What we learned from Giants vs. Bengals

The Giants will fly back from their first road trip with another victory. The team improved to 3-0 in the preseason with a 25-23 win over the Bengals. Up next is the finale in New England before rosters are decided and the regular season kicks off in two weeks.

Here is what we learned in the all-important third preseason game:

1. Daniel Jones showed his physical, mental toughness. The rookie quarterback knew his NFL debut, in which he was perfect, would not be indicative of the rest of his career. In his second outing, he lost two fumbles. In his third, he took a big hit and lost the ball again (the Giants recovered that one). In between, he dealt with some outside noise. Each time, he rebounded and showed his physical and mental toughness, which is one of the main reasons the Giants drafted him sixth overall this past April. Jones, who entered Thursday night with the highest yards-per-catch average and passer rating among NFL quarterbacks who had thrown more than six passes in the preseason, completed nine of 11 passes for 141 yards vs. Cincinnati.

According to coach Pat Shurmur, Jones went over to him on the sideline after the drive he took the hit and said, “Well, I’m sure I’ll get hit harder than that at times.”

“That’s what we thought he was when we drafted him,” Shurmur said after the game. “About every six or seven days now I’ve been able to tell you, ‘That’s what we saw when we drafted him.’ He just has a feel for playing the position, and he’s steadily getting better every time he takes the field, whether it’s practice or games.”

Shurmur added: “You can ask me all you want about why I like him. It’s time to start asking the people that didn’t like him what they think.”

2. Giants got a good look at the entire roster, but still too sloppy. A muffed punt, three sacks, untimely drops, and five (accepted) penalties did not have Shurmur exactly glowing in his postgame press conference. “I think it was just a little bit sloppier than we all would have liked to have seen,” he said. The one good thing, however, was that the Giants did play everyone who dressed, which is important with the Aug. 31 roster deadline rapidly approaching. That list included tight end Evan Engram and rookie wide reeiver Darius Slayton, who both dealt with hamstring injuries earlier this year and had yet to play in the preseason until Thursday night.

“I’m glad the way it played out,” Shurmur said. “We got the ones a bunch of work, which they needed, and nobody really got hurt. So we’ll see as we move forward … but I felt like the guys that were in there after the ones took full advantage of the reps they got.”

The following players did not suit up: 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).

3. Brittan Golden broke through in the return game. Brittan Golden’s 68-yard punt return touchdown to put the Giants ahead late in the game was the exclamation point on an already impressive preseason for the specialists. Corey Ballentine had a 40-yard kick return in the preseason opener. TJ Jones had a 43-yarder the next week and also added a 20-yard return on a punt. Keep in mind, this was all done without Corey Coleman, who suffered a torn ACL at the start of training camp. Golden also added to the passing game with two catches for 59 yards. His night was somewhat dampened after muffing and losing the ball on his next punt return after the touchdown.

“Brittan Golden is another tough guy,” said Shurmur, who also used the term “tough” to describe his receivers last week. “He’s very competitive, and that was a great return. Now, we don’t want to follow it up with obviously a fumble, he’s a tough guy, he’s a player and obviously has an ability to return.”

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4. Eli likely had his final tune-up before Week 1. On his first and only series of the game, Manning led a 15-play, 66-yard drive that resulted in a 41-yard field goal by Pro Bowl kicker Aldrick Rosas. He completed four of eight passes for 41 yards, including a 19-yard slant to Russell Shepard. It followed up a flawless performance the week before when he completed all four of his passes, including a touchdown. Manning has not played a preseason finale since 2014, the year he played in all five preseason games, which began with the Hall of Fame Game.

5. Pass rush came on strong again. Even though it was the first game of the preseason, critics were quick to point out that the defense had zero sacks against the Jets. That changed the following week when Oshane Ximines, Markus Golden and Olsen Pierre – all newcomers in 2019 – each got to the quarterback. The Giants then upped their total to five on Thursday night, including two more from the rookie Ximines. Josiah Tauaefa, who led the team with eight tackles, Sean Chandler and Keion Adams accounted for the other three sacks.

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