Four downs: Takeaways from Giants vs. Bengals


The New York Giants defeated the Cincinnati Bengals 25-22 on Sunday night after a slow start to win their second preseason game. And so, only one game remains in the Giants’ preseason.

The Giants preach the “trial” throughout the off-season, training camp, and pre-season. We’ve been saying all along that the most important part of preseason is improving one game over another. So what did the Giants improve on in week 2 of the preseason, what do they need to improve on, and what can we infer from their performance?

Down First – Who Got the Start

For the most part, the Giants played all their starters who were healthy to play. But while that also included wide receiver Kenny Golladay, we didn’t see him until the Giants trotted out of their heavy goal-line pack.

Instead, it was Collin Johnson and David Sills V who joined Wan’Dale Robinson in the Giants’ 11-man pack. Both players continued their strong play from practice and the first game of the preseason. Johnson proved to be a reliable option again, as he caught several short passes on the Giants’ first two drives. Most notably, he showed great concentration to pull in a high-ish pass in traffic that initially bounced out of his hands.

Sills made back-to-back catches on the Giants’ final drive, showing off his catch beam to make tough catches against tight cover.

Antonio Williams got the start with Saquon Barkley, Matt Breida and Gary Brightwell not playing, and he made the most of it. Williams continues to run fast, with a good burst and contact balance. He also showed up in pass protection and has made a case for forcing his way into the roster.

Second down – Secondary concerns

The Giants secondary, except for Adoree’ Jackson, was a concern in Week 1. And how the secondary would react was one of the big things we looked at this week.

The good news is that the Bengals offense didn’t do much against the Giants’ starting defense – at least not in the box score. However, that is complicated by the fact that the Giants’ starting defense went against Bengal’s backup attack.

While the Bengals had very few passing yards, the Giants corners had some worrying reps. Aaron Robinson was defeated on an out-route in the final game of the Bengals’ first drive that would have converted the first down, but a poor pitch resulted in an unreachable ball.

That theme was repeated several times. On a later ride, Jackson was knocked down the far sidelines, but Brandon Allen knocked over his receiver. Finally, Robinson’s tendency to get overly “gripping” reappeared in the end zone. Robinson not only kept in touch with the receiver throughout the game, but he never got around to looking for the ball. It’s a game that could be called pass interference – giving the Bengals another series of downs on the goal line – but again, the pass was bad.

We had hoped that the secondary Giants would take a step forward between the first and second game. Instead, it’s disturbing to see the Giants’ starting secondary struggling with backup receivers.

Third Down – Special Teams

The Giants’ special teams were a problem in the first game, which remained a problem tonight.

The Giants gave up big kick-returns from the Bengals, one of which went almost the entire game for a touchdown. That 77-yard return actually resulted in a concussion for kicker Graham Gano. The Giants’ own return units didn’t get much done as a penalty propped up the attack and CJ Board fiddled with the ball, allowing the Bengals to make a touchdown.

The Giants’ overall performance was sloppy for the most part on special teams. Cover teams were not disciplined in their lane integrity and their blockers were not performing well enough.

However, there was one bright spot in punter Jamie Gillan. Gillan has proven to be an excellent pointed punter with great control to stop the ball and not make favorable bounces for the receiving team. In fact, Gillan jumped right in and proved to be a capable kicker after Gano went down with a concussion.

Fourth Down – Will the Giants See? each appetizer?

The Giants played their starters in each of the first two preseason games, while neither the New England Patriots nor the Cincinnati Bengals played their starters. So while the Giants may have had two chances to see how they compare to two playoff teams, those opportunities never came on the field.

This appears to be one of the issues with the NFL’s decision to make the fourth preseason game a regular season game. There used to be a set rhythm for pre-season games and teams could rely on a certain competition level as a benchmark at certain times.

Now some teams let the starters rest for the entire preseason, other teams give their starters work.

That can make evaluating the team tricky, especially for those of us who may not know what the coaches are looking for in a given situation. While we can look at the execution, it can be difficult to determine what is due to the level of competition or if anything would have happened regardless of who the opponent was.

Hopefully the Giants get a glimpse of the New York Jets starting the charge and the Giants can measure their starters against another team’s first-teamers – even if it’s the Jets.

Honorable Mention: Davis Webb and Alex Bachman

Despite playing with a center that had never played center before, Webb developed two scoring runs and finished the game 22 of 27 for 204 yards and 2 touchdowns. Webb dealt with scatter shots and was consistently accurate, even on the go.

Bachman may be the player of the game, catching 11 of 14 goals for 122 yards and two touchdowns — and a great team special approach. We don’t know how the Giants’ receiving depth map shakes out, but it’s suddenly an interesting conversation.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voice
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.


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