Tuesday August 17th, 2010

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Here's what we learned from the Giants-Jets preseason opener, marking the debut of the teams' $1.6 billion stadium.

1. Mark Sanchez 's surgically repaired left knee looked sound. The Jets quarterback played the entire first half, an obscene amount of time for a starter in an opening preseason game. Impressively, he rebounded from a miserable start when he forced his first pass into double coverage. The throw, intended for running back LaDainian Tomlinson, was deflected and picked off by free safety Antrel Rolle, who returned it 59 yards to the Jets' 1. Three plays later, the Giants led 7-0 on a short TD run by Brandon Jacobs. "I don't think you could script a worst start on your first play of your second season," said Sanchez. "I think maybe last year I would have been down in the dumps, but this year's, it's easier to just turn around and say, 'No big deal. Let's get it back.'"

That he did. Sanchez led the Jets to a touchdown on the team's second drive, completing six of eight passes -- including a gift four-yard touchdown pass to Brad Smith, who was uncovered on the left side. The quarterback finished the night 13 of 17 for 117 yards and one touchdown, though some of that came against Giants backups. "He's looked great all throughout training camp and [Monday] was no different," said Jets coach Rex Ryan.

Sanchez underwent a patella stabilizing procedure last February and has been sleeping with a left compression sleeve over his knee. "Just so it never swells," Sanchez said. The quarterback has not decided whether he will wear the sleeve or a brace during games; he did not wear one against the Giants. Sanchez told reporters all week that he was itching to be hit -- and was sacked for an eight-yard loss by Giants rookie defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul late in the second quarter. The knee felt strong," said Sanchez. "I took a hit in the game and bounced right up and didn't even think about it."

This year's camp has been far different for Sanchez after he battled Kellen Clemens (at least in theory) for the starting job as a rookie. Clemens played in the third quarter, finishing 7 of 10 for 84 yards. Veteran Mark Brunell was 1 of 3 for 14 yards.

2. Eli Manning is going to be in pain Tuesday morning. In an awful sequence for Giants fans, Manning collided with Jacobs on a 3rd-and-1 from the Jets' 5 early in the second quarter. He was then drilled by outside linebacker Calvin Pace and went face-first into Jets safety Jim Leonhard. The collision left Manning bleeding profusely from his forehead, and he walked off the field holding a towel that quickly turned from white to crimson. He was later diagnosed with a three-inch head laceration that required 12 stitches. He showed no signs of a concussion and was sent home by the medical staff before the conclusion of the game. "I feel fine. I feel normal," Manning said. "The play was my fault. We had a run play with an option to throw a fade that I thought I might try, but Brandon was coming right up the middle. Sometimes you make a mistake and you get hit in the head. It's preseason. You learn from it. I'll be back as soon as I can. It's really not an injury. Nothing serious. I really feel like I could go back out and play right now, if I had to."

For Giants fans, file this prediction away from an analyst who nailed the success of the New Orleans Saints last season. "The Giants swept the Dallas Cowboys last year, their three receivers are no longer unknowns and I think they are going to be a lot better on defense," said ESPN Monday Night Football analyst Jon Gruden. "I like their first four games (vs. Carolina, at Indy, vs. Tennessee, vs. Chicago) and three of them are at home. I think they'll get off to a good start, and I think they are capable of winning 11 or 12 games." They also might have discovered a gem in undrafted wide receiver Victor Cruz, who scored three second-half touchdowns and finished with six catches for 145 yards. The UMass rookie will be hard to keep off the roster.

3. This ain't your father's football stadium. The game marked the football debut of the new Meadowlands Stadium (price tag: $1.6 billion), an edifice as brash as the knuckleheads who roam around a certain Jersey shoreline on MTV weekly. This Meadowlands Stadium is twice as big (2.1 million square feet, up from 900,000) as the old place, including more club seats (9,300, up from 142), elevators (16, up from 7), and toilets (1350, up from 860). Other notable amenities: 800 concession stands (there were 260 in the old place) and four Jumbotron HD replay screens (40-feet x 130-feet) in each of the stadium's four corners. It's a nice facility, though there were some first-night jitters, including a false fire alarm in the press box and a spotty PA system. The food prices are high, but that's life in the big city. If the weather cooperates, the NFL's fat cats will enjoy Super Bowl XLVIII here in 2014. There were 67,511 tickets distributed for the game.

4. We still have no idea what to make of a Revis-less secondary. How good are cornerbacks Antonio Cromartie and Kyle Wilson, the team's first round pick out of Boise State? Who knows? The unit didn't get much of an opportunity to strut its stuff because Manning was under serious pressure from the Jets' front seven. Cromartie's coverage was strong and he was quick to the ball all night. The downside? Hakeem Nicks beat Cromartie on a third-down conversion for 13 yards early in the second quarter, and the veteran corner also failed to nab Ahmad Bradshaw during his 51-yard reception off a shovel pass from Manning. He also had a chance at two picks -- but missed on both. "I was kidding with Cromartie that we're not getting our money's worth, " Ryan said, laughing after the game. "But I thought both our starting corners did a great job." Wilson made his first tackle at the end of the first quarter on a six-yard Manning pass to Ramses Barden. The preseason is unlikely to reveal what life without Darrelle Revis will be like. That hard truth will come Sept. 13 against Baltimore, if the cornerback is still not in the fold.

5. Don't put LaDainian Tomlinson in the grave just yet, and yes, Jet fans, you can breathe easier about Nick Folk. The 31-year-old Tomlinson looked frisky and energetic sharing time with starter Shonn Greene in the first half. He carried eight times for 17 yards, but two plays opened eyes. The first was a 14-yard reception out of the backfield and the second you won't find on the stat sheet -- a darting, 14-yard score off left tackle in the first quarter, nullified by an offensive holding call. Greene averaged 5.2 yards on five carries and showed the burst that has Jets fans excited about a big year

Folk, the bane of Cowboys fans from Austin to Waco, hit on three of four field goals, including a pair of 36-yarders. He missed, however, a 46-yarder in the third quarter. Folk made the Pro Bowl as a rookie with the Cowboys in 2007 but slumped badly last season after hip surgery. The pressure will be on Folk after Jets fans grew accustomed to the reliable Jay Feely over the past two seasons. Feely is now with the Cardinals.

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