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Russell Shepard, New York Giants (August 8, 2019)

Russell Shepard – © USA TODAY Sports

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New York Giants 31 – New York Jets 22

QUICK RECAP

After a busy offseason filled with drama stemming from the trade of star receiver Odell Beckham and the selection of a quarterback at number 6 overall, it was finally time to get down to the important, objective things. Real football against another team. The Giants began their live action against their November 10th opponent, the cross-town rival New York Jets. With several players sitting out because of either protection or injuries or both, this game had a very “backup” feel to it. However these games are the most important part of the evaluation process when it comes to roster decisions. No matter who is on the field or what is going on, there are always multiple players and situations to keep a keen eye on.

The Jets started with the ball and, quite easily, marched down the field for the game’s first score. A Sam Darnold pass to his brand new toy, slot receiver Jamison Crowder, on the drive’s seventh play put Gang Green up 6-0, missing the extra point because of an errant kick by Chandler Catanzaro, his first of two on the night. Eli Manning got one whole drive with the first team offense; a drive that lasted three plays and 4 total yards. The night was clearly planned for the rookie Daniel Jones and his inauguration to NFL game action, and he didn’t disappoint. The first completion of his (preseason) career landed in the hands of Cody Latimer, a simple 5-yard slant to the right side. He then proceeded to fire near-perfect throw after near-perfect throw four more times, the last of which ended up in the hands of Bennie Fowler in the end zone for 6. The night could not have gone better for Jones, albeit in limited action. The storm clouds rolled in and put the game on delay for about an hour, and Head Coach Pat Shurmur decided that Jones had enough for the night.

Alex Tanney came out of the rain delay and hit Russell Shepard on a quick slant to the right and he took it from there. A broken tackle and a foot race, which he won with ease, resulted in a 51-ard touchdown that put the Giants up 14-6. The Jets answered with a touchdown drive of their own, with a Deandre Baker 26-yard pass interference on third down being a key play. Trevor Siemian hit running back Elijah McGuire in the right flat for the score. The two teams traded field goals to end the half and Big Blue led 17-15.

After a shortened halftime (5 minutes), the two teams went scoreless on their first drives respectively. Former Giants 3rd round pick Davis Webb came out for the Jets and threw an interception to, as Pat Shurmur puts it, “the fan favorite within the team” Jake Carlock. Carlock returned it for a 59-yard score and the team absolutely erupted on the sideline like we haven’t seen in quite some time. Webb came back on the next drive and, you guessed it, threw another pick. This time it landed in the arms of Corey Ballentine, the late round draft pick who was shot the same weekend he heard his name called by the Giants. This kid is going to be one of the better stories in the NFL before long, not everyone knows it just yet.

The Giants led 24-15 heading in to the fourth quarter and Kyle Lauletta was now getting his shot to prove he should be the number three guy on the depth chart. He, along with several backup quarterbacks around the league on opening night, put together a solid performance of his own. His highlight of the night was a 31-yard, back-shoulder throw to T.J. Jones for a touchdown. NYG had a commanding 31-15 lead with just over 7:30 left on the clock. Luke Falk, who Adam Gase signed after his former team (MIA) claimed him off waivers last fall, led the longest drive of the night. A 15-play, 7:17 series that ended with a 2-yard touchdown pass to Greg Dortch, one of the hot names coming out of Jets camp. This, too, was a toss and catch to the right flat (the third one of the night, more on that later).

Giants knelt on the ball with just a few seconds left and walked away with victory number one on the season.

Giants win 31-22.

QUARTERBACKS

-Daniel Jones: 5/5 – 67 yards – 1 TD – 0 INT. This all transpired in one drive and while you won’t hear me overreacting to anything in preseason, it couldn’t have started better. Two key things I see with him on the positive side were accurate ball placement and the athletic/quick release. I am not going to get in to comparing him and Manning just yet, but simply there are things a young, quick-twitched thrower can do that a 15-year veteran cannot.

-Alex Tanney: 14/19 – 190 yards – 1 TD – 0 INT. Tanney played over 50% of the team’s offensive snaps. Shurmur has been touting this kid every opportunity he gets and from the two times I have seen him in practice in combination with tonight’s game, there is something to be happy about. Crisp release and a tight ball, Tanney made a couple big time throws. He can really put some zip on it when he needs to.

-Kyle Lauletta: 9/12 – 116 yards – 1 TD – 0 INT. Gun to my head, Lauletta will be the odd man out when all is said and done after the preseason but he isn’t going to make the decision easy. He kept himself in the conversation with a couple of nicely placed balls, showing accuracy short, intermediate, and long. Job well done for him.

RUNNING BACKS

-Wayne Gallman: 5 att – 13 yards. Personally I don’t think there is any intra-team competition going on for the backup job behind Barkley (who didn’t play). Gallman was on the field for under 20% of the snaps and didn’t really have an opportunity to get going.

-Paul Perkins: 4 att – 9 yards / 2 rec – 8 yards / 1 fumble lost. After missing all of 2018 with a pec injury, the forgotten man (who was this team’s number one back at the start of 2017) had a rough first night back. He continued to show a lack of ability to break tackles, he dropped a pass and most importantly, fumbled the ball that eventually resulted in 3 points for the Jets. The one positive was effective pass protection.

-Rod Smith: 6 att – 12 yards. Nothing stood out from Smith in the game. He is a load and can push the pile, but he looks stiff and lethargic in traffic.

-Jon Hilliman: 2 rec – 16 yards. Hilliman took a nasty helmet-to-knee hit that ended his night early. He didn’t get a ton of time but the coaches have touted him after practice a couple times and I have always liked his north-south mentality. He doesn’t waste time and there is some pop behind his pads. I think there is a chance he can win the number three job.

WIDE RECEIVERS

-The competition for the backup spots will really be something to watch. Alonzo Russell (1 rec – 39 yards) looks like he is the best of the bunch. The sizable, long-strider got behind the defense a couple times but keeps on double-catching the ball. A possession receiver needs to have reliable hands and I am not sold on that aspect of his game yet. Local kid Reggie White, Jr. caught all 4 of his targets for 60 yards, including the best catch of the night where he dove near the sidelines and fully extended for the ball. He has my attention.

-Coaches love veterans because of how reliable they are when it comes to decision-making. Russell Shepard is a step below when it comes to talent compared to some of the younger guys, but his routes are crisp and he rarely drops the ball. His 59-yard touchdown was all him, as he broke up field the instant he grabbed the ball which gave him the angle advantage to burst upfield and outrun the Jets secondary. Cody Latimer and Bennie Fowler also offer the veteran presence this team may need at some point. They combined for 4 catches – 56 yards – 1 TD.

-However the name that is continuing to appear on the positive side of the reports is T.J. Jones. He was targeted 6 times and ended with 6 catches for 72 yards, including a 31-yard touchdown pass where he made a great adjustment to the back shoulder with 2 defenders bearing down on him. Jones is playing hungry. The fact he handled all 3 punt returns for NYG strengthens the notion he is a likely candidate to make this team.

TIGHT ENDS

-With Evan Engram on the sideline, Scott Simonson and Rhett Ellison ran with the first and second string. Simonson made solid contact as a blocker. I can tell he added some power to the arsenal. Ellison continued his important, but quiet role with the team. He knows what he is doing out there and plays good assignment football.

-I am interested to see this C.J. Conrad vs. Garrett Dickerson competition should NYG want to keep a fourth tight end. Conrad caught a couple short passes, continuing his “easy hands” outlook and Dickerson caught one himself. There is more speed and twitch to his game.

OFFENSIVE LINE

-Nate Solder and Mike Remmers started on the outside with Will Hernandez, Jon Halapio, and Kevin Zeitler manning the inside. That will be the starting five week 1 and it is going to be the best group they have had in a long time. They were on the field for just 11 plays. Solder got pushed around by NYJ linemen Quinnen Williams and Nate Shepherd on a couple of occasions, but other than that I don’t have anything negative to say. I look forward to seeing their snaps increase in the coming weeks.

-Backup tackles Nick Gates and Victor Salako got a lot of playing time, as the second stringers (Chad Wheeler and Brian Mihalik) were sideline with minor injuries.. Gates had a rough night, as he allowed 1 pressure, 1 TFL, and was penalized two times. He is a hustler downfield and plays with a violent style though, but I think he is best suited inside. Salako’s length is a weapon he continues to learn how to use, notably in pass protection. The footwork and balance looks choppy but he had a quiet night, in a good way.

-The interior backups struggled to get a push in the running game. Center Spencer Pulley allowed a TFL, 2 pressures, and was constantly making the backs adjust their initial rushing plans. I don’t think there is a competition for the OC job, Halapio is head and shoulders better. Evan Brown and Chad Slade stood out in pass protection when it came to their anchor in the ground and sticking with their assignments on deep drop backs.

EDGE

-Lorenzo Carter seems to have jumped over Kareem Martin on the depth chart. He and Markus Golden were on the field for 13 snaps. Carter’s offseason of bulk addition while maintaining his speed and explosion is something I discussed last week and I think he is the one guy that could bring this pass rush to the next level. He recorded a TFL. I will be looking for some improvement on post-engagement work from Golden next week.

-Jake Carlock, this year’s energizer bunny, intercepted a pass a returned it for a touchdown. He also recorded 2 tackles and a sack in just 13 plays. He is fighting an uphill battle to make this team but I’ll say this, multiple coaches are going out of their way to praise him, the teammates visibly feed off his energy, and now he is making plays. The pass-rush skill set still has a ways to go when it comes to his technique, but keep on eye on him.

-Oshane Ximines is going to be a part of the edge-rushing arsenal as a rookie, no question. I question the power and pure burst to the edge, but he knows what to do. He can get off contact and his ability to play low while turning the edge can give some blockers a handful. I don’t see big production coming right away, but he can hang.

DEFENSIVE LINE

-Dexter Lawrence started off as an inside defender. On two occasions he was washed out by a blocker coming from his outside shoulder. In college he was big and powerful enough to take those unexpected hits and still hold his ground. Not up here. He will need to work on play-reading and awareness. However, in his limited action, it is easy to see how much space he is going to free up for others. Dalvin Tomlinson and B.J. Hill saw a handful of snaps and got into the backfield a couple times. Tomlinson looked quick and assertive, I think we are going to see more attacking-style football from him.

-John Jenkins had a solid game. His pad level gets sloppy but he makes plays and disrupts action at the point-of-attack. He batted a pass down and recorded a TFL.

-Roster hopefuls Terrence Fede and R.J. McIntosh were athletic and aggressive. Fede recorded a sack and McIntosh was pursuing in space like an oversized defensive end. 2018 was a washout for him because of medical reasons. I am glad to see him out there and able to work on the skill set because his tools are there.

-7th rounder Chris Slayton is going to be a factor in 2019. The crowded DL will make it tough for him to get on the field initially, but I think his ability to penetrate and locate the action is a weapon. He recorded a TFL.

LINEBACKERS

-Alec Ogletree started with Tae Davis. Davis is never going to win a lot of battles with the OL, but his speed and quickness created a lot in this game. He recorded 5 tackles, including 1 TFL where he snuck through a window and cut the angle of the back to the line beautifully.

-The most competition he has for snaps inside? Rookie Ryan Connelly, who may have had the most impressive night of all the team’s defenders. He finished with 5 tackles and was solid in coverage. When you look for quality LB play, most of it comes from instincts and being around the action. That is what I saw out of Connelly all night. Nothing seemed too fast for him. Looking forward to seeing more.

-B.J. Goodson was in with the 3rd stringers. Him and Jonathan Anderson are stout and physical. The question stems from ability in coverage and the ability to stay healthy. They combined for 7 tackles with Anderson also forcing a fumble. Goodson lost a match-up with slot WR Greg Dortch near the end zone which resulted in a touchdown.

CORNERBACKS

-Rookie Deandre Baker started along with Janoris Jenkins. Baker looks like a pro right now, as I think the learning curve with him is going to be minimal. Shurmur uses the word “gamer” when describing him and I couldn’t agree more, as I used that same description in his college scouting report. He was flagged for a deep pass interference, however.

-The main focus of the position was Corey Ballentine. After seeing him in practice a few times and just being impressed by the tool set, I wanted to see what carried over in to the game. While he did get flagged for a downfield pass interference, the ability is still jumping off the screen. He had a wide receiver-caliber interception at the hands of Davis Webb. He attacked the ball with his hands and came down with it. Really impressive play.

SAFETIES

-Jabrill Peppers dropped an interception on the first drive of the game. It was a great defensive play with a solid read and the catch would have been highlight-reel caliber.

-Julian Love started and ranked 3rd on the team in snaps played. He is playing a hybrid nickel/safety role it looks like. He finished with 3 tackles and a pass break up. He lost leverage on the first NYJ touchdown and one could make the argument that the result was on him.

-Kenny Ladler is making his presence felt with a physical presence coming downfield. He made three really nice hits that jarred the ball carrier backward. That is one barometer I look for in a tackler when determining how physical they are; can they knock them back? Ladler passed that test multiple times.

-I watched the All-22, the view from the end zone, and the safeties were solid in deep coverage all night.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-Aldrick Rosas hit a chip shot 23 yard field goal. Punters Riley Dixon and Ryan Anderson shared punting duties.

-Ballentine returned a kick for 40 yards, yet another avenue to get this kid on the active game day roster. T.J. Jones handled 3 punts and totaled 6 yards in return.

3 STUDS

-QB Daniel Jones, OLB Jake Carlock, WR T.J. Jones

3 DUDS

-OC Spencer Pulley, OT Nick Gates, RB Paul Perkins

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

-One of the most common plays teams around the league will use when near the end zone is stacking multiple receivers on one side, use an unofficial pick-play, and quickly throw the ball in to the flat. Very hard play to defend. Misdirection combined with quick releases can make it look impossible for defenses to communicate quickly enough. NYJ scored all three of their touchdowns on similar patterns. With the inexperience at CB with Baker and S with Love, you can bet that will be noted by future opponents.

-Obviously coaches need to be guarded with what they say to the media. But I do find it odd that Shurmur will not openly commit to Manning being the number one guy when it comes to regular season play. This guy’s livelihood is on the line and there is a part of me that thinks Jones can be in the mix for week 1 more than some think. Odds are Eli is the guy, I know. But I don’t think the 100% commitment has been made yet.

-I was hoping to see more out of Nate Solder. He got a bit of a pass with me in 2018 because of the ongoing neck issue that quietly hampered him. However he doesn’t play nearly as powerful as he looks. It almost looks like the natural leverage disadvantage he has with his height is enabling him to get pushed around. The OL looks to be much improved, but we’ve seen around the league that if the LT is a weak link, it can destroy a passing game.

Aug 082019
 
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Daniel Jones, New York Giants (August 8, 2019)

Daniel Jones – © USA TODAY Sports

NEW YORK GIANTS 31 – NEW YORK JETS 22…
The New York Giants soundly defeated the New York Jets 31-22 in the first preseason game of the year for both teams. The game was elongated by a 60-minute, first-half storm delay. But the three back-up quarterbacks on the Giants shined, cumulatively completing 28-of-36 passes for 373 yards and three touchdowns. Running back Saquon Barkley and tight end Evan Engram were healthy scratches from the contest.

The game started off poorly for the Giants with the Jets’ first-team offense easily driving the length of the field, going 75 yards in seven plays for a touchdown (the extra point was missed). Safety Jabrill Peppers had a chance to stop the drive early but a potential interception sailed through his hands. The Giants’ offense followed that up with a disappointing three-and-out by the starting offense, led by quarterback Eli Manning.

The game began to turn after those first two series. The Giants’ defense forced a three-and-out against back-up quarterback Trevor Siemian of the Jets. On the Giants’ second offensive possession, quarterback Daniel Jones took over and impressively drove the Giants for a touchdown with pinpoint passing, going 5-of-5 for 67 yards. The drive culminated with a 12-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Bennie Fowler. Giants 7 – Jets 6.

The Giants’ defense then forced another three-and-out. But before Jones could come back on the field, the game was delayed 60 minutes due to the weather. When the teams finally returned to the field, both teams sat their starters and important reserves because of the delay. Jones was done for the night.

Alex Tanney took over at quarterback for the Giants and promptly led the team to its second scoring drive. Tanney threw a 14-yard completion to wide receiver T.J. Jones on 3rd-and-10. Two plays later, he connected with wide receiver Russell Shepard on a 51-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown. Giants 14 – Jets 6.

The Jets responded with an 11-play, 75-yard drive that ended with a 7-yard touchdown pass on 4th-and-1 to cut the score to 14-12 (the extra point was missed again). After both teams exchanged punts, running back Paul Perkins fumbled the ball away at the Giants’ 16-yard line after a short completion. The Jets converted this turnover into a 34-yard field goal and a 15-14 lead.

With 1:41 left before halftime, Tanney led the Giants on an 8-play, 70-yard drive to set up a 23-yard field goal. At the half, the Giants led 17-15.

Much of the 3rd quarter was taken up by two Giants’ and one Jets’ drive that did not result in points. With about 4:30 left in the quarter, linebacker Jake Carlock batted a pass from ex-Giants’ quarterback Davis Webb, intercepted his own deflection, and returned the pick for a 59-yard touchdown. Giants 24 – Jets 15.

Cornerback Corey Ballentine made an excellent leaping interception on the next series. After an exchange of punts, quarterback Kyle Lauletta led the Giants on a 10-play, 86-yard drive in the 4th quarter that ended with a 31-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver T.J. Jones. Lauletta made two crucial 3rd-down completions on this drive before the touchdown on 3rd-and-7. Giants 31 – Jets 15.

The final Jets’ score came in garbage time, with the Jets driving 75 yards in 15 plays.

On offense, Manning finished 1-of-1 for 3 yards, Jones 5-of-5 for 67 yards and a touchdown, Tanney 14-of-19 for 190 yards and a touchdown, and Lauletta 9-of-12 for 116 yards and a touchdown. The leading receivers were T.J. Jones with 6 catches for 72 yards and Reggie White, Jr. with 4 catches for 60 yards. Giants’ running backs only rushed for 24 yards.

Defensively, the Giants picked off two passes. They also had two sacks but had issues rushing the passer.

Video highlights are available at Giants.com.

INJURY REPORT…
WR Sterling Shepard (thumb), WR Darius Slayton (hamstring), WR Brittan Golden (groin), WR Amba Etta-Tawo (hamstring), OT Chad Wheeler (back), OT Brian Mihalik (burner), OT George Asafo-Adjei (concussion), LB Avery Moss (hip flexor), CB Grant Haley (shoulder), CB Antonio Hamilton (groin), and CB Sam Beal (hamstring) did not play.

RB Jon Hilliman left the game with a concussion.

POST-GAME REACTION…
Transcripts and video clips of post-game media sessions with Head Coach Pat Shurmur and the following players are available in The Corner Forum and at Giants.com:

WHAT’S UP NEXT…
Head Coach Pat Shurmur will address the media by conference call on Friday. The players are off on Saturday and return to training camp practice on Sunday.

ARTICLES…

Aug 072019
 
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Evan Engram, New York Giants (December 30, 2018)

Evan Engram – © USA TODAY Sports

Preseason Game Preview: New York Jets at New York Giants, August 8, 2019

THE STORYLINE:
A year ago, it was just becoming more transparent that Dave Gettleman and Pat Shurmur intended to completely overturn the roster. But the level of roster gutting and transformation in just a year and a half has been truly startling. Even “foundation” draft picks such as Odell Beckham, Jr., Landon Collins, Eli Apple, and Ereck Flowers are gone as well as expensive free agent acquisitions Damon Harrison and Olivier Vernon. Hardly anyone is left from just two seasons ago.

What’s clear is that Gettleman and Shurmur didn’t like the way the old team was put together, both in terms of talent (or lack thereof) and personality. On paper, the Giants have gotten bigger and more physical up front on both sides of the ball. For the first time in almost a decade, there is an air of competency on the offensive line with the veteran additions of Nate Solder, Kevin Zeitler, and Mike Remmers, plus the drafting of Will Hernandez. While there remain concerns about the pass rush, few teams can field an imposing trio on the defensive line such as B.J. Hill, Dalvin Tomlinson, and Dexter Lawrence. Aside from B.J. Goodson and Janoris Jenkins, the linebacking corps and secondary has been completely replaced.

The Giants are going old school. They will run the football and stop the run. The passing game is likely to focus on play-action and the short- to intermediate-game. The defense will be young and will have to grow up quickly for the team to surprise.

We all know what the last element to the complete transition will be: the handing off of the reins to Daniel Jones. As long as the Giants remain in the playoff hunt, Eli Manning is likely to remain the starter. But if this team falls out of contention again by October or November, it won’t make much sense to prolong the inevitable.

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

  • WR Sterling Shepard (thumb)
  • WR Darius Slayton (hamstring)
  • WR Brittan Golden (groin)
  • OT Chad Wheeler (back)
  • OT Brian Mihalik (burner)
  • OT George Asafo-Adjei (concussion)
  • LB Avery Moss (unknown)
  • CB Grant Haley (shoulder)
  • CB Sam Beal (hamstring)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
I say the same thing every year: the first preseason game is usually nothing more than a glorified scrimmage. Don’t place too much emphasis – either bad or good – on the outcome. Some starters will not play, and those that do won’t play long. Personally, I wouldn’t even dress Saquon Barkley. And this team is a much different animal without Saquon in the lineup. The Giants have been easing both offensive tackles, Nate Solder and Mike Remmers, into service since both are coming off of offseason surgery. The bad news for the entire back-up offense is that the top two-back tackles – Brian Mihalik and Chad Wheeler – are out. So is George Asafo-Adjei, who is probably the next best guy. The Jets should feast on third teamers much of the night. I’d be shocked if the offense looks sharp. Daniel Jones will probably have flashbacks to his University of Duke days, running for his life. New York Jets’ Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams tends treat the preseason like the playoffs and will probably be gunning for bear.

All eyes will be on Jones. I hope the back-up line can give him something of a ground game and buy him some time, but I doubt it. The Giants will be forced to play some second- and third-string guards at tackle. What I will be looking at is his presence, poise, and arm strength, particularly on throws outside the hashmarks. If it is a constant jailbreak up front, it will be difficult to get a good read on him. Alex Tanney and Kyle Lauletta may be in the same boat. I will tell you this… I’d be tempted to sit Eli Manning in the first game just so Daniel Jones can have his initial reps behind the starting unit. Eli doesn’t really need to play in this game.

Giants’ fans know the top two wide receivers will be Sterling Shepard (broken thumb) and Golden Tate (possible 4-game suspension). It is assumed by most that Bennie Fowler, Cody Latimer, Russell Shepard, Alonzo Russell, T.J. Jones, and Da’Mari Scott are journeymen and castoffs on one of the worst wide-receiving units in the NFL. They may be right. At the same time, each of these guys has flashed during practices. Could a guy like Fowler or Jones surprise everyone? Rookie Darius Slayton won’t play, but Reggie White, Jr. has flashed at times.

The Giants need Evan Engram to stay healthy and produce this year like he did late last season. Behind him, Rhett Ellison is steady but unspectacular. Much of my focus will be on Scott Simonson and C.J. Conrad since both may be better suited as true tight ends in a run-first offense. I still think the Giants will carry four tight ends this year.

Given the state of the back-up offensive line, the back-up running backs will probably suffer a similar fate as the back-up quarterbacks in this game. That said, there is a good battle brewing behind Saquon Barkley between Wayne Gallman, Paul Perkins, and Rod Smith. All three are not guaranteed to make the roster and all are fighting to be the primary back-up.

On the line, I’m not sure what the Giants will do after the starters leave the game. Undrafted rookie Paul Adams may see the bulk of the action at left tackle. With three other back-up tackles out, no-name guards will have to be shifted outside. Giants fans will be saying to themselves, “Who the heck are Victor Salako, Evan Brown, Nick Gates, and Chad Slade?!?”

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
For good reason, the Giants’ hierarchy has blown up the team’s defense. Not only did the team shift to a completely different 3-4 scheme in 2018, but almost all of the pre-2018 players are gone. All three levels of the defense have been almost completely revamped. The main challenge here is the learning curve. This is a very young defense with many new component parts. Cohesion and chemistry will be lacking. In a league where one mental mistake can easily lead to a long touchdown, the Giants will need the youth to grow up quickly.

On the defensive line, it was assumed that Dexter Lawrence would be the team’s new nose tackle. While Lawrence may see snaps at that spot, it appears James Bettcher would prefer to have B.J. Hill and Lawrence outside in the 3- and 5-technique spots with Dalvin Tomlinson playing the nose. Teams should have trouble running on these three as long as the linebackers and defensive backs maintain their gap responsibilities. Hill surprised with his pass rush last year and if he can build upon that, that would be huge in terms of addressing pass rush concerns. What will be fascinating to see is if Dexter Lawrence can provide any sort of pass-rush presence. He’s probably the only 340-pound “defensive end” in the League. There is not much depth behind these three with only six other players on the current training camp roster. I will be focusing much attention on back-ups R.J. McIntosh and Olsen Pierre. The Giants also need to decide if John Jenkins or Chris Slayton is the better back-up nose tackle candidate. Overall, my hope is that Lawrence-Tomlinson-Hill provide more inside bull-rush/quickness pressure than most teams are accustomed to and press the pocket up the gut and/or free others to take advantage of the chaos they cause.

All eyes will be focused on the outside edge rushers, particularly Lorenzo Carter, Markus Golden, and Oshane Ximines. If the Giants can’t get a pass rush out of two or three of these guys, they will likely be in trouble. Golden has done it before, but has to prove he is past his torn ACL. Carter has earned good reviews in camp, but he has to prove it when the games count. Ximines is the wild card. Inside, it appears that Bettcher has officially delineated between a typical “inside linebacker” and “money backer” – with both being formally identified on the team’s depth chart. The starting insider linebacker is Alec Ogletree with B.J. Goodson backing him up. Bettcher wants more of a linebacker/safety hybrid at the other spot, hence Tae Davis appears to have the starting nod with rookie Ryan Connelly backing him up. Whatever they decide to do, the Giants have been unable to cover tight ends down the middle for almost a decade now. And that’s scary considering Philadelphia is still in the division. Enough is enough.

Wow, did the Giants change the secondary in the offseason! Last year, it was Janoris Jenkins, Landon Collins, and a host of journeymen no-names. Enter Deandre Baker, Julian Love, Corey Ballentine, Jabrill Peppers, and Antoine Bethea. Also factor in Sam Beal, who spent his rookie season on IR. Now the Giants have three new starters, including both safeties. One gets the sense that Bettcher wants Peppers to be the centerpiece of his defense. The coaches quickly gave Baker the starting job in the spring. Love has been spending time both at back-up nickel corner and safety. One of the stars of training camp is Ballentine, who may press for serious playing time. This unit has mix of veterans (Jenkins, Bethea, and Thomas) and green-as-grass youth. It will be interesting to see them develop. Potentially, the Giants could be set in the secondary for many years. But 2019 will likely be a year of growing pains.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
We’ve heard virtually nothing about how Pro Bowl kicker Aldrick Rosas has done in training camp. Let’s hope that 2018 was the start of a wonderful career and not a fluke. Riley Dixon is facing competition from Ryan Anderson. Is it serious?

Losing Corey Coleman for the year was a big blow to the return game. Right now, Cody Latimer, T.J. Jones, and Corey Ballentine are listed as the kickoff returners. Ballentine had success in college returning kickoffs.

In two NFL seasons, Jabrill Peppers has returned 55 punts with seven fumbles (a fumble every eight times he touches the ball). He had better clean that up if Shurmur really wants him to be the primary punt returner. In addition, while his 7.3 yards per return is respectable, I’m not sure it justifies the risk of having him return punts unless he starts breaking more. Golden Tate and T.J. Jones are also both listed as punt returners. Jones has averaged 9.2 yards per punt return in four seasons. Tate really hasn’t done much punt returning since 2015.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Head Coach Pat Shurmur on the first preseason game: “The guys that are playing in this game, we want to see them block, tackle, run, throw, catch, all of the things. It’s going to be less about match-ups and more about execution from that standpoint… There are some healthy guys that have been practicing that you may not see Thursday. ”

THE FINAL WORD:
I think this team will be more fun to watch this year. I just don’t think we’ll see it on Thursday night.

Aug 282018
 
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Ray-Ray Armstrong, New York Giants (August 24, 2018)

Ray-Ray Armstrong – © USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants 22 – New York Jets 16

QUICK RECAP

Week 3 of the preseason is usually perceived to be the closest thing to a real game as we will see before kickoff weekend. Eli Manning was back on the field and played preseason-high 34 snaps, but his star playmakers Odell Beckham and Saquon Barkley remained on the sidelines. The Jets on the other hand, sent out their shiny new toy, rookie Sam Darnold, as the starting quarterback as the team tries to figure out what to do at the position week 1.

The Jets took control of the game early, using an 11-play drive to put up their first 7 points of the night via a Bilal Powell touchdown run. After a back and forth exchange that left with NYG winning the field position battle, Hunter Sharp returned a punt for a 55 yard touchdown. It was a precursor for how poorly the Jets’ special teams would play the rest of the night, an ongoing problem for the team so far this preseason.

The Jets then took the lead back early in the second quarter on a Darnold pass to newly signed Terrelle Pryor. This was after a red zone fumble by NYG veteran Jonathan Stewart, whom has had a nightmare-ish start to his career with Big Blue. NYG then settled down and scored on their next four drives, all field goals off the foot of Aldrick Rosas, the clear front-runner for the job. The Jets continued to shoot themselves in the foot with penalties and mental mistakes. NYG took a 19-13 lead into halftime.

Backups dominated the playing time from there on out, as the two teams struggled to string together long drives. It wasn’t until halfway through the fourth quarter where the Jets had a 7+ play drive, as Teddy Bridgewater continued to impress. They were able to get it within 6, but the Giants held off their cross-town rivals 22-16 for the win.

QUARTERBACKS

Eli Manning: 17/23 – 188 yards – 0 TD/0 INT. After sitting out last week in Detroit, Manning was back on the field for what is likely to be his last full dress rehearsal. It was the best version of Manning we have seen in quite some time. Comfortable and confident in the pocket, accurate on all levels, and able to spread it around. The lack of Jets pass rush ability helped, but Manning made some big throws that gave me assurance for this year. He still has it. He did under throw the deep balls a tad, but nothing to be alarmed about. He really does remind me of his brother, Peyton, late in his career with DEN. He may not be able to adjust quickly on the move and he won’t drive the ball downfield like he used to, but he is more than capable of getting the job done.

Davis Webb: 5/11 – 73 yards – 0 TD/0 INT. Webb was in for about a third of the offensive plays. He did get some action against the first team Jets defense. He didn’t do anything to hurt or help himself too much. Very nice touch throw to Russell Shepard on a 3rd and 12 but he also held onto the ball too long in the pocket which resulted in a sack. When Webb has everything lined up, he really is an attractive thrower. It could be much worse when it comes to the backup QBs in this league.

RUNNING BACKS

Jonathan Stewart: 3 att – -7 yards – 0 TD. That isn’t a typo, Stewart finished with negative seven yards. He also fumbled inside the NYJ 10-yard line that Leonard Williams almost returned for a touchdown. I don’t want to write him off after poor preseason performances (10 carries for -5 yards) but he is moving like he has cinderblocks attached to his feet. Lethargic and unable.

Wayne Gallman: 11 att – 23 yards / 4 rec – 19 yards. Gallman continues to impress with his quickness, vision, and explosion. He also had a couple nice blitz pickups in pass protection. There was a stretch in the 3rd quarter where he touched the ball 7 out of 8 plays. He really does have the versatility to be a factor in any kind of situation. Some backup RBs in the league are valuable in only specific situations, but Gallman can bring a lot of options to this offense in any situation.

Juhrell Pressley – 13 att / 71 yards. Signed earlier in the week, Pressley stepped on the field in a NYG uniform for the first time and impressed. I think there is one, maybe even two, spots on the depth chart available at RB. Pressley runs bigger than his size and showed impressive vision and decision making in his debut. I expect him to get a lot of touches in week 4.

WIDE RECEIVERS

-Sterling Shepard: 7 rec / 78 yards. I’ll say this right now. If Shepard stays healthy this year, he is going to produce, big time. The attention to detail he shows as a route runner combined with his top-tier quick twitch and stop/go explosion is as dangerous as any slot receiver in the NFL. And yes, I mean that. He made a couple of high-level catches, showing improved ball skills and ability in traffic.

-Cody Latimer: 1 Rec / 54 yards. Latimer hasn’t been used much in preseason, but he took in the longest play of the night via a deep ball from Manning. He really blew by Morris Claiborne and if Eli put that just a little further downfield, it would have been a TD.

-I am still holding onto the idea that Russell Shepard is going to make this team as the number four or five receiver. His experience in the slot and outside gives him the needed versatility and he is a factor on special teams as gunner. In addition, he made another tough catch for a first down in the 3rd quarter that I simply don’t think the other potential backups could have made. Hunter Sharp continues to struggle with drops and despite impressive athletic and return ability; he may be playing his way out of a job. He did return a punt for a touchdown though. Alonzo Russell brought in a 47 yard catch, displaying size and strength. Roger Lewis continues to show why he is near the bottom of the depth chart.

TIGHT END

-Evan Engram: 3 rec / 23 yards. His night was short, as on the 5th drive he was sandwiched between two Jets defenders and was popped in the head. He left the game with a concussion for the second year in a row. Like Shepard, Engram is going to be as tough a matchup as there is at the position on 3rd downs. Losing him for any time would be devastating.

-Rhett Ellison also left the game early with migraine issues, opening the door for Jerell Adams and Scott Simonson. Adams was the second most targeted receiver on the night, finishing with 3 catches and 12 yards. Simonson’s avenue to make this team is via blocking, but he didn’t grade out well in this one. He allowed a sack and two tackles. Adams may get this number three spot by default unless someone shakes free during cut down period around the league.

OFFENSIVE LINE

-Great night for the left side of the line, especially in pass protection. Nate Solder neutralized everything that was sent his way. Will Hernandez had quiet night (other than a holding penalty) in a good way and looks more comfortable than he did the previous two weeks. With a rookie that is likely to start week 1, that is all you can ask for.

-Ereck Flowers wasn’t matched up against any plus-pass rushers but he did a fine job. He allowed 1 pressure. Patrick Omameh continues to struggle, he just seems heavy and delayed off the snap. He struggled moving to his left, allowing 2 pressures and a tackle for loss. I haven’t seen anything that makes me think he deserves the starting job hands down other than a lack of intra-team competition.

-Another position that may need further examining is center. Brett Jones outplayed Jon Halapio, more notably in the run game. We know that Jones struggles in pass protection and he isn’t one of the new regime’s “guys”, but I trust him more than Halapio. Better movement off the ball and a more consistent level of play. (Note: This was written PRIOR to the trade).

-Chad Wheeler has not taken a step forward this year. His footwork is very poor even though he carries plus-athleticism. He is playing way too off balanced and top heavy. Nick Becton, on the other hand, continues to progress.

EDGE

-Kerry Wynn continues to be the MVP of preseason football. He recorded another sack, a tackle for loss, and 2 QB pressures. He is bringing the heat from all angles against different kinds of blockers. The versatility he brings is huge.

-Olivier Vernon and Kareem Martin both had quiet nights despite playing half the snaps. Martin needs to be a rotational player and if he ends up being one of the feature guys, this pass rush is in trouble. He doesn’t jump the snap and his adjustments take too long.

-Lorenzo Carter doesn’t seem ready for impact play, but I do like how disciplined he is with his techniques and the mental side of the game. It’s important players follow the progression of learning the scheme, consistently do things right, then catch up to the speed of the game. His athleticism is there, but it is going to take time for him to play fast and strong. He finished with a half-sack and 2 assisted tackles.

-Are Avery Moss and Romeo Okwara competing for a last edge spot on this team? If so, I think Okwara wins because he has more inside-outside versatility and brings more upside to the table as an athlete. Moss moved well post-snap, but he doesn’t adjust to blockers with enough power. Weak hands and gets pushed back against the run too easily.

DEFENSIVE TACKLES

-Damon Harrison pushed the Jets’ interior blockers where he wanted. He has been shutting down the opposing running games each week and I expect to see more of the same. Not only does he have superior physical presence, but he plays smart. His first step post-snap are almost always productive in that he reads the action instantly.

-Fellow starters Dalvin Tomlinson and rookie B.J. Hill had solid nights as well. More of the same from these two. Tomlinson was a little more active, finishing with a TFL and knockdown. If he is going to be more than a solid player, his pass rush repertoire needs to lengthen. Not looking down on him at all here; he is going to be a part of a very stout run defense. But what he does against the pass right now is limited.

-Josh Mauro had an active night. He has looked better and better each week and it will be adding fuel to the fire on this defensive line when he comes back after his suspension. He finished with 4 tackles, a half sack, and a knockdown. I can’t say this enough, he along with fellow backup Robert Thomas are going to make this defensive front one of the best run defending groups in the league.

LINEBACKERS

-Alec Ogletree finished with 3 tackles, 1 for a loss. He wasn’t tested in coverage much. B.J. Goodson was, however, and he just can’t hang in space with receivers that are crossing the field. I don’t expect him to run with those guys, but he hasn’t showed the anticipation that is needed.

-This brings me to a thought I have had for a couple weeks. After another impressive showing by Ray-Ray Armstrong, is there a chance he takes a hold of that starting spot at some point? He is a much better athlete and his progress as a run defender continues to stand out. He has been making good reads and working his way through traffic, two things he struggled with last year. I think there is more flexibility with Armstrong than there is with Goodson. Something to look for.

-Mark Herzlich and Tae Davis got a lot of action in the second half. Herzlich has been quietly effective. He does a lot of dirty work but he has also been covering a lot of ground in coverage. He was excellent in zone defense.

CORNERBACKS

-Eli Apple saw a lot of playing time, leading the team in snaps. He had an up and down night, recording a pass break up but also getting flagged for holding. The handsy-corner has been showing more of the same. Impressive ability and interesting potential but he just can’t seem to put together a quality game from start to finish. B.W. Webb allowed the Jets touchdown pass on a crossing route to Terrelle Pryor. Just late to read and couldn’t catch up.

-Donte Deayon saw his first action of the preseason. He finished with 4 tackles but also missed one in space. I like the heart he plays with, but he just gets pushed around too much and I think he will be a liability as a tackler. In an aggressive scheme where you will see a lot of 1-on-1 matchups with the corners, that worries me.

SAFETIES

-Landon Collins is playing with great lateral range. Think of this run defense clogging the middle with their line then Collins going unblocked to the sidelines. Just another reason why I think this defense will be elite against the run which will be important in this division.

-Curtis Riley appears to have the spot locked up next to Collins. The hamstring injury to Darian Thompson continues to keep him off the field and Andrew Adams doesn’t appear to be in the running. Michael Thomas is a fine rotational player who will be a factor on special teams. He is tough and productive in the box. Do any of these guys make plays against deep passing? That is another fear I have with this defense that lacks a superior pass rush.

SPECIALISTS

-K Aldrick Rosas: 4/4 (Made 48, 40, 27, 21). Rosas has been getting the opportunities and passing with flying colors. If he can maintain his consistency, I bet he ends up being one of the highest scoring kickers in the league.

-K Marshall Koehn: 1/1 (Made 44). Nice security blanket to have but as long as Rosas is kicking them straight, Koehn won’t be here in a couple weeks.

-P Riley Dixon: 5 punts – 41.0 avg / 33.3 net. Had a few opportunities to pin them tight but he put 2 in the end zone.

3 STUDS

-WR Sterling Shepard, DE Kerry Wynn, K Aldrick Rosas

3 DUDS

-OG Patrick Omameh, OLB Kareem Martin, RB Jonathan Stewart

3 THOUGHTS ON NYJ

-The commentators said this a couple time on Friday and I am sure a few more will repeat it during the season. The Darnold vs. Barkley debate is going to be a thing for their entire careers respectively. I hate that, personally. Two different systems and situations. Two different positions. Regardless, Darnold has gotten a lot of playing time in these first 3 weeks of preseason and nothing has made me think he would have been a better pick than Barkley.

-The Jets may be historically bad when it comes to the pass rush. I’m not only judging their preseason performance here, either. Their personnel, or lack thereof, really stands out. Combine that with a scheme that is overly reliant on blitzing to bring 5+ defenders to the passer, it is just a recipe for a disaster.

-When QB Teddy Bridgewater was coming out of Louisville, I didn’t have the franchise QB grade on him. Good college player and a great intangibles kid, but I didn’t see it. To me, the glaring weakness was a lack of physical presence and a body type that screamed injuries. I still feel that way even though he has had a few nice preseason performances against backups. I think he is an easy kid to root for, thus it sways the overall view on him as a QB.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

-Speaking of the poor NYJ pass rush, I was really pleased with the pocket Eli Manning had to work with. When his confidence and assurance is there, he looks like he has more than enough left in the tank. Give him this Shurmur offense that can take advantage of Manning’s mental capacity and pass-versatility, I think this is going to be the best NYG offense we have seen in a long time.

-Three weeks of preseason football and I still think the OC/RG situation has a ways to go in terms of being figured out. The trading of Brett Jones to MIN has all but handed the job to Halapio with John Greco as the primary backup, but as previously mentioned I think that job should still be very much up in the air. And we may have to go back to John Jerry at RG if Omameh doesn’t step it up.

-The next biggest worry of this team resides in the defensive backfield. If the pass rush doesn’t generate a lot of pressure to a point where the QB needs to rush through progressions, I’m just not confident this team can cover. The LBs have been getting torched in the middle of the field, Eli Apple appears to the same thing we have watched in recent years, and the group of below average cover men behind him won’t scare anyone.

Aug 252018
 
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Hunter Sharp, New York Giants (August 24, 2018)

Hunter Sharp – © USA TODAY Sports

NEW YORK GIANTS 22 – NEW YORK JETS 16…
The New York Giants defeated the New York Jets 22-16 in their annual third preseason game match-up on Friday night at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Giants improved their preseason record to 2-1.

The Giants out-gained the Jets in total net yards (344 to 240), net yards rushing (87 to 66), and net yards passing (257 to 174). Two key differences in the game were penalties and special teams return yardage. The Jets were flagged 13 times for 108 yards while the Giants were flagged half of that with six penalties for 50 yards. The Giants dominated the Jets in punt return yardage: 145 to zero.

The game did not start off well for the Giants as the New York Jets, behind rookie quarterback Sam Darnold, drove his team 75 yards in 11 plays to take a 7-0 lead on a 10-yard touchdown run by running back Bilal Powell. In response, the Giants’ offense gained one first down on their initial drive and punted.

The Giants defense settled down after the Jets’ first possession. They forced a three and out, which was key as wideout Hunter Sharp returned the ensuing punt 45 yards for a touchdown that tied the game at 7-7.

The Giants’ defense then forced another three-and-out and the G-Men got the ball back on their own 40-yard line. On the first offensive play of this series, quarterback Eli Manning hit wide receiver Cody Latimer for a 54-yard gain deep down the middle of the field to the Jets’ 6-yard line. However, on the very next snap, running back Jonathan Stewart fumbled the ball away to the Jets, who returned it 39 yards to the Giants 47-yard line, blowing a great scoring opportunity. Five plays later, Darnold threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Terrelle Pryor. The Jets missed the extra point and led 13-7.

The Giants responded with an 11-play, 50-yard drive that led to a 48-yard field goal by place kicker Aldrick Rosas. After forcing a three-and-out, the Giants quickly got the ball back and tied the game at 13-13 after another 50-yard drive resulted in a 40-yard field goal by Rosas. Both drives were sparked by long completions from Manning to wide receiver Sterling Shepard.

The Giants got the ball back right away again when linebacker Ray-Ray Armstrong forced a fumble on the ensuing Jets’ kick return. Tight end Jerell Adams recovered the ball and the Giants were set up at the 16-yard line. However, the Giants could not get the ball into the endzone and settled for another field goal by Rosas, this one from 27 yards out as the Giants went ahead for good, 16-13. The Giants were able to add to their advantage before halftime by forcing their fourth three-and-out of the half. Wide receiver Kalif Raymond returned the ensuing punt 35 yards to the Jets’ 30-yard line. Again, the Giants stalled in the red zone, settling for a 21-yard field goal and a 19-13 halftime lead.

The back-ups played in the second half and neither team did much scoring after the break. Both teams punted twice in the 3rd quarter. The Giants began their third drive of the half at their own 16-yard. A penalty and sack put the team in a 3rd-and-19 situation from their own 7-yard line, but quarterback Davis Webb and wide receiver Alonzo Russell bailed the Giants out of trouble with a 47-yard deep strike that helped to set up a 44-yard field goal by place kicker Marshall Koehn. The Giants now led 22-13 early in the 4th quarter.

After both teams exchanged punts again, the Jets’ second- and third-teamers drove 78 yards in 13 plays. However, their drive stalled at the 2-yard line and the Jets were forced to settle for a 20-yard field goal with just under three minutes to play. The Giants were able to run most of the rest of the clock out before punting and the game ended.

On special teams, Rosas was 4-for-4 on field goal attempts with kicks from 48, 40, 27, and 21 yards out. The Giants returned seven punts for 145 yards and also forced a turnover on a Jets’ kickoff return. (By the way, the TOTAL punt return yardage for the Giants team in 2017 was 148 yards!)

Offensively, Manning played well and finished the game 17-of-23 for 188 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions. His leading receiver was Sterling Shepard with seven catches for 78 yards. Running back Wayne Gallman was held to 23 yards on 11 carries, but newcomer Jhurell Pressley rushed for 71 yards on 11 carries.

Defensively, the Jets were held to 66 yards rushing and 174 yards passing. Defensive end Kerry Wynn picked up another sack and linebacker Lorenzo Carter and defensive end Josh Mauro shared a sack. The defense did not force a turnover however.

Video highlights are available at Giants.com.

INACTIVE LIST AND INJURY REPORT – EVAN ENGRAM SUFFERS CONCUSSION…
Not playing for the Giants due to injury were wide running back Saquon Barkley (hamstring), running back Jalen Simmons (concussion), defensive end R.J. McIntosh (unknown – Active/Non-Football Illness list), linebacker Connor Barwin (knee), linebacker Calvin Munson (concussion), and safety Darian Thompson (hamstring).

Running back Robert Martin did not play and there is media speculation that an ankle or foot injury kept him out.

Wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr., quarterback Alex Tanney, and cornerback Mike Jones were healthy scratches.

Tight end Evan Engram left the game with a concussion. Tight end Rhett Ellison left the game with an eye injury.

POST-GAME REACTION…
Video clips of post-game media sessions with Head Coach Pat Shurmur and the following players are available at Giants.com:

ARTICLES…

WHAT’S UP NEXT…
Head Coach Pat Shurmur will address the media by conference call on Saturday. The players are off on that day.

Aug 232018
 
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Donte Deayon, New York Giants (August 26, 2017)

Donte Deayon – © USA TODAY Sports

Preseason Game Preview: New York Giants at New York Jets, August 24, 2018

THE STORYLINE:

The media-driven storyline for this game will undoubtedly be “should the Giants have drafted Sam Darnold instead of Saquon Barkley?” which will be partially deflected by the fact that Barkley won’t be playing due to his hamstring strain. That is a valid question from a long-term strategic sense, but not in terms of the immediate, short-term implications of this game. But that won’t stop the media so ignore them.

Folks who have read this site for a long time know I usually downplay the importance of the preseason. Not this year with the new regime and the potentially fragile state of mind of team coming off of disastrous season. I believe the win over the Detroit Lions last week was very important, not just because of the final score board, but the convincing fashion in which the Giants out-played the Lions without three of their most important players playing. So now we have one bad performance against the Cleveland Browns and one good one against the Lions. Can the Giants build upon their success or will they regress in the third preseason game? The third game is universally considered the main test run for the regular season.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • RB Saquon Barkley (hamstring)
  • RB Jalen Simmons (concussion)
  • DE R.J. McIntosh (unknown – Active/Non-Football Illness list)
  • LB Connor Barwin (knee)
  • LB Calvin Munson (concussion)
  • S Darian Thompson (hamstring)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:

Pat Shumur made a very unusual decision last week to not play Eli Manning in the second game. Coaches will sometimes sit old, established veterans in the first and fourth preseason games, but not often the second or third. This is especially true for a quarterback like Eli who is learning a new offensive system with new terminology. Right or wrong, Shurmur must think Manning doesn’t need much live game work before September 9th. Factoring into this situation is the decision to sit Odell Beckham, Jr. for probably a couple of different reasons (contract, previous injury) and Saquon Barkley’s hamstring issue. It’s appears that these big three will enter the 2018 regular-season with very little live-game preparation. That’s a bit unnerving.

Other than possibly a drive or two against the Patriots in the preseason finale, this will probably be Eli’s preseason action. The passing game against the Browns with him at the helm was not a well-oiled machine. It would be encouraging to see Eli – with or without Odell – being more productive in keeping the chains moving and putting points up on the scoreboard. I’d be very surprised if he doesn’t play at least a half. Stating the obvious, what we don’t want to see is him under duress, looking uncomfortable in the pocket with legitimate or phantom pressure, and being inaccurate.

The first-string offensive line also needs the work. Remember, these are five new starters at five new positions. It’s impossible for them to have enough chemistry and cohesion after about 20 practices together. Picking up stunts and blitzes is complicated business. Same with coordinating your blocks in the running game. We’ve already seen some potential red flags with pressure coming free up the middle and continued shakiness from Ereck Flowers.

At receiver, the same question remains: other than Odell Beckham, Jr., do the Giants have enough weapons outside to concern the opposing defense? Sterling Shepard is one of those guys who teases, but can he become a consistently productive player game-in and game-out? Can he make plays DOWN the field? Is Cody Latimer ready for a breakout season or is he just a special teams player? Can the Giants REALLY rely on Hunter Sharp and Kalif Raymond to make plays in the regular season with the game on the line? What we do not want to see is the Giants’ first-string offense stall against the Jets with Eli not being able to connect with any of these guys. That’s what happened against the Browns.

I don’t know if this is true or not, but one gets the sense that the Giants are not overly concerned with Saquon Barkley not getting any preseason action other than the few snaps he saw against the Browns. I hope they are right. Rookies need real-game practice time. If Barkley is a major factor from the get-go on September 9th, he truly is a special player. Regardless, without Barkley, the first-team offense did not run the ball very well against the Lions. It appears that Wayne Gallman should be ahead of Jonathan Stewart on the depth chart and this game will provide another indication on whether or not that should be the case. This is also a big game for Robert Martin, especially with Jalen Simmons out.

Lastly, it will be interesting to see how Davis Webb plays after examples of the previous two extremes.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:

Take away the two big passing plays to David Njoku and Theo Riddick against Alec Ogletree and most fans would be very pleased about the play of the starting defense. To Ogletree’s defense, those are very tough match-ups for any linebacker. But his play in coverage may be the #1 issue Giants’ fans are watching in this game. It’s interesting to note that Ray-Ray Amstrong was promoted this week to first-team nickel defense, not to replace Ogletree, but B.J. Goodson. So let’s see how that plays out.

The pass rush showed signs of life last week too, but we still do not have enough of a sample size. Perhaps the #1 highlight last week was Olivier Vernon looking LT-like in beating three men to the quarterback on one play. Kareem Martin and Lorenzo Carter also flashed as Connor Barwin continues to sit with a knee issue. The Giants are likely to get a good push inside from Dalvin Tomlinson, Damon Harrison, and B.J. Hill, who have also been stalwarts against the run. The Browns and Lions simply couldn’t move them. Heading into camp, I thought Kerry Wynn would be the odd man out, being a bit of ‘tweener in this defense. Wynn has a history of playing well in the preseason and then disappearing in the regular season, but this year may be different. He’s been all over the field, including on special teams.

Like Ereck Flowers on offense, Eli Apple continues to make Giants’ fans nervous on defense. Both players are so up and down. But as of now, the Giants have little option but to play them unless either completely falls apart. For the second week in a row, Curtis Riley will start at free safety with the injury-prone Darian Thompson continuing to disappoint. Focus on him as well as William Gay, B.W. Webb, and the injury-prone Donte Deayon. These three players may be critical to the defense this year.

My guess is even with the heavy blitzing we’ve seen at times in the preseason, James Bettcher is not showing his cards yet. So take some of what you see with the front seven with a grain of salt. But I’m not sure he can scheme enough to protect the secondary so that’s where my focus will be in this game.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:

The 55-yard field goal from Aldrick Rosas was very encouraging. But we always knew he had the leg. What we need is the consistency. Don’t miss the 35 yarder. It might not be a bad thing for a drive to stall in field goal range in this game. We need a better read on Rosas.

Hunter Sharp muffed a punt return last week. Kalif Raymond has an issue with fumbles. The return game still appears very unsettled.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:

Head Coach Pat Shurmur on how he handles the players after each game: “They’ll come in (after the game), we’ll watch the tape, settle all debts. That way if they are a little angry with me they can go home on their off day, simmer down and come back.”

THE FINAL WORD:

Obviously, the Giants want to come out this game healthy, but the things I’ll be focusing on are the play of (1) Eli Manning, (2) the starting offensive line, and (3) the secondary.

Aug 282017
 
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Jason Pierre-Paul, New York Giants (August 26, 2017)

Jason Pierre-Paul – © USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants 32 – New York Jets 31

QUICK RECAP

The traditional week 3 match-up of cross-town rivals took place Saturday night at Metlife Stadium. These two franchises are going in completely different directions with the Giants in the midst pursuing at least one more Super Bowl under their long-time quarterback’s leadership and the Jets in a full-blown-rebuild state of mind. Week 3 is the unofficial final dress rehearsal for the starters, as they play more snaps in this game than any other preseason match-up. The Giants were without their two star receivers, Odell Beckham and Brandon Marshall, while the Jets sat veteran quarterback Josh McCown to let young guns Christian Hackenberg and Bryce Petty continue to battle it out.

The Giants jumped all over the Jets in the first half. They scored their first offensive touchdown of the preseason in the first quarter and added two more in the first-half via-interceptions. With starters playing on both sides of the ball for the first 30 minutes, the Giants walked into the locker room at halftime with a commanding 29-3 lead. The Jets answered back, mainly with Petty at the helm, in the second half and made it close. Close to the point where they were 3 yards and a 2-point conversion away from winning. On that play, rookie running back Elijah McGuire finished just inches short of the goal line, sealing the first Giants victory of the 2017 preseason.

QUARTERBACKS

  • Eli Manning looked sharp for the second straight week. He didn’t quite play the entire first half, but he went 7/14 for 121 yards and an interception that can easily be put on the offensive line. He had Roger Lewis open deep, striding towards the end zone but pressure up the middle cut off his step into the throw, forcing it to fall short and into a Jets defensive back’s hands. There are still signs of his arm lacking life and the hope here has to be it doesn’t fall off too much during the winter months.
  • More of the same from the backup battle between Geno Smith and Josh Johnson. Neither one is taking the bull by the horns. Smith looked very inaccurate and a little more rattled this time around, whereas Johnson just seemed overly pedestrian. Part of me now has the thought that Davis Webb should be given the backup job initially to help the Giants save a roster spot. If Manning were to actually go down in-season, I bet one if not both would still be available on the free agent wire. Speaking of Webb, he got in with about 8 minutes remaining in the game and went 2/4 for 20 yards, including a near interception. He did an excellent job on a pass-rush-forced rollout, keeping his eyes downfield and completing a pass near the sideline.

RUNNING BACKS

  • I discussed how I wanted to see Paul Perkins run more assertively, and that he did. Six carries for 33 yards spelled a good night for the second year back. He juked rookie safety Marcus Maye out of his shoes on a 12-yard dash up the middle, didn’t even get touched in a phone booth.
  • Shane Vereen didn’t see a lot of playing time, as they are likely trying to protect him as much as possible. Also, the 3rd spot is up for grabs between rookie Wayne Gallman and Orleans Darkwa. I think it is likely both make the team, but Gallman is certainly making his case to get touches weekly. His ability to slither through traffic and find extra yards has been apparent each week. Darkwa got the goal-line carry and touchdown in the first quarter and it looks like he may be their short-yardage option early on. In addition, Gallman is having a hard time sustaining his blocks. Shaun Draughn got in for one series but was rocked by a Jets defender and put into the concussion protocol. Tough luck offseason for him and it looks like he will be the odd man out.
  • Shane Smith had a “key” block on Darkwa’s touchdown run. I put that in quotes because it was a very simple block against a CB. Smith is showing more hesitation in traffic than I want to see. Is the game too fast for him? Especially with the amount of zone running the Giants do where he has to move laterally. Keep in mind that for the best runs of the night Smith was not on the field.

WIDE RECEIVERS

  • With Odell Beckham, Brandon Marshall and Dwayne Harris out, it was a night of opportunity for Roger Lewis and Travis Rudolph. Both took advantage of it. Lewis, as he was all of camp, was up and down. Lewis dropped a touchdown pass, albeit it was a tough play, but responded with a tough reception in traffic on 4th down right after. He also ran himself open earlier in the game on a play that could have resulted in a touchdown, but the forced under throw took away the opportunity.
  • Rudolph had one of the nicest plays of the night, snaring a poor Josh Johnson pass over the defender and completing the Giants longest play of preseason, 57 yards. He is the reliable route runner and pass catcher that quarterbacks love to work with. His value on special teams may be the final feather in his cap to make the squad.
  • Sterling Shepard showed off impressive ball skills in the 1st quarter, twisting his body to adjust to a slightly inaccurate throw, coming down with Manning’s longest pass of the night (31 yards).

TIGHT ENDS

  • Rookie Evan Engram continues to strengthen my notion of him being a big time weapon in this offense. During the scouting process last year I kept on writing down the names Aaron Hernandez and Jordan Reed. And one of my bold predictions for this Giants team is going to be….he will be better than both of them in their respective rookie seasons by a long shot (Reed 45-499-3 in 9 games and Hernandez 45-563-6). In addition to that, I like Engram’s long-term potential better than both because of his athleticism and intangibles. And one more for you, I graded Engram out almost perfect on his blocking assignments Saturday night. Watch out for this kid, a legit “Offensive Rookie of the Year” candidate.
  • Matt LaCosse, a favorite of mine during camp, finally got more involved in the passing game. Only 2 catches for 8 yards but he showed really good breaks and quick-area burst. Someone is going to scoop this guy up and if he gets his chances, he will make something happen. He was no slouch as a blocker. I would certainly take him over Will Tye if the Giants keep 4 tight ends.
  • Rhett Ellison was a non-factor in the passing game, but I mean it when I say he is a better run blocker than our tackles. He is so technically sound, his hands are incredibly strong, and he simply wants it. If you focus on him, it’s hard not to love what he brings to the table.

OFFENSIVE LINE

  • Overall, very solid night from the tackles. Ereck Flowers did allow a sack and had a false start penalty, however. Flowers’ sack was on a stunt from his inside shoulder that he didn’t see fast enough. When he commits, he doesn’t adjust well and you can bet defensive coordinators are going to attack that. He performed very well within his 1-on-1 match-ups, as this is the kind of defense he match-ups up well against. Straight-ahead bull rushers with minimal quick twitch laterally won’t win often against him. Bobby Hart had a relatively quiet night, in a good way. He is showing quicker feet and more balance. I still like him better at guard but I guess it’s time for me to put that argument away.
  • John Jerry had an ugly night, mainly because of the play that forced the Manning interception. Jerry simply lost his anchor and was pushed onto his back deep in the pocket. He has had as rough a preseason as anyone when it comes to the game action. Weston Richburg continues to a nice job hustling, playing through the whistle, making the line calls…etc. However, he just isn’t a guy who can sustain blocks against power defenders. Too many times he get stossed to the side or driven back.
  • Justin Pugh is playing better than I’ve ever seen him, and I have thought he was a Pro Bowl caliber guy over the past 2-3 years. The ability he showed to keep his balance, power, hand position, and leverage is exactly what I look for when scouting interior guys. He played excellent.
  • The disappointing backups were Brett Jones and, once again, Adam Bisnowaty. Jones is struggling with his shotgun snaps, a major no-no for centers. And while I admire his grit and hustle, he gets walked back into the pocket repeatedly by bull rushers. He does a nice job of staying on them, but he is a guy who can ruin a QB’s pocket presence because he’s always creeping in, making it smaller and smaller. I’m not sure he is the guy to make this roster as a backup OC. Bisnowaty just can’t seem to lock anyone up; he spends way too much time trying to regain his balance.
  • D.J. Fluker and Jon Halapio are my two favorite backups for the interior. Fluker is limited in space, that’s been heavily confirmed. But he consistently moves guys as a run blocker. Halapio has OC experience and I simply trust him more head up on a bull rusher. There is lower body stiffness that can get him in trouble on the move, but he plays a mean game and can get a push. Backup offensive lineman are hard to find, so you can’t kill anyone for this group being hard to watch.

DEFENSIVE LINE

  • Jason Pierre Paul is looking better than ever. Three tackles, a sack, a tipped pass, and a tackle for loss that led to a safety. He was all over the field and the Jets’ line simply had no answer for him. He is turning into a leader as well. When Romeo Okwara was getting cheap shot-ed by Jets OG James Carpenter, it was JPP who was the first to come to his defense. I have a bold prediction for him coming soon.
  • The backup DE situation is coming into picture. The Giants are rotating these guys inside/outside more than I can ever remember. Romeo Okwara showed enough stout-ness against run blockers, but he struggled to get off blocks. He continues to flash for one play, then get badly beat on the next 3-4. Kerry Wynn is the most consistent force among the backups and he is a staple on special teams. Avery Moss got a lot of playing time, even some of it earlier than usual, but failed to make an impression. And I think the writing is on the wall for Owa Odighizuwa via his play. There just isn’t enough effort or impact for him to warrant a spot here.
  • Jay Bromley’s mild knee sprain will more than likely keep him out Thursday night. This could be the beginning of an opportunity for Dalvin Tomlinson to prove his potential as the man next to Damon Harrison. Bromley gets pushed backwards too often and while the rookie 2nd rounder hasn’t been overly stout himself, he makes better adjustments. Tomlinson is a better athlete with more range and can take advantage of the fact Harrison demands so much attention because of it. Tomlinson had a quiet night Saturday but he still flashed speed and quickness within the tackle box that Bromley just doesn’t have.
  • Robert Thomas was in for a long time. I think he is a lock for the 53-man roster, but what kind of role should he play? They let him loose a little bit, got him moving up field in space and it didn’t end well. He spent a lot of time on the ground and just didn’t have the length to get off blocks. There isn’t a lot of creativity to his game, thus I think he is best suited for a stay at home, run defender-type role.

LINEBACKERS

  • Good to see B.J. Goodson show improving movement and instincts in coverage. There were two plays where Goodson called out the intended direction of the pass play pre-snap. Looks like Antonio Pierce is rubbing off on him. The same can’t be said for rookie Calvin Munson, who was the main culprit on the Jets 85-yard touchdown pass and run to Bilal Powell. In his defense, that is a tough match-up for any LB. Munson did end up with 5 tackles and continues to show solid interior run defense.
  • Jonathan Casillas recorded 2 tackles and a sack. He is excelling at gap protection with his hard-nosed, stuff-the-lane approach. The Giants defense is one of the more physical in the league now and he is a major reason why. Devon Kennard continues to show his versatility. He is pursuing guys to the sideline, rushing the passer from a DT position, and showing solid man coverage.
  • Curtis Grant got a lot of playing time and was in on 5 tackles. He is such a good looking straight-line athlete but I’m afraid the quickness of the game is just too much for him. He had a horrible missed tackle in the 4th quarter on Jets RB Elijah McGuire. Subtle change of direction and Grant whiffed in a phone booth.

CORNERBACKS

  • Hopefully these ankle injuries aren’t going to linger for Eli Apple. He is looking very good and sure of himself, especially when defending the run and short passing game. He did get away with a blatant deep pass interference call in the 2nd quarter though. And remember, those penalties are an absolute killer. He needs to trust himself more and stop grabbing.
  • Janoris Jenkins…how many cornerbacks his size can hit the way he does? He made one of hits of the night that immediately jarred the ball loose and into the hands of Donte Deayon, which resulted in a pick 6. Jenkins is at the top of his game right now; I don’t think I have ever seen him play better.
  • Speaking of Deayon, I think he is playing his way onto the roster. His pick 6 was partial luck, but this kid has always been a playmaker. Some defensive backs simply have a knack for finding the ball and making things happen. The one caveat however, he is a liability in the run game. He does show toughness as a tackler, but receivers are having a very easy time washing him out of plays when blocking.
  • Nigel Tribune had a rough night. He fell on ArDarius Stewart’s first touchdown of the night when trying to track the ball and also had a deep pass interference late in the game in the midst of the Jets monster comeback. In addition, he completely whiffed on a press attempt that led to a Chad Hansen 2-point conversion.

SAFETIES

  • Do we sound like Giants’ homers when we say Landon Collins looks like a guy that could contend for “Defensive Player of the Year”?  This guy is all over the field and it looks like the coaching staff knows exactly how to use him in his 3rd year. His 1st-quarter interception for a touchdown and several of his tackles were a result of top notch instincts. We are now seeing this every time he is on the field, whether it is practice or a game. He is the real deal.
  • Darian Thompson made an impact play, sacking Christian Hackenberg and showed good coverage in his deep third. I am still wondering if Andrew Adams is quietly in the running for the starting job. He got in there pretty early Saturday night and plays more physically with just as much range in coverage.
  • Nat Berhe and Duke Ihenacho are both overly aggressive to a fault. They launch themselves towards the action and yes, the occasional big hit is made, but they are missing too many tackles. When safeties miss tackles, bad things happen. Berhe also showed his lack of long speed in his pursuit of Powell on the long TD.
  • Eric Pinkins may have made the worst coverage-based mistake of the night on ArDarius Stewart’s second touchdown. He completely let him slip by and past, got fooled by Hackenberg looking in the opposite direction, and left Stewart literally standing all alone in the end zone waiting for the eventual touchdown pass. It was an ugly, ugly look for Pinkins who got a very limited amount of snaps.

SPECIAL TEAMS

  • The kicking battle has reached its highest point of competition. Mike Nugent was 2/2 including a 54 yarder that had some room left on it. Aldrick Rosas hit a 24 yarder on his only attempt. Neither one has missed one in any of the preseason games, a good sign. This is a tough call to make.
  • Newcomer Ed Eagen, a wide receiver, showed a quick burst on his returns but he is highly unlikely to make the team. No other notable returns.

3 STUDS

  • DE Jason Pierre-Paul, S Landon Collins, LG Justin Pugh

3 DUDS

  • CB Nigel Tribune, S Eric Pinkins, OC Brett Jones

3 TAKEAWAYS FOR NYJ

  • I bet nobody is talking about this guy, but OG Ben Braden caught my eye all night and in the re-watch. Talk about a guy who can athletically AND powerfully move guys. I think NYJ has a keeper in him.
  • This QB situation is worse than I even thought. Hackenberg may not be in the league in 2-3 years and while I like Petty’s grit, he can’t be called a starter. We all know what the deal is with McCown. Jets are clearly heading towards a top 3 pick in the 2018 Draft.
  • I loved the 2017 Draft class for NYJ, notably WRs Chad Hansen and ArDarius Stewart. I had much higher grades on them than what was out there and if Bilal Powell can prove to be a steady long term contributor in the backfield, this NYJ team will be a very friendly spot for their first-round QB next year. The turnaround may be a quick one here.
Aug 272017
 
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Eli Apple, New York Giants (August 26, 2017)

Eli Apple – © USA TODAY Sports

NEW YORK GIANTS 32 – NEW YORK JETS 31…
The New York Giants dominated the first half of their annual preseason game against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium but had to hold on late to escape with a 32-31 victory. Despite leading 29-3 at the half, the Jets drew to within one point late in the game and decided to go for the 2-point conversion instead of sending the game into overtime. The Giants stuffed the conversion attempt and knelt on the ball to preserve the win.

But the Giants lost six players due to injury (see injury update below), including cornerback Eli Apple (ankle) and defensive tackle Jay Bromley (knee).

Sixteen of the Giants’ 29 first-half points were scored by the defense. After the Giants’ defense forced a three-and-out to start the game, quarterback Eli Manning and the offense moved the ball from their own 27 to the Jets’ 28-yard line. But on 2nd-and-8, Manning – who was immediately pressured – threw an ill-advised pass deep which was picked off at the Jets’ 3-yard line. However, two plays later defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul sliced into the backfield to nail running back Matt Forte in the end zone for a safety. After the free kick, the Giants drove 56 yards to set up a successful 24-yard field goal by place kicker Adrick Rosas. The Giants led 5-0.

After the ensuing Giants’ kickoff, safety Landon Collins jumped a quarterback Christian Hackenberg pass and returned it 23 yards for a touchdown and the Giants took a 12-0 lead. The Jets went three-and-out and the G-Men then drove 56 yards in seven plays, culminating with a 1-yard touchdown run by running back Orleans Darkwa. The touchdown was set up by 17-yard catch by wide receiver Roger Lewis on 4th-and-3, despite him taking a big hit. 19-0 Giants.

The Jets responded with their only scoring drive of the first half, moving the ball 66 yards in 10 plays to set up a 27-yard field goal. After both teams exchanged punts, wide receiver Travis Rudolph made superb catch and run to pick up 57 yards on a pass from quarterback Josh Johnson. The drive stalled but place kicker Mike Nugent nailed a 50-yard field goal to give the Giants a 22-3 lead. With less than two minutes before halftime, cornerback Donte Deayon intercepted a pass knocked loose from the intended receiver by corner Janoris Jenkins. Deayon returned the pick 36 yards for a touchdown. At the half, the Giants led 29-3.

The Giants’ offensive reserves didn’t do much in the second half. Five drives resulted in three first downs and five punts. The Giants did manage one scoring possession, moving the ball 48 yards to set up a 54-yard field goal by Nugent early in the 4th quarter. But that was it.

Meanwhile, after forcing a turnover on downs at the 14-yard line after giving up a 56 yard drive, the Giants’ defensive reserves allowed three straight touchdowns, including touchdown passes of 25, 85, and 15 yards. The defense did force one punt, but with 2:11 left in the game, the Jets drove 75 yards in seven plays to pull within one point, 32-31. The game was saved for the G-Men as the 2-point conversion that most likely would have given the Jets the victory was stuffed with 1:24 left to play.

Manning finished the game 7-of-14 for 121 yards and one interception. Johnson was 5-of-10 for 51 yards, Geno Smith 4-of-6 for 67 yards, and Davis Webb 2-of-4 for 20 yards. The leading receivers were Rudolph (3 catches for 81 yards), Sterling Shepard (2 catches for 47 yards), Evan Engram (2 catches for 32 yards), and Roger Lewis (2 catches for 30 yards). The leading rushers were Wayne Gallman (12 carries for 43 yards), Paul Perkins (6 carries for 33 yards), and Orleans Darkwa (7 carries for 21 yards).

Aside for the three defensive scores, the defense was credited with three sacks (Jason Pierre-Paul, Darian Thompson, and Jonathan Casillas), five tackles for losses, five quarterback hits, and seven pass defenses.

Video highlights/lowlights are available at Giants.com.

INJURY REPORT…
Not playing in the game were WR Odell Beckham, Jr. (ankle), WR Brandon Marshall (shoulder), WR Dwayne Harris (upper body), WR Tavarres King (ankle), LB Keenan Robinson (concussion), LB Mark Herzlich (stinger), and CB Michael Hunter (concussion).

CB Eli Apple (ankle), DT Jay Bromley (knee), OG Adam Gettis (foot), RB Shaun Draughn (concussion/neck), S Duke Ihenacho (knee), and DE Evan Schwan (unknown) all left the game with injuries.

“I think (Apple) did his other ankle today, so I have concerns about both ankles,” said Head Coach Ben McAdoo. “I’m not sure (how bad it is), I’ll have to go talk to the trainers and the doctors about it.”

POST-GAME REACTION…
Transcripts and video clips of post-game media sessions with Head Coach Ben McAdoo and the following players are available in The Corner Forum and at Giants.com:

ARTICLES…

Aug 252017
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (December 6, 2015)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Preseason Game Preview: New York Jets at New York Giants, August 26, 2017

THE STORYLINE:
From a fan and media perspective, it is clear this preseason is not going as hoped for the New York Giants. The offense – which struggled to score points in 2016 – has not yet scored a touchdown. The same weak spots in 2016 appear to still be weak spots this preseason, specifically the blocking up front and the inability to generate yards on the ground. And while the Giants have not had any devastating injuries (knock on wood), they have suffered a plethora of nagging injuries that have sabotaged practice time or caused the team to churn the bottom of the roster just in order to have enough players to practice and play in the preseason without exposing starters to unnecessary risk.

The good news? Most fans – including this one – couldn’t possibly tell you what the team’s preseason records in previous years. For most Giants fans, preseason memories are limited to who got hurt (Jason Sehorn) and the occasional breakout performance (Victor Cruz) or bizarre ending (Jack Golden). A year from now, most fans won’t remember a darn thing from the 2017 preseason. What is important is for the team to physically and mentally get ready for the Dallas Cowboys on opening day.

This third preseason game has always been a bitch for the Giants. The Jets and their fans always take this game way too seriously and this is the one game where both teams have been hit by devastating injuries in the past (yes, past performance is no guarantee of future results but I’m superstitious so lay off).

What do we want to see? Stay healthy. See SOME improvement in the running game. Score a touchdown or two.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • WR Odell Beckham, Jr. (ankle)
  • WR Brandon Marshall (shoulder)
  • WR Dwayne Harris (upper body)
  • WR Tavarres King (ankle)
  • LB Keenan Robinson (concussion)
  • LB Mark Herzlich (stinger)
  • LB J.T. Thomas (knee)
  • CB Eli Apple (ankle)
  • CB Michael Hunter (concussion)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
The red flags are there. It appears that the offensive line is still an issue. And the Giants simply cannot run the football. With respect to the line, the alarming thing is that it is not just the tackles who are inconsistent, but the interior of the line has been a problem as well. One of the greatest compliments you can give an offensive line and a coach is that the whole exceeds the sum of the parts. Well with the Giants, it appears the whole is LESS than the sum of the parts. Or perhaps, the Giants really screwed up in their evaluation of the parts. To the point, EVERYONE on the offensive line has to play better. At different points, Ereck Flowers, Bobby Hart, John Jerry, and Weston Richburg have struggled to create holes for the running backs and protect the quarterbacks. They are NOT getting the job done. And worse, the Giants have no fallback plan. The only realistic option to replace Flowers is Justin Pugh, but Pugh has not taken snaps at left tackle. D.J. Fluker has received most of his practice snaps at right guard and does not appear to be a threat to unseat Bobby Hart at all. And Fluker has not received first-team reps at right guard. Brett Jones has not worked with the first team at center, but did receive some first-team reps at right guard in practice this week. The two back-up tackles are green rookies. For better or worse (and right now it is looking like worse), the Giants are pretty much stuck with Flowers-Pugh-Richburg-Jerry-Hart again.

We cannot let Paul Perkins off of the hook either. Yes, he hasn’t had much room to operate. But he also is not creating on his own or running with a great deal of instinctiveness. There has been hesitation to his play. Right now, it is fair to wonder if the Giants truly have a legitimate NFL-quality starting running back on the roster.

So right now, we’re looking at another year of a finesse, pass-first West Coast Offense that has to rely on the short passing game in order to protect Eli Manning and which has trouble even picking up one yard on 3rd-and-1. This is not a physical offense. The Giants will have to cross their fingers that Eli rebounds with a stronger season and that Odell Beckham, Brandon Marshall, Sterling Shepard, Evan Engram, Rhett Ellison, and Shane Vereen can provide match-up problems in the passing game. Yards after the catch will be key.

With four of arguably the Giants five best wide receivers out of this game, don’t expect the offense to look sharp against the Jets.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
Right now, it looks like the Giants are going to sink or swim in 2017 based on the play of their defense. The good news is that the Giants may have an emerging force at linebacker in B.J. Goodson. The guy does something other Giants linebackers haven’t done in years: make plays. If everyone stays relatively healthy (a big if), the addition of a mobile, physical middle linebacker who makes plays to this defense is huge. There will still be growing pains with Goodson, but the arrow is definitely pointing up with him. Now if Darian Thompson can take hold of the free safety position, the Giants will be in great shape on defense.

The biggest worry here is the fact that Keenan Robinson is back in the concussion protocol. He clearly suffered a setback and if he concussed himself again, who knows how long he will be out?  He’s always been an injury-prone player, but he was an underrated performer for the Giants last year in pass coverage. Also keep your fingers crossed that Michael Hunter won’t be out long at cornerback. He has developed nicely and looks to be a serious upgrade over Trevin Wade and Coty Sensabaugh. That 4th cornerback spot is much more important than fans realize, especially with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Eli Apple having a history of missing time.

Ends Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon seem poised for a big season. I hope the Giants don’t risk them much more this preseason. Same with Damon Harrison, Janoris Jenkins, and Landon Collins. I don’t care if the Jets move the ball against our back-ups in a preseason game.

It’s been pointed out by others on BBI, but keep an eye on a couple of relative unknown players who are flying under the radar: DE/DT Jordan Williams and LB Calvin Munson.

With Hunter and possibly Eli Apple out, and Valentino Blake leaving the team, this will be a great opportunity for Donte Deayon to make a push for a roster spot. But since he is such a liability against the run and on specials, he will have to excel in pass coverage. If he doesn’t, the Giants will be keeping an eye on the waiver wire on September 2, and not just at corner, but at safety where the play of Nat Berhe remains a cause for concern.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
Not receiving a lot of press is the fact that while Aldrick Rosas has been perfect this preseason, he has begun to miss more kicks in practice, going 3-for-4 a number of times recently. Stating the obvious, this position is far from settled yet. Dwayne Harris was limited all of 2016 with various injury problems. What is a bit disconcerting is that he has been sidelined for a couple of weeks now with an unidentified “upper body” issue. The Giants not only need him on the field in the return game, but they need him close to 100 percent. Who knows what is wrong with him?

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Ben McAdoo on what he is looking for from an offense missing key components for this game: “I am looking for getting in a little bit of a rhythm. We want to take care of the ball. That’s important to us. We want to play with some physicality, complete the ball and just get a little bit better. Find a way to make some gains this week.”

THE FINAL WORD:
I don’t expect a performance by the Giants that will leave fans feeling terribly good about the state of the team. Too many of the top receivers will be out. The Giants should struggle to run the football against this defense. I’ll feel better when the preseason is past us.

Aug 282016
 
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Johnathan Hankins and Jason Pierre-Paul, New York Giants (August 27, 2016)

Johnathan Hankins and Jason Pierre-Paul – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 21 – New York Jets 20

Overview

Your overall impression of the New York Giants in the preseason will probably be determined by if you are a glass half full or glass half empty type of person.

Half Full:

  • The Giants offense – which has been the strength of the team in recent years – has also usually struggled in the preseason in recent years. It’s been so bad that the starters seem to be regularly “punished” by having to play more in the preseason finale against the Patriots. This year may be no exception.
  • This is essentially the same offense as 2015 (top 10) with the addition of Sterling Shepard and possibly a productive Victor Cruz.
  • The defense looks vastly improved.
  • To date (knock on wood), there have been no major injuries.

Half Empty:

  • The blocking up front has looked terrible. This doesn’t bode well for an offensive unit that has struggled to consistently run the football and produce in short-yardage situations in recent years.
  • When Eli Manning and Odell Beckham are not playing at a high level, this offense looks stuck in the mud.
  • Tom Quinn’s special teams are still far too inconsistent and give up too many big plays.
  • Ben McAdoo (as head coach) and Mike Sullivan (as offensive coordinator) remain question marks.

Giants on Offense

The New York Giants offense continues to look terrible. Eli Manning and the starting unit were on the field for eight drives. The results were not pretty.

  • Three first downs.
  • 1-for-8 on third-down conversions.
  • 56 total net yards.
  • Zero points.

The starting offense’s longest drive of the night was 16 yards. The reserves had seven drives, four of which netted zero yards. The other three drives were 47 yards (resulting in a touchdown), 72 yards (turnover on downs), and 11 yards (resulting in a touchdown). For the second week in a row, the Giants didn’t have 170 yards of offense.

That all said, this was a bad match-up for the Giants. The Jets have one of the toughest, most physical, and most disruptive defensive lines in football. This was a bad game to be without Justin Pugh. Combine that with an ultra-conservative, run-oriented game plan that appeared to play right into the strength of the Jets defense, and the results were not terribly shocking. I got the sense that Ben McAdoo wasn’t showing his hand. Even on the game’s first drive, the Giants ran a draw play on 3rd-and-13.

Quarterback

Glass half empty or half full? Eli struggled terribly last preseason and then went on to have one of his best seasons. Eli is still standing and healthy. We know he won’t be a problem. Bad news? Even with the complete absence of a running game and shoddy pass protection, Eli didn’t look particularly sharp. He finished 10-of-15 for 65 yards and one interception. The pick was not completely on him as Odell Beckham made a business decision not to expose himself to injury and cut off his route. That said, Eli could have gotten Beckham killed on that throw and probably should have gone elsewhere.

Ryan Nassib had another rough game. He only completed 6-of-19 passes for 69 yards. However, two of his six completions did go for touchdowns. At times, he was nowhere near his intended target. Nassib was flagged for delay of game.

Logan Thomas did not play.

Running Backs

Impossible to evaluate as the Jets completely dominated the line of scrimmage. Giants backs carried the ball 17 times for 15 yards. Yikes. Twelve of those carries – six apiece – went to Shane Vereen (11 yards) and Rashad Jennings (-1 yard). Vereen and Jennings combined for four catches for 32 yards. Vereen almost got Eli killed when he failed to spot the free blitzer on 3rd-and-7 play that ended with a big hit and sack.

Fullback Nikita Whitlock left the game with a mid-foot sprain and was spotted in a boot and on crutches in the locker room.

Tavarres King, New York Giants (August 27, 2016)

Tavarres King – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Wide Receivers

The best news of the night offensively was that Victor Cruz played and walked off of the field healthy. He played 29 offensive snaps, catching one pass for four yards. Cruz got free a few times including once down the field after a nice double-move, but Eli could not connect with him. Cruz did wipe out a rare first down early in the 3rd quarter with an illegal formation penalty.

Tavarres King was the other big positive. Both of his catches went for touchdowns – one a sliding catching in the end zone and the other an 11-yard catch-and-run score. Toss in a 20-yard end around before the first score too. King got free deep on an earlier pass but appeared to trip on the turf and stumbled to the ground. He also drew a 30-yard pass interference penalty.

Roger Lewis – who was targeted four times – had one catch for 20 yards. Lewis got open deep earlier on this drive but Nassib misfired. Odell Beckham only had one catch for eight yards and Sterling Shepard one catch for one yard. Geremy Davis returned after missing last week with a hamstring injury. He had one catch for seven yards.

Tight Ends/Offensive Line

Left guard Justin Pugh (shoulder) did not play and was missed for the second week in a row. Tight end/H-back/fullback Will Johnson (burner) and tight end Matt LaCosse (knee) also did not play. Johnson’s veteran presence has also been missed.

I’m going to use a line of excuses that is going to piss a lot of people off. Yes, Justin Pugh is THAT important to THIS offensive line as it is currently constituted. The left-center of this line is the line’s strength and when you take out the cog between Ereck Flowers and Weston Richburg, that turns the strength into another weakness. Bobby Hart may or may not end up being a viable NFL player, but he really struggled in this game. Hart is not the left guard that Justin Pugh is right now and he does not have the same level of chemistry with Flowers and Richburg. The Giants are also learning new blocking techniques and schemes from Offensive Line Coach Mike Solari. Combine that with the superb quality of the opponent and I’m not shocked the line had big issues on Saturday night.

The Jets dominated the line of scrimmage. The Giants had no running game. None. They didn’t even average a yard per carry with the backs. My personal opinion is that Ben McAdoo would never have tried as many rushing attempts in the first half against this opponent in a real game. The match-ups did not favor the Giants being able to run the ball. The Giants also oddly ran some plays that called on their tight ends to handle the Jets elite defensive ends. That’s just not going to work.

Left guard Bobby Hart and right tackle Marshall Newhouse whiffed on the Giants first run, causing the play to get stuffed. Center Weston Richburg tripped up Manning for a 4-yard loss. Hart then had problems with defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson on another running play. On the next series, right guard John Jerry (against Leonard Williams) and tight end Larry Donnell and fullback Nikita Whitlock (against Muhammad Wilkerson) were easily pushed aside on another failed run. And so it went. To be blunt – Richardson, Wilkerson, and Williams are simply too good for the Giants to handle. Wilkerson later ran right through rookie tight end Ryan Mallett on a 4-yard loss – that’s an unfair match-up. Mallett struggled as a blocker.

On the 3rd-and-5 deep pass that Eli just threw up for grabs and was nearly picked off, Hart and Richburg failed to pick up a stunt as the rusher closed on Manning. This probably doesn’t happen with Pugh in the game. Later in the 2nd quarter, Hart’s man ran right around him en route to Manning. Both tackles then had problems with Williams and Richardson on 3rd-and-12 and Manning had to run for his life. Newhouse remains a weak run blocker. Hart also had a false start on 3rd-and-1. Bad game for Hart and a not-so-good performance for Newhouse.

The second team offensive line featured LT Byron Stingily, LG Ryan Seymour, OC Adam Gettis, RG Brett Jones, and RT Emmett Cleary. Seymour and Jones had issues with the pass rush on their first possession, causing Nassib to get hit twice. On the next possession, tight end Will Tye allowed a big hit on quarterback Ryan Nassib.

In the 4th quarter, the line was composed of LT Stingily, LG Dillon Farrell, OC Shane McDermott, RG Gettis, and RT Seymour. Jake Rodgers then came in at left tackle. Gettis was flagged with two false starts on one drive.

In the pass receiving department, Will Tye caught two passes for -2 yards. Jerell Adams had one catch for 14 yards (from Manning on 3rd-and-6) and Donnell one catch for eight yards. Will Tye was flagged for offensive pass interference.

Giants on Defense

The best news coming out of the preseason is the defense looks vastly improved. As a good defense should, the defense kept the Giants in the game while the offense struggled, and even got the ball right back after a bad turnover (the blocked punt). As bad as the Giants offense was on Saturday night, the Giants defense made the Jets offense look pretty inept too. The Jets had six first downs in the first half and their only first-half scoring drive started at the Giants 30-yard line with the 22-yard score coming on a perfect back-shoulder pass. While the reserves were not as stingy as a unit, there were plenty of individual performances from the back ups that stood out.

Defensive Line

It appears that the Giants have one of the better starting defensive lines in football. Defensive end Olivier Vernon has played better than I expected. He was very disruptive (5 tackles, 1 tackle for a loss) against the run and as a pass rusher. Vernon tackled the back for a 2-yard loss on 3rd-and-1 early in the 3rd quarter. Defensive tackle Damon Harrison (7 tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble) combined with Johnathan Hankins (1 tackle, 1 fumble recovery) to get the ball right back after the blocked punt set the Jets up on the Giants 15-yard line. The duo did get handled relatively easily on an earlier 3rd-and-1 however. Jason Pierre-Paul made a tremendous hustle play by pursuing to the opposite sideline after a short pass and forcing a fumble out-of-bounds on 3rd down.

Jay Bromley did a nice job of reading a middle screen and coming back to make a tackle for a short gain on 3rd-and-10. Kerry Wynn blew up a running play and tackled the back for a 5-yard loss. Kerry lost contain on an 11-yard play to his side, but made up for it later on this drive with his interception off a deflected pass that he nimbly returned 73 yards for a touchdown. Romeo Okwara picked up a sack rushing from the defensive tackle position and had two more quality pressures late from the inside position as well as a nice play against the run. Then he had two more pressures on the quarterback from the right defensive end position, including knocking the ball out of the quarterback’s hand. Louis Nix flashed on a couple of plays and Davon Coleman tipped the pass that was intercepted late that set up the game-winning touchdown.

Linebackers

The bad news is that Jonathan Casillas – who has been playing very well – may have cracked a rib in the first half and did not return. How much this sets him back remains to be seen. B.J. Goodson also suffered a concussion.

Before he left the game, Casillas made a nice play (along with Janoris Jenkins) of holding a screen pass to no gain. He was very active early with three tackles in the 1st quarter, including a sure tackle on an inside run that only picked up a yard.

Jasper Brinkley started the game at middle linebacker but Kelvin Sheppard came in early too. Sheppard made a nice play in pursuit on an outside run that only picked up a yard. On the very next play, Keenan Robinson played off a block and stuffed an inside run. Robinson later expertly defended a quarterback bootleg for no gain. He also demonstrated good reaction, closing speed, and made a nice open-field tackle on a swing pass.

J.T. Thomas did a great job of reading a screen pass, disrupting the entire play, and deflected the ball that was returned for a 73-yard touchdown. Despite solid coverage, Sheppard got beat for a 16-yard gain over the middle on 3rd-and-15 on the Jets 4th quarter touchdown drive.

Andrew Adams, New York Giants (August 27, 2016)

Andrew Adams – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Defensive Backs

Safeties Darian Thompson (shoulder) and Mykkele Thompson (concussion) did not play.

Cornerback Eli Apple stood out. He had good coverage on WR Eric Decker on a go route and then later a slant with two incompletions being the result. Ryan Fitzpatrick tested Apple again deep in the 2nd quarter but the rookie was again up to the task. On the downside, Apple did abandon his outside run responsibility on a 9-yard gain late in the first half.

Before he left the game with a concussion, veteran nickel corner Leon Hall struggled. He gave up a 10-yard reception on 3rd-and-8 to start the game and an 18-yard reception on 3rd-and-9. Donte Deayon got in the game late in the 1st quarter and was beat on a 3rd-and-7 out pattern, but luckily the throw was off the mark.

Landon Collins made a sure tackle to hold the receiver just short of the first down on a quick 3rd-and-5 slant pass. Janoris Jenkins got beat for a 22-yard score on a 3rd-and-2 back-shoulder throw where he failed to turn around to make a play on the ball. Late in the first half, Jenkins did a nice job of reading a WR screen on 3rd-and-3 although the pass was dropped. Jenkins gave up a 7-yard out on 3rd-and-6 early in the 3rd quarter.

Nat Berhe flashed in pursuit on one running play that looked primed to pick up bigger yardage than it did. Corner Michael Hunter had good coverage on a 3rd-and-7 incomplete pass. Corner Trevin Wade had nice coverage on one deep shot, but later got burned for a 26-yard gain. Corner Leon McFadden got beat for 27 yards two plays later and then safety Justin Currie was badly beaten for the 10-yard score.

After the 52-yard punt return set the Jets up at the Giants 14-yard line, safety Andrew Adams tipped a slant pass and McFadden made a nice play to save a touchdown by preventing the completion. Adams followed this up with a nice run force. Hunter broke up another pass late in the 4th quarter. Adams intercepted a pass late after it was deflected by a defensive lineman dropping into coverage. Currie had nice coverage on the tight end crossing pattern on 4th-and-1 late to force the turnover on downs.

Giants on Special Teams

Once again, Tom Quinn’s special teams were a liability in a game. Both Orleans Darkwa and Justin Currie whiffed on attempted blocks, leading to a blocked punt. The Giants also gave up punt returns of 52 yards (which led to a field goal despite the defense holding the Jets to three yards on this “drive”) and 28 yards. Harris made a sure tackle on one return but his mistackle on the next return led to the 28-yard return. Jerell Adams did save a touchdown with his hustle on the 52-yard return (he also was in on another special teams tackle).

All four of the Giants kickoffs resulted in touchbacks (two by Randy Bullock, two by Josh Brown). Not counting the block, Brad Wing punted 10 times, averaging 48.6 yards per kick with four inside the 20-yard line. Dwayne Harris was flagged with holding on one punt.

Dwayne Harris returned four punts for 49 yards, including a 29-yarder. Bobby Rainey returned two punts for 22 yards, including a 21-yarder. Tavarres King was flagged for an illegal block penalty on one Rainey return. Rainey returned two kickoffs for 48 yards (24 yard average) and Paul Perkins one kickoff for 19 yards.

(New York Giants at New York Jets, August 27, 2016)