After two weeks of futility, the starting offense finally showed signs of finding it's rhythm. Eli Manning finished the game going 12 of 16 with an interception, but the passing game looked greatly improved over the first two weeks of the preseason. Odell Beckham got his first catch of the preseason, finishing with 5 catches for 31 yards. The Giants also rediscovered their running game with Rashad Jennings running well and scoring the starting offense's only touchdown to date.
The difference came when Geoff Schwartz entered the game at right guard in the second quarter. Schwartz's presence helped create movement at the line of scrimmage in the running game and stabilize the pocket for Eli Manning, giving him time to find his weapons.
The starting defense struggled early as they had to adapt to a pre-game injury to Robert Ayers. Damontre Moore stepped into the starting lineup following the injury to Ayers. Interestingly enough, Moore was mostly used as a stand-up rusher in the first quarter, and his play improved as he settled down as the game went on. Though the Giants had several good stops and put the offense in good position, they also struggled throughout the game with discipline and containing the Jets' running game.
The backups had a mixed bag as well. They moved the ball well at times, but the presence of Sheldon Richardson on the Jets' 2nd and 3rd string defensive line made any offense nearly futile. As well, the back-up offense and defense had their share of drive-killing (or extending) penalties.
What Did We Learn?
Ereck Flowers is pretty good - One of the biggest things the Giants were looking for was how rookie left tackle Ereck Flowers would hold up against the Jets' formidable front 7. The answers were encouraging. Flowers proved to a fierce run blocker at the line of scrimmage, a bully blocking in space, and had no memorable gaffes in pass protection. There isn't much more you could ask from a rookie thrust into the starting left tackle job.
The Giants are giving guys chances - Cornerback Jayron Hosley, tight ends Adrien Robinson and Jerome Cunningham, defensive tackles Jay Bromley and Kenrick Ellis, defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa, linebacker Unai Unga, and others all got chances with the starters against the Jets. Encouragingly for the Giants, each of them showed well.
Hosley struggled with his run keys to start the game, but he seemed to improve as the game went on.
The Giants had been looking for something positive from Adrien Robinson and he delivered. He blocked well in both the run game and pass protection, made a nice catch and drew a drive-extending pass interference call. Jerome Cunningham was one of the bright spots on the Giants' offense throughout the game, and scored a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Bromley, Ellis, Odighizuwa, and Unga all continued their strong play from the previous two pre-season games.
Injuries Suck - The New York Giants lost three more players to injury tonight. Starting defensive end Robert Ayers went down before the game even started, suffering an ankle injury in warm-ups. Bobby Hart had to be helped off the field after suffering an injury to his left knee. Hart was having a promising pre-season at right tackle and was threatening to make the 53-man roster. Finally the Giants lost yet another defensive back when CB/S Josh Gordy went down with a hip injury in the fourth quarter.
While the seriousness of these injuries are currently unknown, they further deplete an already strained depth chart.
The Giants still have work to do.
There was plenty to give Tom Coughlin indigestion in the Giants' ten point loss. Things like giving up touchdowns on an interception and punt return. Things like losing contain on running plays, screen plays, and leaving receivers wide open, or drive killing penalties.
But there were also encouraging signs of progress. The starting offensive line looked solid with Geoff Schwartz in the game. He alternated with series with John Jerry, and there was a noticeable difference in the play of the line between the two. The Giants have to be looking forward to seeing the offensive line with Weston Richburg -- who was resting a sore knee -- starting at center and Geoff Schwartz starting at right guard.
There were also the connections between Eli Manning and Odell Beckham. With Schwartz in the game, Eli had the time and security to find his No. 1 receiver five times, almost adding a miraculous 1 handed catch with Darrelle Revis in coverage to that total
The play of youngsters like Jerome Cunningham, Owa Odighizuwa, and Jay Bromley also has to be encouraging.
The Giants may not have won, and there is obviously still work to be done, but they did show improvement on both sides of the ball from their previous two games. That is one of the main goals of pre-season football.