NYG Team Report

As promised, Giants head coach Tom Coughlin "unveiled" his coaching staff to the media on the Tuesday of the bye week, and all his assistants were required to spend 15 minutes answering questions and talking to those reporters who are not allowed to speak with them at any other time during the season. <BR><BR>

That isn't enough, of course, but Coughlin isn't the only head coach who has put the muzzle on his assistants (see: Bill Belichick, Bill Parcells).

Offensive coordinator John Hufnagel (and the rest of them) proved to sound much like Coughlin, and his non-answer answers were eerily predictable.

Question: Are things working out as well as you expected (with the new offense)?"

Answer: "We're pleased with where we are right now with the realization that there is a long way to go and a lot of hard work and improvement that needs to be made."


Q: "Do you have a couple of examples of calls that maybe looking back on you would say that you wouldn't do again?"

A: "I would have to say that I've always second-guessed myself. Unfortunately, I'm not going to give you examples."


Well, you get the drift. The 4-1 Giants, who have already won as many games as they did all last season, have totally renovated their offense, both in personnel and concept. Hufnagel, the quarterbacks coach last year for New England, is an offensive coordinator for the first time since the former Penn State quarterback filled that role in 1990-96 for the Calgary Stampeders. He worked with Coughlin as his quarterbacks coach in Jacksonville in 2002.

"I think I'm getting comfortable with play-calling," he said, "but there is a lot of room for improvement there. I think as a team we recognize what our strong points are, and we're tying to stay within that scope."

Hufnagel has overseen the emergence of RB Tiki Barber to the NFL's rushing lead and the arrival of veteran QB Kurt Warner to a new team with a new offense and new personnel -- and so far, it all has worked out well.


--RB Tiki Barber is the NFL's leading rusher through Week 5 with 577 yards on 96 carries, or 21 more than Tennessee's Chris Brown. But his lead over the second-leading NFC rusher, Green Bay's Ahman Green, is more significant. Green has 422 yards, or 155 fewer than Barber.

--The last time the Giants won back-to-back road games against teams that appeared in the playoffs the previous season was Dec. 3 and Dec. 17, 2000, when they beat Washington and Dallas. They played in Super Bowl XXXV at the conclusion of that season.

--Tight ends coach Mike Pope, who is in his second tour of duty with the Giants (1983-1991; then he started over again in 2000), is working with his fourth head coach. He started out with Bill Parcells and then was retained by Ray Handley; in 2000, he was hired by Jim Fassel and now works for Tom Coughlin. Ironically, he and Coughlin were on the same staff under Parcells, Coughlin as the WR coach, Pope in his current role. He is generally given full credit for the rapid ascension of Jeremy Shockey as one of the NFL's premier tight ends right from his rookie season.

--After the break, the Giants embark on a four-game span that could serve to dramatically improve their 4-1 record. They are home against Detroit, then go to Minnesota, return home for Chicago and travel to Arizona. After that, it gets a little tougher -- Philadelphia, at Washington, at Baltimore, Pittsburgh -- before closing out the season at Cincinnati and at home against Dallas.

"We need to take advantage of what we can get," says DE Michael Strahan, "but like the coach says, every game is a season and we can't look past any of them."

--Coughlin gave the team an extra day off to create a long weekend, allowing them to stay home Friday, Saturday and Sunday before resuming work for the week leading up to the Lions' game. "It wasn't planned," he said, "but they have earned this little reward."

--From the point when Dallas scored on a 41-yard Billy Cundiff FG with 1:56 to go in the second quarter Sunday, the Cowboys had seven possessions in the second half and came up empty. In fact, they scored on only two of 11 possessions; the Giants scored on six of 11.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I'm not worried about that. In fact, I'll be on very serious guard about that. I think the one thing I do sense about our players is that they know they did not play a good first half (vs. Dallas). We have many areas where we need improvement." -- Giants head coach Tom Coughlin on whether he was concerned with a sense of overconfidence on the part of the players because of their 4-1 record.


There was a bit of a negative ripple during the game against Dallas that has continued to make its presence felt, and it once again involved the status of RB Ron Dayne. He had played relatively well during the preseason -- but not as an effective power inside runner despite his 240 pounds -- and now that he is being used as a power runner he isn't doing much of anything. Last week he came in twice, once to block and once to simply take part in a play, while RB Tiki Barber, the NFL's leading rusher, carried 23 times for 122 yards.

"Ron was available to go," coach Tom Coughlin said, "but we changed what we were going to do from a short-yardage standpoint, so that wasn't an issue in this game." Offensive coordinator John Hufnagel added: "We had more short-yardage plays planned, but things just didn't work out once Tiki started going and we decided to stick with him."


--WR Tim Carter will be placed on injured reserve (fractured hip socket) and will be lost for the season. It will be the third season in three that he won't finish the entire schedule.

--WR Jamaar Taylor, a sixth-round draft pick rookie who impressed during the training camp period with good hands and great speed, will probably be elevated to fill in for the injured Tim Carter.

--DT Fred Robbins left the Dallas game in the second quarter with a sprained shoulder, but head coach Tom Coughlin, giving credit to the bye week, expects him to be fully ready to play when the season resumes Oct. 24 at home against Detroit.

--RT David Diehl had a difficult day with Dallas LDE Greg Ellis, who had two sacks, two batted passes and seven solo tackles. "He is a very good, very quick end," Diehl said. "I could have played better, and whether we won or not, I still feel lousy because I didn't do my job very well." Diehl is a second-year player in his first year as a starting RT; he played the full 2003 season as a starter at RG.

--DE Osi Umenyiora recorded his first sack of the season vs. Dallas, adding a two tackles and a batted pass. "I'm comfortable now," he said, "and when we're winning it just seems to make everybody play a little better and a little faster."

--K Steve Christie, despite almost losing his job a week before when he missed all three FG chances in Green Bay, made all four vs. Dallas and is second in the NFC in scoring with 38 points, including nine of 14 FG tries. "I'm a (15-year) veteran and it was a slump," he said. "I've gone through that before. I'm just grateful that coach Coughlin had the patience to stick with me."

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