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.