Aug 282016
 
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Johnathan Hankins and Jason Pierre-Paul, New York Giants (August 27, 2016)

Johnathan Hankins and Jason Pierre-Paul – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 21 – New York Jets 20

Overview

Your overall impression of the New York Giants in the preseason will probably be determined by if you are a glass half full or glass half empty type of person.

Half Full:

  • The Giants offense – which has been the strength of the team in recent years – has also usually struggled in the preseason in recent years. It’s been so bad that the starters seem to be regularly “punished” by having to play more in the preseason finale against the Patriots. This year may be no exception.
  • This is essentially the same offense as 2015 (top 10) with the addition of Sterling Shepard and possibly a productive Victor Cruz.
  • The defense looks vastly improved.
  • To date (knock on wood), there have been no major injuries.

Half Empty:

  • The blocking up front has looked terrible. This doesn’t bode well for an offensive unit that has struggled to consistently run the football and produce in short-yardage situations in recent years.
  • When Eli Manning and Odell Beckham are not playing at a high level, this offense looks stuck in the mud.
  • Tom Quinn’s special teams are still far too inconsistent and give up too many big plays.
  • Ben McAdoo (as head coach) and Mike Sullivan (as offensive coordinator) remain question marks.

Giants on Offense

The New York Giants offense continues to look terrible. Eli Manning and the starting unit were on the field for eight drives. The results were not pretty.

  • Three first downs.
  • 1-for-8 on third-down conversions.
  • 56 total net yards.
  • Zero points.

The starting offense’s longest drive of the night was 16 yards. The reserves had seven drives, four of which netted zero yards. The other three drives were 47 yards (resulting in a touchdown), 72 yards (turnover on downs), and 11 yards (resulting in a touchdown). For the second week in a row, the Giants didn’t have 170 yards of offense.

That all said, this was a bad match-up for the Giants. The Jets have one of the toughest, most physical, and most disruptive defensive lines in football. This was a bad game to be without Justin Pugh. Combine that with an ultra-conservative, run-oriented game plan that appeared to play right into the strength of the Jets defense, and the results were not terribly shocking. I got the sense that Ben McAdoo wasn’t showing his hand. Even on the game’s first drive, the Giants ran a draw play on 3rd-and-13.

Quarterback

Glass half empty or half full? Eli struggled terribly last preseason and then went on to have one of his best seasons. Eli is still standing and healthy. We know he won’t be a problem. Bad news? Even with the complete absence of a running game and shoddy pass protection, Eli didn’t look particularly sharp. He finished 10-of-15 for 65 yards and one interception. The pick was not completely on him as Odell Beckham made a business decision not to expose himself to injury and cut off his route. That said, Eli could have gotten Beckham killed on that throw and probably should have gone elsewhere.

Ryan Nassib had another rough game. He only completed 6-of-19 passes for 69 yards. However, two of his six completions did go for touchdowns. At times, he was nowhere near his intended target. Nassib was flagged for delay of game.

Logan Thomas did not play.

Running Backs

Impossible to evaluate as the Jets completely dominated the line of scrimmage. Giants backs carried the ball 17 times for 15 yards. Yikes. Twelve of those carries – six apiece – went to Shane Vereen (11 yards) and Rashad Jennings (-1 yard). Vereen and Jennings combined for four catches for 32 yards. Vereen almost got Eli killed when he failed to spot the free blitzer on 3rd-and-7 play that ended with a big hit and sack.

Fullback Nikita Whitlock left the game with a mid-foot sprain and was spotted in a boot and on crutches in the locker room.

Tavarres King, New York Giants (August 27, 2016)

Tavarres King – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Wide Receivers

The best news of the night offensively was that Victor Cruz played and walked off of the field healthy. He played 29 offensive snaps, catching one pass for four yards. Cruz got free a few times including once down the field after a nice double-move, but Eli could not connect with him. Cruz did wipe out a rare first down early in the 3rd quarter with an illegal formation penalty.

Tavarres King was the other big positive. Both of his catches went for touchdowns – one a sliding catching in the end zone and the other an 11-yard catch-and-run score. Toss in a 20-yard end around before the first score too. King got free deep on an earlier pass but appeared to trip on the turf and stumbled to the ground. He also drew a 30-yard pass interference penalty.

Roger Lewis – who was targeted four times – had one catch for 20 yards. Lewis got open deep earlier on this drive but Nassib misfired. Odell Beckham only had one catch for eight yards and Sterling Shepard one catch for one yard. Geremy Davis returned after missing last week with a hamstring injury. He had one catch for seven yards.

Tight Ends/Offensive Line

Left guard Justin Pugh (shoulder) did not play and was missed for the second week in a row. Tight end/H-back/fullback Will Johnson (burner) and tight end Matt LaCosse (knee) also did not play. Johnson’s veteran presence has also been missed.

I’m going to use a line of excuses that is going to piss a lot of people off. Yes, Justin Pugh is THAT important to THIS offensive line as it is currently constituted. The left-center of this line is the line’s strength and when you take out the cog between Ereck Flowers and Weston Richburg, that turns the strength into another weakness. Bobby Hart may or may not end up being a viable NFL player, but he really struggled in this game. Hart is not the left guard that Justin Pugh is right now and he does not have the same level of chemistry with Flowers and Richburg. The Giants are also learning new blocking techniques and schemes from Offensive Line Coach Mike Solari. Combine that with the superb quality of the opponent and I’m not shocked the line had big issues on Saturday night.

The Jets dominated the line of scrimmage. The Giants had no running game. None. They didn’t even average a yard per carry with the backs. My personal opinion is that Ben McAdoo would never have tried as many rushing attempts in the first half against this opponent in a real game. The match-ups did not favor the Giants being able to run the ball. The Giants also oddly ran some plays that called on their tight ends to handle the Jets elite defensive ends. That’s just not going to work.

Left guard Bobby Hart and right tackle Marshall Newhouse whiffed on the Giants first run, causing the play to get stuffed. Center Weston Richburg tripped up Manning for a 4-yard loss. Hart then had problems with defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson on another running play. On the next series, right guard John Jerry (against Leonard Williams) and tight end Larry Donnell and fullback Nikita Whitlock (against Muhammad Wilkerson) were easily pushed aside on another failed run. And so it went. To be blunt – Richardson, Wilkerson, and Williams are simply too good for the Giants to handle. Wilkerson later ran right through rookie tight end Ryan Mallett on a 4-yard loss – that’s an unfair match-up. Mallett struggled as a blocker.

On the 3rd-and-5 deep pass that Eli just threw up for grabs and was nearly picked off, Hart and Richburg failed to pick up a stunt as the rusher closed on Manning. This probably doesn’t happen with Pugh in the game. Later in the 2nd quarter, Hart’s man ran right around him en route to Manning. Both tackles then had problems with Williams and Richardson on 3rd-and-12 and Manning had to run for his life. Newhouse remains a weak run blocker. Hart also had a false start on 3rd-and-1. Bad game for Hart and a not-so-good performance for Newhouse.

The second team offensive line featured LT Byron Stingily, LG Ryan Seymour, OC Adam Gettis, RG Brett Jones, and RT Emmett Cleary. Seymour and Jones had issues with the pass rush on their first possession, causing Nassib to get hit twice. On the next possession, tight end Will Tye allowed a big hit on quarterback Ryan Nassib.

In the 4th quarter, the line was composed of LT Stingily, LG Dillon Farrell, OC Shane McDermott, RG Gettis, and RT Seymour. Jake Rodgers then came in at left tackle. Gettis was flagged with two false starts on one drive.

In the pass receiving department, Will Tye caught two passes for -2 yards. Jerell Adams had one catch for 14 yards (from Manning on 3rd-and-6) and Donnell one catch for eight yards. Will Tye was flagged for offensive pass interference.

Giants on Defense

The best news coming out of the preseason is the defense looks vastly improved. As a good defense should, the defense kept the Giants in the game while the offense struggled, and even got the ball right back after a bad turnover (the blocked punt). As bad as the Giants offense was on Saturday night, the Giants defense made the Jets offense look pretty inept too. The Jets had six first downs in the first half and their only first-half scoring drive started at the Giants 30-yard line with the 22-yard score coming on a perfect back-shoulder pass. While the reserves were not as stingy as a unit, there were plenty of individual performances from the back ups that stood out.

Defensive Line

It appears that the Giants have one of the better starting defensive lines in football. Defensive end Olivier Vernon has played better than I expected. He was very disruptive (5 tackles, 1 tackle for a loss) against the run and as a pass rusher. Vernon tackled the back for a 2-yard loss on 3rd-and-1 early in the 3rd quarter. Defensive tackle Damon Harrison (7 tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble) combined with Johnathan Hankins (1 tackle, 1 fumble recovery) to get the ball right back after the blocked punt set the Jets up on the Giants 15-yard line. The duo did get handled relatively easily on an earlier 3rd-and-1 however. Jason Pierre-Paul made a tremendous hustle play by pursuing to the opposite sideline after a short pass and forcing a fumble out-of-bounds on 3rd down.

Jay Bromley did a nice job of reading a middle screen and coming back to make a tackle for a short gain on 3rd-and-10. Kerry Wynn blew up a running play and tackled the back for a 5-yard loss. Kerry lost contain on an 11-yard play to his side, but made up for it later on this drive with his interception off a deflected pass that he nimbly returned 73 yards for a touchdown. Romeo Okwara picked up a sack rushing from the defensive tackle position and had two more quality pressures late from the inside position as well as a nice play against the run. Then he had two more pressures on the quarterback from the right defensive end position, including knocking the ball out of the quarterback’s hand. Louis Nix flashed on a couple of plays and Davon Coleman tipped the pass that was intercepted late that set up the game-winning touchdown.

Linebackers

The bad news is that Jonathan Casillas – who has been playing very well – may have cracked a rib in the first half and did not return. How much this sets him back remains to be seen. B.J. Goodson also suffered a concussion.

Before he left the game, Casillas made a nice play (along with Janoris Jenkins) of holding a screen pass to no gain. He was very active early with three tackles in the 1st quarter, including a sure tackle on an inside run that only picked up a yard.

Jasper Brinkley started the game at middle linebacker but Kelvin Sheppard came in early too. Sheppard made a nice play in pursuit on an outside run that only picked up a yard. On the very next play, Keenan Robinson played off a block and stuffed an inside run. Robinson later expertly defended a quarterback bootleg for no gain. He also demonstrated good reaction, closing speed, and made a nice open-field tackle on a swing pass.

J.T. Thomas did a great job of reading a screen pass, disrupting the entire play, and deflected the ball that was returned for a 73-yard touchdown. Despite solid coverage, Sheppard got beat for a 16-yard gain over the middle on 3rd-and-15 on the Jets 4th quarter touchdown drive.

Andrew Adams, New York Giants (August 27, 2016)

Andrew Adams – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Defensive Backs

Safeties Darian Thompson (shoulder) and Mykkele Thompson (concussion) did not play.

Cornerback Eli Apple stood out. He had good coverage on WR Eric Decker on a go route and then later a slant with two incompletions being the result. Ryan Fitzpatrick tested Apple again deep in the 2nd quarter but the rookie was again up to the task. On the downside, Apple did abandon his outside run responsibility on a 9-yard gain late in the first half.

Before he left the game with a concussion, veteran nickel corner Leon Hall struggled. He gave up a 10-yard reception on 3rd-and-8 to start the game and an 18-yard reception on 3rd-and-9. Donte Deayon got in the game late in the 1st quarter and was beat on a 3rd-and-7 out pattern, but luckily the throw was off the mark.

Landon Collins made a sure tackle to hold the receiver just short of the first down on a quick 3rd-and-5 slant pass. Janoris Jenkins got beat for a 22-yard score on a 3rd-and-2 back-shoulder throw where he failed to turn around to make a play on the ball. Late in the first half, Jenkins did a nice job of reading a WR screen on 3rd-and-3 although the pass was dropped. Jenkins gave up a 7-yard out on 3rd-and-6 early in the 3rd quarter.

Nat Berhe flashed in pursuit on one running play that looked primed to pick up bigger yardage than it did. Corner Michael Hunter had good coverage on a 3rd-and-7 incomplete pass. Corner Trevin Wade had nice coverage on one deep shot, but later got burned for a 26-yard gain. Corner Leon McFadden got beat for 27 yards two plays later and then safety Justin Currie was badly beaten for the 10-yard score.

After the 52-yard punt return set the Jets up at the Giants 14-yard line, safety Andrew Adams tipped a slant pass and McFadden made a nice play to save a touchdown by preventing the completion. Adams followed this up with a nice run force. Hunter broke up another pass late in the 4th quarter. Adams intercepted a pass late after it was deflected by a defensive lineman dropping into coverage. Currie had nice coverage on the tight end crossing pattern on 4th-and-1 late to force the turnover on downs.

Giants on Special Teams

Once again, Tom Quinn’s special teams were a liability in a game. Both Orleans Darkwa and Justin Currie whiffed on attempted blocks, leading to a blocked punt. The Giants also gave up punt returns of 52 yards (which led to a field goal despite the defense holding the Jets to three yards on this “drive”) and 28 yards. Harris made a sure tackle on one return but his mistackle on the next return led to the 28-yard return. Jerell Adams did save a touchdown with his hustle on the 52-yard return (he also was in on another special teams tackle).

All four of the Giants kickoffs resulted in touchbacks (two by Randy Bullock, two by Josh Brown). Not counting the block, Brad Wing punted 10 times, averaging 48.6 yards per kick with four inside the 20-yard line. Dwayne Harris was flagged with holding on one punt.

Dwayne Harris returned four punts for 49 yards, including a 29-yarder. Bobby Rainey returned two punts for 22 yards, including a 21-yarder. Tavarres King was flagged for an illegal block penalty on one Rainey return. Rainey returned two kickoffs for 48 yards (24 yard average) and Paul Perkins one kickoff for 19 yards.

(New York Giants at New York Jets, August 27, 2016)
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Eric Kennedy

Eric Kennedy is Editor-in-Chief of BigBlueInteractive.com, a publication of Big Blue Interactive, LLC. Follow @BigBlueInteract on Twitter.

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