All during the pre-training camp spring, and then all during the training
camp period, and all during the preseason schedule, Giants' head coach Jim Fassel grew increasingly more comfortable with the play of Ian Allen at right
Then he had one bad game in the season opener against St. Louis (which the Giants won, anyway) and suddenly Allen is Missing In Action.
What happened? Did he fall off a cliff? Get hit by a bus?
"He stopped showing progress," Fassel said of his 6-4, 310-pound work in progress. "But I am not ready to write him off. I can only hope he continues to show progress and keeps improving. I need to dress eight offensive linemen each game. Last season we got away with seven, and that's dangerous."
Well, because Fassel obviously no longer trusts Allen, he has revamped the line and in the process moved a reasonably good young center, Chris Bober, to right tackle. That set in motion the domino effect of moving rookie (seventh round pick) Wayne Lucier to center.
Isn't that putting two new players at critical positions, in effect? "I guess so," Fassel said, "but there is some logic to it."
And what, pray tell, is that? "Well, Lucier is better at center than Allen is at tackle," he explained. But is Lucier better at center than Bober? No, not even close. So Fassel is weakening the center position in order to moderately strengthen the right tackle spot? Evidently.
Besides, when the offensive line started to come apart last Monday night against Dallas, mostly in the first half, Fassel admitted to changing the offense, to leaving the plan he had and using only what would work and keep quarterback Kerry Collins reasonably safe and protected.
It was, it should be noted, the same line that will play Sunday in Washington if left tackle Luke Petitgout is still unavailable. He didn't play Monday night because of back spasms, which put a free agent undrafted rookie, Jeff Roehl, in the left tackle hole. SO there was Roehl, Lucier and right guard David Diehl, all rookies and all starting. Oh, and Bober was out of position.
All because the coach has lost faith in Allen which, reflectively, might be self-destructive, or at least counter productive, don't you think?
The Redskins, surprisingly 2-0 and perhaps even more surprisingly leading the NFC East, will obviously focus on the "new" offensive line the Giants put on the field and try to find things that the kids haven't seen yet. Considering their tender ages, that will probably encompass a lot of things. Former Giants' linebacker Jessie Armstead and his two counterparts, LaVar Arrington and Jeremiah Trotter, should have a pigskin picnic.
--DT Keith Hamilton had his court appearance postponed again, from Sept. 2 to Sept. 29. He is charged with possession of marijuana, cocaine and assorted paraphernalia stemming from an incident on a New Jersey highway May 22. Since this is probably his final season, the Giants seem to be hoping the court will continue to be cooperative and allow him to show up once he is a civilian and no longer a professional football player.
Hamilton, by the way, suffered a pulled hamstring Monday night and is listed as questionable for Sunday's game in FedEx Field in Landover, Md. He is the longest serving Giant in terms of consecutive years, having been a fourth round draft pick back in 1992, followed by DE Michael Strahan (second, 1993) and WR Amani Toomer (second, 1994).
--For DT Cornelius Griffin, it will be a trip back home, at least on the field. He'll go against RG Randy Thomas, but along the way he'll come up against LT Chris Samuels, against whom he practiced almost daily when both were at the University of Alabama. Maybe the sight of an old friend will snap Corny out of his doldrums; in his fourth season, his best year remains his rookie year (when he was a second round pick in 2000.
--TE Jeremy Shockey, whose instant fame has enabled him to have a special day of the week when he speaks to the media, blew it off this week. His day is Wednesday, but in view of his two dropped passes last Monday night vs. Dallas, one of which was a sure touchdown, he probably didn't want to field the questions. "You'll get me Sunday after the game," he said, waving his hand as he headed first off the practice field and then into the trainer's (off limits) room once he reached the lockers and the horde of frantic pens and tape recorders continued to pursue him.
-- OLT Luke Petitgout is listed as probable, and the fact that he was working out with the team in practice Wednesday indicates he will be able to play Sunday against the Redskins. He missed the Monday night game with back spasms and according to head coach Jim Fassel, "he is the anchor of our offensive line and we aren't nearly as good without him."
-- WR Ike Hilliard, who played for Redskins' head coach Steve Spurrier at the University of Florida, smiled when told that Washington's young quarterback, Patrick Ramsey, said he is having trouble remembering everything Spurrier tells him. "Quarterbacks are his boys," Hilliard said. "He would be in the offensive meetings with all of us, but then he'd take the quarterbacks and they go to another room."
-- DT Keith Hamilton (pulled hamstring) is listed as questionable but says he will be able to play. In his absence, the starter is Lance Legree.
-- Popular DE Frank Ferrara, who was released on final cutdown day, signed with the Philadelphia Eagles, prompting one Giant to say: "He may not start but he sure going to keep them laughing in the locker room."
-- Return specialist Brian Mitchell has assumed the role of third down power back, relegating costly UFA Dorsey Levens to either sit on the bench or not suit up on game day. "I told Brian he might have that role," Fassel said, "but I had to see what kind of shape and condition he was in. I need him for the other stuff [kickoff and punt returns] and this is just a bonus."
-- LB Nick Greisen (hamstring) has recovered and will be available Sunday. He is the heir apparent to veteran Mike Barrow (who had 19 tackles Monday night).
-- The offense will get a boost with the return of FB Jimmy Finn (quad), who was held out of Monday night's game but is listed as probable and will play vs. Washington.