One night after their co-tenants, the New York Jets, had their own big pre-season win inside a rain-soaked New Meadowlands Stadium, a huge damper was placed on the New York Giants’ upcoming season in Big Blue’s 41-13 preseason victory over the
On the plus side, the Giants followed an uninspiring preseason-opening loss in Carolina last week with a dominating performance before an ESPN national television audience on Monday night.
But, New York would gladly trade the win for the health of starting cornerback Terrell Thomas, whose season most likely ended on somewhat of a freak injury involving teammate Jason Pierre-Paul just before halftime.
Pierre-Paul, last year’s first-round pick at defensive end, is expected to take a huge step forward in his third year and be an integral part of the Giant’s defense this season. Instead, it was Pierre-Paul’s miss-step which inadvertently took out Thomas, who led the Giants in total tackles (101), solo tackles (86), interceptions (5), and deflected passes while starting all 16 games for New York last season.
With only 22 seconds left in the opening half, Pierre-Paul dove at the heels of Bears’ starting quarterback Jay Cutler. As Pierre-Paul lay on the ground, Thomas pursued Cutler as well, but he quickly fell to the ground as the 6-foot, 199-pound Thomas was accidentally leg-whipped in his own leg by the powerfully built, 6-foot-5, 270-pound Pierre-Paul.
Thomas walked off of the field under his own power, but as the second half began, the announcement came that the corner who was one of only four NFL players to record at least five interceptions each of the past two years had suffered a torn right anterior cruciate ligament.
Although no official word had come from the Giants’ medical staff following the game, it’s widely assumed that Thomas will be lost for the remainder of the season.
Adding not just insult, but further injury to Thomas’ accident was the added loss of depth at an already depleted cornerback position, as it seems he Giants have cornered the market on corner injuries this offseason.
Late in the fourth quarter, reserve cornerback Brian Witherspoon was carted off the field with a knee injury. The Giants are already without rookie first-round draft pick Prince Amukamara (broken foot) likely until October.
As for those who remained healthy enough to stay on the field, there was plenty for the Giants’ coaching staff and the team’s embattled general manager Jerry Reese to like.
The Giants took a 10-3 lead on a nice 18-yard burst up the middle by running back Brandon Jacobs on the first play of the second quarter off an audible by starting quarterback Eli Manning, who was simply a decent 8-for-16, for 78 yards, with no touchdown passes and no turnovers.
Running hard and with a purpose, Jacobs was a welcome sight for the Giants and their fans.
After a pair of 1,000-yard seasons in 2007 and 2008, Jacobs’ role was reduced with the emergence of fellow backfield mate Ahmad Bradshaw.
As a result, Jacobs had often sulked, gave less than his best effort, and was visibly upset over a lack of playing time, including the ugly incident of Jacobs tossing his helmet a few rows into the crowd in during an early-season loss in Indianapolis last season.
On Monday night though, Jacobs looked sharp and resembled his old powerful self, finishing with 48 yards on six carries while showing a team-fist attitude off the field.
Jacobs, who agreed to a pay cut so the Giants could retain the former free agent Bradshaw in the offseason, vocally cheered in support of a nice 13-yard scamper by Bradshaw (5 carries, 15 yards) which helped set up a 37-yard field goal by kicker Rhys Lloyd (subbing for injured starting kicker Lawrence Tynes) that gave the Giants a 13-3 second-quarter lead.
Overall, New York’s revamped offensive line in part, helped the Giants rush for 218 yards on 27 carries.
Nearly half of those however, came on a single play, behind offensive line reserves, as rookie Da’Rel Scott, a seventh-round pick out of Maryland, finished off the last of 28 unanswered Giants points with dazzling 97-yard touchdown run on his only carry, to put the Giants up 41-6, with 2:46 left in the game.
The run was certainly enough to get the attention of Giants’ coaches, but Scott remains a long shot to make the team with a few backs still ahead of him on the depth chart.
Quarterback David Carr staked a good claim in his fight with Sage Rosenfels to be Manning’s backup, after completing 9 of 11 passes for 84 yards and two touchdown passes.
Carr gave the Giants a 20-6 halftime lead on a five-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Domenic Hixon with 35 seconds left in the first half. The catch was one of two made by Hixon for a total of 13 yards, as the sixth-year receiver returning from injury after missing all of last season, continues to compete for the Giants’ third receiver position.
Hixon had some competition on that front from second-year receiver Victor Cruz, who led the Giants with 40 receiving yards on three carries (second behind wide receiver Mario Manningham’s four receptions).
Cruz made an especially nice grab to haul in a 21-yard completion from Manning on a well-defended fourth-down pass to keep the Giants’ third possession going. The catch was reminiscent of the great catches Cruz made in his breakout preseason game against the Jets as a rookie last season.
Later in the half however, Cruz was scolded on the sidelines by offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride for some poor route running on a third-down red zone play that broke down for only a modest gain to Manningham, causing the Giants to settle for a field goal.
On special teams, Carr’s first touchdown pass was set up off a blocked punt by Greg Jones, and Devin Thomas gave the Giants’ normally anemic kick return game a much-needed jolt with a 73-yard kickoff return that set up Jacobs’ touchdown run four plays later.
The Giants also improved on covering kicks, although they allowed returner Johnny Knox to return one kickoff 45 yards.
Promising but inconsistent second-year punter Matt Dodge was pushed by former Jet Steve Weatherford (2 punts for 49.5 yards), and he responded, punting two balls for an average of 54 yards, while putting one kick inside the 20 yard-line.
Defensively, reserve cornerback Michael Coe, with his third team since 2007 (Indianapolis, Jacksonville), took a page from Thomas, leading the Giants in tackles (six) for the second straight week.
Reserve linebacker Spencer Paysinger not only has one of the best names on the Giants’ roster, but he continued to impress the coaching staff with his solid work ethic, totaling five tackles and three assists.
Linebacker Jonathan Goff recorded the Giants’ only sack and linebacker Mark Herzlich continued his inspiring story from bone cancer survivor to undrafted rookie free agent making a good case to make the Giants’ roster, with some solid special teams play and New York’s only interception, helping to prevent a late Chicago touchdown with 3:07 left in the game.
With all of the bright spots stepping forward however, the loss of the fourth-year Thomas, who should have made the Pro Bowl last year, overshadowed an otherwise good night for New York.
Starting defensive end Justin Tuck called Thomas’ injury “devastating,” telling ESPN that he thought Thomas “was going to have another great year,” while labeling Thomas’ loss as “a big void.”
One that primarily figures to be filled by 2007 first-round draft pick Aaron Ross.
Jacobs echoed Tuck’s comments, saying “I’m heartbroken,” while detailing the defensive leader the Giants are about to lose in Thomas on the field. “He’s the mouthy one out there,” Jacobs told ESPN.
Unfortunately for the Giants, at least on the field, Thomas figures to be silenced until next year.