Inside Slant, Notes, Quotes, Personnel

Plaxico Burress doesn't say much. He lets his performance speak for him. Oh, and his hands, his speed and his natural ability, too. He is the 6-5, 225-pound wide receiver signed as a free agent by the Giants from the Pittsburgh Steelers, the "poor man's" Terrell Owens and Randy Moss, except that by making more than $6 million a year, he can't be anybody's poor man.

So far this season, with the Giants a surprising 3-1 as they head into their bye weekend, Burress has caught 25 of Eli Manning's 66 completions, which is close to 40 percent.

His 396 yards represent slightly more than 40 percent of the Giants' receiving total, and his four touchdown grabs account for almost half of Manning's nine scoring strikes.

"Yeah, I would say that Plax has helped Eli turn that corner," Giants wide receivers coach Mike Sullivan said. "He has other targets, of course, but what we're happiest with is that they are all big guys. That's how we play today's game."

Sullivan, speaking to the media on the one day a season that coach Tom Coughlin allows such "fraternization," was quick to point out that every quarterback has a favorite receiver, but such favoritism is mostly spent on the open receiver.

"Plax has great moves and speed," he said. "That helps him get open and as a result he gets many of the passes."

Offensive coordinator John Hufnagel has another reason for the success between Manning and Burress.

"The defenses we have played so far," he says, "put a lot of defenders in the box, like seven or eight, to stop us from running, and then they go one-on-one with our receivers. That makes it easier to throw."

That figures to change soon, and if it does, then the running game, with Tiki Barber and big rookie Brandon Jacobs, will get more of an opportunity. Meanwhile, the Giants lead the NFL in scoring with 136 points, or 34 per game.

That makes Hufnagel smile.

"One game at a time," he said, grinning from ear to ear.


--The Giants are off this weekend, getting an "early" bye, and their schedule calls for them to be off Friday, Saturday and Sunday before showing up Monday and resuming a normal work week.

--Their next game back after the bye will take them to Dallas to face former coach Bill Parcells and the 2-2 Cowboys. Dallas plays Philadelphia this week and either way, that game will likely benefit the Giants.

Some players believe that they can take care of the powerful Eagles on their own and that getting rid of the Cowboys and Redskins (currently 3-0 and coming off their bye with a road trip to 3-1 Denver) would be the best solution to the NFC East race. Others argue that giving the Eagles another defeat (they are 3-1) would be best.

--Mike Sweatman, the Giants' special teams coach, tried to downplay his success with the team this season, just his second on the staff in a return after his first tenure with Parcells (1985-1992).

"Special teams and the special teams coach are only as good as the players," he said. "You need big-play guys, and if you have them you can almost expect to see them lift the level of the entire unit."

Sweatman has a few of them, like punt returner Chad Morton, kickoff returner Willie Ponder (last year's NFL champ), punter Jeff Feagles, kicker Jay Feely and a few younger players who give new meaning to the term "suicide squads" in their enthusiasm to impress the coach.

"Everybody plays special teams," he said. "During practices (which are closed to the media) we have everybody taking a role. It's important for the entire roster to understand what we're trying to do."

BY THE NUMBERS: 154 - Points scored in the first four games by the Giants in 1968, the only opening four-game span that produced more than the first four this year. That season the QB was Fran Tarkenton, who, like Eli Manning, wore number 10.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I told him the other day that he might be the little brother of the Manning family but here (with the Giants), he's our big brother, and we don't go anywhere good without him." - Giants QB coach Kevin Gilbride.


--TE Jeremy Shockey, who has caught 17 passes for 251 yards and two TDs, is more pleased with this year's offense. "I'm getting downfield more often," he said, "and I like that. I can help the offense by occupying at least one defender, and usually they send two of them to watch me."

--With the Giants in an unexpected division race at 3-1, their next game (against Dallas) becomes more important for positioning, but it's four of their final seven games that should tell the story. In that span, they play Philadelphia twice, Dallas and Washington.

--Rookie RB Brandon Jacobs, 6-4 and 265, hasn't had as many carries as might have been expected (12 for 60 yards). But he has converted three third-and-1 situations in five attempts and according to the coaching staff, is learning something new every day. "Sure, he runs a little high," said coordinator John Hufnagel. "It's tough for a guy that tall to run too low. But we do want to get him to lower his pads a little."

--WR Plaxico Burress, who leads the team with 25 receptions and 396 yards, not to mention his four TDs, has become Eli Manning's obvious go-to guy and to this point has caught nearly 40 percent of Manning's completions. "It's nice to know he counts on me," says the 6-5, 225-pound UFA from Pittsburgh. "We are getting to work on routes and patterns now when we have time after practice, too. I want him to be able to read my moves before I make them."

--WR Amani Toomer received praise from offensive coordinator John Hufnagel. "He had to work hard to move to the new position (slot receiver) after spending nine seasons as the split end," he said, "and he is still working hard at it." Toomer saw his streak of 98 straight games with at least one reception snapped in the opener but now has nine catches for 135 yards. "I thought he made the play of the game, the turning point," Hufnagel said of Toomer, "when he caught that fourth down fade pass in the end zone." It gave the Giants a 17-7 lead in the first quarter last Sunday.

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