Cover 3: Takeaways from preseason opener

Three Giants.com writers give their takeaways from the Giants’ 31-22 preseason victory over the Jets.

John Schmeelk: Despite all the attention being paid to Daniel Jones, which is warranted given his importance to the team’s long-term future, the biggest 2019 issue that will go a long way to determining how many games the Giants win and lose is their pass defense. Fans got their first taste of what that might look like against the Jets on Thursday night.

The first team played only about a dozen snaps, but the first seven comprised a seven-play, 75-yard Jets drive that went for a touchdown The defense, however, rebounded and did force two three-and-outs on the next two drives.

The two parts of the team’s pass defense that require the most attention is their pass rush and young cornerback group. The pass rush garnered just two sacks and one other quarterback hit, with the former two coming in the final five minutes in the game with the back end of both rosters on the field. Sam Darnold had to slide in the pocket a couple of times on the Jets’ first drive, but he was never truly under threat of being sacked. The Giants would like to see more consistent pressure from edge rushers Lorenzo Carter (13 snaps), Markus Golden (12 snaps) and Oshane Ximines (26 snaps).

In the secondary, you got exactly what you might expect from a group of young defensive backs. There was a miscommunication between Jabrill Peppers and Julian Love that sprung Chris Herndon for his big gain. Love and fellow rookie DeAndre Baker didn’t navigate a potential pick play that ended in the first touchdown. Baker and Corey Ballentine were both called for pass interference penalties on deep passes.

They also made some big plays. Ballentine showed excellent technique when he got his head turned around for his second-half interception. Baker didn’t allow a catch, at least by my tally, in 35 snaps. Love broke up a deep-out near the sideline. Peppers almost had an interception on the first series of the game. 

There will be ups and downs with any young group of defensive backs, and it will be important for them to work out all the kinks, whether it’s technique or communication, in the preseason before the Giants start their season in Dallas against the Cowboys.

Dan Salomone: Wide receiver was the talk of the first two weeks of training camp. It started when Sterling Shepard (broken thumb), Darius Slayton (hamstring) and Corey Coleman (torn ACL) all went down with injuries right out of the gates. Golden Tate, meanwhile, is facing a four-game suspension for violating the NFL policy on performance-enhancing drugs. While deflating for the position group at first, wide receiver coach Tyke Tolbert spun it into a positive and said there was “a little bit more excitement in the room than I would expect there to be because the guys are more excited about the extra reps they’ll be getting.”

Cody Latimer, Bennie Fowler and Russell Shepard have benefitted the most in practice, which they brought over to the preseason opener. Latimer jump-started Daniel Jones’ touchdown drive with a 31-yard reception, and Fowler finished it off with a nice catch in the back corner of the end zone. On the next drive, Shepard took a short pass from Alex Tanney and turned it into a 51-yard touchdown. And that was just the start. The Giants had four different receivers break plays of 30 yards or longer. Newcomer TJ Jones led the way with six catches for 72 yards, and Reggie White Jr. had four for 60. Alonzo Russell also got involved with a 39-yard reception.

Yes, the theme of the night was “slow your roll” – which goes for the good, the bad, and the ugly – but the coaches and front office have to be encouraged by the depth at the position. Hopefully getting the impressive rookie Slayton back soon will only help the cause. Shepard, a vocal and emotional leader on the team, is embracing the “no-name” label and hopes to write his own Cinderella story. Thursday night was a good first chapter.

Lance Medow: The best example that the regular season can’t start soon enough is when we start overreacting to a rookie quarterback’s performance after just one series of eight plays. Let me make that clear for the audience in the back: eight plays. That’s the extent of Daniel Jones’ professional career thus far. I had a funny feeling Jones’ appearances in the preseason would be treated like it were the Super Bowl and that’s exactly what happened after this year’s sixth overall pick went 5 for 5 for 67 yards and a touchdown in his debut. Don’t get me wrong, it was a very impressive showing and statistically, you couldn’t have asked for better production out of a rookie quarterback. Like anything else in the preseason, perspective is important.

This was a strong step in the right direction for Jones. We don’t need to make bold declarations nor jump to conclusions of what the future holds for the former Duke standout. You can’t simulate experience which is why Jones being under center in a professional game against an unfamiliar opponent was invaluable. The way he commanded the huddle, made quick decisions, executed his throws and finished a drive with a touchdown are all encouraging signs he can build off of moving forward. It’s also an indication that he can translate what he does in practice to games, especially when provided with the luxury of playing behind the starting offensive line. During his post-game press conference, Pat Shurmur summed things up best when asked whether Jones’ performance had ignited a quarterback competition: “Slow your roll. This is just his first go around. I think he did a good job. As I mentioned, all along he has done nothing to disappoint us, and certainly when you take the team down the field and score a touchdown—that’s a good start. It’s something good to build on. We have a lot of time left before we start playing games. Nothing at this point has changed.”

One series, especially in a preseason game, doesn’t define a quarterback’s career, regardless of his experience. Daniel Jones gave fans a reason to be excited, but don’t let the desire for instant gratification overshadow the fact that he is far from a finished product, which isn’t a bad thing given the foundation in place.

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