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Giants-Patriots: 5 plays worth reviewing

Let’s look at some of what we saw Thursday night

New York Giants Vs. New England Patriots At Gillette Stadium (Preseason)
Aaron Robinson is beaten on a deep ball by New England’s Kristian Wilkerson.
Photo by Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

The Joe Schoen and Brian Daboll era commenced with a win as the New York Giants defeated the New England Patriots 23-21. An 11-play, 69-yard drive led by third-string quarterback Davis Webb helped set up a walk-off 24-yard chip shot by Graham Gano. Winning is unfamiliar territory for Big Blue, so it’s easy to revel with jubilation, but preseason is only preseason.

The Giants played all of their healthy starters while New England played their backups. Kadarius Toney, Leonard Williams, Blake Martinez, Matt Brieda, Justin Ellis, Dane Belton, Ricky Seals-Jones, Rodarius Williams, Austin Proehl, and Andre Miller were among the players who sat. Shane Lemieux exited the game with a toe injury before taking any snaps at center; Cor’Dale Flott hurt his groin, and Jamil Douglas also exited the game with an injury.

The Giants gained 418 yards to New England’s 318; New York controlled the football for almost eight more minutes than the Patriots, and the Giants had 26 first downs to New England’s 19. Although, it’s easier for the Giants to out-dual backups coached by their former head coach. Nevertheless, there are positive takeaways and negatives.

I want to highlight five play(s) that stick out to me. These are not necessarily the best or most impressive plays, but plays that should engender hope, trepidation, or curiosity. Here are five plays of note from the Giants’ preseason victory over the Patriots:

Play(s) 1: Daniel Jones on third down

The Patriots align in man coverage and the hook linebacker (QB spy) relates to Kenny Golladay’s (19) drag route underneath Collin Johnson’s (15) snag; Jones reads the coverage, steps into a clean pocket, and picks up the first down with his legs.

Saquon Barkley on choice routes - SIGN ME UP! I love to see Barkley used in this manner. The Giants create a mismatch with a two-way go for Barkley to exploit a linebacker. The linebacker works over the top of Daniel Bellinger’s (45) release; the linebacker squares to Barkley and the athletic running back darts outside due to the linebacker’s off coverage. It’s an easy pitch and catch. Also note the 3x1 set to the top of the field where the Giants run a China concept with Golladay and Johnson running the double-in routes, and Wan’Dale Robinson (17) running the flag. We’ll see a very similar concept shortly.

This is a third-and-2 on the second drive where Johnson does a great job running a fluid pivot route with Jones stepping into the pocket to deliver a dart to the young receiver. The play call caused traffic against New England’s man coverage assignment of the linebacker. The linebacker attempts to work outside and bumps into the New England cornerback. Multiple defenders cover Bellinger while Johnson finds space underneath, near the sticks, and presents a big, physical target for Jones. Johnson then breaks a tackle and picks up extra yardage.

There is not a ton to glean about Daniel Jones against non-starters, but he seemed to do a solid job in the pocket while working through progressions quickly to find check downs. It was a solid overall performance. His numbers would look better if his $72 million receiver secured the final third down on Jones’ first drive.

Play 2: Butterfingers

Does this play look familiar? Instead of breaking to the flat, Barkley reads the leverage, situation, and area of the field and quickly breaks inside while New England brings six in their pressure package. This is a well-executed China concept other than Golladay’s drop; Golladay tempos his release to work underneath Robinson’s release, which was designed to act as a pick to cause separation. The off leverage against Golladay and Johnson gave Jones the idea to throw the football in that direction - not a terrible read - but the space Barkley had to operate is the ideal read.

Play(s) 3: Richie James SZN

The hype-train surrounding James has been rolling since before training camp, and we saw the encouraging signs manifest in preseason Week 1.

The Giants somehow convert this third-and-11 after Tyrod Taylor (2) throws a slightly high pass to Johnson, who can’t corral the football. But as luck would have it, James is in the right place to secure the tipped pass through contact. James does a great job shielding the football from the defensive back to ensure the catch.

Taylor does a great job stepping into the pocket and firing a pass into James for an easy first down conversion on third-and-2. James does a great job working back outside away from the defender’s zone to provide Taylor a throwing window. Taylor also does - and did - a great job maneuvering the pocket all game; on this specific play, Taylor could have picked up the first down with his legs but kept his eyes active and gaining extra yards on this strike to James.

James scores a touchdown from Taylor on this very smooth pivot route turned into a skinny post to create separation against the New England defensive back. James finished the game with three catches for 44 yards.

Play(s) 4: Aaron Robinson struggles

Aaron Robinson had an up and down game. He was beaten on two consecutive outside releases from two separate receivers. He got back in phase and forced an incompletion on the first play against rookie speedster Tyquon Thronton, but the pass was underthrown. Joe Judge and Matt Patricia went back to the well on the very next play on a 33-yard completion to Kristian Wilkerson. Robinson then covered an in-breaking route well in the red zone before surrendering this touchdown:

Robinson anticipated Thornton would continue over the middle of the field, but the rookie’s adjustment outside drew a flag. That was not Robinson’s only penalty:

Robinson plays this ball well and the call for taunting was dubious. Nevertheless, Robinson has to be more mature and not directly stand over the receiver in that situation. The second-year cornerback will likely start opposite Adoree Jackson. Teams will pick on him early and often, and he has to rise to the occasion, trust his technique, and be more disciplined to maintain his position as a starting cornerback in the NFL.

Play 5: Darrian Beavers

The final pick by the Giants in the sixth round was everywhere on Thursday night. He was physical, decisive, and was used in a variety of different ways. Beavers is patient and blows this screen up:

Beavers got to the sideline well and showed solid overall movement skills. It appears Beavers is having a more discussed training camp than fellow rookie linebacker - and training camp roommate - Micah McFadden, who also looked good in his snaps. Wink Martindale uses his linebackers in a rotation depending on the situation; both these players should see the field in 2022.

Final thoughts

Below is a list of my first-half thoughts:

The third-string running back situation is also tight and fascinating. Antonio Williams, Gary Brightwell, and Jashaun Corbin all looked explosive and fit for a backend roster spot. Williams displayed his physical nature with 61 yards rushing on nine carries. Brightwell rushed for 40 yards on seven carries, and Corbin only had 23 yards on six carries, but he added five catches for 28 yards. The battle for running back three duties will continue over the next two preseason games.

The win was a solid overall showing for the New York Giants as they iron out the wrinkles and attempt to establish an identity. As Joe Schoen mentioned on the telecast, the Giants aren’t done revamping their roster. There could be new faces added as the NFL continuously changes. There is room for growth and development, but there were signs of encouragement, and that’s all we can ask for.