Aug 192012
 
 August 19, 2012  Posted by  Game Previews and Reviews
New York Giants 26 (1-1) – New York Jets 3 (0-2)

Game Overview: If you read my game preview, then you know for a team in the Giants’ position, I don’t put much emphasis on the outcome of a preseason game. In my opinion, the important thing was to get the reps – in full pads at full speed.  After all, the Giants only had 14 practices in Albany and about half of those were probably in shorts and shells.

The fact that the new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) prevents teams from doing much full contact at practice means all teams will be softer than the NFL teams of the past.  It also helps to explain why injuries are more common.  What?  Why would easier practices lead to more injuries?  BBI’s old friend SOTI explained it to me at camp, “Think of pounding one hand into your other fist over and over again…building up the calluses and getting tougher.”

I’ve been going to camp on a fairly regular basis since the mid-1980s.  You just don’t see the same type of contact and intensity anymore.  In the now-gone two-a-days, one practice was always in full pads.  And every few days you got full-contact goal-line and short-yardage drills.  Those days are gone.

So when you wonder why the Giants are having issues running the ball, some of it is talent (and I still contend it wasn’t all the offensive line last year).  But much of it is lack of excecution.  How the hell can a team be physical running the ball with less than 10 padded practices?  That is why “practicing” the running game is so important in the preseason, even if it doesn’t work.  These full-contact reps are what the Giants did not get in training camp.  By practicing it over and over, it should eventually come.  Let’s hope so.  You certainly can’t stop trying.

Quarterbacks: The Giants’ starters played the entire first half and the offense had five possessions to work with, although the last possession started at the Giants’ 1-yard line with a minute to go before the intermission.  Eli Manning (7-of-14 for 62 yards, 0 touchdowns, 1 interception) played pretty well, but seemed to rely a bit too heavily on Victor Cruz.  Eight of Eli’s 14 passes were targeted at Victor (5 completions).  Oddly, Eli also seemed to throw quite a bit in the direction of the Jets’ best defender – Darrelle Revis.  I suspect if this were a game that counted, Eli would have looked more in the direction of other defensive backs.

The Giants ran 25 plays and 13 minutes off of the clock on their first two drives, but only came away with six points.  The first drive stalled at the 17-yard line when the first two passes fell incomplete (Ramses Barden was well covered by Revis on a deep ball and Cruz dropped a pass).  The second drive continued after Eli hit a well-covered Domenik Hixon (again by Revis) on 4th-and-1 for a first down.  But two poor running plays, put the Giants in a difficult 3rd-and-8 situation.  Eli was under good pressure and Cruz did not get a call after being mugged in the endzone as the ball arrived.

I was asked by a member of the site this week why the Giants struggled to score early in games in 2011.  My answer was the poor running game.  Not only did the Giants “throw away” precious snaps with unproductive runs, but they also put Eli and his blockers in many difficult 3rd-and-long situations.  Look at the Giants’ fourth drive against the Jets – two poor runs and a 3rd-and-13 situation.  Then D.J. Ware dropped the screen pass.

A good quarterback can overcome some 3rd-and-long situations, but it is unrealistic to assume that any quarterback can overcome most of them.  In the 4th quarter of many regular season games last year, the Giants were behind and throwing the ball on all downs.  But you can’t abandon the run.  Not in this League.  You’ll get your quarterback killed.  So the Giants have to fix the running game.  Hopefully, with improved blocking (line, tight ends, fullback) and productivity from the backs (Bradshaw and Wilson in particular), the Giants will put Eli in much more manageable situations early in games.

Eli’s biggest mistake against the Jets was his bad “throw away” that was intercepted.  You can’t do that, especially on 1st-and-10 with great starting field position.  If you can’t get the ball out of bounds because of the pressure, take the sack.  That’s a mistake the veteran Eli shouldn’t make, even in a preseason game.

I liked what I saw from David Carr this week (5-of-9 for 73 yards, 0 touchdowns, 0 interceptions).  He stood tough in the pocket and took some big hits, including on his 49-yard deep completion to WR Rueben Randle.  That’s not always been the case with him.  And I don’t think he held onto the ball too long this week.  Like Manning, he led the Giants on two field goal drives on his first two possessions and had some key passes including a 19 yarder to WR Jerrell Jernigan on 2nd-and-3 and an 11-yard pass to WR Isaiah Stanback on 2nd-and-11.  His worst pass was a shot down the middle of the field to Stanback that was behind the receiver and almost intercepted, though Carr’s throw might have been influenced by the converging safety.  His next two possessions ended with poor pass protection and sacks on 3rd-and-long.

Ryan Perrilloux had his best drive as a Giant on his first and only meaningful possession in the game.  He fired a nice intermediate pass to WR David Douglas down the middle of the field for 23 yards on 2nd-and-12.  And on the very next snap, he threw a nice touch pass to RB Joe Martinek for the 14-yard score and a 26-3 advantage.  He did get flagged with delay of game when the Giants were trying to run out the clock however.

Wide Receivers: Victor Cruz (5 catches for 51 yards) looks ready to start the season.  He had one bad drop that helped to stall the first field goal drive, but he was Eli’s go-to guy in the first half.  It’s surprising he was that productive without the presence of the equally dangerous Hakeem Nicks on the field.

Jerrell Jernigan (2 catches for 26 yards) finally showed some of the shake-and-bake he was famous for in college with his 19-yard catch-and-run.  On the down side, Jernigan’s holding penalty erased the Giants’ best running play of the night – a 17-yard run by HB Andre Brown.

No other Giant had more than one catch.

Domenik Hixon started but was only targeted once, although that was a huge 4-yard catch on 4th-and-1 with Revis hanging all over him.  Ramses Barden (no catches) disappointed.  It wasn’t so much that he was blanketed by Revis on his deep route.  It was the fact that the big target could not fight through contact to come up with the catch on 3rd-and-5 on the Giants’ first drive.  A receiver with Barden’s skill set has to  make that play.  He’s not going to blow by people – he has to out-fight them for the ball.

At the other end of the spectrum, look at Rueben Randle.  On the deep post, the Jets had good coverage on Randle, but Randle leaped and out-fought the defensive back for the football.  That was a major-league play.

Isaiah Stanback caught one pass for 11 yards.  David Douglas caught a 23 yard pass that helped set up the Giants’ only offensive touchdown of the night, but he also dropped a low throw from Carr.

Running Backs: It was not a produtive night for the Giants’ ground game.  David Wilson was the leading rusher with 26 yards on 8 carries (3.3 yards per carry).  D.J. Ware had 15 yards on 11 carries (1.4 yards per carry).  Andre Brown had 10 yards on 4 carries (2.5 yards per carry).  Da’Rel Scott had 7 yards on 3 carries (2.3 yards per carry).  And Ahmad Bradshaw had 2 yards on 3 carries (0.7 yards per carry).  Yuck!

There were some productive runs.  Bradshaw did pick up 4 yards on a 3rd-and-3 shotgun run.  On the Giants’ second possession, things started off well when Ware had two 7-yard runs on 1st-and-10, giving Eli two very manageable 2nd-and-3 situations.  Yet later in the drive, after a 9-yard reception by Cruz, Ware was stuffed on 2nd-and-1 and 3rd-and-1.  After Hixon picked up the first down on 4th-and-1, two unproductive Ware carries put the Giants in a difficult 3rd-and-10 situation.  Much of this was the blocking, but Ware also seemed to get away from his blocking on some plays.  In fact, that seemed to be a problem with some of the others too.  The backs have to trust their blocking and take what is there.  A 3-yard gain is better than a 1-yard loss.  Ware also dropped a screen pass on 3rd-and-long.  To his credit, Ware made an excellent blitz pick-up on the 4th-and-1 pass.

In the second half, there were some productive runs too. Wilson had runs for 7, 6, and 7 yards. Scott had a 7 yard run.

Coughlin did comment on Wilson’s pass protection: “He had a nice pass protection pickup. He probably should’ve stayed up and not tried to cut the rusher, but he did. He knew who he had, and he came over with aggressiveness, and so he did understand that aspect of pass protection, which is a good thing.”

Henry Hynoski ran for two yards on a surprise fullback run on 3rd-and-1.  However, I was disappointed with Hynoski’s run blocking.  He had trouble with the Jets’ big and physical linebackers.

Tight Ends: The tight ends were surprisingly quiet in the pass receiving game.  After a big game against the Jaguars, Martellus Bennett was thrown at once, for a completion of 7 yards on 3rd-and-10.  No other tight end was targeted.  Bear Pascoe was flagged with holding in the 4th quarter when he was playing the fullback position.

Offensive Line: Read my opening overview.  The key here is the work.  Coughlin even addressed it on Sunday after the game:

“To be honest with you, from the standpoint of our offensive line, the amount of (defensive) looks that we got last night (from the Jets), and the communication that was necessary, and the split-second timing in regard to how things would be conducted up-front, that’s all good stuff. You cannot underestimate how valuable the pressure of that kind of scheme in our second preseason game, how valuable that is to us going forward. That’s going to be very helpful. I didn’t like it, a lot of it, and we certainly had our share of mistakes, and our second and third guys were kind of swimming a little bit, but I don’t think there’s any question about the value of it. Having experienced it this early in the season, the benefit going forward.”

Unless injuries become a factor (and the fact that Will Beatty has missed both games is very disconcerting), the offensive line will come along.  Right now, they are getting used to hitting again.  And as Coughlin said, the Jets gave them a ton of different defensive looks that will help prepare them better mentally for the regular season.

Manning was not sacked, but he did get hit a couple of times (one was a free blitzer coming off the edge).  Chris Snee got beat to the inside on the slow-developing pass play where Eli was picked off.

In re-watching the game, it was hard to pinpoint why the Giants were having a hard time running the ball.  You have to give the Jets some credit.  They may not rush the passer all that well, but they are big, physical, and aggressive up front.  Their defensive line is hard to move out and their linebackers were very active against the Giants.  It seemed like the Giants had a hat on someone, but someone came free to make the play.  I did see one blown run block by David Diehl who was shoved backwards and one by Chris Snee coming off of the goal line.

The second-team offensive line played pretty well.  That line had Matt McCants at left tackle, Selvish Capers at left guard,  Jim Cordle at center, Mitch Petrus at right guard, and James Brewer at right tackle.  Oddly, Brandon Mosley didn’t seem to get any snaps with the offensive line.  McCants did give up one pressure on Carr’s deep pass to Jernigan.  One sack came when a free blitzer came off the edge unblocked and Carr stepped up into the pocket.  The other sack occurred when Capers was confused and let a blitzing linebacker smash Carr.

Defensive Line: The Giants’ starting defense – minus Chris Canty, Michael Boley, and Terrell Thomas – held the Jets’ starting offense to four first downs and 83 total net yards (36 yards rushing and 47 yards passing).  But the Jets are so devoid of offensive talent that it hard to get a good read on the defense.  The Jets can run the ball a bit, but they don’t threaten defenses vertically down the field in the passing game.

The defensive line played well.  Minus Chris Canty, Shaun Rogers, and Marvin Austin, Linval Joseph and Rocky Bernard got the bulk of the first-half work though Dwayne Hendricks also got some first-team snaps.  Joseph and Bernard were stout inside though the Jets did pick up 12 yards on their first two plays of the game.  But that drive stalled when Joseph stuffed the back on 3rd-and-1.  Later in the second quarter, after Justin Tuck and Chase Blackburn stuffed a 3rd-and-1 play, Rocky Bernard blew up the 4th-and-1 attempt and the Jets turned the ball over on downs.  The only time the Jets running game gained some momentum was on the drive where CB Jayron Hosley intercepted the pass.  HB Shonn Greene gained 4, 5, 8, and 2 yards before a holding penalty pushed the Jets back.  Hendricks was in the football game during this drive and struggled with the Jets’ starters.

The Jets had problems pass blocking Jason Pierre-Paul (2 sacks), Justin Tuck (0.5 sacks) and Osi Umenyiora (0.5 sacks).  The only problem these Giants’ ends had was lining up offsides (twice).

Aside from the Jets’ opening drive of the second half, the Giants’ reserves pretty much dominated the line of scrimmage against the Jets’ reserves.  On that first possession, HB Bilal Powell picked up 5, 8, 4, and 5 yards before being stuffed for -1 and no gain.  On the latter two plays, DE Craig Marshall and DT Markus Kuhn made the plays.  Kuhn also made a nice play tackling QB Tim Tebow for a 1-yard loss on a designed run.

DE Adrian Tracy – one of the stars against the Jaguars – left the game early with a hamstring issue.  This week’s star was DE Adewale Ojomo (4 tackles including 2 for losses and 2 sacks).  Ojomo was offsides once however.  Defensive ends Craig Marshall (1 tackle for a loss, 1 quarterback hit) and Matt Broha (1 sack, 1 pass defense) also flashed again.  Other teams are going to pilfer some of this defensive end talent that I’m sure the Giants would like to keep on the Practice Squad.  Kudos to DT Carlton Powell who flashed on a pass rush and a running play despite only having one practice under his belt.

Linebackers: Michael Boley did not play and Keith Rivers started in his place.  Rivers and Mathias Kiwanuka led the team in tackles with five apiece.  Rivers did a nice job of forcefully cleaning up on a run that lost 4 yards.  Rivers was also in on the the 4th-and-1 play that was stuffed and then later made another nice play against the back, holding Greene to a 2-yard gain.  All of Kiwanuka’s tackles were well beyond the line of scrimmage.  Chase Blackburn made a couple of nice plays.  He aggressively filled the hole on a 2-yard run with S Kenny Phillips.  Later, he combined with Justin Tuck to stuff a 3rd-and-1 play.  Pass coverage by the starting unit was a bit more suspect as the Jets seemed to easily complete some short passes.

Jacquian Williams missed another game with a hip injury.  Mark Herzlich was knocked out of the game early with a hip pointer and Jake Muasau took his place.  He teamed with Spencer Paysinger and Greg Jones.  Paysinger was in on three tackles and crushed Tebow on a blitz as he let go of the football.  He also allowed Marshall to nail the back for a loss by playing strong at the point-of-attack.  Jones only was in on one tackle and has yet to stand out this preseason.  Muasau saw his first preseason action and was only in on one tackle.

Defensive Backs: It’s hard to really judge the defensive backs because – quite frankly – the Jets’ quarterbacks suck and given their injury situation at wide receiver, so did their receivers in this game.  Prince Amukamara did a real nice of forcing the 4-yard loss that Rivers cleaned up on.  He also made a sure tackle after a short completion on 1st-and-15.  The Jets did not complete a pass against him down the field.  Corey Webster did give up one 12-yard completion.

The play of the game was Jayron Hosley beautifully reading an intermediate out pass and returning it the house for a 77-yard touchdown return.

As for the reserves, Michael Coe and Brandon Bing were both out with hamstring injuries.  Justin Tryon and Bruce Johnson were the second team corners once again.  Aside from the first drive of the second half, the Jets’ pass protection was so bad and Tim Tebow so crappy that one can’t really adequately grade them and safeties Tyler Sash and Will Hill.  Hill or Tryon made a big mistake on a play that should have resulted in a wideopen 29-yard touchdown but Tebow badly underthrew the ball.  Tryon sat down in the zone and Hill never picked the receiver up.  Not sure who messed up there, but I’m guessing Hill.  Hill was in on four tackles and one sack.  I also liked his hustle on a fumble that he recovered that was later ruled an incomplete pass.  Tryon did give up a12-yard completion on 2nd-and-11.  He needs to play better.

Special Teams: Someone obviously has replaced Lawrence Tynes’ natural leg with a bionic one.  For the second game in a row, he was booming his kickoffs.  Four went for deep touchbacks.  Another that was returned was 8 yards deep in the end zone (Spencer Paysinger made a nice tackle at the 14-yard line).  The worst kickoff was some sort of line-drive squib kick that was returned to the Jets’ 41-yard line.  (Isaiah Stanback made this situation worse by being flagged for unnecessary roughness).  The last Tynes’ kickoff also went 5 yards deep and was only brought out to the 15 (Antwaun Molden made the tackle).

Tynes was also a perfect 4-for-4 on field goal attempts (35, 30, 40, and 45 yards)…right down the middle.

Aside from the one big kickoff return, the big negative was the blocked punt.  Danny Ware messed up in protection.  Steve Weatherford’s other three punts went for 38 (fair catch), 47 (bounced into end zone for touchback), and 36 yards (fair catch).

Jayron Hosley returned two punts – one for 10 yards and one for no gain.  Rueben Randle returned one punt for 11 yards.

The Giants did not return a kickoff (two touchbacks).

(Box Score – New York Giants at New York Jets, August 18, 2012)
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Eric Kennedy

Founder and owner of BigBlueInteractive.com, which is now entering its 20th season.

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