Aug 152012
 
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Jacksonville Jaguars 32 (1-0) – New York Giants 31 (0-1)

By rnargi for BigBlueInteractive.com

Game Summary: The defending Super Bowl Champion New York Giants lost their opening game of the pre-season to the Jacksonville Jaguars on Saturday night, 32-31. As always, fans have to temper the final results based on what the team needed to do in the game. With the limits put on practices at training camp under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NFL and its players, the preseason games can be expected to be somewhat sloppy.
Some players may get more playing time than normal to allow the coaches more time to evaluate them in game situations.

Additionally, one might see situational play changed in order to have the chance to evaluate a player in a particular situation. Case in point, there is no way rookie 3rd round draft choice CB Jayron Hosley would attempt to field a punt at the 11 yard line with 32 seconds left in the first half of a game you’re leading by 17 points. Chances are (and there is no way I can be sure) the Giants coaching staff wanted to see Hosley field a punt, situation be damned. The outcome of this game didn’t matter, but knowing whether Hosley can field punts in a game situation matters greatly.

Overall, the starters and immediate backups on both sides of the ball looked pretty sharp. Granted, the offense bogged down on their first drive and the defense gave up a touchdown on the Jaguars first possession. Again, no big deal. This game and the next three are all about evaluation, building continuity and communication, and fine tuning the execution. Nowhere is this more important than on the second and third teams where understudies may have to take on more prominent roles as the season rolls on.

The end of the roster had trouble, but again that’s expected. The offensive line gave QB Ryan Perrilloux very little time to set up in the pocket during the 4th quarter. On defense, the Giants allowed two scoring drives and a two point conversion that allowed Jacksonville to pull out the victory.

The team has some kinks to work out, evidenced by the 11 penalties for 84 yards. Throw in two muffed punts, both lost, and the Giants showed they have plenty to work on.

Offense:

Other than Sean Locklear (the longtime Seattle Seahawk guard and right tackle who started 3 games at left tackle and one at right tackle last year for the Redskins) at left tackle for Will Beatty and Ramses Barden at wideout for Hakeem Nicks, the starting Giants offense was the one we will most likely see on opening night versus the Cowboys.

New York moved the ball effectively. On their first drive, the offensive line, and particularly Henry Hynoski, did a good job blocking on the ground. Pass protection was sound. The Jags only sent 4 defenders in on Eli and the line never let them get close. On the 3rd and 5 play, Manning forced a ball inside to Cruz that was almost intercepted. He had Barden on a slant for what would have been an easy first down underneath Cruz but either didn’t see him or decided to go to Cruz anyway.

For the rest of the half it was all Giants until the muffed punt by Hosley. The Giants got untracked after allowing the first touchdown, scoring 24 points on their next 4 drives. Frankly, if the NFL refs were calling this game, it probably would have been 28 as WR Jerrel Jernigan was interfered with in the end zone.

The first team offense accounted for three drives, 101 total yards (26 rushing, 60 passing, 15 via penalty) on 17 plays, 6 first downs and 10 points. The Giants threw 8 times (9 if you include the incomplete on the personal foul by the Jaguars) and rushed 8.

The Quarterbacks:

QB Eli Manning played 3 series and completed 4 of 8 passes for 60 yards. His protection was excellent as he wasn’t really hit except for one blitz by the Jags nickel back that came from the opposite side from where RB DJ Ware had flared into the flat. Eli had the back of his helmet grabbed on the play and the CB was flagged for “facemasking.” Thanks, replacement refs. Manning looked fine, but he did force the ball into Cruz that was mentioned earlier.

David Carr continues to impress as a second string QB against second string competition. Carr engineered two touchdown drives in the second quarter. Carr’s first touchdown pass was a very nice play off play action that brought all the linebackers up, allowing TE Martellus Bennett to split the safeties and make a spectacular catch in the end zone for the 12 yard score. Later, Carr connected with WR Isaiah Stanback on a beautiful 5 yard fade that Stanback came down with using one hand for the touchdown. Carr finished completing 6 out of 10 passes for 48 yards and the two touchdowns.

Many folks have QB Ryan Perrilloux, who played the fourth quarter, pushing Carr for the number 2 job. Carr is 33 years old now, so working a youngster in makes sense. Though Perrilloux completed 6 of his 7 attempts on the day for 59 yards and 1 touchdown, he was running for his life on half of his drop backs. He ended up scrambling three times and getting sacked twice. Ryan hooked up with rookie WR Ruben Randle for a nifty stop fade 5 yard touchdown pass.

The Running Backs:

Though many people wanted New York to bring the new car out of the garage early for a test spin, RBs Ahmad Bradshaw, DJ Ware and Andre Brown were the first three taken out on the freeway Saturday night. Bradshaw looked exactly like Bradshaw, nothing new to report. He gained 12 yards on 4 carries and also had 1 catch for 7 yards on a nifty looking screen that appeared to be set for more yardage than it gained. Additionally, on Cruz’ long catch and run on the Giants second drive, Bradshaw did a great job to get downfield and lead block for Cruz.

Ware also looked good despite the heckling he received in The Corner Forum. What may have been lost on Ware’s carries is that he did a very good job of following and using his blocking, particularly on his 9 yard run to set up his touchdown, then bouncing outside a stacked line to follow Bennett and Pascoe into the end zone, and again following great blocks by Locklear and Hynoski on his 16 yard run. If you have a chance to rewatch the game, focus on Ware’s vision. It seemed very good.

Brown is going to have a rough time making this team, and it’s because it’s a numbers game. Brown will have to beat out Ware because he’s not going to beat out Bradshaw or Wilson. Brown did have a very nice 12 yard burst but other than that was bottled up on his other 6 carries, gaining just 13 yards on them.

Fan favorite Da’Rel Scott did not play, and if he doesn’t recover from his thigh contusion soon one has to wonder what kind of chance he’ll get this year.

FB Henry Hynoski executed several beautiful blocks on Saturday. With a year under his belt in the offense, great things are expected from him this year.

The Wide Receivers and Tight Ends:

With Hakeem Nicks out recovering from a broken foot and Dominek Hixon nursing a tight hamstring, it was a golden opportunity for WR Ramses Barden to shine as the starter opposite Victor Cruz. Barden caught the first pass thrown his way for 14 yards and a first down, but never saw the ball again. As mentioned above, he was open for a first down on the play that Eli nearly threw an interception but wasn’t thrown to.

Victor Cruz had three balls thrown his way. His only reception went for 28 yards on a comeback and run after the catch. Cruz may have gotten a case of alligator arms on a second down pass that clanged off his hands as he went into the middle right at the Jacksonville safety.

Rookie WR Rueben Randle caught two passes for 27 yards including the stop fade for the touchdown that looked for all the world like he’s done it in the NFL for 10 years. The kid has the goods and may be the outside receiver opposite Nicks as the season goes on.

Jerrel Jernigan didn’t catch a pass but made a very nice move to get behind a Jacksonville CB and in position to make a touchdown catch. Unfortunately he was interfered with despite not getting the call and was unable to make a one handed catch. Jernigan is another player who has three games to step up and prove he can start with the team.

As mentioned, Isaiah Stanback made a spectacular 5 yard touchdown catch. Rookie Julian Talley, this year’s UDFA out of UMass caught two balls for 22 yards on the final drive of the game. He’s a very longshot to make the final 53 but depending on what he can do in the final 3 preseason games he could be a PS player.

TE Martellus Bennett, plucked in free agency from the Cowboys, made his presence known in both the passing and the running games. He made the key block by taking on LB Paul Posluszny during Ware’s 9 yard run and then on the Ware touchdown he blew up DE Jeremy Mincey, pushing him 3 yards into the end zone despite the flow of the play going the other way. When Ware bounced off the pile on the left side of the line, he was able to slide to the right into the hole created by Bennett, then maintained by TE Bear Pascoe (who tied up the free safety), and score the touchdown. Bennett also caught 3 passes for 27 yards (a long of 12) and the touchdown described earlier. If Bennett produces like this, the Giants will have the best two way playing TE they’ve had in a long time.

Pascoe also looked decent in the run game and also caught 1 pass for 2 yards.

The Offensive Line:

It’s no secret that New York’s rushing attack was ranked a league worst 32nd last year. To be fair, RT stalwart Kareem McKenzie had a declining year and wasn’t re-signed by the Giants or anyone else for that matter. RG Chris Snee also had a tough year, and first year Giant C David Baas was in and out of the line up with injuries. LT David Diehl had to move back outside to LT when Will Beatty was lost for the season with utility lineman Kevin Boothe moving into the starting line up at LG. When you combine that kind of churn with a substandard set of blocking tight ends and a rookie fullback, a lackluster running game is almost a given.

LT Will Beatty’s back issues are worrisome. The Giants appear ready to try a couple of different things to sub for the injury, but the most conventional thinking has David Diehl back at LT. On Saturday night, Sean Locklear started at LT and Diehl was at RT. As noted, Locklear started just three games for the Redskins at LT last season but he played a decent game on Sunday night. His matchup in the early part of the game came against 2nd round selection Andre Branch. Branch never got a sniff of Eli as Locklear neutralized him on every pass rush. Additionally, Locklear cleared the MIKE linebacker with a great block on Ware’s long run. The rest of the starters looked about the same as last year (good at pass protection, questionable in the running game), but the Jaguars ran just one blitz (which got home from the safety position) early in the game. C David Baas was also impressive at the point of attack.

As for the backups, Corner Forum contributor NNJ Tom nicknamed the 3rd string offensive line “The Wind Farm” because of the turnstile affect they seemed to perfect in unison. The jury is out on Cordle, McCants, Petrus, Mosley, Brewer and the rest of the guys in camp. The good news is McCants and Mosley didn’t look terrible. There are three games for them to get up to speed but it’s anyone’s guess as to who makes the team and who may be able to contribute at a high level if needed.

The Defense:

The first string defense was missing LB Michael Boley, CB Terrell Thomas and DT Chris Canty. Once again this season the Giants will rely on a dominant front 4 and a solid secondary. This season, however, they have a good chance to add to that with an emerging linebacker corps that should be much improved over last season. The Giants have a lot of depth on every unit, but the DTs seem to be the area of “cluster injuries,” something that seems to happen to the Giants every season.

The starters came out flat on the first series and were unable to stop the Jaguars on the run or pass. After an opening play in which Justin Tuck forced QB Blaine Gabbart to throw an incompletion, New York went to the NASCAR line and they were gashed on the ground. Granted, New York was playing a very basic defense but there were breakdowns in every unit, particularly in the secondary where Rolle and Amukamara were beaten pretty badly. On the second drive, New York was beaten on an end around but Amukamara stayed with the play and stripped the ball resulting in a fumble recovery.

The Giants forced another turnover on a sack by DE Adrian Tracy. Overall, the defense played very basic formations all night and despite a decent pass rush, the second and third team secondary was lit up. On a positive note, the Jaguars didn’t have a great running game in the second half.

Front 7:

The most glaring issue up front on Saturday night was the underwhelming play of the defensive tackles. As noted, with the NASCAR unit in the Giants didn’t do too much to stop the run but even with the bigger anchors in there, Jacksonville was able to get good push through the middle. DT Shawn Rogers looked bad, and now it’s been revealed that he will be lost for the season with a blood clot in his leg. Rogers was on his heels all night, and it appears that the condition could have been part of the problem. The rest of the DTs were also a mixed bag. Marvin Austin is a work in progress as we makes his way back from two full years away from football. The best looking of the group of DTs was Dwayne Hendricks, who may be looking at his best chance to win playing time due to the injuries at the position. Hendricks had 2 sacks and a third tackle for a loss.

The DEs didn’t do too much at all in a very basic attack. The biggest standout was former 6th round pick Adrian Tracy who managed a sack and forced fumble. Tracy looks fast, long, and quick off the line. He is full of energy and exuberance, maybe too much so, as he got caught jumping the snap on one occasion. (Editor’s Note: There were some nice flashes by Matt Broha and Craig Marshall).

The linebacking crew is currently being anchored by Chase Blackburn, and he had a solid game. Early on at the goal line he made a great read to take out the fullback allowing Mathais Kiwanuka to stuff the running back in the hole near the goal line. Tracy also had some trouble recognizing running plays, over pursuing at the point of attack and taking himself out of the play. We’ll see over the next three games if he can correct that.

There was some guff for LB Keith Rivers, but he made two very good plays. On the first drive in which the FB took Amukamara for a ten yard ride, Rivers did an excellent job of fighting through the block of the DT, make his way to the running back and hold the play for just a 5 yard gain. Later, Rivers again fought off a pair of blocks to stop a well design and disguised screen pass to hold the play to a 5 yard gain.

LB Spencer Paysinger was active and flashed several times during the game, registering 5 solo tackles. Paysinger was excellent at avoiding the wash to get to the play near the line of scrimmage.

Could we be seeing the makings of the next great MIKE for the New York Giants in Mark Herzlich? We need to see him with some time with the first team, but he looked very good against the second and third teams of the Jaguars. The point right now for Herzlich is that it’s unclear to us fans as to whether he’s ready to lead and call the defense. Time will tell.

Defensive Backs:

Just like in the first preseason game last year, the starting secondary didn’t do too much beyond Amukamara’s forced fumble. Webster, Rolle and Amukamara all gave up completions on the first series in which Gabbart completed 4 of 6 passes (one batted down by Linval Joseph) for 51 yards and a touchdown. There is probably absolutely nothing to worry about here. Amukamara will progress and get better with more practice and playing time. If Terrell Thomas can come back at some point in the season, that’s a bonus. (Editor’s Note: Prince was beaten badly for a 29-yard reception on 3rd-and-7 and a 3-yard touchdown on 3rd-and-1).

The backups also had a lot of problems, but the Jaguars kept their two starting wide receivers (Robiskie and Thomas) in the game for much longer than would have been expected due to injuries to other receivers. It seemed that Jacksonville just waited for zones to clear and found the open spaces. Again, that’s not going to be such an issue when the Giants begin to play more complex schemes and get their pass rush dialed up.

Rookie CB Jayron Hosley had a nice sack on a blitz. He looks like a player, but he definitely could use to put on some weight. The rest of the DBs, Bruce Johnson, Antwuan Molden, Michael Coe and Justin Tryon will be fighting for roster spots. (Editor’s Note: Disappointing game for Tryon and Johnson in particular, and the reserve safeties other than Hill did not distinguish themselves).

Another bright spot on defense is undrafted free agent Will Hill. By all accounts, this man has learned his lesson and realizes this may be his last chance to play football for the rest of his life. Hill played well and had 4 solo tackles. Rolle and Phillips only played for the first two series and we know what we have there. Tyler Sash will be Hill’s biggest obstacle over the next three weeks.

Special Teams:

The Giants had some good and bad on specials in this game. First the good, Lawrence Tynes looks good kicking off and Weatherford was his usual outstanding self. The biggest positive was the outstanding 50 yard kickoff return from rookie RB David Wilson. Wilson showed great speed and vision on the return.

The bad were the two muffed punts, one by Jernigan and one by Hosley. Interestingly, the rest of the punt returns by these men were pretty good, with a long of 20 by Hosley.

The Giants did a great job bottling up the Jaguars punt return team and also kept the kick return team at bay as well. Very good stuff.

Coaching:

Observe…observe…observe…analyze…analyze…analyze…wash, rinse, repeat. The Giants didn’t game plan and played pretty close to the vest all night. As Head Coach Tom Coughlin put it after the game, it was “sloppy.” That’s ok. They have three weeks to work out the penalties and tighten up the return game. On the positive side, the Giants didn’t commit an offensive turnover and were able to force two on defense and one on specials.

Summary:

About as vanilla and frankly boring a game as I’ve ever seen, I admit I was disappointed that they lost. I am a fan. I have an emotional investment in the team and the games, no matter what. The pragmatic side of me sees this as nothing more than a learning experience for the coaches and players. There are a lot of very, very talented players on this team and not all of them can stick. That makes this fun as they try to get down to the final 53. Camp may be over and there are some injuries affecting depth but the next three weeks are going to be awesome to watch as players will literally be fighting for a spot on the defending World Champions. Many of the early cuts may find themselves on other teams before it’s all over. Let the fun begin!

(Box Score – New York Giants at Jacksonville Jaguars, August 10, 2012)
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