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Standouts: Final showcase before real thing begins


Joe Judge apologized for being late to his postgame press conference after the Giants lost to the Patriots in the final tune-up before the regular season.

With less than 48 hours until all NFL clubs must reduce their rosters from 80 players to the regular-season limit of 53, the second-year head coach thought it was the appropriate time to go around the locker room one by one. The Giants are about to break a grueling training camp, which included three preseason games, two rounds of joint practices on the road, and of course, a lot of conditioning.

"This being the situation and which game it is, you want to take the time to go around and see all your players and look them in the eye and tell them thank you," Judge said. "I was proud of the way the guys fought tonight."

"Saw a lot of guys competing tonight, competing for playing time, competing for jobs," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. "It was impressive to see on both sides. Kind of like last week, this capped off a really good week for us with the Giants practices and then tonight. It's a good opportunity over the course of that time to really see everybody, give everybody a chance to play and compete against good competition, against another good football team."

Check out the best photos from the Giants' preseason finale against the New England Patriots.

Whether they were tuning up or still trying out for the team, here are the standout players from Sunday:

LB Blake Martinez

The middle linebacker thinks he is a defensive back now. He told DB coach Jerome Henderson as much after he made one of the better defensive plays you will ever see – from any position. With his back to starting quarterback Cam Newton, Martinez tracked Jakobi Meyers 35 yards down the middle of the field and wrestled the ball away from the wide receiver as they both hit the turf.

"So Jerome at halftime was like, 'Hey, we can't let the linebackers beat us,'" Martinez said. "But, I was like, 'Whoa, I'm part of your guys' group now.' So, I'll try to help them out."

Martinez further broke down the play of the game.

"I saw he was like the classic receiver with wide open eyes, and I was like, 'Oh, he actually threw it,'" Martinez said. "So, once he had it in his hands and came down, I went to go punch it out, but my hand got the ball and I just ripped it out of his hands."

In all seriousness, Martinez, who is the only player in the league with at least 140 tackles in each of the past four seasons, said coverage is an area he is always trying to improve.

"One hundred percent," he said. "It's one of those things each year I want to keep improving on something, making my weaknesses into strengths. Especially this offseason, I wanted to make sure coverage-wise every single day, one-on-ones, doing multiple reps, man coverage, just doing everything I can to work on those fundamentals, and just have a plan when I go out there. I think I've improved a lot."

WR Damion Willis

Willis provided some late fireworks when he caught a 43-yard Hail Mary from backup quarterback Mike Glennon in the end zone with eight seconds left in the game. While the Giants failed the two-point conversion attempt to tie the game, Willis ended up with a team-high 70 yards on three catches. The 6-foot-3, 204-pounder signed with the Giants less than a month ago after being released by the Broncos. Willis has played in 10 regular-season games in his career, all with the Bengals in 2019.

TE Kaden Smith

Asked about his 23-yard touchdown catch late in the first half, Smith credited the "perfect placement over the safety" on the throw from Daniel Jones. Well, that safety was friend and former teammate Adrian Colbert, who played in six games and made two starts for the Giants last season.

"I miss my guy," Smith said. "I talked to him a little bit this week at practice, but, no, I didn't get the chance [to talk trash]."

Even Colbert had some fun with it.

Smith, who has played in 24 games with 18 starts over the past two seasons, might be called upon more due to injuries at the position. Veteran Kyle Rudolph returned to practice but has yet to play in a game. Meanwhile, Evan Engram left the preseason finale with a calf injury and did not return.

"The big thing is just show up every day," Smith said. "Do what you need to do to get healthy and do what you can for the team and really do your best in contributing in whatever way they need."

Smith added, "Evan's doing great. I don't really have a diagnosis or anything, but he has high spirits."

Honorable Mention

DB Julian Love and rookie CB Rodarius Williams had pass breakups…DL Dexter Lawrence, LB Lorenzo Carter, LB Trent Harris, and DT Willie Henry recorded sacks…WR Alex Bachman caught the first of Glennon's two touchdowns…FB Eli Penny was excited to show what he can do with the football in his hands and led the team with 35 yards on four carries...Rookie RB Gary Brightwell earned more touches in the backfield. The sixth-round pick had four carries for 10 yards in addition to three catches for 20 yards. "He's shown a lot of improvement," Judge said. "Obviously as a young player, for him, any in-game experience he gets is very valuable. He's made a lot of strides for us in the kicking game. He's done some really nice things on offense. Obviously, the multiples build on as you keep progressing. Third downs, a lot faster and more complicated than early downs a lot of times. He's done a good job advancing in that pass protection and blitz pickup. He's done a nice job in running the ball for us. He catches the ball well out of the backfield. He's done a lot of things to build on right there, a lot of bright spots, and there's a lot of things we saw with him. Obviously that we drafted him for a reason. He had some things that held him back early in camp and maybe some in the spring, but he's done a good job as of late making strides going forward."

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