Giants vs. Patriots: New York's Biggest Winners, Losers from Preseason Week 4
If you were able to stay awake through the Giants-Patriots riveting 6-3 preseason Week 4 match-up, I commend you. But if you happened to nod off once or twice (OK, maybe the entire second quarter), you don't have to worry because we've got you covered.
The game was a hard-fought, defensive battle. Punters Zoltan Mesko and Steve Weatherford jockeyed for field position all night while their respective teams' offenses struggled to get anything going.
It wasn't a particularly sloppy game. There were only two turnovers all night and they both came late in the fourth quarter. Overall, it was just a slow game that ultimately came down to a Lawrence Tynes kick, just like the '07 and '11 NFC Championship games. Only this time there was much less on the line.
But not for everyone—some players were fighting for their football lives, trying to make the most of one last opportunity to impress the coaches in the team's final preseason game.
This article will point out which players made the most of their final preseason opportunity, and which players dropped the ball.
Loser: The Starting Pass Rush
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Osi Umenyiora, Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Tuck make for an elite pass rush, but on Wednesday night the trio rested injuries. Tuck (shoulder) and Pierre-Paul (back) were held out of action due to soreness, and Umenyiora was dealing with swelling in his knee.
It’s difficult to call these three “losers” since injuries are rarely ever preventable. However, the Giants rely heavily on the contributions of Pierre-Paul, Umenyiora and Tuck. So when they aren’t on the field, the team suffers.
As frustrating as it was to see the Giants' top three defensive ends on the sideline in street clothes, it was a smart move. It’s much more important to have them healthy for Week 1 against the Cowboys.
Since the decision to sit was pretty much out of their hands, I’ll give Pierre-Paul, Umenyiora and Tuck a special “Temporary Loser” title. They can shed that label by getting back on the field and bringing down Tony Romo at least three times next Wednesday—one sack for each of them.
At that point, I’ll gladly call them winners.
Winner: The Reserve Pass Rush
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On the bright side, with Pierre-Paul, Umenyiora and Tuck out of the line up, there was plenty of room for the backup defensive ends to stretch their legs.
Matt Broha and Adawale Ojomo are not only fighting for a roster spot, they’re also fighting for a pivotal role in defensive coordinator Perry Fewell’s defense as the team’s fourth defensive end. They must have been aware that Wednesday night’s game would be their last chance to impress the coaching staff, because both players took advantage of the opportunity.
Broha may have silenced his doubters, who say he is subpar in run defense. He finished the game with five tackles (four solo, two for a loss), 1.5 sacks and two QB hits.
Ojomo may have won the game for the Giants with his late strip sack of Patriots quarterback Brian Hoyer, which led to Lawrence Tynes’ go-ahead field goal. He showed great intensity and ability to fight through blocks.
Even Craig Marshall chipped in with five tackles (two solo, one for a loss), 1.5 sacks and two QB hits. It’ll be very tough for the coaching staff to make cuts at defensive end this week.
Loser: Mitch Petrus
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Now that Kevin Boothe has landed a starting job as the team’s left guard, someone else has to step into the utility backup role. To the dismay of many Giants fans who watched Wednesday night’s game, it looks like that role will be awarded to Mitch Petrus.
With Chris Snee out of the lineup, Petrus got the start at right guard and did not look impressive. The running game sputtered in the first half, and rookie running back David Wilson, who averaged 9.8 yards per carry against the Bears last week, averaged only 1.6 yards against the Patriots.
While Petrus is not entirely to blame—the whole offensive line played pretty poorly—he specifically stood out for his inability to get a push on the right side of the line. He also faltered in pass protection. On one occasion, Petrus was beat so badly that he ended up driving his man into Eli Manning.
The team’s top priority should be to ensure Manning’s protection. Given the way Petrus played on Wednesday night, there’s no guarantee that he’ll be able to preserve Manning’s health should he be inserted into the lineup in the regular season.
Winner: Steve Weatherford
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Anytime a game ends with a 6-3 final score with only two turnovers, you can assume there was one heck of a field position battle going on.
That was the case on Wednesday night’s “thriller” versus the Patriots. The teams combined for 18 punts in the touchdown-less match-up. Steve Weatherford made the most of his nine punts, playing a large part in the Giants victory.
Weatherford was able to push the Patriots’ offense as far back as possible, averaging 52.0 yards per punt. So far this preseason, Weatherford has shown off a stronger leg than we’ve seen in the past, which will give the Giants’ defense a bit more breathing room in the regular season.
As usual, Weatherford also punted the ball accurately. He has quickly become one of the most skilled punters in the league at pinning the ball inside the opponents’ 20-yard line.
Loser: Martellus Bennett
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With the offense struggling early on, the Giants needed a spark. Many expected tight end Martellus Bennett to be able to provide that kind of spark, but against the Patriots, he was nowhere to be found.
Bennett failed to catch a pass in the game. He had a big drop across the middle that appeared to be a catch until a hit from the safety jarred the ball loose. One possession earlier, Manning floated a ball in the vicinity of both Bennett and Victor Cruz, but neither seemed prepared for the ball to come their way.
For Manning’s entire career, he has relied heavily on his tight ends. If Bennett fails to step up, it could really affect Manning’s play. He has shown flashes of promise this preseason, but he needs to show more consistency in the regular season.
Winner: Jacquian Williams
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Second-year linebacker Jacquian Williams looked like a superstar against the Patriots. He was flying around all night and was making plays all over the field.
On the Patriots' first possession, Williams jumped a route in the flat and was just inches away from a pick-six. The play resulted in nothing more than an incomplete pass, but it showed that Williams still has the speed to make plays on the ball like a defensive back.
In the end, Wednesday night’s match-up was an excellent return from a hip injury that has been bothering Williams for quite some time. He finished the night with five total tackles (four solo) and one pass defended.
With so much talent at linebacker, it’ll be tough for Fewell to find a way to get them all on the field.
Loser: Da’Rel Scott
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Former Maryland Terrapin Da’Rel Scott hasn’t lived up to the promise he showed last preseason. Now his clock is ticking.
Scott managed to be a consistent member of the active roster and contributed on special teams in 2011, but now the second year running back is in danger of being cut. Andre Brown has been in front of him on the depth chart all preseason, and Scott has shown no reason why he should be kept on the squad over Brown.
Scott did take some handoffs in the second half when the running game was beginning to move the ball a bit better, but his 3.6 yards per carry average against the Patriots was less than impressive. It also didn’t make up for the two mistakes he made in the first half.
First, Scott made the ill-advised decision to take a kickoff out of the endzone and was brought down inside the 20-yard line. Granted it’s preseason and he’s fighting to make the roster, but his decision to take the ball out still cost the team valuable field position.
Secondly, Scott, who blocked a punt against the Bears, drew a roughing the kicker penalty on an attempt to block one of Zoltan Mesko’s punts. The penalty was not the type of attention a bubble player like Scott needed.
Winner: Hakeem Nicks
Sure, he didn’t do much, but you can’t tell me it didn’t feel good to see No. 88 back on the field.
After breaking his foot during OTAs, it’s been a long 12 weeks for the Giants’ top receiver, Hakeem Nicks. He has gradually been working his way back into the action at practice, but Wednesday night was his first game action of the preseason.
No one expected Nicks to make any big plays. For him, the game was meant to be nothing more than an opportunity to get his feet back under him. Needless to say, it was surprising to see Manning go to him for a six-yard connection across the middle.
Let’s be honest, the offense benefits a lot from Nicks’ presence. Even when he isn’t 100 percent, he can still drag a double team down the field, subsequently opening up the underneath routes for his teammates.
But when Nicks is healthy, he is a dominant force to be reckoned with. He proved that last postseason by posting 100-plus yard performances in three of the Giants’ four playoff match-ups.
Nicks has struggled with injuries in the past, so the Giants surely want him to feel good heading into the regular season. I’m naming him a winner just for stepping onto the field against the Patriots when he could have just as easily sat out.
It looks like Nicks is hungry to get back on the field, which is a good sign for the Giants offense.