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Player Spotlight: Ron Dayne (for Tom)


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Player Spotlight: Ron Dayne

by Ted Carlson - Senior Editor, Fanball.com

Monday, August 23, 2004

When I was handed the assignment to write about Ron Dayne, I took a tentative few pecks at my keyboard, acted indecisive in choosing a narrative direction, fumbled my mouse, and proceeded to drop off my chair. The play went down as a loss for words.

I figured that was the only proper way to honor the former Heisman Trophy winner and first-round flop. Dayne, whom one Fanball editor once (and still) revels in calling "Ron Done," did not suit up for a single game in 2003. The stat line of zeroes indicated rock bottom in a four-year, career-long slide. The Giant runner went from 228 carries in 2000 to 180 carries in 2001 to 125 carries in 2002 to…zero.

However, the end of the Jim Fassel era signaled a new day for Dayne. Tom Coughlin opened the door for Ron to win back some playing time, and Dayne responded by dropping the rough equivalent of an Olympic woman's gymnast off his waistline. The slimmed down runner looked a bit rusty in minicamps and early training camp, but Coughlin held off on signing Stacey Mack in order to give Ron a shot at the goal line and short-yardage work.

When asked on August 3 if he expects Dayne to hold those roles, Coughlin told the team's official web site, "He better be. He better be. He's got size, he's got speed, and he's built relatively close to the ground. I really need to see the power part, and that'll come."

Dayne then stole the few New York headlines not reserved for Eli Manning by rushing 11 times for 118 yards and two touchdowns in the preseason opener. The outing included scoring scampers of 29 and 67 yards. Yes, Ron Done ran 67 yards with NFL-quality players attempting to stop him. He followed up that barely believable day with a 12-carry, 63-yard effort last Thursday. Dayne also tallied his third touchdown of the preseason with a one-yard plunge.

So is it a done deal? Thunder and Lightning is back? As with Mack back in Coughlin's Jaguar days, Dayne is good for about nine scores, right?

Not so fast.

Box score skimmers may have missed some of the fine print.

Returning to the first game, we find a sequence of runs at the beginning of the third quarter that drew Coughlin's ire:

Second-and-three: Dayne rushes for one yard. Third-and-two: Dayne rushes for one yard. Fourth-and-one: Dayne rushes for zero yards.

Dayne didn't exactly put a stamp on the short-yardage job with those efforts, and the running back was quick to point out after the game that he was ashamed of himself for not converting the first down.

Coughlin said of his running back, "I'm a little disappointed, to be honest with you, because I said on third and fourth down we're going for it and he didn't make it."

Moving forward to the second game, we find another couple notable events. First, Dayne picked up zero yards on a third-and-one run that ended the team's opening drive. Granted, the Panthers' front four is significantly better than the Giants' offensive line, but we imagine that Coughlin was not too pleased.

What really angered the coach, though, was what Dayne did just prior to his touchdown. Dayne initially appeared to score on a three-yard run, but because he fumbled at the end of the jaunt, the Panthers challenged the call. The referees found that the running back came down at the one-yard line before scoring or fumbling. On the next play, Dayne fumbled again and the Panthers recovered. However, the play was overturned because the Panthers lined up in the neutral zone.

Thus, Dayne fumbled on two straight plays near the goal line, although neither muff made it into the official box score. Both plays registered in Coughlin's mind, though.

"I know he said he was trying to get the ball over the goal line," Coughlin told the New York Post. "The next play there was no excuse for at all. That kind of added to the [disappointment of the] evening, to be honest with you."

Coughlin appears to be honest with us (he said so twice) and seems to be less than enamored with some of Dayne's work in the first two games. While there is certainly much to be encouraged about (181 yards, three scores), Dayne hasn't necessarily hammered down a role in the offense alongside Tiki Barber. The Giants will continue to use Dayne in short-yardage situations, but his leash is very short.

In Coughlin's own words, "I'm not going to look in another direction just yet. I was real disappointed in the goal line sequence. First of all, don't put the ball on the ground, ever…You're not allowed three shots very often. That was a very rare occasion. I'm not happy with that. I don't see any other way out except to continue working to improve that."

Fantasy owners likely moved Dayne up their rankings recently and he's earned a late-round look in touchdown-only or touchdown-heavy leagues, but we caution fantasy owners about being too charmed Ron's svelte figure and robust preseason stats.

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