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New York Giants 31 – New York Jets 22
After a busy offseason filled with drama stemming from the trade of star receiver Odell Beckham and the selection of a quarterback at number 6 overall, it was finally time to get down to the important, objective things. Real football against another team. The Giants began their live action against their November 10th opponent, the cross-town rival New York Jets. With several players sitting out because of either protection or injuries or both, this game had a very “backup” feel to it. However these games are the most important part of the evaluation process when it comes to roster decisions. No matter who is on the field or what is going on, there are always multiple players and situations to keep a keen eye on.
The Jets started with the ball and, quite easily, marched down the field for the game’s first score. A Sam Darnold pass to his brand new toy, slot receiver Jamison Crowder, on the drive’s seventh play put Gang Green up 6-0, missing the extra point because of an errant kick by Chandler Catanzaro, his first of two on the night. Eli Manning got one whole drive with the first team offense; a drive that lasted three plays and 4 total yards. The night was clearly planned for the rookie Daniel Jones and his inauguration to NFL game action, and he didn’t disappoint. The first completion of his (preseason) career landed in the hands of Cody Latimer, a simple 5-yard slant to the right side. He then proceeded to fire near-perfect throw after near-perfect throw four more times, the last of which ended up in the hands of Bennie Fowler in the end zone for 6. The night could not have gone better for Jones, albeit in limited action. The storm clouds rolled in and put the game on delay for about an hour, and Head Coach Pat Shurmur decided that Jones had enough for the night.
Alex Tanney came out of the rain delay and hit Russell Shepard on a quick slant to the right and he took it from there. A broken tackle and a foot race, which he won with ease, resulted in a 51-ard touchdown that put the Giants up 14-6. The Jets answered with a touchdown drive of their own, with a Deandre Baker 26-yard pass interference on third down being a key play. Trevor Siemian hit running back Elijah McGuire in the right flat for the score. The two teams traded field goals to end the half and Big Blue led 17-15.
After a shortened halftime (5 minutes), the two teams went scoreless on their first drives respectively. Former Giants 3rd round pick Davis Webb came out for the Jets and threw an interception to, as Pat Shurmur puts it, “the fan favorite within the team” Jake Carlock. Carlock returned it for a 59-yard score and the team absolutely erupted on the sideline like we haven’t seen in quite some time. Webb came back on the next drive and, you guessed it, threw another pick. This time it landed in the arms of Corey Ballentine, the late round draft pick who was shot the same weekend he heard his name called by the Giants. This kid is going to be one of the better stories in the NFL before long, not everyone knows it just yet.
The Giants led 24-15 heading in to the fourth quarter and Kyle Lauletta was now getting his shot to prove he should be the number three guy on the depth chart. He, along with several backup quarterbacks around the league on opening night, put together a solid performance of his own. His highlight of the night was a 31-yard, back-shoulder throw to T.J. Jones for a touchdown. NYG had a commanding 31-15 lead with just over 7:30 left on the clock. Luke Falk, who Adam Gase signed after his former team (MIA) claimed him off waivers last fall, led the longest drive of the night. A 15-play, 7:17 series that ended with a 2-yard touchdown pass to Greg Dortch, one of the hot names coming out of Jets camp. This, too, was a toss and catch to the right flat (the third one of the night, more on that later).
Giants knelt on the ball with just a few seconds left and walked away with victory number one on the season.
Giants win 31-22.
-Daniel Jones: 5/5 – 67 yards – 1 TD – 0 INT. This all transpired in one drive and while you won’t hear me overreacting to anything in preseason, it couldn’t have started better. Two key things I see with him on the positive side were accurate ball placement and the athletic/quick release. I am not going to get in to comparing him and Manning just yet, but simply there are things a young, quick-twitched thrower can do that a 15-year veteran cannot.
-Alex Tanney: 14/19 – 190 yards – 1 TD – 0 INT. Tanney played over 50% of the team’s offensive snaps. Shurmur has been touting this kid every opportunity he gets and from the two times I have seen him in practice in combination with tonight’s game, there is something to be happy about. Crisp release and a tight ball, Tanney made a couple big time throws. He can really put some zip on it when he needs to.
-Kyle Lauletta: 9/12 – 116 yards – 1 TD – 0 INT. Gun to my head, Lauletta will be the odd man out when all is said and done after the preseason but he isn’t going to make the decision easy. He kept himself in the conversation with a couple of nicely placed balls, showing accuracy short, intermediate, and long. Job well done for him.
-Wayne Gallman: 5 att – 13 yards. Personally I don’t think there is any intra-team competition going on for the backup job behind Barkley (who didn’t play). Gallman was on the field for under 20% of the snaps and didn’t really have an opportunity to get going.
-Paul Perkins: 4 att – 9 yards / 2 rec – 8 yards / 1 fumble lost. After missing all of 2018 with a pec injury, the forgotten man (who was this team’s number one back at the start of 2017) had a rough first night back. He continued to show a lack of ability to break tackles, he dropped a pass and most importantly, fumbled the ball that eventually resulted in 3 points for the Jets. The one positive was effective pass protection.
-Rod Smith: 6 att – 12 yards. Nothing stood out from Smith in the game. He is a load and can push the pile, but he looks stiff and lethargic in traffic.
-Jon Hilliman: 2 rec – 16 yards. Hilliman took a nasty helmet-to-knee hit that ended his night early. He didn’t get a ton of time but the coaches have touted him after practice a couple times and I have always liked his north-south mentality. He doesn’t waste time and there is some pop behind his pads. I think there is a chance he can win the number three job.
-The competition for the backup spots will really be something to watch. Alonzo Russell (1 rec – 39 yards) looks like he is the best of the bunch. The sizable, long-strider got behind the defense a couple times but keeps on double-catching the ball. A possession receiver needs to have reliable hands and I am not sold on that aspect of his game yet. Local kid Reggie White, Jr. caught all 4 of his targets for 60 yards, including the best catch of the night where he dove near the sidelines and fully extended for the ball. He has my attention.
-Coaches love veterans because of how reliable they are when it comes to decision-making. Russell Shepard is a step below when it comes to talent compared to some of the younger guys, but his routes are crisp and he rarely drops the ball. His 59-yard touchdown was all him, as he broke up field the instant he grabbed the ball which gave him the angle advantage to burst upfield and outrun the Jets secondary. Cody Latimer and Bennie Fowler also offer the veteran presence this team may need at some point. They combined for 4 catches – 56 yards – 1 TD.
-However the name that is continuing to appear on the positive side of the reports is T.J. Jones. He was targeted 6 times and ended with 6 catches for 72 yards, including a 31-yard touchdown pass where he made a great adjustment to the back shoulder with 2 defenders bearing down on him. Jones is playing hungry. The fact he handled all 3 punt returns for NYG strengthens the notion he is a likely candidate to make this team.
-With Evan Engram on the sideline, Scott Simonson and Rhett Ellison ran with the first and second string. Simonson made solid contact as a blocker. I can tell he added some power to the arsenal. Ellison continued his important, but quiet role with the team. He knows what he is doing out there and plays good assignment football.
-I am interested to see this C.J. Conrad vs. Garrett Dickerson competition should NYG want to keep a fourth tight end. Conrad caught a couple short passes, continuing his “easy hands” outlook and Dickerson caught one himself. There is more speed and twitch to his game.
-Nate Solder and Mike Remmers started on the outside with Will Hernandez, Jon Halapio, and Kevin Zeitler manning the inside. That will be the starting five week 1 and it is going to be the best group they have had in a long time. They were on the field for just 11 plays. Solder got pushed around by NYJ linemen Quinnen Williams and Nate Shepherd on a couple of occasions, but other than that I don’t have anything negative to say. I look forward to seeing their snaps increase in the coming weeks.
-Backup tackles Nick Gates and Victor Salako got a lot of playing time, as the second stringers (Chad Wheeler and Brian Mihalik) were sideline with minor injuries.. Gates had a rough night, as he allowed 1 pressure, 1 TFL, and was penalized two times. He is a hustler downfield and plays with a violent style though, but I think he is best suited inside. Salako’s length is a weapon he continues to learn how to use, notably in pass protection. The footwork and balance looks choppy but he had a quiet night, in a good way.
-The interior backups struggled to get a push in the running game. Center Spencer Pulley allowed a TFL, 2 pressures, and was constantly making the backs adjust their initial rushing plans. I don’t think there is a competition for the OC job, Halapio is head and shoulders better. Evan Brown and Chad Slade stood out in pass protection when it came to their anchor in the ground and sticking with their assignments on deep drop backs.
-Lorenzo Carter seems to have jumped over Kareem Martin on the depth chart. He and Markus Golden were on the field for 13 snaps. Carter’s offseason of bulk addition while maintaining his speed and explosion is something I discussed last week and I think he is the one guy that could bring this pass rush to the next level. He recorded a TFL. I will be looking for some improvement on post-engagement work from Golden next week.
-Jake Carlock, this year’s energizer bunny, intercepted a pass a returned it for a touchdown. He also recorded 2 tackles and a sack in just 13 plays. He is fighting an uphill battle to make this team but I’ll say this, multiple coaches are going out of their way to praise him, the teammates visibly feed off his energy, and now he is making plays. The pass-rush skill set still has a ways to go when it comes to his technique, but keep on eye on him.
-Oshane Ximines is going to be a part of the edge-rushing arsenal as a rookie, no question. I question the power and pure burst to the edge, but he knows what to do. He can get off contact and his ability to play low while turning the edge can give some blockers a handful. I don’t see big production coming right away, but he can hang.
-Dexter Lawrence started off as an inside defender. On two occasions he was washed out by a blocker coming from his outside shoulder. In college he was big and powerful enough to take those unexpected hits and still hold his ground. Not up here. He will need to work on play-reading and awareness. However, in his limited action, it is easy to see how much space he is going to free up for others. Dalvin Tomlinson and B.J. Hill saw a handful of snaps and got into the backfield a couple times. Tomlinson looked quick and assertive, I think we are going to see more attacking-style football from him.
-John Jenkins had a solid game. His pad level gets sloppy but he makes plays and disrupts action at the point-of-attack. He batted a pass down and recorded a TFL.
-Roster hopefuls Terrence Fede and R.J. McIntosh were athletic and aggressive. Fede recorded a sack and McIntosh was pursuing in space like an oversized defensive end. 2018 was a washout for him because of medical reasons. I am glad to see him out there and able to work on the skill set because his tools are there.
-7th rounder Chris Slayton is going to be a factor in 2019. The crowded DL will make it tough for him to get on the field initially, but I think his ability to penetrate and locate the action is a weapon. He recorded a TFL.
-Alec Ogletree started with Tae Davis. Davis is never going to win a lot of battles with the OL, but his speed and quickness created a lot in this game. He recorded 5 tackles, including 1 TFL where he snuck through a window and cut the angle of the back to the line beautifully.
-The most competition he has for snaps inside? Rookie Ryan Connelly, who may have had the most impressive night of all the team’s defenders. He finished with 5 tackles and was solid in coverage. When you look for quality LB play, most of it comes from instincts and being around the action. That is what I saw out of Connelly all night. Nothing seemed too fast for him. Looking forward to seeing more.
-B.J. Goodson was in with the 3rd stringers. Him and Jonathan Anderson are stout and physical. The question stems from ability in coverage and the ability to stay healthy. They combined for 7 tackles with Anderson also forcing a fumble. Goodson lost a match-up with slot WR Greg Dortch near the end zone which resulted in a touchdown.
-Rookie Deandre Baker started along with Janoris Jenkins. Baker looks like a pro right now, as I think the learning curve with him is going to be minimal. Shurmur uses the word “gamer” when describing him and I couldn’t agree more, as I used that same description in his college scouting report. He was flagged for a deep pass interference, however.
-The main focus of the position was Corey Ballentine. After seeing him in practice a few times and just being impressed by the tool set, I wanted to see what carried over in to the game. While he did get flagged for a downfield pass interference, the ability is still jumping off the screen. He had a wide receiver-caliber interception at the hands of Davis Webb. He attacked the ball with his hands and came down with it. Really impressive play.
-Jabrill Peppers dropped an interception on the first drive of the game. It was a great defensive play with a solid read and the catch would have been highlight-reel caliber.
-Julian Love started and ranked 3rd on the team in snaps played. He is playing a hybrid nickel/safety role it looks like. He finished with 3 tackles and a pass break up. He lost leverage on the first NYJ touchdown and one could make the argument that the result was on him.
-Kenny Ladler is making his presence felt with a physical presence coming downfield. He made three really nice hits that jarred the ball carrier backward. That is one barometer I look for in a tackler when determining how physical they are; can they knock them back? Ladler passed that test multiple times.
-I watched the All-22, the view from the end zone, and the safeties were solid in deep coverage all night.
-Aldrick Rosas hit a chip shot 23 yard field goal. Punters Riley Dixon and Ryan Anderson shared punting duties.
-Ballentine returned a kick for 40 yards, yet another avenue to get this kid on the active game day roster. T.J. Jones handled 3 punts and totaled 6 yards in return.
-QB Daniel Jones, OLB Jake Carlock, WR T.J. Jones
-OC Spencer Pulley, OT Nick Gates, RB Paul Perkins
3 CLOSING THOUGHTS
-One of the most common plays teams around the league will use when near the end zone is stacking multiple receivers on one side, use an unofficial pick-play, and quickly throw the ball in to the flat. Very hard play to defend. Misdirection combined with quick releases can make it look impossible for defenses to communicate quickly enough. NYJ scored all three of their touchdowns on similar patterns. With the inexperience at CB with Baker and S with Love, you can bet that will be noted by future opponents.
-Obviously coaches need to be guarded with what they say to the media. But I do find it odd that Shurmur will not openly commit to Manning being the number one guy when it comes to regular season play. This guy’s livelihood is on the line and there is a part of me that thinks Jones can be in the mix for week 1 more than some think. Odds are Eli is the guy, I know. But I don’t think the 100% commitment has been made yet.
-I was hoping to see more out of Nate Solder. He got a bit of a pass with me in 2018 because of the ongoing neck issue that quietly hampered him. However he doesn’t play nearly as powerful as he looks. It almost looks like the natural leverage disadvantage he has with his height is enabling him to get pushed around. The OL looks to be much improved, but we’ve seen around the league that if the LT is a weak link, it can destroy a passing game.