Joint practices have become more important than NFL preseason games. That fact was reflected by Giants coach Brian Daboll resting 17 of his top players for Friday night’s preseason opener against the Lions after two competitive joint practices with Detroit earlier in the week.
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So instead of focusing too much on a game decided mostly by players who won’t be on an NFL roster in three weeks — the Lions won 21-16, for those interested — it’s more useful to review throughout the week. So here are the Giants who helped their cause in Detroit.
S Jason Pinnock
Pinnock has already earned the starting job at safety next to Xavier McKinney with a strong training camp. But Daboll would still like to see him get about 10-12 snaps on Friday night.
He only showed enough in five games that Daboll pulled him. It’s hard to be more productive in five snaps than Pinnock, who looks like a varsity player against JV.
Pinnock caught a floating pass on the first play from scrimmage and returned it 17 yards to the Lions’ 32 yards. drive. He closed the possession with tight coverage to force an incompletion on fourth down.
That was all Daboll needed to see, while Pinnock spent the rest of the night on the bench with the starters. There’s no doubt he’ll be with that group the rest of the way.
PINNOCK FIRST PLAY OF THE GAME!
📺: NBC4 pic.twitter.com/BveDZ4HbC7
– New York Giants (@Giants) August 11, 2023
If Pinnock gets a start at safety this week, Belton grabs the third safety job. Belton has shown an incredible nose for the ball since his college days, when he had five interceptions in his final season at Iowa. Belton tied the Giants’ team highs with two interceptions and two fumble recoveries as a rookie last season despite playing just 35 percent of the defensive snaps.
Belton has been around the ball a lot this week. He had an interception of a tipped Nate Sudfeld pass in the second quarter of Friday’s game. But his best takeaway came during Wednesday’s practice when he cleanly took the ball from Lions running back David Montgomery’s hands. Belton also had another hit in Wednesday’s practice that forced a fumble.
Straight stripped by Dane Belton 😳 pic.twitter.com/c09Lg4MBTY
– New York Giants (@Giants) August 9, 2023
Giants defensive coordinator Wink Martindale often uses three safety packages. He’ll certainly want to find ways to get Belton on the field if the 2022 fourth-round pick continues his pick-up production.
Fox deserved help with Pinnock’s interception, as the outside linebacker hit Sudfeld from behind as he was throwing, causing the ball to fly into Pinnock’s arms. The turnover-producing pressure capped off a strong week for Fox, who struggled to overtake Oshane Ximines for a backup rusher role.
Fox dominated the second-team red zone period at the end of Wednesday’s practice, sniffing a screen in the backfield and recording a sack. He played 28 percent of the defensive snaps last season as a rookie, compared to Ximines who played 45 percent of the snaps. The numbers could flip if Fox continues to be a disruptive force.
McFadden didn’t make any head plays this week, but was known to be the team’s first inside linebacker behind Bobby Okereke in the same practice. McFadden started Friday alongside Carter Coughlin with Okereke resting.
McFadden, who had a tackle on Friday’s opening kickoff, alternated with Darrian Beavers until this week. The Beavers apparently have Friday night planned as he returns from a torn ACL. He hasn’t looked explosive this summer, which opens the door for McFadden to get the starting job.
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Since Riley is a seventh-round rookie on a team of established veterans, it’s not easy to project a role for him. But injuries helped provide opportunities, and he took advantage of them this week.
Dexter Lawrence and Leonard Williams are out Friday night, while A’Shawn Robinson and Rakeem Nunez-Roches are dealing with injuries. Those veterans are at the top of the defensive line depth chart, but there is room for at least one more position player. A triceps injury suffered by second-year pro Ryder Anderson could pave the way for Riley.
Riley’s defense flashed in practice on Wednesday and on a red zone tackle in Friday’s game. There’s a long way, but the 6-foot-5, 325-pounder gets the inside track for a backup spot.
OL John Michael Schmitz
The offensive line, which featured three potential starters (Schmitz, left guard Josh Ezeudu and right guard Ben Bredeson) for the entire first half Friday, had some difficult moments. But Schmitz does not appear to be at fault for the breakdowns.
More importantly, Schmitz took every first-team center rep in two joint practices after rotating with Bredeson during the first two weeks of camp. It’s always difficult to evaluate offensive line play without the benefit of film, but the coaches reviewed the practice tape and kept rolling with Schmitz.
The center job is always the second-round pick to lose. After this week, it looks like Schmitz won the job.
Peart didn’t have a great week on the field in Detroit, but it was telling that he was the first tackle with Evan Neal who was sidelined with a concussion. Peart played right tackle in place of Neal in two practices, having some tough moments against Lions defensive end Aidan Hutchinson on Tuesday before turning in a solid showing on Wednesday.
Peart started at left tackle on Friday with Andrew Thomas resting. That Peart replaced Neal at right tackle in practice and then moved to the left side in the game is a strong sign that he is the favorite for the swing tackle job. He needs to play better to prevent the Giants from looking for an upgrade from outside the roster, but last week boosted Peart’s stock.
(Photo of Jason Pinnock, 27, and Deonte Banks: Mike Mulholland/Getty Images)
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