The Giants flashed their championship form of last season and unveiled a few gems in an eventual 32-31 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars in the 2012 preseason debuts for both teams. The success of the starters spilled over to the second unit to where David Carr – not Tim Tebow – began trending over Twitter.
Carr took over for Eli Manning on the Giants’ first offensive possession of the second quarter. Set up at the Jaguars’ 47 thanks to Jason Pierre-Paul’s fumble recovery, Carr needed three plays to hit new tight end Martellus Bennett for a 12-yard score and a 17-7 Giants lead. He finished off another eight-play, 48-yard drive when Isaiah Stanback made a nifty one-hand grab to push New York’s lead to 24-7.
Tebow – the most glorified backup QB in the history of football -- can have the spotlight while Carr (6-of-10 for 48 yards and two TDs) slowly blends back into the background with the Giants’ full confidence in their Plan B. As for Manning, he and the first unit weren’t too shabby either. Manning was 4-of-8 for 60 yards while orchestrating two scoring drives, the last completed with a D.J. Ware two-yard plunge that gave the Giants their first lead.
Bennett led all starters with three catches for 27 yards and a touchdown. Victor Cruz caught one pass for 28 yards, but let another slip through his hands. Ramses Barden, starting for Domenik Hixon (hamstring), had one catch for 14 yards.
"I thought the offense did a pretty good job, moved the ball pretty well," Manning said at halftime on the Giants’ TV broadcast. "I would’ve liked to get a couple more touchdowns, but overall I thought we were pretty sharp. (The young WRs) were doing well. They’re catching on tonight. That’s the way we try to practice. … If they’re in there they’ve got to know all my checks, every play we might get to, so they’re getting caught up."
Defensively, the Giants registered six sacks on Jaguars quarterbacks.
What it all means: Everyone is healthy, so if you’re a Giants fan that’s what matters. However, preseason is the time to unearth a few diamonds, and there were rookies and newcomers who boosted their early candidacy to crack the Opening Night roster. There were also, however, the usual array of frustrating mistakes. Two muffed punt returns was the difference in this game.
"Catch a punt, twice," said coach Tom Coughlin, unhappy with sloppy play despite the signs of talent from his youngsters, "and you're not going to be in that position of having to come back at the end."
- Bennett and Stanback – two former Dallas Cowboys – accounted for two of the Giants’ scores.
- The Jaguars dissected Prince Amukamara on their first possession in driving 89 yards on 13 plays to grab a 7-0 lead. The television broadcast showed the Giants’ first-round pick last season receiving a lecture from defensive coordinator Perry Fewell. On the next defensive possession, Amukamara forced a fumble that set up Ware’s touchdown.
- It wasn’t only Amukamara who struggled on that first possession. The Giants first-team defense allowed an offense that last season was last in total yards and tied for 28th in scoring to drive 89 yards on 13 plays. The Jaguars are without starting running back Maurice Jones-Drew (holdout) and are starting the unproven Blaine Gabbert at quarterback.
- Expect Mark Herzlich to push Chase Blackburn for playing time at middle linebacker and perhaps take away the starter’s position. Herzlich (two tackles) played hard and showed flashes of the projected first-round pick he was before his battle with Ewing's sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer.
- Adrian Tracy was the Giants’ sixth-round pick out of William and Mary in 2010. Drafted as a linebacker, Tracy spent all of last season on the practice squad and was eventually shifted to defensive end. He impressed in his first game, leveling Gabbart and later sacking the Jaguars’ signal caller to force a fumble.
- Cornerback Jayron Hosley, the 31st-overall pick of the 2012 draft, had his moments. He also muffed a punt return that led to a Jacksonville touchdown at the end of the first half. Safety Will Hill is facing an uphill battle, but had four tackles. He also missed a critical tackle of Keith Toston that resulted in a late TD and the two-point conversion.
- Rueben Randle (two catches, 27 yards, TD) made the most noise in the battle for playing time at wide receiver. Randle made a nice adjustment to grab Ryan Perrilloux’s fade pass early in the fourth. Like Hosley, Jerrel Jernigan fumbled a punt that resulted in a turnover inside the Giants’ 10.
- First-round pick David Wilson ran for 43 yards on seven carries (and caught two passes for 26 yards), including an impressive 26-yard sprint late in the third quarter, the Giants’ longest run of the night and. Big Blue was dead last in 2011 in rushing average (3.5) and YPG (89.2). Wilson has talent to help dramatically improve those numbers.
- Memo to the NFL: Get cracking on reinstating your regular officiating crew, because the replacements you deployed to Jacksonville cannot under any circumstance work a regular-season game. In a nutshell, the game was supposed to end when Perrilloux crossed the line of scrimmage that should have resulted in a 10-second runoff. But the clueless and oblivious men in stripes went to replay – since when are penalties subject to replay review? – to confirm the ruling on the field. With two seconds left the Giants were gifted one last play and Perrilloux was sacked to put an end to that fiasco.
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