New York Giants: 2014 NFL Preseason Week 2 PIT at NYG

A quiet night for Eli Manning

August, 10, 2014
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants wanted quarterback Eli Manning to play about as many plays (16) or more Saturday night than he did in their first preseason game. He did not.

Manning was in the game for four offensive series but only 12 plays. He threw two passes and completed neither of them. He did not get as much work as they'd hoped he would, but his explanation for that was basically that it happens that way sometimes.

"We just had limited opportunities," Manning said. "So I think we'll try to learn from it and understand that it's the preseason and not everything is going to be perfect. We definitely have some stuff to look at and get better on a few things."

Manning opened the game with an incomplete pass to Jerrel Jernigan. The next play was a 3-yard Rashad Jennings run, then an offsides penalty cut a third-and-7 to third-and-2 but the third-down pass to Larry Donnell fell incomplete and they punted.

Surely, at that point, Manning believed he'd throw at least one more pass.

But the second possession was brief, as Jennings ran 73 yards for a touchdown on the first play. When the Giants got the ball back for their third offensive series, Manning was sacked for a loss of eight yards on first down and was all of a sudden backed up on the 4-yard line. At that point, and at that spot on the field, they didn't want to take any chances, so they ran it twice with Jennings and punted again.

On the fourth possession, the Giants opened with a run and got called for two holding penalties and a false start, which put them in second-and-28 from their own 11. Again, conservative runs to avoid disaster were the plays of choice.

Manning did switch the call at the line to a run play on Jennings' long touchdown run, which was a good play for him even though it doesn't go on his stats. He saw a double-team on the left side of his line and called a play that brought right guard Brandon Mosley around to pull. Mosley, left tackle Charles Brown and center J.D. Walton all delivered on their blocks and Jennings ran through a massive hole all the way to the end zone.

"It seems like we're getting good push, and whenever you have a running back break a long one for 70 yards or 80 yards, whatever it was, that's a great thing," Manning said. "Hopefully we can hit a few more of those and also be a little bit more consistent offensively."

As for that 0-for-2 stat line, it drew a patented Manning shrug.

"Preseason game? Yeah, I'm not totally shocked," Manning said. "Obviously, it's not the ideal situation, but when you only have two attempts, there's that possibility."

Manning is likely to see an increased number of snaps next Saturday night when the Giants play their third preseason game in Indianapolis against the Colts.

Jennings shows Giants big-play ability

August, 10, 2014
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants' first-string offense looked abysmal Saturday night ... with one exception.

On the first play of the Giants' second possession, Rashad Jennings took an inside handoff from Eli Manning and burst through a gaping hole in the line, sprinting all the way to the end zone for a 73-yard touchdown.

For Jennings, it was a moment to remember in his first home game at MetLife Stadium -- even though this is just the preseason.

"You only get one chance to have a first impression," Jennings said, "and that was something Coach Coughlin was reminding us [about] before we went out on the field. So obviously it feels good."

The hole came courtesy of Brandon Mosley, who's currently holding down the starting right guard spot following the retirement of Chris Snee. Jennings did the rest but credited his teammates after the game.

"Eli made sure we were in the right play," Jenning said. "The offensive line beat the double team, the puller came around and put a body on a body, gaping hole, gave an opportunity for the [running] back to be one-on-one.

"One-on-one battles in the open field, you gotta win those. And that's what I did. The rest was just a race."

That actually was the most impressive aspect of the run -- the fact that Jennings wasn't caught by the several Pittsburgh Steelers in pursuit. At 6-foot-1 and 231 pounds, Jennings has a reputation of being a power back, not a speed demon.

"There's one thing I run around the locker room and say before games a lot of times, and that's, 'Don't let anybody define you,'" Jennings said. "You get a lot of labels as a player, as an athlete -- he's a physical runner, he's this, he's that, all positions. Something [important] to me, I always want to be a complete back. That's what I want to prove in the league."

This wasn't even the longest run of Jennings' NFL career. He had an 80-yard touchdown scamper for the Oakland Raiders against the Houston Texans last year. The Giants signed him to be their workhorse back, but perhaps he's more of a home run threat than any of us thought?

It's a good thing he "went deep" Saturday night, because otherwise there'd be literally nothing positive about the Giants' starting offense. In the three other series with Manning under center, the team committed three penalties and failed to make a first down. Manning didn't even complete a pass.

"This is the beginning," Jennings said. "We're still growing, we're still learning -- got a lot of stuff to make sure we take care of, myself included."
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Much of the attention on the New York Giants' defense this summer has focused on the secondary, where they beefed up significantly at cornerback and believe that's the strongest position group on the team. But there's no secondary that's at its best when the big guys up front aren't doing the job, and for that reason the Giants are spending time this summer figuring things out on the defensive line.

In Saturday's 20-16 preseason victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Giants' defensive line was a mixed bag, but I saw more good than bad. Some specific thoughts:
  • Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul was better in this game. When the play was to his side, he was unquestionably a factor. He got into the backfield to pressure the quarterback at least once that I saw. He ran down Markus Wheaton from behind on a first-quarter end-around that looked as though it could have gone for a lot more yards than just 10. He was credited with four tackles and a hurry.
  • Defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins, starting in place of a still-injured Mike Patterson, showed good ability to crash the pocket from the interior. He's more or less been a run-stopper for the Giants in his short career so far, but if he can generate pressure up the middle, that will be a bonus.
  • Hankins comes off the field on third downs, and the Giants put defensive end Robert Ayers in at defensive tackle next to Cullen Jenkins and between Pierre-Paul and Kiwanuka. That's the new "NASCAR" look with four pass-rushers, and Ayers said he enjoys the role. "It's something I've done in the past, but for whatever reason in Denver last year they didn't ask me to do it," he said after the game. "It's nice to be with a team that appreciates that I can do a lot of different things."
  • Jenkins seemed to struggle a bit with the Steelers' interior offensive linemen, getting pushed back on a couple of run plays in the first quarter. He needs to play stronger up front in the run game.
  • Damontre Moore is fast enough to beat these second-team offensive tackles off the line and into the backfield. I'll be interested to see whether they start giving him first-team looks in the remaining preseason games to determine whether they can give him more significant snaps once the games count.
  • Rookie defensive tackle Jay Bromley, who I thought was a reach in the third round and would be a developmental guy, showed up nicely in the second half against those same backup linemen. He shows an ability to break through the line and get into the backfield. He did it once to snuff out a run play and once to pressure the quarterback. Bromley's played better than expected.
  • Defensive tackle Markus Kuhn and backup defensive end Jordan Stanton each got a sack. Stanton also got credit for the forced fumble that C.J. Barnett recovered in the fourth quarter.

Observation Deck: New York Giants

August, 9, 2014

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New York Giants right guard Brandon Mosley pulled left and helped center J.D. Walton open up what Rashad Jennings would later call a "gaping hole." Jennings ran through it and all the way to the end zone, 73 yards for a touchdown on the Giants' second possession of Saturday night's 20-16 exhibition victory over the Steelers.

It was a beautifully designed and executed play. It was all the Giants' first-team offense did well.

Eli Manning was on the field for 12 snaps and threw two passes, completing neither. The Giants' new offense remains a work in progress with 30 days to go until their "Monday Night Football" opener in Detroit.

Some other thoughts on the Giants' second preseason game:
  • You want to know who's leading the race for starting tight end? The Giants ran 26 offensive plays in the first half, and Larry Donnell was on the field for 25 of them. The only other tight end who even played in the first half was Kellen Davis, who was in on four plays, all of which also included Donnell. I think the Giants would like to be able to give Daniel Fells a longer look, but he is injured and did not play. Adrien Robinson is doing nothing in practice to help himself.
  • Rookie defensive tackle Jay Bromley, the team's third-round pick, looked good in the second half against the Steelers' backup line, getting into the backfield to snuff out a run play and putting pressure on the quarterback.
  • Cornerback Charles James muffed a punt in the third quarter -- not the kind of thing that's going to help the feisty return man make a team that has this many good cornerbacks. Preston Parker replaced him on the next punt return.
  • The "NASCAR" package of four pass-rushers on third downs featured Cullen Jenkins and Robert Ayers at defensive tackle, with Mathias Kiwanuka and Jason Pierre-Paul at end when the first team was in the game.
  • The Giants were flagged for 10 penalties for a total of 109 yards. Of those, two were Jayron Hosley pass-interference penalties of 12 and 47 yards. Zack Bowman was called for illegal contact and Mark Herzlich was called for defensive holding (though he wasn't on the field that play, so it's unclear which Giants defender was flagged). Bennett Jackson received a five-yard holding call. And Prince Amukamara was whistled for an illegal-contact penalty that was declined. Giants defensive backs continue to struggle with the new rules/points of emphasis governing illegal downfield contact.
  • Amukamara made a great play to run down speedy Pittsburgh rookie Dri Archer on a 46-yard screen pass that looked to be a sure touchdown. It's the second time in two games Amukamara has shown the speed to keep up with a touted rookie, as he covered Buffalo's Sammy Watkins well Sunday night.
  • Jerrel Jernigan struggled badly with the first-team offense, and the Giants are eager for rookie Odell Beckham Jr. to get healthy and take over that spot.