Aug 302011
 
 August 30, 2011  Posted by  Game Previews and Reviews
New York Jets 17 (2-1) – New York Giants 3 (1-2)

by rnargi for BigBlueInteractive.com

Game Summary: The Giants and Jets squared off in their annual preseason game on Monday night at MetLife Stadium with “bragging rights” and the MetLife Trophy on the line.  As most of us know, the third preseason game is generally the dress rehearsal for Opening Day, which is now a scant 12 days from now.

Last week, we saw all three phases of the game work in concert with one another in a rout of the Chicago Bears and the Giants were hoping to oil the offensive machinery and get in sync while the other two phases, defense and special teams, hoped to build off their successful outings.

There were a lot of positives to come out of this game, but the negatives were quite glaring and a sense of foreboding seems to be settling on the Giants.  While the starting defense once again was outstanding, both Justin Tuck and Mathais Kiwanuka were nicked and had to leave the game.  Apparently neither is serious, but Tuck’s shoulder is worrisome due to past injuries and we all know Kiwanuka missed nearly the entire year last season.  The Giants can ill afford more injuries to their core defensive players.

The first string offense moved the ball extremely well, but could not finish drives.  The Giants ran 43 offensive plays in the first half on 7 drives, 3 of which were of 9 plays, amassing an impressive 224 yards and 18:20 time of possession.  Unfortunately, they only cashed that in for 3 points.  In the second half, following a promising but futile opening drive, the Giants were unable to get anything going and the Jets pulled away.

On defense, the Giants did a magnificent job in the first half, limiting the Jets to just one touchdown just before the half off a short field.  The Jets were forced into four 3 and outs, and their other 2 drives totaled 13 plays.  The second team defense faltered badly in the 4th quarter, allowing drives of 9 and 14 plays over 11:28 seconds resulting in 10 points for the Jets.

After a stellar effort against the Bears, the special teams crashed and burned.  We saw muffed punts, muffed kickoffs, fumbles, a blocked field goal attempt, shoddy tackling, poor lane discipline, and a big return for the Jets.

What it amounted to was an extremely frustrating night which raises many questions regarding this team’s chances for a successful season.  Take solace in the fact that this was a preseason game, and as Jets QB Mark Sanchez said after the game, neither team was willing to show too much of their actual schemes.  That said, the mistakes made in all phases of the game must be corrected soon if they have any aspirations of ending their 2 year playoff drought.

The Quarterbacks: QB Eli Manning had a particularly tough night.  Finishing a paltry 15 out of 30 for 200 yards with no touchdowns against 2 interceptions, Manning has yet to throw a touchdown pass this preseason and his cumulative QBR is a woeful 51.6.  Manning has completed just 49.1% of his passes this preseason.

On Monday night, Manning hit his first 2 passes for 35 yards and then seemed to lose his way, missing badly on his next 2 and throwing an interception on the next.  According to HC Tom Coughlin, the first interception was due to poor hot read adjustments by receivers Travis Beckum and Mario Manningham, but that’s still no excuse for trying to complete that play.  Manning has been around long enough to know it’s not there and to either take the sake or get rid of the ball out of harm’s way.

Manning’s second interception was all on him, as he again threw the ball into coverage under heavy pressure.  It is impossible to know for sure, but it appears that Manning is rattled in the pocket, possibly because he has yet to trust his revamped offensive line.  Point in case, Manning had Manningham open on a 3rd and 17 play outside beyond the sticks but after pumping left threw into the ground off his back foot when he had plenty of time to step into the throw.

Later, during the two minute drill, Manning severely overthrew a wide open Manningham for what would probably have been an 84 yard touchdown, again with no real pressure on him.

Again, this is preseason but it’s hard to believe that Manning is this out or sync with his receivers.  A case can be made that with 5 players in new positions and the loss of TE Kevin Boss and slot receiver Steve Smith, integral parts of this offense in the past, Manning has not adjusted to the changes and it will continue to be a work in progress.  Furthermore, though the Giants tried to go with a hurry up offense by getting to the line quickly against the talented Jets defense, Manning was constantly changing plays at the line and running the play clock dangerously close to exhaustion.  On a 4th and 6 play in the second quarter from the Jets 34 yard line, Manning didn’t get the play off in time and cost the Giants an opportunity to extend the drive as Coughlin chose to punt.  We’ve seen this drill before and it’s tiresome.

Backup QB David Carr, sitting on a golden opportunity to cement the #2 position, was arguably worse than Manning as he completed just 5 of 12 passes for a pathetic 36 yards.  Carr’s last 9 drop backs resulted in just 2 completions and a sack, including a 3 and out in which he threw 3 straight incompletions.

Sage Rosenfels did not play again, this time due to a back injury but due to Carr’s poor performance, he has another opportunity on Thursday to win the #2 position behind Manning.

The Running Backs: The Giants starting offense ran the ball effectively in the first half of the game and also were utilized via the screen for positive plays.  HB Brandon Jacobs, who started, ran like The Beast of the past, rushing for 51 yards on 10 attempts (5.1 ypc average).  On a fourth down on the first drive, Jacobs literally ran over Jets defensive tackle Mike Devito for 3 yards and the first down.  Unfortunately, Jacobs got into some jawing early in the game, and as it usually turns out, Jacobs is unable to control his emotions and later was tossed from the game after he got into a fist fight with Jets defensive end Muhammed Wilkerson.  That cost the Giants dearly, as Jacobs was unavailable for a 4th and goal attempt from inside the Jets 1 yard line later in the drive.  This has to stop.  Jacobs has been in this league for long enough, and if not for C Kevin Baas, Jacobs may have received an unsportsmanlike penalty or ejection earlier in the game.  No one is questioning the fire and intensity with which Jacobs plays, but he has got to learn to walk back to the huddle when the whistle blows, no ifs, ands or buts about it.

HB Danny Ware was also impressive on Monday night, rushing for 37 yards on 8 carries (4.6 ypc avg) and also gained 24 yards on 3 receptions.  Ware showed good vision and patience in setting up his blockers on two screen passes.

Ahmad Bradshaw, who was listed as unavailable due to a back contusion, saw action.  His stats were misleading, as an impressive draw play was nullified due to an illegal motion call on the Giants.  Bradshaw took a nice outlet pass from Manning and slipped the linebacker with a nifty move inside before cutting outside for a 29 yard gain.

Andre Brown didn’t get many chances due to the ineptitude of the second string offense, gaining 9 yards on 3 carries.  Brown also caught a slip screen pass but did not wait for his blocking and was dropped for a 2 yard loss.  On the play, had Brown waited a hair longer, had a chance for a big play.

Rookie Da’Rel Scott did not play on Monday night, and despite the hand wringing in The Corner Forum, people need to remember that this game was primarily for the 1’s and the 2’s.  Scott may well have a place on this team, but he has to learn how to be effective against the blitz before he can be trusted on the field.  Face it, folks, Scott is not ready for prime time and Monday night was a prime time tune up.

The Wide Receivers and Tight Ends: Once again, WRs Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham caught just half the balls thrown their way, but Nicks did manage to catch 5 of 7 for 71 yards.  From what we’ve seen so far this preseason, it appears that Manning isn’t looking for, or Nicks is not releasing deep.  Most of Nicks’ looks were in the middle of the field, while Manningham is being tasked with getting deep.  Manningham caught just 3 of 9 passes thrown his way.  One incompletion was completely on him, another completely on Manning.  The first was supposed to be a fade to the corner of the end zone, but after trying to go outside Jets CB Darrel Revis, Manningham broke his route inside.  Manning threw to his spot, but Manningham wasn’t there.  On the second, Manningham abused Jets CB Antonio Cromartie deep but was overthrown by 10 yards.

The other four receivers who saw action, Victor Cruz, Dominek Hixon, Mark Clayton and Devin Thomas had 4 receptions between them on 10 throws their way.  Rookie Jarrel Jernigan had no looks on Monday night and had a horrid night on specials which makes the 3rd round draft pick’s active roster spot tenuous at best.  People need to remember that this kid just got his playbook a little over a month ago and had no offseason to learn anything about the Giants’ offense.  His talent is there, but it remains to be seen if he can keep himself off the practice squad and contribute this season.

The tight ends were more involved in the passing game this week, as Jake Ballard ran a very solid route and corralled a 21 yard reception for a first down.  Ballard was again up and down in the running game, but he is progressing.

As for Travis Beckum, he did not play a bad game.  Beckum is going to be worked into this offense, and you can see his play develop from week to week.  His blocking has improved significantly this preseason, but it’s still not up to par with what the TE is expected to do in the Giants’ run offense.  One thing in his favor is that he has been effective in the screen game, and that should not be overlooked.  As for his pass catching, he caught 2 on the night but one was a dump off for 2 yards and the other was a 14 yard gain against the Jets prevent defense before the half.  The grade on him for the night is an incomplete, as Manning does not seem to look for him when he’s apparently open.

The Offensive Line: The Giants offensive line continues to improve but there are still breakdowns in pass protection leading to pressures on Manning.  The Giants are solid outside, as tackles Will Beatty and Kareem McKenzie are playing very well.  Beatty has done very well in both aspects of the game and it appears he’s on track to be an excellent left tackle.  The problems seem to be with the guards, where David Diehl had all kinds of trouble on Monday night and Chris Snee seemed to be caught flat footed and unable to get much push in the middle.  Diehl had a costly false start, which you cannot have at home.  He also failed to pick up a blitz on the first interception thrown by Manning.  Last week I mentioned that Diehl looked slow pulling, but on Monday he looked better.  As for C Kevin Baas, his game has improved radically since the first preseason game and he dominated on Monday night.

One problem the Giants have is bringing in tackle Jamon Meredith as a tackle eligible in the heavy TE package.  He was completely ineffective in that role on Monday night.  He was somewhat better at LT when he entered the game, but overall the second unit did not play well at all, as David Carr was running for his life against the second team Jets defense.  Kevin Boothe looked good, pulling and leading the backs well into the hole.  Like the rest of the team, this unit is a work in progress and one can only hope that they aren’t pressed into service anytime soon.

Part of the reason for the offensive line woes continues to be the up and down play of the tight ends and fullback, who are essential in the running game.  It may be safe to assume the line would show better with more consistent play from those positions.  On the night, the Jets managed 2 sacks (one at the end of the first half on a Hail Mary attempt) and 5 QB hits.  Last week, Chicago never touched a Giants QB.

Front 7: The entire starting front 7 played an outstanding first half, limiting the Jets’ running game to just 43 yards on the ground off 14 carries (just over a 3.1 ypc average.  Justin Tuck again played a great game and is becoming a monster against the run.  It doesn’t hurt, however, that he has emerging T Linval Joseph occupying two linemen in the middle and T Chris Canty providing excellent push.  The starting DE’s combined for 7 tackles.  The line didn’t register a sack or a QB hit, but did have sustained pressure on Sanchez for most of the half.  Canty and Joseph also combined for 4 tackles, meaning the starting linemen registered 11 of the 24 tackles made by the first team.

Joseph also did a great job of keeping QB Mark Sanchez from recovering his own fumble, allowing Chris Sintim to fall on it for the recovery.  Good stuff!

Jonathan Goff also had a good game, registering 5 tackles.  Michael Boley, finally healthy, looks like the player the Giants signed two years ago, registering 6 tackles on the night.   Before Mathais Kiwanuka was pulled with the groin injury, he was making his presence known as well.  On the 4th and 1 that the Jets converted, Kiwi had the runner stuffed but the officials missed a facemask penalty on a Jet who grabbed Kiwi and pulled him back, stopping his momentum.  At the least, it should have been called and it appeared if he hadn’t been fouled, Kiwanuka would have completed the play and stopped HB Shonn Greene.

Clint Sintim, subbing early for Mathais Kiwanuka, registered 6 tackles and played as well as he ever has.  If Sintim can continue to improve, the Giants linebacking corps could develop into a strength.

On the second team, DT Gabe Watson played well, including a nice stuff down near the goal line where he blew up the Jets LG and got into the backfield for the stop.  LB Spencer Paysinger continued to flash, recording 4 tackles including a nice run down of a Jets running back from behind the line.

Defensive Backs: CB Aaron Ross, subbing for the injured Terrell Thomas who is out for the year, got his first start and shined brightly for the Giants on Monday night.  Ross was in on just one tackle, but that’s because he completely shut down his side of the field, holding Jets WR Plaxico Burress off the scoresheet.  Ross looks tenacious, mixing it up with the receivers which resulted in blanket coverage for most of the time he was in the game.  The rest of the starting secondary also played well.  Corey Webster had very good coverage on Jets WR Santonio Holmes on the touchdown play, but was unable to extend his arms and get a play on the ball.  On the play, the Jets stacked Burress in the slot and when S Kenny Phillips got a minimal jam on him and then failed to get back to help Webster, it was an easy pitch and catch.  It appeared that no other Giant fell into coverage, leaving Phillips alone with Burress and possibly unable to give Webster the support.  S Tyler Sash made a very nice tackle on a Jets running back deep in Giants territory, sliding down the line and tackling him for a minimal gain.  Sash had 6 tackles on the night.

Special Teams: Whatever.  The clock obviously struck midnight early for the special teams on Monday night.  There were so many gaffes, it’s not even worth mentioning them all.  Jerrel Jernigan muffed 3 punts and fumbled a fourth.  Devin Thomas muffed a kicked off, allowing it to go out of bounds.  The Giants allowed a 68 yard kickoff return after Antonio Cromartie muffed the catch 5 yards deep in the end zone.  There wasn’t a single Giant outside the hash mark on Cromaritie’s left, and if not for a fine play by K Rhys Lloyd, it would have gone for a touchdown.

The return teams were not good at all save one decent punt return by Jernigan and one good kickoff return by Andre Brown.

The Giants suffered a blocked field goal attempt when end Jake Ballard got overloaded and couldn’t contain the man on the end of the line.

K Rhys Lloyd is making it very tough for Tom Coughlin to find reasons not to keep him on the team.  His kickoffs were deep, he’s been true in his FG and PAT attempts, and took a great angle to escort Cromartie out of bounds on his return.

The punters both did well, but the first punt by Matt Dodge was ineffective because of a very low snap.  It appeared Dodge panicked a bit and didn’t get the directional kick that he was supposed to attempt and instead just kicked it down the middle and into the end zone.  This race appears to be a dead heat.

Coaching: Tom Quinn has naked pictures of Tom Coughlin’s wife.  There is no other rational explanation for him keeping his job.

(Box Score – New York Jets at New York Giants, August 29, 2011)
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