Film Review: Rookies get feet wet vs. Jets

The Giants won their preseason opener against the Jets on Thursday night. Neither team showed much schematically, remaining fairly basic.

Here were some of the highlights after viewing the game on coach’s tape, with a focus on the rookies and the new arrivals.

* Sam Darnold drove the Jets 75 yards on seven plays for a touchdown on their first drive against the Giants first team defense. The possession almost ended on the second play when safety Jabrill Peppers read Darnold and got underneath tight end Chris Herndon in the flat. Peppers got his hands on the pass but couldn’t secure the interception. During an in-game interview, he said he should have caught the ball, which had potential to turn into a pick-six if he had stayed on his feet.

* The following play had the Jets in a third-and-six. They stacked three receivers to the left, which caused some confusion in the Giants secondary. Julian Love (first team nickel CB), Peppers and Janoris Jenkins were lined up over them. Jenkins took the outside receiver, but neither Love nor Peppers followed Herndon dragging across the field. Darnold found him wide open for a 32-yard gain.

* Two other important plays in that drive made for good teaching points. On the play after Herndon’s catch, Darnold used a pump fake toward Jameson Crowder to get linebacker Tae Davis moving to his right. Crowder cut the other way and Darnold found him for a short grab that turned into a long run after the catch. Davis had a tackle for loss on the Jets third drive, as he aggressively shot a gap and tackled Trenton Cannon for a two-yard loss. Davis is securing that starting inside linebacker spot next to Alec Ogletree.

* On the Jets touchdown play, two receivers ran a classic slant/quick out combination that creates a natural pick near the line of scrimmage. DeAndre Baker trailed the outside receiver inside on the slant, but Love couldn’t get around them in time to get to the inside receiver who caught the pass heading toward the sideline for the touchdown. It was not a penalty on the offense. Those are the types of plays young cornerbacks learn to navigate with more experience.

* The Giants young cornerbacks were very active in the game. Love played into the third quarter, seeing most of his action in the slot. He had a pass break-up on a deep-out and got a chance to play gunner on the punt team a couple of times. Baker was called for a defensive pass interference penalty but otherwise didn’t give up much. Corey Ballentine had an up and down game. He was called for defensive pass interference after a coach’s challenge and missed a couple of tackles, but he also had an interception. What impressed most about Ballentine was his ability to get his head around and locate the ball in coverage. He did it on the interception and on the defensive pass interference penalty after playing inside leverage.

* Daniel Jones was given the opportunity to play quarterback with the first team offense on the Giants second possession of the game. His first two completions were rhythm throws on short drops, the first to Cody Latimer on a shallow in-cut and the second to Golden Tate on a slant from the slot. Jones’ only deep attempt came on the fourth play of the drive. Running play action out of 21 personnel (1 RB, 1 FB, 2 WR’s), the Giants sent only two recievers (Latimer and Tate) and Wayne Gallman out on routes, with Elijah Penny and Rhett Ellison staying in to max protect. They protected Jones well, who was able to wait for Latimer to find a hole in the zone on a deep cross for a 31-yard gain. The Giants kept their starting offensive line in with Jones, and they did an excellent job protecting him on his lone drive.

* Jones’ final two passes of the drive went to Bennie Fowler. The first came on a quick throw against a blitz as he hit Fowler with good anticipation on a quick out for eight yards on a third and seven. The Jets sent seven after the quarterback with the Giants leaving seven in to pick up the blitz. Jones quickly found Fowler behind good protection, who had beaten man coverage outside. On the next play, Fowler attacked the safety in Cover 2, running at him before cutting outside to the back right corner of the end zone. Jones got the ball over the shallow cornerback who was covering Ellison in the flat to the back pylon for the touchdown. It was only one drive in a preseason game against backups, but completing all five of his passes for 67 yards and a touchdown (good for a perfect 158.3 quarterback rating) was as good a start to Jones’ NFL career as anyone could have hoped. His passes were accurate, on time, and he was decisive in determining where to go with the ball.

* Alex Tanney had a strong game (14-19, 190 yards, 1 TD) and played from the end of the first quarter (after a 59-minute weather delay) into the third. His big play was a slant to Russell Shepard out of the slot that turned into a 51-yard touchdown. Shepard beat nickel cornerback Parry Nickerson inside and then broke his tackle before running past safety Doug Middleton all the way to the end zone. Tanney completed a 39-yarder to Alonzo Russell late in the second quarter, but missed two other opportunities to find him for big plays. He overthrew Russell on a deep pass at the start of the second quarter, and then didn’t see him running free down the field on a rollout and opted to run for a first down.

* Ryan Connelly had many opportunities to play inside linebacker, including some snaps next to starter Tae Davis after Alec Ogeltree called it a night. Connelly was aggressive getting downhill against the run, attacking the hole and blockers. Even if he didn’t make the play, he was disruptive. He also made a tackle after a catch by Jets wide receiver Deontay Burnett, holding him to only three yards on a third and four in the red zone.

* Jake Carlock made the play of the game for the Giants defense, leaping to deflect a pass after having his pass rush off the edge stalled. He maintained focus on the ball and caught it before running 59 yards for a touchdown. The converted safety was able to employ some of his old skills as an edge rusher.

* Fourth quarterback Kyle Lauletta put together a nice second half. He completed nine of 12 passes for 116 yards, including a 31-yard touchdown to TJ Jones, who made a nice adjustment to the ball. Jones turned his body to the sideline for a quasi-back shoulder catch. Lauletta completed a couple of deep-outs, displaying good timing and arm strength.

* The Giants were called for three holding penalties, but one against Nick Gates (he had two holds and a false start) and one against Victor Salako looked like legal plays on the game film.

* Rookie 7th round pick Chris Slayton got upfield a couple of times on run plays, showing his quickness on the defensive line.

* C.J. Conrad had only two catches for seven yards, but he was a willing and effective blocker in the run game.

* First round defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence had a quiet game in his debut. He didn’t play much, but he showed the ability to push the middle of the pocket with his bull rush. He did attract double teams in the run game on a couple of occasions.

* The Giants pass rush was quiet overall. Lorenzo Carter was in the backfield a couple times early, but Darnold was able to navigate the pocket to avoid him. Kareem Martin had a quarterback hit later in the game.

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