EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — One preseason game in the books, three to go. What did we learn Thursday night as the New York Giants lost to the Cleveland Browns, 20-10? Let’s review.
Saquon Barkley is good
Umm, yeah, we knew that. But, this is how he said hello to the NFL.
NFL, we'd like you to meet Saquon Barkley. He's good. https://t.co/Pj3Ve3wuXU— SB Nation (@SBNation) August 9, 2018
Not shabby. Barkley finished with 5 carries for 43 yards.
A different approach to preseason
Eli Manning didn’t play in the preseason opener the past two seasons, when Ben McAdoo was head coach. In fact, a lot of key players were held out of the first preseason game with McAdoo in charge.
Not so under Pat Shurmur.
Odell Beckham Jr. didn’t play, but the rest of the starting offense played two full series. The starting defense played three series, staying on the field for an extra set of plays after giving up a 4-play, 66-yard touchdown drive.
My view is that I like this better. Obviously, there is a risk of injury but the only way guys get ready for football is by playing football.
Don’t put Davis Webb in Canton just yet
This was not the way Webb planned it. After a terrific spring and an excellent couple of weeks of training camp, Webb’s first appearance in a game since last preseason did not go well.
Webb went 9-of-22 for 70 yards. He missed his first six passes, and was 3-of-14 at one point. He was high on several throws, and missed an open Kalif Raymond for what could have been a 27-yard touchdown.
His biggest sin, though, came at the end of the first half. With no timeouts left, he completed a third-and-four pass to Russell Shepard at the 21-yard line. The clock ran out before Webb could get the ball spiked to allow for a field goal attempt.
“Davis gets a little amped up at times and that’s what causes the ball to sail a little bit, but he had his moments. He had some good plays in there,” Shurmur said.
Webb didn’t look like the same guy we have been watching all spring and summer thus far. Of course, things are different in live action against a real opponent.
Let’s not panic and think Webb can’t play based off this one erratic performance. Still, not what he or the Giants had hoped for.
Hunter Sharp gets first crack at return job
Who will return kickoffs and punts for the Giants this season has been an open question. We have seen a number of players get chances throughout training camp. Thursday, Hunter Sharp did all of the returning in the first half. He had a 42-yard kickoff return and averaged 31.0 yards on two attempts, but lost 3 yards on his only punt return. Kalif Raymond had a 14-yard kickoff return in the second half.
To be honest, watching how things developed Thursday night if the Giants don’t block these returns better it isn’t going to matter who is receiving the ball.
Baker Mayfield was impressive for Browns
Yeah, we’re here to talk about the Giants, but let’s give credit where it’s due. The first overall pick in the draft was 11-of-20 for 212 yards and two touchdowns. He finished with a passer rating of 125.4. Mayfield showed poise in the pocket, used his feet to run for a couple of first downs and played like he belonged in the NFL.
Cornerback depth? What cornerback depth?
If you are worried about the Giants depth at cornerback, Thursday night didn’t really inspire confidence. On Mayfield’s 54-yard touchdown to Antonio Calloway, both Leonard Johnson and Orion Stewart had chances to make the play and couldn’t. Grant Haley made a couple of nice plays, one a pass breakup and one in run support. B.W. Webb didn’t do anything to hurt his cause as he tries to win the starting cornerback job. Other than that, though, beyond Eli Apple and Janoris Jenkins it’s difficult to say anyone distinguished himself. Donte Deayon and William Gay did not play because of injuries.
“We were tight in coverage, but at times we just didn’t make enough plays,” Shurmur said.
Dave Gettleman had to be smiling
The general manager has talked often about the basic tenants of running the ball and stopping the run. The Giants averaged 5.8 yards per carry (23 attempts/134 yards) and surrendered just 1.5 per rush (33 carries/50 yards).
“Typically if you play good run defense, everybody’s involved. So I thought we did a pretty good job on the run for the most part,” Shurmur said. “You didn’t really see any runs slip out.”