Sep 142015
 
Share Button

lloyd_bridges_airplane_looks_like_i_picked_the_wrong_week_to_quit_sniffing_glue_mccroskey

Dallas Cowboys 27 – New York Giants 26

Game Overview

In 20 years of writing or editing game reviews, I’ve noted that Giants fans don’t have much patience or desire to read lengthy reviews after a painful loss, so I will keep this one short and sweet.

Giants fans (and the coaches and players) need to get over this “woe is me” crap right now. Every week in the NFL you see a game that another team screws up badly, and fans will gather around the water cooler on Monday morning and say, “Did you see that game? Man, did that team blow it or what?” Well, Giants fans, this week it was unfortunately our team. It happens. Get over it. Move on. The Giants are only 0-1, losing a close game that most didn’t give them a chance to win. That’s all. They didn’t get knocked out of the playoffs.

But before we totally close the books on this one, let’s look at this game in a broader context instead of discussing the painful final two minutes.

In many ways, the Giants were lucky to be in this game. Consider the following:

  • If you told me before the game that the Cowboys would out-gain the Giants in first downs 27 to 18, total net yards 436 to 289, and net passing yards 356 to 193, I would have told you that the Giants got badly beaten.
  • If you told me that Dallas would dominate the time of possession 37:10 to 22:50, New York must have gotten killed.
  • The Giants were 25 percent (1-of-4) in the red zone while the Cowboys were 60 percent (3-of-5). Sayonara.
  • The Cowboys were 6-of-11 (55 percent) on third down. Must have been a blowout.
  • Tony Romo wasn’t sacked only once and only officially hit once? Yikes.
  • If you told me that Eli Manning passed for less than 200 yards, Odell Beckham only caught 44 yards, and the offense never really had a touchdown drive, then the Giants must have lost by 30.

This game was only close because of three Cowboys turnovers that directly resulted in 17 of New York’s 26 points. The Giants did not have one turnover. That said, the Giants offense really only generated nine points off of three of their ten possessions. The Cowboys all but handed this game to the Giants. New York refused to take it. Too bad. But the better team on this night ultimately won. Now it’s time to move on and get better.

Quarterback

Eli was not helped by dropped passes, but he was clearly out-played by Tony Romo who is now the comeback king in this rivalry. Obviously, Manning should have taken a sack on the final play. Another bone-headed decision from a veteran quarterback who should know better. I love ya Eli, but c’mon.

Running Backs

The Giants only had 33 rushing yards by halftime but finished with 99 yards (80 from the running backs). One third of those 80 yards came on a 27-yard run by Rashad Jennings on the final field goal drive. The Giants obviously need more consistent productivity out their run game. Andre Williams continues to under-perform and the Giants may want to consider promoting Orleans Darkwa in his place.

If true, the real gut-wrenching issue was supposedly Jennings was told not to score on at least 1st-and-goal from the 4-yard line in order to run more time off of the clock. “As a running back, it’s really tough when they tell you not to score,” Jennings said. (Late note: Manning said he was confused about the timeout situation and that he mistaken told Jennings not to score).

Wide Receivers

A major disappointment. “Superstar” Odell Beckham caught five passes for 44 yards (8.8 yards per catch). That’s not going to get it done. Neither is Preston Parker (2 catches for 26 yards) dropping three passes on third down or Rueben Randle only catching three passes for 23 yards. Dwayne Harris wasn’t even targeted. The wide receivers were a major reason why the team lost the game. Want some optimism moving forward? My guess is that this is the worst game this group will play all season.

Tight Ends

Larry Donnell and Daniel Fells caught six passes for 54 yards. The Giants would have won the game had the officials called the beyond obvious holding penalty on Fells on 3rd-and-goal. Shame on the NFL.

Offensive Line

Not bad, but not great. More optimism? This is a unit that should continue to grow and improve with more playing time. The Giants rushed for nearly 100 yards but need greater consistency in the ground game. Eli Manning was sacked once and officially hit only four times.

Defensive Line

The Giants did a better job of stopping Darren McFadden (6 carries for 16 yards) than they did Joseph Randle (16 carries for 65 yards). The ends still need to hold their ground better. But the Giants did a reasonable job of defending a very good run-blocking offensive line by holding the Cowboys to 81 rushing yards. The pass rush was virtually non-existent except for a few pressures by Robert Ayers. Cullen Jenkins may improve the run defense at end, but he can’t rush the passer from that position.

Linebackers

The problem was pass coverage. 22 of Tony Romo’s 36 completions went to running backs and tight ends for 199 yards. Unai’ Unga was put in a tough situation given his inexperience. I would have preferred Jonathan Casillas and J.T. Thomas – both supposedly strong in coverage – being on the field together on the final two drives. Strange decision by the defensive staff.

Defensive Backs

While the secondary deserves some of the blame for the productive night of the Dallas tight ends (i.e., Landon Collins on Jason Witten) and backs, the defensive backs played fairly well. Dallas’ longest pass of the night to a wideout was only 21 yards and Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams, and Cole Beasley were held to 14 catches and 157 yards total. More importantly, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Trumaine McBride, and Brandon Meriweather were responsible for 14 of the Giants 26 points. The pass interference penalty on DRC on 3rd-and-4 was bullshit.

Special Teams

This was supposed to be a big advantage for the Cowboys but the Giants held their own. New punter Brad Wing punted well, averaging 45.5 net yards per punt. The coverage teams were solid. The Giants never had a chance to return six kickoffs (all touchbacks). Dwayne Harris only gained three yards on two punt returns. Josh Brown was 4-for-4 on field goal attempts and 2-for-2 on extra points.

Coaching Staff

Obviously there were some questionable decisions made, particularly late in the game on both sides of the football. Contrary to most, I don’t fault the staff for kicking the field goal on 4th down. Dallas has a great kicker and a field goal still could have sent the game into overtime. But passing the ball on 3rd down backfired. Uani’ Unga was put in a really tough spot.

(New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys, September 13, 2015)
Sep 112015
 
Share Button
New York Giants Game Program (December 16, 1962)

New York Giants Game Program (December 16, 1962)

New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys, September 13, 2015

THE STORYLINE:
If you want to know why the Giants have failed to make the playoffs the last three seasons, look no farther than their struggles to defeat their two most bitter division rivals, the Philadelphia Eagles and the Dallas Cowboys. In the last three years, the Giants are 2-4 against the Eagles and 1-5 against the Cowboys. Indeed, the Giants are a Dez Bryant finger tip away from being 0-6 against the Cowboys in the last three seasons. Beat the Eagles and Cowboys and 9-7 in 2012, 7-9 in 2013, and 6-10 in 2014 turn into 11-5, 10-6, and 10-6 and three division championships for the New York Giants.

To be blunt, while the games have all been very competitive, the Cowboys have owned the Giants in the last three seasons. The Giants have started off poorly in some games and had to play catch-up. But the biggest problem has been the Giants have not made the plays on offense and defense in the 4th quarter to win the games.

Most pundits do not give the Giants much of chance in this game. And there are good reasons to support that belief. The Giants may have a lot of talent on offense but they will be missing Victor Cruz and have big question marks at both offensive tackle positions. Most anticipate the no-name New York defensive line will be mauled by arguably the best offensive line in football. Jon Beason is hurting once again. And a combination of very inexperienced and veteran castoffs will try to man the middle of the secondary against one of the NFL’s most dangerous quarterbacks.

But this is Giants-Cowboys. The odds are the game will be closer than most believe. And the team that makes the fewest mistakes and makes the most plays in the 4th quarter is likely to win the contest.

THE INJURY REPORT: (Late note – Victor Cruz and Jon Beason will not play.)

  • WR Victor Cruz (calf – will not play)
  • OT Will Beatty (pectoral – on PUP and will not play)
  • DE Cullen Jenkins (hamstring – probable)
  • DE Owamagbe Odighizuwa (foot – probable)
  • LB Jon Beason (knee – will not play)
  • LB Jonathan Casillas (neck – probable)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
On paper, the defense of the Dallas Cowboys looks underwhelming. The secondary is weak and missing their best defensive back, Orlando Scandrick, who is gone for the season. The Cowboys will also be missing two of their most important front-seven players due to suspensions (DE Greg Hardy and LB Rolando McClain). In fact, there are no real headliners on the defensive line.

But the Cowboys should not be underestimated on defense. They are extremely well-coached under Rod Marinelli’s more conservative bend-but-don’t-break 4-3 defense. The Cowboys force a lot of turnovers (2nd in the NFL with 31 in 2014). The Dallas linebackers such as the very talented but injury-prone Sean Lee get most of the media attention, but its their defensive line that causes more problems than one might expect.

“(The Cowboys) rely on the stunt game rather than pressure,” said Tom Coughlin. “They’re not a high-percentage pressure (blitzing) team. But they’re going to move that front all over the place, they’re not big. They’re penetrators, and they’re powerful. And then seeing (Tyrone) Crawford, he’ll knock the living daylights out of you. Ereck Flowers has this (Jeremy) Mincey guy. I hope he prepares himself, because he’s a powerful man for not a big man.”

Coach Coughlin hit the nail on the head. The physically underwhelming (6’4”, 285lbs) Crawford has given teams – especially the Giants – fits in the middle of the offensive line. It’s probably one of the reasons why the Giants have beefed up the middle of their offensive line with Justin Pugh, Weston Richburg, and Geoff Schwartz. Mincey is not a top pass rusher, but he was the most consistent one for Dallas last season. And the Cowboys hope the undersized but athletic second-year end DeMarcus Lawrence gives Marshall Newhouse problems. Dallas has a number of young and athletic reserves, including rookie DE Randy Gregory, and they want to attack the Giants offensive line in waves.

But the Dallas defensive line is not big. In fact, outside of Mincey, it’s downright small. And because of that, they have to play twists and stunts up front to compensate. If the Giants offensive line can handle these defensive line games, then the Giants should be able to maul these guys. But that’s a big if. The Giants have not handled opposing defensive line movement well in recent years. There have been too many mental (not just physical) breakdowns.

The question for Tom Coughlin and Ben McAdoo is what is the best way to attack the Cowboys? Marinelli expects to give up yardage, but he’s counting on the Giants to make the mistake (turnover, penalty, inability to convert on 3rd down) to stall a drive. Do the Giants use the typical West Coast philosophy and mix up what has been an inconsistent running game with dink-and-dunk passes (especially to Shane Vereen) to attempt to matriculate the ball down the field on long drives? That puts the onus on the Giants being able to run the ball, plus not making the mistake. But it has to be a very attractive option too given the size disparity between the two lines. Or do the Giants put heavy pressure on their offensive tackles, take those 5- and 7-step drops, and throw deep to Odell Beckham and Rueben Randle? Obviously, there will be some mixture of both approaches, but it will be interesting to see where the emphasis is placed.

The Giants need a big game from Eli. He usually plays well against Dallas, especially in Dallas. The Giants may need some 4th quarter heroics from him. After leading the NFL with eight 4th quarter comebacks in 2011, Manning had three in 2012, two in 2013, and only one in 2014. That’s not all on him, but New York needs more from their $100 million man. They also need Odell to be Odell. Like in all sports, winners need their stars to make the big play in big moments. Beckham has the ability to single-handily take over this game if he doesn’t get too hyped.

Regardless of the tactical and strategic approach, probably the biggest key in this game for the Giants is to avoid turnovers. Too many Giants-Dallas games in recent years have been decided by killer turnovers that have resulted in defensive scores.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
Except for when the Giants were playing against second- and third-team back-ups in the preseason finale, the starting Giants’ defense did not play well in the preseason. They could not stop the run. They could not rush the passer. They could not cover. They didn’t force turnovers. They have a completely new defensive scheme that they are still learning. The leader of the defense is a gimpy linebacker who seems to be held together with duct tape. The safety situation is a combination of youthful inexperience and veteran castoffs. And the team’s only defensive star sits at home after blowing off his finger. Not a pretty picture for a unit that now must face one of the NFL’s very best rushing and passing attacks.

The hope here is that the defensive wrinkles Steve Spagnuolo kept quiet during the preseason will cause the Cowboys mental rather than physical issues. Perhaps the offensive line is confused by different formations, techniques (where the defenders line up), and blitzes. However, it’s hard to imagine that the experienced Tony Romo will be confused by shifts in a secondary manned by a couple of green safeties however.

There are two clear apparent mismatches that work against the Giants: (1) Dallas’ excellent offensive line versus New York’s no-name and underwhelming defensive line, and (2) the Dallas passing game against the middle of New York’s secondary.

Dallas has three of the NFL’s best offensive linemen at left tackle, center, and right guard. It’s one of the reasons why Dallas was second in the NFL in rushing the football in 2014. DeMarco Murray may be in Philadelphia now, but the Cowboys can muscle and maul even good defensive lines. Their Achilles’ heel? Last season the Washington Redskins demonstrated that the young Cowboys line can still be confused with movement and blitzes. That’s hopefully where Steve Spagnuolo’s schemes come in. I would expect the Giants to blitz a lot, especially with Devon Kennard, J.T. Thomas, and Landon Collins. If Tony Romo has all day to throw throughout the contest, the Giants won’t win this game. But when when you live by the blitz, you often die by the blitz. The pressure will not only be on the blitzers to get to Romo and bring down the elusive quarterback, but to cover on the back end of the defense, especially against Dez Bryant. The good news for the Giants is that Prince Amukamara has done a good job on Bryant. They need more of the same from him as well as an outstanding game from Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.

More than the receivers outside, it’s the insider receivers who worry me. Tight end Jason Witten has been a Giant-killer over the years. And the reserve tight ends have also given the Giants problems in recent games. Throw in slot receiver Cole Beasley against Trevin Wade or Trumaine McBride or whomever is covering him and these look like problem areas. If I’m Dallas, I attack the middle of the defense over and over again. The key guy here for New York could be nickel linebacker Jonathan Casillas.

Much of this is moot however if the Giants can’t stop the run. You could hear that concern from Spagnuolo this week. “The bullets in the pass rush. Well, we’ve got enough there,” said Spagnuolo. “We’ve got to get them in those situations. I think that’s really important. Then we’ll let them go, see what happens.”

Can Johnathan Hankins, Markus Kuhn, Jay Bromley, Robert Ayers, Cullen Jenkins, Kerry Wynn, George Selvie, Damontre Moore, and Owamgabe Odighizuwa hold up at the point-of-attack and allow the linebackers and defensive backs to run to the ball carrier? The game is still usually decided in the trenches.

One final note. Just like I mentioned on the offensive side, on the defensive side turnovers are often the great equalizer. If the Giants can force some turnovers and win the turnover battle, they have a great shot to win this game.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
Dallas is really, really good on special teams. Their place kicker is the best in the game and virtually perfect, including from long distance. Most of his kickoffs result in touchbacks and are not returned. The punter is very solid. And the Cowboys are very fast and aggressive on their coverage units. We’re going to find out very quickly if the $17 million the Giants spent to rip Dwayne Harris away from the Cowboys was money well spent. It will also be our first look at punter Brad Wing. How well he works as a holder with kicker Josh Brown on extra point and field goal attempts could be an issue.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Tom Coughlin on Dallas’ offense: “What they’ve done is they’ve taken the pressure off (of Tony Romo). The quarterback had a great year. They’re going to run, they’re going to run, they’re going to run, and hopefully we can do something about the run. The offensive line hasn’t changed.”

THE FINAL WORD:
Both teams are pretty equal at quarterback and receiver. Dallas has better tight ends but the Giants probably have better running backs. The Giants’ top two corners on defense are much better than Dallas’ corners and there isn’t all that much difference on the defensive side of the ball. The bigger issue on defense is New York is a year behind the learning curve with their new scheme (too bad they waited a year on Spagnuolo).

Where are these two teams different? The offensive line. New York may be catching up with the recent additions of Ereck Flowers, Justin Pugh, Weston Richburg, and Geoff Schwartz but they are not there yet. But this unit could make quite a statement and win the game for their team if they somehow managed to out-perform their much touted Dallas counterparts. The odds are, however, that Ereck Flowers will look like a struggling rookie. And there is a big concern about how Marshall Newhouse will do at right tackle.

This is a good time for the Giants to catch Dallas. They had a lot of nagging injuries in camp that prevented them from practicing and playing together. Two of their best players are suspended. Dallas played like crap in their opener last year. The Giants have a good chance here to pull off the upset. Win the turnover battle and they’ll do it.

Sep 052015
 
Share Button
Tom Coughlin, New York Giants (September 3, 2015)

Tom Coughlin – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 12 – New England Patriots 9

Game Overview

With the Patriots sitting their starters and playing their third-string quarterback, and the Giants sitting Eli Manning and Odell Beckham, this game was really nothing more than a glorified scrimmage. And it was almost as painful to watch unless you really get into watching how the individual players perform. I do and that’s how I’ll approach this review.

Offensive Overview

Without the team’s two best offensive players – Manning and Beckham – and with Victor Cruz still sitting out due to a calf injury, the Giants offense sputtered with Ryan Nassib at the helm. The Giants only managed to put 12 points up on the board with drives of 44 (10 plays, aided by 20 penalty yards), 80 (10 plays, aided by 15 penalty yards),  57 yards (11 plays), and 55 yards (9 plays). Overall, the Giants accrued only 16 first downs, 107 yards rushing, and 193 yards passing.

The only real offensive “highlights” were the 40-yard pass to wide receiver Geremy Davis and the 33-yard pass to tight end Jerome Cunningham.

Ryan Nassib, New York Giants (September 3, 2015)

Ryan Nassib – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Quarterbacks

Ryan Nassib (16-of-32 for 193 yards, 0 touchdowns, 0 interceptions) had his moments, but he did not play as well as he should have against Patriots back-ups. It was a somewhat disappointing effort after his stronger performances in the previous two preseason games. Nassib seemed a bit jumpy in the pocket even when afforded solid pass protection. He looked intent on getting out of the pocket a bit too often and had some accuracy issues when throwing from the pocket.

Running Backs

Rashad Jennings (1 carry for 2 yards) and Shane Vereen (1 carry for 3 yards) barely played. Andre Williams saw his most action of the preseason and had 28 yards on eight carries (3.5 yards per carry). Orleans Darkwa (10 carries for 39 yards) and Kenneth Harper (10 carries for 36 yards) saw the bulk of the action.

One of the neat stories of the game was fullback Nikita Whitlock, who logged about 60 snaps total at fullback, on defense at defensive tackle, and on special teams. He flashed in all of these areas, including as a lead blocker. Whitlock carried the ball once for two yards on 3rd-and-2 on the game-winning field goal drive.

Wide Receivers

Odell Beckham (healthy scratch), Victor Cruz (calf), and Corey Washington (shoulder) did not play. The only receivers to catch more than one pass were were James Jones (4 catches for 39 yards) and Geremy Davis (3 catches for 65 yards). Julian Talley had one catch for 19 yards, Dwayne Harris one catch for eight yards, and Rueben Randle on catch for eight yards. Preston Parker was targeted three times but had no receptions.

Aside from the 40-yard reception, Davis had a nice catch on a low 3rd-and-5 throw from Nassib. He also had an 18-yard reception on the third field goal drive. Talley’s 19-yard reception came on 3rd-and-5 on the same drive.

Tight Ends

I miss the days when Giants tight ends could block.

Larry Donnell was targeted once but had no catches. He still has issues as a blocker. For example, he whiffed on his man on the first offensive play for the Giants.

Daniel Fells sat out most of the game with a shoulder injury; he was targeted twice and had one catch for one yard. Fells was flagged with a holding call, wiping out a 6-yard run by Andre Williams.

Adrien Robinson was targeted three times. He had one catch for four yards and dropped a touchdown pass. Robinson simply doesn’t look like an athlete, and worse, despite his size, he is not a good blocker. He often gets stood up and/or pushed back and sometimes it simply looks like he isn’t trying very hard.

Jerome Cunningham only caught one of three passes thrown his way, but it was an impressive, twisting deep sideline catch for 33 yards despite tight coverage. However, he does not create any movement either when blocking from the down tight end position.

Offensive Line

While the first- and second-team lines were not bad, they had some rough moments and it would have been nice to see more consistent run blocking against New England back-ups.

Geoff Schwartz started at right guard, but again split time with John Jerry at the position. Schwartz also saw some time at right tackle, where he got promptly flagged for holding. Both Schwartz and Jerry saw extended snaps as the coaching staff likely wants to evaluate both and get Schwartz back into game shape. Schwartz appears to be the slightly better option at this point. For a big guy, he hasn’t been playing with much power, but Jerry continued to have issues in the ground game, even against back-ups playing in the second half.

The play of Ereck Flowers this preseason has been mostly positive but he did have some issues on Thursday. He didn’t get much movement on one left-side run and then a few plays later, he got beat to the outside, panicked, and grabbed the facemask of his opponent (he did this earlier in the preseason too). The penalty sabotaged the promising first drive.

One guy who looks undersized but has done a decent job all preseason is Adam Gettis at left guard. He seems to be pretty reliable, but he just may not be naturally big and strong enough. Dallas Reynolds continued to do a solid job as the back-up center. Bobby Hart struggled in pass protection at right tackle in the second half, as did Emmett Cleary when he shifted from left tackle to right guard. Hart also got beat on a run block late in the game when the Giants were trying to run out the clock.

Defensive Overview

This was the best the defense has looked by far this preseason, but that comes with the major caveat that they were playing against back-ups and a third-string quarterback. So it’s probably unwise to read too much into this performance.

The Giants were missing nine defensive players due to injury in this game.

The Patriots were held to 61 yards rushing as the Giants accrued four sacks and two turnovers. On the downside, the mediocre Ryan Lindley did pass for 253 yards and the Patriots were 7-of-18 (nearly 40 percent) on third-down conversion attempts.

In terms of X’s and O’s, check out Joey in VA’s observations on the game in The Corner Forum.

Defensive Line

DE/DT Cullen Jenkins (hamstring) and DE Robert Ayers (ankle) did not play. Because of that, the youngsters at defensive end received extended playing time and impressed against back-ups for the most part. Kerry Wynn (2 tackles for a loss and 2 QB hits) had his best game of the preseason, as he played outside in the base defense and inside at tackle in pass rush packages.

Damontre Moore had a rough night in the penalty department. He was flagged with two roughing-the-passer and one unnecessary roughness penalties (the latter one was borderline as he was pushed in the back). Those are the types of mental errors that have gotten him in trouble with the coaching staff in the past. That said, on the Patriots’ first field goal drive, Moore was repeatedly giving the Patriots’ reserve left tackle problems in pass protection. He even flashed in run defense in this game at times. His biggest play was his strip sack to end the game.

George Selvie had a big game with four tackles and two sacks. He did well against the run too. Owamagbe Odighizuwa (2 tackles) continues to look good at the point-of-attack in run defense.

Inside, Jay Bromley flashed a couple of times with his run defense and pass rush, including one sack. Markus Kuhn played stouter at the point-of-attack this week, including combining with Moore to tackle the back for a 1-yard loss late in the third quarter.

Linebackers

Jon Beason (knee) and Jonathan Casillas (neck) did not play again.

J.T. Thomas quickly penetrated the line and hit the running back deep in the backfield on the second play, but did not make the tackle (Kerry Wynn cleaned up). He did a nice job of filling the hole and getting to the ball carrier on the next possession. Thomas had good coverage and deflected the ball away on two pass attempts, including a 3rd-and-8.

Jameel McClain and J.T. Thomas, New York Giants (September 3, 2015)

Jameel McClain and J.T. Thomas – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Devon Kennard pressured the passer on the very first defensive snap. Jameel McClain had a chance at an early sack but missed. He got good pressure on another inside blitz and tackled a running back for a loss on an outside run.

Mark Herzlich was stout against the run from the outside linebacker spot. Cole Farrand gave up a 26-yard completion to TE Asante Cleveland and badly missed a tackle after a short throw. Unai’ Unga stumbled when pursuing to the ball after a short completion, leading to a 16-yard gain. He also could not make a play on the ball on a 17-yard reception over the middle on 3rd-and-14. Unga did knock down one pass late in the game.

Ashlee Palmer made a couple of nice tackles late in the game after short pass completions, including one screen pass.

Defensive Backs

CB Trevin Wade (back), CB Chyke Brown (knee), CB Chandler Fenner (hamstring), S Jeromy Miles, and S Nat Berhe (calf) did not play.

This was the best performance we’ve seen from Landon Collins so far. He did a nice job of recovering and knocking away a 3rd-and-1 sideline pass on the second drive. Later, he almost came down with an interception on a deep post pattern to the end zone. Collins also flashed in run support.

Cooper Taylor started alongside Collins and did a nice job of coming up and making a sure tackle after short completion.

Brandon Meriweather had a chance to put a kill shot on the 26-yard pass to TE Asante Cleveland but seemed to misjudge the path of the ball. Three plays later, he missed a tackle on the running back.

Stevie Brown possibly saved a game-winning touchdown late in the game with a sure tackle on the running back who had broken past the line of scrimmage. He later ended the Patriots’ drive with an interception off of a deflected pass.

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie appeared to be going through the motions with his coverage and tackling. He gave up an 18-yard reception on 3rd-and-1 to WR Reggie Wayne. Prince Amukamara, who has missed much of the preseason, played surprisingly late into the second quarter. He didn’t get tested much.

Jayron Hosley came close to picking off a pass in the second quarter when covering WR Reggie Wayne. But later on the drive, he was flagged with a bad defensive holding call on a poorly-thrown 4th-and-4 incomplete pass. Despite decent coverage, Hosley was still giving up completions late in the 4th quarter too such as the 8-yard slant on 3rd-and-2. And then he immediately got beat on the next play for a 19-yard gain; Hosley didn’t even turn around to make a play on the ball.

Trumaine McBride gave up a 24-yard completion on 3rd-and-12 in the second quarter.

I suspect the Giants will be scanning the waiver wire for cornerbacks.

Special Teams Overview

Placekicker Chris Boswell filled in for the injured Josh Brown (leg) and made all four of his field goal attempts from 34, 29, 33, and 41 yards out.

Punter Steve Weatherford punted six times, averaging 45.5 yards (41 net) per punt, but the Giants remained unhappy with his directional skills and cut him the day after the game. The Patriots returned five punts for 27 yards with a long of 16 yards.

Kickoff coverage was solid as the Patriots had three returns for 25, 20, and 9 yards.

Zak DeOssie was active on the coverage units. Ashlee Palmer had two special teams tackles and Nikita Whitlock was in on two more. Orleans Darkwa made a nice tackle after Weatherford’s best punt of the night.

Dwayne Harris was held out of the return game as Preston Parker returned two punts for seven yards and Jayron Hosley returned one for nine yards. He was lucky that an early punt that he did not field and appeared to touch another Giant did not result in a turnover. Meanwhile, the Giants continue to do a piss-poor job of blocking opposing gunners (good luck Harris!). Mark Herzlich (holding), Nikita Whitlock (illegal block in the back), and Brandon Meriweather were all flagged with penalties on punt returns.

Kenneth Harper returned one kickoff for 22 yards.

(New York Giants at New England Patriots, September 3, 2015)
Sep 022015
 
Share Button
Odell Beckham and Rashad Jennings, New York Giants (August 29, 2015)

Odell Beckham and Rashad Jennings – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants at New England Patriots, September 3, 2015

THE STORYLINE:
Except for the undetermined starters on the defensive line and safety, most of the Giants first-line players will sit after two series. The Patriots rarely play their starters in this final game so the Giants offense and defense should look better early. This game is more about determining (1) who will start on opening day at defensive end, (2) the defensive tackle position next to Johnathan Hankins, (3) who will start on opening day at safety, and (4) who will make the final 53-man roster.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • WR Victor Cruz (calf – will not play)
  • WR Corey Washington (shoulder – will not play)
  • LT Will Beatty (pectoral – on PUP and will not play)
  • DE Robert Ayers (ankle – will not play)
  • DE/DT Cullen Jenkins (hamstring – will not play)
  • LB Jon Beason (knee – will not play)
  • LB Jonathan Casillas (neck – will not play)
  • CB Trevin Wade (back – will not play)
  • CB Chykie Brown (knee – will not play)
  • CB Chandler Fenner (hamstring – will not play)
  • S Jeromy Miles (groin – will not play)
  • S Nat Berhe (calf – will not play)
  • PK Josh Brown (leg – will not play)

FOUR DOWNS:

First Down
Who should start at defensive tackle next to Johnathan Hankins?
Despite what Head Coach Tom Coughlin says, Markus Kuhn, who has started at defensive tackle all spring and summer, has not impressed. Will he be the opening day starter or will the Giants move Cullen Jenkins back inside or start Kenrick Ellis or Jay Bromley at the position? Right now, it appears that Kuhn is the favorite to win the job.

Second Down
Who will start at defensive end?
Jason Pierre-Paul is not coming to the rescue. Meanwhile, Robert Ayers is out at least this game with an ankle injury. If he is healthy on opening day, it’s largely assumed he will start. Cullen Jenkins, who probably won’t play in this game due a hamstring injury, has been starting at end this summer. This game represents a good opportunity for George Selvie (who had been out with a knee injury), Owamagbe Odighizuwa, Kerry Wynn, and Damontre Moore to make their case.

Third Down
Who will start at safety?
Coach Coughlin was impressed with the performance by Landon Collins and Cooper Taylor against the Jets. The two formed the first-team safety combination in practice this week. They will be pressed by Brandon Meriweather and recently re-signed Stevie Brown. Jeromy Miles may be falling out of the picture due to his lackluster preseason performance and now groin injury.

Fourth Down
Who will the final two wide receivers be?
It’s largely assumed that the top four receivers to make the squad will be Odell Beckham, Victor Cruz, Rueben Randle, and Dwayne Harris. That probably leaves two roster spots for Preston Parker, James Jones, Geremy Davis, Corey Washington, and Julian Talley. It’s hard to see the Giants parting ways with Davis who has impressed this summer. The final roster spot may come down to Parker versus Jones with Parker – based on his early preseason playing time – being the favorite.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:
Cooper Taylor
Is Taylor a viable starter? Can he stay healthy? Here is his last big chance to make an impression before the games count.

Uani Unga
It would be tough for the Giants to keep seven linebackers. So the undersized but instinctive Unga will likely have to beat out Jameel McClain or Coughlin-favorite Mark Herzlich for a roster spot.

Any defensive end who can rush the passer
The Giants have not been able to get any consistent pass press on the quarterback this preseason from their defensive ends. Is there anyone on this roster at end who scares the opposition?

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Tom Coughlin: “I feel better with (Landon) Collins getting some kind of routine going. He practiced, he played, and I feel good about that. And, to be honest with you, Cooper Taylor played well the other night. So I’m excited about seeing him this weekend, too. Some of these people that are starters are still going to play a little more. They’re going to play more. Some will continue to play in the game for X amount of plays, others will come out. That’s going to give us a chance to see a little bit what they can do.”

THE FINAL WORD:
It would be unwise to read too much into this final game as historically Bill Belichick shows no interest in this game and Tom Coughlin only wants to get a couple of series out of his starters. This is more about making final roster decisions and making final determinations on starting jobs. In other words, the games within the game are more important. Probably the most important aspect to keep an eye on is the play of the safeties.

Aug 302015
 
Share Button
Odell Beckham, New York Giants (August 29, 2015)

Odell Beckham – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Jets 28 – New York Giants 18

Game Overview

Preseason results are often meaningless. But coming off of back-to-back 7-9 and 6-10 seasons, coaches, players, media, and fans are looking for reasons to be hopeful in 2015. With only one preseason game left to play and the starters unlikely to play more than two series in New England, there are ominous storm clouds on the horizon with the New York Giants.

The basic problem for the Giants is this: the defense looks awful. If the team has any shot at the playoffs, the offense is going to have to carry this team by being one of the best in the NFL. However, the starting offense has looked pedestrian as best. Worse, despite another supposed infusion of talent in the offseason, special teams remains a weakness.

Right now, based on what we’ve seen on the playing field, the Giants appear to be one of the league’s worst teams. And an injury-plagued one with little depth at that. The odds are that Tom Coughlin and his staff will be fired at the end of the season, but Jerry Reese and his college and pro personnel talent evaluators will get a pass.

Offensive Overview

The Giants still have issues consistently running the football. Offensive line instability due to injuries to Weston Richburg and Geoff Schwartz has been a factor as well as playing against some strong and physical defensive fronts in the preseason. But the bigger issue is that Eli Manning and his receivers have not played particularly well. The Giants starting offense has had one really good drive this preseason and that was aided by three Jets penalties and the officials missing an incomplete 3rd-down pass.

Other than this 14-play, 85-yard effort, the first-team offense had two first downs and 32 yards on their other four possessions against the Jets. Worse, they handed the Jets a defensive score. If the Giants offense doesn’t become a scoring machine this season, the Giants are in deep trouble. Right now, they look far from elite status.

Quarterbacks

The expectation is that 2015 will be one of Eli Manning’s very best seasons, that he would once again approach his 2011 level of play. The early returns have been disappointing. Yes, Eli was 12-of-16 against a very good Jets defense. But he personally caused a 14-point swing in the game. He badly missed a wide open Odell Beckham on what should have been a 70-yard touchdown. Worse, he made an incredibly stupid decision to throw the ball short in the middle of the field with less than 20 seconds left and no timeouts. Even had James Jones come back to catch the ball at the Jets 41-yard line, there was not enough time to run another play to get into field goal range. There was nothing to gain from that throw. Stupid, inexcusable play by a quarterback who wants to be one of the top paid in the NFL. Also keep in mind that Manning hasn’t thrown a pass over 19 yards this preseason.

Ryan Nassib has out-played Eli Manning. Yup, I said it. And Nassib has done it with far shakier pass protection, demonstrating less fear of the pass rush. If I’m the Giants, I’m not sure I sign Eli Manning to a long-term contract right now. I let him play out the 2015 season and let the new coaching staff decide whether they want him or not. The Giants have the cap room to Franchise him. The new regime can then decide whether to trade him or extend his contract. The Giants won’t do this, but Eli is still making too many idiotic decisions in his 12th season for me to hand over $100 million without him playing better.

I’m a big fan of Manning. I think he’s the best quarterback to ever play for the franchise. But if the Giants give him $100 million and he’s no more than a middle-of-the-pack quarterback at age 34, they will be stuck with him for better or worse because salary cap ramifications will make it impossible to trade or cut him.

As for Nassib, he had his second strong performance in a row and would have had an even bigger night had his receivers helped him out more. That said, he does need work on his deep passing. He was off on three deep throws.

Rashad Jennings, New York Giants (August 29, 2015)

Rashad Jennings – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Running Backs

It’s been a weird preseason for the running backs. The headliners Rashad Jennings (12 carries in three games, 9 of which came against the Jets for 28 yards), Shane Vereen (8 carries, 4 receptions in three games), Andre Williams (7 carries in three games) have not received many touches. So it’s been hard for them to get into a rhythm or for us to get a good feel for their play. Each has flashed at times. Jennings had a 12-yard run where he could done more damage had he been able to keep his feet. Vereen looked very good on a swing pass that picked up 19 yards. It will be interesting to see how Tom Coughlin and Ben McAdoo use Jennings and Williams. I hope they allow one of these two to get into a rhythm in games and not constantly rotate them.

Meanwhile, Orleans Darkwa (20 carries in three games) has been receiving the most action. He looks like a legitimate NFL player who can make something out of nothing when carrying the ball. Could he actually be the best back on the team? Akeem Hunt has flashed enough (including a 15-yard run against the Jets) to ensure a place on the Practice Squad.

Wide Receivers

The good news is that Odell Beckham finally got his first catches of the preseason. But his five receptions went for a paltry 31 yards (6.2 yards per catch). He would have had a much bigger night had he been able to keep his feet in-bounds on another superb one-handed effort and had Eli Manning not badly missed him on what should have been a 70-yard touchdown reception against Darrelle Revis. Beckham’s 8-yard reception on 3rd-and-3 on the TD drive hit the ground.

The bad news is Victor Cruz has yet to play this preseason. We still don’t know if he will be ready for the opener. Rueben Randle has had an awful preseason. He only played three snaps in the first game, was held out the second game, and had one catch for seven yards against the Jets. Not good, especially since we still don’t know how much his knee tendinitis will affect him the rest of the year.

Preston Parker continues to see a lot of game-day action with little to show for it (1 catch for 5 yards and one false start penalty). James Jones had four catches for 54 yards but was involved in both team turnovers (first, he didn’t come back for the ball on Eli’s pick 6; second, he fumbled the ball away after a 15-yard reception to the Jets’ 19-yard line).

Geremy Davis was targeted six times, coming down with three catches for only 19 yards. His best play was his 15-yard reception on 3rd-and-10 on the last TD drive. Dwayne Harris has caught one pass for seven yards, but also had a bad drop. After an explosive preseason last year, Corey Washington only has three catches for 25 yards in three games despite playing a lot. Julian Talley made a superb, diving effort on the 2-point conversion.

Adrien Robinson, New York Giants (August 29, 2015)

Adrien Robinson – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Tight Ends

Larry Donnell has not done much this preseason (4 catches for 34 yards, 1 catch for 5 yards against the Jets). He did not block well as an up back in this game. Despite more targets in the passing game, Adrien Robinson (4 catches for 19 yards in three games) still looks like a cumbersome athlete, but he did draw a 9-yard pass interference penalty on 3rd-and-8 on the first TD drive. That said, Robinson really didn’t help his cause with his lackluster run and pass blocking.

The two sharpest guys seem to have been Jerome Cunningham (3 catches for 58 yards, two defensive pass interference penalties in three games) and Daniel Fells (1 catch for 21 yards against the Jets). Cunningham needs to improve as a blocker. Had he stayed with his assignment on Jennings’ 12-yard run, Jennings probably would not have been tripped up. But he made a very athletic play on his 24-yard reception up the seam on the final TD drive of the game. He then capped that off that drive with a 6-yard touchdown catch. Fells remains the most consistent blocker at tight end.

Offensive Line

John Jerry started at right guard but Jerry and Geoff Schwartz switched off at the position all night. It’s pretty obvious that the Giants are trying to work Schwartz back into the starting line up at that position if his surgically-repaired ankle holds up. Though he was a bit shaky early, Schwartz was in the game during the team’s best drive of the preseason. The line seems steadier with him in the game, although for a big man he sometimes has issues with power. The problem with Jerry in the ground game is he simply does not sustain his run blocks, this was an issue even on Akeem Hunt’s 15-yard run in the 4th quarter.

Left tackle Ereck Flowers continues to improve each week. He is everything as advertised in the run game. There were too many mistakes from left guard Justin Pugh, who gave up a sack and two penalties. The first penalty (illegal use of hands) and sack helped to stall the second drive; the second penalty (false start) pushed the Giants back on the pick-6 possession at the end of the first half. Pugh also missed a block on a screen pass to Vereen.

Dallas Reynolds started at center in place of the injured Weston Richburg and performed adequately against a tough opponent. He is playing much better than he did during his first two years with the Giants. Marshall Newhouse has been just adequate at right tackle. He’s not a good run blocker despite his size.

The second-team line featured Emmett Cleary at left tackle, Adam Gettis at left guard, Brett Jones at center, Schwartz/Jerry at right guard, and Bobby Hart/Sean Donnelly at right tackle. Hart left the game late in the third quarter with an injury and was replaced by Donnelly. This group did a reasonable job although Gettis did give up a sack to first-team DE Sheldon Richardson and Donnelly had some issues in pass protection on the team’s last TD drive. Cleary had one false start and gave up a pressure late too.

Defensive Overview

Fans are going to have to accept that this is a bad defense. They can’t stop the run, they can’t rush the passer, and they can’t cover. It’s a group that lacks toughness, physicality, leadership, confidence, and swagger. Against the Jets, the Giants only had one sack (unblocked safety blitz), two quarterback hits, and no forced turnovers. The Jets rushed for 136 yards and journeyman quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick completed 64 percent of his passes against the starting defense.

When one considers how the defense has struggled to stop Andy Dalton, Blake Bortles, and Ryan Fitzpatrick, let alone any running game, and you have to think other teams are licking their chops to face the once proud New York Giants defense.

Defensive Line

The run defense remains a huge concern, but the Giants are also not getting any pass pressure.

Jerry Reese says that even without Jason Pierre-Paul, the Giants have five quality defensive ends. So far, I don’t see it. George Selvie has been out with a knee injury. We still don’t know when he will return. In a continuing trend for the Giants to find new and interesting ways to hurt themselves, Robert Ayers somehow injured himself in game warm-ups. Damontre Moore started at left defensive end. He didn’t have a tackle, remains a liability against the run, and has not flashed enough as a pass rusher against NFL starters. Kerry Wynn (1 tackle) has been disappointing. He has to set the edge better against the run. He was a non-factor as a pass rusher. The Giants have been forced to start an aging, fading defensive tackle (Cullen Jenkins) at defensive end and he is clearly not well suited to the 4-3 end position.

The guy with the most upside is Owamagbe Odighizuwa. He should be starting. Odighizuwa doesn’t appear to have any pass rush moves, but he can occasionally get close the quarterback. More importantly, he’s the only defensive end on this team that appears capable of setting the edge against outside tackle rushing attempts.

Inside, Johnathan Hankins played a bit better this week, but the decision to start Markus Kuhn remains a curious one. At least Kenrick Ellis and Jay Bromley received playing time against the Jets starting offensive line. Both still seem to be better options than Kuhn. The Giants were much more stout against the run on the Jets third offensive possession when Kuhn sat and Bromley and Ellis played. Both did have issues on one 13-yard run up the gut on the Jets’ second TD drive (Damontre Moore was held on this play, causing it to be nullified). However, Ellis was flagged with a stupid unnecessary roughness penalty with a late hit on the next snap. Late in the first half, both Bromley and Jenkins (now playing DT) looked good against the run.

Linebackers

Jon Beason (knee), Jonathan Casillas (neck), and Mark Herzlich (concussion) did not play.

Devon Kennard is the best linebacker on the team. He, along with Odighizuwa and Hankins, appear to be one of the very few building blocks this team has in the front seven. But Kennard, Jameel McClain, and safety Jeromy Miles were badly confused by a simple head fake on the 24-yard screen pass for a touchdown.

As an illustration on how teams simply scheme the Giants defense, on the Jets first offensive play, the Jets ran play-action bootleg that both Damontre Moore and McClain bit on, leading to an uncontested 10-yard completion to start the game.

McClain and Kennard ran well to the football when the defensive line set the edge or wasn’t shoved back into their faces. McClain, Kennard, and safety Landon Collins also did a very good job of reading an end-around for a 1-yard loss. However, McClain couldn’t stop the running back on a 2-point conversion attempt despite having a clean shot at the ball carrier.

The Giants spent $10 million on a linebacker (J.T. Thomas) who struggles at the point-of-attack and apparently doesn’t know how to wrap up when he tackles. It’s nice that he played well against his former team last week, but he is being paid to show up for every game.

Unai’ Unga led the team in tackles with eight and played as early as the team’s first defensive series. His lack of size showed up in this game as he was carried by the ball carrier on a couple of late rushing attempts. Victor Butler didn’t help his cause by missing a tackle in the backfield.

Defensive Backs

The Giants are just dreadful at covering the middle of the field. This is on both the linebackers and safeties. Opposing quarterbacks are going to have a field day passing in the middle all year.

The good news is that Landon Collins (3 tackles, 1 penalty for illegal use of hands) and Cooper Taylor (3 tackles, 1 sack) finally got back on the field. Cooper flashed on his sack and sure tackle off a bootleg pass to the tight end.

Jeromy Miles isn’t playing well. He struggled against the run and, along with Jayron Hosley, got beat badly on the 18-yard touchdown pass in the 1st quarter. On the play before the TD, he got beat badly by WR Brandon Marshall for an 11-yard gain on 3rd-and-5 (though admittedly that’s a tough match-up for any safety).

Brandon Meriweather can hit and tackle, but he’s not real smooth in space. He awkwardly fell to the ground on a 24-yard completion over the middle in the 4th quarter.

Trumaine McBride, New York Giants (August 29, 2015)

Trumaine McBride – © USA TODAY Sports Images

This was the second game in a row where opposing quarterbacks have tested Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie deep multiple times without success. Prince Amukamara played in his first game this preseason. He got beat by Brandon Marshall for 16 yards on 2nd-and-11. Amukamara had good deep coverage on the very next play, but two plays later, he got badly turned around by Marshall again on a play that should have resulted in a first-down had not it been for a bad throw.

Hosley not only got beat for a touchdown, but he also lost contain on 12-yard run earlier on the first TD drive. He did follow that up with a good run force. Both Trumaine McBride and Trevin Wade played nickel corner. McBride missed a tackle near the line of scrimmage on a run that picked up seven yards at the end of the 1st quarter. Not sure who was responsible for the easy 25-yard completion to WR Eric Decker on the Jets second TD drive, but it appears to have been Wade.

Special Teams Overview

The Giants keep signing/drafting special teams studs, but the special teams continue to help the Giants lose games. That’s got to be on the coaching. The Giants may be scanning the waiver wire for a punter because they clearly are losing faith in Steve Weatherford or trying to send him a message. Robert Malone punted twice in this game and also served as a holder. While Malone got off a 67-yarder, he also punted straight down the middle of the field, something that was a big contributing factor on the 54-yard punt return for a touchdown.

The Giants spent $17 million on Dwayne Harris as a returner, but they apparently don’t know how to block for him. The Giants gave up 76 yards on two kickoff returns, including returns of 44 and and 32 yards. Not good.

Right now, Josh Brown is the only redeeming aspect on special teams. He hit another long field goal (48 yards).

(New York Jets at New York Giants, August 29, 2015)
Aug 282015
 
Share Button
Odell Beckham, New York Giants (August 14, 2015)

Odell Beckham – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Jets at New York Giants, August 29, 2015

THE STORYLINE:
New York Giants fans are in a generally pissy mood. While a number of teams have already been hit hard on the injury front, the Giants have seen over 20 percent of their 90-man roster on the injury report and have already lost four safeties for the season. Throw in the uncertain injury status of important cogs such as Victor Cruz, Rueben Randle, Weston Richburg, and Jon Beason, and Giants fans fear that medical issues will once again sabotage the season. And we have yet to even play the third preseason game!

The third preseason game is the most important dress rehearsal for the regular season. It’s the game where the starters play the longest – usually at least the first half. And it’s the preseason game where coaches want to see positive performances and consistency. Yet as a fan, at this point, I just find myself not caring about that and just praying no one else gets hurt.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • WR Victor Cruz (calf – will not play)
  • WR Rueben Randle (knee – expected to play)
  • RT Marshall Newhouse (ankle – expected to play)
  • OC Weston Richburg (knee – will not play)
  • RT/RG Brandon Mosley (back – will not play)
  • LT Will Beatty (pectoral – on PUP and will not play)
  • DE George Selvie (knee – will not play)
  • LB Jon Beason (knee – will not play)
  • LB Jonathan Casillas (neck – will not play)
  • LB Mark Herzlich (concussion – will not play)
  • CB Chykie Brown (knee – will not play)
  • CB Jayron Hosley (concussion – expected to play)
  • CB Chandler Fenner (hamstring – will not play)
  • S Landon Collins (knee – expected to play)
  • S Nat Berhe (calf – underwent surgery on Friday and will not play)

FOUR DOWNS: No, I’m not lazy… the main questions this team faces remain the same for the third week in a row.

First Down
How will the offensive line perform?
The New York Jets are very talented up front. They are big and physical and this will be a great test for the Giants. Unfortunately, Weston Richburg continues to be bothered by knee tendinitis and did not practice all week. Dallas Reynolds may be starting in his place on Saturday. The Giants have yet to officially move Geoff Schwartz back into the starting line-up at right guard or right tackle either. With the start of the regular season only two weeks away, the offensive line still seems far too unsettled.

Second Down
Can the defense stop the run?
For whatever reason, the coaching staff seems determined to start Cullen Jenkins at defensive end and Markus Kuhn at defensive tackle despite the fact that these two have struggled in holding up at the point-of-attack in the first two preseason games. Fellow starters defensive end Robert Ayers and defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins did not play well against the run against the Jaguars either. If the Jets are able to generate decent yardage totals on the ground on Saturday against the starting group, the alarm bells will start to sound. On the other hand, since the starters for both teams will play the entire first half, we may finally get a better gauge on Jay Bromley, Kenrick Ellis, Owamagbe Odighizuwa, Kerry Wynn, and Damontre Moore if they are allowed some quality reps against the Jets starting offensive line in the first half.

Third Down
Who will do well or poorly at cornerback?
For the first time this preseason, Prince Amukamara will be on the field alongside Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. That’s the good news. The bad news is we still don’t know who the main nickel corner is, as well as who are the primary back-ups at corner in case a starter gets hurt. The under-the-radar injury that has hurt the Giants is the knee injury suffered by Chykie Brown early in training camp. He should return soon, but he has missed valuable practice time. Jayron Hosley returns this week after missing most of the first preseason game and all of the second with a concussion. Hosley is competing for playing time and a roster spot along with Trevin Wade, Trumaine McBride, Mike Harris, Josh Gordy, and Chandler Fenner. Wade seems to the favorite right now among an uninspiring group.

Fourth Down
How will the new safeties perform?
The football gods must be playing a bad joke on the G-Men. Considered by many the weakest position on the team heading into training camp, the Giants have now lost three players who had a legitimate chance to start in Nat Berhe, Bennett Jackson, and Mykkele Thompson. Worse is that two others – Landon Collins and Cooper Taylor – have missed valuable practice time due to injury. Now the penciled-in starters are veteran journeymen Jeromy Miles (who has yet to flash this preseason) and Brandon Meriweather (who was just picked off the NFL scrap heap). Both lack range. The only other two safeties on the roster are rookie free agents who were only signed because of all of the injuries (Justin Halley and C.J. Conway).

PLAYERS TO WATCH:
Brandon Meriweather
The Giants desperately need some good fortunate at safety. What they need is for Brandon Meriweather to demonstrate that he can be a viable NFL starter.

Markus Kuhn
Kuhn has been starting at defensive tackle since the May/June OTA’s, but he has yet to demonstrate why. Unless he shows greater stoutness against the run, the decision-making process of the coaching staff will come into question. Jay Bromley and Kenrick Ellis have played better in the preseason.

Johnathan Hankins
For as much grief as Kuhn has received from fans, Johnathan Hankins hasn’t been making much of an impact against the run either yet this preseason. It’s time for him to start rounding his game into form.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Tom Coughlin on what he wants to see from his offensive football team against the Jets: “It is continued improvement for me. The timing of the passing game is not there yet, and it’s got to happen. I thought our protection did a nice job early on (against the Jaguars). We’ll be tested this week, the Jets have an outstanding pressure package – they also have an outstanding front, a big front, so we are going to be tested with regards to that, too. That brings up the idea of some kind of consistency with your run game. We have got to have that. We had it at times the other night (against the Jaguars); we need it more often but we are going up against a very good front, so those would be the ways, you mentioned offense, where we would be looking to see us make progress.”

THE FINAL WORD:
I hate to admit it, but the injuries are sapping my enthusiasm. The team can’t catch a break. Things could still work out if Landon Collins is as good as advertised, but rookie safeties who miss half the preseason usually don’t excel. The Giants also need Brandon Meriweather to experience an unlikely career renaissance. Can this team stop the run? Can it rush the passer? Can they cover?

Offensively, the injury issues to Victor Cruz and Rueben Randle are not ideal. The top three targets have yet to play in a game together. And the Giants still have not set on what their final offensive line heading into the season will look like. The clock is ticking. The season starts in two weeks.

I feel like the Giants are an Eli Manning or Odell Beckham injury away from a true disaster.

Aug 232015
 
Share Button
Eli Manning and Shane Vereen, New York Giants (August 22, 2015)

Eli Manning and Shane Vereen – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 22 – Jacksonville Jaguars 12

Game Overview

Like most preseason games, there was good and there was bad. But the big take-away from this game is the continued mounting injury situation that is likely to impact the 2015 season. Some of the players who have been lost for the season probably were not going to make the team such as wide receiver Marcus Harris (knee) and safety Justin Currie (ankle). But the Giants have now lost two safeties who were receiving first-team reps in Mykkele Thompson (Achilles) and Bennett Jackson (knee). This is in addition to weird losses of defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul (hand/arm) and left tackle Will Beatty (pectoral).

Heading into the second preseason game, the Giants were missing 18 players on the roster due to injury. They came out with six more injured, two done for the season and fingers crossed on Jon Beason (knee sprain). They’ll get most of these players back, but the hits have been already significant for a thin team projected by many to struggle.

And the coaching staff have made two decisions in the preseason that have come back to bite them in the ass. The first was to play wide receiver Rueben Randle last week in Cincinnati despite him missing the week of practice before the game with knee tendinitis. That set him back. And despite the dwindling numbers at safety, it should have been either Justin Halley or Brandon Meriweather in the game late in the 4th quarter against the Jaguars and not Bennett Jackson, who had a good chance to be the team’s starter on opening night against Dallas.

Offensive Overview

On the surface, it was another disappointing performance for the first-team unit. With Eli Manning at quarterback, the first team played three drives and the results were 76 yards, five first downs, two punts, and a 51-yard field goal. But it was the passing game, especially quarterback Eli Manning and Odell Beckham, who let the Giants down early. Meanwhile, those supposed areas of concern – the offensive line and the running game – showed promise. If one believes that this was only a hiccup for Manning and Beckham, and that the healthy return of Victor Cruz and Rueben Randle will make a difference, then there were some positive developments on Saturday despite the lack of production.

The second- and third-team offensive units performed decently, scoring on their first four drives of the second half as the Giants pulled away.

Quarterbacks

I don’t really worry about Eli Manning, but if we are going to fairly evaluate his performance, this was not a good effort. Yes, he was the victim of some short-arming by Beckham and drops by Beckham and Preston Parker. He also had a couple of passes batted or tipped at the line of scrimmage. But Manning’s accuracy was off when pressured. The word coming into training camp was that Manning was primed for a huge year with renewed arm strength and building confidence in Ben McAdoo’s system. But that hasn’t translated yet to the field. If the Giants are going to make the playoff this year, Eli Manning will have to carry them there like he did in 2011. And he has to make plays when not given picture-perfect pass protection. We’re not seeing that level of play yet.

The Giants tried to get the passing game going early as Manning threw deep to Beckham without success on their first two plays. The first five plays were pass plays where Manning was 1-for-4 with two tipped passes. Manning continued to target Beckham and Parker without success on the two ensuing drives. Manning finished the game a paltry 4-of-14 for 46 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions.

Ryan Nassib, New York Giants (August 22, 2015)

Ryan Nassib – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Ryan Nassib played much better this week, finishing the game 19-of-35 for 217 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions. That said, he did make some questionable decisions, missing some open receivers and throwing into coverage. Nassib’s mobility helped to extend some plays, including clutch moments to keep drives alive, but he also has to be careful not to run too soon when he has decent pass protection. That said, Nassib made some excellent throws on the run. He has a fastball and was particularly accurate on a few slants, including the touchdown pass to Dwayne Harris. Ex-Jaguar quarterback Mark Brunell was very impressed with Nassib during the game.

Running Backs

The stats seem a bit misleading as Giants running backs only gained 83 yards on 24 carries (3.4 yards per carry), but the big three of Rashad Jennings (1 carry for 4 yards), Andre Williams (3 carries for 13 yards), and Shane Vereen (3 carries for 13 yards) flashed and averaged over four yards per carry as a group. Williams made a nice, instinctive cut on his 11-yard run off the left side. He later had a very physical inside run in the 2nd quarter. Williams performed well in pass protection. Vereen caught one pass for 14 yards on 3rd-and-10 – a perfect example of why he was signed.

Orleans Darkwa also continues to impress, carrying the ball six times for 25 yards. Akeem Hunt had four carries for 10 yards, with a long run of seven yards. Long-shot Kenneth Harper had seven carries for 18 yards with a quality 9-yard run to help run out the clock. Darkwa had one catch for nine yards and Hunt two receptions for nine yards. Even fullbacks Henry Hynoski and Nikita Whitlock got into the act catching the ball as they each had one reception for five yards. Hunt missed a blitz pick-up late in the first half.

Wide Receivers

To be frank, “superstar” Odell Beckham played like crap. He made a business decision or two on deep throws where he short-armed the ball. He also had one ball sail through his hands and later dropped a pass that would have kept a drive alive and put the Giants at the 5-yard line. He got frustrated and took a cheap shot at a Jaguars defender. Overall, he was targeted five times with no catches.

With Victor Cruz (calf) and Rueben Randle out, Preston Parker started. Manning’s pass on Parker’s first opportunity was too low. But he later dropped a perfectly-thrown back-shoulder throw on 3rd-and-9. In the second quarter, Parker caught one key pass for 14 yards on 3rd-and-8 from Manning.

Corey Washington had two catches for 17 yards but also could not come down with a well-contested ball on 3rd-and-14. He did have a 6-yard reception on 3rd-and-3 in the third quarter.

More impressive were James Jones (5 catches for 83 yards), Geremy Davis (4 catches for 43 yards), and Dwayne Harris (2 catches for 35 yards and a touchdown). Jones was the best wide receiver on the field on Saturday night. He had two catches for 36 yards on the drive right before halftime (though he also dropped a ball too on this possession). Jones caught an 18-yarder on 3rd-and-4 in the 3rd quarter and an 13-yard catch on 3rd-and-6 in the 4th quarter.

Harris was flagged for a bogus holding call on a well-executed 19-yard screen pass to Orleans Darkwa. He did a nice job of catching a low throw despite contact on his touchdown reception.

Right now Jones, Davis, and Harris three would be my favorites to make the team with Parker and Washington being cut.

Tight Ends

Larry Donnell caught three passes for 29 yards. But some old troubling signs appeared in his game. He lost the ball after one big third down catch that originally was ruled an incomplete pass. Ball security Donnell! On the same drive, he had a high throw from Manning sail through his hands. Also, Donnell took another awkward quasi-somersault fall when being tackled. Donnell had a nice block on linebacker Paul Posluszny on Shane Vereen’s 10-yard run.

Jerome Cunningham was targeted twice with no catches, but he did draw a pass interference penalty. Daniel Fells got a good block on Darkwa’s 16-yard run early in the 3rd quarter.

Offensive Line

All things considered, the coaching staff has to be somewhat pleased with the progress the offensive line is making. However, there are just enough rough spots – particularly on the right side of the line – to keep the coaches and quarterbacks nervous.

Rookie left tackles – particularly ones who have serious technique issues – usually are disasters their initial season. But Ereck Flowers continues to hold his own (no pun intended) and improve. There were a couple of plays where his man got around him and pressured the quarterback, but he’s been surprisingly adequate in pass protection while flashing those advertised run-blocking mauling skills. The left side of the line created some big holes for the running backs, though guard Justin Pugh missed a block on an Andre Williams run that lost yardage in the second quarter. Flowers and Pugh also had some issues on a stunt late in the first half.

The right side of the offensive line hasn’t been the disaster predicted thus far. Marshall Newhouse did an adequate job pass protection for most of the first half. However, his pass blocking deteriorated late in the second quarter when he gave up one sack and a few pressures.

John Jerry continues to have some issues at right guard. He gave up a couple of pass pressures on New York’s second drive. And if Jerry (or Odell Beckham) had been able to take out the defensive back who made the tackle, Vereen would have scored from 44 yards out on his 10-yard run in the 1st quarter.

Geoff Schwartz entered the game in the second quarter at right guard. He was more steady than Jerry at that position. However, Schwartz had some issues when playing right tackle both in pass protection (bull-rushed on a 3rd-and-5 incomplete pass, failure to pick up stunt on 3rd-and-14) and the running game (got stood up and pushed back on one right-side run). The Giants also played Schwartz at right guard and Jerry at right tackle.

Dallas Reynolds saw a lot of snaps at center. Emmett Clearly and Adam Gettis formed the left side of the second-team line again. When Gettis briefly left with a stinger, Brett Jones played at left guard. These guys played pretty well although there was one run on the left side blown up by penetration against Cleary and Jones. Gettis was flagged with a holding penalty on running play that he got stood up on.

Another offensive line combination had Bobby Hart at right tackle and Bret Jones at right guard. Jones seems to lack size and power. Hart has both, but the same pass rusher who gave Marshall Newhouse some problems – DE Chris Smith – also gave Hart issues on one pass rush. Eric Herman later replaced Jones at right guard, but he immediately gave up a pass pressure on the play where Nassib did a fantastic job of avoiding a sack and getting the ball to Dwayne Harris for a 27-yard gain. Herman gave up another pressure later on this possession.

Guys like Michael Bamiro and Sean Donnelly didn’t enter the contest until late in the 4th quarter.

Defensive Overview

The Jacksonville Jaguars have been an offensively-challenged team, yet the Giants had issues getting them off the field on their first three drives of the game as Jacksonville had drives of 10, 10, and 12 plays – each resulting in field goals. The first-team defense still looks soft against the run and opposing starting quarterbacks are having a far too easy time completing passes. Sometimes it looks like a 7-on-7 drill out there with very little pass rush and soft coverage. That doesn’t bode well when the Giants face high-powered, multi-dimensional offenses like the Cowboys and Eagles.

The second- and third-teamers were clearly superior to the Jacksonville offensive counterparts as the Jaguars only gained three first downs in the first half after the first three drives, and only one first down in the second half until late in the game.

I made this point last week, but I’ll make it again – Steve Spagnuolo’s blitz packages are much better than Perry Fewell’s. It’s a night and day difference.

Defensive Line

The starting defensive line had Cullen Jenkins at left end, Markus Kuhn at left tackle, Johnathan Hankins at right tackle, and Robert Ayers at right end. Jenkins didn’t play well at end. As would be expected, he looked sluggish rushing the passer from that spot. But somewhat unexpectedly, he had a lot of issues defending the run there too. I’m not sure what the thinking is about having him play out there, especially in the preseason when guys like Damontre Moore, Kerry Wynn, and Owamagbe Odighizuwa should be seeing some first-team practice reps. Jenkins did get good pressure on the quarterback rushing from DT on 3rd-and-20.

Ayers was pretty invisible as a pass rusher and didn’t stick out in run defense either.

Kuhn should not be starting. Period. In fact, he should be fighting for a roster spot. The coaching staff is blind if they can’t see this. Lost in the fan criticism of Kuhn is that Hankins hasn’t been making as much noise as was expected from a guy who was supposed to be a budding Pro Bowl candidate. Hankins did not play well on Saturday night. The Giants starters are not playing tough up the gut right now. Hankins needs to kick it into gear and Kenrick Ellis and Jay Bromley should be splitting Kuhn’s first-team reps.

As soon as Bromley came into the game (against starting Jaguars offensive linemen), he made a play by shooting through the line and hitting the back in the backfield. In the second half, Ellis and Bromley really gummed things up inside against Jacksonville back-ups. Ellis got a couple of decent pass pressures on the quarterback.

Damontre Moore flashed on the pass rush with two sacks, but he still has issues at the point-of-attack on running plays. And another team took advantage of the defense’s young ends by running an end-around to his side on a play where he bit on the fake. This showed up too on play-action fake on a roll-out pass that Kerry Wynn bit too hard on in the 2nd quarter.

Odighizuwa batted down a pass at the line and also gave the Jaguar tackles some problems with his bull-rush. He is very quick off the ball too.

Jon Beason, New York Giants (August 22, 2015)

Jon Beason – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Linebackers

Before he left the game, an excited Jon Beason’s feet were pumping and he was correctly reading running plays. He was hurt by a defensive line in front of him that was getting pushed back however. Despite being picked, Beason did a good job of recovering and saving a touchdown on a pass to a receiver coming out of the backfield.

J.T. Thomas had a big night against his former team. He disrupted an otherwise well-blocked run on the Jaguars’ first drive. Thomas looked fast blitzing the quarterback and was rewarded with a sack/forced fumble (he also missed a tackle on another sack opportunity). Thomas later read and destroyed a screen pass for an 8-yard loss.

Kennard recovered a fumble. The good news about him is he doesn’t look completely out of water in pass coverage.

Unai’ Unga (6 tackles, 1 pass defense) was very active for the second week in a row. He did a nice job of shooting the gap and tackling the runner for no gain on a stretch play. I am hoping the Giants can find a roster spot for him. Victor Butler’s penetration on a running play may have been a factor in a Jaguars’ running back losing his concentration and fumbling the football.

Defensive Backs

Surprisingly the Jaguars took a number of deep shots at Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Not surprisingly, these plays were not a success for Jacksonville. Rodgers-Cromartie got picked (possibly illegally) on a 3rd-and-2 short crossing pass that picked up 36 yards in the first quarter. He was fortunate that his man who was open dropped the ball on a post route (Bennett Jackson seemed to misread the play here too).

As he has been all summer, cornerback Trevin Wade (who started for the injured Prince Amukamara) was up and down. Wade gave up a couple of first-down catches early. But he had good coverage on a deep shot down the middle. Wade seemed to be playing way off the ball, allowing too much space underneath.

Trumaine McBride, Mike Harris, and Josh Gordy played decently against Jacksonville’s struggling offensive reserves. McBride had good coverage on a deep pass late in the 2nd quarter but grabbed the receiver with his left arm before the ball arrived and was flagged for a 29-yard pass interference penalty. Harris also got flagged with a 5-yard defensive holding call on 2nd-and-8. The Giants corners were aggressive against the run on Saturday.

Brandon Meriweather, New York Giants (August 22, 2015)

Brandon Meriweather – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Bennett Jackson missed a tackle on 3rd-and-8 that would have prevented a first down. Jeromy Miles was pretty quiet…I’m not sure if that is a good thing or bad thing. He should have turned and intercepted the ball on the play where McBride was flagged for interference. Miles also missed a tackle near the line on a 12-yard run late in the 2nd quarter.

Brandon Meriweather looked vulnerable in deep coverage as a Jaguars receiver got behind him on one deep effort that fell incomplete.

Special Teams Overview

Steve Weatherford has not been punting well this preseason. He’s over-punting in situations where the Giants could down a punt inside the 20. He also isn’t showing much directional ability. His net on three punts was 36 yards.

Josh Brown, on the other hand, did well. He nailed kicks of 51, 43, 53, 37, and 28 yards. He did miss a 46-yarder but a penalty on the Jaguars wiped out that miss.

Giants continue to struggle on punt returns with Dwayne Harris returning two for seven yards and Preston Parker two for three yards. Akeem Hunt returned two kickoffs, each for 24 yards. Derrick Johnson had one return for 21 yards.

Punt coverage was good as the Jaguars only returned two punts for six yards. Kickoff coverage was not as solid as the Giants gave up returns of 42 and 35 yards.

(Jacksonville Jaguars at New York Giants, August 22, 2015)
Aug 212015
 
Share Button
Rashad Jennings, New York Giants (November 30, 2014)

Rashad Jennings – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Jacksonville Jaguars at New York Giants, August 22, 2015

THE STORYLINE:
The second preseason game is more serious than the first. The starters will play a bit longer and coaches want to see their players beginning to round into form a bit more. That said, winning the game takes a backseat to getting quality practice reps and working on areas of weakness.

Head Coach Tom Coughlin would like to see much more productivity out of his passing offense than he did last week but that will be tough with Victor Cruz and Rueban Randle once again on the sideline. “Everybody wants to talk about our passing game,” lamented Coughlin earlier this week. “Unless we get out there and practice together, what passing game?” While the offensive line was not the huge issue that some made it out to be last week, the team will be looking for fewer individual breakdowns that sabotaged a number of running plays.

Where the Giants really need to show marked improvement is on defense. The starting defense played horribly against the Cincinnati Bengals, and the back-ups were not all that much better. A Giants defense that has made it mission #1 to stop the run gave up 225 yards rushing in Cincinnati.

With an extensive injury list already, particularly in the secondary, keep your fingers crossed the Giants come out of this game relatively healthy. Not counting safety Mykkele Thompson who is on Injured Reserve, the Giants will be down six defensive backs heading into this contest.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • WR Victor Cruz (calf – will not play)
  • WR Rueben Randle (knee tendinitis – will not play)
  • WR Julian Talley (toe – will not play)
  • OG/OT Brandon Mosley (back – will not play)
  • LT Will Beatty (pectoral – on PUP and will not play)
  • DE George Selvie (knee – will not play)
  • LB Jonathan Casillas  (unknown – will not play)
  • CB Prince Amukamara (groin – will not play)
  • CB Chykie Brown (knee – will not play)
  • CB Jayron Hosley (concussion – will not play)
  • CB Chandler Fenner (injured in practice on Thursday – will not play)
  • S Landon Collins (knee – will not play)
  • S Nat Berhe (calf – will not play)
  • S Cooper Taylor (toe – will not play)

FOUR DOWNS:
First Down
How will the offensive line perform?
We asked this same question last week. The results in Cincinnati were mixed. The first-team offensive line pass protected reasonably well although their performance was aided Eli Manning getting rid of the ball quickly. This week the Giants focused more on their downfield passing attack and Eli may need to hold the ball a bit longer. And the Giants certainly want more consistency and productivity in running the ball with their main backs (Rashad Jennings, Andre Williams, Shane Vereen). Fans will be focusing on left tackle Ereck Flowers, right guard John Jerry, right tackle Marshall Newhouse, and right guard/tackle Geoff Schwartz in particular. Schwartz won’t start, but he should receive a decent amount of playing time.

Second Down
Can the defense stop the run?
We asked this same question last week and the answer was definitely not. The team gave up an unacceptable 225 rushing yards. The Giants not only had issues at the point-of-attack, but the younger defenders were often fooled by misdirection. Jacksonville wants to run the ball so this will be a good test. The Giants must determine who should be starting at defensive tackle alongside Johnathan Hankins in the base defense.

Third Down
Who will do well or poorly at cornerback?
Same question as last week. The good news is that Prince Amukamara (groin) will probably play. The bad news is the Giants are still really thin at corner with injuries to Chykie Brown, Jayron Hosley, and possibly Chandler Fenner. The problem remains for New York – after Amukamara and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, the team has nothing but question marks. Trevin Wade has a nose for the football but he also gives up big plays. Trumaine McBride left last week’s game early with a hamstring issue; he needs to step it up. Other candidates for serious playing time include Mike Harris and Josh Gordy. All will see serious playing time in the second half given the injury situation. Will any take advantage of the opportunity?

Fourth Down
How will the new safeties perform?
Broken record – same question as last week. Landon Collins is missing valuable practice and playing time. Mykkele Thompson – who was receiving some first-team reps – is now gone for the season. Nat Berhe has yet to practice or play this summer. Now Cooper Taylor is hurt again. The starters for this game will likely be Jeromy Miles and Bennett Jackson. Miles didn’t really distinguish himself last week and Jackson was up and down. The only others healthy enough to play are Justin Currie, Justin Halley, and newcomer Brandon Meriweather. It’s not a pretty situation.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:
Markus Kuhn
The coaches and players keep talking up Markus Kuhn, who started against the Bengals, but we have yet to see the improved performance on the playing field. To be fair to Kuhn, defensive tackles often do the dirty work and it’s difficult for them to flash. But one does expect a defender to make an obvious positive play once in a while against the run and pass. Jay Bromley and Kenrick Ellis played better last week – albeit against reserves. With the Giants unlikely to part ways with 3rd rounder Bromley this year, the final defensive tackle spot could be between Kuhn and Ellis. The Giants could possibly keep five defensive tackles, but even given that scenario, it would be extremely difficult for them to activate all five on game day. “The big guys, they set the tone,” Kuhn said. “We have to push back the offensive line, we have to set the new line of scrimmage.”

Marshall Newhouse
It seems like the Giants would like Newhouse to really take hold of the right tackle position, at least until Will Beatty returns in October. That way, Geoff Schwartz and John Jerry can battle it out at right guard with the hope that Schwartz moves Jerry to the bench. But the Giants are hedging their bets here by having Schwartz practice at both right guard and right tackle. Newhouse did not play poorly last week, but the spotlight remains on a player who was benched by his two previous teams. “I have confidence in Marshall, I’ve been around him at a different spot before, and he’s an athletic guy,” said Offensive Coordinator Ben McAdoo this week. “He’s a smart guy and I look forward to him growing in the offense.”

James Jones
Rueben Randle is having a disappointing summer. We haven’t heard much noise when he has practiced and he has missed most of the last two weeks with knee tendinitis. The assumption is that he is on the verge of a breakout season in his contract year, but if the Giants can’t count on him, there may be an opportunity here for someone to move past him on the depth chart. James Jones seems to be coming on. I wouldn’t be shocked if he makes a serious push to become the team’s new third receiver. “He was out of work for a little bit, he’s getting his football legs underneath him, the last two days of practice he’s stood out a little bit, and it’ll be exciting to see him over this next week get out there a perform,” said McAdoo this week.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Tom Coughlin (on the Jacksonville Jaguars): “This weekend will be an outstanding test because you have a team that’s trying to be very physical and wants to run the ball, has a good run defense, so it’ll be a good test.”

THE FINAL WORD:
I’m not sure the Giants will satisfy their fans yet by looking like a well-oiled machine on Saturday night. Hopefully, the starting defense puts up a little resistance this week, but there could be issues with Jeromy Miles and Bennett Jackson as the starting safeties. And down six defensive backs, the secondary could be a problem all night, especially once Amukamara and DRC exit the game. The Giants may frustrate fans by trying to work on their running game against a good run defense, in other words, playing weakness against strength, but that’s the point of preseason. It also hurts that Cruz and Randle will not play. Don’t get too depressed! This is practice.

Aug 152015
 
Share Button
Orleans Darkwa, New York Giants (August 14, 2015)

Orleans Darkwa – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Cincinnati Bengals 23 – New York Giants 10

Game Overview

It’s usually unwise to make too much of preseason games, particularly the first contest. Every year we see teams that look great in the preseason founder in the regular season and teams that look terrible go on to post-season glory.

But we have to evaluate what we have to work with, and there were not many positives coming out of the New York Giants initial preseason performance. The Giants were clearly out-classed and if this game was in fact a true indication of New York’s overall talent level, then the Giants are going to have a rough 2015 season.

But as bad as the Giants were on the field, the truly disappointing result was the rash of injuries to an already injury-plagued defensive backfield. Coming into the game, the Giants were missing cornerback Prince Amukamara (groin) and Chykie Brown (knee) and safety Nat Berhe (calf). Mykkele Thompson ruptured his Achilles’ tendon during the game and is done for the season. Safety Landon Collins (knee), cornerback Jayron Hosley (neck and possible concussion), and cornerback Trumaine McBride (hamstring) all left the contest and did not return. Collins will miss at least a couple of weeks of practice time he cannot afford to miss. The net effect was that the Giants were running out of defensive backs to put on the field in only their first preseason game.

As for the action on the field, the results were also not good. The Giants are still having problems in areas that sabotaged their 2014 season:

  • While the run blocking wasn’t as bad as it first appeared, there were three negative plays by the first-team line on the two runs by Andre Williams and the 3rd-and-1 short-yardage play to Shane Vereen.
  • The first-team defense looked dreadful both against the run and pass as the Cincinnati starters cut through them like butter.
  • The Giants could not stop the run all night, allowing an unacceptable 225 rushing yards.

In a nutshell, the Giants had trouble moving the ball and the Bengals didn’t. The game was not as close as the somewhat lopsided score would indicate. The Giants got their asses kicked.

Offensive Overview

The Giants starting offense was so bad that Tom Coughlin kept quarterback Eli Manning and the starting offense in for four drives and the entire first quarter. In 15 plays, they only gained 38 yards and one first down. The first three drives were three-and-outs. The Giants did manage a touchdown drive in the second quarter with the first-team offensive line in the game with back-up skill position players, and then chipped in another field goal later in the quarter. But that was it. In the end, the Giants only gained a paltry 13 first downs and 118 passing yards. The team did rush for 106 yards, with Orleans Darkwa responsible for almost half of that production.

Quarterbacks

The Giants only passed for 118 net yards as New York never really threatened the Bengals deep. Everything was largely dink-and-dunk. The longest play was Ryan Nassib’s 28-yard throw to TE Jerome Cunningham. Eli Manning completed only 4-of-8 passes for 22 yards, with 16 of those coming on a screen pass, despite very good pass protection. Manning and RB Rashad Jennings didn’t sell a swing pass, leading to a 5-yard loss on the first drive. The play was too hurried. Manning was hurt by a couple of third-down drops by wideouts Rueben Randle and Preston Parker.

It was a disappointing night for Nassib (8-of-18 for 79 yards) who didn’t do much with his extended playing time. Nassib had pretty good pass protection, but he tended to take off with the ball quite a bit. He was also off-the-mark on way too many of this throws. Ricky Stanzi (3-of-7 for 34 yards) has no chance to make the team, but he didn’t really look all that bad. His stats would have looked better had wideouts James Jones and Justin Talley been able to keep both feet in-bounds. Stanzi also wasn’t helped by some shoddy late pass protection. Stanzi’s last fourth down throw into the end zone was right on the mark too, but Derrick Johnson couldn’t come down with the reception given the tight coverage.

Running Backs

The stats for the big three were disappointing as three of the six running plays were not well blocked: Rashad Jennings (2 carries for 14 yards), Shane Vereen (2 carries for 4 yards), and Andre Williams (2 carries for -2 yards). Williams did have a 16-yard gain on a screen pass and Jennings gained six yards on another pass.

The most productive player on the field for the Giants was Orleans Darkwa (9 carries for 52 yards and a touchdown), who ran with vision and power. The diminutive Akeem Hunt (3 carries for 18 yards) also flashed. The problem? Is there a roster spot for either? Darkwa did pretty well on blitz pick-ups while Hunt was late on one effort, causing Ryan Nassib to scramble out of the pocket.

Wide Receivers

Not a productive night. Odell Beckham played but wasn’t on the same page as Eli Manning on his only chance of the night. Rueben Randle (knee tendinitis) looked gimpy and did not have a catch. He dropped a 3rd-down back-shoulder throw and left after three snaps. Victor Cruz (knee) did not play. The leading receiver, Julian Talley (3 catches for 34 yards), is a long shot to make the team. He also couldn’t come down with one on-the-mark sideline throw from Stanzi. Dwayne Harris had one catch for 15 yards, James Jones two catches for 11 yards, Corey Washington one catch for eight yards, and Geremy Davis one catch for five yards. Washington did not distinguish himself despite a number of opportunities. Preston Parker dropped a third-down pass. Harris also dropped a pass. Jones couldn’t keep his feet in bounds on a well-thrown ball from Stanzi.

“I didn’t think our receivers played well,” said Tom Coughlin.

Tight Ends

Other than Jerome Cunningham’s one catch for 28 yards to set up the team’s second-quarter field goal, the tight ends were really a non factor. Adrien Robinson is supposed to be this amazing athlete, but he looks very cumbersome to me. He had two catches for 12 yards. Larry Donnell was very quiet with one catch for five yards. Larry Donnell did not get a good block on the failed 3rd-and-1 running play early in the second quarter. I didn’t care for Adrien Robinson’s effort run blocking on one play in the third quarter that was stuffed.

Offensive Line

The first-team offensive line did better than the media and fans thought they did. Pass protection was very solid. And although there were blocking mistakes on the two runs by Andre Williams, the run blocking was not as bad as it first appeared.

On the first possession, many blamed RT Marshall Newhouse for the 5-yard loss on the swing pass, but there was nothing Newhouse could do. Manning and Jennings didn’t sell the play and the defensive end simply reversed his field to make the tackle. On the second drive, RG John Jerry’s man blew into the backfield to nail Andre Williams (bad play #1). There was immediate pressure on Eli on second down but that’s because the Bengals didn’t bite on the play-action off a naked boot and the unblocked end was in Manning’s face. The Giants had good pass protection on third-and-long but there was miscommunication between Manning and Beckham.

The good news is that despite a face mask penalty on Ereck Flowers (bad play #2), he really didn’t look all that bad in his first real live action. On the play where he got the penalty, he grabbed at his man after being knocked off balance. On the next snap, Jerry did a nice job of engaging the middle linebacker on a draw play that picked up good yardage. On the next snap, all five offensive linemen provided excellent pass protection and followed that up with good protection on 3rd down, but Preston Parker dropped the ball.

On Eli’s fourth and last series, Weston Richburg’s man got past him and almost decapitated Andre Williams (bad play #3). The really disappointing moment was the failure to convert on 3rd-and-1 behind Newhouse and Jerry. However, it appears that Larry Donnell was the chief culprit in allowing penetration on that play.

Ironically, where the right side of the line had some issues run blocking was on the team’s best drive of the game, the TD drive in the second quarter. But Darkwa showed good vision navigating around penetration. Of the starters, Justin Pugh stood out as the guy didn’t make any mistakes. Flowers and Richburg each had one negative play. Jerry had a couple of issues in run blocking. Newhouse did not play as poorly as many say he did.

The second-team offensive line had some shaky moments, but played better than expected. That line was composed of Emmett Cleary at left tackle, Adam Gettis at left guard, Dallas Reynolds at center, Eric Herman at right guard, and Brandon Mosley at right tackle. The Giants best running play came with this group as they opened a big hole for Darkwa to gain 20 yards. But the drive stalled after back-to-back poor pass protection plays, first by Clearly and then by Mosley. On the next series, Mosley moved to right guard and Bobby Hart was inserted at right tackle. This group did an OK job in pass protection. The Giants later went back to Mosley at right tackle and Herman at right guard, but I thought Hart did a pretty good job at right tackle.

Late in the game, the Giants had Sean Donnelly at left tackle, Michael Bamiro at left guard, Brett Jones at center, Herman at right guard, and Hart back at right tackle. Herman gave up a couple of sacks late in the contest. His man got around him on the first and he couldn’t recover when Akeem Hunt got in the way. On the second, Herman failed to pick up the stunt.

Mosley and Donnelly were flagged with false starts and Gettis with a questionable holding penalty.

Defensive Overview

Growing pains under Steve Spagnulo’s new defensive scheme are to be expected, especially throughout the preseason and early regular season. But the Bengals starting offense ripped though the Giants starting defense in six plays for what was a far-too-easy touchdown drive on their first possession. Minus starting quarterback Andy Dalton, the Bengals also continued to move the ball against the starters on their second drive, resulting in a field goal and a quick 10-0 lead. There were issues in both pass and run defense. The second teamers gave up an 11-play, 80 yard touchdown drive in the second quarter too.

While the second- and third-teamers only held the Bengals reserves to six second-half points, Cincinnati didn’t have much trouble moving the ball after intermission either until reaching the red zone (they also missed a very short field goal). The mobile back-up quarterback gave the Giants problems with his legs and the Bengals called a lot of misdirection plays. The good news? This experience will help the young players.

It was interesting to see some early signs on how Spagnuolo will generate pass pressure in this defense. The blitz packages already look smoother and more professional than under Perry Fewell. They were not as easy to spot by the opposition and the quarterback took some shots.

The most damning statistic of the night was the defense allowing 225 yards rushing. You can’t win if you can’t stop the run. It’s also an indication that your team isn’t very tough and physical.

Defensive Line

The Giants started off with Johnathan Hankins and Markus Kuhn at defensive tackle and Robert Ayers and Cullen Jenkins at defensive end. The coaching staff keeps talking up Kuhn but he’s not making any plays in games. He got pushed around far too often. Hankins had a decent pass rush on one play on the opening drive.

On the second series, things looked more natural with Ayers and George Selvie at defensive end and both of them blew up the first run. Selvie, who played right defensive end, also helped to stuff another run to his side. On the next snap, Ayers got immediate pressure in the quarterback’s face, leading to a clean-up sack by Jenkins and Damontre Moore. Jenkins pressured the quarterback off a stunt on third down on the next series, leading to a punt.

In the second quarter, Selvie and Kerry Wynn played defensive end. Wynn helped to stuff a run and then Selvie got a decent bull rush on the quarterback. Owamagbe Odighizuwa had a rough start at left defensive end when he was easily taken out of running play to his side that picked up good yardage. Damontre Moore also had some issues holding up at the point-of-attack at left end, but did make one nice play to his side that Jay Bromley helped to gum up. That said, Bromley and Kerry both got handled on the 2-yard touchdown run late in the second quarter.

What caused the most problems for the young defensive ends in the second half was misdirection. Wynn and Odighizuwa bit too hard on play fakes, opening up the perimeter. Bromley made some plays in the third quarter both defending the run and rushing the passer. Kenrick Ellis looked pretty stout inside and he helped to pressure the quarterback into a clean-up sack by Wynn and Cooper Taylor. (Ellis was also held on the play).

What was a bit troubling is that guys like Selvie and Moore were playing against back-ups in the third quarter and often were not getting enough pressure. That doesn’t bode well for when they have to up against NFL starters when the games count.

Linebackers

Jon Beason got beat by the tight end for a first down on the Bengals first offensive snap and then got effectively taken out on a run up the gut for another first down on the second play. Devon Kennard looked good at times in coverage and against the run, but he also got clobbered on one second-quarter running play to his side. J.T. Thomas was invisible.

Uani Unga flashed in run defense, but couldn’t make a play on the running back in space after a short catch, leading to a big gain down inside the 5-yard line. Jonathan Casillas did a nice job of reading screen and tackling the running back for a loss. Cole Farrand was easily blocked and also had some issues with misdirection. He disrupted one run by aggressively filling the gap at the line, but got caught too far inside on another run to his side. Tony Johnson made a nice tackle in the backfield in the fourth quarter.

Defensive Backs

Aside from cornerback Trevin Wade (who also got beat deep for 42 yards), there weren’t many positives. Landon Collins looked gimpy (probably the ankle he tweaked in practice) early and then lost valuable playing time by hurting his knee. Mykkele Thompson had a real shot to contribute this year and is now done for the season. Jayron Hosley was forced to leave the contest with a neck injury and possible concussion. Trumaine McBride also left with a hamstring issue that Coughlin said was troubling McBride before the game.

Hosley got beat for a first down by WR A.J. Green on the Bengals third offensive play. It looks like Bennett Jackson covered the wrong guy and left WR Mohamed Sanu wide open for the touchdown three plays later (Jeromy Miles looked late getting over to cover the guy Jackson covered too). Collins got beat over the middle by the tight end on the second series, but he was also picked by his own man (Hosley) on the play.

Jackson had good coverage on a second-down incomplete pass to a tight end. Cooper Taylor looked out of position on a 30-yard completion early in the third quarter.

Wade did get beat deep on one play but looked like the best corner on the field other than Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. He has a nose for the football, as indicated by a few pass defenses and an interception that he returned 61 yards late in the game. He almost had another interception early in the third quarter when he jumped another route but dropped the ball on what might have been a pick 6 opportunity.

Cornerback Chandler Fenner was picked on all evening and doesn’t look like an NFL-caliber player.

Josh Gordy looked good on a corner blitz that forced an incompletion but he was also flagged with a 30-yard pass interference penalty. He later batted down a third-down pass in the red zone. Late in the game, he missed the running back in the backfield on a blitz, leading to a 26-yard gain.

Justin Currie was active against the run.

Special Teams Overview

One of the best plays of the night for the Giants was Akeem Hunt’s 70-yard kickoff return. The Giants couldn’t get anything going with their punt returns. Josh Brown missed a 53-yard field goal but made a 41-yarder. Punt and kickoff return coverage was good.

(New York Giants at Cincinnati Bengals, August 14, 2015)
Aug 132015
 
Share Button
Eli Manning, New York Giants (November 11, 2012)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants at Cincinnati Bengals, August 14, 2015

THE STORYLINE:
Fans often read too much into the first preseason game, which is basically nothing more than a glorified scrimmage. The point is not so much to win – though that is nice – but to simply get some quality full-speed, full-contact practice reps against a different opponent. The starters usually only play for part of the first quarter before giving way to the second- and third-teamers.

In 2014, the Bengals were a 10-5-1 playoff team in a very tough division. The two days of practice plus this preseason game should serve the Giants well in preparing for the 2015 season.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • WR Victor Cruz (recovering from knee surgery – will not play)
  • WR Rueben Randle (knee tendinitis – questionable)
  • CB Prince Amukamara (groin – will not play)
  • CB Chykie Brown (knee – will not play)
  • OG Geoff Schwartz (ankle – will not play)
  • LT Will Beatty (pectoral – on PUP and will not play)
  • LB Jameel McClain (neck – will not play)
  • S Nat Berhe (calf – will not play)

FOUR DOWNS:
First Down
How will the offensive line perform?
On paper, the New York Giants offense looks set except for one major exception: the offensive line. Barring injury, left tackle Ereck Flowers, left guard Justin Pugh, and center Weston Richburg should eventually become stalwarts. But it is unusual for a rookie to start at left tackle and do well in his first season. And there are major question marks on the right side of the line. Geoff Schwartz seems more interested in interviews and his twitter account than getting back onto the playing field. John Jerry was extremely inconsistent in 2014 at right guard. And right tackle Marshall Newhouse has been discarded by two teams that benched him. There are also serious reservations about the team’s depth. Do any of the the young reserves have NFL talent? It’s been a long time since Offensive Line Coach Pat Flaherty as turned one of the reserves into a legitimate starter.

Second Down
Can the defense stop the run?
The Giants were dead last in the NFL in 2014 in run defense in terms of yards allowed per rush. Teams that can’t stop the run usually lose, and lose a lot. The Bengals were 6th in the NFL in rushing the football in 2014. This will be a good test for the defensive line, particularly the defensive ends. Those who perform best against the run at both tackle and end are far more likely to start when the real bullets starting flying. It will also be interesting to see how the revamped linebacking and safety corps perform in run defense.

Third Down
Who will do well or poorly at cornerback?
With no Prince Amukamara (groin) and Chykie Brown (knee), Jayron Hosley has been starting with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie this week. He’s been up and down. The Bengals have very good wide receivers, led by A.J. Green and Mohamed Sanu. The Giants have a bunch of question marks after Amukmara and DRC. Who will take advantage of the opportunity? Or will the third/fourth cornerback positions be a sore spot all season for New York?

Fourth Down
How will the new safeties perform?
Outside of veteran journeyman Jeromy Miles, the safeties are very young and green as grass. There is talent, but opposing teams will test their inexperience throughout the upcoming season with play-action, pump fakes, misdirection, and other tactics. It’s assumed that Landon Collins will start at one position, but there is still an open competition at the other spot with Miles and Jackson currently the two leading candidates. Others who could factor into the picture include Mykkele Thompson and Cooper Taylor. Nat Berhe was supposed to be a leading candidate but he remains sidelined with a torn calf muscle.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:
Ereck Flowers
The two tackle spots could be problem spots in 2015. Flowers appears to have the tools and temperament to succeed, but he is very young and raw. It’s a huge risk to entrust Eli Manning’s blindside to a rookie. If Flowers struggles all preseason, the Giants may have to consider shifting Justin Pugh to left tackle.

Marshall Newhouse
Marshall Newhouse is big and athletic, but he simply has not been able to put it all together in his five NFL seasons with two teams. The odds on him turning it around in New York are not good, but he certainly is being handed a wonderful opportunity. If Newhouse struggles, the Giants will have to sign someone or hope one of the younger players such as Brandon Mosley or Bobby Hart can replace him. Moving Geoff Schwartz to right tackle remains a possibility too if he will ever get back on the field.

Jon Beason
The injury-prone Jon Beason is the cerebral and emotional leader of the defense. Can he stay healthy? And if so, have all of the injuries – including the most recent foot injury – sabotaged his mobility to the point where he is now an ineffective player? The Giants need Beason to be a stud against the run and not too bad of a liability in pass defense.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Tom Coughlin (on what he expects from the rookies in the preseason): “Play hard. Play hard. Give great effort, let’s see what you’ve got. Plenty of spots out there to be (taken). You’ve seen the guys that are competing for starting jobs. Hopefully all that is going to do is get better.”

THE FINAL WORD:
The Bengals should win the game because they are the better team with more stability and depth. Also keep in mind that the Giants will be missing a few of their most important players such as Victor Cruz, Prince Amukamara, and Geoff Schwartz. The Giants offense is a much different animal with both Odell Beckham and Cruz in the line-up at the same time. Same with the defense with Rodgers-Cromartie and Amukamara. The most important thing for the Giants – other than avoiding injuries – is to simply see some progress in the offensive line and the defense overall. I expect some rough moments in both areas. The second- and third-team offensive lines could really struggle. And the Bengals have enough offensive weapons to give the Giants undermanned and young secondary problems.