AT A GLANCE: Key contributions from the rookie class and a splash play in the return game lifted the Giants to a 25-23 preseason victory over the Bengals on Thursday night. The team improved to 3-0 on its first road trip of the year.
UP NEXT: The Giants wrap up the preseason in Foxboro against the New England Patriots (Thurs., Aug. 29). After that, it’s time for roster decisions. Clubs must reduce their active rosters to 53 players by 4 p.m. ET on Aug. 31.
WHAT WE LEARNED ABOUT THE OFFENSE:
*Two offensive weapons made their 2019 preseason debuts on Thursday night: tight end Evan Engram and wide receiver Darius Slayton. Engram, who was hampered by a hamstring in the spring but has been full-go in training camp, previously had not played in a game due to a coaching decision. Slayton, on the other hand, caught Pat Shurmur’s attention during OTAs but then hurt his own hamstring at the start of training camp.
*Eli Manning started and played one series. He led a 15-play, 66-yard drive that lasted 6:26 and resulted in a 41-yard field goal by Pro Bowler Aldrick Rosas. On the drive Manning completed four of eight passes for 41 yards, 19 of which came on a slant pass to wide receiver Russell Shepard. Manning was also caught in a viral moment when he became a lead blocker for Wayne Gallman, who had 31 yards on eight carries.
*The starting offensive line remained on the field for the second series with the exception of Manning, who was relieved by rookie Daniel Jones. The sixth overall pick took a welcome-to-the-NFL hit when he was sandwiched by defensive ends Carl Lawson and Sam Hubbard midway through the second quarter. Jones, who fumbled twice last week, lost the ball on the hit, but wide receiver Brittan Golden was able to recover it.
Nevertheless, just like he is known to do, Jones regrouped and on the next play threw a 27-yard pass to Slayton, who caught it at the one-yard line. Two plays later, Rod Smith punched it in to regain the lead. Earlier in the drive, Golden got things going with a 35-yard leaping catch. Jones’ night ended at halftime as the quarterback finished with nine completions on 11 attempts for 141 yards (12.8 YPA) and a passer rating of 118.8. Jones entered Thursday night averaging 12.0 yards per throw with a passer rating of 151.8, which were both the best in the NFL among quarterbacks with more than six pass attempts this preseason.
*Second-year left guard Will Hernandez had his hands full Thursday night, which included time going up against seven-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Geno Atkins. Hernandez drew three penalties – a face mask (declined), false start, and holding (declined). Penalties were a problem for the Giants in the first half on both sides of the ball.
*Jonathan Hilliman, an undrafted rookie out of Rutgers, scored for the second week in a row on a one-yard touchdown to help give the Giants the lead in the fourth quarter. An extra point would have tied it, but Shurmur kept the offense on the field for the two-point conversion attempt. Kyle Lauletta then completed a pass to Alonzo Russell to give the Giants an 18-17 lead at the time.
WHAT WE LEARNED ABOUT THE DEFENSE:
*The Giants wanted their first-team defense to start fast, so giving up 28 yards on a tight end screen on the first play was not what they had in mind. But two rookies limited the damage right there. Defensive line Dexter Lawrence for pressure up the middle and batted down a ball at the line of scrimmage on second down, and Corey Ballentine broke up the next Andy Dalton pass to force a punt.
*Cincinnati’s first two drives ended in punts, but Dalton found the end zone on the third with the help of another tight end. C.J. Uzomah got a step on safety Jabrill Peppers and hauled in a 26-yard touchdown to put the Bengals up late in the first quarter.
*After recording his first NFL sack a week ago, rookie outside linebacker Oshane Ximines added two more on Thursday night. Keion Adams, Sean Chandler and Josiah Tauaefa also got to the quarterback to bring the Giants’ total to five sacks, two more than they had against the Bears.
WHAT WE LEARNED ABOUT SPECIAL TEAMS:
*Kicker Aldrick Rosas, a Pro Bowler from a year ago, made his lone field goal attempt from 41 yards to remain perfect in the preseason.
*The returners had another good night. In addition to making plays on offense, Brittan Golden scored on a 68-yard punt return to extend the Giants’ lead to eight points in the fourth quarter. It was quickly spoiled, however, when Golden muffed a punt on his next attempt and the Bengals recovered.
IN-GAME INJURY REPORT: RB Rod Smith (groin)
DID NOT PLAY: RB Saquon Barkley (coach decision), WR Golden Tate (concussion), CB Sam Beal (hamstring), CB DeAndre Baker (knee), CB Antonio Hamilton (groin), LB Alec Ogletree (calf), OT Chad Wheeler (back), OT George Asafo-Adjei (concussion), WR Sterling Shepard (thumb)
GAME CAPTAINS: RG Kevin Zeitler, CB Janoris Jenkins, K Aldrick Rosas