New York Giants 32 – Chicago Bears 13
Week 2 of the preseason brought in a team coming off the “worst-to-first” season. The Bears, who won just 5 games in 2017, took the NFC North in 2018 with 12 victories. Jim Nagy won Coach of the Year, the Bears defense allowed a league low 17 points per game, and QB Mitch Trubisky took a big step in his progression. This had the look of a solid test for where NYG stood at this point. However Nagy, who appears to be anti-preseason football, sat nearly his entire first string on both sides of the ball. The Giants test would have a different outlook, but the game still was to be played.
Eli Manning partook in just one drive for the second week in a row, however this one was much more impressive. He attempted 4 passes, completing all 4 to different targets, the last of which an 8-yard touchdown to Bennie Fowler. It was a smooth and easy grouping of plays for the first string offense.
Chase Daniel started for the Bears, the same Chase Daniel who lost to NYG last December in a 2-interception game. A couple of NYG mistakes enabled them to drive down the field and eventually hit a 41-yard field goal. The score was 7-3 as the end of the first quarter approached and rookie Daniel Jones was ready to take over with the first string offense surrounding him. After three straight completions, the last of which went for 40 yards to Cody Latimer, Jones fumbled a snap and turned the ball over in the red zone.
Quality offensive football took a nap, as the two teams produced 5 straight 3-and-outs, one of which ended with Jones’ second fumble of the night and then a missed CHI field goal attempt. He was able to recover well enough and thanks to quality offensive line play, NYG was able to put another 3 points on the board with a 47-yard field goal. On the ensuing drive, an errant snap produced a safety and a 12-3 lead for NYG. Jones had under 3 minutes left and he finished the half with arguably his best drive of his young career.
With urgency in the no huddle offense, Jones went a perfect 4-4 including a beautiful touch pass to T.J. Jones in the end zone. The 15-yard touchdown gave the Giants a commanding 19-3 lead with a little over 1 minute left in the half. That was enough for the Bears to get themselves back into field goal position with time expiring which they took advantage of, making the score 19-6 at the halfway point.
The full list of backups took over in the second half with Alex Tanney appearing to still have a firm grip on the number three job. His night didn’t begin in ideal fashion, as his offense went 3-and-out on drive number one and the second ended in a poor interception with NYG just one yard away from a touchdown on first down. An under throw, ill-advised decision ended up in the hands of CHI rookie corner Clifton Duck. The Bears turned that in to a touchdown and got within 6 as the fourth quarter got under way. Tanney did bounce back with one more TD-scoring drive, this one by roster-hopeful Ronnie Hilliman, making the score 25-13.
NYG took advantage of poor CHI play that produced penalties and fumbles. With Kyle Lauletta leading the offense at this point, they scored another 6 on a pass to Garrett Dickerson. The Giants had a 32-13 lead and after another Bears turnover, the game was all but over. Not the cleanest win, but NYG improved their record to 2-0.
Giants win 32-13.
–Eli Manning: 4/4 – 42 yards – 1 TD. Manning was on the field for just one drive for the second straight week. It was a smooth and efficient drive with the highlight play being an absolute rope to Latimer over the middle. It was a tight-window throw that traveled 20+ yards in the air. The reports of Manning’s arm being stronger than in years past are credible.
-Daniel Jones: 11/14 – 161 yards – 1 TD. Add 2 lost fumbles to the stats for Jones, something that absolutely needs to be cleaned up. Turnover margin is the ONE stat that correlates to wins and losses more than any other. Besides that, Jones expanded the throw-arsenal in this one. He pushed the ball downfield for a 40-yard gain to Latimer and it was a nicely placed ball. Some will say he should have led Latimer more, but that could have easily resulted in the safety bearing down on the ball and breaking it up. With the cornerback running with his back to Jones, I think that is where the throw was meant to land. Jones’ touchdown pass to T.J. Jones was something we saw in college. Perfect placement, perfect touch, easily catchable. Some pro QBs never fully grasp the ability to alter touch and air under the ball throughout all levels of the passing tree and it looks like it comes so natural to Jones. This was another excellent passing performance by Jones, but the fumbles can’t be overlooked.
-The battle for the number three job between Alex Tanney and Kyle Lauletta appears all but over. Tanney did throw an interception on 1st-and-goal from the 1-yard line, a major mistake, but he still showed more ability to push the ball downfield. Lauletta did end the night with a touchdown and had a solid 15-yard rushing gain. I expect Manning and Jones to get almost all the snaps in week 3, so the last shot in game action will likely come in two weeks.
-With both Saquon Barkley and Wayne Gallman on the sideline, it was an opportunity to shine for Rod Smith and Paul Perkins. Smith’s size is something these other potential backups don’t bring to the table, he can really push the pile. He finished with 10-42 on the ground and 2-8 via the air. He fumbled once but it was recovered by Nick Gates, the backup NYG left tackle. Perkins, who was a complete dud in week 1, put together arguably his best game-performance in a Giants uniform. 6-35 on the ground and 2 catches for 30 yards. He displayed the quickness, burst, and balance on a couple of occasions that got me originally excited about him years ago. I still think it is unlikely he makes the team if this coaching staff wants to just keep 3 backs on the roster in addition to fullback Elijah Penny.
-Jon Hilliman bounced back after taking a nasty hit and missing a couple days while in concussion protocol last week. He had a team-high 16 carries for 56 yards and a touchdown. Hilliman gets downhill in a hurry and runs with a low pad level. He has always been a solid between the tackles runner but that role on this team won’t be there barring injury to the guys in front of him.
-T.J. Jones continues to impress, whether it be in practice or in a game. He walked away from this one with 3 catches – 32 yards – 1 TD. For a small guy, Jones gets to the ball in contested situations exceptionally well. He is more than just an underneath threat. Great find by the Pro Personnel staff here, because I think Jones is going to be the #3 or #4 on this team while Tate is suspended.
-Cody Latimer was targeted twice and he ended with 2 catches – 60 yards. This is the one guy who can consistently get downfield and with the size/long stride combo, he is going to get plenty of deep looks. You don’t hear much about him in camp reports but I think some are overlooking how solid and reliable he can be. If his health stays in check, I am expecting 65+ catches from him with some big plays in the vertical passing tree.
-Bennie Fowler caught the touchdown from Manning on the first drive. He consistently gets open underneath on the quick slants and hooks. But what may not be obvious to the naked eye is how physical he is. Fowler is 6’1/218 and even looking back at my college scouting report of him, he has always been a guy who can overpower defensive backs. While Tate is suspended those first four weeks, he may be a really important piece to the passing game when those 3-6 yard gains are needed over the middle. He has been proving his worth there so far.
-Nice downfield grabs by Da’Mari Scott (38 yards) and Brittan Golden (27 yards).
-Evan Engram didn’t play. Rhett Ellison was only on the field for 14 snaps with Scott Simonson only seeing 16 snaps. That left it up to roster hopefuls C.J. Conrad and Garrett Dickerson. Conrad did a nice job blocking with powerful contact and sticky hands while Dickerson showed more in the passing game with 2 catches – 17 yards – 1 TD. They are both interesting players who can, like Ellison, move around to the backfield as a lead blocker, mixing it up in the trenches, and being dependable underneath pass catchers. Simonson had a drop but I think he is firmly in place as the #3 guy.
-The first-string OL got more action in this one, and they did a fine job. No pressures, no sacks, no TFL. I focused on Mike Remmers because of how much that RT spot has hurt the offense in recent years. He is a blue-collar guy who reminds me of a tackle-version of Rich Seubert. Little short on talent and tools but there is a lot of grit, a lot of competitor in him. Center Jon Halapio had a nice game too, very stout and hard to move. When he gets on his target, there is never any movement in the wrong direction. That will be very important.
-Nick Gates is turning into the surprise of the preseason for me personally. He and Chad Wheeler did allow a sack, but other than that Gates was more than solid. There is a lot of twitch and reaction to his game and there is a natural presence about him. The staff is talking about how they are comfortable putting him anywhere along the line and I think he has locked up a spot. Wheeler, on the other hand, is officially on the hot seat. Another sack and pressure again. At some point, there will be a veteran available on the waiver wire who will come in and replace him.
-Don’t sleep on Chad Slade who still has sloppiness about him (1 sack allowed), but he moves guys as well as any of the backups. He, too, brings some inside-out versatility.
-Evan Brown had a holding penalty and was beat badly once on an inside rush, but he is a gritty blocker with quality footwork and balance. I think he has the top inside-backup role locked up other than Spencer Pulley, who I think is a center-only.
-The trio of Dalvin Tomlinson, B.J. Hill, and Dexter Lawrence had a better game than week 1, but they still are leaving something to be desired. Nothing to overreact to at all, but there is just too much movement at the point-of-attack against the second string CHI offensive line. Lawrence is going to learn really fast that his size and power won’t do as much for him as it did in college. That alone just isn’t going to cut it if you want to be an every-down guy.
-Olsen Pierre recorded a sack and played with violence at the point-of-attack. He and John Jenkins are going to be a solid backup rotation should someone go down. Jenkins has a nice mix of disruptive and stout based on his playing style and tool set.
-One name that is continuing to jump at me, and this applies to practice as well, is Jake Ceresna. He, against 3rd-string OL, is constantly breaking through the line and shows quality athletic adjustments to the action. He had 2 tackles, one of which was for a loss. Also have to give attention to Terrence Fede, who had a nice week 1 and recovered a fumble along with recording a TFL in this one.
-The edge rushers, which I think is, as of right now, the weakest group on the defense, had a quality night. Markus Golden recorded a sack via excellent hand-battling and a short area burst to close in on Chase Daniels. Oshane Ximines recorded the first sack of his pro-career via nice post-engagement footwork and balance. It is pretty easy to see he is still a ways away power-wise though.
-Lorenzo Carter had a pressure via a rush move I didn’t think he could pull off. He dipped completely under the blocker’s chest while turning the corner with complete balance and control. For a guy who has the size and straight-line speed to show that kind of movement is a good sign.
-Kareem Martin, albeit limited as a pass rusher, is a really dependable run defender. He is the most physical guy in the group and his backside pursuit made a difference in two occasions. He comes downhill hard and angry. If this defense ends up exceeding expectations, I bet he is a really important piece of the puzzle.
-With Alec Ogletree nursing the calf, Tae Davis and rookie Ryan Connelly got the start and played 21 snaps. Neither recorded a tackle and while that isn’t the only barometer to be used for this success, I think they both struggled. Davis gets lost in traffic if he doesn’t get the initial jump and while that is common at the position, it happens too often with him. Connelly, on the other hand, made several key reads but was just a step or two too slow and couldn’t close the deal. He will have to adjust his angles a tad, as the speed of the game especially on outside runs isn’t anything close to what he is used to.
-Nate Stupar had a nice game: three tackles and pass break up. He is well thought of by the coaches and his presence with the other players is another check in his box. He has assumed a bit of a leadership role. B.J. Goodson, again, had to wait his turn. But once he got on the field, he made a couple plays, one of which was a nice pursuit and finish to the outside. Personally I really hope he sticks around this year, I think he can make things happen and he deserves a shot. I’m not sold on Connelly getting a higher spot on the depth chart than him just yet.
-Janoris Jenkins and Antonio Hamilton got the start. With Baker out for the time being, which I don’t think will be long, it is interesting to compare these backup corners. I trust Hamilton the most because he seems to make the reads more consistently, whereas Henre’ Toliver was late to notice things and could have been burned deep a couple times had CHI 3rd-stringer Tyler Bray made accurate downfield passes.
-Corey Ballentine and Grant Haley are both very grabby. It is a gamble that, with the way these refs are throwing flags, could end up hurting this defense more than expected. Ballentine, as we talked about last week, has the tools that will make us drool. Haley is a solid nickel presence that has had a knack for making things happen but I get worried about seeing how much they grab.
-Jabrill Peppers vs. Landon Collins will be a interesting comparison. Peppers actually plays more physical and that was apparent on how forcefully he was filling gaps. The question with him is reactive coverage, more notably zone, as I saw him exposed a couple of times in the all-22 tape. Fortunately it didn’t hurt them, this time.
-Kenny Ladler made another impactful, physical tackle. He continues to impress and it will be important to have another physical guy behind Peppers ready to step in should he go down. Peppers does have a slight injury history dating back to his days at Michigan, although he did play all 16 games in 2018.
-K Aldrick Rosas: 1/1 (Made 47).
-P Riley Dixon: 3 Punts – 40.3 avg / 45.3 net
-T.J. Jones had a 43-yard kick return but also muffed a punt that he ended up recovering himself. The more he can prove to do, the more likely he makes this team and the active game day roster.
-RB Paul Perkins, OC Jon Halapio, OLB Lorenzo Carter
-OT Chad Wheeler, TE Scott Simonson, LB Ryan Connelly
3 CLOSING THOUGHTS
-This offense is passing the preliminary tests. The main reason? The offensive line is controlling the point-of-attack and sustaining their blocks. While they haven’t been truly tested just yet, they are giving plenty of time and mental security to the passers. We haven’t seen that in preseason in recent years.
-Do we need to see Saquon Barkley this preseason? I think we do and yes, the fear of an injury is real. But this is football and I don’t want weeks 1 and 2 to be, in any fashion, players getting “the rust off”. I think it would benefit Barkley to get at least 6-7 touches in against CIN in the third preseason game.
-The emergence of T.J. Jones at receiver is good news for the offense but it has to mean someone may get the boot who we didn’t initially expect. The Tate suspension could end up helping someone stick around but if this team keeps six receivers not including Tate, the likes of Alonzo Russell, Alex Wesley, and Da’Mari Scott are going to be on the outside looking in.