Football is back
I went to the game last night and as much as the game itself was the draw, the return to the familiar sights, sounds, smells and protocols surrounding the game was almost as much fun. The promises from the Giants that there are new traffic patterns in the roads around the stadium to ease the traffic and the parking crunch, were followed by sitting in traffic in the stadium roads, same as in previous years. I got to exit 16W a little after 7PM and was finally parked at 7:30. Of course, I had to take a spot where some tailgaters were taking two spots and eating next to their car (like I said - familiar protocols of the game). We went into the stadium and the crack security team at the gate failed to notice that I was carrying a case with my binoculars in it and passed me right through. Another familiar sight was the propensity of some Giants fun to drink a tad too much, especially for night games, when there is more time to get lubricated. The group sitting next to us was particularly rowdy and noisy, though not impolite. In the 2nd half they moved their seats from our row immediately to our left, to about 4 rows up, directly behind us. In the second half, one of them stood up, to get some more beer (or perhaps to go to the men's room and get rid of the beer they had already consumed). He was too drunk to remain upright and fell 3 rows straight down and smashed into the guys that were sitting one row above us. Yes football is back.
I have some brief morning after comments on the game. There were some good things to take out of this game and definitely some concerns as well. The Giants two starting G's, Snee and Seubert did not dress for the game last night because of minor injuries. Nevertheless the starting OL acquitted themselves very well. Boothe played at RG in place of Seubert and there was a rotation including Reyes and Koets manning the position. The pass blocking for this group was fine and the run blocking was at its usual superior level. If you were worried about the Giants running game taking a hit because of the loss of Derrick Ward to Tampa Bay as FA: don't. Bradshaw and Ware both looked as good, if not better than Ward. Bradshaw has a choppy, style that is hard to handle. He runs as hard as he can from the very first step he takes. He has the ability to see the field, to find a crease and cut at full speed, and seems to stop at times to read the defense, gets it to pause and then he explodes again, changing direction. He really knows how to finish his runs, pounding with great force into tacklers that seem to be bigger than he is. He showed this style on the 20 yard TD run when he cut to his right, assisted by an absolutely devastating block by reserve OL Tutan Reyes, and finished the run by making one DB miss and then running over another Carolina DB at about the 5 yd line for the TD. I had never seen Reyes before, but he looked great on that play and was solid the rest of the night.
The other positive to take out of this game is the other RB Danny Ware. He has a more conventional running style; very smooth compared to Bradhsaw's choppy style. He runs shoulders down and low compared to Bradhsaw's slightly more upright style and his moves and cuts are more subtle, but he is very effective. Last year Ward was considered a change of pace back, because he was a little quicker than Jacobs. This year, the change of style from Jacobs to Bradshaw and then to Ware is going to be more pronounced and I dare say, even more effective. The other good thing about Ware and Bradshaw is that they are both very good receivers coming out of the backfield. This is going to be important for the Giants, especially early in the year before the Giants WRs find their bearing. Brandon Jacobs even caught a pass last night.
The defense looked really good. Giants were missing their starting CBs, Webster and Ross because of minor injury and were also missing Canty and Robbins at DT. Don't worry about this defense. Osi was back and got a sack, beating pro-bowl LT Jordan Gross on a speed rush to the outside. Terrell Thomas, last year's 2nd round draft pick looked great. I try to be reserved in my praise and am not in the camp of "Giants rule", and "everyone on the Giants is great, everyone else stinks". So I use the "great" word judiciously; but, I am very high on Terrell Thomas - he looks like a star waiting to happen. He made a great play knocking down a pass in 1st qtr running stride to stride with the WR, stopped on a dime to defend the almost-impossible-to-defend back shoulder fade. I was very impressed. He looks extremely fluid running and very polished in his breaks and reads, staying with WRs.
I also liked what I saw from Stoney Woodson, the rookie DB. Of course he made the INT, but the ball was deflected right to him, and he did make a good catch. Mor eimportant that that one play was that he looks like he has good instincts, flowing to the ball and has good speed. He was also around the loose ball and may have been credited with one of the Giants fumble recoveries.
This is the first I have seen of Clint Sintim and I was really impressed. I didn't know what number he wore and when I saw 97 trot out onto the field and line up at LB, my first thought was - why is Kiwanuka lining up at LB?.... and it looks like he got bigger in the shoulders and a more defined body. When I put the binoculars on him, I saw that Kiwanuka switched to 94 and 97 was Sintim. What a great body type he has - he looks like a stud. He's good shedding blockers and is a good pass rusher. He looked like he ran fairly well also - if he can learn how to play in space and defend the pass, he will be a star.
I also liked what I saw from Maurice Evans at DE. Whereas I thought that Tollefson would be on the bubble, I now think he has almost no chance to make the team. The rookie FAs the Giants brought in all looked good; there is a ton of talent in that DL. Giants better enjoy it now, because when some of the better ones become FA's there's no way they will be able to retain them all.
The questionable news is at the WR position. There is definitely a lot of talent there. Among the new WRs, Manninham and Moss show great quickness and explosiveness out of their cuts. Barden and Nicks look talented. But there's a big difference between being productive on the practice field, where everyone is running at 3/4 speed, and doing it in a game where the opponent is trying to win, not just work on their technique. The new guys all caught a ball and ran their routes well, but there was not much separation and guys were not wide open down the field. The sub qbs were not releasing the ball quickly and that could be part of the problem. Eli hit Manningham on a beautiful curl that got called back because of penalty, so maybe there is a little hope. The INT that was charged to Woodson is a perfect example of the difference between practice play and game play. Barden ran a route that took him to the right sideline. The protection broke down, Woodson broke the pocket and ran to his right, looking down field. Barden just stood still drifting a few steps to his left. Woodson tried to fit the ball in - a typical rookie mistake - and it was picked off. Woodson should not have thrown the ball, but Barden, when the qb broke the pocket, had to either turn and run down field, or come back to the qb. Also, when the ball was thrown, Barden did not come back and attack the ball, he kind of waited for it to arrive. Rookie mistakes. I am confident that Giants coaches will be able to tutor their players, but whether they develop in time to make this a great season, or whether WR productivity will be a problem all season long remains to be seen.
More stuff in a couple of days when I get to review the game in some more detail.