The New York Giants‘ starters played far later into their third and final preseason game than the New England Patriots‘, but New England still emerged victorious 22-20 in Week 3 of the 2021 NFL preseason.
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Cam Newton got the first quarter of play — and the only work with the first-team offense — in what may be a sign of how secure the starting job is for Week 1.
Newton only dropped back six times. One of those dropbacks resulted in an interception, which actually came from a well-thrown pass that hit his receiver in the hands before being taken away from him on the way down to the ground.
The 2015 NFL MVP hasn’t done anything all preseason to lose the starting job.
Cam Newton vs. Mac Jones: 2021 NFL preseason
|PFF Stat||Cam Newton||Mac Jones|
|Average depth of target||6.5||8.9|
|Adjust comp. %||70.0%||81.6%|
|Big-time throw %||4.8%||10.3%|
|Turnover-worthy play %||0.0%||0.0%|
*Data from Week 3 is pending review
Mac Jones was next up, but unlike previous games when the first-team offensive line stayed with him for a period, the rookie quarterback ran with a full second-team offense tonight. The difference was significant.
Jones still looked sharp and made multiple big-time throws without any catastrophic errors, but he was under more pressure than previous games and took a couple of ill-advised sacks.
The rookie passer completed 10-of-14 pass attempts for 156 yards and his first passing touchdown of the preseason. He looks ready to start sooner rather than later.
I think the fact Mac Jones is working with a full second-team offense this week says Newton's the starter Week 1.
The fact Jones is still playing well with the 2nd team suggests it won't be for that long.
— Sam Monson (@PFF_Sam) August 29, 2021
Damien Harris played seven snaps as the starter, carrying the ball four times for 29 yards, 11 of which came after contact.
After the starters left the field, Rhamondre Stevenson reached the end zone on the ground but was largely bottled up and held to 23 yards on five attempts.
J.J. Taylor was the one back to get consistent production, rushing for 51 yards on six attempts.
Second-year receiver Kristian Wilkerson led the team in receiving snaps (26) and yards (72), forging a quick connection with Mac Jones at quarterback for some important first downs.
The starting offensive line played just nine snaps before taking a seat on the bench and letting the second-team take it the rest of the way.
Though Mac Jones was under pressure more than in previous games, the pressure was coming late in the play and was as much on the coverage. Yodny Cajuste was the only Patriots offensive lineman who allowed more than one pressure.
Mac Jones: Percentage of dropbacks under pressure, 2021 NFL preseason
|Week||Dropbacks||Pressured dropbacks||Pressure %|
The Patriots pass-rusher played 13 snaps, 10 of which were spent rushing the quarterback, and he recorded three total pressures pending grade review.
Ja’Whaun Bentley played 20 snaps and made multiple impact plays early in the game. He picked up a sack as part of a collapsing pocket around Daniel Jones and notched two defensive stops overall.
New acquisition Shaun Wade was enjoying a solid game at cornerback before almost becoming the villain late on when he got physically dominated for a last-gasp touchdown that gave the Giants a chance to tie the game with a 2-point conversion attempt.
Wade had forced one incompletion before that play.
Daniel Jones received a lengthy workout in the final preseason game, getting 39 snaps before taking a seat on the bench. It was an eventful game for him, too, as he was under significant duress from the Patriots from the outset.
Big mistakes have blighted Jones’ career in the NFL so far, and he threw a bad interception in the end zone, putting the ball back across his body, trying to sync up with his receiver and cut against the flow of the chasing defense.
The third-year quarterback committed another turnover-worthy play later, leaving a pass behind his intended receiver on an out-route and allowing the cornerback to break it up.
Jones did rebound and showed some good play before the half, notably hitting his tight end up the seam for a touchdown.
Booker carried the ball seven times for just 14 yards behind a line that was failing to generate much movement. Ten of his 14 rushing yards came after contact tonight.
|Player||Attempts||Yards||Yards before contact per attempt|
Sterling Shepard was the team’s clear No. 1 receiver in this game, playing 36 snaps with the starters and leading the team in targets (six) and catches (five).
Shepard gained 23 yards after the catch and 15 after contact with the ball in his hands.
The Giants' offensive line struggled early, with last year’s first-round pick Andrew Thomas continuing to look overmatched. Thomas pass blocked for 28 snaps and coughed up two sacks, a hit and multiple other lost reps.
Andrew Thomas absolutely destroyed on the 3rd play of the game, Uche sacks Daniel Jones….
On the bright side, Jones saw the pressure and protected the football. pic.twitter.com/OZD8DT2YAk
— Alex Wilson (@AlexWilsonESM) August 29, 2021
Dexter Lawrence showed the kind of impact playmaker he can be in the middle of the defensive line for the Giants. He played 14 total snaps and made two defensive stops, showing good awareness of screens and limiting the space to fit the ball in to running backs.
Blake Martinez made one of the plays of the preseason for his interception. He turned and ran the seam with a wide receiver only to take the ball away from him on their way to the ground after Cam Newton had delivered a well-thrown ball into the coverage.
Sixth-round rookie Rodarius Williams continued to have an incredibly active preseason. He played 32 snaps, the most among all Giants' defensive backs. He made four total tackles and forced two incompletions from three targets into his coverage.