NFC East: New York Giants
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The pass rush needs to be better. The offense needs to move the ball with greater consistency. There were two many penalties in Saturday night's 28-18 preseason loss. And because of all those things, New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin is likely to play his starters for at least part of Thursday's preseason finale against the Patriots in New England.
"I usually end up playing them a little bit, yeah," Coughlin said after Saturday's game. "We're more than a week away from the start of the regular season."
Most teams give their starters the fourth preseason game off due to the risk of injury. But Coughlin has generally played Eli Manning and his first-teamers for at least part of the fourth preseason game. Last year, Manning and the starters participated in five preseason games, since they had the Hall of Fame Game as an extra one on the front end.
And while the results of preseason games don't merit any undue emphasis, the Giants feel as though there's something to be gained from seeing the field one more time in a practice game before taking the field for the regular-season opener Sept. 13 in Dallas.
"You don't want to feel unsure going into the season, especially when the first week is a division opponent," said cornerback Prince Amukamara, for whom Saturday was the first preseason game of 2015 after a groin injury kept him out of the first two. You want to feel ready. You want to feel right. You want to feel confident, like we're ready to take on an opponent for real. And personally, I don't feel like I'm there yet. We're getting there, but we're not there yet. So I feel it could be right for us to continue playing in the next game. Though it would suck for someone to get hurt in the fourth preseason game one week before Dallas."
That's the line Coughlin walks, and it's bit him in the past. Running back Andre Brown broke his leg in the final preseason game two years ago and had to miss the first half of the season. And given the Giants' injury issues already this camp, they can ill afford to lose anyone else of significance. But it would be a help to get wide receiver Victor Cruz on the field, as he has yet to see any preseason action following last year's serious knee injury and the calf injury that developed a couple of weeks ago. And one more tune-up could benefit everyone as long as they escape it healthy.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants and safety Stevie Brown were finalizing plans Saturday night for Brown to visit the team Sunday, take a physical and likely sign a contract, sources said. The signing would of course be contingent on the results of the physical, but there appeared to be optimism on both sides Saturday night that a reunion between Brown and the Giants would happen. Brown would have to get up to speed in coordinator Steve Spagnuolo's defense, but given the Giants' current issues at the position, he would be a candidate to start. Rookie Landon Collins and Jeromy Miles were the starters in Saturday night's preseason game, and Miles had a rough time against Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker. Veteran Brandon Meriweather, signed just a couple of weeks ago, also is in the mix to start. But the Giants don't have any sure-thing starters there at this point, and it makes sense to bring in Brown to see what he's got. Brown burst onto the scene for the Giants with eight interceptions in 2012, then tore his ACL and missed the entire 2013 season. He returned as a starter in 2014 but struggled and was benched early in the season, and after the season ended he and the Giants could not reach an agreement on a new contract. So he signed with the Houston Texans, who released him Friday so that he could pursue other opportunities. The most appealing opportunity for Brown is a return to the Giants, who are still looking for answers at safety after losing four of them to potentially season-ending injuries in the past two weeks. He never wanted to leave in the first place.
RB Shane Vereen: Three catches for 30 yards and three carries for 9 yards from the Giants' newest running back, who figures to be a regular on third downs. If the Giants are having issues in pass protection, the ability to get the ball into Vereen's hands almost instantly after the snap will be a huge help to Eli Manning.
DE Owamagbe Odighizuwa: The rookie third-rounder entered the game for the second defensive series and made a big difference, especially against the run. Odighizuwa seems to be picking up the defense quickly and carving out a role for himself in the defensive line rotation.
G Justin Pugh: Roughest night so far for the former right tackle in his transition to left guard. Pugh was beaten for a sack by Leger Douzable on the second offensive series and was later called for two penalties -- a false start and an illegal hands to the face.
DE Damontre Moore: It's not fair to pick on Moore, but he was the most obviously example of the extent to which the Giants' defensive ends couldn't set the edge against the run. Chris Ivory ran for 38 yards on six carries in the first half against a defensive line that didn't have injured ends Robert Ayers, George Selvie or, of course, Jason Pierre-Paul.
S Jeromy Miles: Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Jets went right after Miles, who was the Giants' starter Saturday night at free safety, for an 11-yard completion to Brandon Marshall and an 18-yard touchdown pass to Eric Decker on consecutive plays for the first score of the game. The Giants will have Stevie Brown in for a visit Sunday as they continue to try to figure out safety.
What it means: As usual, because it was a preseason game, not much. The Giants were able to execute a good-looking, 14-play touchdown drive that was heavy on run plays and the kind of short, quick passes offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo loves. As a result, quarterback Eli Manning was 12-for-16 for 90 yards and played the entire first half as planned. The Giants were looking to have some offensive success to build on going into the season, and the touchdown drive provided that. Running back Rashad Jennings ran with the first team and had 28 yards and the touchdown on nine carries.
Play of the game: Manning's final pass of the night was unquestionably his worst. It was intended for James Jones, who sat back at the top of his route. That move, combined with the late throw, allowed Antonio Cromartie to intercept the pass and run it back 59 yards for a Jets touchdown.
Stat of note: Wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who didn't catch a pass in the first two preseason games, caught five of the six balls Manning threw to him for 31 yards. He did make one spectacular sideline "catch" against Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis, but the play didn't count because the Jets had jumped offsides and Beckham came down with the ball out of bounds. Sure was fun to watch, though.
Injuries of note: Defensive end Robert Ayers injured his ankle in warmups and missed the entire game. This provided some opportunity for Damontre Moore and Owa Odighizuwa at defensive end, and Odighizuwa stood out, especially in the run game. Rookie tackle Bobby Hart suffered a knee injury and left the game in the third quarter. Safety Josh Gordy left the game in the fourth quarter with a hip injury.
What's next: The Giants will wrap up their preseason schedule with a 7:30 pm ET game against the New England Patriots on Thursday night at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts. It's unclear whether Manning and the starters will play, but they did play in the preseason finale last year.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- In their continued effort to find healthy answers at the safety position, the New York Giants have reached out to former Giants safety Stevie Brown, who was released by the Houston Texans on Friday.
A source with knowledge of the situation said Saturday that there had been contact already and that the Giants were planning to have Brown in for a workout in the days following Saturday's preseason game against the Jets. The Giants aren't the only team trying to make such plans with Brown, but Brown told Anita Marks of 98.7 ESPN radio in New York that he hopes to return to the Giants.
Brown intercepted eight passes for the Giants in 2012, but missed all of 2013 following an ACL tear. He began the season as a starting safety in 2014 but didn't play well and lost his job in Week 4 to Quintin Demps. He played better as the season went on and regained that starting job, but in spite of the Giants' needs at the position, they did not re-sign him when he became a free agent in March. He went instead to Houston, but he didn't impress enough there to make that team and was released Friday so he could pursue other opportunities.
The Giants drafted two safeties -- Landon Collins and Mykkele Thompson. Thompson is out for the season after tearing his Achilles tendon in the first preseason game. Collins is just back from a knee injury that kept him out of last week's game, but he's projected to start as a rookie at strong safety. Safeties Bennett Jackson (knee), Justin Currie (ankle) and Nat Berhe (calf) are all out with serious injuries, likely for the season. Veterans Brandon Meriweather and Jeromy Miles are options to start along with Collins, but if the Giants do sign Brown, he would join the competition for that other starting spot.
The Houston Texans on Friday released former New York Giants safety Stevie Brown. Sources close to the situation tell me they did this because Brown wasn't likely to make the Texans' roster, that he was aware of that and that he wanted to pursue potential opportunities elsewhere, so he and the team agreed to part ways.
That leads us to Brown's former team, the Giants, who have lost four safeties to potentially season-ending injuries in the past 14 days and didn't have much at the position anyway.
Normally, I brush off all of the "Will the Giants try to sign [insert name]?" questions whenever a player of whom fans have heard is released. But in this case, you should absolutely keep the possibility of Brown returning to the Giants on your radar, because it makes sense.
When you hear that Brown wanted to pursue opportunities elsewhere, it's completely safe to assume he's well aware of the Giants' issues at safety. Brown didn't want to leave the Giants and is surely in touch with former teammates and other members of the organization. He's undoubtedly aware of the injuries to Bennett Jackson, Nat Berhe, Justin Currie and Mykkele Thompson and the fact that the likely starters in Saturday's preseason game -- Brandon Meriweather and Landon Collins -- are both strong safeties. As the Giants' deep safety in 2012, Brown collected eight interceptions.
When Brown, 28, became a free agent this past offseason, the Giants did make an effort to bring him back. But they could not reach agreement on a contract, in part because they were concerned about his health, and he latched on with Houston. Now that it didn't work out for him there, one must assume his price has gone down. In the meantime, the Giants' needs at the position have only increased.
ESPN's Anita Marks, who was first to report Brown's release, said on the air on ESPN 98.7 FM radio in New York that Brown told her he was hoping to return to the Giants.
I don't know what will happen, obviously. It's possible the Giants just don't want the guy back. It wouldn't be out of character for the Giants to tell Brown "thanks, but no thanks" and move forward with what they have at the position. To me, and likely to many of you, it makes a lot of sense to bring back a guy who's played the position for you and could certainly compete for a starting job with the guys you already have and on whom you're not sold. But the Giants do things their way, so you can't assume what makes sense to us makes sense to them. Stay tuned on this one, but don't rule it out.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- On the final official day of training camp, the New York Giants did not practice.
After two hard practice days in a row, coach Tom Coughlin established Thursday as a "recovery day" on which players could choose two from a list that included yoga, massage, pressure boot therapy and other activities aimed at keeping them healthy. Coughlin said Friday would be a similar day, though they would hold some sort of walk-through in advance of Saturday's preseason game against the Jets, and that if he gets the right kind of feedback he could incorporate this into the Giants' weekly regular-season routine.
If you don't think that sounds like Coughlin, you're not alone.
"Very surprised," cornerback Prince Amukamara said. "But I think injuries may have something to do with it. Injuries have been huge here the last couple of years, so we're all trying to do stuff to prevent that."
The idea seems to have been fully embraced by the players, as you might expect. "Everybody was racing to the spots," running back Rashad Jennings said. But a few of them also said they are going to have to play at a high level -- and with a high level of energy -- Saturday night if they want to keep this idea alive as a possibility for the regular season. Coughlin is open-minded to it, though. Like everyone else in the Giants' building, he wants to know what, if anything, can be done to keep the Giants from being the league's most injury-riddled team for a third year in a row.
"It's a unique kind of a day, and I'm interested in the feedback I get from our leadership council and from the coaches," Coughlin said.
The Giants have made several health-related changes to their program over the past two offseasons. Last year, they overhauled the selections in their cafeteria to make them more healthy -- eliminating things like gummi bears from the topping selections near the frozen yogurt machine and focusing on specific nutritional elements depending on the player and the day. The past two years, they have used GPS monitors in players' practice jerseys to monitor activity. The data they get from those monitors gets relayed to a laptop that's monitored by a Giants staffer who can then reach out to coaches and trainers to tell them whether a player might need to come out of practice or ease up based on the way he's moving.
But the rest days are another part of the program, and they're being presented to the players as a means of keeping themselves healthy, reducing injury risk and optimizing performance.
"It's important, and guys are taking it seriously," Jennings said. "This isn't a spa day. I hope it's not coming across like that."
Whether any of this stuff ends up working could go a long way toward determining whether the Giants can avoid a third straight losing season. According to Football Outsiders, the Giants have lost by far the most games by starters due to injury of any team in the league. They have gone 13-19 over those two seasons.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- When the New York Giants beat the undefeated New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII, Owamagbe Odighizuwa was 15 years old and watching on TV. He could not take his eyes off Osi Umenyiora.
"Ever since that day, I watched him play and I just fell in love with how he played," Odighizuwa, the Giants' rookie defensive lineman, said Wednesday. "There was one summer where I did every little drill that he did to a T. Every single day, every drill that I could find on him that he did during the offseason, I would do that every single day."
So when Umenyiora arrived for his retirement news conference Wednesday, Odighizuwa was sitting right near the entrance to greet him. They shook hands and shared a Giants-family hug before Umenyiora took the stage.
"I just want to talk to him, kind of pick his brains a little bit, maybe build a relationship if I can," Odighizuwa had said a few moments earlier. "I've looked up to him for a very long time."
It's nice that the new kid has that kind of respect for the tradition into which he's entering as a Giants defensive lineman. But it's a shame that he had to wait for Umenyiora's retirement day to have that experience.
Umenyiora's presence at the team facility Wednesday was a reminder of what the Giants don't have anymore. That long line of dominating pass-rushers has been broken, and the current locker room doesn't have a Michael Strahan, a Umenyiora or a Justin Tuck for a young guy to lean on. Currently, due to some very unusual circumstances, that locker room doesn't even have Jason Pierre-Paul, who played with Umenyiora and Tuck when he was young and helped win Super Bowl XLVI as part of a defensive line that still featured those two Super Bowl XLII vets.
Odighizuwa is a rare rookie who doesn't have to be taught the history of the Giants' defense. He's already studied it, believes in it and is eager to become a part of it. But the fact that he doesn't have a teammate right now who links back to the days when a dominant pass rush led the Giants to Super Bowl glory is unfortunate, and it's part of the problem the 2015 team faces.
"We're a group of guys who can click very well together," Odighizuwa said of the current defensive line. "We understand that we haven't made a name for ourselves yet, but we have a lot of ambition and we all want to be great. I look at it as a story to be told."
It could be, but the Giants' current group of pass-rushers is not an accomplished one. Robert Ayers is a good player but not the kind who'll throw a scare into an offensive game plan. George Selvie is kind of just a guy. Damontre Moore is hyper-talented, but size and concentration issues have prevented him from reaching his potential so far. Kerry Wynn has shown some things but only has five games of NFL experience. Everybody expects Pierre-Paul to return, but no one knows when he'll be able to play or how good he'll be after a July 4 fireworks accident cost him his right index finger.
"Guys are going to emerge, and they're going to have to -- these young guys are going to have to emerge," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said Wednesday. "Guys like Owa, he's a talented young guy who can learn from watching these guys and knowing full well the success that that group had."
It would help if some connection to "that group" still inhabited the Giants' locker room. Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, who ran the defense in that Super Bowl XLII season and is back to run it again this year, has worked all offseason to teach his charges about the great defenses and defensive players of Giants history. But aside from Cullen Jenkins, who won a Super Bowl title with the 2010 Green Bay Packers, there's not a defensive lineman in the room who knows what it's like to hold up a Lombardi trophy. Players say Jenkins and Ayers have taken on vocal leadership roles this offseason, but it's still nothing like the room into which Pierre-Paul walked when he was a rookie in 2010.
Spagnuolo, Umenyiora and the Giants won Super Bowl XLII because they were able to generate incredible pressure on Tom Brady with just their front four. This season, Spagnuolo is not going to be able to count on that, and you'll likely see a lot more blitzing and attacking to cover up the question marks along that front. It's possible someone will emerge as a dominant player from the current mess, but whoever it is won't have the day-to-day help of the Giants greats who've come before. The roster erosion and developmental failures of the past half decade have left the current group basically on its own.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- As New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning prepares to start the season with a new center for the second year in a row, the man pegged for the job is having a tough time staying on the field.
Second-year offensive lineman Weston Richburg, who started at left guard as a rookie but is slated to be the Giants' starting center this year, missed practice Tuesday due to an ongoing problem with his left knee. Richburg missed a few practices two weeks ago, when he had a cortisone shot in the knee, and he came out of Saturday night's preseason game earlier than the rest of the first-team offensive line did.
This isn't likely the kind of injury that would sideline Richburg or keep him out of regular-season games. But it's an issue worth monitoring. And as with the rest of the very young players on whom the 2015 Giants are counting in crucial spots, missed practice time is not a great thing for Richburg.
Speaking of young guys and missed practice time, rookie safety Landon Collins says his knee is feeling better and he's eager to get back on the field. Giants coach Tom Coughlin said Collins would return to practice on a limited basis Tuesday, but he didn't appear to work much, if at all, and he did not appear in team drills.
"I feel great," Collins said a couple of hours before the practice in which he didn't participate. "I'm ready to get back on the field. Just take it day by day. Hopefully get practicing today or tomorrow."
The Giants are counting on Collins to start at one of their safety spots even though he's a rookie. They're also hoping second-year safety Nat Berhe can recover from the calf injury he's had all summer and practice soon. Jeromy Miles, who signed just before camp, and Brandon Meriweather, who signed last week, were the Giants' first-team safeties in practice Tuesday.
The 2011 New York Giants had a 7-7 record with two games left in the regular season. At that time, it would have been hard to find anyone outside of East Rutherford, New Jersey, who thought they were going to win that year's Super Bowl. Truth be told, the feeling probably wasn't even unanimous inside the Giants' building.
But as all Giants fans recall, the light went on that week. The Giants beat the Jets on Christmas Eve, beat the Cowboys for the division title the week after, then ran off four straight postseason victories to claim their fourth Super Bowl title.
A lot had to happen to make that possible. First and foremost, the Giants got healthy at the end of that season, with players such as Hakeem Nicks, Mario Manningham, Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora emerging from season-long struggles with health and keying the surge that culminated in Super Bowl XLVI.
With Umenyiora set to announce his retirement in a news conference at the Giants' team facility Wednesday, I thought it was worth remembering his contribution to that Super Bowl run.
Umenyiora played in only eight of the Giants' first 15 games that season but returned for the Week 17 game against Dallas and had two sacks in the 31-14 victory that sent the Giants to the playoffs. The following week, he had one memorable leaping sack of Matt Ryan in the Giants' first-round victory over the Falcons. He had two more sacks and a forced fumble the following week in Green Bay and a half-sack and four tackles in the NFC Championship Game in San Francisco.
A dominating defense was one of the things that elevated the Giants that December and January from a moribund .500 team into a champion. Players such as Umenyiora, Tuck and Corey Webster showed what it means for champions to reach deep inside and muster championship performance when it's needed most. Those guys didn't have a whole lot left, but when Tom Coughlin spoke to them in Week 16 and told them they could still win the Super Bowl if they won out, Eli Manning and the players who'd won the Super Bowl four years before felt something click inside of them.
Umenyiora's performance in that late-season and postseason run was critical to the Giants' most recent Super Bowl title. He wasn't alone, but without a month and a half's worth of vintage, disruptive Osi whipping tackles and harassing quarterbacks, the Giants don't win that title. As he gets his moment in the sun Wednesday, it's worth looking back and remembering what Umenyiora meant to two of the Giants' four titles -- especially the most recent one.
The Giants drafted Flowers No. 9 overall thinking they could use him at right tackle right away and develop him as their left tackle of the future. But when left tackle Will Beatty tore his pectoral muscle lifting weights in May, the Giants shifted Flowers to the left side and accelerated his development. He's played on the left throughout OTAs, minicamp, training camp and the first two preseason games, and so far the reviews are good.
As expected, Flowers looks like a giant mauler who can eat up defenders in the run game. The Giants believed he would show that right away, and he has. The questions are about footwork and technique in pass protection, especially now that he's charged with protecting Eli Manning's blind side.
So far on that front, some good and some bad news. Flowers held up all right against the Bengals' impressive defensive front in the first preseason game. Jacksonville didn't test him much Saturday in the second, as most of his one-on-one matchups seemed to be against linebackers and not defensive ends. He looked very good on a couple of plays and was beaten on a couple of others -- basically what you'd expect from a talented rookie learning the league.
What teammates and coaches seem to like best about Flowers is that he's serious about his business and his education. Tom Coughlin said Sunday that he liked the way Flowers went after a loose ball behind the line of scrimmage even though it was an incomplete pass and not a fumble, because it shows he's been listening as the coaching staff has preached pursuit of every loose ball. Teammate Andre Williams said Flowers is "not easily frustrated," which is a fine quality for a rookie who's likely to have some struggles mixed in among the successes.
Overall so far, Flowers has given the Giants reason to believe they could be all right with him as their left tackle to start this season, which is actually more than they expected when they drafted him.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The offensive line was a big concern for the New York Giants going into Saturday's preseason game, and it held up pretty well. After a really tough outing the week before against the Bengals, the Giants' line protected its quarterbacks effectively against the Jaguars. On the left side in particular, where rookie tackle Ereck Flowers is working with guard Justin Pugh, there were a couple of very impressive blocking plays that helped out the run game.
So put Saturday in the "good" column for a unit about which the Giants have a lot of justifiable concern. And chalk it up as an encouraging night for Flowers, the 2015 first-round pick who's being asked to handle left tackle right away in the absence of the injured Will Beatty.
"I think he's doing well," said Giants running back Andre Williams, who benefited from one of Flowers' more dominating run blocks with an 11-yard first-half gain. "He's got the right attitude. He's smart. He shows great skills in certain schemes, and for a rookie, I like that he's not easily frustrated."
I thought that last part was especially interesting: "not easily frustrated." That's Williams taking a realistic look at Flowers. He's a rookie being asked to handle a very difficult position with no professional experience. The Giants didn't draft him thinking he'd have to play left tackle right away, and they acknowledge the difficulty of the task they've handed him. They don't expect it to go smoothly, and it won't.
While Saturday may have gone well for Flowers on balance, it wasn't perfect. He was one-on-one with a linebacker much of the time, as Jacksonville's defensive line is very thin right now and their top pass-rushers didn't play. And that linebacker, Dan Skuta, did beat him on a speed rush on one memorable second-quarter play. And even if Saturday had been a perfect day, that doesn't mean all the rest of the days to come will be. What's important for Flowers isn't that he doesn't make any mistakes. It's that he accepts that there will be mistakes and understands how to fix them.
That's why "he's not easily frustrated" is one of the more encouraging things you can hear about Flowers. Things are going to happen that could frustrate him. It will help speed his development if he's good at fending that off.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Tom Coughlin doesn't understand, believe or have much to say about it. The New York Giants listed three safeties among their inactives for Saturday night's preseason game -- a list that didn't even include Mykkele Thompson, who tore his Achilles last week and is out for the year. Then they watched safety Justin Currie break his ankle in the first quarter and safety Bennett Jackson injure his knee in the fourth.
"It's amazing, the way that's going," Coughlin said after the game. "We earmarked it as a problem position for us, the safety position, and we had two guys hurt tonight in that spot. Hopefully, we'll get a couple of guys back to practice that weren't able to play. It's just hard to even comment on."
The situation is especially dire at safety because the Giants didn't have much there to begin with. They let all three of the players who started there for them last year leave as free agents. They failed to sign top target Devin McCourty, then didn't sign anyone else in free agency who'd ever played safety. They used three draft picks on two safeties -- Thompson and Landon Collins, who sat out Saturday with a knee injury. They converted 2014 sixth-round pick Jackson from cornerback and watched him work his way into a likely starting role. Last week, they signed veteran headhunter Brandon Meriweather out of complete desperation.
But after Saturday, they're back in the market again. The scuttlebutt in the locker room was that Jackson had a torn ACL, which would end his season. They'll likely either bring in more veterans to work out this week or just sign one of the guys who worked out with Meriweather last week. This week they expect to get back Nat Berhe, a 2014 fifth-rounder for whom they had high hopes until a calf injury in May cost him almost four months of development. And Collins could come back soon.
The problem is that the Giants were already thin and shaky in too many spots on defense to begin with. It's not just safety. Middle linebacker Jon Beason sprained his knee Saturday night too, and if he has to miss time that leaves them thin at linebacker. Jason Pierre-Paul's July 4 fireworks misadventures have left them thin on the defensive line, where coordinator Steve Spagnuolo is loading up with blitz packages to augment the pass-rush.
The Giants didn't bring a deep defensive roster to camp and don't have many difference-making players on that side of the ball. Losing anyone to injury would be a tough blow. Losing a couple a week is going to be too much to overcome.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- It doesn't get a lot preseason-er than Eli Manning going 4-for-14 for 46 yards and Odell Beckham Jr. failing to catch any of his five targets. The New York Giants' first-team offense hoped to show more in its second preseason game Saturday, but with wideouts Victor Cruz and Rueben Randle out with injuries, the downfield passing game was nonexistent. They'll try again next week against the Jets. Meanwhile, here are a few more thoughts from the Giants' 22-12 exhibition victory over the Jaguars:
QB Depth Chart: Manning was in the game for three series and a total of 19 plays. He missed on a couple of throws, but Beckham and Preston Parker each dropped a catchable pass, and Beckham short-armed a couple in a cautious effort not to get clobbered by a safety. The Giants said this week that they'd focus on the downfield passing game, so the fact that they ran six passing plays and no run plays on the first series was a plan and likely had something to do with the first-team offense's ability to establish a rhythm. But these are practice games, so it's not right to read anything into Manning's performance.
Maybe That Dude Could Start: Rookie defensive end Owa Odighizuwa is a work in progress as a pass-rusher. But he was active and disruptive behind the line of scrimmage in some second-quarter time with the first-team defense Saturday night. Should the third-round pick come more quickly than anticipated, it's not out of the question that he could be a significant part of the pass-rush rotation early in the season. The Giants are looking for answers there.
Who Got Hurt?: Middle linebacker Jon Beason left the game with a left knee sprain and did not return, though he did stay on the sideline in uniform, which could be a good sign the injury is not serious. Linebacker Mark Herzlich left the game early in the first quarter with a concussion. Safety Justin Currie fractured his right ankle in the first quarter and should be out for a very long time. Linebacker Tony Johnson left in the third quarter with a knee injury. Guard Adam Gettis was ruled out of the game in the third quarter with a stinger, but apparently made a miracle recovery and returned to the game before the third quarter ended. Starting safety Bennett Jackson sprained his right knee making a tackle with about three minutes left in the game, though he was able to walk off slowly under his own power after being down for a while and tended by trainers.
Surprise Performer Who Looks Good: Second-year running back Andre Williams has outperformed veteran Rashad Jennings so far in camp and looked good with the starters Saturday night. Williams finished the first half with 13 yards on three carries, including a nifty 11-yard run that came with the help of a strong Ereck Flowers block (more on Flowers in a bit). Williams also picked up a blitzer on a second-quarter play in which Manning threw deep to Beckham but he couldn't reel in the catch.
Rookie Watch: Flowers held up well at left tackle in his second preseason game. He's a big help in the run game and did fine in pass protection, though his primary one-on-one work seemed to come against Jacksonville linebacker Dan Skuta. Sixth-round pick Geremy Davis looked quick and precise as a wide receiver and should be able to make the team, assuming he's not completely useless on special teams. We already discussed third-rounder Odighizuwa above.
When It Was Starters vs. Starters...: The defense struggled. No, they didn't allow any touchdowns, but they didn't generate any real pressure, either. What's most alarming is that it appears coordinator Steve Spagnuolo understands that he's going to have to bring a lot of blitzes to generate pressure, and anyone who's familiar with Spagnuolo's work the first time around in New York remembers the key to his success was his ability to generate pressure with his front four. The problem the Giants have right now is that they're too thin on the line to expect consistent pressure with four, and too thin in the secondary to allow them to bring blitzes constantly. Where are the difference-making players on defense?
One Reason to Freak Out: As usual, since it's preseason, there's no reason to freak out. But for those who are inclined that way, the fact that all of the injuries were on defense once again could qualify. The Giants listed seven defensive backs among those ruled out due to injury before the game started, then had three linebackers and two safeties get hurt during the game. Again, they're not very deep on defense, which means injuries are only going to leave them further exposed. They should have cornerback Prince Amukamara and safety Landon Collins back soon, but if they lose four or five defensive players every game, they're going to be awfully short awfully soon.
Odell's Temper: Asked this summer what he would do if he were a defense trying to stop him, Beckham said, "Try to make me mad, I guess?" He has spoken openly about his need to control his emotions on the field, and it seemed as if they got the better of him for a brief moment Saturday. There was a second-quarter play where he was running down the right sideline on a route and Jaguars safety Sergio Brown seemed to snag hold of his left arm. Beckham couldn't make the play, and he shoved Brown as they were slowing down out of bounds. Beckham and a couple of Jaguars players had to be separated, but the officials kept the situation from escalating. Something to watch, as you know teams will try to get under Beckham's skin.
Sound in the Kicking Game: If you're going to have a field goal battle, it's nice to have a reliable field goal kicker. Josh Brown kicked five field goals Saturday night, connecting from 51, 43, 53, 37 and 28 yards. He missed a 46-yard attempt, but that miss was wiped out by a defensive offsides call that allowed the drive to continue and resulted in the game's first touchdown. Brown made the 33-yard extra point attempt.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- It looks as though New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz won't play in Saturday night's preseason game against the Jaguars. Cruz was a "maybe" to begin with as the Giants continue to nurse him back from last year's devastating knee injury. But the fact that he developed a calf injury (in the other leg) this week moved him into the "probably not" column, per coach Tom Coughlin on Thursday.
Cruz still hopes to get into at least one of the final two preseason games -- Aug. 29 against the Jets or Sept. 3 in New England -- so he can work at real game speed prior to the Sept. 13 regular-season opener in Dallas. And while the Giants won't commit to putting him into one of those games, they really should try to do so.
To this point, Cruz's rebuilt knee has passed every test they've been able to give it. He works in practice, his straight-line speed looks fine and he catches the ball well. But training camp practice doesn't test you the way a game -- even a dreadful NFL preseason game -- tests you. In practice, Cruz doesn't experience scenarios in which he might have to suddenly and unexpectedly employ explosive moves, such as leaping for a ball. The question about Cruz's repaired patellar tendon isn't how fast it will allow him to run, it's how much power it will allow him to deliver when he needs to push off on his leg with violence and aggression.
And while Cruz can simulate that to some extent in a controlled practice environment, there's no way to know for sure whether it will be there when he really needs it. Practice reps are all designed. He knows the guy covering him isn't allowed to hit him. Most of the time, he knows whether to expect the ball. And the lack of real consequences makes it less important to really stress the joint the way he might have to in order to make a big touchdown catch against the Eagles in Week 6.
"You want to go out there in real-time action and get some good, solid work in with everyone else and everyone ready to go, but that’s not always the case," Cruz said Thursday. "I think these practices are pivotal in terms of getting everybody healthy, getting everybody out here understanding what we do in practice, because it’s such a tedious game with all these little nuances that you have to learn and know, especially with our offense. That’s the biggest thing for me, is that we’re focused in practice. Then I feel like the game stuff will come."
For Cruz, though, it matters a bit more. He's passed every test there is to pass in practice. But until we see him at game speed, and watch him execute high-level NFL athletic moves on his surgically repaired right knee, there's really no way we can assume he'll ever be back to full strength. Getting him into a preseason game is the only means the Giants have of figuring out whether they can count on him to be the player he once was. If he can't play in the preseason, then come Sept. 13 in Dallas everyone will still be wondering.