Approach to the Game – Jacksonville Jaguars at New York Giants, November 3, 2002: Unlike previous game reviews, I’m not going to focus on the opponent this week. What I’ll focus on is the Giants because their biggest problems right now are with themselves. They have to rededicate themselves completely to turning this thing around because there is still time left to make this a good season. But their backs are up against the wall and things will be harder than ever with important cogs such as DT Keith Hamilton and WR Ike Hilliard missing.

The Giants can get it done, but they have to stop playing afraid – both offensively and defensively. Take some chances, have some fun, win some games.

Giants on Offense: Head Coach Jim Fassel takes over the play-calling this week. Don’t look for different plays. That’s not in the bag. It’s too late in the season to make major changes to offensive schemes. But where Fassel can make a difference is calling the right plays at the right time, developing a feel for flow of the game, sticking with what works, and taking some chances. Of course, ultimately, it will be the players who decide the fate of contest, but play-calling makes a difference.

Kerry Collins is coming off his worst performance of the year. If you hear him speak, it sounds like he thinks his job is safe. He’s an idiot if truly believes that. The Giants may not pull him this season as long as they are still mathematically still in it, but there is no guarantee that he won’t be let go at the end of the season if he keeps up this inconsistent play. There is a difference between being careless with the football and taking risks. The Giants need Collins to not be careless, but to also take more risks by playing aggressive football. Take some chances. Throw the football down the field. Let Amani Toomer, Ron Dixon, and Jeremy Shockey fight for the football. Collins also must play tougher in the pocket. If he doesn’t, I want him gone. You can’t win a Championship with a quarterback who is afraid to get hit. Step up into the pocket Kerry and take a shot while delivering the ball. Football is a contact sport.

The loss of Ike Hilliard will hurt, but in the long-run, this might turn out to be a good thing for the team. The Giants need to see what Ron Dixon can do as a starter. Unlike Hilliard, Dixon can stretch the field and make things easier for Toomer and Shockey underneath. Over the course of the next 3-4 games if Dixon can’t get the job done, then I bet you we see more of Tim Carter and Daryl Jones. These guys are green, but they are explosive. Dixon, Carter, and Jones can get the Giants some cheap touchdowns and that’s what New York needs right now. Let’s just hope that Kerry gives these youngsters a chance to make some plays.

One guy on offense who is not living up to his contract is Tiki Barber. The run blocking hasn’t been great, but Barber hasn’t helped things either with his inconsistent decision-making. Tiki needs to focus on football and start making some plays. Most importantly, he needs to get into the end zone more. The other guy who has been invisible for two games in a row is Amani Toomer. I question how wise it was to get married in the middle of the season. I also wonder if we are watching one of Toomer’s infamous mid-season disappearing acts. Toomer loves to talk about making the Pro Bowl, but you have to earn it Amani. It won’t be handed to you.

The thing that really sucks for the Giants is the injury to Jeremy Shockey. He is just a shell of himself right now because he can’t practice, he can push off hard on the injured toe, and thus he can’t accelerate or cut like he can when he is healthy. It is the ligament in the toe that is damaged and Shockey won’t be right all year. Still, he can lead and inspire with his play and he certainly can have an impact on the game, but his injury is just about as significant as the one to Hamilton and Hilliard.

My message to Fassel would be this: If you are going to rotate running backs, don’t do it play-by-play, but series-by-series. Allow Barber, Ron Dayne, or Delvin Joyce to get into the flow of the game. Also, take some shots with Tim Carter…speed kills.

Giants on Defense: The loss of Keith Hamilton hit home something that many of us have been fearful for the last few seasons: the Giants are not deep at all on the defensive line. DE Kenny Holmes is still not making plays. Cornelius Griffin has not stepped it up. Lance Legree got mauled in his first start. That leaves DE Michael Strahan and that is scary because he is getting double-teamed and held on almost every play. You can bet the farm that all future opponents are going to run at the Giants. Griffin, Legree, Holmes, Matt Mitrione, Byron Frisch, and Dwight Johnson need to step it up, but this thing really isn’t going to get fixed until next year’s draft and free agent signing period.

Mike Barrow has not played as well as he did the previous two seasons – it’s time for him to lead by EXAMPLE and make some plays. Brandon Short is still making some mistakes but he is improving and one gets the feeling that he is the kind of linebacker that Parcells would love to coach. Dhani Jones has been hampered by that hamstring all season. For a first year starter, he hasn’t hurt the Giants, but one would like to see him make more plays. All three need to be more disruptive against the run.

So does SS Shaun Williams. I’m very surprised Williams hasn’t been more of a factor in run defense and as a blitzer near the line of scrimmage this year. I’m also surprised we have seen some good kill-shots from him. By no means has he been bad, but where is the impact play? As depressing as this season has been, the play of Will Peterson and Will Allen is bright ray of hope. They are still learning so expect some mistakes still, but you’ve got to love these two. I wish Omar Stoutmire would play like he did against San Francisco on opening night some more. That would help this defense out tremendously. Is there ever been a more overpaid player in the NFL than Jason Sehorn?

Giants on Special Teams: The kick and punt coverage has dramatically improved this year. Matt Bryant has been a Godsend. Matt Allen has been OK. What the Giants need to start doing is break some kick and punt returns. I like Delvin Joyce as a kick and punt returner. Tim Carter looks like he has “it” with his speed and up-field return style. Now if both of these guys could just get some alleys to run through.