The New York Giants started their season off with a primetime Monday night game. They hosted the Pittsburgh Steelers, a matchup between two historic teams with ten Super Bowls between the two. The game was highly anticipated on both sides as it was the start of the new season (one that was up in the air due to the pandemic). Unfortunately for New York and its fans, the excitement around the game ended with a 26-16 loss.
The game was one that was really sloppy and was painful to watch at times for Giants fans. Daniel Jones threw two interceptions, one coming in the red zone, and the defense let up ten fourth-quarter points. However, things were not all bad for Big Blue.
Here are three positive takeaways from week one:
Front Seven Improvement:
The front seven was the strongest part of the defense on Monday and probably the whole team. The unit got out to a very strong start early as they held Jame Conner to nine yards on six carries. They were also applying constant pressure on Big Ben, disrupting many of his throws. This was something that was not present at all last season and contributed to New York’s early lead.
With a deeper dive, we can see that the linebackers individually played very impressive for their first time together as a unit. Blake Martinez had an impressive Giants debut, which earned him a Pro Football Focus (PFF) grade of 83.9, seventh among all linebackers. Martinez had 12 (8 solo) total tackles and one for a loss. Martinez looked like he was and can continue to be a very solid leader for this group. The former Packer’s formidable debut was also helped with Lorenzo Carter’s strong game.
Carter was very active all over the field as he was helpful in the run support, pass rush, and pass coverage. Carter ended up with seven tackles (four solo), three QB pressures, and one QB hit. This helped the former Georgia Bulldog earn a PFF grade of 81.5, tenth out of all edge rushers.
These two linebackers were also helped by a handful of players who put up solid performances. Some of these players were Markus Golden (three tackles), Oshane Ximines (one QB hit), and Logan Ryan, who played in the box at times. This was a group that many people worried about coming into the season but put a strong showing against one of the better teams in the league to silence the doubters. As time goes on, this group should continue to gel and get better.
As for the defensive line, it was arguably the best Giants personnel group on Monday night. The unit recorded three tackles for loss, two sacks, and three QB hits total. Specifically, Leonard Williams recorded one sack, two tackles for loss, three QB pressures, and two QB hits. He put on a strong showing and really bounced back from a career-low year last year. He was finally able to get his first sack since 2018, and this should help him get rolling going forward.
Williams was not alone in his success as Dexter Lawrence, and Dalvin Tomlinson also helped him. Lawrence had a strong opening game two his sophomore season as he recorded three solo tackles and a sack. He was a phenomenal presence in both the run and pass game on Monday. The Clemson product will likely look to build on this next week against a questionable Bears offensive line. Lawrence and Williams makeup two huge rushers on the edge and are joined by Dalvin Tomlinson in the middle. While Tomlinson did not stand out on the stat sheet, one tackle, he was a stuffer in the run game, clogging up various running lanes. This play helped earn him a PFF grade of 78.9.
This group, combined with the linebackers, did not play perfectly but well enough to create a lot of optimism going forward in the year. The front seven, which was once questioned, should be one of the best groups that Big Blue has.
The MVP of Monday night for the New York Giants was easily Darius Slayton. He had six catches for 102 yards and two touchdowns. His first touchdown was a 41-yard deep shot that boosted the Giants to a second-quarter 10-3 lead. He beat Steven Nelson outside and caught a beautiful deep ball from Daniel Jones. It was a very impressive play from Slayton, but one that is nothing out of the ordinary from what the Giants have seen from Slayton in his short career.
In just 15 career NFL games, Darius Slayton already has 842 yards and ten touchdowns. He was only a fifth-round draft pick last season but proved his worth early and quickly became Daniel Jones’ favorite target. Slayton’s strong start to his career has helped him become the Giants’ number one receiver, and New York hopes he can stay this way.
Slayton’s success has not only been on a local level as he leads all pass catchers in touchdowns over the past 13 games (10 touchdowns). He is becoming a dominant force that even some of the best defense like Pittsburgh are not able to stop. The true test will be if Slayton can continue this hot streak going forward in 2020.
The final positive takeaway from Monday is the coaching. With a whole new staff consisting of Joe Judge, Jason Garrett, and Patrick Graham, not much was expected week one against one of the better teams in the league. However, the trio of new Giants quietly put together a solid coaching debut.
Judge proved to be a decent manager of the game and while they did not win, the Giants were in it for the majority of the contest. He let his assistant coaches do what they needed, and this proved to be a good strategy for the team. Joe Judge provided a good leadership presence, and while things do not get perfect, he had a solid start, he can build off of.
As for the offense, Jason Garrett was also good overall in his debut. He called some amazing plays such as the fake end around screen to Barkley that went for 38 yards. He did a good job getting the ball in his two best playmakers’ hands (Barkley and Slayton) as the two totaled for 27 touches. While his run game approach seemed to lack heavily, the former Cowboys head coach drew up some very nice pass plays for Daniel Jones that found a lot of success. It is clear that the run attack needs to improve as Barkley only averaged 0.4 yards per carry, but this will be something Jason Garrett will work on. It seems like Garrett is a talented play-caller that should improve as he continues to get acclimated to his group.
Finally, Patrick Graham was probably the best out of the three coaches highlighted here. He drew up various intelligent blitz schemes and worked around his lack of talent at cornerback. While he did allow ten fourth-quarter points, Graham kept one of the best offenses in 2018 quiet for three quarters. His coaching performance is something that Graham and Giants fans should be proud of as he was working with what was considered one of the worst defenses in the NFL. Once the talent on the defense improves, Graham’s full potential as a coordinator will be reached.