New York Giants: NFL Preseason Week One Notes
Aside from that subtle three-inch gash on the franchise quarterback's forehead and arguably one of the best preseason performances of all time by a wide receiver, there wasn't very much that stood out in Monday night's clash between the Giants and Jets.
Nonetheless, there were parts of the game that deserve some nit-picking and analysis. Here is a list of random developments that occurred en route to the Giants 31-16 victory.
1. Eli Manning is getting credit for his toughness—and deservedly so—but where's the love for Jim Sorgi? As was the case last year, the backup offensive line was shaky at best. But he continued to stand in and take his lumps, most notably on Victor Cruz's second touchdown.
He took a hit that had him down for a few extra moments, and came up holding his shoulder. It turns out that this shot came with a price, and may keep him out for the rest of the preseason. For a veteran player trying to hold off an upstart young quarterback, this is not good news. But it is a reflection of Sorgi's willingness to take a hit.
2. It was nice to see Jason Pierre-Paul wrap his enormously long arms around Mark Sanchez. Especially against the Jets' first-strings. Rex Ryan claimed that it was a miscommunication along the Jets offensive line, but it looked more like the talented rookie made a terrific move to get around Damien Woody, then swallowed Mark Sanchez.
3. Speaking of rookie defensive linemen, second-round pick Linval Joseph showed some nice burst.
4. Ahmad Bradshaw definitely has his legs back. Of course, this doesn't mean much in preseason. But it is refreshing to see that he has fully recovered from sustaining two broken feet in 2009.
5. The Jets defense was good on Monday, but the Giants offense was clearly out of sync. Mario Manningham looked like a player who missed most of camp, and Ramses Barden looked lethargic on some of his routes. This may be attributed to a back injury he apparently has struggled with for the past week. It's pretty obvious that Manning hasn't quite re-kindled the rhythm he had with his young receivers last season. But speaking of Barden...
6. Now that it appears Manning will be fine after doing his best pinball impression, I feel better turning the focus to what the play actually was intended to be. Since he was drafted, we've been waiting to see Barden one-on-one against a corner in the red zone.
Before Jacobs triggered a disturbing sequence of events, it was clear Manning was poised to lob a pass in Barden's direction. I guess we just have to wait another week.
7. Classy play on Kiwanuka's part not to crush Sanchez during Antrel Rolle's interception return. During the regular season, expect a slightly more aggressive approach.
What Exactly Was the Gameplan?
On the defensive side of the ball, it appeared to be very vanilla, which is perfectly fine. Fewell would send an occasional blitz, but there was no sign of the exotic fronts such as "Nascar" and "Big Base" that we've been hearing about.
That's why the Jets long drive that followed Sanchez's interception isn't that discouraging. They didn't manhandle the Giants, and aside from a few disappointing plays, such as Terrell Thomas whiffing Ladainian Tomlinson on 3rd-and-13, then having 12 men on the field—none of whom covered Brad Smith—it was a solid defensive outing for the G-Men.
Offensively, I won't be as lenient. We all knew the Jets defense would come out fired up, and the Giants looked fairly complacent. Running unsuccessfully on first and second down to set up third-and-longs was a prominent theme last year, and that was the case on Monday night.
Considering Manning wasn't exactly in mid-season form, this led to short drives. On the third possession, they finally developed a little offensive momentum thanks to a perfectly placed ball by Manning to a well-covered Hakeem Nicks on third-and-long.
Because the starting 11 have rarely practiced as a unit in camp, and the fact that both starting guards were missing, I'll give the them a pass. But offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride will have to be a little more creative with his gameplans this year to avoid putting Manning in those long third-down situations.
Not So Special Teams
It was a terrible night for this unit. Matt Dodge looked awful on all of his punts, despite being bailed out in the box score by multiple favorable bounces.
Andre Brown completely whiffed on his block, which led to Dodge's third punt being blocked.
I don't mean to be blunt, but the Giants don't have a kick returner right now. I feel like the last kick returner the Giants had that boasted true explosiveness was Willie Ponder. Due to the fragile state of the Giants running game, I would hate to see them utilize a running back on kick returns. So, who does this leave?
I'd like to see Victor Cruz field a few kick returns on Saturday against Pittsburgh. Against the Jets, he retrieved one punt, but was immediately tackled. His performance on Monday may not solidify his status as a future all-world receiver, but it does prove one thing: He isn't afraid of the spotlight. I say give him a chance at kick returner and get as much use out of this guy as you possibly can.
As disturbing as some of Matt Dodge's shanked punts were, the one that rings loudest was the one that went for a touchback. It wasn't a very good attempt at pinning the Jets inside the 10, and is a harsh reminder of what the Giants had but is now gone. Hopefully, Dodge can develop that part of his game quickly.
On Saturday night, the Giants will light up the New Meadowlands Stadium blue for the first time against the Pittsburgh Steelers. But they will do so without the face of their franchise, in addition to the guy who makes a living out of backing up superstars.
This may not be that bad of a thing after all. Rhett Bomar's potential is unquestioned, and he was surprisingly efficient on Monday. He'll have a chance to work with the first-team offense on Saturday, or at least most of it, and show whether or not he has the skills to supplant Sorgi as the team's backup.
Privately, the Giants are rooting for Bomar to win this competition. They'd rather only carry two quarterbacks, and it's clear that the Giants plan for Bomar to be the quarterback of the future. The quicker Bomar becomes that guy, the better.
Beyond Bomar is where the situation gets shaky. After getting word of Sorgi's injury, the Giants signed Dom Randolph to presumably play a little quarterback on Saturday. Kevin Gilbride also said they may install Antrel Rolle at quarterback for a few snaps.
Rolle, who the Giants saw first-hand as a guy with an exceptional arm, has been lobbying since he signed with the Giants to be involved in a few gadget plays on the offensive side of the ball. On Saturday, he may get his chance.
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