Aug 311999
 
New York Jets 16 – New York Giants 10

Overview: “We did not play well at all,” Head Coach Jim Fassel said. “Maybe we needed this, but we made mental mistakes and physical errors, we missed assignments, we malfunctioned at times, we gave up too many big plays, and the false-start penalties.I’ve had my bellyful of those.I don’t think we played an inspired game. I’m just really disappointed.”

Most disheartening in the 16-10 loss was not the regression on offense, but the extremely poor run defense. The Jets’ offensive line really took it to the Giants’ front seven on defense and almost everyone’s tackling was simply atrocious. Tampa Bay must be licking their chops.

On offense, the Giants’ offensive line and backs didn’t handle the blitz well at all. The receivers disappeared. And there were far too many penalties.especially those nagging false starts that just don’t seem to go away.

I saw this game coming. The egos of the Giants’ players were once again getting too bloated. The Giants need to be confident, but not overconfident. Too many players are talking the talk, but not walking the walk. Shut up and play the damn game. There was too much talking in the press this week. Don’t celebrate after every good play – especially when the other team is taking it to you. This game was not as close as the score indicates. The players must stop thinking about how good they think they are and just PLAY ONE GAME AT A TIME, ONE PLAY AT A TIME. Let their actions do their talking for them. Don’t think about the playoffs or the Superbowl. Play tough, play physical, and wear down your opponent. If each player takes care of his own business, the Giants will do well.

I should preface my game review this week by letting readers know I am unable to give the a real good breakdown this week. I watched the game at a bar and thus was unable to tape it and breakdown the video. WOR‘s coverage stinks (ever hear of replay?) and I was drinking to much beer and not paying enough attention. My apologies.

On a side note, Keith Hamilton’s brother, Jarrod, made an appearance at the bar. He was riot.

Pray that Brian Williams’ knee injury is not serious and that he won’t miss any time. We cannot afford to lose him right now – especially with Lance Scott being down.

Quarterbacks: Kent Graham (13-22 for 125 yards, one touchdown, and one interception) was not as sharp this week. Granted he didn’t have the super-solid pass protection of the previous two games and had to rid of the ball far quicker, but he seemed to get a tad too antsy in the pocket this week. Last week, he made quite a few plays by scrambling out of the pocket. He did that far too much for my liking this week. He has to remember that that really isn’t his game.

To be fair, it did seem as if receivers were not getting open down the field. The Giants’ also most likely were not using their best stuff this week as they want to hide that from the Bucs. I thought his best pass of the night was his short toss to Charlie Way on a play where Way was most likely his third option. He showed some nice touch on that pass. He also did a good job of hitting Joe Jurevicius in stride on his sole touchdown pass. On the negative side, he badly missed on a couple of throws and he had far too many balls batted down at the line of scrimmage.

Kerry Collins didn’t get a chance to play much, but I expected more from him. His first pass was a beauty – a three-step slant to David Patten that allowed Patten to do some serious damage after the catch. However, he looked real shaky in the pocket to me. Again, the protection was not great, but Collins looked like he had some “happy feet” to me. Instead of moving around in the pocket, he took off scrambling a couple of times. His last pass to Jurevicius on 4th-and-23 was underthrown.

Wide Receivers: These guys didn’t bother to show up this week. Amani Toomer was shut out. Ike Hilliard was held to two catches for a measly 11 yards (he also fumbled the ball away). Patten made a real nice catch-and-run for 48 yards, but that was his only reception of the night. Jurevicius caught one pass for 12 yards and a touchdown. Fred Brock and Brian Alford were shut out. 4 catches is not going to get it done.

Running Backs: No fumbles this week. At least that was a plus. It was good to see Gary Brown (9 carries for 21 yards) back in there and I didn’t think he looked that rusty at all. There were a couple of plays where he got nailed in the backfield, but that was due to poor blocking up front. When he was given a hole, he showed those quick feet again. He did have one costly drop on a play where he might have picked up some good yardage.

Charles Way looked sharp. He had four tough carries for 12 yards and 2 catches for 28 yards. He’s a tank, but I’d like to see some more vision from him on his runs. Speaking of another guy who doesn’t have the best vision, LeShon Johnson seems to make up his mind where to take the ball sometimes without looking for the hole. He had a good gain on one rightside run, but could have broken it for big yardage if he saw the gapping hole right to his right. He does have a burst and had a reasonably productive night (10 carries for 36 yards).

Tiki Barber made a great, diving catch and had a key 10 yard run on the Giants’ last drive where he broke a tackle. However, I did spot him missing badly on one blitz pick up. On the subject of the blitz pick-ups, some of the pressure and sacks credited against the offense line probably had to do with shoddy blitz pick-ups from the backs. The Jets sent their linebackers quite a bit and these guys are often the responsibility of the backs, not the line. “They blitzed the heck out of us, but that’s okay. It’s good for us to see those blitz packages in the preseason,” Graham said. “They brought it to us and we struggled. There was a lot more pressure than there has been, that’s for sure.”

Sean Bennett only carried the ball twice for six yards. He did come up with a key first down conversion on the Giants’ last drive on an outside run. Greg Comella had two catches for seven yards.

Tight Ends: Pete Mitchell (5 catches for 50 yards) had a big night and Giants’ fans saw glimpse of what they are going to see all season long from him if he stays healthy. He was Graham’s sole security blanket over the middle all night. A couple of his receptions were tough catches in traffic and picked up key first downs. The good thing about the offense this week, even though they did not put a lot of points on the board, is that at least there weren’t a bunch of three-and-outs like there were last year. Pete Mitchell had a lot to do with that. It is also interesting to note that the Giants have him lining up all over the place – as a stationary tight end, as a move guy, in the backfield, in the slot, etc. Dan Campbell caught one pass for nine yards on the last drive.

Offensive Line: Much shakier this week and still too many false starts (I saw false starts from Scott Gragg, Nate Miller, and Jason Whittle). Most attempts to run outside were not successful as Jet defenders shot the gaps and disrupted the play. On the inside running game, there were too many missed assignments. I saw Luke Pettigout whiff on a run block early on. The Giants did not do well picking up blitzers either. There was too far too much pressure on Kent Graham and Kerry Collins this week. And that pressure was coming from all over the place – up the middle and from the outside. Matters were not helped with Brian Williams leaving the game in the second quarter with a knee injury. Derek Engler played in his place.

Defensive Line and Linebackers: “I don’t think we played an inspired game,” Fassel said. “I’m just really disappointed.” Fassel was probably talking about his entire team, but these are the sentiments I came away with by watching the Giants’ defense. The Giants did not play inspired football. But they also did not play smart. They repeatedly overpursued on running plays, kept getting burned on screen passes and misdirection, and tackled exceptionally poorly. Surprisingly, the Giants were not hurt so much from the downfield passing game. Where the Jets took it to them was by running the ball straight at them. The defensive line and linebackers were overpowered by a Jets’ offensive line that should not have overpowered them. Everyone was at fault, even Michael Strahan. Inside, the Giants’ defensive tackles were getting blown off the ball by the Jets’ supposedly “weak-link” guards. Christian Peter didn’t do much for the injured Robert Harris (who I saw get obliterated on one play). Cedric Jones was damn near invisible. When the Jets did pass, their was no pass pressure. The line and linebackers did not do a good job of reading screens, unlike the previous two weeks.

But as bad as the line was, the linebackers were even worse. For some reason, Scott Galyon played a ton in the base defense for Corey Widmer and Galyon got killed. All talk of him starting on the strongside should stop right now. When he was not getting handled at the point-of-attack, he was overpursuing the play. Marcus Buckley and Ryan Phillips were invisible. Jessie Armstead had his moments, but he was getting handled too often too. And the tackling was simply terrible. No one wrapped up.

The only guy who I thought had a positive performance at linebacker was Pete Monty. The only highlight of the game was the goalline stand (Widmer made real nice play on one outside run and Jessie stuff an inside run).

It is interesting to note that Rasheed Simmons saw playing time, but Frank Ferrara did not. Neither did Keith Council, Ryan Hale, O.J. Childress, or Jesse Tarplin.

Secondary: Jeremy Lincoln played better this week. Plus, one of the guys at the bar told me that they rid an article last week where Defensive Backs Coach Johnnie Lynn said Lincoln was not responsible for the big pass play last week against Jacksonville. Lincoln played too far off the ball for my liking, but he did not hurt his team. He also made a very nice run force on an outside play. Phillippi played off the ball a bit too. I think the Giants might have been trying to mislead the Bucs a bit here. Reserve CB Andre Weathers did not have a good game. He made one real solid tackle, but he should have been burned for a long touchdown (the receiver dropped the ball) and his man got open on another pass that was off the mark. Percy Ellsworth continues his clinic on poor tackling (though he did have one nice effort). He was run over on the goalline by Curtis Martin. Shaun Williams almost killed Testeverde on a safety blitz.

Special Teams: P Brad Maynard did not play well. He had two nice coffin corner kicks, but his other two punts were atrocious. PK Brad Daluiso did a very nice job with his kick-offs and hit a long field goal (for 46 yards). Bashir Levingston was not in the game (not a good sign for him). David Patten had one decent kick return, as did Tiki Barber on a punt return. Punt and kick coverage this week was OK. Blocking for returns remains shoddy. Sean Bennett returned a couple of kicks and didn’t look real natural doing so (he seems to lack a burst for that part of the game).


Giants/Jets

by David Oliver

The first game I am covering this year, and it is the Jets. It always leaves a bitter taste in my mouth because we never play well against these guys- now they have the Tuna, in his Prime Albacore days. As I’m riding up the Pike I am thinking to myself- everyone knows the Jets were the Titans, but , of course, now the Titans are in Tennessee. But do you all know how the Titans originated? There was a sports writer in NYC named Harry Wismer. Harry hated the Giants. When the AFL came along, Harry and other investors jumped at the opportunity. But the team had to be larger than the Giants. Harry searched his mythology and discovered that the keepers of the Forge, the Titans were larger than Giants, so lo and behold, we had the NY Titans.

Also, I’m thinking, how many people actually knew any of these early Titans/Jets? I grew up in East Orange, NJ, in an area of two family, one family homes. There were a lot of big lots with cherry trees, apple trees, grape arbors, mulberry trees and the occasional quince tree. It was an ethnic area- Vailsburg(Newark) ran from South Orange Ave to Tremont Ave- it was interspersed, but heavily Irish American. East Orange started at Tremont and ran west- my block was heavilt Italian American. The next major street began a mixed area of Irish, Italian and Afro Americans. We played together, fought each other, and misappropriated the good Italian red table wine that the old timers made on their presses in the fall. Life was good. So what does this have to do with the Giants/Jets game? One day, the fellow who owned our two-family house, sold the lot. The cherry trees and apple trees were replaced by a new home. Into that home moved a huge man- he was Art Powell, then of the Jets, later an all-Pro with the Oakland Raiders. We used to marvel at how he pushed his manual lawn mower with one hand. I don’t remember the circumstances, but I do remember one day dad sending me next door to get Mr. Powell, who had a long distance phone call at our house. It was the Oakland Raiders calling and I sat and listened to Mr. Powell negotiate for his moving expenses. He was a working man’ just like every one else in the area.

The Jets followed me off to Law School as they were the only team broadcast in Lexington, VA. This was Skins territory, so our beloved Giants were newspaper reading only. And there, the infamous Heidi game took place. Off went the game with the Jets beating, who else? But those same Raiders, on came Heidi- disaster struck- the Jets, leading, lost and TV history was made.

Now, how else can I be haunted by these soul bandits. Get this- my son is born in VA.- he has no connection with NY save me. But he watches as my wife gives me Giants presents on every holiday and special days. He listens as I scream at the TV and die with each Giant loss. And you know what, he grows up a Jets fan. And you, my friends thing there is pain in your life. First my son, then Tuna, what next will these Jets steal- our chance at Super Bowl glory?

Well Saturday’s game was another loser. You have all read the analysis of others by now. My highlight was closing the loop with other friends- the sidelines are a welcome place- habituated by camera gypsies, writers who occasionally slum with us riff-raff, and this week The Donald and one lovely photographer who showed up wearing black silk-like hip huggers and a matching top, leaving a bare mid-section. By the third quarter I had found my place to stand.

The game itself- ugly. The Jets came to win, the Giants, for the most part, just came. The Tuna began the mind game by starting Lucas, which apparently discombobulated the Giants defense, which, except for Jessie and Michael thought they were spectators at the ballet. Screen, draw, draw, screen- the rush was nullified. The first drive was Curtis Martin’s and he showed why he is worth big bucks. Lucas was surprisingly agile an accurate. The Jets controlled the ball for 11 minutes. For the Giants, it was Graham with short passes, Brown with real short gains. Then the rumble. Vinny goes back to pass, Jessie rushes, the ball is in the air, all hell breaks loose. These teams were just waiting for the opportunity for a good one. When the refs regained control, they penalized Jessie, probably because Vinny is a QB. Possibly unfairly in view of all the involvement by both teams. They might as well have called the game right there. The rest of the night was trench warfare.

The second quarter was the Giants. We had the ball twelve minutes, but the Jets finished with the lead. Gary Brown started with a -7 yards on two plays. A defensive holding call, a couple of incomplete passes, then a nice shotgun shuffle to Way for some yardage. The Way and Brown brought it close, where Graham hit JJ on a nice play. All the hard work was nullified when Martin went around the left end on an 80 yard romp, which left Giants laying all over the turf and from my vantage point in the end zone behind the run looked like an Alphonse-Gaston routine, no you tackle him, no YOU tackle him. What was the D thinking? The Giants then held the ball for awhile and practiced their short yardage offense, short run, short pass, short run. There was one real nice pass to Mitchell over the middle, good for 16 yards. The drive ended with a punt.

The first half saw Martin put in a full night’s work- he finished with 127(half). Graham was our leader with 22, followed by Brown with 21 and Way with 12. It was that kind of night for Kent, deja vu all over again as the line did not hold. Losing Brian Williams led to confusion. Luke played like a rookie- not real bad, just bad enough to almost get his QB killed. Actually, Gragg and Cross looked the best. Graham was a respectable 9/13 for 97 yards, despite little help from the line, the disappearance of Amani and a couple of penalties. Of the passes, 4 went to Mitchell for 43 yards.

The third quarter was a Bennett return and LeShon trying the left end. Hilliard then fumbled and the replay official ruled it a Jet recovery- looked pretty close from our vantage point. The defense stiffened. By now Peter was in and he was everywhere making hits. Cedric Jones, ah! Cedric- was he still in Albany? Cedric has one move; he stands up and runs into the tackle. If the play passes him, he has cat like speed and can make a tackle from behind. Where is the real Cedric Jones? The third quarter was a bore. Jessie for the Giants, Ferguson for the Jets were the enforcers. It was punt left, punt right, missed field goal, interception in the end zone and fumble. It doesn’t matter which team, neither had it going, except for the obvious embarrassment the Giant D felt for that Martin run. Jessie was possessed, and Strahan had a full game face. Time of possession, about even. The fourth quarter was a replay- almost even possession.

We got good field position late in the third, couldn’t move far, got a field goal. Whittle was the center for the long snap. The Jets had modest gains- Vinnie was still in the game. They were stopped and punted. Collins came in for the Giants, and started out with a beautiful catch and run by Patten, good for 48 yards. Then sack, short, short, punt. Mirer came in for the Jets and after one moderate gain, he was greeted by Rasheed Simmons who got the sack. Following the Jets punt, Collins completed a short pass, Bennett had little success, Collins scrambled, Tiki had a run, Collins was sacked, missed a pass to Brock which was just not well timed and then missed a beauty to JJ who came downfield turned his man in, dived out and came up just short on a timing pattern. That was it.

Sideline observations: Coach was not happy, Strahan looked frustrated, Peter was having a great game, Jessie settled down and played smart after his initial outburst of testosterone. Graham had a decent game and showed he deserves to be the starter, but he needs help from the front line. Brian Williams value cannot be understated. He is the key to success this year. With him, the line has espirit, without him, it is last year without Scott. Our kick return game looks better, and Coach said he was pleased with the kicking. Gary Brown has a way to go and Charles Way should lead the offense. Tiki has settled in and has a place. The Jets are a good team and we put up a legitimate 184 yard passing effort against them with 8 different receivers getting into the act. Mitchell is going to be the go to guy and Patten is the breakaway threat. Jessie is the man, and Lincoln had a pretty decent effort. As boring as it was, the Giants held their own against a team rated by many as a legit Super Bowl contender. Parcells went for it, Fassel kept the wraps on- December should be a different game.

Following the game, Coach Fassel said he wasn’t real happy, the penalties had to stop, he didn’t think it was right to penalize Jessie alone for the fight. On Gary Brown, he ” thought he ran hard…he had 9 carries” about what he had anticipated. He didn’t think the Giants `were sharp.’ “We were coming up with some plays, they were coming up with some bigger plays.” He felt the Jets “were very effective with draws and screens…I don’t know if we got out of our rush lanes, if somebody blocked us up…” Coach didn’t feel the team reacted well to the blocking. There was some thought that the practice days inside last week hurt, “there were a lot of missed tackles.”

He felt, Kent played well, overall `it wasn’t his best performance, but it was alright.’ On the offense, he reiterated it “was a building process.” He knew they weren’t going to keep scoring like the first two games. Overall, he was just “really disappointed right now.” He said he “would go back, look at the tapes….whatever we weren’t doing right, I’ll coach them up…” He was asked about what he would do with the penalties- he said he would bench em, but refused to go into it further and teased the media by not discussing anyone in particular.

Jessie explained the fight and said the ball was in the air and “Vinnie started grabbing me” so Jessie grabbed him back and then all hell broke loose. Jessie acknowledged that the defense had to tighten up, they “couldn’t just give up a big gain like that.” He talked about the game being violent and said he didn’t feel it was justified to give him the penalty. He felt ” we had a letdown.”

In the lockeroom Kent Graham was talking about the loss of Lance and Brian Williams. He said he “knew that..he would have to do some scrambling to get some people open. This was another good test for us, a different type test for us.” He “thought we were trying to be smart with the football…they were trying to do the same thing…” Kent said the team would have to regroup, that they had had “a lot of good games…as a whole the preseason was positive.” I asked him if he had put too much on himself by scrambling to make things happen. He acknowledged he “took some shots out there…I feel ok.”

The rest of the night I talked to Emmit Zitelli and Ferrara. We didn’t talk for attribution just made conversation. Emmit and Frank are good kids. Both are chasing a dream. Sometimes we forget they are young, and maybe even scared. Not many media people pay much attention to Zitelli. It’s assumed he’s going to be cut. He’s frustrated that he hasn’t gotten any playing time, but he’s staying balanced. Emmit is from Pittsburgh; he’s played in Europe for two years now and feels that’s enough. Although the experience was good, it was living in hotels, with a roomate- it was a vagabond existence. Frank is a big, good natured shy kid, who actually blushes when I tell him of his following on BBI. He says he is trying as hard as he can and giving it his all. He got in for one series tonight and loved it, but is frustrated at lack of playing time. He has a high level of energy, and frankly, for my money, put him next to Cedric and at least Frank acts alive. I wish them the best of luck- they are good people.

Aug 261999
 

Approach to the Game – New York Jets at New York Giants, August 28, 1999: Around the league, the third preseason game has pretty much become the main dress rehearsal for the regular season. Starters usually play into the third quarter and (pardon the Fassel-esque rhetoric) there is a greater sense of urgency in overall play. This game will be a far better indicator of where the Giants are than the first two preseason games.

Those vying for roster spots and on the bubble are starting to get a little nervous too. The first cuts were made recently and more are soon to come. Each play could prove decisive.

Vikings, Jaguars, and now Jets. Each team is tough; each is favored by many to reach the Superbowl. The Jets will provide yet another serious litmus test. But keep in mind one important thing – it is far better to come out of the game with no injuries than it is to win.

Giants on Offense: HB Gary Brown returns and that is good news for the Giants’ running game – a running game that has struggled this preseason between the tackles. Make no mistake about it – Gary Brown is the Giants’ running game. It won’t be Sean Bennett or LeShon Johnson, but Brown. He will get quite a few carries, but Head Coach Jim Fassel will be careful not to push him too hard in his first game back. It will be interesting to see how rusty he will be.

The other major story this week on offense is that first rounder Luke Petitgout is now entrenched as the starting left guard. How will he respond? He has to get ready for the likes of Warren Sapp, Brad Culpepper, and Anthony McFarland on opening day.

The Jets’ defense will provide an excellent test for the G-Men – far better than the defenses of the Vikings and Jaguars. The Jets’ defense is extremely well-coached and benefits from a plethora of talented linebackers and tough run-defending defensive linemen. Like most of the Giants’ 1999 opponents, Jets’ Head Coach Bill Parcells will probably dare Kent Graham and the Giants’ receivers to burn them in the passing game. Look for the Jets to stack the line of scrimmage against Brown and FB Charles Way.

Will the Kent Graham renaissance continue or will he come back to Earth a bit? Last week he did a very good job of moving around in the pocket and finding the open man again. Accuracy continues to be a focus, especially on short throws. His long ball, thus far, looks real sharp.

Kerry Collins will once again take the field and should receive the bulk of the remaining playing time. On the second team offensive line (LT Toby Myles, LG Jason Whittle, OC Derek Engler, RG Mike Rosenthal, and RT Nate Miller), the Giants have to make some tough decisions on how many to keep and who?

In the receiving department, barring injury, the wide receivers and tight ends look set. It would be nice to see Brian Alford make a play.

Still a big question at halfback. Do the Giants place Joe Montgomery on injured reserve? Or do they waive HB LeShon Johnson or FB Greg Comella? Needless to say, this may be a big game for both. Also keep in mind that the Giants lost seven fumbles last week – that bears watching against the Jets.

Giants on Defense: The situation at cornerback is starting to get worrisome. Conrad Hamilton (ankle) may practice next week. Who knows when Jason Sehorn will return? How much rust will both have on them when the regular season starts? The Tampa game not that far away. CB Jeremy Lincoln played well against the Vikes, but got torched by the Jaguars. He needs to step it up. The Giants also desperately need one of the rookies to grow up fast – a guy like CB Andre Weathers or Reggie Stephens (who may not play). Keeping an eye on the waiver wire might not be a bad idea either just in case Lincoln can’t cut it. The Jets are loaded with three very talented receivers in Wayne Chrebet, Keyshawn Johnson, and Dedric Ward. QB Vinny Testerverde will take his shots.

At safety, Percy needs to start tackling as well as he runs his mouth. Shaun Williams is an important, versatile defender, but I expected more from him this preseason. Sam Garnes looks poised for a big year if he can stay healthy (something that has been a problem for him in the past). Who has the fourth safety spot locked up? Lyle West or Tre Thomas. Probably the former, though there was some talk today that the Giants may want to re-sign Brandon Sanders.

As I expected, it looks like the Marcus Buckley-Ryan Phillips situation on the strongside has developed into a platoon system. If either one regresses, then that person is bound to lose playing time. Watching Marcus play the run and Phillips the pass will be key in this game. As for the reserves, if Pete Monty continues to play well, he is sure to have saved his roster spot. Does that mean Doug Colman is on the way out? He is one of the better special teams guys on the team. Rookie linebackers O.J. Childress and Jesse Tarplin need to make plays on specials if they are to survive.

The man to really watch on defense will be Cedric Jones – who did not play last week. You know Parcells will test his run defense with Jumbo Elliott. Inside, the Jets have a top-notch center, but questions at guard. Either Robert Harris or Keith Hamilton should do well if they bring their “A” game to the contest. The reserves inside seem set with Christian Peter and George Williams (look for Ryan Hale on the Practice Squad maybe). Outside, we know Bernard Hosley makes the team. You have to feel for Charles Estes. He finally gets a real chance to make the team, and a toe injury keeps him sidelined for most of camp. Can the Giants find room to keep both Frank Ferrara and Rasheed Simmons? If not, who goes?

Giants on Special Teams: Again my focus will be on kick and punt coverage. I’d also like to see the Giants set up the returns better. It’s time for Tiki Barber to start doing some damage on punt returns. This may be Bashir Levingston’s last shot to make the team as a kick returner this year.

Aug 241999
 
New York Giants 27 – Jacksonville Jaguars 20

Overall: The fumbling problem ruined for me a game that I should have enjoyed more. The Giants lost seven fumbles – including six consecutive to start the second half. It was joke. These are professionals and this kind of crap should not happen.

The starting offense was once again amazing. Call me a pessimist, but I won’t really believe these guys are real until they start doing this in the regular season when opposing defenses are game-planning them, running stunts, jamming our receivers at the line, etc. Still, the improvement in the passing game is startling. At the very least, it has to help the confidence of the entire unit. Kent Graham is clearly “the man.” His performance this week was in some ways even more impressive than last week. The offensive line is doing a hell of a job and has not given up a sack yet in the preseason. The receivers are making plays.

The first- and second-team defenses played well except for CB Jeremy Lincoln and FS Percy Ellsworth. More on that below.

Kick coverage is still too much of a problem, though it is improved. I still do not have a lot of confidence in Brad Daluiso.

The best news is that it looks like there were no major injuries. David Patten, who played an excellent game, did hurt his ribs, but X-rays proved negative.

Quarterbacks: As I mentioned above, Kent and the entire offense has to do it on a regular basis once the real season starts to firmly convert me. Nevertheless, Graham has played consistently well since the Denver game last year and seems to be improving all the time. What impressed me the most against the Jaguars was his mobility in the pocket. Though he was provided with very good pass protection, there were times when Kent really helped his cause and bought extra time by stepping up in the pocket or rolling out of it.

Kent did start off the game a little shaky and a few off his throws were well off the mark. I said to myself, “Here’s that damn inconsistency again.” But Kent quickly got his game back and led the Giants on several impressive drives and made a number of big plays in difficult third-down situations. Graham finished the first half going 14-of-23 for an amazing 269 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions.

On his first touchdown drive, he avoided the rush, ran to the far sideline and lofted a 22-yard strike to David Patten on 3rd-and-nine. On the Giants’ second touchdown drive, Graham stepped up into the pocket and hit Patten deep for 47-yards on 3rd-and-23. Both of these plays picked up key first downs and kept those drives alive – drives that resulted in touchdowns. Then with less than two minutes in the half, Kent ran the two-minute drill to perfection. First, he dumped the ball off twice to Tiki for 28 yards. Then he threw a very accurate strike to TE Pete Mitchell for 40-yards and a touchdown – giving the Giants a 24-7 halftime lead.

Mike Cherry just doesn’t do it for me. To be fair, he was able to get into the flow of the game due to all the butter-handed running backs he was in there with. And his numbers do not look bad – 9-of-14 for 124 yards, no touchdowns, and no interceptions. His first throw was also dropped. But his overall accuracy was off and he threw into double-coverage too much for my liking. He badly overthrew Brian Alford deep on pass he should not attempted. He also lucked out when a defensive lineman dropped a sure interception on an attempted screen pass. His deep pass to Fred Brock was successful and worked because the ball was underthrown – still the ball WAS underthrown.

Running Backs: FB Charles Way didn’t play because his hamstring tightened right before the game started.

All of these guys deserve a big, fat “F.” The fumbling was inexcusable, ridiculous, and painful. Seven fumble?!? Give me a break!!! Sean Bennett lost two (and was involved in a third on failed exchange). Tiki Barber lost two; Greg Comella lost one; and LeShon Johnson lost one. Fassel has a real problem here. He has to put the fear of God into these guys about fumbling, but at the same time, he doesn’t want this to get into their heads. Maybe the best thing to do is to write it off to a freaky situation. But you had better believe that ALL of the Giants 1999 opponents know about this now and every opposing defender will be coming after the ball when Tiki and Sean are carrying it.

And it is Tiki and Sean who are the main concerns because both are expected to carry the ball quite a bit in 1999 and beyond. Tiki has had a problem with ball security since he has been here. Is Sean Bennett going to have this problem too? The fumbles ruined otherwise nice performances. Tiki (five carries for 30 yards) was putting on a show running the ball, displaying excellent elusiveness and breaking tackles. Although he dropped one sure pass, he also caught 4 for 44 yards (including a real tough catch on the play he fumbled the ball on). Bennett (15 carries for 54 yards, one touchdown) ran another screen pass to perfection for 18-yards and setting up the Giants’ first touchdown. I also spotted him making a nice blitz pick-up – an area that has been a weakness for him. I hope Fassel and Defensive Coordinator John Fox have their defenders test Sean and Tiki all week. These two had better start sleeping nights with the ball in their hands.

LeShon Johnson (4 carries for six yards) fumbled without being hit. FB Greg Comella (4 catches for 36 yards, 2 carries for 5 yards) looked good as a receiver, but put the rock on the ground for the second game in a row. Reynard Rutherford saw his first action only because Fassel had gotten so upset at the rest of his charges. He looked ordinary, carrying the ball 5 times for seven yards – but at least he held onto the ball.

Wide Receivers: Though there were a couple of drops (Hilliard, Brock), the receivers put in another excellent game. David Patten made a superb leaping reception for 47 yards from Graham. He ended the night with two catches for 69 yards and seems to have secured the fourth wide out job ahead of the disappointing Brian Alford (no catches once again). Ike Hilliard (2 catches for 57 yards), for the second game in a row, displayed the catch-and-run skills that made him famous at the University of Florida. His 53-yard catch-and-run was a thing of beauty as he did a great job of setting up his blockers. Toomer had four catches for 37 yards and a touchdown. Fred Brock made a nice diving catch of a deep Cherry pass and finished with two catches for 58 yards. He has shown more than Alford too. James Kidd (1 catch for 18 yards) had to hold up for a poorly thrown Cherry pass.

Tight Ends: When was the last time a Giants’ quarterback threw a 40-yard bomb to a tight end in the end zone for a touchdown? Howard Cross could only dream of making such a play. Mitchell, a wide receiver playing in an H-Back’s body, made such a diving reception at the end of the two-minute drill. Very impressive! His blocking was only ordinary at best. Cross came up with a reception for 11 yards and Dan Campbell did too for seven yards. Contrary to scouting reports, Campbell looks to be a better receiver than blocker at this point.

Offensive Line: New Offensive Line Coach Jim McNally is doing a wonderful job with his players. The first- and second-teamers have not given up a sack in two games – an amazing feat. There was one play against Jacksonville where Kent Graham had time to buy a cup of coffee and drink it the protection was so good. RT Scott Gragg continues to remain a bit shaky. His few breakdowns continue to mar what would otherwise be solid performances. He whiffed on a couple of attempted blocks that I saw. False starts also continue to be a problem. RG Ron Stone gave up one big pressure, but was otherwise a rock in the middle, as was OC Brian Williams. The right side of the line blew away the Jacksonville defense on Bennett’s four-yard touchdown run. LG Lance Scott did a real nice job on the left side. LT Roman Oben had only one or two rough plays against Tony Brackens. The Jaguars didn’t run a lot of stunts – something that has given the Giants problems in the past – but overall pass protection was excellent. Getting a read on the run blocking was difficult because the Giants did not run much and I’m not so sure how strong an inside runner Sean Bennett is.

The second team offensive line had far many more breakdowns – as should be expected – but they did not give up a sack either. LT Toby Myles played a very good game and LG Luke Petitigout looked real strong on a left side sweep. It looks like the Giants have some quality depth on the line now.

Defensive Line: I thought DT Robert Harris played extremely well. He was credited with one sack, but in reality his pressure directly led to DE Michael Strahan’s sack as well. Strahan hustled all night and chased the ball all over the field no matter how far away he was. DT Keith Hamilton was active and just missed making a play in the backfield in a third down situation. The Jaguars had some success running right at DE Bernard Holsey and WLB Jessie Armstead to start the game, but Holsey made a great play on in the redzone when he fought through a block, disrupted a left side running play, and knocked the ball lose from Fred Taylor, leading to a key turnover.

The reserves continue to play strong and did a fantastic job of limiting the Jaguars to only 6 points after five Giant turnovers (a sixth was returned for a touchdown by Jacksonville). Christian Peter played a strong game and came up with a devastating sack. George Williams was solid. Outside, Frank Ferrara and Rasheed Simmons remain in heated battle. Both played well once again, though I thought Frank was a tad more active and disruptive. I hope the Giants can figure out a way to keep both.

Linebackers: The first and second teamers played well. Jessie Armstead made a big hit in the backfield (he also jumped offsides however). Marcus Buckley shot a gap and nailed a runner for a loss with a real strong tackle – the type of play I’ve been waiting for Marcus to make for years. Pete Monty was all over the field again and seems to have saved his job. He did a good job of sniffing out a middle screen pass. Scott Galyon also flashed again. Doug Colman came through untouched up the middle and picked up a sack.

Defensive Backs: CB Jeremy Lincoln had a real rough night. He was burned badly on the Jags’ first drive on a 49-yard pass to Reggie Barlow. Percy Ellsworth made matters worse on the play by completely whiffing on a tackle. Very embarrassing. Percy tackles like a Pop Warner player. Get Shaun Williams in there. Lincoln was also later burned deep on third down by Jimmy Smith for 30 yards, a play that set up Jacksonville’s lone touchdown in the first half. CB Phillippi Sparks was beaten badly right before halftime for what should have been a touchdown, but the quarterback badly underthrew his man and Phillippi was able to recover and knock the ball away. SS Sam Garnes came flying in on a blitz and picked up a sack. However, it did look like Kyle Brady was his man on Brady’s touchdown. Shaun Williams got beat in coverage on third down, but made the tackle before the receiver could pick up the first down.

As for the reserves, it was tough to get a good read on them due to the fine play of the Giants’ front seven reserves and the poor play of the Jacksonville offensive reserves. Reggie Stephens was burned badly for what should have been a tying touchdown right at the end of the game, but the quarterback missed his receiver. Bashir Levingston got his hands on an out pass and would have returned it for a touchdown had he been able to hold on. S Lyle West forced a key fumble by hustling from behind the play. Andre Weathers got beat on a short route.

Special Teams: PK Brad Daluiso seems to push too many of his field goals to the right. He missed an important 34-yarder and was only saved by the fact that the defense came up with a turnover on the Jags’ next drive. P Brad Maynard was not as impressive this week. He had one poor punt that ended up well for us as it hit a Jags’ blocker and the Giants recovered. The Giants gave up a 42-yard kick return. Aside from that, kick coverage was pretty solid with Pete Monty, Ryan Phillips, and O.J. Childress making tackles. It is interesting to note that Sam Garnes is on these units now.

Tiki Barber continues to get no blocking on his punts and is tackled immediately or is forced to call a fair catch. David Patten had one nice looking return where he accelerated through a gap. Bashir Levingston looks explosive, but could not break one. He did show a little more wiggle than Patten however.

Aug 191999
 

Approach to the Game – Jacksonville Jaguars at New York Giants, August 21, 1999: Can the offense do it again? That’s the big question. It is not just overall offensive productivity that has been lacking for the Giants during the 1990’s, but consistent offensive productivity. During this decade, the offense has had its brief moments – a shining game here or there – but there has been no consistency. Will the Giants’ offense of 1999 build upon their success in Minnesota or will they revert back to their impotent form? No, we shouldn’t expect another 36 points again, but it would be nice if the team could put up 20+ points.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Giants face yet another dangerous offense without key components – CB Jason Sehorn, CB Conrad Hamilton, and DE Cedric Jones. The Jaguars not only provide a dangerous passing game, like the Vikings, but also a powerful rushing attack. However, the Jaguars may be missing some of their best offensive players on Saturday (Mark Brunnel, Keenan McCardell, Tony Boselli, and Fred Taylor).

Special teams improvement remains a key area of focus.

The Giants have never played well against Jacksonville and usually get blown out. It will be interesting to see if history repeats itself.

No injuries please!

Giants on Offense: One should not expect Kent Graham to repeat his near-perfect game against the Jaguars. That simply is not realistic. But Kent could really cement his hold on the starting quarterback job with another positive performance. His decision-making last week was top-notch and did a decent job of getting the ball to his receivers.

Kerry Collins (foot) will probably not play. He played decently last week and if he does play on Saturday, I look for improvement – especially in terms of his overall accuracy. If he does not play or plays little, this might will probably be Mike Cherry’s best chance to impress the Giants’ hierarchy. He hasn’t played well at camp and while he is a lock to make the final roster, this game may go far in determining whether or not he has a future in New York. Afterall, he will be a restricted free agent after the season.

In terms of pass blocking, the first and second-team offensive line performed well last week. But the inside running game was lacking. The Giants need to get this element of their offense untracked if they are to really have a diversified offense in 1999. Focus on the first unit should be on the main question marks: the left guard spot (Lance Scott/Luke Petitgout) and the right tackle spot (Scott Gragg). Jacksonville has an ordinary front four on defense (though the Tony Brackens – Roman Oben battle will be interesting) and the Giants should be able to do some damage against them on the ground. Reserves Toby Myles, Mike Rosenthal, Nate Miller, Jason Whittle, and Derek Engler played reasonably well last week too. Let’s look for more positive play from this group.

The big mystery at wide receiver is the lack of development by second-year man Brian Alford. Brian has not stood out at camp and did not have a pass thrown his way last week. Indeed, it seems as if David Patten has moved ahead of him on the depth chart. Patten also seems to be ahead of his primary camp competition for a roster spot, Fred Brock. With Joe Jurevicius unlikely to play, let’s hope Alford steps it up this week.

Amani Toomer and Ike Hilliard are firmly entrenched as the starters. The corners of the Jaguars are ordinary and the Giants should be able to make some plays in the passing game.

Pete Mitchell, Howard Cross, and Dan Campbell appear set at tight end. With the Giants forced to play a two-TE, 1-RB set much of last week, Pete Mitchell was in the game longer than we would have liked. I would like to see continued positive play from Campbell. We should all try to pay attention to his blocking as well.

The Giants remain beat up at halfback. Gary Brown (buttocks) and Joe Montgomery (hamstring) are still out. LeShon (thumb) will play, but remain limited with a cast on his right thumb. Sean Bennett may have to carry the bulk of the workload again. We should also get our first look at Reynard Rutherford, who was recently waived by Oakland. Fassel may be forced to play more 2-TE sets again with FB Greg Comella – though FB Charlie Way should see more work this week.

Giants on Defense: Another week, another dangerous offense to face. Can the defense play well two weeks in a row? The Jaguars are loaded at almost every position on offense. However, there is a chance that QB Mark Brunell and HB Fred Taylor may not play. They have an excellent line (though Tony Boselli is a little gimpy and might not play). With Cedric Jones (knee) out, DE Bernard Holsey gets the start on the right side. I would like to see Robert Harris and Keith Hamilton inside be a bit more disruptive than they were last week. They played the run fairly well, but need to be more active against the pass.

One of the more interesting roster battles to watch will be DE Rasheed Simmons versus DE Frank Ferrara. It is by no means a given that either will make the final roster, but both are making a hard charge. Their cause is helped by the injury to DE Charles Estes (toe). Inside, there is a good battle going on too. Personally, I think George Williams is leading the pack, but Keith Council, Ryan Hale, and Steve Konopka are still in the mix. The second group, as a unit, needs to play the run much better than they did last week.

Ryan Phillips did not impress me last week at strongside linebacker. It’s put up or shut up time for him. If he can’t beat out Marcus Buckley this year, then the Giants will look elsewhere in 2000. As big as he is, and as athletic as he is, he needs to make his presence felt more. There is also a good battle developing for the back-up middle linebacker spot between Doug Colman (who has been injured) and Pete Monty (who played well last week). The rookie linebackers – Jesse Tarplin, O.J. Childress, and Kenny Sanders – are running out of time. They need to start standing out. The star of the linebacking unit last week was Scott Galyon, who is coming off a serious knee injury. Galyon isn’t very big and is not an explosive athlete, but all he seems to do is make plays. Let’s keep an eye on him again.

Last week, I flinched at the thought of Jeremy Lincoln trying to cover Randy Moss or Chris Carter. Well, Jeremy proved me wrong, Can he do it again against the likes of Jimmy Smith? Fortunately, Keenan McCardell is out. I originally felt Lincoln was re-signed mainly as insurance, but he is making a strong bid to remain on the roster. With CB Kelvin Suggs (knee) pretty much out of the picture, the rookie competition has boiled down to Andre Weathers, Bashir Levingston, and Reggie Stephens (Cedric Stephens hasn’t impressed). This will be an important game for all three of these guys.

Phillippi Sparks deserves more credit than he gets. Every week he goes out and pretty much handles his man. Jason Sehorn and Conrad Hamilton have been getting more of the press, but Phillippi has made a bigger impact on the field.

At safety, the top three guys are set with Sam Garnes, Percy Ellsworth, and Shaun Williams. I’d like to start seeing Williams stand out more. Lyle West should see his first playing time after missing last week with an injury. His primary competition is Ty Ardoin and Tre Thomas. Ardoin is a hitter.

Giants on Special Teams: Kick and punt coverage continues to be my main area of focus. The Giants did decently (but not great) on the former and, due to Brad Maynard’s outstanding punting last week, didn’t have a chance on the latter. Blocking for kick and punt returners remains questionable at best. Tiki Barber did not have much room to operate last week. David Patten barely got over the 20 yard line most of the night. On the subject of returners, it was strange that Bashir Levingston was not given an opportunity last week. Will he this week?

Aug 161999
 
New York Giants 36 – Minnesota Vikings 21

Overview: It is important for fans to temper their excitement over the Giants’ impressive 36-21 victory over the Minnesota Vikings. Results from the preseason, especially the first game, can be very misleading. The Vikings made a number of bone-headed plays during the game that directly led to points and excellent field position for the Giants. In fact, in a few weeks, once the regular season has begun, this game will largely be forgotten. It is the real games that count after all.

Nevertheless, New York’s offense took some giant steps towards respectability against the Vikes. The starting offense was very sharp as the passing game led the way to a 17-0 lead. The starting defense was also impressive, despite the absence of Jason Sehorn and Conrad Hamilton. Special teams were OK, but more improvement can be made there. The running game was also far from impressive.

The most important element of the victory was the decisiveness of it – the Giants really controlled this game from the outset. This fact should do wonder for the confidence of the entire team. Keep in mind that Minnesota was 15-1 last year and one field goal away from the Super Bowl.

But at the same time, don’t get too excited. The starting offense of the Giants still has much to prove. One quarter of preseason football is but a drop in the bucket.

Quarterbacks: Kent Graham was very sharp. In fact, he was almost perfect. Graham completed five-out-of-six passes for 145 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions. He opened up the game with a deep curl pass to WR Amani Toomer for 28 yards. Two plays later, he hit HB Sean Bennett on a 53-yard screen pass for a touchdown. On the very next drive, Graham hit Toomer for 9 yards, WR Ike Hilliard for 18, and then WR Joe Jurevicius for 37 yards and a touchdown on a hitch-and-go route. Graham’s accuracy was not perfect as on two passes Bennett had to reach low and Toomer high, but his tosses were generally on the mark and Graham did an excellent job of reading the defense and locating the open receiver.

Reserve Kerry Collins saw the bulk of the work in the second and third quarters and was not quite as impressive, even though he was hampered by a couple of drops (including one that would have been a touchdown). Kerry also had a couple of passes knocked down at the line of scrimmage. Nevertheless, his showing was very encouraging. Collins finished the night going 8-of-17 for 127 yards, 1 touchdown, and no interceptions. His two most impressive throws were one to Joe Jurevicius where he showed amazing arm strength as he threw off his back foot and a very accurate deep pass to David Patten that set up the final touchdown. On the throws he completed, he was very accurate. But he also missed some wide open guys pretty badly a few times.

Mike Cherry played quite a bit in the fourth quarter, but did not attempt a pass.

Halfbacks/Fullbacks: HB Sean Bennett began the game with a bang with an impressive 53-yard screen pass. On the play, Bennett showed good hands (making a tough, low catch), a little nimbleness (he eluded the first potential tackler), and a very good burst (as he outran the rest of the Vikes’ defense). He also made another key reception for 12 yards in the red zone later in the game. Bennett was not quite as impressive running the ball between the tackles. He carried the ball 10 times for only 35 yards. He did have one good looking outside run where he showed his speed again, but I was hoping to see more from his inside game. Bennett’s pass blocking also needs much improving.

FB Greg Comella also looked good catching the ball on his one attempt (for 13 yards). But he was not very sharp running the ball. Even though he was not helped much by his mates up front, he looked a tad indecisive and tried to bounce too many runs outside. Comella carried the ball 17 times for a very disappointing 28 yards.

HB Tiki Barber didn’t play much from scrimmage, but when he did, he was impressive. It looks like Tiki is back. He showed some excellent moves and broke some tackles, believe it or not. He almost broke a huge play on a 3rd-and-long draw where he made something out of nothing with a superb spin move. Later on the goalline, he made a move, broke a tackle, and walked into the endzone for the Giants’ lone rushing touchdown of the game. Barber finished the night carrying the ball 5 times for 24 yards and a touchdown.

FB Charles Way didn’t play much. He ran once for 3 yards.

Tight Ends: The tight ends were not involved much in the passing game, although the Giants played much of the game in a two-TE set. Howard Cross, as usual, was a stalwart blocking, but was not a factor as a receiver. Pete Mitchell made a couple of nice blocks, but didn’t make his lone reception until late in the game (for nine yards). Rookie Dan Campbell was the most involved tight end in the passing game, catching 2 passes for 20 yards. He also made a diving attempt for an errant Collins’ pass. Overall, Dan showed sure hands and impressive athleticism for a big man.

Wide Receivers: The big three played their roles perfectly. Amani Toomer (2 catches for 37 yards) looked like the play-maker the Giants hope he will become when the real bell rings in September. On his first attempt, he came up with a big play on a 28-yard catch-and-run on 1st-and-15. He later made a veteran move when he came back towards Graham in order to give him a better target and caught a high pass between two defenders.

Ike Hilliard showed sure hands and good moves on his one attempt for 18 yards.

Joe Jurevicius once again showed that he has deceptive speed as he broke free for 37 yards and a touchdown on a hitch-and-go route. He finished the game with two catches for 60 yards, before he had to leave with a hamstring injury.

David Patten had an up-and-down night. He dropped a perfect pass from Collins in the endzone. He later somewhat redeemed himself with an acrobatic deep catch and then caught a touchdown from Collins on the goalline. Patten finished the game with 2 catches for 50 yards and a touchdown.

Brian Alford was surprisingly invisible. No other receiver made an impact.

Offensive Line: In terms of pass blocking, the offensive line was very impressive. This not only included the first team line, but the second team one as well. Giants’ quarterbacks were generally well-protected, even despite some blitzing from Minnesota. Scott Gragg and Roman Oben did commit false starts – a bad omen from last year, but both tackles were solid throughout the game. Ron Stone showed some nice feet when he picked up an outside blitzer. Luke Petitgout played some with the first unit and did not look out of place. Brian Williams made a key block on Bennett’s screen pass for a touchdown.

Second-teamers such as Mike Rosenthal, Nate Miller, Jason Whittle, and Derek Engler did not look bad either.

The most disappointing phase of the line was the run blocking. The Giants never could get their running game untracked all night and their inside running game was especially disconcerting. The Giants need to rectify this soon or their offense won’t be able to work on all cylinders.

Defensive Line: The defensive line had an up-and-down night (mostly up), but really stood out was the quality of the depth displayed. The first unit was reasonably strong. The Vikes could not gain any significant yardage on the ground against them. DE Michael Strahan flashed on the pass rush. I also spotted Keith Hamilton getting a good inside charge on one passing play and hammering Randall Cunningham just as he released the ball. But for the most part, aside from a corner blitz or two, Cunningham had too much time to throw against the first unit. DE Cedric Jones played well against the run, but didn’t excite against the pass and was forced to leave the game early with a knee injury.

On the other hand, the back-ups showed better against the pass than the run. The Giants finished the game with nine sacks, and most of these came from second and third teamers. Oh, there were moments against the run. I thought DT George Williams played a very strong, all-around game and outplayed Christian Peter. DE’s Frank Ferrara and Rasheed Simmons also flashed on a couple of running plays – making stuffs behind the line of scrimmage. But too often, Vike running backs made good yardage on cutback runs (Frank Ferrara overpursued on a couple of plays). Also, the Vikes were able to run right at Rasheed Simmons.

Against the pass, Ferrara was impressive with his tenacity and instincts. Frank isn’t a big guy, but he was buzzing around the quarterback much of the night. Simmons also was a thorn in the Vikes’ side in the pass rush department.

Ryan Hale looked more impressive to me during the game than he did at camp. He was battling hard and got a good push on a couple of plays. On one play, he lost his helmet, yet still pursued the the ball.

The Giants have some impressive looking young guys on the line. It will be pleasant problem in figuring on who to keep.

Linebackers: Second-teamer Scott Galyon was the most impressive linebacker on the field. He looked real strong as a blitzer and made plays against the run too. MLB Pete Monty was fairly active, but he also got handled at the point, especially on one right-side running play. Ryan Phillips still looks a little lost and stiff to me in pass protection. I was more impressed with the work of Marcus Buckley. No one else really stood out. The starters weren’t in the game much and I don’t recall the rookies making any plays. It looks like the linebackers (Phillips? Monty?) really screwed up on the short pass to the running back that resulted in a touchdown right before halftime.

Defensive Backs: Jeremy Lincoln played a very good game despite getting burned for a 20-yard touchdown in the second quarter. He and Phillippi Sparks shut out Randy Moss and held Chris Carter to one, harmless catch. Credit here must also go to Percy Ellsworth, Sam Garnes, and Shaun Williams. Lincoln also made the hit of the game when he nailed a Viking receiver coming over the middle on a crossing route. For his part Shaun Williams saw a ton of action. He gave up a couple of key completions on plays where he had tight coverage, but didn’t make the play.

Rookies Andre Weathers, Reggie Stephens, and Bashir Levingston did not embarrass themselves. Weathers has a reputation as a strong tackler, but wasn’t overly sharp in this department against the Vikings. Reggie Stephens’ name wasn’t called much and that is a good sign. He did get nailed with a very costly pass interference penalty right before halftime that set up the Vikes’ second touchdown. Cedric Stephens was burned very badly for the Vikes’ final touchdown and is probably a goner.

Special Teams: The good news is that kick coverage was improved. The Giants did “luck out” on one big return where the play was called back, but most returns were held inside the 30 – a big accomplishment for last year’s sorry unit. Punt coverage was strong because Brad Maynard’s punts had such impressive hang times. P Brion Hurley was not impressive in his only chance.

Brad Daluiso nailed two field goals (one 48 yarder and one 24 yarder), but also missed a 52-yarder. Daluiso always has plenty of leg on these 50+ yard attempts, but is rarely accurate. His kick-offs (aside from one scribber) were good, but not great.

The return game continues to be a problem. The blocking on kick and punt returns was once again mediocre at best. David Patten barely got over the 20 yard line on his returns. Tiki Barber likewise did not have much room on his chances. He did show some elusiveness on one return, but looked somewhat indecisive on another. He bobbled his first return, but did not fumble and was generally sure-handed.

Aug 111999
 

Approach to the Game – New York Giants at Minnesota Vikings, August 13, 1999: Giants’ fans should not read too much into this game. First of all, this is the first preseason game and the play is bound to be a little sloppy. Second of all, the Giants will be missing key components at halfback and cornerback. Indeed, the thought of Jeremy Lincoln or Andre Weathers covering Randy Moss is very disconcerting. Third, and most importantly, since the Giants will be facing the Vikes in the regular season, Head Coach Jim Fassel and his staff will not want to show the Vikes too much on either the offensive or defensive side of the ball. They will save their best stuff for the regular season.

Sit back, enjoy the game, and pray for no more injuries. But don’t read too much into the game.

Giants on Offense: The Giants will really be caught short-handed at halfback. With Gary Brown (buttocks), LeShon Johnson (thumb), and Joe Montgomery (hamstring) out, almost the entire running game will fall on the shoulders of rookie HB Sean Bennett. This is excellent opportunity for Sean to shine, but I also worry about his exposure to injury. Fassel will probably give him many opportunities to carry the ball, but I would like for the Giants to also employ FB Greg Comella a bit in a one-back, two-tight end role. HB Tiki Barber could also get some more chances in this game in a regular role than he will see once the real season starts. I would expect FB Charles Way to be taken out of the game sometime in the second quarter.

The media and fan focus will be on the quarterback position, of course. Kent Graham versus Kerry Collins, round one, is about start – no matter what Fassel says. Kent has to prove that he can move the team and put points on the board. While he won’t want to make many mistakes, he also can’t be too conservative or cautious. Kent must make some plays. On the other hand, Kerry is in an excellent position. He can go out there and hang it all out. He doesn’t have much to lose. While he will be playing with second-teamers, he will also be facing second teamers. It will be interesting to see if both Kent and Kerry throw the ball deeper down the field in this game. The Giants want to stretch the field vertically this year – will they start taking their shots in the first preseason match-up?

At wide receiver, the quarterbacks will no longer have the ultra-reliable Chris Calloway out there. The young’uns need to grow up in a hurry. Amani Toomer and Ike Hilliard will be counted on to get open and make plays – not just big plays, but those little ones that keep the sticks moving. Toomer has to show that he can consistently get open and separate. Ike has to hold onto the ball and make more yardage after the catch. Joe Jurevicius should play a big role as the third wide receiver. In 3-wide receiver sets, look for Jurevicius and Toomer on the flanks and Ike lined up in the slot (often in motion so he can avoid the jam). The Vikes’ defensive backs are quite ordinary. The receivers should be able to do some damage if the quarterbacks have the time to throw.

Behind these three, Brian Alford needs to step up and make some plays. His hands have been way too inconsistent once again during this camp. Alford is supposed to bring a big play, down-field deep threat to the offense. He has to do a better job of running routes, separating, and catching the ball. Behind him is David Patten and Fred Brock. There is a pretty good battle shaping up between these two for the final wide receiver roster spot. Their play on specials could prove the difference-maker.

The tight end position will also be interesting to watch. Newcomer Pete Mitchell is destined to become a security blanket for Giants’ quarterbacks if he can stay healthy. However, his blocking still remains a question mark and may keep him from starting over Howard Cross. Look for Mitchell as a short- receiver over the middle. Rookie Dan Campbell has a rib injury, but should play. He is a fine athlete and looks to have good hands. Fans should also try to keep an eye on his blocking.

Much of the Giants’ offensive success in 1999 will depend on the play of the offensive line. OC Brian Williams gets his first start since 1996. He’s not the player yet he once was, but he is an upgrade over Lance Scott at center. It is very comforting to see him back in there. LT Roman Oben is set to have a big year and RG Ron Stone is solid. Much of the focus will be at left guard where first rounder Luke Petitgout will share time with Lance Scott in the starting unit and right tackle, where Scott Gragg needs to play tougher. All of these guys will be tested by a very quick Vikes’ defensive front. Don’t expect great play in the first game – this line has not had time to gel yet with two new faces starting in different positions.

Giants on Defense: The Giants’ defense will be facing an offensive juggernaut without two of their most important components: CB Jason Sehorn (hamstring) and CB Conrad Hamilton (ankle/knee). This is not a very comforting thought at all with the likes of Randy Moss, Chris Carter, Jake Reed, and Mathew Hatchette on the other side of the ball. Indeed, this game could get ugly early as 4th teamer CB Jeremy Lincoln will get the start and rookie cornerbacks Andre Weathers, Reggie Stephens, Bashir Levingston, and Cedric Stephens will see a lot of action. Weathers is a sixth rounder; the rest are undrafted rookie free agents. At least these guys will get their chance to shine.

One of the principle reasons the Vikings are so successful on offense is the play of their offensive line. They are very big and talented up front and represent a significant challenge for the Giants’ defensive line in both the run and pass blocking departments. Key battles to watch will be Cedric Jones versus Todd Steussie and Michael Strahan against the behemoth Korey Stringer. Inside Christian Peter is trying to steal playing time away from Keith Hamilton and/or Robert Harris.

There are some good battles going on for reserve spots up front. Rookie DE Rasheed Simmons, rookie DE Frank Ferrara, and DE Charles Estes are battling for one roster spot at most. Inside, there is a very competitive situation between George Williams, Keith Council, Ryan Hale, and Steve Konopka.

Of course the two big battles on defense for starting spots are at free safety and strongside linebacker. It seems as if the starting free safety job is Percy Ellsworth’s to lose. The Giants’ coaches seem to want Shaun Williams to play an important wild card role on the defense – as a situational linebacker, nickel back, cornerback, and safety. Williams could play an important role on Friday with all the injuries at cornerback right now.

At strongside linebacker, Ryan Phillips has launched a very serious challenge to Marcus Buckley’s starting job. Marcus is the better player in pass coverage; Phillips is more stout in taking on the run. A platoon system may develop there shortly with Phillips playing on first and second down. Personally, I will also be keeping a close eye on rookie free agent Jesse Tarplin.

At middle linebacker, Corey Widmer is firmly entrenched as the starter, but Pete Monty seems to have new life with better play and the knee injury to Doug Colman. Still, he is no lock to make the roster. Moreover, rookie 7th rounder O.J. Childress is known for his special teams play.

Giants on Special Teams: This is the first real opportunity for the rookies to make an impression on special teams. The only chance guys like Brock, Childress, Tarplin, Levingston, and Ty Ardoin have to make the roster is to excel on special teams. The Giants need dramatic improvement in their kick/punt coverage, kick/punt blocking, and kick/punt returns. It will be interesting to see how Tiki Barber does as a punt returner and whether or not any one stands out as a kick returner.