EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – When asked what they consider the difference between college football and the NFL, it is not uncommon for professional rookies to mention the speed of the game.
Kyle Lauletta is apparently an uncommon rookie.
"I think things were going pretty slow," Lauletta said after his NFL debut last night in the Giants' preseason opener. "Yeah, things go fast, the rush gets to you pretty quick, a couple times it got to me. But I felt fine. It's no different than practice. At times, practice almost seems harder than the games. For me, the game just kind of slows down and it's fun, you get back to football and just having fun and doing what you know how to do. I'll just build on the good things I did tonight, watch the film and prepare for next week."
Lauletta put together one of the team's positive performances in a 20-10 loss to the Cleveland Browns. The fourth-round draft choice from Richmond entered the game in the third quarter, played three offensive series, and completed six of nine passes for 48 yards.
"He's very calm, and I think he finds a way to make plays," coach Pat Shurmur said. "He had a nice deep ball down the sideline to Amba (Etta-Tawo) that ended up being a (pass interference penalty). In fact, somebody asked me at one point why we practice the one-handed catches – that was it right there. They arm-barred us and Amba had a chance to make the one-handed catch. We got the penalty, but we certainly would've wanted the catch. But I (think) he's got a calm presence about him. I think he lost control of the clock once, we got the ball snapped, but those are all things you learn when you're playing. So, it wasn't a bad performance to start out for him."
"It felt good," Lauletta said. "I felt comfortable back there. I think at times the offense just kind of hurt themselves, whether it was a penalty or one missed assignment or something like that. It kind set us back, but I thought we had some positive things. All in all, I thought I did my job, I thought I did what I needed to do."
Lauletta is third on the depth chart, behind entrenched starter Eli Manning and second-year backup Davis Webb. Most of his training camp reps have been with the third-team offense.
But Lauletta has demonstrated a detailed grasp of the offense, an ability to make quick and correct decisions, and an accurate throwing arm. And there's his preternatural serenity, which was on display in his first NFL game action.
"I think my nerves were fine," Lauletta said. "I think I was pretty calm back there, and just doing what the coaches tell me to do. There were times where we got backed up on the sticks, it was third-and-long, and the defense was kind of showing a picket fence at the first down marker. It's a situation where you don't want to throw into coverage and throw an interception there, you just hit your back (running back) and play for field position. You learn from a guy like Eli, you learn from other NFL guys, and that's what you're supposed to do in those situations. I feel like that happened a couple times, but I'm just doing my job and making the smart decision."
Lauletta seemed almost, well, surprised, if anything surprised him in his debut.
"No, I mean, it was awesome, beautiful stadium, it was good to see the fans out there," he said. "Disappointed we didn't get a win; it's preseason, but we're competitors and we want to win. It's never good losing a football game, but it was a good feeling to get that first one out of the way. Like I said, I felt really comfortable and calm, I wasn't nervous at all, just excited to get out there. I'm looking forward to the next one (Friday in Detroit) and hoping that I can build on the stuff I did tonight."
The best images from the Giants' preseason opener against the Browns
*Webb played seven series and completed nine of 22 passes for 70 yards. Both he and Shurmur alluded after the game to Webb being perhaps over-excited.
"He is so prepared and he wants to do well, that's just his personality," Shurmur said today. "He does get amped up a little bit, but that's not a bad thing. Wanting to do well is a good thing. I think we as coaches can just help him with that."
*Shurmur listed two injuries of note: linebacker Jordan Williams is in the NFL concussion protocol, and defensive lineman Kristjan Sokoli injured his knee and was undergoing tests. He also said safety Darian Thompson has a hamstring injury.
*Thompson started at free safety, where Curtis Riley, Andrew Adams and Michael Thomas are also competing for the starting job. Riley and William Gay – a corner who has taken reps at safety – did not play because of hamstring issues.
Shurmur was asked if he exited the game with any more clarity regarding the position.
"Curtis wasn't out there and then (Thompson) hurt himself on one of the special teams and was out of the game with a hamstring," Shurmur said. "Probably no. In terms of the clarity, no. There were guys that were out there performing well, but in terms of saying this is the guy, I would say no."
*The Giants averaged 5.8 yards a carry, but only 4.3 yards per pass attempt. The defense, meanwhile, surrendered only 1.5 yards per rush attempt (Cleveland had 33 carries for 50 yards), but an average of 11.5 yards on 29 passes. So Shurmur gave each unit a mixed review.
"We ran the ball well, we need to complete more passes (the hit 22 of 45)," Shurmur said. "I think that'll help us. We'll have shorter third downs and be able to extend drives. On defense, I felt like we did a good job controlling the run. They did make an effort to run the ball and our run defense was very good. I felt like just like last night, I thought we were tight in coverage in a lot of situations and they made plays. We need to make those plays as we move forward, and there's certainly something to be learned from that.
"I thought we did a good job of taking care of the ball (no turnovers). We need to get more turnovers, or a turnover on defense, which we did certainly in special teams. I told the team, I said turnovers are important, but what's most important is what you do after turnovers, so we got the fumble recovery on the punt, and then we turned it into points. So that's a good team thing as we go along. If for some reason we turn the ball over on offense, the defense needs to go out there and stop them. There's plenty to learn from. I also told the players that if each guy cleans up one mistake, then we end up being on the winning end of a game like that. That's our approach moving forward."
*The Giants are off tomorrow. They will practice here Sunday and Monday and then fly to Detroit, where they will hold three days of joint practices with the Lions before the teams meet Friday night in Ford Field in the second preseason game.