Sep 052004
Baltimore Ravens 27 – New York Giants 17

Game Overview: As usual, I watched this game twice. The first time watching as an emotionally-involved fan. The second watching as each play separately in order to write my weekly game review. My reactions to each viewing were different.

In the former case, I was pissed. After starting the game pretty well, the life seemed to go out of the team after Kurt Warner’s interception was returned for a touchdown. What kind of mental toughness was that, I asked myself? The team makes one mistake – albeit a big one – and it calls it a day? That doesn’t bode well for the 2004 season. It reeks too much of the 2003 team that was simply looking for an excuse to give up. I also thought the Giants did not match the passion and intensity of the Ravens. And worse, the Ravens are a far more physical football team. Though I doubt they are apt to admit it, the Giants are more finesse now than power. I would assume Coughlin will look to change that identity over the course of the new few years, but it will take time to bring in new football players though the draft and free agency.

In the latter case, after watching the tape, I began to notice that many of the breakdowns in the game against the Ravens came in situations when the Giants had reserve players mixed in with the starters in situations where I think Head Coach Tom Coughlin was looking to test the ability of these specific players to perform under pressure. In other words, Coughlin was not so much looking to use personnel and plays that were more likely to be successful as he was evaluating talent. For example:

On the 4th-and-4 play in the second quarter, the Giants had QB Kurt Warner and the regular starting offensive line in the game. However, Kurt’s immediate reads were to his left where his receivers were Ataveus Cash and Avion Black – not Amani Toomer, Ike Hilliard, Tim Carter, or Jamaar Taylor. Cash and Black could not get open and a sack resulted. But obviously Cash and Black wouldn’t be put in this situation in the regular season.

I firmly believe the play-calling was used to evaluate talent, not win the game. Coughlin admitted in the post-game press conference that he basically advertised that the Giants were going to run up the middle on the 3rd-and-1 because he wanted to see if the Giants’ personnel could do it when everyone knew it was coming. I also think Coughlin ran a draw play on 3rd-and-10 from the Baltimore 29 just so he could see PK Todd France kick a long field goal again. And the Giants kept trying to run wide running plays against a defense known for its aggressive pursuit.

What else? The Ravens were obviously going after CB Curtis Deloatch on a couple of drives, but the Giants didn’t rotate their coverage to help him out. They wanted to get a good read on him. The aggressive defensive calls that we saw in the game against the Jets were dramatically scaled back again (though there was some blitzing). And a lot of key starters came out of the game in the second quarter.

So after watching the tape, I wasn’t as angry. I am still concerned about this team. I don’t think the cohesion is there yet. Some of that is due to the fact that almost everything and everyone is new to each other. Nagging injuries to key players throughout camp have not helped either. I don’t think this is a very physical football team, and that really shows up in the running game on offense. The offensive line still has a lot of maturing to do. Kurt Warner still is not in sync with his receivers. TE Jeremy Shockey is injury-prone. The defense still has a problem creating turnovers. The front seven is so different personnel-wise that – like the offensive line – cohesion has to be a problem. And who are the leaders of this football team?

I wouldn’t count this team out. But honestly, I have no clue what to expect.

Quarterbacks: Kurt Warner’s biggest problems are his turnovers. He has thrown two interceptions this preseason and both have been returned for touchdowns. It’s not a good sign that both came on out passes. If a quarterback can’t rifle the out, defenses will be able to tighten coverage over the middle of the defense. Warner also has demonstrated a propensity to fumble the ball on contact (though this didn’t happen against the Ravens). Shockingly, for a guy who has completed over 70 percent of his passes this preseason (demonstrating excellent accuracy), he has yet to throw a touchdown pass.

After Eli Manning let the ball slip out of his hand for a fumble, I started to worry that his poor play against the Jets would carry over to this game. Fortunately, Manning played much better in the second half with some quality passes, including three passes to WR Jamaar Taylor that showed off his arm. Other than the fumble, his biggest negative was throwing a very inaccurate pass to Ataveus Cash over the middle on a play where he had Tim Carter wide open for what should have been an easy touchdown.

Jesse Palmer proved me wrong this preseason. He has been consistently solid and sometimes spectacular. He made two big time throws on the Giants’ last scoring drive of the night – a beautiful touch pass to Cash over the middle and a deep strike to Taylor for the touchdown. Strangely, Palmer reverted to his old form on the Giants’ very last drive of the game. Jesse was terribly inaccurate, missing wide open receivers repeatedly in a situation where he could have cut the score to 27-24.

Running Backs: I’m starting to fall off the Ron Dayne bandwagon again as I saw some regression from him against the Ravens. He did not attack the hole quickly on runs up the gut, rather I saw him slow down and stutter-step some. That’s not going to work in the NFL. I want a running back who can make yardage when not every play is blocked perfectly.

I wish Coughlin had run Dayne more this preseason with the second teamers. I don’t think he got enough work.

Tiki Barber improved his blitz pick-ups this week, but he still gave up a pass pressure (on Warner’s interception).

Chris Douglas made a spectacular run for a touchdown, but I am not sure he is talented enough to make this team. He’s not very big or powerful. And while he has above-average speed and elusiveness, he doesn’t really stand out there either.

Wide Receivers: One of those typical games for Tim Carter…flashing the tremendous ability by blowing by CB Chris McAlister for 49 yards, but then coming up with two key drops (granted the last one started off being a superb catch on 4th down where the impact with the ground knocked the ball loose). He sticks simply because if it all comes together for him, he can make plays down the field for the Giants.

But the guy who will be pressing him this year and may eventually unseat Ike Hilliard in 2005 is Jamaar Taylor. BBI‘ers raved about him in their training camp reports and in this game you could see why. He’s the entire package. Taylor is big, fast, quick, and has good hands. Just as importantly, he plays with confidence. This guy isn’t another Thomas Lewis, Ron Dixon, or Bryan Alford. Let’s just hope his hamstring injury isn’t too bad. He was nothing short of spectacular against the Ravens, who had trouble with his speed deep, and his size and quickness on shorter routes. Want more good stuff? He’s a very aggressive run blocker.

Ataveus Cash is a guy who I hope the Giants can manage to keep around. His missed block on a linebacker led to a loss on a 3rd down running play that probably would have picked up a first down, but I saw a number of other plays where Cash took out the linebacker effectively (yes, a linebacker). He’s big for a receiver and an aggressive blocker. Cash also has good hands and good athleticism in the receiving game.

Amani Toomer did not run a great route on the out pattern that was intercepted. He rounded off his cut, giving McAlister the opportunity to react quicker to the play.

Tight Ends: Nothing new to report here. My biggest worry is when the hell is Shockey going to get back on the field? And when he does, will he stay on it? Visanthe Shiancoe is clearly the second best tight end on this team. I’m hearing whispers that Marcellus Rivers may not be safe. He didn’t help himself by taking away a 1st down on 3rd-and-1 with an illegal shift penalty, and then on the very next play getting called for offensive pass interference.

Offensive Line: The good news is that this unit very much improved its pass blocking against a very good defense. The Giants gave up three sacks. But two were coverage sacks and the other occurred when Manning let the ball slip out of his hand. The bad news is that this line still struggles running the ball against very physical defenses. I saw some fight in guys such as David Diehl and Chris Snee, but I got the sense that the Ravens never really felt threatened by the Giants’ running game as they could dictate to the offensive line. This has been a problem for the Giants for years against these types of defenses (which fortunately are few in the NFL – the Ravens are so game good because they are physical AND quick).

Diehl and Snee continue to grow and are going to form a real solid right-side for the Giants. I like how Diehl didn’t back down from Ray Lewis after one run. Snee, as I have said before, is just my kind of lineman. He doesn’t just look to block you, but hurt you as well.

I didn’t think Wayne Lucier played as well at left guard this week. He gave up a pass pressure and got shoved back on one running play. Unfortunately, it was a mixed bag for his competition as well. Whittle played three snaps, but got beat cleanly on one block. Solomon Page looks the part. He’s a really big lineman who can control his man (and did so easily on a number of plays). However, he lumbered when he pulled and there was one strange play where he got shoved way into the backfield on a running play. He also gave up one pressure.

Luke Petitgout stepped up his game this week.

I was fairly pleased for the second string offensive line (LT Ian Allen, LG Solomon Page, OC Omar Smith, RG Greg Walker, RT Brandon Winey). I still don’t think Allen and Smith will be on the roster long, and I wonder if Walker is Practice Squad-bound. But this group did a good job in the second half of the game. Winey, like Page, had a strange game in that there were times when he was very sound and had one feeling really good about him, but then would have just enough slip ups to wonder. Winey is pretty good at protecting the outside against the rush, but he sometimes gets beat to the inside. There are times when he gets good run blocks, but other times when he gets over-powered. Still, I feel a lot better with Winey and Page on the roster. I still see the potential in Walker. He has his breakdowns occasionally in pass protection, but I think there is something to work with.

Defensive Line: The starting defensive line did fine, with DE Michael Strahan really sticking out in both his run defense and pass rushing. The one thing that sometimes makes the defensive line vulnerable to the run is the one-gap system. Often times the defensive line, including the two big guys in the middle (Norman Hand and Fred Robbins) are being called upon to shoot gaps in a certain direction. So, for example, if Hand and Robbins shoot to their right and the running play goes in the opposite direction, there may be a natural gap (i.e., running lane) for the back. That is the reason that every now and then you see a larger positive run. It’s a bit strange to me in the sense that Hand and Norman come across as more natural two-gap players.

Of the reserves, the guy who really stood out was DT William Joseph. Joseph was a big factor both in defending the run and rushing the passer. He was very quick at the snap of the ball, regularly defeated double-team blocks, and his penetration created a lot of havoc for the Ravens. The Ravens had to resort to holding him on a couple of plays (of course it wasn’t called). I also thought reserves Mario Monds, Lance Legree, and Khaleed Vaughn all had strong games. The Giants have a tough decision to make here in terms of the roster. Vaughn played the run pretty darn well and flashed as a pass rusher. Legree looks quicker to me. Monds is a big plugger who really plays hard.

Linebackers: I can’t imagine that Kevin Lewis starts the season. Nick Greisen has dramatically out-played him the past two games. Greisen’s pursuit on outside runs has been very impressive, and he has done fairly well (not great) at the point-of-attack. I still wonder about him in coverage as I don’t know if the opposition has really tested him there.

Barrett Green has not been as impressive as I had hoped. He’s been getting blocked on his blitzes and the opposition has completed some passes against him in coverage. We’ll see if his game picks up once the bullets start to really fly. Green is fast and will hit you.

Carlos Emmons is a big, physical presence who seems to instinctively know where the play is going. He’s not spectacular, but he is very steady.

Wes Mallard was very quiet this week. Quincy Monk still has problems getting off blocks and that is not good for him given that he is a run-first-type of player. Reggie Torbor just has the look of a guy who is going to be a good player for a long time. He still is struggling a bit in coverage, but he can rush the passer, hit and tackle, and he plays with some nastiness. Again, I hope the Giants put T.J. Hollowell on the Practice Squad as I think he is an athlete who plays with some passion.

Defensive Backs: Will Allen did not play, but Will Peterson was very solid. What I like about him is his physical style. He’ll hit you.

CB Terry Cousin had a rough game. He got beat pretty cleanly on a deep pass that picked up 34 yards. He also missed a tackle on a blitz that led to a 35-yard gain on the same drive.

CB Frank Walker got beat on a short touchdown toss and got beat on a slant late in the 3rd quarter. But what really bothered me more his embarrassingly girlish attempted tackle of the halfback near the goal line in the 2nd quarter. Walker had a clear shot at the back, but just waved at him. This is the type of shitty run defense from Walker that angered me so much last season.

I still am not sure what to make of Curtis Deloatch. He’s an athlete with very good size (great size-speed combination) and he plays the deep pass well. However, Deloatch has been getting beat on plays in front of him. And the Ravens went after him quite a bit in this game. On the plus side, he had great coverage on one deep pass that fell incomplete and other that was completed. However, he got beat on a few shorter throws, missed a tackle, and got fooled on a play-action rollout.

Jamaine Winborne didn’t have a strong game. He missed a tackle and played about a mile off of his man in coverage.

Jack Brewer is an aggressive safety, but he got beat on a 3rd-and-5 play over the middle. Jason Doering made a real sure, strong tackle on pass to the back out of the backfield.

Special Teams: I think there are too many question marks about Todd France to keep him. France is not a good kick-off guy. His kick-offs are either too short or lack hangtime. And if you are going to be a poor kick-off guy, you had better be a damn good field goal kicker. I think Coughlin deliberately wanted to test him by calling that draw play on 3rd down and France failed miserably with a terrible effort from 44 yards out.

The kick return game was tough to get a good read on because the Ravens kept squibbing their kickoffs for some reason. Willie Ponder was not impressive. He had returns of 22 and 13 yards. On the later, not only did he muff the return, but he received his concussion. Avion Black returned one kickoff 32 yards, but Lance Legree was flagged with holding on the play. Greg Walker for some reason tried to field a squib kick and that was muffed. Black returned another squib 17 yards to the 39-yard line, and another 10 yards to the 27-yard line.

Punt returns were uninspiring. Curtis Deloatch muffed his first return. His other return went for five yards. Avion Black didn’t return a punt (one fair catch). There was one bad long snap too (I couldn’t tell if it was Ryan Kuehl or Carson Dach).

Kickoff coverage was hampered by continued poor kickoffs, but it wasn’t real strong either on its own. Baltimore returns went for 16 (David Tyree on the tackle), 26 (Charles Stackhouse), 30 (Jason Doering), and 19 (Curtis Deloatch).

Punt return coverage was OK. However, on the first punt by Feagles, the Giant gunners could not get down the field in time to keep the ball from bouncing into the endzone (they really got hung up on the play). The Baltimore returns went for 2 yards (Reggie Torbor and Nick Greisen on the tackle), downed, 14 yards (Deloatch), and fair catch.

(Box Score – Baltimore Ravens at New York Giants, September 2, 2004)
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Eric Kennedy

Eric Kennedy is Editor-in-Chief of, a publication of Big Blue Interactive, LLC. Follow @BigBlueInteract on Twitter.

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