Aug 142006
 
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New York Giants 17 – Baltimore Ravens 16

Game Overview: Look, I’m the first guy to say not to read too much into the first preseason game. Hell, I did so in my game preview for this very game. But there a few things that were disconcerting to see for a team with Super Bowl aspirations. The most obvious is that the Ravens’ first-team offense really outplayed the Giants’ first-team defense and the Ravens’ first-team defense really outplayed the Giants’ first-team offense. What was troublesome was the fact that the Ravens were clearly the more physical, aggressive, and tough team. The best indication of that was their ability to run the football and defend the run, while the Giants had problems running the football and defending the run. Head Coach Tom Coughlin said it best after the game.

“We have plenty of things to work on, we have all kinds of things to improve,” Coughlin said. “I would say, right off the top of my head, stop the run and rush the ball, which we didn’t do very well tonight at all…Well, we have a lot of work to do, let’s face it. I think we can do a better job of just flat-out getting after it, being more aggressive…I think we were soft up front, to be honest with you.”

Ouch! You never want to be considered a “soft” team, even in a meaningless preseason game. That is what was most bothersome.

Quarterbacks: Eli Manning (4-of-7 for 74 yards, 0 touchdowns, 0 interceptions) did alright. He looked comfortable passing on the move, even to his left. And most importantly, he didn’t force the football against a very tough defensive football team. His biggest negative was taking a delay-of-game penalty on the second drive that helped to cause a three-and-out possession. Manning and the offense never really got into sync until the Ravens’ starters on defense came out of the game on the Giants’ third and last possession for their offensive starters. Manning hit WR Amani Toomer for 13 and then threw deep to WR Plaxico Burress for 43-yards on the very next play. Had this deep pass been thrown more to the inside, a 67-yard touchdown would have been the result. As it was, the Giants were fortunate that the 43-yard completion was not ruled out-of-bounds. Two plays later, Manning found WR Tim Carter for 13 yards. His best play of the night may have been his non-completion to Burress on 3rd-and-9 from the Ravens’ 10-yard line. The offensive line failed to pick up a blitzing linebacker and Manning was forced to throw quickly off his back foot. Despite that, he got off a surprisingly accurate toss to Burress, who was mauled by the corner, causing a pass interference penalty in the end zone. This set up a game-tying touchdown run.

Although Tim Hasselbeck (7-of-13 for 79 yards, 0 touchdowns, 0 interceptions) actually played pretty well on his first drive in the second quarter, I was left with the distinct impression that he has a very weak arm that would never threaten a legitimate NFL defense. He looks like he will always struggle throwing any kind of intermediate to deep sideline pattern or anything farther than 15-20 yards down the field. To his credit, with no running game, he put together a decent drive by first doing a great job of getting off a screen pass despite being under heavy pressure with a shovel pass-like toss. That play looked dead in the water but ended up picking up 25 yards. Then he threw a wonderfully accurate pass for a 9-yard completion on 3rd-and-9 despite being under heavy pressure. Passes of 16, 7, and 7 got the Giants into field goal range, but Jay Feely missed the kick.

In the third quarter, the Giants went three-and-out on their first possession as a second/third-team offensive line could not protect Hasselbeck at all. An inability to run the football and shoddy pass pro hurt him on his next two possessions as well. Both of his third-down passes were completed, but short of the first down marker. Again, Hasselbeck wasn’t bad and didn’t make any major mistakes. However, his lack of arm strength is a major cause for concern. It really limits his game.

Jared Lorenzen (4-of-8 for 34 yards, 0 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, 1 fumble) came into the game late in the fourth quarter. He threw a pretty accurate deep strike on his first pass – the kind of throw Hasselbeck could only dream about – but the receiver could not come down with the ball. Two plays later, however, Lorenzen made a bonehead play by trying to fight through a sack and get off a shovel pass – instead he fumbled the ball away. Lorenzen continued to demonstrate a very strong arm in his two final series. His problem was he was sometimes inaccurate – throwing one quick toss into the turf and missing the mark on a couple of throws further down the field. But he did help get the third-team offense into game-winning field goal range with passes of 9 and 16 yards, a key 8-yard scramble on 3rd-and-7, and a couple of powerful quarterback sneaks on 3rd-and-1.

Wide Receivers: Burress had two catches for 48 yards, but he came darn close to not getting his second foot inbounds on the 43-yard deep pass (and in reality, he might not have done so). Burress looked a little too nonchalant for me on that play. Toomer had one catch for 13 yards, but he missed a block on S Ed Reed on a HB Brandon Jacobs’ run, causing Jacobs to be hit right at the line of scrimmage.

Tim Carter had a decent night with 3 catches for 36 yards. What was clear was that the second-team Ravens’ defensive backs were afraid of his speed and were playing way off the line against him, allowing a couple of easy completions. That’s what his speed brings to the table.

David Tyree had two catches for 16 yards, but one was a superb catch of a low pass for 9-yards on 3rd-and-9 despite very tight coverage.

Willie Ponder saw three passes thrown in his direction, catching two for 16 yards – both on third down but both short of the first-down marker. Triandos Luke had a shot at a deep pass from Lorenzen, but couldn’t bring the ball in – that’s a play he has to make in order to make the team. He did make one catch for 13 yards early in the 4th quarter. Michael Jennings caught one pass for 9 yards. The guy who looked more like an NFL receiver to me was Anthony Mix. He’s got great size and looked natural running with the ball after the catch on a key 16-yard gain on the game-winning field goal drive. I hope they can find a way to keep him around one more year – perhaps on the Practice Squad.

Running Backs: I thought FB Jim Finn blocked well – one of the few guys on offense to do so. FB Tony Jackson dropped one pass and I thought he messed up by failing to pick up a blitz on the play where Lorenzen fumbled the ball away (but that is just a guess on my part). FB Greg Hanoian was pretty aggressive as a lead blocker.

HB Tiki Barber took the night off. Jacobs (6 carries for 18 yards, 1 touchdown) was impressive on his first carry of the game, breaking a tackle near the line of scrimmage and gaining 14 yards. He also did a nice job of running through contact on his 1-yard touchdown plunge. But he really wasn’t afforded good blocking on his other four carries that only managed to pick up three yards.

The run blocking was so poor for HB James Sims (7 carries for -3 yards) that it was hard to judge him. He did have a nice 25-yard gain on a screen pass. However, like most rookie running backs, he was not very good at all in pass protection. HB Little John Flowers (3 carries for 7 yards) was a bit more productive. He also struggled in pass protection on one occasion but did a nice job on another blitz pickup. Ironically, the most recent pickup, HB Mike Jemison, had the most productive night with 6 carries for 22 yards. The Giants missed Derrick Ward (foot).

Tight Ends: Jeremy Shockey (concussion) did not play.

Visanthe Shiancoe has to do a better job of blocking. He was not aggressive or physical and some of the running problems were his fault – not just the offensive lines. An early 2nd-and-5 run off right tackle picked up no yards as Shiancoe was run over by the linebacker. In the second quarter, a rightside run lost one yard when Shiancoe got out-muscled at the point-of-attack from the fullback spot. I didn’t think Shiancoe was particularly sharp on one pass route I watched him run either on the play where Manning scrambled up the middle, just short of the first-down marker.

Wade Fletcher saw some early time with the starters, but could not hold onto a pass from Manning when he was smacked by S Ed Reed.

Darcy Johnson made a nice block on the linebacker on one of the very few runs where James Sims picked up positive yards. But Johnson and Hasselbeck were not on the same page on one incompletion in the third quarter that helped to stall a drive. Boo Williams did not help his cause by badly whiffing on a block in third-team action.

Offensive Line: Rich Seubert filled in at right guard for Chris Snee (knee). Seubert did not look too sharp. He did not get much movement in his run blocks and struggled a bit in recognizing and picking up the blitz. Center Shaun O’Hara also failed to spot a blitzing linebacker that led to immediate pressure on Manning. The most disconcerting thing was the inability of the Giants’ offensive line to generate any kind of movement against the Ravens’ front seven on defense. The Ravens’ defense controlled the line of scrimmage. The entire line did not play very physically or aggressively.

What hurt the Giants in the short-term (this game) but should help them in the long-term (the regular season) is that the Ravens blitzed a ton and ran a lot of stunts – far more than one would expect in the first preseason game. This continued even when the second-teams were on the field.

In the base second-team offense, Bob Whitfield was the left tackle, Grey Ruegamer was the left guard, Rich Seubert was the center, Matt Lentz was the right guard, and Guy Whimper was the right tackle. When the Giants went to the shotgun, Ruegamer and Seubert switched positions. Ruegamer gave up an early pressure when he did not pick up a stunt from the center position. And both Lentz and Ruegamer could not get to a well-timed blitz by the middle linebacker that nailed Sims in the backfield for a 7-yard loss. Whimper was unable to cut-block the backside end on a play where his man caused a 2-yard loss. On the very next play, an incompletion was a result when Lentz let his man run clean to Hasselbeck (and Whimper was flagged for holding on the same play).

At the start of the second half, Whimper stayed at right tackle, Lentz at right guard, Ruegamer played center, Na’Shan Goddard was the new left guard, and Whitfield was still in at left tackle. Goddard gave up a pressure on his first play. Lentz gave up an easy sack on the very next play. Then on third down, Ruegamer forgot the snap count and Hasselbeck was lucky he wasn’t sacked for a safety as none of the other offensive linemen got out of their stance. A terrible series. On the next possession, Whimper and Lentz double-teamed one Raven, but that Raven still got heat on Hasselbeck, forcing him to scramble. Lentz had a really rough game. Whimper flashed at times. He has very good size and you can see his athleticism…he just needs a lot of work, as we all knew he would. On the next series, Todd Londot came in at center and gave up a big pass pressure that forced an incompletion on 4th-and-3 as Hasselbeck was hit as he threw.

In the fourth quarter, Goddard moved to left tackle and didn’t look bad. He’s a big man with long arms. Whimper stayed in the game and got a lot of work, as did Lentz. Troy Reddick only saw limited action late at right tackle. Both Kevin McAlmont and Ben Herrell came in the game at guard. McAlmont did not look sharp early, but he and Londot got some decent run blocks on Sims’ runs late in the game.

Defensive Line: Michael Strahan took the night off. The Giants starting defensive tackles – William Joseph and Fred Robbins – played like they did. They were putrid against the inside ground game, getting pushed around with ease. To me, their play was THE MOST disturbing aspect of the football game. Both have proven in the past that they can play the run when motivated, but they certainly didn’t look like it on Friday night. There was one play where Robbins played nicely down the line to make a play and there was another where Joseph was strong at the point-of-attack. But too often, they were simply shoved out of the way, leaving an undermanned linebacking corps completely exposed. Robbins did have one decent pass rush on a stunt and also knocked down a third-down pass. Joseph was flagged for encroachment.

Justin Tuck started at strongside end and was very quiet – too quiet. He did not flash against the run or the pass. Osi Umenyiora had a couple of quality pass rushes. But the pass rush of the starting four was not very good against the Ravens’ first team line.

The second-team defensive line had Mathias Kiwanuka at right end, Adrian Awasom at left end, and Barry Cofield and Jonas Seawright at defensive tackle. Cofield and Seawright are big dudes – particularly Seawright. It was a bit of mixed bag for the two defensive tackles in the second quarter. While both played better at the point than the two starters, they weren’t rock solid against the run either. What was strange was that on their second series, after a long Giants’ offensive possession, both looked tired on the pass rush until one play where the entire line got good heat on QB Kyle Boller (ironically this play resulted in a 23-yard gain). Awasom had a rough start when he got caught too far inside on a 37-yard run in his direction. But after that play, he stood out on the pass rush in the second quarter with a number of pressures. Kiwanuka started off slowly, but by his second possession, he was getting heat on Boller with two good pass rushes on his second possession, including hitting the quarterback after a good-looking spin move. But he also was flagged with an illegal hands-to-the-face penalty on this drive too.

In the third quarter, Seawright and Cofield played better. Seawright was stout at the point, playing down the line to stuff one run and then getting a good pass pressure a few plays later. On the next series, Seawright stoned the back right in the hole, but unfortunately he jumped offsides and couldn’t quite get back in time. On the next play, Cofield did nice job gumming up the middle. On the following series, Cofield got good heat on Boller on one pass rush.

But the star of the third quarter for the Giants on defense was Kiwanuka. In one series, Kiwanuka split a sack with Smith on an outside pass rush, smashed into Boller off a spin move, and then beat a double-team to sack Boller to end the possession. Extremely impressive!

The third-team defensive line had Eric Moore at right end, Willie Evans at left end, and Damane Duckett and Marcus Green at defensive tackle. Of the bunch, Duckett was the most impressive, but he should have been against third-team blockers. He flashed both against the run and the pass, though he did have a stupid offsides penalty that helped the Ravens convert a third-down play. Duckett also recovered a fumble. Green looked pretty good on the pass rush too…he played better than I expected he would. Eric Moore got pinched inside on one 13-yard run, but did have one decent outside pass rush late in the game. Evans didn’t look all that bad, but his one sack was a bit of a gimme as he was merely chipped by a running back on the play.

Linebackers: The linebacking corps was really depleted in this game. Two-thirds of the starting unit did not play with LaVar Arrington (knee) and Carlos Emmons (burner) sitting out. Also missing was Brandon Short (burner). The Giants started the game with Reggie Torbor at strongside linebacker, Antonio Pierce in the middle, and Chase Blackburn at weakside linebacker. No one really stood out all that much. I wasn’t impressed with Torbor at all as he had problems at the point-of-attack and did not look very athletic on the football field. I didn’t think he recognized plays very well and looked a step slow. Pierce was strangely quiet, but it probably didn’t help that the defensive tackles weren’t helping him any. Blackburn did tip a pass away.

The second-team linebacking corps consisted of Torbor, Blackburn, and Tyson Smith. Torbor continued to disappoint. He was easily blocked to the inside on the 37-yard run in the second quarter and looked strangely unaware of what was going on around him in the open field on a short pass to a back that picked up eight yards. Blackburn missed a tackle at the line of scrimmage on a play that picked up four yards. He did make a couple of solid tackles on short completions late in the second quarter. Smith looked good on the pass rush, sacking Boller once in the second quarter.

The third-team group has Gerris Wilkinson at weakside linebacker, Nick McNeil in the middle, and Tyson Smith at strongside. The Ravens managed one run of 12 yards right at Smith and McNeil was unable to get outside quickly enough to make the play. But Smith did flash on another pass rush, sharing a sack with Kiwanuka and thus finishing the game with 1.5 sacks. McNeil couldn’t make the play on another outside run that picked up 13 yards – I wasn’t real impressed with him. Wilkinson forced a fumble in the hole that resulted in a turnover.

Thomas Carroll played quite a bit in the fourth quarter and was aggressive against the run.

Defensive Backs: Aside from SS Gibril Wilson, the starting secondary played pretty well. No one was victimized in coverage except for Wilson, who gave up three key completions – two to TE Todd Heap and one to WR Mark Clayton – for a total of 56 yards. Two of these completions came on third down. Not good. CB Sam Madison looked sharp defending an underthrown deep pass to WR Derrick Mason. He also held a swing pass to a 1-yard gain with a sure, aggressive tackle. Mason later got clobbered near the goal line by hard hits from both safeties Gibril Wilson and Will Demps. CB Corey Webster shut down his opponent, but got embarrassingly run over by QB Steve McNair on his 6-yard touchdown scramble.

When the second team came on the field, their first big mistake was that CB R.W. McQuarters got manhandled at the point-of-attack on the 37-yard run by HB Musa Smith. On this play S James Butler should have kept the play to a minimal gain, but he was frozen in his tracks by Smith and beat to the sideline. On the next possession, Boller was under heavy pressure from the entire defensive line. He tossed a somewhat lazy pass to a receiver who had three Giant defenders around him. However, CB E.J. Underwood was beat on the play and Butler failed to make a play on the ball – a 23-yard reception that set up a last-second field goal before halftime was the result. CB Frank Walker did save a touchdown when he knocked away an endzone pass that was thrown slightly behind the receiver.

In the third quarter, Underwood gave up a 17-yard sideline completion and a short 5-yard completion. S/CB Jason Bell saved a touchdown on another late throw by Boller on a post pattern by knocking the ball away. S Charlie Peprah made a sure tackle on a short completion in the fourth quarter and CB Gerrick McPhearson had tight coverage on an errant sideline pass. The back-up defensive backs were all aided by a strong pass rush and shoddy quarterback play – despite the fact that Kyle Boller, a former starter, played a ton.

Special Teams: The Giants couldn’t get any kind of kick return game going because the Ravens’ kickoff specialist consistently kicked the ball into the end zone or close to the goal line.

Of course, the big play of the night for the Giants was WR Michael Jennings’ outstanding punt return for a 57-yard score. Jennings impressively ran straight up the field, made a nice spin move, kept his balance, and outran the coverage team for the score.

Kickoff coverage gave up a decent 31-yard return where Feely was forced to get in on the action. Underwood made a nice tackle on a return that only gained 17 yards.

Travis Dorsch did all of the punting and actually looked like a legitimate NFL talent with a 47.6 yard average on five punts. The Giants did give one punt return of 17 yards however.

Feely missed a 44-yard field goal, but he did come through with the game-winning 29-yarder.

(Box Score – New York Giants at Baltimore Ravens, August 11, 2006)
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Eric Kennedy

Founder and owner of BigBlueInteractive.com, which is now entering its 20th season. Follow Eric on Twitter @BigBlueInteract.

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