The New York Giants’ drive for five started Friday night as they played the Pittsburgh Steelers at MetLife Stadium. Yes, this is “just preseason” but preseason football is still football. It all counts in terms of preparing for the regular season. So, just how well did the Giants perform in Week 1? Here is the breakdown for the 3 units.
1. No Offense?
The Giants were without key veterans on offense including quarterback Eli Manning and Odell Beckham, Jr. However, the team’s offense with Josh Johnson and Geno Smith mirrored the Giants’ offense in recent years. It was able to move down the field but failed to score touchdowns in the red zone. Settling for field goals didn’t help them win tonight and won’t in the future. It did not help that Brandon Marshall played a total of 2 plays, or that Roger Lewis stepped out of bounds before catching a nullified TD.
The New York Giants offensive line added to the woes. The team couldn’t establish a run game. Starting running back Paul Perkins rushed for a dismal three yards on five carries. Furthermore, the Giants offensive line failed to protect starting quarterback Josh Johnson and gave up three sacks, including two easy sacks by TJ Watt. With a weak offensive line, Johnson, Geno Smith (who entered the game late in the first half) and Davis Webb (who came in late in the fourth quarter) appeared unsteady and visibly under pressure. Johnson went 5 of 10 for 31 yards; Smith went 10 of 16 for 114 yards and one interception; and Webb went 8 of 16 passes for 67 yards.
2. Defense Backs It Up
The New York Giants offense clearly is not in elite form and certainly still has a long way to go. But the defense was in mid-season form and is definitely capable of becoming the best in the NFL. Vital veteran cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul didn’t hit the field last night but the Giants defense was able to make an impact without them.
The D came out swinging and dominated the first half, largely in part to Landon Collins and Olivier Vernon setting the tone with their physicality. Cornerback Valentino Blake followed suit with an interception in the first quarter and Devin Taylor did the same in the second. The Giants were able to capitalize off of the turnovers as they put FGs on the board. Defensive tackle Jay Bromley, middle linebacker B.J. Goodson, and defensive end Kerry Wynn also made some crucial key plays that prevented the Steelers from putting up more points on the board.
3. Special Teams
After the team’s offensive line, the New York Giants special teams is the second unit that requires vast improvement. The team has one of the League’s better special teamers in Dwayne Harris but an entire unit or team won’t succeed nor can it rely solely on one player. Rookie Aldrick Rosas nailed the first field goal converting 27 yards to put the Giants on the score board and another 53-yard field goal. Veteran Mike Nugent hit both his attempts from 30 and 45 yards.
Although Nugent and Rosas certainly provided bright spots on special teams for the Giants, Donte Deayon muffed a punt return late in the first half. The Pittsburgh Steelers recovered the fumble at the Giants 28 yard line and subsequently went on to score a touchdown on the very next play. Deayon demonstrated his football amnesia as he brushed off this mistake, moved forward, and returned the next punt successfully.
The New York Giants will aim to continue moving forward as they prepare for their next game against the Cleveland Browns. And they certainly have time to do so since the game is 10 days away. They have one day off before they are back at training camp practice so they have time to recharge and prepare for their first preseason win. Will there be improvement or will the Giants look like the same ol’ Giants? They have work to do.