Keidel: Preseason Games Always A Tough Gauge, But We Did Learn A Little From Giants-Jets

Jason Keidel
August 09, 2019 - 12:44 pm
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Only our two local teams -- both of which already play in a swamp -- could be delayed by wet weather. 

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When the thunder stopped clapping and the fans started cheering Thursday night, the Jets and Giants played a football game, trading body blows in the glow of MetLife Stadium in the iconic Snoopy Bowl. The Giants won 31-22.

Both clubs gave us scraps from their stars and their playbooks, fueling the argument that the NFL should whack two preseason games from the schedule and add two to the regular season

But if we're going to rip Big Blue for drafting Daniel Jones, then we should at least tip the cap to Jones for playing well in his maiden snaps under center. In his first drive as a Giant, Jones threw five crisp passes, hit the target each time and threw a dart into the end zone for his lone score of the game. The touchdown pass did zip 20 yards through a keyhole and into the bosom of Bennie Fowler. 

Giants quarterback Daniel Jones (8) celebrates after throwing a touchdown pass against the Jets on Aug. 8, 2019, at MetLife Stadium.
Vincent Carchietta/USA TODAY Images

Sam Darnold looked equally sharp in his only march downfield, completing four of five passes for 68 yards and a TD. But we expect Darnold to be a beast this year. The Jets QB has the size, stock and poise of a QB from central casting. Darnold showed us enough promise on a poor team in 2018 to think that he will make a quantum leap on the 2019 team. 

But the most prized offensive players not playing quarterback -- Saquon Barkley and Le'Veon Bell -- did not gain a yard, touch the ball or play a snap. NFL coaches, forever neurotic about every run, route and tackling technique, live for these sweaty summer moments when they can take a jeweler's eye to their backups. For the real fans of pro football, the preseason is a cruel prelude to the regular season, when they can root for real, rev up their fantasy rosters and host parties without the threat of thunderstorms. 

We saw that Jets tight end Chris Herndon looks like a looming star, yet he won't play the first four games because he will be suspended. Likewise, Giants wide receiver Golden Tate looked good and engaged in the offense, yet Tate, too, will miss four games for taking a fertility drug

About the only thing we can bet on based on the action Thursday night is the meat-hook reality that Davis Webb, who switched MetLife locker rooms last year and threw just as may interceptions as completions (two), is not long for the NFL world. Nor is Jets kicker Chandler Catanzaro, who whiffed on two extra points. The NBC announcers clearly and correctly wondered why the Jets rolled the dice on Catanzaro when they had a Pro Bowl kicker last year.

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We know the Jets have a beefed-up defense. We know the Giants have an improved offensive line. But we just didn't need Thursday night to prove it, assuming we even saw it. There are undefeated teams in the preseason that stink up the league and winless teams in the preseason that reach the Super Bowl. 

Everyone in uniform was happy and employed, musing profoundly on their respective futures, as Bruce Beck roamed each sideline for sound bites. This will not last, of course, as both the Jets and Giants must shave their rosters most drastically before September, when the live action begins, bursting dozens of dream bubbles for young men who have just one goal in life -- to play in the NFL. 

Preseason is a funhouse distortion of the real season, an occasional tune-up for starters but more of an audition for backups. The main reason fans attend these games is they're forced to buy tickets to these soporific, summer games as part of their season-ticket package, a money grab of the first order. We understand why they play them but cringe before the sprawling, four-game set. Auburn and Oregon are playing a crucial game in the first week of the college football season, though neither needed a practice game first. 

If we're honest, this game was merely a peek into the Giants' QB quandary. Eli Manning, the most successful quarterback in franchise history, threw one pass, but everyone expects him to start in Week 1. If you wanted proof that Jones belongs in the league, you have his five throws as Exhibit A. Cynics will assert that Jones played a big-league game in a minor-league setting. Either way, it’s tough to judge the exhibits of an exhibition game. Even if it’s the Snoopy Bowl.  

Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel