The next era of NYG football took another big step. After a couple weeks of training camp which inevitably led to a team-wide brawl on Monday, the Giants took a road trip up to Foxborough to take on the Patriots. The former employer of current NYG Head Coach Brian Daboll against the current employer of last year’s NYG Head Coach Joe Judge. If preseason football had more juice, this would be quite the storyline. Instead, the two-time Super Bowl opponents marched into the first inter-squad scrimmage of the year with two entirely different approaches. The Giants, coming off a 4-13 season and working with its fourth Head Coach in 7 years against the Patriots, coming off a 10-7 season and working with the same Head Coach since 2000. The Giants, marching out all but just three starters, against the Patriots, who opted to keep the vast majority of their starters off the field.
Daniel Jones, officially in a contract year after new General Manager Joe Schoen declined the option on the fourth-year quarterback from Duke, played the first two series of the night. He looked sharp, both mentally and physically. The offense was on the field for 19 plays, and it gained a total of 87 yards while scoring 3 points. When it comes to production, especially against backups, that is not anything to write home about. The positives were enough to give them a pass, however. The pass blocking created a pocket several times, Saquon Barkley was used in space the way many have been calling for since 2019, and Jones himself looked decisive.
The rest of the night belonged to the backups. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor played the entire second quarter, which included a touchdown scoring drive, ending on a pass from Taylor to Richie James. NYG led 10-7 at the half before more of the 3rd- and 4th-string players on both squads came in. The NYG offense was led by Davis Webb and rookie Bailey Zappe was handling the snaps for New England.
The Patriots’ initial second half drive resulted in a touchdown run by rookie running back Kevin Harris. NYG responded on the very next drive after a 34-yard kick return combined with a 15-yard personal foul face mask penalty by NE to start at midfield. Nine plays later, Antonio Williams crossed the goal line on a 2-yard score, giving them a 17-14 lead over New England. Sound familiar?
The fourth quarter scoring began with a 40-yard field goal by Graham Gano to make it a six-point lead. After the two offenses traded punts, NE marched into the red zone via an equal blend of passing and rushing. On 3rd-and-10, Zappe hit Lil’Jordan Humphrey for a touchdown on one of his several downfield passes up the sideline, most of which did not connect, but this one did. NE had a 21-20 lead with under 5 minutes remaining.
The backup NYG running backs had a great night and it was capped off on this final drive. They accrued 62 of the team’s 79 yards gained on a drive that brought them all the way down to the NE 6-yard line. NYG was able to bleed out the clock and kick a short field goal through the uprights as time expired.
NYG wins, 23-21.
Daniel Jones: 6/10 – 69 yards / 80.8 RAT / 1 att – 6 yards
There was not much to take away from just two offensive drives led by Jones. I expected to see him for 2-3 drives, not much more. The only thing I look for here is avoiding mistakes, and that is exactly what Jones did. He got the ball out, or tucked and ran, quickly. He was accurate and could have possibly had a touchdown had Kenny Golladay not dropped a pass in front of the goal line.
Tyrod Taylor: 13/21 – 129 yards / 1 TD / 95.1 RAT / 1 att – 2 yards
Taylor essentially only played 1 quarter but played just one less snap than Davis Webb who played the entire second half. He started off red hot 10/12, but then went 3/9 from there. This is by far the best backup QB the Giants have had since…dare I say Hostetler? I loved his different release points and the ultra-quick release. He did hit a struggle point after his hot start, but overall, a very reassuring performance from the backup.
Davis Webb: 8/16 – 51 yards / 57.0 RAT
Webb moves and throws more like the backups we have watched here in recent years. He did help engineer the game winning drive and I am in the camp that believes those moments do mean something, no matter the opponent. He was 3-of-4 for 32 yards on that drive.
-This was overall the most impressive position group on the team. Let’s start with the backups. Antonio Williams averaged 6.8 yards on 9 carries. Gary Brightwell averaged 5.7 yards on 7 carries. Sergio Platzgummer averaged 7 yards on 3 carries. Jashaun Corbin averaged 3.8 yards on 6 carries, and they all combined for 8 catches on 10 targets. The common theme between all of them? They ran hard, aggressively, and got downhill in a hurry. This builds off what I have been seeing a camp. A truly physical running game with coaches who emphasize getting to the line of scrimmage in a hurry behind a line that gets a solid initial push.
-Matt Breida did not play. Saquon Barkley got 5 touches (4 rush / 1 catch) for a total of 21 yards. The highlight play was his 3rd-down conversion reception that saw him matched up on an island against a linebacker in coverage. Great play design, great route, soft hands. We need to see more of this. This kid that had 91 catches as a rookie. If the names above can take some of the physical downhill running off Barkley’s plate, he could be a 100+ reception asset and he does his best work in space.
-Collin Johnson led the group with 7 catches for 82 yards. He is a clear favorite of Taylor, something I have seen at camp as well. His body has changed for the better and his showing more short area twitch than what we saw a year ago. He clearly has put in the work. Give me Johnson at $895,000 cap number (0.43% of cap) over Kenny Golladay and his $21 million cap number (10% of cap) any day. Speaking of Golladay, he had a drop near the goal line and showed zero separation down the field.
-Richie James is a spark plug who continues to make splash plays. He had 44 yards on 3 catches which included the biggest gain of the night for the offense (26 yards) and a touchdown. He is the leader in the clubhouse for the 6th receiver if they keep that many.
-Keelan Doss had 2 drops, a bit of a surprise as he has shown great hands at camp. Also, another guy who struggled to separate.
-Darius Slayton was higher up on the depth chart than expected. I really think this coaching staff is testing him in every way possible to see how he responds. In addition, he is a player who some teams could be interested in via the trade market. It is easier to showcase him with a 1st string offense.
-Rookie Daniel Bellinger and fourth-year veteran Chris Myarick each caught a ball. Both were below average as blockers. Bellinger was flagged for a hold and allowed a pressure while Myarick allowed a sack. I don’t want to be too hard on this crew yet, but they are not doing well at the point-of-attack as run blockers. We’ve seen worse, but there are going to be better tight ends available after rosters get cut down. Bellinger did make a couple of nice blocks on the move, so that was a positive.
-The starters were on the field for 2 drives, but Andrew Thomas came off after one. Overall, the group controlled the point-of-attack (against backups) and stayed on their man. Rookie Evan Neal had the most inconsistent night. Get used to that. His balance problems are going to be an issue against some of the pros he faces off against. He also allowed 2 pressures. On one play, he did not see the inside blitz quickly enough. On another, it caused a sack. The positive was the push he got in the running game and how easy it was to pass protect when his balance was there. He looks unmovable from the defender’s perspective.
-The standout backup was center Ben Bredeson. I thought his power presence stemming from his hands and hip extension made a big difference in the NYG running game. Rookie Josh Ezeudu was my next highest grade among backups. If Shane Lemieux is out for extended time, I think there is a real shot he ends up being a starter. The league’s track record with two Week One starters on the offensive line is not a strong one, but his game looks very developed. He showed some recovery techniques that I almost never see from day three picks early in their careers. He knows what he is doing, but there was and will be inconsistency that will cause plus-plays for the defense (he allowed a pressure and a TFL).
-I did not like what I saw out of Garrett McGhinn. He allowed 2 pressures and was beat in the run game multiple times. I’ll take Will Holden over him in a heartbeat. Max Garcia looks like he hasn’t gotten his foot speed yet. He looked faster last year but there is value in guy who has started recently (11 starts for ARI in ’21).
-Uneventful night for Kayvon Thibodeaux. He had a few pass rush opportunities that did not evolve into anything. He will be very reliant on his initial burst this season. Nothing wrong with that, but the power from his hand fighting and lack of lower body strength could make him disappear at times in a way we saw last night. That said, he barely played.
-Elerson Smith had a pressure that nearly resulted in a safety (the refs missed the intentional grounding call) and Quincy Roche had a pressure. Besides them, we didn’t see much from Oshane Ximines or Tomon Fox.
-We did not see Leonard Williams, as the team kept him out. Justin Ellis also didn’t play. Dexter Lawrence was on the field for 5 plays.
-The most impressive backup was rookie D.J. Davidson. He is an absolute boulder who shows both the power capacity and technique to anchor against the double team. He has stood out to me a few times at camp, and I think we are going to see him play this year. There isn’t much there as a pass rusher but the value of a 2-gap nose tackle in this scheme is huge.
-Jalyn Holmes led the group in snaps and had a pressure along with 2 tackles. Chris Hinton and David Moa struggled off the ball and did not make an impact on the passing game. I’m not sure I see the fit for them on the 53.
-With Blake Martinez being held out, rookie Darian Beavers got the start. He was all over the field against both the run and pass, as he is already being used exactly the way I envisioned when he was drafted. Big enough to rush the passer as an upfield threat, quick enough to cover backs in man coverage, and physical enough to make his presence known on contact. After a missed tackle on the first drive, he finished with 3 tackles including one for a loss.
-Austin Calitro had the play of the game on a pass he deflected into the air before coming down with it himself for an interception in the fourth quarter. This turned into 3 points for the Giants.
-Rookie Micah McFadden tied for the team lead 4 tackles. His greatest strength was put on display multiple times. He is incredibly quick and savvy downhill against blockers. He has a way of missing them and maneuvering his way to the football with his eyes and chest up, ready to pounce.
-Aaron Robinson was attacked in coverage early on. NE tested him deep including two straight deep balls down the sideline. He was beat once for a completion and another resulted in an incomplete pass. I was more interested to re-watch from a technique perspective. His recognition was solid, but his transition from backpedal-to-run had a couple of extra steps. The catch-up speed and ease-to-acceleration were a bit worrisome. Robinson is indeed fast enough to cover on an island, but that transition needs to be cleaner. He allowed a touchdown and was flagged for holding (which was declined) later on. Rookie Cor’Dale Flott, who played with the backups, was a clear example of how a smooth transition can cover that route up with ease. I liked what I saw out of Flott both in coverage and against the run. He plays aggressively, but also with smooth quickness and speed. I can already see the plus-body control on all angles here.
-The backup situation may end up being worrisome. This team is an injury or two away from marching out guys that just can’t play yet. Zyon Gilbert allowed a touchdown as he continues to struggle to locate the ball on vertical routes. Darren Evans was flagged for a hold and got beat downfield for a big play. Both look the part and both are undrafted rookies. I won’t look down on them at all, but in regard to the 2022 squad, it would be nice to have another veteran in front of them. I think this is another spot to look at when cuts start happening.
-Xavier McKinney was on the field for just 5 plays, which I am fine with. I think he is the most, or the second most, important defender on the team. Julian Love saw 14 snaps, thus the backups got plenty of action.
-Rookie undrafted free agents Yusuf Corker and Trenton Thompson both made standout plays as downhill defenders. Thompson had a sack and Corker made a stuff at the line of scrimmage. Both are aggressive and fast when going after the run.
-Andrew Adams looks like the clear number three safety on this team. His deep range in coverage was good to see in their Cover 1 looks and he also made a run stop at the line of scrimmage.
K Graham Gano: 3/3 (Made 25, 40, 24)
P Jamie Gillian: 4 punts / 48.8 avg / 35.5 net
-LB Darian Beavers, RB Jashaun Corbin, OC Ben Bredeson
-OT Garrett McGhinn, CB Darren Evans, WR Keelan Doss
3 THOUGHTS ON NE
1. I can’t remember a time where such an established franchise has gone this deep into the preseason without clarity on their offensive play-calling. Joe Judge, who has made his money as a special teams coach and failed miserably as a head coach, and Matt Patricia, who has made his money as a defensive coach and failed miserable as a head coach are sharing duties here? Bill Belichick is the greatest coach of all time, but even he is not an offensive guy in an era where modern offense has taken over the game. Incredibly bizarre situation in NE.
2. Running back James White just retired a few days ago. He missed 14 games last season and has seen his snap count decrease year by year since 2018. I don’t view this as a big factor for the team, but his role does need to be replaced. They had a hard time doing so in 2021 and their leading pass catcher out of the backfield, Brandon Bolden, signed with the Raiders. J.J. Taylor has always been on my scope since his days at Arizona, but he has just 5 career catches and 42 career carries in his two seasons. This will be the best opportunity he has had to date.
3. The number one goal of the Patriots offseason was to add speed on defense. Because of the enormous money they spent in the 2021 offseason, they had to get creative with it. Most of notable additions they made in that department were rookies. They’ve always done a nice job of taking traits and adding value to their system, but they lost so much veteran talent this year and much of their hope will be on mid-round draft picks from the past 2 years who haven’t shown a thing yet. I project them to finish in 4th place in the AFC East.
3 THOUGHTS ON NYG
1. My biggest takeaway from the combination of being at camp and then watching this game was the aggressive running style this offense is going to deploy. It was refreshing to watch. Less dancing around, more hitting the point-of-attack with bad intentions to create via physical force rather than dancing around hoping a crease opens up. Yes, the OL will need to get their job done, but the overall mindset and play design is going to create more positive plays, less tackles for loss. Step one to improving the bottom-tier offense is avoiding negative net gain plays.
2. There is not a QB controversy in NY. Jones is the unquestionable guy, as he should be. One more shot on a rookie contract, and in his defense, this will be the first time he is in a credible offensive system and this is likely to be the best OL he has played behind. That said, it is incredibly refreshing to see a backup quarterback who is not only better than most in that role across the league (rather than worse than all of them), but a guy who could really come in and bring a similar level of play. Do not forget, Taylor has a winning record in the NFL, and he has not exactly played on the best teams in the league.
3. As Joe Schoen stated in his interview, the pro personnel staff will have their hands full in the coming weeks. There are a couple positions on this team that will likely add a piece once the rosters get cut down. If you are watching any preseason football outside of NYG, I would keep a close eye on tight ends, safeties, and nickel corners.
As I say every year, don’t be the guy or girl with strong reactions in any direction after a preseason game. Hope for no serious injuries, watch the young guys and bubble players, and look for progress week-to-week. This is the time you want to see mistakes so we can see how a player responds. It is a huge part of player development. This roster already appears to be at a higher level than a year ago and it truly is a very young roster with a lot of quality players on their rookie contracts. The coaching staff looks more plugged in with modern football and there will be more cohesion all around. Real evaluation can come when these guys play a half of football against starters.