Coming into the New York Giants preseason game against the Cleveland Browns, we thought for sure that we’d get to see the starters out there on the playing field.
We were wrong.
The Giants and Browns apparently decided that two tough inter-squad scrimmages were enough and that adding snaps in a preseason game was unnecessary. So both teams kept most of their core players safely ensconced on the sidelines. We did see a few important players on the field for each team, but for the most part it was backups who carried the day.
Preseason games are incredibly important tools for teams when it comes to evaluating themselves, but they don’t necessarily tell us on the outside what they’re looking at. However, we can (at least try to) make some guesses at how teams feel about certain players or what their intentions for the season might be for the coming season based on the snap counts and how players respond when they’re on the field.
This is going to sound more harsh than it’s intended, but there were few players on the field that either team would relish seeing in a regular season game situation. Teams might like the development of reserve linemen or an efficient outing from a backup quarterback in the preseason, but no team wants their starting center or quarterback to go down in a game.
However, there were a few players out there that we anticipate having significant roles as either true starters or important role players. So let’s get started by zooming in on them.
S Xavier McKinney and slot CB Darnay Holmes were on the field to start the game, and played 10 and seven plays, respectively. Without rewatching the tape to see specifically when their night was over, we can’t say how far into the game their last play was, but it’s worth mentioning that the Browns’ first drive was 10 plays long. It’s likely that they got the first series and were done for the night after that. Likewise, DB Julian Love played 24 snaps early in the game.
Defensive tackle B.J. Hill was on field for a total of 20 plays, while EDGE (and star of the game) Oshane Ximines played 29 defensive snaps. LB Carter Coughlin, who had a starring role in Week 1 and flashed again in Week 2, played 23 snaps, perhaps indicating that he caught the coaches’ eye and they don’t want to wear him out in the preseason.
On the offensive side of the ball, the two players to note are running backs Devontae Booker and Corey Clement. Both Booker and Clement ran well this week, showing good efficiency behind the line of scrimmage and strong contact balance. Like last week, they played a similar number of snaps, with Clement getting 21 snaps while Booker got 16. At this point it’s pretty obvious that the running back depth chart is set with Booker and Clement following Saquon Barkley. How much either plays in the regular season remains to be seen, however.
Fullback Elijhaa Penny only played six offensive snaps to go with six special teams snaps. Though it should be noted that Penny also received two carries and a target in those six snaps. While the small sample size makes drawing any conclusion impossible, the fact that half of his snaps resulted in him being a ball carrier suggests that Penny could have a larger role in the offense this year.
The Giants’ backup offensive line played the whole way, with OT Jackson Barton and OL Jonotthan Harrison playing all of the offense’s 63 snaps.
WR David Sills V was once again among the leaders in offensive snap counts among the skill position players with 40 offensive snaps. Sills played throughout the game, from the Giants’ opening drive to the final drive. He was closely followed by fellow WR Dante Pettis, who played 38 snaps and also played throughout the game.
WR C.J. Board, the third in the trio who seem to be in competition for the final receiver spot, played just 16 offensive snaps (including taking the first play of the game on an end around), but also led the way with 10 special teams snaps. While we have no way of knowing just what the Giants are thinking or how they view the players on their roster, the lack of snaps for Board could signal a better chance at making the roster. Meanwhile the significant workload for Sills and Pettis could signal an outright battle as the coaching staff tries to make a decision between them.
On the defensive side of the ball, perhaps the player most worth paying attention to is CB Sam Beal. Beal didn’t start the game and came on with the third string defenders. But once on the field he played 55 snaps, or 85 percent of the defense’s total snaps. The Giants had hoped that Beal would be the future of their secondary when they acquired him with a third round pick in the 2018 supplemental draft. However, he has been unable to get on the field much due to injury and didn’t get much traction when he was on the field. Beal had a rough game against the Browns, with the play where he was undercut on a reception standing out starkly.
The Giants gave their cadre of veteran free agent linebackers a solid workload. Trent Harris played 40 snaps and Ryan Anderson played 36 snaps, while Ifeadi Odeningbo played 29 snaps and Reggie Ragland played 22 snaps. Harris once again played a heavy special teams load as well, racking up 14 special teams snaps throughout the game. Anderson and Ragland were starters for the game, while Odeningbo came on in the second half.
Interestingly, DT David Moa started the game, and also played the biggest snap count of the defensive linemen at 47 snaps. That could be a function of the team only having four defensive tackles active for the game as much as the team wanting to give Moa the chance to claw his way into a deep DT depth chart.
Pro Football Focus grades
I believe in taking PFF’s player grades with a grain of salt, and that goes doubly for preseason. Teams are often working on specific things and looking for specific situations — such as the Browns’ second drive in which they operated almost exclusively from an empty set. That can make evaluating a player when we don’t know what the team was specifically trying to do a dubious proposition at best.
So with that in mind, here are Pro Football Focus’ grades from the Giants game presented without further commentary.