Orleans Darkwa – © USA TODAY Sports Images
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Cincinnati Bengals 23 – New York Giants 10
It’s usually unwise to make too much of preseason games, particularly the first contest. Every year we see teams that look great in the preseason founder in the regular season and teams that look terrible go on to post-season glory.
But we have to evaluate what we have to work with, and there were not many positives coming out of the New York Giants initial preseason performance. The Giants were clearly out-classed and if this game was in fact a true indication of New York’s overall talent level, then the Giants are going to have a rough 2015 season.
But as bad as the Giants were on the field, the truly disappointing result was the rash of injuries to an already injury-plagued defensive backfield. Coming into the game, the Giants were missing cornerback Prince Amukamara (groin) and Chykie Brown (knee) and safety Nat Berhe (calf). Mykkele Thompson ruptured his Achilles’ tendon during the game and is done for the season. Safety Landon Collins (knee), cornerback Jayron Hosley (neck and possible concussion), and cornerback Trumaine McBride (hamstring) all left the contest and did not return. Collins will miss at least a couple of weeks of practice time he cannot afford to miss. The net effect was that the Giants were running out of defensive backs to put on the field in only their first preseason game.
As for the action on the field, the results were also not good. The Giants are still having problems in areas that sabotaged their 2014 season:
- While the run blocking wasn’t as bad as it first appeared, there were three negative plays by the first-team line on the two runs by Andre Williams and the 3rd-and-1 short-yardage play to Shane Vereen.
- The first-team defense looked dreadful both against the run and pass as the Cincinnati starters cut through them like butter.
- The Giants could not stop the run all night, allowing an unacceptable 225 rushing yards.
In a nutshell, the Giants had trouble moving the ball and the Bengals didn’t. The game was not as close as the somewhat lopsided score would indicate. The Giants got their asses kicked.
The Giants starting offense was so bad that Tom Coughlin kept quarterback Eli Manning and the starting offense in for four drives and the entire first quarter. In 15 plays, they only gained 38 yards and one first down. The first three drives were three-and-outs. The Giants did manage a touchdown drive in the second quarter with the first-team offensive line in the game with back-up skill position players, and then chipped in another field goal later in the quarter. But that was it. In the end, the Giants only gained a paltry 13 first downs and 118 passing yards. The team did rush for 106 yards, with Orleans Darkwa responsible for almost half of that production.
The Giants only passed for 118 net yards as New York never really threatened the Bengals deep. Everything was largely dink-and-dunk. The longest play was Ryan Nassib’s 28-yard throw to TE Jerome Cunningham. Eli Manning completed only 4-of-8 passes for 22 yards, with 16 of those coming on a screen pass, despite very good pass protection. Manning and RB Rashad Jennings didn’t sell a swing pass, leading to a 5-yard loss on the first drive. The play was too hurried. Manning was hurt by a couple of third-down drops by wideouts Rueben Randle and Preston Parker.
It was a disappointing night for Nassib (8-of-18 for 79 yards) who didn’t do much with his extended playing time. Nassib had pretty good pass protection, but he tended to take off with the ball quite a bit. He was also off-the-mark on way too many of this throws. Ricky Stanzi (3-of-7 for 34 yards) has no chance to make the team, but he didn’t really look all that bad. His stats would have looked better had wideouts James Jones and Justin Talley been able to keep both feet in-bounds. Stanzi also wasn’t helped by some shoddy late pass protection. Stanzi’s last fourth down throw into the end zone was right on the mark too, but Derrick Johnson couldn’t come down with the reception given the tight coverage.
The stats for the big three were disappointing as three of the six running plays were not well blocked: Rashad Jennings (2 carries for 14 yards), Shane Vereen (2 carries for 4 yards), and Andre Williams (2 carries for -2 yards). Williams did have a 16-yard gain on a screen pass and Jennings gained six yards on another pass.
The most productive player on the field for the Giants was Orleans Darkwa (9 carries for 52 yards and a touchdown), who ran with vision and power. The diminutive Akeem Hunt (3 carries for 18 yards) also flashed. The problem? Is there a roster spot for either? Darkwa did pretty well on blitz pick-ups while Hunt was late on one effort, causing Ryan Nassib to scramble out of the pocket.
Not a productive night. Odell Beckham played but wasn’t on the same page as Eli Manning on his only chance of the night. Rueben Randle (knee tendinitis) looked gimpy and did not have a catch. He dropped a 3rd-down back-shoulder throw and left after three snaps. Victor Cruz (knee) did not play. The leading receiver, Julian Talley (3 catches for 34 yards), is a long shot to make the team. He also couldn’t come down with one on-the-mark sideline throw from Stanzi. Dwayne Harris had one catch for 15 yards, James Jones two catches for 11 yards, Corey Washington one catch for eight yards, and Geremy Davis one catch for five yards. Washington did not distinguish himself despite a number of opportunities. Preston Parker dropped a third-down pass. Harris also dropped a pass. Jones couldn’t keep his feet in bounds on a well-thrown ball from Stanzi.
“I didn’t think our receivers played well,” said Tom Coughlin.
Other than Jerome Cunningham’s one catch for 28 yards to set up the team’s second-quarter field goal, the tight ends were really a non factor. Adrien Robinson is supposed to be this amazing athlete, but he looks very cumbersome to me. He had two catches for 12 yards. Larry Donnell was very quiet with one catch for five yards. Larry Donnell did not get a good block on the failed 3rd-and-1 running play early in the second quarter. I didn’t care for Adrien Robinson’s effort run blocking on one play in the third quarter that was stuffed.
The first-team offensive line did better than the media and fans thought they did. Pass protection was very solid. And although there were blocking mistakes on the two runs by Andre Williams, the run blocking was not as bad as it first appeared.
On the first possession, many blamed RT Marshall Newhouse for the 5-yard loss on the swing pass, but there was nothing Newhouse could do. Manning and Jennings didn’t sell the play and the defensive end simply reversed his field to make the tackle. On the second drive, RG John Jerry’s man blew into the backfield to nail Andre Williams (bad play #1). There was immediate pressure on Eli on second down but that’s because the Bengals didn’t bite on the play-action off a naked boot and the unblocked end was in Manning’s face. The Giants had good pass protection on third-and-long but there was miscommunication between Manning and Beckham.
The good news is that despite a face mask penalty on Ereck Flowers (bad play #2), he really didn’t look all that bad in his first real live action. On the play where he got the penalty, he grabbed at his man after being knocked off balance. On the next snap, Jerry did a nice job of engaging the middle linebacker on a draw play that picked up good yardage. On the next snap, all five offensive linemen provided excellent pass protection and followed that up with good protection on 3rd down, but Preston Parker dropped the ball.
On Eli’s fourth and last series, Weston Richburg’s man got past him and almost decapitated Andre Williams (bad play #3). The really disappointing moment was the failure to convert on 3rd-and-1 behind Newhouse and Jerry. However, it appears that Larry Donnell was the chief culprit in allowing penetration on that play.
Ironically, where the right side of the line had some issues run blocking was on the team’s best drive of the game, the TD drive in the second quarter. But Darkwa showed good vision navigating around penetration. Of the starters, Justin Pugh stood out as the guy didn’t make any mistakes. Flowers and Richburg each had one negative play. Jerry had a couple of issues in run blocking. Newhouse did not play as poorly as many say he did.
The second-team offensive line had some shaky moments, but played better than expected. That line was composed of Emmett Cleary at left tackle, Adam Gettis at left guard, Dallas Reynolds at center, Eric Herman at right guard, and Brandon Mosley at right tackle. The Giants best running play came with this group as they opened a big hole for Darkwa to gain 20 yards. But the drive stalled after back-to-back poor pass protection plays, first by Clearly and then by Mosley. On the next series, Mosley moved to right guard and Bobby Hart was inserted at right tackle. This group did an OK job in pass protection. The Giants later went back to Mosley at right tackle and Herman at right guard, but I thought Hart did a pretty good job at right tackle.
Late in the game, the Giants had Sean Donnelly at left tackle, Michael Bamiro at left guard, Brett Jones at center, Herman at right guard, and Hart back at right tackle. Herman gave up a couple of sacks late in the contest. His man got around him on the first and he couldn’t recover when Akeem Hunt got in the way. On the second, Herman failed to pick up the stunt.
Mosley and Donnelly were flagged with false starts and Gettis with a questionable holding penalty.
Growing pains under Steve Spagnulo’s new defensive scheme are to be expected, especially throughout the preseason and early regular season. But the Bengals starting offense ripped though the Giants starting defense in six plays for what was a far-too-easy touchdown drive on their first possession. Minus starting quarterback Andy Dalton, the Bengals also continued to move the ball against the starters on their second drive, resulting in a field goal and a quick 10-0 lead. There were issues in both pass and run defense. The second teamers gave up an 11-play, 80 yard touchdown drive in the second quarter too.
While the second- and third-teamers only held the Bengals reserves to six second-half points, Cincinnati didn’t have much trouble moving the ball after intermission either until reaching the red zone (they also missed a very short field goal). The mobile back-up quarterback gave the Giants problems with his legs and the Bengals called a lot of misdirection plays. The good news? This experience will help the young players.
It was interesting to see some early signs on how Spagnuolo will generate pass pressure in this defense. The blitz packages already look smoother and more professional than under Perry Fewell. They were not as easy to spot by the opposition and the quarterback took some shots.
The most damning statistic of the night was the defense allowing 225 yards rushing. You can’t win if you can’t stop the run. It’s also an indication that your team isn’t very tough and physical.
The Giants started off with Johnathan Hankins and Markus Kuhn at defensive tackle and Robert Ayers and Cullen Jenkins at defensive end. The coaching staff keeps talking up Kuhn but he’s not making any plays in games. He got pushed around far too often. Hankins had a decent pass rush on one play on the opening drive.
On the second series, things looked more natural with Ayers and George Selvie at defensive end and both of them blew up the first run. Selvie, who played right defensive end, also helped to stuff another run to his side. On the next snap, Ayers got immediate pressure in the quarterback’s face, leading to a clean-up sack by Jenkins and Damontre Moore. Jenkins pressured the quarterback off a stunt on third down on the next series, leading to a punt.
In the second quarter, Selvie and Kerry Wynn played defensive end. Wynn helped to stuff a run and then Selvie got a decent bull rush on the quarterback. Owamagbe Odighizuwa had a rough start at left defensive end when he was easily taken out of running play to his side that picked up good yardage. Damontre Moore also had some issues holding up at the point-of-attack at left end, but did make one nice play to his side that Jay Bromley helped to gum up. That said, Bromley and Kerry both got handled on the 2-yard touchdown run late in the second quarter.
What caused the most problems for the young defensive ends in the second half was misdirection. Wynn and Odighizuwa bit too hard on play fakes, opening up the perimeter. Bromley made some plays in the third quarter both defending the run and rushing the passer. Kenrick Ellis looked pretty stout inside and he helped to pressure the quarterback into a clean-up sack by Wynn and Cooper Taylor. (Ellis was also held on the play).
What was a bit troubling is that guys like Selvie and Moore were playing against back-ups in the third quarter and often were not getting enough pressure. That doesn’t bode well for when they have to up against NFL starters when the games count.
Jon Beason got beat by the tight end for a first down on the Bengals first offensive snap and then got effectively taken out on a run up the gut for another first down on the second play. Devon Kennard looked good at times in coverage and against the run, but he also got clobbered on one second-quarter running play to his side. J.T. Thomas was invisible.
Uani Unga flashed in run defense, but couldn’t make a play on the running back in space after a short catch, leading to a big gain down inside the 5-yard line. Jonathan Casillas did a nice job of reading screen and tackling the running back for a loss. Cole Farrand was easily blocked and also had some issues with misdirection. He disrupted one run by aggressively filling the gap at the line, but got caught too far inside on another run to his side. Tony Johnson made a nice tackle in the backfield in the fourth quarter.
Aside from cornerback Trevin Wade (who also got beat deep for 42 yards), there weren’t many positives. Landon Collins looked gimpy (probably the ankle he tweaked in practice) early and then lost valuable playing time by hurting his knee. Mykkele Thompson had a real shot to contribute this year and is now done for the season. Jayron Hosley was forced to leave the contest with a neck injury and possible concussion. Trumaine McBride also left with a hamstring issue that Coughlin said was troubling McBride before the game.
Hosley got beat for a first down by WR A.J. Green on the Bengals third offensive play. It looks like Bennett Jackson covered the wrong guy and left WR Mohamed Sanu wide open for the touchdown three plays later (Jeromy Miles looked late getting over to cover the guy Jackson covered too). Collins got beat over the middle by the tight end on the second series, but he was also picked by his own man (Hosley) on the play.
Jackson had good coverage on a second-down incomplete pass to a tight end. Cooper Taylor looked out of position on a 30-yard completion early in the third quarter.
Wade did get beat deep on one play but looked like the best corner on the field other than Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. He has a nose for the football, as indicated by a few pass defenses and an interception that he returned 61 yards late in the game. He almost had another interception early in the third quarter when he jumped another route but dropped the ball on what might have been a pick 6 opportunity.
Cornerback Chandler Fenner was picked on all evening and doesn’t look like an NFL-caliber player.
Josh Gordy looked good on a corner blitz that forced an incompletion but he was also flagged with a 30-yard pass interference penalty. He later batted down a third-down pass in the red zone. Late in the game, he missed the running back in the backfield on a blitz, leading to a 26-yard gain.
Justin Currie was active against the run.
Special Teams Overview
One of the best plays of the night for the Giants was Akeem Hunt’s 70-yard kickoff return. The Giants couldn’t get anything going with their punt returns. Josh Brown missed a 53-yard field goal but made a 41-yarder. Punt and kickoff return coverage was good.