Snap Judgments from Giants-'Skins
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Musings, observations and the occasional insight from the Giants' season-opening 16-7 throttling of the low-octane Redskins, which strangely had all the intensity of a preseason game after the first half ...
Looks like reports of the Giants defensive line's demise were ... you guessed it, greatly exaggerated. Wow, a preseason story line that blew up upon contact with the regular season. That's never happened.
Defensive end Michael Strahan might be a happy and healthy employee of FOX, and the Giants' lone 2007 Pro Bowl selection, sack-man Osi Umenyiora, might have been lost for the season with a knee injury a couple weeks back, but the Giants' D-line can still bring it, folks.
The Giants sacked Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell only once -- on Washington's first play from scrimmage at that -- but that's deceiving because New York pressured the signal-caller consistently and hurried him into several early and inaccurate throws. Defensive end Justin Tuck led the way with that eight-yard sack and two tackles for loss, but re-converted defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka, defensive tackle Fred Robbins and nose tackle Barry Cofield all looked like they had Washington's play calls at times.
"We knew all eyes were going to be on us up front with Strahan retiring and Osi going down,'' said Robbins, who had four tackles and one tackle for a loss. "We know a lot of people are gunning for us, we're the Super Bowl champs. But we also knew we had some guys who can perform. We wanted to show people we still can make it. We can still get after people. We can still do the job.''
Count Campbell among the believers. He might not have had to withstand the same barrage from the Giants that Tom Brady did in the Super Bowl, but he also never managed to get comfortable against the re-tooled New York defensive line. Who had the time?
"They had a lot of speed out there,'' Campbell said. "Osi and Strahan are great players, but tonight they were playing with a lot of speed. They were bringing the house, trying to create pressure and create turnovers.''
The Giants didn't create any Washington turnovers, but they did hold the Redskins to just 51 total yards in the first half, with two offensive first downs. Washington finished with 209 yards of offense, but a good chunk of that came in the fourth quarter, when the Redskins trailed by nine points and the Giants were content to give up yardage as long as they kept the ball in front of it.
"We were feeding off the crowd and feeding off that early sack,'' Cofield said. "A lot of people were writing us off when we lost Osi and Strahan, but we've still got some guys who can play. You would think we struggled last year, instead of won it all.''
The Giants did indeed win it all last year. And from the looks of it early on, if they don't win it all again this season, it won't be because of their defensive line became their weakest link.
If you were wondering which Redskins offense was for real, the one in Washington's first three preseason games (all victories), or the one that scored just six points and got embarrassed in its final two, I think you got your answer Thursday night.
I'll repeat what I've been writing all preseason: Campbell's transition to head coach Jim Zorn's version of the West Coast offense is not going to be all butterflies and rainbows. It was way back in March that I had one respected NFL offensive mind tell me he had doubts about Campbell's ability to fit his skills into a West Coast attack, and I haven't seen any evidence to erase those questions from my mind.
Campbell simply doesn't have Zorn's offense down yet. At best, he's a work in progress in the West Coast. After Zorn harped all week about Campbell stepping up his tempo and the pace of his decision-making, the fourth-year veteran looked tentative, uncomfortable and never remotely got in sync. The Redskins offense didn't produce a first down for the first 28:50 of the first half, and Campbell was 2-of-6 for 25 yards, with a 12-yard touchdown pass to Santana Moss just 13 seconds before the break.
"Just the whole team, we kept coming up short,'' said Campbell, whose Redskins finished 3 of 13 (23 percent) on third down. "Those third downs, we tried to convert and kept coming up short. I feel like, in the first half, we never got into a rhythm.''
Though Campbell rallied in the fourth quarter statistically to wind up 15 of 27 for 133 yards and that touchdown, his performance didn't look anywhere near that solid. It makes you wonder how long until the "start-Todd Collins" talk starts in D.C.? I'd give it another loss, maybe two, before it's approaching full boil. But it's coming if Campbell doesn't look better. You know it, and I know it.
Not that I think Zorn will flinch and turn to the Redskins veteran backup any time soon. He's way too committed to getting Campbell's game straightened out for that quick panic move.
"We're on our way to the passing game, but we're not there yet,'' Zorn said, somewhat optimistically. "That's what I'm disappointed about. We can't run every down in the ballgame. We've got to be able to throw the ball. We've got to be able to protect. Those are the things we need to improve on. No question about it, it's our passing game.''