Beating the Tennessee Titans in Week 1 is going to be an extreme challenge for the New York Giants, especially since they face issues at cornerback, linebacker, and potentially pass rusher if Kayvon Thibodeaux and Azeez Ojulari aren’t able to play.
Thibodeaux and Ojulari participated in individual drills on Thursday, but they are still a long shot to suit up if they’re not 100%. Head coach Brian Daboll has been extremely vague on their availability, but the most likely scenario is that they miss Week 1 and look to return in Week 2 ready to go, which will leave the Giants thin at yet another spot.
The catalyst to stopping Tennessee is quite simple, limit Derrick Henry and the running game. Over the past three years, Henry has tallied over 1,500 yards in two of those seasons.
Last year, he played just eight games and still finished with 937 yards and 10 touchdowns, an extraordinary number of scores. Henry recorded 17 touchdowns in 2020, being named a Pro Bowler and first-team All-Pro player.
To make matters even worse, Tennessee had the 10th best run blocking offensive line in 2021, meaning they focus on providing Henry a solid front five to get the chains moving.
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The New York Giants must expose a weakness at right tackle:
However, the Titans have experienced a bit of change in the trenches, with rookie offensive lineman Nicolas Petit-Frere expected to suit up as their primary right tackle. The Ohio State rookie beat out struggling tackle Dillon Radunz, but this should provide the Giants with an opportunity to win at the right tackle spot.
Without their top pass rushers, though, reserve OLB Oshane Ximines will have to play above his means, especially since he was considered a potential roster cut several days ago.
Last season, the Giants had the 23rd-ranked run defense and have lost essential pieces this year. They still maintain Dexter Lawrence and Leonard Williams on the interior, but they recently parted ways with linebacker Blake Martinez, meaning Tae Crowder will take over as the LB1.
In addition, they don’t have Ojulari healthy, who is dealing with a calf issue. Thibodeaux is still working his way back from a knee injury he sustained against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 2 of the preseason, which is another significant loss.
Realistically, Henry should have his way with the Giants defensive front. Defensive coordinator Wink Martindale will have to play heavily in the box, leaving his corners on an island to fend for themselves.