Victor Cruz – © USA TODAY Sports Images
REVISITING: FOUR DOWNS
During our game preview, we listed ‘Four Downs,’ which took a look at the top four questions surrounding the Giants heading into the game. Now that the game has been played and the film reviewed, it’s time to break it down.
How will the revamped offensive line fare versus the Jets defense?
Despite Tom Coughlin saying offensive tackle Will Beatty would be limited to 20 snaps, Beatty played every rep with the starting unit. The line combination of Justin Pugh LT/Weston Richburg LG/ J.D. Walton C/ Brandon Mosley RG/ Geoff Schwartz/ RT or Justin Pugh LT/ Geoff Schwartz LG/ J.D. Walton C/ Weston Ricburg RG/ Brandon Mosley RT were never run.
For whatever reason, the Giants continue to give just about everyone first-team reps except for this year’s preseason hero Corey Washington. The undrafted rookie saw his first game action against the third stringers and capped the evening with another touchdown. Coughlin was asked why Washington didn’t play more with the first unit and said it was just the way the rotation played out.
After bursting onto the scene with two big catches in the Giants come-from-behind victory over the Indianapolis Colts, Robinson went catchless on Friday. Actually, all tight ends did. Per Jordan Raanan of NJ.com, the only tight end to get targeted was Daniel Fells. Robinson did though see an increased number of reps, getting action with the first and second team.
There are opportunities there to be taken, and Preston Parker is doing his best to grab any and all thrown his way. The 27-year old has shown value on special teams and is now doing the same as a receiver. Parker caught a 39-yard touchdown from quarterback Ryan Nassib. With the latest injury to Marcus Harris, Parker may have himself a spot on the 53-man roster.
OFFENSIVE OVERVIEW – Connor Hughes
The following didn’t play for the Giants versus the Jets: Odell Beckham Jr. (hamstring), Charles Brown (shoulder), Trindon Holliday (hamstring), James Brewer (back), Peyton Hillis (foot), and Xavier Grimble (hamstring).
With the third preseason game normally being the one in which the starters played the most, I spent an extra amount of time focused on the Giants No. 1s. My alarming realization? This offensive line is not good. Seriously, not good.
All will be outlined below, but J.D. Walton was manhandled. There were tons of missed blocks. Brandon Mosley was blown up numerous times and also many miscommunications. Eli Manning was running for his life more times than he should have been.
It doesn’t matter who the Giants have at running back, quarterback, receiver or tight end. If the guys up front can’t block, it won’t matter.
QUARTERBACKS - by Connor Hughes
I did something a little different this week. After all, it’s preseason! As opposed to looking at every single player and having some singled out and some not, I went to twitter and asked who you, the fans, wanted a specific spotlight on. The below are results that were submitted to me.
Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images
I saw a lot more from Eli Manning that I expected to. During training camp and early in the preseason, I’ve been critical of the two-time Super Bowl MVP. After the way things went versus the Colts, I was even more so.
Versus the Jets, when he was given time (which wasn’t often), Manning did well. He threaded the needle, made a few very impressive throws and made a few more when he was pressured as well. Despite the abundance of moving pockets, Manning still remained calm doing something he hasn’t done much in his career.
My biggest issue with Manning was the one near interception by Kyle Wilson on the 11-play drive to end the first half. You simply can’t make that throw, by any means. It was a terrible decision from Manning and it was throws like that that led to his career-high 27 interceptions a season ago. That’s not a new scheme, that’s not bad block. That’s Manning not thinking.
During the early portions of the Giants training camp, few looked as lost as Ryan Nassib on the practice field. Heck, that continued in the first two games of the preseason, too.
Friday night versus the Jets, Nassib may have been the best player to step foot on the field. It didn’t matter that he was facing second, third and fourth stringers, his passes were on the money. The touchdown throw to Preston Parker and Corey Washington could not have been placed any better if it was scripted in a movie.
Nassib has Brett Favre-like zip on his passes, there’s no denying that, and his biggest issue was that he struggled at times putting touch on the ball. That wasn’t the case Friday. A masterful performance form the second-year pro.
RUNNING BACKS - Connor Hughes
I got a tweet from someone asking what I thought of Rashad Jennings. As a running back, I’ll be honest, I wasn’t blown away. Not because Jennings did anything bad, but simply because the runs he did make were more because of good blocking (yes that sometimes exists) than him making plays.
It wasn’t as if Jennings broke into the second level, juked someone to the ground, stiff-armed another and burst into the end zone. He got what the offensive line gave him and that was normally it. On plays where there wasn’t much blocking, Jennings didn’t gain many yards. It was that simple.
Where Jennings blew me away, I mean truly blew me away, was his pass blocking. Forget the block on Manning’s touchdown, Jennings made another earlier in the same drive. He lined up to Manning’s right. When the ball was snapped, Jennings saw a blitzing corner/safety coming off the edge. The back then cut in front of Manning and blocked the corner/safety out of the play giving Manning the time to scan the field and find Victor Cruz for a first down. It was beautiful.
RECEIVERS - Connor Hughes
The issue with watching receivers right now is the fact you can’t really make out what’s going on because the NFL has not made preseason coaching tape accessible. If the receiver runs out of the TV camera frame, you lose that receiver. You can’t tell if he’s open deep down the field unless the network decides to show that replay.
With that being said, Mario Manningham still has zero burst. Zero. He gets no separation and has no explosion. I see no scenario in which the former Super Bowl hero makes this team. If it wasn’t for his name, I’m not sure he makes the 75-man cut. Manningham is playing against third and fourth stringers…and he has one reception this preseason.
There is one thing I’ll say about Corey Washington: He got a lot of credit he didn’t deserve for that touchdown reception in the fourth quarter versus the Jets. Don’t get me wrong, he ran a nice route, got open and caught the ball. But watching that replay, that ball was dropped perfectly in Washington’s hands. He didn’t have to extend, dive or reach…it was right there.
Now, I loved what I saw on the drive that ended in an Andre Williams touchdown run. Washington caught a slant and fought for extra yards bringing a few defenders with him. To see he has some power was impressive. Now, to just see if he could make plays against people who have a chance of making an NFL roster would be nice.
Randle got behind the defense and should have caught a touchdown in the first quarter, but Manning couldn’t step into his throw because of a poor missed block from J.D. Walton (more on that later). His touchdown was nice, so was his adjustment on on a back-shoulder throw from Manning.
Randle seems to be getting more comfortable within the offense and on the same page as Manning. He’s a receiver who’s capable of going over 1,000 yards annually. He has the talent to do so. What always seemed to be holding him back was his mind. Now that he’s on the same page as Manning, it could bode very well for the offense
If, you know, Manning has the time to throw.
TIGHT ENDS - Connor Hughes
There was one pass throw to a tight end Friday, and it went to Daniel Fells. With that being said, Kellen Davis’ blocking jumped off the film. Broke this down a bit on twitter, but here’s the clip of him sealing out Sheldon Richardson and that should tell you all you need to know.
OFFENSIVE LINE - Connor Hughes
I’ll start with the good before I get to the abundance of bad. Will Beatty, despite giving up a sack to Jason Babin, had a pretty solid game. He contained Quinton Coples throughout, got to the second level on a few running plays and really held his own. I know Tom Coughlin didn’t offer much praise on Sunday, but I didn’t see anything too bad and I was looking for it.
The one sack Beatty let up, he got caught off balance. It looked like Beatty was expecting Babin to go outside, so he leaned his weight that way, Babin then cut inside and blew past him. The way I saw it, that was just a nice play from Babin.
Geoff Schwartz – © USA TODAY Sports Images
There has been a lot of criticism thrown Schwartz’s way, but I thought he was having a pretty decent showing prior to the injury. On the second play of the game, a nice run from Rashad Jennings to pick up a first down, Schwartz handled DeMario Davis well. I watched the replay twice extensively where Schwartz got hurt and couldn’t pick out exactly where he got injured. His toe looked like it stubbed the turf twice, it kicked up some of the pebbles and then he fell to the ground. Dunno which one it was, but the same foot got a stubbing twice in a row.
Without a doubt, the worst player on the field Friday night may have been J.D. Walton. Whenever, seriously, whenever, Manning was pressured, someone got past Walton. I specifically found the following plays:
- Sheldon Richardson blew past Walton to disrupt Manning on a deep ball to Rueben Randle. Manning knew he had Randle, was lining up to throw to Randle, but couldn’t step into the throw because Richardson was in his face.
- Calvin Pryor blitzed, Walton whiffed on it which caused Manning to roll out to his right and throw off balanced.
- On a Rashad Jennings run, Richardson drove Walton about three yards into the backfield and into the lap of Jennings.
- On a two-man rush, Richardson still managed to put pressure on Manning by pushing himself past Walton.
It wasn’t Brandon Mosley’s best game, either. The guard missed a few blocks, whiffed on a blitzing Jason Babin which allowed pressure on Manning. On a pull, he missed his block which could have had resulted in a shorter run.
DEFENSIVE OVERVIEW - by Eric Kennedy
Not playing defense for the Giants were LB Jon Beason (foot/PUP), CB Prince Amukamara (groin), CB Jayron Hosley (foot), and S Cooper Taylor (foot). S Kyle Sebetic dressed but did not play.
While there were some strong individual performances, the overall defensive performance was not good. The Jets scored three touchdowns and a field goal and had drives of 72, 66, 76, and 82 yards. They rushed for 146 yards on 32 carries (4.6 yards per carry average) and their three quarterbacks cumulatively were 22-of-33 for 278 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions (123.0 quarterback rating).
That said, keep in mind that the Jets also kept their starters in (except Michael Vick was in at quarterback) for their first two drives of the the third quarter against a mixture of second-, third-, and even some fourth-team Giants.
DEFENSIVE LINE - by Eric Kennedy
Given the overall success of the Jets offense, one would think the starting defensive line played poorly. They did not. But they weren’t great either. Jason Pierre-Paul was facing a top-notch left tackle in D’Brickashaw Ferguson, and while JPP was often a non-factor on the pass rush, he did flash on a few plays. On Mathias Kiwanuka’s sack that was wiped out by a penalty, it was Pierre-Paul’s pressure that forced the quarterback up into Kiwanuka’s waiting arms. But it was late in the second quarter where JPP caught my eye. On 2-and-7, he split a double team by Ferguson and the back and quickly bore down on the quarterback. Geno Smith completed the pass for 12 yards, but that looked like the JPP of old on that play. Later on this possession, Pierre-Paul and Robert Ayers ran a stunt to pressure Smith again. The biggest negative I saw from Pierre-Paul was his missed tackle at the line on an 18-yard run that should have been stuffed.
Mathias Kiwanuka played the run very well except on play where he lost contain on a quarterback bootleg to his side of the field. But Kiwanuka did not get much of a pass rush except on plays where he was unblocked. Robert Ayers flashed a few times from the DT position on the pass rush, once causing a key holding penalty that wiped out a 28-yard play. Ayers’ play at the traditional end spot was a bit more up and down. I would have liked to have seen more of a rush from him at end. But he did stuff one run late in the third quarter for no gain.
Inside, I really like Johnathan Hankins. If he stays healthy and focused, he’s going to be a good one. There are times where he just destroys a play. That said, the guy who flashed the most was Cullen Jenkins. He had a few pass rushes where he got in Smith’s face, one time clobbering the quarterback as he released the ball. He also displayed a really cool spin move on another rush. But overall, there wasn’t enough of a pass rush by the front four against a very good Jets’ offensive line. Part of that may have been due to scheme too. A few times, I spied the Giants dropping a tackle into coverage, leaving only three to rush. I understand why defensive coordinator Perry Fewell does that, but I’m not a big fan of dropping linemen into coverage.
Damontre Moore played in the second half. He played well, but I think his stats were a bit inflated. One “sack” was really simply running Michael Vick out of bounds for a 1-yard loss. On his other sack, he was unblocked on a stunt. Moore did recover a fumble and he combined with Spencer Paysinger to tackle the back for a 2-yard loss in the 3rd quarter. Kerry Wynn – a guy who has flashed throughout the preseason and looks the part physically – had a late-game sack off a stunt from the defensive tackle position.
Reserve defensive tackle Jay Bromley got some heat as an insider rusher, as did Mike Patterson on one play. Bromley had some issues against the run. Markus Kuhn left the game early with an ankle injury.
LINEBACKERS - by Eric Kennedy
With the Giants playing a nickel package most of the first half, the two linebackers who saw the most playing time were Jameel McClain and Jacquian Williams. It was a bit of an up-and-down game for both, though Williams made more plays. McClain flashed on an early blitz and at times did a nice job against the run. But at other times, he seemed a bit sluggish in his zone in pass defense and he also got hung up on blocks. Williams is much more physical against the run this year, but there are times where his lack of ideal size exposes him too and he gets hung up on blocks. Both McClain and Williams couldn’t shed their opponents on RB Chris Ivory’s 23-yard screen pass that set up the Jets’ first-half touchdown. But in the first quarter, I thought Williams looked good in run defense on a number of plays until he and McClain couldn’t make the play on a 17-yard rush by RB Chris Johnson. Williams was flagged for defensive holding, wiping out a third-down sack. He later saved a touchdown with good coverage in the end zone on TE Zach Sudfeld. On the wide open touchdown throw to TE Jason Amaro, someone bit too hard on the play-action fake. My guess is it was McClain or Devon Kennard.
In the second half, the first linebackers on the field were Spencer Paysinger, Mark Herzlich, and Devon Kennard. Paysinger shot a gap an nailed the running back in the backfield for a loss, but the linebackers did not distinguish themselves on the rest of this touchdown drive by the first-team Jets’ offense. Herzlich missed a tackle on a 12-yard run and both Paysinger and Kennard were easily blocked on a 17-yard run. Kennard led the team in tackles, but he didn’t really stand out in this game.
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie – © USA TODAY Sports Images
DEFENSIVE BACKS - by Eric Kennedy
Again, the numbers given up don’t seem to match the individual performances. For the first time this preseason, an opponent went after Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and DRC responded impressively, knocking away every pass thrown in his direction. The only negative was a defensive holding penalty in the end zone on 1st-and-goal from the 3-yard line. With Prince Amukamara out and the Giants playing a ton of nickel, Trumaine McBride and Walter Thurmond played a ton in the first half. Neither seemed to be exposed in man coverage, but there were some big holes in the Giants’ zone. I am not sure who is to blame there – corners, safeties, and linebackers probably all had some role. If I’m Fewell, I play more aggressive man coverage with this group. Thurmond had good coverage in the end zone on a play before the Jets scored. He also made a nice aggressive tackle against the run. McBride did a good job of recovering and deflecting a pass after the receiver pushed off.
Antrel Rolle was quiet other than an illegal use of hands penalty. I was critical of Steve Brown’s run defense in 2012, but during this preseason, he has caught my eye with his aggressive play around the line of scrimmage. He’s been in on a lot of tackles. Brown was flagged with an illegal use of hands penalty however.
In the second half, with the injuries to Amukamara, Bowman, and Hosley, Bennett Jackson and Charles James played earlier than normal and both saw reps against the first-team Jets’ offense. Jackson was flagged with an illegal contact penalty and then was beat (though not badly) for a 3-yard touchdown on a pass from Michael Vick to WR Eric Decker. Earlier on this drive, Ross Weaver was also flagged with illegal use of hands, which obviously was a noticeable bad theme by a few Giants’ defensive backs in this game.
Charles James had a rough series early in the 4th quarter. Though his coverage wasn’t bad, he was beat for a 32-yard completion down the left sideline. A few plays later he was flagged with a 15-yard late hit penalty – a close call but legitimate. Then two plays later he was beaten for an 11-yard touchdown. After the Giants went up 28-24, the Jets went for it on 4th-and-4, but Jackson had very tight coverage on the intended receiver to help cause the incompletion. That said, there was a lot of contact on that play and the Giants were fortunate a flag wasn’t thrown.
SPECIAL TEAMS OVERVIEW - by Eric Kennedy
The Giants attempted no field goals. On kickoffs, four kicks resulted in touchbacks (3 by Brandon McManus, one by Josh Brown), one went out of bounds (McManus on a squib kick), and one was returned for 32 yards (Brown’s kick went 8 yards deep into end zone).
Steve Weatherford punted seven times for a 45.0 yards-per-punt average (43.3 yard net). Three of his punts were down inside the 20-yard line. The Jets only managed 12 yards on four returns (3 yard average).
The Giants only returned two kickoffs: one by Preston Parker for 29 yards and one by Quintin Demps for 21 yards. Parker also returned two punts for 10 yards, with a long of nine yards.
Terrell Manning had a chance to recover a muffed punt but tried to pick it up and failed.