The Giants came away with their second preseason win, beating the Bears, 32-13. Here are some observations after watching the tape:
*The Giants started the game with the type of play that I think will typify their offense this season. They came out with two tight ends and ran play action. They protected with both tight ends and sent only two receivers down the field. Eli Manning started to his left where Golden Tate was faking a post into a flag route, which moved the safety a bit. Manning booted back to the right and hit Cody Latimer on a deep in-cut in the middle of the Bears zone for a 20-yard gain. Play action out of big personnel should be a staple of the offense this season.
*Rod Smith’s 17-yard run later in the drive featured some great blocking by Kevin Zeitler and Jon Halapio, as they cleared a lane at the point of attack. Will Hernandez and Nate Solder sealed off the backside tackle and linebacker, blocks that turned the run into a big play. Overall, the first team’s run blocking was much improved from a week ago. The linemen got to the second level and onto linebackers, creating space for Rod Smith and Paul Perkins.
*Tight end Rhett Ellison showed his value when he knocked linebacker Josh Woods on his keister on a Perkins four-yard run. Ellison got to the second level and knocked Woods backwards and off-balance and eventually onto his back. He will be a valuable cog in the run game.
*Wide receiver Bennie Fowler’s two best attributes might be his hands and his strength. His touchdown catch to cap the first drive came on a slant, but he caught the ball on the five-yard line and defensive back Duke Shelley tried to wrap him up on the four-yard line. Fowler, at 6-1, 218 pounds, ran through Shelly, who is just 5-8 and 183 pounds, and rumbled for the touchdown. On the Giants second drive, Daniel Jones hit Fowler on a slant on second-and-14, but he was about five yards short of the first down. He powered through a couple of defenders to move the sticks. He is a powerful receiver who should be very valuable using his body to create room for catches and yards after contact.
*Jones’ next pass, even though it only went for four yards to Rod Smith, caught my eye. He started to the left where Cody Latimer was running a deep post, which Jones quickly read wasn’t going to be open due to the single high safety. He then moved his head to the right, where Fowler had run a hook but he was covered tightly by Bears cornerback Kevin Toliver II. With a rush bearing down on him from his blindside, he quickly got to his check-down and delivered the ball with poise to Smith over the middle. Getting through three reads from the pocket as quickly as Jones did while under pressure is uncommon for a rookie, which shows how quickly he is absorbing everything.
*The NFL is hard, and every player has to be able to overcome adversity, and Jones was given his first chance to show he is able to do it. After completing a deep pass to Cody Latimer for a 40-yard gain, Jones pulled away from center too quickly on the next play, fumbled the snap and turned the ball over. Two drives later, Jones held the ball a little too long and didn’t feel James Vaughters coming from his front side, inside of right tackle Chad Slade. Jones had two hands on the ball, but looked like he was starting to cock his arm to throw when it was stripped away for another turnover. Jones also had a couple of errant throws in this stretch. He was short on a deep out to Golden Tate and threw behind TJ Jones on an in-cut. On other throws, like on a shallow cross to Brittan Golden, he put it in a perfect spot to allow a run after catch.
*The rookie QB shrugged off the rough patch and bounced back to navigate the final drive of the half. Jones started the drive with 2:59 to play on his own 35-yard line with a screen to Paul Perkins, who showed his quickness to beat defensive tackle Nick Williams and gain 26 yards. Three plays later, TJ Jones made a tough catch on a pass behind him on a slant to put the ball at the 15-yard line. It was the Jones-Jones connection on the next play that put the ball in the end zone. When Daniel Jones released the pass, TJ Jones was at the 10-yard line and hadn’t yet beaten his man, but the throw was perfectly placed in the end zone for the receiver to run under for the touchdown. The quarterback trusted his receiver to throw with anticipation to a spot, understanding that’s where an opening was going to be. Jones finished the game 11-14 for 161 yards, with a touchdown, 11.5 yards per attempt, and two lost fumbles.
*There wasn’t nearly as much running room for the backs after the first team offensive line left the field, but they showed they can succeed using different styles. Rod Smith, Paul Perkins and Jon Hilliman all had their moments; determining the depth at running back is going to be difficult at cutdown time.
*Alonzo Russell was not one of the 14 Giants receivers to catch a pass, but he made two huge plays in the game. After an Alex Tanney interception near the goal line, Russell chased down cornerback Clifton Duck from behind to save the touchdown. Russell started on the other side of the field on the play and started his pursuit from the back of the end zone. He chased Duck down like he was shot out of a cannon. It reminded me of “The Freeze” catching up to fans in the outfield race during Atlanta Braves games. Later on, Russell beat the double team as the gunner on punt coverage, got down the field and stripped the ball away from returner Marvin Hall. The ball bounced back up to Hall, but it was another play by Russell that caught the eye of the coaching staff.
*Elsewhere on special teams, TJ Jones muffed a punt but managed to recover it. He also had a 40-yard kick return. Brittan Golden was given a couple of chances as a gunner, and had 35 yards on two punt returns. Corey Ballentine returned a couple of kicks.
*The Giants first team defense allowed only three points in the quarter-plus it was on the field. Jabrill Peppers flashed his aggressiveness at the line of scrimmage. Janoris Jenkins showed great hustle tracking down an end-around from the other side of the field. Lorenzo Carter displayed an inside spin in his pass rush repertoire that made the quarterback move in the pocket, even if he didn’t get a hand on him.
*Ryan Connelly started for Alec Ogletree at MIKE linebacker and showed his aggressive style. Pat Shurmur told us before the game on Friday that he is impressed with how the rookie doesn’t waste any movements. His quick reactions did cost him on a couple plays. He shot an inside gap on an outside run, allowing Ryan Nall to get outside for a 14-yard gain. Then on a screen pass, he didn’t read the action right away and started following a shallow crosser across the field before stopping short and slipping to the ground. The play went for 10 yards. Those types of plays are why playing the Bears in the preseason is valuable, given the misdirection they use.
*Dexter Lawrence played 14 snaps this week, more than double his first preseason game (6). He didn’t get many traditional one-on-one pass rush opportunities but flashed his length and power in moving his man backwards in both the run and pass game.
*The Giants pass rush managed three sacks. Oshane Ximines and Olsen Pierre got sacks after the Bears quarterback decided to retreat from the pocket. The most telling sack came from Markus Golden, who on a play action pass thoroughly beat the tight end and got to the quarterback after only a couple of seconds in the pocket. High end edge rushers have to beat tight ends consistently, and Golden just used his power to move Bradly Sowell out of the way before converging on the quarterback. The next step? Doing it versus an offensive tackle.
*The Bears finished with only 156 passing yards because the Giants cornerbacks did not allow much separation to the Bears second and third string wide receivers. The coverage was very strong down the field for most of the game. Corey Ballentine gave up one throw toward the end of the Bears final drive for 29 yards, and Henre’ Tolliver caught a break when Tyler Bray overthrew Marvin Hall, who was wide open on a fly route down the field.
*Nate Stupar had a chance at an interception on a pass from Bray into the flat intended for Jordan Williams-Lambert. Stupar read the throw, undercut it and got two hands on the ball but couldn’t bring it in.
*Jonathan Anderson continues to impress. On an inside run, he stripped running back Taquan Mizzell Sr. of the ball, which was recovered by Josiah Tauaefa. Anderson got his arm across the back’s body and right on the football to knock it loose.