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.