Sep 062014
 
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Weston Richburg, New York Giants (July 22, 2014)

Weston Richburg – © USA TODAY Sports Images

It didn’t matter what team called his name during the 2014 NFL Draft in May, the goal was always the same for Weston Richburg.

Come the first game of the season, he wanted to step on the field with the starters.

When he picked up his phone during the second round of the draft and heard Giants coach Tom Coughlin’s voice, nothing changed. Richburg knew the Giants had just signed J.D. Walton and Geoff Schwartz. He knew Chris Snee was looking to make a comeback.

It just didn’t matter. He wanted to start.

“I had that picture in my mind,” Richburg said.

The Giants are now two days away from kicking off their season on Monday Night Football. When the offense takes Ford Field in prime time, Richburg will be lining up next to Walton with the ones.

“It’s a heck of a beginning to an NFL career,” Richburg said. “I’m very excited about it and wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s just a great way to start it.”

Going up against one of the best defensive tackles in the game? Well, that just makes it even better.

Not only will Monday be Richburg’s first career start, but he’ll also be matched up against Detroit Lions defensive tackle and former first-round pick Ndamukong Suh.

Suh, 27, has a resume that’s already chock-full of awards and accolades in his short four-year NFL career. In 2010, Suh’s first season in the NFL, the 6-4, 307-pound tackle won Rookie of the Year honors and earned the first of his three Pro Bowl and first-team All-Pro honors.

Throughout his career, Suh has recorded 27.5 sacks, 186 tackles and two forced fumbles while terrorizing opponent’s interior offensive linemen with his rare combination of size, speed and strength.

In his two previous meetings with the Giants, Suh has recorded five tackles and 1.5 sacks.

Richburg has spent countless hours in the film room watching tape on Suh. He’s taken note of his moves, and how he gets an edge on those he faces. The biggest observation the rookie’s made? Suh has impeccable timing jumping the count.

“He catches a lot of guys off guard,” Richburg said. “You can mix up the snap count a little to counter as an offense, but as a guard, that’s your advantage. You know the snap count.

“If we’re going to a silent count, it makes that a little more difficult, but you need to be able to anticipate it as well as you can and be able to fire off right when the ball is snapped so you can negate his perfect timing.”

Playing the Lions in Detroit, quarterback Eli Manning and the rest of the Giants offense will almost certainly have to turn to the silent count, and even if Richburg is able to get the initial step on Suh, he still needs to contain him.

At the NFL Scouting Combine in 2010, Suh bench-pressed 250 pounds 32 times. Richburg wasn’t too shabby, either, putting the same weight up 26 times. But Suh has played 63 regular season games in the NFL, Richburg five preseason games.

“He’s big and strong,” Richburg said,” I’m gonna have to buckle up, strap the cleats on a little tighter and just try to drive him off the ball.”

Sep 062014
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (August 16, 2014)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants at Detroit Lions, September 8, 2014

THE STORYLINE:
The New York Giants injury-riddled offensive line limps on to Ford Field in Detroit and prepares to face the vaunted Lion defensive front. As many questions surrounding the receivers, quarterback Eli Manning and tight end position, more than double are placed around the offensive line.

Is Will Beatty 100 percent? Is Weston Richburg ready to be a starter? Who starts at right guard? Can Geoff Schwartz be 100 percent again this year? Will Justin Pugh avoid a sophomore slump? The list goes on and on.

The simple fact remains: It doesn’t matter when Odell Beckham returns, or how quickly Manning picks up the West Coast scheme. If the Giants offensive line isn’t vastly improved from a year ago, it’ll more of the same for New York.

FOUR DOWNS:
First Down
Can John Jerry, J.D. Walton and Weston Richburg contain Ndamukong Suh?
It won’t take long for the Giants offensive line to get their first test. Monday night, the team will face one of the top defensive tackles in the NFL in Suh. The former first-round picks brings a rare combination of size, speed and strength to the interior of the Lions defensive line and is a handful for any all-pro guard. Jerry, Walton and Richburg will have their hands full.

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Walter Thurmond, New York Giants (August 9, 2014)

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Walter Thurmond – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Second Down
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie vs Calvin Johnson
The two have matched up several times before in their careers, and Rodgers-Cromartie may be one of the few corners in the NFL who is athletically gifted enough to stick with a healthy Megatron one-on-one. Last year, the Giants contained Johnson, albeit while the receiver was injured. Lions quarterback Matt Stafford will most definitely take a few shots in Johnson’s direction. Who wins the jump ball when it’s at its highest point?

Third Down
Reggie Bush
There’s been a lot of talk surrounding Calvin Johnson versus the Giants secondary, but what may be the biggest difference maker in Monday’s game is if the Giants can contain Reggie Bush, both as a runner and receiver. The fact is, if the Giants give up 100 yards and a touchdown to Johnson, the team can still win the game. If Bush goes off against the Giants nickel defense which is so focused on stopping the pass? It could be a very, very long night. Bush is a shifty player who has shown that he’s much more than a third down back since leaving New Orleans. The Giants need to keep him from getting to the second level.

Fourth Down
Walter Thurmond III vs Golden Tate
Two of the few subtractions from last year’s Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks team will match up Monday night in Thurmond and Tate. Thurmond is the Giants nickel corner, Tate the Lions slot receiver. Thurmond seemed excited to face his former teammate after the two went at it every day in practice a year ago. It’ll be a nice battle within the battle to watch.

PLAYER TO WATCH:
Connor Hughes – Eli Manning
It seems like the easy option to take, but I’ll have both of my eyes fixed squarely on Eli Manning Monday night. I’ve been critical of the signal caller this year with how uncomfortable he’s looked in the West Coast scheme this year. The excused have been dropped by the Giants of “We aren’t game planning for the preseason” and “It’s just the preseason” and “We’ll be ready for Detroit.” Well, it’s Detroit, are the Giants ready?

Manning is one of the smartest quarterbacks in the NFL, but when he has been the most successful is when he’s been allowed to cock back and throw the ball deep. That’s not really this offense anymore. Can Eli make it work in a West Coast offense?

Then again, I digress. If the offensive line doesn’t get it going, it doesn’t matter if Joe Montana, Steve Young, Peyton Manning or Tom Brady lined up behind center. Manning needs time to throw, no matter the scheme. Can the depleted line give him that?

Rueben Randle, New York Giants (October 21, 2013)

Rueben Randle Scores from 24 Yards Out – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Eric Kennedy – Any Other Receiver Besides Victor Cruz
While I share Connor’s concern about the offensive line, particularly if there is another injury, my greater fear right now is Eli will have no other receiver who he trusts to run the right route, get open, and catch the football. And very much related to this, is there a wide receiver or tight end on this team who really concerns the other team? If I’m Detroit or any other team, I load up against the run, and double Victor Cruz. I dare Rueben Randle, Jerrel Jernigan, and Larry Donnell/Daniel Fells to beat me. If Rueben Randle doesn’t begin to CONSISTENTLY make other teams pay for focusing too much attention on Cruz, then the Giants’ passing offense will be in deep trouble. Manning will get blamed, but he has to have guys to throw the football to.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • Jon Beason (foot)
  • Odell Beckham Jr. (hamstring)
  • James Brewer (back)
  • Charles Brown (shoulder)
  • Markus Kuhn (ankle)
  • Brandon Mosley (back)

FROM THE COACHES MOUTH:
Tom Coughlin (NYG) – The Detroit Lions had a good preseason; they were 3-1, they played three very good, close games, which is good. Again, indicating the depth is there. They have a new coach, Jim Caldwell, at the helm in Detroit and with new coaches, new coordinators, we have spent a lot of time trying to study and predict, but here we go. So we’re excited about it.

Jim Caldwell (DET) on what he sees in Eli Manning – What I see is a very talented guy who certainly has unique abilities to move his team and score, which no matter what the stats might say, this guy is dangerous, and I think he has proven that over time. You don’t win two Super Bowls without having an unusual skill set. I happen to know a bit about his family. I know one thing, and that is you better prepare for him just like you would anybody else that is as talented as him. He can hurt you.

Mathias Kiwanuka, New York Giants (December 22, 2013)

Mathias Kiwanuka – © USA TODAY Sports Images

THE FINAL WORD:
Connor Hughes - From watching the team every day in practice for the last two months, there truly is little optimism surrounding the squad. I am not saying that it’s impossible to turn this thing around, but just going on what I’ve seen thus far.

If the offense takes even miniature strides, I could see them being a 10-6, 11-5 team, because the defense is that good. Completely ignoring the present lack-of playmakers, questions at the tight end position and Manning’s early struggles in the West Coast offense, my biggest red flag is the offensive line.

The Giants did do their best to fix up the “broken” unit that took the field for 16 games last year, but I’m not sold on if the changes made are truly going to make that big of a difference. Are the Giants better up front than a year ago? Absolutely. Is it good enough? I just don’t know.

J.D. Walton is a huge question at center. So are Richburg, Jerry and Mosley at guard. Pugh is solid, but what is there to expect from Beatty? It’s often forgotten that before Beatty’s injury, he was hardly playing like the franchise left tackle the Giants paid him to be.

In my opinion, Detroit has one of the top defensive lines in the NFL. It’s going to be tough for the Giants to get anything going against them. Is it impossible? I’d never put anything past Tom Coughlin, but I see it as unlikely the Giants establish much on the offensive side of the ball. Countering that, as vastly improved as the Giants defense is, it won’t be able to keep with Detroit if the offense turns in three-and-out after three-and-out.

The Giants could easily win this game if the offense takes a jump from the preseason. But again, going off what I’ve seen each day in camp, I don’t see that happening. Detroit 28 – Giants 13.

Eric Kennedy - While it appears the Giants have solid special teams (kicking game) and perhaps a very good defense, my head tells me the Giants are a deeply flawed offensive team. In 2013, the Giants had one good wide receiver and arguably the worst group of tight ends, running backs, and offensive linemen in the NFL. Fast forward to September 2014. It appears the Giants still only have one good wide receiver, the worst group of tight ends in the NFL, and a very shaky offensive line with no depth. That’s not on Tom Coughlin, Ben McAdoo, or Eli Manning. That’s on Jerry Reese. It’s his job to procure talent and to be frank, he didn’t do enough this offseason despite all of the free agent activity. Many think I’m picking on Mr. Reese. I’m not. I’m just calling it like I see it. How does a team that has converted to a tight end-centric offense go into the season with Larry Donnell or Daniel Fells as their starter? The offensive line is literally a house of cards. One more injury and it will be a disaster.

For all his fast starts, Tom Coughlin’s Giants have lost three openers in a row. On the other hand, Coughlin’s Giants are 8-4 on Monday night.

I’m not going with my head on this game but my heart. New York is a flawed team, but so is Detroit. If the Giants play it close to the vest, combining a good running game and defense with solid special teams, I think Detroit will shoot itself in the foot. I like the character of this team. Team leadership – with captains like Manning, Cruz, Rolle, Beason, and DeOssie – is strong. And Tom Coughlin is still one of the best coaches in the NFL. My shot in the dark, wild card predictions are the NYG defense scores in this game and the Giants block a punt. Giants 27 – Lions 20.

Sep 042014
 
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Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, New York Giants (August 22, 2014)

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie – © USA TODAY Sports Images

There’s no doubt in Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie’s mind on who’s the best wide receiver in the NFL. There’s also no hesitation in his voice when asked if that receiver is Lions wideout Calvin Johnson.

“No question,” Rodgers-Cromartie said.

So the fact that Rodgers-Cromartie, New York’s prized free-agent acquisition that signed a mega five-year deal this offseason, is playing Detroit’s ‘Megatron,’ has to hype the corner up. This game, under the lights of Monday Night football, has to mean a little more, yes?

“No,” Rodgers-Cromartie said.

No, really, it has to. Johnson is a record-breaking, All-Pro and Pro Bowl pass catcher.

“Gotta look at him as just another guy,” Rodgers-Cromartie said while shaking his head. “It’s just another game.”

On Monday night in Detroit, Rodgers-Cromartie will look to change his nickname from ‘DRC’ to ‘Optimus Prime’ in an attempt to contain Johnson. A task few defensive backs have been able to accomplish ever since Johnson entered the league in 2007.

During his eight-year NFL Career, Johnson has caught 572 passes for 9,328 yards and 66 touchdowns. Last year, he caught 84 passes for 1,492 yards and 12 scores in just 14 games.

Two years ago? It was a record-breaking 1,964 receiving yards.

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Denver Broncos (September 15, 2013)

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Rodgers-Cromartie has had his fair share of battles against Johnson during his seven-year career. The cornerback and receiver have gone up one-on-one during Rodgers-Cromartie’s stints in Philadelphia and Arizona.

“You see guys with his body, but the difference is he has the speed to beat you down the field,” Rodgers-Cromartie said. “He has the big hands to go up and get the ball. With a guy like that, you have to play physical.

“You gotta go up there, put your hand son him and disrupt him as much as you can.”

While Rodgers-Cromartie will undoubtedly face Johnson at some point Monday night, it won’t be every play. After Giants coach Tom Coughlin said Rodgers-Cromartie would follow an opponent’s top target all over the field prior to the start of training camp, it appears as if there’s been a change of heart.

In a 23-20 overtime victory over the Lions last year, the Giants kept with their same cornerback approach, leaving one player on the left side, and one on the right. The technique worked. While Johnson wasn’t 100 percent, the Giants still contained him, limiting the receiver to four receptions for 43 yards. So, come Monday night, it’ll be Rodgers-Cromartie on one side, and Prince Amukamara on the other.

Johnson knows this, and appears ready for whomever he has to face.

“Both (Amukamara and Rodgers-Cromartie) have pretty good ball skills,” Johnson said in a conference call. “Cromartie is a very shifty guy, a very long guy. Prince likes to get his hands on you, it seems like, early in the play.”

Sep 042014
 
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Ryan Nassib (9), Eli Manning (10), Ben McAdoo, New York Giants (May 29, 2014)

Ryan Nassib, Eli Manning, and Ben McAdoo – Photo by Connor Hughes

It’s been awhile, but Tom Coughlin still remembers what it was like to call plays.

To stand on the sideline and play the game of chess versus the opponent’s defensive coordinator, working tirelessly to find the perfect play on that laminated sheet to counter a play you’re not certain the defense will run.

Just as much as any of that, Coughlin remembers what it was like if anybody tried to walk up to him during a game and offer advice in the middle of drives drives.

“I’ll be honest with you,” Coughlin said. “I never liked anybody interrupting me.”

It’s that reason why Coughlin will let new Giants offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo do his thing Monday night in Detroit. If the first-year play caller needs help, Coughlin will offer, but for the most part, McAdoo will be left alone.

“Ben McAdoo is a solid, solid football coach that knows what he is talking about,” Coughlin said. “He has an excellent system, applies himself every day and is very smart.”

Ben McAdoo, New York Giants (June 18, 2014)

Ben McAdoo – © USA TODAY Sports Images

For the first time in over a decade, the Giants will open the season with a far different offensive scheme than the one that helped the team capture two Vince Lombardi trophies within the last eight years.

Gone is Kevin Gilbride’s long-developing, read-the-defense, vertical passing attack. In it’s place, McAdoo’s quick-hitting West Coast scheme.

The offense is designed to get the receivers the ball in space, move the pocket and have quarterback Eli Manning put the ball into tight windows. No longer are there many seven-step drops. Instead, three-to-five before Manning is supposed to hit his back foot and fire away.

During the Giants five preseason games, the offense has displayed glimpses of what the offense can do when clicking on all cylinders. There was a long two-minute drive versus the New York Jets in the third preseason game, a 73-yard touchdown run by Rashad Jennings versus the Pittsburgh Steelers. But in between each solid play were four-to-five negative ones.

Three-and-outs, sacks, rushed throws and miscommunications marred the Giants preseason. Fans and critics went running for the George Washington bridge, Coughlin, Manning and McAdoo for answers.

“Well, we are a work in progress, no doubt about it,” Coughlin said. “We have done some good things and we have done some bad things.”

Come Monday night versus the Lions, Coughlin hopes it much more good than bad.

Tom Coughlin and Ben McAdoo, New York Giants (August 28, 2014)

Tom Coughlin and Ben McAdoo – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Standing in the way of a New York offensive showcase? A talented Detroit defense led by standout defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. Keeping Suh off Manning?

An injury-depleted offensive line with far more question marks than answers.

“Obviously, it’s a big challenge,” Coughlin said. “They’re an outstanding defensive team and an outstanding defensive front with exceptional players. That having been said, we’re well aware of that.

“We’re preparing ourselves the best we can and I’m sure that our players will get ready and will be highly competitive.”

Aug 312014
 
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Rashad Jennings, New York Giants (August 28, 2014)

Rashad Jennings – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 16 – New England Patriots 13

REVISITING: FOUR DOWNS
During our game preview, we listed ‘Four Downs,’ which took a look at the top four questions surrounding the Giants heading into the game. Now that the game has been played and the film reviewed, it’s time to break it down.

FIRST DOWN
How will guards Weston Richburg and John Jerry do in their first start of this preseason?
Richburg and Jerry had to play for injured starters Geoff Schwartz and Brandon Mosley. Both played well, as will be highlighted below. In fact, Jerry played so well that one wonders who will be the starting guard against Detroit on opening night. We know Richburg will start at left guard until Schwartz returns in a month or so.

SECOND DOWN
Can Mario Manningham make a last-second push for a spot on the roster?
Mario Manningham needed a near miracle to make the Giants roster, and that never came to fruition. Just four plays into the Giants match-up with the Patriots, Manningham was lost for the game with a calf injury. The former Super Bowl hero managed just two catches for 22 yards total this preseason. The Giants placed Manningham on the injured reserve on Friday. A injury settlement will probably be reached, allowing the receiver to sign with another team, but he may be best suited to sit out another year and truly get healthy.

THIRD DOWN
Corey Washington
Once again, Corey Washington only came into the game in the second half. But this time there were no late-game heroics. Washington was only targeted twice, catching one pass for three yards. But Washington’s strong preseason resulted in him making the 53-man roster, a shocking development for the “camp fodder” receiver from Newberry College who was waived by the Cardinals back in May.

FOURTH DOWN
Ryan Nassib
While his performance was not as strong as the last two preseason games, Nassib still played fairly well. His solid – sometimes outstanding – preseason play caused the Giants to name him the new backup to Eli Manning and terminate the contract of veteran Curtis Painter. The Giants will only go with two quarterbacks this season.

OFFENSIVE OVERVIEWEric Kennedy

Not playing offensively for the Giants were WR Odell Beckham Jr. (hamstring), WR Trindon Holliday (hamstring), OG Geoff Schwartz (toe), OG Brandon Mosley (back), OT Charles Brown (shoulder), and OT James Brewer (back).

The Giants starting unit only ran eight snaps on two drives – not enough to reasonably critique that unit’s performance other than to note overall preseason trends. Taken in that context, for the starting unit, the passing game continues to struggle while the running game looks much improved over last season. The issues with the passing game are interrelated – shaky pass protection, combined with a lack of receiving targets who Eli Manning seems to trust, combined with a quarterback who predictably is not yet comfortable with the new scheme. This is not to make excuses, but simply to explain. Eli is having to re-train his mind and body to do things differently. Conor Orr of The Star-Ledger explained it well in this article.

Manning also said something very interesting this week in an interview on The NFL Network. He made it clear that the Giants were using the preseason to work on those things where the Giants needed work, and not necessarily focus on making the offense look good to fans and the media.

And Coughlin said on Friday:

I am very confident we are going to get the passing game straightened around. Have we sat back and flat out thrown the ball in one game? No, we haven’t because we are not going to get away from the run because last year we were so poor in the run game that it ruined our balance and in result, we turned the ball over at ridiculous rates. So that is not going to happen and we wanted to make sure of that throughout the course of the preseason. Perhaps there should have been a time where we did nothing but throw the ball, but that really was not something that I wanted to entertain during this preseason.

Excuse making? Perhaps. But Eli and Tom are not prone to that type of behavior.

That all said, this is a new system with new component parts, some of which clearly still need to be upgraded (i.e., offensive line and tight end in particular). As the season progresses, the players will be more and more comfortable with the new scheme. But it will take time.

Manning said on Friday:

It’s a work in progress. It’s not the final product right now. It’s going to be, the more games, the more plays we get, the more practice… there’s definitely room for improvement and that will be a season-long situation, which is, I think, normal. That’s not a bad thing. I think we have to know what we do well and where we need to make our improvements and be dedicated to being harsh on ourselves to make those improvements… Don’t get me wrong, we’re ready for Week 1…We haven’t shown everything in the book.

As for the Giants-Patriots preseason finale, it was more about evaluating the reserves more than anything else. With that in mind, let’s focus on the individual performances rather than the collective success or failure of the offensive unit.

Eli Manning, New York Giants (August 28, 2014)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

QUARTERBACKSEric Kennedy

Eli Manning finished the game 1-of-4 for 0 yards. While the NYG beat writers had a ball poking fun at those numbers, it is important to put them into some context. On the first drive, WR Rueben Randle dropped one pass right in his hands. Two plays later, on 3rd-and-3, there was miscommunication between Manning and Randle, as Manning threw up the field and Randle cut his route short.

“I thought the worst play of the night was, again, the misconnection between Rueben Randle and Eli,” said Coughlin. “‘I thought, he thought’ – one of those kinds of things. We’re all – everyone in this room – is tired of hearing that stuff. There’s no place for that.”

Had those two passes been completed, Manning’s numbers look much better and the drive continues, leading to other passing opportunities.

On his last possession, on 2nd-and-7, Manning had pressure immediately up the gut in his face (the type of pressure no immobile quarterback responds well to) and his throw to WR Victor Cruz was rushed. Manning completed his 3rd-and-2 pass to TE Kellen Davis, but Davis could not pick up the first down on his own. End of night for Manning. To say Eli didn’t “play well” isn’t really accurate.

Ryan Nassib went 6-of-14 for 107 yards wasn’t as sensational as he was the two previous games. But the light bulb definitely looks like it has clicked inside him. Nassib continues to seem very comfortable out there, and dare I say, the Giants back-up quarterback situation hasn’t been this strong since 1990 – and you know how that season ended.

Nassib came into the game near the end of the first quarter. He expertly completed a quick pass to TE Larry Donnell with a free blitzer coming up the gut at him. But the drive stalled a few plays later when Nassib threw high twice to Donnell in the end zone. On his second and last possession in the first half, Nassib helped to lead the Giants on their only touchdown drive of the night, completing a 26-yard pass to TE Daniel Fells on 3rd-and-3 and a 22-yard pass to WR Jerrel Jernigan on 2nd-and-7.

In the second half, Nassib played in four series, the first three ending in three-and-outs, where he was the victim of one drop and some shakier pass protection. Still, I liked the way he easily moved around the pocket to avoid pressure, something that Manning has trouble doing. On his last series, he moved the team with three passes to the tight ends of 19, 19, and 17 yards, but on the latter catch, Adrien Robinson fumbled the ball away.

Curtis Painter was 3-of-5 for 32 yards. He did not play poorly this preseason, but Nassib clearly out-played him. If God-forbid Eli were to get hurt, Painter would be a guy to bring back behind Nassib.

RUNNING BACKSEric Kennedy

I really like the Giants trio of big, physical running backs in Rashad Jennings (3 rushes for 20 yards), Andre Williams (5 rushes for 44 yards), and Peyton Hillis (11 rushes for 40 yards). All are no-nonsense, north-south ball carriers who can wear down a defense. And all three were productive against the Patriots’ reserves.

The best run of the night was Williams’ 38-yard run on 4th-and-1. Behind good blocking, he broke two tackles. However, he followed this up with a poor decision. On 1st-and-goal from the five, for some reason he decided to veer away from his solid run blocking the right and ran right into an unblocked Patriots defender to the left for a 1-yard loss.

Peyton Hillis, New York Giants (August 28, 2014)

Peyton Hillis – © USA TODAY Sports Images

I really like the way Hillis ran the ball on the Giants’ lone touchdown drive of the night in the second quarter. He’s a big man and just kept pounding the ball right up the gut against New England on runs of 5, 2, 7, 7, 3, 8, 2, 2, 0, and 1 (for a touchdown). That’s old school stuff right there. Nothing spectacular, but just keep moving the chains.

In the second half, Kendall Gaskins (8 carries for 41 yards) and Michael Cox (9 carries for 36 yards) received the bulk of the carries. On the night, the Giants rushed 38 time for 179 yards (4.7 yards per carry).

Henry Hynoski won the fullback battle over John Conner because he was more consistent. He had a few nice blocks in this game, but was also flagged with holding and had to leave the game early with a shoulder contusion.

WIDE RECEIVERSEric Kennedy

Victor Cruz and Rueben Randle only played two series. Cruz was only targeted once, a rushed throw that fell incomplete. Randle didn’t have a good night. He dropped one pass and was involved in the aforementioned miscommunication play that Coughlin felt was the worst play of the night. The Giants’ “big two” receivers were targeted a combined three times for three incompletions.

Jerrel Jernigan, New York Giants (August 28, 2014)

Jerrel Jernigan – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Jerrel Jernigan played the entire first half. He was thrown at once for 22 yards.

Preston Parker doesn’t get much separation, but he was also victim of two obvious pass interference calls that were not called in the end zone, including one deep shot. That said, he also dropped the ball. Julian Talley also had a drop.

TIGHT ENDSEric Kennedy

Interestingly, the guy who started the game – Kellen Davis – was the one who was cut on Saturday. None of the Giants’ tight ends are physical, move-them-out blockers, but Davis and Daniel Fells are the most consistent in terms of staying engaged with their opponent. For example, Davis had a nice block on Williams’ 38-yard run. On the flip side, Davis couldn’t gain a single yard against a smaller defender on 3rd-and-2, leading to a punt.

Daniel Fells had a good game. He looked natural catching a 26-yard pass down the field and later did a nice job as a lead blocker from the fullback position on the same drive. I would have liked to have seen him come down with a fastball from Nassib on a 3rd-and-6 play where he was held.

It was really and up-and-down night for Larry Donnell and Adrien Robinson. Both remain far too inconsistent as blockers. At times, Donnell and Robinson block their opponents out of the play, and other times they do not. It’s that simple, and it’s that frustrating. My notes for both look the same…”good block…bad block…good block…bad block…” Needless to say, bad blocks are drive killers. What should be a 5-yard run ends up being a 1-yard run.

The good news for Donnell is that he really did make some nice plays in the receiving game, including catches of 19, 19, and 17 yards. He led the team with four catches for 60 yards – that’s outstanding production in limited playing time. Robinson had one big catch for 17 yards on 3rd-and-12, but then fumbled the ball away. Sigh.

OFFENSIVE LINEEric Kennedy

With starting guards Geoff Schwartz and Brandon Mosley out of the game, the starting line was Will Beatty (LT), Weston Richburg (LG), J.D. Walton (OC), John Jerry (RG), and Justin Pugh (RT). In the run game, as one would hope, this group mauled the Patriots’ back-ups. The only issue I saw with the starting group in pass protection was with Walton. His man is the one that got in Manning’s face on Eli’s rushed throw to Cruz.

On the third series, Mark Asper played left tackle and Rogers Gaines played right tackle, with Richburg, Walton, and Jerry remaining the interior trio. This group did a nice job in the run game too. And they were pretty solid in pass protection, though, Walton failed to spot the linebacker blitzing up the middle, leading to direct pressure on Nassib. On Williams’ 38-yard run, Walton, Jerry, and Gaines all had good blocks.

On the fourth and last drive of the first half, Dallas Reynolds came in for Walton. Reynolds did a nice job. Asper gave up one pass pressure.

I’ve always liked linemen who not only make the initial block, but then look to engage a linebacker or safety at the second level. This is how big runs occur. Richburg is not a powerful lineman, but he has the athleticism, smarts, and tenacity to look for that second man. And he stays engaged with his man.

By far, Jerry had his best game as a Giant. There were a few runs where I would have liked to have seen him sustain in better fashion, but he was very steady out there and at times, he just mauled guys. The problem with him has always been consistency. For once, in this game, he was very consistent. And he played a ton, right into the fourth quarter. My favorite play of the night? Jerry on the short pull absolutely destroying one Patriots defender then taking another out of the play, helping Kendall Gaskins pick up 19 yards.

In the second half, the line remained Asper-Richburg-Reynolds-Jerry-Gaines for the first three series that ended in three-and-outs. This group did not play as well in the third quarter. Richburg failed to spot a blitz and then Asper’s opponent pressured Nassib into an incompletion. On the next series, Nassib was sacked when Asper’s man blew by him and Gaines, for some reason, chose to double Jerry’s man instead of blocking the end, who had a free pass to Nassib. Gaines seemed to block the wrong guy again on the the third series as his man had another free pass, this time to the ball carrier. That said, aside from these two mental mistakes, Gaines looks the part and did a nice job in most instances. He and Jerry probably played the most snaps.

On the fourth series in the second half, Eric Herman came in for Richburg at left guard. Asper – the weakest link on the second-team line in this game – failed to make his block on a Michael Cox run that lost a yard.

The final line combination of the night was Asper (LT), Jamaal Johnson Webb (LG), Reynolds (OC), Herman (RG), and Gaines (RT).

DEFENSIVE OVERVIEW - Connor Hughes

Not suiting up for the Giants versus New England were cornerback Prince Amukamara and defensive tackle Markus Kuhn. Linebacker Jon Beason remained out while rehabbing his foot injury and safety Cooper Taylor, too.

Overall, with the Giants starters playing the Patriots second string, it was tough to really gauge or put much stock into what was displayed by the starting unit. Essentially, what you saw on the field at MetLife was about as vanilla as vanilla can be. In particular, I tried to keep an eye on those players the Giants specifically kept and a few players that continued to stand out.

I wouldn’t look too much into the numbers, but here they are: Patriots went 9-of-19 on third down and gained a total of 319 yards. Net rushing yards were 54 and passing yards 265.

DEFENSIVE LINE - Connor Hughes

The more I saw of defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins in the preseason, the more I liked. Since the Patriots did not play their starters, he was playing against reserves. But Hankins was impressive. In training camp, the defensive line will do this drill where they lay down four bags and the linemen must side step over them. The quickness of Hankins’ feet is noticeable in this drill, especially for a guy of his size. He shows that again in the game. On the second play from scrimmage, Hankins blew up his blocker, shed the block, then quickly made his way down the line to tackle the ball carrier for no gain. He does things like this on a regular basis. If he can develop a pass rush? He may establish himself as one of the better tackles in the game.

Jason Pierre-Paul, New York Giants (August 28, 2014)

Jason Pierre-Paul – © USA TODAY Sports Images

There has been so much talk this preseason of Damontre Moore, and for good reason. There’s been talk about Jason Pierre-Paul and his return to form, again, for good reason. The one player who has flown a bit under the radar is Robert Ayers Jr. The free-agent from Denver has looked very good this preseason…but not always at defensive end. In the Giants signature “NASCAR,” or the 2014 version of it, Ayers lines up next to Cullen Jenkins and has been a handful for every guard/center he’s matched up against. He’s deceptively quick for his size and has consistently pressured the quarterback. Moore hasn’t seen many first team reps at end, and Ayers is part of the reason why. He hasn’t warranted a move in the NASCAR package, in fact he’s justified his position there more than most.

The most interesting development the past couple weeks from the Giants defensive line is the movement of Damontre Moore. Look, he’s wreaking havoc on opponent’s second-team offensive linemen…which he should. There’s a big difference between a starting offensive lineman, and his backup. He’s looked good each game, but I put little into that when it’s coming against backups. What I do find interesting is how the Giants move him around. Sometimes he’s at left end, sometimes he’s at right. There’s no set position for him. I didn’t see it much versus the Patriots, but he lined up a bit as an tackle, too. He’s got versatility and the Giants seem to be using it.

The Giants were probably holding their prayer beads in the hope Kelcy Quarles cleared waivers. He did not as these very same Patriots must have liked what they saw from him in this game. I understand why he didn’t make the Giants, he’s not as ready to contribute as Mike Patterson/Markus Kuhn, but he is quite the project to develop. Quarles has all the physical tools to be a player in the NFL, just needs a little fine tuning. He sprinted everywhere against the Patriots and made a few impressive stops against the run.

The Giants elected to keep Kerry Wynn on the 53-man roster and watching the film, I get the feeling it’s for his special teams play, not really defense. He flashed a bit against the run but he was near non-existent as a rusher.

I’m not totally sure how much playing time he’ll get this year because of who’s in front of him, but Jay Bromley had a really nice preseason. He got a couple pressures versus New England and one near sack. By near, I mean he did everything but take the quarterback to the ground.

Mike Patterson recorded a sack versus New England, but the credit should go to Damontre Moore. Moore brought the heat from the outside causing Garoppolo to step up and into the waiting arms of Patterson.

LINEBACKERS – Connor Hughes

I tweeted this and now I’ll write it: I don’t see how you can keep Devon Kennard off of the field. I don’t care who’s healthy. The kid has tremendous speed, is as physical as any of the linebackers and has a tremendous head on his shoulders. There’s a reason he was thrown into the starting rotation the minute Jon Beason was hurt. I know Beason will be ‘ready’ for Detroit, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him sit and get a week of stamina build up. The fact is, right now the Giants don’t need him nearly as much as was originally anticipated and Kennard is the reason. When Beason does get healthy, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Kennard remain the starter at SAM and Jameel McClain take a back seat.

Versus New England, there were two Kennard plays that stood out. The first was when he shot through the middle of the offensive line to make a tackle for a loss. The second was on Zack Bowman’s interception – the one that counted. Kennard came in on a stunt blitz and absorbed a pretty big block from the offensive lineman. After bouncing back a step he hit the lineman with a swim move and dove at Jimmy Garoppolo. The pressure forced a bad throw that Bowman intercepted. He makes plays like this every practice and every game.

I continue to like what I see from Jacquian Williams and his added physicality. He obviously can pass defense, but he also has done very well against the run. I watched one play where he avoided a block and darted into the backfield to make a tackle.

Spencer Paysinger looked pretty good and is quite the backup linebacker to have on the team. There was one play where he stood out poorly to me when I was at the game, but I retract that now. On the long completion down the sideline to a Patriots running back, Paysinger was seen about 10 yards behind sprinting to catch up. The reason? The most blatant illegal pick I’ve ever seen. It may just be me, but Paysinger has looked a bit quicker this year, too. Both in practices and games.

SECONDARY - Connor Hughes

The one player I believe who has impressed me more than any other is Walter Thurmond III. The more I watch him, the more I love the physicality and tenacity he brings to the Giants secondary. He talks the talk, walks the walk and doesn’t care what anybody says.

On the one slant that was a near interception, Thurmond had lock-down coverage, jumped in front the receiver to bat the ball, and then dove in an attempt for an interception. I’m excited to see what he does when the Giants start playing the games for real.

When watching the game live, to me it looked like Trumaine McBride had a rough outing. He was beat several times for catches and once for a touchdown. Watching the film, he didn’t play badly at all. The touchdown could have easily been offensive pass interference, and he had good coverage on each completion he gave up. Give Garoppolo credit for throwing some really nice passes.

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie had a pass breakup in the first quarter and instantly turned around looking for flags. He had a right to…he got there early. For all the calls that should have been non calls, this was a non call that should have been a call.

The big question surrounding Stevie Brown entering this season – aside from his health – was how he’d play against the run. During his breakout year with the Giants, Brown was known more for playing centerfield than getting dirty in the box. During the preseason, Brown has shown his ability to play down low. Versus New England, he had a play where he lined up outside the tackle, came in on a toss play, split two linemen and made the tackle for a two-yard loss. He’s done that a few times this offseason and it’s been a pleasant sight.

When the Giants signed Zack Bowman, it was thought to be for his special teams play. Throughout the preseason, it’s been his defense that has gotten him noticed. Bowman made two beautiful interceptions versus the Patriots. First off, no, that wasn’t a penalty called on him on the first pick. Discounting that bad call, the way Bowman located the ball in the air, reached up, caught the ball and maintained control as he hit the ground was something else. On his second interception, he read an out-route by the receiver and began to break that way. Then, he read the quarterback’s eyes and saw the ball was being thrown outside. Bowman dove backwards and made the pick. It was a really, really nice play. Bowman right now is the Giants’ fourth or fifth corner, but he’d be a starter on a few other teams.

SPECIAL TEAMS OVERVIEW - by Eric Kennedy

The Giants took a lot of steps this offseason to improve their return game: signing Trindon Holliday and Quintin Demps, and then drafting Odell Beckham. However, those dreaded hamstring injuries derailed those plans. Holliday was placed on IR and is no longer an option. Beckham missed most of the practices and all of the preseason. Now the punt return job seems to be in the hands of journeyman Preston Parker until Beckham can play. If Parker is inactive on game day, it could be Rueben Randle again. Against the Patriots, Preston didn’t help his cause with a muffed punt though he did have one return for 17 yards. Jayron Hosley got a couple of chances but looked very shaky back there. Plus, as we know, he is on the Reserve/Suspended List. Parker had one kickoff return for 21 yards. In the regular-season, it will be Demps returning kicks.

Josh Brown won the place-kicking job and was a perfect 3-for-3 on field goal attempts against the Patriots, including from 24, 45, and 37 yards out. Three of his five kickoffs were touchbacks. The other two returned were only returned for 21 and 17 yards.

Steve Weatherford’s busy preseason included six more punts for a 46.2 average and three downed inside the 20-yard line. The Patriots returned four punts for 20 yards.

(Boxscore – New England Patriots at New York Giants, August 28, 2014)
Aug 282014
 
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Brandon Scherff, Iowa State Hawkeyes (January 1, 2014)

Brandon Scherff – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Early New York Giants 2015 NFL Draft Preview

By Colin Lindsay (Great Blue North Draft Report)

The college football season kicks off this weekend, and while it is way to soon – like by about 5-6 months – for people to start saying ’this is THE guy I want for the Giants in 2015,’ it is never too early to start watching the top prospects for the upcoming draft. And while there is still much sorting out to be done before next spring‘s draft, the early signs are that the strengths of the 2015 draft could match up reasonably well with the primary needs the Giants are likely to be trying to fill this coming off-season.

Offensive Line

For starters, it certainly appears that it could be yet another banner at OT, which could be good news for the Giants if LT Will Beatty continues to struggle this fall and the Giants feel they need to go in another direction at the position. Indeed, there are as many as 4-5 potential top-10 left tackles, including Cedric Ogbuehi of Texas A&M, Cameron Erving of Florida State, Iowa’s Brandon Scherff and La’el Collins of LSU. All four had expected to enter the 2014 draft where each was projected to be at least a first-round prospect, but they ultimately opted to return to class for one more year. Ogbuehi, for example, is a better overall athlete than former teammate Jake Matthews, the 6th player picked this past May, while the Hawkeyes’ Scherff is a little ragged around the edges, but he’s a huge guy with freakish strength and athleticism. Meanwhile LSU’s Collins is a rugged run blocker who could ultimately play inside at the next level, but he also has the long arms, light feet and surprising agility of a prototype left tackle. FSU’s Erving, who has played only one year at LT after converting from DT, may have the most upside of the bunch. In the end, though, the top OT prospect this year may end up being Stanford junior Andrus Peat, who hasn’t received as much national ink to date, but who has remarkable size and strength, along with excellent agility and a nasty disposition.

The bad news part of the OT story for the Giants, if in fact they head into the 2015 draft in search of an elite pass-blocker OT to pair with Justin Pugh, is that all the best ones could come off the board early and there is something of a drop-off to the next level at the position. However, there are several second-tier OTs this year who will be worth a look on the second day including 6-7, 350-pound Corey Robinson of South Carolina, along with Sean Hickey of Syracuse, Cincinnati’s Eric Lefeld, Daryl Williams and Tyrus Thompson of Oklahoma, Rob Havenstein of Wisconsin, Oregon’s Jake Fisher and unheralded Ty Sambrailo of Colorado State, who could just be the best prospect in the country nobody has heard of! And the depth at OT this year could be augmented if any of a small army of good, solid, although not yet elite, junior OT prospects enter the draft, including Spencer Drango of Baylor, D.J. Humpries of Florida, Le’Raven Clark of Texas Tech, Brandon Shell of South Carolina, Donovan Smith of Penn State, Miami’s Ereck Flowers, Jason Spriggs of Indiana, Taylor Decker of Ohio State, Tyler Marz of Wisconsin and Georgia’s John Theus.

Needless to say, the Giants also still have issues at OG, although they are probably less likely to use an early pick on the position than say at OT. Which is probably just as well as it does not look like there will be many, if any, OGs who are locks to be opening round picks next spring anyway, although Tre Jackson of Florida State and South Carolina’s A.J. Cann could be close. Jackson is a wide-body road-grader who is a dominating drive blocker with some short-area quickness, but isn‘t necessarily a great athlete, while Cann isn’t as big or physical, but is a better athlete and more polished technician. Meanwhile, there are some solid later second-day candidates at the position including Jackson’s FSU teammate Josue Matias and Alabama’s Arie Kouandjio, the brother of Cyrus Kouandjio who was considered to be a near-elite OT prospect last year, before a balky knee bumped him into the second round where he was selected by Buffalo. That second-day second-tier group could also get a boost if junior OGs Vadal Alexander of LSU and/or Landen Turner of North Carolina opt to enter the 2015 draft. However, even without much input from the underclassmen, there is some impressive depth at OG including the Miami’s Jon Feliciano, former teammate Malcolm Bunche who‘ll line up with UCLA this fall, 345-pound Quinton Spain of West Virginia, underrated Laken Tomlinson of Duke, John Miller of Louisville and Notre Dame’s Christian Lombard among others. Bottom line is that there could be potentially useful options at OG come next April/May well into the third day of the draft.

Defensive End

The Giants could also very well head to the 2015 draft looking to upgrade at DE if (1) Jason Pierre-Paul does not have a bounce back year this fall and/or (2) nobody really emerges to replace Justin Tuck on the other side. And like the situation at OT, defensive end looks like it will be one of the real strengths at the upcoming draft, although a lot will be depend on how many of this year’s top underclassmen ultimately opt to turn pro this winter. There are, for example, at least three junior DEs – Shilique Calhoun of Michigan State, Southern Cal’s Leonard Williams and Randy Gregory of Nebraska – with the top 5-10 potential, although they are very different players. USC’s Williams, for example, at 6-5, 295, is built more like a DT – and could ultimately play there in the NFL – but for now looks like a prototype 5-technique 3-4 DE in the J.J. Watt mold. The Huskers’ Gregory is a long, lean edge rusher who needs to add some bulk to better play the run – and at 6-6 has the frame to do so – but who has freakish athleticism and may have the most upside of the trio. Meanwhile, Calhoun won’t blow away anyone with his measurables, but he’s strong, quick, and relentless coming off the edge.

There is also some really intriguing potential depth at DE in this year’s draft class. Florida State’s Mario Edwards, for example, could ultimately challenge USC’s Williams for the top-grade among 5-technique DEs, while juniors Dante Fowler of Florida and Ohio State’s Noah Spence and Trey Flowers of Arkansas are solid second-day types. So is 6-8 Baylor junior Shawn Oakman, the former Penn State transfer who is still learning the game, but who has a really unique size/speed combination. However, no DE is likely to draw as much attention through the pre-draft process as former TCU redshirt sophomore DeVonte Fields, who won’t play at all this fall. Fields looked all of the part of an emerging pass-rushing star as a true freshman two years, but played little last fall because of a foot injury and then got suspended this year when he allegedly threatened an ex-girlfriend. Meanwhile, other solid DEs to watch include James Rouse of Marshall, Ray Drew of Georgia, Jermauria Rasco of LSU and Nate Orchard of Utah, while other juniors that could have an early impact at the upcoming draft include Danielle Hunter of LSU, Charles Tapper of Oklahoma, Eli Harold of Virginia, BYU‘s Bronson Kaufusi and Missouri’s Shane Ray.

Tight End

It is hard to imagine that the Giants won’t want to do something at TE this coming off season. (In fact its hard to imagine that the Giants wouldn’t really like to do something at the position this week!) Unfortunately, however, it doesn’t appear that 2015 will be a banner year at the position. Florida State’s Nick O’Leary, for example, is currently the only tight end even remotely close to carrying a first-round grade and even he’s no lock to be taken all that early. O’Leary, the grandson of legendary golfer Jack Nicklaus, is something of a throwback type in that he’s a willing blocker with nice hands and that 6th sense to get open. But he isn’t all that big at around 6-3, 240, and he lacks the explosive speed and athleticism to be a true field-stretching receiving threat. Plus, there are going to be health concerns after O’Leary was involved in a second serious motorcycle accident this past spring. Meanwhile, Ben Koyack of Notre Dame and Ohio State’s Jeff Heuerman are both solid two-way TE prospects with prototype size and decent athleticism, although neither has been all that consistently productive to date in their college careers. Moreover, neither brings the skill set that the Giants are now looking for at the position. And there is another drop-off to the next level of TEs which includes pass-receiving specialists like Rutgers junior Tyler Kraft, unheralded Wes Saxton of South Alabama, Rory Anderson of South Carolina, MyCole Pruitt of FCS Southern Illinois, Clive Walford of Miami and Gerald Christian of Louisville. E.J. Bibbs of Iowa State and USC’s Randall Telfer are the next best two-way type TEs.

Quarterback

For the record, the other real strong position at the 2015 draft will be QB with as many another 4-5 possible top-10 candidates including juniors Marcus Mariota of Oregon, Brett Hundley of UCLA, and Stanford’s Kevin Hogan leading the way, along with Florida State redshirt sophomore Jameis Winston, the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner, and senior Bryce Petty of Baylor. Let’s hope the Giants aren’t interested as it would mean Eli had another bad year, but throw 27 picks again and all best just might be off. Just saying …

The Rest

Meanwhile, other positions that appear that they could be relatively strong in 2015 include running back with Todd Gurley of Georgia, Wisconsin’s Mel Gordon and T.J. Yeldon of Alabama leading the way. Safety could also be something of a strength with a deep class headed by juniors Landen Collins of Alabama and LSU’s Jalen Mills, as well as underrated Derron Smith of Fresno State. There is also some real talent at outside linebacker, although many of the top guys there including Vic Beasley of Clemson and rising star Benardrick McKinney of Mississippi State are more 3-4 edge rushers. Juniors Shaq Thompson of Washington and Oklahoma‘s Eric Striker, though, do have more than a little Ryan Shazier-type speed and explosion. There should also be a relatively strong middle linebacker group, although the top guys – including Denzel Perryman of Miami, UCLA‘s Eric Kendricks, Ramik Wilson of Georgia and A.J. Johnson of Tennessee – all look more like second-day types.

On the other hand, it may be a down year at wide receiver, cornerback and defensive tackle, although there will certainly be some good players at those positions this year. The top wide receivers, for example, should include juniors Amari Cooper of Alabama, Nelson Agholor of USC, Jaelen Strong of Arizona State and Maryland’s Stefon Diggs, along with seniors Rashad Greene of Florida State, Davante Parker of Louisville (if healthy), Antwan Goodley of Baylor and Stanford’s Ty Montgomery. Meanwhile, Oregon’s Ifo Ekpre-Olomu is a potential top-10 cornerback, although he’s not overly long at just 5-9, while Florida State junior P.J. Williams also has mid-to-late first round potential. At the same time, Michael Bennett of Ohio State, appears to be the consensus #1 defensive tackle prospect this year, although he’s still not considered to be more of an early-to-mid second round prospect as he is somewhat undersized at barely 290 pounds and has limited upside. Indeed, if any defensive tackles are likely to have an opening round breakthrough this coming spring, it may come from one or more of a solid second-tier group at the position including rising juniors Ellis McCarthy of UCLA (an imposing 6-5 330-pound specimen), Arik Armstead of Oregon (who at 6-8 is also physically imposing), Rice’s Christian Covington, and Malcolm Brown of Texas, along with seniors Carl Davis of Iowa, 335-pound Washington, NT Danny Shelton and underrated Tyeler Davison of Fresno State. As of now, though, each of these guys rates as more a second or third rounder. If there is a positive angle to the 2015 DT picture, though, its that it is a pretty deep class, such that there could very well be some potentially useful prospects at the position well into the third day of selections.

Aug 272014
 
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Ryan Nassib, New York Giants (August 9, 2014)

Ryan Nassib – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New England Patriots at New York Giants, August 28, 2014

THE STORYLINE:
The “Work in Progress” that is the Giants offensive will write another chapter on Thursday as the starter’s will see 15-18 snaps. Again, it’ll be about the team attempting to build consistency and extend drives.

With the way this preseason has gone, 15-18 plays may take the Giants into the third quarter.

Aside from the starters getting spot duty early on, all eyes will be on the reserves attempting to make the roster. Can anyone pull any kind of performance that allows them to stick on the final 53 or earn one of the 10 available roster spots?

FOUR DOWNS:
First Down
How will guards Weston Richburg and John Jerry do in their first start of this preseason?
For an evaluation standpoint, the Giants should hope the New England Patriots run out their starting defense for at least a series or two, Richburg and Jerry will need the looks. Richburg will be starting on Monday night in Detroit; there’s a chance Jerry is, too. Prior to facing Ndamukong Suh and – maybe – Nick Fairley, the two will need some work against starting caliber players.

Second Down
Can Mario Manningham make a last-second push for a spot on the roster?
In three preseason games, Mario Manningham has one reception while seeing the majority of his snaps versus backups. He’s come a long, long way from the player that once dazzled fans at MetLife Stadium. Manningham has lacked explosion and has created little separation. At this point, he’s a long shot to make the roster, but a strong performance against the Patriots may at least cause the coaches to mention his name twice.

Corey Washington, New York Giants (August 16, 2014)

Corey Washington – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Third Down
Corey Washington
Speaking to the media this week, Corey Washington said he was under the impression he’d see work with the second unit. That didn’t happen. While Washington has been a great story, until he shows he can play with starting caliber players, he won’t see a snap come the regular season. There’s a difference between burning Patrick Peterson on Sunday, compared to Charles James II and Bennett Jackson in practice. Washington needs to show what he can do and if he can make an impact on an injury deleted receiving corps.

Fourth Down
Ryan Nassib
Nassib has been near perfect since his demotion to the third team and has all but wrapped up the backup quarterback job. Nassib has made huge strides in training camp this year and has continued it on the field. Will he take another step on Friday, or regress? Being a young quarterback, it can go either way.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:
Connor Hughes – Preston Parker
With the placement of Marcus Harris on the injured reserve and continued question marks around Odell Beckham Jr., Preston Parker is one hit away from becoming a starter for the Giants. During his time in Tampa Bay, Parker was a serviceable wideout, he needs to show he can still be this player. The Giants no longer just need him to make plays as a returner, they need him as a wideout, too.

Eli Manning, New York Giants (December 8, 2013)

El Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Eric Kennedy – Eli Manning
Yes, Eli Manning is my “player to watch” for the second week in a row. Eli is the key to the season. He has had one good drive in four preseason games, and that one drive could have ended with another mind-numbing, bone-headed decision by Manning. The Patriots don’t usually play a lot of their most important players in their preseason finale, but they may play most of their starting defense. We’ll have to see. And Manning surely will be under duress behind an offensive line that remains a sieve in pass protection. But Manning has to accept that is the way things are going to be in 2014. Jerry Reese didn’t fix this line. It is what it is. Manning will have to change his ways and learn to swallow his pride and take the sack or throw the football away. He has to become more of a game manager and rely on his defense and running game and not hurt his team with stupid mistakes. Against the Patriots, I want to see one more quality touchdown drive. Score, get off the field. Get ready for Detroit. Let’s end the preseason on a positive note, with some confidence.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • WR Odell Beckham Jr (hamstring)
  • WR Trindon Holliday (hamstring)
  • OT Charles Brown (shoulder)
  • OT James Brewer (back)
  • OG Brandon Mosley (back)
  • OG Geoff Schwartz (toe)
  • DT Markus Kuhn (ankle)
  • LB Jon Beason (foot)
  • CB Prince Amukamara (groin)

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Tom Coughlin (on quarterback Ryan Nassib’s play the last two games): “It has boosted his confidence. He came off a so-so game and then played very well for the last two. He works at it. He’s a worker, a grinder and doesn’t have a lot of emotion, whether it be good or bad. He is just a hard working guy.”

THE FINAL WORD:
Connor Hughes - The fact the Giants are entering their final preseason game of the 2014 season and still don’t have a set offensive line formation is troubling, it can’t not be. The scarier part is that the line that trots out against the Patriots may turn out to be the best one, yet. The original line (Beatty LT, Schwartz LG, Walton C, Mosley RG, Pugh RT) had issues, so did every other variation that followed. It’s not like Detroit will go easy on them and the Giants have yet to put a consistent group out on the field. Personally, I think John Jerry has outplayed Brandon Mosley this preseason. I think Richburg has outplayed Geoff Schwartz. As sad as this may sound, and I said it above, the patchwork like that is sent out Thursday night may be the team’s best option. The biggest issue? What happens if someone goes down. At least the team has Charles Brown, I mean James Brewer, I mean Brandon Mosley, I mean… Mark Asper? Giants 28 – Patriots 20.

Kerry Wynn, New York Giants (August 16, 2014)

Kerry Wynn – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Eric Kennedy – The Giants and Patriots always seem to play in this final preseason game and this game really doesn’t usually have much meaning for the starters. Bill Belichick usually rests key guys and Tom Brady never plays in this game. Usually, Tom Coughlin wants to get 1-2 drives out of his starting offense and then sit them. The longer the offense struggles, the more drives they will be on the field. So the best thing for the starters is to put together one good drive to start the game. This game is more about who will make the final 53-man roster and who will make it to the Practice Squad. Look really good and you make the team. Look pretty good and you might not make it but another team may steal the player from the Giants who had hoped for that guy to stick around on the Practice Squad. Will the Giants be able to stash Kerry Wynn and Kelcy Quarles on the Practice Squad? Or will some other team sign them? Other random thoughts: So far, Jerry Reese’s offseason free agent moves to fix the offensive line all look pretty bad. Does Eli Manning have enough firepower to concern other teams with Victor Cruz, Rueben Randle, Jerrel Jernigan, and Daniel Fells/Larry Donnell? Why did Trindon Holliday survived the first cut? Giants 24 – Patriots 16.

Aug 252014
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (August 22, 2014)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

AUGUST 25, 2014 NEW YORK GIANTS PRACTICE REPORT…
While it was far from perfect, Monday’s practice may have been the best for Giants quarterback Eli Manning.

Again…it wasn’t perfect, but it was better.

Manning handled himself well in the pocket and connected on several deep throws. He marched the Giants up and down the field a few times and, if it wasn’t for drops, may have added two-to-three touchdowns to his practice. He didn’t work much against the starting defense, but he did a solid job against the second team.

On to the report…

Marcus Harris, New York Giants (August 3, 2014)

Marcus Harris – © USA TODAY Sports Images

THE WALKING WOUNDED…
Odell Beckham Jr. did not practice again today and has been ruled out of Thursday’s game versus the New England Patriots. The receiver has not played at all this preseason and has yet to make it through an entire training camp practice. This isn’t anything new for Giants rookies, either.

Joining Beckham on the ‘Bike Squad’ was Charles Brown (shoulder), Trindon Holliday (hamstring), Justin Anderson (unknown) and Spencer Adkins (unknown). Brandon Mosley (back) and James Brewer (back) were at the doctors, so was Geoff Schwartz (toe). Prince Amukamara (groin) was dressed but worked with trainers.

Cooper Taylor (foot), Jon Beason (foot), Markus Kuhn (ankle), Marcus Harris (shoulder) and Xavier Grimble (hamstring) did not go.

SPECIAL TEAMS…
Well, the Trindon Holliday experiment seems to have been an utter fail for the Giants as the speedy returner has made little strides in returning to the field. It’s a shame, too. I had very high expectations for him.

  • With Holliday and Beckham sidelined, the Giants worked Victor Cruz, Rueben Randle and Preston Parker as the team’s punt returners.
  • Early in training camp, Bennett Jackson hurt his foot and missed some time. Since he’s returned, he really hasn’t done much to impress. His ticket to the team was supposed to be special teams, but he hasn’t shown much as a gunner. Working on downing punts inside the five, Jackson misjudged one and it bounced into the endzone. I’ve seen that happen before.

HURRY-UP OFFENSE…
The first-team offense didn’t work much with the first-team defense, but Manning looked good with the reps he had. The other player that continues to shine is Ryan Nassib. The zip he punts on the ball just continues to impress.

  • I really believe the Giants got the steal of the draft in linebacker Devon Kennard as he just continues to show he’s a player each and every day. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him starting even when Jon Beason gets healthy. On the first play of the drive, Kennard came up in the hole to stop a draw play perfectly.
  • Eli Manning went deep down the seam to Victor Cruz for a would-be touchdown. Nice ball to get it just over the safeties head. The next play Manning should have had a second touchdown when he threw a perfect ball to Jerrel Jernigan on a streak. The only issue? Jernigan dropped the ball.
  • Once the Giants moved the ball into the red zone, things got a little iffy. Rueben Randle got open on a double move, but dropped the ball in the back of the end zone. On the next play, Manning threw behind an open Victor Cruz on I believe a wheel route. Both plays should have been scores.
Curtis Painter, New York Giants (August 16, 2014)

Curtis Painter – © USA TODAY Sports Images

SEVEN-ON-SEVEN…
This drill and segment is officially dedicated to Curtis Painter who went deep again..and again…and again…and again. Every single throw seemed to connect, or come close to doing so.

  • Manning and Randle connected a bunch yesterday and did so a few times today, too. Manning found the LSU alum on a deep in.
  • As I mentioned above, it was the Curtis Painter show. It started on his first rep when he threw a perfect deep bomb to Michael Cox on a wheel route. Should of been a touchdown, but Cox dropped it. Then, Painter went deep to Julian Talley, who had gotten past Bennett Jackson, for a score. Then, he went to Travis Harvey who had gotten past Chandler Fenner. It was a nice day for him.
  • Walter Thurmond III had an impressive pass breakup on a deep bomb from Ryan Nassib to Peyton Hillis. He lunged forward and batted the ball away.
  • I didn’t see it, had my head turned away, by Ryan Nassib overthrew his receiver on a deep ball and Zack Bowman came up with the interception.

ELEVEN-ON-ELEVEN…
Not too much went down in the eleven-on-eleven portion of practice. Few completions, few incompletions. Below are the highlights:

  • Jerrel Jernigan made up for his drop earlier in practice with a pretty nice grab on a flag route from Manning. With Beckham out, the Giants need Jernigan to rekindle his end-of-2014 magic desperately.
  • The Missile,’ Nat Berhe, continues to fly all over the place and hit people. His latest came when he threw his shoulder into Kendall Gaskins on a screen pass. Gaskins tapped Berhe on the helmet after that one letting him know it was a pretty good hit.
  • Speaking screens, the Giants worked on a lot of them today. Receiver, running back, tight end and full backs all caught the ball and then turned it up field.
  • Eli Manning made the play of practice on an absolutely gorgeous throw to Rueben Randle on a flag route down the left sideline. Manning dropped the ball over the head of Antrel Rolle and in front of Walter Thurmond. It fell, literally, right into the hands of Randle.
Damontre Moore, New York Giants (August 10, 2013)

Damontre Moore – © USA TODAY Sports Images

TWO-MINUTE DRILL…
It was the starters versus the starters in the two-minute drill today. It was not the best showing from the starting offense. Also, Damontre Moore was kicked off the field during this drill. He was HOT about something that happened the drill before and continued talking when he re-entered the game. Coughlin threw him off the field and offered little after practice other than saying things got “heated.”

1st and 10 (1:08)
Eli Manning goes down the seam to Daniel Fells but throws behind him. Stevie Brown dropped a should-have-been interception.

2nd and 10 (1:04)
Eli Manning hits Jerrel Jernigan on an in four a first down.

1st and 10 (:49)
Eli Manning looks for Victor Cruz deep down the right sideline, pass is broken up by Walter Thurmond III and nearly intercepted. It would have been a difficult juggling/diving pick if Thurmond came up with it.

2nd and 10 (:43)
Eli Manning completes a swing pass to Rashad Jennings.

3rd and 8 (:38)
Eli Manning incomplete pass to Rueben Randle [this is where Moore was thrown off the field].

4th and 10
Eli Manning pass complete to Rashad Jennings, but he doesn’t pick up the first down. Turnover on downs.

Aug 252014
 
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Victor Cruz, New York Giants (August 22, 2014)

Victor Cruz – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 35 – New York Jets 24

REVISITING: FOUR DOWNS
During our game preview, we listed ‘Four Downs,’ which took a look at the top four questions surrounding the Giants heading into the game. Now that the game has been played and the film reviewed, it’s time to break it down.

First Down
How will the revamped offensive line fare versus the Jets defense?
Despite Tom Coughlin saying offensive tackle Will Beatty would be limited to 20 snaps, Beatty played every rep with the starting unit. The line combination of Justin Pugh LT/Weston Richburg LG/ J.D. Walton C/ Brandon Mosley RG/ Geoff Schwartz/ RT or Justin Pugh LT/ Geoff Schwartz LG/ J.D. Walton C/ Weston Ricburg RG/ Brandon Mosley RT were never run.

Second Down
Corey Washington
For whatever reason, the Giants continue to give just about everyone first-team reps except for this year’s preseason hero Corey Washington. The undrafted rookie saw his first game action against the third stringers and capped the evening with another touchdown. Coughlin was asked why Washington didn’t play more with the first unit and said it was just the way the rotation played out.

Third Down
Adrien Robinson
After bursting onto the scene with two big catches in the Giants come-from-behind victory over the Indianapolis Colts, Robinson went catchless on Friday. Actually, all tight ends did. Per Jordan Raanan of NJ.com, the only tight end to get targeted was Daniel Fells. Robinson did though see an increased number of reps, getting action with the first and second team.

Fourth Down
Preston Parker
There are opportunities there to be taken, and Preston Parker is doing his best to grab any and all thrown his way. The 27-year old has shown value on special teams and is now doing the same as a receiver. Parker caught a 39-yard touchdown from quarterback Ryan Nassib. With the latest injury to Marcus Harris, Parker may have himself a spot on the 53-man roster.

OFFENSIVE OVERVIEWConnor Hughes

The following didn’t play for the Giants versus the Jets: Odell Beckham Jr. (hamstring), Charles Brown (shoulder), Trindon Holliday (hamstring), James Brewer (back), Peyton Hillis (foot), and Xavier Grimble (hamstring).

With the third preseason game normally being the one in which the starters played the most, I spent an extra amount of time focused on the Giants No. 1s. My alarming realization? This offensive line is not good. Seriously, not good.

All will be outlined below, but J.D. Walton was manhandled. There were tons of missed blocks. Brandon Mosley was blown up numerous times and also many miscommunications. Eli Manning was running for his life more times than he should have been.

It doesn’t matter who the Giants have at running back, quarterback, receiver or tight end. If the guys up front can’t block, it won’t matter.

QUARTERBACKS - by Connor Hughes

I did something a little different this week. After all, it’s preseason! As opposed to looking at every single player and having some singled out and some not, I went to twitter and asked who you, the fans, wanted a specific spotlight on. The below are results that were submitted to me.

Eli Manning, New York Giants (August 22, 2014)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Eli Manning
I saw a lot more from Eli Manning that I expected to. During training camp and early in the preseason, I’ve been critical of the two-time Super Bowl MVP. After the way things went versus the Colts, I was even more so.

Versus the Jets, when he was given time (which wasn’t often), Manning did well. He threaded the needle, made a few very impressive throws and made a few more when he was pressured as well. Despite the abundance of moving pockets, Manning still remained calm doing something he hasn’t done much in his career.

My biggest issue with Manning was the one near interception by Kyle Wilson on the 11-play drive to end the first half. You simply can’t make that throw, by any means. It was a terrible decision from Manning and it was throws like that that led to his career-high 27 interceptions a season ago. That’s not a new scheme, that’s not bad block. That’s Manning not thinking.

Ryan Nassib
During the early portions of the Giants training camp, few looked as lost as Ryan Nassib on the practice field. Heck, that continued in the first two games of the preseason, too.

Friday night versus the Jets, Nassib may have been the best player to step foot on the field. It didn’t matter that he was facing second, third and fourth stringers, his passes were on the money. The touchdown throw to Preston Parker and Corey Washington could not have been placed any better if it was scripted in a movie.

Nassib has Brett Favre-like zip on his passes, there’s no denying that, and his biggest issue was that he struggled at times putting touch on the ball. That wasn’t the case Friday. A masterful performance form the second-year pro.

RUNNING BACKS - Connor Hughes

Rashad Jennings
I got a tweet from someone asking what I thought of Rashad Jennings. As a running back, I’ll be honest, I wasn’t blown away. Not because Jennings did anything bad, but simply because the runs he did make were more because of good blocking (yes that sometimes exists) than him making plays.

It wasn’t as if Jennings broke into the second level, juked someone to the ground, stiff-armed another and burst into the end zone. He got what the offensive line gave him and that was normally it. On plays where there wasn’t much blocking, Jennings didn’t gain many yards. It was that simple.

Where Jennings blew me away, I mean truly blew me away, was his pass blocking. Forget the block on Manning’s touchdown, Jennings made another earlier in the same drive. He lined up to Manning’s right. When the ball was snapped, Jennings saw a blitzing corner/safety coming off the edge. The back then cut in front of Manning and blocked the corner/safety out of the play giving Manning the time to scan the field and find Victor Cruz for a first down. It was beautiful.

RECEIVERS Connor Hughes

Mario Manningham
The issue with watching receivers right now is the fact you can’t really make out what’s going on because the NFL has not made preseason coaching tape accessible. If the receiver runs out of the TV camera frame, you lose that receiver. You can’t tell if he’s open deep down the field unless the network decides to show that replay.

With that being said, Mario Manningham still has zero burst. Zero. He gets no separation and has no explosion. I see no scenario in which the former Super Bowl hero makes this team. If it wasn’t for his name, I’m not sure he makes the 75-man cut. Manningham is playing against third and fourth stringers…and he has one reception this preseason.

Corey Washington
There is one thing I’ll say about Corey Washington: He got a lot of credit he didn’t deserve for that touchdown reception in the fourth quarter versus the Jets. Don’t get me wrong, he ran a nice route, got open and caught the ball. But watching that replay, that ball was dropped perfectly in Washington’s hands. He didn’t have to extend, dive or reach…it was right there.

Now, I loved what I saw on the drive that ended in an Andre Williams touchdown run. Washington caught a slant and fought for extra yards bringing a few defenders with him. To see he has some power was impressive. Now, to just see if he could make plays against people who have a chance of making an NFL roster would be nice.

Rueben Randle
Randle got behind the defense and should have caught a touchdown in the first quarter, but Manning couldn’t step into his throw because of a poor missed block from J.D. Walton (more on that later). His touchdown was nice, so was his adjustment on on a back-shoulder throw from Manning.

Randle seems to be getting more comfortable within the offense and on the same page as Manning. He’s a receiver who’s capable of going over 1,000 yards annually. He has the talent to do so. What always seemed to be holding him back was his mind. Now that he’s on the same page as Manning, it could bode very well for the offense

If, you know, Manning has the time to throw.

TIGHT ENDS Connor Hughes

Kellen Davis
There was one pass throw to a tight end Friday, and it went to Daniel Fells. With that being said, Kellen Davis’ blocking jumped off the film. Broke this down a bit on twitter, but here’s the clip of him sealing out Sheldon Richardson and that should tell you all you need to know.

OFFENSIVE LINE Connor Hughes

Will Beatty
I’ll start with the good before I get to the abundance of bad. Will Beatty, despite giving up a sack to Jason Babin, had a pretty solid game. He contained Quinton Coples throughout, got to the second level on a few running plays and really held his own. I know Tom Coughlin didn’t offer much praise on Sunday, but I didn’t see anything too bad and I was looking for it.

The one sack Beatty let up, he got caught off balance. It looked like Beatty was expecting Babin to go outside, so he leaned his weight that way, Babin then cut inside and blew past him. The way I saw it, that was just a nice play from Babin.

Geoff Schwartz, New York Giants (August 3, 2014)

Geoff Schwartz – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Geoff Schwartz
There has been a lot of criticism thrown Schwartz’s way, but I thought he was having a pretty decent showing prior to the injury. On the second play of the game, a nice run from Rashad Jennings to pick up a first down, Schwartz handled DeMario Davis well. I watched the replay twice extensively where Schwartz got hurt and couldn’t pick out exactly where he got injured. His toe looked like it stubbed the turf twice, it kicked up some of the pebbles and then he fell to the ground. Dunno which one it was, but the same foot got a stubbing twice in a row.

J.D. Walton
Without a doubt, the worst player on the field Friday night may have been J.D. Walton. Whenever, seriously, whenever, Manning was pressured, someone got past Walton. I specifically found the following plays:

  • Sheldon Richardson blew past Walton to disrupt Manning on a deep ball to Rueben Randle. Manning knew he had Randle, was lining up to throw to Randle, but couldn’t step into the throw because Richardson was in his face.
  • Calvin Pryor blitzed, Walton whiffed on it which caused Manning to roll out to his right and throw off balanced.
  • On a Rashad Jennings run, Richardson drove Walton about three yards into the backfield and into the lap of Jennings.
  • On a two-man rush, Richardson still managed to put pressure on Manning by pushing himself past Walton.

Brandon Mosley
It wasn’t Brandon Mosley’s best game, either. The guard missed a few blocks, whiffed on a blitzing Jason Babin which allowed pressure on Manning. On a pull, he missed his block which could have had resulted in a shorter run.

DEFENSIVE OVERVIEW - by Eric Kennedy

Not playing defense for the Giants were LB Jon Beason (foot/PUP), CB Prince Amukamara (groin), CB Jayron Hosley (foot), and S Cooper Taylor (foot). S Kyle Sebetic dressed but did not play.

While there were some strong individual performances, the overall defensive performance was not good. The Jets scored three touchdowns and a field goal and had drives of 72, 66, 76, and 82 yards. They rushed for 146 yards on 32 carries (4.6 yards per carry average) and their three quarterbacks cumulatively were 22-of-33 for 278 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions (123.0 quarterback rating).

That said, keep in mind that the Jets also kept their starters in (except Michael Vick was in at quarterback) for their first two drives of the the third quarter against a mixture of second-, third-, and even some fourth-team Giants.

DEFENSIVE LINE - by Eric Kennedy

Given the overall success of the Jets offense, one would think the starting defensive line played poorly. They did not. But they weren’t great either. Jason Pierre-Paul was facing a top-notch left tackle in D’Brickashaw Ferguson, and while JPP was often a non-factor on the pass rush, he did flash on a few plays. On Mathias Kiwanuka’s sack that was wiped out by a penalty, it was Pierre-Paul’s pressure that forced the quarterback up into Kiwanuka’s waiting arms. But it was late in the second quarter where JPP caught my eye. On 2-and-7, he split a double team by Ferguson and the back and quickly bore down on the quarterback. Geno Smith completed the pass for 12 yards, but that looked like the JPP of old on that play. Later on this possession, Pierre-Paul and Robert Ayers ran a stunt to pressure Smith again. The biggest negative I saw from Pierre-Paul was his missed tackle at the line on an 18-yard run that should have been stuffed.

Mathias Kiwanuka played the run very well except on play where he lost contain on a quarterback bootleg to his side of the field. But Kiwanuka did not get much of a pass rush except on plays where he was unblocked. Robert Ayers flashed a few times from the DT position on the pass rush, once causing a key holding penalty that wiped out a 28-yard play. Ayers’ play at the traditional end spot was a bit more up and down. I would have liked to have seen more of a rush from him at end. But he did stuff one run late in the third quarter for no gain.

Inside, I really like Johnathan Hankins. If he stays healthy and focused, he’s going to be a good one. There are times where he just destroys a play. That said, the guy who flashed the most was Cullen Jenkins. He had a few pass rushes where he got in Smith’s face, one time clobbering the quarterback as he released the ball. He also displayed a really cool spin move on another rush. But overall, there wasn’t enough of a pass rush by the front four against a very good Jets’ offensive line. Part of that may have been due to scheme too. A few times, I spied the Giants dropping a tackle into coverage, leaving only three to rush. I understand why defensive coordinator Perry Fewell does that, but I’m not a big fan of dropping linemen into coverage.

Damontre Moore played in the second half. He played well, but I think his stats were a bit inflated. One “sack” was really simply running Michael Vick out of bounds for a 1-yard loss. On his other sack, he was unblocked on a stunt. Moore did recover a fumble and he combined with Spencer Paysinger to tackle the back for a 2-yard loss in the 3rd quarter. Kerry Wynn – a guy who has flashed throughout the preseason and looks the part physically – had a late-game sack off a stunt from the defensive tackle position.

Reserve defensive tackle Jay Bromley got some heat as an insider rusher, as did Mike Patterson on one play. Bromley had some issues against the run. Markus Kuhn left the game early with an ankle injury.

LINEBACKERS - by Eric Kennedy

With the Giants playing a nickel package most of the first half, the two linebackers who saw the most playing time were Jameel McClain and Jacquian Williams. It was a bit of an up-and-down game for both, though Williams made more plays. McClain flashed on an early blitz and at times did a nice job against the run. But at other times, he seemed a bit sluggish in his zone in pass defense and he also got hung up on blocks. Williams is much more physical against the run this year, but there are times where his lack of ideal size exposes him too and he gets hung up on blocks. Both McClain and Williams couldn’t shed their opponents on RB Chris Ivory’s 23-yard screen pass that set up the Jets’ first-half touchdown. But in the first quarter, I thought Williams looked good in run defense on a number of plays until he and McClain couldn’t make the play on a 17-yard rush by RB Chris Johnson. Williams was flagged for defensive holding, wiping out a third-down sack. He later saved a touchdown with good coverage in the end zone on TE Zach Sudfeld. On the wide open touchdown throw to TE Jason Amaro, someone bit too hard on the play-action fake. My guess is it was McClain or Devon Kennard.

In the second half, the first linebackers on the field were Spencer Paysinger, Mark Herzlich, and Devon Kennard. Paysinger shot a gap an nailed the running back in the backfield for a loss, but the linebackers did not distinguish themselves on the rest of this touchdown drive by the first-team Jets’ offense. Herzlich missed a tackle on a 12-yard run and both Paysinger and Kennard were easily blocked on a 17-yard run. Kennard led the team in tackles, but he didn’t really stand out in this game.

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, New York Giants (August 22, 2014)

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie – © USA TODAY Sports Images

DEFENSIVE BACKS - by Eric Kennedy

Again, the numbers given up don’t seem to match the individual performances. For the first time this preseason, an opponent went after Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and DRC responded impressively, knocking away every pass thrown in his direction. The only negative was a defensive holding penalty in the end zone on 1st-and-goal from the 3-yard line. With Prince Amukamara out and the Giants playing a ton of nickel, Trumaine McBride and Walter Thurmond played a ton in the first half. Neither seemed to be exposed in man coverage, but there were some big holes in the Giants’ zone. I am not sure who is to blame there – corners, safeties, and linebackers probably all had some role. If I’m Fewell, I play more aggressive man coverage with this group. Thurmond had good coverage in the end zone on a play before the Jets scored. He also made a nice aggressive tackle against the run. McBride did a good job of recovering and deflecting a pass after the receiver pushed off.

Antrel Rolle was quiet other than an illegal use of hands penalty. I was critical of Steve Brown’s run defense in 2012, but during this preseason, he has caught my eye with his aggressive play around the line of scrimmage. He’s been in on a lot of tackles. Brown was flagged with an illegal use of hands penalty however.

In the second half, with the injuries to Amukamara, Bowman, and Hosley, Bennett Jackson and Charles James played earlier than normal and both saw reps against the first-team Jets’ offense. Jackson was flagged with an illegal contact penalty and then was beat (though not badly) for a 3-yard touchdown on a pass from Michael Vick to WR Eric Decker. Earlier on this drive, Ross Weaver was also flagged with illegal use of hands, which obviously was a noticeable bad theme by a few Giants’ defensive backs in this game.

Charles James had a rough series early in the 4th quarter. Though his coverage wasn’t bad, he was beat for a 32-yard completion down the left sideline. A few plays later he was flagged with a 15-yard late hit penalty – a close call but legitimate. Then two plays later he was beaten for an 11-yard touchdown. After the Giants went up 28-24, the Jets went for it on 4th-and-4, but Jackson had very tight coverage on the intended receiver to help cause the incompletion. That said, there was a lot of contact on that play and the Giants were fortunate a flag wasn’t thrown.

SPECIAL TEAMS OVERVIEW - by Eric Kennedy

The Giants attempted no field goals. On kickoffs, four kicks resulted in touchbacks (3 by Brandon McManus, one by Josh Brown), one went out of bounds (McManus on a squib kick), and one was returned for 32 yards (Brown’s kick went 8 yards deep into end zone).

Steve Weatherford punted seven times for a 45.0 yards-per-punt average (43.3 yard net). Three of his punts were down inside the 20-yard line. The Jets only managed 12 yards on four returns (3 yard average).

The Giants only returned two kickoffs: one by Preston Parker for 29 yards and one by Quintin Demps for 21 yards. Parker also returned two punts for 10 yards, with a long of nine yards.

Terrell Manning had a chance to recover a muffed punt but tried to pick it up and failed.

(Boxscore – New York Giants at New York Jets, August 22, 2014)
Aug 242014
 
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Ryan Nassib, New York Giants (August 22, 2014)

Ryan Nassib – © USA TODAY Sports Images

AUGUST 24, 2014 NEW YORK GIANTS PRACTICE REPORT…
Maybe this was exactly what Ryan Nassib needed, because the quarterback who took the field in this afternoon’s practice was like nothing who took the field before.

After throwing three touchdowns in Friday’s preseason victory over the Jets, Nassib took the practice field with a confidence that was bubbling over. He was moving around in the pocket, taking shots deep down the field, accurate and putting incredible zip on the ball. A near 180-degree difference from the quarterback who was demoted to the third team two weeks ago.

It was a pretty easy and light practice for the Giants today, so the report is a bit lighter. The team returns to the field tomorrow for practice two of three this week.

On to the report…

Peyton Hillis, New York Giants (December 1, 2013)

Peyton Hillis – © USA TODAY Sports Images

THE WALKING WOUNDED
Peyton Hillis (ankle/foot) and Jayron Hosley (foot) returned to practice on Sunday. Trindon Holliday (hamstring) practiced on an individual basis. Odell Beckham Jr. (hamstring), Marcus Harris (shoulder), Xavier Grimble (hamstring), Geoff Schwartz (toe), Charles Brown (shoulder), James Brewer (back), Markus Kuhn (ankle), Jon Beason (foot), Prince Amukamara (groin) and Cooper Taylor (foot) did not practice.

Some new faces joined the bike squad as well with undisclosed injuries: Justin Anderson and Emmanuel Dieke did not practice this afternoon. Brandon Mosley missed practice when his back flared up.

SPECIAL TEAMS…
A couple key observations to be made with special teams, including a little bit in terms of the punt returning.

  • Giants punt returners were as follows: Rueben Randle, Trindon Holliday and Victor Cruz. Preston Parker did not take any reps with the punt returners. While the group was fielding, he was off on the side with a coverage unit doing some of those drills.
  • Parker did however get some work with the kick returning unit, along with Quintin Demps, Michael Cox and Jerrel Jernigan.

HURRY UP OFFENSE…
With Geoff Schwartz sidelined and Mosley out, the Giants offensive line again went into a shuffling process. There’s no timetable on Mosley’s recovery, which certainly doesn’t bode well for an already reeling line.

  • The Giants went with the following unit as the team’s ‘starting’ offensive line: LT William Beatty, LG Weston Richburg , C J.D. Walton, RG John Jerry, RT Justin Pugh.
  • Eli Manning had a pretty good practice and went to Rueben Randle quite often. The two connected for a long touchdown when Manning went through his initial two reads, rolled out of the pocket and Randle broke off his initial route and went deep. The two connected on a second touchdown in the redzone on a slant. On a second run through of the same drill, Manning hit Randle on a deep in.
  • Seriously, I think it was just about getting confidence because Ryan Nassib had a very good practice. He has a little bit of Brett Favre in him with that fast ball that can take someone’s head off. He displays it time and time again. On one play, he rolled out and put the ball on a line to Preston Parker standing right at the sideline on a comeback route.

SEVEN-ON-SEVEN…
As I said before, it was a light practice for the Giants so the highlights were a bit hard to choose from. Overall I’d say it was an average day, but there were still some things to note:

  • This was the drill Ryan Nassib completed his deep pass. Off play action, he dropped back and fired one deep down the field. Travis Harvey had beaten his man and Nassib put the ball on the money.
  • Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie had a near interception of Eli Manning as he jumped one intended for Jerrel Jernigan. Instead of picking it off, it just grazed by his hands and Jernigan leaped into the air (he had run a curl) to make the grab.
Eli Manning and Curtis Painter, New York Giants (June 18, 2014)

Eli Manning and Curtis Painter – © USA TODAY Sports Images

TWO-MINUTE DRILL…
With the fifth preseason game coming up on Thursday, I’d expect the reserves to get the majority of the work in practice. That includes Nassib, who got a few reps with the starters today. Again, I don’t expect Manning to see more than one or two series on Thursday, so this is probably just to prepare Nassib if he gets looks with the starting line.

For the two-minute drill, the Giants put 1:28 on the clock for the third team offense versus third team defense. Curtis Painter trotted the Giants on the field…and off just a few plays later.

1st and 10-
Curtis Painter hits Julian Talley for a first down on an out route.

1st and 10-
Curtis Painter drops the shot gun snap. It was a good snap.

2nd and 14-
Curtis Painter goes to Corey Washington on deep in.

1st and 10-
Curtis Painter goes deep to Corey Washington, intercepted by Ross Weaver.