Aug 142007
 
 August 14, 2007  Posted by  Game Previews and Reviews
Carolina Panthers 24 – New York Giants 21

by Damon Micalizzi for BigBlueInteractive.com

Thankfully, the preseason is just that. The Giants gave up big runs, got beat deep, committed stupid penalties and missed more than a handful of tackles. Even old reliable, Jeff Feagles, had a terrible looking punt go off the side of his foot. However, do not be alarmed… yet.

In spite of the obvious issues that this team will have to focus on in the coming weeks, there were some positives. First and foremost, there were no injuries suffered in the game. In addition, there appear to be some very capable running backs on the roster. Some of the guys injured last year, look to be back and ready to go. Finally, Jared Lorenzen seems to be coming along, and looks like he could lead the team for a moment or two, should Heaven forbid, anything ever happen to Eli Manning. In spite of everything though, good and bad, you cannot lose track of the fact that this is only pre-season game one.

The First Quarter

The Giants got the ball to start the game and the Brandon Jacobs era immediately began. It was just a three-yard gain on the toss but it was telling. As with all of his touches, Jacobs appears to be running lower than in the past, and the first defender to meet him was plowed backwards. The holes weren’t huge, but in spite of his size, Jacobs doesn’t need much room to get three or four yards. New Fullback Robert Douglas, seems to block with a chip on his shoulder and even more encouraging, was his nice grab in the flat on a check-down showing a good burst turning it up field for a nice gain. The first drive fizzled out however, when Manning badly overthrew and threw behind Michael Jennings (who started for Amani Toomer) on a 3rd-and-4 slant pass. Before we start lambasting the QB, I remind you, this is just the first preseason game.

The Panthers ensuing drive resulted in a touchdown. While they were able to move the ball up the field for a score, most concerning was how effortlessly they were able to run the ball, especially to the outside. If Michael Strahan does indeed retire, it will be his ability to play the run that will be missed the most.

Still though, new Weak-side LB Kawika Mitchell showed some speed that has been missing on this defense in recent years, in his limited action. William Joseph, who looks to be in the best shape of his career, got close to the QB from the outside a couple of times showing good burst on the outside, although on other plays during the game at DE and on the inside, he was caught out of position or easily moved out of the way. So far, there is not much of a sample to grade the Mathias Kiwanuka at LB experiment.

Steve Smith, no, not our Steve Smith, beat Sam Madison in the back of the endzone for the first score of the game. Before we start calling for Madison to be cut, I remind you, once again, that this was just the first preseason game.

After a great runback of the kickoff by Derrick Ward, the Giants scored on Jeremy Shockey’s 7-yard touchdown grab in traffic. Manning showed good poise on the play, stepping up in the face of a quickly collapsing pocket, to deliver the ball only where Shockey could get it, releasing the ball about an inch behind the line of scrimmage. And with the score tied at 7, Shockey, Manning and Jacobs’ night was done. Manning, finished 3-5, for 27 yards and the TD. He did face some pressure, getting sacked once and having to throw the ball away on another play. All in all, the first string O-Line faired decently, for their first action of the year against a stellar Carolina front four.

7-7 end of the 1st Quarter.

The Second Quarter

Although they were able to move the ball up the field against a mix of first and second team defensive players, the Panthers next drive was stifled by a sack from a blitzing Will Demps. William Joseph moved back inside, as Justin Tuck returned. It was good to see him back on the field. Tuck looked quick and stout at the point-of-attack. A healthy Tuck could be the best answer for this team, should Strahan decide not to return. Will Demps had a solid game with a few nice tackles and the sack. Hopefully, now two years removed from ACL surgery he will be more of the player we thought we were getting from Baltimore. Yet before we start “getting out the anointing oils” I remind you, this is just the first preseason game.

Jared Lorenzen and Ruben Droughns took over in the Giants backfield in the 2nd Quarter and both showed good feet right off the bat. As soon as he saw a hole, Lorenzen took off for a 14-yard dash for a first down. Droughns appears a bit slimmer and looked much quicker than I remembered when watching him with the Browns and Broncos in years past. The combination of Droughns and Jacobs should wear down a lot of defenses this year. This drive ended with an ugly 25-yard Jeff Feagles shank off the side of his foot. I guess it was good to see him get that shank out of the way in the preseason. His other punt of the night was a good one.

I tried to focus on Kiwanuka as he stayed in for more reps at SAM with the second team defense. While he is clearly still learning the position, I think his speed and quickness will make up for the learning curve a bit. It seems that his read and react is a split second off, but he’s so quick I think he’ll be a force at LB if he stays there. With David Carr at QB now for the Panthers, they were able to move the ball up field, again running through large holes, seemingly at will. I kept telling myself that the big runs we were giving up were a result of a combination of the guys that were not playing (Strahan, Robbins) and/or the mix and match of guys on the DL moving around as Spagnuolo was trying different things. I kept telling myself… It’s just the first game of the preseason…. Scary though. The drive ended with a field goal.

It was a good night for all the Giants running backs. The Giants came back to take the lead on a TD run by Derrick Ward on a draw play on 3rd-and-goal. This after Coughlin decided to go for it on 4th down on the previous series instead of trying a 55-yard field goal. On a nicely executed screen pass Reuben Droughns darted up the field for 32 yards on the play setting up the TD score. It looked like the Giants were going to go in at half time with a lead….

Then Craig Dahl entered the game. In the final 30 seconds of the half, Dahl committed a 15-yard personal foul penalty, for spearing a defenseless receiver. Dahl probably could have had an interception if he went for the ball instead of trying to layout the receiver. Then, on the very next play, he missed tackle on a 20-yard pitch and catch, allowing the receiver to get out of bounds to stop the clock. Then, to close out the half, Dahl blew the coverage on a deep TD pass to Taye Biddle. Who you ask? Taye Biddle. Write the name down. Dahl seemed intent to make him a star. If Dahl doesn’t make the team, those final 30 seconds of the first half could haunt him for the rest of his life.

17-14, Panthers at the Half.

Third Quarter

The Craig Dahl roast continued in the second half, as Taye Biddle assured himself a spot on the Panthers roster and in Dahl’s nightmares with his second TD catch of the game. Again, Dahl was out of position as the speedy Biddle made the grab and jaunted 85 yards for the score. This would be the Panthers last score of the game.

Jared Lorenzen continued at the helm for the Giants and seemed to settle in a little more in the second half. With a second string O-Line, Derrick Ward had a few very nice runs showing no ill effects of last year’s injury. Second year undrafted RB Ryan Grant got into the act as well, running the ball for a team leading 44 yards. After Grant moved the team up field, Lorenzen found Anthony Mix in the back of the endzone on a beautifully thrown fade pattern for the game’s final score. Lorenzen then turned the game over to Anthony Wright.

24-21 Panthers, End of the 3rd Quarter.

The Fourth Quarter

It was a blast from the past as Zack DeOssie started the 4th quarter with a sack showing some speed in getting the QB. It was good to hear his name being called. Corey Webster, who by the way, did not start, followed with a nice pass break up on a deep ball.

Anthony Wright didn’t have any scoring drives, but had his hands full however, just securing the ball on several very poor snaps by Matt Lentz. Who should never, ever play center again. Wright showed his mobility though, escaping the rush a few times for some nice gains, but was sacked twice. In his defense, the protection wasn’t great, as a third string O-Line kept him moving. 7th round draft pick, Ahmad Bradshaw, impressed me. He showed good hands and awareness with a catch in his own endzone and turned it up field for a first down. He can run between the tackles but in my opinion, is more of a cutback runner. That could bode well in this system and he just might be that “change of pace” back some fans are looking for. I was also pleasantly surprised by his ability to pick up the blitz. He did put the ball on the ground at the end of the game, but we’ve seen Coach Coughlin cure the fumbles before.

Final Score: Panthers 24 – Giants 21.

Overall

There are still plenty of questions left unanswered. For one, we’re going to have to wait and see what we have for a kicking game. There were no field goal attempts. Lawrence Tynes made his extra points. Josh Houston’s kickoffs were pretty good. Feagles is Feagles. Cory Ohnesorge will be looking for a job in a week or two. Coverage was good on all of the kickoffs and punts.

It’s too soon to tell, but David Diehl didn’t do a bad job against a tough defensive front. Guy Whimper who has been highly criticized in camp did a decent job as well.

It may be impossible to replace the greatest running back in Giants’ history. However, at this moment, it appears there is a wealth of able bodies providing depth behind Brandon Jacobs.

Again, most importantly, we got out of the game healthy. It was great to see Justin Tuck and Sinorice Moss play, and play well. Tuck looked fast and moved well, having a couple nice stops against the run. Moss, who started in place of Plaxico Burress, had a catch in the first quarter for a ten-yard gain and picked up four yards on a reverse. He also returned a couple of punts but there wasn’t much room for him to work. It was good to see him active and seemingly able to cut with ease. He is very quick and elusive.

It looks like we have a lot of weapons on offense and a lot of work to do on defense… But then again, this was just the first game of the preseason.

(Box Score – Carolina Panthers at New York Giants, August 11, 2007)
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