Aug 282017
 
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Jason Pierre-Paul, New York Giants (August 26, 2017)

Jason Pierre-Paul – © USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants 32 – New York Jets 31

QUICK RECAP

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.

QUARTERBACKS

  • 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.

RUNNING BACKS

  • 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.

WIDE RECEIVERS

  • 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).

TIGHT ENDS

  • 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.

OFFENSIVE LINE

  • 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.

DEFENSIVE LINE

  • 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.

LINEBACKERS

  • 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.

CORNERBACKS

  • 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.

SAFETIES

  • 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.

SPECIAL TEAMS

  • 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.

3 STUDS

  • DE Jason Pierre-Paul, S Landon Collins, LG Justin Pugh

3 DUDS

  • 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.
Aug 272017
 
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Eli Apple, New York Giants (August 26, 2017)

Eli Apple – © USA TODAY Sports

NEW YORK GIANTS 32 – NEW YORK JETS 31…
The New York Giants dominated the first half of their annual preseason game against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium but had to hold on late to escape with a 32-31 victory. Despite leading 29-3 at the half, the Jets drew to within one point late in the game and decided to go for the 2-point conversion instead of sending the game into overtime. The Giants stuffed the conversion attempt and knelt on the ball to preserve the win.

But the Giants lost six players due to injury (see injury update below), including cornerback Eli Apple (ankle) and defensive tackle Jay Bromley (knee).

Sixteen of the Giants’ 29 first-half points were scored by the defense. After the Giants’ defense forced a three-and-out to start the game, quarterback Eli Manning and the offense moved the ball from their own 27 to the Jets’ 28-yard line. But on 2nd-and-8, Manning – who was immediately pressured – threw an ill-advised pass deep which was picked off at the Jets’ 3-yard line. However, two plays later defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul sliced into the backfield to nail running back Matt Forte in the end zone for a safety. After the free kick, the Giants drove 56 yards to set up a successful 24-yard field goal by place kicker Adrick Rosas. The Giants led 5-0.

After the ensuing Giants’ kickoff, safety Landon Collins jumped a quarterback Christian Hackenberg pass and returned it 23 yards for a touchdown and the Giants took a 12-0 lead. The Jets went three-and-out and the G-Men then drove 56 yards in seven plays, culminating with a 1-yard touchdown run by running back Orleans Darkwa. The touchdown was set up by 17-yard catch by wide receiver Roger Lewis on 4th-and-3, despite him taking a big hit. 19-0 Giants.

The Jets responded with their only scoring drive of the first half, moving the ball 66 yards in 10 plays to set up a 27-yard field goal. After both teams exchanged punts, wide receiver Travis Rudolph made superb catch and run to pick up 57 yards on a pass from quarterback Josh Johnson. The drive stalled but place kicker Mike Nugent nailed a 50-yard field goal to give the Giants a 22-3 lead. With less than two minutes before halftime, cornerback Donte Deayon intercepted a pass knocked loose from the intended receiver by corner Janoris Jenkins. Deayon returned the pick 36 yards for a touchdown. At the half, the Giants led 29-3.

The Giants’ offensive reserves didn’t do much in the second half. Five drives resulted in three first downs and five punts. The Giants did manage one scoring possession, moving the ball 48 yards to set up a 54-yard field goal by Nugent early in the 4th quarter. But that was it.

Meanwhile, after forcing a turnover on downs at the 14-yard line after giving up a 56 yard drive, the Giants’ defensive reserves allowed three straight touchdowns, including touchdown passes of 25, 85, and 15 yards. The defense did force one punt, but with 2:11 left in the game, the Jets drove 75 yards in seven plays to pull within one point, 32-31. The game was saved for the G-Men as the 2-point conversion that most likely would have given the Jets the victory was stuffed with 1:24 left to play.

Manning finished the game 7-of-14 for 121 yards and one interception. Johnson was 5-of-10 for 51 yards, Geno Smith 4-of-6 for 67 yards, and Davis Webb 2-of-4 for 20 yards. The leading receivers were Rudolph (3 catches for 81 yards), Sterling Shepard (2 catches for 47 yards), Evan Engram (2 catches for 32 yards), and Roger Lewis (2 catches for 30 yards). The leading rushers were Wayne Gallman (12 carries for 43 yards), Paul Perkins (6 carries for 33 yards), and Orleans Darkwa (7 carries for 21 yards).

Aside for the three defensive scores, the defense was credited with three sacks (Jason Pierre-Paul, Darian Thompson, and Jonathan Casillas), five tackles for losses, five quarterback hits, and seven pass defenses.

Video highlights/lowlights are available at Giants.com.

INJURY REPORT…
Not playing in the game were WR Odell Beckham, Jr. (ankle), WR Brandon Marshall (shoulder), WR Dwayne Harris (upper body), WR Tavarres King (ankle), LB Keenan Robinson (concussion), LB Mark Herzlich (stinger), and CB Michael Hunter (concussion).

CB Eli Apple (ankle), DT Jay Bromley (knee), OG Adam Gettis (foot), RB Shaun Draughn (concussion/neck), S Duke Ihenacho (knee), and DE Evan Schwan (unknown) all left the game with injuries.

“I think (Apple) did his other ankle today, so I have concerns about both ankles,” said Head Coach Ben McAdoo. “I’m not sure (how bad it is), I’ll have to go talk to the trainers and the doctors about it.”

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:

ARTICLES…

Aug 252017
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (December 6, 2015)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Preseason Game Preview: New York Jets at New York Giants, August 26, 2017

THE STORYLINE:
From a fan and media perspective, it is clear this preseason is not going as hoped for the New York Giants. The offense – which struggled to score points in 2016 – has not yet scored a touchdown. The same weak spots in 2016 appear to still be weak spots this preseason, specifically the blocking up front and the inability to generate yards on the ground. And while the Giants have not had any devastating injuries (knock on wood), they have suffered a plethora of nagging injuries that have sabotaged practice time or caused the team to churn the bottom of the roster just in order to have enough players to practice and play in the preseason without exposing starters to unnecessary risk.

The good news? Most fans – including this one – couldn’t possibly tell you what the team’s preseason records in previous years. For most Giants fans, preseason memories are limited to who got hurt (Jason Sehorn) and the occasional breakout performance (Victor Cruz) or bizarre ending (Jack Golden). A year from now, most fans won’t remember a darn thing from the 2017 preseason. What is important is for the team to physically and mentally get ready for the Dallas Cowboys on opening day.

This third preseason game has always been a bitch for the Giants. The Jets and their fans always take this game way too seriously and this is the one game where both teams have been hit by devastating injuries in the past (yes, past performance is no guarantee of future results but I’m superstitious so lay off).

What do we want to see? Stay healthy. See SOME improvement in the running game. Score a touchdown or two.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • WR Odell Beckham, Jr. (ankle)
  • WR Brandon Marshall (shoulder)
  • WR Dwayne Harris (upper body)
  • WR Tavarres King (ankle)
  • LB Keenan Robinson (concussion)
  • LB Mark Herzlich (stinger)
  • LB J.T. Thomas (knee)
  • CB Eli Apple (ankle)
  • CB Michael Hunter (concussion)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
The red flags are there. It appears that the offensive line is still an issue. And the Giants simply cannot run the football. With respect to the line, the alarming thing is that it is not just the tackles who are inconsistent, but the interior of the line has been a problem as well. One of the greatest compliments you can give an offensive line and a coach is that the whole exceeds the sum of the parts. Well with the Giants, it appears the whole is LESS than the sum of the parts. Or perhaps, the Giants really screwed up in their evaluation of the parts. To the point, EVERYONE on the offensive line has to play better. At different points, Ereck Flowers, Bobby Hart, John Jerry, and Weston Richburg have struggled to create holes for the running backs and protect the quarterbacks. They are NOT getting the job done. And worse, the Giants have no fallback plan. The only realistic option to replace Flowers is Justin Pugh, but Pugh has not taken snaps at left tackle. D.J. Fluker has received most of his practice snaps at right guard and does not appear to be a threat to unseat Bobby Hart at all. And Fluker has not received first-team reps at right guard. Brett Jones has not worked with the first team at center, but did receive some first-team reps at right guard in practice this week. The two back-up tackles are green rookies. For better or worse (and right now it is looking like worse), the Giants are pretty much stuck with Flowers-Pugh-Richburg-Jerry-Hart again.

We cannot let Paul Perkins off of the hook either. Yes, he hasn’t had much room to operate. But he also is not creating on his own or running with a great deal of instinctiveness. There has been hesitation to his play. Right now, it is fair to wonder if the Giants truly have a legitimate NFL-quality starting running back on the roster.

So right now, we’re looking at another year of a finesse, pass-first West Coast Offense that has to rely on the short passing game in order to protect Eli Manning and which has trouble even picking up one yard on 3rd-and-1. This is not a physical offense. The Giants will have to cross their fingers that Eli rebounds with a stronger season and that Odell Beckham, Brandon Marshall, Sterling Shepard, Evan Engram, Rhett Ellison, and Shane Vereen can provide match-up problems in the passing game. Yards after the catch will be key.

With four of arguably the Giants five best wide receivers out of this game, don’t expect the offense to look sharp against the Jets.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
Right now, it looks like the Giants are going to sink or swim in 2017 based on the play of their defense. The good news is that the Giants may have an emerging force at linebacker in B.J. Goodson. The guy does something other Giants linebackers haven’t done in years: make plays. If everyone stays relatively healthy (a big if), the addition of a mobile, physical middle linebacker who makes plays to this defense is huge. There will still be growing pains with Goodson, but the arrow is definitely pointing up with him. Now if Darian Thompson can take hold of the free safety position, the Giants will be in great shape on defense.

The biggest worry here is the fact that Keenan Robinson is back in the concussion protocol. He clearly suffered a setback and if he concussed himself again, who knows how long he will be out?  He’s always been an injury-prone player, but he was an underrated performer for the Giants last year in pass coverage. Also keep your fingers crossed that Michael Hunter won’t be out long at cornerback. He has developed nicely and looks to be a serious upgrade over Trevin Wade and Coty Sensabaugh. That 4th cornerback spot is much more important than fans realize, especially with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Eli Apple having a history of missing time.

Ends Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon seem poised for a big season. I hope the Giants don’t risk them much more this preseason. Same with Damon Harrison, Janoris Jenkins, and Landon Collins. I don’t care if the Jets move the ball against our back-ups in a preseason game.

It’s been pointed out by others on BBI, but keep an eye on a couple of relative unknown players who are flying under the radar: DE/DT Jordan Williams and LB Calvin Munson.

With Hunter and possibly Eli Apple out, and Valentino Blake leaving the team, this will be a great opportunity for Donte Deayon to make a push for a roster spot. But since he is such a liability against the run and on specials, he will have to excel in pass coverage. If he doesn’t, the Giants will be keeping an eye on the waiver wire on September 2, and not just at corner, but at safety where the play of Nat Berhe remains a cause for concern.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
Not receiving a lot of press is the fact that while Aldrick Rosas has been perfect this preseason, he has begun to miss more kicks in practice, going 3-for-4 a number of times recently. Stating the obvious, this position is far from settled yet. Dwayne Harris was limited all of 2016 with various injury problems. What is a bit disconcerting is that he has been sidelined for a couple of weeks now with an unidentified “upper body” issue. The Giants not only need him on the field in the return game, but they need him close to 100 percent. Who knows what is wrong with him?

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Ben McAdoo on what he is looking for from an offense missing key components for this game: “I am looking for getting in a little bit of a rhythm. We want to take care of the ball. That’s important to us. We want to play with some physicality, complete the ball and just get a little bit better. Find a way to make some gains this week.”

THE FINAL WORD:
I don’t expect a performance by the Giants that will leave fans feeling terribly good about the state of the team. Too many of the top receivers will be out. The Giants should struggle to run the football against this defense. I’ll feel better when the preseason is past us.

Aug 282016
 
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Johnathan Hankins and Jason Pierre-Paul, New York Giants (August 27, 2016)

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

New York Giants 21 – New York Jets 20

Overview

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

Half Full:

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

Half Empty:

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

Giants on Offense

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

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

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

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

Quarterback

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

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

Logan Thomas did not play.

Running Backs

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

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

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

Tavarres King – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Wide Receivers

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

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

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

Tight Ends/Offensive Line

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Giants on Defense

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

Defensive Line

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

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

Linebackers

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

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

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

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

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

Andrew Adams – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Defensive Backs

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

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

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

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

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

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

Giants on Special Teams

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

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

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

(New York Giants at New York Jets, August 27, 2016)
Aug 282016
 
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New York Giants Celebrate First Preseason Win (August 27, 2016)

New York Giants Celebrate First Preseason Win – © USA TODAY Sports Images

NEW YORK GIANTS 21 – NEW YORK JETS 20…
Ben McAdoo won his first game as head coach of the New York Giants on Saturday as the Giants defeated the Jets 21-20 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Giants overall preseason record now stands at 1-2.

The Giants trailed 0-7 at halftime as the starting offense continued to struggle mightily with the defense keeping the Giants in the game. In seven first-half drives, the Giants offense only generated 47 total net yards and three first downs. The starting offense also went three-and-out to start the 3rd quarter. Minus left guard Justin Pugh, the Giants offensive front was not able to handle the Jets extremely-talented defensive line. Quarterback Eli Manning finished the game 10-of-15 for 65 yards and one interception – which was partially caused by wide receiver Odell Beckham making a business decision by cutting off his route to avoid a big hit. The Giants had five yards rushing at the half on 12 carries (0.4 yards per rush).

Special teams were also a problem as the Giants allowed a blocked punt – terrible whiffs on attempted blocks by safety Justin Currie and running back Orleans Darkwa – in the 1st quarter. The Giants also allowed punt returns of 52 and 28 yards by the Jets.

The starting defense played well. The Giants allowed three first downs on the Jets first drive of the game, but only three more first downs on the other six Jets possessions of the first half. After a blocked punt set the Jets up on the Giants 15-yard line, the defense immediately got the ball back as defensive tackle Damon Harrison sacked quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, forcing a fumble that defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins recovered. The only Jets points in the first half came after Manning’s interception set the Jets up at the Giants 30-yard line. A perfect back-shoulder throw by Fitzpatrick to wide receiver Eric Decker for a 22-yard score despite tight coverage from cornerback Janoris Jenkins gave the Jets the halftime advantage.

In the second half, the Jets extended their lead to 10-0 after a 5-play, 18-yard drive set up a 55-yard field goal. Late in the 3rd quarter, after a 21-yard punt return by running back Bobby Rainey and a 15-yard face-mask penalty set the Giants up at the Jets 47-yard line, wide receiver Tavarres King gained 20 yards on an end around and then scored from 27 yards out on a pass from quarterback Ryan Nassib. Jets 10 – Giants 7.

The Jets responded with a drive that reached the Giants 23-yard line early in the 4th quarter. But on 3rd-and-10, linebacker J.T. Thomas deflected a pass that was intercepted by defensive end Kerry Wynn and returned 73 yards for a go-ahead touchdown. The Jets immediately regained the lead by driving 75 yards in seven plays and a 10-yard passing touchdown. After a three-and-out by the Giants and the ensuing 52-yard punt return by the Jets, Gang Green went up 20-14 with a 29-yard field goal with 6:26 to play.

The Giants drove from their own 26-yard line to the Jets 5-yard line but turned the ball over on downs with 3:33 left in the game. The Giants got the ball right back when defensive tackle Davon Coleman tipped a 3rd-and-7 pass that was intercepted by safety Andrew Adams at the 11-yard line. Two plays later, Nassib hit King with an 11-yard catch-and-run for the game-winning touchdown with 2:25 to play.

Nassib finished the game 6-of-19 for 69 yards, two touchdowns, and 0 interceptions. Sixteen Giants caught passes but no one had more than two catches. Both of King’s two receptions went for scores. King also was the leading rusher with 20 yards on one carry. Running back Shane Vereen (11 yards on six carries) was the only other play to break single digits as the Giants only rushed for 39 yards on 20 carries.

Wide receiver Victor Cruz, playing in his first game since 2014, played 32 snaps (29 plays) and had one catch for four yards.

Defensively, both Wynn and Adams had interceptions and Hankins recovered the fumble caused by Harrison’s sack. Defensive Romeo Okwara also had a sack. Harrison and defensive end Olivier Vernon combined for 12 tackles.

Video highlights/lowlights are available at Giants.com.

INJURY REPORT…
Not playing were left guard Justin Pugh (shoulder), tight end Will Johnson (burner), tight end Matt LaCosse (knee), safety Darian Thompson (shoulder), and safety Mykkele Thompson (concussion).

Linebacker Jonathan Casillas (ribs), linebacker B.J. Goodson (concussion), cornerback Leon Hall (concussion), and fullback Nikita Whitlock (foot) all left the game and did not return. ESPN is reporting that Casillas has a cracked rib. “He has a rib injury. I’ll know more tomorrow,” said a tight-lipped Head Coach Ben McAdoo after the game. Whitlock was seen on crutches and in a protective boot after the game in the locker room.

POST-GAME REACTIONS…
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:

ARTICLES…

Aug 262016
 
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Odell Beckham, New York Giants (December 6, 2015)

Odell Beckham – © USA TODAY Sports Images

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

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

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

THE INJURY REPORT:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dec 072015
 
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New York Jets 23 – New York Giants 20 (OT)

Overview

If coincidences are just coincidences, why do they feel so contrived? – Fox Mulder

We need to take a step back and look at the big picture. The specifics of what transpired in this particular game are not as important as the fact that they keep happening. Structurally, this team is broken. And until those structural problems are rectified, I find it doubtful that this team will achieve the type of status that all fans hope for: perennial playoff contender.

Though technically still alive for the playoffs, we all know this season isn’t going to end well. Five unbelievable, late-game, heart-breaking losses have left this team shell-shocked. They are still fighting and competing (credit the coaching staff and the character of the players) but they are finding novel and painful ways to lose each week (blame the coaching staff and quality of the players). Despite what they say publicly, this team lacks confidence. They expect to lose. It was almost a given that the 4th-and-2 play would fail, that the offense would not run out the clock, that the defense would collapse, and that the kicker who had not missed all year would miss. A culture of losing is very difficult to eradicate. To do so often requires drastic measures.

The Giants are on their way to their third losing season in a row and fourth non-playoff season in a league and division populated with bad and mediocre football teams. With the demise of the Cowboys and Eagles, the Giants were all but handed the NFC East. They refused to take it despite multiple opportunities. In the last four seasons, the Giants are 9-7, 7-9, 6-10, and now 5-7 with four games to play. This team is not getting better. At best, it’s treading water in some areas; but in many ways, it’s getting worse. For a team that has unofficially been “rebuilding” for the last 2-3 years, that’s disturbing.

Look, it’s not a shock that the Giants have a losing record with four games left to play. Before the season, many fans felt this was an 8-8 team at best and many predicted a 6-10 or 7-9 season. Fans recognized the defense was devoid of talent and it would take time to learn the new defensive system. The offensive line was in transition. They knew the offseason injuries to Will Beatty and Jason Pierre-Paul would have an impact. But what fans did not expect was a team that would be among the league’s most injured for the sixth year in a row, a defense that would once again be dead last in the NFL, a running game that would remain among the NFL’s worst, and an offense that would be relegated to the Eli Manning-to-Odell Beckham connection. The fans did not also know what opportunity would be handed to the Giants in the division. Had you told New York fans that the Giants could all but wrap up the NFC East by beating the Redskins at the end of November, they would have gladly signed up for that scenario. Instead the Giants found themselves trailing a mediocre Redskins 20-0 in the 4th quarter.

Something is wrong.

The first instinct among many fans when their team fails is to fire everyone. Fire the coach. Fire the general manager. Dump the players. Usually this is an overreaction and often it is unrealistic. It’s part of the blame culture that we now find ourselves in. If my Sundays are going to suck, heads must roll and damn the real-life human cost. But after four disappointing and at times excruciatingly painful seasons, with the oldest head coach in the league, with injury-riddled rosters year after year, and a talent-acquisition process that appears to be malfunctioning, the time has come to make some sweeping changes. Professional football is entertainment. The product the Giants have put on the field is not remotely entertaining. An Odell Beckham one-handed highlight does not compensate for yet another loss.

Coaching Staff

They all need to be fired. I feel badly for them and their families. But it’s time. Tom Coughlin is easily one of the top three head coaches in franchise history. He won two NFL titles (1/4 of the franchise’s championships) with teams that only had a handful of impact players. Both playoff runs were miraculous. And his talent- and injury-depleted 2015 team has remained competitive in EVERY game this year except one. Six of the team’s seven losses have been by a total of 18 points. Coughlin has no agenda other than making sure the New York Giants are winners. It’s the only thing that drives him. He may end up in the Hall of Fame someday.

But Coughlin turns 70 next year. This team does not appear close. Very questionable game-management decisions have been an issue in almost every one of the team’s close defeats. As cruel as it sounds, one must question if his mental faculties are slipping. His mantra has been “Finish” but he himself has let his team down by not “finishing” the game with smart coaching decisions. With under 9 minutes to play, you kick the field goal. You make Ryan Fitzpatrick score 14 points. Keep in mind the Jets had only managed 10 points on offense at this point. It doesn’t matter if the Giants would have lost too had they kicked the field goal, you have to play the percentages. These type of questionable goal line and running-out-the-clock play calls have plagued New York all season. Even in the opener, Eli took the blame for telling Rashad Jennings not to score. However, it’s incumbent on the coach to remind his quarterback what the situation is and what needs to be done. That didn’t happen.

What about the assistant coaches? First, if you bring in a new head coach, you should allow him to pick his own staff. Everyone. Don’t encumber him with someone else’s assistants. Second, while Ben McAdoo has been a godsend in revitalizing Eli Manning’s career, he doesn’t appear to be a very good offensive coordinator. I expected him to grow and improve as a play caller and he hasn’t. McAdoo has yet to manufacture a viable running game. And the efficiency of his West Coast short passing offense seems to be regressing. Steve Spagnuolo? The Giants are dead last in defense. The fact that started under Perry Fewell and has continued under Spagnuolo suggests an obvious talent issue, but dead last is dead last. And this defense simply cannot stop even mediocre offenses from driving the field late in games. It’s been an issue in every close loss. In the last three Jets’ drives on Sunday, the defense gave up 212 yards of offense. To Ryan Fitzpatrick. To be blunt, these guys aren’t out-coaching anyone. Teams seem to know what the Giants are doing on offense and defense.

Really, the only two strong arguments for not firing this coaching staff are (1) is there anyone out there who is obviously more qualified?, and (2) the clock is ticking on the franchise quarterback. These are both valid concerns. But do they outweigh the other negatives at this point?

Players

Due to quality of the player, draft investment, and/or salary cap considerations, the only ones who are safe are Eli Manning, Odell Beckham, Dwayne Harris, Shane Vereen, Ereck Flowers, Justin Pugh, Weston Richburg, Owamagbe Odighizuwa, Johnathan Hankins, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Landon Collins, and Brad Wing. Even with a new coaching staff, Jay Bromley and Devon Kennard probably get another shot. Maybe Robert Ayers. There is absolutely no guarantee that Jason Pierre-Paul and Prince Amukamara will be back. The cupboard isn’t bare, but it’s not looking so hot either.

And because player personnel is an issue, this goes hand in hand with the opportunity to change the entire coaching staff. A new coaching staff won’t necessarily be stuck with a lot of players from the past regime. Indeed, on the defensive side of the ball, for the first time in over 20 years, the team can actually consider if it wants to shift back to the 3-4 defense.

Training/Medical Staff

The never-ending debate: Are the Giants’ training/medical personnel partly responsible for the team’s poor run of bad luck on the injury front? On the surface, it sounds like more scapegoating. But the fact remains that the Giants are statistically one of the most injury-prone teams for the sixth year in a row despite radical roster transition. The team has readily admitted publicly that it has a problem. The Giants have changed their practice schedule and adopted new training and monitoring techniques to no avail. Both young and old players are getting hurt at an alarming rate with calf injuries, torn pectoral muscles, hamstrings, and knee and ankle issues. There was a case of staph infection that ended a career of a tight end, and a starter on the offensive line who was lost for the year due to a weight lifting accident. Two players who were said to have minor calf injuries never played due to season-ending surgeries. Is it simply year after year bad luck? The strength and conditioning program? Poor diagnosis and treatment? We keep saying the injury luck is bound to change but it never does.

The Giants are an incredibly loyal operation. But if coaches and players can be fired, why not training and medical staff? They should be evaluated on their performance as well. Time may have passed by Tom Coughlin, but it may also have passed by Senior Vice President of Medical Services Ronnie Barnes who has been with the team for decades.

General Manager, Player Personnel, and Scouting

The Giants have suffered from a lot of bad luck in the injury department. A plethora of career-ending and career-impacting injuries to many of the team’s best young talent has wrecked the roster. But General Manager Jerry Reese, Senior Vice President of Player Personnel Chris Mara, Vice President of Player Evaluation Marc Ross, Director of Pro Personnel Ken Sternfeld, and their staffs have done a horrible job of constructing this roster. There are a bunch of players starting or playing vital roles on this team that wouldn’t even make other teams as backups. There are holes all over the place on the offensive and defensive side of the ball. And the holes seem to be increasing rather than diminishing. The new narrative has been that the Giants are finally drafting better now. Not that much better. Odell Beckham has been the only impact player this team has acquired via the draft in recent years. You can fire coach after coach, but if you don’t acquire and retain good players, you won’t win. Period.

The problem with firing the General Manager and the rest of the player personnel staff is that if you do that in conjunction with firing the coaching staff, there is very little structure and continuity left in place. It would be a monumental organizational and cultural change for the Giants to start from scratch here. It is very unlikely. That said, will the results really change all that much on the playing field if those in charge of acquiring the players are not very good at their job? Also, the Giants have gotten into the nasty habit of making changes a year or two too late. They should have fired Perry Fewell earlier than they did. If Tom Coughlin is let go, they waited too long there as well. What if Jerry Reese’s job performance doesn’t improve, but he is allowed to hire a new coach? Then the next general manager is left with someone else’s coaching staff or having to fire that staff. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking on a 35+ year old quarterback who you can’t trade.

Conclusion

The bye was supposed to be the panacea for the 6-game sprint to the finish. A win over the Redskins would have all but given the Giants the division. Now, barring a miracle finish, it’s hard to see the team retaining a 70-year old coach who has missed the playoffs four years in a row and who has suddenly turned into one of the poorest game managers in the game. Public relations plays a role here too. The mob is seeking blood and the easiest head to serve up is the head coach. They’ve already fired the offensive and defensive coordinators in recent years. There are no more scapegoats. But – to be blunt – despite the great job Coughlin has done to keep this team competitive, he has dug his own grave this year. It’s a bottom line business and he’s made the wrong decision time and time again.

It’s very doubtful the Giants will make any changes to their training/medical and player acquisition staffs. But they should. They have failed miserably. If you are going to hold coaches and players accountable, then you should hold front office staff members accountable as well. The problems in both of these areas has been ongoing for most of this decade.

Quarterback

Not good enough. Eli Manning was out-played by another mediocre quarterback for the second week in a row. The offense only really generated 10 points on the last two drives of the second quarter. That was it. For all intents and purposes, the Giants offense amounted to a 72-yard pass to Odell Beckham and a 45-yard pass to Will Tye. It may be unfair that Eli has to carry this team, but he has to. The Giants were 0-for-3 in the red zone and 4-of-15 on 3rd down.

Running Back

Not good enough. The head coach and offensive coordinator continue to insist on getting everyone involved yet no one stands out. It is beyond comprehension why this team has stopped trying to get the ball more to Shane Vereen (4 rushes for 13 yards, 2 catches for 7 yards).

Wide Receiver

Not good enough. It’s the Odell Beckham show and nothing else. Yet despite his 6 catches for 149 yards, Beckham could have done more against a secondary that was missing two of its top corners. He dropped two potentially game-deciding catches. They would have been tough, but like Manning, the team needs him to make those plays. Even Tom Coughlin admitted on Monday he has no idea what is going on with Rueben Randle (2 catches for 22 yards), who messed up on the poorly-executed 4th-and-2 play. The other three receiver had 3 catches for 20 yards.

Tight End

Not good enough. Undrafted rookie free agent Will Tye (3 catches for 70 yards) is progressing and his 45-yarder late in the 2nd quarter led to the Giants’ last offensive points of the day. He also had a 25-yarder early in the 3rd quarter, but that was the end of his productivity for the game as a receiver.

Offensive Line

Not good enough. Cohesion is a problem as players keep leaving the line-up due to injury. Marshall Newhouse missed the game and Ereck Flowers was forced out due to a high ankle sprain. He had issues in pass protection before he left. Justin Pugh, who just returned from a concussion, had to shift to left tackle and Dallas Reynolds came off of the bench to play left guard. Rookie Bobby Hart started at right tackle, John Jerry at right guard, and the still-gimpy Weston Richburg (high ankle sprain) at center. The interior trio struggled run blocking, and the pressure Reynolds allowed on the 4th-and-2 play was a big factor in the play’s failure. Hart and Pugh were OK given the circumstances and the quality of the opposition.

Defensive Line

Not good enough. While Jason Pierre-Paul (6 tackles, 2 tackles for a loss, 2 QB hits, 1 pass defense, and 1 fumble recovery) and Robert Ayers (5 tackles, 2 sacks, 3 QB hits, and 1 pass defense) had their best games of the season, the line and the entire defense failed to rise to the occasion on each of the last three drives. Cullen Jenkins also had a sack. The 15-yard scramble by Fitzpatrick on 4th-and-6 was a killer.

Linebackers

Not good enough. The Jets killed the Giants with passes to the running backs out of the backfield with 13 receptions for 113 yards, including a 25-yard touchdown on 3rd-and-15. Jasper Brinkley did force the only turnover of the day for the Giants. But Chris Ivory also gained 47 rushing yards on just 10 carries.

Defensive Backs

Not good enough. The Giants were counting on cornerbacks Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Prince Amukamara to shut down the Jets’ only two consistent receiving threats: Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker. Instead, Marshall and Decker caught 20-of-25 passes thrown in their direction for 232 yards. Amukamara, who seemed to be pointing fingers at others after the game, should have looked at himself for dropping a sure interception and then giving up the game-tying touchdown with 27 seconds left in regulation.

Special Teams

Not good enough. Tragically. Despite Dwayne Harris’ 80-yard punt return for a touchdown and 43-yard kickoff return in overtime, what will be remembered is place kicker Josh Brown missing his only field goal attempt of the season to date in overtime.

Cram it in your Cramhole Award

I love the man, but it’s got to be Tom Coughlin. Your offense has possessed the ball for 11 minutes and 21 seconds. There is less than 9 minutes in the game. The opposition only has generated 10 points. You kick the field goal and go up 13 points. He also sent the wrong message to his defense that had been doing alright up to that point.

(New York Jets at New York Giants, December 6, 2015)
Dec 062015
 
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Josh Brown, New York Giants (December 6, 2015)

Josh Brown Misses Game-Tying Kick in OT – © USA TODAY Sports Images

NEW YORK JETS 23 – NEW YORK GIANTS 20 (OT)…
In pattern far too commonplace this season, the New York Giants lost a heart-breaker, 23-20 in overtime, to the New York Jets on Sunday afternoon at MetLife Stadium. Once again, there was a questionable late-game coaching decision and the team surrendered another double-digit 4th quarter lead. The Giants had a chance to tie the game in overtime but place kicker Josh Brown, who had been perfect all season on field goal attempts, missed from 48 yards out.

With the defeat, the Giants fell to 5-7 overall. It was the fifth time this season the Giants have lost a game in the final two minutes – tying a single-season NFL record.

Statistically, the Jets out-gained the Giants in first downs (28 to 14), total net yards (463 to 355), net yards rushing (90 to 74), net yards passing (373 to 281), and time of possession (38:31 to 29:56). The Giants were 0-for-3 in red zone opportunities  and 4-of-15 (27 percent) on third down opportunities.

Dwayne Harris, New York Giants (December 6, 2015)

Dwayne Harris – © USA TODAY Sports Images

After both teams went three-and-out and exchanged punts on their first possessions, the Jets went up 3-0 after an 11-play, 78-yard drive that set up a 24-yard field goal. Both teams then gained one first down before having to punt. The Giants went ahead 7-3 when wide receiver/returner Dwayne Harris returned a punt 80 yards for a touchdown.

The Jets and Giants exchanged punts again. The Giants got the ball back when linebacker Jasper Brinkley forced a fumble that defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul recovered. Despite beginning the possession at the Jets’ 10-yard line, the Giants were forced to settle for a 20-yard field goal by Brown to go up 10-3. Running back Andre Williams was stuffed for a 1-yard loss on 3rd-and-goal from the 1-yard line.

Odell Beckham, New York Giants (December 6, 2015)

Odell Beckham – © USA TODAY Sports Images

The Jets then proceeded to tie the game by driving 79 yards in nine plays, with quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick hitting running back Bilal Powell for a 25-yard catch-and-run touchdown on 3rd-and-15. However, the Giants regained the lead on the third snap of their ensuing possession when wide receiver Odell Beckham sprinted for a 72-yard touchdown pass on 3rd-and-2. Giants were now up 17-10.

The Giants’ defense forced three-and-out with 1:42 left in the half. The Giants were able gain 50 yards in six pays, primarily on tight end Will Tye’s 45-yard catch-and-run, to set up a successful 35-yard field goal with 30 seconds left.

At the half, the Giants led 20-10.

Neither team scored in the 3rd quarter. After both teams punted, the Giants began a marathon, 17-play drive that continued midway into the 4th quarter and took an astounding 11 minutes and 21 seconds off of the clock. The turning point in the game came at this moment. Facing a 4th-and-2 from the Jets’ 4-yard line with 8:50 left in the game, Head Coach Tom Coughlin decided to go for it instead of attempting a short field goal that would have put the Giants up by 13 points. Manning’s pass intended for wide receiver Rueben Randle was intercepted and returned to the Jets’ 14-yard line.

The Jets then proceeded to cut the score to 20-13 by driving 80 yards in 12 plays to set up a 24-yard field goal with 4:24 left to play. Needing to run some time off of the clock, the Giants could not and were forced to punt after a three-and-out.

The Jets started their final drive in regulation at their own 29-yard line with 2:40 left to play. Just like the other five late-game collapses, the defense could not hold. The Jets drove 71 yards in 10 plays to tie the game 20-20. On this drive, the Jets converted on 4th-and-6 when Fitzpatrick scrambled for 15 yards. The game-tying touchdown was a 9-yard pass from to wide receiver Brandon Marshall with 27 seconds left.

The Jets won the toss in overtime and drove 61 yards in 13 plays to set up what would be the game-winning 31-yard field goal. Per the new overtime rules, the Giants were given one opportunity to tie or win the game. After a 43-yard kickoff return by Harris, the Giants could only pick up one first down on a 4th-and-6 pass to Beckham that gave the Giants the ball at the Jets’ 34-yard line. But the Giants could only gain four more yards before Brown’s 48-yard game-tying field goal attempt. That kick went wide left.

Offensively, Manning finished the game 18-of-34 for 297 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception. Beckham caught 6 passes for 149 yards and 1 touchdown. No other receiver caught more than three passes and no running back rushed for more than 23 yards.

Defensively, while the Giants accrued 3 sacks and 9 quarterback hits, Fitzpatrick completed 36-of-50 passes for 390 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions. Both wide receiver Brandon Marshall (12 catches for 131 yards) and Eric Decker (8 catches for 101 yards) had over 100 yards receiving. Powell also caught 8 passes for 91 yards at running back for the Jets.

Video highlights/lowlights are available at Giants.com.

INJURY REPORT…
Left tackle Ereck Flowers was carted off of the field with a left ankle injury in the 3rd quarter and did not return. He was spotted in a boot and on crutches after the game.

Quarterback Eli Manning had x-rays after the game on an undisclosed body part but claimed he was OK. “Everything’s good,” said Manning. “Just to see if anything was broken, but all good. You can ask Coach about it.”

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 TE Larry Donnell (neck), RT Marshall Newhouse (back), LB Devon Kennard (hamstring/foot), S Brandon Meriweather (knee), DE George Selvie, WR Geremy Davis, and OT Emmett Cleary.

Rookie Bobby Hart started at right tackle.

Six of the New York Giants’ seven losses have been by a total of 18 points.

This was the third time this season the Giants led by at least 10 points in the fourth quarter and were unable to close out their opponent.

Quarterback Eli Manning increased his career yardage total to 43,073. That moved him past Hall of Famer Dan Fouts and into 11th place on the NFL’s career list.

Wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. had his fifth consecutive game with at least 100 receiving yards. He is the first Giants receiver in history to do that in a single season. Beckham has 169 career receptions, the highest total in history by an NFL player in his first two seasons. Beckham has scored 10 touchdowns for the second consecutive season.

Wide receiver/returner Dwayne Harris is the third player in Giants’ history with kickoff and punt return touchdowns in the same season, and the first to do it in 60 years.

JAMES MORRIS PROMOTED TO 53-MAN ROSTER, LEON McFADDEN CUT…
On Saturday, the New York Giants signed linebacker James Morris to the 53-man roster from the Practice Squad. To make room for Morris, the team waived cornerback Leon McFadden.

ARTICLES…

Dec 042015
 
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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 Jets at New York Giants, December 6, 2015

THE STORYLINE:
I’d like to say the Giants are out of rope and this is a must-win game, but if the Cowboys beat the Redskins on Monday and the Patriots beat the Eagles, New York would still be in first place at 5-7. But I’d prefer not go there at this moment even though that scenario is certainly possible.

For their own self-confidence and well being, the Giants need to win on Sunday and improve their record to 6-6. It will not be easy because the Jets are a tough, physical football team on both sides of the ball. And they are also facing a must-win scenario. That all said, on paper, there are areas where this is good match-up for the G-Men.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • TE Larry Donnell (neck – out)
  • OC Weston Richburg (ankle – questionable)
  • LG Justin Pugh (concussion – probable)
  • RT Marshall Newhouse (back – questionable)
  • LB Devon Kennard (hamstring/foot – out)
  • DE Jason Pierre-Paul (hand – probable)
  • DE Robert Ayers (toe – probable)
  • S Brandon Meriweather (knee – out)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
The Jets are bit of a throwback 3-4 defense. They are 3rd overall on defense (12th against the pass and 1st against the run). Opposing offenses are only averaging 17.5 first downs per game against the Jets and the Jets’ red zone defense is the best in the NFL (38.5 percent). The Jets also have forced 22 turnovers, 3rd highest in the NFL.

While their linebackers, led by ILB David Harris, are solid, the heart of the defense is their line. Nose tackle Damon Harrison (6’4”, 350lbs) and defensive ends Muhammad Wilkerson (6’4”, 315lbs), Sheldon Richardson (6’3”, 294lbs), and Leonard Williams (6’5”, 302lbs) are big, physical, athletic, and a handful for any offensive line. Much of this game’s focus will be the ability or inability of the Giants’ beat up offensive line to deal with these four.

Harrison will be handful for gimpy Weston Richburg (high ankle sprain) or journeyman Dallas Reynolds. Wilkerson is having an outstanding year as a run defender and pass rusher (8 sacks). He will line up over Ereck Flowers and whomever plays left guard. Reserve ex-Giant Leger Douzable is no slouch either. Whomever plays on the right side will have to deal with Richardson and high #1 draft pick Williams. We really don’t know the make-up of the line as right tackle Marshall Newhouse (back) is questionable too. Justin Pugh (concussion) could play at left guard, or right tackle if Newhouse can’t go. Rookie Bobby Hart could make his first NFL start at right tackle or right guard. John Jerry will start at one of the guard spots.

The strength of this group is obviously stopping the run. While they are not as adept at rushing the passer, they can get heat on the quarterback, especially when they know their opponent can’t run the ball. All this week, Tom Coughlin and Ben McAdoo have talked about offensive balance…that the Giants have to run the ball more than the 13 times than they did against the Redskins. After all, the Giants did have good success on the ground against Washington on their first drive and then got away from it. The question is does running the football with the #28 rushing attack against the NFL’s #1 run defense equal wasted snaps? Or by not running the football are you playing directly into the Jets’ hands? It’s important to note that aside from the Bills, the Jets have played a bunch of teams with statistically poor running attacks.

The Giants should not ignore the run, but when they do, I would suggest doing so in more unconventional ways such as spreading the Jets out with multiple receiver sets and running out of the shotgun with Shane Vereen and Rashad Jennings. This is not the type of opponent you even want to waste a few snaps with Andre Williams and Orleans Darkwa. I would also use the short passing game in lieu of the run. The Giants are not going to regularly be able to blast this line and Harris off of the ball.

The primary offensive focus should be the passing attack. The Jets will be without star CB Darrelle Revis (concussion) and likely without solid reserve CB Marcus Williams (knee – officially “doubtful”). Antonio Cromartie has struggled at times this year at corner while Buster Skrine has been serviceable as a nickel corner. A real difference maker has been SS Calvin Pryor, who is an intimidating presence against the pass and the run.

It appears the Giants are going to live or die with the Eli Manning to Odell Beckham connection. In the last two games, Manning has thrown to Beckham an astounding 30 times. Unfortunately, only 13 of those passes have been completed. That efficiency has to increase or more drives will stall. I’d like to say the Giants need more out of Rueben Randle, but that ship apparently has sailed. And based on comments from the coaches this week, Hakeem Nicks is still not familiar enough with the offense to make a real impact (unfortunately one of the real downsides on waiting for Victor Cruz for so long). Dwayne Harris’ production fell off from 6 catches for 82 yards against the Patriots to 2 catches for 28 yards against the Redskins. The Giants need more of the former. They also need to get the ball more in the hands of Vereen as a receiver (only 10 catches total in the last three games).

Last week, Kirk Cousins out-played Eli Manning. Manning has to be the better quarterback in the field on Sunday for the Giants to win.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
The Jets are ranked 14th on offense (20th passing and 13th running). Their obvious focus is to run the ball (2nd in the NFL in rushing attempts), stay balanced, and keep pressure off of journeyman quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. While Fitzpatrick is only completing 58.5 percent of his passes, he has thrown 20 touchdowns against 11 interceptions. He’s an up-and-down thrower, who can look sharp at times and downright horrible at other moments. The Jets lead the NFL in red zone touchdown percentage (73 percent).

Though they have had some injury issue, the Jets’ offensive line has done solid work this year as Chris Ivory has rushed for 766 yards (4.1 yards per carry) and seven touchdowns. Even better, Jets’ quarterbacks have only been sacked an NFL-low 14 times all season – not a good sign for a Giants’ defense that is on pace for the franchise’s worst sack performance in memory. Obviously, the focal point has to be stopping the run – for all four quarters. The Giants’ run defense started off strong against Washington but wilted in the second half. The Jets surely noticed that and will look to wear the G-Men down.

If the Giants can stop the run, they could be in decent shape as the Jets really only have three consistent offensive play-makers: Ivory at running back and wideouts Brandon Marshall (71 catches for 931 yards and 9 touchdowns) and Eric Decker (51 catches for 700 yards and 8 touchdowns). The Jets’ next highest targets are running backs Bilal Powell (22 catches) and Ivory (19 catches). Jets’ tight ends have only six catches all year. The Giants desperately need Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (DRC) to play the entire game and handle Marshall while Prince Amukamara handles Decker. With Brandon Meriweather (knee) out, Craig Dahl will start alongside Landon Collins. One or both will be needed to cheat up more against the run.

The Giants have to stop the run. Period. They will surely miss LB Devon Kennard (hamstring/toe). J.T. Thomas and Jonathan Casiallas have to pick up the slack. There will be a lot of pressure on Jasper Brinkley to perform but this is his kind of game – facing a run-based offense without a scary threat at tight end. The final question is can the Giants get any pressure on Fitzpatrick and force him into mistakes? The pass rush simply has been missing in action this year.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
The Jets are 16th in kickoff coverage and 29th in punt coverage. If the Giants can’t get Dwayne Harris going on punt returns this week, it ain’t happening and it will once again throw into question Tom Quinn’s coaching on setting up punt returns. In the three seasons before coming to the Giants, Harris was averaging 12.3 yards per punt return. With the Giants, he’s averaging 7.5. Jets punt returner Jeremy Kerley is averaging a respectable 9.3 yards per punt return.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Tom Coughlin on the Jets’ Offense: “They can open up and go from being a two-tight end running game to then going empty with three and four wide receivers and their running back. They do force you under the circumstances of their combinations of personnel to be able to adjust to them. They have weapons, they have some outstanding weapons. So you’re always in that position, because not only are they good, they’re big. Your match-ups are a big deal. Hopefully with DRC and with Prince, we can match-up better.”

THE FINAL WORD:
On paper, it looks like the Giants will be one dimensional offensively against the Jets with an inability to run the football. However, the injury issues at cornerback could be a problem for the Jets. If the Giants can increase their passer efficiency on Manning-to-Beckham passes, as well as get Vereen more involved in the passing game, the Giants may be able to hit some big plays against a very stingy defense that excels in the red zone. Defensively, the Giants must stop the run. The good news there is the Giants should match-up well with the Jets’ receiving targets. Both teams thrive on forcing turnovers (Giants 2nd in NFL, Jets 3rd in NFL). Ball security will be paramount. Eli needs to protect the football.

Keep in mind that while the Jets are 6-5, four of their wins have come against bad football teams (Dolphins twice, Jaguars, and Browns). They also beat the Colts early in the year when Indianapolis was really struggling and the Redskins. The Giants and Jets are two mediocre teams fighting for a playoff spot.