Sep 162017
 
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Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Eli Apple, New York Giants (December 18, 2016)

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Eli Apple – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Game Preview: Detroit Lions at New York Giants, September 18, 2017

THE STORYLINE:
The issue is not that the New York Giants lost to the Dallas Cowboys last Sunday night. There is no shame in that and the Giants certainly can recover from 0-1. The issue is the way the Giants lost. I’ve been preaching since last year that the Giants offense has become a one-trick pony: Eli Manning finding Odell Beckham for the big play. Take that away and the Giants offense becomes one of the worst in the NFL.

So what did the Giants do this offseason? They swapped Evan Engram/Rhett Ellison for Larry Donnell/Will Tye, Brandon Marshall for Victor Cruz, and Paul Perkins for Rashad Jennings. They rolled the dice by going with the same offense line. The results so far have been no different. Even without Beckham in the line-up, the Giants should have been able to generate more than three points and 13 first downs (2 in the first half!) with the weapons the team has against that Dallas defense.

This will sound like an overly-dramatic overreaction, but Ben McAdoo and the offensive brain trust are running out of excuses. So is the entire franchise for not being able to put together a viable offensive line in years.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • WR Odell Beckham, Jr. (ankle – questionable)
  • WR Tavarres King (ankle – probable)
  • OL Bobby Hart (ankle – probable)
  • OL D.J. Fluker (leg – questionable)
  • DT Jay Bromley (knee – probable)
  • LB B.J. Goodson (leg – questionable)
  • LB Keenan Robinson (concussion – out)
  • CB Janoris Jenkins (ankle/hand – probable)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
Ben McAdoo and his offensive assistants were clearly out-coached by the Dallas Cowboys staff last Sunday night. The Dallas defense knew what New York was going to do and the Giants coaches had no answer for it. Obviously, execution also matters. And Eli Manning looked like a quarterback playing out the string of a possible Hall of Fame career. The offensive line still can’t block. The running backs can’t create on their own. And the receivers who played didn’t provide many yards after the catch.

This is the Giants offense:

  1. They have some talented wide outs and tight ends who can hurt you in the passing game.
  2. They can’t run the ball.
  3. They struggle on third down and in the red zone.

So defending the Giants is easy and predictable. Focus on taking away the big plays in the passing game by playing soft, conservative coverage. You don’t have to blitz a ton because you can pressure the now-jumpy Manning with just four defenders against an offensive line that struggles with stunts. Largely ignore the run. Make the Giants nickel-and-dime you because they are likely to eventually stall on 3rd down. The proof is in the pudding. The Giants have not scored 20 points in a game for seven games in a row now, including against the Detroit Lions last December (a 17-6 victory for New York). Right now, Ben McAdoo’s offense without Tom Coughlin’s overall influence isn’t working.

How do the Giants overcome this? The simplest solution would be to run the football and keep running it until the opponent has to move an extra defender into the box. But the finesse New York Giants seem incapable of playing smash-mouth football. The other solution is just keep moving the chains with short- to medium-passes. Bing, bing, bing… down the field. And perhaps your receivers start generating serious yards after the catch. Force defenders to play tighter coverage.

The Lions play the same wide-nine defense up front that the Eagles have played. It’s a get-to-the-QB-at-all-costs scheme that is particularly troublesome for the Giants given the state of their offensive line and the immobility of Eli Manning. The Lions ends will play wide of tackles Ereck Flowers and the gimpy Bobby Hart (ankle), angled towards the QB, largely eschewing the run. The Giants are an ideal team to run the wide nine against.

Whether or not Odell Beckham (ankle) plays or not, the Giants are toast unless Eli Manning starts playing with greater toughness and confidence (easy for me to say, but I’m not the one being paid $20 million per season). He has to just say “fuck it” and be the Eli of old. Get Brandon Marshall into the action and I’d keep hitting Engram and Ellison over the middle. I’d be tempted to start Shane Vereen and keep the Lions off balance with runs with Vereen early (you can bring in Perkins later in the game). Last year, the Giants ran the ball more than they passed against the Lions. While the Giants only averaged 3.6 yards per rush, they kept the aggressive Lions defense honest.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
People are going to accuse me of nit-picking, but the Giants defense didn’t do enough to help the team win last week. For now, the defense has to carry this team. That means getting off the field on third down and forcing turnovers. Last week, the Giants didn’t force one turnover, only had one sack, and allowed Dallas to convert on over 50 percent of their chances. The struggling Giants offense was also encumbered by horrible field position. The defense has to create better opportunities for the offense. It is what it is.

The Lions don’t run the ball well, but they can hurt you with their passing game. Matthew Stafford may be inconsistent, but he is certainly capable of putting up big numbers and he has a knack for leading his team from behind in the 4th quarter. And he has a plethora of targets to choose from including wideouts Golden Tate, Marvin Jones, and Kenny Golladay; tight end Eric Ebron; and pass-catching running backs Theo Riddick and Ameer Abdullah. Look for Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to cover Tate out of the slot and Janoris Jenkins to cover Jones. That will play a lot of pressure on Eli Apple (who had a rough game against Dallas) to cover the emerging Golladay (two touchdowns last week). Golladay is big (6’4”) and he can get deep. Landon Collins and the linebackers will be challenged by Ebron and the running backs in pass coverage. This is a bad opponent to be missing Keenan Robinson. And now Goodson is bothered by a shin injury. We may see more three safety packages, especially if the Lions can’t run the ball. The Detroit Lions offensive line has been completely revamped. The defensive line should and must get after Stafford.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
One of the few bright spots from last Sunday was the play of Dwayne Harris. He looks like he still can make an impact both as a returner and cover man. They’ll need a strong game from him and his teammates because Detroit has one of the strongest special teams units in the league. Aldrick Rosas still really hasn’t been tested (he made a 25-yard attempt in the opener).

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Ben McAdoo on the Lions: “They are a different team (from last season). (On offense) they are playing very well. They are hot. They had a nice come-from-behind win, which they can do. That has been (quarterback) Matthew Stafford’s M.O. The quarterback’s playing well, playing with a lot of confidence, extending plays. They possess some matchup problems for you, for anybody they play with the backs out of the backfield and the tight end with some size and speed in Ebron, and the receivers that they do have. Whether it’s a guy who is quick underneath or a big man that can run pretty well.

“On defense, it starts up front for them. They are doing a nice job of getting after the quarterback, pushing the pocket, and they mix in those wide nine fronts, which are a challenge. They squeeze the pocket and they squeeze the run at the same time. (Jarrad) Davis is a young linebacker who’s continuing to grow and learn the pro game. They threw him in there right off the bat and he’s developing for them. (Free safety Glover) Quin does a good job directing the secondary. They are very multiple. They have a lot of calls. Special teams is where they probably don’t get as much attention as they deserve. They are very good on special teams. They have a bunch of core players. They roll maybe eight different guys in there that have a lot of value on special teams for them, and they are very good.”

THE FINAL WORD:
This is not a must-win game, but it is darn close. Going 0-2 would be bad. Another game of not reaching 20 points would be bad. Another game where the team can’t reach the 50-yard rushing mark would be bad. Another game where Eli isn’t the old Eli would be bad. The defense and special teams may have to come to the rescue, especially if Beckham is out another week.

Sep 122017
 
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Olivier Vernon, New York Giants (September 10, 2017)

Olivier Vernon – © USA TODAY Sports

Dallas Cowboys 19 – New York Giants 3

RECAP

Five days before the game, things were looking up for the injured Odell Beckham and the decision to uphold Ezekiel Elliott’s suspension was public. Fast forward to the hours prior to kickoff and Beckham decided the confidence in his ankle just wasn’t there, forcing him to sit out while Elliott was granted permission to play until his case was heard in Federal Court (AKA the suspension won’t be served until 2018 in all likelihood). The Giants were without their star and the Cowboys finagled their way into being full strength – and it was eerie how unsurprised Jerry Jones was about the whole thing.

How the game began became the underlying theme of the night. Long, steady possessions by Dallas with proper run/pass balance, ball protection, and overall control. The first two Giants drives resulted in 6 plays, 4 total yards, a sack, a holding penalty, and Eli Manning looking insecure in the pocket. In fact, the Giants initial first down didn’t come until the 2nd quarter. The Giants defense was on the field for 20:43 out of 30:00 minutes in the first half as the Cowboys recorded 47 plays, the most by any NFL team since 2007.

Down 16-0 at halftime, Eli Manning led a 16-play, 9:44-drive that resulted in their only three points of the night. They were 1st-and-goal from the 5-yard line with an opportunity to seize momentum, but blown blocks up front, a 9-yard sack, and completed pass well short of the needed yardage brought rookie Aldrick Rosas onto the field for his first career regular-season kick, a 25 yarder.

Momentum was there for taking again, as the Giants defense stopped Dallas and got the ball back in the hands of Manning. The response? Reaching their own 32-yard line but going no further because of missed blocks and Manning rushing through his reads while neglecting his passing mechanics.

There were only six total points scored in the second half between the two NFC East rivals, as Dallas bled the clock out with consistent ball control and the Giants missing that big-play presence. Manning threw his first interception the play after their biggest gain of the night with just under 8 minutes left in the game, the final nail in the coffin.

The Giants head back to East Rutherford trying to figure how to increase their 2.9 yards-per-carry and 33% 3rd-down conversion rate. The problems with this offense from 2016 are still here, albeit without Beckham in the picture. Speaking of the Giants star receiver, he made plenty of money by not playing because there may not be a non-quarterback in the league that impacts his respective team more than #13.

QUARTERBACKS

  • 29/38 – 220 yards – 0 TD – 1 INT – 78.8 rating. Manning lacked command and toughness. His shaky feet in the pocket could partially be blamed on the poor play upfront, but he rushed several throws when he didn’t need to. There was enough zip on his passes and his lone deep pass of the night actually had too much on it. When the team needed him to step up, he didn’t answer the bell. A couple of the biggest opportunities resulted in Manning not getting the job done.

RUNNING BACKS

  • Paul Perkins: 7 att – 16 yds – 2.3 avg. Minimal space to run, yes. But he didn’t create anything on his own, either. He was late to make his decisions and didn’t break tackles. That is a rough combination. Only on the field for 30% of the team’s plays.
  • Orleans Darkwa: 3 att – 14 yds – 4.7 avg. Had the nicest run of the night, 12 yards on his first attempt which didn’t happen until the second half of the second quarter. Pass blocked well, showed more life with the ball in his hands than Perkins.
  • Shane Vereen: 9 rec – 51 yards – 5.7 avg. Had plenty of garbage time production, but played well earlier in the game as well. His knack for positive plays and reliability on passing downs wasn’t used enough early on. Lacks the star power but he is a chain mover via the pass game. Not one carry for the back that seems to find the hidden yards every time he touches the ball is inexcusable. Vereen may very well be the best RB on this team by a wide margin; he needs more meaningful touches.
  • Shane Smith: On the field for 8 offensive plays; got the job done on 3rd down. His presence wasn’t too noticeable, but he was an important player in his limited reps. He moved the pile on a 3rd-and-1 Darkwa conversion.

WIDE RECEIVERS

  • Sterling Shepard: 7 rec – 44 yds. The 6.3 yard average per reception isn’t good, but Shepard played tough and did what was asked of him in the offense. This is a very underneath-heavy passing game and Shepard’s strength and toughness fit the slot role well. With Dallas was dropping so may defenders into deep half coverage, Shepard’s short routes in combination with the poor pass blocking up front, Manning looked his way plenty. He dodged a bullet with his self-recovered fumble in the 2nd quarter.
  • Roger Lewis: 4 rec – 54 yards. Two of the 3 biggest gains on offense went to Lewis, who saw more snaps because of the Beckham injury. He made a couple nice catches on the move and ran good routes into the vacant windows against the Cowboys Cover-2 defense. If he can continue to show he picking things up mentally, his tools will be used this year.
  • Brandon Marshall: 1 rec – 10 yds. The hyped WR signing couldn’t have had a quieter night. His first target came with 1:32 left in the 2nd quarter. He was held without a catch until the garbage-time drive at the end of the game and had he not come up with that 10 yard reception, it would have been the first time since his rookie year in 2007 in which he was held without a catch. He got one downfield opportunity in the second half which resulted in zero separation and a throw that was about 7 yards past his reach. Marshall’s play presented the question, can he create on his own?

TIGHT ENDS

  • Evan Engram: 4 rec – 44 yds. Engram got the start and played more than twice as many snaps as Rhett Ellison and Jerell Adams combined. The longest Giants play of the night was a 31-yard pitch-and-catch where he showed his elite-level speed down the sideline. His blocking was average at best, including a bad miss on the Giants 1st-and-goal rush from the 5-yard line. If he has the time to get into his intermediate and deep routes, Engram is going to make a lot of plays in this offense.
  • Rhett Ellison: 1 rec – 9 yds. One of the surprises of the night, Ellison was only on the field for a third of the Giants offensive plays. His one target resulted in an impressive 9-yard gain where he bowled over defenders and dragged them for an extra few yards. In an offense that struggled to pass the ball anything beyond quick releases, Ellison was vastly under-utilized. His blocking was solid, but he had two significant misses that resulted in TFL or no-gain runs.

OFFENSIVE LINE

  • Tackles: Ereck Flowers started off on the right foot, but fell well below the average mark. His second half was an image of what we watched for pretty much all of 2016. Poor use of leverage and too much over-committing his upper body, leaving him unbalanced and without control. Bobby Hart had the worst night of the group, making Demarcus Lawrence look like he was Von Miller off the edge. He spent way too much time on the ground and lacked a consistent push in the run game.
  • Interior: Justin Pugh played the best of the bunch, putting together an above-average score, although he did tail off a bit in the second half. His technique and initial punch stood out to me in a positive way. Weston Richburg had an average performance, making a couple of effective second-level blocks but was, once again, pushed back into the pocket a couple times. John Jerry got off to a horrific start, allowing a sack, a pressure, and committing a penalty all within the first 6 plays. He hit a nice stride in the 2nd half, getting movement as a run blocker and neutralizing his man in the pass game. But the damage was done early, ending with a below average grade.

DEFENSIVE LINE

  • Ends: As we saw last year, both Jason Pierre Paul and Olivier Vernon played the majority of the defensive snaps (89% and 97%, respectively). Pierre Paul had the highest grade of the group, showing his usual excellent range in pursuit and sturdiness at the point of attack. He brought Dak Prescott down once on a pressure. Vernon recorded the lone New York sack, a play in which he went untouched to the QB. Otherwise, he had a quiet night and struggled to break free from Dallas left tackle Tyron Smith. Kerry Wynn and Romeo Okwara saw time in the diverse, borderline exotic fronts that Steve Spagnulo threw together but neither made any impact.
  • Interior: Damon Harrison led all defensive linemen on my grading sheet, playing his usual dominant version of himself. He was stout and active, adapting to the game’s situation all night. His versatility created pressure for Dak Prescott up the middle, deflected a pass, and brought down running backs for a loss. He is a weapon that no offensive line will keep contained. After watching him break down last year, they were sure to keep his snaps limited to just under 65%. Technically Jay Bromley started, but rookie Dalvin Tomlinson out-snapped him 3:1. As I said when they drafted him last spring, Tomlinson would impact the game week 1 in Dallas. He was an integral piece to holding down the 2016 NFL rushing champion Ezekiel Elliot for the most part. Robert Thomas saw 21 snaps, but struggled to make any impact. He was brought in on favorable pass-rush downs but struggled to disengage from blockers and at times, look way over-matched by the size of Dallas guard Chaz Green. He had a very rough game.

LINEBACKERS

  • The brightest spot of the entire defense, the highest grade I have given a Giants linebacker in over a year went to B.J. Goodson. His 18 tackles were the most in the NFL by a long shot on opening weekend. His range and power presence on the move especially stood out. There was a play where he completely lit up All-Pro Guard Zack Martin and finished it off with a tackle for loss. Jonathan Casillas and Devon Kennard played a physical brand and helped contain the Cowboys run game, especially in the first half. Kennard didn’t play even half the snaps, as the Giants were in the nickel for the majority of the game, but his presence was felt on plays where is wasn’t directly involved on the tackle. They played a physical, blue collar brand.

SAFETIES

  • Landon Collins was all over the field, being used as a linebacker, nickel cornerback, and roaming safety. His performance in coverage was top notch, if only they kept him on tight end Jason Witten all night. Those were the few times #82 had a hard time getting open. Darian Thompson, in what is basically considered his rookie season, struggled to react. On several occasions he was a step or three too late to support the run, especially to the sidelines. His physical impact when making hits just isn’t there, as he looks like an average-sized cornerback trying to play the safety spot. He wasn’t tested much in deep coverage. Andrew Adams was on the field for 8 defensive snaps, but wasn’t really tested.

CORNERBACKS

  • Arguably the most entertaining one-on-one battle of the night was Janoris Jenkins vs. Dez Bryant. Jenkins dominated this match-up in 2016 and while I can’t use that word again this time around, he did keep Bryant contained. Minus the one long penalty (21-yard pass interference) that set up the lone touchdown of the night, Jenkins won every match-up down field (3 attempts). He did miss two tackles where there was a VERY questionable effort put forth. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, the team’s nickel corner, was on the field for 70% of the plays. His knack for reading routes and forecasting throws gets better and better, but he is not the ideal defender to cover the quicker slot receivers. Cole Beasley made him look silly on a couple of occasions. Eli Apple received the lowest grade of all the Giants defensive backs that played significant snaps. He was beat by Brice Butler early to set up the first Cowboys field goal, beat by Jason Witten on the lone Dallas touchdown, and targeted often on 3rd down where his success rate was not high. His impact on the run game was strong, however.

SPECIAL TEAMS

  • K Aldrick Rosas: 1/1 – 25 yards. Easy chip shot, otherwise a quiet night.
  • P Brad Wing: 6 Punts – 44.8 yard avg. 41.5 yard net avg, both solid numbers.
  • Return: Dwayne Harris had a quiet night.

3 STUDS

  • LB B.J. Goodson, DT Damon Harrison, OG Justin Pugh

3 DUDS

  • RT Bobby Hart, LT Ereck Flowers, QB Eli Manning

3 THOUGHTS ON DALLAS

  • The linebackers in a 4-3 defense can absolutely change the game. Anyone who watched the combination of Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith cannot argue against that statement. Those two were as responsible as any for the Dallas win. They compliment each other perfectly and will be headache for opponents all year.
  • Dak Prescott was inaccurate for the majority of the game. He missed a handful of very easy throws, but he looked antsy and overly-excited. Putting too much mustard on the ball and finishing high. This game could have been much worse had he been on top of his game.
  • No, I don’t think the Dallas defense is improved up front. The likes of Maliek Collins, Charles Tapper, and Demarcus Lawrence have the Giants offensive line to thank for that talk. They are a sub-par group.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

  • The most over-reactionary thoughts in the sports world are post-week 1 NFL football. The sky is not falling, this team is not going 0-16. If you have paid attention to the Eli Manning career, the Giants have had several of these games, sometimes multiple in each year. It was as ugly as it got, but that was not a representation of this Giants squad. They will be better Monday night at home.
  • Odell Beckham made a lot of money by not playing. His mere presence on the field changes the complexion of the entire offense, and his true value will be felt when he gets back on the field. He makes other players better, plain and simple.
  • Hats off to the defense after an exhausting first half. But a solution needs to be found for defending the tight end. Enough of this already. Each year more and more teams are adding the athletic pass catcher to that position; it will become the norm very soon. Jason Witten became the all time leading receiver for the storied organization and his historic production against the Giants was highlighted (150 career catches against the Giants alone). If there is an Achilles’ heel to this strong defense, the tight end is it.
Sep 082017
 
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New York Giants Offense (September 11, 2016)

New York Giants Offense – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Game Preview: New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys, September 10, 2017

THE STORYLINE:
The most direct route to make the playoffs is to win your division. And the best way to win your division is to have a winning record against your division opponents, and particularly against those division opponents who represent the biggest threat. Because of all of that, this is a big game whose outcome quite possibly will affect the playoff picture in December.

It is no accident that the NFL has mandated that the Giants play the Cowboys in Dallas for the fourth time in five years. The Giants-Cowboys contest is always a ratings bonnaza for a league that saw its popularity take a big dip in 2016. (The conspiracy theorist in me suspects this is why Ezekiel Elliott is playing despite his 6-game suspension being upheld).

The Cowboys won the NFC East in 2016 with a stellar 13-3 regular-season record. But two of their losses came at the hands of the 11-5 Giants, who swept the Cowboys by a total of four points. Once again, the Cowboys and Giants are expected to be the leading contenders for the NFC East title. This game should be close and come down to the 4th quarter.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • FB Shane Smith (quad – probable)
  • WR Odell Beckham, Jr. (ankle – questionable)
  • WR Tavarres King (ankle – probable)
  • DT Jay Bromley (knee – probable)
  • LB Keenan Robinson (concussion – out)
  • CB Eli Apple (ankle – probable)
  • CB Michael Hunter (concussion)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
Will Odell Beckham, Jr. play? And if he does, how effective will he be? In a game that actually counts, the Giants have yet to prove they can move the football and score without someone other than Beckham making plays. Look no further than last year’s game in the Meadowlands. The difference in that 10-7 game was a 61-yard pass play to Beckham, which unbelievably accounted for 23 percent of the team’s offense in that game. No other play gained more than 19 yards. It truly was a pathetic display of “offense” for the Giants.

The book on defending the Giants is prevent the big play to Beckham, and force the Giants to beat you with their running game and throwing to other players. This will likely remain the book until the Giants hurt teams with their other weapons. Enter Brandon Marshall, Evan Engram, Rhett Ellison, and second-year players Sterling Shepard and Paul Perkins. The expectation is that these players will be effective players in their own right, and make the Giants’ offense less predictable and dependent on Beckham. That remains to be seen.

The largely no-name Dallas defense is a perfect example of a unit whose whole is greater than the sum of its parts. On paper, the Cowboys defense shouldn’t be very good. But unbelievably they were #1 against the run in 2016 and 14th overall. While some of this is due to the fact that the Cowboys controlled the clock and limited opportunities by opponents, don’t underestimate the fact that this is an exceptionally well-coached, cohesive unit that plays hard, hustles to the football, and forces turnovers. They are a scrappy bunch.

Unless both teams play outside their 2016 norms (Cowboys #1 run defense vs. Giants #29th rushing attack), don’t expect New York to be able to consistently run the football. The Giants are not a physical football team. If I’m Dallas, I dare the Giants to beat me with the run and focus on defending the pass (and specifically Beckham if he plays). The good news for the Giants justifiably-maligned offensive line is that the Cowboys really don’t have any consistent pass rushers who scare you. The Cowboys will likely have to scheme their pass rush by using stunts and blitzes, placing stress on both young outside tackles and right guard John Jerry.

On paper, where the Giants should be able to make hay is the passing game. With or without Beckham, the passing game is still the strength of the Giants offense. Much depends on how much Brandon Marshall has in the tank and how much rookie stage-fright Evan Engram has. But Marshall, Engram, Shepard, Ellison, and hopefully Beckham should expose a Cowboys’ secondary that has had issues for years. Look for Dallas to play it conservatively, try to prevent the big play, and force the Giants to nickel-and-dime their way down the football field without making a mistake. This is where Engram comes in. If the Cowboys play a lot of 2-deep coverage, Engram has the athletic ability and speed to exploit the middle of the defense – something the Giants didn’t have last year.

Turnovers. This is always important in closely-fought, divisional games. The team that commits more turnovers will likely lose. Eli Manning must play it safe and throw the ball away or take sacks instead of throwing the ball up for grabs. When sacked, hold onto the football. Same with Paul Perkins running with the football.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
The New York Giants defense is the strength of the team. The Giants finished last year 10th in total defense (339.7 yards per game) and 2nd in scoring defense (17.8 points per game). Everyone is striving to exceed last year’s marks. The Giants lost Johnathan Hankins in the offseason, but there are a number of areas where the defense may be stronger. Both defensive ends looked primed to exceed their 2016 play. B.J. Goodson appears to be an upgrade at middle linebacker. Eli Apple – as long as his ankles are OK – should be better. The expectation is that Darian Thompson will be an upgrade over Andrew Adams at free safety. But let’s be clear, the Giants have multiple impact players on their defense in Jason Pierre-Paul, Olivier Vernon, Damon Harrison, Janoris Jenkins, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, and Landon Collins. They are loaded.

The Cowboys are loaded on offense as well. They finished last year 5th in total offense and 2nd in rushing offense. They are the NFL’s most balanced team with a near equal run-pass ratio. 2016 rookie sensations quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott are now in their second year and should be better.

Coach Ben McAdoo broke them down well: “It all starts up front with them. They are good up front. They lost a couple pieces, but they haven’t missed a beat. They are very talented there with the guys who jumped in to replace their two departures. They are very good, very physical, and they work well as one. Talented in pass protection, as well. They may be the finest unit in the league. There are a couple others that are chasing them, but they are very good. Obviously, Dak does a nice job. Really jumped in with both feet last year. I’m sure he is a lot more confident going into his second year than he was in his first year, and they seem to be putting more on him this year from a mental standpoint. Zeke is one of the better backs in the league. He is a complete back. He is not just a runner. He can play, he can protect, he can play in the pass game, and he’s very explosive and dynamic when he gets into space. The perimeter players, what makes them unique is they all complement each other well. They have a big receiver in Dez (Bryant). They have the quick twitch receiver in (Cole) Beasley, who can get open in a phone booth type guy. They have (tight end Jason) Witten, who is a consistent pro, a future Hall of Famer who can do a variety of things for them, including block, which he doesn’t get a lot of credit for. They have some other role players that come in and do a lot of good things for them. So they are very talented. One of the better offenses in the league.”

That all said, the Giants match-up very well with the Cowboys on this side of the ball. Janoris Jenkins gave Dez Bryant fits in 2016 (only 2 catches for 18 yards and a fumble in two games). Elliott ran for 51 yards in the opener and a “quiet” 107 yards in the second game last year. Witten and Beasley had a greater impact in the opener (17 catches) than the second game (8 catches). The question here is how much will Keenan Robinson be missed in pass coverage? Provided the defensive tackle who lines up next to Damon Harrison does his job, the Giants should continue to be one of the few teams who can keep Elliott in check. If I’m the Cowboys, I use play-action or a trick play early to keep the Giants from being as aggressive against the run. New York needs to be wary of that. Apple needs to keep Terrance Williams quiet and DRC will be challenged by the very quick Beasley.

Up front, Dallas is as good as it gets at left tackle, center, and right guard. But there are changes at left guard and right tackle. The JPP versus La’el Collins match-up will be one to watch. I would expect Steve Spagnuolo to send more than a few defensive back blitzes (including Landon Collins and DRC) as well as B.J. Goodson up the middle. The Giants will have to be disciplined on their pass rush, however, as Prescott can hurt you with his feet.

The Cowboys didn’t turn the ball over much in 2016. Prescott only threw four interceptions during the regular season. And Dallas only had nine fumbles. But three of those turnovers – including two of Dak’s interceptions – came in the second Giants-Cowboys game. (Dallas did not turn the ball over in the first game).

It’s true against any team, but more so against the Cowboys than anyone else: stop the run, make Dallas one-dimensional, then get after the quarterback.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
I think practically everyone would have gone with Aldrick Rosas as the place kicker, but here is one of the big unknowns of the Giants 2017 season. Rosas could literally sink the Giants season. The pressure on this kid will be immense. Along the same line, the Cowboys will be going with a rookie returner (Ryan Switzer) on both kickoffs and punts. Get down the field, put hats on him, and try to knock the ball loose. We didn’t see much of Dwayne Harris this preseason. Let’s see if he can spark the return game.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Steve Spagnuolo on Ezekiel Elliott: “He’s a premier back. There’s 32 in the world that play that position. There’s 32 teams. There are some really good backs, but he obviously proved last year that he makes an offense go. I know they have a really good offensive line, but he’s able to do all the things you want a great back to do. He has great vision. He can run inside. He bounces it outside. He turns the corner and it’s scary and he runs with power. I mean, he’s not an easy back to take down. He’s become a good pass receiver, too, so we have to worry about that. He’s a guy we have to respect and we have to go out and always be concerned about. When No. 21 is out there, we have to be concerned about it.”

THE FINAL WORD:
I always think too much is made of the first game. This is a big contest and it would really help the Giants if they can beat the Cowboys in their own park to start the season, but this is a game the Giants obviously can afford to lose. That said, the Giants match-up well against the Cowboys. The Giants strengths (passing offense) are the Cowboys weaknesses (passing defense) and the Cowboys strengths (rushing offense) are the Giants strengths (rushing defense). The Giants will be the more one-dimensional team, but the Cowboys are facing the much more talented Giants defense. If the game is close, it will come down to special teams and turnovers – and this is where the Giants could lose the game if they are not good (or careful) enough.

Sep 072017
 
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BBI New York Giants Videocast of September 7, 2017: BigBlueInteractive.com’s Sy’56 and Mike Siegel talk about the state of the New York Giants entering the 2017 regular season, and make predictions for the Giants-Cowboys match-up Sunday Night’s first game of the season.

Sy’56 has worked for Ourlads Scouting LLC since 2013, starting off as a college depth chart manager and now a lead scout for one the most-sold NFL draft guides year-in, year-out. He has been scouting for over 10 years and will compile anywhere from 400-600 scouting reports per season, with that number increasing year by year. He watches and studies game films 20-25 hours per week throughout the entire year with his main focus being NFL Draft prospects.

Mike Siegel, aka gidiefor, serves as a moderator and is a longtime contributor in The Corner Forum, originally joining BBI in 2004. Raised in Brooklyn, NY, he is a rabid Giants fan, an attorney, a family man, proud grandfather of five, and a former NYC Park Professional, Mounted Park Ranger, and instructor at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, who was noted for his work in Brooklyn Park rehabilitation projects, park publications, public park tours and programs, and also his paper-folding prowess. His more than fifteen-foot high Origami holiday tree in Central Park’s Dairy was a fixture in the 1980’s. He has been an active participant in BBI’s outside gatherings, and strongly believes in fostering the BBI community environment and promoting serious discussion about Giants football.

Sep 022017
 
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Roger Lewis and Matt LaCosse, New York Giants (August 31, 2017)

Roger Lewis and Matt LaCosse – © USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants 40 – New England Patriots 38

QUICK RECAP

For the 13th consecutive season, the New York Giants ended their preseason schedule against the New England Patriots. These two have had a couple of epic Super Bowl contests over the past decade and even though multiple starters on both sides did not dress, there is an extra sense of nostalgia seeing the Giants in their “Whites” and the Patriots in their “Blues”. The final preseason contest was less about the starters getting their reps and more about the potential backups battling it out for roster spots.

The Giants jumped out to a commanding 34-14 lead at halftime, clicking on all cylinders offensively. But just like last week against the Jets, the backup defense struggled to hold the lead and ended up losing it completely in the 4th quarter with under a minute left. Rookie Davis Webb then engineered a 7-play drive which ended with a game-winning 48-yard field goal by fellow rookie Aldrick Rosas with no time left on the clock. The Giants improved to 2-2 on the preseason with a 40-38 victory.

QUARTERBACKS

  • The backup job battle between Geno Smith and Josh Johnson was back and forth throughout the entire preseason. Smith, the more talented of the two, was on fire going 10/11 for 111 yards and a TD. He was hitting guys left and right in stride with a nice blend of zip and touch. Johnson entered the game early in the 2nd quarter, getting the majority of the snaps. He responded with his own preseason-best performance, going 11/14 for 135 yards and a TD. At their best, Smith is the better quarterback. There is no debating that but Johnson may be the more secure guy. Who wins this job will come down to which situation they prefer, really. If I had to choose, Smith is the guy.
  • Davis Webb came in during the 4th quarter. He went 8/14 for 103 yards and was a little erratic on his deep throws but continues to show excellent footwork. Webb works on his craft a lot, rollout positioning especially. It came to fruition in the game-winning drive when he evaded pressure from his blind side, rolled out to the left, and completed a nice ball. Hopefully this is the last Webb sees the field against another team until next year. All in all, he had a great preseason process.

RUNNING BACKS

  • Shaun Draughn finally got to show this coaching staff what he can do. It’s been a bumpy ride when it comes to his health and opportunities, but a 14-carry, 54-yard night, including a touchdown and a couple catches, could be enough for him to warrant a roster spot.
  • Orleans Darwka ran hard downhill, showing his physical brand and proving he is the top “pile-pusher” among the NYG backs. He has proven before that when he gets some space allowing him to gain a full head of steam, he can do damage in there. He carried the ball 8 times for 40 yards, including the long of the night, 21 yards.
  • Shane Vereen and Wayne Gallman rounded out the rest of the RB play. Vereen looked physical, especially as a blocker. He is going to be a crucial part to this 3rd down offense. Gallman struggled to break free from initial contact. He probably takes more hits than he should considering his small-ish frame, but can’t blame a back for being a fighter. He enters the season as the team’s most explosive rusher.
  • Shane Smith had his best game of the preseason and it looks like he is getting more used to the speed of the game. He is more assertive and showed a couple of nice adjustments to stick to his man and maintain running lanes.

WIDE RECEIVERS

  • No Beckham, Marshall, Harris, or King. Opportunity for the young guys who want to make this team or practice squad. Travis Rudolph led the position group with 3 catches for 46 yards, including a gutsy extension catch over the middle on a seam route. From day one, he has been the young kid who does everything right from running routes, securing and tucking the ball, and constantly catching the ball. The physical shortcomings aren’t going anywhere, but he has proven he can make plays when the opportunity is given.
  • Jerome Lane continued to impress. The raw, physical receiver showed another pure hands catch on a crossing route. For a guy that spent just one year in college as a wide receiver, the amount of untapped upside warrants a spot on the practice squad.
  • Canaan Severin, Marquis Bundy, and Ed Eagen all had impressive nights in their own respects. Severin appears to be the highest-upsided of them all and could sneak his way onto a roster spot. His ability to adjust to the ball and attack with his hands at 6’2/205 is attractive.

TIGHT ENDS

  • With Rhett Ellison and Evan Engram on the sideline to preserve safety, there were plenty of snaps to go around for Matt LaCosse, Will Tye, and Jerrell Adams.
  • LaCosse, who had as good of a training camp as anyone when it came to making plays, finally got a steady dose of action and ended up with 5 catches for 60 yards and 2 touchdowns. As a blocker, he graded out above average. I think its time this gets on the 53-man roster because he hasn’t stopped making plays since he’s been here.
  • Will Tye opened the game with a fumble on the Giants’ first drive. He continued to look more athletic than he was last season, but there is a sense of “You know what you are getting with him” when it comes to Tye. Limited upside both as a blocker and receiver.
  • Adams has turned into a dominant-level blocker. His ability to stifle, move, and stick to defenders is going to a factor this year. He is still growing into his top-tier frame and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him on the field for 10+ snaps per game.

OFFENSIVE LINE

  • All in all, a very solid performance from the backups. All 5 starters did not play, leaving it up to the back-up players themselves to give one last effort to make this team. The Patriots were very vanilla with their pass rush scheme, so that helped quite a bit.
  • The young tackles, Chad Wheeler and Adam Bisnowaty, continued to show what we have seen all preseason. Wheeler is a gifted athlete with body control and balance, but there are flashes each week that show his lack of true man-strength and lack of experience. Bisnowaty was a major disappointment in his first preseason; there is a lot of work for him to do. No player has ruined more plays by himself than the rookie from Pittsburgh. He did get some action at left guard in the 4th quarter and for what its worth, looked more comfortable there when he wasn’t forced into space.
  • D.J. Fluker excels against defenses like this, vanilla and straight-ahead power rushers. He can handle anyone that is thrown at him in that fashion. There are still a couple of occasions where he ducks his head and reaches when trying to block laterally. Brett Jones had a very solid game, especially in the run game. The team had a lot of success running off either one of his shoulders, I think the backup OC job is his.
  • Jarron Jones, a practice squat candidate, has come along OK with his footwork in comparison to where he was in August. There is no way he can be depended on if an injury were to occur, however. He continued to whiff on defenders and appear three steps behind mentally.

DEFENSIVE LINE

  • Damon Harrison, Dalvin Tomlinson, Jason Pierre-Paul, and Olivier Vernon didn’t dress for the game while Jay Bromley remains sidelined with a knee injury. The Patriots offense was held to 3.4 yards per carry.
  • Robert Thomas notched a sack along with 3 tackles, proving his multi-down threat. He fought hard to get off blocks, showing quick and strong hands and a relentless engine.
  • Kerry Wynn made the defensive play of the night, tipping a Jacoby Brissett pass to himself and returning it for a 15-yard touchdown in the first quarter. To think about how far he has come in his young four-year career is a proof-is-in-the-pudding development that shows sometimes being patient with these high-upside, high-character young guys can really pay off. He has become an important piece to this potentially dominant defense.
  • Devin Taylor hasn’t showed enough in his short tenure with the club. He is too slow off the ball and struggles to get movement on blockers. Too many plays do I have the “NF” (Non-Factor) next to his name. Same can be said for Stansly Maponga, a hybrid DE/OLB who just doesn’t fit with this scheme nor has he shown the needed athleticism.
  • Rookie Avery Moss was all over the field. Both DE spots, pass rushing OLB, coverage OLB, and pass-rushing DT. The tools are there, he just needs to put his best foot forward in the weight room. He isn’t powerful enough yet but there is a play-maker somewhere in there.
  • Jordan Williams and Josh Banks, both a tad undersized for interior play but too big and slow for the outside, get off the ball well but both were struggling to get off their blocks. They were beat on a few of the Patriots more positive running plays.

LINEBACKERS

  • B.J. Goodson, Devon Kennard, Jonathan Casillas, and Keenan Robinson (injury) did not play. Curtis Grant saw the most action in the group and responded with 8 tackles, the most on the team. He is an excellent interior defender, as he can explode into 3-5 yard creases with power and presence. Very good tackler who makes the effort to wrap up violently. He was exposed in space a few times. Grant is not a poor athlete but he does have trouble reacting laterally and in coverage.
  • Fellow backup and roster hopeful Deontae Skinner added 3 tackles while roster probable Calvin Munson recorded 2. Munson is less physically gifted but he has proven to be the most instinctual backup they have and, when it comes to that position, instincts trump all.
  • J.T. Thomas got the most live action he’s seen in almost a year and he didn’t disappoint. He had 4 tackles a forced a fumble. Thomas showed a physical brand when tackling and filling lanes to meet blockers. He was very impressive against the backups of NE and could end up being the athletic but powerful backup they need on the weak side.

CORNERBACKS

  • Janoris Jenkins, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Michael Hunter, and Eli Apple all remained on the sideline. This position group has seen as much turnover as any on the team. The top 4 seemed pretty much locked in, thus I think these guys were competing for a practice squad spot or two and the final spot on the 53-man roster.
  • DaShaun Amos has been with the team all offseason and preseason, and his size/speed combination were on display against the Patriots. He is a smooth transition guy, very important for the man coverage scheme.
  • Tim Scott was in on a lot of action. He allowed a few passes to be completed in his direction but he played a physical downhill style. He made an impression on me in his 2 games here. Tay Glover-Wright allowed a touchdown pass, struggling to control his body when locating the ball.
  • Donte Deayon only played early on, but he was beat for a 1st quarter TD matched up against Cody Hollister. It was a play that further exposed Deayon’s glaring weakness, his size. He just doesn’t have a lot of range when attacking the ball against a receiver and he is so easily moved. I think he has an inside track at making this team but he needs to be avoided when it comes to placing these CBs in certain roles.

SAFETIES

  • Darian Thompson got the start, as he simply needs more and more experience. The second year, projected starter next to Landon Collins is still extremely raw when it comes to reading and reacting to NFL offenses.
  • Nat Berhe gave his weekly missed tackle when he tried to take down Austin Carr on his way into the end zone. There is such a thing as a player who is too aggressive, and Berhe is exactly that. The issues that a poor-tackling safety can present could really damn a defense. I respect his presence considering his size, but is this a guy who will hurt the Giants as much as help? More?

SPECIAL TEAMS

  • Kicker Aldrick Rosas went 4-fo- 4, including the game-winning 48-yarder. It was good to see him respond positively to a pressure situation. Even though it was a low-intensity preseason game, the Giants would have lost if he missed. Rosas went 8-for-8 in preseason games and as far as I’m concerned, did everything right to deserve the job.

3 STUDS

  • DE Avery Moss, QB Geno Smith, TE Matt LaCosse

3 DUDS

  • OT Adam Bisnowaty, S Nat Berhe, CB Tay Glover-Wright

3 PATRIOTS TAKEAWAYS

  • What New England does with their backup QB situation is going to be one of the more interesting personnel situations in the league next year. Jacoby Brissett has shown enough in his now two preseasons and the 2016 regular-season to warrant backup duty. If that is the case, teams looking for a starting QB next year could skip the development process by trading a 1st round pick for Jimmy Garoppolo.
  • Two players who I wanted the Giants to draft in the 5th and 6th rounds respectively, were both taken by the Patriots. OT Conor McDermott played a very solid RT and LB Brooks Ellis showed what liked in college (a big and physical guy with enough speed paired with excellent instincts). If either one of these guys shakes loose via roster cuts, NYG should give them a hard look.
  • When a Patriots pass catcher goes down, there is always someone that comes out of nowhere it seems. Austin Carr is a name that my boss at Ourlads was all in on from last fall all the way through the draft process. Austin Carr is the reliable route running, catch-everything no-namer that all of you may be adding to your fantasy roster soon if he can get on that 53-man roster.
Aug 302017
 
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Nat Berhe, New York Giants (September 1, 2016)

Nat Berhe – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Preseason Game Preview: New York Giants at New England Patriots, August 31, 2017

THE STORYLINE:
The New York Giants and New England Patriots have been playing against each other in the 4th preseason game since 2005. Last year was a bit of a roll reversal for each team as it was the Giants who sat most of their starters while New England played their starters, including Tom Brady. The Giants back-ups actually performed admirably well in that game.

We don’t know how Bill Belichick will approach this year’s game, but Ben McAdoo already made it known he will handle the game like he did last year. So aside from the list of injured players below, don’t expect Giants’ stalwarts like Eli Manning, Brandon Marshall, Damon Harrison, Jason Pierre-Paul, Olivier Vernon, Janoris Jenkins, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, and Landon Collins to play. We may not eve see guys like Sterling Shepard, Dwayne Harris, Shane Vereen, and Rhett Ellison. Last year, Weston Richburg did not play and the other starters on the offensive line only played a handful of snaps.

Long story short, this is less of a competitive contest than an evaluation period for the bubble players right before Saturday’s massive cut-down deadline.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • WR Odell Beckham, Jr. (ankle)
  • WR Tavarres King (ankle)
  • DT Jay Bromley (knee)
  • LB Keenan Robinson (concussion)
  • LB Mark Herzlich (stinger)
  • CB Eli Apple (ankle)
  • CB Michael Hunter (concussion)
  • S Duke Ihenacho (knee)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
The biggest story line offensively for the Giants will be this is the final audition for the back-up quarterbacks. On Saturday, Geno Smith or Josh Johnson will be cut. And if both struggle against the Patriots, while unlikely, it is not out of the realm of possibility that the Giants cut both. Smith has looked like the more legit NFL quarterback this preseason, but as demonstrated throughout his short NFL career, he has also been guilty of the ugly turnover. Johnson simply has not impressed. At the bottom of the depth chart is Davis Webb, who hasn’t received nearly enough practice and preseason snaps to probably seriously contend for the #2 job. A shot-gun QB in college, he’s still learning the basics of NFL footwork.

Because Shaun Draughn simply was not able to stay healthy, the running back situation is easier to figure out. Paul Perkins will be the starter. Shane Vereen will probably rival him for snaps/playing time. Orleans Darkwa will probably be the short-yardage back. Wayne Gallman is the developmental prospect who will probably struggle to be active on game day.

My guess it the top three tight ends are Evan Engram, Rhett Ellison, and Jerell Adams. Will the Giants carry four? Or will they opt to go with a fullback (Shane Smith)? This is a HUGE game for Smith and tight ends Matt LaCosse and Will Tye.

At wide receiver, the Giants will surely sit Odell Beckham and probably Brandon Marshall and Dwayne Harris. It will be interesting to see if Sterling Shepard plays. Heading into camp, Tavarres King had the inside track to the #5 wide receiver position, but he has missed a lot of time. Is his job safe? Could the Giants only carry five receivers? Roger Lewis and Travis Rudolph are fighting for their NFL lives. Both have been “fortunate” to see many of the other contenders fall by the wayside due to injury (Darius Powe, Keeon Johnson, Kevin Snead, Kevin Norwood).

Lastly, this brings us to the Giants Achilles’ heel: the offensive line. Does McAdoo give the starting five extra time to prepare for the Cowboys? Or does he do what he did last year and only play the starters for about 10 snaps? Media and fans were excited to see Brett Jones replace John Jerry at right guard against the Jets, but Jerry was back at right guard with the first team this week at practice. Really, the questions here for this game is how many back-up offensive linemen do the Giants keep? And who? They will surely be actively scanning the waiver wire for upgrades. Jones may not be safe. He’s probably fighting Jon Halapio for the reserve center/guard spot. Is D.J. Fluker are sure thing? He may not bring a lot of versatility in terms of position interchangeability and he did not appear to seriously challenge Jerry. Undrafted rookie free agent Chad Wheeler has out-performed 6th-round pick Adam Bisnowaty. Do both, one, or none of these two make it?

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
The starting defense is ready. Ben McAdoo would be crazy to play his best defensive players, specifically Jason Pierre-Paul, Olivier Vernon, Damon Harrison, Janoris Jenkins, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, and Landon Collins. Factor in that injured players Eli Apple, Michael Hunter, Jay Bromley, and Keenan Robinson won’t play and Giants fans should not read anything in terms of the team’s defensive performance against the Patriots. Other than possibly Donte Deayon, none of the corners playing in this game will make the team. (Let that sink in before you starting bitching on the game thread about our secondary).

The injury to Jay Bromley complicates things for the Dallas game. Bromley says he will be ready, but players usually are overly optimistic with the press. Dalvin Tomlinson or Robert Thomas may be seeing more snaps in the opener than expected.

At end, we know who the starters are. Kerry Wynn seems to be in the lead for the top reserve defensive end spot, but none of the reserves have really stood out as pass rushers in the preseason. Romeo Okwara, Devin Taylor, and Avery Moss have been quiet. One guy who may have sneaked his way into the picture is DE/DT Jordan Williams. He has flashed. This game is an important contest to all of these players. While the Giants’ sub-par secondary is getting burned, it will be more important for fans to keep an eye up front to who almost gets to the quarterback.

At linebacker, Mark Herzlich has been sidelined for weeks with a neck injury. How serious is it? Might he end up on IR? That would open things up for other reserves and/or waiver wire pick-ups. The sure bets are Devon Kennard, Jonathan Casillas, B.J. Goodson, and Keenan Robinson. There is very little depth here, especially when you consider Robinson is already battling his second concussion of the preseason. J.T. Thomas should be thanking his lucky stars. One guy to watch is Calvin Munson.

At corner, again, I don’t think anyone playing in this game has a legit shot to make the team other than Donte Deayon – and he’s no sure thing either if the Giants see an upgrade on the waiver wire. Don’t fret the CB play on Thursday night. That said, because guys like Nigel Tribune, DaShaun Amos, Tim Scott, Tay Glover-Wright, and Daniel Gray will be running around clueless, it will be tough to get a good read on the back-up safeties. I’ve been disappointed in Nat Berhe’s play this preseason. The Giants may be stuck with him, but again, I’d be checking out that waiver wire. The top three safeties obviously will be Collins, Darian Thompson (how much does he play in this game?), and Andrew Adams. None of the other reserve safeties have impressed (Duke Ihenacho, Ryan Murphy, Eric Pinkins, and Daniel Gray)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
The place-kicker competition this preseason has been as good as I can ever remember. Neither has missed and both have impressively nailed kicks from 50+ yards. This literally may come down to the last kick. Dwayne Harris’ absence has meant we haven’t had a serious look at our return game this preseason.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Ben McAdoo on what he looks for in the 4th preseason game: “We want to give every player who’s on the bubble an opportunity to show what they can do.”

THE FINAL WORD:
I think this is a good football team. But the offensive line, running game, and place kicker could sabotage the season. There are also serious depth concerns at linebacker and safety. The ankle situations for Odell Beckham and Eli Apple could be a problem, at least in the short-term.

But this Giants defense may be the best the team has had since 2007, and maybe better. This is certainly the most talent group of receivers Eli Manning has had since 2011. This is a team that should be a serious Super Bowl contender.

As for this game, the key players to watch are the quarterbacks, place kickers, fullback versus reserve tight ends, defensive ends, and linebackers.

Aug 282017
 
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Jason Pierre-Paul, New York Giants (August 26, 2017)

Jason Pierre-Paul – © USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants 32 – New York Jets 31

QUICK RECAP

The traditional week 3 match-up of cross-town rivals took place Saturday night at Metlife Stadium. These two franchises are going in completely different directions with the Giants in the midst pursuing at least one more Super Bowl under their long-time quarterback’s leadership and the Jets in a full-blown-rebuild state of mind. Week 3 is the unofficial final dress rehearsal for the starters, as they play more snaps in this game than any other preseason match-up. The Giants were without their two star receivers, Odell Beckham and Brandon Marshall, while the Jets sat veteran quarterback Josh McCown to let young guns Christian Hackenberg and Bryce Petty continue to battle it out.

The Giants jumped all over the Jets in the first half. They scored their first offensive touchdown of the preseason in the first quarter and added two more in the first-half via-interceptions. With starters playing on both sides of the ball for the first 30 minutes, the Giants walked into the locker room at halftime with a commanding 29-3 lead. The Jets answered back, mainly with Petty at the helm, in the second half and made it close. Close to the point where they were 3 yards and a 2-point conversion away from winning. On that play, rookie running back Elijah McGuire finished just inches short of the goal line, sealing the first Giants victory of the 2017 preseason.

QUARTERBACKS

  • Eli Manning looked sharp for the second straight week. He didn’t quite play the entire first half, but he went 7/14 for 121 yards and an interception that can easily be put on the offensive line. He had Roger Lewis open deep, striding towards the end zone but pressure up the middle cut off his step into the throw, forcing it to fall short and into a Jets defensive back’s hands. There are still signs of his arm lacking life and the hope here has to be it doesn’t fall off too much during the winter months.
  • More of the same from the backup battle between Geno Smith and Josh Johnson. Neither one is taking the bull by the horns. Smith looked very inaccurate and a little more rattled this time around, whereas Johnson just seemed overly pedestrian. Part of me now has the thought that Davis Webb should be given the backup job initially to help the Giants save a roster spot. If Manning were to actually go down in-season, I bet one if not both would still be available on the free agent wire. Speaking of Webb, he got in with about 8 minutes remaining in the game and went 2/4 for 20 yards, including a near interception. He did an excellent job on a pass-rush-forced rollout, keeping his eyes downfield and completing a pass near the sideline.

RUNNING BACKS

  • I discussed how I wanted to see Paul Perkins run more assertively, and that he did. Six carries for 33 yards spelled a good night for the second year back. He juked rookie safety Marcus Maye out of his shoes on a 12-yard dash up the middle, didn’t even get touched in a phone booth.
  • Shane Vereen didn’t see a lot of playing time, as they are likely trying to protect him as much as possible. Also, the 3rd spot is up for grabs between rookie Wayne Gallman and Orleans Darkwa. I think it is likely both make the team, but Gallman is certainly making his case to get touches weekly. His ability to slither through traffic and find extra yards has been apparent each week. Darkwa got the goal-line carry and touchdown in the first quarter and it looks like he may be their short-yardage option early on. In addition, Gallman is having a hard time sustaining his blocks. Shaun Draughn got in for one series but was rocked by a Jets defender and put into the concussion protocol. Tough luck offseason for him and it looks like he will be the odd man out.
  • Shane Smith had a “key” block on Darkwa’s touchdown run. I put that in quotes because it was a very simple block against a CB. Smith is showing more hesitation in traffic than I want to see. Is the game too fast for him? Especially with the amount of zone running the Giants do where he has to move laterally. Keep in mind that for the best runs of the night Smith was not on the field.

WIDE RECEIVERS

  • With Odell Beckham, Brandon Marshall and Dwayne Harris out, it was a night of opportunity for Roger Lewis and Travis Rudolph. Both took advantage of it. Lewis, as he was all of camp, was up and down. Lewis dropped a touchdown pass, albeit it was a tough play, but responded with a tough reception in traffic on 4th down right after. He also ran himself open earlier in the game on a play that could have resulted in a touchdown, but the forced under throw took away the opportunity.
  • Rudolph had one of the nicest plays of the night, snaring a poor Josh Johnson pass over the defender and completing the Giants longest play of preseason, 57 yards. He is the reliable route runner and pass catcher that quarterbacks love to work with. His value on special teams may be the final feather in his cap to make the squad.
  • Sterling Shepard showed off impressive ball skills in the 1st quarter, twisting his body to adjust to a slightly inaccurate throw, coming down with Manning’s longest pass of the night (31 yards).

TIGHT ENDS

  • Rookie Evan Engram continues to strengthen my notion of him being a big time weapon in this offense. During the scouting process last year I kept on writing down the names Aaron Hernandez and Jordan Reed. And one of my bold predictions for this Giants team is going to be….he will be better than both of them in their respective rookie seasons by a long shot (Reed 45-499-3 in 9 games and Hernandez 45-563-6). In addition to that, I like Engram’s long-term potential better than both because of his athleticism and intangibles. And one more for you, I graded Engram out almost perfect on his blocking assignments Saturday night. Watch out for this kid, a legit “Offensive Rookie of the Year” candidate.
  • Matt LaCosse, a favorite of mine during camp, finally got more involved in the passing game. Only 2 catches for 8 yards but he showed really good breaks and quick-area burst. Someone is going to scoop this guy up and if he gets his chances, he will make something happen. He was no slouch as a blocker. I would certainly take him over Will Tye if the Giants keep 4 tight ends.
  • Rhett Ellison was a non-factor in the passing game, but I mean it when I say he is a better run blocker than our tackles. He is so technically sound, his hands are incredibly strong, and he simply wants it. If you focus on him, it’s hard not to love what he brings to the table.

OFFENSIVE LINE

  • Overall, very solid night from the tackles. Ereck Flowers did allow a sack and had a false start penalty, however. Flowers’ sack was on a stunt from his inside shoulder that he didn’t see fast enough. When he commits, he doesn’t adjust well and you can bet defensive coordinators are going to attack that. He performed very well within his 1-on-1 match-ups, as this is the kind of defense he match-ups up well against. Straight-ahead bull rushers with minimal quick twitch laterally won’t win often against him. Bobby Hart had a relatively quiet night, in a good way. He is showing quicker feet and more balance. I still like him better at guard but I guess it’s time for me to put that argument away.
  • John Jerry had an ugly night, mainly because of the play that forced the Manning interception. Jerry simply lost his anchor and was pushed onto his back deep in the pocket. He has had as rough a preseason as anyone when it comes to the game action. Weston Richburg continues to a nice job hustling, playing through the whistle, making the line calls…etc. However, he just isn’t a guy who can sustain blocks against power defenders. Too many times he get stossed to the side or driven back.
  • Justin Pugh is playing better than I’ve ever seen him, and I have thought he was a Pro Bowl caliber guy over the past 2-3 years. The ability he showed to keep his balance, power, hand position, and leverage is exactly what I look for when scouting interior guys. He played excellent.
  • The disappointing backups were Brett Jones and, once again, Adam Bisnowaty. Jones is struggling with his shotgun snaps, a major no-no for centers. And while I admire his grit and hustle, he gets walked back into the pocket repeatedly by bull rushers. He does a nice job of staying on them, but he is a guy who can ruin a QB’s pocket presence because he’s always creeping in, making it smaller and smaller. I’m not sure he is the guy to make this roster as a backup OC. Bisnowaty just can’t seem to lock anyone up; he spends way too much time trying to regain his balance.
  • D.J. Fluker and Jon Halapio are my two favorite backups for the interior. Fluker is limited in space, that’s been heavily confirmed. But he consistently moves guys as a run blocker. Halapio has OC experience and I simply trust him more head up on a bull rusher. There is lower body stiffness that can get him in trouble on the move, but he plays a mean game and can get a push. Backup offensive lineman are hard to find, so you can’t kill anyone for this group being hard to watch.

DEFENSIVE LINE

  • Jason Pierre Paul is looking better than ever. Three tackles, a sack, a tipped pass, and a tackle for loss that led to a safety. He was all over the field and the Jets’ line simply had no answer for him. He is turning into a leader as well. When Romeo Okwara was getting cheap shot-ed by Jets OG James Carpenter, it was JPP who was the first to come to his defense. I have a bold prediction for him coming soon.
  • The backup DE situation is coming into picture. The Giants are rotating these guys inside/outside more than I can ever remember. Romeo Okwara showed enough stout-ness against run blockers, but he struggled to get off blocks. He continues to flash for one play, then get badly beat on the next 3-4. Kerry Wynn is the most consistent force among the backups and he is a staple on special teams. Avery Moss got a lot of playing time, even some of it earlier than usual, but failed to make an impression. And I think the writing is on the wall for Owa Odighizuwa via his play. There just isn’t enough effort or impact for him to warrant a spot here.
  • Jay Bromley’s mild knee sprain will more than likely keep him out Thursday night. This could be the beginning of an opportunity for Dalvin Tomlinson to prove his potential as the man next to Damon Harrison. Bromley gets pushed backwards too often and while the rookie 2nd rounder hasn’t been overly stout himself, he makes better adjustments. Tomlinson is a better athlete with more range and can take advantage of the fact Harrison demands so much attention because of it. Tomlinson had a quiet night Saturday but he still flashed speed and quickness within the tackle box that Bromley just doesn’t have.
  • Robert Thomas was in for a long time. I think he is a lock for the 53-man roster, but what kind of role should he play? They let him loose a little bit, got him moving up field in space and it didn’t end well. He spent a lot of time on the ground and just didn’t have the length to get off blocks. There isn’t a lot of creativity to his game, thus I think he is best suited for a stay at home, run defender-type role.

LINEBACKERS

  • Good to see B.J. Goodson show improving movement and instincts in coverage. There were two plays where Goodson called out the intended direction of the pass play pre-snap. Looks like Antonio Pierce is rubbing off on him. The same can’t be said for rookie Calvin Munson, who was the main culprit on the Jets 85-yard touchdown pass and run to Bilal Powell. In his defense, that is a tough match-up for any LB. Munson did end up with 5 tackles and continues to show solid interior run defense.
  • Jonathan Casillas recorded 2 tackles and a sack. He is excelling at gap protection with his hard-nosed, stuff-the-lane approach. The Giants defense is one of the more physical in the league now and he is a major reason why. Devon Kennard continues to show his versatility. He is pursuing guys to the sideline, rushing the passer from a DT position, and showing solid man coverage.
  • Curtis Grant got a lot of playing time and was in on 5 tackles. He is such a good looking straight-line athlete but I’m afraid the quickness of the game is just too much for him. He had a horrible missed tackle in the 4th quarter on Jets RB Elijah McGuire. Subtle change of direction and Grant whiffed in a phone booth.

CORNERBACKS

  • Hopefully these ankle injuries aren’t going to linger for Eli Apple. He is looking very good and sure of himself, especially when defending the run and short passing game. He did get away with a blatant deep pass interference call in the 2nd quarter though. And remember, those penalties are an absolute killer. He needs to trust himself more and stop grabbing.
  • Janoris Jenkins…how many cornerbacks his size can hit the way he does? He made one of hits of the night that immediately jarred the ball loose and into the hands of Donte Deayon, which resulted in a pick 6. Jenkins is at the top of his game right now; I don’t think I have ever seen him play better.
  • Speaking of Deayon, I think he is playing his way onto the roster. His pick 6 was partial luck, but this kid has always been a playmaker. Some defensive backs simply have a knack for finding the ball and making things happen. The one caveat however, he is a liability in the run game. He does show toughness as a tackler, but receivers are having a very easy time washing him out of plays when blocking.
  • Nigel Tribune had a rough night. He fell on ArDarius Stewart’s first touchdown of the night when trying to track the ball and also had a deep pass interference late in the game in the midst of the Jets monster comeback. In addition, he completely whiffed on a press attempt that led to a Chad Hansen 2-point conversion.

SAFETIES

  • Do we sound like Giants’ homers when we say Landon Collins looks like a guy that could contend for “Defensive Player of the Year”?  This guy is all over the field and it looks like the coaching staff knows exactly how to use him in his 3rd year. His 1st-quarter interception for a touchdown and several of his tackles were a result of top notch instincts. We are now seeing this every time he is on the field, whether it is practice or a game. He is the real deal.
  • Darian Thompson made an impact play, sacking Christian Hackenberg and showed good coverage in his deep third. I am still wondering if Andrew Adams is quietly in the running for the starting job. He got in there pretty early Saturday night and plays more physically with just as much range in coverage.
  • Nat Berhe and Duke Ihenacho are both overly aggressive to a fault. They launch themselves towards the action and yes, the occasional big hit is made, but they are missing too many tackles. When safeties miss tackles, bad things happen. Berhe also showed his lack of long speed in his pursuit of Powell on the long TD.
  • Eric Pinkins may have made the worst coverage-based mistake of the night on ArDarius Stewart’s second touchdown. He completely let him slip by and past, got fooled by Hackenberg looking in the opposite direction, and left Stewart literally standing all alone in the end zone waiting for the eventual touchdown pass. It was an ugly, ugly look for Pinkins who got a very limited amount of snaps.

SPECIAL TEAMS

  • The kicking battle has reached its highest point of competition. Mike Nugent was 2/2 including a 54 yarder that had some room left on it. Aldrick Rosas hit a 24 yarder on his only attempt. Neither one has missed one in any of the preseason games, a good sign. This is a tough call to make.
  • Newcomer Ed Eagen, a wide receiver, showed a quick burst on his returns but he is highly unlikely to make the team. No other notable returns.

3 STUDS

  • DE Jason Pierre-Paul, S Landon Collins, LG Justin Pugh

3 DUDS

  • CB Nigel Tribune, S Eric Pinkins, OC Brett Jones

3 TAKEAWAYS FOR NYJ

  • I bet nobody is talking about this guy, but OG Ben Braden caught my eye all night and in the re-watch. Talk about a guy who can athletically AND powerfully move guys. I think NYJ has a keeper in him.
  • This QB situation is worse than I even thought. Hackenberg may not be in the league in 2-3 years and while I like Petty’s grit, he can’t be called a starter. We all know what the deal is with McCown. Jets are clearly heading towards a top 3 pick in the 2018 Draft.
  • I loved the 2017 Draft class for NYJ, notably WRs Chad Hansen and ArDarius Stewart. I had much higher grades on them than what was out there and if Bilal Powell can prove to be a steady long term contributor in the backfield, this NYJ team will be a very friendly spot for their first-round QB next year. The turnaround may be a quick one here.
Aug 252017
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (December 6, 2015)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Preseason Game Preview: New York Jets at New York Giants, August 26, 2017

THE STORYLINE:
From a fan and media perspective, it is clear this preseason is not going as hoped for the New York Giants. The offense – which struggled to score points in 2016 – has not yet scored a touchdown. The same weak spots in 2016 appear to still be weak spots this preseason, specifically the blocking up front and the inability to generate yards on the ground. And while the Giants have not had any devastating injuries (knock on wood), they have suffered a plethora of nagging injuries that have sabotaged practice time or caused the team to churn the bottom of the roster just in order to have enough players to practice and play in the preseason without exposing starters to unnecessary risk.

The good news? Most fans – including this one – couldn’t possibly tell you what the team’s preseason records in previous years. For most Giants fans, preseason memories are limited to who got hurt (Jason Sehorn) and the occasional breakout performance (Victor Cruz) or bizarre ending (Jack Golden). A year from now, most fans won’t remember a darn thing from the 2017 preseason. What is important is for the team to physically and mentally get ready for the Dallas Cowboys on opening day.

This third preseason game has always been a bitch for the Giants. The Jets and their fans always take this game way too seriously and this is the one game where both teams have been hit by devastating injuries in the past (yes, past performance is no guarantee of future results but I’m superstitious so lay off).

What do we want to see? Stay healthy. See SOME improvement in the running game. Score a touchdown or two.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • WR Odell Beckham, Jr. (ankle)
  • WR Brandon Marshall (shoulder)
  • WR Dwayne Harris (upper body)
  • WR Tavarres King (ankle)
  • LB Keenan Robinson (concussion)
  • LB Mark Herzlich (stinger)
  • LB J.T. Thomas (knee)
  • CB Eli Apple (ankle)
  • CB Michael Hunter (concussion)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
The red flags are there. It appears that the offensive line is still an issue. And the Giants simply cannot run the football. With respect to the line, the alarming thing is that it is not just the tackles who are inconsistent, but the interior of the line has been a problem as well. One of the greatest compliments you can give an offensive line and a coach is that the whole exceeds the sum of the parts. Well with the Giants, it appears the whole is LESS than the sum of the parts. Or perhaps, the Giants really screwed up in their evaluation of the parts. To the point, EVERYONE on the offensive line has to play better. At different points, Ereck Flowers, Bobby Hart, John Jerry, and Weston Richburg have struggled to create holes for the running backs and protect the quarterbacks. They are NOT getting the job done. And worse, the Giants have no fallback plan. The only realistic option to replace Flowers is Justin Pugh, but Pugh has not taken snaps at left tackle. D.J. Fluker has received most of his practice snaps at right guard and does not appear to be a threat to unseat Bobby Hart at all. And Fluker has not received first-team reps at right guard. Brett Jones has not worked with the first team at center, but did receive some first-team reps at right guard in practice this week. The two back-up tackles are green rookies. For better or worse (and right now it is looking like worse), the Giants are pretty much stuck with Flowers-Pugh-Richburg-Jerry-Hart again.

We cannot let Paul Perkins off of the hook either. Yes, he hasn’t had much room to operate. But he also is not creating on his own or running with a great deal of instinctiveness. There has been hesitation to his play. Right now, it is fair to wonder if the Giants truly have a legitimate NFL-quality starting running back on the roster.

So right now, we’re looking at another year of a finesse, pass-first West Coast Offense that has to rely on the short passing game in order to protect Eli Manning and which has trouble even picking up one yard on 3rd-and-1. This is not a physical offense. The Giants will have to cross their fingers that Eli rebounds with a stronger season and that Odell Beckham, Brandon Marshall, Sterling Shepard, Evan Engram, Rhett Ellison, and Shane Vereen can provide match-up problems in the passing game. Yards after the catch will be key.

With four of arguably the Giants five best wide receivers out of this game, don’t expect the offense to look sharp against the Jets.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
Right now, it looks like the Giants are going to sink or swim in 2017 based on the play of their defense. The good news is that the Giants may have an emerging force at linebacker in B.J. Goodson. The guy does something other Giants linebackers haven’t done in years: make plays. If everyone stays relatively healthy (a big if), the addition of a mobile, physical middle linebacker who makes plays to this defense is huge. There will still be growing pains with Goodson, but the arrow is definitely pointing up with him. Now if Darian Thompson can take hold of the free safety position, the Giants will be in great shape on defense.

The biggest worry here is the fact that Keenan Robinson is back in the concussion protocol. He clearly suffered a setback and if he concussed himself again, who knows how long he will be out?  He’s always been an injury-prone player, but he was an underrated performer for the Giants last year in pass coverage. Also keep your fingers crossed that Michael Hunter won’t be out long at cornerback. He has developed nicely and looks to be a serious upgrade over Trevin Wade and Coty Sensabaugh. That 4th cornerback spot is much more important than fans realize, especially with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Eli Apple having a history of missing time.

Ends Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon seem poised for a big season. I hope the Giants don’t risk them much more this preseason. Same with Damon Harrison, Janoris Jenkins, and Landon Collins. I don’t care if the Jets move the ball against our back-ups in a preseason game.

It’s been pointed out by others on BBI, but keep an eye on a couple of relative unknown players who are flying under the radar: DE/DT Jordan Williams and LB Calvin Munson.

With Hunter and possibly Eli Apple out, and Valentino Blake leaving the team, this will be a great opportunity for Donte Deayon to make a push for a roster spot. But since he is such a liability against the run and on specials, he will have to excel in pass coverage. If he doesn’t, the Giants will be keeping an eye on the waiver wire on September 2, and not just at corner, but at safety where the play of Nat Berhe remains a cause for concern.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
Not receiving a lot of press is the fact that while Aldrick Rosas has been perfect this preseason, he has begun to miss more kicks in practice, going 3-for-4 a number of times recently. Stating the obvious, this position is far from settled yet. Dwayne Harris was limited all of 2016 with various injury problems. What is a bit disconcerting is that he has been sidelined for a couple of weeks now with an unidentified “upper body” issue. The Giants not only need him on the field in the return game, but they need him close to 100 percent. Who knows what is wrong with him?

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Ben McAdoo on what he is looking for from an offense missing key components for this game: “I am looking for getting in a little bit of a rhythm. We want to take care of the ball. That’s important to us. We want to play with some physicality, complete the ball and just get a little bit better. Find a way to make some gains this week.”

THE FINAL WORD:
I don’t expect a performance by the Giants that will leave fans feeling terribly good about the state of the team. Too many of the top receivers will be out. The Giants should struggle to run the football against this defense. I’ll feel better when the preseason is past us.

Aug 242017
 
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BigBlueInteractive.com (BBI) Preseason Videocast of August 24, 2017: BBI’s Mike Siegel and Sy’56 discuss the New York Giants’ performance in the second preseason game against the Cleveland Browns and the upcoming third preseason game against the New York Jets. Mike and Sy’56 analyze key issues facing the team as the Giants approach the regular season.

Sy’56 has worked for Ourlads Scouting LLC since 2013, starting off as a college depth chart manager and now a lead scout for one the most-sold NFL draft guides year-in, year-out. He has been scouting for over 10 years and will compile anywhere from 400-600 scouting reports per season, with that number increasing year by year. He watches and studies game films 20-25 hours per week throughout the entire year with his main focus being NFL Draft prospects.

Mike Siegel, aka gidiefor, serves as a moderator and is a longtime contributor in The Corner Forum, originally joining BBI in 2004. Raised in Brooklyn, NY, he is a rabid Giants fan, an attorney, a family man, proud grandfather of five, and a former NYC Park Professional, Mounted Park Ranger, and instructor at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, who was noted for his work in Brooklyn Park rehabilitation projects, park publications, public park tours and programs, and also his paper-folding prowess. His more than fifteen-foot high Origami holiday tree in Central Park’s Dairy was a fixture in the 1980’s. He has been an active participant in BBI’s outside gatherings, and strongly believes in fostering the BBI community environment and promoting serious discussion about Giants football.

Aug 232017
 
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Olivier Vernon, New York Giants (August 21, 2017)

Olivier Vernon – © USA TODAY Sports

Cleveland Browns 10 – New York Giants 6

QUICK RECAP

In front of a national stage, albeit still a preseason game, the Giants played under the Monday Night lights against the perennial bottom feeders of the NFL. Cleveland, with just one winning season since 2003, looks energized and refreshed with some of the best young talent the franchise has had in a very long time. Eli Manning and Odell Beckham suited up for their first live action of the preseason but it didn’t help get the first “W” next to Big Blue’s name.

In true preseason fashion, it was an ugly exhibition with just 16 total points scored, 5 turnovers (2 of which were QB-RB exchanges), and just two plays of 20 or more yards. The turning point came in the fourth quarter where the Giants were down 10-6 with the ball and “1st-and-goal” distance away not once, but twice. Two opportunities that close to the end zone netted the Giants 0 points and two turnovers. Even worse, the Giants left Cleveland beat up with star receivers Odell Beckham and Brandon Marshall both exiting the game with respective injuries in addition to their position group-mate Tavarres King. The Giants have played eight quarters of preseason football and have yet to cross the goal line with the ball in their hands.

QUARTERBACKS

  • Eli Manning looked solid and in full control of the offense, making several line calls with multiple changes that led to positive plays. He went 10/14 for 80 yards. He nearly threw a touchdown pass to TE Evan Engram but it was tipped away by Browns LB Joe Schobert. Manning spread the ball around well and looked accurate and confident. He was sacked once.
  • Geno Smith was the first signal caller off of the bench, coming into the game for a 2-minute drill towards the end of the first half with just 1:10 remaining. That is always a good time to see what a QB on the fence can do. Smith ended up handing the ball off to Shane Vereen twice, completing two short passes, and getting sacked by 2017’s #1 overall pick, Myles Garrett. Smith ended the night 11/17 for 79 yards and a very bad interception on a 3rd-and-goal play where he didn’t recognize the Browns coverage. More of the same from what Geno Smith’s career has presented so far: a guy who can make all of the throws, look good doing it, but has the knack for game-killing decisions.
  • Josh Johnson saw very limited action, going 2/4 for 6 yards. There wasn’t much to take out of this contest for him.

RUNNING BACKS

  • Paul Perkins had a rough night. He finished with just 10 yards on 6 carries. There can be some blame placed on the offensive line, Bobby Hart in particular, but there were two plays where he didn’t see the lane he was supposed to be running through and instead bounced it outside or to another gap where he got caught up in traffic. Upon further review, it looks like Perkins is approaching the line with too much hesitation and the assumption he needs to create on his own. There needs to be more assertiveness in his play.
  • Shane Vereen, on the field for just 11 plays, appeared to have that quick decision making on both of his runs. He was, however, running in more favorable situations, but as I said in early July, I think a healthy Vereen is just as likely to get the majority of snaps in this offense as Perkins.
  • Wayne Gallman got a lot of action, particularly in the 3rd quarter. He looked explosive, loose hipped, and aggressive. He shoots out of a cannon and sometimes even too quickly for his own good. He has the kind of big-play potential a stagnant offense needs when they hit a dead end. On a 13-play drive early in the 4th quarter, Gallman rushed 5 times for 23 yards (including an explosive 8 yard run that was called back for a hold away from the play) and caught 2 passes for 20 yards. There is a multi-faceted threat here that I think the Giants are going to use more and more as the season progresses.
  • Backup hopefuls Orleans Darkwa and Khalid Abdullah didn’t jump off the screen in their limited reps.
  • Fullback Shane Smith appears to have a strong grip on the fullback job, although I think it is still a coin flip on whether or not they carry one. His play hasn’t been translating to yards.

WIDE RECEIVERS

  • The conversation starts with injured starters Odell Beckham (ankle) and Brandon Marshall (shoulder). Preliminary reports lead us to believe both will be unaffected for week 1 in Dallas. Beckham caught 3 passes for 37 yards, easily getting open against a sub-par Cleveland secondary. Marshall was overthrown by Manning in the first quarter on a go route but it was good to see the big man run by a cornerback so easily. These two absolutely need to stay healthy for this offense to reach even close to it’s potential.
  • Tavarres King, who has the inside track at the #4 spot on the depth chart, re-aggravated an ankle injury. His frame is extremely thin and fragile looking, and he may have a hard time staying on the field consistently.
  • Sterling Shepard caught 3 passes for 9 yards and also fumbled the ball in Cleveland territory. Rough night for him, and for a guy that may be competing for snaps, it wasn’t encouraging. Weird to say something like that about a second-year player who was second among all rookies last season in receiving.
  • Roster hopefuls Travis Rudolph and Roger Lewis went for 2 catches/16 yards and 1 catch/6 yards, respectively. Both made mental errors. Rudolph’s was a concentration drop and Lewis didn’t recognize the coverage on Geno Smith’s interception and was unable to try and break the pass up.

TIGHT ENDS

  • Rhett Ellison and Evan Engram both had good nights. This position group is night and day on another level from what we saw last year. Engram caught 3 passes for 32 yards, while Ellison added 1 catch for 6 yards and made a big impact as blocker. On Paul Perkins’ 16-yard run in the 2nd quarter, Ellison blocked two separate Cleveland defenders on opposite sides of the running lane. It was a big league, high-level play that doesn’t show up in the box score. Both Engram and Ellison were lining up all over the field including a formation where they both started off in the backfield in a wishbone type formation.
  • Will Tye and Matt LaCosse both caught passes in the second half while Jerell Adams missed a quick hot route throw from Josh Johnson on the final play of the game. There is still a chance any of these three tight ends make the team, as they offer completely different packages individually. Tye looks much more athletic and sure of himself than he did in 2016.

OFFENSIVE LINE

  • We all know this group will be under the microscope all year. While they still have plenty of room to improve as a whole, the line held up for the most part. Without the Browns top interior force, Danny Shelton, the Giants first-string line was able to neutralize the Browns pass rush. However, the right side still struggled to get a constant push. Nevertheless, the glass half full approach was that the left side performed well.
  • Ereck Flowers was matched up against 2017 #1 overall pick Myles Garrett all night. Garrett did record a sack, but it was a result of Geno Smith evading pressure from the right side and running into the arms of Garrett, who was being kept outside the pocket well by Flowers. Flowers looked athletic and strong for most of his snaps. Bobby Hart, on the other hand, had a rough night. He was being controlled easily by second-year defensive end Carl Nassib. His poor run blocking led to a couple losses in the run game.
  • John Jerry, better known for his pass blocking than run blocking, was late to see a stunt in the first quarter which led to a sack of Eli Manning. He and Weston Richburg were getting very little-to-no movement at the point of attack. Too often are those two getting knocked backwards.
  • The backups on the left side, notably Chad Wheeler and Jon Halapio, performed well. Halapio was a center in college and got snaps there throughout training camp. He is still in the running for that backup center job.
  • D.J. Fluker graded out better than John Jerry by a wide margin. There will be some thought and discussion surrounding the idea that he should be the starter there, but it’s not happening. Not at this point anyway. The Giants are going to sink or swim with their current starting 5 with the hope that chemistry continues to build and covers some holes in their games individually. We know what Fluker is. He is a powerful, enormous man-mover who will struggle the second he is caught in space against quick defenders. There are severe limitations to his game.
  • Rookie Adam Bisnowaty struggled mightily for the second straight game, showing a lack of ability to react and adjust his weight. He appears to be having a very hard time adjusting to the speed at this level.

DEFENSIVE LINE

  • Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon appear to be in mid-season form already. They combined for a sack and played stellar run defense. Vernon tipped a Brock Osweiler pass in the first quarter than landed in the arms of Pierre-Paul, who covered an unbelievable amount of ground with his gazelle strides before leaping into the air and securing it. It was an extremely rare feat of athletic prowess that most defensive ends couldn’t even think about doing. Vernon made one of the plays of the night in coverage 25 yards downfield where he ran up and across the field with rookie speedster David Njoku. He also had a sack called back because of a defensive holding call away from the action.
  • Jay Bromley and Damon Harrison got the start inside. Bromley is likely in the lead for the week 1 starting job, but he is still having a hard time showing an ability to consistently anchor against double teams. He shows the occasional surge off the ball, however, that leads you to the thought, “What if?”
  • Jordan Williams was in there early in the game with the first string on a 3rd-down sub package. He made a nice tackle on a shovel pass that prevented Cleveland from continuing their drive. I am not going to compare Williams to Justin Tuck as a player, but they are awfully similar in the way they move. Williams has the versatility stemming from his size and speed to be a factor on 3rd downs from the inside. He is certainly in the 53-man roster discussion because of how much he can do.
  • Backup tackles Robert Thomas and Dalvin Tomlison are very active. They shoot off the ball well and will make plays away from the point-of-attack. Tomlinson made a tackle on a passing play seven yards downfield outside the numbers in the second half. How many interior guys do you see do that?  He is still getting pushed back by the power blocks, multiple yards, too easily and often.
  • Kerry Wynn, Romeo Okwara, and Avery Moss were pretty quiet, each only being involved in 1 tackle. Okwara was the first pass rushing DT on the field on 3rd down for what its worth. There was one play where his biggest weakness, lower body stiffness and lack of lateral twitch, was on full display when he tried and whiffed to bring down Deshone Kizer on a designed running play.

LINEBACKERS

  • B.J. Goodson led the way (get used to hearing that) with 7 tackles. For the second straight week, Goodson recorded a sack on a blitz up the middle in which he obliterated Cleveland running back Duke Johnson who tried to simply get in his way. Didn’t work out for him. Goodson continues to be the pace-maker of this physical brand of Giants defense.
  • Calvin Munson and Deontae Skinner both played a lot of snaps, as they might be competing for  the same roster spot. Munson notched 4 tackles and showed plenty of range on a 3rd-quarter physical tackle near the sidelines. Skinner, arguably the top athlete in the entire group, recorded 3 tackles of his own but also missed 2. He and Charles Grant both appear more instinctive and reactive than a year ago, but I’m not sure it’s quite enough yet. Grant is still a liability in coverage, as he was easily beat up the seam by rookie tight end David Njoku but was saved by an overthrow by Deshone Kizer.
  • Jonathan Casillas and Devon Kennard had solid outings in their limited action. Both work through traffic exceptionally well and carry a strong presence to their hits. Kennard had really nice coverage on the athletic Njoku in the first quarter.

CORNERBACKS

  • With Eli Apple out, Michael Hunter got some extra looks in the Giants nickel defense. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who also saw some snaps at safety, shifted inside to the nickel position. Hunter covered very well but lost outside contain on a running play by Duke Johnson. Fortunately it was called back due to a hold away from the action. Both Rodgers-Cromartie and Janoris Jenkins were strong in coverage and physical in the run game.
  • Valentino Blake got on the field a lot considering he is very involved on special teams. He is tough and physical, two prerequisites for Special Teams Coach Tom Quinn and we all know how much this era of Giants leadership values the specials. Blake still gives up too much yardage as a cover man, however.
  • Undrafted rookie Deshaun Amos stood out to me on a couple of occasions. He made a couple of very physical hits and showed excellent technique in man coverage.
  • Donte Deayon bounced back after a rough outing against Pittsburgh. He handled all of his allotted returns, stuck to his receivers in coverage with ease, and intercepted a pass that showed off high-level ball skills. Unfortunately it was called back due to penalty that had nothing to do with the play’s result. Deayon, as we know, is on the VERY small side and it continues to show up when he is trying to defend the run. He was rendered completely useless on a few outside runs by physical receivers.

SAFETIES

  • Landon Collins recorded a tackle and showed plenty of range against the run. He is heading for a 100+ tackle season for the third straight year.
  • Nat Berhe led the team in snaps played. He recorded 6 tackles but missed another bad one in the fourth quarter on a backup tight end. Through two games he has graded out very poorly as a tackler, something that just can’t happen from that position.
  • Darian Thompson and Andrew Adams continued to be right place, right time-type defenders without a big impact. Eric Pinkins and Duke Ihenacho did not get a ton of opportunity to display much of anything.

SPECIAL TEAMS

  • Veteran Mike Nugent got the first look on the field goal unit, nailing a 38 yarder. Rookie Aldrick Rosas hit one from 47 yards later on, but it didn’t have a ton of room left on it.
  • Brad Wing punted the ball 3 times for a poor average net (36.3 yards) due to poor coverage, mainly by Shane Smith and Orleans Darkwa.
  • The return game was quiet, with Donte Deayon, Travis Rudolph, and Orleans Darwka handling duties but all were fair catches and touchbacks.

3 STUDS

  • DE Jason Pierre Paul, DE Olivier Vernon, TE Evan Engram

3 DUDS

  • RB Paul Perkins, RT Bobby Hart, RT Adam Bisnowaty

3 TAKEAWAYS FOR CLE

  • There is a serious amount of young talent on the Browns, I think more than we have ever seen since their rebirth into the league. The upside of this team is huge if they can finally find their QB.
  • Rookie left tackle Roderick Johnson played pretty well considering he is a 5th-round pick and was up against Vernon. With Joe Thomas sitting out, Johnson’s experience in these games is huge for the long-term development of this team. He was also a high upside prospect and if he can figure it out before his name is called when Thomas retires, CLE may not skip a beat when the best left tackle of all time is no longer there.
  • Deshone Kizer was my second rated QB of the 2017 class. A weak class overall, but I still thought Kizer was a guy that could start and win plenty of games for a team. He has talent that very good QBs in this league don’t have. He was off on a couple throws but I was impressed by the quick release and easy footwork. If this kid puts his best foot forward, he has as much of a chance at being THE guy that turns this franchise around as anyone before him. And there is an offensive line there that rivals some of the best in football, which is huge for a young QB’s development.