Inside Slant, Notes, Quotes, Matchups, Injuries

While the glare of the TV cameras and the persistence of the print media focuses its attention on Giants quarterback Eli Manning, who refused to play for San Diego and thus was traded minutes after the Chargers made him the first overall pick in the 2004 draft, there is another story unfolding in the days before the game in Qualcomm Stadium.

Left cornerback Will Allen, a starter since he was the Giants' first -round pick in 2001, has been playing poorly and was removed from the game last Monday night against New Orleans.

But his replacement, rookie Corey Webster, looked as though he was favoring a leg a few plays later, so coach Tom Coughlin took him out and put Allen back. As things turned out, Webster wasn't really hurt. This year's second-round pick could have stayed in and that might have made this week somewhat simpler.

"Was I surprised?" Allen said. "Of course I was surprised. Of course it was surprising. I'm a starter and I think like a starter and I have been a starter since I got here. But am I losing my job? It's news to me. I'm a player and I can only do what I can do on the field. I can't control the other stuff."

It was late in the third quarter against the Saints when Allen jumped in front of wide receiver Donte Stallworth and went for a pass thrown by Aaron Brooks. The ball zipped right through his hands and turned into a 15-yard gain on a second-and-11 play.

"I missed the pick, which was very disappointing to me," Allen said. "Of course I was disgusted. I'm a player and I'm supposed to make plays. You know, man, maybe that influenced the coach. I don't know. If I made it [the interception] he probably wouldn't have taken me out."

Someone asked Coughlin who his starting left cornerback was, and he replied: "Will Allen."

Then someone else asked if what he thought was a leg injury to Webster didn't turn out to be a false alarm, would he have kept Allen on the bench?

"That isn't how it happened," he said.

So for now Allen is still the starter, but now might be a very short time.

SERIES HISTORY

This is only the ninth game between the Giants and Chargers, with the Giants holding a 5-3 lead. They have won three out of the last four, including a 34-16 decision in 1998 in San Diego. NOTES, QUOTES

--The Giants' third-and-short (3 yards or less) performance is running slightly over 80 percent success. Last year it was 48 percent. "We are featuring our running game," coach Tom Coughlin said, "but the offensive line is the reason we are moving the ball."

--RB Tiki Barber has joined ESPN analyst Merril Hoge in the "Winning Game Plan" campaign to raise awareness for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL). For every yard Barber gains this season, Genentech and Biogen Idec will donate money to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

--Rookie RB Brandon Jacobs is starting to enjoy the recognition he has received almost since the first day of training camp. "I run out onto the field and I hear the fans yelling my name," he said the other day, wearing his Southern Illinois Salukis T-shirt. "It sure is something different."

--FS Brent Alexander, in his 12th season, had an interception in the end zone Monday night against the Saints and says it is that kind of thrill that keeps him interested in playing. "I don't think there is a way to describe what it feels like to pick off a pass, especially in the end zone and especially on Monday night," he said.

--Going into the game in San Diego, the Giants were second in the NFL in defense against the rush but 29th in total defense. They were also 26th in total offense (13th in rushing). And they were 2-0.

--DE Michael Strahan was making a case for outside chiropractors. He had severe back spasms two days prior to the New Orleans game and didn't think he'd be able to play. "The morning of the game I went to see my chiropractor and went for some serious stretching," he said. "But even then, to be honest with you, I didn't think I'd be able to play as much as I did."

--Free-agent rookie LB Chase Blackburn recovered the fumble of the opening kickoff against the Saints but refused to take any credit. "To me, it was just a great effort from the whole team," he said. "We had the guy pinned down deep and they tried a reverse - thinking that we were rookies." Blackburn is not only a rookie but for four years was the roommate of Cleveland rookie QB Charlie Frye at Akron.

BY THE NUMBERS: 3 - former Giants on the Chargers' roster, and two of them are coaches (head coach Marty Schottenheimer, special teams coach Steve Crosby) who also played for the Giants. The player is starting LT Roman Oben, who was drafted by the Giants in 1996.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I have played in loud stadiums before but this is the first time it will be loud because they have a reason to hate me." - Giants QB Eli Manning on his expectations of the San Diego fans. Manning refused to play for the Chargers, who made him the first overall pick in the 2004 draft.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

There won't be a roster change prior to the game, unless it is forced by injury, but don't be surprised if at some time during the game coach Tom Coughlin and/or defensive coordinator Tim Lewis orchestrates the removal of LCB Will Allen and replaces him with rookie Corey Webster.

Allen plays a "soft" corner, dropping off the receiver in order to read his moves and react. It has cost the Giants several first downs over the last few seasons. In addition, he has "bad hands" and has dropped the equivalent of 10 to 12 interceptions since 2002.

--Rookie RB Brandon Jacobs will get more and more work as the season progresses, but Coughlin is as impressed with his special teams performance as he is when Brandon is in the backfield. The 6-4, 260-pounder has returned two kickoffs for 58 yards and cleared out three returns by Willie Ponder that resulted in, among other things, a 95-yard TD jaunt. He also has nine carries for 44 yards and two TDs.

--After two games, there was only one penalty flag thrown at LT Luke Petitgout, indicating improvement in his concentration and perhaps the help provided by veteran tackle Bob Whitfield, signed as a backup after 13 NFL seasons. "False starts are my fault," Petitgout says. "I need to concentrate harder on the count."

--WR Amani Toomer was flagged for lining up in a way that created an illegal formation Monday night, costing the team a TD pass from Eli Manning to WR Plaxico Burress. "If the officials said I lined up wrong, then I did," he said. "I never question or argue with them." An unofficial review of the game tape, however, did not uphold the call made by back judge Scott Helverson.

GAME PLAN: Coach Tom Coughlin admitted that last week's goal was to shut down the Saints' running game, and it worked well as RB Deuce McAllister was limited to 47 yards in 15 carries. This week is no different.

"We have to stop their running game, and LaDainian Tomlinson is one of the best in the league," he said. "He is outstanding. He is a lot like McAllister in that they are both great backs but he isn't similar in how he does it."

Offensively, the Giants must deal with a 3-4 defense sparked by a strong front trio of Jacques Cesaire, Jamal Williams and Igor Olshansky. They will need the O-line to be at its best and might even put rookie RB Brandon Jacobs in the game more frequently to take advantage of not only his speed but also his 260 pounds.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH

Giants C Shaun O'Hara, RG David Diehl and LG Chris Snee will have to control Chargers NT Jamal Williams (6-3, 348) and ILBs Donnie Edwards and Randall Godfrey, both 10-year veterans. The job might be easier with Jacobs taking a few cracks at the line and, in effect, lending his 260 pounds.

Giants SS Gibril Wilson and MLB Antonio Pierce will have to keep a watchful eye on Chargers TE Antonio Gates, perhaps the best in the game (or even with KC's Tony Gonzalez). Gates had six catches for 80 yards last week.

Chargers LT Roman Oben vs. Giants DRE Osi Umenyiora is a battle that will be worth watching. Oben is a savvy veteran with bulk and strength; Umenyiora is as quick a DE as will be found in the NFL and at 6-3 and 280 has enough bulk to use it effectively.

INJURY IMPACT: The Giants are relatively healthy.

K Jay Feely suffered a sprained back during a tackle last week but came back and has been unaffected during this practice week.

DE Michael Strahan (back spasms) has recovered. WLB Barrett Green (knee, ankle) has been inactive since the season started.


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