New York vs. New England: Giants Preseason Week 4 Game Preview
Only one more preseason game to go.
Dating back to the Hall of Fame Game, it has been a long preseason for the New York Giants—and not a particularly enjoyable one to watch. Although the Giants (4-0) are undefeated in the preseason, many of the starters have struggled this summer. Perhaps New York will put forth a cleaner effort when the New England Patriots (2-1) visit on Thursday evening.
The Giants and Patriots met last year in the final preseason contest. New England claimed victory in that clash, 28-20. However, few fans will have that exhibition on their minds when these two squads meet in MetLife Stadium.
It's hard not to conjure memories of Super Bowls XLII and XLVI when these two teams face off, even if it is for a meaningless preseason finale. The Giants were victors in each of those league championships. Quarterback Eli Manning was named the game's Most Valuable Player both times.
There won't be any Lombardi-caliber pomp and circumstance on Thursday. For several players fighting to make an NFL roster, however, the game will be just as monumental.
Read on to get the latest news, injury updates, matchups to watch and more.
Preseason Week 3 Recap
For the fourth consecutive preseason game, the New York Giants rallied to win in the fourth quarter.
The Week 3 game versus the Jets was not all that different than the contests that preceded it. The starting offense sputtered (until Eli Manning finally got something going during the two-minute drill before halftime), and the team was losing going into the final frame. Corey Washington had to catch a fourth-quarter touchdown pass to seal it.
Since the offense has been so heavily scrutinized this preseason, let's stick with the common motif and take a closer look at that one successful drive Manning led.
The drive began with 1:53 to go in the second quarter, when Manning and Jerrel Jernigan connected for five yards on first down. After another completed pass to Jernigan, Manning found Victor Cruz on consecutive plays for gains of 16 and 18 yards.
Rashad Jennings moved the Giants across midfield with a seven-yard carry, which led to Manning's first incompletion of the drive.
Manning should have been intercepted on that incompletion, but his poor decision not to throw the ball away was nullified by Kyle Wilson landing out of bounds.
Manning bounced right back to hit Cruz on another 18-yarder and then hit Jernigan for eight more. One incomplete pass and Brandon Mosley false start penalty later, Manning located Rueben Randle in the end zone for a 15-yard scoring strike.
Ben McAdoo's offense worked!
Now, let's see if they can stretch that level of success across a full game.
As far as the first-team defense goes, linebacker Jacquian Williams had his name called the most. He collected seven tackles, although not one was for a loss. Williams has become more of an every-down linebacker for New York this summer. While he has always been gifted in coverage, he has made more stops in run defense than ever before.
Star defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, however, was nowhere to be found.
Rookie fifth-rounders Devon Kennard, a linebacker, and Nat Berhe, a safety, led the team with eight tackles each. Kennard figures to be a starter on the strong side of the formation, but most of his production versus the Jets came in the second half with Berhe and the other reserves.
News and Notes
First Wave of Cuts Rolls Through
The Giants cut/waived/made injury designations for former hopefuls, trimming the roster from 90 men down to 75.
Notable among the casualties were Xavier Grimble, an undrafted tight end who tried to follow in the footsteps of Mark Bavaro; Charles James, a spark plug of a cornerback; and safety Cooper Taylor (foot) and receiver Marcus Harris (hip), both of whom landed on injured reserve.
The rest of the list reads like this, per Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News: K Brandon McManus, LB Spencer Adkins, S Kyle Sebetic, CB Ross Weaver, TE Jerome Cunningham, DE Emmanuel Dieke, LB Justin Anderson, WR Travis Harvey, G John Sullen, S C.J. Barnett and DT Everett Dawkins.
None of the cuts is surprising. The only one that may raise an eyebrow is McManus, who was in a heated kicking battle with 35-year-old veteran Josh Brown. Both kickers were solid throughout the preseason, affording New York the luxury of choosing the more experienced leg.
Beckham Still Seated
This is getting old, I know, but the tendons in Odell Beckham Jr.'s thigh keep making headlines.
Last week, Howie Kussoy of the New York Post suggested that Beckham's hamstring saga had reached "a near-farce level." Things have only gotten worse on that front, as Beckham has since been ruled out for the Giants' preseason finale versus the Patriots, per Dan Graziano of ESPN.
Beckham's absence is indirectly causing the Giants offense to stall out. While 10 other men should be able to function without a rookie wide receiver, Beckham was the 12th overall pick and probably the skill position player around whom New York most wanted to build the new offense.
Who knows what the unit would look like with a healthy Beckham? We only know how terrible it looks without him.
Inspiring a bit of hope is NJ.com's Jordan Raanan, who recalled Keenan Allen's rookie season with the San Diego Chargers last year. After a very slow start to the season, Allen caught fire and hauled in 71 receptions for 1,046 yards.
That's a tough act for Beckham to follow.
Looks Like Tight End by Committee
It was the race that had no winner.
The Giants' 2014 tight end competition was one of the most pathetic position battles to take place in recent memory. Although it's not technically over, it appeared as if the team conceded defeat early when Tom Coughlin announced a tight end by committee, per Paul Schwartz of the New York Post.
Larry Donnell has been the No. 1 pass-catcher this summer, but his skills are lacking as a blocker. Veterans Daniel Fells and Kellen Davis are steady contenders but offer little dynamism as receivers. Adrien Robinson, a 2012 fourth-round selection, has been an all-around disappointment.
Although compiling a plethora of skills into a committee sounds appealing for this particularly weak unit, not having a do-it-all tight end could be the team's offensive downfall. Subbing the tight end in specific circumstances will only tip the defense off to what's coming next.
Quote of the Week
Antrel Rolle wrote about his freshly cut teammate, Charles James II, in an Instagram post: "...But this one hurts! Charles James has the heart of a lion and is exactly what any organization should have on their team. Eight interceptions in OTAs and training camp I think speaks for itself. The best training camp among cornerbacks in my eyes, but today he was released..."
Here's a preseason Week 4 injury report, based on Tuesday's practice report, per Ralph Vacchiano's Twitter feed:
|WR Odell Beckham Jr.||Hamstring||Out|
|WR/KR Trindon Holliday||Hamstring||DNP|
|G Geoff Schwartz||Toe||Out|
|OL James Brewer||Back||DNP|
|OL Charles Brown||Shoulder||DNP|
|G Brandon Mosley||Back||DNP|
|LB Jon Beason||Foot/PUP||Out|
The Giants' injury list is shrinking a bit, but some familiar names still mark it. The hamstring injuries to Beckham and Holliday have lingered throughout camp.
As a 2014 first-round pick, Beckham's injury has been well-monitored. Holliday's, on the other hand, is all but forgotten. Although he survived the first round of cuts, Holliday will probably take a hike when the Giants slim down to 53 players.
Beason, of course, remains on the physically unable to perform list with a foot injury.
The health of the O-line is a concern. Mosley and Schwartz are supposed to be the two starting guards. In their places, John Jerry (right) and rookie Weston Richburg (left) will start against the Patriots. Although Mosley's back condition is steadily improving, Schwartz will be re-evaluated on a weekly basis.
The depth is suffering, too. Brown and Brewer are two massive men that the Giants absolutely want healthy. Brewer's back injury may be the final chapter of a Giants career that began in 2011 and never met its full potential.
X-Factors and Matchups to Watch
Damontre Moore vs. Marcus Cannon
Moore has dominated so far this preseason, showing just the progression New York wanted out of its 2013 third-round investment.
Against the Patriots, Jason Pierre-Paul and Mathias Kiwanuka will start on the ends. When Moore gets into the game, he'll be up against reserves, like he has been throughout the preseason. There's a good chance he'll rush backup left tackle Marcus Cannon from the blind side when New York takes on New England.
Moore cannot be bottled by Cannon. He is on fire this preseason with four sacks in four games. Currently hunting down one of the starting positions, Moore will want to ride this wave of momentum into the regular season.
Jerrel Jernigan vs. Logan Ryan
Jernigan has been a huge disappointment after his explosive end to the 2013 season. He began the preseason in New York's starting trio with Odell Beckham Jr. sidelined; now, he's clinging to his roster spot.
Jernigan's first-team workload hasn't declined much, but the team hasn't been thrilled with his performance. The Patriots are deep at cornerback, and there's a good chance he'll have a quality cover man in Logan Ryan lined up opposite him at some points in the game.
Big plays late in the 2013 season are what saved Jernigan's job last spring. He will need to make a few plays late in the 2014 preseason, probably against Ryan, to save it yet again.
Adrien Robinson vs. Darius Fleming
Robinson is another player who is standing on his last leg with the Giants.
Through two seasons, Robinson has been a non-factor, and he projects to be more of the same if the Giants keep him around for yet another season. Aside from a couple of big, fourth-quarter catches in the seam versus the Colts' camp bodies, Robinson hasn't done much of anything.
The former fourth-rounder will have to get open against Patriots linebacker Darius Fleming or one of New England's other reserves. He will need to really embarrass Fleming in order to extend his Giants career beyond Thursday.
Giants X-Factor: Preston Parker
The Giants put Marcus Harris on IR and cut Travis Harvey, thinning things down at receiver a bit. At least three more receivers will get the boot—will one of them be Parker?
Parker has made a few splashy catches in the preseason and has handled punts with consistency. The other receivers in the mix here are Corey Washington, Mario Manningham and Julian Talley. Trindon Holliday has been injured all preseason, which helps Parker's pursuit of a spot in the final 53.
The Giants' starters will only play one or two series in the preseason finale versus the Patriots. At this point, most of the starting lineup is settled, so this fifth preseason game is more for the reserves than anyone else.
Several of those reserves are on the roster bubble. Those players must turn up something big against the Patriots; if they do not, they'll be looking for a new job.
Corey Washington may not catch a fifth straight fourth-quarter touchdown, but he will see more extensive action than he has in any preseason game to date. He will make a couple of big-time catches, too. Even if Washington is too raw to see action with the starters during the regular season, his play versus the Patriots on Thursday will solidify his status as an indispensable pass-catching project.
Kendall Gaskins will outshine Michael Cox for what may be the final running back slot. And Henry Hynoski, who has been pulling away from John Conner in the fullback race, will drive the final nail into the casket against New England. Backup quarterback Ryan Nassib will do the same, sending Curtis Painter packing.
Damontre Moore will make a serious case for himself as a starting defensive end, notching another sack before the night is through. Nat Berhe might even creep into the third safety conversation over Quintin Demps, given the ferocity with which Berhe has played this preseason.
Kerry Wynn has flashed potential, at times, from his D-end position. He may do so again when the Giants face the Patriots, but it won't be enough to win Wynn a spot on the 53-man roster.
At cornerback, Trumaine McBride will set himself apart from Zack Bowman, who, in turn, will do the same to Jayron Hosley. McBride and Bowman will make for solid depth behind the starting trio—Prince Amukamara, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Walter Thurmond III—but Hosley should be cut so the team can retain 2014 sixth-round pick Bennett Jackson.
Josh Brown, recently absolved of the pressures of competition, will shank a field goal, which will lead some to question the release of Brandon McManus during the first wave of roster cuts.