Aug 192009
 
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New York Giants 24 (1-0) – Carolina Panthers 17 (0-1)

by The Hack for BigBlueInteractive.com

Game Summary: The New York Football Giants opened their final season at their old stadium at the Meadowlands on Monday night, defeating the Carolina Panthers 24-17.  Coming off a season in which they earned the number 1 seed in the NFC yet fell to rival Philadelphia in the Divisional Round of the playoffs, the Giants made several key free agent signings and drafted extremely well in a seldom seen combination of need/best player available in the hopes of keeping themselves in the upper echelon of the league.  Following a spirited two weeks at Albany in which several players distinguished themselves as camp standouts, the Giants appeared crisp and in sync throughout the first half against the Panthers.

They say they have chips on their shoulders, they’ve talked about unfinished business in 2008, and they’ve played the disrespect card so often it resembles a game of seven card stud at times in the press when the players speak.  On Monday night, the Giants talked on the field as their first two units badly outplayed the first two units from Carolina.  There were mistakes, there was rust, and there is a lot of room for improvement in several key areas.  All in all and despite missing both starting guards and a wide receiver on offense and five key defensive players (four starters), the major objectives for the first and second units in this game were met.

No significant injuries.

Effective if not glaringly vanilla ball movement by the first and second string offenses.

Impressive play from the entire defensive unit, and specifically from the makeshift interior of the defensive line and from the secondary as a whole.

Significant playing time for several players fighting for roster spots.

For this review, I only had the opportunity to watch the game live and do not have access to tape.  As such I am relying on notes taken (verbal and written) during the game.  This is an anomaly, and will not happen again.  I will address the units as a whole, and individual players as their play merits.  I hope you all enjoy the review and look forward to constructive criticism and other feedback you may have.  If there are specific units or players you’d like reviewed, please feel free to ask.

Offense: The Giants first string offense started the game with OT/OG Kevin Boothe playing at RG and 10 year journeyman OT/OG Tuten Reyes at LG.  Of interest here is that each has primarily played tackle in the recent past, and it had yet to be seen how each would perform pulling in the Giants’ heavy run oriented offense.  WR Steve Smith also missed the game, offering WR Sinorice Moss a golden opportunity to distinguish himself from a bevy of hopefuls at the position.  All other projected starters were on the field.

The Giants offense played a very basic set for the entire time the first two units were on the field.  Generally, only two formations were used: An “I” with the ends split wide and the shotgun with an offset halfback to the right or left of the quarterback, a TE in tight and two ends split wide.  This was expected, as it was the first pre-season game and the Giants will see Carolina later in the regular season.  The third string offense did incorporate some sets with a single back and a receiver in the slot and they did bring receivers in motion on several occasions.  One such move that was interesting was bringing rookie WR Ramses Barden in motion from the slot across the field to release as he reached the other slot position.  It appears they are going to try to get Barden a free release from the inevitable jam he’ll see at the line.  This could be a very nice option for incorporating the big receiver into the game plan as he learns how to beat press coverage.

The Quarterbacks: Starter and $106.9 million dollar man QB Eli Manning played just two series, and only threw four passes (three completions, one called back due to penalty).  The first was a 3rd down strike from the shotgun to rookie WR Mario Manningham that went for 13 yards and a first down.  The play was called back, however, as RT Kareem McKenzie was whistled for illegal formation.  McKenzie was clearly 2 yards off the line of scrimmage.  On Eli’s next pass on 3rd and 10, there was miscommunication between the quarterback and Manningham, who was wide open on a crossing pattern underneath the linebackers, and the pass fell incomplete.  The play most likely would not have led to a first down.

On his second series, the strong running game of the Giants resulted in Manning attempting and completing only 2 passes.  The first was a check down to HB Brandon Jacobs.  Manning had time to survey the field, found nothing he liked, and it appeared he was about to take off as he stepped up in the pocket and found Jacobs all alone on the left sideline for a 10 yard gain.  The ball was thrown a little high, but the catch was made.  The second was a bubble screen to WR Domenik Hixon that resulted in an 18 yard gain.  The play appeared doomed from the start, as the ball was thrown at Hixon’s hip and in pretty heavy traffic.  Somehow Hixon corralled the pass and avoided the traffic to get the first down.

Although he only threw four passes and only three counted, the real story about Manning on Monday night was his obvious command at reading the defense.  On several running plays, Eli correctly set the offense and made the calls to get FB Madison Hedgecock’s helmet in the chest of the middle linebacker.  If you have the game DVR’ed, watch and listen to the Eli’s call on the Jacobs 22 yard gain in the first quarter.  It was a thing of beauty.  Manning clearly identified linebacker James Anderson as the MIKE linebacker, and the next thing you see is Hedgecock plowing him out of Jacobs’ way.  Manning clearly understands what he sees at the line of scrimmage and is one of the finest QBs in the league at setting up his offense for success.

Backup QB David Carr had an up and down night.  There were things to like, things not to like, and things that made you wonder if he’s still significantly gun shy in the face of the pass rush.  On the surface, Carr’s stats look good.  He completed 7 of 11 passes (one completion for 8 yards to WR David Tyree was nullified because the Giants accepted an illegal hands to the face penalty on the play) for what ended up being 74 yards and 1 touchdown.  The former #1 overall pick completed his first 3 passes (4 if you consider the one called back) on a very promising first drive.  The first was a short curl to Hixon, the second was a nice slant to Moss who sat down in the zone.  It was apparent that Carr checked to the play after seeing the defender playing at least 10 yards off Moss. The third was a check down to HB Ahmad Bradshaw that nearly went for a first down.  Following the penalty, Carr inexplicably left a solid pocket and ended up taking an 8 yard sack in which he could have gotten rid of the ball.  The fourth straight completion was a nice screen to TE Darcy Johnson that picked up 7 yards.  At this point, Carr made his most head scratching decision of the night.  On 3rd and 11, Carr rolled to his right and had no one open downfield but he did have Bradshaw all alone for an easy pitch and catch which he would have been able to convert for a first down.  For some reason, Carr decided to run the ball behind a Bradshaw block and dove head first for the first down.  While successful, the play wasn’t a smart one.  The Giants cannot afford to lose their backup quarterback and considering the option he had to dump the ball to Bradshaw combined with the ‘no injuries’ edict of the preseason, it was not a good decision. Carr made another good throw on a deep go route to Manningham which fell incomplete.  The final completion of the drive was a 4 yard check down again to Bradshaw.

Carr played three more series’ in the first half.  The second series ended when he took a very bad sack on 3rd and 4, once again not showing the poise to move up into the pocket.  Instead, although under pressure, he backpedaled into a sack that ended the drive.

The last two drives were basically two minute drills.  On the first, Carr was victimized on 3rd and 1 when WR Derek Hagan dropped a short pass that would have resulted in a first down.  He was again victimized by a Hagan drop on the next series, but rebounded by making a tremendous play by looking off the entire defense to the left before dropping a quick screen to the right side for HB Danny Ware.  The ball was thrown at the very last second and ended up going for a 36 yard touchdown, much of it due to the individual effort by Ware.

So to break down the good, bad, and ugly, Carr easily could have completed 10 of the 11 passes he threw.  One was called back, two were dropped by Hagan, and another was a ball that Manningham did not make a good play on that could easily have been a touchdown.  The bad?  He made three questionable decisions that resulted in sacks (one caused by himself when he ran out of the pocket into the end who made the play, one that he took where he held the ball too long and never got it away, and a third when he again left a seemingly solid pocket and ran out of bounds for a 0 yard sack (yes, a 0 yard sack).  The ugly was an awful decision to scramble and dive head first for a first down in a meaningless preseason game in which he had an option to complete a pass.

QB Andre’ Woodson came on to start the third quarter and looked horrible following his initial pass.  Following a nice little flare to HB/FB Dwayne Wright, Woodson made a terrible decision to throw into coverage to Barden as he was flushed to his right and was intercepted.  Wright looked like his patented “windup” was back in full force, and seemed to take a long time to release the ball.  Woodson ended up completing 5 of 11 passes, with the two bright spots a 20 yarder to Barden and an 8 yarder to H-Back Travis Beckum.  Woodson did nothing to help his cause in the fight for the third string QB, especially after being reinserted into the game only to produce an anemic 2 minute drill in which he went three and out by trying to throw deep into coverage on a 3rd and 1 play.

QB Rhett Bomar entered the game with just over 9 minutes to play and was immediately welcomed to the NFL with a sack off a jailbreak from the Carolina third string defense.  Bomar completed both his passes, but really had no chance to showcase any of his talent due to the Swiss cheese offensive line he was relegated to play with.  We will have to wait and see if he gets any more playing time next week in order to properly evaluate his play.

The Running Backs: HB Brandon Jacobs started and after gaining just 5 yards on his first two carries in the first series, accounted for the first 37 yards on the next series with a 4 yard gain off left tackle, a 13 yard reception in which he had a nice chip on the LDE before sliding into the flat and catching a high pass from Manning, and then rumbling behind Hedgecock for 22 yards on the third play.  Jacobs’ night was over at that point, but his statement had been made.  Jacobs is still The Beast.

There’s another beast in the Giants backfield.  The Little Beast.  HB Ahmad Bradshaw took over after Jacobs completed his night and the team didn’t miss a beat.  On 1st and 10 from the Carolina 19 yard line, Bradshaw took the handoff on a counter play to the right, followed exquisite blocking to the 7 yard line, and absolutely demolished CB Chris Gamble on his way into the end zone.  The Little Beast had several lunch pail carries on Monday, finishing with 5 carries for 35 yards and adding 2 receptions for 17 yards.  If Bradshaw continues to show the power and toughness that he demonstrated in 2007 but was not evident last year, the Giants may once again see two halfbacks run for more than 1000 yards.

HB Danny Ware spelled Bradshaw with around 4 minutes to go in the 1st half, but without a very good offensive line to run behind was limited in how he could contribute.  He had a long of 9 yards but finished with 12 carries for just 21 yards.  Ware did catch 2 passes for 36 yards (which led the Giants) and made a solid chip block before taking a screen pass from David Carr and after outrunning his convoy broke attempted tackles by Gamble (yes, again!) and DE Hilee Taylor to get to the end zone.

Second year HB Allen Patrick, a 7th round pick of the Ravens who ended up on the Browns’ roster last season before signing with the Giants this May, had an impressive 36 yards (which led the Giants) on 8 carries.  Once the odd man out, Patrick now has a shot at making the roster after the injury to 4th round draft pick HB Andre Brown.  Patrick showed good speed and vision on a 29 yard scamper off left tackle in the 4th quarter helping to set up a K Lawrence Tynes field goal.

FB Madison Hedgecock continues to show great strength and pad level and is the greatest road grading fullback the Giants have had in many, many years.  The surprise of the night, however, may have been how well HB/FB Dwayne Wright played.  Wright caught a pass and made several key blocks from the FB position.  He showed great vision and repeatedly got to the second level to take on the linebackers and provide holes for the ball carrier.  Specifically, he had the block that sprung Patrick on his 29 yard run.  He may not make the squad, but there is little doubt that he has the potential to pick up with another team and contribute.

The Wide Receivers and Tight Ends: As Eric of BBI stated in his Game Preview, “This is the area that is receiving all of the attention from fans.”  I agree with Eric that the Giants will likely only carry six wide receivers.  On Monday night, the only WR that really separated himself from the others was 2nd year man WR Mario Manningham.  Mario was targeted twice by Manning on the opening drive, and although the one he caught was called back, Manningham did a great job coming back to the ball and getting separation from the DB to gain a first down.  Just after that, however, he misread the coverage, thinking it was man when it was zone, and the ball was thrown behind him to a different spot.  He showed good separation from the DB on the play.  Manningham was also targeted deep down the right sideline by David Carr, but was unable to adjust to the ball and make a play for it.  It appeared to me that it was catchable, but Manningham seemed to be stumbling away from the ball and unable to recover.  What separated Manningham from the other receivers was his decisiveness and effectiveness on special teams, particularly punt returns.  Finally, on the Ahmad Bradshaw touchdown run, Manningham was guilty of an uncalled hold.  It was promising, however, to see that he (as well as the other receivers) was actively involved in blocking downfield.

Camp standout WR Sinorice Moss squandered a golden opportunity to gain favor with the coaching staff as he received the start due to injury to WR Steve Smith.  Moss was not targeted by Eli Manning and was only targeted once by David Carr, a play that Carr checked to when he saw the coverage was 8 yards off the WR.  Moss ran a solid curl/slant that he caught for a 9 yard gain.  Moss also fielded four punts and had 8 yard returns on two of them, but he made two questionable decisions when he fielded one of the punts on his own 3 yard line and on another ran up on the ball to keep it from bouncing and saved field position.  He made the catch, but there is a high probability of failure on that type of catch and it could have ended in disaster.  Head Coach Tom Coughlin praised Moss as making these two ‘courageous’ plays, but you have to wonder how he’d have felt if this had been Week 1 versus the Washington Redskins.  Furthermore, the east/west running on the returns needs to be corrected to running north/south.  Moss also saw action on the kick return team, but he did not have an opportunity to make a play on the unit.

In such a wide open and much ballyhooed competition for roster spots, WR’s David Tyree, Domenik Hixon, Taye Biddle, Hakem Nicks, Derek Hagan and Ramses Barden all had just one catch each.

Fan favorite David Tyree caught one pass (negated by an accepted penalty) but was targeted several times and generally played well, both on offense and on specials.  Though he was not credited with any special teams tackles, he certainly was in on at least two tackles on punt returns.

Hixon in limited time did have a nice catch on a bubble screen that ended up going for 19 yards as he made the most out of what appeared to be a dysfunctional play.

Nicks and Barden, the two rookies the Giants are counting on most, really didn’t get a fair shake as their QB was under constant pressure due to the turnstile effect the third string offensive line was busy perfecting.

Ramses Barden caught one ball for 20 yards on a pass from Woodson.  Other than that, he was thrown to deep during the two minute drill, but the corner had position and kept him from making a play on the ball.  Barden was ill advisably targeted on the throw by Woodson that resulted in an interception. He did not appear to fight back hard enough to the ball in order to either try to make a play on it or at least break up the interception.  As noted above, a wrinkle that the Giants put in for Barden was putting him in motion to allow him a free release off the line at the snap.  This could be a very good way to get him into the slot quickly and defeat the press coverage.  It’s obvious that they want Barden on the active roster, as he played on the kick coverage team.  Two plays that were he was observable on the television, however, showed him getting completely blown up on one and being easily ridden out of the play on the other.

Hakeem Nicks made a circus style catch reminiscent of his famous behind the back college catch on a quick slant bullet from Bomar.  Other than that, he was quiet on Monday.

Derek Hagan, another camp All Star, had a rough night, not being able to come up with two tough catches, both of which would have sustained drives.  Those drops may come back to haunt Hagan, but at the moment he’s lucky that no other WR was much better.

All in all, the most active receiver of the night was Manningham.  None of the other receivers really stood out, and the three fighting for the probable 5th and 6th slots (Hagan, Moss, and Tyree) did absolutely nothing to help their causes.  Since Hagan was not seen on specials in any capacity, however, his two drops loom large.

TE Kevin Boss was not used in the passing game at all, and his blocking was its usual vanilla self.  He’s the starter, and a known commodity.  Darcy Johnson had a solid night as a blocking TE despite published reports.  He nullified his man on several occasions, helping to open holes on a number of runs.  In the passing game, Johnson caught one pass and appeared to be open on a couple of plays where Carr either checked down or scrambled.  Michael Matthews also was solid in the running game.  Highly touted H-Back Travis Beckum caught one ball and was also open on a number of plays but was ignored by the QB.  TE Lee Vickers, who has shined at camp, did not flash in this game.

The Offensive Line: Due to not having the ability to rewind and watch the line in detail, I am unable to accurately comment on most of the individual blocking techniques each lineman employed and the level of effectiveness they achieved.  Where obvious or when a replay allowed, I was able to comment on several individual plays.

The starting five looked nothing like the unit that will take the field during the regular season.  Late scratches to both starting guards, Chris Snee and Rich Seubert, opened the door for 10 year journeyman OL Tutan Reyes and fourth year man OL Kevin Boothe, who did an adequate job in spot duty last season at the tackle positions.  Both shined in the running game as they showed deft moves pulling to lead the backs on several plays.  In particular, Reyes pulled beautifully to his right and lead Bradshaw through a hole created by his devastating block on the down lineman.  In pass protection, both Boothe and Reyes more than held their own, helping to keeping Manning and Carr clean during the early going.

Backup OL Guy Whimper continued his work at RT and looked good doing so.  He is the obvious backup at LT, but seems to be more suited for the right side.

Another BBI whipping boy, backup C Adam Koets, had an unspectacular night.  For Koets, that’s a good thing and means there were no muffed snaps.  It did appear that Carolina got off the ball a little quickly on his snaps, but that may have been on the QB as easily as it could have been on him.  Some of his shotgun snaps were off line, but none so much that they affected the rhythm of the play.

One of the most scrutinized players in camp this year is rookie LT William Beatty.  He’s a project, and it’s obvious from his play in the game against fellow rookie Everette Brown that he needs work across the board technique and strength wise.  Although he gave up a sack to Brown, it can be argued that Beatty had great position on Brown and by leaving the pocket to that side of the field, Carr ran into that sack.  I would not blame Beatty on that sack.  Brown was projected as a top 5 DE in the draft.  You can read his draft write up at this link if you’re interested.

BBI Corner Forum contributor ‘regulator’ posted some very good thoughts on Beatty’s performance that I believe should be repeated here:

Beatty’s first look as a pro was solid.  Consider that he is coming from the University of Connecticut, where the level of competition is high, but a few steps shy of the NFL, and it was even more impressive.

UConn has a very good strength and conditioning program, this is well-known around the league.  It is no surprise that Beatty is strong for a rook and his feet are very good as well.  His body is big and athletic and he will be able to bulk up without sacrificing quickness and athleticism, which will bode well for his future as an OT, likely LT.

  Watching him in the game, he was clearly jumpy, especially when passing off the twist.  He would post inside a few times too many, then when the looper came back outside, he would almost have to turn and run to get back in position.  You know a guy has good feet when he can get out of position, bounce back outside, square up to his man, and get his hands on very nicely to make the block.  An average OL with poor feet is probably already beat in this situation, yet Beatty was able to regroup and still win the battle.  This is very good, and shows that his feet are excellent.  He has a long way to go on technique, but the raw talent there is evident, which is really all you can ask for from a rookie OL seeing his first NFL game action.  There is a difference between good feet and good footwork, but having the former makes it much easier to achieve the latter.

Beatty also put up with Brown’s bull rush very nicely, getting his hands inside, sinking the hips, and kicking the legs behind to wedge into the ground and stop his charge.  It’s a pretty simple technique but a lot of guys totally blow it when they get bull rushed (especially at the tackle position) because they are out of position right off the snap.  Beatty did a nice job of getting square and hands-on right off the snap, which gives you room to work against the bull.  If the guy gets into your body right off the snap, you might as well fall down because it’s over.

Now, on the other hand, he was going up against Brown, a rookie, who likely has little more than a speed rush and a bull rush in his portfolio at the moment.  Still, Beatty has a bit of mean streak and was mixing it up with Brown all night, which was good to see.  I like what we have in this kid and am excited to see what he develops into.  Going up against Osi and Co. during practice can’t hurt either, can it?  I should also add that I would put Beatty ahead of Koets and possibly even Whimper already.  Whimper has flashed, so I suppose I won’t, but Koets, IMO, is a goner.  The move to C was a red flag… the coaches like the kid, so they are giving him a chance to help the team, but it doesn’t look like he’s getting it done.  It’s fine though, we can go into a season with our starting 5, plus Reyes, Whimper, and Beatty.  I like what I see out of Cliff Louis too, and even Carnahan.

I agree with this assessment, but frankly Carnahan did the best he could to allow his opponents free runs into the backfield but occasionally got in the way, seemingly by accident.  The third string offensive linemen gave Woodson and Bomar absolutely no chance to distinguish themselves in this game.

The Defense: The Giants began the game missing DT Fred Robbins (knee), DT Chris Canty (hamstring), DT Rocky Bernard (hamstring), LB Michael Boley (hip), CB Corey Webster (hip), and CB Aaron Ross (leg).  Four starters and two important rotational players missing and the Giants defense didn’t miss a beat, generating 5 turnovers off 6 forced fumbles and an  interception as well as adding  4 sacks, 8 quarterback hits, and knocking down 6 passes just for good measure.  Generally, the Giants played a base defense and rushed just the four down linemen.  There were several zone and fire blitz packages, and the Giants did send the corners and safeties on a few occasions.

Front 7: The front 7 were missing four key players in Michael Boley, Chris Canty, Rocky Bernard, (all of whom were brought in during Free Agency) and Fred Robbins.  This opened the door for several players to get significant playing time.  DT Jay Alford and OLB Bryan Kehl along with DT Barry Cofield got the starts.

DE Osi Umenyiora returned to form and got the defense started with a sack and forced fumble on QB Jake Delhomme with a huge assist from Alford.  As Osi beat his man easily around the end, Alford collapsed the pocket and pushed the QB right into Osi’s path.  Osi and DE/DT Justin Tuck (1 tackle) got the night off early.

DT Barry Cofield was active and in on a couple tackles as the Giants tried to contain RB DeAngelo Williams.  Williams averaged nearly 5 yards per carry, and Cofield was consistently downfield and in on the tackle as they seemed to run away from him.  The team gave up 124 yards rushing to one of the best rushing teams in football on just 23 carries.  That’s a 5.49 per carry clip that cannot be allowed during the regular season if the Giants want to win many games.

DE Dave Tollefson didn’t do much to help stave off the assault for playing time that DE Maurice Evans is putting up.  Evans had a sack, a forced fumble, and several pressures whereas Tollefson was largely ineffective.  Evans was incorrectly credited with the tipped ball that ended up being intercepted by CB Stoney Woodson.  The credit should have gone to DT Anthony Bryant, who made a very athletic play to get his hand up on the ball.

DE Mathias Kiwanuka did little in this game, but was called for offsides on one play.  Kiwi wasn’t credited with any tackles on the score sheet.

Finally, props go to DE’s Leger Douzable for his sack and forced fumble of Cantwell and Tommie Hill for recovering the ball out of midair and returning the ball for the winning score.  The play mercifully kept the game from going to overtime.

The linebackers were active and involved.  MLB Antonio Pierce knifed his way into the backfield on one play to stop DeAngelo Williams for a loss. On the weak side, Danny Clark didn’t do too much and was glaringly missing on several runs to his side.  Both were out of the game early.  Backup MLB Chase Blackburn was his usual solid self, actively calling the defense as well as Pierce does and playing well against the run.  OLBs Brian Kehl and Jonathan Goff both had very solid games.  Kehl got the first hit of the game in the backfield, but the tackle was slipped by Williams.  This would be the last play that Kehl didn’t look impressive on.  He forced one fumble, knocked down and almost intercepted a pass intended for Muhammad, and disrupted several pass patterns.  Goff was all over the field, and he too knocked down a pass and looked promising in coverage.

Much maligned OLB Gerris Wilkinson had a fairly solid game and made two key stops on plays that would have resulted in long gainers if he’d failed to make the tackle.

The star of the front 7 on Monday night, however, went to rookie OLB Clint Sintim, who was a demon all over the field from both his projected strong side linebacker spot and from the right defensive end position.  Sintim entered the game early in the second period as the SAM and was in on several tackles.  It was later in the game, however, when he shined at the LDE position that got the fans excited.  Sintim registered several pressures, a sack, and forced fumble in a relatively short period of time, albeit against the dregs of the Carolina offensive line.  Several BBI’ers observed that this, but it should be noted that he was effective at the linebacker position against the second string offense early in the second period.  Sintim also gets kudo’s for showing serious emotion and fire on the field and sidelines.  The kid obviously loves to play.  In summary, although the front 7 allowed nearly 5.5 YPC to the Carolina running game, they completely dominated their passing game by applying heavy pressure, stout coverage underneath, and getting hands on balls at the LOS or deeper in the passing lanes.

Defensive Backs: Starting CBs Corey Webster and Aaron Ross were both out for this game, and in their place to start were CBs Kevin Dockery and Terrell Thomas.  There has been rumor, discussion, innuendo, pick your phrase that Thomas might push Ross for one of the starting positions at CB, and his showing on Monday night will not silence that talk.  At the least, Thomas will certainly see the field often and could push Dockery for playing time in the nickel.  Dockery also did a good job on the outside and continues to stick to receivers like glue in man coverage.

CB Stoney Woodson looked fantastic in his first start as a pro.  Woodson was in on 4 tackles, broke up a pass, and had the lone Giants interception when he made a fantastic adjustment on a tipped ball by Bryant.  Woodson also has flashed in training camp, getting a lot of time against the huge Ramses Barden.

DeAndre Wright did not stand out to me, but according to published reports he and Bruce Johnson each played the majority of the game.  Game experience is key to learning, and both need the reps.  Johnson actually had a solid game, recording 3 tackles.

At safety, the stand out was not camp All Star Kenny Phillips, who only played a quarter and did not show up on the stat sheet, but rather Travonti Johnson, who registered 7 tackles in the secondary.  Johnson entered the game in the second quarter, and showed good support with 5 of his tackles coming against the run.  He was also credited with a forced fumble with a jarring flip of running back Mark Goodson which was recovered by safety C.C. Brown.  Brown was also a pleasant surprise, and looks like he’ll be a solid contributor as a backup.  Backup S Sha’reff Rashad dropped a sure interception, but made two tackles in the game.

The lone area of concern in the secondary was the seemingly reluctance of safety Michael Johnson to initiate contact with the running backs.  On three occasions, Johnson allowed DeAngelo Williams play him instead of attacking the rush and putting a hat on him.  On two occasions, he did succeed in keeping Williams to the inside, influencing him to the pursuit but it appeared plays were there to be made for minimal or no gain that ended up gains of 7 yards or more.  A lot is expected of Johnson, and it will be interesting to see if he continues to read and react passively to the run or whether he begins to attack as he did last season.  Johnson was also victimized inside when WR Kenny Moore got position for a 17 yard gain on a 3rd and 9 play in the second Carolina offensive series.

Special Teams: P Jeff Feagles is a Football God.

The last of the BBI whipping boys, K Lawrence Tynes, did a very good job getting all of his kickoffs inside the 5 yard line.  None reached the end zone, but the hang time was solid and there were no big returns.  He was 1-2 in FG tries, connecting on a 46 yarder just inside the right upright and missing a 43 yarder that was just a bit wide right.  Long Snapper Jay Alford and Holder Jeff Feagles were as solid as ever.

The kickoff team performed admirably, not giving up a big return all game.  Seeing Ramses Barden running down the field on the kick team was a bit of a surprise until logic sets in and you realize that they need him to contribute on specials if they want to be able to activate him on game day.

The punt team, however, had one huge blunder when they only sent 10 men out onto the field which resulted in Feagles having his punt blocked.  Feagles did a great job getting the gut he received in the offseason from Antonio Pierce down the field to knock the ball out of the end zone for a safety instead of allowing the Panthers to fall on it for a touchdown.  Originally, I thought that the mistake was on David Tyree, as he looped off the right edge to attack through the middle over Long Snapper Zak DeOssie leaving LB James Anderson a free run in to make the easy block.

The return game was covered earlier in the review, and frankly other than the first punt return by Mario Manningham for 21 yards, not much else of merit occurred.  The kickoff returns were handled by WR Shaun Bodiford who had a return for 27 yards, Taye Biddle who had a return of 21 yards, and Sinorice Moss who downed his only chance 8 yards deep in the end zone.

Coaching: In a somewhat unexpected move, new DC Bill Sheridan coached the team from the sidelines instead of upstairs from the coach’s booth.  A BBI’er had reported that Sheridan claimed that the players talked him into this decision, but Coughlin indicated during his press conference that he made the decision.

Offensive Player of the Game: After taking a backseat to Derrick Ward last season, Ahmad Bradshaw has gotten a chance to take the reigns as the number two back on the team and by watching his performance on Monday night, it’s clear he does not want to lose the job.  The Little Beast ran with toughness, speed, and resolve in his limited time, and also caught 2 passes out of the backfield on check downs which is an area the Giants have wanted more production from ever since Tiki Barber left town.

Defensive Player of the Game: This could go to several players, but I’m giving it to Osi Umenyiora after displaying incredible speed and quickness on his sack of Jake Delhomme.  It cannot be understated how much he will bring to this team in terms of attention that will allow other players to turn loose.  Welcome back Osi, it’s good to see you!

(Box Score – Carolina Panthers at New York Giants, August 17, 2009)
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