New York Giants 32 – Jets 31: Hits, Misses and Musings

Don’t be fooled by the fact that the Giants “blew” a 29-3 halftime lead against a “hapless” Jets team that at times couldn’t get out of its own way, as there was much to like about Big Blue’s play.

Let’s start with the defense, which is poised and ready to help win this team a championship. The beauty of this defense is the Giants have several high-priced guys as their starters—defensive ends Olivier Vernon and Jason Pierre-Paul, cornerback Janoris Jenkins, and defensive tackle Damon Harrison—yet you wouldn’t know it by how they play.

Watching these stars do their thing, you would think that each man plays with a fear of being tossed to the street if they don’t deliver the goods. And that’ a good thing, especially yin a sport where some guys have been known to cash in on a big pay and then mail it in.

but more importantly, these guys are setting examples and challenging the rest of the defense to pick up their game. That’s why you see “fringe” players like cornerback Donte Deayon delivering the goods. That’s why you see the Jay Bromleys of the world hustling, or the Devon Kennards  taking it personally if they get beat by coming after you to make you pay.

“We are going to need everybody man, not just the defense,” said Pierre-Paul when asked if the defense is on its way from being good to great. “We are going to go back and look at the film and see what we need to do better as a unit and we will correct those mistakes. That’s what training camp is for, just figuring out the mistakes and getting rid of them.

This defense, which only as recently as two years ago was a mess, finally has an attitude.

Mess with them if you dare. And if you do, be prepared to pay dearly.

Let’s flip over to the offense. On paper, you can argue that it’s the same old, same old given that 16 of the team’s 32 points were scored by the offense, which is not good enough.

But through the dark clouds that have covered this offense since, well, the 2011 Super Bowl season, there have been a lot more glimmers of hope that things r going to better.

We can start with the offensive line. Head coach Ben McAdoo finally reached his breaking point and enacted a change, replacing John Jerry with Brett Jones. The early returns were very positive, as the line settled down, the miscommunications went away and quarterback Eli Manning finally looked more comfortable behind center that we have seen him in years.

Ereck Flowers, the still developing young left tackle, has strung together three solid preseason outings. While he was to blame for his false start, the lone sack that came through his side was just as much the fault of the quarterback for failing to step up and away from the pressure while waiting for a receiver to get open.

The running game? How about a preseason best 30 carries for 91 yards and a touchdown? Isn’t it amazing what an offense can do when it can run the ball, such as win the time of possession battle (which they did), and rack up first downs (which they did)?

Now with all that said, there are still two things that continue to hurt this offense—and it doesn’t matter who they have out there at receiver because this has been an ongoing issue this summer, just as it was last year.

The first is on third down. The Giants have made 10 of 42 third-down attempts—a dismal 23.8 percent. That’s not going to cut it, especially against steps up in competition.

And the Giants have struggled to convert red zone opportunities into touchdowns, doing so for the first time this preseason against the Jets. Otherwise, they are one of six in converting red zone opportunities into touchdowns.

With all that said, the Giants do seem to be heading in the right direction, especially on the offensive inside of the ball. The trick now will be to maintain what they were able to string together to achieve their goal.

HITS

Offense – WR Travis Rudolph

When it comes to the Giants receivers, there’s just something about the Jets that brings a “breakout” type of game for an undrafted Giants receiver.

First there was Victor Cruz. More recently, Travis Rudolph.

Rudolph finished as the Giants’ team receiving leader, catching three of six pass targets for 81 yards. One of his receptions, a 57-yarder, was of the highlight reel variety, as he caught that ball in traffic.

“That’s just an effort play,” he said. “I feel like when the ball is in the air, it’s mine, so I have to go get it.”

“I thought he did some good things – he was productive,” McAdoo said of Rudolph’s performance. “I thought there were some contested balls that he should’ve came down with, but he made the most of his opportunity; he had a chance to shine, and he took advantage of it.”

Rudolph credited being around Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall and the rest of the Giants veteran receiovers  for getting up to speed on the NFL game so quickly.

“Just taking notes from Odell (Beckham Jr.), Brandon (Marshall), Sterling (Shepard) and a lot of veterans and gaining a lot of chemistry with everything has helped,” he said.

Whether it helps him make the roster remains to be seen, but Saturday night’s effort sure didn’t hurt matters.


Defense – DE Jason Pierre-Paul

There are some guys who, when they get that big pay-day, disappear. Not Jason Pierre-Paul, however. Playing much like an undrafted free agent who’s one step away from being tossed out onto the street, JPP brought his A+++ game to the table, starting with his fantastic diagnosis and stop of a Matt Forte run for a safety, his two tackles for a loss, two quarterback hits and what I believe is the third straight game in which he’s recorded a pass defensed.

“I am just going to beat the person in front of me. That’s the game of football,” he said. “But at the same time, do your assignment. But 9 times out of 10, if you beat the person in front of you, you’re going to be okay.”

We’d say JPP is more than okay with efforts like what he gave Saturday night.


Defense – S Landon Collins

Mr. Collins  finished third on the team in total tackles with four, but it was his 23-yard Pick-6 that helped break the game open for the Giants in that first half.

Collins, who is already in mid-season form, read quarterback Christian Hackenberg’s eyes perfectly and jumped the route to make the snag and dash to the end zone.

“We were just trying to make some plays and make game-changing plays and be one of those teams that can do that too,” he said after the game.

Mission accomplished.


Special Teams – Mike Nugent

Nugent kicked the stuffing out of the pigskin, nailing two 50-plus yard field goals (50 and 54 yards) and making it look easy. “Whether you are Adam Vinatieri or a rookie, that is what the preseason is for,” Nugent said when asked about making the long kicks.

“We talked a little bit this week about how the season can be a rollercoaster and hopefully as a kicker you can be the same player every day and make that pretty steady and not so much the ups and downs.”

Nugent is now 5 of 5 in his field goal attempts, having made two from 30-39 yards, one from 40-49 yards and the two 50+ yarders.  He’s hit nine kickoffs, with three going for touchbacks.

“He kicked the heck out of the football today,” McAdoo said. “He made a nice long one there for us on the 36-yard line – that’s big for us.”

When that ends up winning the game for you, then yeah, that’s pretty big.

MISSES

Offense – John Jerry

If you’ve been an Inside Football reader, you know that week after week, we’ve labeled Jerry’s run blocking as being soft.

Well, it seems McAdoo finally had enough. Not only did Jerry miss a block on Sheldon Richardson that caused Eli Manning to make a bad throw that was picked off by the Jets. Earlier in the drive, on a second-and-15, Jerry also missed a block.

Head coach Ben McAdoo claimed he planned to pull Jerry from the starting lineup.

“We had a few guys we rotated in there with the first group on the offensive line,” McAdoo said when asked about the decision to pull Jerry after that first offensive series.

“I thought we moved the ball. We started a little bit slow, but I thought we moved the ball, and we ended up running it fairly decent there, which was encouraging to see against a very physical front.”


Defense – CB Nigel Tribune

With the Giants begging for cornerback help, undrafted free agent Nigel Tribune didn’t exactly help his case last night. He was flagged for a  31-yard pass interference that helped set the stage for a Jets touchdown.

Tribune was flagged another time late in the game–that penalty was declined–and he looked like he was the one who was supposed to be in coverage on the 25-yard touchdown pass to Ardarius Stewart. Not a good night for the rookie.


Special Teams – The Punt Return Unit

The Giants gave three guys–Ed Eagan, Travis Rudolph and Sterling Shepard–a chance to return punts. Their grant total yardage? Twelve yards. Now some of the issues were related to the coverage, or shall we say the lack of coverage, but it would also probably help things if the returners could make a guy or two miss.

MUSINGS

The NFL might have relaxed the rule on touchdown celebrations, but apparently the rule relaxation comes with a catch, as the Giants found out last night.

Simply put, the officials are instructed to start the clock immediately after a play ends.  So if a team is engaging in a lengthy touchdown celebration, that’s something that is chewing up valuable seconds off the clock for the next play.

That’s exactly what happened after safety Landon Collins scored his Pick-6 in the first quarter.

Although the Giants celebration following the score wasn’t extravagant, it did chew up enough time off the clock to where the place-kicking unit that came on the field for the PAT, was nailed for a 5-yard delay of game penalty.

“We have a lot of concerns about the [new league celebration] rule,” McAdoo said. “As soon as the official puts his hands out that says it’s a touchdown, we’ve got to make sure we get the ball put down and the PAT team on the field ready to go.

“There’s certain mechanical things that are happening. The snapper, the holder and the kicker need to be able to set up and get ready to go.”

McAdoo was also quick to say that the defense didn’t take too long to celebrate Collins’ pick-6, but added that the clock moves fast and that the team needs to be able to respond accordingly.

“It just seems like when the offense is on the field, it doesn’t seem like it’ll be as big of a rush, but when the defense scores, it definitely is a challenging transition that we need to address.”


I’m starting to become a little concerned about cornerback Eli Apple and his injury history.

Last year, Apple missed two games due to injury, one of which was a hamstring strain. This summer, he’s already dealt with one ankle sprain and has since suffered a second one to his other ankle, that happening in lat night’s game.

Head coach Ben McAdoo, as usual, was mum on the severity of Apple’s injury, just as he’s been on the injuries of other players. Apple, remember, bulked up a bit to get better at tackling.

While I’m not suggesting the extra bulk is the issue–football is a violent game afterall–you do have to wonder if this young man is snakebit as well as wonder now that he’s sprained both ankles if that’s going to affect him all season.