Aug 192010
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New York Giants 31 (1-0) – New York Jets 16 (0-1)

by The Hack for

Game Summary: Football is back in the swamps of Jersey, as the Giants and the Jets took to the field in the inaugural game at the New Meadowlands Stadium on Monday night. As everyone saw and heard for hours before, during and after the game, the Jets were out to make a name for themselves by attempting to blow the Giants out of the new palace and take bragging rights along the way. The Jets looked in mid-season play calling form on both offense and defense, showing a wide variety of checks on the offense and some pretty sophisticated overload blitzes on defense.

Let’s face it, folks. The younger brother Jets were trying to step up in class against Big Blue and the Giants’ starters (as much as there were, anyway) held on long enough until all the second stringers were in the game before staging an aerial attack that shot down the Jets and proved just who owns the new digs. I say we call it Giants Stadium.

In a lot of ways, this first preseason game was very similar to the first from last year when the Giants held out a bevy of starters due to one injury or another. On Monday, the Giants were missing four starters on offense and possibly three on defense. In fact, the Giants only had one healthy TE on the squad. Additionally, the Giants played a very bland brand of football on both sides of the ball. Other than a few plays in ‘no huddle’ on offense and a few minor blitzes on obvious passing downs, the Giants primarily sent four linemen in on every play. That’s typical of Tom Coughlin in the preseason, as he never game plans this early. Not so for Jets Head Coach Rex Ryan, who despite saying he wasn’t going to game plan, obviously did. Positives from the game were pretty much what you want to see from each preseason game:

Excellent team play by the second and third team offense and defense.

Overall solid play from a makeshift offensive line besieged by a blitz happy Jets team.

Solid play from most of the rookies and from the young linebacking corps.

As Corner Forum contributor Joey in Va pointed out pre-game, the Giants who don’t hit a lot in camp were playing at a clear disadvantage against a bitter Jets team out not only to win but embarrass the Giants. However, the Giants held on long enough to throw a few haymakers of their own and defeat the other team that plays in Giants Stadium.

Offense: The Giants first string offense started the game with William Beatty starting at LT, David Diehl inside at LG, Shaun O’Hara at C, Guy Whimper at RG and Kareem McKenzie at RT. The only seasoned TE on the squad was at least the third option, Bear Pascoe. Starting in the backfield was QB Eli Manning, HB Ahmad Bradshaw and FB Madison Hedgecock. The two starting WRs were Ramses Barden, getting his first start ever, and Hakeem Nicks.

The Giants began in the basic I formation two WR set they’re known for, with Pascoe covering up the LT. On the first play from scrimmage, Pascoe actually made a good block on the MIKE linebacker, but Beatty could not hold the point of attack against an interior lineman which caused HB Bradshaw to slide into the OLB that Deihl had pulled to wall off. The Giants early running game never got anything established, leaving the team in long down and distances on every drive in the first half save one in which the Giants came out throwing.

All said, other than one busted play that went for 51 yards, the Giants first string offense really never got anything going as they had two 3 and outs, one 3 play 1 yard TD “drive”, and a 9 play drive that resulted in a FG but again, had a busted play account for 51 of the 67 yards. All in all they gained no yardage on the first three drives and 67 on the fourth. There are certainly caveats. The offensive line was a patchwork, there was no healthy second TE, and the Jets were coming. Even so, this wasn’t a good showing by the first string offense.

The Quarterbacks: Every single Giants fan in the country had their hearts in their throats when early in the second quarter a helmetless Eli Manning was rocked from behind after a fumble and subsequently cut his forehead on the facemask of a Jet. Bleeding profusely, Manning left the game and received 12 stitches to close the 3 inch gash. Thankfully all tests for a concussion or other injuries were negative and there was no residual back or neck pain over the next couple of days. As contributor j_rud from The Corner Forum declared, “Eli christened the field with his blood…the field is ours!”

As for his play, Manning finished 4-8 for 77 yards. Always the thinker, he may have out-thunk himself on the play in which he was hurt as he checked out of a Brandon Jacobs run into a probable fade route to WR Ramses Barden, but apparently no one on the team knew he had checked out of the play. Manning showed great elusiveness on one play where he shoveled out of a probable sack to HB Ahmad Bradshaw who rumbled for 51 yards. Eli also had one pass dropped and nearly had two others picked off by Cromartie. To be fair, again, Manning was playing with a patchwork offensive line and no healthy second TE against a Jets team that blitzed, straight up and disguised, about 60% of the time.

Backup QB Jim Sorgi had a good night following a shaky start, going 8-15 for 146 yards and 2 TDs. On his first series, Sorgi threw up a bomb to a well covered Mario Manningham, took a delay of game penalty, then completed a pass for a 4 yard loss on an ill executed WR bubble screen to WR Mario Manningham. Like Manning, Sorgi was also under fire much of the night. Even so, he continued to stand tall in the pocket and ended up paying the price on his second touchdown pass as he took a huge hit that left him with a bruised shoulder and ribs that will keep him out of Saturday’s game with the Steelers. Sorgi ended up playing five series, but only had one sustained drive to go with his one play touchdown drive. It is still to be determined if the career bench warmer can take over the reins and lead the Giants offense if needed, but he does have a nice touch on the ball and seems fearless in the pocket.

Second year QB Rhett Bomar entered the game with just over 12 minutes to play and led the Giants on three drives, including an impressive 67 yarder that culminated in a nice back shoulder throw to WR Victor Cruz for his third TD. Bomar will get significant playing time on Saturday against the Steelers with Eli and Sorgi out. Bomar has his chance now to move up the depth chart.

The Running Backs: HB Ahmad Bradshaw started the game, but didn’t see much action as he only carried 3 times for -1 yard. Bradshaw did catch two passes, one on a little screen for 7 yards on a 1st and 20 play and another off a shovel pass from Eli where he outran the defense for 51 yards. To be fair, it was a busted play that Bradshaw made good on, both to be in position to bail out Manning and then to avoid tacklers downfield for an extra 15 – 20 yards.

HB Brandon Jacobs never got untracked either, as he only carried 4 times for 2 yards. Three of those carries were on the Giants second “drive”, which was all of 1 yard. After losing two yards on the first carry, Jacobs got them back on second down than took it in on third down. Jacobs had one run of 13 yards around right end that was called back due to a hold on Ramses Barden.

HB Danny Ware may end up being the odd man out of the backfield rotation if he doesn’t step up soon. The only thing that may save him is the need to use him on kickoff returns. Ware had 12 yards on 3 carries and caught 1 pass for 6 yards. 2009 4th round draft pick HB Andre Brown came back from his torn Achilles heel and looked good, leading the Giants in rushing with 26 yards on 5 carries. If Brown has a good preseason, he’s got a good shot at winning the third RB spot on this team.

FB Madison Hedgecock is finally healthy and looked very good leading the backs. On several plays Hedgecock was engaged at the second level but the offensive line didn’t do their job to keep holes open long enough for the backs to get through. RB Gartrell Johnson probably doesn’t have much chance of making the team, but he also looked good during his time in the game, though he only had 3 yards on 2 carries.. He seems to have a future somewhere in the NFL someday. FB Jerome Johnson had 1 catch for 12 yards. He also had another catch called back due to a penalty. Johnson is a BEAST as a lead blocker. He devastated a couple of linebackers in the running game late.

The Wide Receivers and Tight Ends: Due to injury to WRs Steve Smith and Sinorice Moss, the Giants starters were Ramses Barden and Hakeem Nicks. Neither established anything, with Barden dropping the first pass thrown to him and Nicks not reading the play the same as Eli on the first pass he had thrown his way. WR Mario Manningham was targeted 6 times, but only caught 1 bubble screen that went for negative yardage because Barden missed his block. In fact, Barden missed several blocks or blocked the wrong guy on a few running plays, and that is a problem. Barden has to recognize his responsibilities much earlier and when he engages the defender, he needs to learn to stay on him. Derek Hagan continued to show good hands, catching three balls for 42 yards.

This night, however, was reserved for 43rd string undrafted free agent camp standout WR Victor Cruz, the UMass product from Patterson, NJ. As Marty in Albany and others have noted, he’s had a solid camp and has done the most with all the reps he’s been seeing due to the nagging injuries to Smith, Tim Brown, Moss and Manningham. Cruz was targeted 7 times and caught 6 passes for 145 yards and 3 touchdowns. His first touchdown, a 64 yard catch and run, was an unbelievable one-handed reception where he and the defender were manhandling each other. Cruz simply wanted the ball, and he got it. The second touchdown was a fly pattern in which he beat his man decisively at the line of scrimmage and caught the 34 yarder in stride for an easy score. The final score was a five yarder in which he walled off his man in the endzone, giving Bomar a great target to throw to. It’s preseason. Cruz was playing against mostly 2nd and 3rd stringers. We’ve seen the Sean Bennetts of the world before. Even so, the youngster has turned heads in camp and now has performed well in his first game. Could this be the guy that finally knocks Sinorice Moss off the roster? Time will tell.

Finally, WR Nyan Boateng also caught 1 pass for 12 yards.

TE Bear Pascoe fared much better than expected in the running game. He was able to get to the second level and remain engaged on his assignments. He was not targeted in the passing game. All other TEs except Scott Chandler were inactive for this game.

The Offensive Line: The starting offensive line showed almost no cohesiveness during the five series that they played in last night. Individually, there were some good things. LT Willam Beatty, for the most part, played well. He was beaten at the point of attack and pushed into the backfield on a couple of running plays, however, which raises the question about his drive blocking skills. On a couple of runs to the right, however, Beatty showed good athleticism to get into the second level and engage. Unfortunately, not a single one of those plays got to the second level. In the passing game, Beatty looked solid. It was not his fault that Manning got popped on the play in which he was hurt. David Deihl had his ups and downs at LG. He didn’t get out early on a couple of pulls that caused the backfield to collapse too early for the back to get to the hole. It will take time for Deihl to regain his prowess at the postion, if indeed he stays there.

Backup OL Guy Whimper played very well at RG. Again, the Giants did not use him to pull and lead the back, so it remains to be seen if he can do it. In pass protection, however, Guy was a rock. Several of the backup linemen looked good, and in particular backup OT Jacob Bender did a pretty good job at LT. G Mitch Petrus also had a solid game, but proved he’s raw and has a lot of work to do before he cracks the lineup.

The Defense: Just like last preseason, the Giants began their first game with several high profile defenders on the bench. Safeties Michael Johnson and Kenny Phillips were out of action, along with projected MIKE linebacker Keith Bullock and projected starting CB Corey Webster. Free agent acquisition S’s Antrel Rolle and Deon Grant got the start along with Jonathan Goff at MIKE and Aaron Ross at CB. There were no other unexpected starters, but notably Chris Sintim got the start on the weak side and Michael Boley started on the strong side.

The Giants played a stacked defense almost all night, with very few overloads to either side and blitzed sparingly and in obvious situations. Overall, they played it straight up and didn’t show too much in the way of scheme. Positionally, only one time did it appear that the Giants were out of sync, and that was on the Jets’ touchdown play on their second possession. Otherwise the Giants seemed ready for every play. There was no running onto and off of the field with seconds to spare before the play, no arms out palms up looking around waiting for a call, and no yelling and screaming trying to set the defense. Granted, they did play a fairly vanilla defense but they didn’t look like the Keystone Kops like they did for much of last year. The first team defense got off to a quick start as the two new safeties combined to force a turnover on Jets QB Mark Sanchez’ first pass and set the Giants up in first and goal. Following the Jets first possession, however, the starters gave up a long TD drive spanning 14 plays and nearly 9 minutes of clock. The Giants did not stop the run well on that drive, giving up successive rushes of 8, 7, 5, and 8 yards. Following a blocked punt and surviving a 14 yard TD run by Tomlinson due to a hold, the Giants held the Jets to a field goal from in close. On the third Jets drive, the Giants began subbing in their second string players and again allowed a long, 10 play drive that ate up nearly 7 minutes of clock. This time, however, the defense held once the Jets got into a first and ten situation at the Giants 12 yard line. On first down, Linval Joseph made a nice stop chasing the back down the line from behind. Two short passes later, the Jets hit a short field goal to make the final margin at the half Jets 13 Giants 10.

Front 7: It’s all on the defensive line this season. The Giants have added a lot of depth with draft picks Jason Pierre-Paul and Linval Joseph, and UDFA Nate Collins. Collins was the college roommate of Giant LB Chris Sintim and was signed by the Giants in late April. All three of the rookies played well in spots on Monday night. Collins was in on three tackles and had one QB hit. He was able to get a very good push in the middle, and it will be interesting to see whether he gets any playing time with the first or second units this weekend. Joseph was credited with 4 tackles, and Barry Cofield was up and down, at times holding the line well and at others being blown out of the play. He did not show up on the score sheet. Rocky Bernard may very well be playing his way off of this team, especially if some of the kids continue to flash. Though he was in on three tackles, Bernard does not look like he’s at full speed. The other DT of note, Chris Canty, played very well against the run. Canty is a space eater, and frees up the LBs to get to plays. He did have a costly hands to the face penalty that cost the Giants a stop on third down during the drive that led to the Jets only touchdown, but overall, and especially against the run, Canty looked raring to go. That’s a very, very good sign. DT Jay Alford, coming off IR from last season, did get into the game late but did nothing of note. At the least, it’s good to see Alford in a game again.

The starting DE’s, other than Jason Pierre-Paul, played sparingly and did little of note. Frankly, the Giants sent four linemen in on almost every play and did very little in the way of stunts and twists. Generally, the ends bull rushed while the DT’s either held the line or pushed the pocket very little. JASON (I’m so proud I pronounced that correctly!) Tuck played sparingly and had 1 tackle. Mathias Kiwanuka did little in this game, but did fight off a block and get back to the middle to stop RB Shonn Greene after a five yard gain. Osi Umenyiora also played sparingly.

Rookie first round draft pick Jason Pierre-Paul had an eventful first game. At times the ultra quick DE looked the part, as evidenced by his sack of Sanchez during the Jets two minute drill at the end of the first half. Other times, he was easily manhandled and easily neutralized. There is no denying the skill set this kid has, but it will be some time before he’s ready to take over full time on either end. Luckily, the Giants are stacked at end and have the luxury of time while grooming Pierre-Paul.

None of the other DE’s did much to distinguish themselves. Frankly, I do not like the way Dave Tollefson plays football. He occupies space on the field and little else. Alex Hall played a lot of the second half as did Tommie Hill. Both have practice squad potential.

The reason that the defensive line play will be so critical to the Giants chances this year is right here – the 2010 New York Giants linebacking corps. Last year, the fretting in The Corner Forum (and rightfully so) was over whether the Giants young WRs could step up. The fears of many turned out to be unfounded. That, however, doesn’t stop the fretting in The Corner as this years’ attention is squarely focused on the linebacking corps. Defensive captain and team leader Antonio Pierce retired and Danny Clark (thankfully) wasn’t retained. That left only Michael Boley (who missed 8 games in 2009) returning as a starter. The Giants, for the most part, will address their linebacking issues from within. 2nd year man Chris Sintim is expected to push for playing time, yet despite starting the game he did not factor in a single tackle. Sintim seems to be from the Danny Clark mode, where he squares up with whomever is blocking him and can’t shake him. That has got to change. It’s not his job to engage the blockers, that job goes to the DTs so Sintim can get to the ball carrier.

With projected starter Keith Bullock out, Jonathan Goff got the first crack as the starting MIKE and initially played well, stuffing a couple of running plays and breaking up a pass. Later, Goff got lost in the wash on a couple runs up the middle. Fourth round pick Phillip Dillard, who has had a very good training camp (including a fight with G Chris Snee) and continued his solid preseason with good work on Monday night. Dillard was in on 4 tackles. Brian Kehl did a very good job during his time in the game, leading the Giants with 7 tackles.

Gerris Wilkinson came into the game late and played like a man possessed. He was, visibly, the fastest linebacker on the field for the Giants but that could be because he was playing with and against inferior athletic players. Wilkinson can play linebacker. The knock on him is whether he can stay healthy or not. If he is indeed healthy, Gerris could provide huge dividends to the Giants for keeping him around this long.

In summary, the front 7 played nominally good football. The starters were for the most part underwhelming, but the backups played very well, beginning against the Jets first string offense.

Defensive Backs: As noted, the Giants were without starting CB Corey Webster and both starting safeties. Not to worry. This year, with Phillips and Johnson out, Antrel Rolle and Deon Grant are manning the middle instead of CC Brown and Aaron Rouse. HUGE difference. HUGE HUGE difference, and it was noted on the very first pass the Jets threw on Monday night. The fifth safety, Sha’reff Rashad also played a lot of downs and had a late interception to ice the game. It’s safe to say, Giants fans, that our safety situation is a tad better going into 2010 than it was in 2009.

Terrell Thomas started on one corner with Aaron Ross on the other. Both played well while they were in the game. The Giants have three solid CBs and then there’s a huge drop off. 2nd year man Bruce Johnson had a very rough night. Johnson played off man all night, giving gigantic cushions that were constantly exploited. The one time he tried to man up at the line of scrimmage, he was easily pushed to the ground by Jets receiver Santonio Holmes but was lucky that Holmes stepped out of bounds prior to catching the pass. It appeared that Johnson played tentatively and without much aggressiveness. That has to change if he wants to be in the mix.

Third year man Courtney Brown is a hitter. Brown played a solid game at corner and did a good job of stopping the play after the catch with a couple big hits. Brown was in on five tackles.

CB D.J. Johnson started off slowly, as he was also abused by Santonio Holmes, but he did turn it around later with a late interception and a pass defensed. Of the three backups, it appeared that Brown played the best, but again it’s early.

Special Teams: P Matt Dodge had better find consistency very, very soon or he will not be a member of the Giants for too much longer. Dodge did not have a single decent kick all night. As a holder, Dodge did a very good job on all extra points and Tynes’ only field goal attempt. K Lawrence Tynes did a very good job getting all of his kickoffs inside the 5 yard line with two touchbacks. He was 1-1 in FG tries, connecting on a 32 yarder.

The kickoff team performed poorly, allowing four long returns. The Jets started inside the 25 just twice following six kickoffs. That is unsatisfactory, and with special teams ace Chase Blackburn out for a couple games someone is going to have to step up.

For the second preseason opener in a row, the punt team allowed a blocked punt. This year, the culprit was RB Andre Brown, who whiffed completely on the defensive end who then had a clear shot to Dodge. Dodge was not the culprit on this play.

The kickoff return game is a work in progress with Domenik Hixon gone for the year with a torn ACL. It was nice to see, however, that Danny Ware survived the very first kickoff of the season this year. Andre Brown also had three chances, but with shoddy, almost seemingly disinterested blocking, didn’t make much of his opportunities.

In the punt return game, Aaron Ross and Victor Cruz handled the ball and Ross actually looked pretty good doing it. Cruz showed no fear in his only chance by catching the ball and turning upfield into a virtual wall.

Coaching: I’m not sure how he did it, but Coach Coughlin and crew were able to hold the Jets close, going into the half down just three points. With all the injuries and makeshift lineup changes, that was the key to getting the win, keeping it close early.

Offensive Player of the Game: No brainer, the nod goes to Victor Cruz Missile. This may be the one and only time the UDFA from UMASS and New Jersey native will ever get the chance. Enjoy it, Victor, you earned it!

Defensive Player of the Game: Antrel Rolle and Deon Grant showed on the second defensive play from scrimmage why they were brought in as they hooked up to create a turnover that led to the Giants’ first score. They split the award this week.

(Box Score – New York Giants at New York Jets, August 16, 2010)
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