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Sidelines Notes

Giants vs. Jets: Sideline notes and observations

I took a look at the game tape from Friday night's game against the Jets and here's what I saw from the Giants' third preseason game.

• It is hard not to love the way Pat Shurmur's offense is coming together. The way he layers his wide receivers on different levels of the defense with crossing routes makes it extremely difficult to defend. The Giants are also not shy about taking shots down the field. They completed four passes of 20 yards or more during the game and could have added to that with more precise throws. In the modern NFL, it is essential to challenge teams deep to open up the running game and short and intermediate areas in the passing game. The Giants are poised to do it.

• Quarterback Eli Manning looks ready for the regular season, having completed 74% of his passes for 188 yards in a half of football. He got the ball down the field, and even completed a couple of passes on designed rollouts. He looked comfortable and in rhythm, and got the ball out quickly behind strong pass protection. There were a few passes down the field that were off-target (corner route to tight end Evan Engram, deep posts to wide receiver Cody Latimer) but he moved the ball well.

• Cody Latimer showed a nice ability to get open down the field a couple times on deep posts. With his size and strength, he could be a nice deep threat opposite wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard.

A unique look at the Giants' Friday night win over the Jets

• Sterling Shepard really knows how to separate on routes where he can use his side-to-side quickness and start-and-stop ability. Cornerbacks are having all sorts of problems staying with him at the top of his routes and crossing patterns. His best play, ironically, came on a deep route where he went up and won on a contested ball with Jets cornerback Buster Skrine, who tried and failed to rip the ball from Shepard's hands as they hit the ground. 

• Pat Shurmur talked about the problems with the run game in his postgame press conference and emphasized it was a "team" issue. The tape showed exactly that. There were issues blocking up front all over the offensive line with different guys being the culprit depending on the play. There were also problems with the blocking from the tight ends and wide receivers. On running back Jonathan Stewart's first run, there was a defensive lineman in the backfield that won right up the middle. On Stewart's second run, there was an unblocked linebacker on him as soon as he got the ball. On his third run, the line got pushed a yard or two backwards before he made the critical error of fumbling in the red zone. Wayne Gallman had similar issues but did a better job navigating them and managed to gain 23 yards on 11 carries. It is easy to point at one guy and blame him for all the team's problems, but that's not the case here. 

• I want to tip my cap to center Brett Jones, who made a few nice blocks with the second team. He pancaked two defenders, putting them square on their backs. Shurmur has not indicated the center position battle has been decided, and Jones helped himself against the Jets' second unit in the third quarter. 

• Quarterback Davis Webb made a few nice throws early in the third quarter, but then was a little strong on a few routes down the field. He overthrew tight end Jerrel Adams and wide receivers Amba Etta-Tawo and Russell Shepard. Fellow wide receiver Alonzo Russell helped Webb out on an underthrown deep post, going up and grabbing the football at its highest point on a great catch over Jets cornerback Juston Burris. 

• The Giants' starting defensive front looked strong with defensive linemen Dalvin Tomlinson and Snacks Harrison and edge rusher Olivier Vernon being their normal disruptive selves at the line of scrimmage. Vernon continues to be a terror to block off the edge with his combination of strength, bend and hand usage. Tomlinson had one particular play that stood out to me. The Jets ran Isaiah Crowell on a sweep to the left. Tomlinson evaded a backside cut block from Jets left tackle Brent Qvale and went all the way across the field to help tackle Crowell for a two-yard loss.

• Defensive lineman Kerry Wynn looks like he has found his home in this defense. He has never had the raw quickness and speed to be a speed rusher off the edge, but he has fit perfectly as a 3-4 defensive end and three technique at defensive tackle in sub-packages. He has given interior offensive linemen fits with his strength, quickness and technique, and has been a force against the run and in pass rush situations. 

• B.W. Webb was the nickel cornerback with the first team and Curtis Riley was once again the starting free safety. Riley was solid in coverage but was unblocked and did not take the best angle on Bilal Powell's touchdown run.

• Michael Thomas and William Gay were the second team safeties, with Andrew Adams entering in the fourth quarter. Thomas is not shy about putting his nose in there in run support. Donte Deayon and Chris Lewis-Harris were the second team cornerbacks, and Grant Haley entered as an outside cornerback in sub-packages with Deayon moving inside. 

• The Giants took a long look at Ray-Ray Armstrong as he played into the second half as the nickel linebacker next to Mark Herzlich with the second team. He was in the same position next to MIKE linebacker Alec Ogletree with the ones. I was impressed with how Armstrong played a few outside runs, using his speed to involve himself in the play. 

• When the Giants acquired Cody Latimer and Russell Shepard this offseason, both players arrived with reputations for their special teams abilities, especially as gunners. We hadn't seen either get much of an opportunity at that spot in games until Friday. Both were the gunners on Riley Dixon's first punt and beat their blockers downfield. Shepard later combined with Ray-Ray Armstrong to force a Trenton Cannon fumble on a kick return. 

• Roger Lewis and Grant Haley were the next two guys up as gunners. Jawill Davis and Amab Etta-Tawo made up the third tandem. Chris Lewis-Harris did a nice job holding up opposing gunners on a couple punts, one with a big assist from Andrew Adams. 

• Excellent punt return for a touchdown by wide receiver Hunter Sharp, reading his blocks well and stiff-arming Jets linebacker Neville Hewitt on his way to the end zone, but there were several good blocks on the play. Defensive backs Janoris Jenkins, Eli Apple and Michael Thomas slowed down the Jets gunners. Ray-Ray Armstrong and wide receiver Roger Lewis added blocked on the sideline down the field to open space for Sharp on his way to the end zone. Sharp had two other punt returns of double-digit yardage. He certainly helped his case to make the team based on his punt return ability. 

• Edge rusher Lorenzo Carter is not yet a full-time player on defense, so he will have to contribute on special teams. He made a nice solo tackle on the ensuing kickoff after Sharp's touchdown.

These four players made impact plays in Friday's game

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