When we last saw the Giants in pre-season, Osi Umenyiora was being carted off the field, and with it came predictions of a last-place finish for Big Blue. But, of course, it wasn’t Umenyiora’s injury that derailed the season, but Plaxico Burress‘ Shot Heard Round the Latin Quarter (the D-line did wear down at the end of the year, though, and sure could have used Osi).
Last night’s main attraction for Giants fans was the new group of receivers, and to see if we could get a clue as to how they would do in the upcoming season. Will Domenik Hixon and Steve Smith prove to be capable starters? Will Sinorice Moss and Mario Manningham have productive seasons? Will Hakeem Nicks and Ramses Barden be difference-makers as rookies? Will Derek Hagan or David Tyree make the team? Can Homer Jones come out of retirement? Who’s going to catch the ball is the biggest question mark on the team (and may be the only one).
Unfortunately, all we got was a glimpse, as a ground-game-fest broke out in the sizzling New Jersey night. (Is there a better place to be than Jersey when it’s 800 degrees with 99% humidity? When the temps get into the 90s, the smells that come up from my sewer pipe to blanket my basement are a joy to behold.) It took every second of the game clock, but the Giants ran by Carolina to a 24-17 victory. The two teams played a thriller, with a wild finish, when the immortal Leger Douzable hit Panthers QB Hunter Cantwell, and Tommie Hill picked up the fumble and ran it into the end zone with no time left on the clock. The actual game wasn’t all that exciting – it’s just an exhibition after all—but it was more thrilling than watching Livan Hernandez and the Mets lose 10-1.
None of the receivers stood out, so not much was learned. Smith didn’t play, Hixon only caught two passes, Moss one, Manningham none and Hagan one. Barden and Nicks came into the game in the second half, and each hauled in one pass (Barden’s a 20-yard catch for a first down, and Nicks a nine-yarder). What we did see were things that we already know.
The bruising running attack picked up where it left off last year. Ahmad Bradshaw, penciled in to fill the Derrick Ward role, stood out, gaining 35 yards on five carries, including a TD run. Brandon Jacobs carried only four times, but gained 31 yards. And we saw a lot of Danny Ware. He carried 12 times for only 21 yards but also had a TD reception. Unfortunately, we also saw a lot of woeful Andre Woodson at QB. All you can say about his performance is: No es bueno.
The defense is, of course, the Giants’ bread and butter, with a stacked defensive line. And they started off on a strong note, as the starting unit didn’t allow any points. Umenyiora picked up a sack, and the team had a total of four. They also created five turnovers, including the fumble recovery that led to the game-winning touchdown. Rookie CB Stoney Woodson had the only interception.
The Giants next game is Saturday against the da Bears. Hopefully that one will be as injury-free as last night’s contest. And maybe the G-Men will throw a few more long passes in that game, and we’ll see if anybody will be there to catch them.