EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – It has now been almost four full quarters during the preseason that the New York Giants had Eli Manning at quarterback. During those four quarters they managed a total of four first downs and 88 total yards.
Is there reason to panic?
The answer could be yes if you were watching the offensive line and running game struggle. The Giants managed 5 yards on 12 carries in the first half of Saturday's 21-20 win over the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium.
Then again it's only preseason, where the results are rarely indicative of what will happen when the games count. Teams have stunk in the preseason before and been fine when the lights turned on.
The Giants could also consider the importance of left guard Justin Pugh, who has missed the past two games. Maybe his presence is that vital to a paper-thin offensive line.
That might be the Giants' only hope right now. There has been nothing in the preseason to indicate that their offense is destined to be a top-10 unit as it was last year. And they know it.
"We didn't do well enough," center Weston Richburg told the television broadcast. "We didn't give the quarterback enough time to throw, and we didn't open up enough holes. We have a lot of work to do. But these games are good because they show us what we need to do before the real thing rolls around, so we have another week to get things going in the right direction."
QB depth chart: Manning was running for his life quite often for the second straight Saturday. He was consistently taking big hits. After a while, he was employing a throw-and-duck approach. Manning finished 10-of-15 for 65 yards with an interception.
But at least he survived. That might be the biggest takeaway from Saturday's game.
As for his backup, Ryan Nassib flashed improvement. He threw two touchdown passes, both to Tavarres King. The first TD pass late in the third quarter was Nassib's first touchdown in 33 preseason pass attempts, while the second put the Giants ahead with 2:25 left.
A surprise player who impressed: CB Eli Apple. The first-round pick played almost every defensive snap in the first half. The Giants weren't kidding about wanting to get him work and experience. Apple passed all the tests. The Jets threw in his direction three times. All three were incomplete. You could see the talent that made him the No. 10 overall pick. Apple ran step for step with the receiver each time and got his head turned to make plays on the ball. It was an impressive display.
The only negative was a missed tackle on a running play near the line of scrimmage late in the first half.
Who got hurt? LB Jonathan Casillas (ribs), CB Leon Hall (concussion), LB B.J. Goodson (concussion), Nikita Whitlock (foot). All four left the game and did not return. Casillas exited early in the first quarter after a strong opening drive and went for X-rays. Whitlock took a cart to the locker room in the second half.
Who didn't get hurt? Wide receiver Victor Cruz. He played 29 snaps without incident in his return to game action for the first time in 685 days. Cruz caught one pass for 4 yards.
Maybe that player could start: OL Bobby Hart. He received his second straight start at left guard in place of Pugh. Again, the results were underwhelming. Hart was flagged for a false start penalty and -- along with the rest of the line -- couldn't open any holes for the running backs. There wasn't enough push. These two games were Hart's mini-audition to earn his way into the starting lineup. Doubt he did it.
When it was starters vs. starters, the Giants looked ...: Awful offensively and pretty good defensively. It wasn't much different than when the Giants played Buffalo last week. The defense allowed one score -- on a nicely-placed pass from Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to Eric Decker -- directly off a turnover by the Giants' offense.
There was enough to think the Giants' defense has potential to be a solid unit this season. The offense ... there is serious reason to be leery about its prospects.
One reason to be concerned: The offensive line. It was again a problem, much like it was the previous week in Buffalo. And it wasn't one player; it was the entire unit. The Giants ran for 5 yards on 12 carries in the first half, and Manning was ducking and throwing simultaneously seemingly on every pass. It was another poor performance that has to have the Giants' brass worried. They might be pressed into making a move after not upgrading the offensive line this offseason.
Odell Beckham's dilemma: There was a play in the second quarter where Manning led star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. right into Jets safety Calvin Pryor. If Beckham had made a play on the ball, he would've been unprotected and pummeled. So Beckham pulled up, and the pass was intercepted by Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis.
The question is: Do the Giants want Beckham trying to catch that ball in a preseason game when it means taking a potentially dangerous hit? It's a situation that arose last season as well, with a similar result.
King should be rewarded: All King has done this summer has been make plays. He was one of the few wide receivers last week to make any plays in Buffalo, and he did it again Saturday against the Jets.
On the Giants' third-quarter touchdown drive, King had a 20-yard end-around followed by a 27-yard touchdown reception. He also caught the game-winning 11-yard TD. Based on performance in practice and games, he deserves a spot on the final 53-man roster. It's as simple as that.
Play of the game: Kerry Wynn's 73-yard interception for a TD. Wynn made his presence felt in his return. After missing the first two preseason games, the defensive end made a diving/rolling interception in the fourth quarter. He then got up, impressively sidestepped a tackle attempt by Jets quarterback Bryce Petty and raced to the end zone for a 73-yard score. Wynn also had several other quality snaps. That groin must be fine.