In a game without Odell Beckham Jr. and Saquon Barkley, the Giants still managed to fill the highlight reel in their preseason victory over the Jets. That has to be encouraging for Pat Shurmur, assuming the head coach and play-caller gets his dynamic duo on the field together sooner rather than later with the regular season two weeks away.
Shurmur repeatedly dialed up the deep ball on Friday night, beginning with a 54-yard completion from Eli Manning (17 of 23 for 188 yards, 97.7 passer rating) to wide receiver Cody Latimer to bring the Giants deep into Jets territory. Manning later hit on a 30-yarder to Sterling Shepard, who made a difficult over-the-shoulder play on the ball with cornerback Buster Skrine blanketing him, and backup Davis Webb, with his back to the goal line, threw up a 47-yarder to Alonzo Russell.
“Yeah, play-action and the safety jumped the over route on Shepard, jumped him, so had a chance, kind of one on one with the corner,” Manning said of the Latimer play. “Cody ran a good route. I probably could have put it out a little further and let him score a touchdown, but he adjusted well to the ball and the line did a good job. [The Jets] brought a safety blitz and they picked it up and we had time to get down the field.”
After the Giants hurried down the field to keep the Jets on their heels, the air was quickly sucked out of the drive. Veteran running back Jonathan Stewart lost a fumble on the next play, and Jets defensive lineman Leonard Williams took it 39 yards the other way. That only compounded the missed opportunity to put the ball in the end zone initially off the long pass.
“Possibly, it’s one-high, you’re kind of thinking you’re going to throw the over route, the safety jumps, so you have to react and throw it out there,” Manning said. “You can always make a little better throw, but I put it in a spot for him to make a play and big gain, so you take those. Unfortunately, we had the fumble the next play so we didn’t get any points out of it.”
“No, I think that was a good throw,” Shurmur said. “He got behind him and it was a big play-action with a post and a deep cross, and the post got behind the defense and we connected on a very long play.”
Shurmur had the franchise quarterback on the move for much of the night, drawing up a variety of play-action passes and bootlegs to open the passing lanes.
“He’s very fit for a 37-year old,” Shurmur said. “There’s no reason he can’t run boots and nakeds. I think any quarterback, you need to be able to change the launch point and I think sometimes that helps the quarterback get completions outside the pocket and there’s absolutely no reason he can’t do that.”
Manning, entering his 14th season, agreed.
“Yeah, I think it’s good to move in the pocket,” he said. “It’s got to help the run game. Got out a few times and got some completions, hit an over route to Sterling. Play-action was good tonight. We made a few plays off of that.”
When the Giants get back to watch the film, the first thing they will look at is the lack of success in the red zone. And then the same will go for the run game. The Giants failed to punch it in during their three trips inside the 20, and they had nine rushes for a single yard in the first half with the starters.
“Not pleased with the way we ran the ball, certainly,” Shurmur said. “But at the end, we found a way to carve out enough yardage running the ball to make it acceptable (the backups brought those numbers up to 87 yards on 26 carries by the end of the game). We need to run the ball for our offense, but also for our team, and then we need to be efficient throwing the ball.”
Nevertheless, if he does not play in the preseason finale on Thursday against the Patriots, Manning feels prepared for the season opener on Sept. 9 at home vs. Jacksonville.
“Yeah, I thought it was good tonight to get out there and get a full half of playing with the new offense,” Manning said. “It’s just little things, hearing the calls, getting used to running the offense with the new offense and new things and the play clock and everything going. So, I’m good either way, whatever [Shurmur] wants to do, we have to get better this week though, still have practice this week. Still get to practice this week and maybe play but still have some things I want to work on and get better this week.”