Preseason Record: 1-3
Season Opener: Sept. 7, vs. St. Louis (0-0)
Halfback Ron Dayne made the team despite another horrid preseason period, while tight end/special teams dynamo Darnell Dinkins was cut. So was fourth-round draft pick cornerback Rod Babers. Also failing to make the final roster were fullback Charles Stackhouse, defensive end Frank Ferrara and Tam Hopkins, who filled in at right guard last season.
The final team the Giants have settled on for now has the potential to go deep into the playoffs. Some of the players have mentioned those two words -- "Super Bowl" -- as their expectations for the season.
Three key questions for the season:
1. Will the rebuilt right side of the offensive line hold?
Mike Rosenthal, the tackle, went to Minnesota during free agency. Jason Whittle went to the Buccaneers. In their place you'll find Ian Allen (6-4, 310 pounds), at tackle; and rookie David Diehl (6-5, 315), at guard. Diehl has played with ferocity and success; Allen, after a slow summer start, has become moderately consistent. The other parts of the line -- tackle Luke Petitgout, guard Rich Seubert, center Chris Bober -- are fine.
2. Is there sufficient depth along the defensive front line?
If all remain healthy (and un-suspended, in the case of tackle Keith Hamilton) this could be one of the top front four units in the league. The ends are Michael Strahan (33.5 sacks the last two seasons) and Kenny Holmes, the tackles are Hamilton and Cornelius Griffin. Two rookies are the first replacements -- first-round pick tackle William Joseph, second-rounder end Osi Umenyiora. Also in the mix are tackle Lance Legree and end/tackle (mostly end) Keith Washington.
3. Has coach Jim Fassel settled on the identity of his No. 2 quarterback?
No, not really. Neither Jesse Palmer (originally second) nor veteran Jason Garrett (37 years old) inspired anyone during the preseason games. Palmer, who had been counted on as the team's quarterback of the future, has almost conclusively proven he isn't going to be the answer. So the secret now is for veteran Kerry Collins, who is looking at a superlative season with all his wide receivers back healthy, to stay healthy.
Player to Watch: Right guard David Diehl -- Just a fifth-round draft pick via Illinois, Diehl took training camp by storm and quickly unseated Hopkins, the veteran scheduled to replace Whittle. When his name was announced as the starter prior to the Aug. 23 preseason game, he was asked how he felt. "Excited," he said, "but not surprised. I figured I'd start. It's what I had in mind when I came to camp."
Touting the Top Picks: Defensive tackle William Joseph -- Has started making up for lost time after reporting late. He has great size and strength, but needs to work on quickness and overall grasp of the position.
Tight end Visanthe Shiancoe -- "Shank" blew up the rookie tryout camp with his athletic ability and quickness to learn. The No. 3 pick could become another deep down the middle receiving threat much like Jeremy Shockey, last year's offensive rookie of the year.
--Running back/kick returner Delvin Joyce shocked the coaches with his 17 carries for 60 yards in the final preseason tune-up, earning him the chance to replace starter Tiki Barber when a smaller, quicker back is needed. He is also pushing Brian Mitchell for the first return spot.
--Legree made the team, to the surprise of many, based on his late-summer improvement and the question still hanging over Hamilton's head as to whether his May 22 charges of possession of cocaine and marijuana, among other things, will result in a four-game suspension. At the moment, it appears that the court will be petitioned with sufficient requests of postponements to get Hamilton through the season.
--Shockey missed the final two preseason games with a cracked rib, but he'll play Sunday in the season opener against St. Louis. So, too, will defensive end Michael Strahan, who missed all four preseason games with a broken small toe on his right foot.