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

Ryan Nassib – © USA TODAY Sports Images

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Corey Washington – © USA TODAY Sports Images

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

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

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

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

El Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

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

THE INJURY REPORT:

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

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

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

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

Kerry Wynn – © USA TODAY Sports Images

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

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

Victor Cruz – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 35 – New York Jets 24

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

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

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

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

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

OFFENSIVE OVERVIEWConnor Hughes

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

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

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

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

QUARTERBACKS - by Connor Hughes

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

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

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

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

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

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

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

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

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

RUNNING BACKS - Connor Hughes

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

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

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

RECEIVERS Connor Hughes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TIGHT ENDS Connor Hughes

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

OFFENSIVE LINE Connor Hughes

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

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

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

Geoff Schwartz – © USA TODAY Sports Images

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

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

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

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

DEFENSIVE OVERVIEW - by Eric Kennedy

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

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

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

DEFENSIVE LINE - by Eric Kennedy

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

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

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

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

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

LINEBACKERS - by Eric Kennedy

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

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

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

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie – © USA TODAY Sports Images

DEFENSIVE BACKS - by Eric Kennedy

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

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

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

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

SPECIAL TEAMS OVERVIEW - by Eric Kennedy

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

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

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

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

(Boxscore – New York Giants at New York Jets, August 22, 2014)
Aug 212014
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (August 16, 2014)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rashad Jennings – © USA TODAY Sports Images

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Preston Parker – © USA TODAY Sports Images

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

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

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

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

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

THE INJURY REPORT:

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

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

Zak DeOssie – © USA TODAY Sports Images

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

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

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

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

Jets 33 – Giants 3.

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

Corey Washington – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 27 – Indianapolis Colts 26

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

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

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

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

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

OFFENSIVE OVERVIEW - by Eric Kennedy

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

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

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

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

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

QUARTERBACKS - by Eric Kennedy

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

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

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

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

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

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

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

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

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

Curtis Painter – © USA TODAY Sports Images

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

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

RUNNING BACKS - by Eric Kennedy

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

WIDE RECEIVERS - by Eric Kennedy

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

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

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

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

TIGHT ENDS - by Eric Kennedy

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

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

OFFENSIVE LINE - by Eric Kennedy

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

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

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

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

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

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

DEFENSIVE OVERVIEW - by Connor Hughes

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

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

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

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

DEFENSIVE LINE - by Connor Hughes

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

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

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

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

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

LINEBACKERS - by Connor Hughes

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

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

Jacquian Williams – © USA TODAY Sports Images

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

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

DEFENSIVE BACKSby Connor Hughes

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

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

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

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

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

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

SPECIAL TEAMSby Connor Hughes

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

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

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

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

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

New York Giants at Indianapolis Colts, August 16 , 2014

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

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

Victor Cruz – © USA TODAY Sports Images

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

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

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

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

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

Andre Williams – © USA TODAY Sports Images

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

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

THE INJURY REPORT:

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

Tom Coughlin – © USA TODAY Sports Images

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

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

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

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

Rashad Jennings – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 20 – Pittsburgh Steelers 16

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

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

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

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

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

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

Victor Cruz – © USA TODAY Sports Images

OFFENSIVE OVERVIEW - by Connor Hughes

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

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

QUARTERBACKS - by Connor Hughes

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

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

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

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

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

Andre Williams – © USA TODAY Sports Images

RUNNING BACKS - by Connor Hughes

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

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

WIDE RECEIVERS - by Connor Hughes

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

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

TIGHT ENDS - by Connor Hughes

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

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

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

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

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

OFFENSIVE LINE - by Connor Hughes

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

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

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

DEFENSIVE OVERVIEW - by Eric Kennedy

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

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

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

DEFENSIVE LINE - by Eric Kennedy

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

Mathias Kiwanuka – © USA TODAY Sports Images

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

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

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

LINEBACKERS - by Eric Kennedy

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

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

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

DEFENSIVE BACKS - by Eric Kennedy

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

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

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

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

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

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

SPECIAL TEAMS - by Eric Kennedy

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

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

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

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

(Boxscore – Pittsburgh Steelers at New York Giants, August 9 , 2014)
Aug 082014
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (August 3, 2014)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Pittsburgh Steelers at New York Giants, August 9 , 2014

It’s a gradual learning process with the New York Giants this season as the offense continues to learn Ben McAdoo’s new West Coast scheme. Sunday’s Hall of Fame game was a taste. Saturday’s game versus Pittsburgh should be the appetizer.

THE STORYLINE:
Progress. Progress. Progress. Last week versus the Buffalo Bills, the Giants’ starting offense took the field for three possessions. Two looks very bad, one looked very good. The good one came against the Buffalo’s No. 2 defense. Tom Coughlin said on Tuesday the Giants installed two new elements of the offense in practice this week. Is there an improvement with the starters? We’ll see.

FOUR DOWNS:

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

Andre Williams – © USA TODAY Sports Images

First Down
Who’s the Giants’ No. 2 running back?
When David Wilson announced his retirement, it ended the career of a promising back far too soon, but it also opened up questions on who exactly will be spelling Rashad Jennings. Andre Williams flashed in Canton, but he hasn’t proven he can catch. Peyton Hillis has proven he can be a serviceable back, but he’s dealing with an ankle injury. Kendall Gaskins and Michael Cox? The two had a combined 22 carries a year ago. Can someone from this group step up?

Second Down
Can Charles James II handle punt return duties?
When Giants’ special teams coordinator Tom Quinn spoke to the media last week, he said Charles James II and Preston Parker would get extended looks as a punt returner with Odell Beckham Jr. and Trindon Holliday ailing. Holliday is no sure bet to make the team, James isn’t exactly a lock either. The chance to show his value on special teams should be music to his ears for the young corner. If James can show he can be a serviceable returner, reliable with the chance at a big return every now and then, it could go a long way for him making the team. He’s on the bubble as a corner, being a returner could be just the edge James needs.

Third Down
Will the first-team offensive line and tight end be able to generate running room for Rashad Jennings?
Last week, the answer was no. Last year, Eli Manning found himself constantly in 3rd-and-long situations because the Giants had no running game. The Steelers will be a good test.

Fourth Down
Can the first-team defensive line generate a pass rush?
Last week, the answer was again no. The Giants need to see more of pass rush from Jason Pierre-Paul, Mathias Kiwanuka, Cullen Jenkins, and Johnathan Hankins.

Michael Cox, New York Giants (August 3, 2014)

Michael Cox – © USA TODAY Sports Images

PLAYERS TO WATCH:
Connor Hughes – RB Michael Cox
Playing with some very, very bad offensive linemen in front of him, Michael Cox flashed versus the Bills on Sunday. The one play that stood out to me was the screen pass in which he applied a perfect chip bock, then took a few steps up, caught the ball and picked up a good gain. With Hillis ailing and Wilson retired, Cox should see extended reps at running back. This is his chance to not only prove he deserves a spot on the final 53-man roster, but a role on the offense as well. There are reps to be had, Cox needs to grab them. If he can’t? Well, there could be a roster move made next week to bring in another body.

Eric Kennedy – WR Rueben Randle
We heard last  year at camp how great Randle was doing. We’ve heard that times this year as well. Last week, Randle didn’t have a pass thrown in his direction. In 2013, Randle played in all 16 games but he only averaged 2.5 catches per game, did not score in the last six games of the season, and only had one 100-yard receiving game all year (the opener). With Hakeem Nicks gone, Rueben is being penciled in as the the starting split end or X-receiver. He’s got to be a guy who can get open and make plays against top cornerbacks. If not, teams will constantly double Cruz. Who knows when Odell Beckham will be able to play, and how productive he will be since he is so far behind? Randle needs to prove he can do it.

THE INJURY REPORT:

• Jon Beason (PUP LIST/foot/out)
• Will Beatty (pre-planned/leg/out)
• Trumaine McBride (pre-planned/hip/out)
• Odell Beckham Jr. (hamstring/out)
• Xavier Grimble (hamstring/tbd)
• Geoff Schwartz (knee/tbd)
• Mike Patterson (shoulder/tbd)
• Trindon Holliday (leg/out)

FROM THE COACHES MOUTH:
Tom Coughlin: (on how he manages a second preseason game when for many its their first) “If there is a normal role, I suppose you are describing it. Our guys will play the same amount or maybe a little bit more than they did before. I still want to see, if we can, everyone who is dressed. If they are able to play, I would like to see them all.”

THE FINAL WORD:
Connor Hughes - There was promise shown in Canton, now it’s time to build on that and develop consistency. I want to see what Eli Manning looks like another week into the offense. I want to see an improvement amongst the offensive line. I want to see if Marcus Harris can continue to move what he’s shown in training camp to the game day field. But more importantly, as the story line says, I just want to see progress. Because I got the score right last week, although teams wrong, I’m picking again :)
Giants 20 – Steelers 14

Eric Kennedy – On the offensive side of the ball, I still expect growing pains (ups and downs) with Eli Manning and the new offense. But he’s still not my #1 concern. My number one concern is do the Giants still have enough offensive weapons to really scare other teams. We have Cruz. But we don’t have a tight end. I’m not sure we have a starting split end (Randle has to show me; how far behind is Beckham?). I like the running backs, but losing David Wilson takes away the home-run hitter who I think would have done very well in Ben McAdoo’s offense. When will Will Beatty be able to play a full game? And how will he rebound? Do we have a starting-caliber right guard? Defensively, everyone has been saying JPP is back, but we haven’t seen it yet. Can these ends rush the passer?
Steelers 20 – Giants – 13

Aug 072014
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (August 3, 2014)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 17 – Buffalo Bills 13

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

Eli Manning and Ben McAdoo, New York Giants (June 18, 2014)

Eli Manning and Ben McAdoo – © USA TODAY Sports Images

First Down
How does Eli Manning look in a West Coast Offense?
The short answer? Good. The long answer? It’s a work in progress. Manning created a few waves when he and others said the goal this year was to complete “70 percent” of his passes. Well, after one game, Manning is completing over 85 percent. He went 6-for-7, missing on his first throw and then hitting his next six. There will be many more check downs this year, something that early on appears to suit Manning.

Second Down
The progression of Ryan Nassib
Entering into Sunday’s game, Ryan Nassib was coming off two of his best practices of the summer. His showing in the Hall of fame game displayed that. Nassib put some zip on the ball, displayed his mobility and the ability to keep plays alive. There was accuracy shown and some arm strength. Unfortunately, he also showed the inconsistency. Both the intentional grounding and nullified interception were the ‘bad’ aspects you get with the ‘good’ of Nassib.

Third Down
The ‘Legend’ of Devon Kennard
Kennard played well in his first game in a Giants’ uniform. He was physical, wasn’t out of position much and made his usual ‘pop’ play down by the goal line. Kennard ran through a pulling offensive guard, knocked the guard back, while retaining his own balance, and tackled Anthony Dixon near the goal line.

Fourth Down
The rebuilt, re-tooled secondary
One stat says it all, Bills’ quarterback E.J. Mannuel completed 3-of-7 passes. On the few deep passes thrown against Prince Amukamara, the former first-round pick had perfect coverage. On the two passes thrown at Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (both of which were batted down), the corner had cut on the ball and was in position to make a play. The secondary looks good. Very good.

OFFENSIVE OVERVIEW - by Eric Kennedy

Six offensive players did not make the trip to Canton, including key contributors WR Odell Beckham (hamstring) and LT Will Beatty (migraine). Also missing were RB David Wilson (neck), WR Trindon Holliday (hamstring), TE Xavier Grimble (hamstring), and OG/OC Eric Herman (hip).

The Giants had nine legitimate offensive possessions, not counting the kneel down before halftime and three plays to run out the clock at the end of the game. The Giants starting offense played three of the nine possessions (1/3 of the game). They struggled on their first two drives, one three-and-out followed by sack/fumble turnover after picking up one first down. The first-team offense then easily drove down the field on a 12-play, 80-yard drive against the Bills’ second-team defense.

In the second quarter, Ryan Nassib and the second-team offense took the field. Nassib had two drives in the second quarter, the first was an 8-play, 52 yard possession that resulted in a 47-yard field goal. The second only covered 15 yards in six plays.

In the second half of the game, a mixture of second-, third-, and even some fourth-teamers participated in four more offensive possessions that traveled 29 yards (5 plays), 23 yards (5 plays), 69 yards (2 plays, including a 4-yard loss), and 36 yards (12 plays). The highlight was obviously the 73-yard scoring pass from Nassib to WR Corey Washington.

Overall, the Giants accrued 308 total net yards (121 rushing, 187 passing) and 19 first downs. The team was a respectable 6-of-13 (46 percent) on third down and won the time of possession battle 33:37 to 26:23.

Based on my comments below, I have major concerns about offensive line depth and the tight end situation. As much as Jerry Reese supposedly did this offseason, the cupboard is still too bare at these critical positions.

Eli Manning, New York Giants (August 3, 2014)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

QUARTERBACKS - by Eric Kennedy

Eli Manning’s completion percentage was impressive (6-of-7, 86 percent). But he only threw for 43 yards. It’s going to take me some time to get used to this dink-and-dunk offense. However, Eli actually looked more adept at it than I expected, particularly for the first game. His first throw was a bit off the mark (or Jerrel Jernigan was a bit off the mark on his route). But after that, Eli was a perfect 6-for-6. It’s interesting to note that five of the first eight plays (all against the Bills’ starting defense) were designed quick throws. One-two-three…throw. Two passes were intended for Jernigan, three for Jennings. On the 12-play, 80-yard drive, Eli only threw twice, once to Jernigan for 8 yards (on 3rd-and-5) and once to TE Daniel Fells for 10 yards.

My biggest problem with Eli was his decision-making on the sack-fumble play. Both tackles gave up some heat, and the not-so-nimble-footed Eli tried to blindly spin-scramble out of trouble. Problem is by scrambling, he ran into a third defender who had gotten away from Geoff Schwartz. The loss of yardage on the sack would have been bad enough, but losing the football was worse. He can’t be that careless. This play was somewhat reminiscent of his happy feet in the pocket in 2013. Hopefully, this is not a developing trend in his game as he ages.

Ryan Nassib came into the game at the start of the second quarter and played until the beginning of the fourth quarter. He finished the night 7-of-12 for 139 yards, although 73 of those yards came on the one play to Corey Washington. Nassib had two drives in the first half, with mostly second teamers. He was 5-of-8 for 49 yards on those two drives. He showed good mobility and accuracy on a rollout pass to TE Larry Donnell and found WR Marcus Harris for a 25-yard strike over the middle on a strong throw. Pressure in his face caused an incomplete pass on 3rd-and-7 to end his first drive. After completing three short passes on his second drive, he just missed WR Julian Talley deep down the middle (the pass was a tad too high). His 3rd-and-14 incomplete throw to Harris looked on the mark, but it was tough to tell without instant replay.

With a step down in surrounding talent (more third-stringers), the third quarter was not as kind to Nassib. He had two more drives. After completing one short pass that was called back due to offensive pass interference, Nassib threw his worst pass of the night. With pressure in his face, he tried to force the ball to a well-covered Adrien Robinson, not seeing a second defender just sitting in the throwing lane and easily picking off the pass. Luckily for Nassib, a roughing-the-passer penalty erased the interception. Two plays later, however, on a naked boot to the left, the defender on that side didn’t bite on the play-action and was immediately in Nassib’s face. Again, Nassib panicked a bit, throwing the ball into the turf despite not being outside of the pocket. Intentional grounding was correctly called. On the second drive, Nassib completed a 17-yard pass to Mario Manningham, but was sacked two plays later (a penalty on the Bills erased the sack). After two runs, Nassib couldn’t connect with Marcus Harris after a blitzing linebacker got in his face. Nassib’s final throw of the night was his slightly under thrown long ball to Corey Washington for the go-ahead (and game-winning) touchdown.

Curtis Painter (3-of-3 for 26 yards) came into the game with less than 11 minutes to play. He looked respectable.

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

Andre Williams – © USA TODAY Sports Images

RUNNING BACKS - by Eric Kennedy

I liked what I saw from Rashad Jennings (7 carries for 23 yards, 3 catches for 20 yards) and Andre Williams (7 carries for 48 yards) when given an opportunity by the blocking up front. Both are bigger, more physical backs. Both seem more “Giant-like” to me. Jennings has very natural hands and I think he is going put up big reception total numbers in this offense. Eli trusts him. Nice job by Jennings to pick up 5 yards after the catch on 3rd-and-2. Williams demonstrated surprising agility and quickness for a big man, and his 3-yard goal-line touchdown was a no-nonsense effort. Both were helped on the third drive by some very good lead blocking from FB Henry Hynoski. On that drive, 10 of the 12 plays were running plays to Jennings and Williams, gaining 62 of the 80 yards on the possession. I don’t know what was going on with John Conner, but he didn’t look as focused and physical as he did last year. Hynoski out-played him in round one of the FB battle.

With David Wilson done, the drop off from #1 and #2 running back to #3 is pretty big right now. Peyton Hillis (7 carries for 36 yards) can block, catch, and run with some power, but he isn’t very quick or fast, as demonstrated by his 7-yard run on 3rd-and-12 where he made a really nice cut, but couldn’t outrace the defense to the sticks. Kendall Gaskins (5 carries for 5 yards) didn’t have much room to operate behind the third-team line, but he didn’t flash any special qualities either. He also could not sustain his block on a blitzing linebacker that led to an incomplete 3rd down pass.

I was more impressed with Michael Cox (9 carries for 3 yards) despite what the horrendous stats indicate. When given a chance, like his back-to-back 9- and 7-yard runs, he demonstrated better acceleration and quickness than Hillis and Gaskins. Cox stood out on the middle screen play where he expertly chipped a blitzer who could have blown up the entire play, made the one-handed reception, and then ran tough for the first down on 3rd-and-8.

WIDE RECEIVERS - by Eric Kennedy

Oddly, no passes thrown in the direct of Victor Cruz and Rueben Randle. Jerrel Jernigan was the only wide receiver targeted by Eli, catching two of three passes thrown in his direction. Randle did a nice job of run blocking on Williams’ 21-yard run.

Marcus Harris flashed in the third quarter with the second team, especially on his fearless 25 catch-and-run over the middle. He finished the night with 4 catches for 49 yards. He might have had a bigger night had he been able to come down with a 3rd-and-14 throw by Nassib that looked on the mark. Good effort by him on his run blocks as well.

Mario Manningham caught one pass for 17 yards. Corey Washington stood out with his very nice leaping catch where he out-fought the Bills’ defensive back for the ball and a 73-yard score. Julian Talley was flagged for offensive pass interference.

TIGHT ENDS - by Eric Kennedy

Larry Donnell was the #1 tight end in this game. I spotted him getting stymied in the hole as a lead blocker from the fullback position on the first possession. On the second possession, as he was blocking down on DE Mario Williams, Williams squeezed inside to stuff Jennings for a 1-yard loss on 2nd-and-1. But what was weird on this play was that LG Geoff Schwartz ran past Williams to pull around Donnell, as if the running play was supposed to go behind Schwartz and not to the inside where Williams made the play. In other words, I’m not sure Donnell was at fault here.

After this, I thought Donnell did a nice job as a run blocker from the traditional down position, including on the long touchdown drive. He looked good catching a 13-yard pass on a QB rollout in the second quarter. Daniel Fells caught a 10-yard pass before he suffered a knee injury in the second quarter and was forced to leave the game. His blocking looked solid. Right now, Donnell and Fells appear to be the top two tight ends on the depth chart.

Adrien Robinson seemed to be the next guy off the bench, followed by Kellen Davis. Robinson didn’t impress me with his blocking, particularly as a move tight end. He was flailing around out there at times.

Bottom line, the Giants may have a developing player in Donnell and a somewhat serviceable journeyman in Fells, but not much else. Robinson still looks like he isn’t developing and the fact that Davis appeared to be #4 on the depth chart is not a good sign for him. Hello waiver wire come cut-down time. Not good for a Ben McAdoo offense that relies so heavily on tight ends.

OFFENSIVE LINE - by Eric Kennedy

Starting were Charles Brown (LT), Geoff Schwartz (LG), J.D. Walton (C), Brandon Mosley (RG), and Justin Pugh (RT). I was more down on this group when I originally watched the game, less so when looking at the game film a second time. Simply put, there were not enough snaps to adequately judge the starting group.

On the first two drives against the Bills’ formidable starting defensive line, five of the eight plays were very quick (and designed to be quick) throws to Jernigan and Jennings. Given the quick set up and throws, the line was easily able to keep heat off of Eli on these five plays. On the play before the sack-fumble, the offensive line had formed a perfect pocket on the 5-yard completion to Jernigan. The problems were on the other three plays: two runs and one pass. On the first run, as mentioned above, Donnell got stood up in the hole by the linebacker. On the second run, as mentioned, Mario Williams defeated an oddly-designed or executed short-yardage play, leading to a 1-yard loss. On the one passing play where Eli didn’t quickly throw the ball, both Pugh and Charles Brown gave up some pressure (Pugh also was flagged with holding on this play). Eli decided to blindly scramble away from it with a spin move. Geoff Schwartz’s man then broke free to sack Manning. Tough to judge Schwartz here as he probably was surprised by Manning’s move away from the pocket. That said, Schwartz does not look very athletic to me. He lumbers in the open field (he looked really out of place on a screen play). Interesting note is that Mark Asper played tight end on Andre Williams’ goal-line touchdown play.

On the third drive, the first-string offensive line – as one would hope – began to exert itself against the second-team defensive line of the Bills. The Giants ran the ball 10 times for 62 yards; both passes were completed for another 18 yards.

James Brewer, New York Giants (January 30, 2012)

James Brewer – © USA TODAY Sports Images

In the second quarter, the fourth drive started off with Brown (LT), Weston Richburg (LG), Dallas Reynolds (61), Mosley (RG), and Pugh (67). On this drive, James Brewer came in for Pugh at right tackle. Brown was a bit shaky at times throughout the game, including against the backups. During his rookie season in 2011, Brewer was tasked with carrying the team’s lucky teddy bear on road trips. The problem with Brewer – who is a huge athlete – is he plays like a teddy bear. He rarely delivers the punch – a guy that big and strong and nimble shouldn’t be getting pushed back by smaller defenders. Reynolds looked decent at times, but also blew a block on a running play that went nowhere. On the last drive in the second quarter, John Jerry came in for Mosley. He did not look good.

In the third quarter, the line started off as Brewer (LT), Richburg (LG), Reynolds (C), Jerry (RG), and Rogers Gaines (RT). Jerry and Gaines were the obvious weak links on this line. Perhaps Jerry still is fighting his way back from the offseason knee surgery that caused him to miss the OTAs. Or perhaps he simply stinks. But for a big guy, he doesn’t get any movement on his run blocks and he was getting bull-rushed on passing plays. It was his man who got in the face of Nassib on Nassib’s worst throw of the night. Gaines had problems in pass protection a number of times, and both Jerry and Gaines gave up a 3rd quarter sack. In the fourth quarter, John “the human turnstile” Sullen came in at right guard. He was dreadful.

On the last real drive of the game, the line had Brewer (LT), Jamaal Johnson-Webb (LG), Richburg (C), Sullen (RG), and Gaines (RT). Interestingly, I thought Richburg looked shakiest here at his “natural” center position. His man badly disrupted one running play. On this possession, and a few other times at left guard earlier in the game, Richburg was pushed back. He needs to get bigger and stronger. I don’t see the player yet who everyone is excited about.

My overall impression of the offensive line as a unit? The Giants desperately need Will Beatty back at left tackle. I think Schwartz-Walton-Mosley-Pugh will be serviceable, but this is not a physically-imposing line. Richburg needs to play stronger, but he does have good agility. I don’t like the depth situation at all outside Richburg and maybe Brown. Jerry doesn’t look good at all. Brewer is very versatile, but he’s a soft player. When Dallas Reynolds looks like one of the better backups, you know you are in trouble. The rest of the guys – quite frankly – don’t look very good. Sullen and Gaines were terrible. I didn’t seen enough of Johnson-Webb.

Cullen Jenkins and Jason Pierre-Paul, New York Giants (June 18, 2014)

Cullen Jenkins and Jason Pierre-Paul – © USA TODAY Sports Images

DEFENSIVE OVERVIEW – by Connor Hughes

The following players did not play for the Giants on defense after not making the trip to Canton: Trumaine McBride, Bennett Jackson, Travis Howard, Jon Beason, Spencer Paysinger, Robert Ayers and Mike Patterson. 

After watching the game live, I came away being very impressed with the overall play of the Giants’ starting defensive players and reserves. There was pressure on the quarterback, little room for the running backs to run and some tight, physical coverage from the cornerbacks.

The secondary made plays, the defensive line got after the quarterback and the linebackers did a phenomenal job of filling any holes the running backs attempted to escape through. Granted, the offense is not the strength of the Buffalo Bills, but it was still encouraging to see.

Being put in tough positions twice, the Giants’ defense held. Once, coming up with an interception following a blocked punt, and a second time holding the Bills to a field goal following Manning’s fumble. The Giants did allow one touchdown drive, a 15-play, 80-yard possession, that was aided by two penalties. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie committed defensive holding and Prince Amukamara illegal contact.

When all was said and done, the Giants’ defense allowed 246 yards (94 rushing, 152 passing). The Bills went 4-for-13 on third downs, 2-for-3 on fourth downs and were 1-for-3 in the red zone.

I had high expectations for the defense. They met them against a subpar Bills’ offense. This Saturday’s test against the Pittsburgh Steelers should be a good one and provide a larger challenge.

THE DEFENSIVE LINE – By Connor Hughes

Johnathan Hankins was one of the guys I was very interested in taking a look at. For the first time in his career, Hankins was the No. 1 defensive tackle from the start. He wasn’t used in only ‘certain’ packages. He was in them all. He impressed me against the Bills. Hankins shed blocks very well, wasn’t easily moved and found himself in on just about every running play. On the first series of the game, Bills’ running back Fred Jackson attempted to run one up the middle, Hankins stuffed the intended gap and made Jackson bounce it outside. On the second drive, Hankins mauled Chris Williams to make a play on the running back for no gain.

Damontre Moore, New York Giants (September 29, 2013)

Damontre Moore – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Another player I kept an eye on for the defensive line was Damontre Moore, and in particular, Damontre Moore against the run. Sure, his pass rushing skills have been well documented, but can he play the run? Moore showed on two separate occasions that he has improved himself against the run. Both times standing his blocker up, shedding him and then moving down the line in an attempt to bring down the ball carrier. While he did get fooled very badly on the read option, he learned. A series or two later, Moore was unblocked on a running play. Instead of crashing down, he held his ground, waited for the quarterback to commit to the running back, then came down and made the play.

As a pass rusher? Well, Moore was as good as advertised. I had three counts of pressure on the quarterback where he just out-played Cyrus Kouandjio. If both parts of his game come together, he’s gonna be a very, very good player.

While watching the game, I was impressed with Jay Bromley. After watching the film, I’m still impressed with Jay Bromley.  The rookie was strong against the run, got a few pressures and attacked with great leverage.

LINEBACKERS – By Connor Hughes

With all of the talk and praise the Giants’ coaches have given Jacquian Williams, I wanted to keep an extra eye on him. He didn’t flash too much, aside from the bat down, when watching live, so I figured I’d scope him out a bit on tape.

There was one play, on the third series, where the Bills again went deep in Amukamara’s direction. Williams went hard in one gap, there was nothing there, so he bounced around and found another opening. He used his speed to chase the Jeff Tuel down and got in his face, not allowing the quarterback to unload the ball. Williams on the blitz isn’t something that’s been seen a lot in the past, but may be featured more now.

One play, above anything else, stood out to me on the progress Williams has made. On a screen pass to Anthony Dixon, Williams fought through two oncoming linemen, split them both and made the play after only a two-yard gain. If Williams didn’t make it, it was looking like a big play for Dixon.

I read a few people that said Devon Kennard didn’t live up to the ‘hype’ that surrounded him coming form training camp. I disagree. Aside from making a few solid tackles, he made one ‘wow’ play during the game. Near the goal line, Kennard came in on a blitz and ran through Bills’ guard Chris Williams. Kennard knocked Williams back while never losing balance himself, then made the tackle on Anthony Dixon. It was impressive.

THE SECONDARY – By Connor Hughes

When Stevie Brown was appointed the Giants’ starting safety opposite Antrel Rolle, there was talk on how he’d be able to handle the run game. During is first year with the Giants, prior to injuring his knee, Brown essentially just played center field and waited to run wherever the ball was thrown. On the first play of the game, he showed he is a bit physical, too.

Brown started at the safety position, starting moving closer to the box before going on a dead sprint when the play was snapped. Brown shot through the heart of the offensive line and tackled C.J. Spiller for no gain. It was a very, very solid play against the run.

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

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie – © USA TODAY Sports Images

The secondary, by the way, is much, much more physical this year and in-your-face. In the past, the Giants liked to hold their corners 8-10 yards back from the wide receivers. Not any more. I just saw a couple plays where the corners didn’t line up directly over the receiver. Every now and then one corner would be up, one would be back. But nearly every play had at least one up in the face of an opponent’s wideout.

I was a little weary of Walter Thurmond III during the game as I saw him get beat a few times. After watching the film, he played much better than I originally expected. On his first completion, Jeff Tuel put a perfect pass to Rob Woods that few could have defended. On a second completion given up, a slant, Woods ran directly into Thurmond causing him to lose balance. That play could have been offensive pass interference. He played well, much better than I originally thought.

Tuesday, the Giants’ secondary coach Dave Merritt called rookie Nat Berhe ‘The Missile.’ After watching the film, I know why. On the first play he came in, Berhe ran full speed into a Bills’ offensive lineman, bounced off and continued to chance down the running back. On his forced fumble, Berhe saw Chris Gragg being brought down by a teammate. Instead of just trying to put Gragg on the ground, Berhe put his helmet on the ball and forced a fumble.

(Boxscore – New York Giants vs Buffalo Bills, August 3, 2014)
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (June 18, 2014)

Eli Manning  and the Giants’ offense take the field for the first time Sunday – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants vs Buffalo Bills, August 3, 2014

For the first time this season, the New York Giants take the field for a preseason exhibition game versus the Buffalo Bills. The last time New York played in the Hall of Fame game, a young tight end made an impact

Ryan Nassib (9), Ben McAdoo, and Eli Manning (10), New York Giants (July 22, 2014)

Ryan Nassib, Ben McAdoo, and Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

THE STORYLINE:
As vanilla as it may be, as Eli Manning trots out from the sideline and into the huddle it will mark the first time Ben McAdoo’s offense is displayed in an actual game. While the offense won’t be as complex as it will be come the regular season, Sunday will be the first time it’s run in a live game.

4 DOWNS:
First Down
How does Eli Manning look in a West Coast Offense?
For the duration of his career, Eli Manning has been as prototypical of a quarterback as one can get. Five and seven step drops, a perfect pocket and long balls down the field were what was asked of Manning and exactly what he accomplished. With Ben McAdoo in and Kevin Gilbride out as New York’s offensive coordinator, the question on how Manning fits a West Coast scheme is on many people’s mind.

Second Down
The progression of Ryan Nassib
Very little was shown of Nassib last year (19 preseason pass attempts) as the Giants elected to hide the fourth-round pick in order to develop. Now in year two, the No. 2 quarterback position is Nassib’s to lose. He’s looked good in the team’s last two camp practices, but can he show it in a game? Nassib should get an awful lot of reps versus Buffalo.

Third Down
The ‘Legend’ of Devon Kennard
It’s hard to watch a Giants’ training camp practice and not notice the rookie fifth-round pick. Whether it’s his bone-crushing hits, or involvement in nearly ever defensive formation, there’s something about the 23 year old that sticks out. Kennard has enjoyed hitting teammates in practice, now’s his chance to hit an opponent with a different colored jersey.

Fourth Down
The rebuilt, re-tooled secondary
For years and years, the Giants’ defense game plan was predicated on pressuring the quarterback and hiding any weaknesses in the secondary. While the scheme worked for two Super Bowl championships, eventually opponents countered. Knowing quarterbacks wouldn’t have time for long developing plays, offenses worked in short, quick-hit passes to negate New York’s ferocious pass rush. This offseason, the attention turned to the secondary and the likes of Walter Thurmond, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Zack Bowman and others. While it won’t be displayed long, how does the group look together?

PLAYERS TO WATCH:
Connor Hughes – WR Marcus Harris
There have been many, many practices throughout the Giants’ training camp where the offense has looked lost, but the one constant has been second-year pro Marcus Harris. Last year’s undrafted free agent has flashed time and time again with impressive grabs, well run routes and incredible effort. Now, he needs to transition from training camp hero, to game day warrior. Can Harris have a Victor Cruz-like performance in the preseason to earn himself a roster spot? Sunday will be his first chance.

Marcus Harris, New York Giants (July 22, 2014)

Marcus Harris – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Eric Kennedy – DE Damontre Moore
Christ, I could put a dozen legitimate candidates here. I am tempted to go with Brandon Mosley at right guard or his possible replacement Weston Richburg since the state of the offensive line is so critical. But I’m going to go with Damontre Moore as I am very concerned about the Giants ability to rush the passer outside of Jason Pierre-Paul. Moore flashed big time in his preseason debut last year, but got hurt in that game, and never seemed to get back on track. He’s not much bigger this year, but he is stronger and has reportedly looked sharp at camp both against the run and the pass. Will he be a future stud defensive end or just a guy? If the former, this defense could reach a new level given all of the talent in the secondary.

THE INJURY REPORT:
• Jon Beason *PUP LIST*
• Odell Beckham Jr. (hamstring/out)
• William Beatty (illness/out)
• David Wilson (neck/out)
• Bennett Jackson (ankle/out)
• Xavier Grimble (hamstring/out)
• Trindon Holliday (leg/out)
• Spencer Paysinger (concussion/out)
• Mike Patterson (shoulder/out)
• Robert Ayers (ankle/out)
• Trumain McBride (hip/out)
• Eric Herman (out)

FROM THE COACHES MOUTH:

Tom Coughlin, New York Giants (July 22, 2014)

Tom Coughlin – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Tom Coughlin: Well, it’s obvious that you don’t play a game without wanting to win. But it’s the overall picture of the organizational things, the substitutions, the penalties – holding them to a bare minimum; don’t turn the ball over, don’t make the game a sloppy game. Establish some of the things we’d like to do. For example, I’d like to be able to run the ball and be able to do that in the first game this weekend as well. I’m sure Buffalo wants the same thing. So we have those kinds of goals, the specifics about it we’ll present to the team. Coming out of camp – we have not been here very long – have an opportunity to play a game, see what people are like under those circumstances, the enthusiasm, the energy, certainly come out of the game without injuries, all those things.”

THE FINAL WORD:
Connor Hughes – Football is finally back as both the Giants and Bills take the field on Sunday. With all the new pieces added to New York’s roster, I’m excited to see each take the field. Different players have flashed at different times during training camp, but now it’s for real. Heck, maybe even a tight end makes a play or two? Buffalo: 17 – Giants: 13.

Eric Kennedy – In a four-game preseason, the first game is usually a glorified scrimmage. This may be even uglier than that. I don’t expect the Giants starters to play long or look particularly sharp. The coaches will be more interested in working on certain plays and seeing certain players than winning the game. But it will be interesting to see how up tempo the offense is from the get-go. Keep in mind that Coughlin said this week that only half the offensive installation is in place. This is still very much a work in progress. The Giants will also be missing some very important components on both sides of the ball (Beckham, Beason, Beatty). If Nassib struggles, this one could get ugly. Buffalo 27 – Giants 13.

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Jerrel Jernigan, New York Giants (December 29, 2013)

Jerrel Jernigan – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 20 – Washington Redskins 6

Game Overview: This was a miserable football game played in ugly weather conditions by two bad football teams, each looking to end a terrible season on a positive note. Although the Giants won the game, it was a hollow victory, especially given the possibly offseason-altering injury to left tackle Will Beatty, who suffered a fractured leg. The injury not only potentially adds yet another critical need to a very long list of team needs, but also could very much negatively impact the Giants’ salary cap situation given the $19 million in guaranteed money in Beatty’s current contract which was signed last February. This is not to mention that by winning, the Giants also dropped to 12th spot in the first round of the upcoming draft with the Lions and Titans now picking in front of New York.

There is only one “good” thing that came out of this game and that is the punch-in-the-face warning team management received: Eli Manning is not indestructible. If they continue to short-change the offensive line, not only will the offense continue to struggle, but it is now crystal clear that you are really putting the centerpiece of the franchise at risk. If I’m John Mara and Steve Tisch, I put Jerry Reese on immediate notice and demand that he never allows the offensive line to fall into this embarrassing state ever again. The physical breakdown of Chris Snee, David Baas, and David Diehl was easy to predict. Snee and Diehl have been physically declining for some time. Baas has been injury-prone from day one, and instead of hedging their bets with him, the Giants re-structured him twice and worsened his long-term cap impact. Even before the injury, the lucrative, long-term contract given to Beatty was looking like a huge mistake. And behind these starters, there wasn’t much talent waiting in the wings.

I’m sure when the story of the Giants’ 2013 season is written, most of the emphasis will be placed on the poor play of Eli Manning and the team’s league-leading 44 turnovers (29 interceptions and 15 fumbles). But what I will remember is how bad the offensive line was, and how that contributed to the Giants’ worst rushing attack since 1945, and how Eli Manning – a quarterback historically difficult to sack – was sacked 39 times and became gun-shy. Because of the offensive line breakdowns, this team was regularly in 3rd-and-long situations. My disappointment – unlike most fans – is not directed at the coaching staff, but the poor personnel decisions made by the front office.

Offensive Overview: Just dreadful when you consider the fact the Redskins are terrible on defense (31st in points allowed coming into this game and 21st in total defense). The Giants had 16 legitimate offensive possessions. Eight ended with punts and three with turnovers. The Giants had 14 first downs and were 3-of-14 on third down. The Giants were held to 156 net yards passing. The team did have 122 yards rushing, but 57 of those came from WR Jerrel Jernigan. Giants’ running backs only managed 67 yards on 30 carries (2.2 yards per carry). Given the heavy rains, the lack of running game doomed the Giants’ offense from the get-go as passing the football in such weather conditions is difficult at best.

Quarterbacks: You almost couldn’t write a sadder and more appropriate finish. Once again, Eli had no ground game and shaky pass protection. Jerrel Jernigan came to play at wide receiver, but none of the other wide receivers and tight ends did. The heavy rain also made it difficult to throw the football. The result? Eli was knocked out of the game with a high ankle sprain right before the half, finishing the game 10-of-24 for 152 yards, 1 touchdown (on an excellent deep throw), and 1 interception (a high throw caused by Manning’s inability to put weight on his injured ankle). Despite some errant throws and drops, despite the lack of running game and poor pass protection, and despite the ugly weather, Manning was on pace for a 300-yard passing game before he got hurt. Eli should have had one other pass intercepted when Hakeem Nicks stopped his route short across the middle. Based on Eli’s reaction, Eli expected Nicks to keep running.

Curtis Painter was terrible. He fumbled two snaps and finished the game 2-of-8 for 11 yards with one interception. The interception really wasn’t on him, but he was lucky a couple of other passes were not picked off.

Wide Receivers: The best player on the field offensively for the Giants was Jerrel Jernigan. He caught 6-of-7 passes thrown in his direction for 90 yards and a touchdown. He also carried the ball twice for 57 yards and a touchdown. On the Giants’ first scoring drive of the game, Jernigan was responsible for 54 of the 75 yards on the Giants’ first touchdown drive, including a 30-yard catch and run and then the 24-yard touchdown. He also scored from 49 yards out on his end around late in the third quarter for the Giants’ second touchdown.

Rueben Randle was a non-factor before leaving the game with a knee issue that troubled him all week in practice. Hakeem Nicks caught 2-of-4 passes thrown in his direction for 50 yards before leaving the game with an ankle injury in the second quarter. Nicks had to fight for the football on both catches. He stopped running his route on a pass that should have been intercepted and was flagged with offensive pass interference on the play where he got hurt. Louis Murphy was not impressive, only catching 1-of-5 passes thrown in his direction. He had one very bad drop over the middle in the second quarter on a play where he could have done damage after the catch. He also dropped one on the play where Beatty was hurt. Julian Talley did not have a catch, being targeted twice and dropping one. Jernigan, Murphy, and Talley were the only receivers to play in the second half.

Running Backs: While the blocking up front was mostly abysmal, Andre Brown (13 carries for 11 yards) did not seem to run with much power or determination. Worse, he fumbled for the second week in a row and he can thank his lucky stars the defense bailed him out twice (though he still cost the Giants’ three points in this game). Peyton Hillis did not have a lot of yards (56 yards on 17 carries), but he ran with much more authority. Hillis was targeted five times in the passing game but only came up with one catch for six yards.

Tight Ends: In a game where the Giants needed their starting tight end to step up big, both due to the weather and the injury situation at wide receiver, Brandon Myers came up small. He was thrown to five times, and only caught two passes for nine yards. Both of the interceptions were off the hands of Myers. The first was slightly deflected by a linebacker, making it a difficult, but not impossible catch. The second was a very high throw from Manning who could not put weight on his injured ankle. But both plays were very frustrating and too reminiscent of the interception late in the Chicago game. He also dropped a pass early in the game. Myers remains a liability as a blocker. Bear Pascoe and Larry Donnell played, but you never would have noticed.

Offensive Line: I went into this game thinking that the Will Beatty, James Brewer, Kevin Boothe, David Diehl, and Justin Pugh combination should be able to do an adequate job on the Redskins’ defensive front. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The Redskins dominated the line of scrimmage for most of the game. The Giants had 32 yards rushing at halftime on 13 carries and the pass protection wasn’t much better. Brewer left the game early with an ankle injury and was replaced by Dallas Reynolds who got Eli Manning hurt. Will Beatty broke his leg in the third quarter and was replaced by Stephen Goodin. The Giants ran the ball a bit better in the fourth quarter, but that is probably misleading as the Redskins were not playing very hard at that point. Kevin Boothe played horribly, especially on running plays. David Diehl did not play well in what is likely his last game, struggling at times on both run and pass blocks. Kudos to Stephen Goodin who did a respectable job at left tackle after Beatty was injured.

Defensive Overview: The Giants’ defense dominated the game against a Redskins offense whose backup quarterback had been playing fairly well and one of the better rushing teams in the NFL. That said, it should be noted that the Redskins’ offensive players didn’t appear overly inspired and they dropped quite a few passes. Nevertheless, the Giants held Washington to only 12 first downs (two in the first half), 5-of-20 on third down, 91 yards rushing, and 160 yards passing. The Redskins had 17 offensive possessions. They punted nine times, turned the ball over four times, turned the ball over on downs twice, and kicked two field goals. The defense really did a fine job of holding the Redskins to a field goal after Andre Brown fumbled the ball away at the NYG 18-yard line.

Defensive Line: The Giants’ defensive line dominated the line of scrimmage as the defensive tackles and defensive ends all played well against the run. Washington was held to 20 yards on 10 carries in the first half. Washington ran for 91 yards in the game, but 25 of those yards came with less than two minutes left when the Giants were in prevent. DE Justin Tuck once again played very well against Washington, accruing 6 tackles, 2 tackles for a loss, 2 sacks, 1 quarterback hit, and 1 forced fumble. He was a factor on the pass rush throughout the game. DT Cullen Jenkins had 4 tackles, 1 tackle for a loss, 1 sack, 1 quarterback hit, and 1 forced fumble. DT Linval Joseph (4 tackles, 1 tackle for a loss, 1 fumble recovery) and DE Mathias Kiwanuka (4 tackles, 1 quarterback hit, 1 pass defense) played well too. Reserves DT Johnathan Hankins (1 tackle) and DE Damontre Moore (2 quarterback hits, 1 pass defense) flashed although Moore was flagged with a neutral zone infraction.

Linebackers: Jon Beason (9 tackles) and Jacquian Williams (7 tackles, 3 pass defenses) were the team’s leading tacklers. Williams had his hands on two potential interceptions for defensive scores but dropped both. Spencer Paysinger and Keith Rivers each had four tackles, and Rivers recovered a fumble. Williams and Paysinger seem to be coming on a bit.

Defensive Backs: CB Prince Amukamara did an excellent job holding Pierre Garcon, who came into the game with 107 receptions, to a harmless 6 catches for 56 yards. Amukamara was officially credited with 5 tackles and 2 pass defenses.

The only other wide receivers to catch passes were Aldrick Robinson (3 catches for 33 yards) and Santana Moss (2 catches for 13 yards). 13 other passes thrown in the direction of Robinson and Moss were not completed. CB Trumaine McBride played very well too, with two interceptions and 6 pass defenses (a very high number for one game). CB Terrell Thomas saw the most action he has seen in weeks and finished with 5 tackles and 3 pass defenses.

At safety, Will Hill had 5 tackles and Antrel Rolle 5 tackles, 1 pass defense, and one dropped interception.

Special Teams: The Giants forced nine punts and came darn close to blocking a punt a few times. With Randle out of the game, Jayron Hosley became the new punt returner and only manged 9 yards on 3 punt returns. Michael Cox returned two kickoffs, almost breaking one that he returned 32 yards but he couldn’t keep his feet.

Steve Weatherford punted eight times, averaging 44 yards per punt (41.1 net), but it was not his best game with a few low, line-drive punts. Punt coverage was very good as Santana Moss was held to 23 yards on five returns (4.6 yard average). Charles James continues to impress as a gunner and Julian Talley flashed with one big hit. The Redskins had three decent kickoff returns (26, 27, and 25 yards).

Josh Brown was 2-of-3 on field goals. He hit from 34 and 38, but badly missed from 50.

(Box Score – Washington Redskins at New York Giants, December 29, 2013)