Aug 261996
 
Carolina Panthers 34 – New York Giants 7

Overview: If you read the review of the game or even if you saw the game, you may disagree with us. You may even say we’re crazy, but we saw some very positive signs from the Giants during their 34-7 loss to the Carolina Panthers. However, and it is a very big however, we see two huge problems with this team: (1) a major lack of confidence in itself, and (2) coaching. Going 1-3 in the preseason is obviously not the confidence building experience that this team desperately needed…especially given the fact that the losses came against an expansion team and two teams that had a worse record than the Giants did last year…especially given the fact that two of the losses were embarrassing blow outs…especially given the fact that this team is young and unproven. Everyone believes the Giants will be a terrible team this year — the national and New York media, fans all over the country, and even opposing players and coaches. This lack of respect can’t help but negatively influence the Giants’ players. Regardless of what they say to the press, they must be questioning themselves. The Giants are not devoid of talent. They have the makings of a VERY good offense and they have some good players on defense…however, if they do not believe they will be good, they will not be. We firmly believe that half the game is mental. The other problem we see is the coaching, and not just the head coaching. In our opinion, Reeves and his staff do not put their players in the best position to succeed. Offensively, the Giants are even more predictable than they ever were under Bill Parcells — and that’s saying a lot! Run, run, pass…run, run, pass…the opposing defense always knows what’s coming and when the opposing defense knows what’s coming, you will not succeed on offense. Now to the specifics…

Quarterbacks: A very, very strange game for Dave Brown. Dave started the game on fire. He was as sharp as we’ve ever seen him. However, it all came apart in the second quarter as two passes turned Dave’s solid performance completely around. On a 3rd-and-long play (yet again), the Panthers called a beautiful blitz. CB Tyrone Poole of the Panthers was following the motion WR across the field…but as the ball was snapped, Poole turned up field and caught the Giants (namely Keith Elias) flat footed. It was as well a disguised blitz as we’ve EVER seen. Regardless, Brown was under severe pressure as soon as the ball was snapped and instead of taking the sack, he tried to force the ball into H-Back Aaron Pierce’s hands. The pass was very close to being completed, but MLB Sam Mills made an incredible play as he played off the block of the lineman and made a spectacular one-handed interception, which he returned for a TD. When we saw the replay, we said to ourselves, “well, that was just an amazing defensive play…that happens sometimes…you can’t blame Brown too much for that.” However, when Brown came back into the game, after a couple of very nice passes, he made his worst mistake of the preseason…a play hauntingly reminiscent of Brown’s rookie season when he threw an out pattern to Keith Elias who was well-covered. The ball was picked off and returned to the Giants’ 14-yard line, which set up another score. For the remainder of the first half, Brown was obviously somewhat shaken and became overly cautious. He had Chris Calloway deep on one play and decided to check off to the short man. Yet once the 3rd period started, he regained his composure became very sharp again. As we said, it was a very strange game for him. We saw him make four bad plays, but aside from that he was nearly perfect. The four bad plays were the two interceptions, not throwing to Calloway deep, and holding onto the ball too long on a play-action pass on 3rd-and-goal (luckily for Brown and the Giants, the Panthers were offside on the play). The rest of the game, as we said, Brown looked as sharp as we’ve ever seen him. He threw a great seam pass to Howard Cross (hooray! the seam pass to the TE!) and he was sharp on out patterns to Calloway and Lewis. He hit Toomer on a slant and was effective throwing to Pierce on short routes. When flushed out of the pocket, twice he made very nice plays where he kept his composure, scrambled right, directed the WR down the field, and threw a beautiful pass (one of which was dropped by Calloway). He also picked up a big first down running the ball on 3rd-and-long. What hurt Brown the most was the play calling…run, run, pass…run, run, pass. The Panthers’ defense, like every defense the Giants will face this year, stacked the line of scrimmage on first and second down and dared the Giants to pass the ball…which they didn’t. We see this, the commentators see this, the fans see this, the media sees, the opposition sees this…why doesn’t Dan Reeves see this? Twice, when the Giants did pass on first down, the passes were easily completed. In order to open up the running game, the Giants must start hurting opposing defenses by passing the ball on first and second down. Then once the defense backs off, then you can start running the ball — then you have the defense on its heels. The Giants have the WR’s now to employ this strategy, unlike last year. Brown was 11-of-18 for 110 yards. As for Stan White, he like Brown, started the game on fire, quickly cooled off, and then played well once again. White’s strengths when throwing the ball are his decisiveness, his strong throws on intermediate routes over the middle, and a nice touch on his deep throws. His weaknesses are that he doesn’t have a strong enough arm for the deep out (which will severely limit him whenever he plays) and he doesn’t know when to take the sack. When White came into the game midway through the 3rd quarter, he started off playing well, looking good on play-action passes and the intermediate stuff. What also helped him was that Reeves allowed him to throw on first down, unlike Brown. However, White threw two interceptions and threw another pass which also should have been picked off. He made an incredibly stupid play when he was being sacked in the endzone for a safety. Instead of eating the ball and taking the safety, he tried to throw it away. It was picked off and returned for an easy TD. To be fair to White, he was under siege the entire game. He was sacked time and time again and when he wasn’t sacked, he was hurried and knocked to the turf. The other thing that hurt him was the playcalling once again. Up by 14-27 points and knowing the Giants were going to pass in order to get back into the game, the Panthers’ defenders got into the pass rush mode and just went after the quarterback. The Giants added them immensely by continuing to call play-action passes. Play action takes too much time when the opposing defense knows you’re playing catch-up ball. White never had a chance and the Giants never stopped the play-action. Stupid! White was 7-of-15 for 70 yards.

Running Backs: Rodney Hampton must wish he ended up with the 49ers. Rodney is a very talented back and the Giants are going to have a very good offensive line, but it’s not going to matter much when the opposing defense knows you’re going to run and stacks the line of scrimmage. We know we keep repeating ourselves but this is getting pathetic. Run, run, pass…run, run, pass. There are more bodies to block than there are bodies to block them. The Panthers had all their linebackers and their strong safety playing within five yards of the line of scrimmage — and EVERYONE went for Hampton as soon as the ball was snapped. Where is the deception? Where is cleverness? Where is the intelligence? Hampton carried the ball 17 times for 36 yards (a miserable 2.2 yard per carry average). He had a couple of nice runs up the middle and to his left. The Giants also had some different kinds of running plays — the ran a toss sweep and ran a good looking play where Hampton started on the right side of the formation, but accelerated to his left out of his stance as the guards pulled to lead him — however, it didn’t matter because there were too many people to block. Charles Way looked good blocking for Hampton, particularly on Hampton’s TD run. Keith Elias is no longer our “Mr. Preseason.” He is now our “Mr. Journeyman.” Elias, just like against the Ravens and Jets, did nothing positive at all and was stuffed at the line of scrimmage. He shows no moves, power, or instincts. Robert Walker saw quite a bit of action in the 4th quarter, but didn’t excite. He carried the ball 6 times for 12 yards.

Tight Ends/H-Backs: Hooray, hooray, hooray!!! The Giants threw both to Howard Cross and Aaron Pierce…they also threw the seam pass to Cross. Howard made up for his dropped TD last week by coming up with three nice catches for 33 yards. Pierce was heavily involved in the offense, but during the opening series, he did not run his pattern deep enough to pick up the first down on a 3rd-down pass and the Giants were forced to punt…that’s a big no-no! It looks like the Giants will use Pierce a great deal this year on play-action role outs. Pierce caught 4 passes for 35 yards in the game. The Giants even threw to Brian Saxton in the game and he didn’t disappoint. He caught 2 passes for 25 yards.

Wide Receivers: Run, run, pass…run, run, pass. With all the running and all the turnovers, the Giants’ WR’s didn’t get much of a chance to show their wares this week. Thomas Lewis (hamstring) toughed it out and started the game. He picked up a nice first down during the first series. Chris Calloway (2 catches for 22 yards) also picked up a first down on a third down pass, but dropped a perfect pass from Brown on a deep crossing pattern. Amani Toomer (2 catches for 20 yards) made a nice play on yet another 3rd down pass for a first down, but also dropped a pass. Lawrence Dawsey (no catches) was not a factor once again. Arthur Marshall made a nice play on a 17-yard completion from Stan White. Omar Douglas showed his toughness on one play where he held onto the ball while getting levelled.

Offensive Line: This line is coming together, but there are still some trouble spots. LT Greg Bishop had some problems with the pass rush, particularly from DE Shawn King (who gave the Giants fits all night — this is a guy who we liked in the draft a lot last year). Except for one series where Bishop had problems with King, we thought the line did an adequate (but not great) job in pass protection. Most of the Giants’ problems in pass protection for the first unit came from Panthers’ Head Coach Dom Caper’s complicated blitzing schemes. The good news is that this is good practice for the Giants for the regular season. It was tough to judge the run blocking because there were so many opposing defenders near the line of scrimmage. From what we saw, however, we thought Zatechka, Stone, and Gragg had a good game run blocking. Stone had to leave the game with a sprained ankle — let’s hope he will be alright for the opener. The second team offensive line did not distinguish themselves at all. Both the tackles, Roman Oben and Jerry Reynolds had a rough night. In addition, Carolina blitzing gave the interior trio all they could handle. What made matters even worse is that the Giants (again the coaching) did not have enough backs in the backfield to pick up these blitzes — it reminded us of Florida and Nebraska in last year’s Collegiate Championship Game.

Defensive Line: The starters (Bratzke, Agnew, Hamilton, Strahan) were not horrible, but they were not good either. The Giants did a decent job against the inside running game for most of the first quarter, but had problems when Tim Biakabatuka bounced the play outside. Once again, it was the right side of the Giants’ defense that had most of the problems against the run. Chad Bratzke is not a good run defender and Ray Agnew looks like he’s regressing to us (though he did have some moments). It clearly helps the Giants when Keith Hamilton is in there. The starting defense gave up only one long drive of the night and the Panthers’ drive was only kept alive by stupid mistakes by the Giants (i.e., offside penalties, bad tackling, etc.). However, as the long drive wore on, the Giants had more and more problems against the run. Surprisingly, DT Bernard Holsey saw a lot of work in the second quarter with the first unit and he didn’t look that out of place. Cedric Jones played quite a bit and aside from one excellent defensive play against the run, didn’t do too much. He still looks like he’s playing catch-up due to all the time he missed in camp. Reeves and Nolan played many of the starters late into the game. We saw Strahan, Harris, and Agnew taking snaps in the 4th quarter. As the game wore on, and as it became very clear the Giants were out of it, the line became less and less effective. These guys need a boost of confidence quickly, but we’re afraid that they are not going to get it from Buffalo or Dallas.

Linebackers: Again, not terrible, but no one stood out and no one made any big plays. Corey Widmer made an excellent play in pass defense early on but was rarely heard from for the remainder of the game. He was completely fooled on a play-action pass down on the goalline and left his man wide open for an easy TD. On many off-tackle runs, we didn’t see him in the picture and that is very disconcerting. Coleman Rudolph had his best game this preseason (which isn’t saying much). He made a nice stop behind the line of scrimmage during a run blitz and looked more comfortable out there this week. However, he was annihilated on the goalline when Carolina scored their rushing TD after Brown’s second interception. Carolina had decent success passing into the flats and we blame much of this on Jessie Armstead and Corey Miller. Both Doug Colman and Scott Galyon made nice plays in pass defense, but both didn’t distinguish themselves against the run either.

Defensive Backs: This unit played well once again. CB Jason Sehorn made a bone-head play when he completely whiffed on an open field tackle and allowed the receiver to pick up the first down on a 3rd down play during Carolina’s one and only long TD drive. Sehorn looked as bad as he did when he was a rookie on this play. CB Thomas Randolph made a great play as he stayed stride-for-stride with his man on a deep sideline pattern down the left side line. Phillippi Sparks looks like he’s ready to go as he came very close to picking of a pass in the endzone. Tito Wooten can hit and Rodney Young had nice coverage on an intermediate route near the goalline. Willie Beamon played quite a bit, but looked terrible trying to tackle the ball carrier on a few occasions. Unfortunately, Conrad Hamilton sprained his knee (a turf injury all the way) and left the game early — let’s hope it’s not serious because this guy is someone who the Giants were counting on. Carolina did not do much damage in their passing game (only 79 yards) as the secondary held its own once again.

Special Teams: The punt and kick coverage units were much improved as Marcus Buckley and Keith Elias made some nice plays. However, the blocking for the punt and kick returns is as bad as we’ve ever seen on any team — and not just for this game, but all preseason. Against the Panthers, it was a jailbreak as the returner, no matter who it was, never had a chance. It doesn’t even look like the Giants are attempting to block potential tacklers. Interestingly, the Giants had Chris Calloway returning one punt — Arthur Marshall was in there the rest of the time. Omar Douglas and Arthur Marshall returned kick-offs — those two aren’t going scare anyone on specials. Brad Daluiso missed a 40 yard field goal and remains a huge question mark. Mike Horan’s punts were average. Overall, it doesn’t look to us as if the special teams are ready to start the season. Mark our words — this will cost the Giants dearly.

Coaching: The offensive play calling is inept and the special teams are poorly coached. There are too many defensive line men being switched from position to position and not enough timely blitzing on passing downs. This team is young and inexperienced, but it does have talent and it has more offensive talent than quite a few teams in the league. However, the team does not look ready to start the season. It looks ill-prepared and confused. Alas, only if we had Jimmy Johnson coaching this team!

Aug 201996
 
New York Jets 13 – New York Giants 6

General Impressions: While this was a much better outing for the first team offense and defense, one must still factor in that it was against the Jets — one of 4 teams with worse records than the Giants. But then, so were the Ravens. The second team grades horrible as a unit, but they’re not designed to play as a unit. There were some individual standouts both positive and negative. I watched for, and will try to spend more time on things that are of particular interest to the BBHP crowd. As box scores are available elsewhere, I will not post specific stats.

Quarterbacks: General: Dave Brown started and was clearly nervous or over-excited or something on the first 2 offensive possessions of the ball. In general, he had time to throw (overall: knocked down twice and took what appeared to be a coverage sack). On these 2 possessions, he looked like the QB of last year when throwing the ball. From the 3rd possession on, however, he settled down and played much better. He marched the team on two long drives. His Play Action Fakes (PAFs) are quite good now — better than most QBs in the NFL, and Brown was throwing the ball REALLY WELL on the roll out. While he’ll still misfire occasionally, after he settled down, he was pretty accurate except for when throwing the bomb where he over threw his WRs — once by about 4 yards, and once by about 1 yard. He still needs work on this, and you could tell by his reaction — he knows it. Brown’s decision making was very good. I didn’t see him make any bad ones, and if he missed anyone wide open, I couldn’t detect it and the announcers didn’t point it out. The play calls Brown worked with seemed less conservative than last year. Believe it or not, the slant has become a part of the Giants offense, and Brown was throwing it well. Specific: Here are Brown’s plays (hopefully) in sequence from my notes separated by “/”: PAF overthrow (OT) / bad throw / OT to Hampton / ball knocked down/Roll out (RO) long pass to Calloway. This was REALLY nice, he rolled out way left, then threw the ball all the way back across to the right to a wide open Calloway. / Nice throw to Elias / PAF for 6 yards / Throw to Cross — hit in the numbers on the 1 yard line, Cross dropped it — if he’d caught it and fallen forward it was a TD. Timing play to Calloway in the Red zone and Calloway didn’t get close enough — he tipped the ball 3 times and it fell to a Jet lying on his back fir an INT. Next possession: Nice slant to Dawsey, but pattern not run far enough for 1st down / OT Lewis on the bomb / RO to Calloway — again, nice / Slant to Lewis / Throw to Calloway / Off target throw to Dawsey in redzone / OT Lewis again on bomb. Maddox: I won’t spend much time on Maddox since he was cut yesterday. In general, he played his best half of football for the Giants, and was still pretty bad. He failed to move the team. He had little help form the second stringers. No fumbles.

Running Backs: The run game benefited greatly from the return of Charles Way. Hampton: RH looked more like RH. Here’s how it went: Stuffed / 2 yards / stuffed / took pitch out for good gain / 5 yard gain between the tackles / again / outside run for 9-nice block by Toomer / 1st down plunge / 5 yard gain / 3-4 yard gain. Way: Way looked good. His returned sparked the running game. He was in early then the team went to the H-back and he wasn’t a factor. Aside from good blocking, he had an nice reception on a PAF and one nice carry for like 9 yards. Elias: Elias was Elias. Stuffed often, getting yards occasionally. He’s nothing out of the backfield, but if you throw to him, he can be effective.

Tight Ends/H-Backs: Not used much. Cross had one golden opportunity and blew it. He was wide open on the 1, and Brown hit him in the chest. Cross dropped it. Cross was making good progress as a receiver a few years back, but if anything, Cross has regressed under Reeves. He is underused to the point that catching the ball is foreign to him. The other TEs were non-factors as receivers.

Wide Receivers: General: Lewis reportedly suffered a mild concussion, but it was impossible to determine when this occurred. Toomer got a good amount of playing time as the 2nd WR with the first unit, but Brown didn’t go to him except on the bomb. Calloway was Calloway. On the play Dawsey was stripped of the ball for a TD, the officials MISSED THAT HE WAS BEING FACEMASKED! Dawsey wasn’t a factor otherwise, and it was encouraging to me that Toomer received more work than Dawsey with the 1st unit. The WRs were running slants much more than we’re used to, and while they need some more practice, it looks like it may become effective. It’s a pass Brown and Maddox both were throwing well, however, Omar Douglas and Dawsey both ran them too short when the team needed first down yardage. Probably gonna’ cost Douglas his job. The WRs also ran several fly patterns. On one, Toomer blew by Jet Ottis Smith, got 5 yards of separation, and kept it for the distance. If Brown hit him, it would have been a TD. I saw good blocking from Toomer on 2 plays. Arthur (get used to him) Marshall caught one and actually showed a move.

Offensive Line: Starters: The starters did fine — evidence by the fact that you seldom heard anything about them. Hugh Douglas beat Bishop once or twice and they allowed one sack that looked like a coverage sack. The run blocking looked improved as evidence by Hampton’s gains between the tackles. There were 5 penalties in the first half and a couple were on the OL. 2nd team. Pretty lousy. Maddox was under siege. Roman Oben looks very erratic — good on some plays bad on others. He’s a ways away from being consistent — neither he, nor Bishop is going to make us forget Jumbo anytime soon.

Defensive Line: (projected) Starters: Much better! They didn’t appears as flat as they have in the other games this year. Strahan looked good again. Harris and Hamilton are much better at DT than any other current roster option — i.e. Harris is better than Agnew. (Guys, Swann signed with AZ, so get over the fantasy) If you watched Stacey Dillard in this game, his release was NOT a surprise. He was a human turnstile, and if your going to have a human turnstile, you can have one of the FAs (Holsey and Okoli) who are younger, bigger and cheaper. Agnew had a weak performance and SHOULD lose his starting job to Harris. Run stopping is supposed to be his thing, and he’s not getting it done. NICE to have big Hammer back. He makes a difference. Bratzke and Jones alternated at RE, and both were handled by Elliott early. Later however both beat Elliott for sacks. Don’t know if he’s 100%, but Jones showed no remaining evidence of a limp. He displayed great quickness, but has a lot to learn. You could see him getting better as the game went on. On one play, he beat Elliott with a forearm and inside move — he knocked down O’Donnell just after his release. On another, he beat him with a fake and an inside move. As the game went on, he got closer and closer to the QB. 2nd team. Late in the game Holsey and Okoli were making plays against the Jets backups. They may make the practice squad or even the team, considering the Dillard cut.

Linebackers: Starters: Uneventful. Armstead had a sack on a blitz and showed his speed. Widmer looked good against the run, but need a little work on coverage. I didn’t notice Miller much. 2nd team. Buckley actually made 2 tackles! Galyon made some plays. Colman wasn’t a factor.

Secondary: Starters: Sparks is in mid-season form. What else do you need from him? Sehorn almost had a sack on a CB blitz. Otherwise he was still Sehorn, often out of position, not as physical as a big corner should be. It was difficult to tell whether he was getting beat or letting his man loose for the safety. Early prediction: Conrad Hamilton is going to be starting opposite Sparks by Game 1 of 1997 at the LATEST. This kid is ALWAYS around the ball — as a DB AND on special teams. He’s currently raw, and a loose cannon, but he loose as good as or better than Randolph did his rookie year. He should be ahead of Sehorn NOW, but he won’t be. Campbell had a quiet night. 2nd team: Rodney Young had 2 picks of the O’Donnell Superbowl variety (i.e. on terrible passes). He also showed good play against the run. Much better than last week. Maurice Douglass was terrible again — an obvious cut. Toast Beamon probably won’t make the team either.

Special Teams: Horan punted 2 balls into the endzone and didn’t have a great night. Daluiso and Mare seem neck and neck to me. Both have touchback legs. Both kicked short FGs easily. PRs were Marshall — not much, Harrell — not much. Toomer — not much. KR Marshall had an OK return to the 30. The Giants Return coverage was much better this week. Elias and C. Hamilton are the gunners and go all out.

Aug 131996
 
Baltimore Ravens 37 – New York Giants 27

Overview: The Giants have MAJOR problems with their front seven on defense. Granted, the team has suffered a lot of injuries to the defense in camp, but the play of the starting defensive line and linebackers was absolutely horrible against the Ravens. The Ravens gained 275 yards and 16 first downs on the Giants STARTING defense in the first half ALONE. For the game, the Ravens picked up 177 yards rushing, 250 yards passing, and 29 first downs; they also dominated the time of possession by holding the ball for over two-thirds of the game. If the Giants can’t get their defensive problems somehow rectified, the team will be hard pressed to win even five games this year. As it looks right now, the Giants are farther away from competing for the division title over the next few years than we even thought. To make matters worse, the Giants’ running game was non-existent and, as everyone knows, that’s their bread-and-butter on offense. The Giants offense “generated” 30 yards of TOTAL offense in the first half (5 yards rushing and 25 yards passing) and ONE first down! The punt coverage unit is also a disaster. It’s obvious the Giants have a tremendous amount of work to do before the season starts. What really, really irked us, however, was the almost complete lack of emotion displayed by the Giant players during this game. Football is an emotional game, and in every other preseason game that we watched this weekend, the players on the other teams were playing with a great deal of emotion. We didn’t see much of that from the Giants on Saturday.

Quarterbacks: If this was a fair competition between back-ups Tommy Maddox and Stan White, then Tommy played himself off the team. Tommy threw three good passes that we can remember: a short screen pass to HB Rodney Hampton, a 3rd down strike to Lawrence Dawsey (which he dropped), and a beautiful TD throw to WR Thomas Lewis where he squeezed the ball in between the CB and S. The rest was pretty bad. Tommy usually had plenty of time, but he seemed to have trouble reading the defense. He didn’t see a wide open Thomas Lewis on what should have been an easy TD and he continues to have problems with the center snap. He fumbled the ball twice (one which was discounted due to an illegal motion penalty), making it five fumbled snaps in two games. He also forgot the snap count on one play. To be fair, the running game and defense didn’t help Tommy out, but like a Rams’ official recently told a reporter, he seems to always find a way to lose the game. Maddox was 5 of 10 for 42 yards with one TD pass and one interception (off a deflected pass). Stan White on the other hand looked pretty good. What surprised us was that he showed decent arm strength in this game. While the Giants couldn’t move the ball at all when Tommy was in the game (even when the first team offense faced the second team defense of the Ravens during one series), Stan seemed to be able move the ball up and down the field. Stan was little high on a couple of his throws (he almost got TE Brian Saxton killed on one play), but he looked calm and collected in the pocket and usually threw the ball with authority on intermediate routes. He hit Toomer with a nice slant pass and then threw a very nice arching deep ball to Amani for a 37 yard TD pass. What’s just as important is that Stan’s offensive teammates seem to respond positively to him, whereas Tommy Maddox doesn’t seem to garner the same type of respect and support. In other words, it didn’t look to us like the starting offense’s heart was into the game with Maddox and not Brown in there at QB. White was 5 of 9 for 83 yards with one TD and no interceptions. Stan came out earlier than expected and we finally got our first look at rookie Danny Kanell. Kanell’s throws weren’t pretty, but they usually were on target. A couple of his passes were behind the intended WR, but on a number of plays, he looked like a veteran QB by hitting his second or third option when his primary receiver was covered. He led the team to a TD in the final seconds of the game. Granted, he was facing back-ups and the Ravens were in their prevent defense, but his play was encouraging. He was 8 of 13 for 79 yards with one TD and no interceptions. Both Stan and Danny also successfully completed 4th down conversion attempts. Reeves has a tough decision to make regarding Stan and Tommy. If a game were on the line and Dave Brown went down with an injury, who would you rather have playing QB?

Wide Receivers: Whereas newcomer Lawrence Dawsey shined against the Jaguars, rookie Amani Toomer stole the show on Saturday against the Ravens. The guy is the playmaker that the Giants have longed for on offense (we can’t wait until both Amani and Ty Wheatley are on the field together). Toomer showed his speed on a 94-yard kick-off return for a TD and a 37-yard TD pass on a fly pattern in which he beat two defensive backs. He also showed that he could become a dangerous weapon on the slant pattern; on one catch, he made a great spin move and almost broke the play for big yardage. In addition, Toomer looked good on a deep out where he leapt high for the reception and somehow managed to keep his feet in bounds. He did have one drop, but overall, he was VERY impressive. Like we said about Wheatley last week, Dan Reeves must find a way to get Toomer on the field a lot this year. Toomer caught 4 passes for 79 yards and a TD. Thomas Lewis looked pretty good on his 21-yard TD catch. He was also wide open on what should have been another TD catch, but Maddox didn’t see him. Lawrence Dawsey had one opportunity to catch the ball, yet dropped it. Calloway was quiet once again this week. Another disturbing trend is that the Giants for a second week in a row tried to send him deep on a fly pattern. Why? Going deep is Calloway’s biggest weakness. It’s interesting to note that we don’t think Gary Harrell saw any playing time at WR or returning kicks and punts. It looks like Omar Douglas jumped ahead of him on the depth chart. Omar dropped one pass and fumbled the ball on an end-around. He did make two catches for 28 yards. Arthur Marshall caught Kanell’s TD pass in the final seconds of the game.

Tight Ends/H-Backs: Once again, Howard Cross was quiet. Does he have trouble getting open or are the Giants just not throwing to him? We’re not sure. Aaron Pierce played and caught one ball, but came close to fumbling on the play. Brian Kozlowski came up with a big 4th down reception. Brian Saxton sold out on a reception attempt over the middle, but also fumbled the ball away on another play.

Running Backs: Once again, the Giants’ offensive line could not get any push up front on running plays. This trend is becoming very disturbing. Rodney Hampton continues to meet contact at or behind the line of scrimmage, whereas opposing RB’s usually aren’t being hit until they are 2-4 yards down field. On Saturday, Rodney gained most of his yards on his own. Hampton only picked up 8 yards on 4 carries. Even Keith Elias couldn’t get untracked, though he did have one nice run up the middle. He also dropped a ball on a high pass. Elias picked up 7 yards on 4 carries. Rookie free agent Robert Walker ran the ball once for 3 yards. Thus, the three Giant RB’s that carried the ball on Saturday picked up a total 18 yards for the ENTIRE game! The average yardage gained per carry was a measly 2.0 yards between the three players! That’s not going to get it done folks in any league. FB Geoff Grenier was quiet until late in the 4th quarter. He’s a big guy and showed soft hands on two pass receptions (for 25 yards). He also made a tremendous block in pass protection during a QB roll out. There may be something there.

Offensive Line: The right side of the Giants’ offensive line (namely Ron Stone and Scott Gragg) are not getting any push up front on running plays. We think part of this is due to the lack of experience in playing together, but we also think that Gragg still is struggling improve his run blocking (he came from a college that rarely ran the ball). We don’t even remember the Giants trying to run left. The good news is that the Giants’ pass blocking was much improved this week. Yes, there were a few occasions where the pressure got to Maddox, but in general he had time to throw the ball. Blitzes do seem to bother the line somewhat still, however. Impressive for the second week in a row was the second team offensive line. Both Stan White and Danny Kanell had all the time in the world to throw. We think many of these guys (Lance Smith, Scott Davis, and Adam Schreiber in particular) would be starting for many teams. Roman Oben continues to improve at left tackle.

Defensive Line: Embarrassing! These guys were dominated by the Ravens’ offensive line. Only DE Mike Strahan made a few plays, yet most of the time he was not a factor. The Ravens ran the ball almost at will and the pass rush was non-existent. Are there two DT’s in the league worse at rushing the passer than Ray Agnew and Stacey Dillard? Chad Bratzke was manhandled for the second week in a row. The Ravens just blew the DL off the line of scrimmage — their RB’s rarely getting touched until they had already picked up 2-3 yards. The most embarrassing moment came when the second team offense of the Ravens marched the ball down the throats of the Giants’ defense early in the 3rd quarter and scored. On passing plays, the Ravens couldn’t have protected the passer any better. Ravens’ QB’s had all the time in the world to throw and great passing lanes in which to see through. The second team defensive line wasn’t much better. DE Cedric Jones played a lot, but didn’t make any impact. He got close on a couple of pass rushes, but seems to rely too much on his speed right now. It also looked to us that his hamstring is still somewhat of a factor — we saw a small limp from him after some plays. Let’s pray that when Robert Harris and Keith Hamilton get back, the play of this group improves or it’s going to be a long, long season. The Giants are going to miss Jamal Duff more than we thought.

Linebackers: Again, it was feast or famine with MLB Corey Widmer. On a number inside runs, he did a nice job filling the hole. However, at other times, we saw him getting tied up with the traffic inside — of course, it didn’t help that the defensive line was getting pushed back into his face. Corey Miller had a horrible game. He got caught too far inside on one run and had trouble disengaging from blocks (his strong suit). His pass coverage in the flats was pathetic, often he was nowhere near his man. Jessie Armstead was quiet except for one play where he nailed the RB in the backfield. The Giants blitzed their LB’s a few times, but they looked comical running into the stunting defensive linemen (the Giants just don’t stunt well at all). Coleman Rudolph was a little better this week, but we noticed that on one draw play, he didn’t even run to the RB but to the blocking lineman. Scott Galyon played quite a bit and made a nice stop along with Mike Strahan on one run (one of the few solid defensive plays of the game for the Giants). Marcus Buckley looked bad a times (like Miller, also getting caught too far inside on running plays) and good at times (he nailed the RB twice in the backfield on back-to-back plays).

Secondary: Not bad, but not nearly as good as last week. Phillippi Sparks had a mediocre game for him. He played too far off his WR’s early in the game, but usually did a nice job on his man. He almost made a terrific play when it appeared that he intercepted a deep ball, but he was a little too aggressive on the play and he drew a pass interference call. He looked like the only Giants’ defensive starter out there playing with any emotion (this was the flattest we’ve seen the Giants’ defenders since last year’s first Dallas game). Jason Sehorn had an up-and-down game. He too played too far off his WR. He was also beat very badly deep on one play, but Vinnie Testeverde didn’t see Sehorn’s man wide open. On the positive side, Jason showed more aggressiveness than we can ever remember from him tackling players and he made a great interception on a pass over the middle. Thomas Randolph had a rough game. He did make one great play on 3rd-and-goal pass early in the contest, but was out-muscled and out-hustled on a few receptions — one for a TD. SS Jessie Campbell is a good tackler (though he did get faked out of his pants on one run), but never makes any game-changing plays. FS Tito Wooten looks like he will become a head-hunter. He’s much faster and quicker than Vencie Glenn and he caused an incompletion by threatening to level the WR during one play. Rodney Young played a lot and threw his body around all over the field. Though he didn’t make any plays in the secondary, we like his enthusiasm and hustle. It looked to us that Maurice Douglas blew his coverage responsibilities on a couple of plays. CB Conrad Hamilton tackled well and wasn’t victimized this week. When he was in the game, the Ravens threw at CB Tim Sensley, who was always close to his man, but didn’t make the play.

Special Teams: The Giants have to solve their problems on punt coverage or it will cost them at least 2-3 games this year. The Ravens almost scored on their first punt return and did score later on in the contest (we don’t buy the announcers explanation that the reason for the score was that Daron Alcorn didn’t punt the ball where he was supposed to — you’ve still got to stay in your lanes and tackle the guy!). The Giants have not made a play on one punt coverage attempt this preseason. The kick return coverage was better this week. The blocking on Amani Toomer’s kick return for a TD wasn’t that good — he just outran the coverage to the sideline. Returning punts continues to remain a sore spot. The blocking remains poor and the punt returners (Toomer and Lewis) don’t look like natural punt return men. Long snapper Chad Bratzke snapped a ball over the head of punter Mike Horan, while he was standing in the end zone, for a safety. The good news is that the Giants have looked very good in both games in trying to block field goals and punts. Rodney Young almost blocked one punt and his play forced the punter to pull the ball down and pass it (which fell incomplete). Conrad Hamilton continues to shoot in there as well. Mike Horan punted well. John Stonehouse didn’t get a chance. There were no field goal attempts.

Coaching: Dan’s decision to start Maddox backfired. Now he is faced with the unenviable prospect of deciding between Maddox (who Reeves loves, but who the press and fans hate) and Stan (the fan and press favorite). Not only does White look better, but he’s cheaper. It will be interesting to see how Dan responds to his critics once he decides to keep Maddox. During the next couple of preseason games, the Giants must really concentrate on getting their running game going — even if they are behind in the ball game. We don’t know what the defensive coaches are going to do regarding the front seven — they just don’t have the talent up front. Special teams coach Joe DeCamallis (Dan Reeves’ son-in-law) has done a bad job getting his punt coverage unit together. Has anyone else noticed that CB Phillippi Sparks is playing on the special teams? During preseason no less? That’s an invitation to an injury disaster in our opinion.

Aug 051996
 
Q&A: New York Giants General Manager George Young

Q. On July 25, we sent General Manager George Young a letter asking him to respond to ten questions provided by the editors of the Big Blue Home Page and our readers. Mr. Young was kind enough to respond to our questions in a hand-written letter, dated July 30, which we have reproduced here. Before he answered the questions, he made the following opening statement.

A. We have people here who understand the internet. Each department in organizations are full-time operations. My motto has always been “owners, own; managers, manage; coaches coach and scouts scout.” My whole life has been involved in football. Most of my decisions are based on facts, experience and trial-and-error. When making decisions, we rely heavily on the people who are best prepared. When there’s an “overlap,” I’m responsible for massaging the “overlap.” I’d rather the front office be criticized rather than the coaches, since the players relate to the coaches. I can’t always defend myself, nor do I really care to. I weigh every decision carefully, and do what I think is in the best interest of the franchise. Whatever decision is made, I make the ownership aware of everything. Obviously, they have opinions, but almost everyone of my efforts has their support. My contract gives me much flexibility in football decisions, but I always consult with them. All personnel decisions are discussed with the head coach. Sometimes he agrees, sometimes he doesn’t. All head coaches have had the same input here. Coaches are not authorities on cap problems, contract negotiations and scouting personnel. They do have input in things that affect the football. I made a mistake trying to answer these questions. I don’t want to write a newsletter. I have been on record for a long time for the last two questions. George.


Q. I understand that you do not like to comment on on-going negotiations (so you may choose to ignore this question), but the Michael Strahan situation seems very strange, that is, signing him to a one-year contract, then following up with a multi-year offer only days later. Now, there seems to be a very good chance that Michael will depart via free agency next off-season. Have negotiations been firmly postponed until then, or do you intend to make a major push to re-sign him after the season, but before the free agency period begins (i.e., what you did with Phillippi Sparks this past off-season)?

A. First, he had to sign the one year tender so the agent couldn’t make him a hold out. We offered the Ron Stone deal to Mike. The media called the Stone deal “lucrative.” Strahan and Stone were both restricted free agents.


Q. I have high hopes for Corey Widmer and Doug Colman inside, but it certainly isn’t far-fetched to believe that they might not be the long-term answer at middle linebacker. Also, although Ray Agnew seemed steady against the run, he, Keith Hamilton, and Robert Harris (when switched from defensive end in pass rushing situations) did not seem to make a big impact. The middle of the Giants’ defense still seems soft to me, would it be fair to say that upgrading the middle linebacker and defensive tackle positions will be a priority during the next off-season?

A. We hope the middle will be stronger in ’96 than it was in ’95. We’ll have to wait-and-see.


Q. Jerry in Rancho Santa Fe, California: (1) Now that we’ve had free agency and the salary cap for a few seasons, what direction do you see us going…or needing to go…in order to put and more importantly keep a winning team on the field? (2) Now that we are in the free agency/salary cap era what has changed with respect to policy making, player personnel, scouting, coaching and general all around decision making in the Giant organization in order to keep up with it all….how do you ensure that you are on the same page with the ownership and also your coach?

A. Still must rely on the draft unless major holes have to be filled through free agency. We keep everyone in the hierarchy informed of what is going on. We try to keep all on the same page when possible. Too big a question to answer in a few words.


Q. David W. in Hawthorne, California: With the advent of free agency, have the Giants put in place a plan to identify their nucleus of talent and developed an approach to locking up players identified as part of that nucleus up for long term. Is this where the cap surplus will be spent? How will the Giants plan to use free agency to supplement the building process? What is Reeves status for the long term in this rebuilding process? It seems to me if Reeves is here to finish his contract and leave, then he’s better off gone now and let’s get the guy who’s going be here when the rebuilding is done down the road. Is Reeves patient enough and committed to rebuilding?

A. Problem with locking up players is the targeting and judgement in determining who is solid and long term. Not easy with young team, i.e., Strahan has had one good year. We will try to sign own players when we can. Dan does well with young players. We must try to have some continuity.


Q. Tony in San Francisco, California: Not that we think you’re going to be searching for a new coach anytime soon, but to most fans — even the hard-core guys like us — a coaching search is pretty mysterious. What are the signs that an assistant or a college guy somewhere is head coaching material? Is it the overall success of his program? Is it the rumor mill (and do head coaches campaign for their guys to get open jobs?) How much does your personal exposure to guy determine your comfort level (for example, Handley and Coughlin worked for you while Capers and Cowher did not). In a nutshell, what do you look for and how do you know?

A. College coaches are seldom good choices unless they have NFL experience. I don’t have time to detail this answer. We do our homework thoroughly on hiring coaches.


Q. Martin K.: We were very weak at defensive tackle last year and there appears to be a further weakening with Keith Hamilton’s back still a very sensitive issue. What will be done to strengthen one of the most critical areas on the team with a great weakness against the run?

A. Hamilton should be OK after first preseason game. Having achilles problem now, not back problem. We are aware of our short-comings on defense.


Q. Eric and Peter in Paramus, New Jersey: Although you are against free agency, since you will be in good cap shape next off-season, how about giving this team an impact player on the defensive side of the ball? My other question is how about getting 1st round selection in camp on time so he can make an impact on the field in his rookie year? (Editor’s Note: Many fans wonder why the Giants are one of the teams in the NFL that never seem to get its first round draft pick signed by the time camp starts — is it the negotiating style of management, ridiculous demands made by the agents, coincidence, bad luck, etc.? In comparison with most other teams, it seems as if the Giants always fall short in getting their number one guy in camp on time).

A. We try to sign our #1’s on time. Look around the NFL and see how slow the process is. We are not always justly treated in how we sign players. For the most part we operate at the same rate as the rest of the NFL, however, the media here doesn’t recognize much west of the Hudson.


Q. Daniel L. in Rockville, Maryland: Why do you dislike instant replay? Under what conditions (if any) would you support instant replay? What do you see in the future for Danny Kanell? Do you think he will replace Dave Brown as the starter or simply back him up? If you do not project him as a starter, then why draft him (there were good defensive tackles and wide receivers available at the time)?

A. As he mentioned in his intro, Mr. Young has decided not to answer this question.


Q. Chris J. in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Not that I disagree with the resigning of Rodney Hampton, but was it done strictly because of a lack of confidence in Tyrone Wheatley? And if the intention was to keep Rodney all along, why use the #1 pick on a running back with almost the exact same playing style as Rodney? (Editor’s Note: What we think Chris means here is that it seems that both Rodney and Tyrone seem to be the type of running backs that need to carry the ball 20-25 times per game to be truly effective — this has been a hot point of discussion The Big Blue Home Page).

A. No, it was not done for lack of confidence in Wheatley. We don’t want to make 49ers stronger and we don’t want to keep losing talented Giant players who have the respect of coaches and teammates. We tend to draft the most talented players.


Q. John G. from Lyndeborough, New Hampshire: What is the future of the field surface at Giants Stadium? I understand that real grass may not be suitable for the event load at Giant Stadium but there has been much talk about injuries related to artificial turf. I have often heard it said that there is a concrete surface under the carpet (ouch!) What type of solutions are you looking at? Are there any new types of artificial turf that are more “player friendly”?

A. As he mentioned in his intro, Mr. Young has decided not to answer this question.


Aug 051996
 
New York Giants 24 – Jacksonville Jaguars 17

Overview: There were a number of very positive developments in the Giants’ 24-17 win over Jacksonville. WR Lawrence Dawsey, HB Ty Wheatley, and the secondary shined. However, there were also a number of major warning signals in areas of key concern. The play of both the starting offensive line and the run defense was very disappointing. The special teams also did not perform well. This was probably the strangest first preseason game we’ve every seen because both coaches played their starters for most of the game (the Giants played their starters well into the 3rd quarter and Jacksonville played their starters in the 1st, 3rd, and part of the 4th quarters). All in all, Reeves was able to get a good look at most of his first and second teamers (and some of his third). On the injury front, DT Robert Harris broke the tip of one of his ribs — at the present time, it is not known how long he will be out. Is the defensive line jinxed or what?

Quarterback: Overall, we thought Dave Brown and Tommy Maddox played fairly well. Brown was under siege during the entire first quarter. Jacksonville played the Giants like most teams will this year — they played eight men up near the line of scrimmage, daring the Giants to pass. Reeves and the offense played right into this defensive strategy by continuing to run on first and second down — just like last year. For much of the first quarter the Giants’ offense went something like this…Hampton carries on first down for no gain…motion or holding penalty on second down…Hampton carries for 4-5 yards on second and long…Brown has absolutely no time to throw on 3rd and long and is forced to throw the ball away in order to avoid the sack. The Giants just could not get into an offensive flow. Every time Brown went back to pass, he was leveled by the Jaguars’ pass rush; we began to seriously worry about the number of hits he was taking in a preseason game. It makes us shudder to think what Brown will face once the regular season starts. When given a little time, Brown played well…especially when Jacksonville took out its starters in the 2nd quarter and the pass rush died down to a normal level. Dave threw a beautiful seam pass to Lawrence Dawsey on the Giants’ first scoring drive. He also made a very nice read on a Jacksonville blitz and hit the hot receiver (again Dawsey) when the linebacker was rushing in untouched. He showed nice touch on two shorter passes to Hampton and Wheatley out of the backfield. In addition, Brown continues to demonstrate that if the defense gives him the opportunity, he will burn them with his running ability and pick up big first downs (Brown also scored a rushing TD from about 10 yards out). The negatives? It looked to us that Brown became flustered by the intense rush, got “happy feet”, and would take off running a little too soon on some plays. Brown (and the entire offense for that matter) also did a horrible job disguising the screens that they ran. Brown completed 9 of 15 passes for 93 yards with no TD’s and no interceptions. As for Maddox, aside from three fumbled snaps from center (which are inexcusable) and a couple of passes that were way off the mark, we were relatively impressed with his performance. Maddox was inserted into the game in the 3rd quarter with the rest of the starting unit. He faced Jacksonville’s defensive starters and did a nice job moving the offense. The offensive line did a better job protecting Maddox and the Giants’ brain trust gave Maddox the benefit of some quick, 3-step drop pass plays. He was way off on a couple of passes intended for Thomas Lewis, but overall he was fairly accurate and made good decisions hitting the open man. Maddox completed 9 of 13 passes for 118 yards with no TD’s and no interceptions. In fact, if it weren’t for the three fumbles, this game wouldn’t have been even close. Danny Kanell and Stan White did not play.

Wide Receivers: If he stays healthy, Lawrence Dawsey showed why he’s going to be a big part of the Giants’ offense this year. Dawsey isn’t fast, but he is physical (something that Sherrard was not), has very good hands, and a feel for finding the soft spot in the secondary. When Lawrence was on the field, it was obvious that he was the one guy Brown looked to in order to get out of trouble. Lawrence made a great catch on an intermediate seam route, but the play that impressed us the most was the one where Brown threw a quick pass to Dawsey on a blitz (Dawsey was the “hot” wideout). Dawsey not only read the blitz and adjusted his route accordingly, but he broke the tackle of the defensive back and picked up decent yardage after the catch…when was the last time a Giants’ WR made decent yardage after the catch? We now wish the Giants had signed him for a longer-term deal than a one-year contract. Lawrence caught 4 passes for 64 yards. Thomas Lewis didn’t make much of impact until Maddox was at QB. Lewis had found the soft spot in the zone on a big third down conversion attempt, but Maddox was wide with his throw. However, Maddox did find Lewis on an out pattern where Lewis, instead of stepping out of bounds, showed his athleticism by avoiding two tackles and almost breaking the short reception for a big gain. He caught 2 passes for 18 yards. Calloway wasn’t much of a factor…he caught 2 passes for 13 yards. The Giants also sent him deep on a fly pattern that was well covered. With Lewis and Toomer on the roster, why would Reeves pick Calloway as the one to send deep? We didn’t see Toomer on the field until the third quarter…he made one catch on a pass from Maddox for 16 yards. The only other WR to make a catch was Arthur Marshall…one reception for 4 yards.

Running Backs: Rodney Hampton may be more consistent, but Ty Wheatley is a better running back due to his explosiveness. After an inauspicious start in the second quarter when he fumbled a solid handoff from Dave Brown, Wheatley sparked the Giants’ offense with his big play ability. He caught a short pass from Brown (hooray, the Giants actually threw to Ty!), quickly accelerated down the field, and almost broke the play for big yardage. Latter on in the quarter, on a right-side off tackle run, Ty broke a big run, showing the kind of speed that Rodney can only dream off. What impressed us the most about Ty in this game though was his tough inside running between the tackles. He’s much more decisive than he was last year and we can only remember one play where he danced behind the line of scrimmage. Most of the time, he showed a feel for the crack in the defense, as well as power and moves in the hole. Reeves must, simply must, get Ty on the field more this season. Wheatley carried the ball 9 times for 54 yards (a 6.0 yard per carry average). Rodney Hampton played the entire first quarter, but never had a chance. Jacksonville not only was packing the line of scrimmage with defensive players, but the offensive line was doing a pathetic job in opening up holes for him. He carried the ball 3 times for 2 yards. Keith Elias (a.k.a. “Mr. Preseason”) looked good. He showed us a little something on a big 3rd down pass from Maddox where he caught the ball roughly six yards from the first down marker, yet broke a tackle and sped up field to pick up the first down. Perhaps he will be answer as a third down back. Elias also looked VERY good on three short yardage plays — two for TD’s and one for a big first down on third and short, where the blocking up front was very poor, yet Elias vaulted himself over the defense to pick up the first down and keep the chains moving. Elias’ stats don’t look great (13 carries for 27 yards), but we thought he played well. We don’t think rookie Robert Walker was on the field at all.

H-Back/Fullbacks: Since both H-Back Aaron Pierce and FB Charles Way were both out with injuries, back-ups H-Back Brian Kozlowski and FB Jeremy Burkett played most of the game. Burkett, who started the game, just doesn’t seem to have the acceleration or power to make much of an impact as a ball carrier. It was also difficult to judge his blocking since most of the time it was a jailbreak up front with the Jacksonville defenders. Kozlowski was wide open on a very nice play action pass from Maddox in the 3rd quarter and made big yardage down the middle of the defense. However, it was his blocking that caught our eye. He made a superb block on Elias’ first TD run and even looked good as a lead blocker lined up in the backfield as a FB.

Tight Ends: As usual, the tight ends were rarely involved in the passing offense…though to be honest, Brown had very little time to throw to anyone, including the tight ends, in the first quarter. On Elias’ above-mentioned TD run, Cross teamed with Kozlowski to destroy the right side of Jacksonville’s defense. Brian Saxton made a phenomenal, diving 21-yard catch of a Maddox pass on the Giants’ game-winning TD drive late in the 4th quarter. While it would be difficult for the Giants to keep Cross, Pierce, Kozlowski, and Saxton on the 53-man roster, we don’t see how Reeves can let either Kozlowski (who is a good special teams player) and Saxton (who shows real signs of being an offensive threat) go.

Offensive Line: Now to the sore spot. Dave Brown and Tommy Maddox look like they are coming on…the running back position is deep and talented…the WR corps is the best the Giants have had in years…the TE’s are respectable. If one unit is going to prevent the Giants from growing into a decent offensive team this year, we have a feeling that it is going to be the offensive line. Don’t get us wrong…we think this unit will develop into one of the elite units in the NFL…we just don’t think it will be this year. Now to be fair, it is early in the preseason and Jacksonville did throw the book at the Giants. The Jaguars used just about every blitz imaginable…they blitzed off the corners…they blitzed up the middle…they brought the linebackers…they brought the safeties. Mentally, this was a good test for the Giants because it helps prepare them for the regular season. The interior trio of Zatechka, Williams, and Stone were particularly bothered by these blitzes. There seemed to be confusion between the three on who was to pick up the blitz and who was to stay with the defensive linemen. It was the play of the tackles (as we feared going into the game) that was the most distressing. Time and time again, both Greg Bishop and Scott Gragg allowed their men to get too close, too quickly to Dave Brown and Brown suffered a great deal because of it. Gragg, in particular, had his rough moments. Incredibly, we even saw one Jacksonville defender overpower the 325 pound Gragg. We firmly believe Gragg will develop into an outstanding linemen (Gragg’s play was reminiscent of Jumbo Elliott’s play when he was a rookie), but the Giants need Gragg to improve rapidly or it will be a very long season. As for the run blocking, there were too many bodies to block and the line didn’t sustain their own blocks long enough. Oh, there were moments when the running game clicked, but it was only when the starters were facing Jacksonville’s second-team defense. The good news is that the line settled down somewhat in the third quarter when they faced Jacksonville’s starters once again. As for the second teamers, we thought they did a very credible job — even when they faced Jacksonville’s starters on defense. Roman Oben, Scott Davis, Adam Schreiber, Lance Smith, and Jerry Reynolds usually gave Maddox decent time and they opened up enough holes for Elias to squirt through.

Defensive Line: Jacksonville’s huge offensive line gave the Giants’ first- and second-teamers all they could handle. In particular, LT Tony Boselli dominated starting RDE Chad Bratzke, who has arguably been the Giants’ best defensive linemen in camp. Ray Agnew, who has also had a good camp, had his problems too and Jacksonville piled up the yardage on runs at the right side of the defense. The left side of the defense performed much better against the run. Mike Strahan didn’t look bad at all at LDE and he was the ONLY Giants’ defensive player to get ANY sort of pressure on Jacksonville’s QB’s (oh, we pray the Giants can find a way to keep him from leaving next year). At RDT, Robert Harris, and latter Stacy Dillard, also did a nice job in shutting down the run to their side. However, no one except for Strahan got near the passer. The Giants obviously need Jamal Duff and Cedric Jones to come through for them big this year. None of the DT’s seem able to generate a pass rush. The reserves were just eaten up by Jacksonville’s huge first- and second-teamers. Bernard Holsey, Ramon Okoli, Darnell Gilliard, and Stacy Dillard (when he played LDE) were man-handled against both the pass and the run.

Linebackers: It was either feast or famine for Corey Widmer. At times, he looked great filling the hole and stuffing the RB for no gain…his tackling was also very crisp and aggressive. However, on a number of left side runs (at the right side of the defense), both he and Jessie Armstead were blown off the ball, along with Bratzke and Agnew. Corey Miller remains the best LB on this team, though he was beaten badly by former-Giant Derek Brown for decent yardage on a crossing route. The Giants surprised Jacksonville’s defense by blitzing Miller from the weakside. Miller picked up a sack, but the play was called back due to a penalty. As for the back-ups, Coleman Rudolph was just awful…he’s a worse LB than a DE and that is saying quite bit. He can’t play the run or the pass. Strongside LB Jeffrey Rodger is big, but he was consistently run at for big yardage by the Jaguars. We thought Doug Colman did a nice job filling the hole on a number of runs. If Colman doesn’t become the Giants’ number one back-up to Widmer, it will be a crime. Scott Galyon had problems disengaging from blocks. Because the Jaguars mainly ran to their right when the Giants’ back-ups were in the game, it was difficult to get a read on the other LB’s.

Defensive Backs: Outstanding! Jacksonville only picked up 18 yards passing in the first half…and this was with virtually no pass rush from the Giants. Phillippi Sparks did a number on Andre Rison and Jason Sehorn supplied tight coverage for most of the game. Conrad Hamilton was beaten deep by Rison — it’s clear that he still has much to learn. Willie Beamon played quite a bit and did a decent job, though he failed to make the play on a left side screen pass that picked up 49 yards for Jacksonville in the second half (it was a beautiful screen…why can the Jaguars run such a good looking screen in the first preseason game and the Giants can’t?). Conrad Hamilton really hustled on this play and saved a TD…he is FAST! The safeties also played decently. Jessie Campbell had a couple of rough plays against him…he was beaten deep on one play but the ball was overthrown…why Campbell was playing man-to-man on a deep fly pattern, we’ll never know. He also was beaten for a big third down catch by a reserve TE. Rodney Young let Rison get behind him on Jacksonville’s one TD pass, but it was an illegal play. Young had chucked Rison out of bounds, which is legal. A player who runs out of bounds is not allowed to come back into play and catch a pass. Because of this, we think Young left Rison and went after the QB who was scrambling towards him. Rison was wide open for the TD, but the officials blew the call. Again, even though Young played Rison aggressively on this play, why was he lined up against Rison, who was the outside WR? Tito Wooten’s name was rarely called and that’s a very good sign. It’s obvious that the secondary, along with Strahan and Miller will have to carry the defense this year.

Special Teams: Pathetic! The coverage units were absolutely atrocious and the kickers and punters were often the last man left to make the tackle…the Giants simply must get these units in order. Daluiso hit his only field goal attempt (a 43-yarder), but it was an ugly kick and barely got over the goal post. Olindo Mare was superb on all but one of his kickoffs. Mike Horan nailed a beautiful coffin corner kick that went out of bounds at the one yard line. Daren Alcorn hit a very high punt, but this was called back and his second attempt wasn’t as impressive. With the Giants moving the ball up and down the field in the second half (and Maddox fumbling the ball away), John Stonehouse never got a chance to show his wares. Conrad Hamilton came VERY close to blocking two field goal attempts. The blocking on the punt returns was terrible and Gary Harrell didn’t have much of a chance to do anything (though, to be fair, Jacksonville’s punter was kicking the heck out of the ball). The blocking on the kick returns was only marginally better. Harrell did a decent job, but Toomer fumbled on one of his kick returns. All in all, the special teams weren’t very special on Friday night.

Coaching: Reeves was an angry man for most of the game. The starting offensive line played very poorly in the first quarter and you could see the frustration build on Reeves’ face. He was not happy at all with Maddox for all his fumbled snaps and he really blew up at the officials for their blown call on Rison’s TD. It’s very obvious that he’s going to try his darndest not to repeat last year’s poor season. This is also apparent by the fact that Reeves wants to make sure that his starters are ready by opening day (they played for almost three quarters in the FIRST preseason game). In other words, the rookies aren’t going to get much of a chance to impress the coaching staff during this preseason. We liked the fact the Reeves kept the starting offensive line in for much of the game…these guys must get used to playing together as a unit. However, there were a number of things that we didn’t like. We didn’t like the run, run, pass offensive philosophy against an 8-man front that represents a carbon-copy of last year’s offensive impotence and which usually puts Brown in a difficult third and long situation. We also don’t understand why the Giants can’t get the screen pass down. If Jacksonville, an expansion team, can do it, why can’t the Giants? Ty Wheatley should have played more than Elias and he didn’t. We also wonder about Nolan’s defense when it puts Campbell and Young nose-to-nose on the outside receivers. Next week it will be the Ravens. Let’s hope the Giants can get their offensive line, defensive line, and special teams together by next week. Let’s also hope that Robert Harris is OK.