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Instant Analysis

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Instant Analysis: Deep passes, special teams lift Giants

AT A GLANCE: In their 50th consecutive preseason meeting, the Giants capitalized on key special teams plays and deep shots down the field in a 22-16 victory over the Jets at MetLife Stadium. The Giants, who were technically the away team, improved to 2-1 this preseason following last week’s victory in Detroit. 

UP NEXT: The Giants wrap up the preseason on Thursday night with their annual finale against the New England Patriots. Rosters must be reduced by 4 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 1, eight days before the Giants open the 2018 regular season vs. Jacksonville at MetLife Stadium.

WHAT WE LEARNED ABOUT THE OFFENSE:

*Despite playing without wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and rookie running Saquon Barkley (they were dressed in uniform on the sidelines), head coach/play-caller Pat Shurmur dialed up plenty of shots downfield for the offense. The first one that connected was a 54-yarder from Eli Manning (17 of 23 for 188 yards, 97.7 passer rating) to wide receiver Cody Latimer to bring the Giants down to the six-yard line. 

“Yeah, a post on him,” Manning said. “We had a deep crossing route by Sterling [Shepard] at the safety jump, good down the field, and Cody adjusted to the ball well and had a big play right there. … I thought we did a good job pushing the ball down the field hitting some big plays. Evan Engram, Sterling Shepard had some good plays, Cody Latimer on the post. We didn’t do as good a job in the red zone; that’s something we will look at and work on but I thought the passing game was going. We had some big plays.”

*Latimer’s big play was spoiled when on the next play veteran running back Jonathan Stewart fumbled the ball, and Jets defensive lineman Leonard Williams returned it 37 yards the other way. The Jets scored a touchdown on the ensuing possession.

*With Manning and the starters playing the entire first half, wide Sterling Shepard had a game-high seven catches for 78 yards, 30 of which came on an over-the-shoulder catch with a defender draped all over him. 

“I‘ve been waiting on that one all night,” Shepard said. “I was going to come up with it no matter where the ball was at. Kind of took away my speed because the corner was right there, but it was good.”

Shepard reiterated the need to produce in the red zone, where the Giants never found the end zone on three chances. 

“It felt good, when we get things going and moving this offense can be lethal,” Shepard said. “It felt good to get out there and get everything going. We just have to clean things up in the red zone.”

*Davis Webb entered the game after halftime and completed five of 11 passes for 73 yards, including a 47-yard completion to Alonzo Russell. Webb threw the pass with his back at the goal line, and Russell caught it on the NFL logo at midfield.

WHAT WE LEARNED ABOUT THE DEFENSE:

*Olivier Vernon continued his impressive summer. The box score won’t reflect how disruptive the pass rusher was on Friday night. He flushed rookie quarterback Sam Darnold out of the pocket multiple times, forcing the third overall pick to throw it away. Vernon also drew a holding penalty. Kerry Wynn falls into the category of impressive preseasons too, but he did show up in the box score with two tackles for loss, including a sack in his second consecutive game. 

*After giving up an 11-play, 75-yard touchdown drive to begin the game, the Giants forced the Jets into five three-and-outs throughout the night.

WHAT WE LEARNED ABOUT SPECIAL TEAMS:

*The Giants have been looking for a spark in the return game, and Hunter Sharp wanted to help his case for the 53-man roster. Both happened in the first quarter when Sharp weaved his way to a 55-yard punt return touchdown, aided by a couple of key blocks by Ray-Ray Armstrong and Roger Lewis. The Giants had 145 punt return yards on Friday night after finishing last in the NFL in 2017 with 148 for the year.

*Armstrong made another key play on special teams, dislodging the ball from Trenton Cannon on a kick return late in the first half. Giants tight end Jerell Adams recovered deep in Jets territory.

*Kalif Raymond also got in on the action with a 35-yard punt return on the other side of the two-minute warning in the first half. The Giants took over on the Jets 30. Credit also goes to ace special teamer Michael Thomas, who by design ran all the way back from near the line of scrimmage to set up the initial block near where Raymond caught the punt.

*Aldrick Rosas remained perfect this preseason, converting all four his attempts on Friday night from 48, 40, 27, and 21 yards. He has also made from 42 and 55 yards, the longest of his career. Rosas went 18 of 25 in his first NFL season with two that were blocked.

*Punter Riley Dixon, who was one of three game captains, had three punts downed inside the 20-yard line.

GAME CAPTAINS: LB Alec Ogletree, TE Evan Engram, Dixon

INJURY REPORT: Engram (concussion), TE Rhett Ellison (eye)

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