Nov 281998

Approach to the Game – New York Giants at San Francisco 49ers, November 30, 1998: This is an important game for the Giants. No — not in terms of playoff possibilities or a division race, but in terms of overall team self-esteem and confidence. These are issues that are not only poignant for the remainder of this year, but even more critical for the mental make-up of the team in 1999. A 49er blowout will make Head Coach Jim Fassel’s efforts for next year difficult; a close loss will hurt in the short term only; a win could prove to be a huge stepping stone.

The Giants can win this game. But they need to play at their best on offense, defense, and special teams.

Giants on Offense: Obviously the Giants cannot afford to get into a shootout with the 49ers. San Francisco has a huge advantage because of the presence of All-Pro Steve Young. The Giants need to use their old strategy from the 1990 glory days and slow down the game, using a ball control running attack and timely passing. The problem? The same old story — the opposition will be looking to shut down the Giants’ running attack first and foremost — daring New York to beat them with the pass. So do the Giants come out and try to cross the 49ers up by passing on first and second down? If Kent Graham can’t complete these passes, this plays right into the 49er strategy. On the other hand, can Gary Brown and the offensive line really move the ball against a defense designed to stop them? Tough questions.

Ideally, I would come out and attack the 49ers with the short passing game to the running backs and tight end. Such a strategy is less risky and more likely to result in completed passes that would keep the clock moving as well as maintain possession. But the Giants most explosive halfback, Tiki Barber, has not proved to be a reliable pass receiver. He also seems to have mysteriously lost his quickness and elusiveness. TE Howard Cross blocks like a guard, but he also moves and catches like one too. So if the Giants pass on first and second down, it will have to be to their strength and that is the wide receivers. This is more risky and will depend on downfield passing accuracy from the quarterback, solid pass protection from the offensive line and backs, and the receivers’ ability to get open quickly. As expected, Graham proved last week that he is very comfortable throwing to back-ups Amani Toomer and Joe Jurevicius. If Fassel wants to throw, then he should get these guys onto the field as much as possible. It’s time for Ike Hilliard to make some big plays. Remember the Giants-Jets preseason game where Fassel and QB Danny Kanell seemed to make a conscious and concerted effort to get the ball into Ike’s hands, resulting in big game for Hilliard? I would do the same on Monday night. The 49ers do not have a top secondary. If the offensive line gives Graham time and he is relatively accurate, then the Giants may be able to do some damage down the field. But if the line doesn’t give Graham time and/or incompletions result, this game could get out of hand quickly.

Regardless of Fassel’s offensive strategy. The Giants will run the ball and will have to do so successfully in order to win the game. It seems to me that the Giants’ running game is at its best with HB Gary Brown running directly behind FB Charles Way. When the Giants switch up and give Way the ball, it just hasn’t seemed to click. Firstly, it often seems as if Way mainly carries the ball on first or second down out of a one-back, three-wide formation. Very predictable. Honestly, if the Giants want to cross the 49ers up, I would pass out of this formation on the same downs. Secondly, when Way has the ball in his hands, it takes one of the Giants’ best blockers (Way himself) out of the play. Interestingly, as much as I complained early on in the season about running Brown wide, the Giants seem to have been able to successfully run Brown wide to the strongside in recent games. Still, much of my focus would remain inside and off-tackle.

Key match-ups to watch? RG Ron Stone versus DT Bryant Young (9.5 sacks) should be a great battle. LG Greg Bishop needs to play tough against DT Junior Bryant. OC Lance Scott and/or FB Charles Way against MLB Winfred Tubbs will be key. LT Roman Oben has not played well in recent weeks and faces tough veteran DE Chris Doleman (12.5 sacks). RT Scott Gragg faces DE Roy Barker. TE Howard Cross will face a tough test in blocking LB’s Ken Norton and Lee Woodall.

But let’s be honest here. If the Giants are going to win, they have to convert on third down (their greatest weakness this year), slow the game down, and score touchdowns (not field goals) when the opportunities arise.

Giants on Defense: The 49ers run the same type of offense and have the same type of quality quarterback that the Packers have — and we know what the Pack did to the Giants. Honestly, I think the Giants’ defense matches up well with West Coast Offenses, but the Giants just did not execute well against the Packers or play with a high degree of intensity. If they do the same on Monday night, the results will be the same.

My biggest disappointment with the Giants’ effort against the Pack was their ability to stop the run with their nickel personnel on the field. I expected guys like Scott Galyon to play better. What may help the Giants big time in this match-up however is the presence of SS Sam Garnes — a safety who plays like a linebacker. Regardless, the Giants need their other safeties to play better — both in terms of pass coverage and run defense. You had better believe the 49ers will test FS Tito Wooten and his tendency to bite on play fakes. They will also try to get the ball to TE Irv Smith. Whoever covers him, be it the linebackers or safeties, need to come up big. Indeed, the pass defense of the linebackers will be critical. San Francisco loves to pass to the backs.

Personally, my favorite battles to watch will be the corners (Phillippi Sparks, Conrad Hamilton, and Carlton Gray) against the talented 49er receivers (Jerry Rice, Terrell Owens, and J.J. Stokes). Sparks did an excellent job against Rice back in 1995 and I hope to see that match-up quite a bit. Hamilton plays a physical game. Gray has the size that matches up better with the tall 49er receivers. I would prefer to keep Gray on the field every single time the 49ers are in a 3-WR set. I don’t want to see a safety try to cover one of these guys.

But all this won’t matter unless the Giants stuff the run. If the Giants play the nickel like I expect them too (and as I would), this makes run defense that much tougher. HB Garrison Hearst can hurt a team and the Giants’ run defense has been noticeably lax in recent weeks. The defensive line MUST, simply must, control the line of scrimmage or the Giants will be in deep trouble. Moreover, the linebackers and defensive backs need to make sure, crisp tackles. Hit hard, but be sure to wrap up.

When it comes to the pass rush, the rushers must remain conscious of QB Steve Young’s ability to scramble. Indeed, Young often resembles a running back out there. Thus, even though it will hurt the rush, the defensive line must remain disciplined and stick to pre-designed pass rush lanes. Pass coverage may be hurt with the possible need and/or desire to keep a spy on Young (it would seem that Galyon or S Shaun Williams might be ideal in this role).

Finally, the Giants will most likely have to force a few turnovers in order to win. Turnovers often result not only from top execution, but hustle, intensity, and being physical. The Giants need to beat the 49ers in these departments — regardless of the situation and score.

Giants on Special Teams: Got to win this battle. Need it. I was very impressed with the work of newcomer Curtis Buckley on the coverage units last week. He brings not only talent, but an attitude. Let’s hope that the coverage units can not only limit return yardage, but hopefully also force a turnover or two. Getting David Patten back should help the kick return game.

Nov 251998
New York Giants 20 – Philadelphia Eagles 0

by TLB

Overview: The Giants came away with their first win in their last four games, blanking the Philadephia Eagles 20-0 at home. The week preceeding the game was peppered with nervous excitement, as coach Jim Fassel benched a struggling Danny Kanell and replaced him with Kent Graham, in hopes of providing a spark to the Giants offense. Although the result was a win, the game can not be used to accurately gauge expectations against upcoming opponents. This was, after all, the Eagles — a team that lost any semblance to a cohesive unit late last season, and will not turn around until a new staff is in place.

While Head Coach Jim Fassel spoke of several changes in the lineup this week, two players that were expected to see some playing time did not. Toby Myles, the rookie Tackle the Giants hope will quickly blossom ala Oben, was dressed but did not see action. The other was Tyrone Wheatley, who was in street clothes on the sidelines to make room for new special teams player Curtis Buckley. Brian Alford was inactive as well.

Quarterback: Would Kent Graham provide the spark that Coach Fassel was hoping for? If you left the game after watching Graham’s first two passes, the answer would be yes, as a 22-yarder to Chris Calloway and a 15-yarder to Ike Hilliard evoked positive crowd reactions. With over 50 minutes of playing time left, however, the realists were not disappointed.

At various times throughout the remainder of the game, the rocket-like touch of Graham, as well as the rust of not seeing extended playing time (several severely overthrown balls), was exposed for all to see. Graham would end the day completing just 10 of 21 passes for 138 net yards (59 coming on a single play to JJ), but it was clear that the receivers have not adjusted to the velocity of Graham’s throws. Although the Philadelphia pass defense is 2nd-best in the league in terms of yardage allowed, they came into the game with only three interceptions, and that was fortunate for Graham, who was lucky to get away with giving up just one (on a tipped ball with :46 left in the first half).

What are the positives of Graham starting? First, the opposing defense can no longer stack 8 men in the box and play man-to-man, as Graham provides the Giants the long-ball ability that was, is and always will be lacking from Danny Kanell. Indeed, the Eagles played zone all day with the only exception being when they ran blitz packages. Second, Kent Graham is capable of cupping the ball and scrambling for yardage if the receivers are blanketed — again, something seldom seen from Danny. In addition, on a play where the Eagles called a full 8-man blitz, a back-pedaling Graham at least had the presence to toss the ball out to Ike Hilliard (who was open, but didn’t turn around fast enough to adjust to the hurried pass), a situation in which Danny would have simply ducked and taken the sack. Third, Kent Graham has the ability to hit receivers in-stride with line-drives, as evidenced by the touchdown pass to Tiki in the closing minutes (who, as the announcers quickly noted, didn’t have time to think about dropping it.)

The Giants next two games are back-to-back West-coast trips against the 49ers and the Cardinals. Both team’s have excelled at intercepting errant throws this year. Let’s hope the velocity of Graham’s passes keeps their defenders off guard as well.

Offensive Line: The line played very solidly when run-blocking. Scott Gragg stood out as a force in this department all day. Roman Oben had a very tough time handling the Eagles RDE Douglass, and was unable to ride Douglass outside on many passing plays. Bishop was again penalized for a false start (as were Hilliard, Stone and Haase – which suggests that the players may not be used to Graham’s cadence and hard snap-counts.) Fortunately, the play-calling was 40-21 in favor of the run, which played to the strength of our line, and the weakness of the Eagles Defense.

Wide Receivers: It was clear that Kent Graham was used to throwing the ball to Toomer and Jurevicius as the scout-team quarterback throughout the year. Calloway and Hilliard combined for two catches and 37 yards. Graham connected to Toomer on a 14-yard bullet on 3rd and 13 that saved the drive in which Brown scored the Giants first rushing TD in 11 quarters of play. Toomer also was the target on a very nicely-executed crossing route that picked up 25 yards. Jurevicius was the recipient of the longest passing play of the season for the Giants, hauling in a 59-yarder from Graham as he escaped a collapsing pocket. The receivers will need the extra day of practice this week to get accustomed to the velocity of Graham’s throws. With the emergence of Jurevicius, have we seen the last of David Patten as a WR?

Tight Ends: Howard Cross is simply the best blocking TE in the league. His run-blocking today was superb. However, the Giants need a complete TE, which includes actually catching passes. Andy Haase was inserted, but was quickly pulled after a false start — not the way to gain Fassel’s confidence, especially after just moving up from the practice squad.

Halfbacks/Fullbacks: Gary Brown had a fine day (96 yds/3.6ypc), running behind some excellent blocking. Charles Way gained 15 yards on 6 carries, but did an outstanding job of taking out linebackers to create large gaps for Brown. This was probably Way’s best game in the blocking department all season. Tiki Barber, who had excelled against the Eagles in both games last season, had only one touch for 2 yards on the ground. His only reception was an 8-yard bullet from Graham resulting in the Giants 2nd and last touchdown of the game (joke: Why did Tiki catch the ball? He didn’t – it was lodged in his chest and had to be surgically removed.)

Defensive Line: The Giants usually have a sackfest against the Eagles, and this game was no different, as the Giants increased their tally by six. Only two of these were recorded by the line, however, with Strahan and Bratzke each picking up one. Surprisingly, the Eagles running game (26 carries, 4.5 ypc) was more successful than one would have thought coming into the game. Most of the long yardage came against Bratzke’s end and up the middle, as the Eagles steered clear of Strahan at all costs. Keith Hamilton and Robert Harris played well early on, but were neutralized when the running plays were directed towards Bratzke. On a side note, what is it about the screen pass that gets our entire D-Line suckered? At what point, after the opposing offensive line opens like a sieve, is the little bell supposed to “go off” alerting them that they are being played for fools? Every team we have played has used this against us, and we have YET to adjust.

Linebackers: It would not surprise this writer if Jessie Armstead were named NFC Defensive Player of the Week. He was back to his old self, flying around, making tackles (10), sacks (2), and even knocked down a pass. It would have been nice to have a healthy JA all season, as it is clear that when he is healthy, nobody comes close on the weakside. Widmer was back after suffering a concussion last week, but he generally does not come up to fill the gaps on running plays; rather, he lets the play come to him before making a tackle. A slight adjustment here could turn a mediocre MLB into an above average run-stopper. Scott Galyon had four tackles and a forced fumble, and Ryan Phillips was quiet, as was Marcus Buckley, where his only tackle was for a loss on a hurried dump-off by Hoying who was under pressure from Strahan.

Defensive Backs: Phillippi Sparks played an outstanding game, intercepting two balls and knocking away three others. Conrad Hamilton (3 tackles) knocked away a pass on the opening play, and was generally around the ball all day. It was good to see Sam Garnes return. Garnes was 2nd on the team behind Armstead with 6 solo tackles, and showed no ill-effects from his foot surgery. Tito Wooten, aside from his two sacks (one was questionable), was caught taking the wrong angle on two more plays today. Against a better team, these plays would have been disasters. Percy Ellsworth, while not the biggest hustler in all of football, should replace Tito at FS during the long practice week. At least there would be the chance of an interception. Cartlon Gray was solid.

Special Teams: Curtis Buckley showed why his reputation as a good special teams player is earned. A fine pickup by the Giants. Brandon Sanders, normally the Giants best ST player, was singled-out and neutralized (once, brutally, when the Eagles were called for a holding penalty; if you ask me, the “holding” penalty doesn’t quite describe what was done to him on that play.) Amani Toomer is not the long-term answer at punt-returner.

What has happened to Brad Daluiso’s long kickoffs? Only one today was not returnable, and several were pooched, including one that went out of bounds. Part of me kept asking if this was planned; surely he hasn’t regressed that far. Or has he? Brad Maynard averaged 38.3 net yards on 6 punts, with a long of 52, and only one “bad” punt.

Nov 201998

Approach to the Game – Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants, November 22, 1998: The players now know that all hopes for a playoff spot have vanished. They also know that Head Coach Jim Fassel will be back in 1999. Thus, it is fairly obvious that all 53 men on the roster will be auditioning for starting jobs in 1999. Fassel will be looking to weed out the slackers, defeatists, and those who come up short in the talent department. Most of the Giants’ roster is filled with very young players. Let’s hope they know the gravity of their situation. Some of these guys may be bagging groceries in the not-too-distant future. Now let’s talk about a “sense of urgency.”

Giants on Offense: QB Danny Kanell was finally benched this week. He may never see the starting job again. For now Kent Graham assumes command. The good news is that Kent has a very strong arm, a fiery personality, and a fresh outlook. The bad news is that he is a journeyman with inconsistent accuracy (especially on his short throws) and limited mobility. Don’t expect miracles from Graham. But we should see a guy more willing to take chances throwing the ball down the field. Also, don’t underestimate the effect of Graham’s personality on the offense. He is much more outgoing and emotional than the reserved Kanell.

The players most likely to benefit from the quarterback switch are the receivers. Moreover, second and third teamers like Amani Toomer, Joe Jurevicius, and Brian Alford may benefit the most as Graham has worked with these guys far more in practice than the starters. The Eagles have two solid cornerbacks in Bobby Taylor and Troy Vincent. Both are big and can be physical. The Giants may want to attack the safeties and nickel back Tim McTyer more.

Rumors and potential changes run rampant on the offensive line. There is talk that the Giants will move RT Scott Gragg to left guard next year. Reserves Jerry Reynolds, Derek Engler, and Lonnie Palelei got in the game last week. Toby Myles will be activated and may see some playing time. Greg Bishop and Ron Stone should be able to handle the defensive tackles. LT Roman Oben will face DE Hugh Douglas, who has an impressive 12.5 sacks on the year. Oben is coming off a rough game and will be looking to rebound. RT Scott Gragg also had a rough game last week. He faces Greg Jefferson and Gragg had better start playing a lot better soon.

Graham’s best ally could be the running game. The Eagles are light in the front seven and the Giants may be able to power the ball on them. FB Charles Way, TE Howard Cross, and OC Lance Scott could play key roles in getting out on the Eagle linebackers. WLB William Thomas is a Giant-killer. HB Gary Brown is well-suited to the power game, but there is some speculation that Tyrone Wheatley will see some serious playing time this week. He has much better speed and brings a big play dimension to the halfback spot.

Giants on Defense: The Giants’ defense was embarrassed last week. For two weeks in a row, they have played poorly against the run. This has to change if the Giants are to win on Sunday. HB Charlie Garner has played well in recent weeks and can score from anywhere on the field. I was a big fan of HB Duce Staley when he came out of college. Both backs can run and catch. FB Kevin Turner is an underrated player who can beat you in a lot of ways as well. The Giants need to be physical upfront.

DE Chad Bratzke faces rookie LT Tra Thomas — that will be an interesting match-up. A healthy Michael Strahan should dramatically out-perform RT Richard Cooper — the question is how healthy is Strahan? The play of Keith Hamilton and Robert Harris is probably the key to the game. The Giants need them to dominate the interior of the line and allow the linebackers to run and make plays. If one of these two guys starts dogging it, it would be wise to get Christian Peter into the contest. Marcus Buckley has been getting a lot of grief for his play against the run, but from where I stand, Jessie Armstead has been far too weak in this department as well. MLB Corey Widmer had better elevate his game quickly if he wants to re-sign for good money. Guys like Scott Galyon (who has not played well recently), Doug Colman, and Ryan Phillips wait in the wings.

Where the linebackers and strong safety (be it Sam Garnes or Percy Ellsworth) need to be solid is in pass coverage. The Eagles like to throw to their backs and tight ends. TE Jason Dunn has big play potential. The Eagles may adopt the Skins’ strategy of attacking the Giants, using the short-passing game.

When the Eagles throw the ball down the field, they will probably attack the Giant safeties. Why not? These guys have been the weak spot in the secondary all year. WR Irving Fryar has not had a great season, but he usually gives the Giants problems.

If the Giants can stuff the run and not let the short passing game nickel-and-dime them to death, then they should be able to get after QB Bobby Hoying, who has struggled this year. Putting the Eagles in constant third-and-longs will probably lead to turnovers.

Giants on Special Teams: Rookie kick and punt returner Allen Rossum is a dangerous one. The Eagles punt and kick coverage has been stronger this season.

Nov 181998
Green Bay Packers 37 – New York Giants 3

Overview: The Giants were beaten soundly in all phases of the game. The offense is simply the laughing stock of the league. The defense started off strong early in the game, but seemed to finally have the air sucked out of it due to continued offensive incompetence. But that’s no excuse for quitting and that’s what the defense did on Sunday. Once again, the Giants lost the special teams battle too.

The biggest danger right now is that Head Coach Jim Fassel and his coaching staff may be losing their grip on this team. The Giants’ confidence is shattered and winning football is all about confidence and attitude. The Giants are not having fun right now. They are pressing and this is hurting their performance.

Quarterbacks: Terrible. Awful. Horrible. Not only is Danny (8 out of 20 for 88 yards) no longer making plays, but he is also turning the ball over (2 interceptions, 1 fumble). The tone for the day was set when he missed a wide open Chris Calloway on the first set of downs. Kanell now seems only capable of leading the Giants on one solid drive per game. That’s not enough. Kanell is not the future of this franchise. He doesn’t have a strong arm. He isn’t mobile. He isn’t accurate. And he isn’t very tough. There were a couple of plays where I felt he could have avoided a sack if he had stepped up into the pocket. His pocket presence isn’t very good.

It’s tough to judge Kent Graham (2 out of 5 for 12 yards) fairly because there was a jail break on his first series in the game (courtesy of Jerry Reynolds and Lonnie Palelei). By the time he got the ball again, Green Bay was playing prevent and the Giants had a lot of their second teamers in the game. The Giants would undoubtably move the ball better with Graham starting, but he really isn’t the long-term answer for the Giants either. He was terrible at camp and in the preseason and there is little reason to assume he would improve noticeably now.

It’s time to start Mike Cherry and get a read on him. My strategy for next year would be to dump Kanell and Graham, draft a quarterback high, keep Cherry, and sign a veteran to start in 1999. Guys who will be unrestricted free agents who I would look at include Rich Gannon, Doug Pederson, Trent Green, and Tony Banks. Bobby Hoying will be restricted.

Offensive Line: Not very good at all. Roman Oben may have had his worst performance as a Giant against DE Vonnie Holliday (7 tackles, 2 sacks). Scott Gragg had all kinds of trouble with DE Reggie White (3 tackles, 2 sacks). The Giants didn’t do a good job of protecting the quarterback or giving the running backs room to run. Once again, their attempt to run a screen pass looked like a joke.

The reserves weren’t very good either. Jerry Reynolds whiffed on White. I also saw Lonnie Palelei getting beat cleanly on his first play.

The Giants obviously need to upgrade this position. I still feel that Oben (a restricted free agent) and Ron Stone are keepers. Lance Scott (an unrestricted free agent) would make a good back-up due to his long-snapping ability. The Giants will look to draft some bodies, but they should also take a look at unrestricted free agents such as RT Orlando Brown, OC Wally Williams, OG/OT Jerry Ostroski, OG Adam Timmerman, OG/OT Brian DeMarco, LT Richmond Webb, RT Korey Stringer, OC Dave Wohlabaugh, and OG Matt O’Dwyer.

Wide Receivers: I hate to repeat myself, but how can you judge these guys when the quarterback can’t get them the ball? Ike Hilliard (3 catches for 48 yards) made a real nice grab along the left sideline while getting hit. Chris Calloway (2 catches for 20 yards) was pretty quiet. Amani Toomer (2 catches for 16 yards) and Joe Jurevicius (1 catch for 3 yards) made little impact.

It’s time for the Giants to get Joe Jurevicius and Brian Alford more playing time. These two, along with Ike Hilliard, should form the main base of the Giants’ passing attack in 1999. I’m not sure I’d keep Amani Toomer, who will be a restricted free agent.

Tight Ends: Terrible again. Howard Cross made one nice catch on Kanell roll-out, but was largely invisible. He didn’t have a strong game blocking. I saw Al Pupunu get run over trying to pass block late in the 4th quarter.

The Giants need to start from scratch here. They need to draft a tight end and sign one or two. Guys to look at include unrestricted free agents David Sloan, Jamie Asher, Mark Bruener, Kyle Brady, and Lonnie Johnson. I might take a look at restricted free agent Jason Dunn, who has been a disappointment to date, but who has the tools. Marco Battaglia is a restricted guy who interests me some too.

Halfbacks/Fullbacks: HB Gary Brown (8 carries for 21 yards, a 2.6 yard per carry average) and FB Charles Way (5 carries for 17 yards, a 3.4 yard per carry average) couldn’t break a big run. Strangely, the Giants ran to their left the entire game. I can’t even remember the Giants running to the right — very predictable. Tyrone Wheatley (5 carries for 20 yards, a 4.0 yard per carry average) looked very sharp on his first carry (for 15 yards), but could do little after that. Tiki Barber was a non-factor.

The Giants need to upgrade the halfback position. It is pretty clear that Tyrone Wheatley won’t be back in 1999. Gary Brown would make a better back-up and might not be back (he will be unrestricted). Tiki Barber has slumped horribly and may never develop into the player hoped for. At least the Giants are set at fullback with Charles Way and Greg Comella. The Giants will have to draft a back. They also may want to look at unrestricted guys like Errict Rhett and David Palmer.

Defensive Line: Started off strong, then quit. Where’s the leadership? The Packers ran successfully left all day at DE Chad Bratzke and WLB Jessie Armstead. Bratzke did pick up a sack however. DT Keith Hamilton made some plays, but has to be held accountable for this as well. DT Robert Harris played well early, but faded. DE Michael Strahan didn’t make much noise. He’s either slumping or his back injury is bothering him. Reserve Christian Peter made a nice run stuff and Bernard Holsey got some pass pressure. DE Cedric Jones was quiet.

The Giants do have one of the best defensive lines in the game, provided that Strahan can return to 100%. I’m a big fan of his. I also like Hamilton and Harris because both can play the run and get after the passer. Peter and Holsey (the latter being a restricted free agent) provide excellent depth inside. At RDE, Bratzke is only ordinary. He is not worth the money he is seeking. The Giants should commit to Cedric Jones there.

Linebackers: Pretty bad. Jessie’s ankle has never been anywhere close to 100%, despite what he’s telling the press. He had to leave the game, but was playing poorly before he left. SLB Marcus Buckley made a few plays early against the run and in pass coverage, but was exposed against the run as the game wore on. Scott Galyon played a lot, even before MLB Corey Widmer left the game with a concussion. He did not play well — I saw him getting handled on running plays all day (so much for the talk of moving him to the strongside). I should have paid more attention to Doug Colman. I saw him getting handled on one play.

The Packers ran for season-high yardage against the Giants. It was pretty obvious that a lot of the players on the defense weren’t playing with a lot of determination, hustle, or anger. The linebackers, line, and secondary must ALL share the blame. Very embarrassing. The Giants need to get angry, not joke around with the opposition and help them get up off the turf.

One has to assume that Jessie Armstead will come back strong in 1999. Scott Galyon (a restricted free agent) has not played well since his Achilles injury. It would be nice to bring him back however. On the strongside, Marcus Buckley makes a play here and there, but doesn’t stand out and can be run on. The Giants must make a determination if he or Ryan Phillips is the answer on that side. Inside, the Giants face a tough decision on whether to re-sign Corey Widmer (who brings leadership and experience to the table) or go with the younger Doug Colman (a restricted free agent) or Pete Monty. Signing a guy like Mark Fields, Bryan Schwartz, Todd Collins, or Rob Fredrickson might be the direction to go.

Defensive Backs: The cornerbacks played decently against two quality opponents, but the safeties were terrible again. The Packers knew what they were doing when they went after Tito Wooten and Percy Ellsworth. Tito’s failed diving attempt to break-up a Brett Favre pass to Tyrone Davis broke the Giants’ back. Percy Ellsworth failed to stop Davis on the same play, exposing his lack of speed and tackling-ability. Favre went after Ellsworth successfully quite a bit too. Ellsworth was responsible for Green Bay’s first TD, not Marcus Buckley. Percy got confused on the play and forgot to cover his man. Wooten and Ellsworth did not do a good job on TE Mark Chmura — once leaving him wide open in the redzone (a big no-no). Both safeties were too quiet against the run.

The Giants have some very good talent at cornerback. Conrad Hamilton and Phillippi Sparks are playing very well. Jason Sehorn will be back in 1999 (will he be the same, however?). I think re-signing Hamilton (a restricted free agent) is a priority. If not, the Giants need to keep Carlton Gray, who has been so-so. It’s the safety position that is a problem. I’d let Ellsworth (a restricted free agent) go and cut Wooten. Shaun Williams and Sam Garnes should start. The Giants may also want to look at unrestricted guys like Orlando Thomas, Carnell Lake, or Darren Perry.

Special Teams: Another breakdown covering kicks. Roell Preston ran back a kick for 66 yards. He also had a 22 yard punt return. Tiki Barber didn’t look bad returning kicks, but Toomer continues to dance too much on punts. Brad Maynard had a 54-yarder, but too many of his kicks were line-drives. Punt protection was poor as Maynard was under heavy pressure most of the game.

The Giants are set with the two Brad’s, but they need more kick-butt special teamers for the coverage units.

Nov 131998

Approach to the Game – Green Bay Packers at New York Giants, November 15, 1998: The Giants match-up fairly well against the Packers. But the Pack is coming off an embarrassing loss and needs the game desperately in order to stay close to the division leading Vikings. The Giants are merely playing for pride. Still, it wouldn’t be shocking to see the Giants pull off the upset.

Giants on Offense: The Giants’ offensive line played poorly against Atlanta, well against Arizona, poorly against the Redskins, well against the Cowboys. Are we in store for another poor performance or will the line finally play two quality games in a row? Much of the Giants’ chances in this game lie with the line. There are key match-ups all along the line: RT Scott Gragg versus DE Reggie White, RG Ron Stone versus DT Santana Dotson; LG Greg Bishop versus DT Gilbert Brown; and LT Roman Oben versus DE Vonnie Holliday. This will be war — big body on big body. The team that plays tougher and nastier up front will win these individual battles. On running plays, Bishop will probably need help from OC Lance Scott with Brown. If the Giants can control the line of scrimmage and keep the Packers honest with some passing threat, then the Giants have a decent chance to move the ball on the ground. However, if the Packers are able to load up against the run because QB Danny Kanell and his receivers cannot make Green Bay back off of the line of scrimmage, it may be a long day. I hate to sound like a broken record — but this is the key to the entire game.

Enter Danny Kanell — a quarterback who has played poorly in four of his last five games; a guy who in recent weeks has looked indecisive, inaccurate, and nervous in the pocket. The Giants need Kanell to stop playing not to lose games, but to win them. Regardless of the outcome, he needs to start taking some shots down the field. Too many times he is dumping the ball immediately to his safety valve (the running back or tight end) without even looking at his downfield wide receivers. This must change. At the very least, taking some shots down the field will back the Pack off the line a bit. The Giants can do some damage against the Green Bay secondary if Kanell and the receivers play well (and the line gives both time). CB Craig Newsome is a fine ball player, but the rest of the secondary is ordinary in coverage. SS LeRoy Butler is an excellent blitzer and the Giants backs must be aware of him at all times. The Giants may be well-advised to attack nickel back Pat Terrell in coverage. Most importantly, Kanell needs to get the ball into the hands of his playmakers more — guys like Ike Hilliard and Amani Toomer.

Giants on Defense: Green Bay is really struggling to run the ball this year. Part of it has to do with the fact that injuries have decimated their running back corps; part of it also has to do with the fact that the Packer offensive line is not run blocking particularly well. The Giants must be VERY CAREFUL to make sure that the Packers do not get well against them on Sunday. HB Raymont Harris (former Bear) is no slouch and he can do damage both running and catching the ball. HB Darick Holmes has also had his moments in the NFL when he was with the Bills.

But the focus, of course, will be QB Brett Favre and the Packer receivers. Without a running game, Favre has reverted to his early days of throwing a lot of interceptions. To set the stage for a repeat performance, the Giants must shut down the run. But I would also take some chances here. The Giants have the “specialty” players on defense to cause match-up problems for the Packers. Reserves such as OLB Scott Galyon, S Shaun Williams, and/or CB Carlton Gray could play a crucial role on Sunday. I would be very tempted to play a 4-2-5 defense with Gray or Williams playing in the secondary. Or I would use a 4-3-4 with Galyon replacing Widmer.

Yes, there are key match-ups outside with Antonio Freeman versus Conrad Hamilton and Phillippi Sparks versus Robert Brooks. But I feel the guys who have to play well for the Giants to win are the safeties. Favre and the Pack love the play-fake — play-fakes have killed the Giants, and FS Tito Wooten in particular, this season. Tito’s job must be first and foremost to defend against the deep pass. If he bites on the fake, a long-TD could result. In addition, this will be a big game for SS Percy Ellsworth and the linebackers in coverage. Mike Holmgren loves to employ the tight end (Mark Chmura) and the backs out of the back field. Percy and the linebackers have to keep an eye at all times on Chmura — Favre’s security blanket (especially in the red zone). FB William Henderson can catch too.

The pass rush could help matters immensely. DE Michael Strahan needs to make his presence felt once again. RT Earl Dotson is an ordinary player. DE Chad Bratzke will most likely have his hands full with LT Ross Verba. DT Robert Harris battles the tough RG Adam Timmerman. Keith Hamilton may have a big day against the LG Marco Rivera. If the Giants do utilize Galyon and Williams much — then both these guys could play a role on the blitz as well since both are good pass rushers.

Giants on Special Teams: Another week, another dangerous returner. Roell Preston is a very dangerous kick off and punt returner. The Giants’ coverage teams must play much, much better than they have in recent weeks or a return may be the deciding factor in the game. KR David Patten is suffering from back spasms, but should play. Last week, his blockers disappeared. I hope they come back this week. I also hope Brad Maynard rebounds — the Giants need him at the top of his game against Preston.

Nov 111998
Dallas Cowboys 16 – New York Giants 6

Overview: When you hold the other team to 16 points, you are supposed to win. Once again the Giants’ anemic passing game let them down. More specifically, QB Danny Kanell let his teammates down again. But there were also guilty parties on defense and special teams too.

Coaching: Point one. Your quarterback has stunk all day again, but your offensive line and halfback are moving the ball convincingly on the ground…second-and-goal from the one…run the freaking football up the gut!!! Instead, the Giants take a big sack there and have to settle for a field goal. In fact, Fassel was somewhat saved on the previous play when the Giants ran wide on the goalline and the Giants were nailed for a loss. The Cowboys were called with too many men on the field. His short yardage and goalline play-calling has always been very questionable. Yesterday was no different.

Point two. I’ve never considered myself a very patient person when it comes to football. Perhaps it is better to let QB Danny Kanell learn on the job. Perhaps he will become a very good quarterback. However, my head and instincts tell me he won’t. Moreover, Fassel may be doing more long-term damage to Kanell by not letting him clear his head. Graham should have started in the second half. Kanell is not getting the job done.

Quarterbacks: QB Danny Kanell had the benefit of a very solid running game and good pass protection (for once), yet he could only manage a pathetic 139 yards (12-out-of-24, 50% completion rate, an average of 5.8 yards per pass attempt). You can’t win in the NFL with stats like that.

I watched the game at the Crystal City Sports Pub with a bunch of BBI’ers and Lisa, who is just learning about the game. As we were driving home, Lisa said to me, “That guy Kanell seems to be trying too hard, like he is afraid of making a mistake. He’s not playing with a lot of confidence.” Those seem like pretty bright comments from someone emotionally detached from the team.

Once again, Kanell was wild with his accuracy and seemed reluctant to throw the ball down the field. He had very good pass protection much of the day, but acted like he didn’t. He seemed edgy and flustered. Kanell is now playing like Dave Brown did.

Offensive Line: The Jekyll and Hyde offense line played well, not only in the pass blocking department, but in run blocking as well. The weak link was Greg Bishop, who was flagged twice with holding penalties against a tough foe in DT Leon Lett. But Kanell had time to throw and Gary Brown had room to run. Dallas threw a lot of looks and blitzes at New York, but the five guys up front held their own. The line played well enough to win.

Wide Receivers: Not a great day. Amani Toomer (1 catch for 14 yards) and Ike Hilliard (1 catch for 16 yards) both dropped very catchable balls. When your quarterback is struggling to make plays, you have to help him out. Chris Calloway (3 catches for 66 yards) was having a very good day until his VERY costly fumble. WR Joe Jurevicius (1 catch for 17 yard) made a huge play on 3rd-and-3 to give the Giants a first-and-goal situation. As Cowboy CB Kevin Williams pointed out (see “News and Notes”), the Giants have to get the ball to Ike more.

Tight Ends: Good blocking, no factor again receiving. Al Pupunu dropped a pass.

Halfbacks/Fullbacks: Gary Brown has demonstrated that he can be a more-than-adequate halfback when his line gives him some holes to work with. Against Dallas, he was very impressive in attacking the hole and then cutting back against the grain. He also showed a good burst on several outside runs. Brown had runs of 34 and 38 yards and finished the game with 119 yards on 15 carries for an amazing 7.9 yards-per-carry average. Fassel should have fed him the ball more. FB Charles Way (6 carries for 19 yards) still doesn’t look right, though he made a superb play on a tough catch and run on a swing pass to keep a drive alive. Tiki Barber (6 carries for 17 yards) looked OK, but nothing special.

Defensive Line: Not great. The defensive tackles played better than the ends again. The Cowboys were able to pick up good yardage by running at DE Chad Bratzke and WLB Jessie Armstead. They also had some good gains running at DE Michael Strahan/Cedric Jones and Marcus Buckley. DT’s Keith Hamilton and Robert Harris hurried Aikman and hit him hard after the throw a couple of times, but the Giants picked up no sacks. More was expected from a group that faced a Dallas line that was very raw on the right side. The Giants did play very well in short yardage situations however.

Linebackers: Terrible. MLB Corey Widmer was awful. I saw at least two plays where Widmer had Smith dead to rights in the hole at the line of scrimmage but ran himself right out of the play. Dallas is one of the few teams in the NFL left that really still has a power running game and they took advantage of the light outside guys too. Emmitt Smith ran for 163 yards. Scott Galyon is not making plays anymore, neither is Ryan Phillips. At least pass coverage was good.

Defensive Backs: Phillippi Sparks played a great game and is quietly having a very good year. He kept Michael Irvin in check all day long. Carlton Gray was flagged with a costly holding call. Conrad Hamilton played a very good game except for one play where he was beaten by Ernie Mills on an out-and-up for 32 yards on 3rd-and-1. Despite that, he still almost made the play. The Giants held Dallas to under 200 yards passing. The corners did not lose this game.

But the safeties might have. Tito Wooten was awful. He seems to me to be one of the guys who is not concentrating this year. Mills 27-yard catch on 3rd-and-3 was a killer. It was a great catch, but Tito was in position to knock the ball away. His tackling was atrocious and many of his highlight film runs were Tito’s fault. Percy Ellsworth’s tackling was just as bad. Inexcusable. It might be time to work Shaun Williams back into the starting lineup.

Special Teams: Terrible. No blocking for David Patten on kick returns. Patten also seemed to make poor decisions. Ryan Phillips also made a bonehead block-in-back penalty.

Brad Maynard did not punt well. His punts did not have much hang time and were often right down the middle of the field to Deion. The Giants’ lucked out when a holding call brought a big return back.

Kick-off coverage was absolutely atrocious and one could argue that this was a HUGE reason why the Giants lost the game. The Giants were terrible all three times they kicked off.

Nov 061998

Approach to the Game – New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys, November 8, 1998: Forget about a playoff spot. What we need to worry about is Head Coach Jim Fassel and his staff losing his grip on this team. The Giants need a win.

Giants on Offense: Enough is enough. The Giants’ offensive failings, and their incompetence on third down, is simply ridiculous. There may be talent problems on this side of the ball, but no PROFESSIONAL team should be having as many problems as the Giants are having. It way past time for QB Danny Kanell and the offensive line to elevate their game. They can, should, and must play better.

How to attack the Cowboys? Their strength on defense is the coverage ability of their secondary and linebackers. They are quick and can run to the ball. They certainly will not be scared of the Giants’ anemic passing attack. Dallas is likely to stack the line of scrimmage to stuff the run, play man-to-man defense on the receivers, and throw a bunch of different blitzes at Kanell and the offensive line. This is what the Cowboys did a few weeks ago to the Giants and it worked wonderfully for them. Why change?

If the Giants are to move the ball, I feel strongly that they are going to have to concentrate on the power running game. Forget sweeps or slow developing running plays — the Cowboys run to the ball too well and will out-quick the Giants. Yes Dallas is going to stack the line and SS Darren Woodson is like having an extra linebacker on the field. But the Giants CAN wear down Dallas if the offensive line plays up to its capabilities. Don’t try anything fancy — just use mano-a-mano run blocking. Put helmet on helmet and let the best man win. Too much trapping and pulling probably won’t work. The key battles up front will be LG Greg Bishop versus DT Leon Lett and RG Ron Stone versus DT Chad Hennings. It would be nice to have OC Lance Scott help out with Lett, and he will probably do so on occasion, but if the Cowboys play the game on defense like they did the last time they faced the Giants, Scott will have his hands full elsewhere. Run Gary Brown up the gut OVER and OVER again behind Charles Way. Brown should touch the ball 25 times in this game. The Giants can use the running game to control the tempo of the game, the clock, and the outcome of the game.

Obviously the Giants need to throw the ball to be successful too. I would go after CB Kevin Smith some, but where we would really concentrate the passing game is to the tight ends and running backs. And I’m not talking about these little dink passes we have been seeing all season. It is time to get the tight ends and backs at least 10 yards down the field in pass patterns. I would throw out of “obvious” run down situations (i.e., first down with a two tight end set on the field). Fool the Cowboys…show them something unexpected.

In obvious passing situations, I would certainly keep an extra big back in the backfield solely to pick up the blitz — which is bound to be coming. Yes, the line has to pass protect better, especially on stunts and blitzes. But having an extra big body in the backfield will help matters greatly. In such a situation, it is up to (1) the receivers to get open, and (2) Danny Kanell to get them the ball accurately and quickly. Danny has to do a better job reading defenses quickly and taking some shots down field. He is dumping the ball off far too much and far too quickly. He should give his receivers, guys like Ike Hilliard and Amani Toomer chances to make plays down the field.

Giants on Defense: The Dallas coaching staff undoubtably noticed the problems the Giant linebackers were having in coverage last week. Look for them to come after those linebackers, especially Corey Widmer, once again. I would think the game plan would include a lot of looks to FB Daryl Johnston and TE’s David LaFleur and Eric Bjornson. The Giants need to be ready for this.

Also, look for the Boys to try to pound the ball themselves. With DE Michael Strahan (back) questionable and not likely to play, I would think Chan Gailey would call for a lot of off-tackle runs in Cedric Jones’ and Marcus Buckley’s direction. The play of these two will be critical, as will the play of Widmer in run defense. Indeed, Widmer may be the man on the spot most of the day. The good news is that Jones will face back-up Tony Hutson. The bad news is that rookie RG Flozell Adams is a road-grader. DT Robert Harris must play stout and tough in his match-up against Adams. The Giants may also want to try quite a few stunts and blitzes in this direction as Hutson and Adams are very inexperienced.

On the right side of the defense, Chad Bratzke needs to play much better than he did against All-Pro Larry Allen than he did the last time he faced him. Indeed, with Allen and a re-dedicated Nate Newton playing strong on the left side, Bratzke, DT Keith Hamilton, and WLB Jessie Armstead may see quite a bit of action in their direction as well.

When Dallas puts the ball up in the air, the Giants’ secondary needs to do the job on their own for the most part. The secondary did play well the last time the teams faced, except for FS Tito Wooten’s botched play. Tito usually plays well against Dallas. His play could be decisive in a year where he hasn’t played well. For his part, SS Percy Ellsworth must be tough against the run when Emmitt Smith or Chris Warren break through the line. Key match-up in the secondary will be WR Michael Irvin versus CB Phillippi Sparks. Sparks usually plays well against Irvin. Conrad Hamilton and Carlton Gray MUST outplay Ernie Mills and Billy Davis. Let’s hope this continues. In nickel situations, Scott Galyon has to make more of an impact than he has been doing so thus far.

Much will depend on first and second down. If the Giants can stuff the run and prevent Dallas from picking up good yardage on short passes to the backs and tight ends, then they can focus on getting after Aikman on third down. Aikman doesn’t like to get hit and the Giants should come after him.

Giants on Special Teams: Dallas almost always outplays the Giants on special teams. This has to change. PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE — do not punt to Deion Sanders down the middle of the field. Either punt it out of bounds or punt it so high that Deion has no choice but to call for a fair catch. The tenacity of the coverage units will be key.

Nov 041998
Washington Redskins 21 – New York Giants 14

Overview: The Giants’ season unofficially ended on Sunday with their loss to the Washington Redskins. At 3-5, the Giants are effectively out of the playoff hunt. Once again, it was offensive incompetence that let the Giants down. The Giants can’t block, they can’t run, they can’t pass, they can’t pick up first downs, and they can’t score. Honestly, the offense is a joke and it is sickening to watch. The Giants’ were out-played, out-hustled, and out-coached.

Offensive Line: These guys need a mental enema. Once again, everyone across the entire line played poorly with the possible exception of LT Roman Oben. Time after time, the line commits stupid false start or holding penalties that put the offense even further in a hole. If it didn’t hurt so much, it would be funny. LG Greg Bishop was outplayed by a third teamer and was flagged for two costly penalties. RG Ron Stone continued to have problems blocking DT Dan Wilkinson. RT Scott Gragg was flagged twice too. He played terrible as well against an average opponent. OC Lance Scott and the interior linemen had problems picking up inside blitzes and stunts all day. (Again, if I were the coaching staff, I would have kept an extra big back in to block). The line couldn’t run smash mouth plays and it couldn’t handle finesse either. Any attempt to run a screen pass is pathetic. The Redskins were without Dana Stubblefield and yet the Giants couldn’t pick up a first down on 3rd-and-1 in the 4th quarter when they were attempting to tie the game. (The Giants later botched a handoff on another crucial 3rd-and-1 on the second to last drive of the game). Jim Fassel’s decision to punt on the next play says a lot about his confidence in the line. The Giants’ brain trust has to determine what the problem is with this unit and fix it during the next offseason.

Quarterbacks: Danny Kanell (17-out-of-32 for 151, one touchdown, no interceptions) was terrible. It would be easy to blame his problems on his physical condition, coming off surgery and the flu, but this is the third poor game in the last four he has played. What bothers me the most with Kanell is that he doesn’t seem to give his receivers a chance to make plays down the field. It seems as if he is always looking to dump the ball off to the back right away. And when he does throw to the receivers, it is inevitably short stuff. His best play of the game came on the Giants’ sole offensive scoring drive, when he gave Ike a chance to make a play (which he did twice). But most of the afternoon, Kanell dumped the ball off, or was harassed into scrambling with the ball by the pass rush. When he did have time, his accuracy was off. He threw behind receivers too many times and missed a wide-open Chris Calloway deep. Danny’s decision making was also poor. I spotted him throwing into double- and triple coverage far too much — including on the 4th-and-3 play on the last drive.

One other thing that continues to bother me is that the Giants are ALWAYS in the shotgun on 3rd and short. Why? This tells the defense that you are going to throw the ball or run a draw. It limits your options in my book. Once in a while is fine, but not on every 3rd-and-2 or 3rd-and-3 situation.

I don’t think Kanell is the answer at quarterback. He has eight games to change my mind. More importantly, he also may have eight games to change the Giants’ front office and coaching staff’s minds.

Wide Receivers: Tough to judge because Danny didn’t seem to look in their direction much or he didn’t have time to do so. TV color man Jerry Glanville made the interesting point that the Redskins play an entirely different defense when they play the Giants. Instead of playing zone, they play man-to-man for most of the game, blitz the quarterback heavily, and dare the Giants’ passing offense to beat them down the field. Apparently this is the only team the Redskins feel safe doing this too on a regular basis. It is a terrible condemnation of the Giants’ offensive personnel, be it the quarterback, offensive line, tight end, wide receivers, or all of the above.

What I do know is that the Giants need to get the ball more into the hands of Ike Hilliard (3 catches for 63 yards and one touchdown) while he is still moving forward and let him do some damage after the catch. His long catch and run on the Giants’ scoring drive was a thing of beauty and he followed it up with a brilliant touchdown grab against All Pro Darrell Green. Chris Calloway (7 catches for 71 yards) was his old steady self and seemed to be open quite a bit. David Patten was open a couple of times, but Kanell missed him. Joe Jurevicius got a chance to make a play on 3rd down and dropped the ball. Amani Toomer was invisible.

Tight Ends: Does any team in the NFL have more unproductive tight ends than the Giants? Is it the talent level, the play calling, the poor play of the offensive line, all of the above? Whatever the case, the tight ends are never a factor in the passing game. Howard Cross had one catch for two yards. Whoopee!

Halfbacks/Fullbacks: HB Gary Brown (12 carries for 43 yards, 1 catch for 1 yard) didn’t play poorly and made positive yardage almost every time he touched the ball. But is no threat to break the big run. HB Tiki Barber (2 carries for 16 yards, 3 catches for 14 yards) didn’t touch the ball much. Charles Way (4 carries for 16 yards, 2 catches for zero yards) had a couple of nice runs, but didn’t factor much in the game. The Redskins seemed to be waiting for Brown, Barber, and Way in the flats throughout the game. These dump off passes that picked up little yardage were a huge factor in the loss.

Defensive Line: DE Michael Strahan missed almost the entire game with a lower back problem and his presence was sorely missed. The Giants’ ends had problems playing the run, with Chad Bratzke being moved over to the left side and Cedric Jones playing on the right. Jones improved as the game wore on, but the Skins were able to run at him somewhat effectively nonetheless. Bratzke made a couple of superb run stops, but Washington was able to break off some big runs in his direction as well. Bratzke was a non-factor in the pass rush department against an average opponent (Shar Pourdanesh). On his one great opportunity to sack the quarterback, he embarrassingly whiffed on Trent Green. For his part in the pass rush department, Jones played fairly well and also improved in this area as the game wore on. Indeed, he finished the game with three sacks and I saw him buzzing around Green on a number of other occasions. Washington wasn’t able to generate much of a ground game between the tackles and much credit must go to Robert Harris and Keith Hamilton. However, Harris only finished the day with one tackle and in the pass rush department, these two guys were far too quiet, though Hamilton did pick up one big sack. And to be fair, Washington’s quick passing game, combined with the decision to cross the Giants up and pass often on first down, was a factor in that regard. All in all, the Giants needed to dominate these match-ups and did not.

Linebackers: Pretty bad. The Redskins ran successfully all day against Jessie Armstead. Marcus Buckley made a couple of nice plays in the backfield, but was run on pretty well too. He also got hammered on a screen pass. Where the Redskins really took advantage of the linebackers was in their passing game. MLB Corey Widmer and the outside guys had problems covering the running backs and tight ends for much of the game. Indeed, it is how Trent Green and Washington was able to generate their three impressive scoring drives.

Defensive Backs: The safeties must also share some of the blame in the poor pass defense against the running backs and tight ends. Percy Ellsworth made a couple of nice deflections, but the Skins were also able to complete a couple in his direction to the tight end. He also got fooled badly on Trent Green’s naked bootleg. Tito Wooten was fairly quiet. That could be good sign or a bad one. He made a real nice play against the run on one play. Rookie Shaun Williams was burned badly for a big gain on a pass to the fullback in short yardage. The corners played fairly well. CB Phillippi Sparks had a strong game. Conrad Hamilton was flagged for penalty, but generally kept his man under control. CB Carlton Gray was only so-so.

Special Teams: Well, David Patten finally did it. It’s just too bad it didn’t help the team win. He showed good instincts, vision, acceleration, and speed on his 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. He also received some excellent blocking (nice hustle from Pete Monty down field too). Amani Toomer is back to dancing around too much on punt returns. The gunners from the other team are also getting down the field too fast still as well. Kick and punt coverage was fairly solid. Brandon Sanders made two excellent coverage plays. Shaun Williams was flagged with a costly personal foul penalty. Doug Colman partially blocked a punt and Tito Wooten almost got to another one. Brad Maynard continues to excel, though he did botch a coffin corner opportunity. To prove how bad the Giants’ offense was, he had to punt 11 times in the game!!! In my book, the real hero of the game for the Redskins, and the guy who might have won the game for them, was their punter. His punting kept the Giants in a big hole when momentum seemed to be turning their way.