And just like that, the 2021 preseason is in the rearview mirror, and we’re looking ahead to the start of the regular season. The New York Giants finished the preseason with a disappointing loss to the New England Patriots following a week of joint practices.
The Giants managed to keep things close on the scoreboard for most of the game, but the Patriots seemed solidly in control. Of course, we should be measured in our reaction to preseason, as coaches are often trying to evaluate specific aspects of their roster and winning is a secondary concern.
The real intrigue here is that the third preseason game was billed as the “dress rehearsal” for the regular season. It was also the last chance the coaches and front office have to evaluate their roster before the mandatory cuts to trim the roster down to 53 players. While most of the starting offense and defense is already well defined, there might be something to learn about the Giants’ thoughts regarding their roster based on who played, how much, and when they played in the final preseason game.
The Giants’ starting offense played the majority of the offense’s snaps, despite playing only the first half. The starting offensive line and Daniel Jones played 40 snaps, which accounts for 57 percent of the total offensive snaps for the game.
The most interesting part of the starter’s snap counts for the Giants is the right tackle and left guard positions.
Veteran interior lineman Ted Larsen Jr. started in place of the injured Shane Lemieux at left guard, but was platooned with Kenny Wiggins. Wiggins had previously filled in for Lemieux and played with the starters in the first preseason game. Larsen played a total of 39 snaps, but those snaps came spread out over the course of the game and he also saw time at center with the second string offensive line. Wiggins played 39 snaps as well, platooning with Larsen on the starting offense and later with the backup linemen. The injury to Larsen could complicate matters as well, given that the Giants seemed to view him as the next man up on the interior offensive line.
We don’t have any updates on his injury as of this writing, but hopefully it’s minor. His ability to play both center and guard could be valuable for roster construction.
The big story, however, is at the right tackle position. It was widely noted that Nate Solder got the start at right tackle over Matt Peart. Head coach Joe Judge told the media not to read anything into that, but to see the surprise change in the light of reports that Peart struggled against the Patriots in practice, it’s tough not to try and read between the lines.
Solder played just 20 snaps, playing alternate possessions with Peart. But unlike Solder, Peart played well into the second half, and picked up another 13 snaps with the backups. While the Giants might have wanted the second-year player to get more snaps after infrequent play his rookie year and a rough outing against the New York Jets, he would have gotten even more work if he played the full starter’s load.
The Giants themselves seem to be looking for someone to step up and be an answer at right tackle.
The other battle really worth watching is at the running back position. Rookie Gary Brightwell and veteran Core Clement played roughly the same number of snaps, with Brightwell getting 17 and Clement getting 15. But for the first time this preseason, Brightwell got on the field before Clement and even got snaps with the starters after Devontae Booker’s night was over. However, Clement continued his trend of running well and averaged 6.0 yards per carry. On the other side of the coin, the Giants seem to like Brightwell on special teams, where he got 13 snaps to Clement’s 9. It would seem that the rookie has beaten the veteran out, perhaps aided by FB Elijhaa Penny proving to be a capable ball carrier.
It’s interesting to note that where the Giants’ starters played the majority of their snaps, the Patriots’ starters were only on the field for a cup of coffee. Most of their starters left the field after the Patriots’ second drive, with players like LT Isaiah Wynn, RT Trent Brown, RG Shaq Mason, and WRs Nelson Agholor and Jakobi Meyers playing just 9 snaps.
But perhaps the most notable snap count of the night on the defensive side of the ball for the Giants is “0”.
That’s the number of snaps played by interior defensive lineman B.J. Hill, who was predicted to be a vital role player on the defense this year. We don’t know for sure that Hill has lost his roster spot, but being the team’s only healthy scratch in a game meant to simulate the regular season and evaluate players before cuts can’t be a good sign.
On the flip side of things, rookie cornerback Rodarius Williams led the defense with 36 snaps. Williams started the game across from James Bradberry with Adoree’ Jackson out due to an ankle injury suffered this week and played into the second half. While Williams is still something of an adventure in coverage, he seems to have taken advantage of the opportunity posed by the Giants’ injured and shaky cornerback depth chart.
Likewise, iDL David Moa saw 31 defensive snaps (51 percent) and came on with the second string at the start of the second half. Moa has flashed throughout the preseason with a quick first step off the snap and solid technique as a pass rusher. He even showed some mobility, dropping into shallow coverage zones on occasion. It’s possible that Moa has pushed his way onto the roster and perhaps bumped B.J. Hill off of it.
Finally, the most encouraging number is the 15 snaps played by Lorenzo Carter. While it’s good that Carter got the sack against the Patriots backup offense to close out the first half, it’s even better to see him out there at all. Coming back from a ruptured Achilles is no mean feat, and it’s encouraging that Carter was able to get out and play in a preseason game before the start of the regular season.