CLEVELAND — Next week.
If you want to see the real Giants — you know, the starting players — on the field in a preseason game — your time is coming. All those that are healthy will be out there in the preseason finale against the Patriots. And not merely for cameo appearances. For a full half, at least.
That action will give everyone involved a better feel for the readiness of the Giants for the real thing, Sept. 12 against the Broncos in the season opener. What transpired Sunday on a sun-splashed afternoon against the Browns was not intended for that purpose. Head coach Joe Judge went exclusively with his backups — as did Browns coach Kevin Stefanski —to protect the marquee players and continue to evaluate the bottom end of the roster.
Daniel Jones will get his first preseason action in Foxboro, Mass.
Without him, and all the other mainstream players on offense, there was not much in the way of, well, anything for the Giants, as far as scoring or moving the ball. They kept things simple and tried to get out of town as healthy as possible, and accomplished that in a 17-13 loss to the Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium.
Judge, after seeing Jones practice against the Browns’ defense for two days in Berea, Ohio, felt that work was sufficient enough for the third-year quarterback to sit this one out. Judge opted to keep all his starters on the sideline, knowing those units will see extensive playing time next Sunday against the Patriots in the preseason finale.
“I don’t see playing as a punishment specific to anything in terms of what a performance would dictate to us,’’ Judge said this past week. “I just want to make sure we keep our overall players’ loads in consideration going into it because it’ll also be a quick turnaround going from Cleveland, getting back home, training up to Boston and going against New England for a couple of days before playing the preseason game, through which we’re going to truly treat as more of that regular season dress rehearsal.’’
Unlike the preseason opener, when Judge used his starting offensive line for 18 snaps in the loss to the Jets, there were no starting offensive linemen making an appearance in this one. That meant the all-reserve group of left tackle Jackson Barton, left guard Kenny Wiggins, center Jonotthan Harrison, right guard Ted Larson and right tackle Chris Slade got the chance for extended action.
The Giants on defense also went with an all-backup approach.
It was, as expected, a mixed bag. Case Keenum, the Browns backup quarterback, hit KhaDarel Hodge on a 12-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter, the pass completed despite solid coverage by cornerback Madre Harper, a young player squarely on the roster bubble. Backup quarterback Mike Glennon, after a lackluster showing in his Giants preseason debut last week, was much better in this one. He went 6-for-6 for 57 yards on a drive late in the first quarter that cashed in with Devontae Booker’s 1-yard scoring leap. The most significant play was Glennon’s well-placed toss to tight end Rysen John for 24 yards.
Glennon finished up completing 10 of 13 passes for 86 yards, looking more like the competent backup the Giants believe he is. Lest we forget, Glennon was playing behind a backup offensive line and was throwing to none of the receivers who will be featured in the regular season.
Brian Lewerke, after only three practices with the Giants, went in at quarterback in the second half. Lewerke was signed after Clayton Thorson was waived/injured with a concussion.
The Browns took the lead in the third quarter when John Kelly ran for 18 yards and then ran for a touchdown from 5 yards out. Lewerke ran for 20 yards and then found David Sills for a 8-yard touchdown connection midway through the fourth quarter to cut the Browns’ lead to 14-13. On the two-point conversion try, rookie running back Gary Brightwell was stopped for no gain.
Trailing by four points, Lewerke got the Giants past midfield and into Browns territory on the final series but no further, with a desperation interception at the final horn.
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