Actually, it was over before that. In 1986 the strength of the offense, in addition to Simms's miraculous work, was the power toss right—Joe Morris running behind tight end Mark Bavaro, Nelson, and right guard Chris Godfrey, with left guard Billy Ard pulling and leading, along with fullback Maurice Carthon. For much of '87 Nelson and Godfrey were sidelined. Bavaro was playing on one leg, and Carthon was benched for George Adams, a nonblocker. Who got all the blame? Why, Morris, naturally.
So the Giants selected tackles with their first two draft choices. No. 1 pick Eric Moore isn't challenging Roberts, who is on the left side now but has yet to prove he can play in the NFL. Nelson, a terrific drive blocker, is back on the right side after battling Hodgkin's disease last year.
The defense should improve, thanks to added depth. Lawrence Taylor had his usual good exhibition season. If the Giants can block people, they'll go far. It's as simple as that.
Coach Buddy Ryan of the PHILADELPHIA EAGLES says his defensive front four is better than anything he had at Chicago. Well, let's see: Left end Reggie White has a big edge over Dan Hampton; left tackle Mike Pitts loses to Steve McMichael: right tackle Jerome Brown gets the nod over William Perry; and right end Clyde Simmons is not the impact player Richard Dent was. Final score, 2-2. At least it's close. Buddy knows that the front is the best place to start building a great defense.
Todd Bell, who was cut as a strong safety by Chicago, is the weakside linebacker at 212 pounds. No one knows how he'll hold up over 16 games. But both cornerbacks, Roynell Young and rookie Eric Allen, looked fine in the preseason, and Pro Bowl free safety Wes Hopkins is hitting people with authority again. Yep, the defense is there.
The offensive line is still not top grade. That's less of a problem for the Eagles than for other teams, because Randall Cunningham has the zippiest legs of any NFL quarterback. But still, it's a worry. Call the offense a maybe.
The real reason pickers like the Eagles is that, after all those nasty things Ryan said about the scab team during the strike last year, the players will do anything for him. So call the Eagles' season a test of dedication.
Let's talk about Michael Irvin, No. 1 draft pick of the DALLAS COWBOYS. from Miami. The Cowboys struck it rich here, because Irvin is a wideout who can burn you deep or make the possession reception. Plus he has a nasty streak—several scuffles in a scrimmage with the Raiders and a fight with San Diego cornerback Elvis Patterson that carried across the running track and into the parking lot. He'll catch 60 to 80 passes this year if he stays healthy.
The offensive concept is to use the hammer—Herschel Walker behind a mammoth zone-blocking line—to set up passes from Steve Pelluer, or Danny White if Pelluer falters. The defense is in trouble. The outside linebacking corps got wiped out by injury in the preseason. The whole picture looks like another sub-.500 season, with Walker, Irvin and maybe a nifty little rookie halfback named Mark Higgs supplying enough excitement to attract some fans to Texas Stadium. Last year the strike games had a higher average attendance than the real ones did. The overall season average of 49,201 was the worst in the stadium's 17-year history. Dallas has always been a front-runner's town.
The stories about how PHOENIX CARDINALS fans have been getting ripped off are well documented. The club has added premiums to the season-ticket package, driving up the cost to as much as $2,000. In any other business someone would go to jail. In Phoenix they're complaining because there aren't enough prime-location tickets to go around. Only in the NFL, right?