There's no question that the Giants were taking aim at right corner Lito Sheppard early and often in Saturday night's preseason matchup.
There's also no question that the cornerback and his coach are unconcerned about what it portends for the future as the Jets head toward their fourth and final preseason game, against Sheppard's former team the Eagles, on Thursday night.
"They were going at him, no question," Rex Ryan said at today's news conference. "For Lito, I think it was more of the fact that they were going away from [Darrelle] Revis. All he is is, what, a two-time Pro Bowl corner?
"Again, I'm glad he's on our team."
"I don't know if it was just personal with me being with the Eagles for so long," Sheppard said of the Giants, who are the Birds' NFC East foes. "I got a couple of messages from the players, 'Welcome to New York' type of stuff. But I'm looking forward to the challenge every week. It's not a thing that I'm afraid they're going to throw the ball over at me. When I line up, I expect every pass to come over there."
No one was dismissing the issues. Sheppard was flagged twice for interference, for 7 and 33 yards, and was in coverage for the deep Eli Manning ball that Steve Smith dropped, the 90-yard touchdown that wasn't. Sheppard conceded that play today, but nothing else.
"We got a gift on that one deep one he dropped, which was a little confusing," Lito said. "But other than that, you count, what, 25 yards on nine throws over there? That equals a loss to me. They can throw the ball over there. I expect it. I'm prepared for it. Until we make them do otherwise, we're going to see if they can beat us like that. But obviously it didn't work last week."
"He got hit on a couple of fouls," Ryan said. "I think one of them was a little tick-tacky, to be honest with you. He made the call, that's fine, you've got to live with it. You've got to go back and play. And he kept competing. Some guys just go straight in the tank, they don't get their confidence back. You've heard this a million times: A corner has to have a short memory."
Short memory doesn't equate to lack of concern. Sheppard talked about breakdowns on a few deep balls that will have to be ironed out in the next two weeks. And he's a proud performer, tried and true. He will bounce back.
"If they throw 80 balls over there, then I get 80 balls coming my way," he said. "It's going to be a fun season, that's all."
We suspect Sheppard meant fun for him as well.
As often happens, the guy in the neighborhood on pass defense often gets the blame when a play goes wrong. But Ryan said the 71-yard completion from David Carr to Hakeem Nicks on which Eric Smith was called for illegal contact was not Smith's fault.
"That was not Eric's guy," he said. "I think in desperation Eric realized nobody was on top where they were supposed to be. That's why he reached out and tried to grab the guy. That was not Eric's coverage. Our communication needs to be tightened up."
Ryan said his first teams, offense and defense, will get one series against the Eagles. A couple of players, such as OLB Vernon Gholston, the starter for Calvin Pace the first four weeks, will play longer. The coach said he's not worried about chemistry issues on defense concerning, say, the late starts by Kris Jenkins and Darrelle Revis because they worked with the ones all off-season and into the start of camp.
"It's more of a timing issue up front with Kris," Rex said, "just getting your timing for how you're coming off blocks and rushing the passer."
That led the coach into a riff on the beauty of Big Jenk.
"He's a load. He's impressive now," Ryan said. "Sometimes you almost forget what you don't have until he's in there, then it's like 'Wow!' You realize how special it is to have a guy like that in the middle of your defense. I've never seen the guy who can handle him 1-on-1."
On Gholston: "He's improving. He's still not where I think he's capable of playing at. I think we're going to just see that steady climb in the way he plays. I see him as he's got a lot of potential. I think he can get better — I know he can get better. But he's improving."
On Chansi Stuckey's TD catch-and-run: "If that would've been me or an average man, he breaks his ankle trying to stay inbounds. The move he makes is ridiculous. ... I can't believe he did it. The moves he had to make to get in there, that was special."
On David Clowney's no-catch game: "I said to him, 'What happened to the Clown?' He said, 'Coach, I was blocking out there.' And he was. Sometimes the ball comes to you, sometimes it doesn't. He's got a great attitude. I enjoy the way he blocks out there. He's competing."
Ryan said DE Mike DeVito, on the stationary bike for the start of today's practice, has a leg injury, "I think he's going to be fine" but "I don't anticipate him playing" vs. Philadelphia. About RB Shonn Greene: "We're calling him McRib. He looks good."