New York Giants 32 – New York Jets 31
The traditional week 3 match-up of cross-town rivals took place Saturday night at Metlife Stadium. These two franchises are going in completely different directions with the Giants in the midst pursuing at least one more Super Bowl under their long-time quarterback’s leadership and the Jets in a full-blown-rebuild state of mind. Week 3 is the unofficial final dress rehearsal for the starters, as they play more snaps in this game than any other preseason match-up. The Giants were without their two star receivers, Odell Beckham and Brandon Marshall, while the Jets sat veteran quarterback Josh McCown to let young guns Christian Hackenberg and Bryce Petty continue to battle it out.
The Giants jumped all over the Jets in the first half. They scored their first offensive touchdown of the preseason in the first quarter and added two more in the first-half via-interceptions. With starters playing on both sides of the ball for the first 30 minutes, the Giants walked into the locker room at halftime with a commanding 29-3 lead. The Jets answered back, mainly with Petty at the helm, in the second half and made it close. Close to the point where they were 3 yards and a 2-point conversion away from winning. On that play, rookie running back Elijah McGuire finished just inches short of the goal line, sealing the first Giants victory of the 2017 preseason.
- Eli Manning looked sharp for the second straight week. He didn’t quite play the entire first half, but he went 7/14 for 121 yards and an interception that can easily be put on the offensive line. He had Roger Lewis open deep, striding towards the end zone but pressure up the middle cut off his step into the throw, forcing it to fall short and into a Jets defensive back’s hands. There are still signs of his arm lacking life and the hope here has to be it doesn’t fall off too much during the winter months.
- More of the same from the backup battle between Geno Smith and Josh Johnson. Neither one is taking the bull by the horns. Smith looked very inaccurate and a little more rattled this time around, whereas Johnson just seemed overly pedestrian. Part of me now has the thought that Davis Webb should be given the backup job initially to help the Giants save a roster spot. If Manning were to actually go down in-season, I bet one if not both would still be available on the free agent wire. Speaking of Webb, he got in with about 8 minutes remaining in the game and went 2/4 for 20 yards, including a near interception. He did an excellent job on a pass-rush-forced rollout, keeping his eyes downfield and completing a pass near the sideline.
- I discussed how I wanted to see Paul Perkins run more assertively, and that he did. Six carries for 33 yards spelled a good night for the second year back. He juked rookie safety Marcus Maye out of his shoes on a 12-yard dash up the middle, didn’t even get touched in a phone booth.
- Shane Vereen didn’t see a lot of playing time, as they are likely trying to protect him as much as possible. Also, the 3rd spot is up for grabs between rookie Wayne Gallman and Orleans Darkwa. I think it is likely both make the team, but Gallman is certainly making his case to get touches weekly. His ability to slither through traffic and find extra yards has been apparent each week. Darkwa got the goal-line carry and touchdown in the first quarter and it looks like he may be their short-yardage option early on. In addition, Gallman is having a hard time sustaining his blocks. Shaun Draughn got in for one series but was rocked by a Jets defender and put into the concussion protocol. Tough luck offseason for him and it looks like he will be the odd man out.
- Shane Smith had a “key” block on Darkwa’s touchdown run. I put that in quotes because it was a very simple block against a CB. Smith is showing more hesitation in traffic than I want to see. Is the game too fast for him? Especially with the amount of zone running the Giants do where he has to move laterally. Keep in mind that for the best runs of the night Smith was not on the field.
- With Odell Beckham, Brandon Marshall and Dwayne Harris out, it was a night of opportunity for Roger Lewis and Travis Rudolph. Both took advantage of it. Lewis, as he was all of camp, was up and down. Lewis dropped a touchdown pass, albeit it was a tough play, but responded with a tough reception in traffic on 4th down right after. He also ran himself open earlier in the game on a play that could have resulted in a touchdown, but the forced under throw took away the opportunity.
- Rudolph had one of the nicest plays of the night, snaring a poor Josh Johnson pass over the defender and completing the Giants longest play of preseason, 57 yards. He is the reliable route runner and pass catcher that quarterbacks love to work with. His value on special teams may be the final feather in his cap to make the squad.
- Sterling Shepard showed off impressive ball skills in the 1st quarter, twisting his body to adjust to a slightly inaccurate throw, coming down with Manning’s longest pass of the night (31 yards).
- Rookie Evan Engram continues to strengthen my notion of him being a big time weapon in this offense. During the scouting process last year I kept on writing down the names Aaron Hernandez and Jordan Reed. And one of my bold predictions for this Giants team is going to be….he will be better than both of them in their respective rookie seasons by a long shot (Reed 45-499-3 in 9 games and Hernandez 45-563-6). In addition to that, I like Engram’s long-term potential better than both because of his athleticism and intangibles. And one more for you, I graded Engram out almost perfect on his blocking assignments Saturday night. Watch out for this kid, a legit “Offensive Rookie of the Year” candidate.
- Matt LaCosse, a favorite of mine during camp, finally got more involved in the passing game. Only 2 catches for 8 yards but he showed really good breaks and quick-area burst. Someone is going to scoop this guy up and if he gets his chances, he will make something happen. He was no slouch as a blocker. I would certainly take him over Will Tye if the Giants keep 4 tight ends.
- Rhett Ellison was a non-factor in the passing game, but I mean it when I say he is a better run blocker than our tackles. He is so technically sound, his hands are incredibly strong, and he simply wants it. If you focus on him, it’s hard not to love what he brings to the table.
- Overall, very solid night from the tackles. Ereck Flowers did allow a sack and had a false start penalty, however. Flowers’ sack was on a stunt from his inside shoulder that he didn’t see fast enough. When he commits, he doesn’t adjust well and you can bet defensive coordinators are going to attack that. He performed very well within his 1-on-1 match-ups, as this is the kind of defense he match-ups up well against. Straight-ahead bull rushers with minimal quick twitch laterally won’t win often against him. Bobby Hart had a relatively quiet night, in a good way. He is showing quicker feet and more balance. I still like him better at guard but I guess it’s time for me to put that argument away.
- John Jerry had an ugly night, mainly because of the play that forced the Manning interception. Jerry simply lost his anchor and was pushed onto his back deep in the pocket. He has had as rough a preseason as anyone when it comes to the game action. Weston Richburg continues to a nice job hustling, playing through the whistle, making the line calls…etc. However, he just isn’t a guy who can sustain blocks against power defenders. Too many times he get stossed to the side or driven back.
- Justin Pugh is playing better than I’ve ever seen him, and I have thought he was a Pro Bowl caliber guy over the past 2-3 years. The ability he showed to keep his balance, power, hand position, and leverage is exactly what I look for when scouting interior guys. He played excellent.
- The disappointing backups were Brett Jones and, once again, Adam Bisnowaty. Jones is struggling with his shotgun snaps, a major no-no for centers. And while I admire his grit and hustle, he gets walked back into the pocket repeatedly by bull rushers. He does a nice job of staying on them, but he is a guy who can ruin a QB’s pocket presence because he’s always creeping in, making it smaller and smaller. I’m not sure he is the guy to make this roster as a backup OC. Bisnowaty just can’t seem to lock anyone up; he spends way too much time trying to regain his balance.
- D.J. Fluker and Jon Halapio are my two favorite backups for the interior. Fluker is limited in space, that’s been heavily confirmed. But he consistently moves guys as a run blocker. Halapio has OC experience and I simply trust him more head up on a bull rusher. There is lower body stiffness that can get him in trouble on the move, but he plays a mean game and can get a push. Backup offensive lineman are hard to find, so you can’t kill anyone for this group being hard to watch.
- Jason Pierre Paul is looking better than ever. Three tackles, a sack, a tipped pass, and a tackle for loss that led to a safety. He was all over the field and the Jets’ line simply had no answer for him. He is turning into a leader as well. When Romeo Okwara was getting cheap shot-ed by Jets OG James Carpenter, it was JPP who was the first to come to his defense. I have a bold prediction for him coming soon.
- The backup DE situation is coming into picture. The Giants are rotating these guys inside/outside more than I can ever remember. Romeo Okwara showed enough stout-ness against run blockers, but he struggled to get off blocks. He continues to flash for one play, then get badly beat on the next 3-4. Kerry Wynn is the most consistent force among the backups and he is a staple on special teams. Avery Moss got a lot of playing time, even some of it earlier than usual, but failed to make an impression. And I think the writing is on the wall for Owa Odighizuwa via his play. There just isn’t enough effort or impact for him to warrant a spot here.
- Jay Bromley’s mild knee sprain will more than likely keep him out Thursday night. This could be the beginning of an opportunity for Dalvin Tomlinson to prove his potential as the man next to Damon Harrison. Bromley gets pushed backwards too often and while the rookie 2nd rounder hasn’t been overly stout himself, he makes better adjustments. Tomlinson is a better athlete with more range and can take advantage of the fact Harrison demands so much attention because of it. Tomlinson had a quiet night Saturday but he still flashed speed and quickness within the tackle box that Bromley just doesn’t have.
- Robert Thomas was in for a long time. I think he is a lock for the 53-man roster, but what kind of role should he play? They let him loose a little bit, got him moving up field in space and it didn’t end well. He spent a lot of time on the ground and just didn’t have the length to get off blocks. There isn’t a lot of creativity to his game, thus I think he is best suited for a stay at home, run defender-type role.
- Good to see B.J. Goodson show improving movement and instincts in coverage. There were two plays where Goodson called out the intended direction of the pass play pre-snap. Looks like Antonio Pierce is rubbing off on him. The same can’t be said for rookie Calvin Munson, who was the main culprit on the Jets 85-yard touchdown pass and run to Bilal Powell. In his defense, that is a tough match-up for any LB. Munson did end up with 5 tackles and continues to show solid interior run defense.
- Jonathan Casillas recorded 2 tackles and a sack. He is excelling at gap protection with his hard-nosed, stuff-the-lane approach. The Giants defense is one of the more physical in the league now and he is a major reason why. Devon Kennard continues to show his versatility. He is pursuing guys to the sideline, rushing the passer from a DT position, and showing solid man coverage.
- Curtis Grant got a lot of playing time and was in on 5 tackles. He is such a good looking straight-line athlete but I’m afraid the quickness of the game is just too much for him. He had a horrible missed tackle in the 4th quarter on Jets RB Elijah McGuire. Subtle change of direction and Grant whiffed in a phone booth.
- Hopefully these ankle injuries aren’t going to linger for Eli Apple. He is looking very good and sure of himself, especially when defending the run and short passing game. He did get away with a blatant deep pass interference call in the 2nd quarter though. And remember, those penalties are an absolute killer. He needs to trust himself more and stop grabbing.
- Janoris Jenkins…how many cornerbacks his size can hit the way he does? He made one of hits of the night that immediately jarred the ball loose and into the hands of Donte Deayon, which resulted in a pick 6. Jenkins is at the top of his game right now; I don’t think I have ever seen him play better.
- Speaking of Deayon, I think he is playing his way onto the roster. His pick 6 was partial luck, but this kid has always been a playmaker. Some defensive backs simply have a knack for finding the ball and making things happen. The one caveat however, he is a liability in the run game. He does show toughness as a tackler, but receivers are having a very easy time washing him out of plays when blocking.
- Nigel Tribune had a rough night. He fell on ArDarius Stewart’s first touchdown of the night when trying to track the ball and also had a deep pass interference late in the game in the midst of the Jets monster comeback. In addition, he completely whiffed on a press attempt that led to a Chad Hansen 2-point conversion.
- Do we sound like Giants’ homers when we say Landon Collins looks like a guy that could contend for “Defensive Player of the Year”? This guy is all over the field and it looks like the coaching staff knows exactly how to use him in his 3rd year. His 1st-quarter interception for a touchdown and several of his tackles were a result of top notch instincts. We are now seeing this every time he is on the field, whether it is practice or a game. He is the real deal.
- Darian Thompson made an impact play, sacking Christian Hackenberg and showed good coverage in his deep third. I am still wondering if Andrew Adams is quietly in the running for the starting job. He got in there pretty early Saturday night and plays more physically with just as much range in coverage.
- Nat Berhe and Duke Ihenacho are both overly aggressive to a fault. They launch themselves towards the action and yes, the occasional big hit is made, but they are missing too many tackles. When safeties miss tackles, bad things happen. Berhe also showed his lack of long speed in his pursuit of Powell on the long TD.
- Eric Pinkins may have made the worst coverage-based mistake of the night on ArDarius Stewart’s second touchdown. He completely let him slip by and past, got fooled by Hackenberg looking in the opposite direction, and left Stewart literally standing all alone in the end zone waiting for the eventual touchdown pass. It was an ugly, ugly look for Pinkins who got a very limited amount of snaps.
- The kicking battle has reached its highest point of competition. Mike Nugent was 2/2 including a 54 yarder that had some room left on it. Aldrick Rosas hit a 24 yarder on his only attempt. Neither one has missed one in any of the preseason games, a good sign. This is a tough call to make.
- Newcomer Ed Eagen, a wide receiver, showed a quick burst on his returns but he is highly unlikely to make the team. No other notable returns.
- DE Jason Pierre-Paul, S Landon Collins, LG Justin Pugh
- CB Nigel Tribune, S Eric Pinkins, OC Brett Jones
3 TAKEAWAYS FOR NYJ
- I bet nobody is talking about this guy, but OG Ben Braden caught my eye all night and in the re-watch. Talk about a guy who can athletically AND powerfully move guys. I think NYJ has a keeper in him.
- This QB situation is worse than I even thought. Hackenberg may not be in the league in 2-3 years and while I like Petty’s grit, he can’t be called a starter. We all know what the deal is with McCown. Jets are clearly heading towards a top 3 pick in the 2018 Draft.
- I loved the 2017 Draft class for NYJ, notably WRs Chad Hansen and ArDarius Stewart. I had much higher grades on them than what was out there and if Bilal Powell can prove to be a steady long term contributor in the backfield, this NYJ team will be a very friendly spot for their first-round QB next year. The turnaround may be a quick one here.