Holding the Line: Panthers Defense Passes First Preseason Test

CHARLOTTE, NC - AUGUST 13: A general view of the New York Giants versus Carolina Panthers during their preseason game at Bank of America Stadium on August 13, 2011 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

On the Giants first offensive series of the game, they probably left the field feeling pretty good about themselves.  Their defense had scored a touchdown, and had just held Carolina to a three-and-out after sacking Clausen on third down.  

Manning drew blood with a nice completion to Hakeem Nicks, Ahmad Bradshaw scampered around the right end for 16, and then the defense tested the middle.  That was a mistake, as Corvey Irvin met Bradshaw behind the line, resulting in a loss of a yard.  Two incomplete passes later, the Giants were punting.

In their next drive, they started out with Ahmad Bradshaw following the right guard for just two yards before he was brought down by Dan Connor and Omar Gaither.  The short run set the stage for a Giants three-and-out, as Manning followed the run with an incomplete pass and a "gimme" completion for five yards.

On their next series, New York decided to test the middle.  Bradshaw ran straight up the gut for two yards before Connor stuffed him.  Then the Giants got a little fancy, with a draw up the middle.  This time Corvey Irvin and James Anderson closed the door, allowing three yards and setting the Giants up for their second three-and-out.

The Giants got cute again at the very beginning of the second quarter, sending D. Ware up the middle in another draw, and this one was stuffed by Jordan Senn, allowing just two yards and producing the defense's third consecutive third-and-out.

By this time, you could guess what the Giants were thinking.  The Panthers weakest link on defense last season was at the Tackle position.  And this year our best FA signing was a DT who went down to injury in the abbreviated Training Camp.  So it's no surprise that they planned on attacking our middle.

The surprise was, it not only didn't work, it didn't even show signs that it might work with better execution.  Our tackle play was solid, despite starting a pair of third rounders, one a rookie and the other considered by many this past off-season to be a near-bust.

On the Giants' fourth possession Brandon Jacobs finally got their running game in gear with a 16 yard scamper--off the right end.  They followed that with a play that sent the 250lb running back into our interior line again, this time off the left guard.  And once again, the Giants came up empty as Jacobs was met at the line for no gain.

All in all, the Giants managed just one first down in their next four offensive series.  Once the Panthers took out their starters and things got a little more scrimmage-like, they were able to move the ball better, and actually had a few decent drives that didn't yield points.

But when it came as close to counting as a preseason game can, the interior line play was more than solid, it looked like a strength. 121088029_extra_large_medium

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That's all the more impressive when you consider that our starting ends weren't Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy, they were Eric Norwood and Everette Brown, who as much as we may love them aren't known for playing the run well.  And our Linebackers were Omar Gaither, Dan Connor, and James Anderson.  

Not only did Irvin and rookie Sione Fua get the job done, they looked good doing it.  They held the point of attack, ate up blockers, and allowed our linebackers and safeties to run free.  Neither had a great stat line, but their play was guaranteed to get accolades in the locker room.

In the preseason, fans routinely get suckered in by certain players who are trying to make the roster, and who end up looking a lot better than they are.  Who can forget J Leman last year, flying around the field with that long hair poking out of his helmet, making tackles left and right.  Or maybe this year's version, Thomas Williams? Williams could very well break the streak and make this team.

But these guys were getting it done in the first quarter, against a power running team with a Super Bowl winning QB under center.  No one's saying that we have some pro-bowlers in the interior.  But from early indications, DT may not be the weak link it once was as so far these guys are holding the line quite well.

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