For the first time since August of 2019, the Giants played a preseason game to remind everybody just how ugly football is when the lower-level players get involved. If anyone doesn’t understand the gap between NFL players that make a 53-man roster and those that just miss out, tell them to watch preseason Week 1. Games this time of year are not very entertaining, nor do they need to be watched very closely by the public. Nothing about them means very much and the reactions to them are often misguided and, to be honest, just flat out asinine. With that said, there are things to look for and note for future reference and that is exactly what this review will be mostly about.
The Giants sat the majority of their starters on both sides of the ball. The offensive line, however, marched out their top group to start the game off protecting backup quarterback Mike Glennon and paving paths for backup running back (and potential week 1 starter) Devontae Booker. They were outclassed to start off the game as the offense went three-and-out, the third play being a sack allowed by second-year tackle Matt Peart.
The Jets marched out their shiny new toy, quarterback Zack Wilson. He, along with a productive running game, marched down the field with some aid from missed tackles by the Giants’ defense. Wilson looked sharp and confident with their timed-based throws against the vanilla Giants defense that didn’t show much complexity. Cornerback Isaac Yiadom came up with a 3rd-and-3 stop on a pass attempt to the newly-signed Corey Davis. The Jets settled for a 30-yard field goal by rookie kicker Chris Naggar. That 3-0 lead would stick until the last 3 minutes of the 3rd quarter.
The Giants’ offense did wake up a bit on the next two drives in the first half, as they crossed midfield on both possessions. Andrew Thomas and Will Hernandez made key blocks on big Corey Clement rushing attempts that gained solid yards multiple times. Clement, however, fumbled on a 1st-and-goal from inside the 5-yard line. It was a major blow that, had this been a regular season game, would have been a major black-eye for the offense.
On the positive side, the Giants’ defense did perform consistently following the first drive. A 4th-and-1 stop by Danny Shelton, a 3rd-and-1 stop by Reggie Ragland, and another 3rd-and-1 stop by Austin Johnson were high points early on. If the Giants are going to be a credible contender in the still-weak NFC East, it will ride on the back of the defense. And with the way injuries mount up in the NFL these days, the defense will at least somewhat ride on the back of the ability of second/third stringers filling in when their respective numbers are called. Shelton and Ragland were very good.
Speaking of backups, the second-, third-, and fourth-stringers were on tap from the midway point of the second quarter-on. Roster hopefuls were hoping to get their opportunities on both sides of the ball. David Sills came down with a 37-yard catch inside the 2-minute warning, sparking some hope that the Giants would get rid of the zero on the scoreboard. The following three plays were incomplete pass, sack, incomplete pass. The second half yielded similar results early on.
The Giants offense went three-and-out on their first two possessions of the second half while the Jets added their first touchdown via a four-yard run by La’Mical Perine. That was three plays after a 3rd-and-18 conversion in which second-year receiver Denzel Mims broke three tackles on his way to the first down that put them inside the 10-yard line. It was an ugly display of tackling, a theme that this defensive staff must be sure to end before Week 1.
The fourth quarter began with the Giants starting an offensive possession near midfield. Thanks to a pass interference by former Big Blue corner Corey Ballentine, they were 1st-and-10 in Jets territory. Thorson missed an open Damion Willis downfield that could have been an easy score before two more incomplete passes that weren’t even close.
The Giants’ defense held on and even created a scoring opportunity themselves, as rookie cornerback Rodarius Williams picked up a fumble and returned it 29 yards to the NYJ 17-yard line. Three plays later, Thorson hit a wide-open Willis this time, beating Ballentine, on a broken down play. The sore was 10-7, Jets up, with 7 minutes remaining.
The Jets bled the clock down a to under 2 minutes, but they pinned Thorson and the Giants offense down inside the 10-yard line for the second time of the half. On the first play, Thorson was rocked by a hard hit in the end zone, resulting in a safety that put the Jets up 12-7. The Jets then took a knee when they got the ball back and the game was over.
Giants lose, 12-7.
-It is crystal clear that Mike Glennon is going to be the backup to Daniel Jones this year. He played 38% of the snaps, while Thorson picked up the remaining. Glennon is an extremely lethargic mover, as there may not be a signal caller in the league with feet as heavy as him. That always makes me nervous when it comes to a backup quarterback. A guy who can’t move without a superior arm doesn’t inspire confidence should the team ever have to turn to him.
-Thorson was really poor. We can’t make a huge deal about a third-string quarterback, but there is no denying his poor performance. He went 5/16 for 72 yards. The touchdown to Willis on a broken down play makes the stat line look much better than it really is. He did make a great throw to David Sills in the first half, though. He was inaccurate on all levels and the timing throws were too late. Late in the game, Thorson was rocked on a sack and needed to be helped off the field.
-Giants fans need to prepare for Saquon Barkley being on the sideline for the first couple weeks potentially. Even if he is back for live action, he will probably have a pitch count he needs to stay under. It will likely come down to newly-signed veterans Devontae Booker and Corey Clement to pick up the slack early on. They combined for 44 yards on 8 carries. Clement was more impressive, as he is known for a no-nonsense style between the tackles. That is the kind of back who will work best to complement a fully-healthy Barkley down the road. The issue with him? It popped up in the 2nd quarter when he fumbled inside the NYJ 5-yard line. The one black eye on his game centers around that, as he has fumbled 6 times in under 100 carries since the start of 2018.
-Sandro Platzgummer rattled off the biggest play of the night for the NYG offense, a 48-yard run up the sideline from the NYG 1-yard line.
-The best blocker of the bunch appears to be Booker and I would include Barkley in that discussion based on what we have seen the past two years. Booker is stout but more importantly, his footwork and sustainability look natural and easy. That is going to be a plus-factor this year.
-David Sills has been having a strong camp and it appears the coaching staff wanted to give him as many snaps as possible to make his case for the final WR spot on the roster. He led the group in snaps, catches (3), and yards (49). Those 49 yards were more than the rest of the pass catchers combined. Sills has excellent ball skills, he always has. The issue with him is a lack of top-gear speed. His release looked really good, however. If he wants any shot at making the roster, he needs to prove he can get open on all levels of the route tree. If he can, he can make it happen.
-C.J. Board got the ball a lot. He had a carry on a jet sweep that resulted in a 12-yard gain and 4 returns (2 punt / 2 kick). He dropped a pass, however. Board’s route to making this team will revolve around special teams but if the receiving skill set isn’t there, he will have a hard time fighting off some of the other options.
-Damion Willis is an interesting name. He started a couple games in 2019 with CIN and they were excited about him. He has good size (6’3/209) and a wide catch radius with a bendy frame. He came down with a touchdown and could have had another one if Thorson had thrown the ball inbounds.
-Dante Pettis, another roster-bubble name, had three targets but didn’t come away with any catches. He still looks like the best combination of skills + talent among these back-end guys.
-Kaden Smith got the start with Kyle Rudolph out. More of the same from him with quality blocking in the trenches and limited separation as a route runner. He will be the unquestioned number 2 guy here until Kyle Rudolph is ready.
-Cole Hikutini had a solid game as a run blocker. He sustained an injury in the 3rd quarter to his hip, so we didn’t get to see a lot of him. They are already thin at the position, as Levine Toilolo is out for the year with an Achilles injury.
-Rysen John added 3 catches. He is someone worth keeping an eye on from a Practice Squad-perspective. He is obviously lacking in traditional body-type and overall power when it comes to the traditional Y-Tight End the Giants use, but there is something about the way he goes after the ball with loose and athletic limbs that could be useable down the road if NYG needs more options in the passing game. He has twitch that the other guys at this spot don’t.
-The starting offensive line (minus guard Shane Lemieux) was on the field for three drives. Andrew Thomas and Will Hernandez both played well in the limited time. If those two take a big step up, this entire offense is going to benefit in a big way. Hernandez looks slimmer and more comfortable moving as a lateral run blocker. He wasn’t tested as much in pass protection from an adjustment perspective, the other glaring hole we have seen over the past three years. Thomas did a nice job against NYJ ‘s newest pass rusher Carl Lawson, who has been tearing it up at camp.
-Matt Peart, the third component to this offensive line that is needed for this offense to operate smoothly, didn’t play well. Nothing about this needs to be analyzed too deeply yet, as this was the first real live action for him and others in a long time. He allowed a sack and a pressure in 18 snaps.
-Kenny Wiggins got the start at left guard and came back in the game following the injury to third-stringer Kyle Murphy. He had a poor game. He allowed 2 pressures, 1 TFL, and 1 sack as he played a team-high 41 offensive snaps.
-The backup group as a whole had an up and down night, very inconsistent. They did sustain pass protection for above-average time on multiple occasions, but they were leaky at times and didn’t get a push in the running game. Center Brett Heggie look overmatched athletically and Chad Slade continues to play with poor balance. The only one who I would have had a positive grade on would have been Jake Burton. I liked his hand violence and footwork.
-Nose tackle Danny Shelton is going to be a factor here. He had several dominant snaps where he took on multiple blockers and still impacted the play. He had a TFL on a 4th-and-1 and factored on another 3rd-down stop. Depth along the defensive line is key, and Shelton will be a big part of that. B.J. Hill and Austin Johnson were solid as well.
-Look out for Willie Henry as a potential roster surprise. He is really active and quick in pursuit and may have played with the most violence of all the linemen. He finished with 4 tackles, 1 TFL, and 1 pressure while playing just over a third of the snaps.
-Rookie Raymond Johnson III is another guy I think will be a factor in 2021. Maybe not right away but when injuries pop up, his versatility and explosive first step are traits that transition well in the NFL. He finished with 2 pressures.
-Watch out for Carter Coughlin. As stated above, I am very careful to not overreact in either direction early in preseason. That said, Coughlin had a few eye-opening moments in 2020 and he has picked right up where he left off. He was the “defensive player of the game” in my eyes, finishing with 5 tackles and a sack. The college-edge defender is the ultra-hybrid front-seven Swiss army knife who look both comfortable and capable in multiple roles.
-Reggie Ragland played under half the snaps and there is some tightness in his hips as a pass defender, but I liked what he brought to the table. He had a big hit that jarred a ball loose on a 3rd-and-1 conversion attempt. He will be the top ILB backup, something I think we should be happy about because it is a substantial upgrade over what NYG has had in that role lately.
-Tae Crowder missed 2 tackles and Devante Downs had 1. They both pressured the quarterback once each. That spot next to Blake Martinez is going to be very interesting to watch in the coming weeks.
-I liked what I saw out of the edge defenders. Lorenzo Carter didn’t play, but 2nd round rookie Azeez Ojulari did, and he flashed. His pass rush repertoire lacked variety, but the juice out of his stance is noteworthy. That is going to be a factor this year. His run stuff where he got off the big/bad/overrated (and overrated) Mekhi Becton proved this guy is going to be more than a pass rusher as much as that can be proven Week 1 of preseason.
-Niko Lalos and Ifeadi Odenigbo had standout efforts. Lalos was disruptive and active, a true hustler. Odenigbo is a hidden gem, I think. Not a starter, but the ever-important rotational pass rusher who makes his name know later in the year. His footwork and twitch looked very good. Remember, he had 7.5 sacks in 2019.
-With James Bradberry and Adoree Jackson out, it was a good opportunity to get looks at Isaac Yiadom and rookie Rodarius Williams. Yiadom showed good coverage on Corey Davis. We know what we have in him, a solid but limited veteran who can get the job done for the most part. If he is the team’s number three or four corner, they’re in a good spot. Williams got beat multiple times early on, giving up two 3rd down conversions on the first 2 drives. He played nickel, something I don’t see being an ideal fit for him, but it is possible they just wanted to see him in live action. He bounced back well after a rough start. I liked what I saw out of him.
-Madre Harper led the defense in snaps. He missed 3 tackles on the night and appears to be a few steps behind mentally. I didn’t see it with him last year and still don’t. He was flagged for a pass interference and was roasted in coverage throughout the second half.
-The top three safeties didn’t play (Ryan, McKinney, Peppers). Julian Love and Quincy Wilson are both hybrid defensive backs who saw time in this one. The latter finished with 7 tackles and a couple big hits.
-K Ryan Santoso: 1/1 XP.
-P Riley Dixon: 6 punts / 43.3 avg / 41.0 net
-OG Will Hernandez, WR David Sills, LB Carter Coughlin
-QB Clayton Thorson, OG Kenny Wiggins, DB Madre Harper
3 THOUGHTS ON NYJ
1) I liked what I saw out of Zach Wilson under center. Look, anything you watch in Week 2 preseason needs to be taken with a grain of salt, but there are still things that can show you the arrow is pointing up. Wilson showed a really nice release, he was quick to get the ball out, and he was accurate. That is a good place to start.
2) The Jets have a similar edge-rusher anxiety to NYG. The best player on either team, at that position, may be a 2020 undrafted free agent. Bryce Huff flashed last year in limited time and there have been whispers growing louder and louder from people I respect from that organization that this kid is going to break out. He looked excellent at multiple levels. He finished with 3 tackles / 2 sacks / 1 pressure.
3) I really do like the direction NYJ is heading in. It is mostly about the leadership and support staff they have in place, both on the coaching staff and in the front office. They have extra picks, they’re emphasizing the right things when it comes to personnel, and they have plenty of available money. They are gonna have a solid 4-5 year window coming up. I think they finish at or near .500 this season.
3 CLOSING THOUGHTS
1) I’ve hinted at this a few times, but wanted to get it out here as well. If there is ONE game that fans need to remain seated with their mouth shut afterward, it is Week 1 of preseason. That is both for positive and negative reviews. The game plans are vanilla, the players are rusty, and the goals this coaching staff have within these games is too deep for many to understand. Don’t get worked up about anything you saw in this one.
2) Should Daniel Jones be playing? My opinion is yes. Year 3 is THE year for a young quarterback. Sure, the fear of injury is alive and well in preseason but it is important he continues to gain experience with the scheme and timing in live action. I think he should be playing at least 4 drives in each of the next 2 games.
3) I have a really good feeling about the NYG defense. Not because of what I saw in this game, but because of what I saw last year and who was added to the unit. Also add in continuity and the fact I think they will be much deeper than a year ago, I think we are finally going to see a top 7-8 defense in the league.