It was the most exciting play of training camp.
Eli Manning lofted a pass down the right sideline and Odell Beckham Jr. plucked it from the sky with one hand while landing in the end zone for what looked to be a touchdown. The crowd — the largest of the summer at Giants camp — went nuts.
But it didn’t count.
The coaches determined that Manning had been sacked by Olivier Vernon before he threw the ball. Because the defense is not allowed to hit the quarterback, it was a judgment call. It appeared to be the right one.
“It’s nice that it was completed, but no, it wasn’t nice that there was a sack on the play,” coach Ben McAdoo said of Vernon beating left tackle Ereck Flowers for the big play. “It’s good for the defense.”
It also was another blemish against the offensive line. While the first two weeks of camp were spent touting the improvements made by that group — Flowers in particular — Friday night’s 20-12 preseason loss to the Steelers showed a more disappointing level of play. The Giants allowed seven sacks, including three against Josh Johnson playing behind the starting line.
While McAdoo was quick to point out that those sacks were not the fault of the line alone, the hits on quarterbacks — real in games and projected in practices — are piling up.
“It’s one game,” starting right guard John Jerry said Sunday. “We are not going to let two or three series deter us. We are going to stay focused. We looked at the tape this morning, went out on the practice field and corrected it already. Just keep it moving.”
The running game on Friday night was not as explosive as the Giants wanted it to be, either.
“I just think we have to keep hammering at it,” Jerry said. “One thing about this league, you can start off a game and runs are not going to be looking good. They are just going to be 2- or 3-yard carries, but if you continue that throughout the game, those 2- to 3-yard gains turn into bigger gains later in the football game.”
Maybe. But it’s hard to say that any angst fans had about the Giants’ offensive line coming into this season was assuaged after Friday night’s game. Or Sunday’s practice, for that matter.
The Giants’ passing offense seems to be bulging with weapons, from Beckham to Brandon Marshall, Sterling Shepard to Evan Engram. But if Manning is going to be continually sacked in games, all of those dazzling catches by Beckham and others will be relegated to practices.
And they probably won’t count there, either.