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Preseason Week 3: Giants vs. Jets Recap

Yikes. Not what we wanted to see for the regular season tune-up.

The Giants fell to 1-2 in the preseason after a 28-18 loss to the Jets on Saturday. The starters played until halftime, when the Jets led 21-7. Let’s look at the main takeaways from this game.

Idle Eli

Eli Manning has always been a slow starter, so let’s not hit the panic button yet, but something just seems off right now with him. Perhaps his ongoing contract negotiations with the Giants are distracting him, but he hasn’t shown the same precision and flow that defined last year’s renaissance.

On Saturday, he completed 12-of-16 of his passes (75%), but most of them were dinks and dunks. He finished with just 91 yards, averaging a paltry 5.7 YPA. Manning has struggled to develop a deep ball this preseason, which is troubling considering this is a team with Odell Beckham Jr. on it. Manning’s longest completion against the Jets went for 19 yards on a screen to Shane Vereen, who did most of the work on the play.

(Photo: AP)

(Photo: AP)

Will things improve when a healthy Victor Cruz takes the field? Probably. Could this be due in part to the struggling offensive line? Sure. But Manning went deep on three balls on Saturday and didn’t connect on any. Plus, his final pass of the night went right to Jets cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who returned it for a touchdown. Manning is at least partially to blame.

Tom Coughlin has already said the starters will play in Thursday’s preseason finale against the Patriots. He probably wants to see some improvement offensively, and end the preseason on a high note.

On a positive note, Manning and Beckham were finally on the same page. The two connected five times for 31 yards on six targets. Expect to see Beckham’s YPR average to be closer to last year’s 14.3 then Saturday’s 6.2.

Defensive Dud

The offense wasn’t the only unit that struggled against the Jets, as the defense put on a pretty poor performance too.

Jets quarterback Bryce Petty skewered the Giants through the game’s first 30 minutes, completing 9-of-14 passes for 127 yards (9.1 YPA), two touchdowns and no interceptions.

The Jets running game also overpowered the Giants, with Jets starter Chris Ivory collecting 38 yards on six carries (6.3 YPC).

Steve Spagnuolo’s defense was known for its strong pass rush during his last Giants tenure, but it was non-existent Saturday. The Giants had just one sack on the evening, and it didn’t come until Cooper Taylor sacked Bryce Petty at the end of the third quarter. This team is missing healthy, ten-fingered Jason Pierre-Paul.

Safety Dance (Part Three!)

The Giants escaped Saturday’s loss without any major injuries to the safeties, but on Thursday it was revealed Nat Berhe would need surgery to remove a blood clot from his calf. Obviously, he is out indefinitely. Although Berhe is optimistic he will play this season (and he remains on the Giants’ roster through first cuts), the team needed to add someone to fill in.

Enter Stevie Brown. Brown returned to the Giants on a one-year deal on Sunday after being released by the Texans last week. Brown appeared in all 16 games for the Giants last season, starting eight.

Brown wasn’t too productive last year, but the Giants will hope he can replicate his breakout 2012 season in which he tallied eight interceptions. With just one preseason game remaining, it could take him some time to adjust to Spagnuolo’s defense, but he’s a safe bet to break camp with the team, and could make starts at some point this year.

Game Balls & The Shame Wall

Offensive Game Ball: Quarterback Ryan Nassib

No one really stood out this game, but Nassib did well against the Jets’ reserves. He went 11-for-18 with 122 yards (6.8 YPA), no interceptions and a touchdown to tight end Jerome Cunningham. He’s the no-brainer backup to Eli Manning.

Defensive Game Ball: Linebacker Jameel McClain

Again, no real standouts but McClain did fine. He drew the start and racked up five tackles, including one for a loss. With Jon Beason’s status uncertain, there’s a good chance McClain makes starts in the regular season between Devon Kennard and J.T. Thomas.

Shame Wall: Wide receiver Victor Cruz

Cruz makes the Wall without even playing. Which is the reason he’s on the Wall in the first place. Cruz is (allegedly) over the devastating knee injury that ended his 2014 season and shelved him for most of OTAs and part of training camp. Now it’s a calf injury that plagues him.

Cruz missed a golden opportunity get some preparation for the season by missing the important third preseason game. Coughlin has already confirmed Cruz will not play Thursday against the Patriots, and Cruz himself even admitted he’s no longer certain he’ll return in time for Week 1. Expect Cruz to have to knock off a lot of rust when he eventually returns. My expectations for his 2015 production are lowering.

Big Blue Bits

– The carry distribution looked a lot more like what should be expected to start the season. Rashad Jennings received nine carries, while Shane Vereen got three, and Andre Williams two. No one did much, though. Jennings managed just 28 yards and a touchdown (3.1 YPC), Vereen nine yards (3.0 YPC), and Williams no yards.

– Corey Washington’s slow preseason continues. He was held without a reception on just one target. I tentatively think he makes the 53-man, but it’s not a given.

– Curiously, tight end Larry Donnell was held without a catch, too. With Cruz sidelined, the Giants need him to step up as a legitimate receiving threat.

– Continuing making this section about underperforming Giants, defensive end Damontre Moore was nowhere to be found Saturday. He didn’t even manage a tackle.

– Mixed results for wide receiver James Jones. He led the team in receiving yards, totaling 54 of them on four catches. But he did lose a fumble, and was the targeted receiver on Manning’s pick six. I think he’s still in play for a roster spot, specifically the one Washington has still not locked down.

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