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August 09, 2003
Three Vignettes To Peak Your Interest
BY: Bob George/BosSports.net

FOXBOROUGH -- First preseason game. We know. We know.

The Giants will look a whole heckuva lot different on Columbus Day. If you weren't sick of Jeremy Shockey last night thanks to ESPN's puzzling affection for the second year tight end, you will be in October. Michael Strahan will cease to be a pampered superstar and will morph into a major problem for the offensive line. Tiki Barber may again fumble, but odds are he'll do better than ten yards on eight carries.

The goals of the first preseason game are to evaluate and to avoid all owies. Run the first string for about a quarter, then get them the heck out of there and start looking closely at who gets it and who doesn't. When they weren't shilling for Shockey (how poetic), ESPN did make a good point regarding the end game of a preseason blowout. Make an impression on your coaches right now. If you look like you've quit, turn in your playbook at game's end.

Any evaluation of the Patriots at this point which yields anything useful generally will deal with "who will stay and who won't", and not so much "regular season preview". This is magnified when your preseason opponent is a future regular season foe who doesn't want to show you anything exotic which you can gameplan for. It is not a good barometer for judging who will make the big plays in December and beyond.

So much for the premise of this article. Nice job, Bob.

Nevertheless, three "vignettes" from Thursday's 26-6 victory over the Giants do warrant a little bit closer examination, as they could, repeat, could be a tiny harbinger of things to come this season. More competitive gameplans will make for tougher matchups down the road, but in the first look-see Thursday night, these three games-within-the-game raised a little bit of curiosity and gave Patriot Nation something to think about until the next preseason tilt at Washington next Saturday rolls around.

Richard Seymour versus Luke Pettitgout

Seymour is undergoing a most intriguing makeover at present. He is coming off an All-Pro campaign as a defensive tackle, and is being converted to a 3-4 pass rushing end. The assumption here is that his speed will be better utilized at a pass rushing position rather than in a tie-up-blockers position.

On Thursday night, he matched up with the starting left tackle of the Giants. Pettitgout, while no Anthony Munoz, is a good quality left tackle and a good measuring stick for Seymour to begin the 2003 season. For all intents and purposes, judging Seymour at this stage of the season against Pettitgout has value and purpose, all things considered.

Seymour won this matchup clearly and convincingly. He spent literally the entire first quarter in the Giants offensive backfield, hurrying Kerry Collins and creating confusion and havoc. Two plays stood out which symbolize Seymour's evening pretty clearly.

On the third play of New York's second drive of the game, Collins faced a third and seven at his own 30. Seymour came pouring in from the right side and forced a quick throw by Collins. The play did go for a 19-yard completion to Amani Toomer, but the throw was low and nearly trapped. Despite Collins being in the shotgun, Seymour got in very quickly and laid a big hit on Collins just after he released the ball.

On the second play of the second quarter, Seymour sacked Collins for a seven-yard loss. On this play, Pettitgout received double team help from left guard Rich Seubert. In a scene reminiscent of his Super Bowl sack against Adam Timmerman, Seymour tossed both blockers aside as if they were rag dolls on his way to Collins. This play, when you add the Super Bowl sack to it, reveals the immense talent of Seymour. This play cinches the great logic and intelligence in moving Seymour to this new position.

Mike Vrabel versus Ian Allen

To be fair, Allen played a lousy game and made anyone lined up against him look good. But in much the same way as Seymour did, minus the gaudy plays, Vrabel was also able to get penetration on the left side to make life more miserable for Collins. For virtually the entire first quarter, Vrabel was in a pass rush mode and managed to get into the backfield pretty well, despite not recording a sack.

Vrabel did make one tackle, and it was a great one. On one of his journeys into the Giant backfield, he met Barber just after a handoff and corralled him for a four-yard loss. Lawyer Milloy was also credited on the play, but Vrabel got to him first and made the stop. We mention this because of the penetration into the backfield that was made in the first place, and that Vrabel was having good success all quarter long.

As the year moves along, Vrabel won't really be called upon to do this sort of thing. If anyone is going to provide pass rush from that side, it will likely be either Willie McGinest or perhaps Tedy Bruschi (spelling one of the inside backers), unless Rosevelt Colvin plays on the side opposite Seymour somewhere down the road. It's just not that common to see Vrabel having such success in rushing the quarterback, and it was worth noting.

Dan Klecko versus Whoever Lined Up Opposite The Guy

Klecko emerged as the star of Thursday's game, though it is doubtful he will see this kind of adulation once things get real. But then again, you never know.

We once again bring up the fact that this is the first preseason game, and Klecko made all his hay against NFL wannabes. Klecko did not have to face Pettitgout or any other first unit offensive lineman. His main prey was a turnstile named Char-ron Dorsey.

This is not to cheapen what he did, just to offer up some perspective.

That said, you couldn't help but feel great for the kid. With dad Joe watching from the stands (and later the sideline, all the while declaring his neutrality when the Jets come to town on Week 3), Klecko showed everyone that he has a great deal of promise, versatility and spunk (Lou Grant hates spunk, Patriot Nation does not). Klecko made 2 sacks, several hurries, and helped Matt Chatham register a sack on Jesse Palmer in the second half.

There isn't much to say about "one or two definitive plays", because there was nothing fancy about what he did. What Klecko did show is that he is quick enough to play outside linebacker and strong enough to play down low. He forced Palmer out of the pocket with a burst up the middle late in the first half, then blasted Palmer for a 13-yard sack early in the third quarter with a burst from right end. Late in the same quarter, Chatham returned the favor by hurrying Palmer and allowing Klecko to move in and nail him for a six-yard loss.

Klecko's biggest challenges lie ahead, when offensive gameplans get tougher, opponents get tougher, and he's no longer a mystery nor a curiosity. Klecko is your classical "tweener", but he's a tweener with a great deal of upside. Included in that upside is incredible strength, speed, spirit, and pretty good family lineage to boot.

How really important or significant these vignettes are won't be known until the regular season begins. Just to see this sort of thing right off the bat is nice to look at, and it gives Patriot Nation great hope for 2003 that all what ailed the team in 2002 has been remedied.

Gotta put in all the disclaimers. But it was a fun game to watch nonetheless.


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