New York Giants 30 – Baltimore Ravens 24

Game Overview: Contrary to last week where the Giants lost, yet I had a good feeling about the team after the game due to the performance of the first team offense and defense, this week the Giants won, yet I was left with a sour taste in my mouth due to the performance of the first team defense. Yes, the “starting” offense stunk too. But the “starting” offense was minus six starters (Collins, Barber, Shockey, Petitgout, Bober, and Allen). Moreover, important back-up TE Marcellus Rivers missed the game.

The starting defense had no excuse. All the regular starters played except for Michael Strahan and Will Allen. Granted, those are two important players, but to give up points on all three defensive series (two touchdowns and a field goal) before leaving the game is disgusting. Especially so when you consider a rookie quarterback was starting for the Ravens. After one quarter, the Ravens had picked up 154 yards of offense. That projects to over 600 yards of offense in a single game!!!

Don’t let the score mislead you. The Ravens handed this game to the Giants by turning over the football six times. Three of those turnovers were muffed kicks/punts and another was a botched center/quarterback exchange. In other words, the Giants didn’t cause these four turnovers.

The good news was that there were some promising performances by some of the back-up players.

Quarterbacks: I wasn’t impressed with Jesse Palmer (10-of-19 for 91 yards). While Palmer made a couple of clutch throws (i.e, his 8-yard pass to TE Visanthe Shiancoe on 4th-and-5 and his 18-yard strike to Tim Carter on 3rd-and-14), most of his passes were of the ultra-conservative dink-and-dunk variety. It was like Palmer was afraid to take any chances for fear of digging himself an even deeper hole. And it was very frustrating to watch. Worse, too many of Palmer’s passes were behind the intended wide receiver, and there was one pass intended for Hilliard that was almost intercepted and returned for a touchdown. I will give Palmer a lot of credit on his 2nd-and-goal touchdown run from the 5-yard line. He showed a nice move and really fought hard by diving for the score.

The weird thing is that Jason Garrett (1-of-4 for 8 yards) wasn’t really given much of shot to impress. He was only allowed four passing attempts. His first pass was a really nice play as he somehow managed to get the ball out to TE Visanthe Shiancoe accurately despite being clobbered on the pass rush. However, his next pass intended for Shank was off the mark. His final two passes were knocked down at the line of scrimmage – the first was almost intercepted and a touchdown would have likely resulted.

Wide Receivers: Amani Toomer (no catches) and Ike Hilliard (1 catch for 9 yards) started and played longer than I expected, but Palmer never really went down field with the football. Tim Carter had a good night. He got the Giants out of deep hole at their own 9-yard line with a 19-yard reception in the 2nd quarter. Then on New York’s second touchdown drive right before halftime, Carter came up big on 3rd-and-14 with an 18-yard reception. He immediately followed that up with a 10-yard catch down to the Ravens’ 8-yard line.

The only other receiver to catch a ball was Willie Ponder. But it was a huge play. Ponder did a superb job of shielding the corner on a low slant pass. The 7-yard reception came on 3rd-and-3 from Baltimore 9-yard line and set up Dorsey Levens’ touchdown run. It was a tough catch as the pass was low (intentionally) and the defender was draped all over him.

Daryl Jones gets a lot of grief from Giants fans, but I will say this – he is a dynamite run blocker. There were at least two plays where I saw him take the defensive back right off his feet, including runs of 6- and 10-yards by Delvin Joyce. David Tyree also got a couple of nice run blocks in the game.

Running Backs: If you look at the stats (Ron Dayne 5 carries for 13 yards, Dorsey Levens 7 carries for 18 yards), you would say that the duel between these two was a dead heat after the game. After all, both amount to a 2.6 yards-per-carry average. However, not only did Dayne fumble (a bad fumble too right after a Ravens’ turnover), but he dropped two passes. Moreover, Levens simply looks quicker, with more agility and better vision. Just as importantly, Levens keeps his feet moving…something Dayne still often times fails to do upon contact with a defender. Levens demonstrated all of this on his first carry of the game (a 5-yard run around right end) and his impressive 1-yard touchdown run where he bounced the play outside. I also like the way Levens cuts back against the defense.

This could be Dayne’s final game as a Giant. He may go on to have a productive career with another team (and the pro-Dayne folks will blame Fassel for it despite the fact that both Fassel and Accorsi wanted to draft Dayne), but he simply isn’t a good fit with the Giants. He can’t come in cold off the bench and produce immediately like Levens and Joyce can. The Giants and Dayne would be better off if they parted ways.

The running back star of the game was Joyce…60 yards on 17 carries and a touchdown. Joyce’s size still makes me nervous as I worry about his ability to secure the football. However, against the Ravens, he not only was very quick and elusive on outside runs, but he showed no hesitation when his number was called to plow forward up the gut. Obviously, he is a stereotypical 3rd-down, change-of-pace back. He will never be able to run over a defender and will have to rely always on his agility to perform. But his style seems to be a better fit to a Giants’ team that likes to run a lot outside of the tackles. There were two runs in particular where not many backs in the League could have squirted through the hole the way he did…he is a very slippery runner. The first was on the 3rd-and-3 run where he picked up 6 yards on the play preceding his touchdown run. The second was his 10-yard run when the Giants were running out the clock.

FB Jim Finn is a smart player who doesn’t make many mental mistakes. As a lead run blocker, he generally engages his target pretty well. The problem is that he isn’t very big or powerful and he can be stood up in the hole on occasion. When this happens, the back following him finds his running lane clogged. Like I said, it doesn’t happen all of the time, but it does happen. As an example, on the Giants’ first possession in the 3rd quarter, Finn and TE Visanthe Shiancoe combined to make excellent blocks on a 3-yard run by Delvin Joyce on 2nd-and-4. However, on the very next play, on 3rd-and-1, LT Jeff Roehl fell off his block and Finn couldn’t make his block – leading to a 2-yard loss on the play. Finn dropped one pass against the Ravens and juggled another. Where Finn does look sharp is in blitz pick-ups. This may be a big reason why he survived the fullback competition.

I thought Charles Stackhouse’s blocking was getting more consistent as the preseason progressed, but the coaching staff must have felt that Finn was more reliable. Stackhouse got a good block on Levens’ 7-yard run off right tackle in the 2nd quarter.

Tight Ends: I thought it was going to be long night for Visanthe Shiancoe after he badly dropped a pass that hit him right in the mitts. But Shiancoe did come up with two catches in the game, including a very impressive 8-yard reception on 4th-and-5 despite being well-covered. It was a clutch play that led to the Giants’ first points of the game.

It was in the run blocking department that Shiancoe impressed me the most. Indeed, I think it was the most positive performance to come out of this game for the Giants. He’s come a long way in a short time. He was a real factor in the down position when called upon to pinch either the end or linebacker inside (as the Giants’ tight ends are often asked to do). For example, he got a real good block on the play where Dayne fumbled. He also got a good block on the corner on a 5-yard gain by Levens on the play right after Visanthe dropped the ball. What impressed me was that Shiancoe was (1) aggressive and physical, and (2) he really worked to sustain his blocks until the whistle blew. Shiancoe’s impressive work continued in the second half. For example, he got good blocks on Joyce runs of 6 yards, 3 yards, 8 yards, 6 yards, and 6 yards – all in the second half – the last run resulted in a touchdown. Again, what I really liked is the way he went after the defender…he attacked his man and stayed with him. Visanthe played with anger as a blocker against the Ravens.

Darnell Dinkins played, but he was not as impressive as Visanthe in the run blocking department.

Offensive Line: The starting unit had Jeff Roehl at left tackle, Rich Seubert at left guard, Omar Smith at center, David Diehl at right guard, and Jeff Hatch at right tackle. Not exactly an impressive group, but surprisingly, this group did a reasonable job in pass protection. As expected, Seubert and Diehl were the steadiest of the linemen. There was one play where Diehl got rocked back by an aggressive charge by the tackle, but he generally kept his man quiet. His run blocking is also coming along nicely. For example, Dayne picked up 5 yards on the second offensive play of the game behind good blocks from Diehl and Smith.

I thought Hatch was up and down; he started slowly and got better as the game wore on. On 3rd-and-5 on the Giants’ first possession, Hatch whiffed on his opponent, leading to an incompletion. On New York’s third possession, a Ron Dayne run got stuffed because for some reason Hatch was pass blocking on a running play and his opponent made the tackle. Later in the second quarter, Palmer had to get rid of the ball quickly as Hatch let his opponent run past him untouched. However, Hatch for the most part did a decent job in pass protection. There was one play early on where he and Diehl expertly picked up a stunt. In the ground game, I saw Hatch get a good block on two of Levens’ runs to his side in the first half, but there were a couple of times I thought he seemed a bit soft to me as a run blocker – he needs to be more aggressive and physical, especially against smaller opponents such as linebackers. The good news is that as the game progressed, Hatch appeared to get more comfortable. He worked hard to sustain his run blocks and seemed to play a bit more physical against the second teamers of the Ravens.

Jeff Roehl did a little better this week. His run blocking still leaves much to be desired, not only at the point-of-attack, but especially when called upon to pull to his left. But it was in pass protection where Roehl was far steadier. There were two pressures he gave up late in the second quarter, but in this game, you didn’t notice his opponent being as much of a factor on the pass rush as in previous games. Early in the 3rd quarter, he and FB Jim Finn blew their blocks on Joyce’s 3rd-and-1 effort that got nailed in the backfield. Roehl also got beat to the outside on the pass rush on Garrett’s first pass…he needs to remember to keep his feet moving.

Omar Smith doesn’t seem to get much movement in the ground game. Too often he gets stood up and this forces the running back to find a new running lane. Smith did get a good block on Dayne’s first carry of the game, but he badly missed his man on Dayne’s next carry during the next possession. He also got stood up on the Dayne rush that Hatch pass blocked on. Late in the second quarter, Smith was pushed back into the backfield on Levens’ 3rd-and-1 effort that came up short.

The second team line had Roehl at left tackle, Barrett Brooks at left guard, Smith (later Wayne Lucier) at center, Tam Hopkins at right guard, and Hatch at right tackle. This group also did a decent job in pass protection for Palmer. Brooks did give up a sack however and Hopkins was a bit shaky on a couple of pass plays. Still, Palmer had time. Brooks, pulling slowly to his right, got a good block on Levens’ 1-yard touchdown run. There were a couple of running plays in the second half where Brooks didn’t do as well. On the first, he missed his block; on the second, he was so slow on a pull that he actually got in the way of Joyce (as did Wayne Lucier). The strange thing about Hopkins this preseason was that while his pass blocking was shaky (as was to be expected), there were too many times this big, strong guard got pushed back into the backfield, especially when pulling (not expected). Both Brooks and Hopkins look sluggish compared to the rest of the Giants’ offensive linemen.

I thought Wayne Lucier did a much better job than Smith. When pulling, Lucier seems to do better engaging his opponent on the move whereas Smith often gets knocked around. I thought Lucier got more movement in his run blocks as well. I also liked the way Lucier went after defenders down field on an 8-yard run by Joyce late in the 3rd quarter.

Defensive Line: Poor run defense, not much of a pass rush by Washington, Griffin, Hamilton, and Holmes.

DE Kenny Holmes was Jonathan Ogden’s bitch. Nothing more really to say there. Holmes never got close to the quarterback and was a non-factor in the running game except for one play in the red zone where he pursued extremely well down the line to get in on the tackle. Holmes was badly fooled on a misdirection pitch to his side that picked up 31 yards. Still blows you away that we ended up with Cedric Jones and not Ogden in the 1996 Draft.

Keith Washington was quieter this week. He had his moments such as the play where he and Dhani Jones stuffed Jamal Lewis in the backfield on the Ravens’ first series (a holding penalty by Keith Hamilton wiped this play out). He also combined with Cornelius Griffin to force the quarterback to throw the ball away on 3rd-and-goal in the first quarter. Unfortunately, he was also flagged with a costly roughing the passer penalty.

Cornelius Griffin played a good game except for the first Ravens’ run of the game where he over-pursued Jamal Lewis and the resulting gap was left open on a cutback that picked up 16 yards (Dhani Jones also over-pursued on this play). Three plays later, Griffin made a great play when he very quickly pursued down the line to nail Lewis on a run around right end. This is the kind of play not too many defensive tackles in the league can make. On the next series, Griffin nailed Lewis again, this time on a run off left tackle. Three plays later he demonstrated great hustle and athleticism again by forcing Lewis out-of-bounds on a play that Shaun Williams missed a tackle.

This may have been Keith Hamilton’s worst game of the preseason. On the Ravens’ second possession, Jamal Lewis picked up decent yardage on two inside runs at Hamilton’s expense. On the first, both Hamilton and Lance Legree were effectively blocked at the point-of-attack. On the second, Hamilton missed a tackle (followed by Williams and Will Peterson) on a demoralizing 7-yard run.

Legree played some with the first team defense, but saw most of his action with the reserves. Legree got crushed on a 7-yard carry up the middle by the back. But Legree played fairly well after that, especially (surprisingly), on the pass rush. He shot past his opponent on a 1st-and-10 pass play near the end of the half, nailing the quarterback during his wind-up (a fumble almost resulted). Early in the 3rd quarter, he got heat on Chris Redman on a 3rd-and-3 play. Later in the quarter, Legree pressured Anthony Wright twice in three plays. Later on this drive, he forced a fumble that was recovered by DE Radell Lockhart.

William Joseph saw some playing time in the first half and didn’t really stand out early. On his first series in the game, he badly left his rush lane, leading to a 4-yard scramble by the quarterback. Two plays later, he was flagged for being offsides. Later in the second quarter, he recovered the fumble on the botched quarterback/center exchange. What was impressive about the play was the nimbleness of Joseph in quickly picking up the fumble and running with the ball. He certainly is an athlete. You see this especially when he runs to the sideline on plays away from him. The big problem Joseph is having early is mental mistakes – as is to be expected from someone who missed so much camp time. For example, on the Ravens’ first run in the 3rd quarter, both he and Dhani Jones over-pursued on a play where the back cutback into the vacated gap. He did the same thing again late in the 3rd quarter on a 6-yard run. On the Ravens’ last scoring drive of the game, on 3rd-and-6, Joseph badly left his rush lane enabling the quarterback to scramble for 13 yards and the first down. The good news is that Joseph certainly is a physical presence in the game. He was often double-teamed by both the center and guard. He almost came up with a sack in the 3rd quarter when he badly beat the center and shot into the backfield. On the next possession, he played off the block of the lineman and made the tackle on the back. Joseph also nailed the back for no gain down on the goal line.

Osi Umenyiora saw a little time in the first half at left defensive end as Holmes was still playing on the right side. He got fooled on a play-action pass rollout in his direction. Umenyiora still is vulnerable to misdirection; improvement will only come with experience. He also has to be careful not to take his outside rush too far up the field as this will leave a huge gap that a mobile quarterback can exploit – as Anthony Wright did late in this game on 4th-and-10. On the same drive, Osi got fooled by the same misdirection pitch play twice (fake fullback run up the gut, pitch to the halfback). But where Osi continues to do surprisingly well is improving his run defense at the point-of-attack. No, he is nowhere near Michael Strahan in this department, but he has come a long way in a short time. And Osi gives you the outside pass rush that Kenny Holmes lacks. Umenyiora is getting better as a pass rush as his quickness off the snap has improved, his technique has improved, and his confidence has grown. He was a real factor on defense during the Ravens’ second possession of the 3rd quarter. He pressured Anthony Wright on the first play, nailed the halfback in the backfield for a 3-yard loss on the next play, and then three plays later sacked Wright on 3rd-and-12 with a quick swim move to the outside. On the next series, he did a good job of playing off a double-team to his side to limit the ball carrier to a 4-yard gain. A few plays later, he hit the quarterback just as he got rid of it. He got a good pressure early in the 4th quarter, but was then flagged for being offsides.

Radell Lockhart also falls victim to misdirection, but he is an interesting guy because you see glimpses of athleticism. He missed a tackle on one running play, but he also did a good job of playing off a block and making a tackle on the halfback on another. Radell also fought hard to recover the fumble that Lance Legree forced.

Frank Ferrara came in the game very late and did not impress. He got clobbered on one running play in his direction. And he embarrassingly missed a sack on Anthony Wright when he couldn’t bring the quarterback to the ground.

Linebackers: Not much to talk about with the first unit. They were hardly noticed in a bad way. With the DL struggling, the linebackers were often caught up in the trash against the run. They over-pursued too often. The Ravens also seemed to know exactly when the Giants were going to blitz their linebackers inside as they often had the right play called (i.e., an outside pitch play of some sort). There was one play where Jamal Lewis, for some reason, was left all alone in the middle of the field for an easy pass completion. Bad game by the starters.

The second team unit of Wes Mallard, Kevin Lewis, and Quincy Monk was equally disappointing. Over-pursuit – especially by Mallard – was a constant problem (though Mallard did make a nice tackle on the goal line late in the game). The biggest problem with all three of these guys is that you never notice them…they never make any plays. If you ask me, this has been a terribly disappointing preseason for Mallard and Monk in particular. Josh Hotckkiss is not athletic enough to play in the NFL; his chance for glory faded when he missed sacking Anthony Wright on 4th-and-goal when the quarterback rolled out to his right. Instead of the sack, a touchdown resulted.

Defensive Backs SS Shaun Williams hadn’t played all preseason until this game and hadn’t practiced much in a month. It showed. He missed three tackles – all important. He was also probably involved in the two touchdown passes completed against the first unit. It was CB Will Peterson who got cleanly burned by WR Travis Taylor for 49 yards and the score on the Ravens’ fifth offensive play. But one got the sense that Williams was also supposed to provide deep help on the play. On the next series, he missed a tackle on a short pass to WR Marcus Robinson that picked up the first down. Two plays later, he missed a tackle on Jamal Lewis near the line of scrimmage on a run off left tackle that picked up 8 yards. Five plays after that, Williams, Hamilton, and Peterson each missed tackles on a 7-yard run by Lewis. In the second quarter, on 2nd-and-goal from the 1-yard line, CB Ralph Brown appeared to pass off WR Marcus Robinson to Williams when the latter went in motion. Instead of sticking with Robinson, Williams’ first steps were towards the quarterback. An easy touchdown reception resulted.

FS Omar Stoutmire was invisible. He got clobbered by Odgen on the 31-yard pitch play where both Mike Barrow and Dhani Jones took themselves out of the play when called upon to blitz up the gut.

Will Peterson had a terrible game too. He got burned on the 49-yard touchdown reception. He also missed a tackle on a Lewis run. On Baltimore’s second TD drive of the game, TE Todd Heap caught a 19-yard pass down to the 1-yard line against the Giants’ zone coverage. It appeared that Heap was Peterson’s responsibility on this play. Earlier in the drive, on the aforementioned 31-yard pitch play, Peterson was effectively blocked and pushed back 15-20 yards down field and never got off the block by the receiver until the whistle blew.

CB Ralph Brown had good coverage in the end zone on the 3rd-and-7 play that was thrown away in the 1st quarter. But near the start of the 2nd quarter, Brown was playing far too off Travis Taylor on an easy pitch-and-catch play that picked up 6 yards and a first down.

The back-up defensive backs played mostly well. They got victimized on a few exceptionally well thrown footballs in that while they had relatively tight coverage on the play, the ball was completed nevertheless. Kato Serwanga did get pretty badly beaten on Wright’s first pass of the game for 21 yards despite pressure from Umenyiora, but Kato seemed to do well covering his opponent after that. Ray Green got beat for 14 yards on 3rd-and-8, but Green had decent coverage on the play. Three plays later, he supplied excellent deep coverage on a fly pattern and almost came up with the interception. There was one play, like Ralph Brown, where I thought Green played too soft and an easy reception resulted for 5-yards on 2nd-an-4. Late in the game, Green expertly knocked away a pass on a quick out pattern.

Rod Babers got beat for 18 yards in the 4th quarter, but he had good coverage on the play. He was lucky however on the next drive when a deep pass was thrown out of bounds. Had the ball been catchable, I think the official would have thrown the flag because Babers never turned around for the ball and was face guarding the receiver.

Johnnie Harris missed a tackle in the 3rd quarter, but late made an excellent tackle on a 2-yard cutback run that could have picked up much bigger yardage. Ryan Clark made a great play by perfectly playing centerfield on a deep pass. He came over to intercept the ball on a leaping catch, and then showed great field vision by weaving his way for 74 yards on the return, setting up New York’s final touchdown of the game.

Special Teams: PK Matt Bryant saw all the action and did OK. He really wasn’t tested on his three field goal attempts (36, 34, and 32 yards). I would have liked to have seen him on the spot with a 43-yarder or longer. His kick-offs landed at the 17, 1, 3, 34 (squib kick), 6, 6, and 11 yard lines. Kickoff coverage was excellent. Bryant’s short 17-yard kickoff was muffed, but David Tyree also prevented the returner from successfully falling on the ball (Quincy Monk recovered the muff). The other returns went for 17 yards (Jim Finn made the tackle), 17 yards (Finn again), 14 yards (Darnell Dinkins), next return was brought back on a Ravens’ holding penalty, ditto, and 16 yards (Rod Babers). David Tyree made an excellent open field tackle on one of the plays that was brought back due to holding on the Ravens.

Punt protection was a real sore spot as Ed Reed gave Jim Finn fits when the latter repeatedly failed to block the former. It really was quite embarrassing as Finn was flagged TWICE with a holding penalty and almost gave up a couple of blocks on other punts. Jeff Feagles’ punts went for 47 yards, 35 yards (brought back due to a penalty on Finn), 54 yards, 34 yards (didn’t count as the Ravens were offsides), 51 yards (brought back due to a penalty on Finn), and 32 yards (muffed punt recovered by LS Carson Dach). Steve Cheek’s punts went for 44 yards (called back due to holding penalty on Wes Mallard), 37 yards (muffed punt recovered by David Tyree), 46 yards, and 36 yards. Punt coverage was too inconsistent. Returns went for 16 yards (Jim Finn making tackle), fair catch, 19 yards (Kevin Lewis), fair catch, out of bounds, muff, 0 (Charles Stackhouse), muff, touchback, and downed by Calvin Spears at 7-yard line. Willie Ponder continues to get down in a hurry on punt returns, but this week he didn’t wrap up on one attempted tackle. Darnell Dinkins got down field quickly on one return, but didn’t breakdown properly, overran the returner, and a big gain resulted.

Kickoff returns: Brian Mitchell’s returns went for 33 and 30 yards. Delvin Joyce’s returns went for 19 and 32 yards. Daryl Jones had one return for 18 yards. Osi Umenyiora was flagged for holding on one return.

Punt returns: Wes Mallard partially blocked a punt that only traveled 21 yards before Kato Serwanga returned it 16 yards. However, Mallard should have gotten the full block. Daryl Jones’ returns went for 3, 8 (did not count due to Ravens’ penalty), and 7 yards.

Long snapping was not a problem as Carson Dach performed very well.

(Box Score – New York Giants at Baltimore Ravens, August 28, 2003)