The Giants played their third preseason game on Thursday night, likely the last time we see most of the starters until the season opener at Dallas on September 8th.
Here’s what I saw watching the coach’s tape of the Giants’ victory over Cincinnati:
*Despite only completing four of eight passes, Eli Manning was sharp in his only drive of the game. Two of those incompletions came on passes that could have been reeled in by Cody Latimer. His two errant throws were a pass to the flat for Wayne Gallman and an overthrow to the corner of the end zone to a covered Latimer on the final play of the drive. On that final play, a third and nine from the 18-yard line, Manning could have thrown short to the left for Russell Shepard, who was open near the sticks. The cornerback covering him retreated into the end zone to help on Latimer, but Manning opted for the big play attempt and walked away with a field goal instead.
*Evan Engram got his first and probably last action of the preseason, playing 10 plays on the first drive. He caught the only pass thrown his way, a screen that went for nine yards. He took a hit from former teammate B.W. Webb at the end of the play, which served as a reminder for what it feels like to get tackled before he suits up in Dallas in a couple of weeks.
*Daniel Jones played 19 snaps and finished the first half after Manning. His final numbers were impressive (9-11, 141 yards). On his first drive, Jones had a chance to convert a third and four, but was too high on a throw for Shepard near the sideline as Geno Atkins closed in on the quarterback. The Giants had to punt.
*Jones’ first signature throw of the night came on a skinny post to Brittan Golden. He started to the left in an attempt to target Shepard down the field, but when that was covered, Jones quickly shifted his vision to the middle of the field and put the ball away from the defender where only Golden could leap and catch it for 35 yards.
*Jones’ second throw was similar to the one to Golden because it wasn’t in the perfect spot out in front of the receiver to run after the catch, but instead it was placed where Darius Slayton could go up and make a play on the ball. On a third and 16 following a sack and fumble, Jones had pressure in his face and put it high, down the left sideline slightly behind Slayton. The rookie receiver picked up the ball, slowed down, and high-pointed the ball in front of Bengals cornerback William Jackson. Jones’ willingness to stay in the pocket and deliver a ball like that only one play after getting smashed in the back by Carl Lawson was a testament to his toughness.
*Golden is making his case for a spot on the roster. In addition to his aforementioned skinny post for 35 yards, he also made a nice diving grab on a Jones throw toward the sideline for 24 yards. (The officials had trouble spotting the ball correctly, preventing the Giants from getting one more play off before the end of the half.) He found himself open deep down the middle of the field on a pass from Alex Tanney in the third quarter but was overthrown. Golden also failed to come up with a pass down the field from Kyle Lauletta that appeared to brush his fingertips, but would have been a difficult catch.
*A week after a 20-yard punt return against the Bears, Golden took one to the house with just over seven minutes left in the fourth quarter to give the Giants an eight-point lead. He caught the punt on the numbers on the right side of the field, and went all the way across the field to the left sideline for 68 yards and the score. Alonzo Russell made a final exclamation point block on Bengals safety Trayvon Henderson at the end of the run.
*The battle for the final running back position continued. Rod Smith scored a short yardage touchdown before injuring his groin. Paul Perkins helped himself with his three catches for 27 yards, including a tough grab on a ball slightly behind him from Alex Tanney.
*The Bengals defensive line gave the Giants offensive line all they could handle. There was a lot of penetration in the middle that affected the Giants run game. Wayne Gallman’s one big run came on a cut back after the Bengals disrupted the play. Manning got out in front of Gallman and was trying to block for him down the field when he was tackled. There was also pass pressure around the edge.
*For the second straight game, Kyle Lauletta played like the third best quarterback on the roster. He finished 4-7 for 77 yards and was able to execute the “four minute offense” to keep the Bengals off the field as the game clock expired. Pat Shurmur was aggressive in the sequence, calling two play action passes after getting the ball back with 2:43 left to play. The first came on a second and 8 with two tight ends on the field, an 11-yard throw to C.J. Conrad for a first down (where the rookie wisely got to the ground before going out of bounds). On the ensuing first down, they tried a similar play out of 12 personnel, but Scott Simonson dropped the pass. Reggie White Jr. iced the game with a six-yard gain on an end-around, gaining six yards.
*Darius Slayton played well in his first game back from his hamstring injury. Aside from the completed deep throw from Jones, he also won on a stutter-and-go but was overthrown by Tanney. Slayton came out of the game healthy.
*Tight end Garrett Dickerson made a couple of nice plays in an effort to make the final 53. On a third and nine, he caught a short pass from Lauletta and ran through a tackle by linebacker Deshaun Davis for a first down. He also caught a screen pass (an identical play to the one run for Engram in the first quarter) and ran over Trayvon Henderson for 18 yards.
*After two straight weeks of allowing points on the opponent’s first drive, the Giants defense began the game with two straight stops. They got off the field on the first drive after a Corey Ballentine pass break-up on a slant intended for Damion Willis, while Tae Davis was closing in on Andy Dalton on an outside blitz. The Giants caught a break on the Bengals second possession. Tyler Boyd was wide open on a crossing pattern over the middle, but dropped a Dalton pass that would have extended the drive.
*The Giants had some bad flashbacks on their third drive, when a tight end hit them for a big play. C.J. Uzomah beat Jabrill Peppers down the sideline for a 26-yard touchdown on a perfectly placed ball from Dalton over the top. Uzomah ran the equivalent of a wheel route, just not out of the backfield. Corey Ballentine failed to offer support from the inside. In the second quarter, Peppers played good defense on tight end Mason Schreck on a back shoulder throw and forced an incomplete pass.
*Watching live, I thought the pass interference call on Janoris Jenkins in the second quarter was the right call. Dalton hit Willis down the sideline after he beat Jenkins on a stop and go, but on the tape it looked like Jenkins got his head around and was looking at the ball when he made contact with the receiver. Usually on a play like that, an official is more likely to keep the flag in his pocket. Jenkins played a pass to Willis later on that same possession perfectly, knocking away a deep throw. Earlier in the game, Jenkins tried to jump a quick out for an interception, but Dalton put the ball over his head for the completion.
*Dexter Lawrence played his best game as a Giant. He batted a pass behind the line of scrimmage after pushing the middle of the pocket. On the Bengals second play, he penetrated to contact Giovani Bernard in the backfield on a run over left guard. He also held up on a double team on an outside zone run, allowing Ryan Connelly and Lorenzo Carter to make the play for a minimal gain. He played only nine snaps, the fewest on the defense, but he made impact plays in his limited time.
*Linebacker Tae Davis is getting valuable playing time but he will kick himself for overrunning a tackle on running back Rodney Anderson near the sideline. Davis got too far outside, allowing Anderson to run for a first down.
*In the second quarter, Julian Love played primarily deep safety, but in the third quarter he was moved closer to the line of scrimmage in the nickel.
*Rookie edge rusher Oshane Ximines was able to take advantage of some confusion in pass protection from O’Shea Dugas on his two sacks. The first came on a twist, where Dugas and the Bengals running back failed to pass off the Giants rushers properly, giving Ximines a free run inside at the quarterback. On Ximines’ second sack, Dugas inexpicably let Ximines run right around him outside for the sack.
*Ballentine continued to get invaluable game experience He played outside cornerback into the third quarter and showed he can be trusted to be on the field when the bright lights come on in September. He is still playing tight coverage and getting his head around to play the football. He is still giving up completions, but his play has been exceptional for a sixth round pick.
*Middle linebacker Josiah Tauaefa made a good instinctive and aggressive play on his sack in the fourth quarter. It looked like he was responsible for running back Quinton Flowers in coverage, but once Flowers stayed in to block the blitzing Tenny Adewusi, Tauaefa made a hard line for the quarterback and got the sack. He wasted no time in converting from a coverage player into a blitzer.