The Giants and Jets engaged in their annual preseason matchup and while the final score was ultimately inconsequential, a 24-21 Jets win, the real story was how much improvement both teams need before the season starts for real in two weeks.
Jets rookie quarterback Geno Smith, making his first start, showed his inexperience as he threw three first-half interceptions – with each wayward pass worse than the one before. But while Smith had a built-in excuse, Giants veteran quarterback Eli Manning also has had an excuse for his continued subpar preseason play — the patchwork offensive line.
“Obviously, we had problems [with the offensive line] tonight. They were a good defense and we all acknowledge that,” head coach Tom Coughlin said. “But I don’t think it was any reason for us to flounder around like we did. ... These guys have got to play [better]. That’s where we are. We just didn’t block [and] didn’t get it done from a physical standpoint.”
Manning, who is playing behind an offensive line that’s still trying to find its rhythm after losing two starters within two days last week, went 8-of-20 for 83 yards and was sacked once. He played the entire first half, but looked harried any time he dropped back to pass. The offensive line blew numerous assignments, particularly on third down, as the first unit went a paltry 1-of-8 in the first half. They were also stuffed on third-and-goal from the Jets’ 2-yard line with 1:52 remaining in the first half.
Big Blue settled for a field goal — one of Josh Brown’s four makes — but Manning said an abundance of threes aren’t good enough at any stage of the season.
"Offensively, we’re just not clicking the way we need to be clicking. We all know that to get the offense going the way we want it to, it’s about execution,” Manning said. “For whatever reason, that’s just not happening for us right now. We’ve got two weeks before the start of the regular season, and we have to use these practices to get our execution where it needs to be.”
Manning refused to blame the reworked offensive line, including Jim Cordle at center, noting the Jets’ 3-4 defensive front would’ve been tough for any line to handle.
“I thought the offensive line did well tonight,” said Manning. “They gave us some time to make some plays, especially against the unique fronts and different looks the Jets were giving us."
The Jets’ front had no answer initially for the Giants when second-year running back David Wilson raced past them for an 84-yard touchdown on Big Blue’s opening offensive play.
Wilson, who finished with a game-high 92 yards rushing, was more concerned with the fact that the Jets’ defense held him to just eight yards after that run.
“It’s easy to take advantage of my God-given ability,” said Wilson. “But we’ve still got work to do on the running game as a whole. We’ve got to get better and more consistent and I’m confident we’ll work and get that done in the practices that remain before the start of the season.”
The Giants defense put in work, although the offense failed to capitalize on the many Jets errors. Big Blue could only muster a field goal off of Smith’s three first-half picks. The Giants defense, maligned all of last season, looked very good — albeit against a rookie passer and an offense that won’t scare many teams this season.
The Giants defense may have also decided the fate of the Jets’ quarterback controversy, as defensive tackle Marvin Austin knocked out incumbent starter Mark Sanchez midway through the final quarter. Sanchez, who took a sack on his first snap of the game and fumbled a shotgun snap a couple plays later, was sent back to the locker room for X-rays on a shoulder injury and didn’t return.
The Giants return to the practice field on Monday, with plenty of ills to mend.
Big Blue notes ...
» The game was the least of the Giants’ concerns when it comes to losses, as the injury bug just won’t leave Big Blue alone. Stevie Brown joined the growing list of Giants players needing to visit the trainer’s room as the former Michigan star came up lame after picking off a Smith pass and returning it 22 yards to the Jets’ 23-yard line in the second quarter. Brown, a Pro Bowler last season, stayed on the MetLife Stadium turf for quite a long time and required assistance from the medical team. He was not putting pressure on the injured left leg as he was hurried back into the locker room for further tests. Coughlin had no further word on Brown’s status following the game, and said he’ll likely know more in the morning. He acknowledged it was a non-contact injury, which doesn’t bode well for the safety.
» Cornerback Jayron Hosley (ankle) was also banged up in the first quarter and didn’t return.
Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.