In the second quarter Saturday night against the New York Jets, we saw a pair of interceptions that represented two separate ends of the spectrum for New York Giants fans. One epitomized the worst-case scenario, and the other was an example of exactly what the Giants need to do more of in order to succeed in their quest to defend their title in 2012.
Let's take a closer look at each play.
The Very Bad: 9:53 remaining, second quarter. The Bad Eli Manning returns.
Giants fans hope this was a one-time-only cameo. Manning hadn't thrown one of his infamous Eli passes in quite some time. He had only one interception on 196 pass attempts during the final five games of 2011 (including the playoffs), but this was not pretty.
Manning actually has a ton of time and space coming out of a play-action fake...
Three seconds after taking the snap, Manning has his feet set and enough room to make a throw without any disruptions. The problem is that the coverage is good and the offensive line is clearly on the verge of breaking up the middle.
One second after that, Eli is now in a collapsing pocket and has to throw immediately. He can't throw it away without taking a penalty, but he has two wide-open check-down options available.
It's first-and-10 in the first half. There's no reason for Manning to force anything for a big gain, especially considering he's about to get whacked. But he steps into pressure and unleashes anyway.
He overthrows his intended receiver by 10 yards, which is something elite quarterbacks very rarely do.
The good Eli would have thrown the ball right here:
It wouldn't have been a big gain, but they'd survive to see the next down with a few yards under their belt.
This was fairly similar to Manning's only pick from last year's playoffs, which came against the Packers in the divisional round...
There's a blitz this time, but it's picked up well. Eli has time to survey the field.
In this case, it was a 3rd-and-5, and Manning had no one in the flats to check down to. He did, however, miss a wide-open Victor Cruz on the right sideline. Had he been given an extra split-second in the pocket, this might have been a touchdown.
This time, he overthrows his intended target by about seven yards.
The pass against the Jets was much, much worse, but in both cases, Manning was dialed in on a specific target and stubbornly threw at that target despite pressure. He has, of course, completed many big passes in these situations, so he's a risk/reward quarterback who's going to give you the odd ugly pick. That said, I think Tom Coughlin would rather him throw it away or check down in those spots.
The Very Good: 2:19 remaining, second quarter: Jayron Hosley makes a statement.
The Giants pass defense was one of the team's weak spots last year. The pass-rush was great, but the defense as a whole struggled because the secondary lacked consistency. With Terrell Thomas hurt again and Aaron Ross gone, rookie third-round pick Jayron Hosley could be counted on to step up and play a big role.
Hosley is lined up across Patrick Turner in the slot.
He shows blitz to mess with Mark Sanchez's head just a little bit...
Turner runs a shallow slant, which Hosley reads well. But he runs into trouble when Turner dekes around Dustin Keller and Keith Rivers and gets a little space.
But he's still only a step off of Turner and is keeping an eye on Sanchez's eyes as he looks in that direction.
Sanchez fails to lead Turner, and Hosley leaps in front of the receiver to make a swift pick. And with that speed and momentum, he's gone for a pick six.
Hosley's been great thus far. He's dealing with a case of turf toe right now, which is concerning, but his athleticism and overall execution on that play (and on several others this preseason) indicates he'll be a playmaker in this league.
And that's exactly what the Giants could use in the secondary.