Sep 202016
 
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Lea Thompson

New York Giants 16 – New Orleans Saints 13

Overview

“Things are different now.”

Those brilliant, Shakespearean-like words were uttered by one of the finest actresses in silver-screen history, Lea Thompson, in the all-time classic Red Dawn. And as I watched the New York Giants against the New Orleans Saints that magnificent prose from 1984 kept ringing in my ear.

The Giants have won the first two games of the season despite being held to under 21 points in both games. They oddly out-rushed the Cowboys and beat the high-powered Saints without scoring an offensive touchdown. Now one would think that turnovers were the great equalizer but the Giants defense has not yet forced a turnover this year. Worse, the Giants are actually -4 in turnover differential.

So how are the Giants winning? Defense. Hard-hitting, sure-tackling, fundamentally-sound defense. They’ve held both the Cowboys and Saints to one touchdown apiece. I’ve opined in the past that a defense that lives and dies off of turnovers will eventually whither. Because while turnovers are often the product of good defense, they are also often based on luck. This Giants defense isn’t based on luck. It is showing flashes of Giants teams of old – hit, tackle, stop the run, get after the passer, cover the offensive targets.

Just wait until they get a bit lucky and the turnovers start flowing their way.

So a Giants defense that has been cellar dwellers for the past few seasons is showing some bite. And the Giants are winning close games, even when their offense has yet to click on all cylinders. Indeed, things are different now.

Giants on Offense

This is a bottom-line business and the bottom line is the Giants offense scored nine points. The problems were obvious: an inability to run the football, dropped passes, turnovers, and 0-for-3 in the red zone. Smartly, the Saints played it safe on defense, giving up the dink-and-dunk stuff, hoping the Giants would make mistakes during longer drives – which they did. The good news? The Giants still managed to generate 22 first downs and 417 net yards of offense, were close to 50 percent on 3rd down efficiency, only committed two penalties, and dominated time-of-possession by eight minutes.

Eli Manning, New York Giants (September 18, 2016)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Quarterback

The Giants scored nine offensive points? Eli Manning must have sucked, right? Far from it. In fact, had it not been for a number of costly dropped passes, his already strong numbers would have been outstanding. As it was, Manning finished the game 32-of-41 for 368 yards, no touchdowns, and no interceptions. The biggest knock was his fumble that gave the Saints the ball at the NYG 25-yard line.

But with the game tied twice in the 4th quarter, Manning coolly led his team on two go-ahead field-goal drives. On the first, Manning was 5-of-6 for for 68 yards, including a 32-yarder on 3rd-and-8 to Sterling Shepard. On the second drive, he was 3-of-4 for 51 yards. The one miss was a bad drop by Odell Beckham. Manning threw for six yards on 3rd-and-1 and 34 yards on 3rd-and-8 on this game-winning effort.

Running Backs

The two-headed committee that was so successful against Dallas largely flopped against the Saints. Rashad Jennings only rushed for 27 yards on 13 carries (a measly 2.1 yards per rush) and suffered a hand injury that limited his touches in the second half (only three carries after intermission). Shane Vereen carried the ball 14 times for 42 yards (3.0 yards per rush) and fumbled the ball away at the Saints 36-yard line. Orleans Darkwa had one carry for -1 yard. The three backs did catch a cumulative six passes for 50 yards.

Victor Cruz, New York Giants (September 18, 2016)

Victor Cruz – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Wide Receivers

The three-head monster continues to evolve despite a number of costly mistakes. Sterling Shepard’s breakout game didn’t take long as the rookie caught all eight passes throwing in his direction for 118 yards, including two 32-yard receptions, both coming on 3rd down. Odell Beckham caught 8-of-11 targets for 86 yards, but might have been the goat for his late drop on the game-winning march. Beckham did draw two pass interference penalties as well. Victor Cruz saved Beckham on the very next play as he out-fought the corner for the key offensive play of the game – a 34-yard catch down to the Saints 2-yard line in the waning moments of the game. Cruz finished with four catches (in eight targets) for 91 yards, but dropped three passes that hit him in the hands. His longest reception (a 40-yarder) was ruined by his fumble.

Dwayne Harris (3 snaps) and Tavarres King (1 snap) barely saw the field.

Tight Ends/Fullbacks

One gets the sense that if the Giants had a consistent play-maker at tight end, this offense would really reach a new level. Larry Donnell had a key 15-yard touchdown pass against the Cowboys, but that was it. This week he caught 4-of-5 passes thrown his way, but those were for only 24 yards and the one drop came in the end zone. Will Tye caught 2-of-3 targets for 10 yards. 34 yards total from your tight ends is not terribly productive.

Offensive Line

This performance was reminiscent of last season. The Giants had problems running the football, especially near the goal line. Eli Manning was for the most part protected. He was hit officially three times, with two of these unfortunately being sacks. Both tackles were flagged with holding penalties on the same drive. The weak spot was Marshall Newhouse, who also left the game late with a calf injury that may cost him some time. Newhouse gave up both sacks on back-to-back plays. Bobby Hart came in to replace him for a dozen snaps.

Giants on Defense

The Giants defense has forced no turnovers and only has two sacks in the first two games. But they are hitting, tackling, and playing fundamentally-sound football. The defense also seems much faster. As hoped, other teams are finding it extremely difficult to run against the Giants. In a football game that was tight throughout, the Saints largely eschewed the run with only 13 carries for 41 yards (3.2 yards per rush). Some other stats of note were the Giants had five tackles for a loss, six quarterback hits, and a very good seven passes defensed.

Defensive Line

Last week, the defensive line had no sacks and officially only three quarterback hits. This week, the defensive line had no sacks and officially only four quarterback hits. This just shows you that you can’t base everything on stats. The defensive line as a unit is playing well. The hits and sacks will come. The Saints hardly bothered to run against the Giants and when they did, they were not terribly successful, gaining only 41 yards with the longest run being nine yards. Indeed, unlike last year’s team that regularly gave up the big play, the longest play for the Cowboys was a 21-yard pass play. The Saints had two plays over 18 yards (both passes – one for 21 and one for 23). Why the big turnaround? Yes, coverage matters but so does the pass rush. While the Giants are not getting there yet, the quarterbacks are aware of New York’s rushers.

Despite coming into the game with injuries, Jason Pierre-Paul (1 tackle, 1 QB hit, 1 pass defense) and Olivier Vernon (1 tackle, 1 QB hit) played virtually the entire game. Neither stood out on the stat sheet. JPP was flagged for a neutral zone infraction.

The interesting item to note this week was the reduce snaps for Johnathan Hankins (45 snaps, 4 tackles, 1 tackle for a loss, 2 quarterback hits) and especially Damon Harrison (34 snaps, 4 tackles) as the Giants used more of their DE/DT “Nascar” hybrids inside. Romeo Okwara (19 snaps, 1 tackle) and Owamagbe Odighizuwa (16 snaps) were the beneficiaries of added playing time. Okwara got flagged with an offsides penalty that erased a sack by Vernon. DT Jay Bromley (7 snaps) and DE Kerry Wynn (5 snaps) did not play much. Hankins blew up a screen pass for a 3-yard loss.

Linebackers

Again, what is interesting is the snap distribution. You can’t make plays if you are sitting on the bench. Only four linebackers saw the field on defense. Keenan Robinson (52 snaps, 5 tackles, 1 tackle for a loss, 1 pass defense) played more than any linebacker. Jonathan Casillas (41 snaps, 6 tackles, 1 pass defense) also was on the field quite a bit. Devon Kennard (10 snaps, 2 tackles) and Kelvin Sheppard (10 snaps, 1 tackle, 1 pass defense) did not play much. Robinson and Casillas give the Giants linebacking corps a more athletic feel than in recent years as both run well and can cover. Robinson flashed, starting with a textbook tackle for a 2-yard loss on the Saints second series. Three of the pass break-ups came from the linebackers.

Defensive Backs

When you hold Drew Brews to 263 yards passing with the longest play be 23 yards, you are doing your job. Brees was spotted at times looking for his first, second, and third options without luck.

I hate to harp on snap distribution, but there were some interesting developments here too. Like last week, Landon Collins (62 snaps, 6 tackles, 1 tackles for a loss, 1 sack, 1 QB hit) was a fixture at strong safety and free safety snaps were split between Darian Thompson (45 snaps, 4 tackles) and Nat Berhe (17 snaps, 1 tackle), with Thompson receiving far more playing time this week due to his shoulder injury improving. Collins is starting to come on. He expertly stuffed a run on the first series and then sacked Drew Brees on 3rd-and-9 on the second series. The only major snafu was when WR Willie Snead split the safeties for a 17-yard touchdown reception.

What is far more interesting was Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (39 snaps, 2 tackles) was fourth in snaps at cornerback behind Janoris Jenkins (59 snaps, 8 tackles, 1 tackle for a loss, 2 pass defenses), Eli Apple (59 snaps, 7 tackles, 1 pass defense), and Leon Hall (41 snaps, 5 tackles, 1 tackle for a loss, 1 sack). Remarkably, Hall’s sack on 3rd-and-10 was the first of his long career. On back-to-back plays in the 2nd quarter, DRC expertly defended a deep pass and then Jenkins blew up a WR-screen that lost two yards. Apple made a nice tackle in run support but then gave up a 17-yard reception (on 3rd-and-9) and a 23-yard reception on the Saints only scoring drive of the first half. Jenkins did a fantastic job of sticking with his man across the field and knocking the intended pass away in the 3rd quarter. DRC did give up a 15-yard reception on 3rd-and-7. Apple had good coverage on two deep shots in the 4th quarter as did Jenkins on another.

https://twitter.com/VeteranScout/status/777996459266322432

Giants on Special Teams

Of course the play of the game was the field goal attempt that was blocked by Johnathan Hankins and returned 65 yards for a touchdown by Janoris Jenkins.

Josh Brown returned and was 3-for-4 on field goal attempts. He missed from 53 yards out while making his efforts of 48, 19, and 23 yards. Two of his four kickoffs resulted in touchbacks; the other two returns only gained 24 yards total.

Brad Wing only punted twice, averaging 58 yards per punt (44.5 yard net). The Giants gave up 21 yards on one of those returns and six on the other.

Dwayne Harris did not get a chance to return a kickoff and returned one punt for nine yards.

(New Orleans Saints at New York Giants, September 18, 2016)
Sep 162016
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (November 1, 2015)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Game Preview: New Orleans Saints at New York Giants, September 18, 2016

THE STORYLINE:
The opening day victory against the Dallas Cowboys was huge. The obvious goal now is to get off to a 2-0 start by winning the home opener against a team that has given the Giants issues in recent years. Steve Spagnuolo and his defensive unit were humiliated last season as the Saints put up 52 points against New York. That marked yet another game where the Giants struggled on defense against an elite quarterback, in this case Drew Brees, who has had some of his best games of his career against the Giants. Enter Olivier Vernon, Damon Harrison, Janoris Jenkins, Eli Apple, and Darian Thompson. We’re about to find out how much things have really changed on the defensive side of the ball.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • DE Jason Pierre-Paul (shoulder) – questionable
  • DE Olivier Vernon (wrist) – probable
  • DT Robert Thomas (illness) – out

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
The Saints are going to put points on the board. So will the Giants. The traditional ways to approach this game are to either (1) slow the game down, maintain possession, and keep the Saints explosive offense off the field; or (2) be aggressive against a terrible defense and beat the Saints at their own up-tempo game. In the dome in New Orleans last year, the Giants got into a shootout and Eli Manning threw six touchdown passes – yet the Giants lost. But now the defense is improved. So the temptation will be to attack, attack, attack against a weak cornerback group that just lost its best player. That said, Ben McAdoo also has to like what he saw out of his ground game against Dallas last week combined with the possibility of wet weather on Sunday.

The 4-3 Saints defense is not good. They lack talent at all three levels. But they do have some strength down the middle with ex-Lion Nick Fairley at defensive tackle, ex-Ram James Laurinaitis at middle linebacker, and Kenny Vaccaro and Jairus Byrd at safety. Right defensive end Cameron Jordan is a very good player. We’ll get a far better read on Ereck Flowers this week. This is a match-up that could be a problem for the Giants. I’d be tempted to shift a tight end over there to help out Flowers. The cornerback situation for the Saints is a mess. Their best corner – Delvin Breaux – is out and all they are left with are no-names with little experience.

If I’m the Saints, I play it safe on defense, give up the underneath plays, and force the Giants to drive the field without making mistakes (penalties, negative yardage plays, turnovers). If they aggressively challenge Eli Manning, I think Odell Beckham, Sterling Sheppard, and Victor Cruz will eat them alive with big plays down the field (assuming the weather cooperates). But if the Saints play off with more defenders in coverage, like I suspect, then Manning will have to be patient and the ground game will have to produce. And like against the Cowboys, the Giants need to score touchdowns rather than field goals in the red zone. My guess is this is a game where Shane Vereen could possibly thrive as a runner and receiver. I think the short pass to him will be there all day long.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
Drew Brees loves playing the Giants. But historically this Saints team is not the same on the road as it is at home, including against the Giants (see Giants 52-27 win in 2012 at the Meadowlands). And the 2016 New York Giants defense is not the 2015 version. Brees and the Saints are going to score. The key is to limit the damage. New Orleans is very, very good at converting on 3rd down and keeping drives alive. Again, weather could play a factor here too.

Brees is the heart-and-soul of the offense. He makes it go. They key is pressure him, make him uncomfortable, without leaving gaping holes in the secondary for him to exploit (like last year’s game in New Orleans). I would not send a lot of blitzes but rely on the front four to apply pressure, and often utilizing the Nascar package when the down-and-distance enable the Giants to do so. This is a game where ends Olivier Vernon and Jason Pierre-Paul can really make a difference. Brees is not a scrambler. The Giants can pin their ears back and get after him. Now the risk obviously is that Saints cross up the Giants with a heavy dose of running back Mark Ingram, but that’s a risk they are probably willing to take. The thought here is Damon Harrison and Johnathan Hankins can hold down the fort and limit the damage.

The Giants do match up well on the back end because of their corners. Janoris Jenkins seems to have the ideal skill set versus the quick and speedy WR Brandin Cooks. I’d use Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Eli Apple to take out the other wideouts – Willie Sneed and Michael Thomas. The Saints will probably try to free up Cooks by moving him to the slot quite a bit. Ex-Colt tight end Coby Fleener was added in the offseason, but so far he has not produced as expected. Still, given the Giants poor history of defending tight ends in recent years, the defense needs to account for him.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
The Saints have good coverage teams and Ben McAdoo has voiced his concern that the Saints will take some chances with trick plays on special teams. Josh Brown returns from suspension and a butt-load of negative media. It will be interesting to see how he responds.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Ben McAdoo on Saints DE Cameron Jordan: “Jordan is a guy that is a very talented player, as well. He’s a guy that can wreck a game and destroy a game. We have to make sure we’re aware of where he is. He’ll line up in multiple spots.”

THE FINAL WORD:
Many Giants fans are gun-shy of the Saints because of recent history when playing them down in New Orleans. But the Giants match-up extremely well with the Saints on both sides of the ball. Look for the Giants to win by at least 10 points.

Sep 132016
 
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New York Giants Offense (September 11, 2016)

New York Giants Offense – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 20 – Dallas Cowboys 19

Overview

In a game decided by the smallest of margins, there is one statistic that best explains the New York Giants defeat of the Dallas Cowboys: red zone efficiency.

  • New York Giants: 3-of-3 (100 percent)
  • Dallas Cowboys: 1-of-3 (33 percent)

The Cowboys dominated in terms of number of offensive plays (75 to 54) and time of possession (36:43 to 23:17), but their four drives of 11 plays or more resulted in only 12 points. Two of those drives were 15 plays each and two others did not reach the red zone. Indeed, Dallas’ sole touchdown was set up on a short field after a turnover.

On the other hand, the Giants three scoring drives encompassed 4, 12, and 9 plays. But while the Dallas scoring possessions usually resulted in field goals, the Giants were scoring touchdowns.

This was a big reversal for a Giants team that has had issues both in terms of red zone offense and red zone defense in recent years. And it was the deciding factor in the game.

Giants on Offense

Dak Prescott threw for more yards than Eli Manning. The Giants out-rushed the Cowboys. Few people would have expected those results. Part of the reason for the depressed Giants offensive numbers is that the Cowboys maintained possession for so long in this game. They ran 21 more plays and had the ball for 13 more minutes. To put this in proper perspective, Dallas had the ball for almost an entire quarter more than the Giants!!!

But New York was more efficient. While the Giants only had three offensive possessions in the first half, two of those ended with touchdowns.

The second-half was the problem as the Giants began the third quarter with an interception that set up Dallas’ sole touchdown. They followed that up with three first downs and three punts.

The offense redeemed itself late. First came the 9-play, 59-yard, game-winning touchdown drive with 6:13 to go in the game. Then came a 7-play, 40-yard drive that picked up two first downs. While this possession only took 2:52 off of the clock, it flipped the field and forced Dallas to expend all three of their timeouts. Both would prove decisive in a game decided by seconds with a Cowboys place kicker fully capable of nailing a 60-yard field goal.

Quarterback

If you had told me that Eli Manning would only pass for 207 yards, then I would have been sure we would have lost the game. But the key here was his efficiency. Three of Manning’s 18 completions were for touchdowns. After the Cowboys dominated much of the first half with two marathon drives that ate up more than 16 minutes and ended with field goals, Eli made that moot in three throws: a 14-yard pass to Sterling Shepard, a 45-yard deep throw to Odell Beckham, and a 15-yard touchdown to Larry Donnell. Bing, bing, bing. Giants up, Dallas lead gone. Psychologically this was a devastating result and a bit reminiscent of the first half in the 2007 playoff game against the Cowboys.

The impressive element of the second scoring drive – the one right before halftime – was that Manning and the Giants overcame two holding penalties. Manning was 8-of-9 on this drive (with one drop) and finished the possession with a 9-yard touchdown on 3rd-and-3 with seven seconds to go.

Manning did throw one interception at the start of the third quarter, but the blame for that mistake was placed on Shepard who did not come back for the ball. Manning’s worst series was late in the 3rd quarter when he was fortunate a lateral pass didn’t result in a turnover and then he later unnecessarily rushed a 3rd-and-3 incomplete pass that was well off the mark.

Once again, Manning brought his team back with a 4th-quarter game-winning drive. Eli was 4-of-6 on this drive, including the 3-yard touchdown pass to Victor Cruz on 3rd-and-goal.

Running Backs

At least for one game, Tom Coughlin’s three-headed running back committee was shelved. Only two backs touched the football. Rashad Jennings ran the ball 75 percent of the time with 18 carries for 75 yards (4.2 yards per carry). Shane Vereen had six carries for 38 yards (6.3 yards per carry). Overall, the Giants were surprisingly productive in the ground game, averaging 4.7 yards per carry and out-rushing the Cowboys. Vereen also had three receptions for 23 yards, but also dropped a pass that stalled the first drive.

Victor Cruz, New York Giants (September 11, 2016)

Victor Cruz – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Wide Receivers

Odell Beckham, Sterling Shepard, and Victor Cruz were all on the field for 50 snaps or more. Tavarres King (6 snaps) and Dwayne Harris (1 snap) were afterthoughts. Despite the lack of big passing numbers, the Big Three were all important factors in the victory.

Shepard gained 14 yards and Beckham blew past CB Orlando Scandrick for a 45-yard gain on the Giants first touchdown drive. Beckham later caught a 6-yard pass on 3rd-and-3 on the Giants second touchdown drive. Cruz was a big factor on this drive with three catches, including a 23-yarder over the middle where he took a pop. Shepard finished up this possession with an incredible 9-yard touchdown reception despite a lot of contact from the Cowboys corner.

Shepard had a 20-yard reception on the game-winning touchdown drive in the 4th quarter. And of course Cruz had his dramatic moment with the 3-yard game-winner on 3rd-and-goal with just over six minutes to play.

Shepard gave up on his route on the play where Manning was intercepted.

Tight Ends/Fullbacks

With no traditional fullback on the roster, we are seeing more and more of Will Tye and Larry Donnell lining up in non-traditional tight end spots such as in the backfield. Both Donnell and Tye did a good job of run blocking for the most part although Donnell had issues late in the game. In the passing game, linebackers have problems with Donnell’s combination of size (especially height) and overall athleticism, as indicated on his 15-yard touchdown reception. But Donnell heard an earful from Ben McAdoo after he couldn’t make a play on an incomplete 3rd-and-5 pass over the middle. Donnell was also flagged with a false start. Tye caught all three passes thrown in his direction for 16 yards.

In an interesting late twist, check out this Corner Forum post by BBI poster cnewk on Brett Jones lining up at fullback late in the game. cnewk also did a nice overview on Donnell’s ups and downs as a run blocker.

Offensive Line

As expected, against a subpar opponent, pass protection was solid. Manning was sacked twice, but one of those sacks was a coverage sack and the other on Rashad Jennings. These were the only two times Manning was officially hit. The running game was better than expected as the Giants actually out-rushed the Cowboys, gaining 113 yards on 24 carries for an excellent 4.7 yards per carry. New York’s best runs were right up the gut…power football…and everyone across the board did their job, including the much maligned right-side of the offensive line. The line did a nice job on their last drive, leading Rashad Jennings to 40 yards on seven carries against a defense loaded up to stop the run. In the 2nd quarter, John Jerry was flagged with a bogus holding penalty while Justin Pugh’s holding infraction looked a tad more guilty.

Giants on Defense

Dallas had three first half drives, with an astounding 38 plays and 22 minutes in time-of-possession. All three drives resulted in points. However, none resulted in touchdowns. (Though the Giants were lucky WR Cole Beasily dropped what should have been a TD on the first drive). In the second half, the defense failed to make a stand after the Giants offense turned the football over at their own 35-yard line. Seven plays later, the Cowboys scored their only touchdown of the day. The last five Dallas possessions resulted in one field goal, three punts, and the clock expiring. The important point is the Cowboys were held to under 20 points. When the Giants do that, they usually win.

The Giants did not force a turnover or sack the Dallas rookie quarterback. But the Cowboys longest play of the day was only 21 yards. The Giants were very sound in their fundamentals. Only two defensive penalties (one accepted) and they hit and tackled very well throughout the game.

The pains in the ass in the game were tight end Jason Witten and slot receiver Cole Beasley – who combined for 17 receptions (targeted an astounding 26 times) for 131 yards. Fortunately, these two only averaged 7.7 yards per catch. All of the other Cowboys only caught eight passes total.

Defensive Line

No sacks and officially only three quarterback hits – two by DE Jason Pierre-Paul and one by DT Johnathan Hankins. Rookie quarterback Dak Prescott was far too comfortable in the pocket, often times experiencing no pressure whatsoever. That said, the Giants began to get more heat on the quarterback as the game wore on in the second half. JPP gave the right tackle some issues and DE Olivier Vernon caused a holding penalty on one rush (and another holding penalty on a running play).

The Giants held potentially one of the NFL’s most-dangerous running attacks to 101 yards on 30 carries (3.4 yards per carry). Even better, they held top draft pick RB Ezekiel Elliott to 51 yards on 20 carries (2.6 yards per carry). Pierre Paul (6 tackles), Hankins (5 tackles), DT Damon Harrison (5 tackles, 1 tackle for a loss), and Vernon (4 tackles, 1 tackle for a loss) were all impressive in run defense. And even the reserves got into the act as DE Owa Odighizuwa (17 snaps), DT Jay Bromley (16 snaps, 2 tackles), DE Romeo Okwara (13 snaps), and DE Kerry Wynn (5 snaps, 1 tackle) all saw action.

Linebackers

Despite playing with a rib injury, team captain Jonathan Casillas (58 snaps) led the team with 10 tackles. Casillas made an excellent tackle on RB Ezekiel Elliott after a short pass on 3rd-and-goal to force a field goal. He did get beat by TE Jason Witten for eight yards on 3rd-and-7 on the second FG drive. In the 4th quarter, he had nice coverage on the slot receiver for an incomplete pass.

On the other end of the spectrum was new starting middle linebacker Kelvin Sheppard (59 snaps), who was only credited with two tackles. He was a non-factor. Keenan Robinson (30 snaps, 3 tackles) and Devon Kennard (27 snaps, 3 tackles) were mostly quiet although Kennard had a good series in the 4th quarter with back-to-back plays, first stopping the back at the line and then rushing the passer.

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, New York Giants (September 11, 2016)

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Defensive Backs

Newcomer and high-priced free agent Janoris Jenkins was one of the stars of the game as he blanketed All-Pro Dez Bryant, who only had one catch for eight yards. His only mistake was a 15-yard face mask penalty on a 3rd-and-6 incomplete pass. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who mostly played in the slot, was sometimes matched up on Bryant. One of his two breakups against Bryant was a deep shot into the end zone that was expertly defended. DRC also flashed on the blitz. He did give up a late 11-yard reception to WR Terrance Williams on 3rd-and-10.

Eli Apple (56 snaps, 4 tackles) played a lot outside in DRC’s normal position. Apple was beat by WR Cole Beasley on a crossing pattern for nine yards on 3rd-and-5 and then by WR Brice Butler for 16 yards on the second FG drive. But he otherwise kept his opponent quiet. Apple made a nice open-field tackle on a tight end screen in the 4th quarter.

Leon Hall (17 snaps) saw limited action.

Safety Landon Collins had six tackles and a pass breakup at strong safety. Nat Berhe (5 tackles) and Darian Thompson (3 tackles) rotated at free safety. Berhe had an early big hit on Elliott, but Collins was beat on the next play for a 17-yard gain by TE Jason Witten and then later by Beasley on 3rd-and-4 for six yards on the first FG drive. Berhe had a few big hits on the running back in the first half. The Giants and Collins were surprised by back-up TE Geoff Swaim being the downfield target on Dallas’ longest play of the day – a 21-yard gain. Thompson made a nice open-field tackle on Elliott for no gain two plays later. Collins was oddly locked up on Bryant out of the slot on a deep pass that almost went for a touchdown but Collins knocked the ball out of Bryant’s hands as he fell to the ground, saving four points.

Giants on Special Teams

Randy Bullock did not attempt a field goal and missed an extra point. Three of his four kickoffs resulted in touchbacks. One kickoff was returned 21 yards. This was unfortunately the play where J.T. Thomas tore his knee ligament.

Brad Wing did not have a great game. Three of his five punts resulted in touchbacks, including his last punt which only netted 17 yards. He was lucky that didn’t come back to haunt his team, though to be fair, the high snap by Zak DeOssie on this play didn’t help Wing.

Dwayne Harris returned two kickoffs, one for 29 yards and one for 17 yards. The biggest special teams play of the game for the Giants was his 17-yard punt return before the game-winning drive.

(New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys, September 11, 2016)
Sep 092016
 
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Rashad Jennings, New York Giants (September 13, 2015)

Rashad Jennings – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Game Preview: New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys, September 11, 2016

THE STORYLINE:
Tom Coughlin is no longer head coach of the New York Giants because his teams stopped beating relatively weak NFC East opponents from 2012 to 2015. The Cowboys, Eagles, and Redskins either owned the Giants the past four years or won the key late-season game that decided the division.

  • Giants vs. Cowboys since 2012: 2-6
  • Giants vs. Eagles since 2012: 2-6
  • Giants vs. Redskins since 2012: 6-2 (but the two losses flipped each team’s season)

The Giants have also lost five regular-season openers in a row, including three games to Dallas.

The Cowboys are without Tony Romo and starting two very talented but green-as-grass rookies at quarterback and running back. The Eagles are rebuilding. The Redskins could go in either direction. The NFC is very much up for grabs. The Giants have the only established starter at quarterback and perhaps the NFL’s best wideout. The Giants spent about $200 million to revitalize what had been the NFL’s worst defense in 2015. The big unknown is how will this team respond to new leadership in Ben McAdoo?

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • DT Robert Thomas (illness) – out
  • LB Jonathan Casillas (ribs) – probable
  • S Darian Thompson (shoulder) – probable

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
The New York Giants offense was out of sync all preseason. The main scapegoat by fans was the offensive line. The Giants were unable to run the ball and pass protection could be labeled as inconsistent at best. Publicly, coaches and players appeared unfazed. We’re about to find out of the complaints by fans and pundits were valid or not.

Based on recent years and the 2016 preseason, the Giants appear to be a finesse offense predicated on the passing game, and the Eli Manning-to-Odell Beckham combination in particular. When these two are “on”, the Giants offense performs at a high level. When they struggle, the Giants offense sputters. Have the Giants added reliable and consistent offensive threats to complement these two? Coaches and players rave about Sterling Shepard but he had little impact in the preseason – either by accident or by design. Can Victor Cruz ever regain his old form, and if so, how long will it take? A healthy and productive Victor Cruz combined with Beckham and Shepard completely changes the make-up of this offense. The Dallas Cowboys secondary would have major issues facing these three if they are on the top of their game.

The temptation for balance and forcing the running game to produce may be there for McAdoo. My gut tells me we’re going to see a much different run-pass ratio with McAdoo than we saw under Coughlin. I think McAdoo is going to spread the Cowboys out and pass, pass, pass – not only using the top three wide receivers as main targets but also running back Shane Vereen and tight end Will Tye. I expect the Giants will be in the no huddle for much of the game.

The Cowboys are not a strong pass rushing team and both of their starting defensive ends are suspended for this game. DT Tyrone Crawford and LB Sean Lee remain Dallas’ best front-seven defenders. The rest of the front-seven is just meh, but extremely well-coached under Rod Marinelli. I wouldn’t play it conservatively. Be aggressive and attack. Try to blow the Cowboys out early and put more pressure on the rookie quarterback.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
One would strong think that the Cowboys are going to rely on their superb offensive line and top-pick running back – Ezekiel Elliott – to take the pressure off of their rookie quarterback. I expect to see a heavy dose of the Cowboys running game with the Cowboys wanting to test out Jonathan Casillas’ ribs and Jason Pierre-Paul’s hand in particular. That said, don’t be surprised if the Cowboys take a deep shot or two early to all-world Dez Bryant simply to put the Giants on notice.

The Giants are going to very quickly learn whether or not the additions of DE Olivier Vernon and DT Damon Harrison are going to transform this defense. The battles between the Cowboys interior trio of LG La’el Collins, OC Travis Frederick and RG Zack Martin against defensive tackles Johnathan Hankins and Damon Harrison may be worthy of the price of admission alone. It’s going to be a war. Left tackle Tyron Smith is one of the best in the business, but he struggled with Vernon against Miami last year. That will be an interesting battle to watch. The Giants need JPP to dominate RT Doug Free.

Expect a shot or two early then run, run, run. Not just with Elliott but physical ex-Redskin running back Alfred Morris. The Giants must keep the Cowboys from methodically moving the chains. Turn 1st-and-10 into 2nd-and-8 and then 3rd-and-6. Old school football. Rookie quarterback Dak Prescott was extremely impressive in the preseason, but he’s still new to the pro game. The Cowboys will try to keep it simple for him by having him focus on his first option. The Giants must switch up their coverages to confuse Prescott and force the rookie to look for his second and third options. Prescott is mobile so containment will be important. He’s also a big guy so the Giants will need to bring the lumber and wrap up. Cowboys may spice things up with some read-option plays too.

We all know the threats in the passing game: WR Dez Bryant and the ageless TE Jason Witten. It’s Witten who has killed New York and there will be pressure on safety Landon Collins and the linebackers to limit his damage. Collins could also be a major factor in run defense.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
Place kicker Randy Bullock replaces Josh Brown for at least one game. He is the man on the spot. Dwayne Harris and the Giants special teams were a major factor in the Giants victory over Dallas in the Meadowlands last year.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Ben McAdoo on how WR Victor Cruz will be used: “There’s no dipping your toe in the water now. We’re going. We’re going down there to win a ballgame. There’s no dipping your toe in. We’re full bore, ready to go.”

THE FINAL WORD:
There isn’t much film to work with on Dak Prescott so that can be problematic for any defense. Ezekiel Elliott looks like the real deal too. That said, Steve Spagnuolo and the defense are facing a rookie quarterback instead of Tony Romo. And Elliott may have issues with blitz assignments (one reason we actually may see more of Morris than many expect). Dez Byrant is damn good but so are the Giants corners. The keys defensively are obvious. Stop the run. Cover Witten. Confuse the rookie quarterback. Offensively, the Giants match up well with the Cowboys as long as McAdoo doesn’t play it too conservatively. I expect the Giants to win this game as long as the team is mentally and emotionally ready to play. Enter Ben McAdoo and his first real test.

Sep 032016
 
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Andre Williams, New York Giants (September 1, 2016)

Andre Williams – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 17 – New England Patriots 9

Overview

The Giants and Patriots have been playing each other in the preseason finale for years. In a bit of a role reversal, it was the Giants who sat most of their top players while the Patriots actually played quarterback Tom Brady the entire first half. Surprisingly, a mostly second- and third-team defense forced three first-half turnovers and held Brady’s high-powered offense to just six points. Without Eli Manning and Odell Beckham, and behind continued shoddy blocking and poor back-up quarterbacking, the offense continued to struggle. But there was just enough good defense interspersed with some offensive production to come away with a 17-9 victory.

The Giants come out of the preseason mostly healthy. The primary health concerns are fullback/tight end Will Johnson (burner), linebacker Jonathan Casillas (ribs), and safety Darian Thompson (shoulder) – all of whom will hopefully be able to play against the Dallas Cowboys on September 11th.

The defense has made great strides, but will the offensive line flip a switch and play much, much better than it did in the four preseason games?

Giants on Offense

Quarterback Eli Manning, wide receiver Odell Beckham, and center Weston Richburg were healthy scratches.

Out of their seven first-half possessions, the Giants had two long drives: one a 15-play, 59-yard possession that ended with a 25-yard field goal; and the second a 6-play, 63-yard possession that ended with an interception at the Patriots 2-yard line with seven seconds left in the half. The Giants generated seven first downs on these two drives and just three first downs on the other five drives.

In the second half, the Giants had four drives (not counting the last one where the team was merely attempting to run out the clock). Two of these drives resulted in touchdowns and the two others with punts. The first scoring drive was a 4-play, 86-yard affair with the big play coming on the 59-yard catch-and-run by wideout Tavarres King. The second scoring drive was a 13-play, 79-yard march that ended with a 17-yard touchdown reception by wide receiver Roger Lewis.

Ryan Nassib, New York Giants (September 1, 2016)

Ryan Nassib – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Quarterback

Eli Manning was a healthy scratch.

Heading into the last year of his rookie contract, this was a terrible preseason for Ryan Nassib. He obviously regressed from his strong 2015 preseason. Why? He’s in the same system and received far more playing time with the first unit than he ever has. Frank Cignetti, Jr. became the new quarterback coach this offseason but it’s hard to believe that Cignetti would be the reason. Regardless, Nassib did not play with a lot of confidence and never looked terribly comfortable. He played with poor offensive lines in his three other preseasons. Oddly, his arm strength was terribly inconsistent. Nassib’s touch and accuracy just appeared off in all four games. Nassib finished this game 16-of-29 for 210 yards, one touchdown, and one interception.

Nassib did have his moments, like his well-thrown 13-yard out to WR Sterling Shepard in the 1st quarter and his 9-yard throw to WR Tavarres King in the 2nd quarter. At least three of his deep sideline throws were out-of-bounds. Nassib was also fortunate that a Patriots penalty erased a fumble on play where he should have thrown the ball away or simply fallen to the ground.

Logan Thomas entered the game mid-way through the 4th quarter and led the Giants on a 13-play, 79-yard, 6-minute touchdown drive that put the game away. Thomas was 3-of-5 for 39 yards and a well-thrown 17-yard touchdown pass. All that said, Thomas never threatened the struggling Nassib in training camp and the preseason. He also fumbled a shotgun snap on the touchdown drive that was fortunately recovered.

Running Backs

Bobby Rainey (7 carries for 38 yards, 3 catches for 37 yards), Orleans Darkwa (9 carries for 37 yards), and Andre Williams (10 carries for 35 yards) all had their moments against the Patriots. Paul Perkins had 3 catches for 29 yards, but also fumbled the ball away on one of his two carries and dropped a pass. Both Darkwa and Williams impressed with their tough running between the tackles despite less-than-ideal run blocking. Rainey had some decent runs out of the shotgun formation and is a more slippery runner and receiver.

Wide Receivers

Odell Beckham was a healthy scratch.

Victor Cruz only played nine snaps. He got little separation on two deep routes against corner Malcolm Butler on the first series, including the only time the ball was thrown his way (incomplete). Same story against corner Logan Ryan on the first play of the next series. He was open on a drag route but the ball went elsewhere. Cruz’s best play came when he then beat Butler with a quick move at the line and got behind him. However, Nassib didn’t see the wide open Cruz.

Sterling Shepard didn’t play long. He caught 1-of-2 passes thrown in his direction for 13 yards. His first opportunity was a deep pass also against Butler, but like Cruz, Shepard could not create any separation. Two plays later, Shepard picked up the first down with an out route on 3rd-and-10.

The leading wide receivers were Tavarres King (4 catches for 80 yards and a touchdown), Roger Lewis (3 catches for 30 yards and a touchdown), and Geremy Davis (3 catches for 30 yards). King’s 59-yard catch-and-run was the play of the night as he easily ran away from two defenders. Lewis had a 7-yard reception on 3rd-and-5, King a 4-yard reception on 3rd-and-2, and King a 9-yard reception on 3rd-and-6 on the Giants field goal drive. Lewis couldn’t handle one fastball on a crossing pattern. Davis made a couple of outstanding sideline catches including a 16-yard back-shoulder reception.

Tight Ends/Offensive Line

Interestingly, the Giants decided to sit Weston Richburg as a healthy scratch with Brett Jones getting the start at center. Had Justin Pugh (shoulder) not missed so much time, he probably would have sat too. The other three starters – Ereck Flowers, John Jerry, and Marshall Newhouse – need the work.

The starters – minus Richburg – only played nine plays. After decent pass protection on the first pass play, the next left-side running play lost four yards. On 3rd-and-14, both tackles allowed pressure on Nassib, whose arm was hit as he threw. Both Flowers and Newhouse allowed pressure on the next drive on the same play. Brett Jones then failed to spot the inside blitz as Nassib was sacked just after he received the snap.

The second-team offensive line featured LT Bobby Hart, LG Adam Gettis, OC Brett Jones, RG Emmett Cleary, and RT Ryan Seymour – as the Giants were clearly trying to determine which linemen were the most versatile. Later Gettis played center and Jones left guard. I’m not sure there is a viable NFL player in this group. Gettis in particular struggled in pass protection. The interior had issues identifying inside dogs. Hart couldn’t make his block on a running play that lost three yards and didn’t appear very physical or powerful overall playing on the left side. He later gave up a sack on 3rd-and-2 in the 4th quarter. Cleary was flagged with a holding penalty on a running play in the 3rd quarter.

The tight ends did a much better job of blocking this week. That said, I would like to see Donnell sustain his blocks longer and keep his man out of the play. In the receiving department, Donnell was targeted three times with one catch for 30 yards. Jerell Adams had one pass thrown in his direction but did not have a reception. Will Tye was not targeted.

Giants on Defense

The Giants sat their best defensive players. Defensive ends Jason Pierre-Paul and Vernon Olivier, defensive tackles Damon Harrison and Johnathan Hanks, and cornerbacks Janoris Jenkins and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie did not play. Neither did the walking wounded: linebacker Jonathan Casillas (ribs), linebacker Jasper Brinkley (knee), linebacker B.J. Goodson (concussion), cornerback Leon Hall (concussion), and safety Darian Thompson (shoulder).

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady played the entire first half against mostly a second- and third-team Giants defense that performed admirably well. In six first-half Patriots drives, the Giants forced three turnovers and allowed only one scoring drive: a 9-play, 67-yard effort that ended with a 7-yard touchdown pass by Brady. The 2-point conversion attempt failed.

The Giants defensive reserves remained stingy in the second half, allowing only one scoring drive: a 16-play, 66-yard march that resulted in a 32-yard field goal. Three other drives ended with punts and one drive on downs.

Defensive Line

With the entire starting defensive line sitting, the starters on Thursday night were left defensive end Kerry Wynn, defensive tackles Louis Nix and Jermelle Cudjo, and right defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa. Wynn got a few good early pass pressures on Brady and finished with two QB hits. Romeo Okwara also continued to flash with his pass rush. Odighiuwa had two quarterback hits as did Montori Hughes, Stansly Maponga, and Jay Bromley. In all, the Giants reserve defensive line had an astounding 11 quarterback hits (this doesn’t count numerous other QB pressures). For example, Okwara got good pressure on the Patriots failed 2-point conversion attempt.

Hughes also recovered a fumble. Odighizuwa tipped a pass. Wynn forced a fumble ending a Patriots drive deep in Giants territory, hustling all of the way from the opposite side of the field. Cudjo penetrated to tackle the running back for a 3-yard loss in the 2nd quarter and chased down the back for a 2-yard loss in the 3rd quarter. An unblocked Okwara picked up a sack after the former play by Cudjo.

In the 3rd quarter, Jay Bromley and Louis Nix combined to nail the back for a 1-yard loss. Hughes also looked good stuffing one inside run and had a 4th quarter sack. Cudjo tipped a 3rd down pass early in the 4th quarter on a play where Odighizuwa smashed into the quarterback.

Linebackers

Jonathan Casillas (ribs), Jasper Brinkley (knee), and B.J. Goodson (concussion) did not play. The Giants started the game in their nickel package with linebackers Kelvin Sheppard and Keenan Robinson on the field.

Sheppard was flagged with a defensive holding call on an incomplete 3rd-and-13 pass. Robinson followed this up with nice coverage on TE Martellus Bennett who was split out wide. On the Patriots scoring drive, it appeared that Sheppard got illegally picked on a 30-yard reception by the running back. Mark Herzlich recovered a fumble in the 2nd quarter and ran through the blocking back for a 7-yard sack in the 3rd quarter. Herzlich had a shot at another sack on the next series but overran the QB who scrambled for a 12-yard gain. Two plays later, the Pats back broke off a 16-yard run as he squirted past Herzlich who got blocked on the left-side run. Later on this drive he was flagged with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for a late hit. J.T. Thomas seemed a step slow this week both against the run and the pass. Brad Bars simply doesn’t look athletic enough in space.

Nat Berhe, New York Giants (September 1, 2016)

Nat Berhe – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Defensive Backs

Starting corners Janoris Jenkins and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie were healthy scratches. Cornerback Leon Hall (concussion) and safety Darian Thompson (shoulder) also did not play.

Starting the game at corner were Eli Apple, Trevin Wade, and Donte Deayon (nickel). Landon Collins started at strong safety and Nat Berhe at free safety.

Wade and Apple had strong games. Wade expertly caused a 3-yard loss on a WR-screen on the Patriots’ first offensive snap. Apple then had excellent deep coverage on WR Julian Edelman deep. A few snaps later, Wade did a tremendous job of reading the route, reacting to the throw, and coming away with an interception of Tom Brady. Later in the quarter, Deayon gave up a 16-yard reception on 3rd-and-7. Collins did a nice job of reading a short 3rd-and-2 pass but misplayed the ball on a play where he should have picked off Brady and possibly scored. Later in the 1st quarter, Wade made a sure tackle in space after a short throw. Apple had solid deep coverage on the very next snap. The Patriots finished up this drive with a touchdown when Apple got hung up with Adam Andrews with two Pats receivers bunched to one side.

Safety Andrew Adams was credited with a forced fumble, but the intended receiver really just dropped the ball on his own. Corner Michael Hunter got beat on a slant and then a 38-yard deep pass in the 2nd quarter, though he stayed with his man on another deep shot into the end zone on the next snap and later knocked down another Brady deep pass on 3rd-and-20. Deayon missed a couple of tackles after the catch in the 3rd quarter. Corner Leon McFadden got successfully targeted a couple of times and was fortunate he wasn’t called for pass interference on a late deep shot into the end zone on 4th-and-1.

Giants on Special Teams

Josh Brown did not play as the Giants prepped Randy Bullock for the opener. Three-of-four of Bullock’s kickoffs resulted in touchbacks. The Patriots returned one kickoff 25 yards, but they were holding on the play. Bullock also made his only field goal effort: a 25-yarder.

Bobby Rainey returned two punts, one for 13 yards and one for three yards. He returned one kickoff for 32 yards. Dwayne Harris did not return any punts or kickoffs.

Brad Wing punted seven times, averaging 44.1 yards per punt with one touchback and one punt downed at the 6-yard line. Punt coverage continues to remain a problem as the Giants allowed a 34 yard punt return with the gunner, Tavarres King, missing the initial tackle.

(New England Patriots at New York Giants, September 1, 2016)
Aug 312016
 
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Dwayne Harris, New York Giants (November 15, 2015)

Dwayne Harris – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Game Preview: New England Patriots at New York Giants, September 1, 2016

THE STORYLINE:
The fourth preseason game always bugs me. The coaches never want to play the starters very long. But with the roster being reduced to 75 only days before and the always-present not-playing-because-of-injury players, you have guys risking injury who probably should be sitting on the bench.

Reading between the lines, it doesn’t sound like the Giants starters will play much, and some may not play at all. Even if they do, Bill Belichick usually sits most of his starters. So nothing should be really made out of this game other than individual performances.

My advice? Watch your favorite players and don’t get too worked up over anything.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • TE Will Johnson (burner – will not play)
  • LB Jonathan Casillas (ribs – will not play)
  • LB Jasper Brinkley (knee)
  • LB B.J. Goodson (concussion – will not play)
  • CB Leon Hall (concussion – will not play)
  • S Darian Thompson (shoulder – will not play)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
Whether the offense succeeds or fails as a unit is largely immaterial in this game for the reasons I stated above. So let’s focus on the final roster decisions.

Quarterbacks: Eli Manning and Ryan Nassib will be the quarterbacks. Logan Thomas will be cut.

Running Backs: The sure bets are Rashad Jennings, Shane Vereen, and Paul Perkins. Do the Giants keep one or two more backs? It’s hard to envision the team being able to keep Bobby Rainey. My guess is Andre Williams makes the roster with Orleans Darkwa on the bubble.

Tight Ends/Fullback: The injuries to Nikita Whitlock and Matt LaCosse make this easy. Larry Donnell, Will Tye, and Jerell Adams will be the tight ends. Will Johnson will serve as a fullback/H-Back/tight end swingman.

Wide Receivers: The Giants will probably keep six. The sure bets are Odell Beckham, Sterling Shepard, Victor Cruz, and Dwayne Harris. Geremy Davis probably makes it with Tavarres King and Roger Lewis fighting for the last roster spot. This is a big game for those two.

Offensive Line: The sure bets are Ereck Flowers, Justin Pugh, Weston Richburg, John Jerry, Marshall Newhouse, Will Beatty, and Bobby Hart. The eighth lineman may not be on the roster yet. Somebody being cut by another team has to be better than Adam Gettis, Emmett Cleary, Brett Jones, Ryan Seymour, Dillon Farrell, and Jake Rodgers. Jerry Reese didn’t do a very good job of addressing this unit in the offseason despite still having a lot of $$$ to play with.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:

Defensive Line: My guess is the Giants go top-heavy with defensive ends with Jason Pierre-Paul, Olivier Vernon, Owamagbe Odighizuwa, Kerry Wynn, and Romeo Okwara all making the team. Defensive tackle is trickier. It’s not a given the Giants will keep four, but they probably will. Damon Harrison and Johnathan Hankins are the starters. The Giants will give Jay Bromley one more season. This is a big game for the remaining three tackles: Jermelle Cudjo, Louis Nix, and Montori Hughes.

Linebackers: The Giants will probably keep seven. Devon Kennard, Jonathan Casillas, Jasper Brinkley, Kelvin Sheppard, and B.J. Goodson all seem like safe bets. Keenan Robinson, J.T. Thomas, and Mark Herzlich seem to be fighting for two roster spots.

Defensive Backs: The Giants will probably keep five corners and four safeties. They might go with six corners if they go light someplace else (i.e., one fewer running back or defensive tackle). The definites are Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Janoris Jenkins, and Eli Apple. Leon Hall, Trevin Wade, and Donte Deayon may be fighting for two roster spots. With the earlier cuts, safety is easier to figure out. Darian Thompson and Landon Collins will be the starters. Nat Berhe, Mykkele Thompson, Andrew Adams, and Justin Currie are fighting for two spots. Based on who has been receiving first-team reps, Berhe and Thompson are probably the favorites.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
The punter is Brad Wing and the long snapper is Zak DeOssie. Dwayne Harris will be the primary kickoff and punt returner. Unless the Giants see someone even better on the waiver wire, Randy Bullock will be the opening-night kicker. Do the Giants go back to Josh Brown after that game or part ways with him?

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Ben McAdoo on the Fourth Preseason Game: “Every game is important. You only get four preseason games. It’s the best way to evaluate players. We’re obviously going to take a nice long look at some guys at the bottom part of the roster and give them an opportunity. So, it counts… We’re not just going to say that starters are going to play 10 plays or 20 plays, nothing like that. We’re going to look at it on a case-by-case basis.”

THE FINAL WORD:
The key battles to watch:

  • Andre Williams versus Orleans Darkwa
  • Tavarres King versus Roger Lewis
  • Louis Nix versus Montori Hughes versus Jermelle Cudjo
  • Keenan Robinson versus J.T. Thomas versus Mark Herzlich
  • Trevin Wade versus Donte Deayon
  • Mykkele Thompson versus Andrew Adams
Aug 282016
 
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Johnathan Hankins and Jason Pierre-Paul, New York Giants (August 27, 2016)

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

New York Giants 21 – New York Jets 20

Overview

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

Half Full:

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

Half Empty:

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

Giants on Offense

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

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

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

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

Quarterback

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

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

Logan Thomas did not play.

Running Backs

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

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

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

Tavarres King – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Wide Receivers

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

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

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

Tight Ends/Offensive Line

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Giants on Defense

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

Defensive Line

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

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

Linebackers

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

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

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

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

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

Andrew Adams – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Defensive Backs

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

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

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

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

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

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

Giants on Special Teams

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

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

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

(New York Giants at New York Jets, August 27, 2016)
Aug 262016
 
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Odell Beckham, New York Giants (December 6, 2015)

Odell Beckham – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Game Preview: New York Giants at New York Jets, August 27, 2016

THE STORYLINE:
Third preseason game is the most important… blah, blah, blah.

We know where all eyes will be in this game – Victor Cruz. A healthy and productive Victor Cruz – combined with Odell Beckham and Sterling Shepard – changes the entire complexion of the offense.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • WR Geremy Davis (hamstring)
  • TE Will Johnson (burner – will not play)
  • TE Matt LaCosse (knee – will not play)
  • LG Justin Pugh (shoulder)
  • S Darian Thompson (shoulder – will not play)
  • S Mykkele Thompson (concussion – will not play)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
Fair or not, all eyes will be on Victor Cruz. If he catches a pass, the crowd will loudly cheer. If he catches a touchdown pass and does the salsa, the crowd will explode. Where is Victor Cruz both physically and mentally as a football player? How badly damaged is he permanently? Does he have the same drive and passion to succeed on the football field? We’re about to find out those answers.

Regardless of the reasons, all of the optimism surrounding the wide receiver corps after Beckham and Shepard has dissipated. Victor Cruz and Geremy Davis got hurt. And those who flashed in training camp have been largely invisible in the games. Time is running out on Tavarres King, Roger Lewis, and Darius Powe.

The offensive line and tight ends embarrassed themselves against the Bills last week. The bad news for them is that it doesn’t get any easier against a very talented and aggressive New York Jets defense. The starters are not likely play much in the last preseason game. This will be their last good test before facing the Cowboys in Dallas on September 11th.

One player to closely watch will be Larry Donnell. He had a horrific game as a blocker against the Bills. Does he rebound this week? If not, it may be time to reconsider his starting and roster statuses. Matt LaCosse picked a bad time to get sidelined. With Will Johnson also out, we may see a lot of Jerell Adams in this game.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
The big question here remains who is the starting middle linebacker? Jasper Brinkley or Kelvin Sheppard. “Still neck and neck,” said Steve Spagnuolo this week. “We’ve been repping it exactly that way. Even when you see in practice, Kelvin will go with the first team, first series and then Jasper will do the same thing. It’s been a great battle. Two guys that respect each other and that’s what the league is all about. The more you can get that at every position the better you’re going to be.”

Another issue remains depth at safety. Darian Thompson is out until at least the opener. The rookie is missing valuable practice time. Is there a viable back-up on the roster? Mykkele Thompson is also out. So Nat Berhe, Cooper Taylor, Andrew Adams, and Justin Currie get an opportunity to impress. “It’s in flux right now until we can get it settled and that’s just where it is at. We’ll find out in these next two games,” said Spagnuolo, who made it clear he desperately wants Thompson to return as soon as possible.

At corner, Eli Apple returns. “I truly believe that this kid is going to be one of the great ones for us down the road,” said David Merritt this week. Spagnuolo had high praise for Donte Deayon too despite a rough game against the Bills. “I love that guy,” said Spagnuolo. “He walks in the room and brightens up the whole room. I don’t know if you guys have had the chance to meet him or talk to him but he is a wonderful young man and he is a feisty player – all 100 and whatever (pounds) he is. He is a football player, God gave him the body he has and he has used every bit of it to get himself where he is right now. I am impressed with what he has done, he has a long way to go and he has to get a lot of reps and we have to see where he is when the bullets fly. The guys love him too and love being around him.”

On the defensive line, we know who the starters will be and that Owamagbe Odighizuwa will be a factor as a reserve. Romeo Okwara has made a strong push for a roster spot. Kerry Wynn returns this week and this will be a big game for him. There are six bodies behind Damon Harrison and Johnathan Hankins and we’re still waiting for that to sort itself out. Who would start if one of the other two got hurt?

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
Whether you agree or not, the national and local media is not going to let the Josh Brown story fade away. That may force the Giants hand. Enter Randy Bullock, who is not only auditioning for opening night but the full-time job. “We’re looking for the best 53 in Week One. If he’s one of them, then we’ll go with it,” said McAdoo of Bullock.

Remember a kicker has to become comfortable with the snapper and the holder. Bullock doesn’t have a lot of time to get ready.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Ben McAdoo on the Third Preseason Game: “As a general proposition, we would like to take our starters into early in the third quarter. We will evaluate it at halftime and see how it goes and then different guys based off of where they are physically. We may give a little bit more or give a little bit less, too. ”

THE FINAL WORD:
Weird and bad stuff always seems to happen in the Giants-Jets preseason game. Cross your fingers on everyone staying healthy. Let’s hope Victor Cruz flashes. And let’s see some toughness, physicality, and proper execution by the offensive blockers.

Aug 222016
 
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B.J. Goodson, New York Giants (August 20, 2016)

B.J. Goodson – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Buffalo Bills 21 – New York Giants 0

Overview

There is no reason to panic. Yet. Most teams have games like this every now and then in both the preseason and regular season, where nothing goes right on one side of the ball. In most cases, one can write off or make excuses for such a preseason disappointment. But when you have a new head coach and a new offensive coordinator/play-caller on a team that hasn’t sniffed the playoffs in four years, red flags start getting raised.

Giants on Offense

The New York Giants played a preseason football game on August 20, 2016 and someone forgot to tell the offense. It was bad. Very bad.

  • Seven first downs. Seven.
  • 1-for-11 (9 percent) on third-down conversions.
  • 166 total net yards with 67 of those yards coming on one 4th quarter play.
  • 64 net yards passing.
  • 47 total offensive plays.
  • Four turnovers.
  • 20 minutes time of possession.
  • Zero points. Zero.
Eli Manning, New York Giants (August 20, 2016)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Quarterback

Eli Manning played four offensive series in which the team netted 23 yards and one first down. He finished the game 4-of-9 for 44 yards.

Ryan Nassib continues to be dreadful. He entered the game in the second quarter and played into the fourth quarter. He didn’t complete his first pass until near the end of the third quarter, missing on his first seven attempts. Nassib finished the game 2-of-12 for 25 yards with one lost fumble.

Not to be “out done”, Logan Thomas had a “perfect” completion percentage, connecting twice with Giants and twice with Bills, finishing the game 2-of-4 for 17 yards and two interceptions.

Running Backs

It was difficult to judge this group based on the piss-poor blocking by the offensive line and tight ends. Probably the most interesting item to note is that the coaching staff isn’t giving Orleans Darkwa much of a chance. He had only a handful of snaps and no touches.

Bobby Rainey broke off a 67-yard run in the 4th quarter, where he showed nice patience but not a lot of breakaway speed despite the big gain. Aside from this play, Giants backs gained 32 yards on 14 carries for a terrible 2.3 yards-per-run. Andre Williams fumbled the ball away, but he had an impressive, physical 14-yard run to start the third quarter.

Paul Perkins failed to pick up the blitz on the sack-forced fumble-turnover that set up the Bills final touchdown. “The sack fumble was a protection adjustment that was on Paul Perkins,” said Ben McAdoo. Perkins also dropped a pass and had a false start. Not a good day for the rookie.

Wide Receivers

Victor Cruz (groin) and Geremy Davis (hamstring) did not play.

Giants wide receivers were targeted 19 times, but only five of those passes were completed. So in two preseason games, Giants wide receivers have only caught 10 passes. Ten. In the attempt to find a third receiver in case Cruz is done, thus far no one is impressing.

The “lucky” five who had a reception: Odell Beckham (22 yards), K.J. Maye (17 yards), Kadron Booone (11 yards), Tavarres King (8 yards), and Darius Powe (6 yards). Sterling Shepard was targeted once and shut out. Same with Myles White and Anthony Dable. Roger Lewis was targeted five times with no catches, including one drop.

Tight Ends/Offensive Line

Left guard Justin Pugh (shoulder) and tight end/fullback Will Johnson (burner) did not play.

I’m grouping these two unit together this week as their pathetic blocking up front was the primary reason for the shit show on offense. One of the beautiful elements of football is that a successful play is often the result of all eleven players performing their independent tasks as assigned. At the same time, one of the most frustrating elements is that if one of those 11 players – particularly a blocker – messes up, it can destroy the entire play. On Saturday, someone seemed to screw up on almost every play, be it with penalties, missed blocks by offensive linemen, and missed blocks by tight ends.

The key question is why was everyone so off? This is basically the same unit that was a top 10 offense last year. This offense played against the Bills in Buffalo last year during the regular season. Was it a comfort issue for the guys up front because Pugh was not in the line-up? Was it the play calling? Were the players simply not playing with the same level of intensity and focus as the Bills?

On the Giants first possession, on 2nd-and-11, it appeared that RT Marshall Newhouse simply failed to make contact on the linebacker who nailed the Giants running back for a loss. But Newhouse had words with TE Will Tye after the play, suggesting that Tye, who was playing up-back on the play, failed his assignment. Either way, someone messed up. After picking on the first down on 3rd-and-12, the Giants lost another yard when TE Larry Donnell simply whiffed on his man. Two plays later, RG John Jerry was flagged with a false start.

On the next series, LT Ereck Flowers was flagged for holding sabotaging the drive before it even had a chance to start. He gave up a pressure on Manning two plays later. The third series was also sabotaged when center Weston Richburg was flagged with holding. It’s difficult to overcome 1st-and-20 on back-to-back series. On 3rd-and-16, both tackles and LG Bobby Hart got beat and Manning was sacked. Manning’s fourth and final series ended on 3rd-and-2 when he was pressured as Jerry and Newhouse let one guy shoot between them.

Donnell whiffed on at least three run blocks and had trouble sustaining on others. He also had issues in pass protection on a Ryan Nassib rollout.

The second team offensive line that started the third quarter featured RT Bobby Hart, RG Emmett Cleary, OC Brett Jones, LG Ryan Seymour, and LT Byron Stingily. After a nice 14-yard run, Hart was promptly flagged for illegal formation on the next snap. Hart did a poor job in pass protection on this play as well as the next play. The Giants tried to run the ball with this unit without much success. Again, individual breakdowns led to issues, such as one right-side play that was stopped from the backside when Seymour whiffed on his block. Later, Cleary moved to right tackle, Adam Gettis played left guard, and Dillon Farrell played center. With this new line, Seymour had problems again, allowing his man to nail Andre Williams for a 3-yard loss. On the very next snap, Stingily, Seymour, and Farrell all immediately fell off of their blocks and Williams was surrounded by Bills (Matt LaCosse also had an impossible angle to attempt to block someone on this play). Farrell later couldn’t handle the nose tackle over his head on another botched run. They all struggled in pass protection too. And so it went. If you can’t block, you can’t run successful offensive plays. As far as I can tell, aside from Hart (and the jury is still out on Hart), there isn’t a legitimate NFL-caliber back-up on this roster. They all looked weak and like their feet are stuck in mud. The Bills just ran through or around these guys.

Giants on Defense

I’m not in a giving mood. The defense was OK. Were they put in a difficult situation because of the impotent offense? Yes. The three Bills scoring drives started at the Bills 48-yard line, Giants 49-yard line, and Giants 19-yard line. But the defense did allow three touchdowns on each of those possessions – all in the first half. In addition, the Bills drove 64 yards on another possession that ended with a fumble into the end zone.

Romeo Okwara, New York Giants (August 20, 2016)

Romeo Okwara – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Defensive Line

DE Kerry Wynn (groin) did not play.

Owamagbe Odighizuwa lined up at right defensive tackle on 3rd-and-13 on the Bills first drive and immediately pressured the quarterback to disrupt the play and force a three-and-out. Olivier Vernon shot past the left tackle on an inside move to sack the quarterback in the second quarter. On the next snap, Vernon did an excellent job of holding the back to a 1-yard gain on 3rd-and-16.

Damon Harrison recovered a fumble in the end zone. He was a force against the run.

Among the back-ups, Louis Nix smacked the quarterback on one pass play. Jermelle Cudjo made a nice play defeating his man and tackling the running back in pursuit for no gain. Greg Milhouse made a couple of nice plays late when the Bills were running out the clock. Romeo Okwara impressed again. He caused an incompletion with one pressure and QB hit and later had a sack. Okwara also was a factor on Cooper Taylor’s interception. He was good against the run too – the Giants have something there in Okwara.

Linebackers

J.T. Thomas (hamstring) did not play.

Jonathan Casillas (4 tackles, 1 tackle for a loss, 1 pass defense) had his second strong game in a row. He demonstrated nice pursuit on an end around in the 1st quarter that lost four yards. Later in the quarter, he nailed the back for no gain on an inside run. Casillas did have issues in coverage with running back LeSean McCoy on back-to-back plays in the second quarter – one 32-yard play overturned because McCoy was out-of-bounds and a 23-yard gain on a 3rd-and-8 check down.

Keenan Robinson lost track of the tight end in coverage on a 3rd-and-9 play that picked up 59 yards. Robinson later made a nice play against the run on the Bills second scoring drive by shooting the gap. He later tackled the back for a 3-yard loss on an outside run. Robinson overran a swing pass however, allowing extra yardage, and then was flagged with a face mask penalty.

Jasper Brinkley and Kelvin Sheppard continue to compete for the starting middle linebacker spot. As expected, Brinkley looked good against the run but had some issues against the pass, biting on a play-fake for a 15-yard gain to the tight end. Brinkley missed a tackle in the backfield on 2nd-and-1 but blew up a screen play on the next snap.

Another quiet game for Devon Kennard who had a chance to knock the ball away or intercept it on a 14-gain gain on the second scoring drive.

B.J. Goodson can hit; when he tackles you, you feel it. But he continues to struggle in coverage as he was lucky a deep ball to the tight end was overthrown on a play where he was beat.

Defensive Backs

Cornerbacks Eli Apple (leg) and Leon McFadden (leg) did not play.

Darian Thompson did a great job of attacking a sweep and nailing the running back for a 7-yard loss on the second offensive snap of the game. Later in the quarter, Landon Collins made two nice plays on the goal line. First, he kept the scrambling quarterback out of the end zone by quickly pursuing towards the sideline. Then Collins forced a fumble that was recovered in the end zone by the Giants. Running back LeSean McCoy caught a 13-yard touchdown pass against Thompson on 3rd-and-11 early in the second quarter. Collins blew up an outside running play that lost three yards on the second scoring drive. Collins was very active against the run.

Cornerback Janoris Jenkins let the quarterback get away from him on a 3rd-and-9 blitz, and the Bills made the Giants pay with a 59-yard completion. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (DRC) knocked away an out-pass late in the first quarter. However, DRC may have knocked away a sure interception by Thompson on an errant deep pass. Jenkins got beat for 12 yards on a 2nd-and-13 slant that set up the second touchdown.

Leon Hall’s defensive holding penalty on a 3rd-and-3 incomplete pass kept the Bills second scoring drive alive. Hall was later flagged with a second holding penalty too on an incomplete 2nd-and-15 pass.

Donte Deayon (who was beat) and Nat Berhe (who was late getting over) were lucky a deep ball was overthrown. Deayon got beat for what looked like a touchdown later on this drive, but he prevented the receiver from completing the act of catching the football as he was forced out-of-bounds. But Deayon got burned for a touchdown on the same play on the next drive after a turnover. Deayon also gave up a 31-yard deep sideline pass in the 4th quarter despite decent coverage.

Trevin Wade was beat on the successful 2-point conversion after the quarterback had a lot of time to survey the field. Wade also got beat for 11 yards on a shallow crossing route on 3rd-and-9 in the 4th quarter.

Justin Currie played more than expected after Mykkele Thompson left with a concussion early. Currie couldn’t make the tackle in the backfield, leading to a 9-yard gain on one play. Currie then failed to get over in time on a 21-yard completion two plays later. Cooper Taylor picked off an errant deep pass in the fourth quarter.

Giants on Special Teams

Brad Wing was the “star” of the game for the Giants with eight punts for 384 yards (48 yards per punt), including two downed inside the 10-yard line. Long snapper Zak DeOssie was flagged with a false start.

Tom Obarski missed a 27-yard field goal, which does not bode well for his roster status.

Bobby Rainey returned three punts for 36 yards, including a 25-yard return. Dwayne Harris returned two punts for 18 yards, including a 14-yard return. Rainey had one kickoff return for 21 yards. He came precariously close to causing a turnover when he didn’t field a short kickoff. Joe Powell was flagged for unnecessary roughness, wiping out a decent Rainey punt return.

Punt coverage was better this week, although the Giants did give up two 11-yard returns. Overall, the Bills returned five punts for 26 yards (5.2 yard average). The Giants (Josh Brown) kicked off once and it resulted in a touchback.

(New York Giants at Buffalo Bills, August 20, 2016)
Aug 192016
 
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Weston Richburg, New York Giants (August 12 2016)

Weston Richburg – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Game Preview: New York Giants at Buffalo Bills, August 20, 2016

THE STORYLINE:
Normally the two most important preseason games for the starters in terms of regular-season preparation are the third and second preseason games. Minus a number of injured starters, we should get a much better impression of the starting offensive and defensive units this week. In addition, Rex Ryan usually takes preseason games more seriously.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • LB J.T. Thomas (hamstring – on the PUP – did not make trip)
  • WR Victor Cruz (groin)
  • WR Geremy Davis (hamstring – did not make trip)
  • TE Will Johnson (burner – did not make trip)
  • LG Justin Pugh (shoulder)
  • DE Kerry Wynn (groin – did not make trip)
  • CB Eli Apple (strained leg muscle)
  • CB Leon McFadden (bruised lower leg – did not make trip)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
This week the Giants offense will benefit from the addition of its two best players: Eli Manning and Odell Beckham. Unfortunately, the clock is ticking on Victor Cruz and the coaching staff must now operate under the assumption that Cruz will not be a factor for at least the first part of the season and perhaps beyond. Making matters worse is that the favorite to replace Cruz in three-wide receiver sets – Geremy Davis – has been missing valuable practice and now game time with a hamstring injury. Keep in mind that Davis is still pretty darn green.

So the attention really shifts to other green receivers such as Tavarres King, Roger Lewis, and Darius Powe – three who didn’t get much of a chance to impress last week due to crappy quarterbacking from Ryan Nassib. Unless one of these three or Myles White shines and gains the trust of Ben McAdoo and Eli Manning, the third receiver on opening day may remain Dwayne Harris. In this offense, the third receiver is a de facto starter.

On the running back front, it appears Rashad Jennings is 1a and Shane Vereen 1b. Paul Perkins will also make the 53-man roster. Bobby Rainey played earlier than expected last week. He’s vying with Andre Williams and Orleans Darkwa for possibly one roster spot. Personally, I’d like to see a heavy dose of Williams and Darkwa in order to get a better read on those two.

At tight end, Larry Donnell and Will Tye seem to be locks. Matt LaCosse has received a lot of attention from the coaches but he’s battling the ultra versatile Will Johnson (who is out this game) and rookie draft pick Jerell Adams for a roster spot. The Giants may keep four tight ends, but someone has to go other than Ryan Malleck unless the Giants ditch Nikita Whitlock and use Johnson at fullback too.

Justin Pugh (shoulder) made the trip but it is unknown if he will play. If he doesn’t, Bobby Hart will have a busy night, playing with the first-unit at left guard and then the second-unit at right tackle. The starters remain pretty much set. What we don’t know is – other than Hart – who the back-ups will be. There are a bunch of journeymen no-names in this group who have yet to inspire a lot of confidence. Depth on the offensive line is a serious concern.

On a final note, Ryan Nassib simply stunk last week. He’s a lock to make the roster, but he has to play with a lot more confidence and credibility.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
The early returns with the starting unit were impressive last week, but that was only one game against a suspect offense. That said, if the Giants defensive line performs as well as it did last week throughout this upcoming season, the Giants are in good shape. The front was tough against the run and able to pressure the passer without bringing extra rushers. That’s huge.

The Giants also appear to have a nice battle brewing at back-up defensive end. Owamagbe Odighizuwa and Romeo Okwara not only flashed as pass rushers, but they showed a great deal of versatility by being able to play defensive tackle in pass-rush situations. Kerry Wynn – who was doing some nice things at camp before getting hurt – has missed a lot of time with a groin injury. Even Stansly Maponga and Mike Rose have flashed some.

Depth at defensive tackle behind Damon Harrison and Johnathan Hankins is more shaky. Jay Bromley is finally back after late offseason ankle surgery. The Giants very much need him to come into his own this year. Greg Milhouse, Jermelle Cudjo, Davon Coleman, Louis Nix, and Montori Hughes are probably battling for one roster spot.

It’s still not known who the Giants middle linebacker and principle defensive front-seven signal-caller will be on opening night. Kelvin Sheppard and Jasper Brinkley are the leading contenders. Jonathan Casillas has taken full advantage of J.T. Thomas’ (hamstring) absence and appears firmly entrenched as a starter and nickel linebacker. Keenan Robinson also has seen a lot of time with the nickel defense. We get our first look at him this week as he missed last week with an injury. Devon Kennard was very quiet in the first preseason game. B.J. Goodson had a mostly positive game and was in on a lot of tackles, but he needs to show more in coverage. This appears to be a deep group, but are there any consistent play makers?

The secondary is shaking up to be a strong unit. Eli Apple (leg) made the trip but it remains to be seen if he plays. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Janoris Jenkins weren’t even tested in the preseason opener. Ben McAdoo said rookie free safety Darian Thompson was virtually perfect in his assignments. I’d like to see more flash out of Landon Collins. The Giants invested a high #2 in him. The nickel corner spot has been dramatically upgraded with the addition of Leon Hall. With Leon McFadden out, Donte Deayon should see a lot of action, and possibly Bennett Jackson, at corner. I still don’t have a good sense of whether or not the Giants have an NFL-caliber back-up safeties. Nat Berhe, Cooper Taylor, Mykkele Thompson, and Andrew Adams all had their ups and downs last week. This is an important game for them.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
The one-game suspension of Josh Brown and ensuing media controversy about his domestic violence past may be upsetting the apple cart here. Is Tom Obarski the guy you want kicking against the Cowboys with the game on the line in the opener? Will the media storm surrounding Brown die away or force the team’s hand? Often unrecognized by fans is that the Giants have a heck of a punter in Brad Wing now. That was a good trade last year. Team punt coverage last week was very shoddy and needs to improve.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Ben McAdoo on the Second Preseason Game: “It’s good to get the first group out there. A chance to knock the rust off. We played a few snaps in that first game but to get out there with Eli and Odell and get the whole group together and work the instincts. Anticipation is exciting.”

THE FINAL WORD:
The Giants were too sloppy last week. Hopefully that starts getting cleaned up as we progress towards the regular-season opener. Mike Sullivan called the plays. Will that continue? Who will be the middle linebacker? Who is the #3 wide receiver on this team? If Landon Collins or Darian Thompson get hurt, who is the primary back-up at safety?