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Giants vs. Browns: Sideline notes and observations

The Giants’ first preseason game is in the books and after reviewing the game tape, here are a few things that jumped out to me. (Check out my draft class report on its first game HERE)

• Two young running backs fighting for that fourth spot on the depth chart both helped themselves on Thursday. Jaylen Simmons showed a nice combination of patience and burst while running for 38 yards on 7 carries. Robert Martin had 5 carries for 39 yards, including a 19- yard run. It will be fun watching those two continue to compete in the preseason.

• Wide receiver Roger Lewis Jr. has made some nice strides as a gunner in punt coverage. The back end of the wide receiver depth chart is wide open, and Lewis showed that he can not only help this team on offense but on special teams, as well. When he played gunner in the first half of the game, he was often the first player downfield and made a nice solo tackle on C.J. Board on a 53-yard Riley Dixon punt, limiting the return to just four yards. He failed to down a ball inside the five-yard line, but it was a tough play after the ball took a wicked bounce.

• Wide receiver Hunter Sharp was up and down. He had two passes go through his hands that I’m sure he expects to come down with. On special teams, he had a nice 42-yard kickoff return, but then lost three yards on a punt return where he went east and west instead of north and south. He did make a nice tackle as a gunner in punt coverage on Dixon’s first punt, holding returner Antonio Callaway to a two-yard gain.

• One more special teams nugget: Snapper Zak DeOssie continues to impress in coverage. His enthusiasm and hustle in punt coverage after the snap is tremendous, even in his 12th NFL season. He recovered a fumble on a third quarter punt after Kerry Wynn stripped the ball loose.

• The first team offense moved the ball fairly well. The first drive would have been extended if not for an incomplete pass on 2nd and 12. Quarterback Eli Manning had tight end Rhett Ellison open over the middle. Ellison faked a slant route before going up the seam, but Manning threw the slant route. If they had been on the same page, the play probably would have resulted in either a first down, or at least set up a reasonable 3rd and short.

• The second sack on Eli Manning came on some kind of miscommunication between Jon Halapio and Jonathan Stewart. The Browns sent both inside linebackers on a cross blitz up the middle. As the two linebackers crossed one another, Halapio let the first guy go, counting on Stewart to get the block, but Stewart also went for the second blitzer, which allowed Mychal Kendricks a free run at Manning. I’m sure that’s something the coaches will sort through and correct in their film session Friday.

• Landon Collins looked VERY comfortable around the line of scrimmage, blitzing off the edge. On the Browns’ first play from scrimmage, Collins came screaming around the left edge and would have had a sack if Tyrod Taylor didn’t unload the ball. A few plays later, Collins crashed untouched into the backfield, stopping running back Carlos Hyde for a one-yard loss. Defensive coordinator James Bettcher is going to love using Collins around the line of scrimmage.

• We had linebacker Alec Ogletree on the radio broadcast and he spoke about the David Njoku touchdown, where he was beaten deep after being isolated one-on-one. Looked to me that Ogletree came downhill too much on Njoku in coverage, making it very hard for him to change direction and stay with him down the field. That’s the sort of stuff the preseason is for.

• Quarterback Davis Webb finished the game 9 of 22 for 70 yards. Both Webb and head coach Pat Shurmur said the second-year signal caller was a little too amped up, which was evidenced by a number of high throws and overthrows to open receivers on good reads. Many of those were throws we have seen him make in practice and I would be surprised if he wasn’t more accurate in future games.

There were a couple of other plays where Webb threw the ball into coverage, was a little late, and held the ball a bit too long. He hasn’t played in a game in a full year, and everything happens faster in uncontrolled game situations. There is also a pass rush, which makes it more challenging for him to consistently set his feet on throws. As he gets more experience, the hope is the processing speeds up and the game slows down for Webb in the final three preseason games.

• Kerry Wynn and Romeo Okwara both flashed. Wynn forced a fumble on a strip during a third quarter punt, and forced a holding penalty on a pass rush. Okwara set the edge well against the run.

• Two veteran defensive tackles played well: Robert Thomas and Josh Mauro. Thomas used a power move to get to Baker Mayfield and then threw him down like a rag doll in the third quarter to record the Giants’ only sack of the night. Thomas also did a good job taking on double teams in the run game. I saw why the Giants added Mauro in free agency. He was excellent against the run in sub packages, separating himself from blockers and getting to the ball carrier. Impressive.

• I don’t want to shortchange defensive lineman A.J. Francis, either, who showed his power pushing offensive linemen into the backfield.

• Linebacker Ray-Ray Armstrong was not shy about taking on run plays, including a nice tackle for loss in the second quarter.

• I think B.W. Webb did the best in coverage of the cornerbacks competing for roles on the defense. He gave up a couple of catches but was never beaten badly, all the while forcing a couple incompletions. He also had a good tackle on kick coverage and was on punt return duty blocking gunners.

• Orion Stewart had a really nice play on a 3rd and 12 in the fourth quarter, dislodging the ball from Da’Mari Scott after he had the ball under control.

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