ReFo: NYJ @ NYG, Preseason Wk 3
Quarterback struggles were front and center in this matchup between the New York teams. Ben Stockwell shares his analysis of the rarely seen preseason overtime game.
ReFo: NYJ @ NYG, Preseason Wk 3
Drama just seems to follow the New York Jets around and even when they’re trying to audition his replacement, Mark Sanchez always manages to find his way into the center of matters. The powers that be for the Jets would have been hoping that all the attention would be on Geno Smith staking his claim to start ahead of Sanchez in two weeks time, but in the end his poor display had to share the limelight with the erstwhile starter’s unfortunate fourth quarter injury.
On the other sideline Tom Coughlin took the ethos of the third week of preseason being a dress rehearsal for Week 1 to the extreme. He kicked a late field goal to send a preseason game to overtime and then in overtime used his timeouts to “ice” the Jets’ kickers. Nick Folk and Billy Cundiff each missed the field goals that of course got away as the officials whistled for the timeout but Cundiff held his nerve at the fourth time of asking for the Jets to win. Among the starters and in the game as a whole Coughlin will have been pleased with how his defense performed but this wasn’t the sort of warm up that he would have hoped from his offense. Outside of David Wilson’s first snap breakaway this wasn’t a vintage performance from the Giants’ offense, taken out of the headlines only by their cross town rivals.
Jets – Three Performances of Note
Not the start hoped for
Where else to start than with Geno Smith? In his first preseason start Smith professed to have been “comfortable” in the pocket but his performance suggested that wasn’t the case. There were glimpses of “upside”, of promise to come but the big picture was that Geno Smith is not ready to start from Week 1 in the Big Apple. Poor throws at least matched the good throws in terms of quantity and there were no sparkling, spectacular moments to outweigh some dreadful throws. As with Sanchez last season the offensive line was not the problem, Smith being pressured on only nine of his 31 dropbacks. The problem was a lack of accuracy and poor mechanics that gave the impression of a quarterback not confident in what he was looking at and in the decisions he was making. Capping it off with a safety (running it out of the back of his own endzone without being tackled) was about as embarrassing an ending as you could come up with. The glimpses will offer hope but the inaccuracy, lack of awareness and poor decision making will surely keep Smith on the bench for at least a little while longer.
Defensive line ready to roll
One of the constants for the Jets through all of the drama and turmoil has been some quality run defense from their defensive line and this crop looks set to continue that. Muhammad Wilkerson was the Jets’ best player last season and he showed on Saturday (+1.7) that he’s ready to pick up where he left off — with a pair of hurries and a pair of stops in run defense. It was the players around him though, among both the starters and the backups, that will offer belief in a strong unit rather than a one man line. Second year nose tackle Damon Harrison put in a stunning display, recording four stops in on only 11 snaps of run defense to earn a +2.3 run defense grade. He even added a pair of stops in the passing game, taking down David Wilson for a loss and a short gain on two first quarter snaps. Factor in a sack and a hit for rookie DE Sheldon Richardson and a spectacular display from Leger Douzable (+6.8) with the backups, and you have the sort of foundation that could anchor another strong Rex Ryan defense.
Running game needs to come together
One of the big conundrums for the Jets this offseason has been figuring out their running game. The focus has centered around who will carry the rock rather than the unit as a whole. Nobody graded positively for the Jets as a runner in this game but that’s tough to do when only two linemen (D’Brickashaw Ferguson and J.B. Shugarts) grade positively as a run blocker. Removing one kneel down by Matt Simm the team’s runners got 38 of their 40 yards after first contact. When even a player of the caliber of Nick Mangold (-1.6 run block) are struggling you know that the ground game as a whole is just missing a beat. The focus in a fantasy oriented world might be on the guys piling up the stats, but if the likes of Bilal Powell and Chris Ivory are to get a fair chance to prove how good they are then the guys in front of them need to get on the same page. The question marks at quarterback make this need all the more pressing.
Giants – Three Performances of Note
Whetting the appetite
Durability and avoiding mistakes are the big questions that David Wilson (+1.1) has to overcome, but it’s plays like the 84 yard touchdown he registered on the Giants’ opening play that have fans, partisan and neutral alike, so excited by his potential. The Jets didn’t make things terribly difficult for Wilson with a bad angle up front and in the secondary, but while many backs would just make the defense pay with solid gain Wilson’s speed to the gap and upfield turned it into an 80+ yard touchdown. He may not have had much else to do the rest of the way but Wilson can’t answer the questions of him in preseason, no coach would ever give him that sort of workload in games that don’t count, but plays like that one are sure to see Wilson given the volume of plays to prove himself when the real business starts.
Hiding behind the Jets
While the headlines were stolen by the Jets’ quarterbacks things weren’t much rosier on the Giants sideline where both players that took snaps in this game, Eli Manning and Curtis Painter, had more than their share of struggles. Both players completed below 50% of their targeted passes with Eli Manning earning a -2.4 grade to go with the -3.9 for Painter. Make no mistake, this wasn’t a good performance masked by a lot of drops and miscommunications either. Manning had big problems with overthrows in this game and his poor display against the Jets caps off a poor preseason for the Giants’ starter. Once Manning was done for the day (after 34 snaps) it was Curtis Painter who came in and like Manning simply couldn’t find a rhythm against the Jets. On passes aimed more than 10 yards downfield Painter went 2-for-9 for 38 yards earning a -1.3 grade for those throws. If Painter was a threat to steal David Carr’s spot on the final roster before this weekend’s game, it’s hard to imagine him being one now. This has been a poor preseason for all of the Giants’ quarterbacks, with all four of them playing at least 34 snaps (Ryan Nassib with the lowest mark on the roster) and David Carr topping the group with a subpar -1.7 grade for his passing.
Defense sends a message
But for some breakdowns in the secondary to afford the Jets their laborious fourth quarter and overtime comeback the Giants will have been rightly pleased with their defensive display in this game. Up front Justin Tuck (+3.1) suggested that a return to some of his best form might not be out of the question. He registered three pressures (2 Ht, 1 Hu) on 17 pass rushes, two stops on the ground (+1.4) and contributed to Geno Smith’s bad day with an interception on one of five snaps in coverage. Opposite him Mathias Kiwanuka (+1.1) also had a good day in run defense while at corner Prince Amukamara put in his best display of preseason (+1.5 coverage) to at least give some solidity at one corner spot. Even on the defensive interior things looked good with Mike Patterson (+3.5) and Shaun Rogers (+2.6) serving to illustrate the depth the Giants have all along the defensive line. Mark Herzlich’s performance (+4.4) only served as a cherry on the top for a defensive display that should stand the Giants in good stead for the season ahead.
-Taking over early for Antonio Cromartie third year corner Darrin Walls more than doubled his preseason snap total playing on 66 of the Jets’ 82 defensive snaps. Through three games Walls has a +5.1 coverage grade and has allowed 5 completions on 14 targets with 3 pass defenses.
-The Giants really spread the workload on defense in this game. Of their 26 defensive stops no one defender registered more than two.
-Third rounder Brian Winters made his preseason bow registering 60 snaps and was clearly behind the curve struggling particularly on the ground where he earned a -2.9 grade for his run blocking.
PFF Game Ball
Seeing as Matt Simms put a downer on his touchdown pass with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty the game ball goes to Jets’ wide receiver Ryan Spadola who not only snagged that touchdown but also got open for the 70 yard overtime reception that set up the Jets’ come from behind win.
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Ben Stockwell | Director of Analysis
Ben joined Pro Football Focus in 2007, and has since been in charge of the company’s analysis process. He also contributes to PFF’s weekly NFL podcast.