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.

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Eric Kennedy

Eric Kennedy is Editor-in-Chief of BigBlueInteractive.com, a publication of Big Blue Interactive, LLC. Follow @BigBlueInteract on Twitter.

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