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

Andre Williams – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 17 – New England Patriots 9

Overview

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

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

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

Giants on Offense

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

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

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

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

Ryan Nassib – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Quarterback

Eli Manning was a healthy scratch.

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

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

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

Running Backs

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

Wide Receivers

Odell Beckham was a healthy scratch.

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

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

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

Tight Ends/Offensive Line

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

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

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

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

Giants on Defense

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

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

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

Defensive Line

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

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

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

Linebackers

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

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

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

Nat Berhe – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Defensive Backs

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

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

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

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

Giants on Special Teams

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

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

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

(New England Patriots at New York Giants, September 1, 2016)
Sep 012016
 
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Tavarres King, New York Giants (September 1, 2016)

Tavarres King – © USA TODAY Sports Images

NEW YORK GIANTS 17 – NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS 9…
Minus many of their best offensive and defensive players, the New York Giants defeated the New England Patriots in the preseason finale Thursday night at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Giants finished the preseason with a 2-2 record.

Head Coach Ben McAdoo decided to sit quarterback Eli Manning, wide receiver Odell Beckham, center Weston Richburg, defensive ends Jason Pierre-Paul and Vernon Olivier, defensive tackles Damon Harrison and Johnathan Hanks, and cornerbacks Janoris Jenkins and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Offensive tackle Will Beatty and place kicker Josh Brown suited up but did not play.

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

New England’s first drive ended when cornerback Trevin Wade stepped in front of Brady’s intended receiver for the interception. Later in the 1st quarter, safety Andrew Adams forced ex-Giants tight end Martellus Bennett to fumble. Defensive tackle Montori Hughes recovered the loose ball. The Patriots drove deep into Giants territory in the 2nd quarter, but defensive end Kerry Wynn forced the running back to fumble after a short reception with linebacker Mark Herzlich recovering at the Giants 8-yard line.

Quarterback Ryan Nassib started and played into the 4th quarter before giving way to Logan Thomas. Nassib struggled again for the most part, completing 16-of-29 passes for 210 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. Out of their seven first-half possessions, the Giants had two long drives: one 15-play, 59-yard possession that ended with a 25-yard field goal by place kicker Randy Bullock; and the second a 6-play, 63-yard possession that ended with an interception at the Patriots 2-yard line with seven seconds left in the half.

At the break, the Patriots led 6-3.

The Giants defensive reserves remained stingy in the second half, allowing only one scoring drive: a 16-play, 66-yard march that resulted in a 32-yard field goal. Meanwhile, the Giants offense scored two touchdowns. On the team’s first possession of the second half, Nassib connected with wide receiver Tavarres King on a 59-yard catch-and-run for a go-ahead touchdown. The next two Giants drives only each picked up one first down. But in the 4th quarter, with Thomas at quarterback, the Giants drove 79 yards in 13 plays with the final snap being a 17-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Roger Lewis with 3:49 to go in the game.

Offensively, the leading rushers for the Giants were Bobby Rainey (7 carries for 38 yards), Orleans Darkwa (9 carries for 37 yards), and Andre Williams (10 carries for 35 yards). Paul Perkins fumbled the ball away. The leading receivers were King (4 catches for 80 yards and a touchdown), Rainey (3 catches for 37 yards), Lewis (3 catches for 30 yards and a touchdown), Geremy Davis (3 catches for 30 yards), and Perkins (3 catches for 29 yards).

Defensively, linebacker Mark Herzlich had 8 tackles, 1 sack, 1 tackle for a loss, and 1 fumble recovery. Defensive tackle Montori Hughes had a sack and a fumble recovery. Defensive ends Stansly Maponga and Romeo Okwara each had sacks too. Defensive end Kerry Wynn and safety Andrew Adams forced fumbles. Cornerback Trevin Wade had an interception. Officially, the Giants had 13 hits on quarterbacks, 10 pass defenses, and 7 tackles for a loss – all high totals.

Video highlights/lowlights are available at Giants.com.

INJURY REPORT…
Not playing were fullback/tight end Will Johnson (burner), linebacker Jonathan Casillas (ribs), linebacker Jasper Brinkley (knee), linebacker B.J. Goodson (concussion), cornerback Leon Hall (concussion), and safety Darian Thompson (shoulder).

POST-GAME REACTION…
Transcripts and video clips of post-game media sessions with Head Coach Ben McAdoo and the following players are available in The Corner Forum and at Giants.com:

NIKITA WHITLOCK, MATT LACOSSE, AND RYAN MALLECK TO IR…
Fullback Nikita Whitlock (foot), tight end Matt LaCosse (knee), and tight end Ryan Malleck, who were waived/injured by the New York Giants earlier this week, passed through waivers and were added to New York’s Injured Reserve.

ARTICLES…

Aug 312016
 
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Dwayne Harris, New York Giants (November 15, 2015)

Dwayne Harris – © USA TODAY Sports Images

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

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

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

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

THE INJURY REPORT:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:

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

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

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

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

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

THE FINAL WORD:
The key battles to watch:

  • Andre Williams versus Orleans Darkwa
  • Tavarres King versus Roger Lewis
  • Louis Nix versus Montori Hughes versus Jermelle Cudjo
  • Keenan Robinson versus J.T. Thomas versus Mark Herzlich
  • Trevin Wade versus Donte Deayon
  • Mykkele Thompson versus Andrew Adams
Nov 182015
 
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get-smart

New England Patriots 27 – New York Giants 26

Overview

We missed it by THAT much! The keyboard is staring at me, mocking me in its own qwerty way. It knows I slapped it on Sunday afternoon, but it’s not sure why. It wasn’t a hard slap, just a “here we go again” 4th-quarter meltdown-turned-comeback-turned-meltdown slap that let it know “Hey pal, we’re in this together until the end.” Indeed for Tom Coughlin and his band of misfit toys, there was no happy ending this time against the undefeated New England Patriots as Stephen Gostkowski’s 54-yard please-go-wide left kick sailed inside the uprights. It was not a most-gripping victory for the home fans as our own Prince Akeem looked on in street clothes.

Up 20-10 after a 2nd half opening FG drive, the Giants’ defense forced a quick 3-and-out from Tom Brady and the world’s most dangerous group (NWE not NWA now hold that distinction). Four plays later, the Giants let the Patriots off the ropes by surrendering an 82-yard punt return to Danny Amendola that turned into a 3-play, 7-yard TD drive that seemed to wake up the groggy Pats’ offense and cut the home team’s lead to just 3. Eli Manning and company answered on a 45-yard FG drive that pushed the lead to 23-17, but it was the failure to find the end zone that would ultimately doom the G-Men’s chances to pull off a MetLife Miracle and upend the unbeaten Patriots for a second time. MLB Jasper Brinkley was having none of it and came up with a sack strip of Tom Brady to give Eli just 31 yards to put the game out of reach. As they did all afternoon, the Patriots answered the bell, sacking Manning on the drive’s first official play, pushing the ball back to the 44 yard line and forcing a quick 3-and-out when a score could have pushed this game out of reach.

After being bottled up most of the day by journeyman safety Craig Dahl, TE Rob Gronkowski, who was thwarted in Super Bowl 46, got his revenge with a 76-yard catch-and-run that pushed the Pats ahead 24-23. Another punch-less offensive effort by the Giants that force fed the ball to a blanketed Odell Beckham Jr. gave dimple chin the ball and the chance to put the game away. After driving his team 81 yards and seemingly taking a 30-23 lead, a holding call wiped out a LeGarrette Blount TD, Tom Brady did the unthinkable and threw an interception to CB Trumaine McBride at the 1-yard line and suddenly the Giants’ 4th quarter Eli Manning magic looked to be coming back to claim the Patriots. Twelve plays later, he did it; Eli pushed the lead to 29-24 with a 5-yard TD pass to Odell Beckham Jr., who had been held in check since a first quarter TD that ate up 87 yards. Only he didn’t. Replays showed that Beckham got two feet down but failed to make a “football move” in the end zone as CB Malcom Butler swatted the ball out of his hands.

A Josh Brown FG inched the Giants closer to the miracle with a 26-24 lead but clumsy play calling and execution left 1:46 for Tom Brady to pick his way down field. Rookie S Landon Collins then stepped in with the biggest non-play of the season, leaping high for a hurried Brady pass and seemingly ending the game with a clutch interception but it was not to be as the ball squirted out and gave #12 another chance to ruin the day. True to form, Brady came through this time against his nemesis and delivered the ball to the Giants’ 36-yard line. Gostkowski’s boot (he too is perfect on the season) ended the chance for the 2015 Giants to match their 2007 predecessor’s feat of ending the Patriots perfect season. So Mr. Lenovo laptop, you can blame me for the sudden jolt, but really your ire should lay with Tom Coughlin or Eli Manning, or Landon Collins or Odell Beckham or Tom Brady, anyone but me old friend.

Eli Manning, New York Giants (November 15, 2015)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Quarterbacks

So the debate will rage, was Eli great or the goat for the clock mismanagement as the Giants drove to take the lead in the 4th quarter? His heady slide in bounds forced the Patriots to use their final timeout but the inexplicable timeout with 2:06 left and the clock winding down to the 2 minute warning will haunt this game as long as it’s discussed. The timeout seemed to pay off with a TD pass to Beckham, but after the review negated it, the Giants had one more play to run before getting to the 2-minute warning. With 2:01 left, Manning completely missed a wide open Beckham underneath for a sure TD and the ball sailed wide of WR Dwayne Harris. It may be a matter of seconds, but not stopping the clock with 2:06 left may have forced the Patriots to use their final timeout there or at least had the Giants with 1st-and-goal at the 5-yard line with 2 minutes left. At that point, you can safely run the ball even against the Pats 6 DL formation on 1st and 2nd down, forcing the Pats to spend their final timeout and then running the clock down before your 3rd down play. That would have reduced the final time for Brady to less than a minute, but as Coughlin said, he was playing for the TD and rightly so. I posit the argument because that’s what gets discussed ad nauseum but in reality this game was far too close to pin on any one thing.

Late game confusion aside, Eli was again terrific against Tom, piling up 361 yards and two TDs and leading the Giants to six scoring drives, the first of which was a perfectly placed ball to Beckham who split coverage on his way to an 87-yard TD that evened the game at 7 on the Giants’ opening sortie. Manning consistently drove the team down the field but against Belichick’s vaunted umbrella defense that gets tighter to succeed against as you drive inside the 20, FGs were the rule and not TDs. Manning’s first-half 2-minute TD drive was vintage Eli. First was a perfect sideline pass to Rueben Randle, a dime to Harris to keep the drive alive and a seam to Will Tye to get the G-Men to the 1-yard line. The exclamation point was a perfectly-arced fade pass to Dwayne Harris to close out the first half and put the Giants ahead by 7. Manning’s non-TD pass to Beckham was again perfectly placed. But in a game of inches, the ball being slapped away was another in a long line of plays that had they gone the other way, see the Giants to victory. Eli contributed to the Giants’ rushing total with a 10-yard uh, jaunt we’ll call it on the Giants’ opening drive of the second half.

Running Backs

Not a lot of good here when your longest rush of the day comes from your 34-year old QB who’d probably rather watch another Nationwide commercial of his chicken parm-loving brother than take off running. Rashad Jennings “led” the group with 11 carries and 39 yards but the inside trap play that had become this groups bread-and-butter was simply stuffed all day by the Pats. Former Pat Shane Vereen predictably was bottled up by his previous employers, contributing only 26 total yards and really having no statistical impact on the proceedings aside from a 3rd-down conversion early in the 2nd quarter. Vereen’s presence out of the backfield was crucial however, as we will show later in a breakdown of his impact on the Patriots’ coverage schemes. Personal RB favorite Orleans Darkwa had two tough runs for 9 yards but was held to 6 on his other 3 totes.

Myles White, New York Giants (November 15, 2015)

Myles White – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Wide Receivers

WR Odell Beckham Jr. started the day with a bang, knifing through the Patriots’ secondary for an 87-yard TD on the Giants’ second offensive snap. Tough sledding from there on out against Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler including Butler’s quite frankly mean slap away of a TD late in the 4th quarter that could have been the game clincher. Beckham was challenged physically all day by Butler and honestly lost the battle after an opening haymaker. OBJ finished with 104 yards on 4 catches but was targeted a team-high 12 times. Give Butler credit for clamping down on the dynamic sophomore playmaker. Dwayne Harris again came up big for Eli with 82 yards on 6 catches with a TD and consistently providing a safety valve underneath for his QB. Harris just missed a diving pass from Manning on the goal line on the Giants’ game tying drive late in the first half. It was another play and another few inches short of where this team wants to be, truly the story of the afternoon. Myles White contributed one catch but it was a 28-yard sideline beauty that had the Giants in position to score. White also appeared to be interfered with on a Manning pass into the end zone, but in a game that saw plenty of hand fighting in the secondary, it was an understandable no-call given how the game was officiated all day. Rueben Randle again chipped in with a crucial catch to spur a Giant scoring drive as the first half closed. Randle’s impact wasn’t FanDuel great (sorry Fantasy junkies) but his 51 yards on 3 catches was enough to keep the Giants toe to toe with the unbeaten Pats. As with everyone else though, there was a play Randle will want back – when he pushed off to negate a 11-yard gain which would have had the G-Men to the Pats’ 20 up by 6 points and driving. The ensuing play was DE Rob Ninkovich’s sack of Manning which effectively ended any scoring threat.

Tight Ends

Will Tye is starting to assert himself, but like many of the young Giants has some room to improve. Tye pulled down 5 balls for 56 yards but it was the just miss of a potential TD from Manning that will stick in the rookie’s craw as will a flat out drop from Manning as the Giants drove to close out the first half. Tye rebounded quickly to snag a Manning pass that covered 31 yards and got the Giants in possession of a 17-10 halftime lead. Tye’s edge blocking was better. The rookie TE is improving technique wise, keeping a wide base and keeping his feet under him to maintain good leverage in the running game.

Inside the Game

Exploiting a tendency. Notice on TE Will Tye’s 31-yard rumble down to the Patriot 1, Offensive Coordinator Ben McAdoo spotted a weakness two plays earlier on a formation that saw Beckham, Vereen and Tye on the play side. Knowing that Belichick is committed to shading or doubling an opponent’s best weapon(s), the Giants tried Beckham down the right sideline with Vereen coming out of the backfield to see what type of coverage they would get. Two plays later, that tendency to shade to Beckham and Vereen cost the Patriots down the field.

_tye1Note the formation, with Vereen offset on Beckham and Tye’s side.

_tye2Vereen and Beckham are essentially doubled down the field with intermediate coverage watching Vereen short and Beckham in the slant area with a FS over the top to keep Beckham from getting too deep. Note the keying from the FS and the split from the intermediate defender to react to either Vereen or Beckham. The result is TE Will Tye (circled) singled up in the seam.

_tye3Flip the formation and again Vereen is watched by middle coverage, Harris is drawing LB attention and Beckham is again spied by the deep safety play side leaving Tye (circled in the middle) one on one. The three blue circles are all shading to cover two Giant players, leaving Tye to exploit the match-up.

_tye4The giant hideous circle shows four Pat defenders who were accounting for Vereen, Harris and Beckham. And the adorable little circle is a deep safety who was guarding against Beckham deep and who left a huge hole for Tye and Manning to exploit en route to a 17-10 Giants’ halftime lead. Credit Ben McAdoo and Eli Manning for recognizing the intermediate, short and deep help to hem in Beckham and Vereen and deploying Tye into the hole it created. In a game of counter-punching, McAdoo and company won this battle against a Pats’ defense that has a history of taking out a team’s two biggest threats. (Remember…”This is still a Nicks and Cruz game” from SB 46 when Mario Manningham popped open?)

Offensive Line

Just like the rest of this team, some good and some bad from this group. Playing without LG Justin Pugh and losing C Weston Richburg for a half, the group probably out-performed expectations. But the success running inside was completely thwarted by a well-prepared Patriots team. LG John Jerry and C Dallas Reynolds filled in capably, but there was an absence of any running game. LT Ereck Flowers gave up the second-biggest sack of the game with Giants driving in the 2nd quarter. DE Chandler Jones went low and outside, got perfect leverage on the 330lber and knocked the ball out of Manning’s hand to force a fumble, killing an excellent chance for points in the 2nd quarter. LG John Jerry did the job pass blocking, but the difference in quickness between his pulling and Pugh’s pulling may have been just enough to keep the Giants’ favorite running plays from working as planned. RT Marshall Newhouse gave up the sack to Ninkovich that killed a Giant drive that could have salted the game away or at least increased the 4th-quarter lead to 9 points at the least.

Jason Pierre-Paul and Robert Ayers, New York Giants (November 15, 2015)

Jason Pierre-Paul and Robert Ayers – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Defensive Line

Once again it seems the BBI review team has inspired another Giant to pick himself up by the Lederhosen, this time German import DT Markus Kuhn. Much maligned just about everywhere except 1925 Giants Drive in East Rutherford, the veteran DT came to play finally. Kuhn chipped in with 4 stops but it was his ability to finally hold up against double teams inside that spearheaded the defense to the tune of surrendering only 77 yards rushing on 23 carries. Kuhn’s Bavarian locks were flowing again on a fumble return caused by Brinkley’s sack and strip of Brady. Credit the return of JPP to the improved play inside. The constant double teams he faced allowed Kuhn and fellow DT Cullen Jenkins to see less traffic inside and hold the point-of-attack much better than they had in recent weeks. After coming out with a funky glove, JPP went back to the Martha Stewart oven mitt line and quickly swatted a Brady pass to make his kitchen ware work for him and forced an errant pass on the Patriots’ sickening game-winning drive. Overall a good effort by the DL, even putting enough pressure on Brady to force an errant throw that should have ended the game, and coming with 3 whole sacks in one game (though only 1 went to a DL).

Linebackers

Jasper Brinkley did his best to will his defense to victory with 12 tackles and a sack, but it wasn’t enough to keep the best offense in the NFL from ultimately winning this battle. Brinkley was again powerful inside getting good penetration on several runs to keep huge HB LeGarrette Blount in check. And it was #53’s throw down of Julian Edelman that broke the WR’s foot and took a key playmaker off of the field for 3 quarters. Brinkley’s 4th-quarter sack and strip of Brady was all the veteran could do to hand his team the game but it was not to be. Devon Kennard again played well on the edge, ending a screen play Antonio Pierce style late in the first quarter and piling up 6 stops overall. Jonathan Casillas was active with 7 stops but was late covering on Brady’s 4th-down pass and game-saving completion by – you guessed it – just inches. He also took a terrible angle on the game’s final offensive snap allowing WR Danny Amendola the space to cut inside and make it into field goal territory.

Trumaine McBride, New York Giants (November 15, 2015)

Trumaine McBride – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Defensive Backs

It’s tough to knock these guys considering the opponent and how well they played for 3 quarters, but Tom Brady exploded for 200 yards in the second half and ultimately won the game through the air. S Landon Collins’ rocky season continued as the rookie failed to seal the game with an interception-turned-drop on the Pats’ final drive. He also failed to play with inside leverage against TE Scott Chandler on the Pats’ first TD of the game. This group simply couldn’t get stops on 3rd and 4th down on the game’s alpha and omega drives and it cost them dearly. Credit S Craig Dahl with playing Gronkowski as well as he could for 3 quarters until the All Pro ultimately burned him for a 76-yard TD catch-and-run. Dahl was aggressive all day long, separating Chandler from the ball deep inside G-Men territory and hopping on Tom Brady for a sack that forced a Patriots FG. Dahl just missed on Gronkowski’s long TD which again put a bad ending on an otherwise strong game from the once and former Giant. Jayron Hosley filled in solidly at times, knocking away a 2nd-down Brady pass as the first half wound down and knifing inside to drag down Gronkowski to force a FG in the first. It was Hosley though who completely whiffed on a Brandon LaFell’s 54-yard catch that put the Pats in scoring range. CB Trumaine McBride was flagged for a pass interference penalty in the end zone but redeemed himself on the Pats’ next foray, picking off Brady and preventing a potential 31-23 deficit that became a 26-24 Giant lead.

Special Teams

Penalties on returns and Amendola’s 82-yard escape on a punt return brought the once-maligned group back to the fore of the “where did it go wrong?” discussion. Josh Brown was perfect again, hitting all four FGs and both XPs. P Brad Wing was in no way to blame for Amendola’s long punt return, it was a perfectly-placed sideline shot that Amendola simply made a great play on. Harris averaged a modest 19 yards on 2 kick returns and a solid 10-yard average on 4 punt returns. Kick coverage was again good, but that punt coverage, oy vey.

Coaching

Against the league’s best offense, the Giants played a strong 3 quarters but finally caved in in the 4th. Steve Spagnuolo’s charges kept Brady in check with a combination of man and zone coverages that focused on shutting down do-everything TE Rob Gronkwoski. Holding this offense to 4 punts and a respectable 27 points is an accomplishment that seemed impossible coming into this game but again it wasn’t quite enough when you rely on a rookie safety and two 10-year plus vets as your deep patrol. As much as it would be nice to give tons of credit to Spags and his defense for 3.5 quarters, the failure to stop another game-clinching drive undid all of the good will. The result wasn’t satisfying, but again the effort and fight was, as his 32-ranked defense gave the Patriots all they could handle for 3.5 quarters.

Ben McAdoo’s offense was good, but not good enough. McAdoo’s gang notched 6 scoring drives, but only scored 2 TDs in a game decided by one point. McAdoo again kept to the running game despite its ineffectiveness and it provided Eli with enough balance to power to another 300-yard plus day. Inches here and inches there and we’re celebrating an improbable win, so I won’t kill any of the coordinators for this one. They both had their groups ready to play.

Cram it in your Cramhole Award

In a game full of lead changes, big plays and ultimately a depressing ending, I just can’t give out the award to anyone on that field on Sunday. Love him or hate him, Tom Coughlin and his guys were ready despite the 4th-quarter head-scratchers again. It’s been covered relentlessly since it happened and it may have no place in a silly football redux, but I really want to cram this award in ISIS’ or ISIL’s faces and then down their collective throats for the horrific attacks in Paris last week. It’s not often that world events creep into the reviews but this was a doozy, and on a day that we were all a little deflated, keep in mind that we were peacefully watching a football game between millionaires that didn’t go our way. It sucked to be sure, but as I age and keep getting fatter (get in mah belly ISIS), I have a hard time cramming things like football when a band of misguided nitwits seek to murder innocents. So ISIS, ISIL, jerkfaces of the highest order, cram it in your suicide-vest-laden cramholes.

(New England Patriots at New York Giants, November 15, 2015)
Nov 152015
 
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Jasper Brinkley, New York Giants (November 15, 2015)

Jasper Brinkley – © USA TODAY Sports Images

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS 27 – NEW YORK GIANTS 26
The New York Giants lost another heart-breaker today by falling to the New England Patriots on a 54-yard field goal with six seconds to play. This came after replay officials overturned a touchdown pass to Odell Beckham with two minutes left in the game. The Giants settled for the field goal instead of the touchdown. On the Patriots’ game-winning possession, safety Landon Collins dropped a sure interception and New England also converted on 4th-and-10 to keep the drive alive.

Odell Beckham, New York Giants (November 15, 2015)

Odell Beckham – © USA TODAY Sports Images

“We lost the game,” said Beckham. “I lost us the game with the play down in the end zone, a play that should have been made. You can’t leave it up to the officials to get anything right. You’ve got to make the play yourself and it was just a case of playing the play longer than the opponent.”

The Giants have led in the 4th quarter in four of their five losses this year – four losses by a combined nine points. In the last three weeks, the Giants have lost two games on 50-yard or longer field goals in the waning seconds. With the defeat, the Giants fell to 5-5 overall, but still remain in first place in the NFC East. They have a bye coming up next weekend.

New England received the football to start the game and promptly drove 80 yards in 14 plays to take a 7-0 lead on quarterback Tom Brady’s 1-yard touchdown throw to tight end Scott Chandler. The Giants quickly tied the game on their second offensive snap when quarterback Eli Manning hit Beckham for an 87-yard touchdown pass.

After both teams went three-and-out, the Patriots regained the lead with a 10-play, 57-yard drive that ended with a 31-yard field goal early in the second quarter. The Giants then threatened by driving from their own 20-yard line to the Patriots’ 16, but on 1st-and-10, Manning was sacked by defensive end Chandler Jones, causing a fumble that was recovered by New England. The Giants’ defense forced another three-and-out and the Giants then responded with 9-play, 35-yard drive that ended with game-tying, 37-yard field goal.

The Patriots were forced to punt the ball away on the ensuing possession. With only 1:09 on the clock, the Giants marched 74 yards in seven plays and 56 seconds to take a 17-10 halftime advantage when Manning found wide receiver Dwayne Harris for a 1-yard touchdown. Big plays on the drive included 31-yard passes each to wide receiver Rueben Randle and tight end Will Tye.

The Giants received the football to start the second half and managed to put together a lengthy, 10-play, 60-yard effort that resulted in a 38-yard field goal by place kicker Josh Brown and a 20-10 lead. After both teams went three-and-out, then came a pivotal moment in the game. Punter Brad Wing’s punt was fielded by returner Danny Amendola at the New England 11-yard line. Gunner Dwayne Harris thought Amendola had signaled for a fair catch and ran by the returner, who was then off on an 82-yard punt return that gave the Patriots’ offense the ball at the Giants’ 7-yard line. Three plays later, New England cut the score to 20-17 when running back LeGarrette Blount rushed for a 1-yard touchdown.

The Giants extended their advantage to 23-17 on the ensuing possession by moving the ball 45 yards in nine plays to set up a successful 53-yard field goal by Brown. The Giants then blew an opportunity to increase their lead after linebacker Jasper Brinkley sacked and forced Brady to fumble. Defensive Markus Kuhn recovered the loose ball and returned it eight yards to the Patriots’ 31-yard line. However, a sack took the Giants out of field goal range and they were forced to punt. Three plays later, Brady hit tight end Rob Gronkowski for a 76-yard scoring play. The Patriots were now up 24-23 with 11:33 to play.

Trumaine McBride, New York Giants (November 15, 2015)

Trumaine McBride – © USA TODAY Sports Images

The Giants went three-and-out. It looked like New England was about to put the game away by driving from their own 19-yard line to the New York 5-yard line. But on 2nd-and-goal, Brady was intercepted by cornerback Trumaine McBride at the 1-yard line, and the pick was returned two yards to the 3-yard line with 6:01 to play.

The Giants moved the ball 86 yards in 15 plays. On 1st-and-goal from the 5-yard line, with 2:06 left in the game, Manning hit Beckham for an apparent touchdown, but cornerback Malcom Butler knocked the ball out of Beckham’s hands after the receiver came down with the catch in the end zone. Replay officials overturned the touchdown. After an incomplete pass, Manning was sacked and Brown kicked his fourth field goal of the game – a 29 yarder – for the 26-24 lead with 1:47 to play.

Brady and the Patriots started their final, game-winning possession at their own 20-yard line. On the first play, Collins dropped what should have been the game-winning interception. After two more incomplete passes, Brady found Amendola for 12 yards on 4th-and-10. Brady completed four of his next six passes for 32 yards to set up the 54-yard field goal with six seconds to play.

Offensively, Manning finished 24-of-44 for 361 yards, 2 touchdown, and 0 interceptions. His leading receivers were Harris (6 catches for 82 yards and a touchdown), Tye (5 catches for 56 yards), and Beckham (four catches for 104 yards and a touchdown). The Giants only rushed for 80 yards, with running back Rashad Jennings the leading carrier with 39 yards on 11 carries.

Defensively, the Giants allowed 406 total net yards (77 rushing and 329 passing). The Giants forced two turnovers (1 interception and 1 fumble recovery). Brinkley led the team with 12 tackles, 1 sack, and 1 forced fumble. Safety Craig Dahl and defensive end Robert Ayers also had sacks.

Video highlights/lowlights are available at NFL.com.

INJURY REPORT…
Center Weston Richburg was carted off of the field in the 3rd quarter with a high ankle sprain. No word yet on the severity of the injury, but Richburg was in a walking boot after the game. Safety Landon Collins is also being evaluated for a possible concussion.

POST-GAME REACTIONS…
Transcripts and video clips of post-game media sessions with Head Coach Tom Coughlin and the following players are available in The Corner Forum and at Giants.com:

POST-GAME NOTES…
Inactive for the Giants were WR Victor Cruz (calf), LG Justin Pugh (illness), TE Larry Donnell (neck), LB J.T. Thomas (ankle), LB Uani ‘Unga (neck), CB Prince Amukamara (pectoral), and CB Leon McFadden (groin).

Nov 132015
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (February 5, 2012)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New England Patriots at New York Giants, November 15, 2015

THE STORYLINE:
The diehard optimistic fan can wax poetic about why the Patriots are overrated and why the Giants will beat them on Sunday. But the facts are that the defending Super Bowl Champs, a team that hasn’t won fewer than 12 regular-season games in the last five years, and which has a legitimate shot at going undefeated in 2015 is playing a Giants team that has cumulatively hovered around .500 during the same time period, including this season.

The Patriots have the top-scoring offense in the NFL and a top-5 scoring defense. They have arguably the best coaching staff and quarterback in football. The Giants have the 21st-ranked offense and 32nd-ranked defense. While the Giants have a very good quarterback and solid coaching staff, they are clearly a club in transition with yet another injury-depleted and thin roster.

In all likelihood, the Giants are going to get spanked on Sunday.

That all said, any outstanding NFL team is beatable if you catch them on an off day while you are playing good football. The Giants don’t have to be perfect to beat the Patriots. That’s a mindset that too many of their opponents take and they psyche themselves out by doing so. Play sound, fundamental football and keep mistakes to a minimum. But you don’t have to be perfect. And don’t be something that you are not.

tve37790-3-1365“The only hope you have is to accept the fact that you’re already dead. The sooner you accept that, the sooner you’ll be able to function as a soldier is supposed to function: without mercy, without compassion, without remorse. All war depends upon it.” – Ronald Spiers, Band of Brothers

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • WR Victor Cruz (calf – out)
  • TE Larry Donnell (neck – out)
  • LG Justin Pugh (illness – probable)
  • RG Geoff Schwartz (ankle – probable)
  • LB J.T. Thomas (ankle – out)
  • LB Uani ‘Unga (neck – out)
  • CB Prince Amukamara (pectoral – out)
  • CB Leon McFadden (groin – questionable)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
There are two basic and probably overly-simplistic schools of thought on how to approach this game offensively. The traditional mindset would be to play ball control, eat up the clock, and keep the ball out of Tom Brady’s hands for as long as possible. At the other end of the spectrum is the acceptance that it will be a shootout and you need to be aggressive and score as many points as you can as quickly as you can.

On Wednesday, Coughlin hinted that you can do both. “No, we will do what we do,” said Coughlin. “(Keeping the ball away is) always a consideration but the thing you have to realize, again, is that although we do have a relatively fast pace (offense) as the league goes percentage-wise, we are out over the ball quite extensively. And the reason for that is obvious, the quarterback has an opportunity to evaluate what the defense is doing and that’s important to us.”

My interpretation of that statement is that while the Giants are a no-huddle offense, that doesn’t mean they snap the ball quickly. They get up to the line, force the defense to set, and then Eli takes his time to read what the defense is doing. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking. And the Giants’ West Coast Offense has not been predicated on the quick-strike, deep ball this season. The focus has been on Eli getting rid of the ball quickly, out of the shotgun or with 3-step drops, easing the burden on the offensive line, with an emphasis on short- to medium-range passes. My guess is that most of the Giants’ long scoring drives this season have been 8-12 play affairs. Even in the offensive “explosion” against the Saints, the plays per touchdown drive were: 10, 9, 10, 4, 11, and 3.

So my expectation for the Giants’ offense against the Patriots? Don’t do anything different. Be what you are and focus on what you do well. Don’t try to become a heavy ball-control, smash-mouth running attack. It’s not the Giants’ style and it most likely won’t generate enough points. You can move the football, control the clock, and still score with a short-to-intermediate passing game. The Giants have the offense do do all three.

Brandon Jacobs, New York Giants (February 5, 2012)

Brandon Jacobs – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Giants’ fans know all about Bill Belichick’s prowess as a defensive coach. The Patriots are currently 8th in total defense based on yards and 5th in scoring defense. They are 3rd in run defense and 16th in pass defense. While the pass defense is middle-of-the-pack, the Patriots have gotten after the quarterback, being tied for 2nd in the NFL in sacks with 27. The main sack men have been DE Chandler Jones (9.5 sacks), reserve specialist DE Jabaal Sheard (4 sacks), LB Jamie Collins (4.5 sacks), and LB Dont’a Hightower (3.5 sacks). “They do mix pressures in, but primarily they get after it with their rush group,” said Tom Coughlin.

Jones is a major disrupter and the Patriots will move him around the line. He will likely test both Ereck Flowers and Marshall Newhouse. Collins has been bothered by serious illness for two weeks and may not play. He’s a super-athletic talent who will be missed by the Patriots if he can’t go. Sheard has also been bothered by an ankle issue.

The Patriots’ secondary really hasn’t been tested much this season as New England hasn’t played many of the game’s better quarterbacks. Gone is Darrelle Revis at corner. Super Bowl hero Malcom Butler is listed as the left corner but will often stick with the opponent’s best receiver. Logan Ryan starts opposite of him. Both are steady, but not really standouts. The third corner – Justin Coleman – is a rookie. New England does have a very strong safety duo in Devin McCourty (who the Giants heavily pursued in free agency) and Patrick Chung.

The Patriots’ 3rd-rated run defense is probably a bit overrated as most of their opponents feel the need to abandon the running game. The Patriots do give up 4.1 yards per rush (tied for 15th in the NFL). So I would expect Tom Coughlin and Ben McAdoo to still mix in the run with the pass. But you also have to figure that they know they have to score points out of the passing game. You can just hear Belichick now, “This is still a Beckham and Vereen game. Make them throw it to Randle, Harris, and Tye.”

So the questions are can Coughlin and McAdoo out-scheme Belichick to get Odell Beckham and Shane Vereen viable opportunities in space? And if not, can Rueben Randle, Dwayne Harris, and Will Tye make the Patriots pay on a consistent basis throughout the game? If Collins is out, it may open up things for Vereen although you have to figure Belichick will scheme for him, perhaps with a third corner or safety.

As is the case with any game, but particularly against an elite team like the Patriots, ball security is crucial. Don’t turn the football over. Don’t beat yourself.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
The problem is that, on paper, the Patriots’ offense versus the Giants’ defense is a huge mismatch. Not just statistically, #2 offense (#1 scoring offense) verus the #32 defense, but the strength of the Patriots’ passing attack is the way they attack the short-to-medium parts of the field against the nickel corner, the safeties, and the linebackers – all areas of weakness on the Giants. Bill Belichick and Tom Brady have undoubtedly seen the struggles of free safety Landon Collins. They know middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley is really a run-down player. And Belichick let strong safety Brandon Meriweather and outside linebacker Jonathan Casillas depart New England – he knows their strengths and weaknesses. Throw in Brady versus Jayron Hosley and Trevin Wade, combined with a pass rush that has generated nine sacks in nine games, and this one looks ugly, ugly, ugly.

Brady has been in the same system for 16 years. He knows how to read a defense and he is as good as it gets in terms of getting rid of the ball quickly to the right man in an accurate fashion. “He knows exactly where he wants to go with the ball for each different look that a defense gives him,” said defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins.

While the Patriots will take an occasional deep shot, they really are not a vertical offense. They dink and dunk you to death, and are the NFL’s top offense in converting on 3rd down (almost 50 percent of the time). Opponents that count on them to make a mistake to sabotage drives are usually left disappointed. Brady has a TD-to-INT ratio of 22-to-2 and the Patriots have only lost three fumbles all year. They are tops in the NFL with only five giveaways. They also don’t shoot themselves in the foot with dumb penalties.

The bizarre but amazing element of their offense is they don’t hang their hat on one thing. One week, the will put the ball up 50 times in the air and ignore the ground game, the next they will pound the ball between the tackles. NFL analyst Greg Cosell said it best, “The Patriots don’t have a system, really. They’ll just figure out what you don’t do well, and win by attacking it.”

Chase Blackburn, New York Giants (February 5, 2012)

Chase Blackburn – © USA TODAY Sports Image

While there is no one go-to guy, Brady certainly has his favorites, this year being WR Julian Edelman (who is very dangerous out of the slot, especially on 3rd down), All-World TE Rob Gronkowski, and pesky WR Danny Amendola. Edelman and Amendola beat you with quickness while Gronkowski’s combination of size and overall athleticism is a match-up problem. The big loss was RB Dion Lewis (Shane Vereen’s replacement) who was lost last week for the season. He was a big factor in the Patriots’ passing and running game with his speed and quickness. WR Brandon LaFell has a big game against the Redskins with over 100 receiving yards.

The other issue for the Patriots is that their offensive line is a mess due to various injuries. Thus far, it hasn’t hurt them as Brady is able to get rid of the ball in about two seconds on passing plays. And teams more geared up to defend the pass and all of Brady’s weapons have made themselves more vulnerable to the run. You saw that last week when the Patriots’ big power back, LeGarrette Blount, ran for 129 yards against the Redskins despite a patchwork offensive line that at one point had a tight end playing right tackle. Their top three tackles are either out or ailing and they also have issues inside at guard. The Patriots really have done it up front with smoke and mirrors. That all said, no one has really feared the Giants’ defensive line this year. Jason Pierre-Paul may be back, but Johnathan Hankins is now done for the season.

Can Steve Spagnuolo really switch things up enough to confuse Tom Brady in his 16th season? And does he want to do too much of that with a rookie at free safety and a relative newbie at middle linebacker? In other words, it may backfire. And do you really want to blitz Brady – a QB adept as anyone at reading what defenses are doing – all that much? Keep in mind that two of your top corners are Trevin Wade and Jayron Hosley.

“With any quarterback that gets it out that quick, the best way to defend is to affect the guys he’s throwing to,” said Spagnuolo. “So we’ve got to find ways to cover better and maybe mix and change things up a little bit. But if you’re an offensive lineman, you probably want to play – I mean everybody wants to play with Tom Brady, right? But if you’re an offensive lineman, he can really make you look good.”

Contrary to what I said about the offense not breaking away from who and what they are, I might do some things differently in this game against this opponent on the defensive side of the ball. As crazy as it sounds, I would give Nikita Whitlock more snaps at defensive tackle. I would really vary my fronts, employing my ends more often at tackle too. Now Blount and the other reserve backs may exploit this, but I’ll take my chances with a better pass rush and hits on Brady than the Patriots’ ground game. I would not blitz much…only an occasional linebacker or safety blitz. The important thing is to get pressure on Brady up the gut, in his face. And when he does complete those short passes, run to the football and gang tackle. The Patriots do a lot of damage with yards after the catch.

Ultimately, I’m not sure the Giants have an answer to Edelman in the slot and Gronkowski at tight end. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie seems wasted trying to cover the outside guys while all of the damage is being done between the hashmarks. Might Spagnuolo employ DRC in some sort of unique capacity?

“We have to cover better,” said Spagnuolo. “We’ll mix the coverages up a little bit, and maybe get a couple of knockdowns. There’s no secret to it. He’s back there in the gun and he’s going to throw it. We have to find a way on the back end to play a little bit tighter.”

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
The Giants have played against a number of quality special teams units this season and New England is no exception. The Patriots are 3rd in the NFL in covering punts and 10th in the NFL in covering kickoffs so the blockers and returners (Dwayne Harris and possibly Shane Vereen) will have their work cut out for them. Place kicker Stephen Gostkowski hasn’t missed a field goal or PAT all year, and leads the NFL in touchbacks with 42 (another problem for the NYG return game). Danny Amendola is the primary kickoff and punt returner. He’s steady, but usually does not break one. Julian Edelman will sometimes return punts, however, and he has four career punt returns for touchdowns.

Zak DeOssie, New York Giants (February 5, 2012)

Zak DeOssie – © USA TODAY Sports Images

The Giants’ special teams will likely have to make an impact play for the team to upset the Patriots, either with a return or blocked kick. Keep in mind that Patriots will run trick plays on special teams at unusual times. For example, they successfully kicked an onside kick after scoring on their opening possession against the Redskins.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Tom Coughlin on getting pressure on QB Tom Brady: “Oh, it’s difficult. He’s the quickest in the league getting rid of the ball, that’s a fact. But you have to try. Whether you try with four, five, six, whatever…at certain points of the game you got to try. ”

THE FINAL WORD:
No one except some diehard Giants’ fans expect the Giants to win this game. And because this is an out-of-conference opponent, you’d pick to lose this game instead of one of the four NFC games the Giants have remaining on their schedule. That all said, the problem is the Philadelphia Eagles, who are 4-4 and favored to win against the Miami Dolphins at home on Sunday. The odds are that the Eagles will be 5-4 and the Giants 5-5 at the end of the day.

If the Giants can somehow pull off the upset, it would be a huge boost for their chances to win the division. Hopefully, they play loose but also play smart, physical football. New England’s offensive line is really beat up. And losing Dion Lewis was a big loss. If the Giants somehow catch Brady on a bit of an off day, they have a shot.

Sep 052015
 
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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)
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Geremy Davis, New York Giants (September 3, 2015)

Geremy Davis – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 12 – New England Patriots 9: The New York Giants defeated the New England Patriots 12-9 on Thursday Night at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts in their final preseason game. The Giants finished the preseason with a record of 2-2.

With the Patriots sitting their starters and the Giants choosing not to play quarterback Eli Manning and wide receiver Odell Beckham, the contest was nothing more than a glorified scrimmage.

The Giants defense had little trouble with the Patriots back-ups as third-team quarterback Ryan Lindley played the entire game for New England. The Patriots went three-and-out on their first two possessions of the game and were forced to punt on their first four possessions. Aided by penalties, the Patriots did squeeze out two late first-half field goals after drives of 64 yards (on 14 plays) and 51 yards (on eight plays).

Meanwhile, the Giants passing and rushing attacks sputtered for much of the game. The team’s best drive was a 10-play, 80-yard possession in the second quarter that resulted in a field goal. The Giants also had a 10-play, 44-yard drive in the first quarter that also ended with a field goal.

At the half, the game was tied 6-6.

In the second half, the Patriots five offensive possessions resulted in two punts, two turnovers, and a field goal. The Giants had two field goal drives, the first being an 11-play, 57-yard affair followed by a 9-play, 55-yard effort.

Quarterback Ryan Nassib finished the game 16-of-32 passes for 193 yards, no touchdowns, and no interceptions. He had three passes of over 20 yards, including a 40-yard deep strike to wideout Geremy Davis, a 33-yard deep throw to tight end Jerome Cunningham, and a 21-yard pass to wide receiver James Jones. The leading rushers for the Giants were running backs Orleans Darkwa (10 carries for 39 yards), Kenneth Harper (10 carries for 36 yards), and Andre Williams (8 carries for 28 yards).

Defensively, the Giants held the Patriots to 61 yards rushing, accrued four sacks, and forced two turnovers. Defensive end Damontre Moore had a rough night with two roughing-the-passer penalties and one unnecessary roughness penalty but he closed out the game with a strip sack that fullback/defensive tackle Nikita Whitlock recovered. Defensive George Selvie had two sacks and defensive tackle Jay Bromley chipped in with another. Safety Stevie Brown intercepted a deflected pass. Meanwhile, rookie safety Landon Collins impressed with his hitting, tackling, and coverage. Defensive end Kerry Wynn also had a solid all-round game.

Place kicker Chris Boswell, filling in for the injured Josh Brown, made all four of his field goal attempts from 34, 29, 33, and 41 yards out.

Injury Report: TE Daniel Fells left the game with a shoulder injury but returned late in the contest. Center Brett Jones left the game with a knee sprain and did not return.

Post-Game Notes: Not playing due to injuries were WR Victor Cruz (calf), WR Corey Washington (shoulder), LT Will Beatty (pectoral – on PUP), DE Robert Ayers (ankle), DE/DT Cullen Jenkins (hamstring), LB Jon Beason (knee), LB Jonathan Casillas (neck), CB Trevin Wade (back), CB Chykie Brown (knee), CB Chandler Fenner (hamstring), S Geromy Miles (groin), S Nat Berhe (calf), and PK Josh Brown (leg).

QB Eli Manning and WR Odell Beckham dressed but did not play.

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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.