The Giants lost a preseason game Sunday, but for Joe Judge it was an encouraging end to a very productive four days.
A 17-13 defeat to the Cleveland Browns in FirstEnergy Stadium didn't diminish the step forward taken in two days of joint practices and in the game.
"This is definitely a positive week for us as a team, and we got better this week," Judge said. "We got a lot of quality work in two days of practice with a lot of our vets and young guys. A lot of guys were taking a lot of balls. We were able to evaluate our roster and evaluate a lot of players going into the stretch."
After intense joint practices on Thursday and Friday, Judge and Browns coach Kevin Stefanski rested their starters for the second consecutive week. Like most NFL coaches in the new three-game preseason, they plan to play their front-line players in the finale. For the Giants, that will be next Sunday night at home against the New England Patriots – with whom they will practice in Foxborough on Wednesday and Thursday.
"We are going to New England, and we will be able to go with our team as narrowed down as possible," Judge said. "We're not making all the final decisions, but this game will give us a clearer picture going into New England next week in terms of treating it almost like a regular season game."
With a five-man roster cut looming on Tuesday, Judge wanted to get another long look at his reserves and young players in Cleveland. That made it an easy decision to rest his starters.
"It really went back to the quality of practice we had," Judge said. "With the volume and intensity of the work we had, we thought that it was best for the health of those players, especially with a quick turnaround and one day off in between. As we get these guys ready to go next week, we know it's going to be a hard work week that simulates a regular season week and having a competitive practice session with Patriots. It was the best thing for the health of the team and it also gave us an opportunity to really evaluate a lot of guys on the roster. We have to make sure that we have as clear a picture as possible to give them a fair evaluation."
Check out the best photos from the Giants' preseason contest against the Cleveland Browns.
Mike Glennon started at quarterback – as he did in the opener last week against the Jets – and played the Giants' four first-half series, completing 10 of 13 passes for 86 yards. He hit all six of his passes for 57 yards on a 75-yard drive that ended with a Devontae Booker one-yard touchdown dive.
Corey Clement led the Giants with 30 rushing yards on nine carries. Booker rushed for 27 yards on nine carries.
"I did not know how long I was going to be out there, but I just wanted to be a spark for the team and for the offense, go out there and do what we have been doing," Booker said. "Got a touchdown with it, and that is always good. Just continue to get better."
Brian Lewerke, who joined the Giants last Monday, threw a team-high 19 passes and completed 11 for 108 yards, including an eight-yard touchdown to David Sills.
Tight end Rysen John had a game-high 58 receiving yards on three catches, including a game-long 29-yarder, before leaving with 14 seconds remaining because of an ankle injury. Sills, Dante Pettis and rookie running back Gary Brightwell tied John for the team lead with three receptions.
But what garnered much of the postgame attention was the unexpected deployment of players. Rookie sixth-round draft choice Rodarius Williams played both his natural position at cornerback and made his debut at safety and had a team-high six solo tackles among his seven stops. Williams has also played in the slot this month.
Linebacker Devante Downs also tallied seven tackles (four solo).
Wide receiver and special teams standout Matt Cole also demonstrated impressive versatility. Make that cornerback Matt Cole, who played the position for the first time since high school. Cole had one assisted tackle on defense and two solo special teams stops.
The Giants needed reinforcements in the secondary after safety Quincy Wilson, who intercepted a Case Keenum second-quarter pass in the end zone, left the game with an ankle injury and cornerback Madre Harris's day ended early when he hurt his groin.
"I actually got the news yesterday," said Cole, who joined the Giants on Aug. 8, one day after he was released by the Jets. "Coach asked me about playing corner, and in my mind, I was like, 'I already play corner on punt return.' He said, 'I am talking about defense.' I said, 'It is too early to be playing games. You can't be for real.' Coach said, 'I am serious. We might need you.' I just stayed ready, and I have a history of playing defense back in high school."
"We got him before we went into the final meetings for prep," Judge said. "We brushed up the best we could. (Defensive backs coach) Jerome (Henderson) did a great job of communicating with him on the field in terms of the technical signs on a play-by-play basis. We kind of had a 10-man huddle, and Matt had a personal tutor on the sideline, but he did a good job."
Second-year backer Carter Coughlin had four solo tackles, including a sack. Oshane Ximines collected a sack and Ryan Anderson and rookie Raymond Johnson III split a sack.
The group of defensive standouts also included lineman David Moa, who was frequently around the quarterbacks, as he is in most practices; linebacker Trent Harris, who had three unassisted tackles; and Julian Love, who started at safety and had five tackles (four solo).
Judge has taken to calling Love "duct tape."
"In a meeting in the defensive room, he said, 'Well, we can put you in any situation, wherever we need you, you are like duct tape for us,'" Love said. "That is a true story. Now everyone is calling me duct tape because he made that comment. It is a short-term solution – duct tape. We will move on to something more permanent."
The Giants' young players who impressed on Sunday would like to solidify an enduring roster spot.
"Coaches are giving us the opportunity to go out there and play," Moa said. "It's on us to go out there and show them what we can do and try to make the most out of the opportunity."