"If it was a regular season game, he'd play," said head coach Jim Fassel. "But there is no reason to risk him now." In truth, Shockey was on pace to play just the first half in the Aug. 23 game against the Jets and then not more than the first quarter, if that, in the summer finale Aug. 28 in Baltimore five days later.
The battle for the second tight end spot has been an on-going topic of conversation all during training camp, without a clear-cut winner in sight, and now the three remaining contenders will be rotating for starting time, too. They are Marcellus Rivers, Darnell Dinkins and rookie Visanthe Shiancoe. Rivers and Dinkins were both undrafted free agents, Shiancoe was this year's third round draft pick.
In all likelihood, Rivers (the best receiver of the three) will get the starting job at least temporarily. But he hasn't made Fassel terribly pleased, either with his play or his attitude. Against the Panthers, he drew the coach's wrath when he protested punting on a fourth and one situation at the Giants' 31. "We had a chance from our 30 and that's all you get," Fassel said. "I think Marcellus had better things to be concerned with."
Dinkins is Fassel's pet project, a former quarterback (at Pitt) and strong safety with the Giants. He is a resplendent special teams player and will almost certainly earn a spot on the roster for that. But at 6-4 and 255, he has started to show a blocking skill and that could elevate him to the second string behind Shockey.
Rivers can't block much at all, while Shiancoe (pronounce it "Shanko") is probably the best athlete of the group and shows flashes of brilliance, although hardly enough to warrant serious consideration at the moment.
Once the season starts (Sept. 7 vs. St. Louis) it is likely that you'll see Shockey in his customary starting role with Dinkins as the second team tight end, Shiancoe on the bench and Rivers on some other team's roster.
CAMP CALENDAR: The Giants will break camp Friday, Aug. 22, the day before their preseason game against the New York Jets.
NOTES, QUOTES, ANECDOTES
--Rookie (fifth round) guard David Diehl (6-5, 315-320) has evidently won the starting job at right guard over second-year free agent Tam Hopkins. Diehl, from the University of Illinois, started against Carolina Aug. 15 and played exceptionally well, according to head coach Jim Fassel and position coach Jim McNally.
The announcement was made a few days earlier, when McNally informed both players of the change. Hopkins then cited "personal family reasons" for having to leave camp and did so, accompanied by Director of Player Relations Charles Way. He did return in time to suit up for the game and saw limited action.
--Ian Allen continues to win the job at right tackle (if only by default) and was noticeably improved over his first outing the week before in New England. "I know I can do this," said the 6-4, 310-pounder, yet another free agent in his second year. "The mistakes I made last week were easily fixed. I was happy to get another chance and I know I did well. I almost pitched a shutout against Julius [defensive end Julius Peppers, the NFL's Defensive Rookie of the year in 2002]. Man, he is one fast cat."
Peppers had only two tackles and a "gimme" sack when Allen took the first feint and moved to his outside, allowing Peppers to flash across his inside almost untouched.
Fassel was not pleased, but not as displeased with the 20-10 loss as he was the week before with the 20-6 whipping administered by the Patriots.
"I told the team that it is clear we have a lot to work on," he said. "I thought we did well in parts, but not enough parts." Fassel was particularly annoyed with the offensive unit that played the second half, netting only 14 plays and 23 yards. He was specifically disappointed in second team quarterback Jesse Palmer.
"He made a lot of bad decisions," the head coach said. "There wasn't much to recommend him.
He didn't exactly jump out at me as having a great game. But he wasn't the only one, in all fairness. I think he had a chance to make some plays [and didn't]. It would have been better if we had some more plays in the second half."
--The two cornerbacks named Will -- Allen and Peterson -- both played well and are shaping up as one of the best units in the NFC.
"Our first team defense did a good job," said Peterson of the game against Carolina. "We gave up only two field goals."
That was without the benefit of starting strong safety Shaun Williams, who stayed out nursing a minor injury. He was replaced by second-year free agent Ryan Clark -- who led the team with eight tackles.
The only Giants' touchdown of the summer so far (in two games) was scored by UFA fullback Jimmy Finn, who caught a two-yard pass from starting quarterback Kerry Collins in the second quarter. One of the Carolina touchdowns came via a 43-yard fumble recovery by strong safety Mike Minter.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I got chills, kind of, when I heard my name announced as a starter as we were coming out of the tunnel. It was special, and probably more than I could have expected so soon." -- Rookie (fifth round pick) David Diehl, who has obviously won the starting job at right guard.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
BATTLE OF THE WEEK: The big battle of previous weeks has clearly been decided, with Diehl winning the right guard job over Tam Hopkins. Currently, the most important battle still undecided is for the second tight end spot (the blocking position) being waged between rookie Visanthe Shiancoe, Darnell Dinkins and Marcellus Rivers.
With three weeks or so before the opening game of the season, Dinkins is a lukewarm favorite. Both he and Dinkins should make the team; that cannot be said for Rivers.
OTHER BATTLE FRONTS: A decision is drawing closer on the fullback job, and this one is going to be painful because the Giants intend to keep only one at that position. Right now, UFA Jimmy Finn (from Indianapolis) appears to have unseated second-year Charles Stackhouse. The FB is going to be used in concert with the tight ends to provide additional blocking, both stationary and "on the move" blocking.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: It is not usual to find a rookie offensive lineman being considered player of the week, but the 6-5, 315-320 pound Diehl must qualify this week.
He was thrust into a difficult situation when he was named the starter a day before the game vs. Carolina and he performed with exceptional skills. "He is a very mature rookie," says head coach Jim Fassel. "I like a lot of what he has done."
ROOKIE REPORT: No. 1 pick DT William Joseph saw his first action after reporting late (he missed 16 practices, 12 days and the intrasquad scrimmage). He got considerable time and was winded at the end (not yet in game shape) but Fassel was impressed with his hustle. He had three tackles. No. 2 pick DE Osi Umenyiora (two tackles) also played well and flashed some speed on the edge which is why he was plucked from tiny Troy (Ala.) State so high. No. 3 pick TE Visanthe Shiancoe saw action and was unimpressive. No. 4 pick CB Rod Babers is going to make the team and is competing with veteran Ralph Brown for the nickel position.
No. 5 pick RG David Diehl has won a starting job. There were three picks in the sixth round, and two of them, WRs David Tyree and Willie Ponder, have almost certainly made the team. The third, CB Frank Walter, will probably start the season as injured (dislocated elbow). Similarly, there were three picks in the seventh round -- WR Kevin Walter, S Charles Drake and C Wayne Lucier. Walter is a possible roster player, Drake looks to be a practice squad candidate and Lucier might hang on as a backup.
INJURY REPORT: DE Michael Strahan (broken small toe, right foot) will be fine and could see action Aug. 23 vs. the Jets. TE Jeremy Shockey (cracked rib) will miss the final two preseason games. Others will minor injuries -- RB Dorsey Levens, SS Shaun Williams, FS Johnnie Harris -- will play Aug. 23.