The wait is finally over. The offseason is ending and the NFL preseason is starting up, with the New York Giants kicking things off at home and facing the Cleveland Browns. The two teams weren’t as far apart last year as one may think. The Browns went winless, the Giants only managed three wins. Both teams, though, are looking to wipe the slate clean and start this year off differently.
To understand how the Giants will do in that task, it’s important to know what they’re facing on the other side. The most obvious addition that the Browns added over the offseason is quarterback Baker Mayfield, who was taken number one overall at this year’s NFL Draft. While former Bills QB Tyrod Taylor is going to get the start, according to the last press conference from Hue Jackson, the Giants defense will also have to face Mayfield at some point.
“Tyrod is going to start the game. Baker is going to play, and then we will make a decision around the fourth quarter on who else is playing and kind of go from there,” Jackson told the media. However, Mayfield isn’t the only offensive threat that the Giants will have to deal with. Even though it didn’t show up in their results on the field last season, the Browns have added a lot of talent over the past couple of years.
It’s something that Jackson mentioned in his press conference. “I am looking forward to watching Tyrod orchestrate our offense. David Njoku in year two, Carlos Hyde, [Nick] Chubb, Duke [Johnson Jr.] and obviously, Jarvis [Landry] and the rest of our guys play together… I think we all know that is what we are trying to do. I want to see Baker play. And yeah, I want to evaluate our team and in order to do that we have to put them out there and let them play.”
The matchup between the Browns backfield and the Giants defensive line will be one of the most important ones in the game, as Cleveland brings a highly competitive group of running backs. All three of their main running backs could have started for them last year. Now, they’re all on the same team, and there isn’t a clear winner between them.
How are things looking on the Giants side? Well, Giants fans have everything they could ask for. Training camp has shown so far that Odell Beckham Jr. hasn’t carried lingering effects of his injury into this season, and second overall draft pick Saquon Barkley has lived up to the hype so far. The Browns might have added talent, but the Giants had more talent to begin with and have rebounded well after the failures of last season.
You could also make a strong argument that the Giants have the advantage in the head coaching department. Pat Shurmur might have been fired once in his career, ironically by the same team that the Giants are playing tonight, but he doesn’t have the 1-31 record that Jackson has as the head coach of the Browns. Granted, Jackson wasn’t given the best talent to work with during his two seasons in Cleveland, but it’s hard to go winless in the NFL without some big problems existing in the head coach’s approach.
So who will win this week one matchup? Much of that will depend on the battle in the trenches. The Giants largely have a new offensive line, with rookie Will Hernandez starting alongside newcomers Nate Solder and Patrick Omaneh. With no prior game experience, will this group hold up to pressure and give the Giants quarterbacks more throwing time than they had last season?
On the other side of the ball, the Browns stable of running backs will be dealt with by a slightly changed defensive front, one that includes rookie B.J. Hill in it alongside veterans Dalvin Tomlinson and Damon Harrison. Hill will be a player to watch, because his rise has been noticeably quick for a third round draft pick.
“We spoke a lot during the offseason, and B.J., he’s an interesting character, man. I don’t know if you guys have been watching, but he’s probably the most athletic defensive lineman that we have, and that says a lot,” Damon Harrison said about Hill, back at the beginning of the month.
Will Hill use that athleticism successfully in an actual NFL game? We’ll find out tonight, just as we’ll see what Will Hernandez and Saquon Barkley can do in their first official game. The Browns have improved since last year, but the Giants have rebounded almost flawlessly from last year’s 3-13 season. Don’t be surprised if the Giants start off the preseason 1-0, going into their matchup with the Lions.