The New York Giants came away with a 22-16 victory Friday over the New York Jets in what has become their annual intra-city rivalry game. But preseason bragging rights and a victory in an exhibition game hardly tell the story of the Giants’ third preseason game.
As much as this game was about simulating a regular season game and week of preparation, it also plays a sizable role in helping coaches determine their final 53-man roster.
Hunter Sharp ran with the first team as both a receiver and a returner. His punt return for a touchdown was memorable, but his work as a receiver left a lot to be desired. Sharp was targeted three times, dropping two of them on third downs, and the third pass was a miscommunication with Eli Manning that could have been a touchdown.
(Note: Without knowing the play call, we don’t know what exactly went wrong, but it’s clear that the two players were expecting different things.)
However, the two played a similar amount. Sharp only played two more snaps than Kalif Raymond, 21 offensive snaps to 19, and 10 special teams snaps to six. While he didn’t have the spectacular results, Raymond did good work as a returner as well, with four punt returns averaging 16.5 yards (long of 35 yards).
The snap count reveals a definite “second tier” of receivers after Sterling Shepard and Cody Latimer.
Russell Shepard and Roger Lewis Jr. each played 14 snaps with the second team, while Amba Etta-Tawo played 10 snaps. Lewis had one catch on one target for 10 yards, while Shepard was targeted twice, catching one for 16 yards. Both players showed up on special teams as well.
At the running back position, while Jonathan Stewart got the start, he only had 7 snaps before Wayne Gallman entered the game. Gallman lead the offense with 35 snaps. Less than a week after being signed, running back Jhurell Pressley played 25 snaps. And while he might not have forced the Giants’ hand and seized a roster spot with his performance, he took advantage of the shortage at the position and showed enough with 13 carries for 77 yards (5.5 yards per carry) to make us want to see more.
And finally, when the Giants tried out second team linemen, they did so as a unit, with Chad Wheeler, John Jerry, John Greco, and Nick Becton all getting 24 offensive snaps. Brett Jones received 23 offensive snaps.
In a response to the Giants’ struggles against tight ends and running backs over the middle, the team began using Ray-Ray Armstrong as a nickel linebacker. It wasn’t a look they used often, with Armstrong getting just 18 defensive snaps. Interestingly, fellow linebacker Tae Davis got 19 snaps.
On the flip side, strong inside linebacker Mark Herzlich received 28 defensive snaps, just four shy of what the starters played.
After missing time with a hamstring injury, cornerback Donte Deayon played 28 snaps as well, racking up 4 tackles. As Dan Pizzuta points out, it seems those snaps came at the expense of UDFA rookie corner, Grant Haley. Haley played nearly the entire game against the Detroit Lions, so perhaps the Giants have seen enough of Haley and wanted to see how Deayon came back following the injury.
Interestingly, veteran DB William Gay was back up to 21 defensive snaps after barely playing in Week 2.
Rookie Lorenzo Carter was in for 27 plays, notching three total tackles and half a sack.
Defensive tackles Robert Thomas and A.J. Francis seem tied, at least as snap count is concerned. The Giants seem to want a strong rotation of massive (yet sneakily athletic) defensive tackles, and the snap count suggest that these two are handcuffed together. Thomas played 15 snaps while Francis played 13, getting two total tackles in the process.
The Giants have one more week, and one more game, left in the preseason. One more week of practice for players on the fringe of the roster to make their case, and one week for coaches to make their final decisions.
How much can we read in to what we’ve seen so far? With a completely new coaching staff and re-worked front office, that’s difficult to say. Maybe players who had their snaps drastically reduced because the coaches had seen enough and wanted to look at other players, or perhaps it means that those players aren’t in the plan going forwards.
The tendencies of this coaching staff are just one more thing we will have to keep an eye on going forward. The good news is that we’ll get our answers in a week.