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Eli Manning, New York Giants (September 8, 2014)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

 

Arizona Cardinals at New York Giants, September 14, 2014

Stats and analysis courtesy of Pro Football Focus

Earlier this week, New York Giants offensive coordinator  Ben McAdoo said one of the things that he was encouraged by when watching the film of the debacle in Detroit, was the mistakes his offense made weren’t the same ones, but different.

While NJ.com’s Jordan Raanan pointed out the contrary, there was no denying that Monday featured plays to be made, the Giants simply didn’t make them. Versus Arizona this Sunday at 1:00 PM, the Giants hope to change that and get their first win of the season.

In fact, after starting last season 0-6 last year, there’s been a different feel around the locker room this week in practice. The Giants know that in order to keep those 0-6 thoughts out of their minds, they need to win a game. 1-1 looks a lot better than 0-2.

Rueben Randle, New York Giants (September 8, 2014)

Rueben Randle – © USA TODAY Sports Images

FOUR DOWNS:

First Down
Rueben Randle
It wasn’t pretty for Rueben Randle last week in Detroit. Maybe not because of Randle himself, but because he wasn’t targeted by Eli Manning. The former second-round pick caught just two passes for one yard on three targets. Comparing that to tight end Larry Donnell making his first start, the big-bodied end was thrown at eight times.

A lack of targets this week to Randle may not be because the Giants don’t want to get him the ball, but can’t. The Cardinals have one of the better cornerback tandems in the league in Patrick Peterson and Antonio Cromartie. Last week versus the San Diego Chargers, the two combined to allow only four catches for 32 yards.

Second Down
Throw me the ball
Victor Cruz did a very un-Victor Cruz like thing this week when he stated the key to the offense’s success was, well, throwing him the ball. The only issue with Cruz’s statement…he was thrown the ball last week.

He just didn’t make the plays.

According to Pro Football Focus, Cruz rated out -1.9 score, the worst of any Giants receiver. He was target six times, but managed only two receptions and dropped two passes, second most in the NFL.

It’s time Cruz backs up his talk with his play. But Monday’s lack-of-production was not because the ball wasn’t send the former Pro Bowler’s way.

Third Down
J.D. Walton
No one of the Giants offensive line played particularly well Monday night in Detroit, but Walton stood out as visually struggling the most. Nick Fairley and Ndamukong Suh made a mockery of the Giants center, regularly sending him yards into the backfield.

Versus Arizona, Walton won’t be facing the likes of Suh and Fairley. Instead, he’ll see an awful lot of Dan Williams and Paul Soliai. Versus the Chargers last week, the two combined for three quarterback hurries and two tackles.

Prince Amukamara, New York Giants (August 18, 2014)

Prince Amukamara – Photo by Connor Hughes

Fourth Down
Prince Amukamara
One of the brightest spots for the New York Giants on Monday was the play of Prince Amukamara. The former first-round pick played as just that and showed he may in fact be New York’s best cornerback.

Sunday afternoon will be a great test for Amukamara, no matter whom he faces. The Arizona Cardinals bring to the table two very good outside receivers in Michael Floyd and Larry Fitzgerald. After only being thrown at four times last week and catching only one pass, Fitzgerald will be eager to put a terrible season opener behind him.

If it’s Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie who draws Fitzgerald, that means Amukamara will get Michael Floyd. The former first-round pick caught five of the seven passes thrown his way last week for 119 yards. He gained 27 yards after contact, including a 63-yard bomb from quarterback Carson Palmer.

BREAKING DOWN THE CARDINALS:

OFFENSE - Eric Kennedy
Strength?
The strength of the Cardinals’ offense is obvious…it’s their outstanding receiving corps. The Giants faced Detroit’s Calvin Johnson in the opener, now they face another of the game’s best in Larry Fitzgerald who is coming off a sub par game (1 catch) and looking to rebound. Michael Floyd meanwhile picked up the slack with 5 catches for 119 yards. Both are big, physical targets who can make big plays and help out their inconsistent quarterback. The guy who has really impressed me is rookie John Brown, who looks like a third-round steal. Ted Ginn has game-breaking speed, but is inconsistent. Combine that with an underrated group of tight ends, led by John Carlson.

The Giants have invested a lot of resources in a secondary that did not play well on Monday night. They need big rebound game. Calvin Johnson may be the best receiver in football, but Arizona’s receiving corps is more talented overall.

Weakness?
It used to be the offensive line, but the Cardinals signed LT Jared Veldheer in the offseason and that has improved the overall state of the unit. Still, the offensive line is a bit shaky. The Cardinals still are not that impressive up front and defensive tackles Johnathan Hankins and Cullen Jenkins (as long as hip is not too much of a problem) could present a lot of problems for Arizona. The bigger overall weakness for the Cardinals – and this is related to their offensive line – is their running game. The Cardinals were 23rd in rushing in 2013 and they might not be much more improved this year. RB Andre Ellington can break the big play but he is undersized and hurt his left foot last week. Former Steeler Jonathan Dwyer is ordinary. The Giants should be able to take away the Cardinals running game and make them one dimensional. If they don’t, then it will be difficult to win this game.

DEFENSE - Connor Hughes
Strength?
There’s no doubt where the strength of the Cardinals defense lies, Antonio Cromartie and Patrick Peterson are two of the most physically gifted cornerbacks in the NFL. The two are fast, tall and play the ball in the air exceptionally well. As hard as it will be for Manning, if he starts forcing the ball against the two, things won’t turn out well.

I’d expect the Giants to try to attack the slot and seam more than the outside. Last year, Patrick Peterson played just 69 snaps in nickel and Cromartie 15. If that same trend holds true on Sunday, Cruz should be matched up against Jerraud Powers, who played 31 snaps in the nickel defense last week. That’s a matchup worth testing. Not Jerrel Jernigan/Randle on the outside versus Peterson and Cromartie.

Weakness?
The defensive line for the Cardinals has been ravaged by injured taking into consideration the loss of Darnell Docket, then the fact John Abraham may never play another snap. The Giants aren’t facing Ansah/Suh/Fairley this week. Manning should have additional time in the pocket. Then again, last week he was only pressured 31 precent of the times (Ryan Tannehill and Matt Ryan were pressure more).

Last week versus San Diego, the Cardinals outside linebackers (Sam Acho, Matt Shaughnessy, Thomas Keiser) combined for zero sacks, zero hurries and zero total pressure on Phillip Rivers.

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

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

PLAYER TO WATCH:
Connor Hughes -
Eli Manning

The one thing that has gotten Eli Manning in trouble in years past is that Brett Favre gun-slinger mentality. Where some quarterbacks will see a situtation and say, “Eh, probably shouldn’t throw there,” Manning will see the same scenario and say, “Eh, I may be able to get it there.” This was evidently apparent on the Victor Cruz interception versus Detroit.

As Manning rolled out, Cruz was open. Had Manning planted his feet, got underneath it and led Cruz, it’s probably a touchdown. But Manning didn’t. He threw off his back foot, the pass was underthrown, jumped and intercepted.

Manning can’t make those plays versus the Cardinals. The days of the Giants offense gaining 400 yards, at least at this point, are over. Manning needs to realize that punting the ball and letting the defense play defense in a field position game is a win. If he throws another two interceptions, the Giants have no shot.

Eric Kennedy -
The Offensive Line
OK..so this is really five players…sue me. To me, the key to this game for the Giants is their ground game. They need to be able to run the ball against a beat up Cardinals front seven. It’s time to get back to old-fashioned Giants’ football and pound Arizona for four quarters. I expect the Cardinals to play eight in the box and dare the Giants to beat them with the pass. But I’d still stick with the run and use my two big backs to play some smash-mouth football. That should help settle down the line. But consistency will be key. Keep mistakes to a minimum…don’t miss blocks…don’t get penalized. Power football.

FROM THE COACHES’ MOUTH:

Tom Coughlin - In studying the Arizona Cardinals, they are a good team and they certainly did emerge last year, a team that beat Seattle late in the season and just barely lost to San Francisco. (A) 10-6 football team that is a very, very aggressive, physical, defensive team. Very good upfront, runs the ball. In Carson Palmer they have found the quarter that Bruce Arians indicated that he was looking for and take advantage of an outstanding receiving group and can throw the ball down the field. They do have a nice group of running backs that have played well in that system. They are a good team, and we look forward to playing them Sunday.

Bruce Arians - (On how his secondary is coming together) I was really pleased the other night. We put them in situations where Patrick Peterson and Antonio Cromartie were on islands, but we also put our young safeties in that same situation because we do like to pressure a lot. They handled themselves extremely well. They did get behind us a couple times and we were able to get pressure on Philip Rivers and they did not complete some balls, but that is going to happen the way we played defense.

FINAL WORD:

Connor Hughes – Everything says the Giants shouldn’t win this game. In fact, if anything, the Arizona Cardinals are actually a better team than the Detroit Lions are right now. Their defense is better, their offense (aside from the Calvin Johnson/Matt Stafford factor) is overall better and the team is battled tested playing in the – oh what a difference a few years make – toughest division in professional football.

With all that being said.. I think the Giants pull this one out. On Monday night in Detroit, the Giants had plays that could have been made, they just didn’t make them. Will those same plays be there against a much more talented Arizona secondary? Probably not.

Eli Manning, New York Giants (August 9, 2014)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

The Giants need to stay away from turnovers and need to get after Carson Palmer. Last year, Palmer completed just 49 percent of his passes when pressured. According to Pro Football Focus, when feeling the rush, Palmer threw 15 interceptions to just three touchdowns. If the Giants can do both of those things, I think they win. New York 20 – Arizona- 10.

Eric Kennedy – Coming into the season, I thought the Giants would beat the Lions but lose to the Cardinals. Arizona is a good football team, and if they were healthy, they are a better football team than the Giants. But they are beat up. QB Carson Palmer has issues with his shoulder. Their offensive line and running game are still shaky. But most importantly, they have been slammed with injuries up front. The strength of the Cardinals is their secondary and receiving corps. Both the Giants and Cardinals are coming off of short weeks and the Cardinals are traveling across country. If the Giants can get their ground game going – and they should – I think the Giants can win this game. But Eli must protect the football better. When the Giants win the turnover battle, they usually win. Giants 20 – Cardinals 16.

Sep 112014
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (September 8, 2014)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Detroit Lions 35 – New York Giants 14

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
Can John Jerry, J.D. Walton and Weston Richburg contain Ndamukong Suh?
To answer bluntly, no. Ndamukong Suh made a mockery of both Walton, who was three yards deep in the backfield nearly every play and New York’s running game suffered as a result. Suh seldom went head-to-head with Richburg.

Second Down
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie vs Calvin Johnson
This match-up did not go as well as hoped for the Giants. While the 67-yard touchdown to start the game was more on Damontre Moore and Stevie Brown, DRC gave up several key completions to Johnson. More was hoped for and expected.

Third Down
Reggie Bush
Reggie Bush gave the Giants problems early on in the game as a receiver, particularly on the first two drives. Bush beat LB Jacquian Williams twice for 18 yards on the first touchdown drive, and then beat Stevie Brown for 24 yards on the second touchdown drive. He was held to just seven yards on three more catches after that. Bush was a non-factor in the running game, carrying the ball nine times for 15 yards (1.7 yards per carry).

Fourth Down
Walter Thurmond III vs Golden Tate
Walter Thurmond played well. Golden Tate did have six catches for 93 yards but that damage did not occur against Thurmond. Tate’s biggest play was his 44-yard reception where there was another busted coverage in the Giants zone defense with Stevie Brown likely being the guilty party.

OFFENSIVE OVERVIEW - by Connor Hughes
The New York Giants were without a few of their offensive pieces Monday night in Detroit. Not suiting up for New York were: WR Odell Beckham Jr., OT Charles Brown, OT James Brewer, and OG Adam Snyder. 

From the outside perspective, things weren’t pretty Monday night in Detroit. With just a few minutes remaining in the third quarter, the Giants had mustered 91 yards on 40 plays. When the game concluded, the offense managed two touchdowns, quarterback Eli Manning was turning the ball over and the offensive line wasn’t blocking. The receivers were dropping passes and creating little separation. The running game was ineffective.

It appeared as if everything went wrong for the Giants and that Manning had continued to regress. It seemed there was little-to-no hope for the team.

And you know what? That couldn’t be further from the truth.

Following an intensive film breakdown, the Giants offense performed much better than expected. No, it wasn’t great, and certainly wasn’t good, but it wasn’t as hopeless as originally anticipated. In fact, the best way to describe it, there is hope for the Giants offense. The players just need to make the plays. The passes were there to be caught. There were ways to extend drives. The Giants were inches away from making them. There was progress.

The nuts and bolts don’t tell the complete story: 197 total yards (144 passing, 53 rushing). Two sacks for 19 yards. 3-for-13 on third downs. Two-for-three on fourth downs. 16 total first downs accumulated (four rushing, eight passing).

QUARTERBACK - by Connor Hughes
There was a very strong and glaring realization when analyzing the game film from Monday night: Eli Manning didn’t play poorly. In fact, he was one of the offense’s bright spots. Sure, some of his passes could have been a little more accurate, but that criticism can be given to three-to-four Manning throws a game every since he entered the league a decade ago.

Knocking out the one glaring mistake early, Manning never should have thrown the ball to Victor Cruz during his second interception. The play was a dud from the beginning when Nick Fairley blew past J.D. Walton.

I get Manning’s thought process: Victor Cruz was open and behind the defense with little safety help. In fact, had the play been on the opposite side of the field, where Manning could have rolled out to his right and thrown with his body as opposed to against, it very well may have been a touchdown.

The interception was a bit of the gun-slinger in Manning coming out. He believes he can make any throw, this was one he couldn’t. With the Giants down and needing a play, Manning tried to put some life into the team. Unfortunately, it should have been a situation where the offense lived to fight another down.

The first interception Manning threw, Manning also took blame for. Although, looking at the tape, I don’t see it as his fault. Now, there is no way to know the exact play call or what Larry Donnell was thinking, but this much is true. Manning and Donnell made direct eye contact before the play and Donnell noted he saw it. Donnell could have gotten a seam route call, Manning could have seen the blitz and expected Donnell to change on the fly. That’s probable, too. Either way, it’s a miscommunication.

The facts remained, when Manning had time, he made nice throws down the field. Whether his receivers caught them was another issue. On the first third down of the game, Manning went to Jernigan, who was open and should have caught the ball for a first down. Had he not gone to Jernigan, both Rueben Randle and Victor Cruz had run double-curls on the opposite side of the field, but were a yard or two short of the first. Jernigan was there for the first.

There was a play down the seam later in the game where Manning went to Victor Cruz. The result? Another drop. There were plays to be made, the playmakers on the Giants just didn’t make them. Can’t blame Manning for that.

There were a few “bad” throws from Manning on the night, but on many, Manning didn’t have a clean pocket. As was the case on his first “bad” throw to Donnell. Donnell was open on an out route, Manning released the ball, but was unable to step into the throw due to pressure. Had Manning had a little more time, it’s a six-yard completion.

There were many glaring take-aways from Monday’s game. The regression of Manning was not one of them. Should he have thrown that ball down the sideline across his body to Cruz? No. Was he the team’s biggest issue? No.

RUNNING BACKS - by Connor Hughes
There really isn’t anything ‘special’ about Rashad Jennings. He doesn’t have elite speed. He isn’t the toughest player in the world to bring down. He doesn’t do anything ‘great.’

What Jennings does do, is everything very, very well. There were little running lanes for Jennings to work with, much of that had to do with Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley. Where Jennings made his presence felt was his ability to react to the early pressure up the middle from Suh and Co., and find the cutback lane.

On Jennings’ longest run of the night, the Lions immediately pushed the Giants offensive line into the backfield. Jennings began running to the left, then cutback and around Suh to turn what appeared to be a non-gain into a pretty nice pickup.

Jennings also truly stands out – and did again Monday – with his pass blocking. I didn’t catch a play where Jennings made the “wrong” decision on whom to pick up. He made the correct blocks and chips.

It’s been awhile since the Giants had an every-down back, but Jennings appears to be it. He’s a good runner, blocker and receiver, and the Giants used him in all areas Monday. Not many running backs in the NFL can take claim to that.

The lone other Giant to get a carry Monday was Andre Williams, who continues to be the same player the Giants thought he was in the preseason. Williams is a very good runner, but isn’t there just yet as a blocker or receiver. He’s a good change of pace back, and once he gets more comfortable in his other two roles, he should see an increase in playing time. The issue the Giants have right now is that when Williams checks into the game, opponent’s know he’s a one-trick pony at this point in his career.

WIDE RECEIVERS - by Connor Hughes
Throughout the Giants game with the Lions, the Giants played with primarily three wide receivers, with Corey Washington getting a couple snaps near the goal line. Actually… I take that back… a fifth ‘wide receiver’ actually got a snap:

One of the receivers who caught some of the most flack was Rueben Randle. The former second-round pick was targeted just three times and caught two passes for one yard. He did have a completion that was nullified by a defensive penalty.

There are a lot of questions on whether Randle was struggling to get ‘open.’ Watching the film, that wasn’t readily apparent. Instead, it looked as if the Giants just simply weren’t looking to get him the ball.

It could have been because Manning was looking to get rid of the ball quickly, and not going to his second, third, fourth reads. Either way, Manning was not looking in Randle’s direction. Period. It wasn’t as if Manning was looking to Randle, he wasn’t open, then he was taking a sack, or throwing to someone else. Manning just wasn’t going there. It was almost as if Randle wasn’t in this week’s game plan.

Jerrel Jernigan, on the other hand, was targeted and continues to leave much to be desired. It started with a case of the “alligator” arms on the first series of the game. Manning made the right read, Jernigan was open and he just short-armed it. The safety was coming up to apply a hit, and it looked like Jernigan knew that. The entire approach to the ball was awkward. The route was a bit lazy, too.

Manning didn’t take many deep shots in the game, but he did go down the field to Jernigan on one play and Jernigan had a step. Manning didn’t have a clean pocket and as a result couldn’t put it out directly in front, but Jernigan adjusted to the ball and turned around. From the film, it looked like the ball hit Jernigan’s hands and bounced out. Again, these are plays that are there to be made, and the Giants playmakers aren’t making them.

Victor Cruz made a public cry to have the ball thrown to him more. In the first half of Monday’s game, he probably should have. In the second half, he needs to catch some passes. You can’t complain about needing the ball more, but then when the ball is thrown to you…

The reason the Giants drafted Odell Beckham Jr. was to take some of the pressure off Cruz. Cruz benefits more when he has someone else on offense who demands that coverage shadow. If Cruz’s numbers drop a bit because he is the No. 1 option, that’s understandable. But drops? These are the types of plays that aren’t on Manning. If these passes are caught, Monday is a different game.

For whatever reason, early on, Cruz was simply not targeted by Manning. The Giants offense is predicated on getting the ball out of Manning’s hands fast, which may have been why Manning didn’t go through his reads as much. The ball was out of his hands before he could survey the field. Still, it was a bit puzzling why those quick reads were to Jernigan and Donnell, not Cruz and Randle.

Corey Washington’s main rep came in the red zone with Eli Manning throwing the high fade to the 6-4 target. It was the right decision, Washington has the height advantage. The biggest question mark was if the Giants planned on using Washington in the red zone…why not try to get Manning and Washington some reps together in the preseason?

TIGHT ENDS - by Connor Hughes
Larry Donnell saw almost all of the Giants reps at tight end, with the score potentially being a reason for that. Donnell isn’t the Giants strongest blocker, but he is their best receiver, and he showed that Monday.

Donnell ran some nice routes, and his two fade routes near the goal line showed the potential he has. On his first fade, Donnell came a big toe away from getting his first touchdown. On his second, it was a touchdown.

The thing that impressed me most with Donnell on the two fades were the positioning he got.

Where Donnell struggled is the same place Donnell has always struggled: Blocking. There was one play that particularly stood out. On the Jerrel Jernigan end-around that lost two yards, Will Beatty had whiffed a bit on the block and allowed LB DeAndre Levy to run free to Jernigan. While Beatty’s block on the play was dismal, Donnell ran right past Levy, allowing him to make the play. Had Donnell even just chipped him, it’s a potentially big play.

OFFENSIVE LINE - by Connor Hughes
Collectively as a unit, it wasn’t pretty. That’s how it should be, though. If one offensive lineman has a bad day and allows pressure on the quarterback, things aren’t going to go well.

That was situation on Monday night. Were all five of the Giants offensive linemen bad? No. Were most of them bad at different points in time? Yes. Were some worse than others? Yes.

With this unit being such a deep area of concern, I tried to spend as much time as I could looking at each unit individually to grade them out and see how they performed.

Before getting to the offensive linemen, a compliment to Suh. Prior to the game, I talked extensively to Weston Richburg about what makes Suh so special. The No. 1 thing he talked about was the defensive tackle’s ability to jump the count. Emphasizing that, one play stood out to me more than anything else. With this, there simply isn’t anything you can do as a lineman. Look below where Suh is, compared to the rest of his defensive linemen.

Will Beatty
No, it really wasn’t as bad as originally anticipated. Did Beatty miss a few blocks? Yes. Was the failed cut attempt as ugly as a block attempt can be? Yes. Did Beatty stand up well against Ansah for a large portion of the night? Yes.

Overall, Beatty didn’t perform that poorly and was far from the weakest link on the offensive line. You can see when Manning had a clean pocket, Beatty had a lot to do with it:

With that being said, he whiffed on a block that had the potential to be a touchdown. On the end-around, Beatty missed the initial block on Levy who came flying in to make tackle on Jernigan for a two-yard loss. Had he made that tackle, and Donnell continued down the field, there was a lot of room to run.

My biggest question mark with Beatty came strictly on the cut block. Not the technique, or the fact the cut failed, but why? Normally, offensive linemen will go with a cut block on third- or second-and-short situations. The objective is to get the lineman quickly on the ground and their hands down so that the quarterback can throw a quick pass over their head. It’s designed to prevent bat downs.

When Beatty went with his cut-block attempt, it was third-and-nine. Watching the film, Manning didn’t look like he was trying to hit any quick pass. It was a longer developing play. I don’t understand why exactly Beatty went with a cut block. To me, it didn’t make sense in that situation.

Weston Richburg
Playing the first game of his professional career, it was impressive the way Richburg handled himself in Detroit. In fact, Richburg may have been the Giants best offensive linemen. The rookie routinely made his way to the second level, sealed on a few runs and performed well in pass protection.

J.D. Walton
Walton, and right guard John Jerry, drew the short straw and faced Suh throughout the course of the night. Neither fared well at all, but Walton performed poorly no matter who he went up against. The center was knocked back into the backfield multiple times on running plays, was blown past by Fairley on Manning’s second interception and was over-matched by most he faced. It wasn’t pretty for the Giants center.

Walton didn’t have the best preseason for the Giants, either, and the question now comes up on if he could be close to losing his starting position when Geoff Schwartz returns. If either Brandon Mosley, Adam Snyder or John Jerry prove they can perform at right guard, it would allow Weston Richburg to slide in at center.

John Jerry
It’s tough to grade out or break down John Jerry’s film because he went up against Suh the majority of the night. The biggest take away from the film was that Suh simply beat Jerry off the ball too many times and caught him off guard. Did Jerry look bad Monday night? Yes. But he was going up against arguably the best defensive tackle in the NFL. Unlike Jerry, Walton was brought in to start. Jerry was meant to “compete” for a starting position, but the Giants wanted Snee, Richburg or Mosley at that right guard position. He showed some promise on running plays, but he was overpowered by Suh on far to many occasions.

Justin Pugh
Quietly, Justin Pugh had a nice game Monday night. He seldom allowed any pressure around his right side and didn’t jump out on the film for any negative reason. Of each of the offensive linemen I looked at, I struggled finding anything negative to write about in regards to Pugh. Did he overpower anyone? Not really, but he didn’t perform poorly, either. At this point, the Giants will take that day in, and day out.

DEFENSIVE OVERVIEW - by Eric Kennedy
For at least the first half of the 2014 season, we knew a defense that had received an infusion of talent in the offseason would have to carry the team while the offense sputtered. That did not happen on Monday night. The back seven, particularly the secondary, was supposed to be the strength of the defense but the Giants gave up 341 net passing yards to the Lions.  QB Matt Stafford completed 22-of-32 passes for 346 yards and two touchdowns for a QB rating of 125.3. That tremendous offensive productivity was from a team with a completely new coaching staff and offensive scheme.

Some very disturbing notes:

  • While the Giants stopped the run until the fourth quarter, they simply could not get off of the field on third down, including third-and-long. Detroit was 10-of-15 (67 percent) on third down.  Detroit was able to overcome terrible down-and-distance situations throughout the night. On the first TD drive, the touchdown came on 3rd-an-9 after Detroit had faced a 2nd-and-15. On the second TD drive, they overcame 2nd-and-18 and a 3rd-and-13. On the first FG drive, they overcame a 3rd-and-11.
  • The Giants allowed six pass plays of 20 or more yards, including passes of 67 and 44 yards.
  • The Giants got burned at least three times when Perry Fewell decided to drop 1 or 2 defensive linemen into coverage instead of having them rush the passer. These plays failed miserably. Though the numbers don’t indicate it, the Giants did apply some decent pressure on Stafford at times throughout the game. The Giants got burned on the 3rd-and-13 play that ended with a 16-yard touchdown (3 man rush, CB blitz), the 44-yard gain on 3rd-and-11 (3 man rush with Cullen Jenkins dropping), and the 22-yard gain on 3rd-and-7 on the last TD drive (2-man rush with Mathias Kiwanuka and Robert Ayers dropping. Great, now we’re dropping two defensive linemen.
  • There was also a dumbfounding (to me) call where on 3rd-and-25 from the Giants’ 38-yard line, Fewell basically called a prevent defense in a situation where the Giants had to prevent the Lions from getting into field goal range. There was hardly a Giant DB in the picture. Stafford completed a dart over the middle in traffic but he could have just as easily dumped the ball off short. There were two completely uncovered receivers with no defender within 15 yards.  Luckily, the Lions missed the field goal, but they should not have. Bad defensive call.
  • A constant theme during Perry Fewell’s tenure with the Giants has been confusion in the secondary that leads to big plays. That happened again on Monday night. Too often in zone coverage the other team’s wide receivers seem to be wide open in critical situations.  The troubling thing is that the mistakes are also being made by players who have been with Fewell for more than one offseason.
  • Damontre Moore did screw up by not keeping under control and preventing Stafford from launching his 67-yard touchdown pass. But he was basically benched after that play and the Giants could have used him. Other Giant defenders screwed up and weren’t benched. I don’t understand that move.
  • The Giants defense utterly gave up in the fourth quarter. It was embarrassing. You can say they wore down or whatever. The Lions ran 63 offensive plays…that’s not a terribly high number. A defense that wants to think of itself as a “top 5” defense doesn’t lie down like that.

Overall, a defense that was supposed to carry this team failed miserably. They surrendered two touchdowns on Detroit’s two first possessions, immediately putting the Giants in a 14-0 hole. They gave up another decent drive in the first half that thankfully ended in a missed field goal. In the second half, while the defense did a good job of limiting the Lions to a field goal after Eli Manning’s first interception, Detroit scored an additional 17 points on their next three possessions, including drives of 66 and 80 yards. There was one sack (player unblocked) and no turnovers forced.

DEFENSIVE LINE - by Eric Kennedy
The defensive line played pretty well. They were outstanding against the run – until the fourth quarter.  Johnathan Hankins (5 tackles) was a rock inside against the run and even flashed on occasion on the pass rush. Cullen Jenkins (2 tackles) was not as noticeable but he looked good a times against both the run and the pass. Jason Pierre-Paul (4 tackles), suffered a neck stinger, but he was very good against the run and the most consistent pass rusher the Giants had on the field. He came close a few times, and he also hustled on plays down the field. It was a mixed bag for Mathias Kiwanuka (1 tackle), who started off the game strongly but faded as the game wore on; hence, my objection to keeping Damontre Moore on the bench because of his early miscue. Kiwanuka’s pass rush became weaker as the night progressed and the Lions ran quite successfully at him and Mike Patterson (1 tackle) in the second half. Robert Ayers (1 tackle, 1 sack) played both end and tackle and flashed on occasion at both spots. My overall takeaway on the defensive line was this: good against the run, decent but not game-changing rushing the passer, and kind of gave up late in the game.

LINEBACKERS - by Eric Kennedy
Improved play was expected from this group, but the early returns were more of the same. Jon Beason, as could be expected after missing all of camp and the preseason, looked rusty. While he did a good job of reading plays and helping his teammates do a stellar job against the run (again until the 4th quarter), he was only in on four tackles and actually missed a tackle. Jameel McClain was also only in on four tackles. He flashed on a couple of plays, but it wasn’t enough. And he looked terrible down on the goal line on the Lions’ last score. Jacquian Williams (7 tackles) was dreadful. While the strength of his game is pass coverage, he did not do a good job against RB Reggie Bush early in the game, including badly missing a tackle. Bush had Williams leaning the wrong way on another reception. Williams was flagged with defensive holding too. In the third quarter, Williams’ missed tackle on the tight end turned a short gain into a 26-yard pass play. But what bothered me the most was his lack of physicality against the run, particularly in the second half of the game. He just seems like a player who doesn’t like contact…and that’s kind of a bad thing for a football player. The final kicker was his indecision on Stafford’s 3rd-and-5 touchdown run. Make the play!

DEFENSIVE BACKS - by Eric Kennedy
Much more was expected from this group. I do think part of it is scheme. There is a lot talent at cornerback with this group, and Perry Fewell has to learn to trust them by playing more man coverage and less zone. That said, there were instances in the game where the players did not engender such faith. The play that sticks out to me is the 24-yard reception by WR Calvin Johnson on 3rd-and-4 in the second quarter. Dominique-Rodgers Cromartie (4 tackles, 2 pass defenses) is locked up one-on-one with Johnson in press man coverage, but DRC allows Johnson an easy release to the inside for the big play on the slant. Given the caliber of competition (Johnson), Rodgers Cromartie didn’t have a “bad” game, but much more was expected from him. He had his share of nice plays but he also gave up a few (and was lucky Prince Amukamara saved his ass on a deep post route). Speaking of Amukamara (8 tackles, 2 pass defenses), he played well both against the run and in pass coverage. He made a nice play on the TE in the end zone to save a touchdown. Walter Thurmond wasn’t noticed. That’s good in that he usually kept his man quiet, but a game-changing play by him – or one of his teammates in the secondary – would have been nice. That was the hope coming into this season by this defensive back group.

Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions (September 8, 2014)

Calvin Johnson – © USA TODAY Sports Images

The bigger problem was at safety. It’s clear that Stevie Brown (9 tackles) is a major step down from Will Hill. Brown was actually very good against the run, far more active than the linebackers. That is an area where he really has improved since 2012. But Brown was too often a liability in coverage. He really screwed up on the 67-yard touchdown pass. As the last line of defense as a free safety, and facing the NFL’s best wide receiver, Brown simply must be in better position to keep that play from turning from a decent-sized 3rd-down completion into a long touchdown. He was out of position and worse, failed to make the tackle. Brown was burned badly by Reggie Bush (and looked slow in the process) on a 24-yard gain on the next possession. A safety has to be able to cover a back better than that. Later on this drive, Brown should have been beaten for an easy score by the tight end, but the ball was underthrown. I wonder if Stevie Brown should be playing strong safety and Antrel Rolle should be playing free safety. Rolle (4 tackles) was pretty quiet except for forcing one fumble that was recovered by the Lions. More is expected from him. As a unit, the secondary only had four pass defenses on the night and no interceptions.

SPECIAL TEAMS - by Eric Kennedy
The Giants need their special teams to excel this year too while the offense struggles. And Tom Quinn’s unit once again came up short. The Giants had one punt blocked and had two others almost blocked. In the process, Steve Weatherford was hammered and suffered ligament damage to his left ankle. Weatherford punted five times for an average of 40.2 yards per punt. The Lions were held to 11 yards on three punt returns.

Josh Brown attempted no field goals and all three of his kickoffs resulted in touchbacks.

Quintin Demps returned one kickoff for 14 yards to the 16-yard line. Not good. Preston Parker made a big mistake by fielding a punt inside the 5-yard line. He did have one return that picked up 18 yards.

(Boxscore – New York Giants at Detroit Lions, September 8, 2014)
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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.

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

Eli Manning  needs to get it going versus the Jets – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants at New York Jets, August 22, 2014

THE STORYLINE:
Well, it certainly didn’t take long for the hype surrounding this year’s ‘Snoopy Bowl’ to reach an entire other level.

Maybe it’s the anemic Giants’ offense needing a desperate jolt. Maybe it’s the Jets’ defense needing to see something from their secondary. Or, maybe it’s the fact that in a meaningless preseason game, a war of words as still broken out.

Either way, the Battle for New York feels just a little different this year.

Rashad Jennings, New York Giants (August 9, 2014)

Rashad Jennings – © USA TODAY Sports Images

FOUR DOWNS:
First Down
How will the revamped offensive line fare versus the Jets defense?
With Charles Brown and James Brewer, New York’s second- and third-string left tackles respectively, likely out for Friday’s game, the Giants have been forced to shuffle the deck with their offensive line. Starting left tackle Will Beatty is only expected to play 20 snaps as he continues to work his way back from a fractured leg. The starters are expected to play 30 snaps. Who plays where with the first team in Beatty’s absence?

The Giants have worked two seperate offensive line combinations during the last two days of practice, from left to right:

Justin Pugh, Geoff Schwartz, J.D. Walton, Weston Richburg, Brandon Mosley
Justin Pugh, Weston Richburg, J.D. Walton, Brandon Mosley, Geoff Schwartz

Will both, either or none have success? Could one, or both, of the fronts have more success than the one the Giants had been running out? All scenarios will be worth monitoring.

Second Down
Corey Washington
Not even a 26-point deficit could stop Corey Washington from catching his third-straight game-winning touchdown. The 6-4 rookie has constantly made plays this preseason and in practice…but has done it versus third and fourth stringers. There’s a big difference between Darrell Revis/Carry Williams and Chandler Fenner/Ross Weaver.

Washington looks to have gotten a little bump during the end of this week’s practice seeing some reps with the starting offense both in the red zone, and normal offense. They aren’t much, but the Giants need to see if Washington can play versus the big boys. If he can’t, his roster chances will hurt because he (1) can’t play special teams, and (2) can’t play slot receiver. Do the Giants want to keep a roster spot for a developmental player who only has value at one position? It’s imperative Washington shows he can play versus the starters.

Third Down
Adrien Robinson
It may have been the biggest slap in the face of camp when the Giants released their unofficial depth chart featuring Adrien Robinson has the fifth-string tight end. The ‘JPP of tight ends’ didn’t do much to help his cause, dropping passes, missing blocks and doing little to warrant a jump up the depth chart.

But the last two weeks have been different. Robinson made plays versus the Indianapolis Colts, has made plays in practice and has earned the praise of coach Tom Coughlin. He should get extended reps versus some better competition. After it appeared Larry Donnell had pulled away in the tight end competition, a few poor outings and lack-of plays have suddenly brought the five-man competition back to just that. A five-man competition.

Preston Parker, New York Giants (August 9, 2014)

Preston Parker – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Fourth Down
Preston Parker
With Odell Beckham Jr. ailing with his non-step-back-step-back and Trindon Holliday all but out the door, there is a wide open position available as the Giants punt returner. Enter Preston Parker.

The only issue with Parker was that, prior to last week, he hadn’t shown much value on offense. The Giants would prefer not to keep a player that can only play one role so Parker as the receiver will be worth watching Friday. If he can make a few plays, he has a very good chance of making the Giants final 53-man roster.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:
Connor Hughes – Justin Pugh and Geoff Schwartz
Personally, I have little faith in Will Beatty at left tackle either (1) staying healthy, or (2) performing at a high level. Some people forget that last year, Beatty was arguably the Giants worst offensive lineman when he was in the game. Every Sunday it felt Beatty was beat for a sack. Then he fractured his leg. Now, he’s working his way back from arguably his worst season as a professional and an injury.

Say he gets hurt, or just doesn’t play well. Who plays left tackle? Charles Brown has shown in practice and in this preseason he can’t do it. The Giants have watched for years as James Brewer has tried to play any position so he can’t do it. Can Pugh? When the newly-designed offensive line checks into the game, I’ll have my eyes on Justin Pugh at LT and Geoff Schwartz and RT. If it works, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it called on if things go south this year.

Eric Kennedy – Eli Manning
If you read the BBI Giants-Colts preseason game review, you know I’m worried about Eli Manning. The optimists assert that Eli will be fine, that this is part of the learning curve of the new offense and offensive personnel. The pessimists will point to the fact that Eli hasn’t been right since 2012 and he shows no signs of getting out of his funk. It is not inconceivable that the best of Eli has come and gone. For a variety of reasons, I can’t see Tom Coughlin benching Eli Manning. But unless Eli turns it around, both Tom and Eli could be leaving New York together if 2014 is the third disappointing season in a row.

THE INJURY REPORT:

• LB Jon Beason (foot/out)
• WR Odell Beckham Jr. (hamstring/out)
• WR Trindon Holliday (hamstring/out)
• TE Daniel Fells (knee/TBD)
• TE Xavier Grimble (hamstring/out)
• DT Mike Patterson (shoulder/TBD)
• CB Jayron Hosley (foot/TBD)
• CB Prince Amukamara (groin/out)
• S Cooper Taylor (foot/out)
• T Charles Brown (shoulder/TBD)
• T James Brewer (back/TBD)
• Peyton Hillis (ankle/out)

Zak DeOssie, New York Giants (August 18, 2013)

Zak DeOssie – © USA TODAY Sports Images

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Tom Coughlin (on new extra point ball placement): “I didn’t think much of it when it was suggested. There are some ways to change that part of it if the intent is to make it more exciting. I think that certainly would be one of them. I think you have to be aware of the fact that it’s a 33-yard field goal in November when the wind’s blowing and it’s snowing here and it’s… in Miami it’s 75 degrees. It’s a little different in different parts of the country. You do have to be aware of that. I would say probably the ball will stay at the two, extra points. But if you really want to make it interesting put it at the one.”

THE FINAL WORD:
Connor Hughes – It’s time. No, really, it’s time. The Giants offense needs desperately to show something…anything…positive versus the Jets before complete insanity sets in around the facility. The new offense has looked anemic, Eli Manning flustered and little has been established in any facet of the game. This week of practice wasn’t pretty for the Giants starters, but still, Manning and his receivers get to play the Jets secondary on Friday. If they can’t establish anything against them? Yes, it’s time to panic. Judging by what I’ve seen in practice this week… Jets 21 – Giants 10.

Eric Kennedy - I’m getting a bad feeling about this season. Defensively, I think the secondary and linebackers are improved, but I’m not sure we have a pass rush. The loss of Will Hill was big too. But most of my concerns are on offense. Beckham is going to miss virtually all of the offseason work (OTAs, mini-camp, training camp, preseason). There is no way he can catch up. Will he even be a factor in 2014? They NEEDED him. I’ve seen nothing from Rueben Randle and Jerrel Jernigan to instill confidence. We have no tight ends. With two weeks to go, the offensive line still seems unsettled. Much was made of Jerry Reese’s free agent acquisitions, but Charles Brown and John Jerry are showing why their former teams had no interest in retaining them. Even Geoff Schwartz, who was given a $17 million contract, doesn’t look particularly effective. At wide receiver, Mario Manningham and Trindon Holliday haven’t worked out.

Even if all was right with Eli Manning, I’m not sure Eli has the offensive line or the weapons. Five bad drafts (2008-12) have gutted this team. But beyond all of that, if 2007-11 Eli is gone for good, the Giants would be better off thinking about when to transition to Nassib in what may ultimately be another bad season in a bad division.

Jets 33 – Giants 3.

Aug 192014
 
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Corey Washington, New York Giants (August 16, 2014)

Corey Washington – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 27 – Indianapolis Colts 26

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
Victor Cruz
There was a Victor Cruz sighting on a long pass down the sideline…then the receiver fumbled the ball. Getting the former Pro Bowler involved still seems to be an issue for the Giants although Manning did target Cruz a few times Saturday, missing him once open over the middle. Another throw in his direction ended with an interception that was called back due to penalty.

Second Down
Damontre Moore versus the starters
In the Giants ‘NASCAR’ variation, the team has elected to go with Robert Ayers as the defensive tackle, not Damontre Moore. You can’t really fault the decision as Ayers had several pressures on the quarterback from the defensive tackle spot, but still, Moore has proven time and time again he needs the promotion. He’s a man among boys against the twos.

Third Down
How does Ryan Nassib handle the demotion?
There was one of two ways Ryan Nassib could have handled the third-team reps he received leading up to the Giants match-up with the Colts. He took it the good way. The really, really good way. Nassib completed 11-of-15 passes for 158 yards including a game-winning touchdown. He now appears to be back with the second team again.

Fourth Down
Is Will Beatty healed?
As expected, Will Beatty did not play long, but he started the game and held up pretty well. He made no glaring mistakes. “I felt good out there,” said Beatty after the game. “I felt like I had an average performance, but I don’t want to be average. I want to be extraordinary.”

OFFENSIVE OVERVIEW - by Eric Kennedy

Five offensive players did not play, including WR Odell Beckham Jr. (hamstring), WR Trindon Holliday (hamstring), RB Peyton Hillis (ankle/foot), TE Daniel Fells (knee), and TE Xavier Grimble (hamstring).

For three quarters, the first- and second-team units of the Giants were dreadful. The Giants had nine offensive possessions and all nine resulted in punts. The Giants did not pick up a single first down on seven of the nine offensive possessions that went three-and-out. These seven possessions netted 14 yards. On the other two possessions, the Giants gained 53 yards, but 15 of these yards were by penalty. In the first half, the Giants had 48 total net yards in 26 offensive plays (1.8 yards per play), had five first downs (three due to penalty), and were 2-of-12 throwing the football for seven net yards. Unbelievably, it could have been worse in that the Giants had two turnovers erased due to defensive penalties called against the Colts.

The Colts seemed to be playing at a higher level of intensity and urgency. In summary, the out-competed and out-executed the Giants. The Giants could not get their running game going until late. There seemed to be a more conscious effort to throw the football farther down the field in this contest, but the problem was the pass protection was shoddy and Eli was under duress on many throws.

“I think we have to work on a lot of things,” said Tom Coughlin. “Basically we have to work on everything… We didn’t run it, we certainly didn’t throw the ball with any consistency. We don’t have people who are definitely running open. Our protection does break down from time to time and we don’t react well under pressure when we do realize that there has to be a hot or sight adjustment involved in getting the ball out of the quarterback’s hand and trying to accomplish a positive play in the face of pressure.”

A mixture of second-, and third-, and fourth-teamers rallied the Giants in the 4th quarter with three straight long touchdown drives: 11 plays for 80 yards, 11 plays for 92 yards, and 9 plays for 86 yards. While the positives from these three possessions should not be ignored (and will be discussed below), the game’s results should not and cannot detract from the fact that the starting offensive unit still looks – to use John Mara’s word – “broken.” Is it talent? Is it scheme? Is new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo over his head? Is it the learning curve for the new offensive system? Is it a combination of all of these factors? Whatever the reasons, it’s not good. The Giants only have three weeks to dramatically turn this around or they are in store for a very bad season.

QUARTERBACKS - by Eric Kennedy

A week after finishing the game against the Steelers 0-for-2, in four possessions against the Colts, Eli Manning finished the game 1-of-7 for six yards. The initial, somewhat positive 6-of-7 performance in the Hall of Fame Game has faded. In three games, Eli has yet to complete a pass over 10 yards. The $100 million quarterback has ceased making plays.

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

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

To be fair to Eli, his pass protection against the Colts was not good. He was pressured and sometimes hit on every throw in his first two series. But what is alarming is that Eli seems to expect the poor pass protection and seems gun shy out there. He’s not stepping into throws when he knows (or expects) he is going to get hit. The better part of valor in a meaningless preseason game? Perhaps, but Eli played afraid last season and he’s playing afraid again this preseason. He’s rushing throws in instances where old Eli Manning would have casually side-stepped the rush. If that continues, the Giants have no chance. When Eli plays gun shy like he did in 2013, his passes are inaccurate and often carelessly thrown. Five of his seven throws that counted against the Colts were simply bad passes where the intended receiver had no shot to make the play (two passes to Cruz, one to Randle, one deep shot to Jernigan, and one to Donnell). Another pass intended for Cruz was a poor decision as Cruz was well covered and the throw was easily picked off (this interception was wiped out by a penalty away from the play).

Compare Eli with Andrew Luck. Luck had better pass protection, but Andrew also dumped the ball quickly off when pressured or calmly moved away from pressure and made the play. Even when under duress, Luck threw the ball accurately. Eli did not. And he is not extending drives like he used to by making great throws under pressure.

Of course the hope by all true-blue Giants fans is that Eli’s problems are simply the result of learning a drastically different offensive system with many new offensive components that have yet to gel. Many assert – and not without good reason – that offensive pass protection is not there yet, he and his targets are not comfortable with offensive packages that were all finally installed this past week, and the team has yet do demonstrate consistent productivity in the running game.

But if we are to be honest with ourselves, we must also consider the worst-case scenario: that at a young 33-years old, Eli may simply not be a good quarterback anymore. He did not play as well in 2012 as he did in 2011. In 2013, he had his worst season as a full-time starter, looking rattled and making dumb mistakes that bad quarterbacks often make. So far, 2014 looks like a continuation of his bad play in 2013. In past seasons, Eli has had poor running games and inconsistent pass protection (yes, despite the reputation of previous offensive lines). That didn’t matter. Eli overcame and made the players around him better. That did not happen in 2013 and it is not happening now. If you had no idea who the quarterback was on the field and just watched his play, you would say, “Man, that quarterback isn’t very good. He looks rattled.”

Eli Manning has lost his mojo and it remains questionable about whether he can get back. Sometimes quarterbacks get hit too many times and just lose it. That happened to Neil Lomax. It might be happening to Eli Manning. Eli is set to count $20 million against the salary cap in 2015. Once unthinkable options will have to be considered if Eli doesn’t became a franchise-level quarterback again.

Curtis Painter, New York Giants (August 16, 2014)

Curtis Painter – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Curtis Painter had two drives in the first half and was 1-of-5 for seven yards before the break. The Giants went three-and-out on his first three possessions of the second half as he went 1-of-4 for three yards. His last drive – the one that began the NYG comeback at the beginning of the 4th quarter – was obviously his best. Though he was aided by a defensive penalty on a 3rd-down sack, Painter completed 4-of-6 passes for 54 yards and a touchdown.

Aside from Andrew Luck, the best quarterback on the field on Sunday was Ryan Nassib. Trailing by 12 points with 8:24 to play, Nassib led the Giants on two long touchdown drives, completing 11-of-15 passes for 158 yards and a touchdown. Nassib was in control of the offense, he didn’t panic despite some shoddy pass protection (especially on the last drive), and he made clutch throws when his team needed it most. If Eli continues to struggle in 2014, the selection of Nassib in the 2013 NFL Draft may have more meaning in 2015 and beyond.

RUNNING BACKS - by Eric Kennedy

Like the passing game, the running game struggled until the fourth quarter. Rashad Jennings (7 carries for 17 yards, 2.4 yards per carry) and Andre Williams (8 carries for 19 yards, 2.4 yards per carry) were kept in check. Kendall Gaskins (4 carries for 6 yards, 1.5 yards per carry and a “long” of 2 yards) was a complete non factor. The best of the bunch was Michael Cox, who carried the ball seven times for 32 yards (4.6 yards per carry) and scored a touchdown. Andre Williams did do better against the blitz this week, but both Gaskins and Cox were still a bit shaky.

WIDE RECEIVERS - by Eric Kennedy

Technically, Victor Cruz still does not have a catch this preseason. Officially, Cruz was targeted twice in this game and came away with no catches. But Cruz did catch a 51-yard pass from Manning in the 1st quarter. The problem was that Cruz fumbled the ball away to the Colts. A defensive holding penalty wiped out the play. But at least Cruz flashed. Rueben Randle – the Giants starting split end or X-receiver – has been nearly invisible for three straight games. That does not bode well for the Giants offense.

After a very strong finish to the 2013 season, Jerrel Jernigan seems to have reverted to his old unimpressive ways. Though Eli Manning has looked to him early in often in all three preseason games, Jernigan once again looks like a smallish receiver with limited ball skills who isn’t flashing after the catch. He had a chance on a deep ball, but the pass sailed through his hands.

The best receivers for the Giants on Saturday night were Marcus Harris (4 catches for 41 yards), Preston Parker (3 catches for 53 yards), and Corey Washington (3 catches for 20 yards and a touchdown). Two of Harris’ catches came in clutch situations (3rd-and-1 and 4th-and-2 on Nassib’s first touchdown drive). Washington caught his third game-winning touchdown pass in three games. He also drew a 15-yard pass interference penalty right before the score.

Travis Harvey had two catches for 36 yards; his 27-yard reception down to the 2-yard line was huge. Julian Talley had one catch for seven yards, but it was a big one on 3rd-and-7 on the first TD drive. Mario Manningham (one target, no catches) is playing himself off of the team.

TIGHT ENDS - by Eric Kennedy

If Adrien Robinson saves his career and becomes a legitimate NFL tight end, we’ll point back to this game as the catalyst. Robinson made two huge catches on New York’s game-winning drive, none bigger than his 26-yard grab on 4th-and-16. He immediately followed that up with a 33-yard catch down to the Colts’ 19-yard. The problem? Robinson did this against Colts’ scrubs. Kellen Davis made a heck of a leaping catch from Curtis Painter on his 3-yard touchdown reception. His blocking was so-so. He got pushed back on one outside run and the play was disrupted.

Larry Donnell was targeted once but the throw was off the mark. His blocking was up and down. He missed a block on a Jennings run from a stand-up position. He later couldn’t control the edge on another outside run from the down position. But there were other plays where he made nice blocks from the down position.

OFFENSIVE LINE - by Eric Kennedy

There were no egregious breakdowns in the running game – the line simply didn’t get that much of a push and the Colts did a nice job of filling gaps. The bigger problem was pass protection. LG Geoff Schwartz gave up a couple of early pass pressures that led to incomplete passes. He failed to pick up a stunt on one play and a blitz on another. Justin Pugh was cleanly beaten by a blitzing linebacker for a sack. On the play were Eli was picked off, Brandon Mosley was bull-rushed back into the pocket. Mosley later had issues on a stunt.

Among the starters the best news was that Will Beatty – in his first game action since breaking his leg – didn’t look bad. Interestingly, Weston Richburg also saw some time at right guard with the starters.

Late in the first half, before he left the game with a shoulder injury, Charles Brown gave up one pressure, as did James Brewer. Brewer was also flagged with a false start.

In the second half, the Giants ran a number of offensive line combinations, even changing up with the scrubs with the game on the line. Give Tom Coughlin credit for still evaluating talent in a meaningless preseason game when other coaches may have tried to stack the odds more in their favor.

The first line combination was James Brewer (LT), Weston Richburg (LG), Dallas Reynolds (OC), Brandon Mosley (RG), and Rogers Gaines (RT). Later Richburg and Reynolds flip-flopped with John Jerry also coming in for Mosley. Brewer got beat to the inside on one pressure and later a sack when he got shoved back into Nassib (the sack was wiped out due to a penalty). John Jerry is a frustrating player. He looks the part and at times does a very nice job in pass protection and with run blocks. But he falls off of too many of his run blocks. Weston Richburg and Rogers Gaines seemed to be the most consistent two of the reserves.

Later in the 4th quarter, Eric Herman played left guard. He was a bit shaky in pass protection. Jerry also gave up a pressure late in the game. The final OL combination – on the game winning drive – was practically a sieve. This had Mark Asper (LT) Eric Herman (LG), Weston Richburg (OC), John Sullen (RG), and Adam Gress (RT). Gress was a disaster. He was flagged twice (false start and personal foul) and gave up two pressures. Asper and Sullen were both beat on an 8-yard sack.

DEFENSIVE OVERVIEW - by Connor Hughes

DT Mike Patterson (shoulder), LB Jon Beason (foot), and CB Jayron Hosley (foot) did not play. Patterson entered training camp as the nominal starter, but Johnathan Hankins has played pretty well and Patterson may have now gone from starter to on the roster bubble due to his long absence.

When looking at the box score and scoreboard, it’s easy to get an impression about how the Giants defensive unit played. When re-watching the game, that perception completely changes. There are things you simply can’t defend and a lot of that was done by Indianapolis quarterback Andre Luck. The Giants defensive line put constant pressure on Luck, but Luck responded by moving around, extending plays and releasing the ball quickly to receivers.

Were those receivers running wide open in the Giants defense? Sometimes, a little, most times, no. Luck thread the needle, fit the ball into the smallest of holes and showed why he may be the face of the NFL in a few years.

Also, there was a lot of talk on Hakeem Nicks torching the Giants defense. I didn’t see it. Of his catches, two were made against Trumaine McBride and one against Jacquian Williams. I’d expect Nicks to beat both. On his long catch-and-run on a missed tackle from Walter Thurmond III, Thurmond went for a strip and as a result missed the tackle. Nicks looked better than he did last year, but it wasn’t really anything crazy.

DEFENSIVE LINE - by Connor Hughes

Jason Pierre-Paul has spent this offseason and training camp talking…and talking…and talking. So, with the former All-Pro getting some increased reps Saturday, I kept my eye on him every time he stepped foot on the field, specifically when he rushed the passer. The result? Variety isn’t really in Pierre-Paul’s tool box. On nine of his 10 rushes, Pierre-Paul went with a direct bull rush. A few times he got the Colts right tackle off balance, most of the times it was useless. There was one rush where Pierre-Paul gave a little shoulder-shimmy, but then made contact with a bull rush again.

I saw one play where the vintage Pierre-Paul came out. He had an unbelievable jump off the line on a running play and came into the backfield to make a near tackle on Trent Richardson, but was tackled to the ground by an offensive lineman. Can’t fault Pierre-Paul on that one.

It was one of our four downs and I still think it needs to happen extensively versus the Jets. The Giants know what they have in Mathias Kiwanuka, they don’t yet versus starters with Damontre Moore. Kiwanuka, who has had a very good camp and preseason, continued that versus the Colts, but Moore simply abused the second team offensive line. He made plays on the run, put constant pressure on the quarterback and was all over the field. He’s proven worthy of a promotion to see what he can do versus the starters. There’s a big, big difference between a team’s backup left tackle and their starter.

I really liked what I saw from Johnathan Hankins providing pressure up the middle on a few plays. Also, something interesting I don’t recall seeing last week, in the Giants ‘NASCAR’ package, Cullen Jenkins dropped into coverage.

Jay Bromley had a pretty good showing with the second team as he’s had a very nice camp and preseason, too. I saw a few times where he created pressure up the middle.

LINEBACKERS - by Connor Hughes

Be it coaches, teammates, fans or media, the hype surrounding Devon Kennard is nearly impossible to miss. Kennard made a very nice play on his sack where he displayed something you can’t coach: speed. As quarterback Chandler Harnish rolled out, Kennard read the play to make sure the ball wasn’t going to be thrown over his head. As it looked like Harnish may tuck it down an run, Kennard burst forward and got to the quarterback in no time at all. I rarely fall for ‘hype,’ but this kid just looks good.

Jacquian Williams, New York Giants (August 16, 2014)

Jacquian Williams – © USA TODAY Sports Images

There was one ‘rookie mistake’ I saw from Kennard. On a Trent Richardson run, the back gave a little move as if he was going to cut outside, Kennard committed that way and Richardson then took it up the middle. It should have been a one-to-two yard gain, instead Richardson picked up seven. The move froze Kennard.

I liked what I saw from Spencer Paysinger, too. There was an extra gear I didn’t know he had when he burst to the quarterback on one play; he made a couple nice plays against the run, too. The biggest issue with Paysinger is that I don’t think he can do anything to upseat Jacquian Williams. Williams continues to have a very nice preseason and led the team in tackles Saturday.

DEFENSIVE BACKSby Connor Hughes

The more that I watch Walter Thurmond III play, the more I am fascinated by his game. He’s physical despite not being one of the ‘bigger’ guys and has brought that tenacity that made Seattle’s secondary so good. The first play I took notice of him was on Hakeem Nicks’ first catch. On a drag, Thurmond closed incredibly quick, wrapped Nicks up and then immediately went for the strip. While he still made the tackle, with help from Amukamara, the downside of going for the strip was shown later when he missed a tackle and allowed Nicks to pick up a first down.

The other play that really jumped out at me from Thurmond was on a run play. The corner came down in the box, just steps away from the defensive end and waited as the ball was snapped. Once he saw the handoff go to Richardson, he burst in and made the tackle for no gain.

There was also a little ‘bad’ with Thurmond on the two touchdowns he gave up. On the first, credit a perfectly-thrown ball by Luck. Thurmond had good coverage and help from Antrel Rolle was coming over. Just as Thurmond let up as Rolle closed, Luck threaded the needle for the score. On the second touchdown, Thurmond tried to press and was simply beat off the line.

Speaking of Rolle, it’s so nice to see someone play with the tackling fundamentals he does. It would be easy, and defensive backs do it regularly, to just throw a shoulder in there and go for the “big play.” Rolle doesn’t do that. He wraps up on every…single…play.

Hopefully Prince Amukamara, who left the game with a groin injury, isn’t seriously injured because he has been playing with a new-found physicality this year. He put a big hit on Nicks on his first reception.

If Cooper Taylor (sesamoid bone foot fracture) hadn’t gotten hurt, I’m not sure how much longer Quintin Demps could have held him off from getting reps with the first-team three-safety package. When Taylor was in the game, he was constantly around the ball. He showed speed closing gaps, was solid against the run and was really having a good game before the injury. Another player who continues to flash is Nat Berhe. I saw the rookie come flying in again to make the tackle and apply a ‘boom’ factor.

SPECIAL TEAMSby Connor Hughes

The Giants spent a bit of money this season hoping to put a jolt into their return game. Quintin Demps and Trindon Holliday were signed in free agency and Odell Beckham Jr. was drafted in the first round. Well, two of those three haven’t played and as a result Preston Parker has stepped up.

Parker has looked pretty good as a punt returner and is beginning to show some life as a receiver. If he can add duo value, he’s got a good chance at making the team.

As much as super-legged Brandon McManus intrigues, I don’t see anyway he makes the Giants 53-man roster. It was Josh Brown’s spot to lose, and he’s done nothing to lose it.

(Boxscore – New York Giants at Indianapolis Colts, August 16 , 2014)
Aug 152014
 
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Baltimore Colts at New York Giants, NFL Championship Game Program (December 28, 1958)

Baltimore Colts at New York Giants, NFL Championship Game Program (December 28, 1958)

New York Giants at Indianapolis Colts, August 16 , 2014

THE STORYLINE:
Well, the Giants starting offense couldn’t have looked much worse than they did against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Aside from Rashad Jennings’ 73-yard touchdown run, the offense ran a total of 12 plays for a netted three yards. Victor Cruz spoke this week at training camp and said the offense is now entirely installed. It’s time to see some progress and what Ben McAdoo’s scheme can do.

Victor Cruz, New York Giants (October 21, 2012)

Victor Cruz – © USA TODAY Sports Images

FOUR DOWNS:
First Down
Victor Cruz
When Victor Cruz burst onto the scene in his second year, he was considered one of the more dangerous receivers after the catch. The West Coast Offense is designed around receivers making plays after they catch the ball. It would appear to fit Cruz’s skill set perfectly. In the Giants first two preseason games, Cruz hasn’t caught a pass. It’s time to get the receiver the ball and see what he can do in this offense.

Second Down
Damontre Moore versus the starters
The one common factor throughout the first two preseason games is that Damontre Moore has shown it’s time he play against a higher level of competition. Beating up on second and third team offensive linemen is one thing. Beating up on the starters? That’s something entirely different. Moore has shown that he deserves playing time with the ones and to show what he can do against a team’s best big men, not their second and third teamers.

Third Down
How does Ryan Nassib handle the demotion?
The Giants have down everything they can to let Ryan Nassib take the No. 2 quarterback spot being Eli Manning. Ryan Nassib has done everything he can to make the Giants look another direction. After two preseason games, the Giants pulled the plug on the Nassib experiment and gave all second-team reps to Curtis Painter. Can Nassib make a case to get his backup job back?

Fourth Down
Is Will Beatty healed?
Saturday will mark the first time this season Will Beatty steps foot on the field. Speaking to the media on Thursday, Beatty was ecstatic about the opportunity to play for the first time since fracturing his leg versus the Redskins in the final game of the season. The fact he’ll get to face Robert Mathis will be a huge tall-tale sign of how healthy Beatty is.

Andre Williams, New York Giants (August 3, 2014)

Andre Williams – © USA TODAY Sports Images

PLAYERS TO WATCH:
Connor Hughes — RB Andre Williams
I love everything that I’ve seen from Andre Williams when he runs with the football. The Boston College alum has the size speed and power to be something special out of the backfield. I hate everything that I’ve seen from Andre Williams when he attempts  block for the quarterback. Versus the Steelers last week, Williams whiffed terribly on two attempted blocks. That needs to improve or his playing time come September will be very, very limited.

Eric Kennedy — LT Will Beatty
Will Beatty is the most important question mark on the offensive line. If he plays well in 2014, the line will probably be alright and could actually develop into a strength. If he does not, then the Giants will likely struggle on offense. Given this is Beatty’s first real action since severely fracturing his leg in the 2013 regular-season finale, I don’t expect him to look particularly sharp against the Colts on Saturday. Physically, he’s still not there both in terms of his recovery and overall football stamina. But this is an important step on the road back. I’ll be thrilled if he doesn’t look too rusty, very concerned if he looks terrible. It will also be interesting to see how much he can play. Tom Coughlin already said he won’t play as much as the rest of the starters. The more he plays, the better. He needs to get into game shape.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • RB Peyton Hillis (foot-ankle/out)
  • FB John Conner (concussion/tbd)
  • WR Odell Beckham Jr. (hamstring/out)
  • WR Trindon Holliday (hamstring/out)
  • TE Daniel Fells (knee/out)
  • TE Xavier Grimble (hamstring/out)
  • DT Mike Patterson (shoulder/out)
  • LB Jon Beason (foot/out)
  • CB Jayron Hosley (unknown/out)
Tom Coughlin, New York Giants (September 15, 2013)

Tom Coughlin – © USA TODAY Sports Images

FROM THE COACHES MOUTH:
Tom Coughlin: “I would like to stop the run. I don’t want anyone to run the ball on our first defense. We have kept people out of the end zone. Again, the offense contributed to the scoring the other night. We would like to be a little bit more consistent and have a little bit better tempo on the offensive side of the ball. I would like to see if the opportunity is there that something positive happen with the return game, be it punt return, kickoff return or whatever it might be. Some type of an opportunity to evaluate that aspect of it.”

THE FINAL WORD:
Connor Hughes — Between training camp and the Giants preseason games, I have had seen such little promise from the offense. Trust me, I’ve tried to look for positives and at times it is impossible to find any. At the end of the day, I just don’t believe — without Odell Beckham Jr. — the Giants have enough playmakers to make this offense work. Be it in practice, or in games, the offense just looks bad. Saturday is another chance for the team to show something—anything— that makes me think differently because right now, I don’t see how this team wins six games this year. Colts 24 – Giants 13.

Eric Kennedy — I’m going to piggyback on what Conner is saying. I’m not sure the Giants have enough weapons at receiver/tight end for this offense to take off in 2014. Not counting the time he missed in OTA’s, Odell Beckham has missed one month of practice. That’s huge and horrible setback for the Giants and the passing game. That time cannot be made up. Victor Cruz has yet to show he is a good fit for the West Coast Offense. Rueben Randle isn’t demonstrating that he can be consistently relied on. The fact that Cruz, Randle, and Beckham haven’t caught a pass in the first two preseason games is a red flag. The team – AGAIN – probably has the worst contingent of tight ends in the entire NFL. For the Giants to compete in the NFC East this season, completely contrary to recent seasons, the defense and running game may have to carry the Giants. And Eli will have to be far, far more conservative in order to protect the football. As for Painter-Nassib, I don’t buy the notion that Painter has moved ahead of Nassib. I see this more as a coach’s ploy to motivate. But if Painter does beat out Nassib, good grief Jerry Reese. Colts 20 – Giants 13.

Aug 132014
 
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Rashad Jennings, New York Giants (August 9, 2014)

Rashad Jennings – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 20 – Pittsburgh Steelers 16

REVISITING: FOUR DOWNS
During our game preview, we listed a new segment, ‘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
Who’s the Giants’ No. 2 running back?
Following the Giants matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers, this question simply got murkier as each back provides a “pick your poison” approach. Andre Williams is the team’s best option as a ‘running’ back, but can’t catch out of the backfield or block (this was very evident). The coaches seem to trust Kendall Gaskins more than Michael Cox, but Gaskins isn’t a dynamic runner and has been inconsistent in pass protection.

Second Down
Can Charles James II handle punt return duties?
Charles James has been spending some extra time with special teams coordinator Tom Quinn after muffing the punt versus the Steelers, but the job most likely isn’t his. He should get some more reps with Odell Beckham Jr. still nursing the hamstring injury, but we’ll see.

Third Down
Will the first-team offensive line and tight end be able to generate running room for Rashad Jennings?
On one play, yes. On most others, no. Various factors contributed to a lack of running room. There wasn’t one specific thing the Giants did wrong, just different things on different plays.

Fourth Down
Can the first-team defensive line generate a pass rush?
Finally, Jason Pierre-Paul made an appearance getting after Bruce Gradkowski. It was tough to gauge the quality of the pass rush simply because the Steelers starting offense wasn’t on the field long, but there was definitely promise shown.

Victor Cruz, New York Giants (August 9, 2014)

Victor Cruz – © USA TODAY Sports Images

OFFENSIVE OVERVIEW - by Connor Hughes

After watching the game initially, I don’t think many felt as negatively about the offense as I did. After watching the film, it still didn’t improve my overall perception much, but there were some positives.

Curtis Painter looked very, very good. The offensive line showed some signs of improvement and Larry Donnell impressed me with his blocking. All that and more below.

QUARTERBACKS - by Connor Hughes

There’s only so much dissecting one can do on a quarterback that throws two passes. It’s tough, very tough, but I do want to take some of the blame off Eli Manning for both of the incompletions. On the first, it appears as if Rashad Jennings missed a block. The running back looked like he was expecting a blitz up the middle, except the blitz came off the outside. Manning then had to rush a pass and it didn’t look like Jerrel Jernigan was ready for it.

On his second incompletion, another intended for Jernigan on a roll out, I love the call. Manning rolled out of the pocket and it was supposed to be a bang-bang play. Give credit to the defense, they simply covered it perfectly and Manning made the right call throwing it away.

The most alarming thing I believe I found when watching Ryan Nassib play was the fact he – like many young quarterbacks – loves to stare down his intended receiver. Once, it cost him badly. On the incomplete wheel route he threw to Marcus Harris, had he just looked directly in front of him he would have seen a wide open Julian Talley running at the first down marker on a drag. Talley was going to pick up the first down…he just missed him and forced the ball instead. It’s things like this Nassib can’t do. He foregoes the easy ones, electing to force passes into tight windows instead.

The biggest difference between Curtis Painter and Nassib? Painter can make several reads. While Nassib tends to stare down his target, Painter doesn’t. Several times he went through a few reads. Also, of all of the quarterbacks, he seemed to have the best grasp of the playbook. As bad as Painter has looked at times in his career, he looked pretty good Saturday night.

Andre Williams, New York Giants (August 9, 2014)

Andre Williams – © USA TODAY Sports Images

RUNNING BACKS - by Connor Hughes

Andre Williams may be the best ‘running’ back the Giants have on their roster right now. The issue is that Williams can’t do it at this point in time. The back was a huge liability as a blocker, whiffing twice, and has yet to show he can catch the ball consistently. I have a hard time believing he’ll see extensive playing time during the season unless he can iron out both of those issues.

Michael Cox continues to impress me with the little things he’s doing. There were two times where he gave Curtis Painter a few extra seconds with a chip block and cut, then made an impressive grab on a screen pass to pick up a first down.

WIDE RECEIVERS - by Connor Hughes

A lot has been made of the fact Victor Cruz has gone catchless in the team’s first two preseason games. I wanted to see if there was ever a time when the receiver should have gotten the ball and the answer was simple: Yes. On the very first pass of the game, an incompletion to Jerrel Jernigan, Cruz was open on a curl on the other side of the field. The issue was the fact Rashad Jennings missed a block that made Eli Manning rush a throw. Similar to Cruz, there were a few plays where Marcus Harris was open, too. The issue was the fact Nassib never made his read over to Harris’ side.

Corey Washington got a lot of attention on his game-winning touchdown pass, but the more I watch the film, the more I realize it was an absolutely perfect pass from Curtis Painter. Sure, Washington fought off a defender, but the ball was placed right in his outstretched hands.

TIGHT ENDS - by Connor Hughes

Eli Manning, New York Giants (August 9, 2014)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Larry Donnell quietly had a very, very good game run blocking. There was one mishap, where he had two guys in front of him on a cutback and didn’t block either, but there were several seals, too. He did a good job getting in front of the defender and setting up a running back seal. Donnell has all the potential, just need to build consistency.

The more I watch Adrien Robinson, the more I truly believe he won’t be on this team’s final 53-man roster. He’s the last tight end on the field and very rarely flashes. He made a few nice blocks against the third team Steelers defensive line, but shouldn’t that be expected? Not to mention, that drop on an out-route cannot happen. The Giants don’t have faith in Robinson and he has done nothing to give it to them.

When the Giants travel to Detroit to kickoff the season versus the Lions, I wouldn’t be surprised if Kellen Davis is the team’s No. 2 tight end. From watching the film he reminds me of one of those guys that does everything well, just not one thing great. He has some good hands, runs good routes and can block.

OFFENSIVE LINE - by Connor Hughes

One player jumped out to me more than any other when reviewing the film: John Jerry. The offensive guard was solid pass blocking, made a few huge blocks in the run and showed some good speed getting to the second level. On one particular play, he began blocking with center Weston Richburg, then pulled off and got to the second level to block a middle linebacker.

There were a few mess ups, but Brandon Mosley had a good game, too. He showed power, made a huge block on the long Rashad Jennings touchdown.

Geoff Schwartz made a great cut block and a few other power seals which was impressive considering he’d been dealing with a knee issue. J.D. Walton made a couple nice blocks, also. The offensive line appears to be coming together pretty well. Charles Brown had issues at left tackle, giving up one sack and another big pressure.

DEFENSIVE OVERVIEW - by Eric Kennedy

Four defensive players did not play, including DT Mike Patterson (shoulder), DT Kelcy Quarles (ankle), LB Jon Beason (foot), and CB Trumaine McBride (hip).

Not counting the two plays run right before the half, the Steelers had 11 legitimate offensive possessions. Pittsburgh did not score an offensive touchdown and was held to three field goals (and they missed a 38-yard field goal). The Steelers punted six times and the Giants forced one turnover. Pittsburgh was limited to 59 plays, 14 first downs, 251 total net yards (70 yards rushing, 181 yards passing), a 14 percent 3rd down conversion rate (2-of-14).

The biggest defensive negative was probably the easy the Giants’ first-team defense allowed Pittsburgh to drive 70 yards in seven plays on the opening drive. Not only did the Steelers gouge the Giants with a 46-yard screen pass, but the run defense allowed 24 yards on four carries (6 yards per rush). But on 3rd-and-3 from the Giants’ 7-yard line, the defense held and forced a field goal.

DEFENSIVE LINE - by Eric Kennedy

Mathias Kiwanuka, New York Giants (August 9, 2014)

Mathias Kiwanuka – © USA TODAY Sports Images

The Steelers were able to run up the gut on the Giants on their first possession. Johnathan Hankins missed a tackle in the backfield on a play that gained 9 yards. He’s a big, strong presence but he wasn’t as effective as he was last week against the Bills. In the 2nd quarter, he flashed on one pass rush. The Steelers picked up 8 more yards running at Hankins and Jason Pierre-Paul on the next play. After that series, the run defense stiffened up. JPP played much stronger at the point-of-attack. He got fooled on an end around but showed great hustle chasing down the receiver. On the next play, Pierre-Paul smashed the quarterback just as he released the ball. On 3rd-and-15 in the 1st quarter, both Mathias Kiwanuka and Pierre-Paul put tremendous pressure on the QB, causing an incomplete pass. JPP was flagged with an illegal use of hands penalty earlier on this drive. It’s interesting to note that the Giants’ third-down pass rush package had Robert Ayers at defensive tackle. He flashed on one play, forcing a quick throw. However, he was also flagged with a neutral zone infraction.Markus Kuhn cleaned up with a sack off a blitz from Quintin Demps.

In the second half, the initial defensive line of Israel Idonije, Markus Kuhn, Jay Bromley, and Robert Ayers gave the Pittsburgh reserves fits. Ayers and Idonije flashed on the pass rush, and then Damontre Moore and Ayers nailed the running back for a 2-yard loss on a 3rd-and-10 draw. On the next series, Moore again blew by his man to force an incompletion on 3rd-and-4. After the muffed punt by Charles James, Jay Bromley dominated the next series with two strong pass rushes (the first also causing a holding penalty). Moore also flashed on the rush on this series. Later in the quarter, Bromley stuffed the run and Moore then hustled back to stop a screen play on 3rd-and-9.

In the 4th quarter, I thought Kerry Wynn looked pretty good at times rushing from the strongside end spot. Jordan Stanton came up with a sack and forced fumble on a play where defensive holding was caused.

LINEBACKERS - by Eric Kennedy

Like the defensive line, it wasn’t particularly pretty on the first drive but the starters improved after that. Jameel McClain seemed to be getting blocked fairly easily. He did make one strong  play agains the run late in the 1st quarter. The only solid run defense on the first drive came when Devon Kennard held his ground at the point-of-attack and Jacquian Williams cleaned up from the backside. On the next drive, Williams had excellent coverage on TE Heath Miller on 3rd-and-five. McClain was apparently flagged for defensive holding, but that looked like a bogus call to me.

Spencer Paysinger made a really nice play against the run where he avoided the block and tackle the back for no gain. He then hit the quarterback on a blitz. He did not look as strong in coverage however and was lucky he did not get beat for a touchdown on a 3rd-and-8 play from the Giants’ 20-yard line. Earlier on this drive, Kennard and Mark Herzlich failed to make the play on a 7-yard run around right end.

Mark Herzlich made some noise in the second half. He made a nice play on the back in the hole, stuffing him for a 1-yard loss. He followed that up by expertly sniffing out and disrupting a screen pass. Later he made a nice sure tackle after a short pass reception. On the next play, Paysinger failed to bring the back down short of the sticks on 3rd-and-8. Terrell Manning recovered the fumble late in the game to preserve the win for the Giants.

DEFENSIVE BACKS - by Eric Kennedy

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

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

Interestingly, Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers didn’t even test the defensive backs on the first drive until 3rd-and-3 on the final offensive play of the possession, and that ended with textbook coverage by Walter Thurmond to force a field goal. I wonder if we will see more teams shy away from the defensive backs and throw more at the tight ends this year. Thus far this preseason, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is completely shutting down his side of the field. Nice hustle by Prince Amukamara on this drive to track down the uber-speedy Dri Archer on the 46-yard screen. On the next series, Amukamara made a nice sure tackle just short of the sticks on 3rd-and-8. Amukamara was flagged with an illegal contact penalty before this play, Antrel Rolle made a textbook open-field tackle for a 1-yard loss after a short pass to the tight end.

In the 2nd quarter, Quintin Demps flashed a blitz, causing a sack. Zack Bowman was flagged for illegal contact on a play where it looked like the defensive back just ran right into him. Strange call. Later on this drive, Bowman was beat on a 28-yard gain on 3rd-and-2.

The story line in the secondary in the second half was the continued struggles of Jayron Hosley, who doesn’t seem to know that he needs to turn around to play the football in order not to get flagged for pass interference. Hosley was first flagged for PI on a 3rd-and-6 incomplete pass. Early in the 4th quarter, he failed to turn around again on a 47-yard PI call that set up Pittsburgh at the Giants’ 18-yard line. To his credit, he did have two nice plays on the rest of this series to help force a field goal (but again, on one of these plays, he didn’t look back for the ball).

Ross Weaver had nice coverage on one deep pass. Bennett Jackson was flagged with defensive holding, wiping out a sack/fumble. C.J. Barnett finished the game by forcing a fumble that was recovered by the Giants.

SPECIAL TEAMS - by Eric Kennedy

Both place kickers did an excellent job. The Giants did not allow a kickoff return with five touchbacks (2 by Josh Brown, 3 by Brandon McManus). Brown hit a 45-yard field goal and McManus a 46-yard field goal.

The Giants returned four kickoffs, with Quintin Demps returning two for 46 yards (both 23-yard returns). Preston Parker returned the other two for 37 yards (for 20 and 17 yards).

Preston Parker returned one punt for 12 yards and fair caught two more. Charles James muffed  his only chance, giving the ball back to the Steelers at the Giants’ 21-yard line and leading to a field goal.

Steve Weatherford averaged 47.2 yards on six punts (45.8 yard net). Punt return coverage was excellent with the Steelers being held to eight yards on four returns (the long return being only four yards). Marcus Harris flashed as a gunner on one play causing a fair catch. Zak DeOssie smashed the returner after only a 1-yard gain on another. Later in the game, he was the first guy downfield again making the tackle.

(Boxscore – Pittsburgh Steelers at New York Giants, August 9 , 2014)