New York Giants 19 – New England Patriots 14
Author’s Note: No backups who were cut (except for Andre Woodson) will be reviewed because quite frankly, it’s a GIANTS game review and if you don’t have the guts to make the team, I don’t have the time to blah blah blah about why you failed to make the team.
Summary: Worst Super Bowl Rematch EVER! In what is becoming an exercise in stupidity, the 4th and final pre-season game for the Giants and Patriots certainly lacked the big names and big game feel present in both of last season’s meetings. That doesn’t mean though that the game didn’t matter to some, as players on both sidelines made one final effort to make a lasting impression on their potential employers.
Playing without healthy starters Eli Manning, Plaxico Burress, Amani Toomer, Kevin Boss, Kareem McKenzie and Justin Tuck, several Giants were asked to elevate their play and prove they deserve jobs. Stepping to the fore was former Texans’ #1 overall pick David Carr, who looked in command from the start. Carr led the Giants to 14 first half points on drives of 80 and 71 yards and led two FG scoring drives to open the second half. The Patriots made a game of it late scoring fourteen 4th quarter points to close the gap to 19-14.
Perhaps by some cosmic design, the Giants led 19-0 in the 3rd quarter. That is the very record everyone assumed the Patriots would end up with last season before our New York Football Giants….STOMPED YOU OUT!!! (© Michael Strahan, 2008). The football gods it seems, are not without a sense of irony.
Quarterbacks: David Carr enjoyed a revival of sorts this Summer. After being sacked into bolivian (sic) during his tenure as a Texan, Carr floundered in a brief stint with the Panthers last season to the tune of a 58.3 QB rating and a 1-3 record as a starter. Carr’s Summer has been shaky at times as he has looked skittish in the pocket. But after being sacked 276 times in 77 starts, (3.4 sacks per game) the former Fresno St. star has to be suffering from Post Traumatic Sack Disorder. By comparison, Eli Manning has gone down 93 times in 55 starts (1.7 sacks per game) so it stands to reason that Carr is a bit of a train wreck.
Carr did stand in against the rush and hit WR Steve Smith for a 6 yard gain. Six yards, big deal right? In this case yes, because for the first time this year Carr STOOD TALL in the pocket, set his feet and delivered a strike instead of taking a sack or trying to run from the pressure. It may be one small step for the Giants, but it was one Giant leap for Carr. Carr stood in again, hitting Darcy Johnson for a 26 yard catch and run TD midway through the first quarter. When Carr had time he looked solid, finishing up 20-29 for 192 yards and 2 TDs.
Andre Woodson, who I stupidly said a) looked the part and b) would not be cut, did the look the part….of Joe Pisarcik and WAS cut. I never claimed to be the Great Karnak.
Running Backs: I have been critical of RB Brandon Jacobs for the little things he has not improved on that will make him an elite back. What has impressed me is that “The Beast” is definitely running with his pads lower, and keeping his head over his feet when he changes direction. More on that in this week’s Film Room Rewind. Jacobs only carried 3 times for 32 yards but again looked more natural carrying the rock. Jacobs AGAIN dropped an easy completion from David Carr that could have gone for a big gain. I can only imagine how dangerous he would be if he could only catch the ball. Derrick Ward had 2 carries for 11 yards, one of which was a nifty 11 yard off tackle run in which Ward blew through the hole on the left side. Ahmad Bradshaw had a pedestrian 30 yards on 12 carries for a paltry 2.5 yard average. When I say pedestrian, I mean 90 year old man crossing a street with one wooden leg pedestrian. Bradshaw had little room to run behind the backups, so I will save any concern for the games that matter. 87th stringer Danny Ware again led all Giant rushers with 49 yards on 13 carries. Ware continues his outstanding preseason and as we all know now has made the active roster. Ware’s touches will be limited with 3 RBs ahead of him on the depth chart, but there will be no dropoff should Ware have to step in this season.
MADISON HEDGECOCK CAUGHT A PASS!!!!! Look out Charles Way, Hedgey can catch too!
Wide Receivers: Domenik Hixon and Steve Smith got the green light at WR and right off the bat Hixon made an impression, this time in the running game. Hixon’s block on CB Fernando Bryant allowed Brandon Jacobs to scamper by for a 19 yard gain on the offense’s second play from scrimmage. For good measure, Hixon dumped Bryant on his keester to prevent him from making the play downfield. Hixon was held without a grab while fellow starter Smith eeked out 16 yards on 3 catches. Shockingly, Sinorice Moss dropped a sure catch from Carr early in the 2nd quarter continuing his maddening inconsistency. Moss did make the most of his red zone chance, scoring on a 9 yard pass on an identical play that he failed to make last week from Eli Manning. Just like Domenik Hixon, Moss was able to correct a mistake from the previous week which is a testament to WR coach Mike Sullivan’s ability to teach and motivate these guys to improve. It must be noted that Moss’ blocking has really improved in recent weeks, and he is holding his man in check on outside runs to his side.
Rookie WR Mario Manningham led all Giant WRs with 5 grabs for 41 yards. What stuck out to me about Manningham, aside from how quickly he gets full speed, is how well he runs his routes for a young WR. On a simple comeback, Manningham got to full speed and erased the cushion that the CB Jeff Shoate had, causing Shoate to sink a bit deeper in his zone which opened up space for Manningham to run an 8 yard route on 3rd and 7. Manningham knew where the marker was, forced the CB out of his zone and broke down quickly and made the play.
Tight Ends: Michael Matthews got the start in place of Kevin Boss at TE and held his own in the running game, sealing the edge nicely on Derrick Ward’s first run of the night. Matthews has the size and power to be a really nice blocking TE, he just has to be more consistent with his footwork and not be so apt to stop his feet and try to anchor. Matthews showed off improved hands, nabbing a 16 yard pass as the first quarter expired. Mike Garafolo favorite Darcy Johnson finally showed what all the optimism was about on his 26 yard TD reception from Carr. Johnson ran a quick 5 yard out underneath of Steve Smith and dodged and bulled 3 Pat defenders for the next 21 yards and the game’s first score. Johnson hauled in another nice grab on a 4th and 1 bootleg pass from David Carr that set up the Giants 2nd TD of the night.
O-Line: Kevin Boothe got the nod at RT and looked very very impressive, at tackle anyway. Boothe and RG Chris Snee opened up a huge hole for Brandon Jacobs longest run of the night. With backup OT Guy Whimper going on season ending IR, it was vital that someone step in as the 3rd tackle and it appears Boothe is ready for the challenge. Chalk up another mid season find for the Giants pro personnel guys. Do you guys EVER sleep? Domenik Hixon, Madison Hedgecock, Dave Tollefson and now Kevin Boothe off the scrap heap and into meaningful roles on a Super Bowl champion. Boothe led the way on Jacobs 12 yarder as well, absolutely mauling 300 plus pound DE Ty Warren.
David Diehl and Rich Seubert were in mid-season form, collapsing the Pats front 7 on a nice Derrick Ward run. What Diehl may lack in pure pass pro quickness he certainly makes up for in the running game. When #66 is on the move on the edge, the results are always good for Giant RBs. Overall the OL paved the way for 159 yards rushing and gave David Carr plenty of time to operate.
The backup OL was given a shot against the Pats standout first team DL and responded with a 3 and out. Boothe then slid inside to LG with the backups, and gave up a bull rush sack to Jarvis Green right off the bat. Carr should have seen the pressure coming in his face, but Boothe was just driven right back. Boothe struggled inside with the bull rush on numerous occasions, and just looked far less comfortable and aggressive at guard than he did at tackle, though he continues to pull extremely well. After that first shaky series, the backup OL gave Carr plenty of time to throw and really allowed the Giants to chew up the clock. Big Blue held the ball for over 22 minutes in the second half, that is a great credit to the OL. OT Adam Koets still looks small out at tackle, but seemed to hold his own on the edge, showing great footwork and the ability to ride pass rushers outside of the pocket.
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.
Playing without starters LDE Justin Tuck, MLB Antonio Pierce, and SLB Danny Clark, defensive signal caller Steve Spagnuolo handed opportunities to shine to several backups. Taking over at LDE was super sub Renaldo Wynn who has been a steady pre-season performer. Wynn was stout at the POA, attacking RT Nick Kaczur and holding his side of the line, and again looked nimble on a zone blitz, dropping into the hook zone and showing good quickness. Wynn read his keys well on yet another waggle from the opposing offense. Wynn kept good distance between himself and the QB to prevent Matt Cassell from throwing when he wanted to, which allowed LB Gerris Wilkinson to clean up the play and prevent a big gain. Another key backup who has to elevate his game is DE Dave Tollefson, who combined with Wynn on a sack in the 2nd quarter. Tollefson looked strong as a backup in postseason play and has to keep that going this year with the loss of the Giants top two ends from last year.
Taking over for injured DE Osi Umenyiora was 6-6 Swiss Army Knife, Mathias Kiwanuka. Kiwi did register a sack against the 2nd team OL, but I’m not concerned with pass rush as much as I am his run stopping ability. What I was most interested in seeing from the lanky DE was the ability to hold the POA and control the edge as he did from his old SAM LB spot. Number 97 looked good holding ground despite his thin build mainly due to his ability to play with great leverage and use his enormous reach to keep OL from getting into his chest and controlling him. What Kiwi may lack in bulk and pure anchoring against the run ability, he will make up for by being able to stay square to the LOS and use his arms to keep blockers off him while he strings the play out wide for his teammates. He’s going to take some time re-learning the nuances of his spot, but an encouraging outing for Osi’s replacement.
DT Fred Robbins again looked stout inside, attacking the guards and centers and collapsing the pocket. Robbins is simply mauling blockers in the inside and allowing his LBs to flow to the ball. Backup and increasingly vital DL cog Jay Alford, looked quick off the snap again.
MLB Chase Blackburn was very active in the running game, racking up 5 tackles and showing again his ability to find the football quickly. SLB Bryan Kehl was given the start but did nothing in my opinion worth mentioning. Did I just mention him anyway? Well I did not intend to, so I would like that remark stricken from the record.
Film Room Rewind: FRR will be in full swing next week after the season opener, but I wanted to make a quick note on Brandon Jacobs’ 19 yard run in the first quarter. The blocking was of course great for #27 to have such a big hole to run through, but Jacobs’ ability to change direction is what jumped off the screen to me. Being a former WR and TE in my Al Bundy high school days, one thing our coaches stressed (yes I know, it was High School) when changing directions was keeping your head over your feet when making a cut. For any player trying to change direction, you have to sink your hips, bend at the knees and be able to explode in another direction. That’s an awful lot to remember as you run at full speed so the “Meat over Feet” rule was one we lived by. A little crass I suppose but it’s easiest way to both remember and describe the technique needed to change direction quickly.
Jacobs started straight towards the A gap, made a jump cut to the right to angle off tackle, then flattened out farther right once he passed the LOS to avoid SS Rodney Harrison. He then cut back inside left to avoid RCB Fernando Bryant (who was blocked out of the play by Domenik Hixon) then dipped back to the sidelines to get a few more yards being tripped up by S James Sanders. Each and every cut that Jacobs made enabled him to outrun or outmaneuver a defender and continue his run. It was his very definitive technique of keeping his “meat over his feet” that enabled him to change direction without losing speed. B-Jac has worked very hard to become more than a straight line power back and if that run is any indication, the work is paying off. Any team watching that run has to be worried about how to contain a 265lb freight train with speed and new found cutting ability.
Defensive Backs: Corey Webster made a great break on a 3rd down pass, stepping in front of the Matt Cassell pass to snuff out the Patriots first drive. C-Web is threatening to make me eat my words when I proclaimed he would stink. How is THAT for accurate, insightful analysis? S James Butler made a great play separating WR Kelley Washington from the ball on a 3rd down play that snuffed out a Pats drive. Fellow safety Michael Johnson jumped a dig (Deep In) route and nearly picked off QB Matt Gutierrez. The new #20 has been quiet so far this preseason, but was far more active this week with 5 stops and one near INT. R.W. McQuarters looked sloppy tackling on a few plays, but made up for it by picking off the Pats at the 2 yard line to preserve the first half shut out.
Special Teams: R.W. McQuarters looks so comfy catching punts, maybe he’s just sleepy and doesn’t want to make a big return yet. 7 yards per return isn’t exactly Devin Hester scary, but McQ’s job it seems is to just secure the ball for the offense, which he does very well. The punt and kickoff coverage units continue to look shaky, surrendering a 44 yard KO return by C.J. Jones as well as allowing a 16 yard average on punt returns. Not good boys, not good at all. Cutting Tank Daniels will llikely just make this number go up, hopefully someone is ready to fill his shoes on specials.
Coaching: Allowing Eli Manning to sit out was Tom Coughlin’s wisest move all pre-season. No sense in risking your franchise when nothing is on the line but some back up jobs. As noted earlier, I have to commend WR coach Mike Sullivan on the improvement that Sinorice Moss and Domenik Hixon made in successive weeks after each dropped sure TD passes. Moss and Hixon both came back the next week, on almost identical plays, made the correction and most importantly made the play. A nod to QB coach Chris Palmer for noticeably improving David Carr’s pocket presence and understanding of the offense. The former #1 pick has come a long long way this Summer.
JPog (Joey’s Player of the Game) - “Oooohh who’s Mr. Handsome?…is he a quarterback, I bet he’s a quarterback”. Mrs. Joey’s new favorite Giant David Carr is our JPoG of the week for securing the backup job with a crisp 20-29 performance that evened the Giants pre-season record at 2-2. Carr improved weekly, gaining confidence and erasing his bad pocket habits of holding the ball, running too soon and taking far too many sacks. Carr stood tall in the pocket making quick decisions and delivering the ball with accuracy and zip. You haven’t earned a custom jersey Dave, but I will be making an I Love David Carr T-shirt for Mrs. Joey complete with an iron on of your apparently irresistible mug.
JBog (Joey’s Bum of the Game) - I hate to do it Andre, but I have no choice. Never in my life have I seen a coach yank a backup QB in the 4th quarter of the final preseason game and put back in his top backup who could have been injured. Well, I saw it and I still don’t believe it. Three snaps, two of them fumbled and one handoff. That’s all you need to know about Woodson’s night which landed him on the cut list as the Giants are going to go with only two QBs to start the regular season. Andre, enjoy your Mike Cherry replica jersey as a booby prize.