Sep 062011
 
 September 6, 2011  Posted by  Game Previews and Reviews
New York Giants 18 (2-2) – New England Patriots 17 (2-2)

by rnargi for BigBlueInteractive.com

Game Summary: The New York Giants finished their 2011 preseason schedule last Thursday against the New England Patriots and gutted out an 18-17 win just a mere 3 days after playing against the New York Jets.

The Giants starters didn’t make an appearance as the backups and hopefuls played the entire game.  The Patriots played their starters for a little less than a half, and the early results were somewhat predictable as the Giants fell behind early by a 17-3 score.  To be fair to the team, however, the early deficit was actually fueled by 3 turnovers that led to 10 New England points.  In every other aspect of the game the Giants second teamers actually performed quite well against the Patriots starters.

In the first half, the Giants racked up more than 20 minutes of possession, ran 39 plays, and rolled up 101 yards rushing.  The problem was green zone efficiency (0-2), penalties (4-30 yards including a killer illegal hands to the face called on G Mitch Petrus that made a probable 26 yard field goal attempt into an eventual 49 yard attempt that was no good) and turnovers (2 fumbles and an interception), resulting in a minimum 16 point swing, and possibly as much as 20.

Generally, when a team plays like that in the first half, you can chalk it up to a frustrating, self-inflicted loss.  On this day, though, the Giants were as opportunistic in the second half as New England was in the first.  The Giants scored a special teams and a defensive touchdown and converted a 2-point conversion to wrest the lead from the Patriots.  Sound defensive play made the score stand up.

The NFL Network did not replay the game until Saturday afternoon and by the time I got to watch it on Monday night (I was on vacation since Friday), final cuts and roster moves had already been made.  Due to this, I’ve decided to focus primarily on the players who were kept and the others that were signed to the practice squad.

Unfortunately, the Giants lost LB Clint Sintim who was having a solid camp and preseason for the year with ACL and patella tendon tears in his right knee.  This is the second major injury to that knee in the last 8 months for  Sintim, a supposed ‘tweener’ who many felt didn’t fit the Giants’ defensive scheme.  Now he will spend his second year in the NFL on injured reserve and one has to wonder if the former 2nd round draft choice will ever get another chance to contribute to the Giants defense.

No other major injuries were reported.

Significant Accomplishments, Offensive Players

As mentioned, the starters did not play in this game. Although the offense moved the ball well and had opportunities, they did not score an offensive touchdown on the night and two drives ended in missed field goals.

David Carr has been named the #2 QB after another decent performance with regards to completion percentage and yards, as he finished the night 13 of 21 for 116 yards with no touchdowns and 1 interception.  Carr also had a costly fumble of the snap on a 2nd and goal play from the New England 1 yard line.  It appeared that Carr moved out early and never had a chance to get the ball.  Reserve OG and C Kevin Boothe snapped the ball.

Andre Brown fared well against the first team Patriots defense, carrying 21 times for 68 yards (3.2 ypc avg) and also lost 2 yards on his only reception of the night.  Brown had an early fumble on a draw play that was recovered by the Giants.  Brown was subsequently added to the practice squad after he was cut and cleared waivers.

Da’Rel Scott continued his impressive preseason by rushing 12 times for 114 yards (9.5 ypc avg) and a touchdown.  To be fair, the touchdown came on a fake punt against the Patriot reserves but the fact that he ran by and then pulled away from NE PR Brandon Tate was astounding.  Everyone knew he was fast, but that is some serious speed.  If you remove the 65 yards from his total and go with just his totals from running formations, Scott finished with a 4.45 yards per carry average.  Not too shabby for a 7th round pick.

As for the receivers, the battle for the final spots ended up going to Victor Cruz, Jerrel Jernigan (never really in doubt for either of those) and Devin Thomas.  Thomas is a feel good story.  He is doing well on kickoff returns and seems to have cemented that as his roll.  As for receiving, on Thursday he led the Giants with 4 receptions on 5 passes thrown his way for a total of 42 yards.

Rookie 3rd round pick Jerrel Jernigan is the highest drafted rookie who will be on the field on Opening Day.  To say he’s had a rough go of it this preseason may be just a bit of an understatement, but he bounced back nicely from his debacle of a performance against the Jets last week.  Jernigan only caught 1 pass for 14 yards, but also caught the key 2 point conversion over top of a New England defender that secured the win for the Giants.  And though he did muff 1 punt that led to a brief New England touchdown (it was nullified by penalty), and almost lost another, the kid ended up handling 4 others and even had a very nice 42 yard return.

The offensive line did a very good job opening holes against the first string NE defense.  C Chris White started the game and led the unit consisting of LT Jamon Meredith, LG Kevin Boothe, RG Mitch Petrus and RT Stacy Andrews.  Hank the Tank Hynoski made the team as the starting FB, with apparent 3rd string TE Bear Pascoe most likely handcuffed as his backup.

The only TE to catch a pass in the game, and in fact the only TE who had a pass thrown his way, was Daniel Coats.

Significant Accomplishments, Defensive Players

One thing that’s been a complete eye opener this offseason is the work that Jerry Reese and his scouting staff has done with the bottom of the roster.  The Giants seem to have found undrafted rookies that are going to not only help but bolster this defense this season and beyond.  As everyone knows, the draft is a crap shoot.
For instance, the Giants have only 3 players left on the squad from last years’ draft.  Does that mean Reese and company screwed it up?  Not at all, people.  Sometimes you swing and miss (Phillip Dillard), sometimes the player is overwhelmed (Matt Dodge), sometimes a player gets injured (Chad Jones), and sometimes a player needs to be seasoned (Adrian Tracy).  That’s why you have to be able to find talent wherever you can, and the Giants seem to find it every year in unusual places.

This offseason instead of going for the Big Sexy Power moves, the Giants added undrafted rookies LBs Spencer Paysinger and Mark Herzlich as well as FB Henry Hynoski.

An argument could be made that Paysinger has been the best linebacker on the field this preseason, though he did look a little like a deer in the headlights in the first couple of series’ against the Patriots first team.  On the night he recorded 4 more tackles.  Herzlich saw extended playing time and recorded a sack.

As well as the undrafted rookies are contributing, credit also must be given for finding play makers at the end of the 2011 draft, too.  6th round selection LB Greg Jones has become a leader on the second team defense and many think he’s the heir apparent to MIKE linebacker if for any reason Jonathan Goff falters.  Jones had 4 tackles, a sack, 2 tackles for losses and a QB hit.  Fellow 6th rounder S Tyler Sash has impressed all preseason and led the team with 7 tackles, 2 sacks, a forced fumble and another QB hit.  The final 6th round pick from this season, LB Jacquian Williams, also had a stellar night also registering 7 tackles and had 3 sacks on the night.

Yes, the Kids are Alright, and Jerry Reese and company should be commended for finding this mountain of talent from the 6th round on.  And that’s not even including Da’Rel Scott, the 7th rounder.

Significant Accomplishments, Special Teams

The specials were better on Thursday night.  Of 5 punts between Matt Dodge and Steve Weatherford, only 2 were returned for essentially no yardage.  The kickoff coverage teams didn’t allow a return of more than 25 yards out of 3 attempts (there was 1 touchback).  As for the return game, Jernigan still needs to work out the yips but his 42 yarder was impressive.  On his other 4 returns he gained 38 yards, better than 9 yards per return on average.

Devin Thomas continued his strong showing with 4 returns for 83 yards, with his longest going for 28.  As long as the team continues to grow and learn from their mistakes they should be markedly better than last season.

The Final 53 – Thoughts, Musings, and Other Brain Droppings

QB – Eli Manning, QB David Carr

Everyone knows that the season on offense hinges on Eli Manning finding a rhythm with his revamped receiving corps.  He no longer has Steve Smith or Kevin Boss as his 3rd down outlets, so he must be able to find a way to trust what he sees from their replacements and also learn to either check down to a back, take a sack, or throw the ball away. his offense cannot survive 42 turnovers again in 2011.  David Carr won the second string job nearly by default due to a throat infection and subsequent back issues for Sage Rosenfels.  Carr knows the offense and can win a game or two in a pinch but if anything were to happen to Eli for an extended period of time it will most likely be a long year for the Giants’ offense.

RB – Ahmad Bradshaw, Brandon Jacobs, D.J. Ware, Da’Rel Scott

The Giants have a formidable stable at running back with these four players.  Ahmad Bradshaw will have to prove he can handle the load for the second straight year and must cut down on his fumbles.  Primary backup Brandon Jacobs is a perfect change of pace to the smaller, quicker Bradshaw and showed he still has plenty left in his tank this preseason.  Jacobs’ problem is his temper, which he must keep under control.  D.J. Ware, a back many on The Corner Forum feel isn’t up to snuff, had an impressive preseason, particularly in the short passing/screen game.  Ware is a fine 3rd down back.  The wild card in the bunch is Da’Rel Scott.  Scott is wicked fast and has made the most of every opportunity this preseason.  It will be fun to watch how the Giants try to get this kid involved in the offense.

FB – Henry Hynoski

Hynoski, an undrafted free agent, won the starting fullback job from incumbent Bear Pascoe, who will undoubtedly see time at the position as well.  Hynoski has been up and down this preseason.  At times he’s done a very good job getting to the hole and clearing a lane, at others he doesn’t seem to get low enough and is out leveraged at the point of attack.  This is one area of concern for the team as the running game relies heavily on the fullback.

TE – Travis Beckum, Jake Ballard, Bear Pascoe

It’s interesting to see Bear Pascoe listed as third on the depth chart, particularly when starter Travis Beckum showed very little in preseason.  Pascoe is arguably the best blocking TE on the squad but that’s really not saying too much.  Bear, like Hynoski, sometimes loses leverage at the point of attack and at other times is simply overwhelmed and blown back.  His strength seems to be walling off defenders on misdirection plays, which is good because the Giants run a lot of them.  As for Travis Beckum, we are told he has all the skills you could possibly want in a top tier receiving tight end but they very, very rarely throw it to him.  From the limited views one can see from the TV broadcast, it does appear that at times he is open yet Manning either never looks his way or ignores him when he does see him.  Jake Ballard seems to be the most “Kevin Boss-like” of the bunch, getting open over the middle and so far displaying he can hold onto the ball after taking a hit.  Ballard also has to work on his blocking technique.  As with the fullback, the TE’s are instrumental in the Giants’ running game and it remains to be seen who will line up as the third TE on the plays the Giants use one.  Reserve LT Jamon Meredith had manned the spot most of this preseason and did not perform particularly well in the roll.  Now that he’s been cut, it will be interesting to see who takes on the job.  Tight end is easily the spot on the roster that will be most scrutinized over the first few weeks of the season.

WR – Victor Cruz, Domenik Hixon, Jerrel Jernigan, Mario Manningham, Hakeem Nicks, Devin Thomas

The Giants are very deep and talented at WR.  After Nicks and Manningham, there is a ton of talent and one of these guys has got to break out from the slot position.  The only true slot receiver on the team is Jerrel Jernigan, but he’s had a tough time adapting to the pro passing game and learning his routes and reads.  Hixon could probably learn it most quickly due to being with the team for going on 4 years, but had a costly fumble on Thursday night fighting for yards he didn’t need.  Cruz and Thomas both seem suited for the outside, but may be pressed into service inside.  Other than developing that slot receiver, the Giants are loaded for bear at the position.

OL – David Baas, Will Beatty, Kevin Boothe, James Brewer, David Diehl, Kareem McKenzie, Chris Snee, Mitch Petrus, Stacy Andrews

After long time stalwarts Shaun O’Hara and Rich Seubert were cut, the Giants got even more ambitious with revamping the line by moving their LT from the previous three seasons, David Diehl, inside to his more natural LG position and anointing 3rd year man William Beatty as the man assigned with the task of protecting Eli Manning’s blind side.  Beatty played very well against some extremely talented DEs and LBs this preseason.  Diehl has struggled a bit to regain his footing at LG but there really shouldn’t be an issue going forward.  The new center is David Baas and after a rough opening game has really come on and established himself as a leader and mean son of a gun manning the middle.  The right side of the line remains intact with RG Chris Snee and RT Kareem McKenzie, both of whom are pro bowl caliber linemen.

The backups for this bunch are also pretty solid.  Kevin Boothe has virtually progressed to the point where he could start for a majority of teams at LG or RG.  His versatility as a backup center is also a huge plus.  Mitch Petrus continued to improve this preseason and looks like another future starter.  Rookie 4th round pick James Brewer made the squad, along with veteran Stacy Andrews.

DL – Rocky Bernard, Chris Canty, Linval Joseph, Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora, Dave Tollefson, Jimmy Kennedy

Easily the strength of this defense, the line has all kinds of talent all over the place.  If Umenyiora can come back 100% and play like the dominant DE he believes he is, this will be a fun unit to watch.  Inside, Linval Joseph has taken over the starting spot at RDT and looks like he’ll be a factor for years.  Alongside Joseph will be Chris Canty who had a very solid year last season which seemed to be overlooked by many.  Dave Tollefson is back for one more year backing up Tuck and JPP as the third DE until Osi gets back.  DE Jimmy Kennedy has an axe to grind and it’s a good thing he’s doing it for the Giants and not some other team.  Kennedy is out to prove his draft status was worthy and he’s vowed to have a major impact this year.  A very pleasant surprise this offseason has been the impressive play of Rocky Bernard, who is finally 100% healthy and is an excellent DT in rotation.

LB – Michael Boley, Jonathan Goff, Greg Jones, Mathias Kiwanuka, Spencer Paysinger, Mark Herzlich, Jacquian Williams

Don’t look now all you Corner Forum naysayers, but it looks like the Giants are on their way to putting together a formidable linebacking corps.  Four rookies….count ‘em….made the squad and all four look the part.  As mentioned above, each has done more than flash.  These rookies have put up sustained performances over the preseason, not just here or there in certain games.  Jones and Herzlich may one day be the teeth of this defense.  As for now, Boley is 100% healthy and had a very solid preseason.  Goff continues to grow and he’s starting to show he can shed blocks instead of staying engaged and missing the play.  Kiwanuka is still somewhat of a project at SAM, but he won’t be playing there exclusively as he will see time at DE and he will be substituted for when the Giants go to their 3 safety (Big Nickel) look.  Another thing the four rookies bring is speed and power to the special teams.

AUTHOR’S NOTE:  Just as I was finishing up this review and getting ready to send to Eric, I saw that MIKE LB Jonathan Goff has been lost for the season with an ACL injury.  That is a huge loss for the Giants, and makes this group vulnerable.  If someone can’t step up, the line backing corps turns into a liability.  It remains to be seen how the Giants will react to this development.

CB – Aaron Ross, Corey Webster, Prince Amukamara, Michael Coe, Brian Williams

Though the loss of Terrell Thomas is a blow, the Giants’ corner situation is just fine in the hands of Aaron Ross and Corey Webster provided both stay healthy.  When Amukamara returns, he will be undoubtedly be brought along slowly so it’s hard to imagine any real contributions from him until the second half of the season.  Youngster Michael Coe will be relied upon to step up along with veteran Brian Williams.  The Giants may not be done filling out this squad if they do not move Rolle over to play the third CB.

S – Deon Grant, Kenny Phillips, Antrel Rolle, Tyler Sash, Derrick Martin

The emergence of rookie Tyler Sash has made the need for finding another serviceable corner somewhat moot if he proves he can be trusted and play the position as well as or at least nearly as well as Antrel Rolle, allowing him to play more of the 3rd corner position.  Kenny Phillips has not had a tremendous offseason, though he has flashed on a couple of hits.  Phillips looks like he has his speed back, but there may be some hesitation left in his mind about going full speed.  At any rate, Phillips is playing like an average free safety and it would greatly help the team if he can regain his pre-injury form.  Veterans Deon Grant and Derrick Martin will spot sub, with Grant expected to perform much in the same roll he performed in last season.

P – Steve Weatherford

In one of the best competitions in camp, Steve Weatherford beat out BBI whipping boy Matt Dodge for the punter’s job.  Weatherford is a solid punter with good directional kicking ability, which is probably what this came down to as Dodge does not possess a directional game.  Dodge was very good this preseason, however, and it’s highly likely he’ll be on someone’s roster at some point this season.

K – Lawrence Tynes

If there is a single person in the league that benefited more from the change in the kickoff rules than Lawrence Tynes, I don’t know who it is.  Tynes leg is not the strongest in the league, but he is a good positional kicker who used those abilities to somewhat cover up poor coverage play by the Giants last season by employing several techniques to keep the other team off balance.  Now with an extra five yards to play with, he will be even more effective.

LS – Zak DeOssie

Zak is one of the better special teamers for the Giants and is making himself a nice little career out of being a long-snapping specialist.

Initial 2011 Practice Squad

LB Adrian Tracy – Lost his chance when Herzlich beat him out.
TE Christian Hopkins – 2 year vet from UFL’s New York Sentinels and Omaha Nighthawks.
QB Ryan Perrilloux – This guy has the chops to be a number 2 with a little seasoning.
RB Andre Brown – Fan favorite many at The Corner Forum was hoping to unseat DJ Ware.
DE Justin Trattou – UDFA from Florida.
DT Dwayne Hendricks – UDFA signed in 2009, had a sack against NE on Thursday.
WR Dan DePalma – UDFA signed by the Jets then waived; he participated in Eli Manning’s passing camp earlier this year during the lockout.

The Way Ahead

The Giants are easily one of the youngest teams in the league, bringing 10 rookies with them into opening day against Washington.  Pragmatically speaking, the Giants look to be a team that can win between 9 and 11 games barring any more catastrophic injuries.  The offense is fortunate that the beginning of the season is against some of the weaker opponents, but everyone knows that on any given Sunday, anything can happen.  If the Giants can gain some momentum and confidence early, this could be a very good season.   Much will hinge on the same things that doomed the Giants last year:  turnovers, special teams, and getting teams off the field on third downs.  The TE and FB situations are question marks, and now with the loss of Jonathan Goff the linebacking corps could be a major issue.  Time will tell, but it still seems that this team is capable of making the playoffs and doing some damage once they get there.

(Box Score – New York Giants at New England Patriots, September 1, 2011)
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