Robertson continues to struggle

Defensive tackle Dewayne Robertson was manhandled Friday night by a Giants offensive line that ESPN analyst Joe Theisman called the worst in the NFL last week.

The Jets' first-team defense seemed to struggle when he was in the game, as he was easily pushed aside to make room for running backs Ron Dayne and Tiki Barber on their several big gains.

Head coach Herman Edwards continues to cover for the 2003 first-round pick, but the fact is, Robertson has hardly shown his face in opponents' backfields this preseason. At the moment, Josh Evans and James Reed, numbers three and four in the defensive tackle rotation, seem to be better players . . .

One important improvement in the Jet defense Friday was the absence of missed tackles--a problem that has plagued them the last few years. The secondary looked particularly strong in that regard, with cornerback David Barrett and safety Jon McGraw both making plays against the run . . .

While Barrett does not have great speed or height, he looks like a solid corner who will not hurt the Jets as long as his teammates hold up their end of the bargain--something they did not do his past few years in Arizona, where he played with no pass rush.

Barrett also helped with the first turnover of the game, as he put the initial hit on wide receiver Tim Carter and then recovered Carter's fumble . . .

On the other side, Donnie Abraham picked off Eli Manning's first pass, probably ending the rookie's hopes of being the Giants' Week One starter. It was Abraham's second straight week intercepting a quarterback named Manning.

Abraham also had an impressive breakup of a Kurt Warner pass to Ike Hilliard on the sideline . . .

For the second week in a row, the Jets forced a turnover and proceeded to lateral the ball a few times in an attempt to keep the play alive. This week it was Abraham on his interception.

It's a great play if it works, but the risk greatly outweighs the reward.

The smart play is to hold on to the ball and let the offense do the work. The usual result is a few extra yards, and it too often gives the ball back to the other team.

"(They are) trying to score a touchdown. It's OK with me," Edwards said. "I don't want to take their aggressiveness away." . . .

Rookie strong safety Erik Coleman started again for Reggie Tongue who is still working his way back into the mix after missing the first two weeks of training camp with a calf injury. Coleman blitzed effectively a couple of times, once forcing a Kurt Warner fumble.

Tongue does not seem to be as quick as the younger Coleman, but he made two big plays in pass coverage after entering in the second half, including an interception of Eli Manning . . .

Jon McGraw is a hard-nosed player and a good tackler, but the Jets have to be worried about his susceptibility to injury. He had to leave the game after his groin tightened up. It is not believed to be serious, but it is the second time he has been hurt since the beginning of camp after missing much of last season.

His replacement last night, second-year player Derek Pagel, has come on strong after a shaky start to camp and had a few nice plays in coverage Friday.

"This summer was all installation," Pagel said of the adjustment to defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson's new scheme. "I'm getting comfortable to the point where, I get the call and I know where to line up. Already knowing my job, (I can focus on) what the offense is trying to do."

A few weeks ago it seemed that Pagel was losing the battle to rookie Rashad Washington for the final safety spot, but his performance last night probably guaranteed that he will make the roster . . .

The team also significantly cut down on its penalties, committing only five after being flagged for nine last week. Most notably, they were not flagged for a single pass interference penalty--a call that has popped up a lot this preseason as a result of the league's offseason decision to harshly enforce holding in the secondary. Giants cornerback Will Peterson alone was flagged for some sort of pass interference three times in the game . . .

On the offensive side, Curtis Martin got plenty of touches, running the ball 12 times for 50 yards and catching two passes. Martin looks and feels healthy, and, at 31, he does not appear to be ready to take the halfback's typical, post-30 dive in production.

But who will be there if he gets hurt?

For the third straight game, Johnathan Reese was the first running back off the bench, gaining two first downs on four consecutive carries.

Lamont Jordan only was given one carry behind the first-team offensive line and was given no room to run on his 10 carries behind the second team. He finished with 29 yards on 11 carries and one fumble, as he continually was forced to try to make something out of nothing. In teaching the malcontent a lesson, the Jets better hope that they have not shaken Jordan's confidence . . .

Chad Pennington was an uncharacteristic 6-for-16 passing as he had little time to make his reads, with the Giants gaining a lot of penetration against the Jets' offensive line . . .

Rookie Linebacker Jonathan Vilma did not start for the first time this preseason . . .

Abraham bruised his knee when he got hit after his interception. He did not return, but it is not believed to be serious.

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