In the words of Dennis Green, they are who we thought they were.
The Giants’ starters looked like playoff contenders and the Jets played like a team that may contend to go winless. That was pretty clear Saturday night in the annual preseason clash, a noncompetitive scrimmage that was like the varsity facing an undermanned junior-varsity squad when the starters were in.
The Giants held off a furious Jets rally, 32-31, in front of 74,597 at MetLife Stadium, winning the preseason matchup for the third time in four years. But the final score wasn’t representative of the game, made close by the impressive play of Jets quarterback Bryce Petty against the Giants’ backups.
The first quarter was men against boys. Big Blue outgained the Jets by a whopping 162 yards to none, thoroughly dominated both sides of the line of scrimmage and moved the ball at will even without injured wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall and Tavarres King. It was 19-0 after the first 15 minutes, and it could have been worse if not for an Eli Manning red-zone interception forced by a Sheldon Richardson hit.
The Giants’ defense looked like last year’s suffocating unit, making mincemeat out of Christian Hackenberg, the Jets’ second-year quarterback who is battling Josh McCown and Petty for the starting job.
But Hackenberg hardly looked ready to win the quarterback competition. Making his second straight start, the former second-round pick out of Penn State threw a pair of pick-sixes, was sacked three times, and finished with a first-half rating of 23.6 after completing 8-of-15 passes for 60 yards against the Giants starters.
In the opening quarter, Hackenberg telegraphed a play-action pass in the flat. Giants All-Pro Landon Collins easily picked off and returned 23 yards for a touchdown, high-stepping as he walked into the end zone. Hackenberg’s first completion came on the final play of the first quarter, and it went for negative yardage.
He didn’t have much help. The Jets’ offensive line was a sieve, offering little protection. Right tackle Brandon Shell was beaten repeatedly by Jason Pierre-Paul, who recorded a safety by tackling running back Matt Forte in the end zone on their second possession. Hackenberg’s second pick-six came on an on-target throw. On a short completion, wide receiver Robby Anderson was hammered by Janoris Jenkins, dislodging the ball, and Donte Deayon intercepted and returned it 36 yards to the house.
Hackenberg finally produced points for the Jets early in the second quarter, leading a 10-play, 66-yard drive that resulted in a Chandler Catanzaro 27-yard field goal. They were the first points Hackenberg had produced in 18 preseason drives.
Although he was facing backups, Petty fared far better. The third-year quarterback completed 15-of-18 passes for 250 yards, didn’t commit a turnover and threw three touchdown passes, two to rookie ArDarius Stewart. But late in the fourth quarter, he tripped over offensive lineman Ben Braden, and had to leave the game with an ankle injury. Hackenberg relieved Petty, and threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to Frankie Hammond with 1:26 left, but the Jets, going for the win, failed to convert the two-point conversion.
The Jets’ secondary was the weak link on the defense (sound familiar?) and the primary culprit was cornerback Darryl Roberts. The former Patriot was making the start in place of Morris Claiborne (shoulder), and he was torched frequently. Travis Rudolph outleaped him for a jump-ball, turning it into a 57-yard catch and run. The Jets first team defense hardly was impressive, gashed for big drives — they forced just one punt in a full half of action — and managed just one sack, by Richardson, against the Giants’ porous offensive line.
In his lone quarter of work, Manning completed 7-of-14 passes for 121 yards, and led the Giants to their first offensive touchdown of the preseason, a 3-yard Orleans Darkwa rushing score.
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