Leading up to Friday night's MetLife Bowl, there was a significant amount of trash talk coming from the New York Jets and their fans. Of course, that can be attributed to it being their biggest game of the season, which unfortunately for them, did not end the way that they would have hoped. And after six days of "showing off" the Snoopy trophy from last year's preseason victory over the Giants, Gang Green was forced to hand it over after being defeated 35-24.
Despite the victory, not all news was good news for the Giants. They saw offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz and wide receiver Marcus Harris go down with serious injuries, and their first team offense once against struggled until late in the second quarter.
Key to Victory: Second and Third Team Dominance
Okay, okay. Maybe the word "dominance" is a little strong, but there's no denying that the Giants' second and third teams appear to be performing at level higher than the first team. And while that's a positive in terms of depth, it gives little hope for fans expecting to see Big Blue rebounding from a 7-9 season in 2013.
Now allow us to take a deeper look into the positives and negatives from Friday night's game.
- Ryan Nassib – After under-whelming against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Nassib has rebounded with two tremendous performances, including his best NFL performance on Friday night against the New York Jets. Nassib completed eight of his 12 passes for 103 yards and three touchdowns. It's clear that he has a solid grasp of the West Coast-style offense and has now bumped Curtis Painter (no snaps on Friday) completely off the depth chart.
- Corey Washington – Ho-hum. Another game, another fourth quarter touchdown for Corey Washington. He saw fewer than 10 snaps (we believe) on Friday night, yet managed to haul in two passes for 36 yards and the aforementioned touchdown. The guy certainly makes the most of his opportunities, doesn't he?
- Victor Cruz – Cruz had been completely blanked on the stat sheet coming into Friday night, but re-emerged against the Jets (naturally) with four receptions for 61 yards. It was abundantly clear that when Cruz is more heavily involved, the offense itself performs at a much higher level.
- Steve Weatherford – Super Steve has absolutely dominated the preseason. Because he's a punter it's gone largely unnoticed, but he's playing at an other-worldly level right now. He boomed another seven punts against the Jets, tallying 315 more yards (45.0 average) with three dropping inside the 20.
- Rashad Jennings – Jennings has not slowed since the start of the preseason. If he hasn't opened your eyes yet, you may want to visit an optometrist. He carried the ball 13 times for 67 yards (5.2 ypc average) and currently leads the NFL in preseason rushing. However, the most impressive aspect of his game against the Jets came when he slid perfectly across the pocket to pick up a blitzer, allowing Eli Manning extra time to find an open target.
- Andre Williams – Jets head coach Rex Ryan said the last time he had seen Williams, the running back was "getting smoked by Clemson." Well, Williams got the last laugh with the go-ahead touchdown on Friday night. He also showed a tough side, absorbing some big hits from jets defenders who very clearly had him in their crosshairs.
- Jacquian Williams – Williams has somewhat quietly put on a tremendous showing this preseason. He added to that with another solid performance on Friday night, collecting seven more tackles (he had led the team before being taken out in the second half).
- Eli Manning – Manning's performance could go under the "mixed" category, but it was his best performance of the preseason by far. Once the offensive line gelled a bit and started to give him some time in the pocket, Manning unleashed several truly impressive throws (one to Victor Cruz and another to Rueben Randle for a touchdown come to mind). The one real hiccup came on an interception that was eventually overturned. Manning clearly tried to force a pass to Cruz and it nearly cost the Giants big. Still, 12/21 for 139 yards and a touchdown eclipses his entire preseason stat line to date.
- Damontre Moore – Moore is playing at a different level in 2014. There's really no other way to put it. He's energized, seems to be comfortable in Perry Fewell's defense and has dominated anyone put in front of him. He added four tackles, two sacks, three tackles for a loss and two quarterback hits to his resume on Friday night — including a sack of the speedy Michael Vick.
- Charles James II – James is a guy you feel like you have to root for, but his performance against the Jets may have hurt his chances to make the 53-man roster. Early in the fourth quarter, he was flagged for a late hit and them almost immediately gave up a touchdown that put Gang Green back in the lead. He'll need to turn heads next week against the New England Patriots.
- Will Beatty – Although he rebounded later in the game and played really well during the 2:00 drive to end the second quarter, Beatty struggled for the better part of the first half on Friday night. He was abused by Jason Babin on one inside move, and a stunt later terrorized he and Geoff Schwartz. It's hard to tell exactly who is at fault for some of the issues, but many of them came from Beatty's side.
- Mario Manningham – Manningham didn't really do anything that stood out as a "negative," but after receiving some first-team reps, the fact that he was only able to haul in a single pass for five yards is a bit concerning. Super Mario is playing for his life and if that's all he's capable of bringing to the table right now, his odds of making the 53-man roster are long.
- Mathias Kiwanuka – Kiwi was nearly non-existent on Friday night, putting little to no pressure on Jets quarterbacks. He did have one night pass defensed, but other than that, there was little to write home about. With Damontre Moore dominating, Kiwi needs to step up if he wishes to retain his starting job across from Jason Pierre-Paul.
- Referees - Another game, another 20 enforced penalties and over 25 called. It's gotten completely out of hands, is slowing down the game and killing the enjoyment factor.
PLAYER OF THE GAME – Quarterback Ryan Nassib
What more needs to be said about Nassib? The reality is he's gone from bust and wasted pick to a solid No. 2 quarterback who truly grasps the West Coast-style system brought in by Ben McAdoo. He leads the NFL in passing, has performed well in three of four preseason game and a portion of that came against the Jets' first team defense.
While no quarterback controversy is brewing, Nassib is finally rounding into shape and giving the Giants a legitimate option should Eli Manning go down with injury again in 2014 (knock on wood).
OVERALL PERFORMANCE GRADE:
It took a little while to get going, but the Giants first team offense finally showed a little something on their two-minute drive to end the first half. Then, as noted previously, the second and third teams came in and cleaned things up, helping to propel the Giants to a 4-0 preseason record, however meaningless that may be.
There's plenty of concern left to be expressed, but there's no denying the team finally took a small step forward. Now they have something to build on heading into the final preseason game against the New England Patriots.
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