Aug 272008
 
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New York Jets 10 – New York Giants 7

By Joey in VA for BigBlueInteractive.com

Summary: Resiliency. The Giants of 2007 defined the term, after being counted out before the season even began, and every step of the way through a roller coaster season and playoff run. Everyone despairing over the loss of Osi Umenyiora, I recommend that you re-watch the Super Bowl Intro from last year, and take those words to heart. If you’ve given up already, then you have no idea what this team is made of. Is it realistic to expect a repeat or a deep playoff run when your two top defensive ends from a year ago are on the set at Fox and in a recovery room? Of course it’s not. Have we counted these guys out before? Whether you admit it or not, of course we have.

“We had teammates go down, and we never lost a beat.” – 2007 New York Giants

As for the game itself, it was as boring as you can possibly ask for with a side helping of sloppy. The Giants offense sputtered for most of the first half until a 13 play 63 yard effort that resulted in a missed FG from Josh Huston. Not nearly the train wreck I thought it would be upon closer inspection, the Giants simply looked out of sync and were a few missed blocks and assignments away from being the offense they need to be to play winning football this year. Game planning should help that considerably as well. Big Blue looked shaky offensively throughout the night, but again more out of sync than alarmingly bad. With the lack of practice time the starting unit has had, the passing game and offense overall will suffer until the entire team is healthy and practicing together.

Defensively, the Giants attacking defense looked strong right out of the gate, but the Jets put together two 7 play drives in the 2nd quarter in which the Giants pass rush slowed considerably. At first glance it appeared that defense was tiring and indeed a lack of depth up front will hurt this team (or any team for that matter) if the running game and the offense do not control the clock. I will say it again, it is only pre-season but when you see the Giants young talented and athletic front seven sucking wind midway through the second quarter it makes you stand up and take notice. Did the loss of Umenyiora deflate the team, or is the defensive line rotation that much weaker now that it’s top two ends are gone?

Now, the 2008 Giants have to replace two Pro Bowl caliber defensive ends and a perennial Pro Bowl TE if they hope to have a successful season. Strahan is not on the way, Osi is laid up after surgery and Shockey is frolicking with his old friend Sean Payton in New Orleans, certain life will be better away from the bright lights and big city.

“We have faced this challenge before, do you dare count us out again?” – Sam Madison. Well Giant faithful, do you?

Quarterbacks: Eli Manning and the Giants offense produced absolutely nothing on the scoreboard in the first half against the Jets, after looking strong right off the bat with a 13 yard out to Amani Toomer and a bullet to Domenik Hixon for 22 yards on a beautifully thrown corner route. Number 10 then just overshot Hixon, and then held the ball far too long on 2nd down, resulting in a 2 yard loss as Calvin Pace came free from his OLB spot. Four and a half seconds should be plenty of time to get rid of the ball Eli. Manning had no shot on the Giants second drive, as he was taken down on a badly missed blitz pickup and dropped for a 10 yard loss and saw a screen pass to Brandon Jacobs go for only 5 on 3rd and 17. I assume Dan Reeves was given honorary play calling duties on the Giants next possession. I could almost hear Reeves’ Georgia twang in the headset – “Let’s go ahead and go with three running playshs, one nice safe short pashs and a punt. I’m old, I hate New York and I have to call Tommy Maddox before night night time and make sure he’shs all tucked eenn.” Eli’s pass to his new favorite WR Domenik Hixon was nicely thrown over the middle in the traffic but once again the Giants went nowhere as the first quarter ended. The next possession wasn’t much better: 4 plays for 23 yards and a punt.

Overall Manning had a solid outing going 10-17 for 113 yards in a half of play. His first four drives ended in punts, but his passes were crisp and he again looked decisive and ready to play. Eli once again ran a nice 2 minute drive but was undone by Sinorice Moss on two consecutive plays inside the goal line. Adding to the train wreck on offense, Eli then stepped right into Calvin Pace as he was dropping back and was dumped for a 16 yard loss. Ugly end to one ugly half of football. On the bright side, Eli seems to really have perfected is his ability to hit the intermediate out route with timing and accuracy. With all of his weapons back soon, Eli looks ready to continue his progression into the upper echelon of NFL QBs.

David Carr went 2 for 2, so that’s good. He also looked yippy in the pocket again, taking two sacks almost immediately upon entering the game and almost falling down on the handoff that resulted in Ahmad Bradshaw’s three yard scoring scamper. Carr got sacked four times and quite honestly he looks likes he wants to be wrapped up and tossed around by big sweaty defenders.

Andre’ Woodson finally got to use his arms for something other than holding a clipboard or handing Eli water. Woodson’s release is sloooowww, as advertised, but he sets up quickly and has solid footwork. Despite going 3 for 8, Woodson hit Mario Manningham for 33 yards on a beautifully thrown go route and showed solid pocket awareness unlike his predecessor. Not too bad of a job for Woodson, though his debut was very short lived and he almost coughed up a bad INT deep in Jets territory. For what it’s worth, Woodson passes the eyeball test.

Running Backs: Brandon Jacobs once again let the mental aspect of his game slip, badly missing ILB David Harris on the Giants second drive, resulting in a quick sack of QB Eli Manning and a drive killing 10 yard loss. When the opposition rushes only 4, and 5 OL and a 265lb RB cannot pick it up, you’re going to be in for a long night offensively. Jacobs slipped trying to cut inside on a on a well designed screen on the very next play, opting to try to outrun a CB to the lane instead of taking it right at him. Jacobs seems to be developing a habit of hitting what he should and can avoid and trying to avoid what he should instead hit. I don’t know if it’s ego or lack of awareness, but his poor decision making has to drive the coaches batty at times. Jacobs looked inspired on the Giants next drive, ripping off a beautiful 19 yard counter that showed off his speed, cutback ability and power but then got stuffed on a 3rd and 1 as he ran too high and appeared to lose the handle on the ball for a second. Other than his 19 yard run, Jacobs struggled to get 7 yards on his 5 other carries.

Derrick Ward was the Giants most effective back against the hated green boogery stupid jerkface Jets. I’m sorry for the coarse language, but when Big E, our fearless editor, said of the Jets – “They are a second-rate team and their fans are turds” I just got really caught up in hating the Jets again. Ward looked like his explosion has returned after breaking his leg last year, as evidenced by his nifty 17 yard scamper through the Jets defense as the first half wound down. Ahmad Bradshaw continued his strong running from a week ago, bulling his way for 28 yards on 7 carries and the Giants’ lone touchdown of the evening. FB Robert Douglas won’t make this squad, but he is giving it everything he has, slamming into defenders and flying around on special teams. Danny Ware again ran hard, though he got only 4 carries. Ware does make the most of every carry though, slamming into defenders and always moving forward.

Wide Receivers: Domenik Hixon continued to make plays, hauling in 3 passes for 51 yards, including a perfectly timed route with Eli Manning for 22 yards on the game’s first possession. Hixon however misread CB Darrelle Revis’ alignment and failed to make an out cut on a 3rd down pass from Manning that fell just incomplete. Given Hixon’s penchant for learning from his mistakes, I doubt he misreads that again. Hixon made another nice 22 yard catch and run on a crossing route that he and Manning both read perfectly. It wasn’t a 3 TD night for Hixon, but he’s here to stay as a WR and it’s clear he and Manning are developing some chemistry. Amani Toomer made his return, brief though it was, nabbing a 13 yard out and calling it a night. If not for Plaxico Burress’ magically healing ankle, second year WR Steve Smith would win the first annual “Missing Camper Award” after missing weeks in Albany with various leg ailments. Smith made an impact in his return, hauling in 4 passes for 37 yards and providing the same type of solid route running and dependable hands he displayed as a rookie. Sinorice Moss caught a pass, but I find myself really indifferent to him. I think if I came home from work and saw him eating my food, I’d just assume it wouldn’t last and he wouldn’t make much of an impact on my pantry. My indifference was rewarded when Annoying Smurf smurfed the ball away on a smurfy pass from Eli Smurf that should have been a Smurfdown. 1980’s childhood flashbacks…not pretty…not ever.

Mario Manningham gets his own paragraph, for finally making his NFL debut. More of a stanza really, not a true paragraph, but Manningham certainly looked fluid and made a great 33 yard catch down the sideline from fellow rookie Andre’ Woodson. Pretty Good Mario (not yet Super Mario) did fail to hang onto a 4th down pass from Woodson that could have given the Giants a chance to keep driving for a late game score.

Tight Ends: The Jets’ 3-4 pressure schemes made it a bit difficult to judge Kevin Boss’ blocking early, as some of his routes took OLB Calvin Pace down the field and another left a gaping hole for Kerry Rhodes to arrive on a blitz and force a throw away by Archie’s most boring son. Boss did get a solid knockdown on a kick out block on rookie OLB Vernon Gholston, but the effort was wasted as OT Kareem Mackenzie failed to seal off Jets’ DE Kenyon Coleman. Boss had a solid seal block on Derrick Ward’s 17 yard scamper in the 2nd quarter, providing a great lane for Ward to burst through. Boss still struggles with his power, but his technique improves each week from what I can see. Darcy Johnson awoke from his Summer slumber and had a nice 10 yard gain to get the Giants within striking distance for Ahmad Bradshaw’s TD run.

O-Line: From the box score, I assumed the front five played a poor game as Giant QBs were dumped 8 times. I totally forgot about the David Carr factor guys, I apologize for doubting you. But upon further review, it was more the entire offense that seemed out of sync. The first sack on Manning was a coverage sack (throw it away little brother) and LT David Diehl simply could not stay with Jet DE Calvin Pace on a nice spin move as Manning moved up in the pocket. To be honest, I’m not sure who was to blame on 3rd and 12 as Safety Kerry Rhodes timed his blitz perfectly, forcing Manning to throw the ball away. Given that the Jets had three down lineman and walked up three LBs to the right side of the defense, it might just be a really well designed blitz that OL coach Pat Flaherty needs to address.

The front five again showed how well they can seal cutback lanes on Brandon Jacobs 19 yard counter, but on an off tackle run in the same series, RT Kareem Mackenzie failed to seal DE Kenyon Coleman. Coleman then got into the hole and forced Jacobs outside for a 1 yard gain on what was a nicely blocked play by everyone but #67. Eli was sacked on 3rd and goal when David Diehl gave ground to Calvin Pace, but that sack is on Eli for walking right into Pace. You’re off the hook Dave, I won’t have to take your lunch money…yet.

With the exception of the blitz by Kerry Rhodes, Eli had ample time to throw and Giant runners managed 5.1 yards per carry, so despite the early hiccups, all in all a solid effort but not the most precise one. I’ll toss you guys a mulligan, mostly because if any of you sat on me, it would hurt a lot.

The backups were not good early, as David Carr got dumped on his first two pass attempts. Guy Whimper played lazy football on the edge, showing decent footwork but once again not establishing a power base and lunging far too much in pass protection. OG Kevin Boothe again showed excellent feet pulling on a few runs, but he still struggles to finish blocks on the run. If Boothe can tighten up his technique and learn to explode into defenders instead of nudging them politely, he has a shot to be a keeper at LG. Mangini and his jerky Jets did blitz relentlessly in the second half, but this is the NFL and whining about the opposition being too aggressive…that just won’t happen here.

Front 7: Author’s Note: Given the varied fronts and personnel packages the Giants use under Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, I’ll be looking at the front 7 as a whole initially rather than separating the D-line and Linebackers. Hybrid roles such as LBs playing in a 3 point stance make analyzing the front 7 as one unit more cohesive. It may change as we move forward or from game to game.

Dear Justin Tuck, if you don’t stop playing so well my wife might think I have a man crush on you. (Note to self: find out if Tucky likes flowers). Brett Favre’s Lambeau Lambasting was immediately revisited on the second play from scrimmage when Tuck once again flattened out, read the play and stuffed Broadway Brett on 2nd down. Remember the Lions offense using rollouts and bootlegs and waggles (OH MY) and looking so gosh darn sharp? It’s over. Spags and DL coach Mike Waufle went to work, and it seems Mr. Tuck was paying attention and shut down the bootleg all by himself. The Giants swarming front 7 made it an easy 3 and out on their first series.

Then LB, now DE Mathias Kiwanuka combined with Tuck on the Jets next series to clamp down their side of the LOS and let the LBs and DBs clean things up on a Thomas Jones 5 yard gain. Not a flashy play, but the type of dirty work that separates the good defenses from the great ones. Favre’s next throw was high to a wide open Chris Baker, most likely the fault of MLB Chase Blackburn not getting enough depth in his drop and keeping himself between the QB and his target. Blackburn then got steamrolled out of the way on WR Brad Smith’s 20 yard catch and run. Exactly the type of play that injured starter Antonio Pierce made in the NFC Championship game last year. AP might be slow, look out of shape and blow air horns at reporters, but he makes the plays others don’t and seeing Blackburn fail on that screen reminded me once again how valuable #58 is to this defense.

Tuck did it again on the next bootleg attempt, correctly putting himself between Favre and his receiver, but no one was in the vicinity as Blackburn and OLB Gerris Wilkinson (I think it was 59 and not 55) both bit on an inside fake and got caught up in the wash. Newly anointed SAM LB Danny Clark then shot in on the next play, timing a blitz perfectly to bring down Leon Washington for a 2 yard loss. Kiwi continued his solid game, making an outstanding open field stop on Leon Washington on 3rd and 1 to force the Jets into a 4th and 1. Wilkinson showed a good ability to read his keys and be in the right spot (9 tackles on the night) but it seems his timing is just a bit off from so much injury time. Assuming he can stay healthy, I like Gerris’ ability to hold down a spot and play solid football for us this year.

How did the often overlooked tandem of Fred Robbins and Barry Cofield do? 58 yards on 26 carries for the entire game for the Jets. I’d say they did ok. The duo won’t get much publicity, but they consistently stack up the running game and kept the Jets’ QBs from having any pocket to step up into. Giant fans, don’t underestimate the importance of that ability when judging this defense.

Renaldo Wynn looked stout again against the run and will be counted on as a big time component now with the loss of Osi Umenyiora. Wynn was drafted as a DT out of Notre Dame, so his versatility will be a big plus for this DL rotation. Just for good measure, Wynn made an INT on a zone blitz as he dropped perfectly into the flat to come up with the turnover. DT Ogemdi Nwagbuo likely won’t make this team, but he’s a guy to keep an eye on for the practice squad. O.N. (like I’m spelling that name again) had some solid push up front and did stand out on a few plays.

Film Room Rewind: Not this week, this game stunk too much and Osi got hurt. I don’t wanna. FRR will be back weekly once the real games start.

Defensive Backs: At some point, the defensive backs should just refuse to meet or practice until the front 7 stops stealing all the glory. Corey Webster flew in on a Thomas Jones 5 yard gain to seal the edge, continuing his aggressive physical play from last season. I’m starting to believe Corey, don’t let me down! You’re still behind Corey Feldman on my list of Coreys but the good news is you have finally inched past Corey Haim. “The Lost Boys”…pffft, give me “The Goonies” and Super Bowl 42 any day. On Jet WR Brad Smith’s 20 yard gain, it appeared that CBs Kevin Dockery and Aaron Ross both read the play quickly, but Dockery was just blocked out of the play. More troublesome, is that CB Aaron Ross was easily blocked out of the play and gave no physical effort to make a tackle despite being further downfield than Smith when he was tackled. That is far from the physical brand of football this defense has grown to embrace. Webster was quasi-victimized, albeit on a penalty negated 29 yard pass to Brad Smith. Two-Three had nice coverage and tracked the ball in the air, but Favre made a nice throw and Smith made a one handed grab. Sometimes the opposition just makes a nice play, and that was one of those cases. Luckily an illegal shift negated the play and the Jets were forced to punt. Ross did make an outstanding physical play upending RB Thomas Jones for a 2 yard gain in the 2nd quarter so maybe Ross just started slowly when he watched Brad Smith scamper past him in the first quarter.

S James Butler was easily the most effective player in the secondary, playing close to the LOS, making 4 tackles and really providing a physical presence in the running game. It was easily the best game I’ve ever seen Butler play.

Dockery later got absolutely smoked by WR Jerricho Cotchery but it was again negated by an illegal shift. Before that completion though, Kenny “Bud” Phillips showed how even the most ballyhooed rookie can get eaten alive by a veteran QB. Favre looked #21 off easily, removing Dockery’s deep help and exposing the Giants secondary badly. Bud did get his feet under him, nearly decapitating Marcus Henry on a deep out in which he showed outstanding sideline to sideline to speed.

Terrell Thomas got victimized by fellow rookie Dustin Keller on a seam pass. Thomas had good position but just missed the ball. “Bud” made Keller pay on a quick slant when he slammed the rookie TE to the oddly shiny Giants stadium turf. Geoffrey Pope, have fun bagging groceries. If Pope makes this team I will be absolutely shocked. You don’t give up two long completions and the game’s lone TD to backup nobodies and expect to stick.

Special Teams: Honestly, very run of the mill, nothing big on the plus or minus side. Danny Ware did have a nice 38 yard return after the Jets broke the scoreless tie in the 2nd half. Josh Huston continued to be perfect on field goal attempts this pre-season. And by perfect, I mean he has yet to fail to miss one.

Coaching: Yes yes, it is preseason and I know the old line; hell I’ve parroted it for two weeks. I just didn’t get some of the play calls if this was the last real action this offense will have until Sept. 4th. Only the 2 minute drive at the end of the first half looked planned well. It really looked like Offensive Coordinator Kevin Gilbride was just tossing things into his big hair and pulling out whatever didn’t get stuck.

JPog (Joey’s Player of the Game) – Given the overall crappiness of this game, I’d like to give myself the JPoG for sitting through this snooze fest but that is patently against JPoG rules as no friends for family members are eligible for the award. It’s not a big honor this week but I’ll give the nod to Gerris Wilkinson, who had a few plays where he was a step late but overall was in the right place at the right time and showed a really nice feel for the running game. Wilkinson also seems to have his blitz timing down and was all over the field in the second half. GW, you will be honored with an official “Wilkerson” jersey just in case you forget how to spell..wait what? Wilkinson? Well I already stitched the letters on, get used to your new name Gerris.

JBog (Joey’s Bum of the Game) – The aforementioned oddly shiny turf gets the JBoG this week. The turf reminded me of the last girl I mistakenly dated before I found my wonderful wife. It was too shiny, not a fun playing surface and just plain mean. Thankfully the overused Field Turf at the Meadowlands will only haunt us for 2 more seasons, as the New Meadowlands will open in 2010. Good riddance to bad turf.

Good Luck with your recovery Osi, we will miss you!!! Now we’ll see if “Resiliency” was a Fox marketing ploy or what truly defines the men in this locker room.

(Box Score – New York Giants at New York Jets, August 23, 2008)
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