agent Signings

QB John Welsh, University of Idaho, 6-1, 223lbs, 4.90: Welsh is interesting prospect. He was a 4-year starter for the University of Idaho. Has good arm strength and a quick release. Played well as a senior when he completed 183 of 284 passes (64.4 percent) for 2,215 yards (276.9 per game), 18 touchdowns, and 5 interceptions. Showed well at the Blue-Gray game and practices.

FB Darian Barnes, Hampton University, 6-0, 245lbs: Barnes was signed by the Giants right before training camp started after he was by-passed in the 2002 Supplemental Draft. Barnes transferred to Hampton University from Rutgers.

FB Charles Stackhouse, University of Mississippi, 6-2, 252lbs, 4.90: Signing Stackhouse would be a major coup for the Giants as he has a good chance to be the Giants’ starting fullback on opening day. I had Stackhouse rated as the #1 fullback in the draft. Stackhouse started 25 games in his career, including 10 in each of the last two seasons. In 2001, he started eight games at fullback and two at tailback. Selected to the Senior Bowl after rushing for 330 yards and five touchdowns on 75 carries. Also caught 21 passes for 172 yards and two scores. Finished career with 125 carries for 549 yards and six touchdowns and 35 receptions for 334 yards and three scores. Charles has classic fullback size and toughness. Plays quicker than he times. Good runner and receiver out of the backfield for a big man. Runs with power. Adjusts well to the pass and has good hands. Flashes good leading blocking skills, but needs more consistency in that department. Was the lead blocker for Deuce McAllister. Needs better technique in keeping his pad level down and adjust better when blocking on the move. Picks up the blitz well – an unusual quality for a rookie. Frank Coyle of DraftInsiders.com believes he has future Pro Bowl ability. At the Combine, Stackhouse ran 5.00 with 29” vertical leap and a 9’3” broad jump. Benched 225lbs 20 times.

FB KaRon Key, Tennessee State University, 5-9, 235lbs, 4.80: Key was signed as a rookie free agent after the 2002 NFL Draft by the Titans but waived in mid-May. The Giants claimed him off of waivers. Key finished his senior season at Tennessee State with a team-high eight touchdowns. He had 52 carries for 358 yards and five receptions for 86 yards on the season. Key is a bit on the short side, but he is an athlete who flashes quickness between the tackles as a runner. Good runner on the goalline. Good blocker.

WR David Thompson, College of the Holy Cross, 6-3, 194lbs: Thompson led Holy Cross in receptions (46), receiving yards (603), and touchdown catches (nine) and was selected to the All-Patriot League second team last season. In 2000, he led team in same categories with 50 catches for 594 yards and seven touchdowns. Had 96 career receptions in 21 games at Holy Cross after transferring from Grambling State, where he started 10 games and caught 32 passes in 1998. Thompson is a big receiver with fine athleticism. Thompson supposedly was impressive at a workout for the Giant the week before the draft and the team supposedly considered selecting him with one of their 7th round draft picks.

OT Vincent Sandoval, Oregon State University, 6-4, 313lbs, 5.30: Sandoval started 23 consecutive games at Oregon State, playing left tackle as a junior and right tackle as a senior. He was an All-Pac 10 honorable mention selection in 2001.

OT Ryan Deterding, Chadron State College, 6-5, 275lbs: Deterding started at right tackle the last two seasons for Chadron State, a Division II school in Nebraska that was 10-0 last season. He was a first-team All-Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference selection. Deterding played some defensive end as a redshirt freshman in 1998.

OG Sean O’Connor, Syracuse University, 6-4, 300lbs, 5.35: O’Connor had been signed by the Cardinals after the 2002 NFL Draft, but they waived him on July 16th. O’Connor was named first-team All-Big East after his senior season. He is smart and hard-working. Not naturally explosive or athletic.

OG Dwayne Pierce, Louisiana State University, 6-2, 320lbs, 5.45: Pierce is a quality rookie free agent signing by the Giants. This is a guy who has a good chance to make the roster. Pierce was LSU’s best blocker over the past two years. Pierce started 11 of LSU’s 13 games last season at right guard. In 2000, he started the final 10 games of the season, including the Peach Bowl. Was Tigers’ co-offensive player of the week for his performances against Auburn and Utah State. Pierce lacks height, but he is a powerfully built prospect with a wide body who gets movement as a drive blocker and works to finish his blocks. Strong. He’s a decent athlete, but he’s more at home as a blaster than a lineman who pulls. However, when he keeps his weight down, he does show the ability to engage defenders successfully at the second level. Steady pass protector. He didn’t lift at the Combine. Ran a 5.51 time with a 26” vertical leap.

OG Pat Crummey, Youngstown State University, 6-3, 288lbs, 5.50: Played tackle in college, but projects to guard in the pros. Crummey was named to several All-America teams after his final season at Youngstown State (AFCA, Associated Press, Sports Network, AAFF, Walter Camp). He was Youngstown’s 2001 Male Athlete of the Year and a two-time first-team All-Gateway Conference choice. Crummey started 37 of his last 38 games at offensive tackle, including all 11 last year. Pat has excellent intangibles – he’s a hard-working, blue-collar-type. Tough. Plays quicker than he times and plays with leverage. Needs to add strength and size as well as sustain his blocks better.

OG Jimmy Fitts, University of South Florida, 6-2, 321lbs, 5.30: Versatile, Fitts started 11 games at three positions on the offensive line as a senior at the University of South Florida during the 2001 season. Fitts finished his career with 33 starts.

OC Terence Wagner, California State University at Sacramento, 6-2, 290lbs, 5.18: Wagner started all 44 games in his career for Sacramento State and was a four-time All-Big Sky Conference selection.

DE Sean Guthrie, Boston College, 6-4, 270lbs, 4.85: Guthrie was a two-year starter at defensive end for Boston College. Last season he had a career-high 51 tackles, including a team-high nine sacks and a team-high tying 12 for losses. Named Big East Defensive Player of the Week after a 12-tackle performance vs. Rutgers in 2000. Started in six games, plus the Insight.com Bowl, as a sophomore and saw action in six games as a redshirt freshman in 1998. Sean is an intense, competitive player who flashes as a pass rusher. Has long arms. Lacks ideal athleticism, but has some quickness to his game. Needs to play with better leverage and technique. Interesting developmental type.

DE Nick Myers, Michigan State University, 6-3, 270lbs, 4.94: In his four-year career with the Spartans, Myers accumulated 134 tackles with eight sacks. In 2001, Myers posted 53 tackles and finished third on the team in tackles for losses with 11.

DT Matt Mitrione, University of Purdue, 6-2, 295lbs, 5.10: Mitrione was a four-year starter at Purdue who finished fifth on the school’s career list with 50 tackles for losses. In 2001, he was a first team All-Big Ten selection by the coaches and a second team pick by the media. Mitrione tied for second on team and tied for eighth in Big Ten with 14 tackles for loss. He finished the season with 40 tackles (27 solo,) and four sacks. His string of 35 consecutive starts was snapped in the season opener at Cincinnati while he recovered from a foot injury. Mitrone lacks ideal size and athleticism, but he is a tough, physical, instinctive player who works very hard. Has decent initial quickness.

DT Rachman Crable, Ball State University, 6-3, 282lbs: Crable posted 56 tackles, including a team-high 13 for losses, and had three sacks and fumble recovery last season for Ball State.

DT Brad Harris, Pittsburgh State, 6-3, 285lbs: Harris started all 25 games on the defensive line the last two seasons at Pittsburg State after transferring Itawamba Community College. He was a first-team All-Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Association selection after recording 34 tackles (22 solo) with 15 tackles for losses and an MIAA-leading seven sacks.

WLB Brad Rice, University of Idaho, 6-1, 231lbs: Rice arrived at Idaho as a quarterback, redshirted a year, spent three seasons in the secondary, then switched to linebacker as a senior. He led the Vandals with 106 tackles, 39 more than the runnerup. Rice also three of the team’s four interceptions, as well as two fumble recoveries and three tackles for losses.

SLB Josh Hotchkiss, Western State College, 6-1, 244lbs, 4.75: Hotchkiss is the all-time leading tackler at Western State and a two-time Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year. In four seasons, Hotchkiss accumulated 504 total tackles, including 221 unassisted tackles, 67 tackles for losses and 21 sacks. Last year, he had 128 total tackles, 54 unassisted tackle, 21 tackles for losses and 5.5 sacks. Hotchkiss was selected to the Cactus Bowl, the Division II All-Star Game, and was an AP Little All-America first-team selection. Hotchkiss lacks ideal height, but he has good bulk and excellent intangibles. He was the leader of his college defense and an instinctive, play-maker. Sheds well against the run. Not a top athlete and struggles some in coverage.

CB Calvin Coleman, University of Montana, 5-10, 181lbs, 4.60: Coleman is an inexperienced player with interesting tools. Calvin was a two-time All-Big Sky first-team selection at cornerback. He was a three-year starter at right cornerback for the Grizzlies, who were 45-10 (including playoff games) during that span and won the 2001 Division 1-AA national championship with a 15-1 record. Coleman missed two games, but finished with 62 total tackles. He had 14 tackles, eight pass deflections and an interception in Montana’s four playoff games. Coleman lacks ideal height but is a good athlete who is improving as a cornerback. Plays faster than he times, but needs to further develop a feel for pass coverage.

CB Tony Badger, University of West Alabama, 5-10, 170lbs, 4.54: Badger appeared in 42 games for West Alabama and completed his career with 133 tackles, four interceptions, 24 passes defensed and one sack. A part-time punt returner his first three seasons, he averaged 7.9 yards and scored one touchdown on 21 returns. As a senior in 2001, Badger started all 11 games and recorded 33 tackles, two interceptions and nine pass breakups. He scored a touchdown on a 79-yard interception against West Georgia.

CB Kendrick Llorens, Northwestern State University, 5-11, 172lbs, 4.61: Llorens accumulated 108 tackles, 8 interceptions, and 23 pass break-ups in his four-year career at Northwestern State University. In his senior season, he registered 36 tackles, 2 interceptions and 10 pass break-ups. One of Llorens’ two interceptions during the 2001 season was returned 41 yards for a touchdown in 47-14 win over Nicholls State.

SS Nate Coggins, State University of West Georgia, 6-0, 202lbs, 4.65: Coggins set West Georgia career records for most career solo tackles (253), total tackles (416), fumble recoveries (9), and consecutive games started (45). Also had nine career interceptions. He was the 2001 Gulf South Conference Defensive Player of the Year, a 2001 Consensus Division II All-America and 2001 All-South and All-GSC First Team selection. As a sophomore, he was the first West Georgia underclassman to be named captain since 1989. Coggins is a very aggressive player who plays the run well and excels on special teams. However, he lacks ideal athleticism and speed.

FS Ryan Clark, Louisiana State University, 5-11, 192lbs, 4.70: Clark started 36 consecutive games at free safety for LSU. In 2000, he was selected to the All-SEC second team by the league’s coaches. Ranked third on the Tigers in 2001 with 88 tackles, including 63 solo. Also intercepted three passes. Recorded five tackles, including a 13-yard sack, in the Sugar Bowl. Was LSU’s Special Teams Player of the Year in 1998. Ryan lacks ideal speed, but he is a very instinctive player who makes a lot of plays against the pass. Plays faster than his timed speed and bigger than his listed size. A bit stiff and he needs to tackle better.

S Tad Golden, University of Tennessee, 6-1, 190lbs: Golden was one of Tennessee’s six captains last season, despite not starting a game. An outstanding special teams player, he finished the 2001 season with 11 special teams tackles, including nine solos. Golden had three special teams tackles against Syracuse. On defense, Golden had 16 tackles, including 12 unassisted. As a junior in 2000, he started at strong safety against Florida and LSU. Golden had five tackles and blocked a field goal against LSU.

Aug 202002
 
Atlanta Falcons 36 – New York Giants 24

Game Overview: I’m glad I didn’t watch this game live because I would have been pulling my hair out of my head watching the disastrous string of plays in the first half – three fumbles, one interception, one blocked punt, and a missed 23-yard field goal. It must have left long-time Giants fans just shaking their head and cursing to the gods that be, “Why do I put myself through this sh*t?” Ahh, the joy of being a Giant fan.

I’m actually not as concerned about the performance of the first team units on offense and defense as I am about the performance of the second teamers. To be frank, the second team offensive line and most of the second team defensive front seven was just down right awful. I’m not kidding – just dreadful. The performance of the second team offensive line was a joke and the rookie draft picks at linebacker embarrassed themselves.

More bad. Safety Clarence LeBlanc (broken leg) was lost for the season. Tight ends Jeremy Shockey and Dan Campbell sprained their ankles. MLB Mike Barrow sprained his knee. Also, unbelievably, Owen Pochman missed a cheap-shot field goal and we still don’t know if Rodney Williams will ever develop any consistency.

The good news? There was dramatic improvement in special teams kick coverage, a very impressive opening offensive drive (the only time when all the starters were in the game together), continued signs that the first team offensive line will be alright if everyone stays healthy, and stingy first team defense (especially in the secondary).

Two more preseason games to go, then the real thing starts on September 5th.

Quarterbacks: Kerry Collins (10/15 for 136 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception, 2 fumbles) has really impressed me this preseason with his decision-making and accuracy. He had that one risky throw against Houston that was almost picked off, but he has been virtually perfect since then. Things started off very impressively in Atlanta when both Tiki Barber and Jeremy Shockey were in the line-up. Collins led the Giants on a 9-play, 77-yard touchdown drive highlighted by passes to Amani Toomer (7 yards), Ike Hilliard (8 yards), Tiki Barber (5 yards), and Jeremy Shockey (26 yards and a short touchdown throw). What I liked about this series is that the Giants had Collins firing quickly after a short drop back. The defense never had a chance to mount a pass rush. And Collins did a good job of reading the blitzes (and there were a lot of them). Then Collins threw a beautiful touch pass to Shockey that set up the easy touchdown. The Giants and Collins made it look too easy.

On the first play of the second drive, Collins tried to force the ball to Shockey and was intercepted. Collins said he misread the coverage. I don’t like it, but interceptions happen. You move on. The third drive started off poorly when Collins was flagged with a 17-yard intentional grounding penalty on 2nd-and-9 (this was more the fault of the protection than Collins – see more on that below).

Then came the two fumbles. This was the big problem Collins had last year – as we all know. The first fumble is somewhat excusable. Quick pressure from his right (while Collins was looking left) knocked the ball out of his hands as he was beginning his wind-up – this was one of the few times that the starting offensive line broke down in pass protection. This came after an excellent throw for 15 yards to Toomer on 3rd-and-11. The second fumble came at a bad time too – Ron Dayne was getting it into gear. This fumble was more Collins’ fault. Not because he didn’t hold on – he was rocked from behind. But because he started scrambling out of the pocket without holding the ball with both hands. The pass protection on this play was not great either, but it is better to take the sack than turn the ball over.

Things got good for Collins again after those three turnovers. After a heavy does of impressive Ron Dayne runs, Collins hit Toomer for 6-yards on 3rd-and-2 and then he burned the Atlanta secondary with a superb deep post pass for a 48-yard touchdown. It was as good a deep throw as I’ve ever seen a quarterback make – right between the corner and safety – very impressive. On the next (and final) drive for Collins, he did a nice job of hitting Toomer on 3rd-and-4 for a first down. The Giants then called a roll out down on the goalline (a dumb call in my book) and Collins had to throw the ball away. On 3rd-and-goal, he threw an accurate pass to Marcellus Rivers, but Rivers was mugged in the endzone (there was no call). Pochman missed the chip-shot field goal.

Poor Jesse Palmer never had a chance. The pass protection from the offensive line and backs was so dreadful that Palmer was literally running for his life back there. Despite this, he kept his head and poise and didn’t seem flustered. He stood tall in the pocket and tried to make things happen, but most of the time, he didn’t even have time to set up. Palmer set up the Giants’ sole offensive score in the second half (a field goal) with a nice 33-yarder to Ron Dixon on a skinny post route. However, on 3rd down, I didn’t like his decision to throw short to a well-covered Delvin Joyce (though perhaps the other two receivers were well-covered). On the next drive, Palmer spotted a blown defensive assignment and found FB Charles Stackhouse wide open in the flat for a 23-yard gain. In the 4th quarter, Palmer threw a beautiful 45-yard strike on 3rd-and-19 to Derek Dorris (but and illegal formation penalty on Andy Stensrud negated the play). Palmer really throws a nice deep ball. However, on the next play, on 3rd-and-24, Palmer through an ill-advised deep pass to Jonathan Carter that was almost intercepted. The good news is that I think Palmer has made progress this preseason and there is something there to work with.

Offensive Line: I thought the starting unit of LT Luke Petitgout, LG Rich Seubert, OC Chris Bober, RG Jason Whittle, and RT Mike Rosenthal did a decent job against an aggressive 3-4 defense. Atlanta seemed to blitz a lot more than the Patriots and for the most part, the Giants picked it up. There was some really impressive run blocking between the tackles (which also includes the tackles) and Collins had a lot of time on many throws. I’ll highlight some of the difficulties, but that shouldn’t convey that the line was disappointing. It wasn’t.

Chris Bober probably had the most problems, but keep in mind that he is not used to having a nose tackle right over his head. He missed a block on the Giants’ third drive and Ron Dayne was hit right at the line of scrimmage. On the very next play, the Giants ran an unsuccessful screen pass. Marcellus Rivers picked up the wrong blitzer and Rich Seubert didn’t hold up his man long enough and Collins was pressured too quickly. This was the play where Collins was flagged for a huge 17-yard intentional grounding penalty. (Incidentally – for those who are still bugged by the fact that the Keith Hamilton was called for that ticky-tack “holding” call in the Super Bowl that negated Armstead’s touchdown – go back and watch the tape and see how the DT on this play wraps himself around Dayne’s feet to prevent him from going out to catch the ball on the screen – an atrocious non-call by the officials. Yet Dayne gets flagged for touching the back’s arm. Unbelievable!).

Mike Rosenthal seemed to have trouble with the sticky astroturf – either that or he is a klutz. On the first drive, Mike literally fell on his ass in pass protection, despite no one touching him. On a sweep to the right, he tripped over his own feet and got in Ron Dayne’s way – throwing the timing off the play and leading to a 4-yard loss. Later, Rosenthal looked slow on a pull to the right. In fact, Jason Whittle was running right up his back. Rosenthal looks good on the straight-ahead stuff, but so far I haven’t been impressed with him in space.

On the aforementioned breakdowns on Collins’ two fumbles: The pass protection on the first didn’t make much sense to me. The DE and DT did not stunt, but for some reason Jason Whittle and Mike Rosenthal did…what I mean by that is that Seubert ran behind Rosenthal to pick up the outside rusher while Rosenthal stayed with the inside guy. The end result is that both men got beat. The design of pass protection made no sense in that, to me, it made the job of both offensive linemen harder – even if it was designed to confuse the defense. On the second fumble, Collins could have stepped up into the pocket if Chris Bober didn’t get beat in pass protection.

Where the offensive line really started to dominate was in the second quarter. The entire offensive line repeatedly pushed the entire Atlanta defense off the line of scrimmage again and again. On two drives, Dayne ran for 7, 9, 4, 8, 3, and 5 yards. This was true power football and Atlanta couldn’t stop it. Each player – all five – got a great surge. This helped to set up the 48-yard touchdown pass – on a play where Collins had all day to throw. (On a side note, I like the way Seubert plays. He works to sustain blocks down the field and gets mad at himself when he doesn’t).

Now to the dreadful…and I do mean dreadful: the second team offensive line. The depth on the line has been sabotaged due to injuries to Dusty Zeigler and Jeff Hatch. If those two were healthy, I’d be comfortable with a starting line of Petitgout, Seubert, Zeigler, Whittle, and Bober – with Rosenthal, Tam Hopkins, and Jeff Hatch in reserve. But now the Giants only have one decent reserve – Hopkins at guard. The other guys SUCK. I hate to be mean, but they have no right being on an NFL roster.

The interesting thing to note is that Omar Smith is off the second team. The second team starters were LT Ryan Deterding, LG Pat Crummey, OC Sean O’Connor, RG Tam Hopkins, and RT Andy Stensrud. The best of the bunch was Hopkins. However, there were two plays where I felt Hopkins should have broken off a double-team block to scrape the middle linebacker. In both these plays, the middle linebacker nailed the runner right in the hole unblocked. My notes don’t show any major snafus on the part of Crummey except for one play where he didn’t see and pick up a blitz – maybe there is something there the Giants can work with by placing him on the Practice Squad.

Deterding may be one of the worst offensive linemen I’ve ever seen. He gets beat on almost every pass play. If I was Palmer, I’d put a contract out on him. There was a sack given up, countless pass pressures, and a false start – all by Deterding. O’Connor made one nice head’s up play when he peeled off to block Deterding’s man (who had beaten him again) and saved Palmer another lick. But he was very shaky in pass protection himself and didn’t get much movement in his run blocks. There was one terrible play by him where he whiffed on the middle linebacker and this caused Warren to get nailed behind the line of scrimmage. Earlier he failed to hit a linebacker on another play that went nowhere. The final exclamation point was his premature snap to Palmer that resulted in a turnover on 3rd-and-12. Stensrud blows too. Shaky pass protection and a illegal formation penalty that negated a 45-yard play. The nadir of this group (along with the backs) came on a 2nd-and-10 play in the 4th quarter. Palmer was crushed underneath an avalanche of Falcons (his helmet even being knocked off). Screwing up in pass protection on the play were FIVE Giants – FIVE: Stensrud, O’Connor, Deterding, FB Darian Barnes, and HB Delvin Joyce. It was a jail break in the truest sense and VERY ugly.

The Giants are in A LOT OF TROUBLE here if someone gets hurt.

Halfbacks/Fullbacks: Tiki Barber (2 carries for 24 yards, 1 catch for 5 yards) looked sharp. He had a beautiful cutback run on the game’s opening offensive play that picked up 17 yards. I think this was a designed cutback because the receivers were all lined up to the side of the cutback and worked to block down on the defensive backs at the snap of the ball. Tiki’s best runs always come on the cutback and this is one of the few plays where you can really hurt today’s modern defenses in the running game. Tiki also made a real nice cut on his next play that picked up 7 yards.

Run-for-run, this might have been one of Ron Dayne’s (15 carries for 45 yards) best games. Dayne ran the ball very aggressively between the tackles and made some very nice adjustments of his own in traffic. His stats would have looked far better if it weren’t for a couple of negative plays where the blocking broke down outside of the tackles. On his first carry, Dayne broke off four yards on a pitch to the right – an excellent effort run in traffic that picked up the first down. A few Dayne runs then were hampered by poor run blocking by Dan Campbell (once) and Darian Barnes (twice) at the point-of-attack. He also wasn’t helped by big Mike Rosenthal getting out of his way on the sweep to the right (4-yard loss) and a missed block by Chris Bober (1 yard gain). But when the line and lead fullback started doing their jobs, Dayne started to punish the Falcons with the runs mentioned above. What was great about these runs was that Dayne was running very hard and aggressively while at the same time making some nifty moves in traffic through tight spaces. That shows good vision. There was even a nice spin move if you can believe it. The only real disappointing run of the game for me was a first-and-goal run from the 7 yard line at the end of the first half. Dayne decided to bounce the play outside instead of taking the play inside like it was supposed to. I think Dayne would have scored on the play as there was a great surge there. On a final note, Dayne made a superb block in blitz protection against a linebacker that he stonewalled.

As for the fullbacks, as impressed as I was with Darian Barnes against Houston, I was as disappointed with him in this game. Twice I saw him get stuffed badly at the line of scrimmage and get knocked backwards. In the second half, he failed to take out his man on a sweep to the right and failed to pick up a blitz. It was like watching a different back. Stackhouse has definitely got a size advantage over Barnes. And while he played better than Barnes in this game, he still was too inconsistent. There were runs where he hit his man and took him out of the play; and there were those where he didn’t. I wish we would see a little more pop and explosion in Stackhouse’s blocks.

Delvin Joyce and Antonio Warren never had a chance on their limited opportunities due to exceptionally poor run blocking. Joyce didn’t help his cause with two fumbles (one on a kick return, the other after a short pass reception). Joyce is also VERY weak on blitz pick-ups – his size really works against him here and he did a poor job of protecting Palmer at least twice that I saw.

Tight Ends/H-Backs: Jeremy Shockey and Dan Campbell left early with ankle injuries so there wasn’t much to see of them. Sean Bennett (hamstring) did not play.

Shockey did make an early impact and he was a major factor in the first scoring drive. You can already see that opposing defenses are focusing their efforts on him. For example, on a 2nd-and-3 pass to Ike Hilliard, Hilliard was locked up against single coverage on the left side while all the other Atlanta coverage men were focused on the receivers and Shockey to the right. It was an easy pitch-and-catch for the Giants. This is a great example of how the Giants can gameplan to take advantage of Shockey even when the ball isn’t going to him. Later in the drive, the starting safety Keith Lyle couldn’t stay with Shockey on a fly pattern down the right sideline and the 26-yard reception set the Giants’ up for the easy TD pass to Shockey on the very next play.

Dan Campbell got slammed back (just like Barnes) on the one play where I focused on him as the lead blocker from the fullback spot. I’m not sure Campbell is real comfortable in this role yet. Still, he has an important function on off-tackle and outside runs. That said, Campbell also blew an outside block on a linebacker on a Dayne run up the middle, allowing the backer to tackle Dayne for a short gain. It was not a good game for Campbell.

Marcellus Rivers is getting better as a blocker. Like I have said previously, he’ll never be a root-them-out kind of guy, but at least he is getting in the way now. Rivers screwed up on a blitz pick-up where he combined with Luke Petitgout to take on one blitzer, while allowing another blitzer even farther outside to rush Collins unchallenged (the intentional grounding play). Rivers got mugged in the endzone at the end of the first half – his shirt was even almost pulled off – but the officials didn’t call it.

Wide Receivers: Amani Toomer (4 catches for 43 yards) looks as sharp as ever. He gave the Atlanta corners fits with his combination of size and athleticism – and made two catches even while falling down. The interesting thing to note is that Collins threw to Toomer in 3rd down situations in this game – not Ike Hilliard. Hilliard (3 catches for 61 yards and a touchdown) is definitely bigger and stronger this year and is still a favorite of Collins to pick up key yardage. He got deep for a 48-yard touchdown by splitting the coverage on a post route.

What stinks is that Jesse Palmer had virtually no time to throw and thus we didn’t get a good look at Jonathan Carter, Ron Dixon, and Derek Dorris. Each made a some play however in their limited chances with Dixon coming down with a nice 33-yard reception that he had to sky for and Dorris getting deep and making a nice over-the-shoulder reception for 45 yards on a play that was negated due to a penalty. Carter came up with a key 16-yard reception on 3rd-and-16.

Defensive Line: I thought DT Cornelius Griffin played an excellent game. Finally, he was getting some quick and immediate pressure on the quarterback, even when double-teamed. Though this did not result in any sacks, Michael Vick was aware that he was there. It is also interesting to note that I saw the Giants use Griffin again as a spy on the mobile quarterback (just like against Donovan McNabb in the playoff game). DE Michael Strahan had another superb game. He was very active against the run, both right at him and away from him. He did miss Warrick Dunn at one play right at him, but then came right back to nail him for a 2-yard loss. Strahan also flashed a couple of times on the pass rush. Keith Hamilton had a bad game in terms of jumping offsides/neutral zone infractions. He did so three times (even though one of these I think should have been called on Griffen). Still, it is tough to play the Giants’ defense when both Hamilton and Griffen are in there together (and healthy).

DE Kenny Holmes was unimpressive again and is starting to see Frank Ferrara eat into his playing time. Holmes got good penetration on one Dunn run to the left, but couldn’t make the play. His discipline on the backside of the play was poor as well as the Falcons burned the Giants with a couple of bootlegs in his direction. To his credit, he did make an excellent play against the run late in the second quarter, combing with Strahan to nail T.J. Duckett for a 2-yard loss. Frank Ferrara doesn’t have ideal tools. I did see him get crushed on one double-team. However, he has proven to be more active than Holmes and did so against Atlanta starters on Saturday. On his first play of the game, he smashed into Vick on a stunt to the inside (a blitz by Brandon Short also disrupted Vick on this play). On the next drive, Ferrara remained disciplined and forced an incompletion by tipping the ball on a bootleg pass to the left – this is something that Holmes didn’t do. On the very next play, Ferrara disrupted a Dunn run (but missed the tackle), allowing Brandon Short to clean up.

The second team defensive line was not impressive except for a few flashes that shouldn’t erase what was otherwise a dreary performance. The Falcon second teamers ran the ball up and down the field all night on the Giants (the linebackers share a huge role of responsibility here too – more on that in a bit). Lance Legree left early with a knee injury so he’ll escape my wraith in this game. DT Ross Kolodziej just doesn’t do it for me. There was one play where he got a good pass rush and he deflected a pass on another play, but most of the time the guy was invisible. He regularly gets manhandled on double-teams. For example, he got crushed on Maurice Smith’s 32 yard run right up the gut in the third quarter (all three rookie linebackers played this play atrociously too).

Almost as disappointing was DE Cedric Scott – who played both on the right and left side in this game. Yes there were flashes. For example, on Atlanta’s second drive in the second half, he made a great play by squeezing through a double-team block to hold T.J. Duckett to a 1-yard gain (Kolodziej also was there too). Scott also got good pressure on a stunt. But there were too many plays where Scott was effectively blocked at the point-of-attack (by second teamers) such as Duckett’s 21-yard run on the same drive and later Travis Jervey’s 3-yard touchdown run (Quincy Monk got handled here too). Scott was also flagged for being offsides and an intentional face mask. Scott has been very disappointing this preseason.

DT Matt Mitrione played well at times, but also had his problems gumming up the running game. The was as Smith run that went for 18-yards where Mitrione effectively charged himself right out of the play by running in the opposite direction. But a few plays later, he held his ground and a running play was stuffed. Two plays later, on a pass rush, he clubbed the guard out of the way and sacked the quarterback. Mitrione and Scott both deserve most of the credit for the fumble that picked up by Mallard and returned for a touchdown. Both got great penetration on the play. But later on 3rd-and-1, Mitrione, Scott, and Quincy Monk got handled at the point-of-attack and Falcons made an easy first down on a strongside run.

DT/DE Dwight Johnson was also disappointing. He got blown out of the way too often and badly missed Jervey in the backfield on a play that picked up 24 yards on a draw. DE Nick Myers played quite a bit late, but didn’t make an impression.

Linebackers: I didn’t think this was a very good game overall for the starting linebackers. The biggest problem was that Dunn is terribly elusive and making the linebackers miss even when they had him dead to rights. Dhani Jones in particular missed quite a few tackles. I think Jones got caught too far inside on one of those bootlegs too. Jones got suckered on the play-action fake on the goalline for the touchdown – but to be fair, it was great fake. Mike Barrow left early with a knee injury – but he whiffed badly on Dunn on one play too. Brandon Short was probably the most active of the starters. He looked good on the blitz again and was pretty aggressive against the run, doing a nice job of stringing out one outside run. Short also did a fine job defending a screen pass that looked set up for big yardage. Like the others, he missed a tackle on Dunn however.

Kevin Lewis came into the game when Barrow went out. I wasn’t real impressed with Kevin Lewis’ reading skills on an inside running play – he took himself out of the play by running to the wrong spot.

The three rookie draft picks – Nick Greisen, Wesley Mallard, Quincy Monk – were just DREADFUL. I mean really, really, really bad. They were so bad that it was embarrassing and made me wonder aloud if we shouldn’t all take a step back and re-evaluate these three young men. Running play after running play I saw all three of these guys get effectively manhandled at the point-of-attack. Mallard was regularly crushed. Monk couldn’t play off blocks. Nick Greisen often ran himself out of the play right into the waiting arms of a blocker. There were so many terrible plays by these three that it would take too long (and be too depressing) to list. Just believe me when I tell you that my notes from the game read, “#51, #54, #93 killed on the play” over and over again. More bad news? Both Greisen and Monk were burned badly in coverage. Monk for 16 yards by the fullback and Greisen for what should have been a 17-yard touchdown pass by the tight end (but was dropped – Clarence LeBlanc was also late getting over to help on this play). Monk got beat by the TE on another play, but the pass was errant. Suffice it to say, none of these guys is remotely ready to challenge a starter – I don’t care what Fassel says. What really pissed me off about the second team defense was the lack of fire and passion…they took their beating like gentlemen. Sad.

Defensive Backs: I continue to be very much impressed with Will Allen and Will Peterson. If Jason Sehorn comes back healthy and strong, the Giants may have the best trio of corners in the league this year. It was interesting to note that Johnnie Lynn had Peterson blitz a ton from his right corner spot – just like John Fox used to employ Sehorn in 1997. Except for one major gaffe, Peterson had superb coverage throughout the first half. He successfully defended a 3rd-and-13 pass on Atlanta’s first drive and a 3rd-and-5 pass at the beginning of the second quarter. He then held the receiver short of a first down on 3rd-and-5 late in the second quarter, but an offsides penalty gave the Falcons the first. No matter…three plays later Peterson intercepted a Vick pass and returned it 30 yards. The only major gaffe was that Peterson blitzed on one occasion where there was no one to back up his man. Luckily, Vick never saw the wide open receiver streaking towards the endzone. This play was reminiscent of the Jason Sehorn screw-up against the Vikings last year. Peterson also lost contain on a couple of those misdirection plays to his side – he has to guard against that.

Will Allen had another good game, except for one major mistake of his own. He did a great job of keeping the much bigger Brian Finneran out of the endzone on a 3rd-and-goal pass from the six. Allen did a good job of defending the flat on a pass to the fullback right after the blocked punt. Where he screwed up is although he did a nice job of closing on the ball on a quick pass to Willie Jackson, he missed the tackle when attempting to go for the ball. Jackson broke away and scored from 27 yards out.

Ralph Brown did a nice job of sticking to Willie Jackson on 3rd-and-10 mid-way through the second period and preventing a first down (Shaun Williams got a big hit on Jackson on this play too to help out). Brown then had another one of those “great coverage, but completed pass” plays that keep happening to him in the preseason when he got beat by Travis McGriff for 21 yards in the third quarter. In the 4th quarter, he had solid coverage on a deep ball that fell incomplete I was disappointed by Brown’s poor run defense and tackling in the second half.

The other corners were not tested much with Atlanta being able to run the ball up and down the field. David Mitchell made a real nice play in coverage and almost came up with the interception, but I didn’t like the way he played run defense on Duckett’s 21-yard run.

Shaun Williams had an up-and-down game. There were a couple of plays where he did a real nice job in run defense. However, like Holmes, Jones, and Peterson, he also lost contain on a couple of plays. And there was one strongside run where he got completely blocked out of the play (this is the play that Strahan missed the tackle on Dunn). DeWayne Patmon had a sack in the third quarter and made a nice play against the run late in the game.

Special Teams: The good news was that kick-off coverage was pretty damn good. Let’s start with the kick-offs themselves. Pochman doesn’t usually hit the endzone, but he is getting decent height on his kicks and this is giving the coverage team a better chance to close on the returner before he has the ball. Pochman’s kicks landed at the 2, 6, 2, and 5 yard line (Matt Bryant kicked off to the 7 yard line on his one chance – a terrible looking line drive). The Atlanta returners were held to returns of 21, 20, 16, 17, and 23 yards. That is pretty darn good. Making tackles on these returns were Nate Coggins, Quincy Monk (who seems to do well on specials week-in and week-out), Darnell Dinkins (2 tackles – helping himself again), and Pat Crummey.

Punts. The bad news was that Rodney Williams’ sole effort was blocked in the endzone, setting up an easy Atlanta touchdown. The protection was largely at fault, though Williams needs to react quicker when the pressure is bearing down on him like that. Wes Mallard and Kevin Lewis were said to have miscommunicated on who was to block the guy who got to Williams. The Giants only punted two other times in the game (not a reflection of offensive prowess, but turnovers) and Gabe Lindstrom was the one who handled these chores. The first punt went for 47 yards, but it lacked hang time (sub 4.0). The second punt was excellent, going for 65 yards. Both Ron Dixon and Ryan Clark did a good job of getting down the field quickly as gunners on both of these punts.

Kick returns were very mediocre. Antonio Warren (returns of 21, 13, 25, 12, and 23 yards) wasn’t sudden or aggressive enough on kick returns (though he did a decent job on his 25-yarder; Darian Barnes got a great block on this return to spring Warren). Delvin Joyce (returns of 21 and 18 yards ) really hurt his chances by fumbling away the ball on his second return. Hopefully, Tim Carter can make an impact here. I wonder why Jonathan Carter isn’t being given more chances.

Punt returns have been ordinary, though keep in mind that Daryl Jones is the favorite to win this job. Warren and Joyce each returned the ball once for 8 yards. I thought Warren did a bad job of calling for a fair catch when the Giants (for once) did a great job of handling the outside gunners. Warren had room to run. But Warren does look more natural returning punts than kicks, as does Joyce, who showed some nifty moves.

Owen Pochman missed a 23-yard chip-shot at the end of the first half. This would have cut the Atlanta lead to 9 points. Inexcusable. He did make a 33-yarder.

(Box Score – New York Giants at Atlanta Falcons, August 17, 2002)
Aug 152002
 

Approach to the Game – New York Giants at Atlanta Falcons, August 17, 2002: Things start to get a little more serious, but it is next week’s game that will be the most important preseason game. Coaches around the league always use the next-to-last preseason game as their ultimate tune-up game. Still, this contest against Atlanta will be important. The starters will probably play the entire first half.

Giants on Offense: This will be the first time we will see Kerry Collins play more than a few series in the preseason and this game should provide us with a good opportunity to see if he has truly elevated his game. Collins has been red hot this preseason thus far in limited action. Palmer will probably see some extended playing time in the last preseason game, but against the Falcons and Jets, his reps will start to diminish.

Nagging injuries to Tim Carter (side) and Daryl Jones (knee) will keep them out this week. It was thought that both would contend for the third wideout job, but they have missed too much time in camp and the preseason. The battle appears to have come down to Ron Dixon versus Jonathan Carter. This game will be huge for both.

Tiki Barber (ribs) will probably see a series, but then quickly depart. Ron Dayne will probably play the rest of the first half – being spotted by Sean Bennett at times. It would be nice to see Dayne demonstrate some of the vision and explosion that Antonio Warren demonstrated last week. We keep hearing that Delvin Joyce is a player. Perhaps. But after last week’s performance, I don’t see how the Giants can release Warren unless Joyce comes through with an equally impressive performance.

At fullback, Darian Barnes is clearly ahead of Charles Stackhouse, but now is no time to coast. Barnes needs to keep impressing.

Will the Giants keep Marcellus Rivers now that Darnell Dinkins has been moved to tight end? The pressure is on Rivers.

Finally we should see 4/5’s of the regular starters on the offensive line at their normal positions. Luke Petitgout at left tackle, Rich Seubert at left guard, Jason Whittle at right guard, and Mike Rosenthal at right tackle. Chris Bober starts at center for the injured Dusty Zeigler (knee). I would have liked to have seen Bober compete with Rosenthal for the right tackle job (as was planned), but injuries prevented that. Tam Hopkins has this team made as a reserve, but no one else has. Time is running out to impress.

Giants on Defense: Up front, I want to start seeing Kenny Holmes and Cornelius Griffin make plays. Holmes needs to get to the quarterback…no excuses. Griffin has been solid, but I expected more. He has the tools to dominate, but hasn’t.

Cedric Scott and Frank Ferrara will be the reserve ends. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by Ferrara this preseason…he has played well on a consistent basis both against the pass and the run. Cedric Scott needs to disengage better and make more plays. There is a VERY interesting battle at defensive tackle. There are probably two roster spots open and four tackles seriously vying for those jobs: Lance Legree, Ross Kolodziej, Matt Mitrione, and Dwight Johnson. I think Legree has the team made. If I’m right, we’re really talking about three players fighting for one spot. All have flashed.

The starters at linebacker are set with Brandon Short, Mike Barrow, and Dhani Jones forming a nice trio of underrated talent. The Giants appear to have scored a coup in the draft and landed three very capable back-ups in Wes Mallard, Nick Greisen, and Quincy Monk – despite their greenness. If the Giants are going to keep Jody Littleton as their long-snapper, Kevin Lewis is going to have a hard time making it unless he beats out Monk.

At corner, Jason Sehorn, Will Peterson, Will Allen, and Ralph Brown form the core. I don’t see a fifth corner on this team right now if they want to carry one. Shaun Williams and Omar Stoutmire are the starters at safety. There is a very good battle going on between Clarence LeBlanc, DeWayne Patmon, and Ryan Clark for the two remaining spots. There is also the chance the Giants could pick up another safety.

Giants on Special Teams: I get the feeling that the Giants are losing patience with P Rodney Williams and PK Owen Pochman. If either one or both continue their inconsistent ways, look for the Giants to start working out veterans. P Gabe Lindstrom and PK Matt Bryant don’t seem to be in the mix.

Punt coverage was decent last week, but I’d still like to see someone really take the bull by the horns and become a dangerous gunner. Perhaps that will be Dinkins. Kick-off coverage remains a joke and the Giants need to find the proper mix of players to fix this fast. The regular season opener is coming up fast.

Tim Carter was supposed to be the primary kick returner and Daryl Jones the primary punt returner, but both have been hurt. Delvin Joyce and Antonio Warren can help their causes here.

Aug 132002
 
New York Giants 22 – New England Patriots 19

Game Overview: It was a good win. Not that winning is all that important in the preseason – though it makes us fans certainly feel a lot better about our team. More importantly, there were continued signs that the offensive line just may be decent this year (especially if they can get all the parts healthy and on the field together) and that Kerry Collins may have a solid year. RB/H-Back Sean Bennett was impressive despite a fumble. On defense, relatively inexperienced players such as Will Allen, Will Peterson, Dhani Jones, and Brandon Short look like they will be just fine. There also appears to be better (albeit inexperienced) depth on defense this year.

The problem spot remains special teams.

As for the new players or roster hopefuls, TE Jeremy Shockey, MLB Nick Greisen, WLB Wesley Mallard, and SLB Quincy Monk played well among the draft picks. There were flashes from such players as DE Frank Ferrara, DT Lance Legree, DT Matt Mitrione, DT/DE Dwight Johnson, S DeWayne Patmon, WR Derek Dorris, and HB Antonio Warren.

Quarterbacks: Kerry Collins (5/6 for 84 yards, 1 touchdown, 0 interceptions) has looked sharp thus far in the preseason. He has only two incompletions in limited playing time (and the one incompletion in this game resulted from a tipped ball at the line of scrimmage). He made one risky throw against Houston in the Hall of Fame Game, but has been most making very good decisions and throwing the ball with good accuracy and velocity. My favorite play of his against the Pats was the touchdown pass to Toomer. It wasn’t the actual throw that impressed me (though it was excellent), but the superb play-action fake to Dayne on the play. On top of that, he did a good job of avoiding on oncoming rusher and stepping up into the pocket, then delivering an accurate deep strike. I hope we see more of that from Collins. I’ve said it a hundred times, I’ll say it again. This team will go as far as team health and Kerry Collins takes it.

Jesse Palmer (13/19 for 124 yards, 0 touchdowns, 1 interception) had some rough moments, but seems to be becoming more comfortable with the speed of the NFL game. Palmer came into the game near the beginning of the second quarter. His first series was inauspicious as he was pressured into an incompletion on his first throw and on 3rd-and-12 he chose to throw the ball to the well-covered Jonathan Carter instead of the wide open Jeremy Shockey. However, the ball did hit Carter in the hands (he dropped it). On his next series, he found Ron Dayne in the flat for a 12-yard gain. The Pats then well-defense a flat pass to Delvin Joyce for a 2 yard loss. On 3rd-and-16, Palmer was sacked.

Palmer got his next shot with 2:07 left in the first half. Facing many New England starting defensive backs, he led the Giants on 7-play, 62-yard touchdown drive that put New York up 14-10. On 2nd-and-10, Jesse threw a very nice seam pass to WR Derek Dorris for big yardage (32 yards). Quick passes to Dorris (10 yards), Bennett (7 yards), Shockey (8 yards), and Dixon (4 yards), put New York on the 1-yard line and Ron Dayne took over from there. Palmer looked very cool and composed on this drive.

In the second half, I liked the way for the most part that Palmer took what the defense gave him and repeatedly hit the open man underneath the coverage (usually Sean Bennett). Palmer was not jittery at all and looked very much in command of the situation, despite sporadic pass protection. He can really wing the ball in there despite tight coverage. The one big mistake was a deep pass to Ron Dixon that Palmer threw too far to the inside and was intercepted.

Jason Garrett played in the fourth quarter. For some reason, I’m never nervous when Garrett is in the game. He looks so calm, cool, and collected that you get the feeling that he will never lose a game for you. Obviously, he isn’t much of a deep passer, but he keeps the chains moving with his short throws and always seems to make the right decision. I liked the way he looked off the safety to the right before hitting Jonathan Carter on an out to the left.

Wide Receivers: Amani Toomer (2 catches for 41 yards and touchdown) and Ike Hilliard (1 catch for 7 yards) are the unquestioned starters and are merely using the preseason to get into rhythm. Both of these guys have a nice rapport with Collins. Toomer did a good job of splitting the two deep coverage on 34-yard touchdown pass from Collins.

Due to injuries to Tim Carter and Daryl Jones, and his solid performance against Houston, Jonathan Carter seems to be the only one right now vying with Ron Dixon for the 3rd receiving spot. Jonathan caught one pass for 10 yards against the Patriots, but also dropped one deeper pass from Palmer in traffic on 3rd down. Ron Dixon had two catches for 10 yards (one being an important 6-yard reception from Palmer on 3rd-and-4). Still, I was hoping for more of a statement from him. The good news is that he continues to do well as a blocker on running plays.

Derek Dorris, an after-thought, made a much bigger contribution than Carter and Dixon. He caught three passes for 50 yards, including the key 32-yarder mentioned above where he demonstrated excellent concentration. Dorris also made a nice catch on a short, 8-yard slant. He’s a tall receiver with some fluidity.

Tim Carter played but Fassel said he was still being bothered by the injury to his side. The thing that really impressed me about Tim Carter is his physique. For a wideout, he has massive arms, reminiscent of Sterling Sharpe and David Boston. Sean Riley had a 6-yard reception on 3rd-and-2, but I don’t see how this diminutive receiver can make the team given all of the competition.

Tight Ends: TE Jeremy Shockey (2 catches for 39 yards) continues to shine in the receiving department. He made a huge play on the Giants’ first scoring drive by getting down the deep middle of the field for a 31-yard reception. How long has it been since the Giants have had a tight end who could threaten the deep middle of the field? It is also obvious that opposing defensive backs have already become wary of tackling the big guy. Shockey still does need to improve in the blocking department. He was flagged with holding on an obvious take-down on a Ron Dayne outside run to the right. He’s no Mark Bavaro as a blocker, although he should develop into a good one.

Dan Campbell’s role is pretty much defined on this team – that of a jack-of-all trades blocker. Campbell lines up all over the place – stationary tight end, move tight end (or H-Back), fullback, etc. How well his performs in this role will largely determine how successful the ground game is, especially on runs outside of the tackles.

Marcellus Rivers needs to start making some plays in the passing game to stick on this roster – especially with Darnell Dinkins being switched to tight end after the game. Rivers had a shot to make a statement with Palmer’s 3rd-and-12 strike down the middle of the field, but he couldn’t hold on to what would have been a nice catch with the defender all over him. Rivers is doing a better job of getting in the way of defenders on running plays, but he is never going to be a root-them-out type; he needs to work to sustain better on these blocks instead. He did have a couple of decent blocks. However, he was also flagged with a false start.

Offensive Line: The Giants had to scramble on the OL in this game due to the injuries to Luke Petitgout (headaches) and Dusty Zeigler (knee). From left to right, the starting line-up was Chris Bober, Rich Seubert, Jason Whittle, Tam Hopkins, and Mike Rosenthal. If Luke had played, Bober would have been at center and Whittle at right guard.

BBI offensive line expert Chris Jacobs has presented some of his own views on their performance (see his review below). My general impression was that this line did a good job against a Super Bowl-caliber defensive team. The stats from this game don’t show it due to some individual breakdowns (that can be corrected), but this line is much more physical and stronger than last year’s line. There were 2-3 plays where the front five drove the entire Pats’ defensive line off of the line of scrimmage – something that never happened last year. Also, aside from a few breakdowns, the pass protection was pretty good – especially on Palmer’s last minute touchdown drive right before halftime. Now for some individual observations…

For his first start at left tackle, I thought Chris Bober did a fine job. He is a physical run blocker and he generally kept his man at bay on pass protection. His feet are not ideal and he does have to be careful to keep his feet moving on those quick outside charges against his left shoulder, but he does have the strength to shove his man wide of the pocket.

The interior trio of Rich Seubert, Jason Whittle, and Tam Hopkins got good movement on most interior running plays. But Hopkins whiffed on DT Bernard Holsey on a 3rd-and-1 play on the first drive, causing Dayne to be nailed in the backfield from the backside. If Hopkins makes this block, Dayne has room to run through a big hole to the left. But it is clear that both Seubert and Hopkins can drive block (I won’t get a good read on Whittle until he moves back to right guard). Seubert made a nice trap block on a neat, quick-hitting running play to Sean Bennett out of passing formation that picked up eight yards (Mike Rosenthal got a great block on this play as well). Whittle was responsible for two pass pressures that led to busted plays. His man beat him on a 2nd-and-12 play on Palmer’s first series, leading to an incompletion (though to be fair, this COULD have been a screw-up by Seubert in not adjusting properly to a blitz situation). On the next drive, Whittle got beat again on 3rd-and-16 and Palmer was forced to scramble (and was sacked). Tam Hopkins also had some problems in pass protection on a play in this latter series.

I still can’t get a good feel for Rosenthal. At times, he does very well and drives his opponent back, creating running room. But there was also a frustrating play (the one Shockey was called for holding) where he was called to kick out on the defensive back. He got there, but didn’t take out the DB, who scrapped off of the block and tackled Dayne for no gain. Rosenthal hasn’t gotten beat for any sacks yet in the preseason, but he has been successfully bull-rushed back into the pocket. I wonder if he is playing with proper leverage. The good news is the man can drive block.

My intent was to chronicle the trials and tribulations of the second team offensive line, but halfway through the second half of the game, it dawned on me that none of these guys really look like players to me. I’m talking about tackles Ryan Deterding and Andy Stensrud; guards Pat Crummey, Vincent Sandoval, and Sean O’Connor; and center Omar Smith. None of these guys really flash to me. There were too many breakdowns in pass protection and not enough solid run blocking at the point-of-attack. Deterding spends too much time on the ground, Stensrud doesn’t get enough movement for a strongside tackle, Crummey is too small, Sandoval is often bull-rushed, and O’Connor had too many negative plays while both pass and run blocking. Maybe there is something to work with with respect to Smith – I don’t know. Perhaps there is a diamond in the rough there I don’t see (similar to Chris Bober or Jason Whittle of previous years). But my gut says no. I’d be somewhat comfortable with Rosenthal, Hopkins, and Jeff Hatch as the primary back-ups, but the problem is that Hatch hasn’t practiced at all. I think the Giants need to pick up another lineman or two from the waiver wire.

Running Backs: After looking at the stats, I was ready to crucify Ron Dayne (7 carries for 11 yards and a touchdown, 1 catch for 12 yards). But Dayne did not run poorly in my opinion. He ran pretty darn aggressively between the tackles against a very tough run defense. His first run picked up 4 yards behind good move from the right side of the line. But on 3rd-and-1, he was nailed in the backfield when Hopkins missed a block. He then picked up 5 and 3 yards right up the gut behind solid run blocking on the second series. This helped to set up the deep play-action passes to Shockey and Toomer. In the second quarter, an outside run to the left was well-defensed by the Pats and a free man tackled Dayne for a two yard loss. Likewise, he had nowhere to go on a right-side run later in the quarter – you have to give credit to the opposing team too. On his last carry in the first half, the Pats won the battle at the line of scrimmage on 2nd-and-goal and stood up Ron, but to his credit Dayne kept pushing forward and leaned into the endzone. It was excellent display of his power. One final note, this was the second game in a row where the Giants threw the ball to Dayne with positive results. The Giants need to do more of this to keep opposing defenses from loading up against him on running plays.

Sean Bennett (8 carries for 32 yards) played a very strong game, marred by a critical fumble during a promising drive in the third quarter. I liked the quick hitter they ran with him out of a pass formation for eight yards – it caught the defense by surprise. This is where Bennett can help the Giants because sooner or later he is going to break a play like this due to his speed. Sean ran tougher between the tackles than I’ve seen him ever do and he still looks sharp on his outside runs (as usual). Bennett also continued to show great hands as receiver (6 catches for 56 yards). What was somewhat new to me was the moves he used after the catch. There were 3 or 4 receptions where Bennett made the first guy miss with a move or by breaking through a tackle and picking up vital yardage after the catch for first downs. Very impressive.

One of the stars of the game was Antonio Warren. This is the first time I got a chance to watch him play and I came away very impressed. It is difficult to defend the assertion that Warren showed more in his limited playing time than Dayne has. Warren lacks Dayne’s size, but he isn’t small. Plus, he appears to have excellent vision, cutbacks extremely well, and has an impressive burst through the hole. If Dayne wasn’t a first round draft pick and the prestige of Accorsi wasn’t tied up with him, I wonder where Dayne would be on the depth chart after this game. The specifics. On his first run, Warren picked up 4 yards over the left guard. Two plays later he exploded up a good hole, behind a good block from Charles Stackhouse, for 17 yards. On the next play, he cut up behind a so-so block from Stackhouse in tight quarters for 6 yards – an impressive run due to his ability to see the small crease and cutback into it. His next three runs didn’t pick up much as the blocking wasn’t there. His next touch was a spectacular play. Sweeping to the right from the Pats’ 30-yard line, Warren appeared pinned against the sidelines by two tacklers in the backfield. He stopped on a dime, reversed direction and started angling for the left pylon all the way across the field. As the entire New England defense chased, many having the angle on him, he cut back against the grain again to the right and left all 11 defenders in his dust for the touchdown. It was as good a run as I’ve ever seen a New York Giant make, regardless of the caliber of competition. Warren then showed his outside running ability on the successful 2-point conversion attempt.

I really like the way FB Darian Barnes plays. He just launches himself as a lead blocker on running plays and always seems to make contact. He wasn’t as dominating this week as I saw him get stood up by a bigger linebacker on the play where Bennett fumbled. A Pats’ defender also shook off his lead block on the goalline play to Dayne for a touchdown. However, on most plays, he still made good contact and really works to sustain his block. The thing that sticks out to me is his athleticism. He gets to his man pretty quick. He also looks to have good hands (another catch this week).

Charles Stackhouse played much more this week and didn’t look bad. He had a couple of nice blocks, leading Warren through the hole and on the successful 2-point conversion. However, there were a couple of attempted blocks that went for naught (including the 3rd-and-5 play when the Giants were attempting to run out the clock). Also, he just doesn’t seem as fast or naturally explosive to me as Barnes. And Barnes also works to sustain better.

Defensive Line: DT Keith Hamilton did not play due a family illness; Ross Kolodziej started in his place. This type of change has a dramatic impact on the entire line as the opposition doesn’t have to focus their energies on Hamilton, one of the better defensive tackles in the game.

It is interesting to note that the Pats came out throwing and not running – that’s the way to beat the Giants – to throw on them early and then come back with the run. There wasn’t much of a pass rush from the starting front four, but to be fair, the Pats ran mostly 3- and 5-step drops where Tom Brady got rid of the ball extremely quickly. On some of these plays it was virtually impossible to get a pass rush started. DE Michael Strahan did get a couple of pressures that I spotted on a quick throw – which shows you how badly he beat his man (I think the fans that want to see Strahan off this team are nuts). DE Kenny Holmes had another uninspiring performance. He wasn’t bad, but he wasn’t good either. DT Ross Kolodziej wasn’t terrible, but he did have some problems at the point-of-attack on running plays. Kolodziej did a nice job of sniffing out a screen pass (with Dhani Jones) in the second quarter. Still, I came away mostly disappointed because he played a lot and didn’t do much with his playing time. DT Cornelius Griffin was quiet.

As for the reserves, I thought Lance Legree played very well. He was stout at the point-of-attack (including an excellent run defense where he met the back at the line) and made three excellent pass rushes (two on Huard, one on Davey). He did a good job of reading a screen pass and chasing the play down from behind.

I’ve also been pleasantly surprised by the play of DE Frank Ferrara this preseason. He was very active against the run and is the Giants most consistent pass rusher among the reserves. A lot of BBI‘ers have written off Ferrara, but he’s starting to look more and more the part of an adequate reserve. He made the huge defensive play of the game by smartly reading a screen pass and dropping back to intercept the ball instead of blindly rushing the passer. This play set up the Warren TD run.

DE Cedric Scott has been frustrating. He looks like an all-world football player with his physique, but his productivity on the field has been lacking. Cedric still has problems disengaging from blocks quickly both as a run defender and pass rusher. He had a couple of decent pass rushes late in the second quarter. Still, it is important to remember that he is green and still learning his trade.

The third team defensive tackles were Matt Mitrione and DT/DE Dwight Johnson and I thought both of these guys played well. Johnson looks more comfortable to me at tackle than end. He combined with Cedric Scott on an excellent run stop on 3rd-and-1 in the third quarter. Johnson later combined with Quincy Monk to nail the running back for a 1-yard loss.

Things didn’t start off well for Mitrione when I spotted him getting turned at the point-of-attack on a running play. But after that it was almost all positive. Mitrione will never be an athletic pass rusher, but he does have a decent bull rush and he is as persistent as a bulldog. He doesn’t give up. For the second game in a row, he also picked up his second sack (though his sack dance leaves much to be desired). It was Mitrione’s fast pass pressure that contributed to Ferrara’s interception.

DT Brad Harris made a nice play against an inside run, but was also flagged with a stupid and costly 15-yard personal foul penalty.

Linebackers: This was the starting debut of Dhani Jones and I thought he played well. He was around the ball quite a bit and in some formations, actually was the de facto middle linebacker. He did a good job of filling the hole and tackling the runner for no gain on the second play of the game. He later sniffed out a screen pass – a good sign for a young linebacker. I spotted him smashing into Tom Brady on a blitz that forced an incompletion – he looked very explosive on this play. Dhani did miss one tackle however. I was surprised to see how well SLB Brandon Short was staying with a tight end or back down the field in the first quarter…this bodes well for the G-Men.

As for the reserves, Quincy Monk was a bit up-and-down, but he looked better to me this week. In the first half, there was one play where he successfully strung out a strongside run; however, a few snaps later he got handled on a similar play. He also got beat in the flat by FB Mark Edwards. In the second half, there was a superb play where he stuffed the lead block, shed the blocker, and stuffed the running back. Monk later combined with Johnson the aforementioned 1-yard loss.

MLB Nick Greisen has a nose for the football. Like the other two, he seems to be around the action a lot and runs much faster than his timed speed. I like the way he hustled down the line of scrimmage on the play that Monk strung out. Wes Mallard is a fast sucker. On the other play where Monk got handled, he flew down behind the line to limit the carry to a 4-yard gain. Occasionally, you see both these guys being a bit over-anxious and not breaking down and tackling correctly.

Kevin Lewis looked a bit awkward to me in coverage on one play in the second quarter where the receiver picked up 15 yards in his zone. However, he made a couple of excellent plays in the second half. First he did a good job of holding a receiver 1-yard short of the first down on 3rd-and-8. Then he made a real nice play against the run at the point-of-attack in the 4th quarter. Don’t count him out of the picture just yet.

Defensive Backs: I was really impressed with the play of Will Allen in this game. The Pats came out throwing the ball, often spreading things out and trying to create favorable mismatches. On New England’s second drive, Tom Brady threw a very quick pass to Deion Branch – a quick, impressive looking rookie – but Allen came up to make a very sure tackle for a minimal gain. A few plays later Allen had superb coverage on David Patten on a deep fly pattern and almost came up with the interception (Patten had to play defensive back on the play). Allen did give up a 17-yard completion on 3rd-and-3 on the same drive; he had tight coverage on the play – Patten simply made an excellent grab. Will Peterson performed well except for the first play of the game. The Pats threw deep on him and Will didn’t adjust well to an underthrown ball. The play picked up 62 yards and set up a field goal.

Things didn’t start off well for Ralph Brown when he was beat by Branch on a crossing route for a first down on 3rd-and-6. In the second quarter, Brown made a couple of excellent plays. The first was a run force where he upended the back. The second was tight coverage on Donald Hayes. Hayes is much bigger than Brown, yet it was Brown who almost came up with the ball. In the second half, he did a fantastic job of defending a screen pass and preventing a first down. At the beginning of the fourth quarter, Brown had excellent coverage on a deep pass and looked to be in position to intercept, but he misjudged a ball that sailed on him a bit and hence mistimed his leap. A 46-yard reception resulted.

I continue to be uninspired by the remaining corners. David Mitchell gave up 6-yard catch in the second quarter and then got beat for a 4-yard touchdown on a fade pass where he failed to turn around and look for the ball. He later got beat for 11-yards on 2nd-and-2 at the end of the third quarter.

SS Shaun Williams looked good against the run on an outside running play. FS Omar Stoutmire did a good job of staying with the receiver on a short toss in front of him and making the tackle.

I thought S Ryan Clark demonstrated some nice coverage ability despite giving up a few receptions. He did a good job of knocking away a 3rd-and-7 pass in the first quarter (when all of the starters were in there). He had real tight coverage on Branch on a crossing route, but Branch made a superb bobbling reception despite Clark being all over him. Clark did get beat by Branch on a sideline route for 16 yards on 3rd-and-3; he also was in the area of the 15-yard reception that helped to set up the final field goal right before halftime. Late in the game, he put a big hit on a receiver that had found the soft spot in the zone. He also knocked away the 3rd-and-14 pass in the endzone late in the 4th quarter.

Special Teams: It was hard to get a good read on the coverage units due to the inconsistent kicking and punting of Owen Pochman and Rodney Williams, respectively. Pochman’s kickoffs landed at the 2, out of bounds (out to the 40), 14, and 4. Obviously, the second and third kicks are unacceptable. Williams got off punts of 40 (nice directional punt), 44 yards (good punt), 39 yards (a low directional punt that could have been better), 23 yards (terrible), and 38 yards (so-so). Both were too inconsistent and put too much pressure on still struggling coverage units.

The coverage on the first kick-off was not bad as the Giants stopped the returner at the 24-yard line (this coming on the kickoff to the 2-yard line). The kickoff to the 14 yard line was taken out to the 49 (a 35-yard return) as DeWayne Patmon and Tim Carter got handled (and who knows who else). The kick-off to the 4-yard line was returned 35 yards to the 39. Nobody was in the picture on the left side of the field and the returner had a huge hole to run through. Not acceptable.

On punt coverage, coverage on the first two returns was good. Branch was held to 6 yards on the first return (though Quincy Monk was illegally downfield on the play); and Branch was held to 2 yards on the next return (nice open field tackle by Monk). The next two punts went out of bounds (39 yards and 23 yards). Williams’ last punt was returned 10 yards by Kevin Faulk. This last punt demonstrated the frustration of the special teams unit. Williams had done an excellent job of punting the ball out at the 9 yard line. However, Darian Barnes was flagged for illegal procedure. The next punt was returned to the 29 yard line – a difference in 20 yards of field position. Gabe Lindstrom had one punt for 37 yards. On this play Darnell Dinkins obliterated Faulk for no gain. It was as good a specials hit as I’ve ever seen and had me jacked up. In summary, the punt coverage was decent when the punting was decent and it was an improvement overall from last week.

In the return game, no one has come close to breaking one. Jonathan Carter had one nice return last game on kick-off returns. Ron Dixon had the first return in this game and while he did a nice job of picking up 22 yards, there was too much dancing on the return. Dixon needs to pick a seam and go – not dance looking for a hole. Tim Carter had the next return but could only pick up 14 yards. On the next return, Jonathan Carter could only manage 17 yards, but did bring the ball out to the 30. The last kick-off was returned by Antonio Warren for only 12 yards.

Punt returns. Delvin Joyce looked decent picking up returns of 11 and 8 yards. Antonio Warren picked up 7 and 0. I’m hearing that the punt return job still belongs to Daryl Jones.

Pochman missed a 37-yard field goal wide to the right. The snap from Jody Littleton was not good. In addition, there was a penalty on the play. What else could go wrong? Fassel just buried his head in hands.


 

Offensive Line Review

by Chris Jacobs

Chris Bober: Looked pretty good, particularly run blocking. Still has a problem moving his feet sometimes pass blocking and tries to keep his man up at the LOS (line of scrimmage) instead of riding him outside. Needs to work on that footwork, besides that he seems like he’s as strong as an ox.

Rich Seubert: Another bull, just a mauler. Didn’t see any negatives except for when the Pats ran a twist stunt.

Jason Whittle: Did a decent job a center, gets some push on his run blocking and did a good job on pass protection, there was one play where he was beat and Palmer was flushed out and made it back to the LOS. All around I’d say good job.

Tam Hopkins: Really a surprise. I like him. Explosive off the ball right at the snap, seems to get off the line quick and get into his man before he has a chance. Pass pro OK, not great but adequate. Has a shot at the starting position depending on how this thing pans out.

Mike Rosenthal: I wouldn’t say terrible, but bad. Well, how about not good. Never impressed me and didn’t impress me Saturday night. On a couple of running plays his first step was actually backwards, ugh. On the nice pass to Shockey in the second series, good thing Collins got rid of it right away because the Pats ran a stunt, Rosey stood straight up and got bull rushed right into Collins. Next play he almost got beat on the TD pass to Toomer, again the quick release of Collins saved him. As the game progressed he settled a little bit but all in all I’d say his footwork isn’t great and he seems to be off balance too much, he seems like he’s either too high and gets bull rushed or too low and falls down. I read a post where someone said he drove his man 5 yards down field on a Dayne run. Not exactly. The DT was trying to scrape off of him to make the tackle. Don’t get me wrong, he did a nice job of staying with the block, but he didn’t drive the guy down field. My opinion is he would be an adequate backup but not starter material. I hate to say this about anyone, but he reminded me a little of Scott Gragg without the false starts.

Here’s another general observation, something in the back of all our minds we worried about. They obviously haven’t been playing together and there seems to be some bad communication up front. Or they’re just confused by some of the stunts up front. I noticed this in the Houston game too. When there’s a stunt up front, some guys aren’t staying home and it’s creating lanes for guys to come free. It hasn’t been disastrous yet, but it’s been happening too much so far. This is something that coaching and discipline can correct, and probably expected from a young O-Line. They need work there.

(Box Score – New England Patriots at New York Giants, August 10, 2002)
Aug 122002
 
Q&A: Defensive Line Coach Denny Marcin

by BBI Reporter walterb

walterb: Are you comfortable rotating one of the tackles in for plays during the game?

Denny Marcin: I always try to do that because tackles have a tendency to wear down a little bit during the game – so I try to. Now last year was a little different – we had a couple tackles that had never played in an NFL game. So you know I was a little careful. Then we got into some tight ball games, so some of that depends on the game. But yes, I would like to rotate guys – especially at the tackle spot. And the ends too – I mean Strahan played a thousand snaps last year – that’s a lot.

walterb: With this group this year, do you feel more comfortable rotating them in?

Denny Marcin: Yeah, no question about that – that’s a given. These guys have been in ball games, they got a year under their belt. Last year I believe we were the only team in the National Football League to get four backups that never had played one minute of an NFL game. None. So now they’ve got a year under their belt.

walterb: And has someone like Holmes adjusted better in his second year to your schemes?

Denny Marcin: Yeah, I think so – you know we had some mental errors last year, he’s cleaned those up a little bit right now in the early going – so that’s a plus for him and he seems to be picking up things more freely than he did a year ago. Last year everything was tougher you know. This year he’s flowing a little bit better.

walterb: And what do you attribute the difference to?

Denny Marcin: I think a year in the system. Our system is not real easy to learn, it’s a pretty complex system, we have a lot of fronts, we do a lot of blitzing, and they are very complex – and you know for a guy to come in here after one year and master it right off the bat, it’d be tough.

walterb: Of the backup tackles, who has shown you the most so far in this camp?

Denny Marcin: Well, I’d say we’ve got the two guys back Lance Legree and Ross Kolodziej. There are two guys really, one is Dwight Johnson who’s been flipped between tackle and end – we’re trying to see if he can learn both spots and if he can do well in both spots, and there is Matt Mitrione from Purdue. He’s another kid who’s making plays. And that’s what I tell him – the bottom line is you got to make plays. Don’t look good coming off the bus – you got to look good on the field and make plays.

walterb: What’s up with Cedric Scott? Has he played up to expectations?

Denny Marcin: Cedric is still learning, you know, he had the injury last year, he missed five or six weeks – so he got behind in everything. I’d say he’s starting to come on a little bit better than what we saw.

walterb: Over the last decade or so how have rule changes changed defensive line play in the NFL? Have there been significant changes?

Denny Marcin: Well, I’ve been in the league six years and really the rule changes for us I think have been minimal. I don’t think there’s anything along those lines that have really changed from what I could tell.

walterb: The general fan knows about techniques like the rip move, the swim move, the bull rush, how many more subtle techniques are there?

Denny Marcin: There’s a lot. However, most of the good pass rushers for example, like Strahan – he has got two moves. The most you can master are two. You can try the other ones, but I believe this: the most you can master are two, unless you’re somewhere out there from outer space.

walterb: And beyond those two, what other moves are there?

Denny Marcin: Well you’ve got some club moves, some counter moves. In other words, if you’re trying one of your rips and the guy’s got you then you’ve got to find a way to come back the other way, so you’ve got to develop some counter moves. And the guys that usually have done well are guys that have used their hands well. In other words, when a guy puts his hands on you, they can bat them down – and then it’s like a table – you’ve got four legs, two arms, two legs, and you break one down, now you’ve got a better chance – so that’s what you try to do.

walterb: What offensive linemen in the NFL have the best hands, in your opinion?

Denny Marcin: There’s quite a few. There’s Orlando Pace, I’ve known him since Ohio State days – Ogden, there are a lot of good players. And they are BIG bodies – and that’s the one thing I don’t think people understand, these guys are about six ax handles wide across the tail, and it is just hard to get around big guys. It takes twice as much energy to rush the passer as for that guy to block for the passer – so you get worn out real quick. It’s not real easy getting the sack.

walterb: How much does speed mean to an offensive lineman? Is that an over-rated metric?

Denny Marcin: Guys that can take up a lot of space, they don’t really need a lot of speed because just the size of them means a lot if they can move okay – you don’t have to be a speed demon.

walterb: How would you characterize your defensive line philosophy as compared to the rest of the league?

Denny Marcin: We’re what we call a one-and-a-half gap team; in other words, we don’t line up our guys and run them up the field. We do ask our guys to do a little bit of reading, but within that they have some options that they can utilize depending on certain factors. We can get up the field when we see a back doing this, that, whatever it may be. So there are some parameters where we can get out of a run mode we’re reading, and BOOM rush the passer.

walterb: The read-and-react defense, is that defense still kicking around the NFL? Are there versions of it?

Denny Marcin: Yeah, we do some of it; but we’re trying to be aggressive when we read. It’s not like we’re sitting on the line and doing some two gap stuff – we do some of it, but basically our stuff is ‘hey, get up the field as best you can’ and react off of that.

walterb: What are your feelings on the chemistry of the team this year – the defense especially?

Denny Marcin: I like it. I like the whole chemistry of our team. I’m the eternal optimist, so, I always think we should be good. From what I see right now we’ve got is a good blend of veterans and young guys making plays. Guys feed off of that. Just like Shockey’s catch the other day, or LeBlanc play when he intercepts it – Hamilton ran all the way down the field on the sideline, all the way down the field. Dinkins makes the hit the other day; everybody was down at the end of the bench – that’s good stuff!

Aug 092002
 

Approach to the Game – New England Patriots at New York Giants, August 10, 2002: The level of intensity will rise this week for the Giants. First, it’s the second preseason game so we may see some of the regulars a bit more this week. Second, anytime a team faces the defending Super Bowl champions – even in the preseason – there is a desire to measure yourself against the best.

What will be very interesting to see is how the offensive line performs against the upgraded competition this week. Also, the Giants desperately need to see some improvement in their special teams (and so do their fans).

Giants on Offense: The first team offensive line will look closer to its final form this weekend. Chris Bober will be starting for Dusty Zeigler (knee) at center, but Jason Whittle returns to right guard. It’s important that he and Mike Rosenthal start developing a rapport (assuming, that is, Mike Rosenthal will be the opening day starter at right tackle).

With Tiki Barber (ribs) not likely to play, Ron Dayne will start. It’s time for him to start running like a first round draft pick on a consistent basis. It’s his third year – no more excuses. Sean Bennett should see more action as well as both a runner and receiver. Keep an eye on how he does as a blocker – a big weakness in his game. This contest could also be very important in determining who is ahead in the Delvin Joyce-Antonio Warren-Damon Washington battle. As for the fullbacks, watch rookie free agent Darian Barnes – I really like the guy.

In the receiving department, my eyes will be fixed on Tim Carter, who apparently still isn’t 100 percent, but who practiced this week. We still do not know who the third receiver will be on opening day. Ron Dixon is in the mix, but he stood out as a blocker, and not as a receiver against the Texans. Jonathan Carter (knee) hasn’t practiced this week and I wonder if he will play against the Patriots. With Daryl Carter (knee) definitely out, this could be the last good opportunity for Derek Dorris and Sean Riley to make an impression.

As much touting as Jeremy Shockey has been receiving this week, the guy still has a lot to learn in terms of running the correct routes and being a more consistent blocker. Also, don’t expect him to make plays like he did against the Texans on a regular basis – that is unreasonable. Still, his presence is going to have a domino effect on the receivers and backs on passing plays. I would like to see Marcellus Rivers get more involved this week.

Aside from team health, the key to this season remains Kerry Collins. How well he plays will determine how well the team does. I want to see consistently smart play from him as well as an ability to move the team and generate points. It will be interesting to see if Jesse Palmer comes out of the gate more relaxed this weekend.

Giants on Defense: The lack of depth on the defensive line concerns me. The Giants need guys like Cedric Scott and Lance Legree to do more on a consistent basis. Ross Kolodziej and Frank Ferrara are also in that mix. My gut tells me that this team is still two high DL draft picks short (next offseason priority in my eyes). Any injury to the starters could prove disastrous. Kenny Holmes will probably play a bit more this week and I look forward to seeing him in action. Is rookie free agent Matt Mitrione seriously contending for a roster spot?

Aside from Tim Carter, I’m most anxious to see Dhani Jones start at weakside linebacker after he has missed so much time with a hamstring injury. Brandon Short continues his development on the strongside. This will be another opportunity to watch the three young draft picks (Nick Greisen, Wes Mallard, and Quincy Monk) in action.

It will be interesting to see if Ralph Brown plays more consistently this week…he had his ups and downs against Houston. We also need to get a better feel for Omar Stoutmire at free safety.

Giants on Special Teams: What was disconcerting to me against the Texans is that all these rookies who we drafted or signed were nowhere to be found on kick and punt coverage units. Where were the new linebackers? Where were the reserve safeties? This should be a good opportunity for Antonio Warren to show how he does as a punt returner. PK Owen Pochman faces his old team.