Aug 312010
Baltimore Ravens 24 (3-0) – New York Giants 10 (1-2)

by The Hack for

Game Summary: The walking wounded also known as the New York Giants limped into M&T Bank Stadium on Saturday night, and as Carl Banks likes to say, “took the ass whooping they came to get”.  The disparity of where the two teams are can be seen by looking absolutely no further than the first two kickoffs of the game.

Giants K Lawrence Tynes boomed the opening kickoff nearly five yards deep into the Baltimore endzone.  Instead of taking a knee, second year returner Jalen Parmele decided to run the ball out.  Phillip Dillard, the only Giant in the picture at the 15 yard line, missed a flying tackle badly but did turn Parmele towards the middle of the field where John Busing flailed at Parmele’s feet and succeeded in causing two more Giants to trip over him.  At this point, Parmele turned outside and ran behind 2nd year reserve guard Bryan Mattison for 15 yards as Mattison manhandled Gartrell Johnson as if he were his personal bitch for a good 5 seconds.  In fact, Lawrence Tynes himself finally made the hit that brought Parmele down at the 33 yard line.  Johnson’s effort was downright embarrassing.

Contrast that with the Giants’ first kickoff return following the Ravens’ first score.  Returner Tim Brown also received the kickoff nearly five yards deep in the endzone, and he too elected to take it out.  An immediate difference can be seen as the Giants ‘wedge’ players set up between the five and ten yard line, where as the Ravens personnel had set up between the 15 and 20, giving their back more room to maneuver.  The second glaring difference was that Parmele ran NORTH instantly, and made the first man (Dillard) miss badly whereas Tim Brown immediately started running east and west, allowing the Ravens to close.  In any event, Dave Tollefson and Madison Hedgecock both made their blocks on the outside.  Gartrell Johnson did an adequate job of neutralizing the first man through the middle.  At this point, you see both Phillip Dillard and John Busing with their BACKS to the Ravens, actually facing Brown and trailing two Ravens, one of whom plants Brown on the ten yard line like a radish.  Dillard missed so badly on his block, it was hard to believe.  He wasn’t even a speed bump.

Really, that sums up the game.  The Ravens on average played sound, gap control, assignment-centric football in all three phases of the game.  The Giants did not.

So what in the world do I mean by ‘perspective is warranted’?  Again, the Giants were without 14 players in this game, and several others were coming back after missing last week because of injury or other reasons.  Several others are still just coming up to game speed as they’re being brought along slowly and cautiously from severe injuries suffered last year.

Also, as suspected, Tom Coughlin and the rest of the coaching staff took an extended look at the young corners filling in for injured Terrell Thomas and Aaron Ross.  The Giants played primarily man to man defense, forcing the linebackers to play straight up on the backs releasing into patterns and quick slants and crosses from TE Todd Heap.  Antrel Rolle admitted after the game that they did not expect the Ravens to throw the ball so often in the first half, and they really did nothing to try to counter the no huddle, pass happy Ravens.  Rolle also said the Giants only made five defensive calls on the entire night.

As everyone knows, the third preseason game is considered the dress rehearsal for the regular season.  Frankly, the Giants weren’t able to use this game to that end.  Too many Giants were still being worked in to the lineup, too many Giants were left to audition for jobs, and too many Giants continued to try to fit in at places they won’t be playing unless the sky does indeed fall.  So just remember, BBI, as Eric warned in his preview this game was already set up as a disaster waiting to happen.  Frankly the only concern I have is that Coach Coughlin lamented the “lack of effort” that he was hoping to see.  As always, Coughlin was vague and we’re left to wonder exactly who and what effort he considered lacking.  Special teams certainly comes to mind, but it didn’t appear that the Giants were just going through the motions in this game.

Offense: In the first half, every single Giants drive ended due to self inflicted wounds rather than by anything that the Ravens specifically did to stop them.  Missed assignments along the entire offensive line destroyed plays from the outset several times, and most amazingly, it seemed to be just one person blowing his task rather than the entire offense being out of sync.  A few examples:

On the first drive of the game for the Giants, on 2nd and 4 from the Baltimore 22 yard line, RT William Beatty, starting due to Kareem McKenzie’s migraine, could not maintain his block against DL Corey Redding in the B gap and Redding filled what would have been a huge hole for Bradshaw to run through.  If Beatty just walls him off, Bradshaw is 10 yards downfield before anyone would have even touched him.  All other assignments, including a nice seal block by Boss, were made on the play.

On the Giants’ second drive, their most successful of the half, Eli Manning missed a wide open Steve Smith six yards behind the defense for what would have been a sure touchdown.  He missed it very, very badly.  Later, after a perfectly executed sweep by Jacobs for 30 yards to the right off an outstanding seal block by Kevin Boss and terrific blocking on the outside by WR Steve Smith, the Giants couldn’t gain a single yard on 2nd, 3rd, or 4th downs after a 9 yard pickup by Hakeem Nicks on 1st down.  What’s frustrating, beyond the fact that Jacobs did not get a single crack on any of the attempts, is that all three had fundamental errors that doomed the chances.

On first down, the left side of the line collapsed the Ravens defense completely, but Bradshaw decided to lean right towards the weak side and came up short.  On second down, Bradshaw again was led right where Hedgecock actually went down at the knees of the outside linebacker two yards before the line of scrimmage, forcing Bradshaw inside and directly into the defensive end that once again, William Beatty could not beat at the point of attack.  Fourth down never had a chance from the outset.  The  Ravens front had 7 men on the line with two linebackers a yard off the line in the A gaps and the Giants set up behind a balanced line in a double TE set.  When they fired off the ball, they left Koets one on one with the noseguard, and double teamed on both Ravens tackles with their guards and tackles, leaving the A gaps completely uncovered for the easy fill and stop.  It was no contest, and there is no way that Eli should have run that play.  Drive over.

On the third drive of the game, on 1st and 10 following the kickoff, the Giants executed a screen pass to Bradshaw that once again should have gone for big yardage.  Unfortunately, C Adam Koets did not allow the nose guard to flow upfield, and when Bradshaw caught the ball, the nose guard was floating towards the play but still had Diehl and Koets in front of him and should have been a non factor.  Inexplicably, when Diehl moved out to take on the Ravens MIKE linebacker, Koets just let the noseguard go.  Literally, just let him go and then turned around to watch Bradshaw, who was turned back inside by Koets’ man, get stopped for only a one yard gain.  After a third down conversion by Manning to Steve Smith, the Giants ran Jacobs off tackle to the right side, but again, a breakdown cost Jacobs an opportunity for a solid gain when FB Madison Hedgecock completely whiffs on the outside linebacker, forcing Jacobs inside right into the DE waiting for him.  Hedgecock was in great position, and just needed to square up and ride his man out, but instead dove head first at the linebacker, who simply Ole’d him.  This forced the play inside while Hedgecock watched helplessly from all fours.  Unacceptable!

Finally, on this drive, out of the shotgun formation with an empty backfield and three wides, Eli checked out of the called play when he saw the Baltimore CB playing 8 yards off Hakeem Nicks and checked in to a bubble screen.  While Manning was changing the play, the CB moved up and squared with Nicks man to man.  Yet Eli, for whatever reason, still called the play even though he saw the CB in Nicks’ face, and actually threw him the ball.  A completion would’ve been for negative yardage, and Manning was actually quite lucky the ball wasn’t intercepted.  Just another inexcusable play.  CALL TIME OUT and get into a different play!  It was obvious to everyone in the country that Baltimore sniffed out the play!

On the fourth drive, a muffed kick off by Andre Brown put the Giants in a deep hole, then to make matters worse Jacobs dropped his second check down of the half.  On third down, C Adam Koets bowled the snap to Manning, then to compound things turned to his left despite the Ravens sending an overload blitz (but just four men), from the right side of Manning, and the cornerback who dropped Manning came right through the area vacated by Koets.  On the play William Beatty’s head was also on a swivel and never got involved in the blocking scheme.  Horrid line play.

On the fifth drive, with less than a minute remaining, the Ravens played it straight up yet still got to Manning with just a four man rush as Beatty once again was manhandled.  On third down, Manning tried to sneak  a pass over the MIKE linebacker, who tipped the ball to Smith who couldn’t handle it and the ball ended up being intercepted.

Finally, due to a Webster interception, the Giants got the ball back with 15 seconds left and the starting offense put together their only scoring drive of the day (hahahaha!) by converting a field goal from 42 yards.

Again, most of the breakdowns were individual.  A couple were the fault of Manning for not recognizing plays that wouldn’t work and calling a time out to regroup.  Hopefully these issues get ironed out sooner than later, as these breakdowns are game changers.  It could not have been a good day Sunday in film sessions.  Some of the mistakes were absolutely embarrassing, yet all of them are correctable.  Execution was the culprit on every single one of those plays, except for the interception, which was off a lucky bounce.

The Quarterbacks: Eli Manning returned to the starting lineup after a missing last week with a laceration to his forehead that wouldn’t allow him to comfortably wear a helmet. Manning did not play a very good half of football, missing on several passes to wide open receivers and also seemingly checking in and out of plays at the wrong time.  Twice, Manning made calls that backfired and cost the Giants.  Overall, Eli finished 9 – 18 for only 63 yards, no touchdowns and 1 interception.  Manning’s QBR was a woeful 35.2.  Manning was only sacked once, but he was under fire from the quick and aggressive Baltimore front 7.  Eli did a good job of avoiding the rush by moving around in the pocket, but was unable to make the big play.  Manning was also victimized by a couple dropped checkdown passes.

Rhett Bomar, whose name was pronounced in every single incarnation conceivable by the Baltimore play by play team, had an average game at best.  His stats line looked decent at 10 – 20 for 140 yards, 1 touchdown and no interceptions and an 89.6 QBR.  On his very first pass of the night, the Giants once again tried to throw a quick hitch to Nicks at the line of scrimmage, a play that simply doesn’t work consistently enough for how often they try to execute it, but Bomar bounced it to him incomplete.  Later, Bomar wasn’t on the same page with Mario Manningham on another hitch play and that pass sailed out of bounds.

Later, Bomar made a beautiful touch pass to Victor Cruz for 35 yards on a 3rd and 2 from an empty backfield shotgun formation.  Bomar laid it out perfectly for Cruz to run under.

All in all, Bomar led the Giants on seven 2nd half “drives”.  In terms of plays and time of possession, the longest was only 6 plays and none used more than 2:38 seconds worth of clock.  Just like the Manning, Bomar was unable to establish any rhythm on offense.

Bomar was sacked four times and hit several other times.  He’s a tough kid, and doesn’t seem to get phased by pressure.  It appeared that he attempted to stay within the pocket and find receivers downfield instead of taking off on a scramble on a few plays that he had an opportunity to do so.  It stands to reason that the staff instructed him to try to find receivers instead of taking off, but Bomar also didn’t move as well within the pocket as he had in the last couple of games.

The Running Backs: HB Ahmad Bradshaw reclaimed the starting spot for this game, but other than one impressive 12 yard run on a semi-broken play, Bradshaw did very little.  As mentioned above, at least one time where he was stuffed was not his fault, but it’s inexcusable to fail to gain one yard on three successive opportunities to do so.  On two of those plays, the yard was there for him to get and he did not do so.  In the passing game, Bradshaw was targeted twice on screen passes and neither worked, and both were due to the blocking breakdowns rather than anything Bradshaw did wrong.

HB Brandon Jacobs returned from a week off with a stiff neck and looked good in his short time in the game.  Jacobs ran with power and conviction, and showed some good burst on a couple of plays.  If not for an illegal motion penalty, Jacobs’ stats would have been even better than they were.  Where Jacobs seems to have trouble is in the passing game.  Jacobs had two passes checked down to him and both went right through his hands.  Jacobs doesn’t move well in the passing game.  He flairs, stops, and turns towards the QB.  He doesn’t seem to be able to be moving during the pass, which makes his receptions fairly innocuous because he can easily be closed on.  Save the one play last year against Dallas where he took a swing pass on the move and turned it into a touchdown, Jacobs just doesn’t seem to be a good option in the passing game as a check down receiver.

HBs Andre Brown and Gartrell Johnson handled the rest of the running game late, but really showed nothing of note.  Unfortunately, both were horrid on special teams as well.

FB Madison Hedgecock, who Coach Tom Coughlin commended for having his assignments down last week, did not have a good game on Saturday night.  Though he seemed sure of his assignments, he did not lead well due to his inability to get on and sustain blocks.  What seemed like a strength two years ago has regressed considerably, and it’s definitely hurting the running game.

The Wide Receivers and Tight Ends: Other than Sinorice Moss and Ramses Barden, the Giants WR corps was complete.  Steve Smith, Hakeem Nicks, and Victor Cruz each had four receptions, and combined they had 24 passes thrown their way.  On the Giants’ second drive, Steve Smith got deep behind the Raven secondary but Eli Manning, who had to step up in the pocket, could not deliver the homerun ball that would’ve been a sure touchdown.  Smith looks to be in midseason form, as he always seems to be open.

The Giants do not seem to be attempting to get WR Hakeem Nicks into the downfield patterns.  Nicks was targeted 8 times, but not a single throw was deeper than 10 yards.  New York seems content to try to get the ball to Nicks on quick hitters and outs and try to let him make a play one on one with the defender.

Mario Manningham seems to be little more than an afterthought this preseason, as once again he was only targeted twice and had no receptions.  Additionally, Derek Hagan was used sparingly on Saturday night.

Victor Cruz once again looked like an NFL caliber receiver, though he did drop two balls he should have caught.  One of the things to really like about Cruz is his ability to run after the catch.  On the final drive, he made a nice shoestring catch and turned the ball upfield for another 10 or 15 yards before drawing a personal foul penalty when he was hit out of bounds.  On the touchdown play, Cruz showed incredible coordination to keep his feet in bounds and hold on to the ball on a fade in the deepest part of the corner of the endzone and take a hit as well.  It’s safe to say that Victor Cruz will be on the final roster.

The Giants once again largely ignored the fact that the TE is an eligible receiver on offense.  Kevin Boss was thrown to once, as was Scott Chander.  Other than that, the TE was invisible in the passing attack, and it puzzle the mind when you consider that NFL-wide, the TE is now a potent weapon in many offenses.  Kevin Boss looked good in the running game, and had several nice blocks.  Bear Pascoe, so far, seems to be struggling mightily as the second TE in running situations.  He simply hasn’t been able to sustain blocks.

The Offensive Line: Is the glass half full or is the glass half empty with this group?  Or, is the vessel simply twice as big as it needs to be?  The Giants offensive line, for the third consecutive week, was missing three starters.  David Deihl moved back to his customary LT spot to start the game alone with Guy Wimper at LG, Richie Seubert took over the starting C duties for injured Shawn O’Hara, Chris Snee returned to his RG slot and William Beatty stepped in for Kareem McKenzie at the RT position.

While it would be nice to see the actual starting line play at least a few series together in the preseason, it’s been extremely beneficial for the Giants reserves, especially for Beatty and Whimper, to get extended playing time against front line defenses.  Overall, as mentioned above, the offensive line played fairly well as a unit but suffered from individual breakdowns that cost the team yardage on several occasions.  William Beatty in particular had a rough night at RT, but he’s been playing at LT so far so he wasn’t exactly familiar with his assignments.  On the missed opportunity deep to Smith, Beatty was unable to get wide to cut off the outside linebacker, which caused Manning to have to step up and move before throwing the pass.  Later, however, Beatty did a nice job on a Terrell Suggs bull rush in which he was able to square up and keep him off of Manning.  When he moved to LT for the second half, after a penalty for illegal motion for going from a 2 point stance to a 3 point stance that cost Jacobs about a 13 yard gain, Beatty played much better.

Chris Snee looked a little stiff and slow on his pulls early in the game, but it was good to see him back in the lineup and taking his reps.

Richie Seubert made a HELL of a play on a blitz through the A gap on the 12 yard run by Bradshaw.  Pre snap, the Baltimore DE who was lined up as the OLB stacked over Boss came down the line and filled the A gap.  At the snap, Suebert simply turned to his right and ran and pushed him out of the play, allowing Bradshaw to cut back for the big gain.  Considering his limited experience at C, it was an exceptional play by Richie.

Another exceptionally well blocked play was the 30 yard scamper by Jacobs.  The Giants had Pascoe covering up Beatty on the right side of the line, Boss in the slot, and Smith to Boss’ right out wide.  On the snap, Pascoe crashed down on the DL, pinning him to the line.  Beatty fired out and took out the MIKE linebacker, holding his block long enough to let Jacobs get through.  Boss stood up the outside linebacker and Steve Smith obliterated the CB leaving a huge hole for Jacobs to run through.  It was a beautifully executed play, maybe the best of the night for the Giants.

The second unit of the offensive line had little success running the ball.  Shawn Andrews and William Beatty did a good job anchoring the left side of the line.  Adam Koets was up and down and had one bad snap.  Mitch Petrus looked pretty good at RG, but Jacob Bender had a rough go of it over at RT and nearly got Bomar killed on one sack.  Andrews, from what could be seen on TV, didn’t miss a single assignment and for most part dominated his assignments all second half.  As stated, it’s too early to give up on this line.  There are a lot of talented players up front, but they need to start building cohesion and grow a nasty streak.  It’s not helping them, however, that the fullback and second TE are not pitching in as often or effectively as they need to.

The Defense: A week after being relatively healthy on the defensive side of the ball, the Giants were without three key contributors as DT Chris Canty, CBs Terrell Thomas and Aaron Ross missed the game with injuries.  Looking at the glass half full again, this gave invaluable opportunity to young CBs Bruce Johnson and Courtney Brown.  Both are battling for the 4th corner with a couple others, but they’re both going to have to contribute either in nickel or as a substitute at corner throughout the season.

The Giants started the game and stayed in nickel formation for the first two series, ostensibly to see both young corners on the field at the same time to see how they work with the first team defense.

Baltimore is a power running football team with an exceptional back in Ray Rice, who can pound the ball and also be a huge factor in the passing game.  On Saturday, however, Baltimore came out immediately in an empty backfield formation and put pressure on the suspect Giants secondary from the outset.  On the first play from scrimmage, WR Anquan Boldin beat CB Courtney Brown down the seam to Flacco’s left, but was overthrown.  On second down, the Giants sent Brown on a seemingly disinterested corner blitz and Tuck was able to stunt from his left end position to make the sack.  Later, Brown lazily helped collapse the pocket on another CB blitz on Tuck’s second sack.

According to Antrel Rolle, the Giants played the game very close to the vest.  Fellow safety Deon Grant admitted that the Giants gave up a lot of yards, but claimed it wasn’t indicative of the way that they actually played, and said that other than a few individual breakdowns that are easily corrected, they played well.  (Without naming names, Grant suggested that several players were not performing their assignments as they had been taught and told by the coaching staff.)  Grant believes that it’s the last time the Giants will give up that kind of first half yardage this year.

Head Coach Tom Coughlin confirmed that the Giants were leaving their young corners to sink or swim, stating that several young players had “the opportunity of a lifetime” and then didn’t seem too pleased with how any of them played.  The Giants played primarily a man to man nickel situation most of the first half in order to get the young corners plenty of reps.

Baltimore sensed the Giants’ game plan and attacked it by going to a no huddle formation, passing almost exclusively in the first half.  In fact, the Ravens dropped back 35 times in the half.

After getting a three and out to start the game, the Giants starters gave up drives of 13, 11, 10, and 8 plays respectively, allowing 17 points, 17 first downs (12 via the pass), and 243 total yards of offense.

One drive was kept alive by an Antrel Rolle personal foul penalty for hitting a defenseless receiver which led to the Ravens second touchdown instead of a 43 yard field goal attempt.  They were able to make a stop with an interception late in the first half that saved points and led to the Giants first points of the night.

Front 7: Two defensive linemen were out for this game, starting DT Chris Canty and rookie DE Jason Pierre-Paul.  The line did get significant pressure on Flacco at times, including 2 sacks by Justin Tuck.  Unfortunately, the Giants didn’t change up the calls to try and rattle Flacco more when it became apparent he was going to throw at will against the Giants inexperienced defensive backs and young linebackers.  Though they got a good push for most of the half, Mathias Kiwanuka and Osi Umenyiora were held completely off the stat sheet, and Tuck finished with just 3 tackles including his 2 sacks.  Barry Cofield was only in on one tackle on the night and didn’t get much pressure or push up the middle.  Rocky Bernard had a very good night, with two sacks and a third tackle.  His first sack came on a beautiful swim move against the right guard.  Linval Joseph was also active in the middle of the line.  Jay Alford had some good push inside during the second half, looking quicker and more decisive than he had in the past two games.

Since the Giants went with a nickel formation for the first two series, the two starting linebackers were Jonathan Goff in the middle and Michael Boley on the weakside.  Later, Keith Bulluck entered the game as the strong side linebacker, but it’s unknown if he was the designated starter over Clint Sintim or not.  The linebackers had their hands full in coverage for most of the night.  Michael Boley was able to make two tackles behind the line, but no other linebacker had any sort of impact at or behind the line of scrimmage.

Jonathan Goff is still very raw at the MIKE.  On a 2nd and 10 play early in the second quarter from the Giants 16 yard line, the Ravens ran a draw to Ray Rice.  On the play, the Ravens center fired out to the second level and easily squared up Goff and ran him off the play, triggering an easy 8 yard gain.  Goff has GOT to recognize that coming and avoid it.  No center should be able to square up with someone as quick and agile as Goff.

Gerris Wilkinson had a rough game defending the pass before leaving with “cramps” that were later diagnosed as a groin strain.  Thus ended Wilkinson’s record two game playing streak.

The no huddle kept the Giants linebackers guessing during the first half, and they were unable to keep Todd Heap and any receiver in the slot in check.

In summary, for the second consecutive week there were good signs coming from the defensive ends.  The rest of the line also played well in spurts, but they never really had a chance because the Giants coaching staff didn’t call for much pressure, leaving the linebackers in coverage and the CBs singled up on the WRs.  The linebackers, for the most part, were not making plays.  Rather, they were practicing damage control, as many of their tackles occurred deep in the Giants secondary.  It appears that it’s still really unknown as to what the Giants have with their linebacking corps.

Defensive Backs: Thank all that is good that CB Corey Webster is healthy, as he and Antrel Rolle were really the only two bright spots in the Giants secondary on Saturday night.  Deon Grant and Sha’reff Rashad both played well at safety as well, and it was good to know that Rashad was back from his concussion rather early.  As has been discussed over at The Corner Forum, the Giants may be in significant trouble if any of their top three CBs are out for an extended period of time.  With golden opportunities to distinguish themselves and make a claim for playing time and trust from the coaching staff, Bruce Johnson, Courtney Brown, Seth Williams and D.J. Johnson did very little to help their causes.  In fact, the only one that made any type of play whatsoever was D.J. who had very nice pursuit on a late option play run by the Ravens in which he stayed with his assignment and planted the RB after the pitch.

On three separate occasions, Courtney Brown was sent on a corner blitz during the first half.  To say Brown looked disinterested in the assignment would be an overstatement of magnificent proportions.  On two of the blitzes, he was coming face to face with running back Ray Rice and wanted no part of him.  Both times, he slowed, tried to juke, and was a complete non factor in the play.  It’s hard to understand why he didn’t lower his shoulder and barrel through the RB to at least collapse the pocket towards the rest of the pass rush.  Later, on 4th and 2 from the Giant 9 yard line, Brown was singled up with Anquan Boldin in the slot to Flacco’s left.  Off the ball, Boldin slanted in front of Brown, and instead of sticking him at the five yard line, Brown slid off of him leaving an easy pitch and catch to the inside post.  Still, Brown had an opportunity to make a play on the ball because Flacco, anticipating safety help, threw the ball to Bouldin’s back shoulder.  Naturally, Brown flailed at it like a three year old child a split second after the ball was caught.

All you need to look at to see how good…or poor…Bruce Johnson’s coverage skills are is to notice the fact that he led the Giants with six solo tackles.  Naturally, if you’re breaking up passes, you’re not making tackles and vice-versa.  He did not have a pass defensed.  Johnson leaves way too much cushion on almost every route run against him, and seems to have very little ball awareness instincts.

The verdict on this secondary is still out.  According to all the reports, the Giants allowed much of what happened to them due to the fact that they wanted to see what the young CBs could, or would, do.  Combined with the fact that the Ravens also abused the Giants linebacking corps in coverage it’s just not known what they really have.  Hopefully, Deon Grant and Antrel Rolle, who seem unfazed by the night’s misadventures, are speaking the truth and Saturday was an anomaly.

Special Teams: P Matt Dodge definitely is picking up his game, and that’s two games in a row that he’s progressed.  We all got to see just why he’s on the team when he boomed an unbelievable 74 yard punt from his own endzone in the first half.  He also had a very nice “rugby” kick that should have been downed deep in Ravens territory but wasn’t covered well by his coverage team.  Overall Dodge punted 9 times for a 49.1 average and a net average of 38.3 and one touchback, as mentioned.  Dodge is the only holder on the team, and it’s probably too late now to change him out for another punter and holder.  The punting team will be an area of concern for some time.

K Lawrence Tynes, right now, is no longer a concern in the kicking game.  Tynes once again got his kickoffs long and with decent hang time.  The first kickoff was 4 yards deep in the endzone, the other was inside the five.  That said, both returns were taken out beyond the 30 yard line.  The Giants are simply horrible in coverage, and they’re equally as horrible in the return game.  No one is stepping up as a gunner, a special teams ace, a returner, nothing.  Reread the first couple of paragraphs from this story to see what I mean.

In the punt return game, Tim Brown was adequate, but Mario Manningham looked lost out there.  In the kick return game, Andre Brown muffed one and Victor Cruz muffed another.  Brown also made a questionable call to take out a kick that was five yards deep in the endzone.  If things do not change soon, the Giants are in danger of playing on a slanted field, on both sides of the ball, all year long.  The Giants average starting position on their five kickoff returns was the 18 yard line.  Compare that with the average starting position on the two kickoffs the Ravens received, which was the 32.  Overall, Baltimore’s starting field position for every drive was their own 31 yard line whereas the Giants’ overall starting field position for each drive was their own 23.

Coaching: Obviously, the Giants were severely undermanned in this game and the Giants brass decided to play it safe and see what they had and who could win one on one matchups.  Hopefully they saw enough to know what needs to be done and appropriate measures will be employed.  As for special teams, something has got to change.  Maybe a new coach would make a difference, but with a rather large player turnover from last year this team still appears disinterested and undisciplined in their coverages and blocking schemes.

Offensive Player of the Game: Offensive player of the game goes to WR Victor Cruz for leading the Giants in receiving and scoring the Giants lone TD on the day. Honorable mention to Brandon Jacobs, who would have gotten the nod had he not dropped two easy passes.

Defensive Player of the Game: Defensive Tackle Rocky Bernard is finally starting to show the ability that brought him to NY last season as a free agent.  He had an excellent game, including two sacks.

(Box Score – New York Giants at Baltimore Ravens, August 28, 2010)
Aug 312010

By Eric from

Approach to the Game – New England Patriots at New York Giants, September 2, 2010: The outcome of the Giants-Ravens preseason game did not surprise me, or alarm me all that much.  Missing 14 players, including some key components, the Giants were at a severe disadvantage against one of the best teams in the NFL.  Contrary to what Tom Coughlin suggested, I don’t think it was a lack of focus or energy.  It was simply the Ravens taking advantage of injury issues on the Giants’ offensive line and in the secondary.

That said, these very same injury issues can impact the 2010 regular season, especially the early part of it.  That’s what makes me a bit uneasy.  To be frank, this hasn’t been a very good training camp or preseason for the Giants.  Too many parts missed too much valuable time.  You can sense the frustration on Tom Coughlin.

The preseason finale is not an important game.  Anyone making too much of the game – either in a positive or negative light – would be silly.  Historically speaking, Bill Belichick sometimes doesn’t even play his starters in the fourth game.  And historically speaking, both Coughlin and Belichick seem more anxious to get the game over than to actually win it.  The Giants’ starters may play a bit more than normal just to give Manning and the offensive line more work since they need it.

Giants on Offense: Against one of the very best defenses in the NFL, the Giants were put in a bad spot against Baltimore by two facts: (1) Eli Manning showed rust after missing a week of practice and a preseason game, and (2) the offensive line was in a state of disorder.

The offensive line is the key to the Giants’ success (or lack thereof) this season on offense.  Against the Ravens, two starters were out of the lineup (McKenzie and O’Hara), the left guard was playing center with a hand in a cast, the back-up left tackle was playing right tackle, and the starting left tackle was back after playing much of camp and the preseason at left guard.  And the Ravens have one of the best front sevens in football.   Surprised by the lack of offensive output?  You shouldn’t have been.

The problem is that the offensive line of Diehl, Seubert, O’Hara, Snee, and McKenzie has received virtually no work together this entire preseason.  That spells trouble early in the season.  Worse, Seubert (hand), O’Hara (ankle), and Snee (knee) are still nowhere near 100 percent.  O’Hara won’t play against the Patriots.  The signing of Shawn Andrews is looking more and more important each day.

Since the fourth game is more about who will and who won’t make the squad, let’s focus a bit more on the reserves.  22 roster moves will need to be made after the game.

OL: How many offensive linemen will the Giants carry?  McKenzie, Snee, O’Hara, Seubert, Diehl, Andrews, Beatty, and Petrus make eight.  That may be all they carry.  Guy Whimper, despite starting all preseason, may not make it. Adam Koets may be a goner too.

TE: Boss and Pascoe are the locks.  It’s unlikely that the Giants give up on Travis Beckum so soon despite him missing virtually all of camp and the preseason with an assortment of injuries. Since Beckum is more of an H-Back, the Giants may keep an eye out on the waiver wire for another true tight end.

WR: Smith, Nicks, Manningham, Hagan, Cruz, and Barden.  I doubt anyone else makes it.

RB:  Bradshaw, Jacobs, and Hedgecock are the sure bets.  Do the Giants keep both D.J. Ware and Andre Brown?

QB: Biggest question on offense right now – who is the backup quarterback? Sorgi is gone. Do the Giants go into 2010 with Rhett Bomar as the primary and lone backup? Or do they look to bring aboard a veteran? The game against the Patriots may be decisive in determining these answers.

Giants on Defense: Even minus Chris Canty and Jason Pierre-Paul, I was impressed with the performance of the defensive line against the Ravens.  It was the coverage ability of the middle linebacker and 4th and 5th corners that bothered me.  Despite a strong pass rush, the Ravens completely eschewed the run to go after the weakened secondary.  In a way, in a meaningless game, the Ravens may have done the Giants a huge favor.  The weaknesses were clearly identified.

Contrary to many, I don’t think the success or failure of the Giants will depend on Jonathan Goff.  Middle linebackers are important, but not that important.  It is easier to scheme defensively to protect the middle linebacker in coverage if you have quality safeties.  But it’s much, much harder to hide bad cornerbacks.  Everything depends on the health of Webster, Thomas, and Ross.  And Ross is going to be bothered by a foot injury all season.  Will it impact his play in the field or will adrenaline take over and compensate?  That remains to be seen.  To me, the most disappointing Giant this preseason has been Bruce Johnson.  The Giants need him to elevate his game.

Let’s look at the positions:

DE:  Four sure bets: Tuck, Umenyiora, Kiwanuka, and Pierre-Paul.  Tollefson has not impressed me but special teams may save him.  That said, can the Giants really activate five DEs on game day?

DT: Sure bets are Canty, Cofield, and Joseph. Rocky Bernard had his best game as a Giant last week and it is interesting to note he started with Canty out.  Jay Alford obviously isn’t completely back from his ACL.  Can the Giants carry five DTs?  I’m afraid the Giants are going to lose Nate Collins once he hits the waiver wire.

LB: There are some tough decisions to be made here and special teams will very much be a consideration. We know Boley, Goff, and Bulluck will make it. So will Sintim and Dillard – the draft picks. Not counting DeOssie, will the Giants carry one or two or even three more linebackers?  The fate of Gerris Wilkinson, Chase Blackburn, and Bryan Kehl rest in the balance.

CB: Webster, Thomas, and Ross are the sure bets. Bruce Johnson will probably make it. But the Giants had better be scanning the waiver wire because no one else appears very good.

S: Rolle, Grant, and Phillips. My guess is that the 4th spot is between Michael Johnson and Sha’reff Rashad.  The Giants may keep an eye on the waiver wire here too.

Giants on Special Teams: While I think there will be some remaining rough spots, Matt Dodge is coming along. The kid is getting better.

Lawrence Tynes has been doing a nice job on field goals and kickoffs.

It’s the coverage units and return game that have been a problem.  Based on what we have seen to date, assuming Ross no longer returns punts, there isn’t a quality kickoff or punt returner on this roster.  This definitely is an area where the Giants need to aggressively scan the waiver wire.

Aug 312010

August 30, 2010 New York Giants Injury Report – Seven Return to Practice: Not practicing yesterday were: QB Jim Sorgi (shoulder), WR Sinorice Moss (groin), OC Shaun O’Hara (ankle/Achilles), RT Kareem McKenzie (migraine), OG Kevin Boothe (PUP – pectoral), LB Chase Blackburn (knee), LB Gerris Wilkinson (groin), LB Adrian Tracy (elbow), and CB Aaron Ross (foot).

Returning to practice were: HB D.J. Ware (concussion), WR Ramses Barden (back), H-Back Travis Beckum (neck), DE Jason Pierre-Paul (groin), DT Chris Canty (groin), CB Terrell Thomas (calf), and S Michael Johnson (back).

Sorgi knows time is running out on him. “I don’t know if their patience is wearing thin, but I’m sure it is,” said Sorgi of the Giants. “It’s just a numbers game and getting to be that point. Like I said, it’s a tough position for me to be in, and a tough position for them to be in.”

Surgery for Sorgi remains a possibility. “I saw the doctors yesterday, and as of yesterday it wasn’t looking good,” Sorgi said. “I’m assuming that if it doesn’t get better over however much time, four or six weeks, then I’ll have to get it taken care of.”

Article on the Giants’ Defense: Horror Show Against Ravens Can’t Scare Embattled New York Giants Defense by Ralph Vacchiano of The Daily News

Article on DE Justin Tuck: With Both ‘Wings’ Working, Giants’ Justin Tuck Putting Shoulder Injury Behind Him by Mike Garafolo of The Star-Ledger

Aug 302010

August 29, 2010 New York Giants Injury Report: Head Coach Tom Coughlin said LB Gerris Wilkinson strained his groin against the Ravens and is undergoing further examination.

LB Adrian Tracy dislocated his elbow and is undergoing an MRI. Coughlin said he could miss 2-3 weeks.

WR Sinorice Moss, who did not play against the Ravens because of a groin injury, is seeking a second opinion on the injury.

Giants Need to Make Five Roster Moves by Tuesday: All NFL teams are required to reduce their preseason roster from 80 to 75 by 4PM on Tuesday.

Article on Giants’ Team Leadership: Giants Players Say It’s Time to Speak Up by Aditi Kinkhabwala of The Wall Street Journal

Article on OG Shawn Andrews: One Game Into His Giants Career, Shawn Andrews Feels He’s ‘Home’ by Mike Garafolo of The Star-Ledger

Article on Long Snapper Zak DeOssie: Giants Zak DeOssie Makes Transition to Full Time Long Snapper by Mike Garafolo of The Star-Ledger

Aug 292010

Minus 14 Players, Giants Uncompetitive in 24-10 Loss to Ravens: The Giants fell to the Baltimore Ravens 24-10 in their first and only game away from their new stadium this preseason. The game was not as close as the final score as the undermanned Giants were dramatically out-played.

“I’m disappointed in our play,” said Head Coach Tom Coughlin. “Some people played well, played hard. We just didn’t have enough. I was looking for more energy, more…the number one objective is execution, which absolutely we didn’t get. There’s no excuse for it. They played well, particularly in the first half and we didn’t. We had some chances. We had a couple opportunities, but overall a couple of individuals played well but not enough. We need to see a lot out of this group in the next 15 days.”

The Giants were without 14 players, including many key players such as RT Kareem McKenzie (migraine), OC Shaun O’Hara (ankle/Achilles), DT Chris Canty (groin), DE Jason Pierre-Paul (groin), CB Terrell Thomas (calf), and CB Aaron Ross (foot).

QB Eli Manning, in his first game back since the serious gash to his forehead in the preseason opener against the Jets, played the entire first half but did not look sharp. He finished the game 9-of-18 for 63 yards, 0 touchdowns, and 1 interception. A makeshift offensive line that had Guy Whimper playing left guard, Rich Seubert playing center, and Will Beatty playing right tackle did not help matters. Beatty, in particular, struggled at right tackle. Adam Koets played with the first team in the second quarter at center.

In their six first-half possessions, the Giants only managed one drive that picked up more than one first down. On that one possession, the Giants did drive 74 yards in 13 plays, but New York turned the ball over on downs when three straight runs by HB Ahmad Bradshaw could not pick up the first down.

“We’re a ways away,” said Coughlin. “One solid week of practice, with everybody practicing, but that’s not going to happen. You’re not going to get them all. You’re not going to do that. That’s what I just told them. There isn’t a team in the league at this time of year that doesn’t play without one or two guys out or missing for this, for that, for the other thing. The team we just played was missing a couple of offensive linemen, but that shouldn’t hold the rest of them back. We should be able to advance. Obviously, taking the quarterback out for a week – that’s not very good. We got to get them going. He’s got to be in the middle of it. He did some things well. Obviously, he was rusty. He needs to play. So he’ll get better.”

Defensively, the Giants started off strongly, forcing a three-and-out. However, the Ravens then put together three consecutive, long-scoring drives: 13 plays, 62 yards (field goal), 11 plays, 85 yards (touchdown), and 10 plays, 77 yards (touchdown).

“We didn’t stop them,” said Coughlin. “We didn’t consistently pressure the quarterback either. We got in a couple, but we didn’t consistently do that, and they threw and caught. They isolated our corners. There’s not a sophisticated explanation. They approached the game. They came in. They played in no huddle. They obviously had an objective and were going to throw the ball. They threw it 47 times last week. They threw it a ton this week, so that’s obviously an objective. They did get (HB Ray) Rice more involved than he’s been. We just didn’t stop them.”

Despite missing Canty and Pierre-Paul, the Giants’ defensive line played well, but the undermanned secondary could not cover a pass-happy Ravens team that threw the ball 32 times in the first half while only calling seven running plays to the backs. Without Thomas and Ross, the Ravens victimized nickel back Courtney Brown and new starter Bruce Johnson. Linebacker coverage on the tight ends and backs remained a problem as well.

“We were very surprised to see (the Ravens use the no-huddle),” said safety Antrel Rolle. “We definitely did not expect them to run a no-huddle, so we were running a very basic defense. Their no-huddle offense made us very uncomfortable…They’ve always been a team that runs the ball, but they came out tonight looking to work on their passing game. It was surprising to us, but they have a lot of playmakers among their receivers now, and I’m sure they want to get a look at them. I’m sure when the regular season starts they will go back to running the ball at some point. That’s always been successful for them.”

“Honestly, we didn’t click on all cylinders tonight,” said defensive end Justin Tuck. “Obviously, you didn’t want to do that in the third preseason game. They surprised us a little bit with the no-huddle there, and took us a couple series to just get used to what they were trying to do to us. I think we hit the quarterback a lot. He threw some quick passes. We got a lot of pressure on him. That was a good positive, but honestly, we can’t give up big plays regardless of what they’re doing. That’s a killer for us.”

The Giants’ lone score of the first half was set up by an interception and 37 yard return by CB Corey Webster. PK Lawrence Tynes kicked a 42-yard field goal as time expired.

At halftime, the Giants trailed 17-3.

In the second half, the Giants began to play many second- and third-teamers right away while the Ravens stayed with their starters for one series. The second- and third-team defenders performed reasonably well, but the Giants’ offense remained stuck in neutral.

New York’s defensive backups gave up one long scoring drive (11 plays, 80 yards) that resulted in a touchdown, but held Baltimore to only three first downs the rest of the half. Unfortunately, QB Rhett Bomar and the Giants’ offensive backups only managed three first downs of their own until a late garbage-drive touchdown. Bomar finished the game 10-of-20 for 140 yards, 1 touchdown, and 0 interceptions.

Injury Report: LB Adrian Tracy left the game with what is being diagnosed as a dislocated elbow. LB Gerris Wilkinson left the game with some cramping.

Post-Game Notes: Not playing for the Giants were QB Jim Sorgi (shoulder), HB D.J. Ware (concussion), WR Ramses Barden (back), WR Sinorice Moss (groin), H-Back Travis Beckum (neck), OC Shaun O’Hara (ankle/Achilles), RT Kareem McKenzie (migraine), OG Kevin Boothe (PUP – pectoral), DE Jason Pierre-Paul (groin), DT Chris Canty (groin), LB Chase Blackburn (knee), CB Terrell Thomas (calf), CB Aaron Ross (foot), and S Michael Johnson (back).

The Giants had five sacks in the game. Two apiece by DE Justin Tuck and DT Rocky Bernard, and one by DT Linval Joseph.

Aug 282010

August 27, 2010 New York Giants Injury Report: The Giants released the following information yesterday on who probably is not playing tonight against the Baltimore Ravens:

QB Jim Sorgi (shoulder), HB D.J. Ware (concussion), WR Ramses Barden (back), WR Sinorice Moss (groin), H-Back Travis Beckum (neck), OC Shaun O’Hara (ankle/Achilles), OG Kevin Boothe (PUP – pectoral), DT Chris Canty (groin), LB Chase Blackburn (knee), CB Terrell Thomas (calf), CB Aaron Ross (foot), and S Michael Johnson (back).

DE Jason Pierre-Paul is questionable with a groin injury.

Article on the Giants’ Injury Situation: Tom Coughlin Frustrated by Questions of New York Giants Injuries, But Truth Hurts as Ravens Host by Ralph Vacchiano of The Daily News

Article on LB Adrian Tracy: Move to Outside Linebacker Working Out Well for Giants’ Adrian Tracy by Zach Berman of The Star-Ledger

Article on WR Tim Brown: Diminutive Rookie Chases NFL Dream by Aditi Kinkhabwala of The Wall Street Journal

Aug 272010

August 26, 2010 New York Giants Injury Report: Not practicing yesterday were QB Jim Sorgi (shoulder), HB D.J. Ware (concussion), WR Ramses Barden (back), WR Sinorice Moss (groin), H-Back Travis Beckum (neck), OC Shaun O’Hara (ankle), OG Kevin Boothe (PUP – chest), DE Jason Pierre-Paul (groin), DT Chris Canty (groin), DT Jay Alford (knee), LB Chase Blackburn (knee), CB Terrell Thomas (calf), CB Aaron Ross (foot), S Michael Johnson (back), and S Sha’reff Rashad (concussion).

All of the players listed above with the possible exceptions of Pierre-Paul, Canty, Alford, and Thomas will not play this weekend against the Ravens. Head Coach Tom Coughlin doesn’t think Thomas will play.

Shaun O’Hara has been placed in a cast and will not play against the Ravens and probably will not play in the preseason finale either. LG Rich Seubert will start at center in his place.

Shaun has tendonitis, ankle, and they’re going to try to resolve this so they put a cast on him and they’re going to hold him for three or four days to see if they can’t get these things straightened out,” said Head Coach Tom Coughlin. “It’s the ankle, it’s the Achilles, it’s the tendonitis, it’s the swelling that occurs, the soreness. There’s soreness and swelling there.”

“It’s just something that I’ve been dealing with all through camp,” said O’Hara. “I’ve had some good days, and I’ve had some bad days. It’s really been something that we have been coping with, and pushing through. We finally reached a point where we decided that we need to just really try to isolate it and get some complete and total rest. That was really our medical staff’s decision. Really, it’s just trying to put us in the best position for week one, the start of the season.”

Article on DT Chris Canty: Groin Strain Halts Progress of Giants Defensive Tackle Chris Canty by Mike Garafolo of The Star-Ledger

Article on DT Jay Alford: Giants Defensive Tackle Jay Alford Finally Pushing His Surgically Repaired Knee to the Limit by Mike Garafolo of The Star-Ledger

Aug 262010


By Eric from

Approach to the Game – New York Giants at Baltimore Ravens, August 28, 2010: The Giants suffered their third most significant injury this week (after Domenik Hixon and Chad Jones), and perhaps their most worrisome.  While Aaron Ross is not lost for the season, the plantar fascia tear is a very painful, nagging injury that will likely limit him all season.  The third corner is as important as a starter.  And if Corey Webster or Terrell Thomas get hurt, even for a game or two, the Giants cornerback situation just got a lot more scary.

Eric the Nervous Nelly Warning Alert: One also wonders if the Giants are going to get off to a slow start in 2010.  The starting offensive line is far from settled and the anticipated starters have rarely practiced and not played together all preseason.  That’s going to hurt early-season cohesion.  Eli Manning also missed a week of valuable practice time with his young receivers.  Defensively, remember it took a couple of games for the Giant defenders to become accustomed to Steve Spagnuolo’s schemes in 2007 as the Giants gave up 80 points in the first two games of the season that year.  And the secondary is a bit unsettled too with Kenny Phillips still rounding into form and the injury issue to Ross.

So enter the Ravens.  The third preseason game is the primary dress-rehearsal for all teams in the NFL.  The starters usually play about three quarters of football.  If there is game-planning in the preseason, this is the one you usually see it in.

The Ravens are the third tough, physical team the Giants will see in a row – both on offense and defense.  Don’t expect it to be pretty.

Giants on Offense: Entering training camp, I was completely worry-free about the offensive line.  That has changed with Shaun O’Hara’s chronic ankle injury, Chris Snee’s mysterious knee ailment, and Rich Seubert’s broken hand.  Throw in the fact that David Diehl has virtually gotten zero reps at left tackle, the position he is likely to start the season at, and that shows you why I’m worried.  The line is starting to appear brittle.

Eli Manning is the most important player on this team.  But the offensive line is what makes the Giants’ offense go.  If it is playing at a diminished level or out of sync, the entire offense will suffer.  This game against the Ravens is important for the starting five to work together as a unit.  Hopefully, O’Hara, Snee, and Seubert won’t set themselves back physically.  (Late note: O’Hara has been placed in a cast and will not play against the Ravens and probably not against the Patriots in the preseason finale.  Seubert will start at center.)

Facing a tough, physical defense like the Ravens, with an offensive line not in top form, is a bit scary given the fact that one good hit may re-open Eli Manning’s wound on his head.  Those big guys up front had better play their asses off to keep Manning on his feet.

For his part, Manning needs the work to get into sync with Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham in particular.

Brandon Jacobs hasn’t seen all that much action yet either.  It’s important for him to get it going –  even if Ahmad Bradshaw becomes the new starter.  The Giants need an effective one-two punch with both running backs.

Giants on Defense: I was feeling good about this unit until the injury to Ross.  Bruce Johnson becomes much more prominent in the Giants’ plans now, and he’s been inconsistent.  The fifth corner also becomes much more important.  Is the fifth corner on this team right now?

The injuries to Chad Jones (offseason car accident) and Michael Johnson (back) has once-again raised depth concerns at safety.  Mike Greco was waived and John Busing and Matt O’Hanlon are not the answer.  Sha’reff Rashad has a chance to make the squad but will be out of this game with a concussion.

At linebacker, it looks like Jonathan Goff is the new starting middle linebacker with Keith Bulluck being moved to the weakside (Giants call this the strongside but it’s really the weakside).  He will likely unseat Clint Sintim.  Contrary to what most think on BBI, I don’t really see that as an indictment against Sintim.  Bulluck still has the goods and Sintim is still growing.  The good news for the Giants is that Gerris Wilkinson has been flashing as Michael Boley’s backup on the strongside.  He’s even received some first-team reps in practice.  Chase Blackburn, who is still out with a knee injury, may be in trouble.   The Giants still need to make a decision on Bryan Kehl too.

I’m a bit old school and traditional so having “light” coverage-type linebackers playing the strongside concerns me a little.  Yes, it will help against the TE in coverage.  But you also run the risk in getting mauled at the point-of-attack.  Justin Tuck is not the stud run defender that Michael Strahan was.  Combine that with Boley over there on the strongside and teams may be able to run more in that direction than we’ve become accustomed to.  Perry Fewell’s defense against the run in Buffalo was dreadful last season – so this bears watching.

I’ve seen zilch from Dave Tollefson and Jay Alford this preseason.  And Rocky Bernard, aside from one series against the Steelers, still does not look like the same player he was in Seattle.  I was disappointed we didn’t see more of Nate Collins against the Steelers, but perhaps the Giants are not as high on him as I am.  I think they’ll lose him if they put him on the Practice Squad.

Giants on Special Teams: Bank it…special teams are going to cost the Giants at least two games this year.  Hopefully that doesn’t mean bye-bye to the playoffs.

Matt Dodge was better last week.  Not good, but better.

Giants’ kickoff coverage unit has not been good despite good kickoffs from Lawrence Tynes.  Punt coverage is suffering from Dodge’s line drives and his punts straight down the middle of the field.

Aside from Tynes, Aaron Ross was the lone bright spot on specials this preseason and now you’ve got to figure the Giants won’t use him there with his plantar fascia tear.  Punt returners – Hixon gone, Chad Jones gone, Ross not likely to continue… next up Mario Manningham?  I also wouldn’t give up on Victor Cruz as a returner just yet.

The blocking on the Giants’ kickoff returns is embarrassingly bad.

Special Teams Coordinator Tom Quinn may be this year’s Bill Sheridan.

Aug 262010
Pittsburgh Steelers 24 (2-0) – New York Giants 17 (1-1)

by The Hack for

Game Summary: For the first time, the New York Giants took the field at New Meadowlands Stadium as the home team.  I’m a homer, I admit it.  But frankly the New Meadowlands Stadium looks much better lit up in blue that it does in green.  In fact, on TV, it looks like a cleaner, sharper Giants Stadium.  Unfortunately, the Giants were once again severely undermanned and outgunned going into the game, specifically on offense.  Injuries are really starting to take their toll on the Giants and one has to wonder if there will be enough time between now and Opening Day for the team to build any type of cohesiveness.

It appeared early on that neither team was very interested in playing on Saturday night, as they combined to generate just 47 total yards in the first quarter.  Again, that was combined, folks.  The most exciting action in the first quarter was the undercard between WR Hakeem Nicks and CB Ike Taylor who decided to trade blows (with helmets on…duh…) on just the fourth play of the game.  Both were subsequently ejected.  It didn’t really seem like it, but the time of possession battle was quite close in the first half, and both teams finally got moving in the second quarter.  There were positives and negatives on both sides of the ball for the Giants on Saturday night.  First and maybe foremost QB Rhett Bomar played the entire game, gaining extremely valuable experience.  Bomar played as expected, a little below average.  He had a few good moments, mostly in the running game where he runs quite fearlessly.  Frankly, he needs to learn to get down and stop risking injury.  Ahmad Bradshaw and Andre Brown both ran the ball well.  Other highlights were seen on defense, where the DE’s (particularly Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora) played well.  DE Chris Canty had a solid game.  The new safeties continue to play well.

It’s hard to imagine, but it could be that the Giants were tired coming into this game, seeing as they played on Monday night in an emotional (even though it was preseason) game against the Jets.  Overall, the performance was pretty lackluster.  Tired, out of sync, missing too many starters, whatever.  The Giants have shown little fire in the first couple of preseason games.

Offense: The Giants were without two of their big guns on offense as Eli Manning was out due to the head laceration hr suffered last week and then prior to the opening kickoff, Brandon Jacobs was scratched with a stiff neck.  Adding insult to injury, starting wide out Hakeem Nicks was lost to ejection on the fourth play of the game.  Those losses compounded the fact that the starting offense line was the same as last week, with William Beatty starting at LT, David Diehl inside at LG, Shaun O’Hara at C, Guy Whimper at RG and Kareem McKenzie at RT.  LG Rich Suebert and RG Chris Snee were still out of commission, though starting TE Kevin Boss and starting WR Steve Smith returned to the lineup.  QB Rhett Bomar started at QB, and D.J. Ware was the spot starter for Jacobs.

The Giants offense played in fits and spurts during the first half.  During their six first half drives, only two gained any significant yardage and all of them were short in terms of both time of possession and total plays.  No drive used more than 3:28 of clock, and the number of plays for each were 5, 4, 5, 7, 3 and 7 respectively.  If not for an amazing catch by Steve Smith on the Giants’ fourth drive, this could have been even worse.  The Giants only held the ball twice in the third quarter, going three and out on their first drive, sandwiched between two long Pittsburgh touchdowns.  Over the first 12+ minutes of the 3rd quarter, the offense gained just two yards on three plays.  Finally, the Giants got going in the fourth quarter and pulled the score closer by scoring the last 10 points of the game.

The Quarterbacks: With starter Eli Manning and 2nd QB Jim Sorgi sitting this one out with injuries, the entire offense had to be shouldered by second year man and third string signal caller Rhett Bomar.  Bomar had his moments.  Overall, he played a fairly innocuous game, completing 13 of 26 passes for just 167 yards no touchdowns and an interception.  To be fair, Bomar was running for his life behind a work-in-progress offensive line.  Several times, including his 45 yard completion to Steve Smith, Bomar let the ball go at the last second before getting popped.  Overall, Bomar was sacked twice, scrambled to avoid sacks twice, and was hit on five other plays.  That’s nine hits on 27 drop backs.  Not a good ratio.

As for his passing, often times he was not on target with his receivers.  Several times he overthrew open receivers and on a couple other occasions his receiver was obviously not where he assumed he would be.  A prime example of this was on his interception just before the half.  Manningham sat on his route and Bomar (under no pressure) side armed the ball and led Manningham instead of just playing pitch and catch.  Mario tried to make a play on the ball, but tipped it into the arms of a waiting Pittsburgh CB.  Bomar is tough, he’s smart, and he has a live arm.

Bomar needs time to learn, and as has been mentioned on The Corner Forum, if he’s exposed on the practice squad it’s highly likely he’ll be signed away.  The battle for the number 2 QB has become very interesting, so much so that Jim Sorgi plans to push his scheduled return up and play in the final preseason game against New England.

One more thing about Bomar that should be noted is that he’s very deceptive on delayed handoffs, ala Tony Romo.  He keeps his head up and looking downfield, as if he’s setting up for a pass then quickly gives the ball to the back.  Bradshaw scored on one of those plays, and before the end of the half HB Andre Brown took off for 21 yards from the same formation.

The Running Backs: HB D.J. Ware received the surprise start following a pregame stiff neck suffered by Brandon Jacobs.  Ware gained 10 yards on 4 carries and had a nice catch and run for 9 yards on his only pass reception.  Unfortunately, Ware didn’t get to continue his game as he suffered a concussion covering a punt return early in the first half.  Ware is one of four Giants running backs that are in the mix for playing time, and another injury that keeps him out a significant amount of time will hurt his chances.

HB Ahmad Bradshaw had a very good game on Saturday night.  Bradshaw showed great vision and cut back ability on two occasions where he avoided pursuit to gain positive yards where there were seemingly none to be had.  On another occasion, he turned the ball up field and plowed right over safety Troy Polamalu for good yardage.  Bradshaw didn’t factor in the passing game, but that’s only if you don’t count the fact that Bradshaw has improved in both his blitz pickups and downfield blocking for other receivers.   Bradshaw ended the game with 28 yards on 6 carries and a very nifty 9 yard touchdown run where he outran the safety to the corner on a well blocked delay.

HB Andre Brown seems to be all the way back, even mentally, from his Achilles tendon tear from last season.  Brown looks explosive, quick and powerful, carrying 13 times (doubling that of ever other Giant) for 67 yards.  Brown also didn’t factor in the passing game.  As with anyone with the limited experience he has, Brown’s playing time will be predicated on whether he can factor into the protections on passing downs.

Gartrell Johnson managed 9 yards on 4 carries to round out the Giants’ running attack.  On the Giants’ field goal drive in the fourth quarter, Johnson whiffed on a blitz pick up, and it was bad, causing Bomar to get sacked and putting the Giants in a third and very long situation.

FB Madison Hedgecock was lauded after the game by HC Tom Coughlin for becoming more aware and doing better with his assignments.  Nothing, other than his poor special teams play, stood out during the game.

It’s interesting that with a very raw QB in the game, the running backs were only targeted three times on the night (D.J. Ware once and Gartrell Johnson twice).  One would think that easing Bomar in with quick wheel routes and flares would have been more logical.  The Giants really need to get the backs more involved in the passing game.

The Wide Receivers and Tight Ends: The Giants had their entire complement of wide receivers available on Saturday, but lost Hakeem Nicks after only four plays to ejection.  Derek Hagan came on to take Nicks’ place and caught two passes for 10 yards.  He was completely blown up on a bubble screen due to no fault of his own.  That play has not worked for the Giants in quite some time.

Welcome back WR Steve Smith and congratulations on the play of the night.  Smith was targeted 4 times and caught 2 passes for 53 yards, including a sensational grab on the first Giants touchdown drive where he took what seemed to be a sure interception away from the Steeler defender.  Mario Manningham, for the second week in a row, was targeted 6 times but was again only able to come down with one reception for 11 yards.

Sinorice Moss caught a beautifully thrown slant for 11 yards and a first down on the Giants’ second touchdown drive.

Last week’s Player of the Game, Victor Cruz, caught 2 of 4 passes thrown his way for 30 yards.

TE Kevin Boss was back playing for the first time following his ankle surgery and he looked quite good blocking in the running game.  He made a key seal block on the 9 yard touchdown run by Bradshaw.  Boss didn’t have a ball thrown his way, however Scott Chandler, Travis Beckum and Bear Pascoe all had passes thrown to them.  Beckum, who is panned for his lack of effectiveness as a blocker, had a devastating lead block on a Steeler CB during the bubble screen to Hagan.  Beckum got out quickly and planted the CB, but unfortunately C Adam Koets didn’t get over in time to engage the safety and Hagan was dropped like a rock.

The Offensive Line: For the second week in a row, the patchwork starting offensive line showed little cohesiveness, especially in the passing game.  The Steelers didn’t blitz half as often as the Jets did last week, but their twists and stunts confused both sets of offensive lines all night long.  LG David Deihl was abused on two passing plays that nearly got Bomar injured.  As mentioned, QB Rhett Bomar was hit 33% of the times he dropped back.  It remains to be seen, with the recent addition of Shane Andrews, just what the makeup of this line is going to be.  Adam Koets, he of the three games worth of experience in four years, was horrible at C and now Rich Suebert is taking snaps at C in practice.  Backup OL Guy Whimper was once again pretty solid at RG.  It’s probably safe to say that Whimper is no longer the future at LT for the Giants, but he can play guard and in a pinch can play tackle.   Mitch Petrus got into the game late and looked agile and powerful on a nice pull where he planted the safety.  If LG Dennis Landout had maintained his block on the right defensive end, Gartrell Johnson would have had a hole the size of Rhode Island to run through.

The Defense: The Giants were playing as close to full strength as they’ve been in just about a year, as starting safety Kenny Phillips and linebacker Keith Bulluck took their first snaps of the season.  The starting linebackers were Jonathan Goff in the middle flanked by Clint Sintim and Michael Boley.  From what we heard on Wednesday, however, it appears that Sintim may be the odd man out with Bulluck taking over on the weak side.  (Or strong side, as apparently DC Perry Fewell calls it.)  There’s no way to know what’s really going on, however, because Coach Tom Coughlin praised Sintim for “attacking the line of scrimmage” during the game.  For a detailed explanation of how the linebacking corps seems to be shaping up, please read this write-up from Ledger-Star reporter Mike Garafolo which explains the new terminology and philosophy that DC Fewell wants to employ.

The linebackers are now being asked to attack the line of scrimmage to get to the same level as the defensive linemen, depending on the type of technique the particular lineman in front of them is playing.  It’s apparently designed to take a second crease away from the opposing running backs.

The Giants defense once again played it close to the vest, but there were more stunts and blitzes than last week.  The Giants sent the safeties in on the QB on a couple of occasions, and Boley was in the backfield a couple of times as well.  The first team defense held Pittsburgh to just 91 yards on their first four series, allowing only a field goal over that span.

Front 7: How cool was it to see the speed and explosiveness back in the steps of both DE Osi Umenyiora and DE Justin Tuck?  Throw in the outstanding play of Mathais Kiwanuka and it appears the Giants top three DEs are back in business.  All three got very good push up field and disrupted the backfield for most of the time they were in the game.  Tuck and Kiwanuka combined for five QB hits, and Tuck’s stop of an end around by Antwan Randle El for a 9 yard loss set the tone for the starting defense.  Umenyiora also gets credit for collapsing the pocket from his end, causing RB Rashard Mendenhall to move right into Rolle who dropped him for a loss.  This is the kind of pressure that’s needed to if the Giants are to have success on defense this season.  Rookie Jason Pierre-Paul was nearly invisible most of the night.

As good as the DEs, were, once again the DTs left something to be desired once Barry Cofeild and Chris Canty were out of the game.  Canty, who is now nursing an injured groin, was a monster in the middle and looked like the guy the Giants were hoping for when they signed the former Cowboy last year.  Last week, Rocky Bernard didn’t play very well and there was nothing that would have led anyone to believe that would change.  But things did change, as Bernard suddenly got stout and made two stops at the goal line at the end of the first half, saving at least three points and possible seven.  Later, however, when combined in the middle with Jay Alford, the Steelers ran straight up the middle for huge yardage.  Rookie Linval Joseph also got pushed around a lot in the second half as well.  To say that there is a fairly dramatic drop off after the starting DTs is not a stretch.  Joseph, the rookie, may be the best of the bunch after Cofield and Canty and he may even displace Cofield before seasons end if some of these guys don’t step up soon.

As noted above, it’s very difficult to figure out just what the Giants are doing with their linebackers.  Keith Bullock made his debut, receiving 6 snaps, and had an outstanding stop on Mendenhall, dropping him in his tracks after a three yard gain.  Jonathan Goff appears to have won the starting MIKE job as Bulluck has been told he will be working on the outside.  It’s kind a mystery, however, as Goff did not get in on a single tackle during the game.  Gerris Wilkinson had another solid game and apparently didn’t suffer any injury of any kind.  That’s two games in a row, and I believe a personal record.

Rookie Phillip Dillard was in on a few plays, but he gets caught in the wash a bit now and then, and he also appears to ‘guess’ wrong on some running plays, leaving what appears to be his area of contain and leaving a giant hole in his vacated area.

Rookie 6th round draft pick Adrian Tracy had a spectacular night, constantly attacking the line of scrimmage.  Tracy made 9 tackles, 2 of which were for a loss.

The starting 7 played good football against a potent Pittsburgh offense.  The defensive line played the best they’ve played in many, many games, which is a very encouraging sign.

Defensive Backs: CB Corey Webster was back at his spot on the field and made his presence known early by staying on top of a Big Ben pass and intercepting it on the Steelers second drive.  Antrel Rolle was again a huge force in the middle, and it’s apparent just how huge an upgrade he’s going to be in this defense.  Deon Grant again played well.  Unfortunately, Sha’reff Rashad suffered a minor concussion after getting the start due to Rolle’s tardiness to a meeting earlier in the week.  Safety Mike Greco didn’t play well at all, blowing his assignment and allowing WR Mike Wallace (who blew by CB Bruce Johnson as if he were standing still) to exploit the middle deep part of the field for a long touchdown.  The most welcome site for all Giants fans on Saturday night was the return of “Superman,” Kenny Phillips.  Phillips was in for only 6 plays, but he was in.  He wasn’t a factor in any of the snaps, but that doesn’t matter as he came out of the game with no issues and looks to play a significantly larger role in the game this weekend against Baltimore.

4th corner Bruce Johnson had another very eventful night, allowing the long TD to Wallace but breaking up a pass that could have gone for a touchdown to Randle El right before the half.

Special Teams: P Matt Dodge was better on Saturday, but he still lacks consistency.  Speculation is that the Giants will soon start looking for a replacement for the late round draft choice, which begs the question, what will the Giants do for a holder if he does go?  So far, Dodge has performed quite well in that department.  He’s made every play, and there have been a couple of dicey snaps in there.

K Lawrence Tynes had a very good night kicking off.  Though he didn’t have a touchback, two were into the endzone and should have resulted in poor field position for the Steelers, but the coverage teams are still horrible.  Even with two kickoffs into the endzone, the Steelers average starting field position was the 25 yard line.  The Giants average return was only 17.5 yards, resulting in an average starting position at the 23 yard line.

The kickoff return game was better, but there still seems to be very little enthusiasm in the blocking department.  Andre Brown seems to be the heir apparent to Dominak Hixon, as it doesn’t appear Gartrell Johnson will make the team.  Brown’s returns were adequate, but they need to be better.

In the punt return game, Aaron Ross nearly broke one for a touchdown, but reserve CB Courtney Brown could not move out the Pittsburgh punter.  Still, it was an encouraging sign until it was discovered that Ross suffered a plantar fascia tear in his foot that will keep him out at least 10 days (yeah, right…10 days…).

Victor Cruz had a costly muff after trying to field a punt at his one six yard line very late in the game.  The ball, which would have reached the endzone, rolled out of bounds at the 1 yard line and effectively ended the Giants chance for an attempt at a tying touchdown.  It’s a rookie mistake, and one that cannot be repeated.  Cruz has got to contribute on specials if he wants to make the team and making a mistake that costs your team 19 yards of field position while needing a touchdown to tie in the last minutes of a game isn’t going to win him any fans on the coaching staff.

Coaching: There isn’t much to say here other than it was curious that the Giants didn’t design a few plays to get Bomar out of the pocket and/or allow him to get some quick passes out to his backs early to slow down the Pittsburgh pass rush.

Offensive Player of the Game: This week’s award goes to second year HB Andre Brown for leading the Giants with 61 yards on 13 carries for a 4.7 yards per carry average and one touchdown.  Brown also chipped in with 55 return yards.

Defensive Player of the Game: The Defensive End trio of Mathais Kiwanuka, Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora share the award for teaming up to give the Steelers starting offense fits over their first four series.  Honorable mention to 6th round draft pick Adrian Tracy who was all over the field and led the Giants with 9 tackles.

(Box Score – Pittsburgh Steelers at New York Giants, August 21, 2010)
Aug 262010

August 25, 2010 New York Giants Injury Report: Not practicing yesterday were QB Jim Sorgi (shoulder), HB D.J. Ware (concussion), WR Ramses Barden (back), H-Back Travis Beckum (neck), OG Kevin Boothe (PUP – chest), DE Jason Pierre-Paul (groin), DT Chris Canty (groin), LB Chase Blackburn (knee), CB Terrell Thomas (calf), CB Aaron Ross (foot), S Michael Johnson (back), and S Sha’reff Rashad (concussion).

It appears that Aaron Ross, who has a plantar fascia tear (contrary to what Head Coach Tom Coughlin said yesterday), is done for the preseason and that the painful injury may nag him all season.

Here are some other tidbits:

  • Terrell Thomas: “He was sore, so we’re just giving him some recovery,” said Coughlin. “The calf thing has been bugging him.”
  • Chris Canty: “(No update) other than the fact that the MRI did not show anything of great significance and hopefully he’ll come along fast,” said Coughlin.
  • Jim Sorgi: “Icing, rehabbing, just trying to get healthy for next Thursday (the preseason finale),” said Sorgi. “There are some things I can do. There are some things I can’t do. Trying to stay away from things that irritate it and playing it because you don’t want to set yourself back right now.”
  • Ramses Barden: “The diagnosis was good and (the doctor) said there’s no nerve damage, and no threat of nerve damage as long as I take the proper precautions on the front end, which is what we’re doing right now,” said Barden. “I’ve been staying off the field, wearing a little brace, and trying to do some extra core work. I’m trying to come back as soon as possible… No exact timetable (for my return)… Right now, we might be in that stage where it could get worse, so we’re taking the proper precautions. When I can go full, I can’t wait. I’m in the pool right now doing some running and swimming and trying to keep everything else strong and ready.”

OC Shaun O’Hara (ankle) and RG Chris Snee (knee) appeared limited in practice.

Article on DE’s Osi Umenyiora and Mathias Kiwanuka: Perry Fewell Using Packages to Get Osi Umenyiora and Mathias Kiwanuka on the Field at the Same Time by Ralph Vacchiano of The Star-Ledger