Aug 312004

Approach to the Game – Baltimore Ravens at New York Giants, September 2, 2004: With the quarterback duel behind us (and the controversy laid to rest hopefully for at least the short term – though that is doubtful with Giants’ fans), all attention now focuses on getting ready for the regular season and the Philadelphia Eagles. The Giants are still trying to develop cohesion and chemistry everywhere, because when this offseason finally officially ends, the roster turnover will be dramatic. QB Kurt Warner still needs to get in sync with his receivers. The offensive line is still a work in process with new starters at four positions. The running backs still have to develop a feel for their blockers. Six of the front seven starters on defense are new. And the offensive, defensive, and special teams playbooks and terminology are completely different. A lot has been thrust at these guys in a short time frame. Don’t lose sight of that fact. If this team stays healthy, it will be stronger by the end of the season than it will be at the beginning. It will take time for all the parts to come together. This isn’t a video game.

Giants on Offense: The fan focus shifts from the quarterback situation to the offensive line. Injuries have once again clouded the picture. Rich Seubert is out until at least week seven, and there is a good chance he won’t play at all this year. Barry Stokes may be out indefinitely with a back injury. Ed Ellis was lost for the season early in camp. The Giants have added Solomon Page, Brandon Winey, and Jason Whittle. If nothing else, veteran depth will be much better this year. The man under the microscope is LT Luke Petitgout. The last two preseason games he did not play well, drawing the ire of Head Coach Tom Coughlin. If Petitgout is not on top of his game, it could have a domino effect all along the line. If he is sound, then the line could develop more quickly.

Assuming that Coughlin doesn’t rework the entire line (it will be interesting to see who plays where against the Ravens), the big battle could be at left guard. Wayne Lucier has started there since Stokes got hurt. But now Page factors into the competition (Page could also be a candidate at right tackle if David Diehl falters). And the trade for Whittle also muddles the picture further for fans. Do the Giants view him as depth/competition, or does he have a viable chance to be the starter? I always thought Whittle would make a better left guard than right guard, because he is more of mobile technician than mauler.

Meanwhile, this game represents another opportunity for the young guys (David Diehl, Chris Snee, Lucier) to gain experience. It might not be pretty against the Ravens. They are exceptionally talented up front on defense. This will be a good experience for them, but there could be some rough moments. I’m sure the fans will overreact to the results (they will naturally assume that this young and inexperienced line that lacks cohesion should keep the Raven defense from making any plays – a ridiculous notion).

Regardless, if the Giants go into the regular season with a line of Petitgout, Lucier, O’Hara, Snee, and Diehl, it is somewhat reassuring to have some vets like Page, Whittle, and Winey as back-ups. I don’t think the Giants are done either. Look for another OL pick-up to possibly push Ian Allen off the roster.

My chief concern with Kurt Warner is him holding onto the football.

There still is a battle at wide receiver brewing behind Amani Toomer and Ike Hilliard. The field was narrowed with the recent release of JaJuan Dawson and Chris Davis. The fact that Tim Carter saw playing time early against the Jets bodes well for him. But he is not completely out of the woods, especially with his injury-plagued history. The Giants will keep five or six wide receivers. So there are four spots for Carter, Jamaar Taylor, David Tyree, Willie Ponder, Ataveus Cash, and Avion Black. At least two will have to go.

The two question marks at tight end are (1) will Jeremy Shockey ever live up to the hype by actually getting on the playing field?, and (2) will the Giants keep three or four tight ends. If it is three, than Joe Dean Davenport is history.

Ron Dayne has now added another unfortunate dimension to his short-yardage problems: fumbling. What a first rounder! Tiki Barber needs to get his head out of his ass and start picking up the blitz like a football player is supposed to. Does Chris Douglas have a real shot to make this team, or is he a roster holder for a waiver-wire pick-up?

Giants on Defense: Keith Washington is practicing again and that is very good news. He and Umenyiora form a nice platoon on the right side. On the left side, it will be interesting to see if the Giants keep one of the young guys (Khaleed Vaughn or Radell Lockhart) behind Strahan, or rely on Washington to back-up that spot if something were to happen to old #92. The fact that Lance Legree has been seeing time with the starters as well as playing defensive end as well as tackle may be good news for him. With William Joseph back in the picture, Mario Monds’ spot on the roster may not be as secure.

The outside linebacker situation actually isn’t bad when you consider the four top guys will likely be Carlos Emmons, Barrett Green, Reggie Torbor, and Wesly Mallard. But the middle linebacker spot is still a bit of a mess. Nick Greisen was supposed to be the main guy, but injuries have slowed him and now Kevin Lewis is still starting. That is not a comforting thought. Look for the Giants to pick up a linebacker or two by early next week.

The secondary may not look very good against the Ravens if Will Peterson (back spasms – though he may play) and Will Allen (knee – most likely not playing) are held out. The good news is that the secondary looked good last week when they were allowed to play an aggressive style. SS Shaun Williams also benefited from this change. Who starts at free safety for the Giants on opening day? Brent Alexander or Omar Stoutmire?

Giants on Special Teams: My gut tells me that the Giants don’t go into the regular season with Todd France as their placekicker.

This is a huge game for the returners (Black and Ponder). Spending a roster spot on a returner is only wise if the returner does something with the football.

Aug 302004
New York Jets 17 – New York Giants 10

Game Overview: What was encouraging was the play of the defense against the pass. Chad Pennington is a very good quarterback, but the Giants held him to 52 yards passing. The run defense was not as strong this week, however.

Offensively, what killed the Giants were the turnovers and the terrible game that QB Eli Manning played. Aside from LT Luke Petitgout, the offensive line did not play as poorly as the press have said (only two of the five sacks were due to the offensive line). In fact, the young guys up front (Diehl, Lucier, and Snee) continue to improve.

Specials are no longer killing the Giants, but they need to take the next step and start winning some games.

Offensive Line: These guys are taking some unfair grief. The truth of the matter is that RT David Diehl, LG Wayne Lucier, and RG Chris Snee are getting better. Diehl has improved a great deal in just a few weeks. Lucier has been very steady despite being forced into the line-up due to possible season-ending injuries to Rich Seubert and Barry Stokes. And Chris Snee, while suffering from occasional rookie gaffes, is simply one mean, feisty dude. The one guy who is not living up to his billing the last couple of weeks is LT Luke Petitgout. Petitgout signed a 6-year, $30 million contract in 2003. He is one of the highest paid linemen in the league. But he is not playing like it.

Pass protection by the first unit was actually pretty sound for much of three quarters. The Giants had three offensive possessions in the first quarter. Petitgout gave up one pressure, but other than that, there were no breakdowns in pass protection by the line in that quarter. In terms of run blocking, Snee had some problem sustaining blocks with linebackers at the second level. Diehl got a good run block on a 5-yard Barber pick-up. And HB Ron Dayne’s 9-yard touchdown run was expertly blocked: Petitgout and TE Visanthe Shiancoe got good blocks at the point-of-attack while Snee and FB Jim Finn came in motion to create a lane to run through. Superb work by all four players!

I like OC Shaun O’Hara. Like most centers in the NFL today, he’s an undersized player who is not a blaster. And powerful nose tackles like Jason Ferguson will give him problems at times, but he is a quite agile and heady player – very good at coming off and engaging linebackers. O’Hara was not able to get much movement on Ferguson on one Barber run and this caused the play to be stuffed. He also gave up one pass pressure and was flagged with a false start in the second quarter.

Also in the second quarter, Lucier was flagged with a false start, but for the second game in a row, I saw no major mistakes coming from this young player. Indeed, he has been very consistent.

On Warner’s 21-yard strike to Toomer in the second quarter, Petitgout got beat by DE John Abraham and Warner took a big shot. It got worse for Luke as he was the man directly responsible for the defensive score when Abraham easily fought past him to nail QB Eli Manning from the blindside for the sack and forced fumble that was returned for a touchdown.

Diehl played a very good game against a quality opponent. He had some problems late in the second quarter when he gave up one pressure on a screen pass and then he didn’t make any contact when pulling on a sweep. But Diehl was sound otherwise. He’s getting better.

The other sack in the game given up by the offensive line was by Snee, who got beat at the very end of the second quarter. A couple of plays before this, he also gave up a pressure. Pro pass protection is usually tough for a rookie to excel in and Snee occasionally has his problems. But he’s going to be a good one. What I really like about him (aside from his power) is that he plays with a mean streak. He reminds of Seubert in this department.

The starters remained in the game well into the third quarter. Dayne picked up 21-yards on one run where Snee and Lucier handled the defensive tackles one-on-one (impressive) and O’Hara and Shiancoe took out the linebackers. This was a very well-blocked play. Later in the quarter, Lucier had some problems picking up a stunt, but Snee continued to impress with his mobility and aggressiveness when pulling.

The second team line was made up of Drew Strojny at right tackle, Greg Walker at right guard, Omar Smith at center, Mike Saffer at left guard, and Ian Allen at left tackle. Later, Brandon Winey came in the game for Strojny at right tackle.

Allen also got Manning killed when he allowed the defensive end to get a clean, blind-side shot on the quarterback. This was a major-league hit and the Giants are lucky that Manning wasn’t hurt. It’s time to part ways with Allen. He does OK for stretches and then will have his meltdown in each game. Walker didn’t step up this week. He got stymied on two run block efforts and also gave up a pressure. Smith just doesn’t excite me. He doesn’t get much movement and isn’t real adept in space. Saffer did a great job on one pull where he sprung HB Chris Davis on a 16-yard run, but he also got beat pretty badly late in the game on a pass rush.

Brandon Winey has good feet and looks like a pretty good pass protector. However, he did have problems on one stunt with Walker (not unexpected since he is new). But he doesn’t look like much of a run blocker.

The last sack given up in the game was a coverage sack as QB Ryan Van Dyke had all day to throw.

Tight Ends: One of the things that really bugs me is the bad rap that Shiancoe still has in the press about his blocking. Back in 2001, I started to remark in my game reviews how well Dan Campbell was doing as a blocker, that he just needed to become more consistent. In 2002, he had his breakout year, but if you read BBI back in 2001, it wasn’t a surprise to you. Well, last year I repeatedly mentioned that Shiancoe was doing well at times with his run blocking, but it was his inconsistency that was hurting him. Well, I am here to tell you that not only is Shiancoe doing a superb job at the point-of-attack, he is a BETTER run block than Campbell because of his ability to engage linebackers better at the second level. Why? Because he is a better athlete. And like Campbell, he seems to enjoy hitting a defender. If he stays healthy, Shiancoe is going to be a major factor in the running game.

But beyond that, Shiancoe finally made a big play DOWN THE FIELD in the passing game, again demonstrating his superior athleticism over Campbell. On the first offensive play of the game, Shiancoe toasted the Jets’ linebackers for a 33-yard gain down the seam. My only criticism of Shank was that he should have kept his feet after the catch as the hit from the defensive back shouldn’t have been enough to bring him down.

I didn’t notice any major mistakes by Marcellus Rivers in the blocking department this week, but he just doesn’t have the natural bulk/power that Shiancoe has as an in-line blocker. However, Rivers did get a very good lead block on one Dayne run up the gut. Rivers screwed up big time with his false start on 4th-and-goal when the Giants were going for it from the 1-yard line.

Joe Dean Davenport got stood up on the goal line, but he generally blocked well other than that snafu. He isn’t very athletic as a receiver.

Running Backs: The Jets blitzed the heck out of Warner and Manning. And as I said in my game preview, all of these blitzes are a God-send and will help the offensive line, backs, and tight ends prepare better for the regular season. Indeed, not only did the Jets blitzed, but they often brought their defensive backs (very unusual for the preseason).

Unfortunately for the Giants, some of their pass protection woes came as a result of poor blitz pick-ups. Tiki Barber got beat badly on two blitzes. The first caused Warner to be sacked and a turnover almost resulted. The second also resulted in a sack and forced the Giants out of field goal range (on this play, the Jets also overloaded one side with rushers – there were more defenders to block than blockers). Barber also fell down on a screen pass that was looked like it was going to pick up big yardage.

Ron Dayne looked real good on a couple of carries, especially his 9-yard touchdown run and his 21-yard burst up the gut in the third quarter. But he looked tentative again in short-yardage and once again fumbled the ball on the goal line.

I like the way Chris Douglas sticks his nose in there on blitz pick-ups but he had a chance to break off a big run late in the game on a cut-back. The entire left-side of the field was open but he didn’t see it for some reason despite cutting back.

Jim Finn did a decent job blocking, such his lead block on Dayne’s TD run. But he was flagged with a false start.

Wide Receivers: Amani Toomer caught 3 passes for 38 yards. Ike Hilliard didn’t make a catch. Tim Carter had 3 catches for 14 yards. The Giants tried to get him going on a couple of WR screens but he couldn’t make the first man miss. Carter also ended an extremely promising drive by fumbling the ball away after pick up a first down deep in Jets’ territory. Will Ponder (2 catches for 32 yards) was the only other wide receiver to have a catch. The receivers were not helped by Manning’s poor effort.

Quarterbacks: The quarterback competition is over. Going into camp, it was expected Warner would easily win the starting job based on his experience. But Manning was impressive in camp and the first two preseason games. All that changed on Friday night when Manning played like crap. Manning came off the bench in the second quarter, but was involved in three turnovers (two interceptions and a fumble) and came close to throwing two more interceptions. He looked confused and flustered. And it started as soon as he entered the game. Manning threw right into the teeth of the coverage on his first throw of the game and the pass was intercepted. On his next possession, his attempted screen pass was off the mark to Barber. Three plays later, he fumbled the ball when he was sacked and the loose football was returned for a touchdown. On the next possession, Manning threw a pass intended for Toomer that was almost intercepted. Then he missed a wide open Hilliard over the middle on what should have been a big play.

The problems continued in the second half for Manning. He tried to hit Tim Carter on an out, but the pass was almost intercepted. Had it been, the defender probably would have scored on the play. At the very start of the fourth quarter, he floated a pass intended for WR Jamaar Taylor and that was intercepted. All in all, a terrible night. Eli finished the game a miserable 4-of-14 for 20 yards and two interceptions.

Warner was sharp (9-of-11 for 104 yards). His biggest problem is that he keeps fumbling the ball upon contact. This has got to stop or he is going to get benched. Warner is simply too sloppy with the football when hit. He fumbled twice in the game. One was recovered by the Giants; another was recovered by the Jets, but a penalty on the Jets erased the play.

Warner started things off well with his first pass. He hit Shiancoe perfectly down the seam for a 33-yard gain. My favorite play of the night was the 3rd-and-6 play on the same drive where Warner felt the pressure of the oncoming blitzer, scrambled to his right, then found Tiki Barber cutting back against the grain of the defense for a 17-yard gain. Warner is not a statue in the pocket. He scrambled for 9 yards on the next drive when he found no one open.

In the second quarter, Warner beat a defensive back blitz by hitting Toomer quickly on a slant. On the same drive, he did a wonderful job of standing tall in the pocket despite a free rusher bearing down on him. He found Toomer for a 21-yard gain on 3-and-7 on this play while getting crushed.

Defensive Line: Ironically, although this was by far the defense’s best game of the preseason, I didn’t think the defensive line played all that well. I was most disappointed by the run defense of the two starting defensive tackles, Norman Hand and Fred Robbins. Both had a hard time getting off blocks. Robbins got clobbered on a number of double-teams and Hand looked sluggish. I just didn’t sense the intensity from these two that I did in the previous two games. The Jets picked up two much yardage at their expense.

Same story with DE Michael Strahan. The Jets were the first team to run at Strahan this preseason and they did so with some success. I wonder if some of this is due to the new 1-gap scheme where Strahan is being asked to penetrate, rather than read-and-react. Strahan did get two good pass pressures on Pennington, including one that caused an intentional grounding penalty (a safety SHOULD have resulted – same suck-ass officiating). On the next play, DE Osi Umenyiora pressured Pennington in the end zone and forced an incomplete pass. Umenyiora still has inconsistent instincts against the run. There was one play where he charged up the field and created a big running lane for the back by doing so. He was also flagged once for being offsides. One last point on Strahan…the Giants used him in a 2-point stance some in this game.

As for the back-ups, it was interesting to note that, like last week, Lance Legree saw time at defensive end. He also saw some time at defensive tackle earlier in the game with the first unit. He had a big game with one sack and two fumble recoveries. William Joseph saw his first action of the preseason and for a guy who has barely practiced and is coming off of a serious injury, I thought he played well. He is very quick for his size and he was able to penetrate quickly on a couple of plays. Soon he was receiving some double-team attention. On the downside, he was flagged with an offside penalty.

Both reserve ends – Radell Lockhart and Khaleed Vaughn were handled pretty easily. This wasn’t a good game for either and the fact that Legree is seeing some time at defensive end might not bode well for them.

Mario Monds continues to play well against the back-ups from other teams. He plays hard and I really liked one play where he fought through a double-team block to make the tackle.

Linebackers: A dramatic improvement! The addition of Carlos Emmons on the strongside and Barrett Green on the weakside really made a difference. Emmons made a great play where he quickly read a flat pass to the elusive HB Curtis Martin and made a sure tackle in the open field. Carlos was also not fooled on an end around that only picked up a yard. Emmons manhandles the tight end on running plays.

Green misread a cutback by Martin that picked up 9 yards, but he also made a really good tackle in the hole on Martin when the latter tried to put on a move. He was solid in coverage.

Kevin Lewis is just an ordinary player. He made a good tackle on one run by Martin that could have picked up big yardage, but he just is too easily blocked too often.

The reserves picked up their game this week and they saw quite a bit of time against the starters of the Jets. Wes Mallard had a good game. He missed a tackle on Martin early on a short pass that turned into a 10-yard gain, but played well after that. On one series in the second quarter, he hit Martin solidly in the hole for a short gain. Two plays later he sacked Pennington to knock the Jets out of field goal range. In the third quarter, he tackled a back for a 2-yard loss. That Jets’ drive ended when Mallard forced a fumble after a short catch.

Nick Greisen started off slowly. His wasn’t running plays very well or getting off blocks. But he quickly picked up his game. He demonstrated real nice pursuit on a sweep to the left. On the next play, he nailed HB Lamont Jordan in the hole. Greisen did so again on another play against Jordan in the fourth quarter. Greisen was beat in coverage on a rollout pass, but he made a real heads-up play by batting the fumbled ball back towards a teammate before it rolled out of bounds on the same play.

Reggie Torbor really picked up his game this week. He forced two fumbles and sacked the quarterback. His first forced fumble was a very athletic play where he quickly changed directions to reach back and strip the ball from the back who cut back underneath his rush. There was one play where he lost contain on an outside run.

The guy who didn’t have a good game is Quincy Monk. He got beat terribly in coverage for the lone Jets’ touchdown. He doesn’t look very instinctive against the run and has problems playing off blocks. Not a good combination!

Of all the reserve linebackers, T.J. Hollowell looks the most athletic to me. I would guess he has the best chance to make the Practice Squad.

Defensive Backs: The Giants limited the Jets to 99 passing yards. This was the secondary’s best game by far this preseason. What was interesting to note is that the corners played right up on the nose of the wide receivers – last week, they were about a mile off the line of scrimmage. The Giants also blitzed quite a bit, including both linebackers and defensive backs.

SS Shaun Williams was a monster against the run in this game. Time after time he was coming up not only to make big hits, but the sure tackles he made prevented some big runs. Williams also helped to force an incompletion with solid coverage on TE Anthony Becht. The only negative play I saw was that he got beat on one pass play for 17 yards in the third quarter.

CB Will Allen played very well. He was not fooled on an end around by the Jets. On the very next play, he expertly defended a deep pass to WR Jonathan Carter.

CB Will Peterson was flagged with three penalties (two pass interference penalties and one holding call). The first call was pure bullshit. It was perfect coverage, but a big 21-yard penalty resulted placing the ball on the Giants’ 9-yard line. Three plays later, Peterson prevented a touchdown with his sure coverage on WR Justin McCareins. The other two penalties I could not see as CBS did not show a good replay of either. Peterson did have good coverage on a deep pass attempt to McCareins that was completed out-of-bounds. McCareins beat him on a slant two plays later, but Peterson knocked the ball out of his hands quickly to force an incompletion.

CB Terry Cousin had great deep coverage on one deep shot to Carter. Cousin was beat on one slant pass, but Mallard forced a fumble. CB Frank Walker was very aggressive in run support. He needs to be careful to wrap up however and not get so animated after making a good play. There was one excellent play where he smashed a receiver coming towards him to knock the ball loose. Walker later expertly defended a slant pass to knock the ball away. On the next drive, Walker had good coverage on a 3rd-and-13 play to force a punt.

The free safeties were once again quiet, although they must receive some credit for helping to shut down the passing game. Brent Alexander also looked good on one run force. Jack Brewer misread one run late in the game.

CB Jamaine Winborne made a very sure tackle on a running play to his side for a 2-yard loss.

Special Teams: Jeff Feagles continues to punt well, averaging 43 yards-per-punt on six punts. His biggest mistake was failing to pin the Jets back on one punt where the ball bounced into the end zone for a touchback. Punt coverage was mostly good: 4 yard return (Brent Alexander and Wesly Mallard on the tackle), touchback, downed, fair catch, 19 yards (bad coverage), and downed. On the last punt, Curtis Deloatch made a bonehead play by interfering with the punt returner before the ball arrived. Strangely, David Tyree was quiet.

Todd France continues to have issues with his kickoffs. They are either too short or lack hang time. Jet kickoff returns went for 24 (T.J. Hollowell and Will Allen on the tackle), 21 (Chris Douglas), and 21 (Curtis Deloatch). Not bad when you consider that the Jets are very good at returning kickoffs.

The kick return game was ordinary. Willie Ponder managed returns of 28 and 20 yards. Still, he has the look of someone who is about to break a big one. Interesting, both JaJuan Dawson and Avion Black each returned a kickoff this week, but they only went 21 and 19 yards, respectively. On the latter return, Atavius Cash was also flagged with an illegal block.

The Giants’ best return of the night ironically came on a dumb play. Black fielded a punt at his own 5-yard line, but managed 30 yards on the return. Deloatch was not impressive on his returns. He dances too much.

(Box Score – New York Giants at New York Jets, August 27, 2004)
Aug 252004

Approach to the Game – New York Giants at New York Jets, August 27, 2004: My preseason game reviews always sound repetitive because unlike the regular season, (1) I don’t really focus on the opponent, and (2) the main purpose of the preseason is to evaluate talent. So you’re not going to hear a lot of new stuff from me and this preview will be on the short side. The most important thing about this game (other than not getting anyone hurt) is that some pretty serious roster decisions are going to be made soon. Starting jobs will be awarded, roster spots lost. There may be some big surprises.

Giants on Offense: The quarterback duel is getting very serious now. Heading into camp, I would have bet the house that Kurt Warner would be starting in Philadelphia. Now, I’m not so sure. Yes, the blitzes and coverages Eli Manning will see in the regular season will be much more difficult than in the preseason. And yes, the offensive is likely to struggle early as it has yet to achieve a comfortable level of cohesion. But Manning is developing faster than I think the Giants had even expected. Don’t get me wrong, there will be plenty of stupid rookie mistakes. And fans are not patient. But I am not convinced any longer that Kurt will be starting opening day. The wild card in all of this is how the coaching staff truly feels about the capabilities of the offensive line. It’s likely that David Diehl and Chris Snee will have problems with picking up stunts and complicated blitzes early on. Because of this, Coughlin may not want Manning to suffer as a result. Regardless, this game against the Jets is very important for both Warner and Manning. It could possibly seal up the starting quarterback job.

I have already touched on it, but the starting offensive line is a concern. Personally, I think the talent is there to be a decent and perhaps very good line, but there is still a growing process that is only in its infancy. Diehl has only been a right tackle for a couple of weeks. Snee is a rookie. Barry Stokes is missing valuable practice and game time (and thus missing time to build cohesion with Luke Petitgout and Shaun O’Hara). All the blitzes the Giants have seen in the preseason are a God-send. I hope the Jets do the same. Because the more these guys see it now, the more they will be ready for it during the regular season. And the Giants are going to see a ton of blitzes this year.

What will be interesting to watch is the back-up situation. I’m hearing that Rich Seubert will be placed on the regular season PUP list, not Injured Reserve. That means there is still a chance he could return during the season. It’s fairly safe to say that Wayne Lucier (who will start at left guard against the Jets) is going to be on this team. But I don’t think anyone else is completely assured of a job. The Giants brought in Brandon Winey and Solomon Page this week and they are likely to keep scanning the waiver wire, especially as the talent level on that waiver wire improves as we get close to larger cut down dates. The Jets game will be very important to a guy like Greg Walker.

The big battles for roster spots behind Amani Toomer and Ike Hilliard at wide receiver also continue. James McKnight is now out of the picture (Injured Reserve). Willie Ponder and Avion Black are helping themselves with the return ability. David Tyree is a special teams ace. Tim Carter and Jamaar Taylor remain medical question marks. Do JaJuan Dawson and Atavius Cash have a legitimate chance to make the team?

The Giants are going to hold Jeremy Shockey out the rest of the preseason and that is fine with me. Get him healed up for Philadelphia. He changes the very nature of the Giants’ offense with his presence as he opens up everything for the receivers and backs. This has been a good camp for Visanthe Shiancoe and Marcellus Rivers.

I’m still not convinced that Ron Dayne has a safe spot on this roster. I think the Giants are going to be keeping an eye on the market. Dayne has to keep improving or he may find himself off this team.

Giants on Defense: The thing that has scared most Giants’ fans the most this preseason has been the performance of the defense. The optimists argue that the defense is looking bad because (1) the players are still learning the new system, (2) a lot of starters have been out of the line-up, and (3) Defensive Coordinator Tim Lewis isn’t showing all of his cards. The pessimists insist that the Giants’ talent level on defense stinks. I’m afraid we won’t know the real answer until the regular season starts.

Up front, with Keith Washington still out with the eye injury, Osi Umenyiora needs to prove that he can defend the running game at the point-of-attack. It will also be interesting to see if DT William Joseph sees his first action of the preseason and he does. There is a big battle being waged for the final defensive tackle spot between Mario Monds, Martin Chase, Lance Legree, and Delbert Cowsette. Outside, among the reserves, it appears it will be Radell Lockhart versus Khaleed Vaughn on the strongside. I’m hearing that DE Lorenzo Bromell, like Seubert, will likely land on the PUP.

WLB Barrett Green and SLB Carlos Emmons may see some snaps with the starting unit, but they won’t play much. Kevin Lewis will start at middle linebacker as Nick Greisen is still nursing his hamstring injury. Reggie Torbor needs to improve his instincts against the run. Look for the Giants to pick up someone on the waiver wire here soon.

In the secondary, the primary concern is getting CB Will Allen back into form. The Giants need him to be on top of his game. The battle at free safety continues, but Brent Alexander and Omar Stoutmire haven’t made much noise this preseason.

Giants on Special Teams: I still wonder what is going to happen at place kicker. Todd France was impressive last week in his two field goal attempts. Will the Giants be scanning the waiver wire?

Willie Ponder really has a good chance to lock up a roster spot with another solid outing returning kickoffs. Avion Black’s hold on a roster spot is somewhat more tenuous.

It will be interesting to see what kind of special teams player Jason Doering is.

Aug 222004
Carolina Panthers 27 – New York Giants 20

Game Overview: As usual with most preseason games (and most regular season games), there was some good and some bad to comment on. The most positive development was the command and poise of the #1 pick in the draft, QB Eli Manning. Facing one of the toughest defenses in the league, and a defense that once again was intent on blitzing the young signal caller, Manning did a great job of recognizing defensive schemes, calling out adjustments, making correct decisions, and firing the ball accurately. Indeed, Manning looked more like a veteran than a rookie.

The offensive line, playing its second game against perhaps the toughest defensive line in football, showed some progress but also made some mistakes. HB Barber Tiki Barber made some plays running and receiving. Both starting wide receivers looked good. However, Ron Dayne gave up a sack in pass protection and fumbled twice.

Defensively, pass coverage remained a problem despite decent pass pressure from the defensive line. The reserve linebackers, filling in for three missing starters, didn’t play fast and certainly didn’t make any plays of note. DE Osi Umenyiora and the linebackers had problems playing off blocks on some running plays.

Specials teams were mostly positive. PK Todd France nailed two long field goals. Coverage was good, but the return game was mediocre again.

One thing I would like to caution all Giant fans on is to not always believe what the announcers are saying, but watch with your own eyes what is transpiring on the football field. For example, when the second half started, the Giants’ starting offensive line was not in the game despite the fact that the announcers said so. However, many posters in The Corner Forum failed to recognize this fact. Also, the announcers said the offensive line was not upset when Eli Manning got hit before a play started. Yet you could see that OC Shaun O’Hara and RG Chris Snee were visibly upset. Watch the game folks.

Quarterbacks: QB Eli Manning (9-of-15 for 117 yards, 0 touchdowns, 0 interceptions) was impressive. No, not because of the numbers he put up, but because of the way he handled himself and the offense. In a very loud and fired up stadium, against a very aggressive and physical defense, Manning kept his poise. He calmly walked up to the line of scrimmage, read the defensive sets, called out adjustments like his older brother does, changed plays, made the correct decisions, and threw the ball accurately. There were plays where he looked off the defense like a veteran as well as spotting the blitz well in advance of the start of the play.

The only negatives I really saw on him were one delay of game penalty and some jumpiness on the series in the 1st quarter that began inside the Giants’ 10-yard line (Manning bailed on the pocket prematurely on one play and then overthrew a receiver two plays later).

One of Manning’s prettiest passes of the night was the laser strike to an extremely well-covered Amani Toomer for 21 yards. On the very next play, Manning correctly read a blitz, changed the play, and threw a quick pass to his hot receiver, TE Marcellus Rivers, for 12 yards. This was a VERY veteran play. Manning just missed Toomer deep on what would have been a touchdown on a wonderfully thrown ball.

Kurt Warner (9-of-11 for 71 yards, 0 touchdowns, 1 interception) also had a good night. He was very, very accurate on most of his throws, missing only two passes – this despite very inconsistent pass protection when he entered the game. Warner moves around the pocket better than I expected. The big negatives that I saw were that one sack he took was a coverage sack (he should have thrown the ball away) and of course the interception that was returned 49 yards for a touchdown on 4th-and-2. However, I give the corner more credit on this play for making the correct read and gambling on an interception. For had the Giants ran a pump-and-go here, the corner would have been burned like toast. Warner was not helped either by the route that WR Jamaar Taylor ran, allowing the corner to jump in between him and the ball.

I thought Jesse Palmer (5-of-15 for 65 yards, 0 touchdowns, 0 interceptions) played well again. His stats don’t look great because there were a lot of dropped passes on his long drive that resulted in a touchdown. He made sharp-looking throws to TE Joe Dean Davenport for 13 yards, WR Chris Davis for 8 yards on 4th-and-6, and WR David Tyree for 13 yards on 3rd-and-7. His best throw of the night was a superb play where, scrambling to his left to avoid pressure, he threw back across his body and rifled the ball to WR Avion Black for 20 yards (on 4th-and-10 no less!).

Wide Receivers: I like the fact that the wide receiver screen seems to be a big play in the Giants’ play book. This is a good play for Ike Hilliard (3 catches for 40 yards) because he is so elusive after the catch. Hilliard picked up 23 yards on one such play after making one man miss.

Amani Toomer (4 catches for 45 yards) made two excellent catches, including one of the best I’ve ever seen a Giants’ wide receiver make. He was well-covered on Manning’s 21-yard strike, but Toomer made a leaping, diving grab. Later in the half, Toomer made another nice catch on a 6-yard pass that was thrown slightly behind him by Manning. Toomer also got a good block on Hilliard’s 23-yard screen play.

As for the reserves, the most active receiver was Willie Ponder (5 catches for 31 yards). Ponder is really helping his cause this preseason, especially when you consider he is the primary kick returner.

Ataveus Cash (1 catch for 12 yards) worked hard to sustain his block on Kurt Warner’s key 4-yard scramble on 3rd-and-3. Ponder had a good block on one of Ron Dayne’s goal line efforts. Jamaar Taylor did not run a crisp route on the play where Warner’s pass was returned for a touchdown. Avion Black helped his cause to make the roster with 2 catches for 31 yards, including a 20-yard reception on 4th-and-10. Chris Davis caught a pass for 8 yards from Palmer on 4th-and-6, but he also dropped two passes later on the drive.

Running Backs: The stats don’t show it, but Tiki Barber (7 carries for 19 yards, 1 catch for 20 yards) looked good. He cut back well (such as on his 11-yard run to the weakside), flashed some speed, and fought hard for extra yardage. There were a couple of runs where had he been given one more solid block, he really would have done some damage. Barber was very elusive on his 20-yard screen pass reception.

Ron Dayne (12 carries for 63 yards, 1 touchdown; 1 catch for 9 yards) had some solid runs, but he did not have a good game. The 3rd-and-1 short-yardage failure was not his fault; a linebacker came free and hit him in the hole before he got to the line. There was also congestion on the play when Jim Finn was called upon to block a defensive lineman (dumb, but not Dayne’s fault). But Dayne was beat pretty soundly on an attempted blitz pick-up and gave up a sack. On the first drive in the 3rd quarter, a positive drive by him (runs of 4, 11, 4, 15, and 3 yards) was spoiled by two back-to-back fumbles on the goal line. Dayne fumbled on the goal line two years ago against Dallas and hopefully this is not another short-yardage problem for him. Also, while Dayne made some nifty moves in traffic on one run, I wasn’t real impressed with his vision on a couple of other efforts (one run, one screen pass) where I think he had a chance for a bigger run had his vision been better.

I thought the fullbacks played better this week. Jim Finn was pretty aggressive. He had a nice cut block on Dayne’s 15-yard toss play on 3rd-and-1. He also made a real nice block on Dayne’s touchdown run. Charles Stackhouse had a good block on one Chris Douglas (7 carries for 16 yards, 1 touchdown) run.

Tight Ends: A solid overall game by Visanthe Shiancoe (no catches) in the blocking department. Shiancoe does have the ability to make the key block at the end of the line on running plays. For example, he got a good block on Dayne’s 1-yard touchdown block at the point-of-attack.

Marcellus Rivers (2 catches for 23 yards) was involved in the passing game, but he just doesn’t have the strength or temperament that Shiancoe has when blocking. He missed a block on a Barber run that lost a yard on the Giants’ first drive of the game. He also got beat pretty badly by DE Julius Peppers on a Barber run for 2-yards at the end of the 1st quarter. I felt Rivers should have gotten a more aggressive chip on LB Mark Fields on the latter’s first sack of the game when Rivers went out on his pass pattern. On the plus side, he demonstrated some real nice run-after-catch ability on his 12-yard catch from Manning.

Joe Dean Davenport (1 catch for 13 yards) just doesn’t do enough to get me excited. He is not as athletic as the other tight ends in the passing game (plus he dropped a pass). In addition, his blocking is inconsistent. He gave up two pass pressures.

Offensive Line: The first group (minus Barry Stokes – Wayne Lucier filled in for him at left guard) played a pretty good game against an excellent defensive team that blitzed a lot. Indeed, until the end of the first half, most people were singing their praises. There wasn’t a lot of running room generated, but that is not to be expected against that defense at this point in time in the line’s development (only their second game together). Cohesion in the run blocking department takes time. All the parts (tackles, guards, center, fullback, tight ends, wide receivers) need to come together. My overall impression is that Chris Snee is already the best run blocker on this team. Luke Petitgout can be a good run blocker, but he’s been a bit inconsistent this preseason. David Diehl needs to play with more leverage, especially in short-yardage situations.

The Giants usually had Manning get rid of the ball quickly so the pass rush wouldn’t be a factor. But there were some longer, down-the-field pass plays where the offensive line afforded Eli solid protection. A couple of plays that looked like jail breaks happened on screen passes where the offensive line is supposed to let the defensive line penetrate.

Chris Snee did a superb job of getting down field and sustaining his block against a defensive back on Hilliard’s 23-yard screen pass (he also showed some nastiness at the end of that play). Shaun O’Hara is also very good at finding and engaging linebackers and defensive backs down the field, such as on Tiki’s screen pass for 20 yards. However, at the beginning of the 2nd quarter, there was one Barber run where O’Hara should have sustained his block better. Before and after this play, Snee gave up two pass pressures. On the very next drive, Snee gave up another pass pressure to DT Brentson Buckner. So Snee had some problems in pass protection.

Luke Petitgout played OK, but I expect more from him. He had a false start. Later he missed a block on DE Mike Rucker on a play where Barber lost 3 yards. On the next drive, Petitgout gave up a sack to Rucker. He was fine except for these miscues, and Rucker is a very good player, but Petitgout needs to elevate his game.

I think Lucier did a nice job at left guard. He didn’t really stand out, but I didn’t see any negative plays on him either.

I think David Diehl is having more mental breakdowns than physical ones at this point at right tackle. On the play where I felt Rivers should have chipped Mark Fields harder, Diehl looked a tad confused on whether he should have picked up Fields on this play. This delay hurt him as Fields rushed by to sack Manning. On the play where Dayne gave up the sack, Diehl did get beat to the inside too.

When the second half started, the offensive line was Ian Allen at left tackle, Wayne Lucier at left guard, Omar Smith at center, Chris Snee at right guard, and David Diehl at right tackle. Smith and Lucier made good blocks on Dayne’s 11-yard run up the gut, as did Marcellus Rivers engaging a linebacker at the second level. Two plays later, Snee, Diehl, and Lucier got good blocks on a Dayne 4-yard run. Snee also got a good block on Dayne’s 1-yard touchdown run (along with Finn and Shiancoe). However, Diehl got clobbered on this play.

Later in the half, the Giants inserted Drew Strojny at right tackle (Allen was still at left tackle) and Greg Walker at right guard. Up until this point, Allen had been playing well, but then he started another meltdown again. He gave up two pass pressures, a sack, and a false start during the rest of the game. Strojny was up and down (mostly down). He got flagged with an obvious holding penalty and then had problems on a stunt. In the 4th quarter, he combined with Walker to get good blocks on a 7-yard run by Chris Douglas. But then he was late to help out the tight end in pass protection and a pressure on Palmer was the result. On the last drive, he gave up another pass pressure and should have done a better job of delaying his man before going out to block a screen pass.

Omar Smith doesn’t do it for me. While not terrible, he is just not that good. He has trouble engaging linebackers at the second level and he got bull-rushed on one play. Travis Scott looks like camp fodder to me. He had a false start and a bad pass pressure. Scott just doesn’t look the part (he’s not very big or strong). Dion Meredith saw some late time at right tackle and gave up one pressure.

One guy who continues to interest me is Greg Walker. Unlike Scott, he is a big guy who can muscle and maul. He gave up a pass pressure, but he also did a fairly decent job of keeping his man at bay.

Defensive Line: Osi Umenyiora started for the injured Keith Washington at right defensive end. The Panthers came out throwing and Umenyiora didn’t get any real strong pass pressures, but he got up the field well enough. The problem for him came later in the first half when the Panthers decided to run the ball right at him. Twice in the 2nd quarter, Umenyiora (and Reggie Torbor) got wired to blocks on the weakside on runs of 7 and 8 yards. (Worse on one of these plays, Osi was handled by the tight end while Torbor was blocked by a wide receiver). Umenyiora also got fooled on a misdirection toss play that picked up 13 yards on 3rd-and-2. Osi did tackle the back for no gain late in the 2nd quarter, but he was unblocked on the play.

DE Michael Strahan picked up a sack on an inside move and had another pressure. Teams are still not running in his direction.

Fred Robbins played well in the first half. He had two strong pass pressures and did a great job of hustling down the line of scrimmage to limit a screen pass to minimal yardage. Norman Hand was flagged for being offsides, but both he and Robbins did gum up the middle again. (I really love having those two big guys in there). Hand stuffed a 2nd-and-2 run down on the goal line for a 1-yard loss.

Of the reserves, the most impressive guy was DE Radell Lockhart, who picked up two sacks. He appears to have moved ahead of Khaleed Vaughn (or Vaughn was hurt because I didn’t see him on the field). Regardless, Lockhart sacked QB Chris Weinke at the end of the second quarter. At the start of the 3rd quarter, he forced what should have been ruled a fumble. Later, he had another good pass rush that forced an incomplete pass and sacked Weinke again on a stunt.

DT Mario Monds also continues to do well. He played off the block well on one run and made the tackle. He then sacked Weinke on a stunt. DT Martin Chase made a couple of plays. He got a good pass rush on one play and stuffed a run for a 1-yard loss on another.

Linebackers: Not pretty. Perhaps it is the general inexperience combined with the new system, but these guys just looked slow and were unable to get off blocks. They did too much reacting and not enough attacking. I’m talking about Quincy Monk, Kevin Lewis, and Reggie Torbor. Torbor at least has a good excuse…he’s a defensive end transition project. But Torbor, while flashing aggressiveness, doesn’t look particularly instinctive against the run. He just got tied up too much. Interestingly, the Giants had Torbor play defensive end quite a bit in the second half. He was right there on one of Lockhart’s sacks.

Same story with Monk and Lewis. They made no plays that made one sit up and take notice. There were also some breakdowns down the middle of the field where TE Keith Mangum was left wide open.

None of the other linebackers made any noise either other than T.J. Hollowell’s tackle in the backfield for a 4-yard loss.

Defensive Backs: Some of the problems are mental. For example, there was one big pass play for 38 yards in the 1st quarter on 1-and-20 where WR Steve Smith was left wide open over the middle. I have no idea who was at fault there, but someone screwed up. To their credit, the Giants’ secondary was not fooled on the flea flicker run by the Panthers (a bush league play in a preseason game – shame on John Fox).

I hope Will Allen’s problems have to do with rust and having to still get his body in good working order after a serious career-threatening injury. He had his problems again. On Carolina’s second offensive play, he was beat for 23-yards. To be fair, this was a perfect pass and Allen had very good coverage on the play. But Allen got beat by WR Steve Smith on the next drive for 12 yards (the play got called back on a penalty away from the play). A few plays later, Allen was beat by WR Muhsin Muhammad for a 7-yard touchdown. In the second quarter, Allen missed two tackles on short throws on back-to-back plays.

CB Will Peterson did not play poorly, contrary to what the announcers said. His biggest problem was that he was playing way too far off his man on some plays. Indeed, he gave up a 10-12 yard cushion on some easy completions right in front of him. Was Peterson told to give that kind of cushion or did he do it on his own? One thing where Peterson needs to get better is playing off blocks from wide receivers. He gets hung up too easily on running plays.

SS Shaun Williams had some ups and downs. He was very aggressive in run defense and made some real solid hits and tackles. But Williams also missed a tackle on a Steve Smith catch-and-run that picked up 18 yards. On the next drive, Williams made two positive plays. He had a big hit on HB DeShaun Foster, and then knocked away (and almost intercepted) a pass over the middle to Steve Smith. However, in the 2nd quarter, he was late getting over to cover HB Stephen Davis on his 4-yard reception on 3rd-and-3 down on the goal line. In the 4th quarter (yes, he was playing in the 4th quarter), Williams got beat over the middle in man-to-man coverage by rookie WR Keary Colbert.

Before he left the game with a fractured hand, Omar Stoutmire didn’t do badly. He supplied good deep coverage on a pass to Muhammad against CB Terry Cousin that was overthrown.

FS Brent Alexander was invisible except for his whiff on Steve Smith on the 38-yard pass play where the latter was left wide open down the middle of the field.

CB Terry Cousin wasn’t picked on so that is a good sign. Muhammad did have a step on him on a deep pass that was overthrown. He also lost his man on one 17 yard pass in his zone in the 3rd quarter. Frank Walker was very aggressive in attacking a running play that went for a loss.

S Jack Brewer did a good job of knocking away a 3rd-and-14 pass in the 4th quarter. Early in the game, he made a strong, physical tackle against DeShaun Foster.

CB Curtis Deloatch was so-so. There was one play where the receiver should have picked up the first down against him, but the receiver dropped the ball.

Special Teams: The highlight of special teams was PK Todd France, who perfectly nailed two field goals (from 51 and 42 yards out) with room to spare. Right down the middle! His kick-offs had decent height but only modest distance (fielded at the 10, 10, 1, and 7 yard lines). Biggest negative? His onsides kick was ugly.

Kickoff coverage was good. Returns went for 22 (Stackhouse and Stoutmire making the tackle), 19 (Frank Walker – really nice tackle), 21 (Stackhouse and Chris Douglas), and 17 (Jack Brewer).

The punting of Jeff Feagles was once again very good (45 yard average on six punts). Punt coverage was excellent – returns: fair catch, 2 yards (T.J. Hollowell), touchback (Jack Brewer should have downed this inside the 5), 3 yards (Wes Mallard), 3 yards (Reggie Torbor), and fair catch.

Kick returns were not as good as last week. Worse, Ponder fumbled on one return. Still, Ponder looks far better than HB Curtis Keaton. Ponders returns went for 22 (not much blocking), 29, 16 (and a fumble), and 20. Keaton’s returns went for 25 and 14.

Punt returns were hampered by great punting from the Panthers and some poor blocking. Will Peterson was particularly bad at blocking the opposing gunner. He got flagged with one obvious block-in-the-back (a dumb-ass penalty). Then he did a really poor job of blocking his man (as did Shaun Williams, who got chewed out by Coughlin on the sidelines). Avion Blacks returns went for: 4, 0, and 16. Curtis Deloatch hurt his chances with another muff.

(Box Score – New York Giants at Carolina Panthers, August 19, 2004)
Aug 182004
Very Preliminary Overview of New York Giants 2005 NFL Draft Options

by Colin Lindsay, Great Blue North Draft Report (and big Giants’ fan!)

First things first… We frankly couldn’t give a rat’s ass about pre-season W-L projections – its why they play the games! – but what passes as analysis of the Giants’ prospects in 2005 by just about everyone from the national press to the local peanut gallery has gotten to be a tad annoying. The general consensus seems to be that the 4-12 Giants really didn’t make any significant additions they are destined to finish around that mark again. The problem, of course, is that in saying the Giants haven’t made any major upgrades they are comparing the Giants likely starting lineup this fall with their opening lineup last fall. Fair enough, so far, however, the team that went 0-8 through the second half of the 2003 season was a far cry from the squad that opened the season. The Giants’ projected 2004 offensive line of (from L to R) of Petitgout, Stokes, O’Hara, Snee, and Diehl, probably is a wash with last year’s starting group of Petitgout, Seubert, Bober, Diehl and Allen, however, only a fool would say that this year’s group isn’t a huge upgrade over the group that actually played most of the year including such the likes of Allen, rookies Jeff Roehl and Wayne Lucier, Scott Peters and Jeff Hatch! And there’s is a similar story at positions like CB as well as the receiver. To be honest, we have no idea how the Giants are going to fare this year; at least we’re going to try and compare apples with apples…

Second things first… Like most loyal Giants’ fans we’ve spent the past few months wrestling with the question whether the team paid to much to acquire Eli Manning with at the 2004 draft. Certainly, the early returns on Manning have been very promising, but taking that deal with Cleveland and grabbing Ben Roethlisbereger at #7, along with MLB Daryl Smith (with the extra second rounder); any of good young CBs Joey Thomas, Keith Smith, or Derrick Strait (with the #3 pick sent to San Diego in the Manning deal, not to mention a potential top 10 pick this coming April was still awfully tempting. In the end, though, we have to defer to the judgement of the team’s hiearchy if, indeed, they felt that Manning was simply that good.

What we never had a real problem with, though, was allowing Kerry Collins to move on. Collins did some yeoman service with the Giants; certainly far more than anyone had the right to expect after he was plucked off the football scrap heap. Ask any NFL coach, though, what he wants first and foremost from his QB and he’ll tell you without hesitation: “take care of the football!” And for all his 4,000 yard seasons, Collins still threw too many interceptions. Indeed, we expect that for the past several year, deposed head coach Jim Fassel and GM Ernie Accorsi kept waiting for Collins to get his INTs down close to single digits, but it just never happened. And while the difference between 10-12 picks a year versus 16-18 doesn’t look like all much, if one figures that every extra 1-2 INTs costs a game…well you do the math…

One of the most-asked questions around the NFL these days is why have so many teams with ‘average’ QBs have gone to the Super Bowl in recent years, while the star QBs have generally stayed home. One theory we have is that teams with star QBs have to invest such a large share of their cap in that star QB that they simply can’t afford the kind of depth a team needs to win a championship. And that will be the real challenge for the Giants front office over the next few years, assuming, of course, that Manning continues to evolve into one of the premier QBs in the game. The Giants, for example, already appear to have two big-ticket players on offense in Manning and Shockey and likely will not be able to afford a third. They should also be able to have 2-3 moderately priced stars on defense, but what we believe they are going to do, particularly at positions like WR and the offensive line, is develop a solid group of good, though, not necessarily great, players such that when a top player comes up on free agency he can be allowed to leave and there is another almost interchangeable player ready to step in. That’s one reason we really liked the Jamaar Taylor pick as he is exactly that kind of player, although of course, the Giants will need a few (and maybe many) more like him. To do that, we think the Giants will need to seriously consider stockpiling extra middle round picks in the 3rd to 6th round areas, which may mean getting out of the first round altogether in upcoming years, especially if there isn’t a player that really fits a specific need available at that moment. Certainly, with the kind of salary cap strictures they are likely to face down the road, we don’t think the Giants can afford to simply to sit back and play the old 7-rounds, 7-picks game.

Good news, bad news look to Giants’ 2005 draft hopes… Of course, the 2005 draft is still a ways off – 253 days to be exact – not to mention, a full season, however, assuming that the Giants pick somewhere between 40th and 50th next April, there is some good news and some bad for the Giants. If one assumes – and again we caution that so much can, and will, happen between now and next April 23rd – that Giants’ scouts’ will be paying special attention to OGs, RBs, LBs and safeties this fall, the good news is that there could very well be some very interesting options at both OG and RB in the mid second round this year; the bad is that the pickings at LB – especially in the middle – won’t be quite as good, while the safety position could be very weak. For now here’s a very preliminary overview of how the 2005 draft is starting to shape up, particularly in the context of the Giants’ likel off-season needs.

Offensive line… Everything else being equal, whether the Giants’ opt to use their second round pick at the 2005 draft on an offensive lineman will depend largely on the health of OG Rich Seubert. If Seubert can come all the way back from that gruesome injury then the Giants will likely be able to look elsewhere with their top pick; if not, OG will become a major priority. Fortunately, the 2005 draft could have as many as half a dozen OGs with at least late first-round potential including 335-pound Claude Terrell of New Mexico, a college OT who projects to OG in the pros because he’s only 6-3, along with roadgraders Elton Brown of Virginia, Michigan’s David Baas, C.J. Brooks of Maryland, Chris Kemoeatu of Utah and Wisconsin’s Dan Buenning. Several are likely to slip into the middle of the second round.

In fact, the offensive round is one of the strengths of the 2005 draft, such that even if the Giants pass on an OL in the second round they should still be able to add some depth at the position in later rounds. There is particular depth at OT where Daniel Loper of Texas Tech, Rob Petitti of Pitt, 6-8 Mike Kracilik of San Diego State, Adam Snyder of Oregon and Adam Terry of Syracuse are all very good second-tier prospects who should be available in the 3rd-4th round areas. Indeed, a team looking to add some quality young legs to its offensive line at the 2005 draft may very well be able to pick up something to their liking deep into the second day.

Running back… With Tiki Barber aging, at least in football years, and Ron Dayne still a huge question mark, RB could be another be another priority for the Giants at the 2005 draft, although if we had are druthers, the Giants would use their second round pick to upgrade the offensive line or team speed on defense, and wait until the later rounds to select a back. Whatever they ultimately decide to do, the Giants aren’t likely to get a shot at any of this year’s elite backs like Carnell Williams of Auburn or Syracuse speedster Walter Reyes with that #2 pick, however, if a number of quality juniors come out this year, some quality RBs could be available in the mid-second round. Players to watch include juniors DeAngelo Williams of Memphis, T.A. McLendon of North Carolina State, and Dontrell Moore of New Mexico along with veteran scatbacks Anthony Davis of Wisconsin, Darren Sproles of Kansas State, and Patrick Cobbs of North Texas. There should also be some quality backs available in later rounds including Earl Charles of Marshall, a solid 215-pounder with a burst, as well as Lionel Gates of Louisville and Kay-Jay Harris of West Virginia, both of whom have the kind of size/speed combinations pro scouts love. Same for Cedric Houston of Tennessee, who also has the physical tools to be a great one, but has never been able to stay fully healthy throughout his career.

Linebacker… The Giants may have a caught a break when Oklahoma MLB Lance Mitchell tore an ACL early last season. Mitchell, a 245-pounder with speed who was one of the top 2-3 ranked MLBs in the country heading into the 2003 season, appears fully recovered, but could slip into the middle of the second round if teams are scared off by concerns about the knee. San Diego State tackling machine Kirk Morrison could also slip into the same range because of a lack of prototype speed. Overall, though, the talent at MLB for the 2005 is likely only to be average unless a number of juniors such as Abdul Hodge of Iowa, Fred Roach Will Derting of Washington State, Kevin Simon of Tennessee, and Odell Thurman of Georgia opt to leave school early, (although Derting has a wrist injury that could sideline him for the year, while Thurman has been suspended from UGAs first three games of the year. Meanwhile, other MLBs who will get a look in later rounds include athletic Barrett Ruud of Nebraska, along with underrated Robert Rodriquez of UTEP, Robert McCune of Louisville, Adam Seward of UNLV, Marcus Lawrence of South Carolina, Lionel Turner of LSU and Wendell Hunter of California.

While the MLB crop looks to be evry ordinary for 2005, the OLBs could evolve into something very special if any of a number of outstanding junior OLBs including 6-5 Pierre Woods of Michigan, A.J. Hawk of Ohio State, speedy DeMeco Ryans of Alabama, Chad Greenway of Iowa, Darryl Blackstock of Virginia, and Temple’s Rian Wallace opt to enter next year’s draft. There they’d join seniors Derrick Johnson of Texas and Michael Boley of Southern Miss, a pair of play-makers with near top 10 potential. As well, there appears to be plenty of depth at the position, headed by Zac Woodfin of Alabama-Birmingham, James Kinney of Missouri, Ryan Claridge of UNLV, Pat Thomas of NC State and Derek Wake of Penn State, each of whom is an athletic playmaker.

Safety… Here’s the really bad news for Giants’ draft watchers. If the 2004 WR class was one of the best position groups ever – period – then this year’s safety could very well be one of the worst! Even worse, what strength there is at safety is almost exclusively at SS. Still, there are several FS prospects including James Butler of Georgia Tech and Mitch Meeusen of Oregon State, who would be good value in the mid-second round next year, while Aaron Francisco of BYU, Oshomohgo Atogwe of Stanford and Jason Harmon of Michigan State will provide some decent late first-day depth.

The rest of the field… The 2005 draft should also feature strengths at both DE and CB, positions the Giants could also very well be looking at next spring. DEs who could still be available in the mid-second round include explosive speed rushers Ardell Duckett of Texas Tech and Oregon State’s Bill Swancutt, along with two-way guy Dan Cody of Oklahoma, while juniors such as Eric Henderson of Georgia Tech, Jovan Haye of Vanderbilt and Loren Howard could also factor in at that point. There is also a very deep second-tier group of senior DEs such that teams should be able to find some help at the position pretty much throughout the second day of the draft. In contrast, it appears that after dominating recent drafts, 2005 could be a real down year at DT.

CB should be another solid position at the 2005 draft, however, its a top-heavy group so teams looking for an upgrade at the position won’t want to wait too long. A couple of names that could figure prominently in the middle of the second round, though, are Darrent Williams of Oklahoma State and Mark Walker of TCU, while Karl Paymah of Washington State has the kind of size and speed combination that the NFL teams are always looking for in a shut down corner and could be a bit of a sleeper at that spot. There is a similar story at WR where there is some upfront talent, although certainly nothing like last year even with Southern Cal’s Mike Williams back in the 2005 draft pack, but not much in the way of depth at the position.

And for those wanting more detail, we invite everyone to check out are full Great Blue North Pre-season College Football Draft Report featuring full school-by-school and position-by-position previews for the 2004 season now just 10 days away. And, we’ll be back this season with our weekly previews of who to watch in college football’s big games.

Aug 172004

Approach to the Game – New York Giants at Carolina Panthers, August 19, 2004: The preseason game that coaches take the most seriously is the third preseason game, but the second preseason game is pretty important too. Head Coach Tom Coughlin will definitely want to see his offense, defense, and special teams continue to improve in anticipation of the regular season opener that is rapidly approaching.

Again, the most important thing is not to suffer any significant injuries or get players re-injured unnecessarily.

In terms of action on the field, the Giants want to see much better pass defense than they saw last week, continued improvement and cohesion on the offensive line, and greater success in short-yardage situations.

The Panthers are a really good test. They have the best defensive line in football and physical running game. Also, look for Brandon Short and Jessie Armstead to be pretty fired up for obvious reasons.

Giants on Offense: Fan and media focus will remain on the quarterback duel between Kurt Warner and Eli Manning, but the most important area to watch will be the offensive line. As was to be expected, given the fact that he was just moved to right tackle the week before, David Diehl struggled somewhat on the open right flank, especially in pass protection. The competition gets dramatically tougher this week when Diehl squares off against DE Julius Peppers. But the match-ups across the board are not easy. Rookie RG Chris Snee faces DT Brentson Buckner and LG Wayne Lucier will battle DT Kris Jenkins (Barry Stokes will not play this week). Jenkins is one of the toughest defenders in the entire league and Lucier will have his hands full. LT Luke Petitgout will match up against DE Mike Rucker, a very good end. This is the best defensive line in football and things could get ugly for Eli Manning, who will start this week. Their strength is our weakness.

Carolina has very good depth on the defensive line too and the Giants’ back-up offensive line will be tested. The guy to watch is Gary Walker at right tackle. Does he have a future in this league? I’d like to see Drew Strojny get more playing time at left tackle than he did last week.

Also, watch the blocking effectiveness of the tight ends, especially Visanthe Shiancoe. He has the ability to be a very good blocker; he needs greater consistency. Personally, I am also interested to see how he continues to evolve as a pass receiver. If Shank can develop into a fine two-way tight end this season, it will really open things up for the Giants’ offense.

Was last week a fluke for Ron Dayne? Can he and the blocking improve in short-yardage situations? This is a tough defense to get positive answers against. But if the Giants want to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl, they have to beat the best. It will be interesting to see if Coughlin gives Tiki Barber more touches this week.

I have no idea what the Giants are going to do at wide receiver after Amani Toomer and Ike Hilliard. James McKnight, who many figured would be the third wide receiver, hasn’t practiced or played much due to a toe injury. The other guy supposed to vie for the third receiver job, Tim Carter, is missing a lot of time with a hamstring injury. It would seem that both may not be able to count on a roster spot. Many reports out of camp have said that Willie Ponder and David Tyree have not been sharp, but both played well on special teams last week and Tyree made a couple of plays in the passing game. JaJuan Dawson is really pushing for a roster spot. Ataveus Cash and Chris Davis have made a positive impression at camp with their hands and athleticism. Avion Black returns punts. And the big wild card is Jamaar Taylor, who is wowing everyone, but who is also still recovering from an ACL injury. The Giants will probably keep six wide receivers. But who? There are nine guys fighting for four roster spots. One would think that Tyree and Taylor have a good shot. The Giants may end up having to get rid of someone like Dawson and/or Cash in favor of a guy who can return kicks and punts (i.e., Ponder, Black, Carter, etc.). What do the coaches really think of McKnight?

Then there is Warner versus Manning – round two.

Giants on Defense: The Giants faced a very good rushing attack last week and will so again this week. This will be a good test for the entire front seven. I’d like to see Carolina challenge the two big defensive tackles in the middle, Norman Hand and Fred Robbins, in order to get a better read on them. Of course, the Giants need their depleted linebacking corps to make some plays. It’s more than a bit scary when you consider that the Giants are going to have to use guys like Quincy Monk, Kevin Lewis, Reggie Torbor, and Wes Mallard against the starters. It’s not that some of these guys don’t have ability, but they are not proven commodities and one would expect the Panthers to take advantage of their presence in the starting line-up.

What the Giants MUST do is improve their pass defense. Last week, both the linebackers and defensive backs got toasted by the Chiefs in the first half of the game. Will Allen, in particular, needs to elevate his game. The safeties need to make some plays. And the linebackers have to do a much better job of covering tight ends and running backs. The Giants open against the Eagles, and the Eagles love to throw to the underneath receivers against linebackers.

Who will start at free safety on opening day – Brent Alexander or Omar Stoutmire? Is Terry Cousin a good nickel corner? Is Frank Walker a good back-up corner? Who among the young defensive backs (Gibril Wilson, Jack Brewer, Jamaine Winborne, Curtis Deloatch, Dewitt Ellerbe) will stick? The Giants say that Wilson is the fastest defensive back on the team except for Allen and Will Peterson. Brewer is a good special teams player. Winborne made some excellent plays in run defense. Deloatch has return ability and size.

Among the back-ups up front, Martin Chase and Lance Legree formed the second team last week. But it seemed as if Mario Monds and Delbert Cowsette (the third teamers) played better than Chase. DE Khaleed Vaughn is an interesting prospect on the strongside. DE Osi Umenyiora had a monster game against the Panthers last year in the regular season. Is there a roster spot still for DE Lorenzo Bromell, who remains on the Physically-Unable-to-Perform (PUP) list?

Giants on Special Teams: Unless the Giants pick up another kicker (which is very possible), it looks like Bill Gramatica will likely be on the opening day roster. He needs to improve his kickoffs, if he can.

P Jeff Feagles looks ready to start the season now&hopefully the Giants won’t tire out his leg.

The Giants gave up a big kick-off return last week and they need to improve in that department.

The Giants came darn close to blocking a couple of punts last week with Tyree and Brewer flying off the edges.

Willie Ponder impressed as a kick returner last week. With Carter out, he doesn’t seem to have a serious challenger at present. Deloatch muffed a punt&has he lost the confidence of Tom Coughlin? Will the Giants be forced to spend a valuable roster spot on a guy like Avion Black?

Aug 162004
New York Giants 34 – Kansas City Chiefs 24

Game Overview: There were positives and negatives to point out regarding the Giants’ 34-24 come-from-behind victory over the Chiefs in the preseason opener. But what probably pleased new Head Coach Tom Coughlin the most was that the Giants did not hurt themselves in the game. They were penalized only five times for 40 yards and that is excellent for the first time out on the field. The offense did not turn the ball over either.

HB Ron Dayne was impressive. The quarterbacks played fairly well, especially considering all the blitzing the Chiefs did. The back-up tight ends made some plays as receivers. The starters and reserves on the defensive line were solid. The Giants defended the run pretty well against one of the best running attacks in the NFL. Special teams were improved.

However, the linebackers did not play well. Pass coverage by both the backers and secondary was not good. There were too many missed tackles. The starting offensive line, while it has talent, has a lot of work to do in order to come together as a cohesive unit and not a lot of time. In addition, depth on the offensive line is a concern. The Giants gave up one big kickoff return to start the game. And the Giants still don’t really know who will be returning punts or kickoffs at the start of the season.

And let’s be honest, the Chiefs really helped the Giants by committing an atrocious 19 penalties for 160 yards.

Some good, some bad. To be expected from the first preseason game. But the Giants came away with a victory against a Super Bowl contender and that has to have them feeling better about themselves.

Quarterbacks: The play of Kurt Warner and Eli Manning was surprisingly positive when you consider that both quarterbacks are still getting used to the Giants’ (1) new system and terminology, and (2) surrounding personnel. Plus, Manning is a rookie. Jesse Palmer is also learning a new system and terminology, but he also played fairly well.

Warner (3-of-7 for 49 yards, 0 touchdowns, 0 interceptions) looked very comfortable and sure of himself. He dropped back quickly, made his read, and got rid of the ball. There was no indecisiveness and he certainly wasn’t bothered by the pass rush. Also, he showed pretty good arm strength on his two deep throws to Ike Hilliard that fell incomplete. He was a bit off the mark on both these throws and that may be due to the fact that he is still getting accustomed to Ike’s (and all of the receivers) deep speed.

Warner’s most embarrassing moment is when the football slipped out his hand during a misdirection screen pass play. Whether this is an example of continued issues with his previously injured hand or simply a coincidence based more on a slippery ball remains to be seen. The play could have been very easily ruled a fumble. Kurt’s best play of the night came a few plays later, when on 3rd-and-25, he scrambled away from pass pressure and found TE Marcellus Rivers down the field for a 33-yard gain.

Eli Manning’s (7-for-13 for 91 yards, 0 touchdowns, 0 interceptions) first real chance to work for an extended drive came with only 1:09 left on the clock before halftime. However, just like he has demonstrated at camp, Eli was impressive in the 2-minute drill, moving the Giants 53 yards in 7 plays, setting up a successful 42-yard field goal. What is impressive about Manning is that, for a rookie, he seems to read the defense very quickly and throw the ball to the correct receiver. Not reflected in his stats are the two big pass interference penalties he helped to cause with accurate deep passes to WR Willie Ponder. What was also impressive was the poise with which he played despite the fact that the Chiefs blitzed him repeatedly – an unusual move in a preseason football game.

However, the media and many fans would have been all over Eli had former Giant safety Lyle West been able to hold onto a pass that he should have intercepted and returned for a touchdown early in the 3rd quarter. Manning correctly read the blitz on the play and tried to get the ball to what he thought was his open hot receiver, Rivers. However, Rivers wasn’t open and disaster almost resulted. This is rookie inexperience. Still, seeing all these blitzes early will only accelerate his learning curve.

A play that I really liked by Eli was the swing pass to HB Chris Douglas that picked up 22-yards. On this play, Eli looked off the coverage like a veteran before coming back in the opposite direction to Douglas.

I’ve been a very harsh critic of Jesse Palmer (3-of-6 for 37 yards), but he played pretty well. He did a nice job of hitting WR David Tyree for 8-yards on 3rd-and-8 on his first drive of the game. He then threw a perfect pass in the endzone to Tyree for an 11-yard touchdown that put the Giants ahead for the first time all night. This despite the fact that the Chiefs were coming on an all-out blitz on the play.

Wide Receivers: The Giants’ big two, Amani Toomer (0 catches) and Ike Hilliard (0 catches), didn’t play all that much. No passes were thrown in Toomer’s direction. The Giants surprisingly tried to hit Hilliard deep twice, but he was fairly well covered on both plays.

The leading receiver was JaJuan Dawson with 3 catches for 35 yards. He would have had yet another reception for 16 yards, but that was brought back due to a penalty. Dawson had a key 24-yard reception on Manning’s field goal drive right before halftime.

Willie Ponder (1 catch for 6 yards) was interfered with twice on deep passes from Manning, both resulting in 20-yard penalties. However, he also got chewed out on the sideline by Coughlin for his route-running on an end zone shot from Manning that fell incomplete. Ponder did a nice job of blocking on Dayne’s long TD run and on HB Chris Douglas’ swing pass, but he missed his man completely on the backside of the 4th-and-1 play that HB Ron Dayne did not convert. This missed block may have been the direct cause of the failure on the play.

David Tyree (2 catches for 19 yards and a touchdown) has struggled as receiver throughout camp, but he made the catch of the night with his 11-yard TD reception from Palmer. It was a great over-the-shoulder catch where he walked a tight rope keeping his feet inbounds. A big time play.

Chris Davis had a huge 19-yard reception on 3rd-and-2 late in the game when the Giants were trying to run out-the-clock. The play helped to set up the final Giants’ touchdown.

Running Backs: Like Toomer and Hilliard, Tiki Barber (4 carries for 20 yards, 1 catch for 6 yards) saw enough time to get some work in and then sat. No need to risk hurting the Giants’ feature back in the preseason. Barber looked sharp, averaging 5 yards per carry. He cut back well, squeezed through tight spots, and was elusive as always. He did a poor job of picking up the blitz on the play where Warner through to Rivers for 33-yards. Incidentally, the chop block penalty called on him was bullshit since the defender was not engaged with another lineman.

Ron Dayne (11 carries for 118 yards and two touchdowns) was amazing. Early on, it looked like a bit of the Ron Dayne of old as his inside the tackle runs were not picking up much yardage. However, unlike previous seasons, Dayne kept his feet moving and pushing forward and this paid off big dividends on Dayne’s 3rd-and-1 effort that was originally stuffed. Dayne broke through the line and was off to the races for a 29-yard touchdown run. On the very next drive, Dayne had a huge hole to run through and was not touched on his 67-yard touchdown jaunt, but what was impressive was that Dayne out-ran everyone on the Chiefs’ defense for the score.

Dayne started off well again in the 3rd quarter with a 14 yard run, but he was not able to pick up a first down on three successive runs on 2nd-and-3, 3rd-and-2, and 4th-and-1. However, to be fair to Dayne, backside penetration on the latter two plays led to Dayne being hit before he got to the line of scrimmage. Still, short-yardage failures have been Dayne’s achilles heel in the past and this was a bit disconcerting.

Chris Douglas (10 carries for 47 yards and one touchdown; 1 catch for 22 yards) looked pretty good. He’s not a very powerful runner, but he has decent speed, has some elusiveness in terms of cutting ability, and will fight for yardage. He can also catch the football. I was impressed with his blitz pick-ups – especially when you consider that he is a rookie.

As for the fullbacks, both Jim Finn and Charles Stackhouse just are not powerful lead blockers. They can get in the way and be effective in terms of position blocking, but they inevitably get stood up in head-to-head confrontations with linebackers. I still miss Charles Way.

Tight Ends: The presence of Jeremy Shockey dramatically changes the nature of the Giants’ offense and not having him in the game makes it easier for teams to focus on Toomer, Hilliard, and Barber. Visanthe Shiancoe and Marcellus Rivers will never be in the same category as Shockey, but that doesn’t mean they can’t become good players. Both showed well in the receiving department against the Chiefs, but had their ups and downs in the blocking department.

Shiancoe caught 2 passes for 24 yards and looked much more natural as a receiver than he did last year. However, his blocking was inconsistent. Unlike Rivers, he has the ability to move defenders off the line of scrimmage with power due to his physical ability. There were times when he did just that. For example, he drove the left defensive end inside on Dayne’s 67-yard touchdown run; this was a key block. He also had a good block on Dayne’s first TD run. But on another drive, I saw him have problems pass blocking the defensive end and then miss a run block.

Marcellus Rivers caught 2 passes for 47 yards, including a 33-yarder. He can get down the field. However, even though he has become a better blocker over the last couple of seasons due to his ability to stay engaged with his man more effectively, he does not get any movement. Worse, he sometimes gets pushed backwards and this causes penetration that sometimes disrupts running plays.

Joe Dean Davenport didn’t look bad blocking, but he is clearly behind Shiancoe and Rivers on the depth chart.

Offensive Line: I am not as concerned about the starting unit as I am about the depth situation. Yes, there were some rough spots with the starters. But that is to be expected in the first preseason game when you have four new players at four positions, one of whom is a rookie. But there were bright spots too. For example, Warner had plenty of time on his two deep throws to Ike Hilliard.

David Diehl is obviously not comfortable at right tackle yet. He had some rough plays in pass protection. Both he and LT Luke Petitgout struggled in picking up a couple of stunts when the defensive tackle looped to their side. Petitgout looks like he has put on more mass. He mostly did a good job when run blocking, but he missed some blocks too (such as on Dayne’s 29-yard TD run). He also gave up a pressure on Warner’s 33-yard pass to Rivers. Diehl gave up a sack late in the second quarter.

Inside, Shaun O’Hara is not a mauler, but he looked quick and adept at engaging linebackers at the second level. LG Barry Stokes made a great block on Dayne’s 67-yard TD run on a pull to the strongside. However, he is not a particularly strong player and he did get shoved backwards on the bull rush. He also doesn’t get the movement at the point-of-attack that RG Chris Snee gets. Snee looks like he is going to be a great run blocker. He attacks the defender, gets movement, and sustains his blocks. He also did a fairly good job in pass protection, except for one holding call.

The back-up situation scares me, especially with Ed Ellis now done. Wayne Lucier played center against the Chiefs, but he can serve as a decent OC/OG swingman for the Giants as a reserve. He got a good block on Dayne’s 14-yard run in the 3rd quarter. However, he got beat pretty badly on a Douglas run late in that quarter and was forced to hold on the play.

Ian Allen only played left tackle and I am not sure it is a good sign for him that he didn’t play any snaps at right tackle. There were plays where Allen perfectly controlled his man, but his complete breakdowns are too frequent and I seriously question his future as a Giant. He as beat to the inside for a sack by a rookie early in the 3rd quarter.

LG Scott Peters was terrible. He had problems both as a run and pass blocker. For example, he allowed backside penetration on Dayne’s unsuccessful 3rd-and-2 run in the 3rd quarter. He also gave up a bunch of pass pressures and got no movement in the running game. He was also flagged with holding on a Douglas run for 6-yards.

Travis Scott didn’t impress me at right guard. He appears to lack power and didn’t seem to be particularly effective in pass protection either. I am not sure why Mike Saffer didn’t play since he had been ahead of Travis on the depth chart.

Greg Walker didn’t look too bad at right tackle. He gave up a sack and a pressure, but there may be something to work with there as he certainly has the size and he didn’t seem to embarrass himself in the ground game. I have to see more of him before I make a strong judgement.

I would have liked to have seen LT Drew Strojny play more. He got a real nice downfield block on Douglas’ TD run.

Overall Defense: The good news is that the ground defense was surprisingly effective against a top rushing team despite the fact that the Giants had six new starters playing and SLB Carlos Emmons was out. Mental breakdowns in pass defense did occur, as was to be expected given the new system. However, the physical breakdowns in coverage were a bit worrisome. The linebackers looked slow and had problems in pass coverage. Will Allen had a bad game. The Giants gave up drives of 66, 91, 64, and 84 yards in the first half – mostly through the air. That is not good.

Defensive Line: I thought the defensive line played well, and did a good job in run defense against a team renowned for its offensive line and rushing attack. The Giants gave up 100 yards rushing and were only really hurt by one HB Priest Holmes run for 20 yards on their first scoring drive – and that play was more of a case of the linebackers not making the play.

Of the starters, the guy who surprised me the most was DE Keith Washington, who played both the run and the pass well. Keith (and Quincy Monk) stuffed the first Chiefs’ run of the game. He later nailed HB Larry Johnson for a 1-yard loss. In the 2nd quarter, a strong pass rush by Washington forced an incompletion.

DE Michael Strahan didn’t play long, but almost sacked QB Trent Green on a play where he forced an incompletion.

The two new defensive tackles are an imposing presence in the middle of the line. The Chiefs didn’t really challenge them and that probably says something. Norman Hand pick up a sack. Fred Robbins did get flagged for being offsides.

Interesting Osi Umenyiora saw time both on the strongside and weakside. He came into the game for Strahan early on. Umenyiora didn’t start really making plays until the second half against the Chiefs’ reserves, but he was very effective at this point of the game. He was disruptive against the run, beating the offensive tackle to hit the halfback a couple of times in the backfield. On one play in particular, he made the play despite being held and drawing a flag. Umenyiora also got some heat on the quarterback a couple of times and tipped a pass away.

The second team defensive tackles were Martin Chase and Lance Legree. I wasn’t impressed with Chase who got walked back into the endzone on Larry Johnson’s 3-yard touchdown run in the 1st quarter. Lance Legree did better as I spotted one good run defense from him as well as a decent pass pressure. He also drew a holding call.

The pleasant surprise to me of the reserves was DE Khaleed Vaughn who was pretty stout against the run and had a couple of decent pass pressures. Vaughn did have some problems playing down the line of scrimmage on outside the tackle runs in his direction and got hemmed inside on one 16-yard run in the 4th quarter. Still for an undrafted rookie free agent, I was impressed.

Third-team defensive tackles Mario Monds and Delbert Cowsette did a good job too. Monds stuffed a 3rd-and-1 one run and later made excellent penetration and hit the ball carrier on the Chiefs’ one fumble of the game. Cowsette got excellent penetration on this play as well and was credited with the forced fumble. On the next Chiefs’ drive, Cowsette got good pressure on a 3rd-and-8 pass play.

DE Issac Hilton didn’t flash and I was unimpressed by his lack of hustle on one quarterback scramble.

Linebackers: This group did not have a strong game. To be fair, starting SLB Carlos Emmons did not play and starting MLB Nick Greisen left the game on the first drive. That only left WLB Barrett Green. And he didn’t play particularly well. He got fooled by a play-action fake on the Chiefs’ second series on play to the tight end that picked up 14 yards. In the 2nd quarter, Green was badly beaten by the halfback out of the backfield for a 22-yard gain. Pass defense is supposed to be the strength of Green’s game, but he didn’t show it against the Chiefs.

Quincy Monk saw snaps both at middle linebacker and on the strongside. He had an up and down game. There were times when he did a good job of playing the run, such as the Chiefs’ first offensive play of the game. He also showed good pursuit from the middle linebacker position on the next Chiefs’ drive on a 4-yard carry by HB Priest Holmes. But later in the drive, he got blocked at the point-of-attack on Holmes’ 20-yard run. Monk had a chance to stop HB Larry Johnson’s 3-yard TD run for a loss but couldn’t make the tackle. On the Chiefs’ next drive, he badly missed a tackle on Johnson after Johnson caught the ball – leading to a 13-yard gain.

Reggie Torbor was used both at linebacker and defensive end. As a linebacker, he struggled. He completely ran himself out of the play on Holmes’ 20-yard run. On the next drive, the fullback beat him for a 13-yard reception. Torbor was also nowhere to be seen on the 14-yard screen pass later on that drive. On the play where the Chiefs’ scored, he got blocked at the point-of-attack. The good news? Torbor doesn’t look stiff at all and runs like a linebacker (unlike many defensive line conversion projects). He also hits.

Wesly Mallard was much more sound in pass coverage than the other linebackers. He did a great job of disrupting a screen pass by reading it early and staying with the back. Mallard also made some plays against the run, something he hasn’t done in previous preseasons. Kevin Lewis saw time both at middle linebacker and outside linebacker. He nailed the back for a 1-yard loss on one play and did a good job of playing off a block and tackling the ball carrier on another. However, he looks slow in coverage. There was one pass play to the back that went for 19-yards when Lewis was late getting over.

As for the third team guys, I wasn’t impressed with Jim Maxwell. He looks too lean to stand up against the run. However, MLB Robert Peace was around the ball quite a bit. He smacked one Chief after a short reception and recovered a fumble. He also looked pretty good in run defense.

Defensive Backs: There were some big mental mistakes. The most glaring was the complete breakdown in coverage on TE Kris Wilson’s 23-yard touchdown reception. I have no idea who was supposed to pick up Wilson on this play, but someone goofed.

Will Allen had a rough game. Worse, some of his bad plays were against a rookie free agent. Allen started the game off well with a sure, open-field tackle on a pass to HB Priest Holmes. He later made an excellent play in run defense. But he got beat by WR Samie Parker on what should have been a 1st down on the Chiefs’ first drive, but the ball was overthrown. On the Chiefs’ second scoring drive, Allen got beat badly by rookie WR Richard Smith for 32 yards on 3rd-and-11. On another scoring drive, he got beat over the deep middle for a 27-yard gain by Smith again on 3rd-and-8. Allen had tight coverage on the play, but failed to make a play on the ball.

CB Will Peterson was not picked on except for one play where he got beat and then fell down on a 19-yard gain by no-name WR John Booth.

SS Shaun Williams is a frustrating player. There are times when he excels as when he was left all alone with All Pro TE Tony Gonzales on one play down the deep middle and he covered him like a blanket. But he got beat by TE Kris Wilson on another play – luckily, Wilson dropped the ball. Williams badly missed a tackle on FB Omar Easy after a short pass – and this turned into an 18-yard gain for the Chiefs.

The very costly defensive holding penalty on nickel back Terry Cousin on 3rd-and-6 was a terrible, terrible call. Bad officiating. Cousin did get beat for a 15-yard reception late in the 2nd quarter on 2nd-and-8. In the 3rd quarter, Cousin made an excellent open-field tackle on TE Kris Wilson for no gain.

CB Frank Walker got burned for what should have been a big play by the Chiefs on 3rd-and-11 in the 3rd quarter, but Samie Parker dropped the ball again.

CB Curtis Deloatch got badly caught inside on an off-tackle run in the 4th quarter that picked up 16-yards.

CB Jamie Winborne had a good game in run defense. He played way too off the receiver on an easy completion for 6-yards. But he was very aggressive and physical against the run, including making a superb play on 4th-and-1 by tackling the bigger back short of the 1st down marker.

FS Jack Brewer knocked away one 3rd-and-8 pass late in the 4th quarter (he probably should have intercepted the ball) and knocked away the final Chiefs’ pass of the game in the endzone.

Special Teams: Things didn’t start off well when the Chiefs returned the opening kickoff 45 yards. It didn’t help matters that kick-offs by Bill Gramatica and Todd France were poor. But kickoff coverage settled down after that with David Tyree making a couple of tackles.

Punt coverage was decent. A lot of this had to do with superb punting of Jeff Feagles, who punted for hangtime, distance, and direction. Making tackles on punt coverage were Quincy Monk, Marcellus Rivers, Jack Brewer, and Reggie Torbor.

Willie Ponder did a fairly good job on kick-offs (averaging over 27 yards per return on four returns). He was aided by some strong blocking from the wedge. HB Curtis Keaton is too sluggish to be a returner.

Punt returns were not as good. Curtis Deloatch muffed a punt that should have been a turnover deep in Giants’ territory, but the officials called a bogus penalty against the Chiefs. WR Avion Black had one good return for 14 yards.

Both David Tyree and Jack Brewer got good heat on the punter and Tyree caused former Giants’ P Rodney Williams to actually pull the ball down or it would have been blocked. It would be nice for the Giants to find a way to keep both Tyree and Brewer as both appear to be good as rushing the punter (Brewer blocked a punt against the Giants last year).

(Box Score – Kansas City Chiefs at New York Giants, August 13, 2004)
Aug 112004

Approach to the Game – Kansas City Chiefs at New York Giants, August 13, 2004: If you’ve ever read one preseason game preview from me, you know that the only thing that ever really concerns me is that the Giants get out of the game healthy. We saw from the Redskins-Broncos game on Monday how dangerous the preseason can be. Washington lost one of their irreplaceable players, RT Jon Jansen, for the season due to a freak, non-contact injury. I’d rather lose a preseason game 31-0 than lose a starter.

It’s likely that Head Coach Tom Coughlin and Defensive Coordinator Tim Lewis, like many coaches, will not game-plan too much for the Chiefs. I would think that we won’t see the best offensive and defensive formations and plays simply because the coaching staff doesn’t want to show too much in meaningless games. One of the advantages of having a new staff for a team is that other division opponents are not sure what to expect. There is no sense in making Philadelphia’s scouting job easier. At the same time, some teams will run some of their better or more involved plays in the preseason. This is why some preseason games are not good indicators of a team’s true ability. I don’t know how Kansas City Head Coach Dick Vermeil feels about the preseason and how seriously he takes it. Pay attention to how long starters for both teams stay in the game and how intricate the offensive and defensive calls are.

The purpose of the preseason is to (1) get your team ready for the regular season and (2) evaluate talent. Because the Giants have so many new players on the team, plus the new coaching staff, every preseason game will be valuable. The new offensive line does not have much time to gel. The new quarterback has to get used to the system and his surrounding talent. The new front seven on defense has to build cohesion and an identity. There isn’t much time.

Giants on Offense: The eyes of most fans will be on the quarterbacks, but the play of the offensive line will be the most important aspect to watch. Don’t expect much. David Diehl was moved officially to right tackle only on Monday. Same story with Chris Snee being moved to right guard in the starting line-up. Both have only had a few practice sessions together. Keep in mind that Snee is a rookie (and will make rookie mistakes). Also keep in mind that Diehl is at a new position and will have to deal now with an open flank when the tight does not stay into block on his side. If that wasn’t enough chaos, Barry Stokes is the new starter at left guard and Shaun O’Hara is the new starter at center. Only Luke Petitgout remains as a starter from last year who is sticking at the same position. It’s critical for this group to develop cohesion rapidly, but don’t expect a lot of positive results early. That’s just not realistic.

The depth situation on the offensive line took a bit hit this week when RT Ed Ellis was placed on season-ending Injured Reserve. There is little depth behind Luke Petitgout too. Ian Allen was demoted in favor of Diehl at right tackle. Drew Strojny has potential, but he needs a ton of technique work and strength training. Inside, Wayne Lucier, Omar Smith, Chris Peters, Mike Saffer, Gary Walker, and Travis Scott battle for back-up spots. It’s looking more and more likely that Rich Seubert won’t return in 2004.

The glamour position is the quarterback spot. Obviously fans want to see the $54 million man, QB Eli Manning. But is more likely that Kurt Warner will start the season (and he will start against the Chiefs on Friday). Both Warner and Manning are still learning all about the Giants’ new offensive system and surrounding offensive talent. Both are by no means comfortable yet. That means we will NOT see them at their best. There will probably be flashes of excellent play, intermingled with mistakes. This is to be expected. For a fan to get riled up by errors by either player at this point is silly. What’s important is that both quarterbacks use the preseason to get more comfortable and to work on correcting those mistakes.

Amani Toomer and Ike Hilliard are firmly entrenched as the starters at wide receiver once again. However, no one is safe behind them and there are big battles underway for three to four more roster spots. Making strong cases for themselves are receivers Jamaar Taylor (will not play against the Chiefs), Ataveus Cash, and JaJuan Dawson. Chris Davis and James McKnight (will not play) have also made some noise. Willie Ponder and David Tyree, draft picks from last season, are struggling. Tim Carter (will not play) once again is battling injury (hamstring) and inconsistency. Special teams ability will decide roster spots here.

At halfback, what to watch is whether Tiki Barber’s ball security has improved and whether or not Ron Dayne’s toughness as a runner has improved. Dayne has had a good camp, but the Giants need him to make plays in short-yardage and the goal line. Who will be the third back on this team is a big question mark right now. The way the team has been playing musical chairs at the position, it is likely that the serious contender is not yet on the roster.

As of this week, the fullback job is Jim Finn versus Charles Stackhouse.

This is a different team when Jeremy Shockey (will not play) is not in the game. But with him out of the lineup, valuable experience is being given to Marcellus Rivers, Visanthe Shiancoe, and Joe Dean Davenport. Don’t just look at the receiving stats in the preseason, but keep an eye on these three in the blocking department.

Giants on Defense: There are so many changes on defense (i.e., personnel, coaches, system, style, etc.) that it is really unclear as to how this will all shake out. Will the Giants have a good defense or a mediocre one in 2004? How quickly will these guys learn to play together? Who are the leaders of the defense? Will the lingering rehabs of SLB Carlos Emmons, CB Will Allen, DT William Joseph, DE Lorenzo Bromell, and S Jason Doering be factors?

Up front, I think one of the most exciting areas to watch are the two new big guys in the middle. Norman Hand and Fred Robbins are huge. Once they become comfortable with their flankmates and the system, they should really help to gum things up against the run. The back-up situation there bears watching however. William Joseph still is not practicing due to his pectoral injury. Martin Chase, Mario Monds, and Delbert Cowsette are former Redskin rejects. Lance Legree did not see much playing time last season.

Outside Keith Washington is ahead of Osi Umenyiora on the depth chart on the weakside. However, Umenyiora will see a lot of playing time, especially when Washington moves inside to tackle on certain sets. It is important to see Umenyiora get better against the run. A rookie to watch is Khaleed Vaughn. He isn’t the type of player to get a lot of heat on the passer, but if he can stop the run in a consistent manner, he has a chance to make the team. Rookie Isaac Hilton has a lot of ability, but he is VERY raw.

The Giants dumped all their starting linebackers in the offseason and this unit is even more unsettled right now due to injuries to Carlos Emmons (will not play – recovering from leg fracture) and Barrett Green (should play – concussion). A lot of attention has been focused on Nick Greisen inside, but the Giants need to get Emmons, in particular, on the field. There are a lot of back-up linebackers to watch, all competing for valuable roster spots, including Quincy Monk, Kevin Lewis, Wes Mallard, Reggie Torbor, T.J. Hollowell, James Maxwell, and Robert Peace.

In the secondary, the starting unit is pretty set except at free safety. CB Will Allen, CB Will Peterson, SS Shaun Williams, and even nickel back Terry Cousin are entrenched. However, Omar Stoutmire is battling with Brent Alexander at the other safety spot. With Allen and Peterson’s injury history, depth is important. Frank Walker needs to cut out the mental mistakes and improve his technique. And the Giants would very much appreciate if one of the young corners would step up such as Curtis Deloatch, Dewitt Ellerbe, and Jamaine Winborne. Same story at safety with Jack Brewer and Gibril Wilson.

Giants on Special Teams: Jeff Feagles is safe as the punter. Bill Gramatica is likely the favorite over Todd France at place kicker, but neither is terribly safe. Field goals matter, but so do kickoffs.

With Delvin Joyce, Brian Mitchell, and Ron Dixon off the roster, the Giants are searching for new kick-off and punt returners. Deloatch has a chance to nail down the punt returning job and earn a roster spot. Recently signed WR Avion Black has experience returning both punts and kickoffs. Jamaar Taylor and Tim Carter can return kicks, but they are not playing against the Chiefs. It will be interesting to see if the blocking on returns finally improves under new Special Teams Coordinator Mike Sweatman.

Covering kicks and punts is just as important. If David Tyree is going to stay on the roster, he needs to kick some butt in the preseason. Jack Brewer also came to the Giants with a special teams reputation (as did Jason Doering, who is hurt). The young defensive backs, linebackers, and wide receivers could really help their cause here.

Aug 032004

Roosevelt Brown, New York Giants (1957)

By Frank ‘Dog’ Piliere

Disclaimer: The following article is based on real events. Frank ‘Dog” Piliere created the dialogue.

Training camp started for the 2004 New York Football Giants. As they take the field it is evident these Giants are very different then last years. In addition to a new coaching staff, the Giants have replaced nearly half their roster. Sadly one Giant that fans will miss in Albany this year is Rosie Brown. The Giants’ Hall Of Fame Tackle passed away on June 9. Rosie Brown has been a regular attendee at Giants Training Camp since he was drafted in 1953. A family run organization, the New York Football Giants have traditionally strived to accept its players as if they were members of the family instead of football players or business associates. Rosie exemplified this notion as a participating member of the Giants family for over fifty years. He was a starting tackle from 1953 to 1965, an offensive line coach from 1966 to 1970 and worked in the scouting department from 1971 until his recent death in June.

Wellington Mara discovered Rosie while reading an article in a Pittsburgh newspaper. The article prompted the Giants to draft the 19 year old Rosie Brown in the twenty seventh round. Rosie was a starter his first season under head coach Steve Owen. Rosie’s second season the Giants replaced Steve Owen with Jim Lee Howell. Jim introduced specialization to the NFL by assigning Vince Lombardi the offense and Tom Landry the defense. This was the beginning of the offensive and defensive coordinator positions.

Lombardi was serving as an assistant coach at West Point when Wellington Mara selected him to join the Giants coaching staff. Lombardi struggled his first two seasons trying to learn football as it was played in the NFL. The fifties were an incredible time for professional football. Baseball, boxing, college football and horse racing were all much more popular then the NFL in the early fifties. In fact many fans viewed the players of the NFL as barbaric, uneducated ruffians who beat each other up every week in order to pay for their meals. The decade of the 50’s would change that perception. Vince Lombardi and Rosie Brown were key elements in these changes. Although college football was more popular, the NFL evolved much faster in terms of offensive and defensive strategies. Lombardi coming from the college ranks had a lot to learn. He had spent his career playing and coaching the Wing Formation, which dominated the college ranks. He was forced to quickly accept and learn the T-Formation, which was run in the NFL. Though Lombardi had much to learn he still had plenty to teach. He replaced man blocking by the offensive line and introduced zone blocking. In Zone Blocking the offensive line works as a unit. Instead of each lineman being assigned a particular man to block the entire line would work together to double team defensive linemen and improve their chance to prevent the linebackers from making a play. Zone blocking altered the manner in which the running backs maneuvered. Instead of running to a predetermined spot the running back would run to a hole created by the offensive linemen and the blocking patterns that evolved with each play. The expression ‘run to daylight’ was made famous by Lombardi. The game became more dynamic as one play could have several variations as it unfolded.

Lombardi wanted the running game to open up the passing game. He thought football was meant to be a running game and was obsessed with the wing formation. The Wing and Double Wing formations were the most popular formations when football began. The Wing incorporated seven linemen and four backs. The quarterback stood behind the guards, he was mostly a blocking back that would help the linemen double team a defense. The Wing back usually stood to the outside of the end at the same distance from the line of scrimmage as the quarterback. The full back stood further back from the quarterback usually behind a guard. The tail back was the star of the show. He would line up on center further back then the full back. He would receive the ball from the center and would then be able to run, pass or kick the ball. Passing the ball was difficult in the Wing formations because it was difficult for the ends to break away from the defenders as they lined up close to the tackles. In the Double Wing the quarterback would become the second wingback on the opposite side of the field as the first wingback. With the tight formation and lots of moving blockers it is easy to see why the wing was so useful to run the ball. Defenses learned to adjust by jamming the line of scrimmage and shutting down the wing’s effectiveness.

Lombardi diligently studied and recorded the various offenses being run in the NFL. He would write the plays on legal sized notepads for closer study. He designed his own offense in the same manner. Lombardi created plays that his players viewed as tricks or gimmicks. The plays could occasionally catch a defense off guard. The players were skeptical when Lombardi started talking about incorporating the Wing formation in the NFL. Lombardi’s first year with the Giants was difficult for him. He had trouble winning the player’s confidence. After his first season with the Giants he decided to leave. He went back to his old head coach at West Point and accepted an oral agreement to return to West Point for the 1955 season. Wellington Mara, the Giants owner, managed to coerce Lombardi to change his mind. There were many differences between the NFL players and Lombardi but because of Lombardi’s desire to succeed and his willingness to listen and compromise with his players they had come to trust and believe in each other.

When Lombardi worked a play out on paper he would test it by teaching it to his players. Lombardi was a detail-oriented teacher. He would repeatedly shout out each assignment to every player. The players knew many of Lombardi’s plays would not work in the NFL and they let Lombardi know. But Lombardi would not give up.

Rosie Brown was extremely athletic and powerful. He thrived in Lombardi’s offensive system. One day during Giants training camp in 1955, Rosie Brown sparked an event that would dominate the NFL for the next decade.

The Giants held their training camp at Willamette University in Salem Oregon. The climate was cooler then in the east. But Lombardi was still his heated self. “Do not stand still on my line of scrimmage. If you do not have a defender to block move your ass down field and find one. Now let’s line it up on three.” Conerly received the snap and turned to hand the ball to Gifford. Gifford took the ball in his midsection and sprinted toward his right; suddenly Rosie Brown appeared out of nowhere downfield and clobbered the safety. Vince Lombardi started screaming.

“Brown do you know where the hell you are? Damnit son wait for the ball to be snapped before you start moving around. Now give it to me again, on three this time, you hear that Brown on three.”

Conerly receives the snap, hands it off to Gifford. Gifford starts toward his right and Lombardi starts to go off again.

“Brown what the hell are you doing?” Once again Rosie Brown is down field.

Lombardi walks over to end Coach Ken Kavanaugh and line Coach Ed Kolman.
“Can you guys tell me what the hell Rosie is doing?” Lombardi asks.

Kavanaugh responds “Come on Vince he’s 20 years old he did a great job for us last year, I think you have him out of sorts with the zone blocking. He’ll get it just give him some reps. That’s all he needs.”

Once again the team tries the play and once again Rosie is down field taking out the safety. Vince starts screaming, “Give me the ball. Give me the damn ball!”

Lombardi was always loud and very excitable. Since he joined the Giants several players enjoyed pushing him over the edge just to get him screaming. Gifford recognized the moment as a perfect opportunity. He flipped the ball underhand towards Lombardi. Gifford threw it short with a lot of spin on it. Lombardi grabbed at the ball but it fell just out of his reach. The heavily spun ball bounced straight up as Lombardi was lunging forward and it hit Lombardi in his clipboard causing him to drop the clipboard. Lombardi violently tried to kick the moving ball only to have it bounce sharply to the right. as his leg missed the ball by a foot. Several players snickered and started to laugh. “Give me that damn ball!” Lombardi demanded. He finally had the ball. He stood beside Rosie Brown and instructed him to get in his stance. He then gets down beside him with the ball. “Now kid I don’t know if you are deaf or something but just in case you are I want you to watch the ball with your periphial vision. Don’t actually look at the ball but still see it. As soon as you see the ball move you move. Not a second before not a second after.” Lombardi stands up and tosses the ball over to the center. He shouts, “All right lets do it again on three. On three Rosie”

This time all coaches’ eyes were on Rosie Brown. The ball is snapped to Conerly who hands off to Gifford and before Gifford even moves Lombardi is yelling to stop the play. “You son of a bitch”, Vince is yelling at know one in particular. “I need a son of a bitch with a camera over here now.” Lombardi insisted on studying films. He was a pioneer for the NFL in film study as well as camera positioning. He insisted on having wide screen lenses to better see the entire field. This time he wanted a wide-angle shot of the play as well as a close up of Rosie Brown. Rosie you son of a bitch, Lombardi shouted out again flashing his big toothy grin as he starts to laugh out loud. “Do you see what is happening here?” he shouts into the clear Oregon air. Lombardi had them run the play several times to completion. He wanted the film to study. He wasn’t quite sure of the meaning but he did realize that Rosie Brown was not jumping off early. Rosie Brown was so fast that he was actually ahead of the defense. From these observations Lombardi was able to utlilize his tackle in much the same way as his wing backs thus making it possible to run the power sweep from the T-Formation. In 1955 mid way through the season the Giants offense started to stall. Jim Lee Howell requested some new ideas. Lombardi then introduced his version of the sweep to Howell.

This season Giants fans should pay close attention to the offensive line. The game is controlled on the line of scrimmage. Last season the Giants expectations were crushed when their offensive line collapsed with injuries. The next game you watch observe the coordinated efforts of the linemen while they maneuver as a unit to execute a play. Remember Hall of Famer Rosie Brown the Giants greatest tackle that ever played not only helped the Giants win the 1956 Championship and five division championships but he was monumental in the modern evolution of football. History is written by the victors. If the Giants defeated the Colts in the 58 championship and then Lombardi’s Green Bay Packers in 61 and 62 perhaps we would be calling one of the most famous plays in the NFL the ‘Giants Sweep’ or even the ‘Rosie Sweep’.

If you are a Giants fan and would like to be on the cutting edge of Giants news visit the next time you are online.

Aug 022004

New York Giants 2004 NFL Draft Review

Draft Pick Scouting Reports
Rookie Free Agent Scouting Reports
Eric’s Take on the 2004 Draft

Round Pick in Round Overall Selection Player Selected
1 1 1 QB Eli Manning, University of Mississippi
2 2 34 OG Chris Snee, Boston College
4 1 97 LB Reggie Torbor, University of Auburn
5 4 136 S Gibril Wilson, University of Tennessee
6 3 168 WR Jamaar Taylor, Texas A&M University
7 2 203 LT Drew Strojny, Duke University
7 52 253 DE Isaac Hilton, Hampton University

2004 Draft Pick Scouting Reports

1st Round – QB Eli Manning (6-5, 220lbs, 4.90, University of Mississippi)

Scouting Report:
As expected, the top of the draft was a strange, wild affair with the key characters being the San Diego Chargers and the New York Giants. San Diego milked their 15 minutes on the clock and then selected QB Eli Manning, who made it clear both before and after the selection that he did not want to play for the Chargers. After LT Robert Gallery was chosen by the Raiders and WR Larry Fitzgerald was chosen by Cardinals, the Giants picked QB Philip Rivers with the #4 selection. There was speculation on ESPN before all this happened that the Chargers and Giants would consummate a trade after each took the quarterback that the other team wanted. And that’s exactly what happened.

However, the Giants gave up a lot to do so. They traded to the Chargers next year’s first round draft pick, in addition to the third round pick in the 2004 draft and the fifth round pick in the 2005 draft. With two #1 picks invested in one player, Eli Manning will have a ton of pressure placed on his shoulders in a city infamous for putting a lot of pressure on athletes.

But enough of that for now. Let’s look at the player, Eli Manning. Manning was widely considered the best quarterback in the draft and was expected to be the #1 pick overall for months. He has “Franchise”-ability. By that we mean he is quite capable of being a perennial Pro Bowl quarterback who by his very skill leads his team to playoff contention year-in and year-out. Manning is capable of becoming one of the best quarterbacks in the league and a difference-maker.

Why? First of all, he has the tools. He is a big quarterback (6-5, 220lbs) with a strong arm. He can make all the throws, including the one that physically separates all quarterbacks – the deep out. While not a scrambler, Manning is a good athlete (4.90 40-yard dash) who moves around well inside the pocket, can buy time with his feet outside of the pocket, and throw well on the run. Eli is quick in his dropback, sets up quickly, and has a quick release. He is a very, very accurate quarterback, especially on short- to medium-range throws. Manning can both rifle the ball or throw with touch. Eli sells the play-action extremely well. His fundamentals are top notch, textbook really.

But what really makes him a likely impact player in the league is his head. He is a very smart and field-savvy player, like his brother Peyton. Eli is patient and does not fluster. Mistakes don’t bother him. Eli reads defenses very well before the snap of the ball and does an excellent job of quickly finding the open receiver. His field vision is outstanding. He makes good decisions. Mature for age and very intense. Eli truly lives and breathes football. And he is a very hard worker. This is what makes him so good.

Manning played on an undermanned University of Mississippi team in perhaps the toughest football conference in the country. By his very ability, he kept his team in contention in the SEC. In other words, he ELEVATED the performance of his entire team by his very presence.

The negatives? There really aren’t any other than the fact that he needs to add muscle. He also will have a ton of pressure placed on him in New York.

If Manning turns into the quarterback that most people expect, the only other quarterback who the Giants have had in their entire history (since 1925) who compares to him is Y.A. Tittle. Manning has the ability to one day become a League MVP. Will it happen right away? Of course not. He will be a rookie this year and all rookie quarterbacks struggle. However, because his fundamentals are so sound, because he reads defenses so well, and because he has been prepped for the NFL by his father and brother, he should be able to start and make an impact sooner than most.

The question is not will Eli be good? He will be. The question is how good will he be? If he doesn’t become a perennial Pro Bowler, the Giants overpaid. If he does become a perennial Pro Bowler and leads this team to a Super Bowl championship, the price will have been well worth it.

What Ernie Accorsi Had to Say: “I think he’s got a chance to be a great quarterback. What I saw in Manning was a classic prospect. (He has) size, arm, tremendous athletic ability, poise, class and probably more important than the obvious physical attributes that you have is the fact that he lifted his team. I thought this year in particular he made his teammates play better and that is an element that a lot of the top quarterbacks have.”

What Tom Coughlin Had to Say: “We’re excited. When you go through this process and do all the work and put the board together, and the number one player on the board is within striking distance for you as a franchise, you exercise every option that you can to try to see if that player could possibly be a New York Giant. This is a very special football player, obviously the pedigree is excellent. His performance in the workout was outstanding, his accuracy, he carried himself with a certain dignity and class. It was a very exciting thing to witness during a live workout. All the film had been studied, Ernie (Accorsi) told you about studying him as a junior and having a very good log of information and grades to back up the fact that he was the number one player on our board…I think he’ll be ready very shortly. There’s a learning curve, there’s a process that everyone has to go through, you’re going to pay the price. You can look at all the great quarterbacks along the line, everyone has a certain amount of adjustment to this league and that certainly would take place for any quarterback. Name the quarterback and you know the history of it. It’s not an easy league to just walk right into. But the talent, the ability, the pedigree, being able to perform under pressure, all those things are there.”

What Eli Manning Had to Say: “I think as an asset I love the game of football. I am very passionate about it. I work hard and am dedicated to getting better by watching film and I try and consider myself a smart football player…(In comparison with my brother, Peyton,)

I think we’re pretty similar quarterbacks. We’re pocket quarterbacks, we’re not going to scramble around too much. We try to be very knowledgeable about the game, know your offense, know good plays, study defenses and try to be as prepared as possible. Know what to do the ball when you’re in the pocket, we don’t like to hold it too long. Try to know what you’re doing, get it to the guy, get in the athletes hand, get it to the receivers and running backs and let them make plays.”

2nd Round – OG Chris Snee (6-3, 315lbs, 5.07, Boston College)

Scouting Report:
Talk about getting back to controlling the line of scrimmage. Giants’ fans will love this guy. Snee is a junior entry who would have likely been a first round pick if he had stayed in school one more year. Snee played right and left guard for Boston College. He was a starter since his freshman year. Snee is big, powerful, and tough. Very strong. A leader. Very good run blocker who gets movement at the point-of-attack. Very aggressive, but he needs to finish his blocks better. Athletic, Snee can pull and engage linebackers at the second level. Solid pass protector who anchors well. He is aware in picking up the blitz. Snee is technically sound and plays with a mean streak. Can dominate. Competitive. Hard worker. Has Pro Bowl potential.

What Ernie Accorsi Had to Say: “Chris Snee was the number one rated guard, and the number three offensive lineman, on our board. He was rated in the first round by our player personnel department. He was drafted as a good football player who has a chance to come in here and start…Chris Snee is by far the highest rated player at a need position; a critical position…He is just a tough, tough inside player with a very good athletic ability. He’s what we call an ‘I’ player, and an ‘I’ player has upside and a chance to really be good. He’s got that versatility of guard and center.”

What Tom Coughlin Had to Say: “Chris Snee was listed toward the bottom of our first round, and was the top of the position board at his position. There were three players right there and they were all of outstanding value because of where they were coming from and in Chris Snee what we end up with is another player who was the highest rated at his position, who can play Center in a pinch, who is an outstanding football player, a physical football player, a guy that will probably play at 320 and be athletic and be able to pull and do those kinds of things. And fits a need for us, obviously we have some needs on the offensive line and we need to establish again some ability and some depth. This is a pick which allows us to do that.”

4th Round – LB Reggie Torbor (6-2, 255lbs, 4.66, University of Auburn)

Scouting Report: Tobor was an undersized defensive end in college, but he will be converted to linebacker by the Giants. For a linebacker, Torbor has great size (6-2, 255lbs) and athleticism (4.66 40-yard dash). Excellent intangibles – Tobor is intense and hustles all of the time. Quick and strong. Good pass rusher with a variety of moves. Can rush both inside and outside the offensive tackle. His senior season, he led Auburn in tackles for loss (14), sacks (9.5), and quarterback pressures (17). Has some experience dropping coverage but he will need a lot of technique work and reps in that department. Showed well at the NFL Combine in the linebacker drills.

What Ernie Accorsi Had to Say: “Torbor, is listed on this as a defensive end, we drafted him as a linebacker. He played linebacker his first two years at Auburn, they put him down this year because he is such a good rusher. Until he adjusts to be a “sam” or a “will,” which either side he adjusts to. Right now he can line up as a pass rusher in a three point stance, because he can run and he’s got pretty good size, until he can adapt to being a linebacker again, he gives us that. So he is a real good prospect as an outside linebacker.”

What Tom Coughlin Had to Say: “Reggie Torbor, who had 10 ½ sacks this year and has played with his hand on the ground. He was worked out as a linebacker. He is a guy who will give us that straight ahead speed for good special teams play, also I think good flexibility on third down is potentially a guy who can be used as an athlete in the mix to create pressure as well as drop in the path.”

5th Round – S Gibril Wilson (6-0, 195lbs, 4.50, University of Tennessee)

Scouting Report: Junior college transfer who earned a starting berth as soon as he arrived at Tennessee. Improving player with a big upside. Wilson has only ordinary size for a safety, but he has the frame to add more muscle. Wilson is an athlete who runs in the 4.45-4.50 area. Faster than most safeties – he has good range. Instinctive and aggressive against the run. Normally tackles well, but needs to breakdown on a more consistent basis. Big hitter. At this point, Wilson is better against the run than the pass. Like most safety prospects, he lacks ideal agility in pass coverage. Not overly instinctive against the pass and needs to work on his pass coverage technique and recognition skills. Excellent work ethic and character. Team leader.

What Ernie Accorsi Had to Say: “Wilson, there were other safeties up there, but he was the fastest. And because of that, our big question with him is, “can he track the ball.” Because we can see him as a weak or strong safety. We were not looking for an “in the box,” “play close to the line of scrimmage” run defend only safety. That’s not what we were looking for. We were looking for someone that can do that but who also had the ability to play free safety and play centerfield. And because of his speed, we picked him. He also played “slot” corner for them, so he has that kind of athletic ability.”

What Tom Coughlin Had to Say: “I think that one thing, which is quite obvious, is that we gained – in a number of these picks on the second day – speed and special teams help. Wilson for example is a guy who has a legitimate 4.4 speed, a guy who has amassed a lot of tackles coming out of the safety position in the South East Conference, has excellent special teams ability. However you want to use him as a gunner, however you want to use him on coverage teams, I think that was a big factor.”

6th Round – WR Jamaar Taylor (6-1, 197lbs, 4.45, Texas A&M University)

Scouting Report: Taylor slipped in the draft because he tore an anterior cruciate ligament in his knee during the middle of his senior year. Has made a faster-than-expected recovery to perform for scouts before the draft. Productive receiver with good size and good speed. Has a burst and can get deep, but he is not really a consistent deep threat. Fluid athlete with good body control. Quick and agile. Needs route-running refinement – crisper and sharper cuts. Decent, but not great hands. Tough runner after the catch. Needs a lot of technique work, but he has an upside.

What Ernie Accorsi Had to Say: “Taylor was probably was probably the most intriguing pick for us, and the one that we sort of marked early on. I can’t predict what he was on other boards, but I feel pretty confident he was on other clubs boards where he was on ours, which was a high second round pick. He tore his ACL in October, which usually takes ten months to a year for a full recovery to be able to play. He worked out for us, and his agent told us that he would not change direction; he would just prove that he had a good repair, which he proved in our physicals in Indianapolis. He would just run for us at half speed, he actually ran a pretty good time; not as fast as he can but he also did “COD” (change of direction) work for us in our workouts. Ronnie (Barnes) feels that he had a great repair and it’s just a matter of waiting for him. He should be participating in training camp before we leave Albany. That’s someone we decided to pick who has a chance to be a much better than a sixth rounder. We were going to wait a little bit, but we started to get concerned when a couple of players in that category, injured players who were highly rated, starting to get picked by other clubs and then we decided we better pick him and not wait until the seventh round.”

What Tom Coughlin Had to Say: “Jamaar Taylor is an outstanding receiver who was injured – as you know – this year. (He) had the ACL surgery in October and he actually worked out, which was real interesting, and ran a 40 time. At this stage in his recovery he was not supposed to do any maneuvering, but he did give us straight ahead speed which was a very acceptable speed for a lot of people who are healthy. I would be excited about his continued progress and to be honest with you, the value of this young man in terms of how he was evaluated prior to the injury is substantial. He is very well thought of. We are counting on a full recovery and I think that he will be a guy that can push people out of there from the standpoint of a wide receiver. He will be a deep threat and also can give us special teams help.”

7th Round – LT Drew Strojny (6-7, 325lbs, 5.36, Duke University)

Scouting Report: Left tackle. Starter since his freshman year. Huge prospect who actually needs to add more muscle and has the frame to get even bigger. Needs to get stronger. Despite his size, he is not a mauling run blocker. Works to sustain, but does not get a lot of movement. Good athlete for his size. Can engage linebackers at the second level. Good footwork in pass protection. Sets up quickly. Not real strong in his anchor. Needs better pass blocking technique. Improving, but needs to be more aggressive. Will play hurt. Intelligent – rarely misses assignments. A team leader who works hard. Has an upside and could develop if he gets stronger.

What Ernie Accorsi Had to Say: “The Duke tackle, Strojny is just a big athletic left tackle with very good feet. He needs to get up here and get stronger, and he is very, very smart as you can expect; considering where he went to school.”

What Tom Coughlin Had to Say: “The big tackle from Duke – Strojny – good feet, big man, obviously (in a) very competitive league; we watched him against all the top people in the league and he faired very well. We are excited to have a big guy at that point of the draft who does have good athleticism.”

7th Round – DE Isaac Hilton (6-3, 265lbs, 4.57, Hampton University)

Scouting Report: An undersized defensive end who may project to linebacker, but he has the frame to carry more muscle mass and could stay at defensive end. Very productive player. Excellent athlete with superb speed and good quickness. Plays relatively stout at the point-of-attack against the run, but needs to play with leverage more consistently. Penetrates. Disruptive. Sometimes gets fooled by misdirection. Needs to locate the ball better. Could be tougher. Good pass rusher with a fine combination of power and athleticism. Can rush outside or inside the tackle. Can blow by the offensive tackle. Closes on the quarterback well. Very raw and will need a ton of technique work, especially if he is moved to linebacker, but Hilton has a huge upside.

What Ernie Accorsi Had to Say: “Isaac Hilton is a speed pass rusher. He can really give us pressure. The guys we picked today were athletes, and that was really our objective.”

What Tom Coughlin Had to Say: “Issac Hilton has in my opinion nothing but upsides. He is a big man who has progressively gained in weight each year, good speed off the edge and can give us some pass rush ability as well.”

Rookie Free Agent Signings

QB Jared Lorenzen (6-3, 288lbs, 5.20, University of Kentucky): Offered a contract by the Giants, Titans, Bills, and Bengals. Absolutely huge quarterback. Known as the “Hefty Lefty” due to his girth and being left-handed. Strong arm and has decent touch. Good field vision. Not overly accurate. Not very good at reading defenses – forces too many passes into coverage. Comfortable on the move, but not real mobile. Tough to sack and a tough runner when scrambling due to his size. Obviously needs to lose weight. Needs to improve his work habits. Played better as a junior, but part of the regression may have been due to a new offense and injury problems his senior season. Interesting prospect.

HB Chris Douglas (6-0, 200lbs, 4.55, Duke University): Douglas ranks first in Duke history in both career rushing yards (3,122) and all-purpose yards (5,655). As a senior in 2004, he picked up 1,138 yards on the ground en route to earning First Team All-ACC honors. In addition, Douglas became just the third player in ACC history to rush for 500+ yards and catch 20+ passes in four consecutive seasons. Quick and elusive back who does very well as a receiver out of the backfield. Not an instinctive runner and lacks power between the tackles. Needs a lot of work on his blocking. Smart and hard-working.

HB Derrick Knight (5-9, 205lbs, 4.70, Boston College): Knight was originally signed by the Carolina Panthers as a rookie free agent after the 2004 NFL Draft. At Boston College, Knight became the school’s all-time leading rusher with 3,725 yards. He averaged 5.3 yards a carry and scored 25 touchdowns. As a senior last year Knight led the Big East in rushing with 1,721 yards, an average of 132.4 yards a game. He also set a school record with 321 rushing attempts. The Panthers waived him in June and the Houston Texans claimed him off of waivers. The Texans then waived him in late July. Knight lacks size (5-9, 205lbs), but he is stocky and runs with a low center of gravity. Shifty and patient; reads blocks well. Runs with good pad level. Tough runner who breaks some tackles, but not very powerful. So-so receiver. Good at picking up the blitz.

HB Jermaine Green (5-10, 221lbs, 4.60, Washington State University): Big halfback who runs better between the tackles than outside. Runs with good pad level and is tough to tackle. Not very elusive, fast, or quick. Good receiver out of the backfield.

HB Keylon Kincade (5-11, 204lbs, 4.80, SMU): Extremely productive player on a terrible football team. Rushed for 1,280 yards as a senior and 1,279 yards as a junior. Lacks ideal size and speed, but plays bigger and faster than his measurables. Tough and durable. Has good vision. Instinctive. Runs with good pad level and body lean. Cuts back well and gains yards after contact. Powerful for his size. An between-the-tackles runner who struggles running to the outside. Does not catch the ball very well. Could develop into a solid, situational player as a short-yardage back.

FB Edgar Cervantes (6-1, 250lbs, 5.00, University of Iowa): Former linebacker who was switched to fullback in 2001. Still learning the position. Looks the part. Has excellent size. Very good blocker. Can catch the football. Decent short-yardage runner. Good special teams player. Has good intangibles – a competitor with a strong work ethic. Plays with a fiery attitude. Has an upside, but may take some time to develop.

WR Chris Davis (6-0, 182lbs, Southern University): Davis led the Southwestern Athletic Conference in 2003 in receptions (56) and receiving yards (897). He scored eight touchdowns and returned two kickoffs for 27 yards.

WR Andrae Thurman (5-11, 192lbs, 4.51, Southern Oregon University): Thurman caught 55 passes for 845 yards and 4 touchdowns his senior season after transferring from the University of Arizona (lost academic eligibility). Also returned 8 punts for 105 yards and 15 kicks for 330 yards and a touchdown. Thurman has average size and good speed. Quick. Runs good routes and sets up defenders well. Accelerates well out of his cuts. Has good hands. Runs well after the catch. Needs to work on his blocking. Played well at the Blue-Gray Game and Hula Bowl.

TE Beau Fullerton (6-2, 247lbs, 4.68, Tennessee Tech University): Teams interested in signing him included the Giants, Jets, and Eagles. Caught 17 passes for 279 yards and two touchdowns as a junior and 12 passes for 205 yards as a senior. Receiving-type tight end who lacks ideal size. Run well. Has good hands. Better athlete than player at this point. More of an H-Back, position-type blocker. Not strong blocking at the point-of-attack as an in-line blocker. Very raw.

OT/OG Greg Walker (6-5, 341lbs, 5.50, Clemson University): Walker started 26 consecutive games at Clemson, playing right tackle in 2003 and right guard as a junior in 2002. Last year, he was voted second-team All-ACC by the Associated Press. He was a reserve in each of his first two seasons after redshirting in 1999. Walker was not drafted this year and signed as a free agent with the Detroit Lions on April 30. The Lions released him on May 6 and the Giants signed him in early June.

DE Khaleed Vaughn (6-4, 276lbs, 5.01, Clemson University): Three-year starter with very good size for a defensive end. Credited with 50 tackles, 5 tackles for a loss, 2 sacks, 17 quarterback pressures as a senior, and 3 pass breakups as a senior. Has long arms. Good intangibles – smart, tough, and hard-working. A leader. Inconsistent motor. Not that athletic – not very quick or fast. Does not stand out as a run defender or pass rusher.

SLB Jim Maxwell (6-4, 242lbs, 4.55, Gardner-Webb University): Small school prospect with excellent size and speed. Maxwell was highly sought after by NFL teams after the draft. He received contract offers from the Giants, Lions, Falcons, Redskins, Seahawks, Titants, Ravens, Dolphins, Jets, and Eagles. Maxwell had his best year as a senior, registering 116 total tackles (70 solo), 15 tackles for loss, 10 pass break-ups, 16 quarterback pressures, and three forced fumbles. He was named first-team “All-Big South” and was also selected Division I-AA first-team All-East Region by The Football Gazette.

MLB Lewis Moore (6-1, 247lbs, 4.80, University of Pittsburgh): Has experience at both strongside and middle linebacker. Started at middle linebacker his senior season and registered 137 tackles, 10 tackles for a loss, 4.5 sacks, and 1 interception. Good intangibles – tough, competitive, and instinctive. Solid character and plays hard. Good run defender who plays well at the point-of-attack. Sheds blockers well. Has good lateral quickness and is a good tackler. Lacks ideal athleticism, which hurts him in pass coverage. Not overly agile or quick. Stiff in the hips and lacks ideal range. Plays better in close quarters than he does in space.

MLB Robert Peace (6-2, 237lbs, 4.60, University of Tennessee): Peace’s development has been slowed by a broken foot suffered in 2002. Good run defender. He has good size and speed for a linebacker, but he needs a lot of technique work – especially in coverage. Peace started all 13 games as a senior and was named second-team All-SEC after posting a career-high 103 tackles (72 solo), two sacks and 12 tackles for losses. His career totals were 162 tackles (110 solo), three sacks and 19 tackles for losses.

WLB T.J. Hollowell (6-0, 235lbs, 4.55, University of Nebraska): Lacks ideal height, but he is an athlete who has good speed and range. Can get engulfed at the point-of-attack by big blockers. Makes plays in space and can cover backs. Good tackler. Good intangibles – good motor and work ethic. Has special teams experience. Has been somewhat injury-prone with numerous ankle and shoulder injuries.

WLB Levi Madarieta (6-3, 241lbs, 4.80, BYU): Madarieta began his career at the University of Washington before transferring to BYU, where he played for three seasons. In 32 games, he had 117 tackles (61 solo), two sacks, and five interceptions.

CB Dewitt Ellerbe (6-0, 190lbs, South Carolina State University): Ellerbe was a fourth-year starter at South Carolina State. As a senior he had 50 tackles (37 solo) and two interceptions for 78 yards. Ellerbee also blocked a field goal attempt and a punt.

CB Charles Jones (5-10, 182lbs, 4.50, University of Alabama): Jones started every game for Alabama the last two seasons. As a senior, he had a career-high 91 tackles, four interceptions, and two forced fumbles. Jones had 15 tackles against Tennessee.

CB/S Jamaine Winborne (5-10, 204lbs, 4.55, University of Virginia): Winborne started the final 27 games of his career and 33 overall for the Cavaliers, finishing with 168 tackles (127 solo), five interceptions, 12 tackles for losses, and two sacks. As a senior in 2003, he was an honorable mention All-ACC selection after starting seven games at cornerback and six at safety. Winborne had a career-high 69 tackles (51 solo), two interceptions, eight tackles for losses, and two sacks.

CB/FS/Punt Returner Curtis DeLoatch (6-2, 217lbs, 4.48, North Carolina A&T University): Has experience at both cornerback and free safety, but most likely projects to safety at the pro level. Excellent size and athletic ability. Lacks quickness and agility to play corner. Not very instinctive in coverage. Not a good tackler or hitter in run support. Needs to become tougher and more physical. Excellent punt returner with some experience returning kick-offs. Returned five punts for touchdowns in 2001. In 2003, he returned 28 punts for 269 yards (9.6 yard average).

P Mark Gould (6-2, 214lbs, Northern Arizona University): Gould received offers from the Giants and Dolphins. Gould averaged 44.8 yards a punt in his career, the best mark in Division 1-AA history. His 48.2-yard average as a junior in 2002 was also a division record. In the last two years, 71 of Gould’s 123 kickoffs (57.7 percent) were touchbacks.

Eric’s Take on the 2004 Draft

As always occurs when a pro sports team makes a dramatic decision such as when the Giants spent two 1st rounders on QB Eli Manning, controversy ensues. Most “experts” and fans contend the Giants paid too step a price for Manning. But before we get into all of that, I do have one serious bone of contention to pick. This issue has dominated sports talk for days, yet no one seems to focusing at all on the fact that the Ravens gave up a future 1st rounder for QB Kyle Boller and the Bills gave up a future 1st rounder on QB J.P. Losman. And yet those two quarterbacks are far less-talented prospects than Manning. Does this make sense to anyone? I guess the media just loves to bash the Giants.

This was a risky trade for the Giants. They gave up two 1st rounders, a 3rd rounder, and a 5th rounder for Manning – that’s four picks right there. Plus, the Giants had a deal in place with Cleveland where they could have traded down to the seventh spot and picked up another 2nd rounder. That’s five picks, including two 1st rounders and a 2nd rounder.

With the seventh pick in the 1st round, the Giants would have drafted QB Ben Roethlisberger. The big question is this: will Manning be a dramatically better quarterback in the NFL than Roethlisberger? Only time will tell. If they are comparable, then the Giants obviously made a big mistake. If Manning turns out to be an elite quarterback, the Giants made the right move.

Some fans argue that the Giants could have picked Rivers at the seventh spot, made the same deal with the Chargers, and had that extra 2nd rounder. However, the problem with that scenario is that each team is allocated a rookie salary cap based on where their picks fall, especially in the 1st round. If the Giants took Rivers at the seventh spot and then traded him to the Chargers, the Giants would have been forced to try to sign Eli with the money a player picked at the seventh spot receives. General Manager Ernie Accorsi also said he did not want to take a risk that another team would make a deal with the Chargers before the seventh pick. Accorsi felt that whoever drafted Rivers was going to have the most important playing card in obtaining Manning because it was Rivers who the Chargers wanted most of all and everyone knew that. There was a fear on Accorsi’s part that Cleveland would use the #4 pick to obtain Manning themselves. Now you can argue about the latter point, but the former one regarding the economics of the selection process are pretty much set in stone.

Who blinked first on this trade? In addition to swapping the 1st round picks, the Giants offered the 3rd rounder in 2004, the 2nd rounder in 2005, and a player. The Chargers asked for the 2nd and 3rd rounders in 2004 plus DE Osi Umenyiora, who was a 2nd rounder in 2003. The Giants managed to hold onto the 2004 2nd rounder and Umenyiora, but they threw in the 1st and 5th rounders in 2005.

Confused? In effect, the Giants could have given San Diego the 2nd rounder in this draft plus Umenyiora instead of the 1st and 5th rounders in 2005. Obviously, the Giants felt the 2nd rounder in this draft was an extremely valuable commodity. And they certainly did not want to part with Umenyiora. But losing the 1st rounder was a steep price to pay.

Was it still too much? Should Accorsi have held his ground and insisted the 2nd rounder but not the 1st rounder in 2005 be included? Would the deal have fallen apart or were the Chargers bluffing? How good will Manning really be? I can’t answer those questions.

But one thing is 100 percent clear. This was not just an Accorsi pick. It is readily apparent that Tom Coughlin was as enamored with Manning as Accorsi, if not more so. All you have to do is listen to Coughlin talk about Manning. It also says a lot about what Coughlin felt about QB Kerry Collins. If you blast Accorsi for this trade, you have to blast Coughlin as well. Coughlin signed off on the cost of trading up and felt that it was worth it.

Now let’s get to Manning the prospect. I am going to let you in on a little secret. While some scouts think he won’t be quite as good as his brother Peyton, there are some that actually think he will be better. The two quarterbacks are practically clones of each other. Eli has a little stronger arm and is more willing to take chances and throw the football down the field. Eli has good tools, but like his brother, it is his head that really sets him apart. He doesn’t get flustered. Pre-snap, he reads defenses well and will make the correct audibles. And Eli sees the whole field. These attributes allow him and his team to beat the blitz or whatever else the defensive coordinator may throw in his direction. Obviously, college defenses are not NFL defenses, but these cerebral skills should translate to the NFL.

It will be fun to watch Head Coach Tom Coughlin, Offensive Coordinator John Hufnagel (a former quarterbacks coach), and Quarterbacks Coach Kevin Gilbride develop Manning. He will have very good teachers. The big unknown is how well will Eli deal with the pressure of being a high-priced quarterback in New York City? Will he just be good, or will he be an elite quarterback? How soon will he be able to produce at a high level? Should the Giants get him onto the field immediately, or should they groom him a bit from the bench? Stay tuned.

Let’s move on to the rest of the draft.

Another issue that is pissing me off with the media is the assertion that the Giants’ offensive line is still in a state of chaos. Nothing irritates me more than the statement that Luke Petitgout is best suited for right tackle. The fact is that Luke Petitgout played his best season in the pros in 2002 as a left tackle. Last year, he struggled with a back injury that eventually cost him most of the season. He’s back now. The other top offensive lineman on the Giants, Rich Seubert, is ahead of schedule on his rehab. If both of these guys stay healthy, the left side of the Giants’ offensive line is a real strength. I have been told that the new coaches love David Diehl as much as the old coaches. Plus, both coaching staffs seem to think that his final destination may be right tackle. That will be determined in camp. The Giants added Shaun O’Hara at center and Barry Stokes as a tackle/guard swingman. O’Hara was displaced in Cleveland by a #1 draft pick. Stokes was forced to play left tackle for the Browns in 2003, but proved in earlier seasons that he is a decent guard. He also can play right tackle. Depth? Wayne Lucier looks like a player at center/guard and the Giants added another veteran in Ed Ellis at tackle.

Then there is Chris Snee. When talking about Manning, those looking at the draft say the Giants ignored the offensive line. What?!? I had Snee as the third best offensive lineman in the entire draft behind Robert Gallery and Vernon Carey. He is a big, tough, powerful guard in the Alan Faneca mold. He has Pro Bowl potential. “This guy is a darn good player,” said a general manager from another team. “In a lot of years, he would have been taken in the first round. He’s a bargain where they got him.” So to say that the Giants ignore the offensive line is beyond incompetence. Last year’s starting offensive included Ian Allen, Jeff Roehl, Wayne Lucier, David Diehl, and Chris Bober. This year’s offensive line will likely be Luke Petitgout, Rich Seubert (or Stokes), Shaun O’Hara, Chris Snee (or Stokes), and David Diehl (or Stokes or some yet-to-be signed veteran). See the difference? Morons!

(On a side note, the other player the Giants were very interested in drafting in the 2nd round was LB Carlos Dansby. Both Accorsi and Coughlin said as much in recent radio interviews. I am glad they took Snee because I personally consider him the far superior player. Dansby isn’t physical enough in my opinion.)

The Giants also added LT Drew Strojny in the seventh round. He’s a project. He needs a ton of work in the weight room and he has to become more aggressive on the field. But he is huge and he has good feet for the position. It will be a matter of time and attitude for him, but keep in mind, he’s a 7th rounder.

The other offensive player (four of the seven picks were on offense) is WR Jamaar Taylor, a guy who the Giants had rated as a second rounder before he tore his ACL in October. The ACL is apparently healing very nicely and Taylor is already running (as evidenced by his sub-4.5 40-yard dash time recently). Another NFC general manager told Jay Glazer the following about Taylor, “He has a knee injury that will probably make him iffy for camp, but he has a heck of an upside. We had him rated as a second-round talent. They may have to sit on him for a year, but that was a great value at that spot. Based just on talent, he’s a terrific prospect.”

Some have asked why another wide receiver? Because the Giants have Amani Toomer and a bunch of question marks. Ike Hilliard and Tim Carter can’t stay healthy. And no one really knows all that much about Willie Ponder or David Tyree.

Let’s look at the three defensive guys. I’m kicking myself because I came very close to putting LB Reggie Torbor on my draft preview. Each year, I look at the defensive ends who I think may project to linebacker. I had Torbor circled, but for some reason I didn’t put him in my write-up. Contrary to what most are saying, I don’t think the Giants see Torbor as strictly a 3-4 situational linebacker. I am pretty darn sure they see him as an eventual starter at linebacker in a 4-3 defense. He probably will replace Carlos Emmons or Barrett Green one day. Torbor is huge, physical, athletic, and he can rush the passer. The big question for him is how well will he be able to play in reverse when dropping into pass coverage? The good news is that he did very well in the linebacker agility drills at the NFL Combine. Accorsi said that one of the teams that called the Giants trying to trade up for their 4th round pick were trying to do so in order to take Torbor. The Ravens said Torbor was the highest rated player on their board after the first day.

Safety Gibril Wilson is the guy I really have the least amount of info on. And I am always misjudging safeties. Heck, I thought Adrian White and Greg Lasker were terrific picks. The Giants seem to like Wilson because he is physical and he can run. Most draft reports say he is a good run defender, but that he struggles a bit in coverage despite his athleticism. The Giants themselves haven’t really said yet whether they will first work him out at free or strong safety.

The only reason DE Isaac Hilton fell until late in the 7th round was off-the-field concerns. In terms of talent, some teams had him rated as a third or fourth rounder. He was the fastest defensive end in the draft and shows a lot of pass rush potential. If he can keep his screwed on straight, the Giants really got a steal because Hilton has tremendous ability.

So to summarize, I really like most of the selections. Manning was clearly the best quarterback in the draft and I feel strongly that Snee was the best guard in the draft. Torbor has the size, attitude, and production you look for in a linebacker and the agility drills seem to suggest he could handle the transition. Taylor and Hilton fell farther than they should have and were very good value picks. Strojny is a good gamble for a 7th rounder. Wilson is the guy who I am most unsure of. My biggest concern? Giving up that #1 pick in 2005. What if the Giants, as most people expect, finish last in the NFC East next year? That pick could be a very high selection.

Final point on Manning: I am sick to death of the national media, non-Giant players on the NFL Network, and non-Giant fans knocking the Giants for this pick. The competitive side in me wants nothing more than for Manning and the rest of the Giants to beat up on the rest of the league this Fall and rub their faces in it. I am ready to start football right now. And I’m angry about it.

As for the rookie free agents, it is interest to note that the Giants signed five linebackers and no offensive linemen. Competition for the back-up spots at linebacker is going to be fierce. Both middle linebackers are interesting prospects and Jim Maxwell was pursued by 10 NFL teams after the draft. Edgar Cervantes will compete with Jim Finn for the fullback position and Jared Lorenzen has a real shot to be the #3 quarterback. WR Andrae Thurman has talent and one of the two halfbacks could bump someone off of the roster. Chris Jones is a direct threat to Delvin Joyce and Jermaine Greene is a tough inside runner. Punter Mark Gould has an NFL-caliber leg and has experience kicking off.