Giants Beat Sam Darnold, Jets in Preseason Despite Saquon Barkley's Absence

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistAugust 25, 2018

New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold (14) steps back to throw against the New York Giants during the second quarter of an NFL football game, Friday, Aug. 24, 2018, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)
Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

The New York Giants defeated the New York Jets 22-16 on Friday at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, in their annual preseason rivalry game.     

Quarterback Sam Darnold impressed for the Jets with 86 passing yards and a touchdown, while running back Saquon Barkley did not play for the Giants because of a hamstring strain.

Darnold and Barkley figure to be compared to each other throughout their NFL careers, since the Giants passed on Darnold to take Barkley with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 draft before the Jets took Darnold third.

The G-Men picked up the win despite scoring just one touchdown, and it came on a special teams play, as third-year wide receiver Hunter Sharp returned a punt 55 yards for a score in the first quarter:

The rest of the Giants' points came on field goals by Aldrick Rosas and Marshall Koehn.

Here is a rundown of some of the biggest storylines that played out during Friday's "MetLife Bowl" between the Giants and Jets.


Darnold Stakes Further Claim to Jets' Starting Job

Darnold didn't necessarily put up gaudy numbers Friday, but he did little to dispel the notion that he is leading the Jets' quarterback competition.

The USC product went 8-of-16 passing for 86 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. He also had two rushes for 13 yards.

Darnold played the entire first half and led the Jets on a pair of touchdown drives, which was an impressive feat considering the poor field position he was often dealt.

One of Darnold's best plays came courtesy of his legs in the first quarter, when he rushed 14 yards for a first down on a 3rd-and-13:

Perhaps most impressively, Darnold slid and ensured he didn't take a big hit.

Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News marveled at the "it" factor Darnold brought to the table:

After Bilal Powell rushed for a 10-yard touchdown on the Jets' first drive, Darnold accounted for a score early in the second quarter.

In wide receiver Terrelle Pryor's first game action as a member of the Jets, Darnold hit him in stride and allowed his wideout to do the rest, as Pryor scored from 12 yards out:

The Jets trailed 19-13 entering halftime, but sloppy special teams play and defensive breakdowns contributed more to that than Darnold's play.

Overall, former Jets offensive lineman and current ESPN analyst Damien Woody loved what he saw from the rookie signal-caller:

Teddy Bridgewater played the entire second half for the Jets, and he was solid in his own right, completing 11 of his 15 pass attempts for 104 yards with no touchdowns or picks.

Veteran Josh McCown did not see any action under center.

While the Jets have no shortage of quarterback options, it would be hard to sell the fanbase on having anyone but Darnold start in Week 1 because of how well he has performed throughout the preseason.


Barkley, Beckham Sit for Giants; Engram Exits with Concussion

While the third preseason game is often viewed as the regular-season dress rehearsal since starters tend to play at least one half, the Giants were without two of their biggest offensive stars.

Barkley missed his second consecutive preseason game with a hamstring strain, but he is trending in the right direction after returning to practice Wednesday.

Wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. sat again as well and has yet to play this preseason after breaking his ankle during the 2017 campaign. Beckham has practiced regularly throughout training camp and the preseason, however.

Tight end Evan Engram did start for the Giants, but he left the game in the second quarter after getting sandwiched between two defenders.

Engram did not return, and the Giants announced he was diagnosed with a concussion.

With Beckham missing most of last season and the Giants having little running game to speak of, Engram had a fantastic rookie season with 64 receptions for 722 yards and six touchdowns.

Both Barkley and Beckham appear to be on track to play in the Week 1 regular-season opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sept. 9, but a concussion suddenly casts doubt on the availability of one of the NFL's top tight ends.


Manning Looks Sharp in Regular-Season Dress Rehearsal

The preseason may not mean a ton for a seasoned player like Eli Manning, but his performance Friday was a promising sign for the Giants entering the 2018 campaign.

Manning played the entire first half and finished 17-of-23 for 188 passing yards with no touchdowns or interceptions. He also led the G-Men to four scoring drives, all of which resulted in field goals.

Although Manning couldn't punch the ball into the end zone, much of that can be attributed to the fact that his top two offensive weapons didn't play.

Manning also didn't have Engram for the entire half, which left him to rely on wideouts Sterling Shepard and Cody Latimer.

The 37-year-old veteran's most impressive throw came late in the first half, when he connected with Latimer on a 54-yard bomb to the Jets' 6-yard line:

That gain came off play action, and Manning showed that he still has a strong arm entering his 15th NFL season.

Manning and Shepard were in sync throughout the first half, including this well-placed pass in the second quarter that Shepard adjusted to perfectly:

Shepard finished with seven grabs for 78 yards.

When Beckham and Barkley return for the start of the regular season, Manning will have his full allotment of weapons, assuming Engram recovers by then.

Considering how accurate he was in Friday's contest and Barkley's expected impact on the Giants' running game in 2018, Manning could be in line for a big statistical campaign.


What's Next?

The Giants' final tuneup before the start of the regular season will come at home against the New England Patriots on Thursday, while the Jets will close their preseason slate that night against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field.


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