If you missed the Giants on Monday Night Football last night, I envy you. Honestly it was pretty well fought game (i deliberately avoided the word played). The Giants got the ball first and for the first time since 2004, a quarterback not named Eli Manning took the field in week 1. Both the Giants and Steelers came out pretty sloppy. Daniel Jones looked good on his first drive, getting the ball out quick, but ultimately they had to punt. The Steelers gave the Giants a gift and muffed the punt with Big Blue recovering within the Steelers 5 yard line. Naturally, Barkley gets stuffed, Engram drops a pass, and the Giants have to settle for a field goal.
Positive take aways
Daniel Jones looked pretty good. When he was able to get the ball out quick, the Giants offense was able to move down the field pretty well. He connected with Darius Slayton on a 41 yard touchdown. It was a perfectly thrown ball and Slayton was able to make the catch between a couple defenders. The defense also came out playing well. James Bradberry paid immediate dividends and Jabrill Peppers was all over the field. While they still need to upgrade the d-line, Lorenzo Carter, Leonard Williams, and Dexter Lawrence looked pretty good and were able to get some pressure on Big Ben. Blake Martinez was as advertised and racked up a ton of tackles.
However, as the game went on, the defense got warn down and the Steelers were able to pull away in the fourth quarter. Benny Snell was able to hit some creases and they had a hard time covering JuJu Smith-Schuster. JuJu finished the game with two touchdowns and seems to be back in his 2018 form.
Things to work on
The Giants invested heavily in the offensive line this offseason, spending the fourth overall pick on Andrew Thomas. Overall, Thomas played as well as you could hope. He drew a really tough assignment in Bud Dupree while the opposite side had to deal with TJ Watt. While the line was able to give Jones some pretty good pockets to throw from, Saquon Barkley could not say the same. The former #2 overall pick was held to 6 rushing yards all game and was held to -3 at the half. Barkley was hit 11 times behind the line which ties for the most times that’s happened in his career. He had some decent receptions, but if the Giants want to be remotely successful, they need to do a better job opening running lanes for Barkley.
One of the the other key areas to work on is turnovers. We know that Jones is prone to fumbling but it was his interceptions that killed the Giants. He threw two interceptions and one in the end zone. The Giants were in the middle of a 90 yard drive that lasted about 9 minutes. They were inside the 10 yard line when Jones had his arm clipped on a roll out and the ball popped up in the air and the Steelers came down with it. That was a major turning point in the game. The Giants were down 16-10 and looked like they were about to take the lead. Instead, they turned the ball over, and the Steelers went back down the field and scored a touchdown. We would be looking at a very different game if they capitalized on that drive.
I think Joe Judge did a good job preparing for his first game as head coach. Jones picked apart the Steelers defense at times, but threw costly interceptions that changed the outlook for the game. The running game was abysmal; that needs to improve if the Giants want to win games. Evan Engram also needs to reapply grip to his gloves. He dropped his first target of the game and only came away with 2 receptions in 7 targets. You need Barkley and Engram to pull it together. Xavier McKinney coming back from injury will only help the defense so look for the secondary to improve. Overall, it was a disappointing start to the season for Big Blue, but there are some areas they can be encouraged about.
-Pete Chatterton (@Pchat12)
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