-Daniel Jones did not dress, giving the start to Tyrod Taylor. He played just two drives (8 snaps), completing three of four passing attempts for seven yards and gaining another seven yards on the ground. There was not much to evaluate here and barring injury, there is no question he will be the unmatched number two this season. This game, at quarterback, was all about Tommy DeVito.
-DeVito, a North Jersey local, passed for 155 yards on 15/24 passing. He threw 1 touchdown, 1 interception, and was sacked 5 times. While the pass protection was poor overall, as we see often in preseason football across the league, I saw a couple of things I liked. First, DeVito improved in-game and moving through reads in a hurry. The All-22 tape told the story there. Progression to progression, layer to layer. Now, he did miss a few throws and early on his internal clock was too delayed. However, I like how he responded to a few big hits. He is a tough kid with sneaky athletic ability. He warrants the “let’s see more” label.
-Saquon Barkley did not dress and Matt Breida barely saw the field. Rookie Eric Gray and Jashaun Corbin saw the most snaps, but James Robinson got a few looks before them. He had an unimpressive 9 yards on 6 carries. It will be interesting to see how much his experience (and possible trustworthiness in pass protection) weighs when coaches knock the roster down. Gray and Corbin have a lot to prove before they can be relied upon. While their talent and youthfulness can make the decision look easy, the coaches need to trust they can get the job done outside of carrying the ball.
-Gray handled all return duties in addition to leading the position group in snaps. First, on offense, he lacked innovation and comfort to put himself off schedule when the Detroit front was owning the point of attack. I saw two carries where the cutback lane was there, Gray did not see it. He gained just 9 yards on 5 carries and added 2 catches for 10 yards. As a returner, Gray looked uncomfortable to say the least. But keep in mind, he barely did it in college and both of his punt return attempts in 2021 (the last time he did this in a game) resulted in muffs. My thought is they know he will not be the number two back right away (and he is competing for number three), thus they need to find other ways for him to contribute.
-Corbin looked more comfortable and ran with quicker tempo. It was easy to tell the difference between the two. His 33-yard run in the fourth quarter was the biggest play of the game for the NYG offense. Remember, this is an offensive scheme that produced the fourth best explosive rush percentage in the NFL last year. The play design (and Corbin’s tempo) was outstanding. When the execution is there, they will create big plays on the ground.
-The following receivers did not dress: Darius Slayton, Paris Campbell, Sterling Shepard, and Wan’Dale Robinson (PUP)
-With all of the hype from camp surrounding their first real deep threat in quite some time, Jalin Hyatt, I was hoping to see a long ball tossed his way at some point. It did not happen. His only target was a screen pass that ended up in a four-yard loss after he ran backwards. Two subtle observations on him. He did not line up in the slot at all (his primary spot in college). That is a good sign, it is too crowded in there for him. Second, his route running looks easy and smooth. He did struggle to fight through some cheap contact, but I was impressed by the joint fluidity from his hips down through the ankles. He came off the field so some of the fringe-guys could play more.
-To be blunt, I have no idea what the plan is at slot receiver. The two best NYG receivers were Cole Beasley (4 rec / 33 yards) and Jamison Crowder (2 rec / 32 yards). Between them and Shepard/Robinson, I simply cannot see a scenario where all of them are on this roster come week one. Beasley has the best route running and burst post-catch. He knows how to read a defender and can provide what Richie James did last season. Crowder stood out though. He has more presence against contact, and I trust his hands more. Perhaps they are just a hedge if there are physical issues with the guys mentioned above and I know they were matched up against backups. No need to get excited, but the floor is high with either of them.
-David Sills caught 2 passes for 36 yards, including a nice, contested catch for the biggest gain of the day for NYG via the air (22 yards). Mr. Reliable when it comes to backup roles, locker room presence, and familiarity. With all the competition at the position now, however, and the fact I expect to see Hyatt/Campbell outside, Sills is fighting uphill.
-Undrafted rookie Bryce Ford-Wheaton could end up challenging veteran Collin Johnson if the team wants more speed with the size. My guess is they both end up on the practice squad. The first NFL game action did not go well for him. He dropped a third down conversion pass, as he tried to body trap it for no reason. While he had some of the most impressive triangle numbers in the 2023 receiver draft class, his skill set (particularly ball skills) was bumpy. I also did not like some of the urgency / effort upon second look at the tape with some of his routes. He is straight line fast, but he is not very sudden. He needs to improve where he can as a route runner. The little things matter.
-Both Darren Waller and Daniel Bellinger did not dress. Expect to see NYG rank top seven in the league in 12 personnel (2 tight ends / 1 back) if they stay healthy.
-The battle for the number three job is Tommy Sweeney’s to lose, another North Jersey local. He scored the lone touchdown of the night on a 14-yard pass from DeVito. I keyed in on his blocking more than anything because that is where his biggest contributions will come. The NYG offense has struggled here for awhile. With Bellinger entering year two and the presence of Sweeney, I expect an uptick in impact. He did a nice job in the running game, but he did allow a pressure in pass protection.
-Undrafted rookie Ryan Jones is an interesting practice squad candidate. He had a 10-yard reception, 5 of which came after the catch with an impressive, sudden burst upfield. I had a draftable grade on Jones out of East Carolina. The 6’1/240 body simply does not fit at receiver of tight end. Can this scheme find a role for him? He can create. Among all tight ends in FBS last season, Jones ranked third in missed tackles forced. More than Sam LaPorta, more than Michael Mayer, more than Brock Bowers. On less catches.
-If there was a negative takeaway from the game itself, it came from the backup offensive linemen, specifically outside. Before that causes a panic, you’ll find the same from over 25 other teams in the league. The lack in supply of quality backup offensive linemen in the NFL is one of the most glaring deficits. Andrew Thomas, Mark Glowinski, and Evan Neal (concussion) did not play. Backup Tyre Phillips did not play either.
-We can start with the positive. Rookie center John Michael Schmitz did have two bad losses, one of which resulted in a tackle for loss, but his overall performance was solid. His transitions and ability to stay attached proved how much movement he can get in the running game. Creating creases on multiple levels in the middle of the defense for a back like Barkley will be a difference maker. Is he overly strong and powerful? Detroit rookie defensive tackle did not think so. Is overly fast and agile? The Detroit linebackers did not think so. But the intelligence, technique, and smoothness to his footwork can get the most out of what he has. I was encouraged by his first pro action, and I expect him to start week one.
-The next best takeaway from the game was Shane Lemieux, who came in at left guard in the second half. There is open competition between Joshua Ezeudu and Ben Bredeson (the leader in my eyes) at left guard. Did we push Lemieux out of the picture too soon? The game tape says yes. He was excellent and was the best at staying latched on with good positioning and bend. Most of his issues have been health related.
-The nightmare we saw at tackle was alarming. Wyatt Davis at right tackle absolutely cannot be a potential solution. This is an odd experiment to me. Davis played 1,707 snaps in college. All 1,707 of them were at right guard. He has one career snap at right tackle as a pro. One. I cannot imagine he is a credible candidate for a backup tackle spot and the 2-sack, 3-pressure, 2-penalty performance on just 27 snaps is about as bad as it gets. He was not even close to competitive. Fellow backup hopeful Korey Cunningham was not much better. He led the offense in snaps played, splitting time between both sides of the line, and allowed 2 sacks and 4 pressures. Lastly, Matt Peart (hanging on for dear life) allowed a pressure and was torched in the running game. The speed of the NFL is too much for him and I am afraid to say the same issues we saw with his fluidity as a rookie are still there. The Giants have a problem (possibly a significant one) at backup tackle.
-With the position group thinner than most want to believe, the trio of Kayvon Thibodeaux, Azeez Ojulari, and Jihad Ward all sat this one out.
-There is room for another edge defender, and it looks like it could end up being a close competition over the next two weeks with a possible solution currently on the street. The leader in the clubhouse if we are using this game only? Habakkuk Baldonado. Something about this franchise and names that are hard to pronounce on the edge. He had a 2 pressures and the team’s only sack. There was a nice string of plays in the fourth quarter where he sacked Adrian Martinez (canceled out by a questionable roughing penalty), just to record another one two plays later. The wins were technique and bend-based, both good signs.
-Tomon Fox hit the quarterback twice on 14 pass rush attempts, the first one aiding in the interception by Jason Pinnock. His power game has always been effective, and I have to think the defensive coaching staff (especially one led by Martindale) wants that behind the starters.
-Tashawn Bower and Oshane Ximines both graded out well. Ximines hit the quarterback twice but was beat on the edge in the running game twice. The fact we have seen him play a lot of football leaves out at least some potential hope, but I am interested to see how he responds to multiple guys on his level. Bower played a better, more well-rounded game against second/third stringers. He finished with 5 tackles, 1 TFL, and 2 pressures. This guy came into the league in 2017 from LSU. He has stuck around quite impressively and performs his best in hybrid fronts. I can’t say I’ve seen a fifth-year backup that has already been on four teams fight for a spot at such an important position. They see something in him.
-Inside is where the nucleus of this defense resides. I spoke of this a few times last year and I am glad that not only did both Dexter Lawrence and Leonard Williams return, but the A’Shawn Robinson and Rakeem Nunez-Roches signings give them such a strong spike in depth. None of the four played in this game.
-Rookie seventh rounder Jordon Riley played 43 snaps, third most on the defense. Ironically, I just got done watching two of 2022 Oregon defensive tapes for some 2024 NFL Draft work. Never thought I’d be watching three games of Riley’s within two days. The body is pro-caliber and when his leverage is on point, the upper body lockout and push can get the job done. This is a massive frame with good enough bend and forward lean to turn into a stout run defender. While I don’t think there is much to work with as a pass rusher, D.J. Davidson better realize his roster spot may not be there for long. Riley had a couple of ugly losses (again, stemmed from pad level) where he was trampled by a double team. But the one stop where he helped stuff the run after peeling off the block displayed what he can do at his size. There is real talent here on a frame that stands out.
– The trio of Donovan Jeter, Kobe Smith, and Brandin Bryant will likely produce one or two guys for the practice squad. Based on this game tape alone, Smith is the one that I am intrigued by the most. He has some penetrating skills from the 3-tech spot (where he played most of the night) and that is an area I think could use another body.
-The biggest free agency addition Bobby Okereke did not play, nor did Darrian Beavers.
-Micah McFadden got the start next to the versatile special teamer Carter Coughlin. Both are what they are until I see otherwise. Smart and physical but limited in space with minimal passing game impact.
-If there was a winner of the night from the position, it was Dyontae Johnson, an undrafted rookie. All of his action came against backups, and we see linebackers/safeties make plenty of tackles and impressive plays against the run with each preseason game. Johnson’s question will be like what we saw out of Tae Crowder. Can he make faster reads, and will he get off blockers? He did not look fluid in coverage either.
-Adoree’ Jackson did not dress for the game, as he remains one of the most important players on this team because there isn’t anything trustworthy behind him yet. In even better news, they did not have him return any punts either.
-Speaking of behind Jackson on the depth chart, the chatter is rightfully positive surrounding their two draft picks. First rounder Deonte Banks and sixth rounder Tre Hawkins got the starting nods on the outside. Take where they were selected out, and it was hard to see who the better player was. Hawkins really has started on the right foot and Banks showed the speed traits we know this team was hot after draft weekend. In this man-heavy scheme, both looked at home. Banks can clean up his ball location and Hawkins was a late to anticipate routes (more so in zone), but a very positive first look for both.
-Cor’Dale Flott and Darnay Holmes are going to be battling it out for the nickel spot, I think. Part of it could depend on the team’s plans for the first rounder Banks. Both Holmes and Flott saw most of their snaps inside and by this time, we know what Holmes is. If you can live with the inevitable penalties, he is a solid option. Watching Flott’s footwork and recovery speed with such little wasted motion was encouraging. He is undoubtedly more “natural” at covering receivers than Holmes.
-The fringe guys at the position need to be worried. The likes of Rodarius Williams and Zyon Gilbert are going to have a hard time making this team. Even former Lion Amari Oruwariye looked slow in pursuit after losing leverage on a crossing route. Aaron Robinson on the PUP will help one of their causes, but I also would not rule out another free agent being signed after preseason (like how they brought in Fabian Moreau and Nick McCloud last season).
-Xavier McKinney and Nick McCloud both did not play. I’m not sure how high the staff really is on McCloud, but these other safeties are making a name for themselves.
-If there was one position group that “won” the intra-roster position battle, it was right here. On just FIVE snaps, Jason Pinnock broke up two passes, intercepting one and breaking up a third down attempt on the other, and had a TFL. Talk about impact. There was not a single defender that played less than him, but he was the group’s top playmaker. He is an ascending player.
-Beyond him, it stayed strong. Undrafted rookie Alex Cook led the team with 7 tackles, 2 of which were near the line of scrimmage. Seventh round rookie Gervarrius Owens broke up a pass and added 2 tackles. His break up was a result of a fast read and react that had a break on the ball start before it was thrown. His size complements his game well.
-Bobby McCain is the closest thing to Julian Love this team has right now. While he does not (and the defense does not) need to fill those shoes the exact way Love did, McCain played multiple spots in the secondary and looked fast. He had 5 tackles and brings a physical brand. He is not as big and does not tackle like Love did, but this tape showed the quick reactions and ability to both close and cover in multiple forms.
-I hope nobody is overlooking Dane Belton. He added 2 tackles and an interception. The 2022 team leader in interceptions (along with Love) saw his share of ups and downs as a rookie, but now healthy and with a year under his belt, I would bet he is a huge part of the plans for the defense. I cannot remember a time with such a deep and versatile safety group on one NYG roster. This gives them such advantages week to week based on matchups.
K Graham Gano: 2/2 (Made 42, 47).
P Jamie Gillan: 5 punts / 47.6 avg – 28.2 net
-S Jason Pinnock, CB Deonte Banks, OG Shane Lemieux
-WR Bryce Ford Wheaton, OT Wyatt Davis, OT Korey Cunningham
3 THOUGHTS ON DET
1. Remember the name Ben Johnson. At this time next year, he will be a Head Coach in the NFL. The Offensive Coordinator for Detroit is just 37 years old and when it comes to getting the most out of personnel, there may not have been a more economic play caller in the league than him last season. Unless he falls apart in 2023, he will be the next young offensive-minded hire in the league. Washington seems like a real possibility to me, unfortunately. He has a few connections to that front office.
2. In the same breath, Detroit will not sneak up on anyone this season. And I question how smart the construction process of the roster was this past offseason. Running backs Jamaal Williams and DeAndre Swift? Gone. Wide receiver Jameson Williams is suspended 6 games. They are going to rely on a rookie tight end (odds are this will not work well) after trading T.J. Hockenson away last summer. Jared Goff has hit a peak and come crashing down a year later before. Can he create enough with the questions they have in the passing game?
3. Detroit is the hot pick to win the NFC North. We all know Minnesota was not near what their record said they were last season. Aaron Rodgers is finally out of Green Bay. Chicago was the second worst team in football last year. I believe the NFC North will be as close as any divisional race in football. I’m not ready to anoint the Lions yet, however. It’s been 20 years (!) since they won the North. The fact remains, this team was 3-6 against teams with winning records last year. They were 30th against the run. Their pass rush ranked 25th. They allowed the most first downs per game in the NFL. A few free agent signings won’t change all of that. I am keeping them in the 8-9 to 9-8 tier.
1. The rule of preseason football: Do not react strong to anything (besides injuries). These games almost never mean anything at the end of the day. They can confirm a few things (like the thin offensive line) but they will not answer nearly as much as people think. Watch some new players, start to take in their skill sets, and check for surprises. Do not make the mistake of over-thinking a rookie (good or bad). They still have such a long way to go.
2. Someone asked me what position group excites me the most. Right now, it is the secondary (little cheating there, I know). Between the group of safeties that credibly goes six-deep (maybe seven) along with some promising young guys on the perimeter has to get you amped up. That is how a defense can win games, and with a pass rush, I expect the Giants to be top half of the league. We are not even close to the best version of defensive football under this new regime. They are going to be fun to watch.
3. What are the improvements or changes we want to see from preseason game one to game two? Personally, I would like to see Hyatt more involved. They need to try and script a couple deep shots to him so they can see how he tracks the ball, fights for it, and plays the body position game in real live situations. Defensively, seeing a few different personnel packages on third down would be my next thing. Whether the starters play or not isn’t as important. I want to see some of the edge guys shift inside, some of the defensive backs come up on the edge, and some of the inside linebackers blitz. Nobody plays as aggressive as Martindale and watching the Jets get home against Carolina in week one preseason opens the door for NYG to do the same.