The Giants.com crew discusses the biggest takeaways from the team's 25-23 victory over the Bengals on Thursday night.
John Schmeelk: In the NFL, wins and losses are often decided by a few decisive plays over the course of the game. Situational football is important, and the third preseason game gave the team a chance to work on those types of scenarios.
On the Giants' first drive, they went for it on a 4th and 1 from the Bengals 21-yard line after Wayne Gallman failed to gain the necessary yards on a 3rd and 1. Instead of leaving his feet on a jump cut the way he did on the prior play, Gallman put his head down and powered ahead to get the first down. A conversion like that in the regular season can mean the difference between seven points or none at all.
On the Giants' first drive of the second quarter, Bennie Fowler learned a valuable lesson when he caught the ball at the first down marker on a 3rd and 6 pass from Daniel Jones, and bellied back to make a bigger play instead of just falling forward for the first down. The Giants punted on 4th and 1 from their own 44-yard line on the following play.
The next time the Giants had the ball, Jones converted a 3rd and 16 with a deep pass to Darius Slayton, getting the ball to the one-yard line. It took two goal-to-go runs for Rod Smith to punch the ball into the end zone for the touchdown. Jon Hilliman scored on a 1st and goal run from the one-yard line later in the game. The Giants finished 19th in red zone touchdown percentage last season.
At the end of the first half, Jones had the opportunity to work on his hurry-up offense. He hit Brittan Golden in-bounds on a deep route with 13 seconds left on the clock. Jones hurried the team to the line of scrimmage, but the officials were late spotting the ball and the Giants weren't able to spike it with time left on the clock.
The Giants also had the opportunity to work on their two-point conversion plays. After Hilliman's touchdown run, they could have kicked the extra point to tie the game, but instead went for two to take the lead and avoid overtime. Kyle Lauletta put the ball where only Alonzo Russell could get it on the slant for the two-point play.
After a Josh Malone touchdown brought the Bengals to within two in the fourth quarter, they attempted a two-point conversion. Jake Dolegala looked for Malone again, but the pass went high while Giants cornerback Ronald Zamort played tight coverage.
After the failed two-point attempt the Giants were able to work on their "four-minute offense." They got the ball with 2:43 to play with Cincinnati possessing all their timeouts. The Giants needed a pair of first downs to close it out, and they got one on a 2nd and 8 play-action pass to C.J. Conrad, and the final one came on a 3rd and 6 end-around to Reggie White Jr.
Sound situational football wins football games and the Giants got to practice that on Thursday night.
Dan Salomone: I'm going to take you back to April 25, the first night of the draft. The Giants had jselected quarterback Daniel Jones with their first of three picks in the opening round, and a reporter asked coach Pat Shurmur about when he knew the Duke product was the right guy for the organization.
Shurmur responded, "We took a trip down to Duke and visited with Coach [David] Cutcliffe, and he kind of connected some of the things, because there were some comparisons to Eli [Manning], and I'm not sure I would share them. How is he similar? How is he different? I knew by watching him play that he was tough. That's very high on the spectrum for me, is toughness, and Daniel has that."
If one common thread connected every successful quarterback in the 95 years of the franchise, it would be toughness. That's what Jones showed midway through the second quarter of Thursday night's preseason game. Defensive ends Carl Lawson and Sam Hubbard sandwiched the rookie and caused him to lose the football, which wide receiver Brittan Golden was able to recover. Jones, who lost two fumbles the week before, dusted himself off and threw a pass on the next play to Darius Slayton for a 27-yard gain. It brought the Giants down to the one-yard line, and Rod Smith eventually punched it in for a touchdown. Jones returned to the sideline and told Shurmur, "That was a good one. I'm sure I'll get hit harder than that at times."
Just like Manning, Jones can take a licking – whether it's physical, verbal or written – and keep on ticking. But toughness alone doesn't guarantee success for a quarterback.
"About every six or seven days now, I've been able to tell you that's what we saw when we drafted him," Shurmur said. "He just has a feel for playing the position. He's steadily getting better each time he takes the field, whether it's practice or games. That's what you're looking for with a young player, especially one that's as talented as Daniel is."
Lance Medow: If there's any issue a coaching staff doesn't mind, it's having trouble deciding roster cuts at a specific position. That means there's likely plenty of depth at that spot, a good problem to have. When it comes to the Giants, I think it's fair to say wide receiver is one such position and the third preseason game only made that case stronger. The latest player in that group to make a name for himself is Brittan Golden, who led the team with two receptions for 59 yards, including a 35-yard grab deep down the middle of the field that helped ignite a seven play, 62-yard drive in the second quarter. The possession ended with a Rod Smith one-yard rushing touchdown.
Not only did Golden impress as a receiver but on that same drive he made a great hustle play by recovering a Daniel Jones fumble off a sack. He also returned a punt 68 yards for a score in the fourth. If you're the fifth or sixth wide receiver on the depth chart, you have to contribute on special teams, which is why Golden's punt return shouldn't be overlooked. With that being said, later in the fourth, he also muffed a punt. Similar to what TJ Jones experienced in the previous two contests, Golden endured the ups and downs of the NFL preseason, but it's all about how you bounce back. Like TJ Jones, Golden is an established veteran who spent parts of five seasons (2013-17) with the Cardinals, as well as the 2018 offseason with the Giants, so dealing with adversity is nothing new for him. Given how quickly the news cycle moves and how much the focus is usually on flashy plays from practice and the household names, it's very easy to overlook a player like Golden, but he helped his cause in proving there's plenty of competition for the final two spots in the receiving corps.
In addition to Golden, this year's fifth-round pick, Darius Slayton, took advantage of his preseason debut with an impressive 27-yard catch that set the Giants up at the goal line in the second quarter. Slayton's vertical speed was on full display as well as his field awareness by getting two feet inbounds before his hand touched the sideline. Many fans were itching to see Slayton in action, so it was encouraging to see him make a notable play in his first game back from a hamstring injury. In the fourth quarter, undrafted rookie Reggie White Jr. took a page out Slayton's playbook by recording a 36-yard catch that also put the Giants on the Bengals' one-yard line. In three preseason games, the Giants have had different receivers step up, further proof there's competition from top to bottom at the position. Considering Golden Tate will miss the first four games of the season due to suspension, the fact the Giants have a variety of options to turn to and continue to evaluate is a good problem to have.