First Impressions – Jets @ Giants

| August 31, 2011

It was New York versus New York, in the Big Apple Showdown as the Jets were set to take on the Giants. After being forced to delay the game due to Hurricane Irene, it looked as if both teams had preferred the game was cancelled altogether.
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It was a slow start to a slow game and Santonio Holmes’ lone touchdown catch was the only offensive score between the two starting units. Here are three highlights (and lowlights) for each team from the first half of this game
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Jets – Three Things of Note
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● So far in his young career, Mark Sanchez has proven to be inconsistent, as the third-year-quarterback had some incredible game, and some not so incredible games. Early on, it appeared as if Sanchez was going to labor through this game as he seemed to be completely out-of-sync with the rest of his offense. If he wasn’t doing his best to end up on the ESPN’s blooper reel with a fumble that bobbled out of his hands, he was throwing inaccurate passes to his receivers. At first, I was tempted to say that his inaccurate throws were a result of trying to get on the same page as his new receiver, Plaxico Burress, since the majority of his errant passes were targeting him; however, he was missing on passes thrown at Santonio Holmes as well. Just as I was trying to come up with some catchy phrases to describe how poorly Sanchez looked, he connected with Holmes for a 17-yard touchdown on a beautiful pass.
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● If you haven’t already read Khaled’s Jets team preview, one of the concerns that he highlighted was the Jets’ inability to create an effective pass rush without blitzing. After finishing as our second worst rusher in terms of Pass Rushing Productivity last season, Calvin Pace didn’t show any signs of improvement in this game. A player who may join Pace on that list is Muhammed Wilkerson, as he was pushed around against both the run and pass. The most fight I saw from Wilkerson was in a scuffle with Giants running back Brandon Jacobs, which led to both players getting ejected. There was an Aaron Maybin sighting at the end of the first half, and while he looked to have the speed of a wide receiver, he also showed that he has the size and strength of one. On his only tackle, he managed to tackle running back D.J. Ware from behind, which helped him fall forward for a first down.
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Antonio Cromartie didn’t play poorly last season, but like Sanchez he was inconsistent. There would be games where he would play great coverage, and others where he looked extremely vulnerable. In this game, he struggled to cover both Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham. Cromartie allowed a number of long receptions down the field, but his night didn’t end nearly as bad as it would have if Eli Manning were more accurate. Manningham had managed to break Cromartie’s coverage deep down the field, but Manning’s pass sailed over his head, bailing Cromartie out.
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Giants – Three Things of Note
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● It’s a little strange to me that Eli Manning took as much heat as he did for his recent comments. After saying that he considers himself an “elite” quarterback, he faced a world of backlash, because apparently it would be better if he walked around with self-doubt. Based on his erratic performance in this game, and the broadcaster’s remarks that followed every poor passing play, Giants fans better hope he remains confident because it doesn’t sound like people are going to forget Manning’s comments anytime soon. Both of Manning’s interceptions came after the Jets dialed up a blitz and got into his face. He rushed each of those throws, as one got tipped and intercepted while the other was thrown directly towards David Harris. But even on the plays where he had plenty of time, which was most of the night, he had a hard time connecting with his receivers. The most notable of these erratic passes was the aforementioned pass to Manningham, that if accurate would have been an easy 84-yard touchdown.
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● Though it seemed like Travis Beckum would be the player to step up after Kevin Boss’ departure to Oakland, Jake Ballard used this game to show the coaching staff why he may be the better option. Ballard, a 2010 undrafted free agent out of Ohio State, was extremely impressive in his ability to block effectively. On a number of occasions, he was driving defenders down the field for so long, that the running back would be tackled before he had disengaged. It wasn’t just against linebackers and receivers, either, as on one play, he drove Jets’ rookie defensive tackle Wilkerson five yards down the field. Ballard certainly isn’t the weapon or threat that Beckum could be in the passing game, the Giants would be better off with Ballard who is definitely the better blocker of the two.
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● The Giants’ defensive line played incredibly well in this game. The most impressive of the group, was Justin Tuck. Though Tuck is known mostly as a pass-rusher, this game showed just how solid he is against the run as well. He is so quick at disengaging from the tackle, that if he isn’t pressuring the quarterback, he is getting behind the tackle to stop run plays at the line of scrimmage. The Jets tried to take advantage of his quick burst of speed by cutting him immediately off the line, but Tuck’s athleticism allowed him to keep balance and pursue the play after shedding the block. On one of his more impressive plays, Tuck walked through Wayne Hunter like an open door and stopped Shonn Greene in his tracks. Though he’s known as a pass-rusher, plays like that one make it no surprise he finished with impressive grades in both last season: +9.7 pass rush, +9.9 run defense.
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So apparently the winner of this game is given a bronze Snoopy trophy in honor of the MetLife mascot. While I am sure the Jets are just thrilled to have won a metal Snoopy, both of these teams are serious threats at making a deep playoff run, and possibly winning a trophy of greater significance.
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Follow Rodney on Twitter: @PFF_RodneyHart … and be sure to follow our main Twitter feed as well: @ProFootbalFocus
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