Sep 082010
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New York Giants 20 (2-2) – New England Patriots 17 (2-2)

by The Hack for

Game Summary: The New York Giants concluded their preseason schedule with a 20-17 victory over the New England Patriots on Thursday night.  The final preseason game is generally a glorified scrimmage, but the Giants first teamers were out for a couple of series each.  While the starting offense seemed to finally get out of second gear and make plays, the starting defense continued to struggle a bit.  Again, we’re told that we’ve seen very little of DC Perry Fewell’s defensive schemes, so it has yet to be determined how dramatic any improvement from the disastrous ending to last year there will be.

Special teams continue to be an extremely worrisome unit.  Poor coverages, poor returns, and even a botched snap/hold on a point after attempt have got many fans wondering in bewilderment.

The Giants were still missing a lot of players on Thursday night, but fortunately there were no further injuries save a mild hamstring strain to MLB Phillip Dillard which necessitated Jonathan Goff to play most of the night in the middle.

The Giants on defense were missing CBs Corey Webster and Aaron Ross, LBs Chase Blackburn and Gerris Wilkinson, and DT Chris Canty.  CB Bruce Johnson took over for Webster and DT Rocky Bernard started for Canty.

On offense, the team was without the services of TE Travis Beckum and C Shaun O’Hara.  C Adam Koets filled in for O’Hara, and the rest of the offensive line played intact and in their accustomed positions.

With a ton of jobs on the line, the second stringers also played inspired football.  Rhett Bomar had everything to play for, but came up short in his bid to secure his backup status at QB.  Following the game, QB Sage Rosenfels was acquired from the Minnesota Vikings to fill the role as Eli Manning’s understudy, and Bomar was released.  After he cleared waivers, however, Bomar was added back to the Giants’ practice squad.  Other notable players with a lot to prove were TE Bear Pascoe, attempting to win the number 2 TE job; WRs Derek Hagan, Victor Cruz and Duke Calhoun; DT Jay Alford; HBs Andre Ware, Gartell Johnson and D.J. Ware; LBs Bryan Kehl, Gerris Wilkinson and Chase Blackburn.  Seeing as Blackburn and the ever injured Wilkenson were out of this game, it appeared only two of these three had a legitimate shot of making the roster but all three did.

Andre Brown never had a chance to prove himself on Thursday, however, as he was a late scratch with a turf toe injury.  D.J. Ware was solid in the game, and in the end, both Johnson and Brown were released.  Brown did not clear waivers and the Giants lost him to Denver.  Although Gartrell Johnson cleared waivers, he was ineligible to be assigned to the Practice Squad.  Other surprises came when special teams standout and reserve WR Derek Hagan was let go, ostensibly to make room for Duke Calhoun.  Hagan had been one of the bright spot on the special teams, and has filled in adequately at receiver when called upon.  DT Jay Alford apparently got caught in a numbers game as the Giants elected to keep 8 linebackers on the team (9 if you count long snapper Zak DeOssie).

Three Giants were placed on IR prior to the game: QB Jim Sorgi, LB Adrian Tracey, and WR Sinorice Moss.  Following the game, CB Courtney Brown and DE Alex Hall were waived injured, at least temporarily placing them on IR.

After everything shook out, the Giants practice squad is now:

QB Rhett Bomar

TE Jake Ballard

TE Bear Pascoe

OL Jim Cordle

DT Nate Collins

CB Seth Williams

S Sha’reff Rashad

RB Charles Scott

Offense: For the first time this preseason, the first string offense looked sharp and in sync.  Nearly the entire starting unit (Shaun O’Hara being the lone exception) was together for the start of the game.  Eli and the gang only got two series, but the first was a crisp, 86 yard drive that ended on a nice drag route by TE Kevin Boss for the first touchdown of the game.  The starters also had a solid second drive that stalled due to a failed flea flicker and illegal bat penalty.  Eli had a few really nice throws, and the running game looked like old times.

As for the backups, Rhett Bomar led three scoring drives, 2 field goals and 1 touchdown, but the two field goal drives stalled deep in Tom Coughlin’s Green Zone.  Overall, the Giants ran for a total of 160 yards (gaining 414 total yards) and controlled nearly 34 minutes of clock.  That’s exactly what the doctor ordered, and is exactly what the Giants need to do to win ball games this year.

The Quarterbacks: Eli Manning had a very good night.  Other than dropping the football on an aborted flea flicker in which he incurred a ten yard penalty for an illegal batting of the ball (why do the Giants get called for this seemingly every time they play the Pats?!?!), Manning didn’t do anything wrong.  In fact, the illegal bat most likely saved the Giants from turning the ball over.  Manning was sharp, completing 7 of 9 passes for 91 yards and 1TD and no INTs.  His QBR was a tidy 145.8.

On the opening drive, Manning completed 4 of 5 passes, including two to TE Kevin Boss and one to HB Ahmad Bradshaw.  Over the past two games, the Giants utilized the TEs and the HBs very sparingly, so it was good to see them successfully implement this important area of the game into the offense.  Manning also induced an encroachment penalty on NE that was declined on a 3rd and 8 play in which Manning found WR Hakeem Nicks for a first down to keep the drive going.

On his second and final drive, Manning once again got the Giants moving until an the ill fated flea flicker put them in a 1st and 20 that they weren’t able to overcome.

QB Rhett Bomar entered the game in the second quarter and immediately led the Giants on another good drive that stalled on the Patriots 6 yard line, where he wasn’t able to get them into the endzone on 2nd and 3rd down pass plays. The Giants did manage a field goal on the drive.  Bomar had an up and down night.  He has a bad tendency to sidearm his throws, which get easily knocked down by opposing linemen.  Bomar also bird dogs his receivers, and with the unique camera angle provided by NBC4 it’s easy to see open receivers that Bomar is not seeing.  It appears he’s not at that stage where he can get through his progressions quick enough to be a second string QB.  That said, Bomar would have had a second touchdown but a perfectly thrown ball in the endzone to Derek Hagan was dropped and the Giants settled for another field goal.

The Running Backs: HB Ahmad Bradshaw had a very good night, starting off the game with a strong 11 yard run through one of a couple holes he could have chosen from.  On the second play from scrimmage, Bradshaw broke a run off to the right when the intended play to the left was well defended.  Bradshaw made several men miss and carried the ball for 5 yards.  Later in the drive on a first down from the New England 32 yard line, Manning (who had great protection on the play) checked down to Bradshaw 3 yards behind the line of scrimmage.  Bradshaw simply sprinted away from inside linebacker Jerod Mayo for a 17 yard gain and another first down.  He also did a good job waiting for FB Madison Hedgecock to make his block before hitting the hole for a two yard gain.  Bradshaw had one carry on the second drive, in which he took a 2nd and long draw for 6 yards. That was the extent of Bradshaw’s night, and it looks like the Little Beast is ready for the season.

HB Brandon Jacobs had an odd night, and he sounded downright upset about it after the game.  Jacobs only touched the ball twice.  First, he was a decoy on first down during the second drive when Manning faked a handoff to him and then gave the ball to Hakeem Nicks on a successful end around.  Later in the drive, a handoff to Jacobs turned into a flea flicker that failed because of a bad block by Dave Diehl.  Finally, Jacobs caught a pass from Manning on a simple wheel route for 6 yards.  Following that play, however, Jacobs’ night was done.  One can only believe that there was no reason for HC Tom Coughlin to see anything more from Jacobs and decided not to run the risk of injuring himself.

HB D. J. Ware had a solid game on a night when he really needed to have one.  Ware was in a battle with Gartrell Johnson and Andre Brown to nail down the 3rd running back slot.  On the Giants’ third drive, Ware got a carry on 1st down from the 8 yard line and may have scored had TE Kevin Boss bothered to block the outside linebacker who came free alone.  On second down, Ware flared out of the backfield all alone for what would have been a sure touchdown if Bomar had looked his way.  Ware had a 20 yard run that changed field position later in the first half, a nifty run in which he hit the well-blocked hole with speed and power as he ran through the safety for an extra 5 yards.  Ware was open on flares and wheel routes on a number of occasions, however Bomar never looked his way.  On one sack, Ware was completely alone in the flat but never got a look.  Another nice thing to see was on a 4th down and 1 from the NE 40 yard line, Ware lowered his head behind a devastating chip and block by Shawn Andrews to easily pick up the first down.  All in all, Ware essentially won the 3rd string job by carrying 13 times for 60 yards, a 4.6 per carry average and catching one pass for 8 yards.  While not flashing in pass protection, Ware was sent into pass patterns so often he may not have been asked to do much in protection.

Gartrell Johnson had a good night running the ball as well, gaining 50 yards on 12 carries for a very respectable 4.2 ypc average, but most of them came against the dregs of the New England defense.  Johnson’s real worth needed to come on special teams but he was unable to contribute regularly.  He had another gaff in this game as he attempted to get Tim Brown to stay in the endzone on one occasion, but when Brown elected to run out he didn’t do much to get back into the play, not making any block at all, resulting in horrid starting field position for the Giants.

FB Madison Hedgecock had a much better game on Thursday than at any other time this preseason.  He seemed to be more authoritative through the hole and squared up his man instead of diving at legs or feet as he did several times last week.  Madison also caught a pass for 7 yards.

The Wide Receivers and Tight Ends: How strange is it to watch a Giants game in which Steve Smith starts at WR, doesn’t leave at any point due to injury, and he doesn’t show up anywhere on the stat sheet?  Smith only played two series, but he was not even thrown to one time.  Hakeem Nicks had his best night of the preseason, catching 3 passes for 33 yards including a nifty sideline catch where he kept both feet in bounds for a 1st down on a 3rd and 8 play.  Nicks also had a nice 15 yard end around, showing good speed.  Mario Manningham continued to be the odd man out at receiver, as he once again only had one look and no catches.  Victor Cruz and Duke Calhoun continued their solid play and it paid off for both with roster spots.  It can be argued that one was at the expense of WR Derek Hagan, who had a couple catches and a special teams tackle.  The other spot was won due to Sinorice Moss being IR’d last week.  Both will need to contribute heavily on specials if they want to dress on Sundays, however.  WR Tim Brown, fitting for a roster spot as a special teamer return man and at the end of the WR corps, wasn’t able to convert on his opportunities as he dropped a sure touchdown pass when Bomar hit him in stride down the left sideline and then wasn’t able to get his feet down in bounds on a sideline pattern which would have resulted in a first down.

Finally, Eli Manning got TE Kevin Boss involved in the passing game.  On the first drive, Manning hit Boss twice.  The first was a beautiful seam route towards the middle of the field where Boss was all alone.  The second was a nice drag route across the middle that Boss caught in stride, turned up field, and ran untouched into the endzone.  Boss missed a couple blocks, or maybe they weren’t his assignment, one that cost D.J. Ware a possible touchdown in the 2nd quarter.  Travis Beckum did not dress for the game, and Bear Pascoe was eventually cut and added to the practice squad.  Scott Chandler never really flashed in camp of the games, either as a blocker or a pass catcher and was let go.

The Offensive Line: As Carl Banks noted during the broadcast, the band’s almost back together.  With the exception of C Shaun O’Hara, who may have to battle and manage Achilles tendinosis all year, the normal contingent of offensive linemen were lined up at positions they’ve owned for years.  Overall, the line did a very good job opening and maintaining holes for the backs and keeping Eli and Bomar relatively clean.  LT David Deihl got abused on the flea flicker play, allowing himself to be bull rushed all the way across the face of Manning, causing Manning to bail on the play and eventually fumble and take a penalty.  Shawn Andrews had a great lead block on the 4th and 1 play in which D.J. Ware gained 3 yards and a 1st down.  Andrews sure seems to be rounding into game shape.  If he continues to progress, it’s hard to see how the Giants can keep the Pro Bowl caliber guard out of the game.  Later in the game, the Giants back up offensive linemen also played well.  Guy Whimper, he of the great feet, finally met the executioners axe once the Giants signed Andrews and was able to play well.  Mitch Petrus had an up and down preseason and will learn a lot behind the vets.  Adam Koets did well in place of O’Hara, and based on what’s being reported about Shaun, he very well may be a very important piece to the 2010 Giants puzzle before the season’s out.

Defense: The Giants’ defense continues to be a work in progress.  The secondary is still in flux, as CBs Corey Webster and Aaron Ross were still inactive along with DT Chris Canty.  Bruce Johnson once again got the start for Webster, and D.J. Johnson amongst others played the nickel back position.  Although they only gave up 17 points to the Patriots (and just 7 to the starters), there are still problems with execution that are causing the Giants to give up 1st down plays on 3rd and long situations, and the pass defense continues to struggle.  The defense did a satisfactory job against the run, allowing only 72 yards on 23 carries for a 3.2 ypc average.  That certainly will do.

Unfortunately, Big Blue also gave up 310 yards passing on the night.  This is a trend.  The Giants have had a ton of players from the secondary miss time with injury, and as such, the Giants were dead last in the preseason in pass defense.

The Giants did create two turnovers with 2 interceptions and also stopped the Patriots on two 4th down conversion attempts.  The highlight of the night for the defense was a stellar goal line stand in which the Giants stopped the Patriots 3 straight times from inside the 1 yard line, turning over the Patriots on downs.

Front 7: Like the first team offense, the first team defense only got two series (with several exceptions, like Jonathan Goff getting extra time).  The Giants did not generate the pass rush that they had a week ago against Baltimore, but other than one blitz on the 3rd done touchdown pass the Giants really didn’t mix things up on defense again on Thursday.  Occasionally, the Giants would send a corner or a linebacker, but they were generally undisguised and ineffective.

On the line, Rocky Bernard once again shined in the middle, clogging the lanes and getting a good push.  Bernard, after an invisible first year as a Giant, has turned it up this preseason and earned a roster spot.  Barry Cofield was also instrumental in stuffing the run.  Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora were largely invisible, but again only got about 10 snaps apiece.

The group that stood out, both good and bad at times, was the linebacking corps.  Jonathan Goff had a very good game with 7 tackles, 1 interception on an extremely athletic play where he scooped a duck at his feet just before it hit the turf, and 2 other passes defensed.  He almost had a second pick that would most likely have gone for a TD but the ball went through his hands.  Goff was in on three straight stops of New England from inside the 1 yard line.  On 2nd down, he filled the hole and dropped the HB like a rock.  On 3rd down, after the initial hit by Bryan Kehl, Goff was able to stand his ground at the goal line and keep the HB out of the endzone.  Finally, he combined with Kehl and DE Jason Paul-Pierre for the stop.  Later, Goff was blamed by Bob Papa for losing contain on the long screen pass by New England that went for a touchdown.   In reality, Goff was held badly and had no chance of getting into the play because of it.

Speaking of Bryan Kehl, the final play of the goal line stand saw him flying over the top to grab the HB as he was going in to the endzone and dragging him back apparently by his hair.  Kelh led the Giants with 9 tackles on the night.  Michael Boley also had an active night adding 7 tackles and a pass defensed.  On the Patriots first touchdown play, however, Boley was sidestepped by Brady on what should have been a sure sack.  Boley also got lost in coverage a couple of times.  Phillip Dillard tweaked a hamstring and played sparingly, and Clint Sintim was only in on one tackle.

Overall, this was the best that the linebacking corps looked all preseason.  Hopefully this is a preview of things to come and we’re starting to see this group come together much like the wide receivers did last season.

Defensive Backs: Still missing two key cogs in the machine, the secondary played much better than they had against Baltimore.  Kenny Phillips, coming off serious knee surgery, is starting to fly around and hit with a vengeance again.  The rest of the safeties, including Michael Johnson, played solid football on Thursday.  Antrel Rolle allowed New England’s first touchdown after losing the TE after getting a good initial hit on him at the line of scrimmage.  Rolle made up for it by playing centerfield on the next series and picking off Brady.  Back to Michael Johnson, he was in on 6 tackles but he still, at times, seems to run around the pile and get there a split second late.  CB Terrell Thomas didn’t factor into any tackles, and as others have shown at times in the preseason, decided not to engage a running back while on a blitz.  On a second blitz, Thomas had an opportunity to stop the halfback a yard behind the line of scrimmage but dove at his feet instead of driving through him.  When he missed, the back had a clear path for an 11 yard gain and a first down.  CB Seth Williams was in on 8 tackles, but gave up several receptions.  He apparently showed enough to be signed back to the practice squad.  The two backup CBs after the top three are now Bruce Johnson and D.J. Johnson.  While D.J. has shown some ability at times, he’s still raw and will take time to develop.  D.J. doesn’t seem to trust himself just yet, as he plays with a big cushion a lot of the time.  Bruce Johnson has been a liability for much of the preseason.  Johnson could do well as the 4th CB, but if the Giants need to start him or put him in the nickel often, he will be picked on.

Special Teams: P Matt Dodge progressed for the 4th straight game.  Of his 5 punts, 2 were inside the 20, his long was 60 yards, and he had a net average of 42 yards.  All in all it was a very acceptable night for the young punter with the exception of a botched hold on the first PAT.  According to HC Tom Coughlin, he had an issue with this in practice last week as well.  Hopefully, he gets that straightened out soon.  K Lawrence Tynes hit on two field goals and did another very good job with his kickoffs, sending two into the endzone (1 touchback) and three to the goal line.  Talk about a dramatic change!

Unfortunately, the Giants still didn’t cover very well as  the Patriots returned the first Giants kickoff 55 yards.  Once again, the Giants lost the average kickoff starting field position average as New England averaged starting at the 28 and the Giants averaged starting from the 21.  In the punt return game, the Giants got a mini boost from Mario Manningham who had a nice 20 yard return after reversing his field.

Coaching: Obviously, the Giants didn’t do too much to game plan for this one and after seeing their first strings for a couple of series each sat them all down and started the auditions.  There is still no way of knowing just how good the defense is going to be, because they showed absolutely no imagination during the preseason.  Also, the Giants special teams will now change drastically as several mainstays of the unit this preseason are now gone.

Offensive Player of the Game: Ahmad Bradshaw had a stellar night rushing and receiving the ball in just two series.  He gets the nod.

Defensive Player of the Game: Did we see MIKE linebacker Jonathan Goff’s coming out party tonight?  Goff was all over the field from start to finish, playing the majority of the game.  Hopefully this type of effort is what we can expect for the next 7 or 8 years from Goff manning the middle.

(Box Score – New England Patriots at New York Giants, September 2, 2010)
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