Giants Rewind: What We Learned from the First Preseason Game

Patricia Traina

The Giants have one preseason game in the books, that game serving as a litmus test for head coach Pat Shurmur and his staff as they begin putting together their player evaluations for the 2019 roster.

The focus on the first preseason game, as it always is, was to take a close look at the depth, where the majority of the roster battles take place.

It was also a chance to take a glimpse into the future, particularly at quarterback, to see what they really have in rookie Daniel Jones.

Here are five things that the Giants’ 31-22 win over the Jets revealed.

1. The backup running back competition isn’t as close as originally thought.

Saquon Barkley’s starting status is chiseled in stone, but behind him, there was some question as to whether Wayne Gallman, Paul Perkins or Rod Smith might end up as the No. 2 running back on the depth chart.

Gallman, the incumbent, seems to have a firm hold on that job after one preseason game. Statistics aside—he rushed for a team-leading 13 yards on five carries before having his ankle rolled up on—Gallman showed the best vision and instinct in the running game Thursday night. He also was pristine with his handing of the ball, a problem in the past for him.

Perkins, probably his closest competitor, did not have a good game Thursday night. He rushed for nine yards on four carries, showing little ability to change direction.

Perkins, who missed all of last season with a pectoral injury, ran too many times with his head down and into traffic, showing little feel or vision for what was happening around him, and got swallowed up.

It didn’t help his case that he also dropped a pass and had a ball stripped out of his grasp when multiple Jets defenders converged on him in traffic.

2. The backup offensive tackle is still a deep concern.

The Giants backup offensive tackle spot has been so decimated by injuries that the coaches had to move Nick Gates, a college tackle whose best position at this level is guard, to the left tackle spot.

It wasn’t pretty. Gates was flagged three times, once for a false start (inexcusable for an offensive lineman at home and who knows the snap count) and two holding infractions.

His lack of speed an athleticism to counter the Jets defense’s speed was on full display as was inability to hit his landmarks (his hands often ended up outside his man’s framework.)

The good news for the Giants is that they should be getting some of their injured tackles—Chad Wheeler, George Asafo-Adjei and Brian Mihalik—back for practice this week.

The bad news is before all three of those guys were knocked out by their respective injuries, none really jumped out as being the ideal swing tackle candidate, though Wheeler, by virtue of his experience gained as a starter, is probably the incumbent.

3. The receivers do have some depth.

If you were worried about the depth at receiver after the trade of Odell Beckham Jr, the broken thumb suffered by Sterling Shepard, and the season-ending ACL injury by Corey Coleman, you might want to breathe a sigh of relief.

Yes, the Giants backup receivers played against the Jets backups (thus evening out the field, since it was backups vs. backups), but there was some impressive play turned in by Bennie Fowler, Russell Shepard, Reggie White, Cody Latimer and T.J. Jones, all of whom had strong nights.

While no one will confuse what the Giants have with Beckham, kudos to all these backup receivers for recognizing the opportunity that’s in front of them and attempting to seize the day.

4. This is another promising draft class.

Maybe it’s wise to “slow our roll” when it comes to declaring the 2019 Giants draft class a success—after all, they’ve yet to play in a regular-season game—but the early returns are VERY promising.

Daniel Jones’ big evening aside, the Giants got contributions in the win from every draft pick this year except for Asafo-Adjei, who was scratched due to a concussion.

Defensive backs DeAndre Baker, Corey Ballentine and Julian Love all graded well in pass coverage according to Pro Football Focus.

Linebacker Ryan Connelly not only finished third on the team in total tackles with five (four solo), he only allowed 18 yards on three receptions (out of three pass targets), with only 12 yards after catch allowed, meaning he played his angles and his coverage responsibilities tightly.

The only active draft pick to have a sort of "quiet night" from a statistical perspective was Dexter Lawrence II, who surprisingly didn’t dent the stat sheet (to be fair, he only received six snaps, and all six of those came on first and second downs).

But just because Lawrence didn’t record any stats, that doesn’t mean he didn’t have an influence on the game.

Lawrence, who played exclusively inside (the Giants ran a lot of 4-3 against the Jets) drew double-team blocks which free up gaps for his teammates to exploit.

There were also no big runs against the Giants defense when Lawrence was in the game, so lack of stats aside, he too had a productive evening.

Again, it’s still early but if general manager Dave Gettleman hit another homerun with a draft class, that’s going to go a long way toward replenishing the depth that was lost through years and years of poor drafting by the previous regime.

5. There might be some surprises making the 53-man roster.

Jake Carlock, a converted safety turned linebacker who was making a push for a pace on the practice squad, upped his ante by pushing for a spot on the 53-man roster with his performance.

Carlock not only had the big pick-6 which put the game away for the Giants in the third quarter, he recorded a sack and was steady on special teams.

On offense, it would be a major upset if center James O’Hagan doesn’t end up pushing Evan Brown off the roster. O’Hagan isn’t of ideal size for the center position, but what he lacks in size he more than makes up for in intelligence and a knowledge of the intricacies of the position.

O’Hagan still needs to develop a better anchor, but the fact that he wasn’t knocked to the ground speaks well for his balance and agility. He also showed a natural reaction for what to do on a couple of screen passes in space that were eye-opening.

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Great stuff as always.