Sep 162019
 
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Saquon Barkley, New York Giants (September 15, 2019)

Saquon Barkley – © USA TODAY Sports

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Buffalo Bills 28 – New York Giants 14

QUICK RECAP

It was a warm, sunny, end-of-summer type day at MetLife Stadium as the 0-1 Giants took on the 1-0 Buffalo Bills. The Bills were playing their second straight game at MetLife, as they defeated the New York Jets there in week 1. The Giants were without Sterling Shepard because of a concussion suffered last week, while the Bills nickel cornerback situation entered the game with their third stringer in the starting lineup.

Much like week 1 in Dallas, NYG came firing out of the gate. Starting at their own 25, they seamlessly marched down the field. Chunk gains of 6, 20, 14, and 8 led to a 27-yard touchdown run by Saquon Barkley. A week after we discussed that #26 wasn’t getting enough action in key moments, the team gave him the ball 4 times on this opening drive. The quick 7-0 lead confirmed that approach was the only way this team was going to consistently be a threat.

NYG forced a three-and-out highlighted by a Markus Golden and Lorenzo Carter combined sack, the first sack of the 2019 season for NYG. With the lead at 7-0 and Barkley having just owned the BUF defense on all levels, they gave him the ball right away on the second drive he gained 5 yards. They then proceeded to take him off the field for Wayne Gallman. Three plays later, NYG was punting the ball back to BUF.

BUF then went on to score touchdowns on three straight drives. Quarterback Josh Allen and rookie running back Devin Singletary rushed for scores respectively and Allen hit receiver Isaiah McKenzie on a shovel pass for a 14-yard score to put the visitors up by 14. Two things about this run that really set the tone for the rest of the contest: (1) BUF obviously came into this game wanting to challenge rookie cornerback Deandre Baker. They torched him on all three levels of the route tree and the 1st-round pick who was traded up for in last April’s draft looked absolutely lost. (2) The third scoring drive deflated the stadium to a point where it just never quite fully came back from. The drive began on the BUF 2-yard line after an amazing special teams coverage play by Antonio Hamilton. The stadium was very loud and the fans got behind the Giants. How did the defense respond? A 7-play drive that took just 4:26 to reach the end zone. The NYG defense didn’t even look competitive. “Here we go again” was the only thought one could muster at this point.

NYG actually put together a solid drive as the end of the half was approaching. Manning spread the ball out in the passing game and Barkley picked up a couple more chunk gains. Aldrick Rosas, the 2018 second-team All Pro, came out for a 48-yard field goal attempt but it sailed wide left. Again, the fans got their hopes up but Big Blue just couldn’t seal the deal. The defense forced a quick stop and the newly-signed, preseason-star T.J. Jones returned the punt 60 yards all the way to the BUF 33-yard line. NYG was going to get another crack at a score with just over a minute left.

Manning hit Bennie Fowler for a 12-yard gain but had his next pass tipped at the line by rookie Ed Oliver that luckily fell into the arm of BUF defensive end Trent Murphy. BUF took a knee and their 14-point lead into the half.

In this week’s version of “Hey at least….” in the world of moral victories (the majority of any positive thought NYG has had in recent years), the NYG defense stepped up in the second half. Three consecutive scoreless drives for the defense didn’t seem as impressive as it could have been because the Giants offense continued to sputter. They showed some hope with their opening drive of the second half, reaching the BUF 41, but a holding penalty by Nate Solder and a sack allowed by Kevin Zeitler and Jon Halapio reminded us all that these are still the New York Giants, one of the most-oft losing teams in the NFL over the past 6 years.

NYG did not give up or mail it in. With Cody Latimer out after a nasty helmet-to-helmet hit (that wasn’t called a penalty), Manning was back in the all-too-familiar position of dealing with street free agent-caliber receivers running routes. He found Jones in the back of the end zone, who made an impressive play on the ball considering he was mere inches away from being out of bounds as he double toe-tapped the blue paint. NYG was all of the sudden down 21-14 with momentum on their side for the first time since the opening drive of the game.

BUF responded with chunk gains to receiver John Brown and the rookie Singletary, who averaged 9.5 yards per carry by the way. NYG came up with a stop to force a BUF field goal attempt from the 3-yard line. The ball went through the uprights but a (very) questionable personal foul call on rookie Dexter Lawrence for grazing the snapper’s helmet gave BUF a fresh slate of downs from the NYG 2-yard line. Two plays later, Frank Gore, the 4th all time rushing leader, crossed the goal line for his first touchdown since 2017.

It was 28-14 with just under 6 minutes left and NYG was without their top 3 wide receivers. Manning threw a couple of desperate deep balls over the course of the next two drives, one of which landed in the hands of BUF safety Jordan Poyer.

Giants lose, 28-14.

QUARTERBACKS

-Eli Manning: 26/45 – 250 yards – 1 TD/2 INT – 62.3 QBR. Manning didn’t leave as much out there as he did in Dallas in relation to missed opportunities. Those opportunities were few and far between as he entered the game without his two top receivers and then lost his number three late in game with an injury. Excuses can be made, but at the end of the day, to make this as simple as possible, he didn’t make plays. He had multiple balls batted at the line that stemmed from him staring down his targets, having a slow release beginning with his footwork all the way up to his arm-action, and playing a predictable game altogether. Manning didn’t do enough to make things happen when the Bills started to slow down the NYG running game.

RUNNING BACKS

-Saquon Barkley: 18 att / 107 yards / 1 TD – 3 rec / 28 yards. The game could not have started better for the second-year back out of Penn State. Barkley touched the ball on 4 out of 5 plays, gaining 55 yards via the ground, and scored a touchdown on a 27-yard run. That was the peak of his game, however. Barkley struggled to find a consistent flow because of poor inside blocking, poor tight end blocking, and an overly stacked box. Taking him off the field during their second series of the game didn’t make sense to me at all. He is the kind of player who changes the entire approach to the game on both sidelines when he is on the field and nobody can convince me he needed a break that early, scheduled or not.

WIDE RECEIVERS

-Bennie Fowler: 5 rec / 51 yards. Fowler led the team with 10 targets. He appeared to be the guy Manning was most often looking toward in important situations. As expected, he was underwhelming in this one. As he struggled to get any separation on any level of the route tree, but especially on deep passes. His biggest miss was a ball that he dropped after contact that would have been a first down inside the BUF 15-yard line. The next play, Rosas missed the field goal. It was an enormous play.

-T.J. Jones: 3 rec / 38 yards / 1 TD. Jones also handled the punts and returned one for 60 yards, but it didn’t end up in points because of a Manning interception. Jones was the surprise of camp and the team still opted to cut him. Because of the injuries to the position, Jones was brought back and he made things happen in his regular season debut with Big Blue. He caught a 4th-quarter touchdown to get the team within 7, and it was a high-skill play as he leapt, got the ball at its apex, and tip-toed his feet in the blue paint with a defensive back right there. He earned another week here, especially if Latimer is going to miss time.

-Cody Latimer caught 3 passes for 30 yards, and Cody Core, most known for his ability as a special teams gunner, also added 3 catches for 28 yards. Russell Shepard rounded out the group with 2 catches for 19 yards.

TIGHT ENDS

-Evan Engram: 6 rec / 48 yards. The Bills were the best defense in the NFL last year when it came to limiting tight end production. They are carrying that over in 2019 it seems, as Engram was contained. Engram’s biggest gain of the day – 33 yards – came in garbage time when the BUF defense was in prevent. Besides that, Engram was held to 5 rec / 15 yards.

-Both Engram and Ellison struggled on the edge blocking in this one. The BUF defense was collapsing the edge against the run over and over, making it near-impossible for Barkley to improvise when things weren’t there inside. Those two aren’t expected to get a ton of pus against defensive ends, but they were just getting walked into the inside gaps too often.

OFFENSIVE LINE

-Tackles Nate Solder and Mike Remmers were inconsistent. Solder had a key holding penalty on a 17-yard gain that got NYG to the BUF 24-yard line. It was the opening drive of the third quarter, often a major tone setter for the rest of the game, and three plays later the NYG drive was over at midfield. Remmers allowed 2 pressures, with Solder allowing one.

-Inside, it was a rough day for center Jon Halapio after he played arguably his best game of his career at DAL. The BUF defensive line is one of the most underrated in the league, and they performed well in this one. Halapio allowed a sack, a TFL, and rolled a snap back to Manning. He also was losing out on the ground battle on inside runs, getting pushed around and not creating the running lanes we saw in DAL.

-Kevin Zeitler is fighting a shoulder injury. I’m not sure how public it will become but upon re-watching the group, it was obvious he is favoring it. Zeitler is usually heavy-handed and very controlling with his upper body, but he just didn’t have it in this one. He allowed sack with Halapio. Will Hernandez got off to a rough start, allowing 2 pressures but his play leveled off from there on out.

EDGE

-Markus Golden had an active game after a dismal performance week 1 in DAL. He had 6 tackles, 1 sack (on two separate half-sack plays), and a pressure. It was an encouraging sign for one of the worst pass rushes in football to see Golden disrupt the BUF passing game. The pessimistic would say he was up against a struggling rookie in Cody Ford and Allen is a QB that holds onto the ball way too long at times.

-Lorenzo Carter saw an increase in snaps with the injury to Kareem Martin. I stated he would be one of the most important players on the entire team back during my Training Camp reports, and now he has the real full-time opportunity for the first time. He had 4 tackles, a half-sack, and a pressure. Not a bad game, but too often he disappears for stretches. He needs to get more effective in traffic and not be overly reliant on space-pursuits. This will come down to power development and technique refinement, most notably from his hands.

-Oshane Ximines has 2 tackles and a shared sack with Golden. He is now the third pass rusher who will see more and more snaps as the season progresses. What he does with his hands, already in his young career, is exactly what I want to see out of Carter. The issue I see is the lack of athletic ability to beat guys off the snap or at least pose as a speed-rush threat.

DEFENSIVE TACKLES

-Rookie Dexter Lawrence and B.J. Hill were active in this one. Lawrence seemed to be more aggressive than we saw in week 1, an encouraging sign as these kids have to process so much information pre-snap and post-snap compared to what they did in college. Lawrence finished with 4 tackles and 2 pressures, showing the ability we know he has to push the pocket. Hill had 3 tackles and pressure but what impressed me the most with him was how often he was around the action away from the ball. He is a keeper.

-Olsen Pierre had a sack and it could have been a major impact play had the refs not blown it dead too quickly. Because Josh Allen is so big and strong, it is tough for defenders to get him down quickly. Pierre got a hold of Allen and just before the play was whistled dead, his foot jarred the ball loose. This could have, maybe even should have, resulted in a defensive touchdown for NYG, but it was not reviewable. Even though BUF ended up punting soon after, that could have been a game-altering play.

LINEBACKERS

-Rookie Ryan Connelly got the start next to Alex Ogletree. He finished with 6 tackles, while Ogletree finished with 5 of his own, a pressure, and a pass break up. These two are the ones I expect to see in the middle for the rest of the season. The one issue that both seem to have right now is a lack of range and instincts in coverage. The middle of the field was still a weak point and while more can be attributed to the safeties than linebackers there, it is going to get exposed all year if these two don’t improve.

CORNERBACKS

-I watch a lot of pro football, especially over the last 6 years. This is not a pat on the back or a search for credibility. I state that because I am not exaggerating nor am I blindly saying that the performance we saw out of rookie Deandre Baker in the first half may have very well been the worst I have ever seen from the position. He was picked on over and over again with a variety of receivers and routes. He was lost out there. Baker is afraid of getting beat deep after what happened to him in week 1. There is so much hesitation in his game right now and it is allowing for too much space, a receiver’s best friend. The “bust” label isn’t even a thought of right now, as rookie CBs have it as tough as any position in football other than QB. He can take his lumps and NYG fans will have to accept that. But when simply analyzing the game, Baker just didn’t know what to do out there and it showed. Now he has something to work off of and we will see how he responds.

-Janoris Jenkins, as volatile as the position is around the league, played a solid game. He did get called for a hold at an important moment, though. With NYG just having gotten within 7 in the fourth quarter, Allen threw an incomplete pass to make it 3rd-and-9. Jenkins was called for the penalty, however, giving BUF a first down. They proceeded to march down the field and score a touchdown.

-Grant Haley was on the field for 47 plays. He made 1 tackle, didn’t break up any passes, and missed 2 tackles in space. The nickel corner is a legitimate starting position these days and the best defenses have a guy there who makes plays. Haley is a good story, he tries hard, he cares, but he isn’t making an impact.

SAFETIES

-Antoine Bethea, whom has a starting job by default, played better than what we saw in week 1 but he wasn’t tested nearly as much. He is still getting baited by play-action more than a veteran should and the athleticism isn’t there to make up for it. He did lead the team with 10 tackles.

-Jabrill Peppers, albeit just two games into the season and in a new scheme, hasn’t yet to prove he is capable of making plays. We can talk about the physical package all we want when it comes to the impressive strength and speed, but the football player in him hasn’t shown up yet. He was simply ineffective against the outside run, stemming from the inability to get off blocks. Too much fluff with him so far, not enough play-making.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Aldrick Rosas: 0/1 (missed 48). It was a big missed attempt for Rosas, as BUF had just scored three straight touchdowns to make the score 21-7 and NYG put together a solid drive.

-P Riley Dixon: 5 punts / 48.4 avg / 47.2 net.

-As previously stated, T.J. Jones returned one of his 3 attempts for 60 yards. NYG didn’t capitalize on it. Corey Ballentine handled kick returns, one for 23 yards and one for 17.

3 STUDS

-RB Saquon Barkley, WR T.J. Jones, EDGE Markus Golden

3 DUDS

-CB Deandre Baker, S Jabrill Peppers, OT Nate Solder

3 THOUGHTS ON BUF

  1. I have a strong appreciation for BUF, and not just because they are off to a 2-0 start. I was asked a few times during the week what I thought about the NYG vs BUF matchup and I said I wasn’t optimistic because of how well BUF is coached. The jury is still out on how well NYG is coached but things aren’t looking positive at the moment. BUF doesn’t make a lot of mistakes, especially on defense. Almost 10 years ago, I was told Sean McDermott was going to be a big time head coach someday. They have something here, just wait and watch.
  1. We don’t know what Josh Allen is yet. Personally, I had him graded out as a day 2 pick and I wasn’t impressed by his rookie season. With that said, I think Allen has some swagger and more than enough talent to be a dangerous player. I think he will be a guy who will go on stretches that make him look like a top 10 QB in the league, just to be followed by stretches where he looks like a questionable starter.
  1. How come BUF went from perennial loser (11 losing seasons since 2005) to a 2-0 team that is knocking on the door of being a legit contender? They have drafted exceptionally well. They have 4 solid starters from the 2017 and 2018 classes respectively, and 6 picks from the 2019 class who are already making positive impacts. Also to prove their strong drafting beyond their own roster, the following players were drafted by BUF since 2012: CB Stephon Gilmore, CB Ronald Darby, OT Cordy Glenn, LB Kiko Alonso, WR Marquise Goodwin, LB Nigel Bradham, WR Robert Woods, OT Seantrel Henderson, LB Preston Brown, WR Sammy Watkins, TE Nick O’Leary, and LB Reggie Ragland. That is some good stuff and if you want to go and count how many players NYG has drafted who became solid starters since 2012, don’t let it ruin your Monday.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

  1. On purpose, I didn’t make the Eli Manning vs. Daniel Jones debate a thing last week. I don’t think it needs to be beat to death week in, week out. However here we are, 0-2 for the fifth time in six years, with a 1st-round rookie on the bench who looked fantastic in preseason. Once you take Manning out, you aren’t putting him back in. My plan would be to let Manning play the next 2 weeks (@ TB, vs. WAS), and if NYG still looks like they are stuck in the mud, turn it over to Jones and let him start 12 games.
  1. The NFC East has 2-0 DAL, 1-1 PHI, and 0-2 WAS. Because I have been around for long enough, I know it is foolish to give up this early in the season for any team. The positive remains this: the NYG schedule has very winnable games coming up. TB and WAS are the next 2 with ARI and DET on the horizon (after MIN and NE). NYG isn’t done yet, guys.
  1. My biggest coaching complaint in week 1 was the lack of devotion to Barkley in 3rd-and-short/4th-and-short situations in key moments of the game. NYG had just one 3rd-and-1, and then a 3rd-and-2, and a 4th-and-2. Barkley didn’t get a touch in any of those situations, although they did convert two of those for a first down. I won’t criticize that because of the results, but I still scratch my head here. I also think this team needs to get him split out more often, as this WR group is depleted. 13 running backs have more carries than Barkley. 10 running backs have more catches than Barkley. 8 running backs have more touches than Barkley. Food for thought.
Sep 132019
 
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Evan Engram, New York Giants (September 8, 2019)

Evan Engram – © USA TODAY Sports

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Game Preview: Buffalo Bills at New York Giants, September 15, 2019

THE STORYLINE:
It’s usually unwise to make dramatic pronouncements after one game, especially the season opener. There are too many variables. Look no further than the 2007 and 2011 New York Giants – eventual NFL Champions despite being embarrassed in their respective season openers by division rivals.

That all said, there are some serious warnings signs coming out of the ass-whipping the Giants experience last Sunday. Once again, Pat Shurmur’s offensive play-calling came into question. But more importantly, the defense played at a level far worse than expected by many. The pass rush was virtually non-existent and the back seven looked completely lost in coverage. When you can’t rush the passer or cover, your team is going to be in deep, deep trouble.

In terms of the big picture, the Giants’ overall, long-term situation doesn’t look good. For much of the past decade, very ordinary teams in Dallas and Philadelphia have owned the Giants. But now the Cowboys and Eagles have actually morphed into two of the better teams in the conference. The Cowboys and Eagles have good, young quarterbacks; good offensive lines and running games; strong defenses; and solid coaching staffs. Unless the Giants dramatically start closing the talent (and coaching?) gap between themselves and these two division rivals, the Giants won’t have a chance at making a serious playoff run in the foreseeable future. The Giants had better pray Daniel Jones is the real deal. And they’ve got to fix this defense.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • WR Sterling Shepard (concussion – out)
  • WR Cody Latimer (calf – questionable)
  • WR Darius Slayton (hamstring – out)
  • TE Garrett Dickerson (quad – out)
  • RG Kevin Zeitler (shoulder – probable)
  • DE Dexter Lawrence (shoulder – probable)
  • LB Markus Golden (hip – probable)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
Last week’s opening drive was beautiful. But the team didn’t score another touchdown until garbage time in the 4th quarter. That’s not good enough. The Giants did move the football, accruing 470 yards and 25 first downs. Almost unbelievably, the Giants actually ran more offensive plays (66) than the Cowboys (62). But the Giants were 2-of-11 on 3rd down (18 percent) and 1-of-3 (33 percent) on 4th down. The bottom line is 17 points isn’t going to get it done. Not with current state of the Giants’ defense. Pat Shurmur knows it. “Yardage is one thing,” said Shurmur this week. “Scoring is another. It’s important that when we get our opportunities to score, we score.”

Eli Manning threw for over 300 yards, completed 68 percent of his passes, didn’t throw an interception, and was sacked only once against the Cowboys. Saquon Barkley averaged almost 11 yards per carry and the Giants dramatically out-gained the Cowboys on the ground (151 to 89). Evan Engram caught 11 passes for 116 yards. Those are winning numbers. But you’ve got to get the ball into the end zone. Pat Shurmur continues to get a bit too cute. Run (or throw) to Saquon. He’s your money player – especially in the clutch on 3rd and 4th down. Eli’s strength is NOT having him move around too much… you’re going to have to wait until Daniel Jones is in the line-up for those plays.

The good news is against a VERY tough Dallas Cowboys defense, the Giants clearly demonstrated this can be a very effective offensive football team, even with the wide receiving corps as it is currently constituted. Nevertheless, the Giants are going to be very short-handed at wide receiver against the Bills with Sterling Shepard, Cody Latimer, and Darius Slayton ailing. The Giants were forced to re-sign T.J. Jones this week as insurance.

The Bills are a very good defensive football team. They are stingy and well-coached defensively. Head Coach Sean McDermott is a former Eagles and Panthers defensive coach. Defensive Coordinator Leslie Frazier is also highly respected. In 2018, the Bills had the NFL’s second-ranked defense, including #1 overall pass defense. They were also #9 in terms of yards-per-carry run defense. As expected with a #1 pass defense, the secondary is very strong at both corner and safety. And defensive end Jerry Hughes can get after the quarterback. Amazingly, Buffalo has held nine consecutive opponents to less than 210 passing yards.

Bottom line is this is going to be one of the toughest defenses the Giants will face in 2019. Protect the football, emphasize your money players in Barkley and Engram, and score touchdowns in the red zone.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
What the hell was that against the Cowboys? Yeah we knew there would be issues with the pass rush and growing pains with the secondary, but that was absurd. Despite their strengths, the Cowboys are not known for being a high-scoring offense, yet Dallas could have hung 50 on Giants had they not called off the dogs in the 4th quarter. The worst part was the supposedly “experienced and savvy” veterans such as Antoine Bethea and Alec Ogletree looked like chickens running around with their heads cut off.

The good news is the run defense was very good against one of the toughest running team’s in the NFL. But if the Giants can’t stop the pass, this season will be over again by October. Regardless of how you feel about second-year QB Josh Allen and the revamped Bills’ offensive football team, no Giants fan should feel comfortable that this defense can stop anyone until they prove it.

Allen completed only 53 percent of his passes as a rookie. He increased that to 65 percent against the Jets but his 24 completions only went for 254 yards. To date, his hasn’t thrown for a lot of yardage per game in his short career. However, he is very dangerous when running the football, rushing for 631 yards as a rookie and 38 yards last week. Of his targets, the guy who makes me the most nervous is former Cowboy and Giant-killer Cole Beasley. WR Josh Brown also caught seven passes for 123 yards and a touchdown against the Jets in the opener. Running back Frank Gore is nearing the end, but rookie Devin Singletary impressed both as a runner and receiver.

We are going to get a much better read on the true state of the team’s defense this week. The Buffalo offensive line is far weaker than the Dallas line. If Lorenzo Carter, Markus Golden, et al. can’t get to Allen, be scared. But also be cognizant of the fact that the Giants must maintain disciplined pass rush lanes against Allen in order to prevent him from scrambling. That will constrain the pass rush somewhat. Antonio Hamilton should be benched. Deandre Baker is behind because of the two weeks he missed in the summer due to his knee injury, but he needs to play. It will be interesting to see if he rebounds this week. More is expected from Jabrill Peppers and Antoine Bethea at safety. And if Alec Ogletree can’t get the job done at linebacker, the coaching staff should move onto Ryan Connelly sooner than later.

Aside from their performance against the run, the defense was abysmal last week. No sacks, no interceptions, no forced fumbles, and only a few tackles for losses and pass defenses. Dallas scored touchdowns on five straight drives. Make plays, force turnovers, get off of the damn field!

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
Much depends on if Andre Roberts (quad) plays for the Bills this week. He is one of the most dangerous kick returners in football. Lost in last week’s disaster against Dallas is the fact that the Giants did not allow a single return yard. Interestingly, the coaching staff has entrusted rookie Corey Ballentine with the kickoff returns. If T.J. Jones is activated, does he replaced Jabrill Peppers as the punt returner?

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Defensive Coordinator James Bettcher on the anemic pass rush: “When it comes down to whether you pressure or you four-man rush, it comes down to winning one-on-ones. We have to do a better job of winning one-on-ones.”

THE FINAL WORD:
Given the state of the division and the New York Giants defense, it’s difficult to see this team being in the playoff hunt. But in the big picture, some important questions still need to be answered. Is this the right coaching staff to rebuild this team? If the Giants fall to 0-2, there is a serious risk of yet another Giants season being over by October with only meaningless football in front of half-empty home stadiums being played in the last two months of the season. As discussed in The Forum, the October 20th game against the Cardinals looks like the most obvious place to start Daniel Jones (this would be after a Thursday night game against the Patriots, giving Jones 10 days to prepare).

I actually think this offense is capable of being quite good, but the Bills are going to make it tough on the Giants this week. I can’t over-emphasize how well-coached they are on that side of the football. Buffalo just doesn’t give up a lot of yardage or points. Can the Giants’ defense hold the Bills to under 20 points?

Sep 092019
 
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At Least There Was Something Worth Looking At – © USA TODAY Sports

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Dallas Cowboys 35 – New York Giants 17

QUICK RECAP

For the fourth time in five years, Big Blue traveled to Dallas to kick off the regular season. That in and of itself is exceptionally odd but that can be a discussion for another time. The Giants changed their culture and roster nearly as much as any organization in pro football. Gone is arguably the top play-maker in franchise history, gone is arguably their top pass rusher, and in comes a real offensive line and surrounding cast who supports the kind of team that can revolve around their generational talent at running back, Saquon Barkley. This season has a fresh new feel to it and week 1 was as anticipated as its been in awhile.

That anticipation and dare-I-say optimism was rewarded early. The Giants forced a DAL punt on the first drive and proceeded to march down the field and get in the end zone via just 7 plays. The main-gain was a 59-yard run by Barkley through a wide open hole and speedy scamper down the left sideline. Manning hit Evan Engram for a 1-yard score that gave NYG their first, and last, lead of the game, 7-0.

DAL had a dominant offensive day and the warning signs were present on the very next drive. They converted two straight 3rd-and-4’s via the passing game near or inside the hashmarks, a glaring hole that was exposed all day in the NYG swiss-cheese defense. Dak Prescott hit tight end Blake Jarwin up the middle for a 28-yard touchdown without a defender anywhere near him. The Giants have had issues covering the position for years and most in particular against DAL. Let’s not forget that Jarwin was the no-namer last year that scored 3 touchdowns against NYG in week 17. Funny how some things simply do not change.

The refs didn’t do NYG any favors in this one and perhaps the biggest miss was an intentional grounding called on Eli Manning on the following drive. Manning was clearly hit while throwing by the untouched blitzing linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, which prevented the ball from reaching the line of scrimmage. This penalty took NYG out of field goal range and forced a punt.

DAL opened the 2nd quarter with a 9-play drive that saw Prescott go 7/7 – 95 yards – with a touchdown to Jason Witten. No you aren’t reading a repeat game review from years ago. The 2018 Monday Night Football announcer, in his first game back from retirement, scored his 16th career touchdown against NYG. He doesn’t have 10 total against any other team in the NFL. DAL took a 14-7 lead and they were just getting started. NYG went 3-and-out on the next drive before DAL put together a 13-play, 6:43-game clock drive that ended in Prescott’s third touchdown of the game, this time to Amari Cooper who burned rookie Deandre Baker. All of the sudden halftime was here, DAL was up 14 after having the ball for nearly twice as long as NYG.

The Giants began the second half with the ball and crossed midfield quickly. They were faced with a 4th-and-8 and contrary to what Pat Shurmur opted for in the past, they went for it. That resulted in a conversion via a nice pitch-and-catch to Bennie Fowler but they were unable to create much more. Aldrick Rosas came on to nail his first field goal of the year, a 28-yarder to make the score 21-10.

NYG defense needed to show they could make the halftime adjustment and set the tone. The result? A 45-yard pass to Amari Cooper. A 5-yard run by Ezekiel Elliot. A 25-yard touchdown pass to Randall Cobb that looked like a practice play on air. “On air” means no defense on the field. Nobody even looked at Cobb running his route up the middle of the field, let alone tried to cover him.

NYG was down by 18, albeit with plenty of time on the clock. They made it to the DAL 8 yard line and it was 3rd-and-2. At this point they were in a go-for-the-touchdown mode no matter what. The play call on 3rd-and-2 was a run to fullback Elijhaa Penny. They gained 1 yard. The 4th-and-1 call was a rollout passing play that resulted in Manning not getting rid of the ball, trying to juke 3 DAL defenders, and getting sacked while fumbling the ball. Barkley didn’t touch the ball on either play.

DAL starting deep in their own territory (89 yards away from the end zone), needed just 7 plays to put another 7 points on the board. Deeply aided by a 62-yard pass to WR Michael Gallup, up the middle yet again, Elliot dragged two NYG defenders into the end zone on a 10-yard touchdown run. It was 35-10 at the end of the 3rd quarter.

The two teams traded a few possessions after that without anything noteworthy taking place. The Giants scored a touchdown via a Wayne Gallman 2-yard run in the classic too-little, too-late situation. Daniel Jones then got his first NFL regular season action on their next drive. He completed 3-of-4 attempts before scrambling and fumbling, a reoccurring theme we saw out of him in preseason. DAL re-took the ball and confirmed their win.

Giants lose 35-17.

QUARTERBACK

  • Eli Manning: 30/44 – 306 yards – 1 TD/0 INT. Manning also lost a fumble on a 4th-and-1 passing attempt, a turnover either way. Manning’s overall performance was not a poor one. He protected the ball and made a few big-time throws to both the intermediate and deep levels. He was sacked just once in this one and for the most part, had a pretty clean pocket to work with. The issues with Manning may not have been obvious in the initial look, but after watching this again he made a few major mistakes. When NYG was down 28-10, there was just a crack-in-the-door left in terms of hope. On that drive, Manning was about to have Barkley run past safety Xavier Woods with no safety help over the top. It would have been an easy, long touchdown pass. Instead, Manning got rid of it too fast and ended up hitting Barkley in the back. Later in the drive, Manning had a 4th-and-1 play-action rollout where there was nothing to lose. The initial read was Sterling Shepard, who was running along the goal line more than open enough. Manning hesitated, again, and held onto the ball with multiple DAL defenders closing in on him. The cement-footed QB did his best version of a juke but it resulted in a sack-fumble. A turnover. He has to know by now that in a situation where you are down 18 in the second half and you are that close to the end zone, you have to throw it. Even a blind, toss-it-up-and-hope-for-the-best throw would have been better than holding onto it. Manning’s reaction time, his sluggish movement on long-developing screen plays, and underlying fear to make things happen are going to get him on the bench at some point.

RUNNING BACK

  • Saquon Barkley: 11 att / 120 yards – 4 rec / 19 yards. Barkley averaged 11 yards per carry, including a 59-yard highlight-reel play on the first drive. His vision, grit, and balance stood out in this one. He did fumble on the first touch of the game, the first fumble of his career, but luckily it did not result in a turnover. Barkley wasn’t used enough and Manning’s misread on the pass that hit him in the back would have likely ended in a long touchdown. More on this team misusing him later on.
  • Wayne Gallman: 2 att / 17 yards / 1 TD – 3 rec / 24 yards. Gallman picked up some garbage stats when DAL was up 35-10 in the 4th quarter. Still a solid showing for the underrated backup.

WIDE RECEIVER

  • Cody Latimer: 3 rec / 74 yards. Latimer was on the receiving end of the longest, and second-longest passing gains of the game for the Giants. His one-handed reception at the beginning of the first half that resulted in 43 yards was yet another reminder that there is something here that NYG has to exploit. The triangle numbers are there and his ball skills continue to improve. At some point, the eyebrow-raising ball skills and propensity to finish need credit. And by credit, I mean a more consistent dosage of opportunities. He was also interfered with twice but the refs opted to keep the flag in their pants
  • Sterling Shepard and Bennie Fowler combined for 11 rec / 84 yards. Fowler made arguably the nicest catch of the night on 4th-and-8 where he fully extended up and out while approaching the sideline, and was able to tap both feet in bounds as he completed the dive towards the ground.

TIGHT END

  • Evan Engram: 11 rec / 116 yards / 1 TD. There has been chatter revolving around Engram taking over the #1 pass-catcher role in this offense with Beckham out of the picture. If week 1 is the indicator, be ready for a top-3 season at the position in the NFL. Engram was targeted 14 times on all levels and he looks just as explosive as he ever has. He also made the key block on Barkley’s 59-yard run in the first quarter.
  • Rhett Ellison and Eric Tomlinson played sparingly, with Ellison still holding onto the main number-2 TE role. He made a few nice inside blocks on the move to spring Barkley free from the initial trash at the point-of-attack. Otherwise, a quiet game.

OFFENSIVE LINE

  • Overall, the increase in overall quality of the group was apparent from the beginning. The left side was solid in the run game especially. Nate Solder and Will Hernandez were powerful and effective off the snap. Hernandez got flagged for a hold (the interior pass rush again) but Solder kept the blindside under control for the most part besides one pressure where he lost his balance.
  • Jon Halapio has been highly-touted by Pat Shurmur, a former center himself, for a couple years now. And besides one pressure from a very unorthodox stunt where DE DeMarcus Lawrence looped all the way to the center of the line, he was dominant. Halapio was clearing inside running lanes by himself and perhaps the most impressive block of the entire game came from him 10+ yards downfield near the sideline on a screen-type pass to Engram. He tossed his man multiple yards into the air, which allowed another few yards of gain. He was the highest-graded NYG lineman.
  • The right side was solid inside with Kevin Zeitler, not so much outside with Mike Remmers. The latter allowed 2 pressures, was blown up twice in the running game that ended up causing TFLs, and was flagged for a false start.

DEFENSIVE LINE

  • The trio of Dalvin Tomlinson, B.J. Hill, and Dexter Lawrence is a group to get excited about when it comes to run defense. They occupied multiple blockers all game and they did their part in keeping Ezekiel Elliot under wraps (4.1 yards per carry is under his 4.7 career average). But one thing about the three of them, they didn’t make plays and I wouldn’t expect much more out of them. Hill did break through the line a few times. The trio combined for 7 tackles, 0 pressures, 0 sacks.
  • Olsen Pierre actually played two more snaps than Lawrence. That is likely a result of him knowing the scheme a bit more and he can offer more as a pass rusher. At the same time, perhaps Lawrence hasn’t quite yet earned it or his lack of conditioning is still an issue? Pierre and fellow backup R.J. McIntosh were quiet for the most part.

EDGE

  • Markus Golden and Lorenzo Carter saw the most snaps off the edge. Carter recorded 1 pressure and broke up a pass downfield but was otherwise quiet. Golden saw nearly 80% of the snaps so he was on the field, but he may as well been on the sideline. His attempts at rushing the passer were, to be kind, rusty.
  • Rookie Oshane Ximines saw a decent amount of action in is NFL debut, as Kareem Martin left the game with a knee injury. Ximines got violently introduced to the league by Tyron Smith, who remains in the discussion for the top OT in football. Ximines showed some fight, however, which was nice to see. He lost outside contain on a 3rd-down rushing play, as he just wasn’t able to recover after being fooled by misdirection. It resulted in a first down.

LINEBACKER

  • Maybe Alec Ogletree is still hurt? Maybe he is rusty from all of the practice and preseason action he missed? But the perennial up-and-down player was downright awful in this one. Stats aside (6 tackles and a PD), Ogletree was downright abused by play-action. For the leader of the defense, he sure seemed like he had no idea what DAL was trying to do nor did he show any awareness or reaction to what was going on around him.
  • I like how they swapped Tae Davis and Ryan Connelly in and out. I’m not going to call for a lineup change right now, but those two were the best LBs that NYG had on the field in this one. Davis had 3 tackles and a pressure but still makes aggressive mistakes. I would still rather live with those than the other way around, though. Connelly finished with 2 tackles and a TFL, with the TFL being arguably the best defensive play of the night stemming from instincts, reaction, and closing ability.

CORNERBACK

  • Janoris Jenkins was probably the top NYG defender on the night. He had 5 tackles (3 of which were against the run) and DAL rarely looked his way when passing.
  • The reason for that? Antonio Hamilton and rookie Deandre Baker were on the field. They were absolutely toyed with, torched, beaten…whatever else you want to throw in there…all night. It was ugly and it never got better and there weren’t any positives that came from it. Hamilton was being targeted nearly-non stop but he also missed 3 tackles. One of which was on a 3rd-and-9 pass to Randall Cobb five yards shy of the first down marker. Hamilton had Cobb in front of him, sideline next to him, both hands on, and Cobb barely had to try to get right past him and past the marker. DAL scored a touchdown on the next play to make the score 14-7.
  • Grant Haley, the nickel, was just a hair too late on several occasions no matter where the ball was thrown. The nickel spot is as important as any DB position on the field these days and his feel-good, UDFA-story is wearing off. He isn’t making plays.

SAFETY

  • A sore spot on this defense for a while now. Week 1 didn’t seem any better and if anything, it may have been even worse than what we saw last year. Antoine Bethea has had an overly-impressive career. But the 35-year old who the 20th-ranked IND defense didn’t want after 2013, the 32nd-ranked SF defense didn’t want after 2016, and the 20th-ranked ARI defense didn’t want after 2018 is now starting for NYG. He was fooled, very badly, nearly every time DAL showed misdirection. The play-action fakes had him running in the wrong direction as wide open pass catchers (both tight ends and wide receivers alike) trotted right by him almost as if it was a joke. The worst play of the night was the 62-yard gain to WR Michael Gallup via a short slant pass where Bethea took an awful angle to the action but was still within a yard or two of Gallup when he caught the ball. He simply didn’t have the twitch to just touch him, let alone make a tackle. It was atrocious.
  • Jabrill Peppers and Michael Thomas won’t escape this without blame. They too looked overly stiff and out of position. They are both aggressive, physical defenders but neither showed the ability to forecast and react. By the time they knew what DAL was doing, by the time they were actually moving in the right direction, it was too late. You can be sure future opponents are going to watch this game tape and salivate over their inability to read-and-react.

SPECIAL TEAMS

  • K Aldrick Rosas: 1/1 (Made 28) – 2/2 XP.
  • P Riley Dixon: 4 punts – 41.5 avg – 41.5 net – 3 inside 20

3 STUDS

  • RB Saquon Barkley, OC Jon Halapio, TE Evan Engram

3 DUDS

  • S Antoine Bethea, CB Antonio Hamilton, EDGE Markus Golden

3 THOUGHTS ON DAL

  1. Michael Gallup. The number 1 graded WR on my draft board in 2018. The WR who I said will out-produce Amari Cooper in the coming years starting right now. Be afraid of this kid, guys. His combination of speed, agility/looseness, ball skills, and knack for special awareness can make him a household NFL name.
  1. Should they pay Dak Prescott? Or do they have possibly the best possible situation around him that makes him seem better than he really is? I think a valid argument can be made either way but the truth is simple. This team is 32-16 with him as the starter and there isn’t a position in football that messes with team chemistry more than QB. Maybe Zeke is more responsible for their and his success than anything, maybe it is the OL, maybe it is the improving young defense. But messing around with QB could damn then for a long time. Pay him.
  1. Pretty quiet night for the DAL pass rush. I think that is still the question with this team and whether or not they can make a big push in the postseason. DeMarcus Lawrence is legit, but who else is getting through a quality offensive line? At this moment in time, I don’t see that guy yet. And they won’t be able to purchase anyone in the near future.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

  1. 158.3 – The perfect passer rating. The Giants defense was fully healthy. They had two new safeties. They had a 1st-round pick at corner and a 1st-round pick at DT. They contained the running game for the most part. However Dak Prescott put together one of the best passing performances, maybe even THE best, in DAL franchise history. There are bad games and every defense is allowed to have them. But “bad” doesn’t do just how poor this was. It was an embarrassment and to be honest, DAL shot themselves in the foot via penalties by OG Zack Martin (who rarely commits penalties) and drops. This could have been so much worse, if you have the stomach to imagine that.
  1. 3rd-and1. 3rd-and-2. 4th-and-1. Three situations where NYG was losing and the game was starting to slip out of their grasp. Saquon Barkley, whom ended up averaging over 10 yards per carry (best in the NFL week 1 for backs with 7+ touches), Saquon Barkley, whom is a “generational talent”, Saquon Barkley, whom has this offense built around, did not touch the ball on any of those plays. Two passes and a hand off to the fullback. Those 3 plays resulted in a gain of 1 yard and a turnover. I can understand and respect that you can’t be too predictable, that you need to put other things on tape. But when your struggling offense needs to make things happen and your best player is literally dominating every time he touches the ball, give him the ball. “Keep it simple, stupid.”
  1. You can’t think of many worse ways to start off a year but at least the offense showed the ability to make some plays. Barkley, Engram, and Latimer raised a few eyebrows. The offensive line was stout and consistent. The ship isn’t completely broken but the defensive side of it needs to at least look like a pro unit against BUF next week at home. If something like this happens against Josh Allen and company, let’s start talking 2020 NFL Draft.
Sep 062019
 
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Cody Latimer, New York Giants (December 30, 2018)

Cody Latimer – © USA TODAY Sports

Game Preview: New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys, September 8, 2019

THE STORYLINE:
I’ve been struggling all week with the way to frame this football game. And I think the reasons for my trouble is I am not sure how to frame the 2019 New York Giants. Your individual perspective will influence your expectations about this game, this team, and this season.

For many fans, this is a time to be excited. They still believe in Eli Manning, especially since it looks like he will have a competent offensive line in front of him. The Giants arguably have the most exciting player in the NFL on their roster in Saquon Barkley. A young defense should improve as the season progresses. The Giants seem to be more of a “team” and because of that, more fun to support and root for. In terms of this specific game, the Giants usually play the Cowboys tough in Dallas. The Cowboys don’t score a lot of points and the Giants are poised to shock everyone if a few things fall their way. After all, if you can’t get excited for the season opener, then why the hell are you a fan?

Others will look at this match-up as two teams in very different places. The Cowboys are coming off a division championship and a 10-6 season with the expectations that they will seriously compete for an NFL Championship. They have an experienced and proven coaching staff, a physical grind-you-down offense, one of the best defenses in football, and annually-strong special teams. On the other hand, the Giants have finished last in the NFC East the past two years with an 8-24 record. The pre-2018 roster has been all but completely purged and the team is clearly still in the midst of a mammoth roster rebuild. The coaching staff is unproven, a potentially messy quarterback transition is brewing, and the defense is green and lacks the ability to rush the passer. The Cowboys have won the last four Giants-Cowboys games and 10 of the last 13.

So should fans be optimistic or pessimistic about this game, this team, and this season? It depends on you.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • WR Darius Slayton (hamstring – out)
  • TE Garrett Dickerson (quad – out)
  • RT Mike Remmers (illness/back – probable)
  • CB Antonio Hamilton (adductor – probable)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
“(Dallas’) speed and quickness,” said Offensive Coordinator Mike Shula. “They’re built for speed. They’ve always been. They get to the ball fast. They fly around, and because they get to the ball so quickly, they’ve created a lot of turnovers. Their scheme allows them to play really, really fast and they’ve drafted guys within that scheme that can be very disruptive.”

“They’re a very active defense, and they’re active at all three levels,” said Head Coach Pat Shurmur. “The defensive line moves around quite a bit, so blocking moving is going to be important. Their linebackers do a good job of running downhill, but more impressively, sideline-to-sideline. Then in the secondary, when they play man, they can match up really well. They obviously do a good job when they play most of their three deep zone. It presents a challenge. There are good players at every level. We just have to go out and try to out-execute them.”

Dallas is exceptionally well-coached on the defensive side of the football under Rod Marinelli. On top of that, the Cowboys have some of the best defensive players in football. Led by defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence (10.5 sacks, 39 QB pressures), their defensive line is still underrated and disruptive. The starting trio of linebackers of Leighton Vander Esch, Jaylon Smith, and Sean Lee are arguably the best in football. Byron Jones is one of the best corners in the League. Overall, the Cowboys play smart defense, usually forcing the opponent to make a mistake before they do.

While Giants can create match-up problems with Saquon Barkley and Evan Engram against any linebacker or safety, the Giants really don’t have any wide receiver who will scare defenses deep, especially fast defenses like the Dallas Cowboys. The way to beat a fast, quick defense is not to try to run away from them, but to run right at them. The Giants are going to have to matriculate the ball down the football field with a heavy dose of Barkley behind a hopefully much-improved offensive line, short- and intermediate-passing, and an occasional deep shot to Barkley and Engram. To keep the chains moving, the Giants need to limit penalties, stay out of bad down-and-distance situations, and obviously convert on 3rd down. The Cowboys will focus their attention on Barkley and Engram, and dare Sterling Shepard, Cody Latimer, and Bennie Fowler to beat them. Barkley can’t get cute and try to break the big play on every run. He has to take what is there and get those 3, 4, and 5 yard runs. With the Dallas defense focused on Barkley from the get-go, if Shurmur wants to cross the Cowboys up early, Eli Manning must connect on those short passes. Incompletions will lead to 2nd- and 3rd-and-long.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
The national media spends so much time fellating the Cowboys that you don’t need me to cover too deeply what the Giants are up against. After holding out all summer, Ezekiel Elliott is now the highest-paid running back in football history and is raring to go against the Giants. He operates behind a somewhat overrated, but still very physical offensive line. Elliott has already led the league twice in rushing (to put that in perspective, the last time a Giant did that was in 1951). And he is a dangerous receiver out of the backfield (led the Cowboys in receptions with 77). Giant-killer Cole Beasley is gone, but super-Giant killer Jason Witten is somehow back to torment us. Amari Cooper highlights the receiving corps. The divisive figure for fans is quarterback Dak Prescott. Some people love him, others think he is overrated. But the guy is built like a tank, is hard to tackle, keeps plays and drives alive with his feet, and can make clutch plays in tough situations.

The Cowboys are a run-heavy team. Despite all of the changes on the Giants’ defense during the past two years, this team still needs to prove it can be a good run defense. The results in the preseason were mixed. Dalvin Tomlinson, B.J. Hill, Dexter Lawrence, Alec Ogletree, Tae Davis, Lorenzo Carter, and Markus Golden have to hold the point-of-attack. Because that line and Elliott are going to punch them in the mouth. The Cowboys want 2nd-and-5 and 3rd-and-1 situations. They want to wear you down and then break you in the 4th quarter. The good news for the Giants? This ground-control attack is not conducive to a lot of scoring. The bad news? It tends to win football games, especially when combined with good defense and special teams.

And when the Giants do get into those 3rd-down situations, be it 3rd-and-7 or 3rd-and-2, they need to get off of the football field. This – along with and hand-in-hand with the team’s inability to cover the middle of the football field – is what has killed New York’s defense for the bulk of the past decade. Who will get to the quarterback? Will they even contain Prescott within the pocket? Will the tight ends run wide open over the middle? Ogletree, Davis, Jabrill Peppers, and Antoine Bethea will all be under the spot light. And Elliott is a MAJOR threat out of the backfield. It also appears that Antonio Hamilton and Deandre Baker will split time opposite of Janoris Jenkins. Both Hamilton and Baker will be tested.

As for the pass rush, we’ll just have to wait and see. Even the coach doesn’t know. “I think initially it’s going to be a group effort,” said Defensive Coordinator James Bettcher. “I can’t tell you 100 percent as we sit here today who’s going to be the sack leader, the disruptive player. To me, I kind of like that, because there is a little bit of unknown for people that are prepping for us. There’s a lot of guys that have something to go play and prove and establish themselves. I think it’s going to be exciting for me as I watch it from my position to see how it unfolds.”

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
For better or worse, the starting strong safety will be returning punts for the Giants on Sunday. Cody Latimer will be the kick returner. The Giants have a lot of defensive backs and linebackers on the roster… that should translate to solid special teams coverage.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Head Coach Pat Shurmur on his team: “They’ve come together as a team. Now we’ll galvanize ourselves as we go through the season. I’m looking forward to this group, as you go through the ups and downs of a season, because I think it’s a really good group and I think they care about one another. I’m looking forward to watching them work.”

THE FINAL WORD:
My heart says “Screw the Cowboys! We can beat the media darlings!” My head says these two teams are in vastly different places right now. The Giants may have a respectable year, but their first win is not likely to be on opening day. If the Giants do lose, Eli Manning will immediately be feeling the heat.

Aug 312019
 
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Spencer Pulley, New York Giants (August 29, 2019)

Spencer Pulley – © USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants 31 – New England Patriots 29

QUICK RECAP

Preseason game number 4. The point where coaches have made most of their roster decisions and are now hoping for no serious injuries to their backups and rotational players. The Giants headed to New England to face off against the Patriots, as per usual, in the final game prior to the regular season. The Giants kept their starters on the bench for this one, giving roster hopefuls a shot at showing what they can do with an extended amount of snaps.

The Patriots, led by rookie Jarrett Stidham, marched down the field and put NE up 3-0 after the first drive. He had Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon, and Demaryius Thomas running routes and catching balls for him. If this were 2013, that could have passed for the best WR trio in the NFL. It was a good, true test for the youthful NYG defensive backs to be up against such established pass catchers even though they are past their primes.

Daniel Jones started for NYG, pulling an Eli Manning and staying out there for just one series. He remained near-perfect on the preseason, going 4/4 and 47 yards. The fact that Shurmur pulled him after one series has to tell you something.

The Giants forced a turnover via pressure from Jake Ceresna, which caused an errant pass by Stidham, landing in the arms of safety Sean Chandler. With Alex Tanney at the helm on ensuing drive, it took just two plays for NYG to reach the end zone. A perfectly thrown ball to Alonzo Russell gave them the 35-yard score, putting Big Blue up 7-3. It didn’t take long for the Giants to get the ball back, one play actually. A poor exchange on an attempted reverse resulted in the ball being put on the ground, which was recovered by Keion Adams. The Giants turned that turnover in 3 points, giving them a 10-3 lead as the first quarter came to an end.

With the all-2013 wide receiver group still in, Stidham was able to get the NE offense back on track, hitting Thomas for a 35-yard score. After a NYG three-and-out, Stidham again hit Thomas, this time for a 3-yard score and all of the sudden NE was up 16-10. Things were getting ugly for the NYG offense via penalties and eventually an interception by Tanney. It was the first of two INTs by Tanney on the night.

The Patriots offense took over the rest of the first half and entered halftime with a commanding 29-10 lead. The Giants offense couldn’t convert on 3rd down and the Pats offense was continuing to play their simple but efficient style of football.

Kyle Lauletta came out under center to start off the second half and led a nice resurgence. He was on the money for the rest of the night and led this team to within striking distance. Despite several dropped balls and some of his targets going down with lower body injuries, he looked very smooth and efficient. He threw a perfect deep pass to Scott Simonson for his first of two touchdowns. Wayne Gallman, who saw the most preseason action of the year, scored a physical 6-yard touchdown and Aldrick Rosas hit a 27-yard field goal.

The Giants defense came up with several key stops and applied a lot of pressure from the middle of the line. John Jenkins and Ceresna were standouts.

The dramatic finish had NYG facing a 29-25 deficit with 4 seconds remaining. Lauletta, who was dominant on 3rd down all night, was in his highest-pressure situation of the night, one play left from the NE 14-yard line. He hit Russell for the touchdown as time expired to complete the 19-point comeback and 21 unanswered points.

Giants win 31-29 and end the preseason a perfect 4-0.

QUARTERBACKS

-Starter Eli Manning didn’t play in this one, giving Jones his first unofficial start of his career. He was able prepare for the game as the number one guy on the depth chart all week, another check mark on the QB progression list. Jones had a quick night, just one series, and completed all 4 of his attempts. Two of those completions were to Golden Tate, a combo we are sure to see later in the year. Jones has a superb preseason and instilled as much confidence as one can during preseason action.

-Alex Tanney had a night to forget while Kyle Lauletta had arguably his best half as a Giant. The former went 4/12 – 1 TD – 2 INT, while the latter went led a 19-point comeback, going 22/40 – 247 yards – 2 TD. He was also the victim of multiple drops and could have easily wound up over 300 yards, in just one half. Perhaps the most impressive part of his game was the performance on 3rd and 4th down. He went 12/15-166 yards-2 TD. It was truly dominant.

RUNNING BACKS

-Paul Perkins ended the preseason strong with two straight strong weeks. He rushed for 54 yards on 11 carries, displaying outstanding ability in space to miss tacklers and gain yards after contact. Still not a good between the tackles runner who can push piles, though.

-Wayne Gallman added 29 yards on 7 carries to go along with 3 receptions for 24 yards. His 6-yard touchdown run caught me by surprise with how physically he finished it off and pushed multiple defenders into the end zone. I was surprised to see him get so much action late in the game, but I’m glad he did. It is important for running backs to knock heads a few times in live action before the season starts.

WIDE RECEIVERS

-Long-winded night for the likes of Alonzo Russell, Reggie White Jr., and T.J. Jones. It was the most they all played during preseason and you could tell it impacted their performance late in the game. Russell was the star of the group, going 5-92-2 on an amazing 15 targets. Some analysts who are overly-obsessive about numbers will tell you that was an inefficient game, but Russell all but stamped his name onto the roster. He ran good routes, he tracked the ball well, and made physical catches. With the uncertainty at WR early in the year, he will get his shot. He did, however, drop a pass and another one on a 2-point conversion.

-T.J. Jones hobbled off the field a couple times, the second appearing more serious. He has had a few issues staying healthy and even though I think his versatility can land him a roster spot, I’m not sold he has a spot locked in.

TIGHT ENDS

-Scott Simonson, whom has had a problem with drops this preseason, made arguably the best catch of his Giants career on a 27-yard touchdown. He got downfield in a hurry and made a diving grab. Unfortunately, he injured his ankle on the play and had to be carted off. As of typing the review, no final result has been publicized but it didn’t look good.

-C.J. Conrad stepped up and had a nice game in the trenches. Very stifling blocker who rarely gets beat. He has been a consistent player all preseason and continued to show he can catch the ball when it is thrown his way as well. Jake Powell got some extra action after the injury, catching three passes and dropping another.

OFFENSIVE LINE

-As I have been saying all preseason, the NYG second-string offensive line is the best it has been in quite some time, most notably on the right side. Chad Slade and Nick Gates are playing powerfully and balanced. Their footwork has been on point and both play a violent game with their hands.

-Really rough game for left tackle Brian Mihalik. He was flagged 3 times, gave up 2 pressures and allowed 1 TFL. He may win the backup left tackle job by default unless this team thinks Gate or Slade can handle it, which I would prefer.

-Evan Brown and James O’Hagan both struggled to contain the NE interior defenders. They got minimal push, if anything. There appeared to be some miscommunication on blitzes as well.

DEFENSIVE LINE

-Really active game from R.J. McIntosh and that is a word that keeps coming up every time I watch him. He gets off the ball fast and there is plenty of quick-twitch reaction and movement to his game.

-One of my NYG favorites of the preseason has been Jake Ceresna. I first noticed him in practice and then he popped up a few times in the games. He saved his best effort for last, as he finished with 2 TFL, 1 sack, and 2 pressures. This kid still has some developing to do, but the second-year undrafted free agent has done everything a back end roster player can do to make a spot for himself on the practice squad.

-John Jenkins had 2 tackles and a sack. He has really improved his quickness and game speed since coming into the league from Georgia back in 2013. The former 3rd round pick makes me feel good about the depth on the interior of this defensive line.

LINEBACKERS

-B.J. Goodson is proving he belongs on this team and can make an impact when called upon. I won’t bang the table for him to start (yet) because he isn’t the ideal schematic fit, but this guy needs to make the team. He is a tackling machine and plays with a lot of speed. He finished with a team high 6 tackles in addition to a sack. He also showed some solid downfield coverage on two occasions.

-There may be a quiet roster battle going on between Josiah Tauaefa and Nate Stupar. The latter is a leader on special teams but the former has been making plays when he gets on the field. Really fast reaction and sure tackling in addition to fitting the scheme well. Interested to see what happens there.

-Avery Moss is likely to get another shot here in 2019, but I think Jake Carlock has earned the right to take his roster spot. He had a sack taken away by a defensive hold and we have already noted the energy he brings to the table every play. Moss just doesn’t seem to have it.

CORNERBACKS

Terrell Sinkfield got beat up by the savvy veteran Demaryius Thomas. He continues to show a lack of ability to track and locate the ball. He has an impressive physical package but the skill set is inconsistent. Henre’ Toliver got some good experience in as well against the rusty but still effective Josh Gordon. His results were a bit more mixed, as he did flash here and there.

-Ronald Zamort had arguably his best performance of the preseason as he makes a push for a roster spot or a practice squad allocation. He broke up 2 passes early on.

SAFETIES

-Sean Chandler intercepted a pass and broke up 2 others. He is the one guy who I think this coaching staff really likes, as he can play multiple roles back there and has a knack for the ball.

-Solid game for Julian Love, who I loved coming out of Notre Dame but even I am surprised by how quickly he seems to have taken in both S and CB roles. Smart player who showed a physical side in this one. His future can be wherever this team needs him most, a really valuable asset.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Aldrick Rosas: 2/2 (Made 32 and 27). Perfect on the preseason.

-P Riley Dixon and P Johnny Townsend continued to split duties with the latter outperforming the former yet again.

3 STUDS

-QB Kyle Lauletta, WR Alonzo Russell, LB B.J. Goodson

3 DUDS

-OT Brian Mihalik, CB Terrell Sinkfield, QB Alex Tanney

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

-Now comes the most active day of the personnel/team building year. At the time this is posted, several cuts may already have been made. Before you get surprised by anything both with the NYG and around the league, just consider there is a lot of information we don’t have access to when it comes to the “why”? Money, undisclosed injuries, schematic needs…etc.

-If there is one guy I really want NYG to keep around, it is B.J. Goodson. If he an stay healthy and readily available, I think he can be a difference maker in the middle especially with what they have up front along the defensive line. He has holes in coverage, but I think he has shown improvement there and the attitude he brings as a run defender elevates the physicality of this defense.

-When it comes to my outlook of the 2019 season, I have to say I have leaned more towards being optimistic. Much more so than last year, anyway. There is something to this team and the way they come together. Nobody is walking around like they are bigger than everyone else. The team is relatively healthy. The trenches are strong. There are legitimate concerns at a few spots, namely the pass rush, but I think this team will be in the wild card hunt for most, if not all of the season.

Aug 282019
 
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Oshane Ximines, New York Giants (August 22, 2019)

Oshane Ximines – © USA TODAY Sports

Preseason Game Preview: New York Giants at New England Patriots, August 29, 2019

THE STORYLINE:
The primary goals of the final preseason game are (1) get out as healthy as possible, and (2) make final determinations on roster spots. We already know Eli Manning won’t play. Saquon Barkley is surely a healthy scratch and most starters won’t play or will barely play. Knock on wood, but the Giants have thus far made it through the summer without any serious injuries other than Corey Coleman. That said, the injury report (see below) is fairly long and quite a few players who would have benefited from playing in this game will not play.

THE INJURY REPORT:
The following players are not likely to play on Thursday night:

  • RB Rod Smith (adductor)
  • WR Golden Tate (concussion)
  • WR Sterling Shepard (thumb)
  • WR Darius Slayton (hamstring)
  • WR Alex Wesley (ankle)
  • TE Garrett Dickerson (quad)
  • OT Chad Wheeler (back)
  • OT George Asafo-Adjei (concussion)
  • LB Alec Ogletree (calf)
  • CB Antonio Hamilton (groin)
  • CB Sam Beal (hamstring)
  • S Kenny Ladler (hamstring)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
It is believed that the offense will be the stronger side of the ball once the regular season starts. Eli Manning has had a strong summer. He has  his best offensive line in almost a decade. The Giants arguably have the best running back in football. Evan Engram can be a real match-up problem for safeties and linebackers. On paper, the wide-receiving corps looks weak and lacks a dynamic deep threat, but they may benefit from the threat of Barkley and Engram.

Manning won’t play on Thursday. Depending on what transpires during the next three months, this may be the final time we see Daniel Jones in a game until August 2020. Don’t take this the wrong way, but he’s due for a “bad game.” Right now, his overall numbers are insane: 25-of-30 (83.3 percent completion rate) for 369 yards and two touchdowns. That’s a 140.1 quarterback rating! That can’t continue. But if he has a decent game on Thursday, his rookie preseason has to be considered a tremendous success.

In terms of the pecking order, Alex Tanney still officially the 3rd-string quarterback with Kyle Lauletta pulling up the rear. Do the Giants carry three quarterbacks? If so, do they part ways already with their 4th-round pick in last year’s draft?

Saquon Barkley is the starter. Wayne Gallman is the back-up. Although he has only touched the ball once this preseason, Elijhaa Penny is the only back on the roster with fullback blocking skills. “I’m very fond of (Penny) because he’s one of the people in this building that, in my opinion, has never had a bad day,” said Pat Shurmur last week. “He’s a little bit of an inspiration to me because he just keeps going. He loves the game and he keeps playing. He’s done some good stuff for us.” Perhaps I’m falling for false praise, but I think he makes it. On the other hand, none of the other backs really impresses me. Paul Perkins has flashed catching the ball, but he plays small. I would not be shocked to see the Giants just carry three backs again. Or perhaps pick someone up off of the waiver wire.

Wide receiver is a bit convoluted because of Golden Tate’s suspension and nagging injuries to Sterling Shepard (thumb) and Darius Slayton (hamstring). Tate will start the season off of the 53-man roster on the suspended list. They won’t IR Slayton because of a hamstring. They will likely carry him on the 53-man roster and hold him inactive for a few weeks on game day. Sterling Shepard should be fine. I originally thought the Giants may only carry five wideouts but now I’m leaning towards six. Until Tate gets back, Cody Latimer and Bennie Fowler will see a lot of playing time. T.J. Jones was only signed when camp started, but he has surprisingly performed well and has veteran starting experience. Unless the Giants carry seven wideouts, that leaves only one spot for Russell Shepard (very good special teams player), Alonzo Russell (good size and has flashed), and Brittan Golden (special teams return ability and has flashed in passing game). I think they go with Russell Shepard. Look for at least one of these guys and Reggie White, Jr. to end up on the Practice Squad.

Evan Engram and Rhett Ellison remain the top two tight ends. But do the Giants carry three or four? Shurmur has praised C.J. Conrad’s blocking. Garrett Dickerson has flashed as a receiver, but is hurt by the fact he probably won’t play in this game. Scott Simonson can block, but he hasn’t helped his cause with some dropped passes.

We know who the starters are. It will be interesting to see if they play a series or two on Thursday with Daniel Jones. Interestingly, Nick Gates and Chad Slade came out of nowhere and seem to have elevated themselves as the primary OL back-ups other than Spencer Pulley. That’s eight; the Giants may keep nine. It was expected that Chad Wheeler (slowed by back issues) and Brian Mihalik (slowed by burner) would have been in the mix, but they may now be both outside looking in. George Asafo-Adjei’s summer was wrecked by a concussion and he is likely headed to IR.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
The defense is expected to be the weak spot on the 2019 New York Giants. We shall see. The prevailing narrative is that they should be tough to run on (inconsistent evidence of this in the preseason), have issues rushing the passer (confirmed during the preseason), and field a green secondary that will screw up but get better as the year progresses.

Dalvin Tomlinson, B.J. Hill, and Dexter Lawrence are the starters up front. They will be backed up by R.J. McIntosh and Olsen Pierre. Probably the only real battle here is John Jenkins versus Chris Slayton if the Giants only carry six defensive linemen.

The outside linebackers will be Lorenzo Carter, Markus Golden, Kareem Martin, and Oshane Ximines. The Giants are probably hoping Jake Carlock makes it to the Practice Squad. Inside, Alec Ogletree, Tae Davis, and Ryan Connelly are the sure bets. The tea leaves suggest the Giants are going to mistakenly keep Nate Stupar over B.J. Goodson. Josiah Tauaefa might end up on the Practice Squad.

Sam Beal missed both of his first two training camps. Like Darius Slayton, I think the Giants will carry him on the 53-man roster and keep him inactive until his hamstring is better (he’s finally doing individual drills). Deandre Baker’s knee injury and Antonio Hamilton’s groin injury has also complicated the picture. Based on the preseason pecking order, the coaches obviously like Hamilton more than most fans had expected.

Janoris Jenkins and Deandre Baker will be the starting corners with Grant Haley being the slot corner. Corey Ballentine will make the team, as well as Beal and Hamilton. That makes six. I think the Giants will keep four safeties. Jabrill Peppers and Antoine Bethea will start. Michael Thomas and Julian Love will be the back-ups. I don’t see a spot for Sean Chandler or Kenny Ladler unless the Giants carry 11 defensive backs.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
It’s pretty clear the coaches are not happy with the punting situation. The team will probably be scouring the waiver wire. The Corey Coleman injury did impact the return game and it seems like the Giants are still scrambling a bit. I’m still not sure who will be the opening day punt and kickoff returners. They could put Jabrill Peppers back there.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Head Coach Pat Shurmur on Benny Fowler and Cody Latimer: “There’s a veteran presence there. They know how to play the game. They played a lot of football, and there’s a confidence that they know what to do, they’ll compete and make plays.”

THE FINAL WORD:
The Giants must reduce the roster from 90 to 53 on Saturday so we will see at least 37 roster moves and probably more.

Aug 272019
 
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Daniel Jones, Kyle Lauletta, and Eli Manning; New York Giants (July 25, 2019)

Daniel Jones, Kyle Lauletta, and Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports

AUGUST 27, 2019 NEW YORK GIANTS TRAINING CAMP REPORT…
The New York Giants held their twenty-first and last full-team summer training camp practice of this summer on Tuesday at Quest Diagnostics Training Center in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Officially, the team’s summer training camp is over.

INJURY REPORT…
Running back Rod Smith (adductor), wide receiver Darius Slayton (hamstring), tight end Garrett Dickerson (quad), offensive tackle George Asafo-Adjei (concussion), and safety Kenny Ladler (hamstring) did not practice on Tuesday.

Cornerback Antonio Hamilton (groin), cornerback Sam Beal (hamstring), and offensive tackle Chad Wheeler (back) were limited to individual drills.

Wide receiver Alex Wesley (left ankle) had to be carted off of the field after injuring himself in a non-contact drill. “Ankle,” said Head Coach Pat Shurmur. “His ankle has been a little sore. They’re checking it out.”

Left tackle Nate Solder was excused from practice for personal reasons.

MEDIA PRACTICE NOTES…
Some snippets from various media sources:

  • Today’s practice was more of a 3/4 speed preparation for Thursday’s game.
  • Chad Slade and Paul Adams both took reps as the first-team left tackle.
  • WR Alonzo Russell caught three long passes, including two from QB Daniel Jones and one from QB Alex Tanney.
  • In red-zone drills, QB Daniel Jones threw touchdown passes to WR Brittan Golden (twice), TE Jake Powell, and WR Alonzo Russell.
  • In red-zone drills, QB Alex Tanney threw a touchdown pass to TE C.J. Conrad.

HEAD COACH PAT SHURMUR…
The transcript of Pat Shurmur’s press conference on Tuesday is available in The Corner Forum while the video is available at Giants.com.

THE PLAYERS SPEAK…
Transcripts and video clips of the media sessions with the following players are available in The Corner Forum and at Giants.com:

  • CB Corey Ballentine (Video)
Aug 262019
 
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Rhett Ellison, New York Giants (July 25, 2019)

Rhett Ellison – © USA TODAY Sports

AUGUST 26, 2019 NEW YORK GIANTS TRAINING CAMP REPORT…
The New York Giants held their twentieth full-team summer training camp practice on Monday at Quest Diagnostics Training Center in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The remaining training camp practices are no longer open to the public.

“Good practice,” said Head Coach Pat Shurmur. “(We did) Thursday (regular-season) things today. We did red zone, we did a little two minute (drill), which was good. Very spirited and competitive today. I think we got a lot done, and so we’ll push forward tomorrow. We’ll try to scheme it up like we would on a Friday for the most part. It’ll have a training camp feel to it, but it’ll be like a Friday and then we keep rolling.”

INJURY REPORT…
Running back Rod Smith (adductor), wide receiver Darius Slayton (hamstring), tight end Garrett Dickerson (quad), offensive tackle George Asafo-Adjei (concussion), cornerback Antonio Hamilton (groin), and safety Kenny Ladler (hamstring) did not practice on Monday.

“We’ll just see where he’s at,” Head Coach Pat Shurmur said of Slayton, who returned to the sidelines with a hamstring injury. “He’s making good progress, so we’ll just see how this little thing affects him.”

Cornerback Sam Beal (hamstring) participated in individual (but not team) drills for the second day in a row.

MEDIA PRACTICE NOTES…
Some snippets from various media sources:

  • Deandre Baker and Corey Ballentine continued to alternate at corner opposite of Janoris Jenkins with the first team. Grant Haley remained the first-team slot corner.
  • QB Eli Manning threw a perfect pass to TE Evan Engram down the left sideline, just over the head of S Jabrill Peppers.
  • QB Daniel Jones hit WR Bennie Fowler on a deep sideline pass against CB Corey Ballentine.
  • QB Daniel Jones then connected on a series of passes to WR Russell Shepard, including a slant, a deep seam pass, and a 40-yard go-route for a touchdown.
  • FS Antoine Bethea intercepted a pass from QB Eli Manning intended for WR Golden Tate.
  • CB Ronald Zamort deflected a QB Kyle Lauletta pass that was intercepted by LB Jonathan Anderson.
  • During red-zone drills, despite running 18 plays, the defense kept the offense out of the end zone, including two coverage sacks.
  • The first-team offense scored during the 2-minute drill, highlighted by a 34-yard catch by TE Evan Engram from QB Eli Manning and a 1-yard touchdown run by RB Saquon Barkley.
  • QB Daniel Jones threw a long sideline pass to TE Scott Simonson. CB Ronald Zamort then intercepted Jones on a short, dump-off pass. But as Zamort was headed toward the endzone, Jones pursued and punched the ball out of Zamort’s hands.

HEAD COACH PAT SHURMUR…
The transcript of Pat Shurmur’s press conference on Monday is available in The Corner Forum while the video is available at Giants.com.

THE PLAYERS SPEAK…
Transcripts and video clips of the media sessions with the following players are available in The Corner Forum and at Giants.com:

Aug 252019
 
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Saquon Barkley, New York Giants (July 25, 2019)

Saquon Barkley – © USA TODAY Sports

AUGUST 25, 2019 NEW YORK GIANTS TRAINING CAMP REPORT…
The New York Giants held their nineteenth full-team summer training camp practice on Sunday at Quest Diagnostics Training Center in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The remaining training camp practices are no longer open to the public.

INJURY REPORT…
Running back Rod Smith (groin), offensive tackle George Asafo-Adjei (concussion), cornerback Antonio Hamilton (groin), and safety Kenny Ladler (unknown) did not practice on Sunday.

Cornerback Sam Beal (hamstring) participated in individual drills. “He was out there today for the first time,” said Head Coach Pat Shurmur of Beal. “He’s closer. We’ll just have to see where he’s at as we move forward.”

Wide receiver Golden Tate (concussion) and linebacker Josiah Tauaefa (unknown) wore a non-contact yellow jerseys and were limited.

MEDIA PRACTICE NOTES…
Some snippets from various media sources:

  • Deandre Baker returned to practice and split time with Corey Ballentine at cornerback with the starting defense.
  • During the blitz period, QB Eli Manning was 5-of-6 with a sack; QB Daniel Jones was 4-of-6.
  • QB Kyle Lauletta made a nice throw on a slant to WR Reggie White, Jr. for a good gain.
  • QB Alex Tanney hit WR T.J. Jones deep over the middle for a touchdown.
  • Overall, the defense performed much better than the offense, the latter being a bit sloppy by multiple accounts.
  • S Jabrill Peppers was active, with a “sack” and a couple of tackles for a loss.
  • CB Janoris Jenkins dropped an interception when WR Sterling Shepard slipped. Jenkins later committed a pass interference penalty on WR Bennie Fowler, who beat him deep.
  • Returning punts were wide receivers Sterling Shepard, Golden Tate, Brittan Golden, and T.J. Jones.
  • PK Aldrick Rosas was 5-of-6 on field goal attempts.

HEAD COACH PAT SHURMUR…
The transcript of Pat Shurmur’s press conference on Sunday is available in The Corner Forum while the video is available at Giants.com.

THE PLAYERS SPEAK…
Transcripts and video clips of the media sessions with the following players are available in The Corner Forum and at Giants.com:

ARTICLES…

Aug 242019
 
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Brittan Golden, New York Giants (August 22, 2019)

Brittan Golden – © USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants 25 – Cincinnati Bengals 23

QUICK RECAP

The Giant took their show away from MetLife Stadium for the first time in 2019, as they matched up against the Cincinnati Bengals, led by the youngest coach in the NFL, Zac Taylor. The Giants opted to keep RB Saquon Barkley on the sideline as well as WR Sterling Shepard (thumb) and WR Golden Tate (concussion). Defensively they were without LB Alec Ogletree and CB Deandre Baker, among others.

Eli Manning, for the third week in a row, played one series. It was a long, 15 play drive that saw a nice run/pass balance but had some sloppiness to it. Cody Latimer dropped two passes, the second of which would have been a touchdown and the Giants had to settle on a short field goal to get the initial lead, 3-0. Daniel Jones took over the offense with the rest of the night’s first string still in. The two teams traded three-and-outs and then CIN QB Andy Dalton picked up chunk gain after chunk gain. He completed five straight passes, the last of which was a 26-yard touchdown to TE C.J. Uzomah on a perfectly placed ball, beating S Jabrill Peppers.

The sloppiness ensued as the second quarter began, as both sides of the ball were getting flagged too often. Perhaps the two best throws of the night came on the second drive of the quarter with Jones hitting Brittan Golden for 35 yards and Darius Slayton for 27 yards, which got them to the CIN 1-yard line. They were both big time throws respectively and this was on a drive where Jones got absolutely clocked by both CIN edge rushers at the same time. RB Rod Smith soon after burst through the pile for a 1-yard touchdown run, which gave NYG their lead back, 10-7.

The NYG defense remained iffy at best on the next drive with missed tackles and a huge hands-to-the-face by Olsen Pierre which negated a 3rd-down stop. This allowed the 12-play drive to cut out most of the remaining time on the clock in the first half and led to a 50-yard field goal that tied the game up.

The Giant gave the second half to the two QBs who are competing for the the number three job, Alex Tanney and Kyle Lauletta. The third quarter saw the two teams trade scoreless possessions multiple times. CIN was moving the ball well thanks to poor tackling by the backup NYG defenders, particularly at the second and third levels. Offensively the three standouts were Lauletta, RB Paul Perkins, and WR Brittan Golden.

CIN took a 17-10 lead early in the fourth quarter on a 3-yard pass from Jacob Dolegala to Damian Willis. NYG responded with a touchdown scoring drive of their own ending with a Jon Hilliman 1-yard dash across the goal line that saw him push the pile on the right side of the line. Lauletta was 3-out-of-4 for 66 yards, making passes on all levels of the route tree from both the pocket and on the move. NYG went for 2, because why not, and successfully got the 2 points via a pass to Alonzo Russell, who continued to impress on multiple levels in this game.

Golden, who had his loudest performance of the entire preseason/training camp process, returned a punt for a 68-yard score thanks largely to the aforementioned Russell throwing two outstanding downfield blocks. A strong receiving night and a punt return touchdown was going to possibly put his name in the mix for the last WR spot on the 53-man roster but a muffed punt, which resulted in a turnover, on the next drive put a damper on his night. CIN turned that fumble in to 7 points via another short pass from Dolegala, this time to Justin Hunter.

With a 25-23 lead and under three minutes left, NYG was able to burn the rest of the clock and walk away with their third preseason win in as many chances.

Giants win 25-23.

QUARTERBACKS

-Eli Manning played just one drive for the third straight week, going 4/8 for 41 yards. It was a 15-play drive that gained NYG the initial 3-0 lead. Manning continues to look sharp and more decisive than in the past which, as I have stated a few times, stems from the improved OL play in my opinion.

-Daniel Jones played the remainder of the first half, also continuing his superb preseason. He got the most snaps he’s had with the first string and he passed yet another test. He went 9/11 for 141 yards including two downfield passes for gains of 35 and 27 yards. Jones did get sacked, causing a fumble (his third of the preseason) but it did not result in a turnover. The glaring positive that came from that was the fact that on the very next play, he hit fellow rookie Darius Slayton for a 27-yard gain that was 1-yard shy of a touchdown. Jones is proving to be tough and even keel, an absolute must for success at the position in this league.

-The Alex Tanney vs. Kyle Lauletta competition is going to come down to the wire. Lauletta looked better in this one, as he was hitting his targets on all levels of the route tree from both the pocket and on the move. Two of his incompletions were drops by the receivers on nicely-placed balls. Tanney was overthrowing his deep passes and never really got into a flow.

RUNNING BACKS

-Saquon Barkley sat out again as it appears his first live action will be week 1 in Dallas. The running game altogether was ugly, as the middle of the NYG offensive line did not get enough movement. Wayne Gallman did show a nice cutback-and-burst run that gained 14 yards. He is the unquestioned backup and won’t need much more work.

-Paul Perkins had a solid night via the passing game, catching 3 balls for 27 yards showing excellent burst and balance on a couple of occasions. Rod Smith had a hard time, gaining 8 yards on 5 attempts. He is a guy who absolutely needs space to work with because he isn’t a quick-acceleration back. Jon Hilliman scored a touchdown in the second half and continues to compete for a final roster spot, although I don’t think it will happen for him.

WIDE RECEIVERS

-With the two top targets out (Sterling Shepard and Golden Tate), the opportunities for roster hopefuls continued to be present from start to finish. Brittan Golden was the one who jumped off the screen with receptions of 35 and 24 yards in addition to a punt return touchdown. His muffed punt that resulted in a turnover left a poor taste on the night overall, however. Not catching the ball is a major no-no.

-Cody Latimer had a night to forget, as he had two drops on balls that hit him square in the chest. The second one would have likely been a touchdown pass on the opening NYG drive and had that been a regular-season game, it would have been a big deal. Those are the kinds of mistakes that really swing the outcome of a game and it cannot happen. He has the opportunity of a lifetime in 2019, especially weeks 1 through 4.

-Reggie White vs. Alonzo Russell is an interesting roster battle. Russell has been here longer and continues to make things happen on special teams. We have noted the vertical speed and size, which is lacking elsewhere in this WR core. However, White keeps popping up during practice and it is carrying over into game action. White seems to have more natural pass catching ability and it was shown on the 36-yard downfield grab he brought in.

-Darius Slayton finally got his first game action with the club. I expect him to get a lot of reps next week because as I said back in the spring when the team drafted him, he is going to factor at some point this season. He is going to need some time but the speed and ball skill he possesses creates a much needed deep threat for this offense. He was 1-yard shy of a touchdown on his 27-yard catch.

-Brittan Golden has never really been a guy who I thought would make this team and even though he had the night of his life against CIN, I still don’t see the 30-year-old journeyman taking a spot away from the guys who are younger and bigger.

TIGHT ENDS

-Evan Engram played just 10 snaps, as this team is being more cautious than in the past with their top expected playmakers. Rhett Ellison had 2 catches for 26 yards, including some tough YAC. We know what we have in him.

-Is there more competition for that third TE spot than most are thinking? Scott Simonson had another drop and did not stand out as a blocker. If you are going to consistently drop the ball, you better dominate the trenches. Garrett Dickerson on the other hand caught 2 passes for 30 yards and showed sneaky YAC ability with his power and balance with the ball. He definitely has more play-maker in him. C.J. Conrad also caught his lone target on the night for 11 yards and is a prime candidate for the practice squad.

OFFENSIVE LINE

-The left side of the line had a night to forget, not something we want to see in week 3 of the preseason. Guard Will Hernandez was flagged three times and Nate Solder allowed a sack and pressure. Hernandez is still struggling with the late inside move, something that bit him hard multiple times in 2018. Solder just looks stiff and weak if I am going to be honest. I think the veteran in him can make up for some physical deficiencies but at some point this guy is going to need to anchor himself better. Too much lack of presence when moving laterally as a run blocker in addition to pass protection.

-Solder’s backup, Brian Mihalik, was back in game action and also had a rough night. He allowed a sack and a pressure as well. There isn’t much hope behind Solder, as Mihalik looks like his little brother in terms of stiffness and weakness.

-Kevin Zeitler and Mike Remmers were quiet for the most part. The latter allowed a pressure that would have been a sack had Solder’s man not reached Jones first on the fumble-causing sack.

-I continue to be impressed with the combination of Chad Slade and Nick Gates. I think these two are going to make the team because of the position-versatility they bring to the table.

DEFENSIVE LINE

-A much better night from rookie Dexter Lawrence in this one. He was more disruptive and mobile after initial contact, and he also batted a pass down. He came off on passing downs, which I expect to see more of because if there is one thing I keep on noticing, he isn’t very well conditioned. He tires easily and gets sluggish. He didn’t play much, the same with Dalvin Tomlinson and B.J. Hill.

-R.J. McIntosh looked active and disruptive despite not recording any tackles or pressures. He made the offense adjust to him on a couple of occasions, however the stoutness isn’t there yet. John Jenkins and Olsen Pierre, on the other hand, both held their ground and kept the LBs clean. Pierre was flagged for a costly illegal-hands-to-the-face pnealty though.

-Jake Ceresna had a pressure and despite not seeing a ton of time, has been very disruptive every week. I hope they have a spot for him on the practice squad.

LINEBACKERS

-Rookie Oshane Ximines had a mini-breakout game. He recorded 2 sacks, the second of which he was untouched. He played crafty and efficient. The coaches are noting how far along he is with hand techniques and if the pass rush stalls at some point, he could end up being the feature guy – as early as week 1.

-Lorenzo Carter and Markus Golden played sparingly, not making much of an impact. Same with Kareem Martin who seems to be entrenched as the #3 guy, a role that is ideal for him.

-Alec Ogletree remained out with his calf injury, thus Ryan Connelly and Tae Davis got the starting nod again. Davis missed a tackle but also recorded a pressure on a well-timed and schemed blitz. His lack of size equally helps and hurts him, as does the athletic ability as he overshoots angles sometimes.

-Nate Stupar took a major step back in this game. He missed 4, yes 4, tackles. That is a number that is simply unacceptable for a linebacker. IF a decision needs to be made between him and B.J. Goodson, that’s an easy one if you are asking me. Goodson is showing he can, at least, still lay the lumber and be a reliable run defender. Stupar is a solid special teamer which I know the coaches love, but I don’t want him anywhere near the defense.

-Outstanding game for the LB that nobody is talking about, but everyone notices. Josiah Tauaefa led the team with 7 tackles and also recorded a sack. The knock on him coming out of college was a lack of speed but he is showing excellent reaction time and really good pursuit angles. He finishes what he starts too.

-Once again, don’t sleep on Jonathan Anderson. He had 2 tackles, including a TFL. I am thinking practice squad for him, especially if the team isn’t fully confident in Ogletree’s calf heading in to week 1. Those injuries can really linger.

CORNERBACKS

-Corey Ballentine got the starting nod with Deandre Baker and Antonio Hamilton missing the game with respective injuries. He was picked on early and often and also missed 2 tackles. The talent is there and we all know it, but there are some serious growing pains with him. He is late to recognize which is understandable but once teams get deep into scouting this defense, he will be a focal point. I look forward to seeing how he responds. He did stay aggressive all night and finished with 7 tackles and a TFL.

-Ronald Zamort and Terrell Sinkfield both allowed short touchdown passes. The latter was a result of poor footwork and too much concentration on his hands, something he was getting grilled for at practice last Monday. I don’t think either of these guys have a shot at making the team unless the injuries to Baker, Beal, and Hamilton are serious.

SAFETIES

-Jabrill Peppers was playing fired up again but that aggression hurt the defense as he bit hard on play-action and didn’t realize until it was too late that the CIN tight end got behind him. Dalton threw a perfect pass and it ended up putting 6 on the board for the bad guys. Other than that, he was solid across the board but those plays can’t happen.

-Kenny Ladler missed a tackle and gave up a long gain in the passing game, but on a play-to-play basis, I have been impressed with him this preseason. I think they have something in him. Sean Chandler recorded a sack and 2 tackles in addition to breaking up a pass. This coaching staff likes him a lot.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-P Johnny Towsend got 3 punts in while Riley Dixon got only one. I wonder if this has been an overlooked intra-team position battle.

-Brittan Golden got his opportunity to show what he has in the return game and he responded with a 68 yard touchdown but also muffed one that ended in a turnover.

3 STUDS

-QB Daniel Jones, OL Nick Gates, LB Josiah Tauaefa

3 DUDS

-LB Nate Stupar, WR Cody Latimer, OT Nate Solder

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

-One can easily make the argument that this preseason could not have gone any better for Daniel Jones. I agree that his command of the offense, his accuracy, and his toughness all have checks on the QB list. However, we are now looking at 3 fumbles in 3 games. He has to clean that up.

-Why not another week of Jones vs. Manning debate? Sorry to say it but we are going to hear this non-stop until it happens. Two thoughts I want to leave you with: What does Manning do that Jones cannot? And why does this team have to be losing, or out of the playoff picture, for Jones to take the job? Eli Manning took the job from Kurt Warner in 2004 when Big Blue was 5-4.

-I don’t think I can remember a year where so many rookies are in line to start OR be major pieces to the rotation puzzle on defense. Ryan Connelly, Dexter Lawrence, Deandre Baker, and Oshane Ximines are going to be starting or playing in serious game situations within the first few weeks, if not week 1. Is that an indictment of a lack of talent on the team? Or do we finally have a legit scouting staff running the personnel department?