Aug 312003
 
New York Giants 30 – Baltimore Ravens 24

Game Overview: Contrary to last week where the Giants lost, yet I had a good feeling about the team after the game due to the performance of the first team offense and defense, this week the Giants won, yet I was left with a sour taste in my mouth due to the performance of the first team defense. Yes, the “starting” offense stunk too. But the “starting” offense was minus six starters (Collins, Barber, Shockey, Petitgout, Bober, and Allen). Moreover, important back-up TE Marcellus Rivers missed the game.

The starting defense had no excuse. All the regular starters played except for Michael Strahan and Will Allen. Granted, those are two important players, but to give up points on all three defensive series (two touchdowns and a field goal) before leaving the game is disgusting. Especially so when you consider a rookie quarterback was starting for the Ravens. After one quarter, the Ravens had picked up 154 yards of offense. That projects to over 600 yards of offense in a single game!!!

Don’t let the score mislead you. The Ravens handed this game to the Giants by turning over the football six times. Three of those turnovers were muffed kicks/punts and another was a botched center/quarterback exchange. In other words, the Giants didn’t cause these four turnovers.

The good news was that there were some promising performances by some of the back-up players.

Quarterbacks: I wasn’t impressed with Jesse Palmer (10-of-19 for 91 yards). While Palmer made a couple of clutch throws (i.e, his 8-yard pass to TE Visanthe Shiancoe on 4th-and-5 and his 18-yard strike to Tim Carter on 3rd-and-14), most of his passes were of the ultra-conservative dink-and-dunk variety. It was like Palmer was afraid to take any chances for fear of digging himself an even deeper hole. And it was very frustrating to watch. Worse, too many of Palmer’s passes were behind the intended wide receiver, and there was one pass intended for Hilliard that was almost intercepted and returned for a touchdown. I will give Palmer a lot of credit on his 2nd-and-goal touchdown run from the 5-yard line. He showed a nice move and really fought hard by diving for the score.

The weird thing is that Jason Garrett (1-of-4 for 8 yards) wasn’t really given much of shot to impress. He was only allowed four passing attempts. His first pass was a really nice play as he somehow managed to get the ball out to TE Visanthe Shiancoe accurately despite being clobbered on the pass rush. However, his next pass intended for Shank was off the mark. His final two passes were knocked down at the line of scrimmage – the first was almost intercepted and a touchdown would have likely resulted.

Wide Receivers: Amani Toomer (no catches) and Ike Hilliard (1 catch for 9 yards) started and played longer than I expected, but Palmer never really went down field with the football. Tim Carter had a good night. He got the Giants out of deep hole at their own 9-yard line with a 19-yard reception in the 2nd quarter. Then on New York’s second touchdown drive right before halftime, Carter came up big on 3rd-and-14 with an 18-yard reception. He immediately followed that up with a 10-yard catch down to the Ravens’ 8-yard line.

The only other receiver to catch a ball was Willie Ponder. But it was a huge play. Ponder did a superb job of shielding the corner on a low slant pass. The 7-yard reception came on 3rd-and-3 from Baltimore 9-yard line and set up Dorsey Levens’ touchdown run. It was a tough catch as the pass was low (intentionally) and the defender was draped all over him.

Daryl Jones gets a lot of grief from Giants fans, but I will say this – he is a dynamite run blocker. There were at least two plays where I saw him take the defensive back right off his feet, including runs of 6- and 10-yards by Delvin Joyce. David Tyree also got a couple of nice run blocks in the game.

Running Backs: If you look at the stats (Ron Dayne 5 carries for 13 yards, Dorsey Levens 7 carries for 18 yards), you would say that the duel between these two was a dead heat after the game. After all, both amount to a 2.6 yards-per-carry average. However, not only did Dayne fumble (a bad fumble too right after a Ravens’ turnover), but he dropped two passes. Moreover, Levens simply looks quicker, with more agility and better vision. Just as importantly, Levens keeps his feet moving…something Dayne still often times fails to do upon contact with a defender. Levens demonstrated all of this on his first carry of the game (a 5-yard run around right end) and his impressive 1-yard touchdown run where he bounced the play outside. I also like the way Levens cuts back against the defense.

This could be Dayne’s final game as a Giant. He may go on to have a productive career with another team (and the pro-Dayne folks will blame Fassel for it despite the fact that both Fassel and Accorsi wanted to draft Dayne), but he simply isn’t a good fit with the Giants. He can’t come in cold off the bench and produce immediately like Levens and Joyce can. The Giants and Dayne would be better off if they parted ways.

The running back star of the game was Joyce…60 yards on 17 carries and a touchdown. Joyce’s size still makes me nervous as I worry about his ability to secure the football. However, against the Ravens, he not only was very quick and elusive on outside runs, but he showed no hesitation when his number was called to plow forward up the gut. Obviously, he is a stereotypical 3rd-down, change-of-pace back. He will never be able to run over a defender and will have to rely always on his agility to perform. But his style seems to be a better fit to a Giants’ team that likes to run a lot outside of the tackles. There were two runs in particular where not many backs in the League could have squirted through the hole the way he did…he is a very slippery runner. The first was on the 3rd-and-3 run where he picked up 6 yards on the play preceding his touchdown run. The second was his 10-yard run when the Giants were running out the clock.

FB Jim Finn is a smart player who doesn’t make many mental mistakes. As a lead run blocker, he generally engages his target pretty well. The problem is that he isn’t very big or powerful and he can be stood up in the hole on occasion. When this happens, the back following him finds his running lane clogged. Like I said, it doesn’t happen all of the time, but it does happen. As an example, on the Giants’ first possession in the 3rd quarter, Finn and TE Visanthe Shiancoe combined to make excellent blocks on a 3-yard run by Delvin Joyce on 2nd-and-4. However, on the very next play, on 3rd-and-1, LT Jeff Roehl fell off his block and Finn couldn’t make his block – leading to a 2-yard loss on the play. Finn dropped one pass against the Ravens and juggled another. Where Finn does look sharp is in blitz pick-ups. This may be a big reason why he survived the fullback competition.

I thought Charles Stackhouse’s blocking was getting more consistent as the preseason progressed, but the coaching staff must have felt that Finn was more reliable. Stackhouse got a good block on Levens’ 7-yard run off right tackle in the 2nd quarter.

Tight Ends: I thought it was going to be long night for Visanthe Shiancoe after he badly dropped a pass that hit him right in the mitts. But Shiancoe did come up with two catches in the game, including a very impressive 8-yard reception on 4th-and-5 despite being well-covered. It was a clutch play that led to the Giants’ first points of the game.

It was in the run blocking department that Shiancoe impressed me the most. Indeed, I think it was the most positive performance to come out of this game for the Giants. He’s come a long way in a short time. He was a real factor in the down position when called upon to pinch either the end or linebacker inside (as the Giants’ tight ends are often asked to do). For example, he got a real good block on the play where Dayne fumbled. He also got a good block on the corner on a 5-yard gain by Levens on the play right after Visanthe dropped the ball. What impressed me was that Shiancoe was (1) aggressive and physical, and (2) he really worked to sustain his blocks until the whistle blew. Shiancoe’s impressive work continued in the second half. For example, he got good blocks on Joyce runs of 6 yards, 3 yards, 8 yards, 6 yards, and 6 yards – all in the second half – the last run resulted in a touchdown. Again, what I really liked is the way he went after the defender…he attacked his man and stayed with him. Visanthe played with anger as a blocker against the Ravens.

Darnell Dinkins played, but he was not as impressive as Visanthe in the run blocking department.

Offensive Line: The starting unit had Jeff Roehl at left tackle, Rich Seubert at left guard, Omar Smith at center, David Diehl at right guard, and Jeff Hatch at right tackle. Not exactly an impressive group, but surprisingly, this group did a reasonable job in pass protection. As expected, Seubert and Diehl were the steadiest of the linemen. There was one play where Diehl got rocked back by an aggressive charge by the tackle, but he generally kept his man quiet. His run blocking is also coming along nicely. For example, Dayne picked up 5 yards on the second offensive play of the game behind good blocks from Diehl and Smith.

I thought Hatch was up and down; he started slowly and got better as the game wore on. On 3rd-and-5 on the Giants’ first possession, Hatch whiffed on his opponent, leading to an incompletion. On New York’s third possession, a Ron Dayne run got stuffed because for some reason Hatch was pass blocking on a running play and his opponent made the tackle. Later in the second quarter, Palmer had to get rid of the ball quickly as Hatch let his opponent run past him untouched. However, Hatch for the most part did a decent job in pass protection. There was one play early on where he and Diehl expertly picked up a stunt. In the ground game, I saw Hatch get a good block on two of Levens’ runs to his side in the first half, but there were a couple of times I thought he seemed a bit soft to me as a run blocker – he needs to be more aggressive and physical, especially against smaller opponents such as linebackers. The good news is that as the game progressed, Hatch appeared to get more comfortable. He worked hard to sustain his run blocks and seemed to play a bit more physical against the second teamers of the Ravens.

Jeff Roehl did a little better this week. His run blocking still leaves much to be desired, not only at the point-of-attack, but especially when called upon to pull to his left. But it was in pass protection where Roehl was far steadier. There were two pressures he gave up late in the second quarter, but in this game, you didn’t notice his opponent being as much of a factor on the pass rush as in previous games. Early in the 3rd quarter, he and FB Jim Finn blew their blocks on Joyce’s 3rd-and-1 effort that got nailed in the backfield. Roehl also got beat to the outside on the pass rush on Garrett’s first pass…he needs to remember to keep his feet moving.

Omar Smith doesn’t seem to get much movement in the ground game. Too often he gets stood up and this forces the running back to find a new running lane. Smith did get a good block on Dayne’s first carry of the game, but he badly missed his man on Dayne’s next carry during the next possession. He also got stood up on the Dayne rush that Hatch pass blocked on. Late in the second quarter, Smith was pushed back into the backfield on Levens’ 3rd-and-1 effort that came up short.

The second team line had Roehl at left tackle, Barrett Brooks at left guard, Smith (later Wayne Lucier) at center, Tam Hopkins at right guard, and Hatch at right tackle. This group also did a decent job in pass protection for Palmer. Brooks did give up a sack however and Hopkins was a bit shaky on a couple of pass plays. Still, Palmer had time. Brooks, pulling slowly to his right, got a good block on Levens’ 1-yard touchdown run. There were a couple of running plays in the second half where Brooks didn’t do as well. On the first, he missed his block; on the second, he was so slow on a pull that he actually got in the way of Joyce (as did Wayne Lucier). The strange thing about Hopkins this preseason was that while his pass blocking was shaky (as was to be expected), there were too many times this big, strong guard got pushed back into the backfield, especially when pulling (not expected). Both Brooks and Hopkins look sluggish compared to the rest of the Giants’ offensive linemen.

I thought Wayne Lucier did a much better job than Smith. When pulling, Lucier seems to do better engaging his opponent on the move whereas Smith often gets knocked around. I thought Lucier got more movement in his run blocks as well. I also liked the way Lucier went after defenders down field on an 8-yard run by Joyce late in the 3rd quarter.

Defensive Line: Poor run defense, not much of a pass rush by Washington, Griffin, Hamilton, and Holmes.

DE Kenny Holmes was Jonathan Ogden’s bitch. Nothing more really to say there. Holmes never got close to the quarterback and was a non-factor in the running game except for one play in the red zone where he pursued extremely well down the line to get in on the tackle. Holmes was badly fooled on a misdirection pitch to his side that picked up 31 yards. Still blows you away that we ended up with Cedric Jones and not Ogden in the 1996 Draft.

Keith Washington was quieter this week. He had his moments such as the play where he and Dhani Jones stuffed Jamal Lewis in the backfield on the Ravens’ first series (a holding penalty by Keith Hamilton wiped this play out). He also combined with Cornelius Griffin to force the quarterback to throw the ball away on 3rd-and-goal in the first quarter. Unfortunately, he was also flagged with a costly roughing the passer penalty.

Cornelius Griffin played a good game except for the first Ravens’ run of the game where he over-pursued Jamal Lewis and the resulting gap was left open on a cutback that picked up 16 yards (Dhani Jones also over-pursued on this play). Three plays later, Griffin made a great play when he very quickly pursued down the line to nail Lewis on a run around right end. This is the kind of play not too many defensive tackles in the league can make. On the next series, Griffin nailed Lewis again, this time on a run off left tackle. Three plays later he demonstrated great hustle and athleticism again by forcing Lewis out-of-bounds on a play that Shaun Williams missed a tackle.

This may have been Keith Hamilton’s worst game of the preseason. On the Ravens’ second possession, Jamal Lewis picked up decent yardage on two inside runs at Hamilton’s expense. On the first, both Hamilton and Lance Legree were effectively blocked at the point-of-attack. On the second, Hamilton missed a tackle (followed by Williams and Will Peterson) on a demoralizing 7-yard run.

Legree played some with the first team defense, but saw most of his action with the reserves. Legree got crushed on a 7-yard carry up the middle by the back. But Legree played fairly well after that, especially (surprisingly), on the pass rush. He shot past his opponent on a 1st-and-10 pass play near the end of the half, nailing the quarterback during his wind-up (a fumble almost resulted). Early in the 3rd quarter, he got heat on Chris Redman on a 3rd-and-3 play. Later in the quarter, Legree pressured Anthony Wright twice in three plays. Later on this drive, he forced a fumble that was recovered by DE Radell Lockhart.

William Joseph saw some playing time in the first half and didn’t really stand out early. On his first series in the game, he badly left his rush lane, leading to a 4-yard scramble by the quarterback. Two plays later, he was flagged for being offsides. Later in the second quarter, he recovered the fumble on the botched quarterback/center exchange. What was impressive about the play was the nimbleness of Joseph in quickly picking up the fumble and running with the ball. He certainly is an athlete. You see this especially when he runs to the sideline on plays away from him. The big problem Joseph is having early is mental mistakes – as is to be expected from someone who missed so much camp time. For example, on the Ravens’ first run in the 3rd quarter, both he and Dhani Jones over-pursued on a play where the back cutback into the vacated gap. He did the same thing again late in the 3rd quarter on a 6-yard run. On the Ravens’ last scoring drive of the game, on 3rd-and-6, Joseph badly left his rush lane enabling the quarterback to scramble for 13 yards and the first down. The good news is that Joseph certainly is a physical presence in the game. He was often double-teamed by both the center and guard. He almost came up with a sack in the 3rd quarter when he badly beat the center and shot into the backfield. On the next possession, he played off the block of the lineman and made the tackle on the back. Joseph also nailed the back for no gain down on the goal line.

Osi Umenyiora saw a little time in the first half at left defensive end as Holmes was still playing on the right side. He got fooled on a play-action pass rollout in his direction. Umenyiora still is vulnerable to misdirection; improvement will only come with experience. He also has to be careful not to take his outside rush too far up the field as this will leave a huge gap that a mobile quarterback can exploit – as Anthony Wright did late in this game on 4th-and-10. On the same drive, Osi got fooled by the same misdirection pitch play twice (fake fullback run up the gut, pitch to the halfback). But where Osi continues to do surprisingly well is improving his run defense at the point-of-attack. No, he is nowhere near Michael Strahan in this department, but he has come a long way in a short time. And Osi gives you the outside pass rush that Kenny Holmes lacks. Umenyiora is getting better as a pass rush as his quickness off the snap has improved, his technique has improved, and his confidence has grown. He was a real factor on defense during the Ravens’ second possession of the 3rd quarter. He pressured Anthony Wright on the first play, nailed the halfback in the backfield for a 3-yard loss on the next play, and then three plays later sacked Wright on 3rd-and-12 with a quick swim move to the outside. On the next series, he did a good job of playing off a double-team to his side to limit the ball carrier to a 4-yard gain. A few plays later, he hit the quarterback just as he got rid of it. He got a good pressure early in the 4th quarter, but was then flagged for being offsides.

Radell Lockhart also falls victim to misdirection, but he is an interesting guy because you see glimpses of athleticism. He missed a tackle on one running play, but he also did a good job of playing off a block and making a tackle on the halfback on another. Radell also fought hard to recover the fumble that Lance Legree forced.

Frank Ferrara came in the game very late and did not impress. He got clobbered on one running play in his direction. And he embarrassingly missed a sack on Anthony Wright when he couldn’t bring the quarterback to the ground.

Linebackers: Not much to talk about with the first unit. They were hardly noticed in a bad way. With the DL struggling, the linebackers were often caught up in the trash against the run. They over-pursued too often. The Ravens also seemed to know exactly when the Giants were going to blitz their linebackers inside as they often had the right play called (i.e., an outside pitch play of some sort). There was one play where Jamal Lewis, for some reason, was left all alone in the middle of the field for an easy pass completion. Bad game by the starters.

The second team unit of Wes Mallard, Kevin Lewis, and Quincy Monk was equally disappointing. Over-pursuit – especially by Mallard – was a constant problem (though Mallard did make a nice tackle on the goal line late in the game). The biggest problem with all three of these guys is that you never notice them…they never make any plays. If you ask me, this has been a terribly disappointing preseason for Mallard and Monk in particular. Josh Hotckkiss is not athletic enough to play in the NFL; his chance for glory faded when he missed sacking Anthony Wright on 4th-and-goal when the quarterback rolled out to his right. Instead of the sack, a touchdown resulted.

Defensive Backs SS Shaun Williams hadn’t played all preseason until this game and hadn’t practiced much in a month. It showed. He missed three tackles – all important. He was also probably involved in the two touchdown passes completed against the first unit. It was CB Will Peterson who got cleanly burned by WR Travis Taylor for 49 yards and the score on the Ravens’ fifth offensive play. But one got the sense that Williams was also supposed to provide deep help on the play. On the next series, he missed a tackle on a short pass to WR Marcus Robinson that picked up the first down. Two plays later, he missed a tackle on Jamal Lewis near the line of scrimmage on a run off left tackle that picked up 8 yards. Five plays after that, Williams, Hamilton, and Peterson each missed tackles on a 7-yard run by Lewis. In the second quarter, on 2nd-and-goal from the 1-yard line, CB Ralph Brown appeared to pass off WR Marcus Robinson to Williams when the latter went in motion. Instead of sticking with Robinson, Williams’ first steps were towards the quarterback. An easy touchdown reception resulted.

FS Omar Stoutmire was invisible. He got clobbered by Odgen on the 31-yard pitch play where both Mike Barrow and Dhani Jones took themselves out of the play when called upon to blitz up the gut.

Will Peterson had a terrible game too. He got burned on the 49-yard touchdown reception. He also missed a tackle on a Lewis run. On Baltimore’s second TD drive of the game, TE Todd Heap caught a 19-yard pass down to the 1-yard line against the Giants’ zone coverage. It appeared that Heap was Peterson’s responsibility on this play. Earlier in the drive, on the aforementioned 31-yard pitch play, Peterson was effectively blocked and pushed back 15-20 yards down field and never got off the block by the receiver until the whistle blew.

CB Ralph Brown had good coverage in the end zone on the 3rd-and-7 play that was thrown away in the 1st quarter. But near the start of the 2nd quarter, Brown was playing far too off Travis Taylor on an easy pitch-and-catch play that picked up 6 yards and a first down.

The back-up defensive backs played mostly well. They got victimized on a few exceptionally well thrown footballs in that while they had relatively tight coverage on the play, the ball was completed nevertheless. Kato Serwanga did get pretty badly beaten on Wright’s first pass of the game for 21 yards despite pressure from Umenyiora, but Kato seemed to do well covering his opponent after that. Ray Green got beat for 14 yards on 3rd-and-8, but Green had decent coverage on the play. Three plays later, he supplied excellent deep coverage on a fly pattern and almost came up with the interception. There was one play, like Ralph Brown, where I thought Green played too soft and an easy reception resulted for 5-yards on 2nd-an-4. Late in the game, Green expertly knocked away a pass on a quick out pattern.

Rod Babers got beat for 18 yards in the 4th quarter, but he had good coverage on the play. He was lucky however on the next drive when a deep pass was thrown out of bounds. Had the ball been catchable, I think the official would have thrown the flag because Babers never turned around for the ball and was face guarding the receiver.

Johnnie Harris missed a tackle in the 3rd quarter, but late made an excellent tackle on a 2-yard cutback run that could have picked up much bigger yardage. Ryan Clark made a great play by perfectly playing centerfield on a deep pass. He came over to intercept the ball on a leaping catch, and then showed great field vision by weaving his way for 74 yards on the return, setting up New York’s final touchdown of the game.

Special Teams: PK Matt Bryant saw all the action and did OK. He really wasn’t tested on his three field goal attempts (36, 34, and 32 yards). I would have liked to have seen him on the spot with a 43-yarder or longer. His kick-offs landed at the 17, 1, 3, 34 (squib kick), 6, 6, and 11 yard lines. Kickoff coverage was excellent. Bryant’s short 17-yard kickoff was muffed, but David Tyree also prevented the returner from successfully falling on the ball (Quincy Monk recovered the muff). The other returns went for 17 yards (Jim Finn made the tackle), 17 yards (Finn again), 14 yards (Darnell Dinkins), next return was brought back on a Ravens’ holding penalty, ditto, and 16 yards (Rod Babers). David Tyree made an excellent open field tackle on one of the plays that was brought back due to holding on the Ravens.

Punt protection was a real sore spot as Ed Reed gave Jim Finn fits when the latter repeatedly failed to block the former. It really was quite embarrassing as Finn was flagged TWICE with a holding penalty and almost gave up a couple of blocks on other punts. Jeff Feagles’ punts went for 47 yards, 35 yards (brought back due to a penalty on Finn), 54 yards, 34 yards (didn’t count as the Ravens were offsides), 51 yards (brought back due to a penalty on Finn), and 32 yards (muffed punt recovered by LS Carson Dach). Steve Cheek’s punts went for 44 yards (called back due to holding penalty on Wes Mallard), 37 yards (muffed punt recovered by David Tyree), 46 yards, and 36 yards. Punt coverage was too inconsistent. Returns went for 16 yards (Jim Finn making tackle), fair catch, 19 yards (Kevin Lewis), fair catch, out of bounds, muff, 0 (Charles Stackhouse), muff, touchback, and downed by Calvin Spears at 7-yard line. Willie Ponder continues to get down in a hurry on punt returns, but this week he didn’t wrap up on one attempted tackle. Darnell Dinkins got down field quickly on one return, but didn’t breakdown properly, overran the returner, and a big gain resulted.

Kickoff returns: Brian Mitchell’s returns went for 33 and 30 yards. Delvin Joyce’s returns went for 19 and 32 yards. Daryl Jones had one return for 18 yards. Osi Umenyiora was flagged for holding on one return.

Punt returns: Wes Mallard partially blocked a punt that only traveled 21 yards before Kato Serwanga returned it 16 yards. However, Mallard should have gotten the full block. Daryl Jones’ returns went for 3, 8 (did not count due to Ravens’ penalty), and 7 yards.

Long snapping was not a problem as Carson Dach performed very well.

(Box Score – New York Giants at Baltimore Ravens, August 28, 2003)
Aug 262003
 
The Outsider’s Report: Special End of Training Camp Edition

By BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Daniel in MI

Training camp has ended, which conveniently coincides annually with the close of training camp in Albany. It happens every year like a right of passage – like a bar mitzvah, a first communion, or the first time a woman…Hmm? Right, sorry… – it signaled that it was again time for the TOSR (The Outsider’s Report) reporting staff to pool our notes, take our lithium, steal some material from other people, and create an end of camp report. As usual, although apocryphal, or at least wildly inaccurate, TOSR scores over more pedestrian media outlets in two important ways: (1) it’s free; and (2) it doesn’t blather on about Shockey.

Speaking of Shockey, as usual, the superstars get most of the limelight, and no one got more this year than the Giants’ tight end. You couldn’t watch ESPN, check out some sweater puppies in Maxim, or peruse the Journal of the American Medical Association (we only read it for the articles) without being hit with Shockey’s redneck rampage. We tried to sit down with him for a candid one-on-one but, even if we actually had reporters we wouldn’t be able to get that interview. So, we grabbed the next best thing, TE Mark Inkrott, and made the best of it.

We started off easy. “Mark, why did you stop talking to the media?” we asked him. “I didn’t.” Interesting, yet evasive…We knew this wouldn’t be easy. We continued, “So, do you think you’ll have a sophomore slump?” He met the question head on, “I think you have to have done something to have a slump, really.” Now that we’d established ten seconds of rapport we decided to get to the controversial issues. “Do you think any past Giants coaches are ‘homos’?” He blurted out in his usual brash, out-of-your-face, taciturn way, “That’s an inappropriate question, really. I don’t know, and it’s not my business. I’m just trying to play some ball.” We couldn’t believe he’d say this stuff to a reporter! He is out of control! We pressed our luck, “Dan Reeves, is he a homo? He is, isn’t he?” Mark couldn’t resist the bait, “Next question.” Handley? Perkins? He looked at the clock; clearly the Giants have tried in vain to muzzle this kid like an Iditarod dog. So, we switched to ask him about his infamous off-the-field life. “This off-season, you were all over the club scene, hanging out with celebrities, getting shot down by pop tarts, chilling with Kid Rock, how was that?” He downplayed it all, saying, “That wasn’t me. I hung out at home in Ottawa, Ohio with my mom and my brother. I did a lot of gardening and stuff.” Oh, to be a young superstar in New York! We can now see why the media loves Mark Inkrott; you just can’t get an interview like that everyday. To editorialize for a moment, we just hope Mark stops letting his play do the talking, and starts really letting his big mouth and some crazy off-the-field antics speak for themselves, especially now that he got waived by the team.

To camp news. If we had one, TOSR‘s team of reporters might have noticed that Head Coach Jim Fassel has more of an “edge” this year compared to years past. Fassel demonstrated his new FOX attitude by slamming doors, throwing helmets, having players run laps, and returning his video tapes without rewinding. The players have been impressed. “He’s been a total A-hole,” said T Jeff Hatch, who wished to remain anonymous. But, not everyone thought the change was bad. “Jim’s had more anger in him this year,” said Kitty Fassel, the coach’s wife. “And, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it’s rather manly,” she said lowering her voice two octaves. “When his chest begins heaving and his lip starts quivering, and he gets all red-faced, and he’s ordering these big, sweaty muscular men around and they’re afraid of him, that’s very exciting. The way he tells them what to do, and takes charge of me like that. Oh my.” Kitty then had to go then, something about playing with her rabbit, which is funny because we didn’t know she had a pet. For what it’s worth, Michael Strahan agreed with her, “He’s so cute when he’s angry,” said the defensive end. “We all think so! He gets all puffy. I mean, we don’t listen or anything, but it’s cute.”

Meanwhile, the Giants continue to struggle to improve their special teams, and now the most recent veteran long snapper the Giants brought in, Ryan Kuehl, has a pinched nerve in his arm. “I was doing fine until that stupid fishing trip, then all the casting just threw it out of whack. What kind of team goes fishing in the middle of pre-season for crying out loud?” Special Teams Coach Bruce Read is a professional, however, and when we found him sitting in the dark in his office, we asked him, “Coach, what did you say when you heard about Kuehl? He looked us in the eye and said, “Son of a bitch! Are we jinxed or something? What do I have to do to get a friggin’ break!” We laughed, understanding his pain. It must have been hard news indeed. Still, Coach Read is keeping it all in perspective. We asked him what he will do now about the snapping situation and he looked right through us and said, “Son of a bitch! Are we jinxed or something? What do I have to do to get a friggin’ break!” Ok, good plan. We thanked him for his time, to which he said, “Son of a bitch! Are we jinxed or something? What do I have to do to get a friggin’ break!” Dr. Joel might want to look in on him.

So, the Giants have stormed to an excellent pre-season record so far, losing only three of their games. At least they haven’t had any of their important players get hurt. Except for Strahan. And Shockey. And Bober. And Williams. And Kuehl. We feel confident that the Giants are in good hands, as long as those hands aren’t on Tim Carter or Visanthe Shiancoe, in which case we’re going to drop like stone. As always, we’ll stay optimistic and remember that in the next game we play the Ravens, and when have they ever beaten us?

Aug 262003
 

Approach to the Game – New York Giants at Baltimore Ravens, August 28, 2003: The Giants will be 0-4 after this game, but don’t be blue (no pun intended). The Giants are treating this game with the Ravens on par with an intra-squad scrimmage. Out or likely out are QB Kerry Collins, HB Tiki Barber, TE Jeremy Shockey, TE Marcellus Rivers, LT Luke Petitgout, OC Chris Bober, RT Ian Allen, DE Michael Strahan, DE Kenny Holmes, DT Keith Hamilton, CB Will Allen, SS Shaun Williams, LS Ryan Kuehl, and PK Mike Hollis.

What the coaching staff is using this game for is to make some tough final decisions on the roster, such as:

  • Who will be the place kicker? Mike Hollis or Matt Bryant. With Hollis not playing against the Ravens, Bryant has a chance to impress or choke against the Ravens.
  • Who will be the team’s sole fullback? Jim Finn or Charles Stackhouse. Finn is more consistent and steadier; Stackhouse has a bigger upside but makes mental mistakes.
  • Who will be the primary back-up halfback? Dorsey Levens or Ron Dayne. Does Delvin Joyce make the team? I get the feeling that all Levens needs to do is put together another solid performance and he is the #2 halfback. Would the Giants dare cut Ron Dayne? Fassel loves Joyce, can they find a way to keep him?
  • Who will be the primary back-up quarterback? Jesse Palmer or Jason Garrett. Palmer needs to out-play Garrett possibly to keep the #2 job. With Collins out, each will get about a half of football to impress.
  • How many wide receivers do the Giants keep (5 or 6) and who stays other than Amani Toomer, Ike Hilliard, and Tim Carter? Willie Ponder, David Tyree, and Daryl Jones are all on the spot. Toomer and Hilliard are likely to play only two series so the others will see a lot of playing time.
  • Can TE Darnell Dinkins do enough to stick? It appears as if Marcellus Rivers is safe as the #2 man and Visanthe Shiancoe is safely entrenched as the #3 tight end. With Shockey and Rivers both out of the game, Shiancoe and Dinkins will see a ton of playing time.
  • Who are the primary back-ups on the offensive line? How many offensive linemen do the Giants keep? Safe are the starters Luke Petitgout, Rich Seubert, Chris Bober, David Diehl, and Ian Allen. But there are six other offensive linemen on the roster and the Giants can’t keep them all. Playing for roster spots are Jeff Roehl, Omar Smith, Wayne Lucier, Tam Hopkins, Barrett Brooks, and Jeff Hatch. With Petitgout, Bober, and Allen all out of the game, the back-ups will play a ton.
  • How many linebackers do the Giants keep? Brandon Short, Mike Barrow, Dhani Jones, Nick Greisen, and Kevin Lewis are all safe. Wes Mallard and Quincy Monk are on the bubble in my opinion.
  • Who sticks at cornerback after Will Allen, Will Peterson, Ralph Brown, and Rod Babers? Brown is the nickel back and the Giants are not going to cut the rookie 4th rounder Babers. That leaves 6th rounder Frank Walker (whose development was slowed due to an injury in camp), Kato Serwanga, and Ray Green. One – perhaps two – of these guys will stick. Walker has the biggest upside, but is raw.
  • Who makes it at safety after Shaun Williams, Omar Stoutmire, and Johnnie Harris? Ryan Clark has seen a lot of playing time with the first unit this preseason and hasn’t looked bad. Clarence LeBlanc is a playmaker who missed a lot of time rehabbing from his broken leg. Probably only one of these guys sticks, though there is an outside chance for both.

The easy cuts in my opinion? DE Radell Lockhart, DE Frank Ferrara, LB Josh Hotchkiss, S Calvin Spears, and P Steve Cheek (I’m still hoping the Giants might be able to trade him for a 7th rounder). But the Giants need to cut 11 more players besides these five. The injuries to LS Ryan Kuehl and PK Mike Hollis complicate things.

Aug 252003
 
New York Jets 15 – New York Giants 14

Game Overview: Despite the final result on the scoreboard, this was an encouraging performance by the offensive and defensive first units. The Giants scored touchdowns on each of their first two drives. One was a 21-play, 95-yard marathon that took nearly 10 minutes off the clock. The other was a 3-play, 96-yard sprint – the big play being the 88-yard touchdown catch-and-run by WR Ike Hilliard from QB Kerry Collins. Unfortunately, the starters could not put anymore points up on the board during their next three possessions, though one of those drives resulted in a missed field goal.

The starting defense, minus DE Michael Strahan, DE Kenny Holmes, and SS Shaun Williams, played well too, limiting the Jets to 6 points before the back-ups took over. In the first half, the Jets were held to 26 yards rushing, 68 yards passing, and 5 first downs.

The bad news was that the offensive second-teamers stunk up the joint for the second game in a row. Last week against the Carolina Panthers, the second team offense of the Giants couldn’t manage to pick up one first down in the entire second half of the game. This week, the second team offense not only couldn’t put any points on the board, but they handed the Jets their only touchdown of the night.

The special teams were OK, but didn’t stand out.

Quarterbacks: Aside for the stupid interception threw on his only drive in the 3rd quarter, Kerry Collins (13-of-23 for 198 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception) was very sharp. His numbers would have been even more impressive if Amani Toomer and Tim Carter had been able to get both feet inbounds on perfectly thrown deep sideline passes. A number of drops by Ike Hilliard didn’t help matters either. As usual, Collins was at his very best on 3rd down, making fine throws for first downs on 3rd-and-5, 3rd-and-10, 3rd-and-2, 3rd-and-10, 3rd-and-2, and 3rd-and-13. He also made great throws for 22 yards on a 2nd-and-17 pass to Amani Toomer. I know I harp on this a lot, but it so nice to have a quarterback who can keep drives alive with accurate passes in these more difficult situations, contrary to the days of Dave Brown, Danny Kanell, and Kent Graham. The Giants would have had more points on the board if his receivers hadn’t let him down on the drive in the second quarter that resulted in a missed field goal. On last quick note, for two games in a row now, Collins has looked much more nimbler in the pocket than previous seasons; he has been moving away from pressure very well.

After reviewing the tape, I think Jesse Palmer (8-of-12 for 47 yards, 0 touchdowns, 1 interception) got more criticism than he probably deserved. My biggest complaint about him however remains his reluctance to throw the football down the field. The one time he did – his deep toss to Tim Carter that should have been caught was a perfect throw. Palmer was also hurt by the fact that Ike Hilliard couldn’t stretch for the first down on the 3rd-and-6 pass on his first sets of downs at quarterback. On the last drive, Antonio Warren was forced to come in at halfback after Delvin Joyce got poked in the eye…and Antonio is not a dynamic pass receiver…his two pass receptions only picked up a total of 9 yards. That was followed up by TE Visanthe Shiancoe’s drop of what would have been a first down on 3rd-and-1. If this play is completed, the Giants most likely get into field goal range to win the game. Palmer’s worst play was his interception deep in Giants’ territory that set the Jets up on the Giants’ 2-yard line for the game-winning points. Palmer, who was under heavy pressure as Joyce couldn’t pick up the blitz, didn’t see the linebacker dropping into coverage.

Wide Receivers: If this game is any indication of what is to come, Ike Hilliard (7 catches for 150 yards, 1 touchdown) may lead the team in receptions this year. With TE Jeremy Shockey out of the line-up and Amani Toomer seeing coverage rolled to his side, Ike was left with many favorable match-ups that he took advantage of. Indeed, his numbers would have been stellar had it not been for three drops. He dropped a perfectly thrown strike down the middle of the field from Collins on the first drive when the defender hit him as the ball arrived. But what were more costly were his two drops on third down that ended New York’s only two non-scoring drives of the first half. The good news is that Hilliard was a factor on other 3rd down passing situations. He caught an 8-yard pass on 3rd-and-5, an 88-yard pass on 3rd-and-2, and a 15-yard pass on 3rd-and-10. On Hilliard’s 88-yard run-can-catch, Hilliard showed surprising speed after catching the quick slant from Collins. Ike also looked nifty on the 11-yard end around on the first drive.

Amani Toomer only had one catch, but it was big one – a 22-yard reception on 2nd-and-17 despite a big hit on him as the ball arrived from the safety. Toomer made a great over the shoulder catch on a perfect thrown pass from Collins despite excellent coverage, but he couldn’t quite get both feet inbounds. Toomer was flagged with a holding penalty, but he did get a good block on an 8-yard run around left end by Tiki Barber on the first drive of the game.

Tim Carter (3 catches for 19 yards) had two miscues on very well-thrown passes or he would have had a really big night. He couldn’t get both feet in bounds on a perfectly-thrown deep strike from Collins in the 2nd quarter. He also dropped a sure 92-yard touchdown bomb from Jesse Palmer in the second half of the game – this was a perfectly thrown pass right into his hands. Great that Carter got open; bad that he dropped it. Carter did come up with a clutch 5-yard reception on a 3rd-and-2 pass from Collins.

Running Backs: Tiki Barber (10 carries for 31 yards, 2 catches for 6 yards) had a so-so night. The Jets’ run defense was pretty stingy. His best run of the night was his 13-yard cutback run to the middle on the first drive of the game. Tiki also looked sharp on his blitz pick-ups.

Dorsey Levens (10 carries for 34 yards, 1 catch for 6 yards) also had an ordinary performance. But he did look far quicker and more decisive to me than Ron Dayne. Levens had a nice cutback run of his own to the middle of the defense for 10 yards on the first drive of the 3rd quarter. He also looked very nimble on a 11-yard pitch to the left side where he also broke a tackle. He did drop one pass however.

Delvin Joyce (4 carries for 19 yards) looked quick. But the one big advantage Ron Dayne has over him is that Dayne does a good job of picking up the blitz. Joyce is so small that it is tough for him to pick up big linebackers. On Palmer’s interception, Palmer was under heavy pressure because Joyce couldn’t pick up the blitzer.

I thought Charles Stackhouse did a better job in the run blocking department this week than Jim Finn. Finn missed his block on 1st-and-goal from the 1 on the first drive, or Tiki may have scored the play. Stackhouse, on the other hand, made some good blocks such as his lead block on Levens’ 11-yard run around left end. He also got a good lead block on Joyce’s best run of the night (a 9-yard run off the right side). On the down side, the play after the first good block I mentioned, he whiffed on his guy in the hole and Levens lost a yard. Stackhouse needs greater consistency.

Tight Ends: I thought Marcellus Rivers had a nice game. His blocking continues to come along and I actually saw him get some movement in some of his run blocks this wee. He had key blocks on 7- and 8-yard runs by Barber on the first drive. He then made a really clutch 10-yard reception on 3rd-and-10 on that drive that put the ball on the Jets’ 1-yard line. Rivers had another good block on a 5-yard run by Dorsey later in the half.

Darnell Dinkins didn’t have a really strong night. He dropped a pas on the opening drive and was a major negative factor on Collins’ sole interception of the night when he couldn’t pick up the rusher who forced Kerry to throw a bad pass.

Visanthe Shiancoe looked pretty decent in the blocking department on the aforementioned 10-yard run by Levens at the start of the 3rd quarter. His big catch was the 4th-and-goal reception for a touchdown on the first drive where he got wide open. In the second half, I really liked the job Shank did run blocking. He clobbered his man on Levens’ 11-yard pitch-out and got a good lead block on the following play. The bad news…his 3rd-and-1 drop of Palmer’s pass on the last drive may have cost the Giants the game.

Offensive Line: The Jets have a very good front seven, yet the Giants’ pass protection largely stone-walled them. A late linebacker blitz up the gut did get to Collins as both Jim Finn and Dorsey Levens went to run pass routes, but other than that Collins was rarely threatened. What helps the line look good is that the Giants use a lot of quick throws, plus Collins is really good at getting rid of the ball when under pressure. There were a couple of plays where I would have liked RT Ian Allen to hold his pass block longer, and RG David Diehl did get beat one time, but the right-side was very steady. LT Luke Petitgout gave up a couple of pressures against a talented opponent, but generally did a good job. Chris Bober and Rich Seubert also gave up a quick pressure on Collins’ deep pass to Carter that fell incomplete, but were rock solid other than that.

Run blocking was OK. The line did a good job getting a surge on a 3rd-and-1 situation on the first drive where Tiki easily picked up the first down. However, the line had its problems down on the goal line, failing to allow Tiki enough room to operate on 1st-and-goal from the 1 and 3rd-and-goal from the 1. The good news is that the Giants have started to run to their right side more and Allen and Diehl did not look bad at all in the run blocking department.

Omar Smith came in with the first unit at the start of the 3rd quarter as Chris Bober (ribs) was hurt. Smith didn’t look too bad in there, getting a nice block on Levens’ 10-yard cutback run. The Giants then went with the unit of RT Allen, RG Diehl, OC Smith, LG Vincent Sandoval, and LT Jeff Roehl for a while. Roehl had his problems in pass protection again. Then the Giants went with an interesting line-up of RT Jeff Hatch, RG Tam Hopkins, OC Wayne Lucier, LG Sean O’Connor, and LT Barrett Brooks. These guys did a decent job in pass protection aside from one play where Hatch and Hopkins had problems with a stunt while Sandoval failed to pick up the linebacker (O’Connor was nicked up at this point). Brooks didn’t look out of place at left tackle in pass protection, although he was flagged with a false start. He also failed to control his man on a Joyce run that got stuffed.

Defensive Line: The starting line from left to right was Keith Washington, Cornelius Griffin, Keith Hamilton, and Osi Umenyiora. This group played a very strong game as they largely dominated the line of scrimmage on running plays and supplied some heat on passing plays. They did such a good job of controlling the Jets’ blockers that the linebackers of the Giants were able to run unfettered to the ball carrier in many instances. Griffin is having a good preseason. He has been very quick and active in run defense. Hamilton isn’t getting a lot of heat on the quarterback, but he has been tough to move out in run defense and likewise active. I’ve been surprised at how quickly Umenyiora is improving his run defense. If he keeps this up, he may be starting soon as he looks far more dangerous as a pass rusher than Kenny Holmes at this point. Osi caused Chad Pennington to scramble up the gut short of the first down on one pass rush in the 2nd quarter. He and Griffin also got a ton of heat quickly on Pennington a few plays before Chad was knocked out of the game. On the next play, it was interesting to see the Jets double-team Osi. Griffin got another good pass rush on the first Jets’ drive of the second half.

The second unit had Frank Ferrara at right end, William Joseph at right defensive tackle, Lance Legree at left defensive tackle, and Radell Lockhart at right defensive end. I was hoping to see more from Joseph. While he did pick up his first sack, he really didn’t make much noise in the game. He did make an excellent play by clobbering the running back in the backfield on the Jets’ last offensive possession. But other than that, he was real quiet despite playing a lot.

Ferrara was his typical self…smart player with physical limitations. He once again expertly sniffed out a screen pass on one occasion. He also got a late sack in the game. But his run defense was suspect (i.e., the Lamont Jordan run around his side for 11 yards). He also lost his contain responsibilities on a pass rush where he got close to the quarterback. The QB scrambled for big yardage on this play, helping to set up the Jets’ final field goal.

Legree was tough against the run except for one play where he over-pursued and gave the runner a cutback lane. He also got a very good pass rush late in the game. Lockhart didn’t do much and was victimized by a quarterback run to his side on 3rd-and-1 on a misdirection play.

Linebackers: Mike Barrow (4 tackles) and Brandon Short (7 tackles) both had very strong games. Barrow flashed sideline-to-sideline ability as he quickly got to Curtis Martin on outside running plays to make sure tackles on three separate occasions in the first half. Short was very active in run defense as well. He stuffed Martin on the game’s first offensive play. He nailed Martin again in the second quarter on a 2-yard run; a few plays later he hit Martin in the backfield as he flew off the right-side corner. It was Brandon’s blitz up the gut that knocked Pennington out of the game on the next drive. On the Jets’ first drive of the second half, Short made two good back-to-back plays. First he successfully defended the cutback by Lamont Jordan. Then he expertly defended a Testaverde pass to TE Chad Becht in the end zone.

The back-up linebackers didn’t flash to me at all. Quincy Monk (3 tackles) did get in on a few plays and had one good pass rush, but he also missed a tackle on the tight end. Wes Mallard had only 1 tackle and has shown me nothing this preseason. Nick Greisen left the game early with an injury. Kevin Lewis didn’t have a tackle despite playing a lot.

Defensive Backs Will Allen and Will Peterson played decent games. Allen, however, did miss a tackle on a short pass to Wayne Chrebet on the second offensive play of the game. The 36-yard pass interference penalty on Allen on the next drive was a terrible call (warning: the officials have been terrible again this preseason) as I thought Allen had very good coverage on the play. Three plays later, Allen once again supplied tight coverage on Santana Moss on a deep pass on 3rd-and-2 that resulted in an incompletion. Later in the half, Allen had good coverage on Moss again on a sideline comeback route on 3rd-and-10 that fell incomplete.

Peterson broke up a deep out pass to Curtis Conway on the Jets’ third drive, but he then got beat by Conway for 10 yards on a quick slant on 3rd-and-7. In the 3rd quarter, Peterson stuck with Conway on an unsuccessful deep sideline pass.

Ralph Brown’s blitz on 3rd-and-8 on the Jets’ first drive caused an incompletion. The 7-yard pass interference call on him on 3rd-and-5 was another terrible call by the refs. Brown did get knocked off his coverage by an aggressive chuck by Chrebet on a crossing route that picked up big yardage. This play, and another crossing route by Chrebet earlier in the game against a zone coverage where there was an obvious breakdown, were the two big negatives in pass defense on the night against the first unit.

Omar Stoutmire actually made four nice plays. On 3rd-and-10 from the Giants’ 22-yard line, Stoutmire did a nice job of playing centerfield and knocking a deep middle pass away from Chrebet (the only negative is that Omar probably should have picked this ball off). Late in the 2nd quarter, he also knocked away another ball intended for Chrebet. In the 3rd quarter, he saved a touchdown by making a great open field tackle on Becht the tight end, who is much bigger than him. Later in the quarter, he had superb coverage on a sideline pass to TE Chris Baker.

Rod Babers had a rough game, giving up a 19-yard reception to Kevin Swayne and a 27-yard completion to Jonathan Carter. Kato Serwanga supplied decent coverage on two passes in his direction, but he needs to turn his head around to in order to effectively play the football. On one of these occasions, a touchdown almost resulted.

Special Teams: PK Mike Hollis injured his back making a tackle on the opening kick-off. His kickoff landed at the 6-yard line, but the coverage was terrible as the Jets’ returner had a huge canyon to run through en route to a 41-yard return. Hollis may have saved a touchdown. It was obvious that Hollis’ back injury affected his next kickoff, which was field at the 23-yard line. PK Matt Bryant’s sole kickoff landed 1-yard deep into the endzone, but it was a low, line drive. Making kickoff special teams tackles were Kevin Lewis (after the 41-yard return), Ryan Clark (after a 20-yard return), and Quincy Monk (after a 12-yard return). Bryant missed the only Giants’ field goal attempt of the game – a 47-yarder.

Jeff Feagles’ punting was so-so. He had good height and direction, but his distance was somewhat lacking: 31 yards (Darnell Dinkins making the tackle after a 7-yard return), 37 yards (fair caught), 31 yards (downed by Brian Mitchell), and 51 yards (Nick Greisen making the tackle after a 4-yard return). Steve Cheeks’ sole punt went for 43-yards (touchback where the Giants bungled the chance to down it at the 1-yard line).

Kickoff returns: Brian Mitchell’s only kickoff return went for 23 yards. Delvin Joyce’s kickoff returns went for 32 and 24 yards. Daryl Jones had one return for 13 where he tripped over his own feet. Willie Ponder was flagged for holding on the latter return – this hurt as it put the Giants back up near their goal line and the interception thrown by Palmer soon followed.

Punt returns: Mitchell smartly did not field either of the first two Jets’ punts that were downed inside the 6-yard line; I also liked the way he leveled one of the Jets’ coverage men on one of these punts. Mitchell’s sole punt return went for 10 yards. Delvin Joyce’s sole punt return went for 15 yards. Ray Green was flagged for holding on a punt.

(Box Score – New York Jets at New York Giants, August 23, 2003)
Aug 212003
 

Approach to the Game – New York Jets at New York Giants, August 23, 2003: I’m willing to make a prediction here. The Giants are going to go 0-4 in the preseason and the gloom-and-doomers will be out in full force for the next two weeks. Why don’t I like the Giants’ chances against the Jets? For one, the second-class Jets always take this game far more seriously given their inferiority complex. But most importantly, the Giants are going to play this game with three of their very best players either not playing (Michael Strahan, Jeremy Shockey) or not playing much (Tiki Barber). The starters are going to play three quarters in this game for both teams and when you take away from a team three of their “impact” ball players, it is going to have an effect on the outcome of the game. Also keep in mind that with Shaun Williams and Johnnie Harris both out, the third team safety (Ryan Clark) will be starting again. It now looks like DE Kenny Holmes (knee) will not play.

Why watch? Why play? Well, the Giants need to continue to gain experience on the right side of the offensive line. The team wants to see what it has in HB Dorsey Levens. The young tight ends continue the learning process and how to block. It’s important to start getting WR Tim Carter into the flow of things. There is a fullback battle to decide.

On defense, it will be interesting to see how DE Keith Washington does against a veteran tackle. Ralph Brown appears to have won the nickel job, but can he continue to do a solid job. Which other corners will the Giants keep? There are some tough decisions at safety too behind the top three guys (Williams, Harris, and Omar Stoutmire). How will the top two draft picks on the defensive line perform?

On specials, the place kicking battle continues.

Giants on Offense: Obviously, the big focus for the die hards will be on the right side of the offensive line (RG David Diehl and RT Ian Allen). Can these guys continue to improve both their pass blocking while at the same time generate some movement in the ground game? The Giants also need TE Marcellus Rivers to continue to improve his blocking in both rushing and passing situations. If he becomes a real blocking liability, the offense is going to suffer.

Personally, I want to see the Giants get Tim Carter into the flow of things as I think the 3-WR set may be one of their most productive this year. Carter is an explosive deep threat – take some shots with him. Or get him running in the open after a slant pass.

As for the other receivers, SOTI tells me that Daryl Jones won’t play much tonight as the team wants to get a good read on Willie Ponder, David Tyree, and Kevin Walter. It seems in effect that Jones’ future depends on how well or how poorly the three rookies do.

Jim Finn will start at fullback and reading between the lines from comments by the coaches and players, I think he has a foot up on winning the fullback job simply due to his consistency. But this game will have a huge impact on determining the winner.

Tiki Barber won’t play much as Fassel wants to see Dorsey Levens and Ron Dayne play with the first teamers. If Levens impresses, I bet you Dayne spends much of the season on the inactive list.

Giants on Defense: With Michael Strahan, Shaun Williams, Kenny Holmes, and Johnnie Harris out of the line-up, the defense will be nowhere near full strength once again.

The Giants will be without both starting defensive ends. Keith Washington starts for Hamilton again this week…but this time he is going against a quality veteran tackle. I want to see continued strong play from Keith Hamilton and Cornelius Griffin inside.

As for the back-ups, I’d like to see more consistent pass rush from Osi Umenyiora and William Joseph – though both are understandably at the very beginning of the learning curve. Osi will probably start for Kenny Holmes and will face a quality veteran opponent.

Dhani Jones has been playing well on the weakside…let’s see if that continues. Brandon Short may be on the verge of a big year as this is his third year starting now.

Ralph Brown needs to continue to prove himself capable. At the same time, the Giants are not going to be able to keep all their corners. Time is running out for Ray Green, Kato Serwanga, and Frank Walker to impress. Walker (dislocated elbow) may be a game-time decision.

The top three safeties are set. There are only one or two roster spots left for Clarence LeBlanc, Ryan Clark (who starts in this game), Charles Drake, and Calvin Spears. LeBlanc has been sabotaged with injury problems…does he have time to regain lost ground?

Giants on Specials: Matt Bryant or Mike Hollis? Every field goal attempt and every kickoff is crucial.

Can we please see some better blocking on punt and kick returns?

With Ryan Kuehl (tendinitis) out, long snapping in this game might be an issue with Chris Bober and Nick Greisen picking up that chore.

Aug 182003
 
Carolina Panthers 20 – New York Giants 10

Game Overview: This was a mostly positive performance for the Giants despite the outcome on the scoreboard. The biggest worry on the team – the right side of the offensive line – played a good game against a very talented defense. This same Panthers’ defense dominated the more vaunted Redskins’ offensive line the previous week when Carolina shutout offensive genius Steve Spurrier. The Giants moved the ball pretty well and would have been much more productive if QB Kerry Collins and TE Jeremy Shockey had been on the same page (five passing attempts in Shockey’s direction fell incomplete for one reason or another).

Defensively, I was encouraged by the play of the defensive line. The starting unit of Keith Washington, Cornelius Griffin, Keith Hamilton, and Kenny Holmes played well. WLB Dhani Jones was active and the two Wills looked sharp.

The bad news? The absolutely abysmal performance by the second team offense. In the entire second half, they only ran 12 plays and couldn’t pick up a single first down on four possessions. Pathetic. Defensively, there were a few flashes by both rookie defensive linemen draft picks. But the second half of the game was pretty wretched.

Offensive Line: A pleasant surprise. I actually feared that RT Ian Allen would have a very rough time of it because he was up against All-World DE Julius Peppers (who is simply an amazing athlete). There were a couple of instances where the Giants played games with Peppers; for example, there was one play where Allen blocked the tackle while the Giants pulled a guard to block Peppers as well as have Tiki chip him. But for the most part, it appeared to me that Allen was left all alone with Peppers and acquitted himself quite well. What was very encouraging was the two times the Giants went empty backfield, the Panthers got nowhere near Collins (even with a blitz on one of these plays). A word of caution. Allen isn’t there yet. He did give up one sack on a very quick move to the outside and there were two other pressures from his side (one time Peppers crossed over and got inside of him; on another, he was bull-rushed back into the pocket). I get the sense that Allen is still playing overly-cautious and this caution is affecting his aggressiveness (both understandable). But the amount of progress he has made in just only his second start was impressive. It will be interesting to what kind of play Allen has become two years from now.

The new right guard David Diehl also played well – especially when you consider this was the very first start for the rookie and the first time he saw live game action with OC Chris Bober and Allen being his flankmates. A good sign was on one particular play where the Panthers stunted both ends and tackles. While LT Luke Petitgout and LG Rich Seubert had some problems picking up the stunt, Diehl and Allen had no problems whatsoever. Diehl is mobile for a big guy and the Giants pulled him quite a bit. He’s still getting used to the speed of the pro game as I saw him whiff on a pull on the Giants’ very first offensive play. There was also another play where Diehl and Tiki got tangled up on a goal line run that probably should have resulted in a touchdown. That will come with experience. Diehl’s pass protection was mostly solid although I did see one play where the tackle bull-rushed him back into Collins’ face – a factor on a 3rd-and-9 incompletion in the direction of Shockey.

The rest of the line was mostly solid. OC Chris Bober did get beat badly on a 3rd-and-20 play coming off the goal line. The Giants were lucky this didn’t result in a sack and a safety. Petitgout and Seubert played a much better game than they did last week (other than the aforementioned problems against the stunt). There was one play where Seubert did a heck of a job sustaining a block in the open field on a swing pass to Tiki Barber. There was another play where he got a very good block on a left-side pull on Tiki’s 25-yard gain.

A final word on the starting unit. I keep seeing posts in “The Corner Forum” lamenting the fact that the Giants don’t have a great run blocking offensive line. These people (let’s call them “the bitchers”) need to get a grip on reality. The Giants are a passing team. Management and the coaching staff has built/is building and offensive line whose strength is pass blocking. Finding an offensive linemen who are equally adept at pass blocking and run blocking is very hard to do. In fact, most teams are moving away from run-blocking maulers to more finesse pass blockers because (1) defenders are smaller and quicker today, and (2) it is more of a passing league than ever before. In terms of run blocking, this is a technique-and-position scheme – similar to what the 49ers and Broncos have employed. To expect the reincarnation of Elliott, Roberts, Oates, Kratch, and Riesenberg is not realistic. The game has changed. So instead of expecting consistent runs of say 4 yards a pop, expect a running game that hits or misses. You’ll see plenty of only 1-2 yard gains intermingled with a 20-yard romp.

In the second half of the game, Allen and Diehl saw some action on the first series. After that, the starters were LT Jeff Roehl, LG Sean O’Connor, OC Omar Smith, RG Tam Hopkins, and RT Barrett Brooks. It’s tough to get a read on these five on just nine plays. Roehl was improved this week, but still had a rough couple of plays. He gave up one pressure to the outside and he didn’t really make any contact on a defensive player on a left-side run where he slanted inside. Smith was bull-rushed on one play for a quick sack. The others didn’t seem to do too badly – for example, on Dayne’s failed 3rd-and-1 rush, the entire OL got a good push, especially inside.

Tight Ends: Jeremy Shockey didn’t have a good night. He apparently broke his rib early on in the contest and this probably affected his performance. There were five passes thrown in his direction and none were completed. To be fair to Jeremy, on most of these attempts, the Panthers had very aggressive and tight coverage on him – and there was often contact as the ball arrived. There were two passes that were well over his head. Either Collins threw a poor pass or Shockey wasn’t where he was supposed to be exactly. Regardless, this is a temporary setback that will be worked out. Let’s just hope Shockey gets healthy quickly.

I’m going to do an unpopular thing and stick up for Marcellus Rivers. Yes, he screwed the pooch big time by not being able to pick up the blitzer on the play where the ball was knocked from Collins’ hand and returned for a touchdown. This is the type of play that loses ball games. What Marcellus has to do is learn from this and improve. If it happens again and again, obviously it’s a problem. You know teams like the Eagles will test him. But for the most part, I thought Marcellus did a decent job of blocking in the first half of the game. As I’ve said before, he’s not going to blow people off the line of scrimmage, but he did work hard to sustain his position blocks and some good runs came in his direction (i.e., Tiki’s 25-yarder around left end). I also saw him do some good work as a blocker in pass protection. The big gainer on the Giants’ lone TD scoring drive was the 21-yard pass to Rivers down the seam (this is further down the field than Dan Campbell ever managed). So while Rivers did make a big mistake (and also was flagged for an illegal formation penalty), don’t discount the positive things he did on the field.

In the second half, the downside of Rivers’ as blocker was highlighted on one play. On the Giants’ first rushing attempt of the second half (a 4-yard gain by Ron Dayne), Rivers was pushed back into the backfield at the point of attack. If this doesn’t happen, I think Dayne picks up more than four yards on the play. The difference between ex-Giant TE Dan Campbell and Rivers is that Campbell could handle big, powerful defenders by himself (including defensive ends). Rivers is better suited to block linebackers and safeties. Rivers did catch a 5-yard pass over the middle on the very next play.

Darnell Dinkins saw time with the first unit once Shockey left the game. I thought his blocking was solid the times I kept my eyes on him in the first half. However, it was his man who broke through the line and wrapped up Dayne around the ankles on the failed 3rd-and-1 attempt in the third quarter. Dinkins did catch a 7-yard pass from Palmer in the 4th quarter.

The fact that the Giants only ran 12 offensive plays in the second half prevented TE Visanthe Shiancoe from seeing any significant action.

Running Backs: After a rough outing last week, Tiki Barber (15 carries for 61 yards; 2 catches for 23 yards) looked like his old self against the Panthers, both as a rusher and receiver. Tiki is really going to be able to do some damage in the passing game this year with defenders having to focus so much attention on the wide receivers and Shockey. Leaving a linebacker on Barber in pass coverage is asking for trouble unless you have an elite coverage linebacker (i.e., Dexter Coakley in Dallas). The Giants picked up good yardage on two swing passes to Tiki and would have had possibly another big play if another wasn’t tipped at the line. Tiki’s biggest run of the night was the 25-yarder behind good blocks from Rivers, Seubert, and WR Amani Toomer.

The Giants ran a great deal to the left and up the middle in the first half against the Panthers. I hope they start to work on their right-side runs behind the young guys. Because if they become to predictable in the run game, they will be much easier to defend. I would think the preseason is the time to work the kinks out.

Ron Dayne only carried the ball three times in the game – all coming in the second half of the contest. Once again, I didn’t like the way he attacked (or failed to attack) the line of scrimmage in the 3rd-and-1 short yardage situation. The line got a good push and Dayne should have slammed it up in there. Instead, he hesitated a half second and got wrapped up around the ankles by a defender who got through Darnell Dinkins. Ankle tackles are far too common an occurrence with Dayne.

As for the fullback battle, I can see what Jim Fassel is talking about. Charles Stackhouse is clearly much bigger than Jim Finn. One gets the sense if he could harness his size and power, he would be a fairly effective blocker. However, Stackhouse still seems too soft to me as a lead blocker. He never seems to blow guys out of the hole like Charles Way used to and falls off his blocks too quickly. Plus there are the mental errors such as his false start penalty that helped to sabotage the Giants first drive and force the team to settle for a field goal. Finn lacks power (similar to Greg Comella), but at least he works to sustain his blocks. Neither is ideal…boy, I miss Charles Way. On the positive side, Finn made a 2-yard catch for a touchdown. I also liked the block Stackhouse made on Dayne’s 3rd-and-1 failed rushing attempt; Stackhouse hit his man and stayed with him…for once.

Wide Receivers: Amani Toomer (3 catches for 57 yards) and Ike Hilliard (2 catches for 14 yards) looked sharp. On the surface, one would say Hilliard’s stats don’t look impressive, but both receptions were key 3rd down receptions that picked up first downs. Ike just has a knack for getting open and converting in these situations. On the blocking front, Amani did a good job on Tiki’s big run, but there was one play where I would have liked to have seen better effort from Ike.

The passing game in the second half of the game was a joke. Part of that had to do with Palmer; part of it with the receivers. Except for one deep pass that was overthrown to Willie Ponder, Palmer seemed reluctant to throw the football down the field. There was one play where Tim Carter slipped on the new turf, resulting in an incompletion. Then there was a 3rd-and-3 quick pass to Ponder, who made the mistake of not running his route deep enough. The 2-yard completion didn’t help matters and the Giants punted.

Quarterbacks: Kerry Collins (11-of-19 for 127 yards, 1 touchdown, 0 interceptions) played well. His stats would have looked much better if it weren’t for (1) two tipped passes at the line of scrimmage, and (2) the timing being off with Shockey. The fumble returned for a touchdown was not his fault as the ball was swatted right out of his hand during his set-up. My only criticism is that Kerry has to be careful not to force the ball to Shockey if there are other more suitable options.

Yes, Jesse Palmer had a couple of pass pressures. Yes, his receivers didn’t always help him out (i.e., the slip by Carter, the poor route by Ponder). But Palmer needs to demonstrate that he can make things happen on the field and he didn’t do that in this game. 4-of-8 for 20 yards? Yuck! The first possession wasn’t his fault – Dayne needs to pick up that first down. But on the second possession, I felt he hurried his 3rd-and-11 throw. On the next possession, he missed Ponder deep. On his final possession, his first pass intended for David Tyree was too low.

Defensive Line: The guy who really impressed me was Keith Hamilton. Keith shows no ill-signs of his Achilles injury. You could tell he was pumped from the very first play and he was a disruptive force on a few plays such as HB Stephen Davis’ first carry. He and DE Kenny Holmes blew up another Davis carry on the next Panther possession as well. And on the play prior to this, he got a good pass pressure on QB Rodney Peete. The downside to his night came on the Panthers’ only truly productive rushes of the first half near the end of the first quarter. On the first play, Hamilton got great penetration, but lost control of his gap responsibility as Davis just barely breezed passed him en route to a 15-yard gain. On the very next play, both Hamilton and Holmes got effectively blocked at the point-of-attack on a 9-yard gain by the fullback.

DT Cornelius Griffin had a good night. Griffin lacks Hamilton’s power in standing up regularly to double-team blocks. There are times when you see Griffin get crunched by these, while at other times he is able slip by and penetrate. Griffin did look quick. He hustled out there on the field, got into tackles and put some heat on the quarterback. He got two good pressures on the Panthers’ field goal drive right before halftime.

DE Keith Washington was pretty impressive subbing for the injured Michael Strahan. And that’s why they brought Washington aboard. The Giants credited Washington with five pass pressures and he was a factor in limiting the Panthers to only 100 yards of offense in the first half. DE Kenny Holmes got a couple of good pass pressures.

The second team defensive line was LDE John Frank, LDT Lance Legree, RDT William Joseph, and RDE Osi Umenyiora. It is interesting to note that when Frank left the game, it was Radell Lockhart and not Frank Ferrara who got into the game. Late in the contest, Ferrara played at right defensive end and Ahmad Miller and Cliff Washburn played at defensive tackle. None of these latter three impressed me at all and I think all are gone. DE Radell Lockhart didn’t impress me either except for one running play where he stood his ground with Lance Legree and his pass rush on Brandon Short’s sack. Most of the time, Lockhart got blasted in the running game.

But back to the second team. Frank played a little more stout this week at the point-of-attack. He got some penetration as a pass rusher on a couple of plays, but was largely held at bay – and he lost contain on one play where the QB got around him for a solid rushing gain. However, he appears to have a greater upside to me than Ferrara. Lance Legree had a typical Lance Legree performance: there were times he got clobbered by the double teams, there were times when he stood his ground, and there was absolutely no pass rush. Legree is going to make this team, but I wish the Giants had another defensive tackle who could rush the passer. There was one play where Legree got close to the quarterback, but he got pushed past him by the guard and the quarterback scrambled for 8 yards through the vacated gap.

William Joseph had a solid, but not flashy, debut. What was impressive was his hustle. Time after time he continued to chase the ball carrier on plays that most defensive tackles in this league would have given up on. The announcers kept talking about the play where he chased down the wide receiver from behind on the reverse (and Joseph might have saved a TD on this play), but it was not the only play like that he made all night (i.e., the quarterback scramble around Frank that picked up 9-yards). What I liked was that it was obvious that Joseph was winded (he’s still getting into football shape), yet he kept coming. But it was later in the game where Joseph started making some plays at the point-of-attack. At the end of the 3rd quarter, he expertly played off the guard’s block and stuffed HB Skip Hicks. Three plays later, he played down the line of scrimmage through a block to hit Hicks again. I would have liked to have seen more on the pass rush, but that will come.

Osi Umenyiora had only one really good pass rush on the night and just missed sacking the quarterback as he scrambled away from him. However, the good news is that Osi looked much better in run defense this week. There was one running play where he and LB Kevin Lewis got effectively blocked on an 8-yard gain, but what I liked was there were a couple of runs in his direction where he stood his ground and clogged things up – including against one double-team. I didn’t expect this kind of improvement from him so quickly. Osi did get fooled badly on the WR-reverse play where Joseph chased the play down.

Linebackers: I’m going to stick up for another BBI whipping boy: WLB Dhani Jones. For the second straight game, Jones was pretty darn active on the field. What stood out to me was his speed. I don’t know if it is the new turf, or the fact that he is more comfortable with the defense, or he is healthy (or a combination of all of the above), but Dhani looks much faster to me this year. He made six solo tackles in the first half alone, including a GREAT 3rd-and-2 stop behind the line of scrimmage on Stephen Davis. This play was very reminiscent of Jessie Armstead. Jones also forced a fumble and looked quick on a blitzing opportunity when Defensive Coordinator sent both MLB Mike Barrow and Jones.

Barrow was OK. Lynn has been sending him on dogs this preseason. He’s getting there, but the quarterback is avoiding his tackle. He needs to breakdown better and come up with the sack. Barrow’s big highlight was nailing the back for a 4-yard loss on a 1st-and-10 screen play. On the very next play, he did a good job of containing against the cutback on a running play. SLB Brandon Short did a good job of stuffing a running play inside the 10-yard line at the beginning of the second quarter. However, he was flagged with an obvious late hit on the quarterback. (Incidentally, “the bitchers” who say Lynn isn’t being aggressive are obviously not watching the games – the Giants have blitzed a lot in both preseason games).

The only linebacker who stood out to me in the second half was Short – who played a lot. I should preface my remarks by saying that it is tough to tell from a TV screen how the linebackers are doing in coverage. Thus, my review on linebackers may often be harsher than what the coaches think. Short seemed to me to be the only one who regularly played off his blocks to get in on the action. He also came up with a sack on an outside rush over the right tackle. I didn’t think Kevin Lewis played as well as he did last week. This week, he was getting hung up on blocks far too long. There was one play, however, where he did a great job of not getting fooled on a play-action bootleg pass to the fullback. He stayed with the fullback and disrupted the play.

I didn’t see much of Nick Greisen and wonder how many snaps he actually saw. Quincy Monk did a decent job of sniffing out one screen and played the run well once right at his side, but didn’t make much noise other than that. Wes Mallard has been invisible this preseason and I am now questioning his future in this league. He’s way too tentative. Josh Hotchkiss didn’t look good and got man-handled (along with Ferrara) on the 45-yard TD run by Hicks that was brought back due to a penalty. Eddie Strong only saw some garbage time at the end.

One area that has hurt the Giants some this preseason and which bears watching is plays involving the opposition’s fullback. There was one 3rd-and-1 pass play where the fullback was left wide open for an easy first down. On another play in the red zone, Carolina faked a pitch to the halfback and slanted the fullback inside for a 6-yard run down to the 1-yard line. Though not involving the fullback, Skip Hicks was left wide open in the flat for an 8-yard gain on 2nd-and-7 in the 4th quarter.

Defensive Backs: Very good performance by the starters except for three mistakes in the first half. And all of the mistakes came on the last Carolina drive of the first half. The Giants left the fullback completely uncovered for a 16-yard gain. Three plays later, WR Ricky Proehl was left wide open on 3rd-and-10 for a 24-yard gain over the middle – someone blew their coverage responsibility here. Finally, CB Ralph Brown was flagged with an obvious pass interference penalty that put the Panthers on the 7-yard line.

Aside from those three plays, the Panthers couldn’t do much at all in the air against the Giants. CB Will Peterson knocked away a 3rd-and-9 pass on the Carolina’s first possession (an impressive 3-and-out). In the second quarter, FS Omar Stoutmire made a great play knocking the ball away from WR Muhsin Muhammad on 3rd-and-goal from the 4-yard line. On the Panthers’ last drive of the first half, CB Will Allen expertly defended a deep pass, almost coming up with the interception. On the next play, he was flagged with a bullshit pass interference penalty. Instead of a 3-and-out and no points for Carolina, the drive was kept alive and a field goal resulted. Did I mention that the refs in this League suck? CB Ralph Brown partially atoned for his pass interference penalty by supplying excellent coverage on Muhammad (one of the better receivers in the League) on 2nd-and-goal from the 3-yard line.

In the second half, the bad news was that Ricky Proehl continued his long career of tormenting the Giants. There was one play where he was wide open over the middle on a crossing pattern for 18 yards. CB Ray Green was chasing him across the field after the reception, but I am not sure if that was his responsibility in coverage. Later in the drive, Proehl picked up another 18-yards on 3rd-and-8. The closest Giant to him was Brandon Short. Strange.

I was impressed with the run force of Ralph Brown on two plays. His run defense appears much improved. I liked the way S Clarence LeBlanc seemed to be always around the ball on running plays. He also smashed one receiver near the sidelines. Ray Green made the hit of the night with his crushing blow on a receiver coming across the middle…it was a fantastic hit. CB Kato Serwanga was flagged with illegal hands to the face on a blitz. But he also forced a fumble on a running play where he attacked the back very aggressively. He also made a nice tackle on the scrambling quarterback on the next drive. CB Rod Babers didn’t play the run very well on Hick’s long TD run that was called back.

Except for the two plays where Ricky Proehl got mysteriously wide open, the second team pass defense by the secondary was very sound. There were times when the quarterback saw no one open and ran for yardage instead.

Special Teams: I wonder if Returner Brian Mitchell is going to miss his teammates in Philly. Those guys at least gave him some room to operate with their blocks on both punt and kick returns. Thus far this preseason, the blocking by both units on the Giants as been just as bad as in previous seasons. Returner Delvin Joyce looked quick and agile on his 32-yard kick return right before halftime.

The thing I like about both of Mike Hollis’ field goal attempts this preseason is that both kicks have been right down the middle. Last year, too many of Bryant’s kicks just squeezed through the uprights. I don’t think Bryant helped himself with a short kick-off that landed at the 15-yard line (his two other kicks were fielded at the 5-yard line). Getting in on kick-off coverage tackles were Nick Greisen (twice), Kevin Lewis, David Tyree, and Quincy Monk.

Jeff Feagles punts aren’t long, but they are high and very well-placed. He had punts of 37 (fair catch) and 41 (Marcellus Rivers made the tackle) in the first half. Steve Cheek had an impressive night in the punting department: 45 (downed by Kato Serwanga), 59 (great open field tackle by Willie Ponder), 43 (Eddie Strong/Kevin Walter), and 37 (fair catch). Strong, however, was flagged for being illegally down field on another punt.

(Box Score – Carolina Panthers at New York Giants, August 15, 2003)
Aug 132003
 

Approach to the Game – Carolina Panthers at New York Giants, August 15, 2003: The second preseason game is taken far more seriously than the first one. The starters will play about a half of football, rather than a quarter. And coaches expect to see fewer mental mistakes at this point and for their team to start to round into shape. The third preseason game is still the most important, but the second game is not far behind.

Time is also starting to run out for those players on the cusp of either making the team or not. The first cut down date is August 26th to get the roster to 65 players. As I said, the starters will play two quarters on Friday night against the Panthers. Next week against the Jets, they will play about three quarters. That only leaves about three quarters of game action for the back-ups to impress before the first cut down.

Most important items to watch in the this game? Obviously, the offensive line is first and foremost. But it will also be interesting to see DT William Joseph in action for the first time as well as DE Keith Washington.

Giants on Offense: Let’s get one thing straight, it is most likely that RT Ian Allen is going to have another rough game this week. No, it’s not necessarily because the guy “stinks” or hasn’t improved, but he will be facing one of the most dangerous – and perhaps the most dangerous – pass rusher in football: Julius Peppers. This is a scary match-up for the Giants.

But the entire offensive line will be challenged. I watched the Redskins-Panthers game last week and the Panthers’ front seven (which blitzed a lot as well) really dominated the line of scrimmage against a Redskins’ offensive line that is considered around the league to be stronger than the Giants. DE Mike Rucker and DT Kris Jenkins are very good players. And John Fox will blitz linebackers and defensive backs – just like the Patriots last week. This is good for the Giants as this is what they will see a lot of in the regular season. But the growing pains could be ugly.

What will be very interesting to watch too is how rookie David Diehl will do as the new starting right guard. The Giants are very high on him, but he is still an inexperienced rookie.

At running back, Dorsey Levens was bothered somewhat this week with a muscle strain in his leg. He is supposed to play and this is his chance to impress the coaches and steal playing time away from Ron Dayne. Fullbacks Jim Finn and Charles Stackhouse continue to battle it out against each other – only one will make the team.

At tight end, it would seem tough for the Giants to keep more than three on the roster. Shockey is a lock obviously. Visanthe Shiancoe is raw, but the coaches keep talking about his tremendous potential. That leaves Marcellus Rivers versus Darnell Dinkins. Look at the receiving, but also watch the in-line blocking as well.

How many receivers will the Giants keep? Five or six? Amani Toomer, Ike Hilliard, and Tim Carter are the locks. It seems as David Tyree’s special teams ability gives him a leg up on the rest. Willie Ponder is a deep threat and Kevin Walter is similar in style to Joe Jurevicius. The coaching staff graded out Daryl Jones very highly after the Pats’ game. Is there enough talent here to push Ron Dixon off of the roster? Will the second team offensive line give Jesse Palmer enough time this week to get the ball to these guys?

Giants on Defense: DE Michael Strahan (toe) is supposed to play; let’s hope he doesn’t aggravate the injury. The Giants will see their old nemesis HB Stephen Davis this week. Davis ran rampant all over the Skins’ last week. Let’s see how the defensive line and linebackers stack up against the power running game. This will be a real good test for DT Keith Hamilton and DE Kenny Holmes.

As for the back-up defensive linemen, I’m excited to see DT William Joseph and DE Keith Washington for the first time, as well as another chance to see DE Osi Umenyiora in action again. Don’t expect fireworks from Joseph. First, the nature of his position is not glamorous. It’s tough for veteran defensive tackles to pick up sacks, let alone rookies who have only had a week of practice. What I’m looking more closely at his is run defense and his ability to put heat on the passer. If he picks up a sack, that’s just extra gravy…but I don’t expect it. As for Washington, General Manager Ernie Accorsi said on the radio yesterday that he is pushing Kenny Holmes for the starting spot. Interesting.

The starters at linebacker are set with Dhani Jones, Mike Barrow, and Brandon Short. Nick Greisen and Kevin Lewis are the next in line. So far, I have been unimpressed with Wes Mallard, Quincy Monk, and Eddie Strong. Let’s see if someone steps it up.

In the secondary, Ryan Clark may start at strong safety with Shaun Williams (shoulder) and Johnnie Harris (hamstring) ailing. This is a great opportunity for him to impress and earn a roster spot. Ralph Brown appears to have put some distance between him and his competitors at nickel back, but nothing is assured. This is the first time we’ll get a chance to see Kato Serwanga play this year. And corners Ray Green and Rob Babers have not looked bad.

Giants on Special Teams: I would like to see the blocking on kick and punt returns provide more space for the returners. I would also like to see the cover men make some monster hits and tackles.

Matt Bryant versus Mike Hollis for the place kicking job…round two.

Aug 132003
 
Q&A: Cornerback Will Peterson

Interview Conducted by BigBlueInteractive.com Reporter WalterB

BBI: What are you generally trying to improve on during training camp?

Will Peterson: I am trying to perfect the press technique. Everyday I want to go out and try to perfect it. There is always something you can learn. I am trying to get it so solid so that it looks the same every time. My steps are the same, my hand placement is the same, my getting over the top is the same. I am looking at all the little details in order to perfect them.

BBI: Is there more than one press technique that you use? What can you tell me about that.

Will Peterson: Yeah, there is definitely more than one. Some guys can choose to press and bail, some like quick jams right off of the line, some will take a couple of hops back and wait for the receiver to make a move. Some guys are just more aggressive at the line. Here with the Giants the coaches teach us a variety of press techniques. You just can’t have one technique for all the receivers, because they are not all the same. There are different receivers with different speeds and quickness. And each guy can have a technique that fits to their mold.

BBI: Will you then match a technique to a player and plan for it before hand?

Will Peterson: Yeah, that could be. Like with a bigger receiver you may want to quick jam him because he is not going to give you a lot of moves off of the line. Or with a small guy you may want to be patient because he may give you a lot of quick moves off of the line.

BBI: I understand that you have worked on your tackling technique because of your concussion. Specifically what can you tell me about what you are trying to improve?

Will Peterson: Well that is something you can’t work on during camp because we do not do a lot of hitting. As far as technique goes I am keeping my head up. When I am running at a guy I am now keeping my head up instead of being reckless.

BBI: Where you going on head first a lot?

Will Peterson: Yeah, head first – whatever first – I want to be a smarter player and a smarter tackler.

BBI: How would you rank yourself physically in this training camp compared to the end of last season?

Will Peterson: I am getting healthy right now. I am still in the process and I am coming off of injury in the off season. So I have knocks and things that my body is getting used to. I think that by the season I will be 100%.

BBI: How difficult would it be for you to switch to left corner?

Will Peterson: I am really used to playing left. Really. My first year was kind of difficult playing right. We have switched in some games before between right and left. It would not be too difficult because my body is built for the left side. Since Will was behind Thomas and since I was behind Jason we just ended up that way. This year you will be able to see me at the left side.

BBI: Is that because certain packages call for you on the left?

Will Peterson: Sometime I will be at the left the entire game.

BBI: Is that because you are following a certain type of receiver around for a better match up?

Will Peterson: Yeah. It depends on the game plan.

BBI: Beside the coaches who on the team has helped you the most?

Will Peterson: Players in the secondary. Shaun Williams, Will Allen, Ralph Brown. Those guys keep on you. They are making you better through competition.

BBI: And in your family who do you rely on most?

Will Peterson: All of them. Each one of them brings a different thing to the table. My mother, my sister, they all bring a different thing to the table.

Aug 122003
 
Q&A: Defensive Coordinator Johnnie Lynn

Interview Conducted by BigBlueInteractive.com Reporter WalterB

BBI: William Joseph just told me that the system run in Miami is similar to the one run up here. He said the difference is the tilt nose. Can you explain the tilt nose?

Johnnie Lynn: Sometimes guys are square they can play nose to nose, or they can play on a shade side of him. But we choose to play our guys like this: (Johnnie Lynn demonstrates an angle that comes at me at a 45 degree angle from my left, somewhere between my left shoulder and the bridge of my nose).

BBI: What is the advantage of the tilt? Is it easier to attack an offensive lineman with?

Johnnie Lynn: No, it makes people have to block in certain ways. And you can see certain things better at the angle.

BBI: And, do you always run the tilt nose angle? Or, do you use it on and off?

Johnnie Lynn: All the time. This is our scheme. We just don’t play a two gap. A majority of the time we want an angle on the edge.

BBI: Tell me about two deep coverage and 4 deep coverage. With the two deep coverage that you run, are you running variations off of it? For example, press coverage versus looser coverage? And how is this different from the 4 deep? Can the defense break off of 2 deep and play 4 deep? Please explain the combinations.

Johnnie Lynn: 2 deep has two men responsible for the back half of the field, and then you have five players who can drop underneath. Two guys can take care of the flats, two guys who take care of the curls, and a guy in the middle taking care of the hook, or the inside hook. So that is 2 deep with five underneath. With Cover 4 you have four guys who play deep, and then three guys who play underneath. They are two different schemes. And it is not a matter of players playing off.

BBI: With 2 deep can you then pull your corners off of the press and give the team several different looks?

Johnnie Lynn: There are different forms of cover 2. OK you have what Tampa and some other teams play. You have what we play. You can also play cover 2 on one side and cover 4 on the other side. And you can mix that around the other way. For example, if one time a team comes out with a tight end and a flanker, you can play cover 4 on that side and cover 2 away from him. Then you can come back and turn it around and play cover two with the flanker and 4 on the other side. But with just straight 2 and 4 it is two different schemes.

BBI: I want to know what and how your linebackers play most in cover 2. Are they dropping into zones?

Johnnie Lynn: It all depends on the scheme you are using. In a Tampa 2 scheme it is different from what we do. There are different responsibilities. Our defense relates to the number of people and not the areas on the field.

BBI: But you can have a spot for them on the field and…….

Johnnie Lynn: No, no. Wrong term. We do not have spots. Whenever you disperse your receivers that is where we go to. We do not go to a spot. Some teams do play 2 like that, but we don’t.

BBI: But can your coverage guys pass off receivers to other players, by covering a guy for so many yards and then passing him off?

Johnnie Lynn: The spot style of play will do that. But we are not of that persuasion. Sometimes we will have a call that is read type stuff – where they pass things off. But usually we will play relationships on the field based on how receivers line up. But it is not always clean where you will have two guys deep and five under – and where you have spot, spot, spot. Some teams play it that way. Some teams take their linebacker and play him in the deep middle. That is a Tampa-type defense. And some people play a cover 2 where they relate to the people on the field and how they line up, and that is how we play it. So there are three examples of how you can play cover two.

BBI: So, just how many variations can you have on different coverages?

Johnnie Lynn: (Can’t stop laughing)

BBI: Is that the funniest question you have ever heard?

Johnnie Lynn: No, I don’t know how many we have. And the variations are really endless. So if you can count to six you can play for us.

BBI: So what you are saying is that you will sort out a handful of coverages during the week leading up to a game.

Johnnie Lynn: We’ll do all of them. We may have certain coverages that we play better than others. Your base coverages are base. You can play them against anybody.

BBI: To what extent do you exchange yardage for time? That is to say defensive calls where you are giving up yards. And in terms of running a defense under such a scenario, how many types of defenses can you call?

Johnnie Lynn: It is all up to the coordinator. You really do not want to give up yards for time. You are calling something because of a situation. The situation is the key. For example, you can say to yourself – we are winning, we are up by 20 points, and there are two minutes left on the clock – and we could say we’ll sit back and play. Some teams could come after you. It all depends on what that person’s attitude is. So, if you think the other team can not score 21 points that could factor in. But the situation can also change. Lets say the other team scores two quick touchdowns. You are not going to play with the same attitude with a minute to go as you did with two or three minutes to go.

BBI: Will you play percentages and look at a lot of stats that tell you what the best thing to do is?

Johnnie Lynn: No, you are looking at the score. That is telling you what you are going to do. You may be ahead by 20 and say now is the time to blitz. That tells you what you are going to do. With some people it depends on their attitude. It is up to the coordinator who is making the call – and it depends on what the coordinator wants to do. Is he playing it safe and conservative? Do you want to go after the other team? You can go after them and get beat, and you can play it conservative and get beat. You can choose your poison. So, sometimes I like to die slowly. (Big smile).

BBI: When Shaun Williams first came into the league and once during a game against San Francisco you used him as a linebacker. Is that the type of role you have in mind for him this camp?

Johnnie Lynn: When Shaun came in we had two safeties at the time. Then he became our free safety for two years. Now he is back home playing strong safety, which is a lot different. So he is in the box a majority of the time playing like a linebacker. So in the nickel situation when he is in the game he can play both linebacker and the middle position. Generally, our free safety is out of the box, and generally our strong safety is in the box and plays forward like a linebacker.

BBI: Can the repositioning of Shaun help you in the future to run down quick quarterbacks or running quarterbacks?

Johnnie Lynn: He is basically at linebacker for coverage. Yeah, it will put him closer to the quarterback because he is down low, but he is there to cover receivers or the tight end. We don’t use him to watch the quarterback. We want to have him cover and that is the asset we have with his ability.

BBI: Is the major reason the league is moving toward quicker linebackers now based on a larger need for them to cover?

Johnnie Lynn: I still like the big corners and the big linebackers that can run like the smaller guys do. You have to just pick them first. Then after that what you have left is what you have left. I think everybody tries to pick the big guy first and what fits your scheme. We are not all that big ourselves. What is big now-a-days I do not really know. What is small depends on whether a guy can play. That is what you are looking for. I think Coakley from Dallas can play. Sam Mills has been small playing in the middle.

BBI: Last year you were simplifying your defense, and this year it looks like you may be adding more things. Is the reason for it based on what you saw last year, or is it based on having more experience players?

Johnnie Lynn: When we first simplified things it was based on the fact that we were not using certain things in the past couple of seasons. So, I decided that we were not going to practice them. I was not going to bring those things back into the package. But as far as making our defense more complicated I think that it is about the same as it has been the last five or six seasons.

BBI: Do you change defenses now quicker than before? Can offenses spot your trends and work them real heavy forcing you to make adjustments quicker than ever?

Johnnie Lynn: That is football. It has always been that way. It is their ball they can do whatever they want to do with it. They can put as many receivers out their as they want. You have to be able to make transitions. Sometimes a situation says pass and they line up with pass personnel to run the ball. They can put three wide receivers out their on first down and run the ball. They have their MO, and we have to adjust. You have to be proactive.

BBI: What type of pressure does a two tight end offense put on you?

Johnnie Lynn: It is all the same. We treat the two tight end sets and the two back sets as the same. They are the same animal.

Aug 102003
 
New England Patriots 26 – New York Giants 6

Game Overview: The most important thing is that the Giants didn’t suffer any serious injuries from this game. It would have been a far worse outcome had the Giants won 38-0, but Shockey or Barber were carried from the field with a torn knee ligament.

However, the performance on the field was more than a little disconcerting. The Patriots appeared far more organized, inspired, and talented than the Giants. Most ominous was the performance of the first-team offensive line. If the starters up front can’t get the job done, then much of the talent at the skill positions will be wasted.

Offensive Line: The players at the skill positions on offense made mistakes on their own, but it was very difficult to get a read on the first and second team players because the blocking of the first and second team offensive lines was so atrocious. Quarterbacks and running backs rarely were given room to operate as Pats’ defensive linemen and linebackers routinely found themselves making plays in the Giants’ backfield.

On the first team, everyone aside from OC Chris Bober appeared to have a rough night. And one can’t automatically assume that Bober is completely innocent as he may have missed line calls that would have led to better pass protection.

The real glaring problems came on the right side – as feared. RT Ian Allen was beaten both to the outside and inside on the pass rush. There was also a play where he was unable to pick up an aggressively attacking linebacker on a right-side run (though to be fair to Allen, this was a heck of a play by the linebacker). One of the pass breakdowns occurred when it looked as if Allen and RG Tam Hopkins were confused on who to pick up on one play. This is not surprising given: (1) their relative level of inexperience and familiarity with each other and (2) the confusing nature of a 3-4 blitzing defense. Keep in mind that the Giants did not really prepare or game plan for the Patriots; and they have not worked against a 3-4 defense in camp. There was another play where it looked like again Allen was confused by a stunt. The slight delay gave the onrushing Pats’ defender all the advantage he needed. Thus, I don’t really agree with the posts that say Allen “looked unathletic and slow”. Instead, he looked a little confused to me and this confusion caused his physical delay in responding to the pass rush. The one real clear physical breakdown came when Allen gave up the inside on a spin move by the linebacker.

Head Coach Jim Fassel’s comments in the press conference seem to support this view of things: “With the first group, you know with the line, Ian Allen just stepped to wide,” said Fassel. “He just stepped to wide and the inside guy came and hit him on the inside shoulder and had a full run at the quarterback. It’s a technique thing, shouldn’t be confusing, we’re going to work on it this week. I think with the first group, it was just little things. The right side, they ran some line games and between Tam and Ian didn’t pick them up. We didn’t pick them up as well as we could have.”

Tam Hopkins had a couple of bad moments in the run game. There was one play where he got shoved back into the backfield and this disruption blew up on what was decently-blocked running play. And then there was a really embarrassing play where everyone got great blocks on a Barber run except for Hopkins, who for some reason was in a pass-blocking stance. Had Hopkins nailed the linebacker in front of him, a big gain by Barber may have resulted.

But let’s not let the left side of the offensive line off the hook. LT Luke Petitgout and LG Rich Seubert got confused on who to pick up on a stunt as well and this led to a sack. There was another play where the end split between both Petitgout and Seubert to get to Collins. Seubert missed his man on a couple of left side pulls too in the running game.

The second team offensive line had a lot of problems as well. The lineman who was the most stable was RT Barrett Brooks. While he did not dominate like you would expect a veteran with his years of experience should, he did make any major gaffes other than one pass pressure I saw him give up and a false start. RG David Diehl was pretty decent except for two passing plays. On one, he whiffed completely on high first round draft pick DT Ty Warren. Later, he was bull-rushed straight back into the pocket, leading to another sack. But I did like the way Diehl fought to sustain his blocks as well his ability to move out and engage linebackers at the second level. Diehl committed a false start as well. OC Omar Smith did not impress me at all. And the left side of the second team offensive line was even worse than the right side of the first team offensive line. LT Jeff Roehl (who is playing out of position if you ask me) had a nightmare night. More often than not he was abused when both pass and run blocking. His flankmate, Sean O’Connor, was a little better, but O’Connor and Roehl were confused by stunts and at times a defender split right between them. A lot of Dan Klecko’s highlights came at their expense (especially Roehl’s). The only real keepers from the second unit looked to me to be Brooks and Diehl from this unit.

My only impression from the third team unit was that OC Wayne Lucier looked more impressive than Omar Smith. I would promote Lucier over Smith now if I was McNally. Jeff Hatch played right tackle with the third string line. Since the third string line didn’t play much, it was tough to get a real good read on him.

Tight Ends/Fullbacks: It seemed to me that most of the breakdowns in the blocking with the first unit came from the offensive line. Jeremy Shockey seemed to block well on the plays I watched him. And Marcellus Rivers got a couple of key blocks on running plays. No, Marcellus didn’t blow his guy out of the way. But he did get between the defender and the ball carrier and successfully prevented the defender from making the play. Marcellus also had a nice 22-yard reception that set up a field goal. But he also dropped a perfectly thrown pass.

I watched Darnell Dinkins block on three plays. On two of them, he sealed the corner pretty good. On another, his opponent beat his block and made the tackle. Not great, but not bad. However, Dinkins was also flagged for holding in pass protection. Visanthe Shiancoe whiffed badly on the blitzing Klecko (who was playing LB at this point) for a sack – Shiancoe just waived his arms at him. Shank did have a 6-yard reception.

On one of the left side pulls where Seubert missed the defender that made the play, FB Charles Stackhouse had a shot at him too and just ran by him. I’m not thrilled with either Jim Finn or Stackhouse at fullback. I love Stackhouse’s size – he looks the part – but he never seems to throw the crushing lead block that I want to see from him. Often times, he falls off his man who ends up getting in on the play. Finn seems more intent on sticking his head in there, but he lacks the bulk of a true blocking fullback. Both are better pass receivers than blockers.

Running Backs: HB Tiki Barber (8 carries for 10 yards, 1 catch for 1-yard) didn’t look particularly sharp. On most plays, he never had a chance due to the blocking, but he fumbled the ball away on the opening drive (and this led to 7 quick points by the Patriots) and there were a couple of plays where I felt he was trying to make a bigger play than was there. For example, on his screen pass reception. The Patriots did a decent job of reacting quickly to it, but Barber did have some blockers moving into his area. Instead of sticking with them and picking up a modest gain, he chose to break it back across the grain of the field and attempt to make a huge play out it. The result was a net of only 1 yard. I get the sense that Tiki’s timing is a bit off since he has been kept out of quite a few contact drills at camp. I’m not saying I would have done otherwise and I’m sure all will be alright with him on opening day. However, the fumbling is a little troublesome as he had this problem late last season (against the Colts and Eagles).

Ron Dayne (6 carries for 9 yards, 2 receptions for 34 yards) looked good as a pass receiver out of the backfield. However, I would like to see a man of his size be more aggressive after the catch. On both of his receptions, he was quick to shoot for the sidelines and was brought down rather easily by defensive backs. His rushing stats look poor, but he had the same problem Barber did – the run blocking wasn’t there.

Dorsey Levens (3 carries for 13 yards, 1 catch for 5 yards) looked good on two back-to-back rushing plays in the 3rd quarter where he picked up a first down. Delvin Joyce’s (6 carries for 28 yards, 1 catch for 4 yards) stats look more impressive than they actually were. He picked up much of that yardage when the Giants were simply trying to run out the clock. His fumble didn’t help his cause either. I don’t think Joyce is a bad return man at all. He’s certainly quicker than Brian Mitchell. But Joyce looks so damn small to me and I worry about ball security every time he touches the ball from the halfback spot.

Wide Receivers: WR Amani Toomer made a nice, sliding reception on a 19-yard 3rd-and-7 pass. WR Ike Hilliard had a rough outing. He was flagged with an offensive pass interference penalty on 3rd-and-3. The next play Collins is intercepted. Earlier in quarter, Ike dropped a pass right in his mitts. Ike is a good player, but he seems guilty of dropping at least one pass every game.

We didn’t get a chance to really see Tim Carter in action other than a 9-yard reception. He needs to work on his run blocking as he badly whiffed on the corner who forced Barber back inside on the play that he fumbled.

The pass protection was so poor in the second half that we didn’t really get to see much at all from the three rookie draft picks. Willie Ponder did have one catch for 16 yards.

Quarterback: QB Kerry Collins (6-of-10 for 56 yards, 0 touchdowns, 1 interception) was the victim of some piss-poor pass protection. But he also wasn’t very sharp himself on a couple of plays. His first pass of the game was a bad overthrow to Toomer. I chalk that up to Collins being jacked at the start of the game (he has demonstrated this trend in the past). He made a horrible decision to try to force the ball over the middle on 3rd-and-13 deep inside his own territory in the second quarter. This pass was picked off and returned to the 9-yard line. But it wasn’t all bad for Collins. There were some flashes such as his nice 19-yard completion to Toomer with pressure bearing down on him. He also hit Hilliard for a first down on 3rd-and-9 under intense heat as well. This is when I’m most pleased with Collins, that is, when he is making plays despite pass pressure.

I thought Jesse Palmer (9-of-12 for 93 yards, 0 interceptions, 0 touchdowns) played well given his very spotty pass protection. Palmer wasn’t careless with the ball by forcing things. He usually spotted the open man and delivered the ball when given a chance. He’s also fairly mobile. The only play I didn’t like was his attempt to run the ball forward on one play when he did have OK pass protection…I think he panicked there a bit.

Poor Ryan Van Dyke threw an interception on his first opportunity.

Defensive Line: The entire nature of the Giants’ defense changes when you replace All-Pro DE Michael Strahan with journeyman DE Frank Ferrara. Ferrara made a couple of intelligent plays (i.e., he didn’t get fooled on a 3rd down bootleg pass and also remained disciplined on a screen pass). But he can’t play the run very well. For example, there was one play where DT Cornelius Griffin aggressively shot into the backfield, leaving his gap wide open to the back who took advantage of it. In the Giants’ system, a defensive linemen is sometimes allowed this freedom to take a chance, but he must rely on his flankmate to cover his ass if he doesn’t make the play. Griffin couldn’t get to the back in the backfield, and Ferrara couldn’t disengage from his block to make the tackle in the exposed gap. This is the type of play Strahan regularly makes. And worse for Ferrara is that he got absolutely no pass pressure at all from the strongside position.

DE Kenny Holmes impressed me on one running play in his direction where his penetration slowed things up and allowed the defensive tackles to clean up. Still, Holmes was far too quiet on the pass rush…same story as last year.

DT Keith Hamilton actually played a decent game for his first outing back. He saw quite a few double-teams and was his old run-stuffing self on the inside. I saw one play where he got some pressure on the QB by stunting inside, but for the most part he couldn’t get near the quarterback.

DT Cornelius Griffin flashed on a couple of plays with his quickness. There was the aforementioned play where he shot the gap, but he got suckered on this play as the tight end trapped him. But his pursuit on the Holmes’ play mentioned above was excellent (so was Hammer’s). He also blew up a 1st-and-goal running play that Dhani Jones cleaned up on. On the very next play, he got some pass pressure to force an incompletion.

The second team defensive line had Osi Umenyiora, Lance Legree, Ahmad Miller, and Frank Ferrara/John Frank. Osi’s performance was better than I expected. While he did have some problems in run defense (he didn’t always protect his gap well and got controlled on a couple of running plays in his direction), there were also a couple of running plays where he stood his ground. Three was one series in the second quarter where he stood out. First he and S Johnnie Harris forced the back right into MLB Nick Greisen’s arms for no gain. Three plays later, he beat the right tackle off the snap and then ran over a chip block from the back to clobber the quarterback. On the very next play, he got a very good pass rush to hurry the quarterback. But before everyone gets too excited, Osi has a lot of work to do. There was one play where he allowed the back to get around his end because the H-Back was able to take him out. That shouldn’t happen to a big defensive end.

Lance Legree is a much better player than Ahmad Miller. While Legree really didn’t make any plays, he is tougher to move out than the bigger Miller. In fact, there was one embarrassing play where Miller got knocked on his ass by a trapping tight end. Miller was regularly shoved out of the way on running plays. There were two OK pass pressures from Miller, but not enough to take away the sour taste out of my mouth over his run defense. The big negative on Legree though is that he never gets near the quarterback.

John Frank was not impressive either. There was one play where he got good penetration and made a play in the backfield against the back late in the game, but for the most part he was easily blocked on running plays. A lot of Pats’ running yardage came over his gap. He also got no pass pressure.

No one impressed me at all on the third team line of Radell Lockhart, Cliff Washburn, David Thompson, and John Frank. Lockhart did a superb job of reading a screen pass, but then forgot to make the tackle, enabling the back to pick up 32 yards.

Linebackers: The Giants linebackers blitzed quite a bit up the gut in this game. Sometimes their rush affected the play, other times they couldn’t get there in time. Brandon Short blitzed right up the gut untouched on the first Giants’ defensive play of the game to pick up an impressive-looking sack. On the next play (the play where Ferrara couldn’t get off his block), but Dhani Jones and Mike Barrow got nailed by offensive linemen on a 13-yard pick-up. This is a perfect example of how linebackers can get exposed if the big guys up front can’t keep offensive lineman off of them. Mike Barrow blitzed up the middle on the 3rd-and-9 play where Omar Stoutmire was flagged for pass interference. However, Barrow didn’t break down effectively and overran the quarterback who was able to get the ball off. Barrow later made a superb play when he shot the gap and completely disrupted a 3rd-and-1 run up the middle for a loss. I thought Dhani Jones looked pretty good on the field. He’s a fast player and his tackling was solid. While he didn’t disrupt any plays, he cleaned up on a couple of them.

Let’s get one thing straight right now. Based on their respective performances against New England, the pro-Wes Mallard talks needs to end. Simply put, Dhani Jones is the much better player. Wes Mallard maybe fast, but he is easily blocked. I’m not so mad at the 32-yard pass Mallard gave up since it was perfect touch pass. But what is not impressive is that Mallard is no where to be seen on running plays in his direction. He just can’t get off the blocks.

If anyone is going to replace Dhani Jones, it would be Kevin Lewis. Lewis had a good game against the Pats in both pass coverage and run defense.

The guy who was impressive on the second unit was MLB Nick Greisen. Greisen was one of the few players who did a good job of avoiding blockers and flowing down the line of scrimmage to make the tackle. He also picked up a sack and recovered a fumble.

Those who did not impress me at all were SLB Quincy Monk, SLB Eddie Strong, and MLB Josh Hotchkiss. Like Mallard, all were easily blocked.

Defensive Backs: With Will Peterson (groin) sidelined, Ralph Brown started and did not embarrass himself at all. In fact, had it not been for the breakdown in the Giants’ zone on the 3rd-and-4 pass for a touchdown early in the game, the performance of the starting defense would have looked pretty darn impressive. Brown and CB Will Allen were never really challenged. Brown also looked good in the tackling department when he nailed a receiver on a flanker screen…good hit.

Omar Stoutmire wasn’t real sharp. He was flagged for an unnecessary pass interference penalty (yes, it was a bad call, but Stoutmire didn’t need to mug the receiver either). He also didn’t wrap up on a short pass to the tight end. While he slowed the play up, Dhani Jones was the one who tackled the player short of the endzone. SS Shaun Williams suffered a bruised shoulder and left the game early.

Johnnie Harris is around the ball a lot more than Omar Stoutmire. Like other BBIers, I’m wondering if he should start. The downside to his game is that he doesn’t appear to be as fast as Stoutmire. There was one play where the tight end beat him deep (the ball fell incomplete) and he couldn’t get over in time to help out on the long completion against Rod Babers. But he is very aggressive in both pass and run defense. I like his style of play. The speed is the big question mark however.

As for the reserve corners, I thought Ray Green played a good game. He appeared to play aggressively in pass coverage and was very aggressive in coming up to hit both backs and receivers. Except for the big 42-yard pass play where he stumbled, Babers was pretty solid.

As for the safeties, I like the way Ryan Clark plays. He will hit you. Calvin Spears got fooled on a play-action pass that should have resulted in a touchdown. I didn’t see enough of Charles Drake, but he did look aggressive in getting in on one tackle.

Special Teams: In the kicking battle, Matt Bryant looked to be the slightly better kickoff man as he got more air under the ball and slightly more distance. Bryant made a 34-yard field goal; Mike Hollis made a 29-yard field goal.

P Steve Cheek was directly responsible for the one big return given up all night. His low, line-drive enabled the Pats’ punt returner to pick up a full head of steam on a 46-yard return. While Cheeks stats look impressive (a 52-yard average), Jeff Feagles was more impressive due to his directional style. This made it far easier for the kick coverage unit to contain the returner.

Tim Carter flashed a great deal of speed on one 37-yard kickoff return. But he was also flagged for being illegally down field on one punt.

(Box Score – New York Giants at New England Patriots, August 7, 2003)