The first game of the preseason is over, and there will be plenty of hot takes from both optimists and pessimists following the 20-10 loss for the New York Giants. Some things went wrong, some things went right, and both the first team and backup units received playing time in the opener. But it’s time to focus in on one key area.
How did the defense perform?
The Giants defense was a mixed bag, holding the Browns to twenty points in a game where they had just about no support from the offense. It’s hard to blame the defense entirely for the loss, but at the same time, some improvements are definitely needed if the team is going to go anywhere in this season’s playoff race.
During a no-huddle sequence, wide receiver Rashard Higgins caught a deep pass for 21 yards in the first quarter. It was followed up by Tyrod Taylor throwing a 36 yard touchdown to second year tight end David Njoku on the very next play, and on the entire four play drive, the Giants secondary looked lackadaisical.
Eli Apple was a player that was examined carefully by many over the offseason, but he found himself getting shook off of his path by a quick turn from Higgins and gave up one of the big plays of the Browns first scoring drive. That’s not to say that Apple was the only one that slipped up.
The Giants ended up not being punished for it, but Janoris Jenkins also gave up a deep completion, to Jarvis Landry. That catch came on the first Browns drive of the game, and a running theme in both plays was cornerbacks struggling in man coverage after being left on an island.
David Njoku had two touchdowns, and the defense didn’t look good at all at covering tight ends. On his first score, Njoku found himself in a man to man matchup with linebacker Alec Ogletree, and the defender was unable to keep up with the athletic tight end. You can’t fault Ogletree here. The scheme left him trying to cover someone that’s a much better runner, and safety Darian Thompson couldn’t cover enough ground to make the tackle before Njoku reached the end zone.
The long passes continued when rookie QB Baker Mayfield entered the game for Cleveland, and Mayfield would finish the game with 212 yards after entering for Taylor. He had 20 overall attempts, with 11 of those being completions and two of them being touchdowns.
Not everything went bad for the Giants defense. The defensive line held up and didn’t allow many yards at all to the Browns running backs, but it’s very important to note that Carlos Hyde and Duke Johnson Jr. only attempted one rush each. Most of the rushes went to Nick Chubb, who rushed the ball 15 times and was held to 11 yards in a top-notch performance in run defense.
Going into the second game of the preseason, fixing the secondary will be a major concern. That may come in the form of further training to hone techniques, or in scheme changes to provide more help in the man coverage that the Giants played at times during this game.
Either way, it’s clear now which areas need improvement and which ones are looking good. The next game is in a little over a week, and the Giants will travel to Detroit for it next Friday.