The Giant Insider Online

NFL Preseason: Mayfield, Browns expose Giants, 20-10

The New York Giants and the Cleveland Browns both came out hoping to prove themselves to be better teams than they were last year. In some instances, they did, but in most areas, they did not.

“First one is in the books,” said head coach Pat Shurmur. “I mentioned before the game, it’s important that we learn about our team in these preseason games. You want to win the games, and it’s always the same in the locker room when you don’t win. You get that feeling of disappointment that you didn’t win the game, but on the flip side, there were moments, there were stretches of this game that were positive, there were things that we did that were positive.”

Wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. dressed for the game, but did not play. The Giants committed no turnovers and, more importantly, did not report any injuries on the night.

The Giants got an immediate boost from their first round pick, running back Saquon Barkley, who ripped off a 39-yard run on his first NFL touch. The Giants would end that drive with a 42-yard field goal by Aldrick Rosas, but the drive was all but dead until Browns rookie cornerback Denzel Ward was called for taunting on a third down stop, extending the series.

The first-string offense sputtered for the most part. Quarterback Eli Manning was 4-of-7 for only 26 yards and couldn’t get much going, especially in the screen game.

Barkley may have had a 39-yard rip to start things off, but he was throttled after that, rushing for just four yards on his other four carries. Jonathan Stewart had a dropped pass on screen and failed to pick up linebacker Mychal Kendricks on a blitz, which resulted in a sack of Manning.

“There’s always going to be a lot to improve on,” said Manning. “That’s why you play the preseason games. New offense, a lot of new pieces. I think every series, every play is important to learn from. We got to look at the film hard. There’s a lot of places we can improve. Some of it is just making plays, but also just fundamentals, and just make sure we’re doing the little things correctly.”

The offense fared much worse with the backups and Davis Webb under center. Webb completed just three of his first 14 passes for 27 yards before head coach Pat Shurmur sent in some high-percentage crossing patterns to calm him down. Webb was wild high and wide with his passes and showed how green he was by not thorns the ball away when in trouble and mismanaging the clock at the end of the first half, although some might say that assessment is unfair.

Webb did lead the Giants to a touchdown, scrambling for a first down in the red zone after a turnover on special teams created an opportunity. Running back Jalen Simmons would put the Giants on the board with a 5-yard run right afterward. He finished 9-of-22 for 70 yards on the night. He clearly needs work.

The Giants ran for 134 yards. Simmons (7 rushes , 38 yards), Wayne Gallman (4 rec, 33 yards) looked fluid as did rookie Robert Martin. Quarterback Kyle Lauletta (6-of-9, 48 yards) played a controlled style, but made few mistakes.

The Giants’ defense appeared to be a little slack, especially in pass coverage. They got minimal pressure from their front seven on Browns starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor (5-of-5, 99 yards) who found tight end David Njoku for a 36-yard score. Njoku released off the line and quickly got behind inside linebacker Alec Ogletree, beating him easily down the right side of the field.

Njoku would score again versus the Giants second unit in the second quarter on a 10-yard pass from rookie Baker Mayfield. The Giants’ defense appeared to be dumbfounded over who was assigned to Njoku on the play. In the fourth quarter, Mayfield hit Antonio Callaway who had Giants cornerback Leonard Johnson by a step over the middle for a 54-yard touchdown catch-and-run. Safety Orion Stewart whiffed on Callaway, giving the receiver a clear path to the end zone.

There was some good news, however. The Giants’ rush defense was stout, allowing the Browns only 39 yards on the ground in the first half and 50 for the entire game. Safety Andrew Adams led the club with seven tackles (six solo). Defensive tackle Robert Thomas had a sack.

On special teams, Hunter Sharp was the primary kickoff and punt returner. He had a 42-yard kick return early on, but his one punt return went for minus-3 yards. Long-snapper Zak DeOssie recovered a fumble, which led to the Giants’ lone touchdown several plays later. Punter Riley Dixon has a decent debut, averaging 40 yards per attempt on ten punts with a long of 62 and three inside the 20.

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