Hot Topic and Player Notes

The Giants offense has already proven it will be explosive this season. That has been borne out through the first four games, with the team averaging an NFL-best 34 points and 353 yards per game.

Now it needs to prove it can also be a punishing offense, and assuming all the pieces of the puzzle remain uninjured, the wait is on for rookie running back Brandon Jacobs to emerge from his situational and occasional roles.

He is the 6-4, 265-pounder from Southern Illinois, a transfer from Auburn because he didn't see much future in playing behind Ronnie Brown and Cadillac Williams. Tight ends coach Mike Pope, somewhat wonderingly, said Jacobs "is bigger and faster than any of my tight ends and he has better hands and he can run with incredible power."

So Pope wants him as a tight end, right?


"No, I want to leave him there as a big, angry running back," he said with a smile. "He's going to be fun to watch."

His entrance into the regular offense is coming, faster every week.

"He needs work," running backs coach Gerald Ingram said, "but every day after every practice he is a little better. Oh, he's powerful, and he's fast (timed in 4.39), but this is the NFL and there was a lot of other stuff for him to pick up."

Stuff like blocking, pass protection and blitz pickups, for a few examples. Stuff like not running quite so high. But it's stuff that he has already shown signs of mastering.

There was a play against St. Louis last week that perhaps explains what Jacobs can be. It was second-and-1, a rare appearance on the field on second down. He took the handoff, hit the middle and blew up a tackle and linebacker. His impetus took him 5 yards, but he still wasn't down.

He kept driving, carrying three Rams on his back for 6 more yards. That was an impressive 11-yard crash test, just like those TV commercials in which cars are set in motion on a track to crash into a barrier.

But for this big, angry man, the barriers might go down first.


The best news the Giants have had in the first four games of the season is the undeniable progress and daily improvement of young quarterback Eli Manning. He is starting his first season - as a rookie last year he started the final seven games and came away with a 1-6 record, winning the final game of the season, and the fact that it came against the hated Dallas Cowboys made most Giants fans feel like they had just won the Super Bowl.

This season, Manning is almost a different player.

"He is confident and poised," coach Tom Coughlin said. "He has learned a lot, and while he still has a lot more to learn, he is so far ahead of the curve it's amazing."

Manning has completed 66 of 123 passes for 985 yards, nine touchdowns and only two interceptions. His passer rating was 97.8, second best in the NFC.

But perhaps most important is the fact that the players look for him to lead the way, and despite the fact that he is only 24, he is unquestionably the team's leader.

"He doesn't yell or scream," says quarterbacks coach Kevin Gilbride. "He corrects the players when they make a mistake. He knows what every player's role is, which is unbelievable."

Manning has made wide receiver Plaxico Burress his go-to guy, and the 6-5, 225-pounder has caught almost 40 percent of Manning's completions.

"We'll make that combination a pretty good headline," said Burress, who signed as a free agent from Pittsburgh during the off-season. "You know, 'Manning to Burress.' It's one of the reasons I signed here."


It isn't enough to blame the dismal defensive performance of the Giants on a lack of depth. Few teams in the full-parity NFL have much depth these days. It is, rather, a problem in the secondary, where coverage has been faulty and lax, and where the starters - especially the cornerbacks - simply might not be good enough.

Defensive coordinator Tim Lewis uses the old adage that pass coverage improves with pressure from the front seven, which while undeniably true is nevertheless an attempt to put a mask over the problem.

The problem has been the two corners, Will Peterson on the right and Will Allen on the left. Peterson may not be a problem for the rest of the season, however, since he appears to have suffered a stress fracture of the lower back (the transverse process) and is likely out for the season.

He would be replaced by second-round draft pick Corey Webster, unless Webster is picked to take over for Allen, and in that case Curtis Deloatch will be the new right corner.

Four opponents have converted 50 percent of third-down opportunities, which is far too many, and Lewis is aware of that.

"I am concerned with the entire defense," he says. "When we single out third down, it starts with first and second down. How do they get to third down? That is my only concern, that and trying to figure out ways to get them off the field after third down."

For decades, it seems, the Giants have been known for their defense. But this year they may be infamous because of that same unit.


--RT Kareem McKenzie and reserve LT Bob Whitfield were discussing ways of moving the ball when the running game just isn't working. "You can use the short pass to the sideline like a run," Whitfield said. "It's a safe pass, only your guy can catch it and it does what you want to do." McKenzie nodded his head, saying: "Yeah, what's wrong with second and 6, second and 5? It works for me."

--WR Jamaar Taylor was drafted last year in the sixth round, flashed signs of real ability and blazing speed, and has been more or less injured ever since then. "I just need a few good weeks of being 100 percent," said the Texas A&M product, who has gone through hamstring, knee, ankle and quadriceps problems. Taylor doesn't have a reception yet this season.

--TE coach Mike Pope said QB Eli Manning is absolutely the real deal. "The way he stood up out there in San Diego was incredible, with all that abuse. He didn't flinch. It didn't bother him at all. It was very impressive to see a young guy be able to do that and come right back the next week and play as well as he did. I think he is worthy of all the things we did to get him."

--WR Plaxico Burress, on the growing relationship between himself and Manning: "When we have some spare time after practice, before practice, we work on routes together," he said. "I want him to know before I make the cut what I'm going to do."

--QB Eli Manning feels he's never out of a game. "When we lose," he said, "it's because I couldn't make enough big plays to keep us in front. I'll get there, though."

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