It wasn't pretty, but the the New York Giants got their first win of 2016, a 21-20 victory over the New York Jets. What did we learn? Let's take a look at the biggest takeaways from the Giants' third preseason game.
The Giants Will Blitz
Steve Spagnuolo created a reputation for himself as a willing blitzer in his first tenure as the Giants’ defensive coordinator. If the third preseason game is any indication, he’s going to renew that reputation in 2016. The Giants blitzed early and often, from everywhere on the field. He sent Nat Berhe on a blitz from the centerfield on the Jets’ first drive, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie on a later drive. They didn’t always get home, but the willingness to send pressure from anywhere on the field shows off Spags’ aggression and a greater comfort with his defense.
The Kids Played, A Lot
Coach Ben McAdoo promised that the Giants wouldn’t be afraid to play their young players, to throw them in the fire and see who was comfortable being uncomfortable. They held true to that promise against the Jets. Young players like Owamagbe Odighizuwa, Donte Deayon, Eli Apple, Greg Milhouse, Jay Bromley, Romeo Okwara, and Ryan Malleck all saw snaps with the Giant’s starters in the first quarter. Who plays, when, and how much they play give clues to how the coaching staff feels about the players, and going by the snaps going to the young players, quite a few of them are going to have big roles for the Giants.
It’s Time To Drop The "Paper"
All through the offseason every time the Giants’ defense was discussed, the speculation was couched with "On Paper". Statements like "The Giants’ defense could be good, on paper" littered stories that discussed the Giants’ free agent acquisitions, the off-season program, training camp, and their potential play in the regular season.
Thus far, the Giants’ starting defense has smothered running games and consistently brought pressure on opposing offenses. More often than not, offenses have gone three-and-out with minimal yards per play. While the regular season with game-planning to create and exploit matchups is a much different animal than the preseason, perhaps it’s time to start saying that the Giants’ defense is good on the field, not just on paper.
What To Make Of Giants’ Running Backs?
With the offensive line largely failing to give the Giants’ running backs anywhere to go, evaluating the backs is a tough task. Rashad Jennings and Shane Vereen saw the entirety of the reps with the starting offense. And despite a special teams gaffe that lead to a blocked punt, Orleans Darkwa saw a marked uptick in reps from the first two games. Bobby Rainey and Paul Perkins both saw time with the backups, and Rainey was the return man when Dwayne Harris’ evening was over.
But one name curiously absent was Andre Williams. While none of the backs have looked particularly good this preseason, Williams has been the Giants’ most consistent runner. Does his lack of touches mean that he has solidified his roster spot, and the Giants want to give Rainey and Darkwa a chance to battle for a roster spot? We will likely find out sooner rather than later.
Do The Giants Trust Their Offensive Line?
The Giants barely threw the ball with Eli Manning in the game. They were content to run the ball, run it some more, and then on third down, run it again.
McAdoo made it clear that he wanted the offensive line to be more physical and establish the run. He gave them a plethora of chances to establish themselves, running right into the the teeth of the Jets’ formidable defensive line. But even when it became clear that the beleaguered line couldn’t open a hole, the Giants didn’t put the ball in Manning's hands, running several shot-gun draws or quick passes.
Ed has maintained the belief that the Giants will bring in outside help for their offensive line. Perhaps they might make their first moves when teams make their first round of cuts this week.
Are The Giants Even Trying To Score?
If you count the starting offense as only being on the field when Eli Manning is under (or behind) center, then the Giants starting offense hasn’t scored a point this preseason. Part of that problem is the struggling offensive line, but the Giants haven’t appeared to even make a serious attempt to put the ball in the end zone.
The question is whether or not the Giants are even trying to score. Winning generally isn’t a major goal of the preseason. Evaluating players, concepts, aspects of the playbook, etc, are more important than winning a game that doesn’t count. After a 2015 season that saw a generally stagnant run game, the Giants want to be able to establish the run. That, at least in part, explains the run-heavy offensive calls for the starting offense.
Also of note, the Giants have to be concerned with protecting Eli Manning. The Giants’ franchise QB didn’t play at all in the first preseason game, and rarely threw a pass when he saw the field in the second and third games. Running the ball is one way to keep Manning from getting hit, and reps off his arm.
Cruz Watch 2016
All eyes were on Victor Cruz as he made his long-awaited return to the football field. While he was on the field for quite a few plays in the first half, the ball never went his way. He finally caught the his first pass of the night — his first catch in 22 months, or 685 days — in the Giants’ first possession of the second half. It wasn’t much, but the 4-yard catch was a big step for the fan favorite slot receiver.
Big Night For Kerry Wynn
Kerry Wynn wasn’t inspiring when injuries forced him into a starting role in 2015. For the most part, he is what he is: A big, strong defensive end who is stout against the run, and can get a sack when the opportunity presents itself. He’s a high-effort player who’s motor always runs wide open. That motor and relentless effort kept him around the ball throughout the night, and lead to one of the biggest plays of the night.
Capitalizing on great play by J.T. Thomas III, who tipped a screen pass, Wynn came up with the pick, then after a nifty cut ran it all the way back to the house for six points.
Surprise Of The Night
Is it really a surprise when the 10th overall pick plays well?
Cornerback is one of the hardest positions for a rookie to come in and play well. Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Jets’ offense were well aware when Apple was on the field, and they tested him often in coverage.
The rookie responded well and held up in coverage whenever he was targeted. After missing the second preseason game with an injury, Apple returned to the field and saw heavy time with the starting defense and looked like he belonged.
Apple was a surprise draft pick for many observers, with many wondering if Jerry Reese was outmaneuvered by the Tennessee Titans and Chicago Bears, and made the selection of Apple in a moment of panic.
Now that he’s on the field, Apple is making it look like Reese knew what he was doing when he made the pick.
With Eli Manning, Odell Beckham Jr., Victor Cruz, and Sterling Shepard all on the field at the same time, everyone predicted that Tavarres King would be the Fantasy Stud of the game, right?
Yeah, nobody was predicting that.
But with two catches for 38 yards, two touchdowns, and a 20- yard run, King was the Giants’ highest-scoring fantasy player with 17.8 points (PPR format).
Amidst all the Giants’ offensive struggles, King was a bright point. His speed and quickness in space was the Giants’ offense this game, and he made a strong case for a roster spot, either with the Giants or another team.