NFC East: 081012 preseason obs

Observation deck: Giants-Jaguars

August, 10, 2012

This was one of the preseasoniest preseason games any of us has ever seen. The New York Giants' 32-31 exhibition loss to the Jaguars in Jacksonville on Friday night was by turns sloppy, silly and downright ugly for both teams. Blown coverages, muffed punts and the sad struggles of the nervous, overmatched replacement officials made this a game that showed exactly why there's nearly a full month left before the start of the regular season -- because everybody needs that time.

All of that said, though, the Giants got some long looks at a few key players who are likely to factor into their 2012 regular season. And that's what this is all about. We draw no long-range conclusions from these ridiculous games. We merely observe, report and discuss. So please bear that in mind as you read.

1. There's lots to like about David Wilson. He's no threat to Ahmad Bradshaw's job security, but Wilson looks like a dangerous dude with the ball in his hands. His speed is legitimate, and likely the main reason he was used on kick returns. And it helped him break a few runs. He had a really interesting statistical night -- 43 yards on seven carries for an impressive 6.1 yards-per-carry average. But these were the lengths of his seven runs, in chronological order: 0, 26, minus-5, 17, minus-1, 6, 0. That's some variety right there, and it would appear to be evidence of a work in progress. Wilson is capable of big things as a first-rounder should be, but he has some things he needs to refine. The Giants have a high-caliber starting running back in Bradshaw, and right now Wilson may be behind D.J. Ware as well. But as he progress with his vision, his cuts and his pass protection, he should be able to move up quickly and maybe even become the Giants' No. 2 back at some point this season. He also caught two passes for 26 yards, which is important to note, as the Giants like to use their running backs as receivers in the screen game.

2. Prince Amukamara isn't all the way there yet. His highlight play was an outstanding forced fumble, which I really liked because he didn't just sell out for the strip, but actually had his other armed wrapped around the ballcarrier's shoulder. Going for the turnover without sacrificing tackling technique -- a rare sight and the mark of a sound and smart player. Unfortunately by that point in the game, Amukamara had already been burned twice in coverage, including for a touchdown, and coverage is the more important part of his game. With Terrell Thomas continuing to struggle with knee issues, Amukamara is a starting cornerback for the Giants right now, and needs to do better in the coming weeks if the Giants are to feel good about starting the year that way.

3. A Black Unicorn sighting. Tight end Martellus Bennett has made headlines since arriving in New York for the interesting things he's called himself in group interviews. But he caught all three balls thrown to him Friday night, including a 12-yard touchdown from David Carr. The Giants got him mainly to help as a blocker in the run game, and he (as well as fullback Henry Hynoski) offered plenty of proof Friday that they can help there. But if he can be a legitimate threat to catch the ball, that's a huge bonus for the Giants. We shall see. He had some big August games in Dallas, too. The more important thing is that he's always been a good blocker, and the run game needs that.

4. The No. 3 receiver battle. It was interesting that Ramses Barden got the start due to a Domenik Hixon hamstring injury. Whichever of these receiver candidates is working with Eli Manning on a given night is automatically going to have an advantage, and Barden was the lucky guy in this one. He had a 14-yard catch early in the game and looked good using his big body to shield the defender from the ball. Jerrel Jernigan might have had a touchdown catch, but his right arm was held by the defensive back and so he had to try (unsuccessfully) to catch the ball only with his left hand. And rookie Rueben Randle looked good late, using his size to gain an advantage in the end zone and corral a 6-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Perrilloux. It's worth noting that Isaiah Stanback, who's not in this mix but is trying to make the team, made a circus catch for a touchdown from David Carr in the second quarter.

5. Sloppy, sloppy. Hixon could be the No. 3 receiver if he can get on the field, but where the Giants really could have used him Friday was on punt returns, where both Jayron Hosley and Jernigan muffed punts. Shame about rookie cornerback Hosley, who was having a good game to that point with a good return and a sack.

6. Being physical. At times over the past few years, when the Giants' defense has underachieved from week-to-week, it's been because they were physically pushed around by other teams' offensive lines. This was the case for much of the early part of Friday's game. The Jaguars' first touchdown drive covered 89 yards in 13 plays and took 6:09 as running back Rashad Jennings and quarterback Blaine Gabbert were able to do whatever they wanted. I'm certainly not saying the Giants will play defense like that in the regular season, but we have seen that they can, and I'm sure the first-team defensive linemen weren't thrilled about the way their night went.

7. Miscellany: Adrian Tracy, who's being converted from linebacker to defensive end, looked athletic and able, if a little jumpy pre-snap. ... Marvin Austin continues to look rusty but has potential. On one play he got pushed back easily, on the next he collapsed the pocket to help Tracy get a sack. ... Mark Herzlich looked very good as he continues to push Chase Blackburn for that starting middle linebacker spot. ... Backup defensive lineman Dwayne Hendricks had two sacks and a nice overall game as a back-of-the-roster guy trying to stick. ... Steve Weatherford picked up right where he left off in the Super Bowl, nailing perfect punts. He even looked good compared to that punter the Jags drafted in the third round! But that guy's clearly awesome. He punts the ball so no one can catch it!

That's plenty from this game for me. What'd you guys see?

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. –- Several New York Giants made solid first impressions in the team's preseason opener Friday night, a 32-31 loss to the Jaguars.

What it means: Nothing really, other than the fact that the Giants finally got a glimpse of several newcomers. We finally got to see what first-round pick David Wilson looks like carrying the ball, and how Martellus Bennett might fit into the offense.

Wilson was the last running back to get the ball. On his first carry, he got smacked by two Jaguars. On his second carry, he exploded up the middle for 26 yards. And on his third carry, he was blown up for a five-yard loss. However, running behind reserves on the offensive line, Wilson definitely showed what he is capable of on that one big gain. Wilson also took a screen pass and delivered two hits to Jaguars defenders, displaying some toughness. If anything, Wilson showed that he can break a big play on any play.

Second-round pick Rueben Randle also flashed his potential, gaining 21 yards on his first reception and catching a six-yard touchdown in the left corner of the end zone in the fourth quarter.

Royal redemption: Prince Amukamara started and had a rough start, giving up a three-yard touchdown pass to Cecil Shorts on the opening drive.

But he redeemed himself by stripping Shorts on an end-around later in the first quarter to give the Giants the ball at the Jacksonville 29-yard line.

It’s still too early to make any assumptions yet, but Amukamara is the guy the Giants want to start in place of the injured Terrell Thomas. So far, he has shown us some good things and some bad things.

Black Unicorn sighting: Bennett made his Giants debut and had three catches for 27 yards, including a 12-yard touchdown catch on a pass thrown by David Carr.

Bennett -- who has referred to himself as "The Black Unicorn" because of his speed and size –- will be counted on for his blocking. But he is off to a great start by showcasing his receiving skills with that TD catch.

Hokie connection: The Giants’ two Virginia Tech rookie draft picks were exciting on special teams.

Wilson gave everyone a glimpse of his speed and big-play ability on the second kickoff return of the game. He took the the ball up the left side, ran across the field toward his right, and took it to the 49-yard-line for a 48-yard gain.

Third-round pick Jayron Hosley had an impressive debut, too, but also made a rookie mistake.

The cornerback had two very good punt returns -- including one on which he turned nothing into a 20-yard gain by dancing all over the field (only to be called back for holding). But he also muffed a fair catch, as the ball bounced off his right shoulder pad, setting up a Jacksonville touchdown right before the end of the first half. Jerrel Jernigan replaced Hosley after that on punt returns, and he later muffed a punt as well.

At the very least, though, Hosley brought some excitement to an area where the Giants really need a boost.

On defense, Hosley had a sack and looked good in coverage, too. If he can limit mistakes like the punt return fumble, the rookie has the potential to be a contributor.

The running backs: If the preseason opener is any indication, the battle for the backup running back spot is going to be fierce. D.J. Ware got the first crack after Ahmad Bradshaw and looked great. He was quick and elusive, rushing for 30 yards and a touchdown on five carries. His two-yard TD run came on a great second effort at the goal line.

Andre Brown got the next crack and gained 19 yards on his first two carries, but was later stuffed on a third-and-1. He finished with 25 yards on seven carries, with one catch for four yards.

Wilson then came in and showed electric potential on a couple of his carries.

The wide receivers: Victor Cruz and Ramses Barden each had a catch. Jernigan just missed making a spectacular one-handed touchdown catch in the end zone in the first quarter. It appeared he couldn’t use his other hand with cornerback William Middleton all over him.

Isaiah Stanback, though, did make a highlight-worthy one-handed touchdown grab over Kevin Rutland on a five-yard pass from Carr.

Et cetera: DE Adrian Tracy had a nice strip sack ... MLB Mark Herzlich looked active and will push Chase Blackburn for the starting job ... Rookie Will Hill saw action as the third safety and delivered some hits ... Thomas, WR David Douglas (quad), WE Domenik Hixon (hamstring), RB Da’Rel Scott (thigh), LB Jake Muasau (hamstring), LB Michael Boley (hamstring), LB Jacquian Williams (hip), LB Clint Sintim (knee), TE Travis Beckum (knee), DT Chris Canty (knee), DT Rocky Bernard (knee), WR Hakeem Nicks (foot), DE Justin Trattou (ankle) and LT Will Beatty (back) did not play.

What’s next: The Giants are reunited with the Jets on Aug. 18 at MetLife Stadium. Can Tim Tebow play defense and cover Cruz for Rex Ryan?