By Lawrence Edwards
OK, we got a small glimpse at the potential this Giants team boasts, the starters at least, and I must say I came away very optimistic. Shepard, Apple, JPP, Vernon, and Owa Odigizuwa, just to name a few, really stood out to me in this game. A few players left with some bumps and bruises but nothing seemed to be too serious. I have to say it feels good to be writing about football and Giants fans will be excited once they hear my take on how things went last night and what I saw.
There were 4 major areas that held the Giants back last year. Technically you can say 5 areas but one goes as the other does, if that makes any sense.
- The first and the most important area was the right side of the offensive line.
- Second, lack of a consistent run game and a legitimate number 1 running back. Now this issue gets a lot better if the first issue is fixed.
- They had no pass rush which produced an abysmal 23 sacks last year.
- The secondary was horrible and was shredded though the air because of the lack of true safety help over the top.
Now, take last nights’ game how you want it, but keep in mind that Eli and Odell did not play. I like what I saw overall from the offensive line last night but Marshall Newhouse continues to be a huge liability in pass protection. John Jerry held up OK in passing situations but the Giants still showed a lack of being able to run to the right side when Newhouse and Jerry were in at RG and RT respectively. The bright side is the Giants may very well have their replacement for Newhouse already on the roster. Although he ran with the second teamers, second year offensive lineman, Bobby Hart, showed why he should be considered to supplant Newhouse at RT. He finished his blocks in the run game and set his anchor really well in passing situations. He had good hand placement and used his strength to keep opposing defenders from entering the backfield. With time, Hart could develop in the RT of the future for the Giants.
The Giants came out on the field with Rashad Jennings as the clear cut starter in the backfield and he didn’t disappoint, scoring the teams only TD in the game on the opening drive, thanks to a big play made by rookie Sterling Shepard, but more on that later. Jennings showed good vision and power hitting the hole on the opening drive. His day was done early and we got to see if the talk about Andre Williams improvement was true. I have to say, I came away greatly impressed by Williams. He showed good patience and exceptional vision in finding the hole, something fans have been waiting to see from him since he has been with the team. His best play of the night was a nice 16 yard gain up the left side early in the game. He showed good speed and power on his runs. If Williams can run like he did last night all the time with Odell and Eli on the field, then the Giants might have a respectable run game this season to take pressure off the passing game.
The Giants pass rush was horrible last year. QB’s had all day to throw and the Giants gave up an average of 298 yards a game through the air. Big Blue went all out in the offseason spending 200 million dollars to revamp their defense. Of that 200 million, most of it was used to bring in Olivier Vernon from the Miami Dolphins to pair with a healthy JPP. The new defenses’ debut went very well I have to say. The Giants generated pressure on every snap while just sending the 4 on the defensive line. That’s something Giants fans have been waiting to see again for a very long time. Vernon and JPP could be a monstrous pass rushing duo this season. JPP looked like a brand new man out there getting after it, with him and Vernon meeting up at the QB on one play in the end zone, forcing an incomplete pass. The tandem of Damian Harrison and Jonathan Hankins ate up anything that tried to come up the middle on the ground and the defense did a great job at pursuit on outside runs. Spagnuolo also gave us a look at his new NASCAR package which was once made famous by the 2007 Giants pass rush which featured, Michael Strahan, Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora. The 2016 edition featured Devon Kennard at LDE, JPP and Owa at DT, Vernon at RDE, Apple and Jenkins on the outside and DRC in the slot. The package was able to generate some pressure on Tannehill during a 3rd and 9 situation with Owa almost getting home, but instead forcing a short throw which Apple came up and made a nice hit on Kenny Stills to keep him short of the sticks forcing a punt. So far Jerry’s decision to pay up seems to be paying off but there is still more to be seen.
The secondary held up pretty well, with the help of the pass rush of course, but the good thing was, there were no receivers running open, whether the pass rush was there or not. Everybody was on somebody, making it tough for the Dolphins pass catchers to get open. Darian Thompson did a good job over the top keeping receivers from getting wide open past the DB’s. Eli Apple showed why the Giants selected him in the first round. The first year DB showed great discipline in coverage and finished every tackle. The talent difference in the Giants secondary from last year to this year is greatly improved and should provide the Giants with what they need to keep a repeat of last year’s efforts from happening again.
The Giants should be very happy they have Eli Manning under center. Last night’s performance by Ryan Nassib could not have gone any worse. The fourth year backup constantly under threw open receivers and tossed one interception and fumbled twice, losing one. He looked nervous in the pocket and didn’t seem to have a handle on things at all throughout his time on the field. The bright side is, rookie Sterling Shepard legitimized the hype he has been getting throughout training camp. His only catch of the night came on a, terribly thrown, 24 yard gain in which he beat his defender from the snap to get open but had to come back and change direction to get under the ball to make a diving catch. He would continue to get open the entire game only to have Nassib under throw him. Two of those underthrows were critical. One could have resulted in a TD. Nassib was picked off on another which was again intended for, yup you guessed it, an open Sterling Shepard. Shepard showed excellent route running doing his work out of the slot. Whether Cruz can fully return or not, when Eli and Odell take the field with Shepard, defenses are in for a great surprise. Shepard will be the replacement of Cruz in the slot whether he can get on the field or not. Ben McAdoo made it clear that Cruz would have to play to stay on the team.
This is only the first game of the preseason but I came away impressed for the most part. However, the problem still somewhat lingers that the Giants lack depth outside of their starters at QB and on the offensive line. For the team to go far this season they would have to stay healthy overall while they hope an offensive lineman worthy of a spot shakes loose during roster cuts from other teams before the start of the regular season.