Aug 272007
 
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New York Jets 20 – New York Giants 12

by Damon Micalizzi for BigBlueInteractive.com

One of the major questions heading into this preseason was: How do you replace your two leaders and arguably your two best players on both sides of the ball? That question was answered with an exclamation point against the Jets. While Eli Manning continues to look the leader of the Big Blue Offense in the post-Tiki world, Justin Tuck is doing his best to alleviate any concerns about whether or not Michael Strahan returns to the Giants. In the annual preseason match-up against our roommates in green, save the first play of the game, the first team dominated the line of scrimmage on both Offense and Defense.

Quarterbacks

It was another impressive game for Eli. His footwork was exceptional, his throws were on the money, both from in the pocket and on the move. Against the Jets, he showed great pocket presence, stepping up and moving around to buy time to get rid of the ball. He really looks to be taking his game to the next level, looking better and better each game, while throwing most of his passes to guys not named Burress, Shockey and Toomer.

With Jared Lorenzen getting the night off, Anthony Wright had a chance to run the second team offense and did nothing really to help his cause. Wright’s throws were not very crisp including a badly under-thrown deep ball that Steve Smith almost was able to come up with. Wright, who’s ability to run could have been his saving grace, didn’t run the ball once against the Jets.

Unless Coach Coughlin opts to only keep two QBs (highly unlikely), Tim Hasselbeck will probably win the third QB spot by default. Though largely unspectacular, Hasselbeck was just slightly better than Wright, delivering the ball with a little more accuracy and seemingly just running the offense with a little more confidence. Heaven forbid anything ever happens to Eli.

Running Backs

This may be the deepest group of runningbacks the Giants have ever had. Brandon Jacobs continues to make himself small (easier said than done) while hitting the hole, and pushes the first few guys to meet him backwards. More importantly, he really seems to have matured as he has refrained from showing much emotion on the field.

Reuben Droughns was effective in backing up Jacobs, but will probably be more of a threat lining up with Jacobs in the backfield now that Robert Douglas has gone down with his injury. Coughlin could choose to IR Douglas with Droughns and Mike Matthews splitting duties at FB.

It will be interesting to see how the rest of the depth chart shakes out at this position. Ahmad Bradshaw has shined as a runner and as a kick returner, and will hopefully touch the ball a few times in each game. Douglas’ injury could mean a roster spot for Ryan Grant as well. He only had two carries against the Jets, but one of them was for 10 yards and he also had a nice catch out of the backfield.

Wide Receivers

Thankfully, there looks to be a lot of depth at WR as well. Amani Toomer looks like he’s shaking off the rust from his injury just fine, running good routes and making a nice 20-yard grab in traffic across the middle.

David Tyree had his annual big catch and run in a preseason game. This time it was called back due to a stupid penalty on Toomer. Then Tyree broke his wrist. It doesn’t look good for the special teams ace, as others are excelling on specials and that could land him on the IR. Anthony Mix looks more and more like a viable NFL wide receiver with every game. Although he did come down with a case of alligator arms on the one well thrown ball Wright had all night. With Manning at the helm though, Mix showed soft hands against the Jets with seven catches of all varieties going over the middle and showing veteran savvy pushing off ever so slightly on a fade pattern to catch a touchdown.

I’ve said it before; I’ll say it again and again. Steve Smith is a gamer and will be a big threat out of the slot this year. Manning and he look comfortable together and very much on the same page. Doing his best Tim Carter impression, Sinorice Moss looked good on an end around, and then promptly limped off the field. Thankfully it did not appear that Moss was hurt badly as he was in jumping for an extremely high Hasselbeck pass in the endzone a few plays later.

Tight Ends

With Robert Douglas going down, Mike Matthews is almost assured of a roster spot. Matthews has shown the ability to block and catch from the TE position and doubles nicely as an H-back as well. So far he’s got to have an edge on Kevin Boss, who did finally make a catch against the Jets, but should have had two, as he had a pass from Eli go through his hands. He was diving for it, but should have had it. As a blocker, Boss has yet to show me anything.

Offensive Line

The more I watch David Diehl at Left Tackle, the more I am impressed. Sure he had a rough game against Baltimore’s Terrell Suggs two weeks ago. Most guys do. He has been solid ever since. The rest of the first team looks good. Against the Jets, they were getting good leverage across the line, pushing Jets defenders back off the LOS and opening nice holes.

The Matt Lentz experiment at center seems to have some life left as he and Anthony Wright have seemingly gotten their snap issues taken care of. Meantime, Guy Whimper is quietly having another good preseason and should be able to back up both O-Tackle positions if necessary. Carl Banks wrongly blamed Whimper, by the way for the third quarter sack of Anthony Wright.

Defensive Line

To refer to Justin Tuck as Plan B would be an insult the way he is playing. But, should Michael Strahan decide to come back, Tuck is making a strong bid to start anyway. Tuck is not only showing great speed and quickness in rushing the passer off the edge, he’s doing a fabulous job against the run as well. On the Jets’ second series Tuck had three consecutive tackles, including a sack where he moved inside and if he didn’t get to the quarterback, Osi Umenyiora would have. Osi, got his sack on the next series, although, Tuck was also there, along with Kawika Mitchell on the blitz as well. On the interior, Barry Cofield and Fred Robbins were plugging the middle, and getting penetration, seemingly at will against the Jets.

The Jets starters to no surprise, had a lot more success moving the ball against the second team defense, pretty much running right through the line for their second score of the game. Jay Alford and William Joseph were both caught out of position and had a hard time on a few plays holding their gaps on the Jets second TD drive. Alford is a rookie, and is learning. Joseph doesn’t really have an excuse, though he did play better against the Jets scrubs.

Linebackers

Learning curve be damned, because Mathias Kiwanuka is such an amazing athlete, Offensive Coordinators will have to start game planning for him. He just looks more comfortable every week. With or without Strahan, this front seven is going to be fun to watch. With Tuck moving inside on passing downs, and Kiwanuka lining up at DE, QBs are going to be looking to get rid of the ball as quickly as possible.

Any way you look at it, this team is in better shape at linebacker than they have been in years. Kawika Mitchell is fast. He didn’t make any tackles on D against the Jets, but the D-line played so well, he really didn’t have to. He plays the angles well, and He did fly down field and make a tackle on a punt. Also on Osi’s sack, he came in on the blitz and pummeled the fullback right into Pennington. When Mitchell hurt his groin, Reggie Torbor stepped in and did a nice job against the run. Torbor, will probably stick after being in on a handful of tackles with the first team.

Zak DeOssie continues to shine on Specials and on Defense he moves well with the play and has a gritty, blue-collar toughness about him that will make him a fan favorite.

Cornerbacks

On the first play from scrimmage you got the feeling that it was going to be one of those nights, as R.W. McQuarters jumped on a pump fake and never recovered on a deep catch by Leon Washington for a 79 yard score. He really wasn’t challenged the rest of the way though, but the starting secondary as a whole wasn’t really challenged as the front seven made all of the plays on D. R.W. appears to be the primary punt returner.
Corey Webster started opposite McQuarters, but wasn’t really tested. He does appear to be much more comfortable playing press coverage, rather than starting 15 yards off the receiver.

The back-ups in the secondary did not have a great night. Late in the third quarter, on two plays reminiscent of the Seattle game from a year ago, Kevin Dockery got beat on a deep ball to Justin McCareins on a play where the ball was thrown perfectly, and the stronger McCareins was able to easily come down with the ball as Dockery just played the ball wrong. On the very next play, rookie Aaron Ross, who looked to have very good coverage on the receiver, had Brad Smith beat him by a step and bring in the ball to set up the QB sneak. Later though, both Dockery and Ross made nice plays in coverage, with Dockery almost getting an interception. Ross looks to be getting used to the speed of the game.

Safeties

He hasn’t had his name called much this preseason, but Gibril Wilson seems to always be around the ball. Spagnuolo looks to be letting Gibril use his speed and freelance a bit coming up in the box. On the other hand, James Butler has looked not only a step slow as of late, but was caught out of position at times, most obvious on Washington’s TD catch, where Butler should have been there for the tackle after McQuarters got burnt.

That one play was really the only blemish on the first team D’s report card as Jets had three and out after three and out the rest of the half and into the second half until Coach Coughlin decided to pull the starters.

When the reserves entered, Michael Johnson may have secured a roster spot with six tackles, however, some poor coverage and missed tackles in front of him kept him busy. Fellow Rookie Craig Dahl though, looks to be a goner. I don’t think he ever recovered from week one. He’s fast and plays with heart, but will probably end up on the practice squad until he can learn to keep his head in the game. J.R Reed’s acrobatic one hand interception was borderline amazing.

Special Teams

This unit will undoubtedly be under the microscope as the Giants finish up next week against the Patriots. Cory Ohnesorge didn’t look too bad and had a great Feagles-esque punt downed by David Tyree at the 2 that set up the Giants safety. He might land on the practice squad as insurance should Jeff Feagles back act up.

Lawrence Tynes probably won’t be playing next week as he missed two field goals and continues to leave his kickoffs short. Josh Houston didn’t exactly help himself missing a 42-yard field goal. However, if a better option doesn’t hit the waiver wire soon, he could get the job by default. That might not be a bad thing, as Houston looked good last week against Baltimore.

With Tyree now out for 4-6 weeks, Coughlin has more decisions to make. Coverage on punts and kickoffs has been excellent all preseason long, but Tyree’s roster spot could be in jeopardy. Only time will tell.

Jay Alford’s snaps were low on Tynes two field goal misses and with Ryan Kuehl now done for the year, long snapping duties will probably be Zak DeOssie. Let’s hope that this unit irons things out soon.

All in all, you have to feel good about how the Giants starters looked against the Jets. The Giants owned the trenches on both sides of the ball, Manning looks to be turning the corner and there appears to be viable depth at all the skill positions on offense. Questions still remain unanswered at kicker and in the secondary. Let’s just hope no one gets hurt next weekend against the Pats.

(Box Score – New York Jets at New York Giants, August 25, 2007)
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