Because the New York Giants did something none of the football experts thought could ever happen, all National Football League teams have changed some of their philosophy for this weekend’s upcoming draft.

When the Giants upset the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII a couple of months ago by sacking quarterback Tom Brady five times, flattening him or pressuring him on at least a dozen other plays and holding a Patriots team that had scored 589 points during the regular season to 14 measly points, it opened the eyes of every other NFL teams’ scouting department.

The Giants proved that a great pass rush can stymie a potent offense so that many NFL teams will be looking for pass rushers when the 2008 draft begins Saturday morning, because NFL teams are notorious copycats.

The move toward effective pass rushers has already begun because of the 11 players given franchise tags by their respective teams before free agency began Feb. 28, four are adept at sacking the quarterback. And several other sack specialists received big money to sign with new teams.

So don’t be surprised that instead of quarterbacks or running backs being the focus of the early draft, blue chip pass rushers like Virginia defensive end Chris Long might be what the Miami Dolphins turn to as the No. 1 draft pick for 2008.

And according to this week’s Sporting News’ NFL Draft Preview, other pass rushers who would have been selected in the second or third rounds may be surprised when their name is called as a first-rounder.

Ohio State defensive end Vernon Gholston, Florida’s Derrick Harvey, Clemson’s Phillip Merling and Auburn’s Quentin Groves, tackles Glen Dorsey (LSU), Sedrick Ellis and Keith Rivers (both USC) should all go in the opening round of the draft because or their respective pass rushing talent.

The magazine also points out that although they aren’t potential first round choices because they are smaller, undersized players by NFL standards, McNeese State ’s Bryan Smith, Michigan ’s Shawn Crable and Purdue’s Cliff Avril could play outside linebacker because of their ability to generate pressure on the quarterback.

Smith played his high school football for Head Coach Curtis Barbay at Newton where he garnered a plethora of awards for his aggressive style of play which continued for the McNeese Cowboys during the last four years as a defensive end.

Ever since the Super Bowl, the scouting departments of most NFL teams have been burning the midnight oil looking a films of pass rushers who will fit into their defensive systems.

Teams that play 4-3 defenses primarily rely on the ends to apply pressure to the quarterback. If they also have a tackle that can collapse the pocket, that’s a bonus. Usually the best pass rushers on 3-4 defenses are the outside linebackers.
Last season when the NY Giants pressured the quarterback, it was done primarily with their front four. Of the Giants league-leading 53 sacks 39 1/2 were registered by linemen, including a combined 22 by Osi Umenyiora and Michael Strahan and 10 by Justin Tuck. The defensive line’s ability to pressure the quarterback masked some deficiencies in the secondary.

Our Dallas Cowboys will get two first-round draft choices—No. 22 obtained from Cleveland and No. 28—and the rumor is they will use one of those to trade for a wide receiver. Their three top choices would be to Arizona for Anquan Boldin, Cincinnati for Chad Johnson or Detroit for Roy Williams.

Owner Jerry Jones has said the Cowboys want to add a running back, a wide receiver and a cornerback high in the draft.

The Houston Texans will pick No. 18 in the first round and supposedly are targeting a cornerback in the first round. They gave up their second-round pick when they traded for quarterback Matt Schaub.

The New Orleans Saints will pick No. 20 in the first round and would love to have a crack at LSU defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey and could even trade for a veteran impact player like Eagles cornerback Lito Sheppard.

The first quarterback likely to get picked should be either Matt Ryan of Boston College , Louisville ’s Brian Brohm or Delaware ’s Joe Flacco. Arkansas ’ Darren McFadden is expected to be the first running back chosen and LSU’s Early Doucet the first wide receiver. Texas A&M’s Martellus Bennett could be the top tight end.

Defensively, Virginia’s Long should be the top end, LSU’s Dorsey the top tackle, USC’s Keith Rivers the first outside linebacker, Mike Jenkins of South Florida the top cornerback and Miami’s Kenny Phillips the first safety selected.

KWICKIES…Good luck to the West Orange-Stark track team Friday and Saturday in the Class 3A, Region III Meet at Humble High School . The Mustangs’ 400-meter relay team of Josh Gloston, Trey Franks, Seth Thomas and James Haynes has the fastest time (42.68 seconds) in Class 3A in the state. The Mustangs also will be competing for the regional title in the 800-meter and 1,600 meter relays.

Thank goodness the LCM Bears halted their three-game skid in District 22-4A baseball with a clutch 10-6 win over Nederland Saturday, thanks to a grand-slam home run by Stefan Leger. The Bears stand alone in third place at 8-4 with games remaining at Lumberton Tuesday and end the regular season against second-place Vidor at home.
The Lamar Cardinal baseball team scored three runs in the top of the 12th inning to down Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 8-5 Sunday and won the best-of-three weekend series 2-1. Former LCM pitcher Matt Gore (1-0) won his first game of the season for the Redbirds, who upped their record to 12-6 in Southland Conference action and 23-16 for the season. The Cards will play a non-conference game 6:30 p.m. Tuesday against Louisiana-Lafayette at Vincent-Beck Stadium in Beaumont .

And while on the subject of Lamar, its search for a head football coach has been temporarily put on the back burner after a total of 11 coaches were among the first round of applicants interested in the new position. Lamar President Jimmy Simmons originally said he’d like to have the new head football coach in place by August and later he and others hoped to make the hire by May. Probably somewhere in between those dates Lamar will announce the name of their new head football coach.
Danica Patrick became the first female winner in IndyCar history Sunday when she won the Indy Japan 500 in Motegi , Japan . The trip to Victory Lane came on her 50th start for the attractive 26-year-old Patrick.

The National Basketball Association’s playoffs began last weekend as the 16 teams compete for the 2008 NBA world championship. The playoffs will run through the month of May and sometime in June the title will be decided. This Korner is not the biggest NBA fan, but we believe the Boston Celtics—the best team money can buy—will be hard to beat. All three Texas teams—Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks and San Antonio Spurs—are involved and have an outside shot at brining home the title to the Lone Star State , but our longshot would have to go to the LA Lakers.

JUST BETWEEN US…This Korner doesn’t know much Spanish, but we believe any word referring to baseball that starts with the letter “V” must mean lousy pitcher. That’s very true for Houston Astros relief pitchers Jose Valverde and Oscar Villarreal who are stinking up every stadium in which they pitch. Villarreal has either lost the Astros’ lead or surrendered runs when the score was tied and is 0-3 in less than three weeks. And Valverde, who led the majors in saves last year with 47, has more blown saves than saves so far this year. He is 2-1, but both wins resulted in blown saves that the Astros scored enough runs to win in their last at-bat.