￼￼￼New York vs. Indianapolis: Report Card Grades for Each Giants Unit
The first- and second-string teams played awful in all three phases of the game. The only thing saving each and every unit from a failing grade was the effort the third- and fourth-stringers put forth to pull off an unimaginable comeback.
While the Giants' come-from-behind win was exhilarating, writing this report card was not.
Read on to get the grades for each of New York's positional units.
Eli Manning started the game for the Giants, and his play did not instill confidence in the new offense. He led two three-and-outs before throwing his lone completion of the game, a six-yarder to Jerrel Jernigan. The drive that yielded Jernigan's catch almost ended prematurely, as Manning threw what would have been an interception by Darius Butler had it not been negated by a timely illegal contact call.
In Manning's defense, he did throw a nice ball down the right sideline for Victor Cruz that would have resulted in a 51-yard gain. However, Cruz fumbled the ball, and the Giants chose instead to wipe out the entire play with another illegal contact call that awarded New York five yards.
Manning appeared frustrated toward the end of his night. His last few passes were hopeless, deep heaves to Jernigan down the sideline. He was looking for a big play that would never come.
In his relief, Curtis Painter had only a slightly better outing. Painter was Manning's immediate backup for the first time this preseason, but he did not find his rhythm until the fourth quarter. Wide receiver Preston Parker was his favorite target on the first drive of the fourth quarter, catching one pass for 30 yards and another for 14. Painter found tight end Kellen Davis in the end zone for a three-yard score to end that drive.
That's when Ryan Nassib took over, and he looked fantastic against Indianapolis' worst defenders. Nassib was the only quarterback to move the Giants down the field with any sort of consistency. First, he led an 11-play, 92-yard drive that made it a one-score game. Then, he engineered a nine-play, 86-yard, game-winning drive.
Players like Marcus Harris, Adrien Robinson and Corey Washington were instrumental in Nassib's exceptional performance. His 26-yard completion to Robinson over the middle on 4th-and-16 was the play of the game.
By the time Nassib knelt on the last down of the game, he had completed 11 of 15 passes for 158 yards and a touchdown.
The Giants running game was not at its best versus the Colts.
After starter Rashad Jennings broke free for a 73-yard touchdown versus the Steelers a week ago, room to run was much tougher to come by in Indy. He was mostly running for his life, dodging defenders in the backfield and pressing into a line that wasn't getting much of a push. He finished the day with seven rushes for just 17 yards (2.4 yards per carry).
Andre Williams has been electric as a backup this preseason but not against the Colts. Even the Boston College bruiser failed to get loose, accumulating a meager 19 yards on eight carries (2.4 yards per carry). Williams got a little more action with the first-team than he usually does, but considering the way Saturday's game went, that's nothing to brag about.
The next back in was Kendall Gaskins, who followed very closely in the footsteps of Jennings and Williams. Although Gaskins has some potential as a pass-catcher, not much of it was on display versus the Colts. He caught one three-yarder, adding to the six rushing yards he gained on four carries (1.5 yards per carry).
Michael Cox has been the Giants' least impressive running back this preseason, yet he led the team in rushing against the Colts. He rushed for a respectable 32 yards on seven carries (4.6 yards per carry), including a two-yard touchdown plunge. Cox may have temporarily saved his job with his performance on Saturday.
As a team, the Giants rushed for 83 yards on 29 carries (2.9 yards per carry) and one touchdown.
Wide Receiver and Tight End
The Giants' starting pass-catchers were not impactful against the Colts.
Jerrel Jernigan was the only receiver to catch a pass from Eli Manning, and it was only for a six-yard gain. He also got the ball on an end around. For a moment, it looked like he would break free, but he was brought down seven yards later, short of a first down.
Victor Cruz and Rueben Randle were shut out, although Cruz had a 51-yard catch (and lost fumble) replaced by a five-yard illegal contact penalty. Neither of these receivers, projected to be the top two pass-catchers in New York's 2014 offense, have been factors at all in the preseason.
Starting tight end Larry Donnell did not catch his lone target of the night.
The next round of receivers weren't all that impressive either. Preston Parker, who was sufficient at returning punts, was the only one who stood out. He caught a couple of big passes, including a 30-yarder from Curtis Painter, and finished his night with three catches for 53 yards. It was the most prolific night of any of New York's wide receivers.
Kellen Davis caught up a bit in the tight end race with a three-yard touchdown grab.
New York's last-string guys were the most productive receivers on Saturday. Marcus Harris was big late in the game, picking up 41 yards on four catches. Travis Harvey made a great 27-yard catch that put the Giants on the doorstep and directly led to Michael Cox's two-yard touchdown run.
And the night wouldn't be over until Corey Washington caught a game-winning touchdown. The four-yarder he caught from Ryan Nassib with 55 seconds to play was his third in three preseason games.
The most surprising standout in the receiving game was Adrien Robinson, who has sunk to the bottom of the tight end race this summer. He converted a crucial fourth down with a 26-yard catch and, on the following play, caught a 33-yarder while running a similar route.
The weakest point of New York's offense continues to be its line.
The Colts put plenty of pressure on the Giants' starting unit and kept Manning from getting too comfortable in the pocket. Once, they got to him, when D'Qwell Jackson got past right tackle Justin Pugh on a blitz. So far this preseason, Pugh has been less impressive than he was as a rookie.
Left tackle Will Beatty saw his first game action since breaking his leg in the final game of the 2013 season and had a self-described "average" performance, according to Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News. Beatty's return wouldn't be complete without the holding call he incurred on the Giants' final drive of the first quarter.
Rookie Weston Richburg saw some time at right guard in place of Brandon Mosley, but he wasn't an upgrade. Tackle James Brewer, who is on the roster bubble in his fourth year, was called for a false start just before halftime. Beatty's immediate replacement at left tackle, Charles Brown, injured his shoulder during Saturday's game.
The Giants reserves weren't any better than the starters. Curtis Painter and Ryan Nassib were under duress on several of their dropbacks, yet both passers were able to avoid being sacked.
No O-lineman was able to get a push in the running game, which is why this unit earned a failing grade.
If there was a bright spot for New York, it was the defensive line.
For the most part, New York's D-line stymied the Colts rushing attack. Indianapolis' starting running back Trent Richardson had to dance for every yard he gained, as the former third overall pick managed just 21 yards on nine carries (2.3 yards per carry). As a team, the Colts gained only 75 yards on 30 rushing attempts (2.5 yards per carry).
The starters got after Andrew Luck, too. Although they failed to bring him down in the backfield, the New York rushers kept him on the move any time he dropped back to pass. Fortunately for Indianapolis, Luck is a talented enough passer to make plays on the move just as efficiently as he does when sitting comfortably in the pocket.
Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul was noticeably unnoticeable, notching not a single tackle versus the Colts. The other starters on the line weren't all that productive statistically speaking, either. Tackle Cullen Jenkins led the way with two tackles, while Mathias Kiwanuka and Johnathan Hankins each had one.
The fact that Indianapolis had so much trouble running the ball indicates that these men were doing their jobs, even if the stat book doesn't back that up.
Second-year end Damontre Moore has been the Giants' most productive D-lineman of the preseason, and that didn't change on Saturday. He finished with four tackles and one of New York's three sacks—numbers that should be expected of him when playing against reserves.
Tackle Markus Kuhn, who had two tackles and a pass defense, injured his elbow during the game.
The up-and-coming member of New York's defensive line is undrafted rookie Kerry Wynn, who was disruptive late in the game with three tackles (one for a loss) and a QB hit.
The Giants' linebackers were very active but not necessarily outstanding performers against the Colts.
The most disturbing aspect of New York's linebacker play on Saturday was Jameel McClain's complete and utter absence. As the starting middle linebacker for the time being, he must be more involved. He must make at least one tackle.
When was Jon Beason ever shut out?
In McClain's place, Jacquian Williams had a very active day. He made a team-leading nine stops, and the majority of them were very close to the line of scrimmage. The only time Williams was making a tackle downfield was when he was matched up on wide receiver Hakeem Nicks. No offense to Williams, but that's a battle Nicks should win every time.
Devon Kennard made quite a few plays as well, including his first NFL sack, which came late in the first half when Indianapolis' third-string quarterback, Chandler Harnish, was trying to escape from the pocket. Kennard finished the game with five tackles.
The linebackers didn't make enough impact plays. Both Andrew Luck and Matt Hasselbeck were able to move the ball downfield at will. The Giants did not manage to slow the Indianapolis attack until Harnish was inserted into the game. This is not completely the fault of the linebackers, but this unit could have done more to make a difference in this game.
Only one linebacker made an extraordinary play, and that was undrafted rookie Justin Anderson, who licked Phillip Tanner in the backfield, popping the ball free where Spencer Adkins was able to fall on it in the end zone. Anderson's forced fumble was the single most important defensive play in this game.
The secondary was unimpressive, especially since its members were specifically assembled to stop passing attacks like the one it faced on Saturday.
Slot cornerback Walter Thurmond III was the only player to get completely burned. Not even a defensive holding could prevent Matt Hasselbeck from completing a 14-yard touchdown pass to Da'Rick Rogers over his head.
Although the secondary wasn't getting torched, it got picked apart by the Colts' first two units. Andrew Luck made it look easy, completing 12 of his 18 passes for 89 yards and a touchdown. Hasselbeck was almost as good in relief.
It wasn't uplifting to see cornerback Prince Amukamara leave the game early with a groin injury.
Thurmond, Quintin Demps, Zack Bowman and Trumaine McBride were each flagged for defensive holding, an infraction that has plagued the Giants and several other teams this offseason. The league is attempting to cut down on receiver-cornerback contact downfield this year, and New York's secondary has been made into an example for the rest of the NFL's coverage men.
While starting safeties Antrel Rolle and Stevie Brown were so-so versus the Colts, Cooper Taylor was standing out—until he injured his toe. Undrafted rookie Thomas Gordon came out and had an unusually productive five-tackle evening.
The Giants were bad on offense, bad on defense and bad on special teams.
Steve Weatherford punted half-a-zillion times, and his second punt was unusually short, giving the ball back to the Colts on New York's half of the field. The Giants' gunners were missing in action, as long snapper Zak DeOssie seemed to make every tackle on punt coverage.
On punt return, Preston Parker handled the ball well, but one of his returns netted minus-two yards, pinning the offense inside its own 15-yard line.
Quintin Demps lost a fumble on a kickoff return, aiding Indianapolis' first-half surge.
The Giants did not attempt a field goal.
The Giants coaching staff gets a bad grade for being unprepared.
The offense still looks dysfunctional. Offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo has had all spring and summer to implement his offensive scheme, yet it looks like the system was installed just last week. The chemistry Eli Manning once had with Victor Cruz has all but evaporated, and the running game can't gather any momentum.
Tom Coughlin's player evaluation is also questionable. Why were all the top performers—the ones who led the comeback—only seeing the field during garbage time? How many more game-winning touchdowns must Corey Washington produce before he at least gets a run with the second string?
Coughlin also lost a challenge on what he thought was a Bennett Jackson interception.
Sure, Rome wasn't built in a day. But we're not talking about a four-win Jacksonville Jaguars or Cleveland Browns team working with a new quarterback. The Giants won seven games last year, and they may or may not be headed in the right direction.
Here's your final report card:
|Receiver and Tight End||D+|
Overall, this was an awful game for the Giants and one that does not instill much hope in the team's future. Although the reserves made an amazing comeback to steal a victory over the Colts, many of the players who contributed to that comeback won't even be on the team during the regular season. The starting unit looked the worst, and that's demoralizing—even for an undefeated preseason team.