Even with the trade of Wide Receiver Ike Harris and Guard Conrad Dobler to New Orleans and the defection of Running Back Terry Metcalf to Canada, the Cardinal offense can score points. Its strength is a superb line, headed by Tackle Dan Dierdorf, probably the game's best blocker, and Center Tom Banks. That line gives Quarterback Jim Hart the best protection in the conference and springs Cardinal runners, led by Wayne Morris, for more than four yards a rush. To keep defenses guessing about which is the strong side of the Cardinal offense, Wilkinson is using a Y-formation in which the tight end lines up directly behind the quarterback and doesn't shift up to the line of scrimmage until just before the snap of the ball.
Although this year's version will probably run the ball more than past Cardinal teams, Wilkinson also has a superior passing attack; St. Louis was No. 1 in net yards per pass play last year. Hart throws bombs as well as anyone, but he may discover that his favorite target, Mel Gray, who has averaged more than 20 yards a catch in his seven seasons, will get more double coverage with Harris and Metcalf missing.
has been making progress. The Eagles showed improvement in almost every area last year, a tribute to third-year Coach Dick Vermeil, who has never had a first-or second-round draft choice.
Running back is the team's biggest weakness, just as it has been for almost a decade, but Vermeil is hoping that second-year man Wilbert Montgomery will pick up the team rushing total. If not, Philadelphia at least has a quality passer in Ron Jaworski. Jaworski has just one real target, however, 6'8" Harold Carmichael, who has caught passes in his last 80 games. Too often the Polish Rifle tries to throw balls through defenders, which may have something to do with his NFC-high 21 interceptions in 1977. On hand to help solve the problem is former Bronco Head Coach John Ralston, whom Vermeil recruited to rethink the team's offense.
Vermeil also switched to a 3-4 defense last year, enabling the Eagles to cut opponents' scoring by more than 25%. The linebacking corps, headed by one of the NFL's best, Bill Bergey, deserves most of the credit. It helped an anonymous defensive line play better than average against the rush and finish tied for third in sacks in the NFL with 47. Meanwhile, the secondary made 21 interceptions, 11 of them by Safeties John Sanders and Randy Logan.
shows few signs of progress as Andy Robustelli begins his fifth season as something called Director of Operations. Under Andy, the team has not finished higher than fourth, and the talk this year of making the playoffs is pure fantasy. But the Giants' defense is testimony to some sort of building program. There is youth and ability up front in George Martin, John Mendenhall, Troy Archer and Gary Jeter. Veteran Jack Gregory rounds out a unit that recorded 37 sacks. The linebackers, particularly Harry Carson in the middle, are not bad. But if opponents can't go through this defense, they can easily go over it; New York's secondary is pitiful.
On offense the Giants are trying to operate without benefit of the forward pass. The two quarterbacks are fragile Jerry Golsteyn and Joe Pisarcik, who is gutty but short on ability. Together they completed just 43% of their passes last year, the second-poorest mark in the NFL. Tackle Gordon King, the team's first-round pick from Stanford, should help cut down on the team's 46 sackings.
Although the Giants don't pass very well, they don't run very well, either, ranking 25th in the league in yards per rush at 3.46 a carry. And though Fullback Larry Csonka had a 100-yard effort against Chicago in the last game of the 1977 season, it was his only such burst in three years. He was used hardly at all in the '78 preseason.
The Giant defense had better be good.
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