Strahan-less Giants get roughed up by Panthers offense

Updated: August 11, 2007, 11:58 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

New York Giants: With or without Michael Strahan, the Giants defense has a lot of work to do after being exposed by the Carolina Panthers.

Jake Delhomme and Steve Smith combined for an opening-drive touchdown pass and receiver Taye Biddle caught touchdown passes of 23 and 85 yards to lead the Panthers to a 24-21 victory on Saturday night in the matchup of teams looking to rebound from .500 records in 2006.

For the Giants, the preseason opener was a preview of what life may be like without Strahan, the seven-time Pro Bowl defensive end who is holding out of training camp while he decides whether to play a 15th NFL season.

The performance was ugly to be honest, even taking into consideration that New York is adjusting to new coordinator Steve Spagnuolo's aggressive system.

Elsewhere in the NFC:

St. Louis Rams: Coach Scott Linehan got what he wanted from the preseason opener against the Minnesota Vikings -- a victory and useful game film.

What caught his eye was the performance of his top three draft picks.

Brian Leonard rushed for a touchdown, Adam Carriker helped stop Minnesota up the middle, and the Rams beat the Vikings 13-10 Friday night in Minneapolis. Jonathan Wade contributed some tackles in the secondary.

"The top three were highlights for me personally," Linehan said Saturday. "Adam did a tremendous job in his game playing live. He really held his own. Brian brings a lot of versatility to the table. He can be a heck of a player for us. Jonathan Wade is the guy who really showed up. On the first play of the game on the kickoff team, he made a really sure tackle."

Carriker, the first-round draft pick and new nose tackle from Nebraska, helped anchor a strong interior effort against Vikings rookie running back Adrian Peterson, who carried 11 times for 33 yards.

Leonard, the second-round choice, scored the Rams' only touchdown.

Wade, the third-round selection from Tennessee, took a knee to the neck that shook him up. He did return to play. He will undergo an evaluation Sunday and, if cleared, will return to practice.

Dallas Cowboys: Isaiah Stanback's conversion from college quarterback to NFL receiver finally moved into gear with the rookie making his practice-field debut with the Cowboys.

Stanback is an intriguing enough athlete that the Cowboys used a fourth-round pick on him. They did so knowing he was coming off foot surgery, then had to wait longer when he developed shin splints.

Stanback was a receiver his first season in college, then took over at quarterback and befuddled defenses with his arm and feet. He ran track, too, and was even drafted by the Baltimore Orioles last summer even though he didn't play baseball in college.

He'll likely get a chance to return punts and to be part of some kick-coverage squads. He eventually may take some snaps at quarterback, too, either to be an emergency substitute or for some trickery.

"Whatever they tell me to do, I'll be out there doing it," Stanback said, smiling.

Meanwhile, Rookie LT Doug Free sprained a ligament in his right knee during the Indianapolis game Thursday night and will be out two to four weeks.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.