Just like James blogged about the Jets, welp. What can I say? Actually, I am not too mad. Disappointed in some areas of the game, yes by all means, but I am not mad.
I was not expecting an unreal performance. The Steelers in my mind are a top-five defense in the league. Their front seven and pass rush are big bad scary men. T.J. Watt, Budd Dupree, Devin Bush, and Cameron Hayward are units. They are the reincarnated "Steel Curtain" that terrorized the league in the '70s.
Coach Judge said it perfectly. It is not going to come together right away, especially with shortened OTAs and no pre-season. The Giants are a work in progress, there will definitely be some laps taking place over the next couple days of practice (which honestly, I hated it as a player but love it). However, there were a lot of bright spots during the Monday night game that will give fans hope.
The Defense and Special Teams
In the first drive, and overall the first half, I was excited to watch the Giant's defense. This was the first time I had excitement watching the G-Men-D since 2016 when the "Big Blue Wrecking Crew" had JPP, Snacks, DRC, and others. The 2020 defense was looking energetic and ready for the challenge ahead.
One of the key free-agent signings this offseason, Blake Martinez was just what the Giants needed. They haven't had a tackling machine in a linebacker since Antonio Pierce! According to Pro Football Focus, his overall grade of 83.9 was the 7th best among off-ball LB’s and recorded 11 tackles, tied most for all LB’s this week. A breakout candidate of the year, Lorenzo Carter, was an absolute dawg. He follows up an impressive camp with an 81.5 grade, which was 10th best among edge defenders for the week. Carter and Leonard Williams both led the team with 3 pressures each. Williams had a sack as well. There is still a lot to improve. They let backup running back, Benny Snell Jr. tally over 100 yards rushing. They also allowed three scores and 179 passing in the air, which the yards aren't terrible but it is not great. James Bradberry and Logan Ryan were fine, Cory Ballentine and Isaac Yiadom will need to step it up.
On the flip, our special teams was another fun spot to watch. Joe Judge is a Special Teams wizard. That is where he gained his success with the Patriots. The Giants caused pressure, and in the first quarter, allowed the Steelers to muff the punt and drop the ball. Linebacker Oshane Ximines retrieved the fumble. In addition, it was nice benefiting even more from the OBJ trade. As the star receiver put up an awful performance for the Browns, we watched one of the trade pieces play decently on both defense and special teams. Jabrill Peppers was the highest-graded punt returner for the opening week. Coach Judge is going to unlock the version of Jabrill Peppers we last saw in Michigan. Joe Judge even stated that Peppers will have a versatile role on this team.
Now before I get crucified to the cross and the Twitter trolls come out to attack saying "hE bLeW tHe GaMe, hE tHrEw TwO pIcKs", let's digest his gameplay. For starters and in my opinion, I felt new OC Jason Garrett, called a good game. There were a lot of new guys on the field, and the first time Jones has played with Saquon / Slayton / Shepard / Engram all at the same time. This offense will thrive once the wheels start turning.
Jones beefed up in the offseason, adding some much-needed muscle. He knew fumbles were a key category to improve on. He took three sacks and did not lose the ball. Good, it is a start. He also threw 279 yards and 2 TDs on 64%. The first game, in a new system, with a rookie LT, I'll take that. He threw two interceptions. One of them was just a freak play by T.J. Watt, so hats off to him. Nobody, not even the broadcasting booth saw him snag it. The other was his FIRST red-zone pick ever. Prior to that pick though, Jones marched down the field, covering 87 yards on 19 plays.
The kid is in his second season, relax. Was it a careless throw yes. He was getting chased down by a hungry Dupree, so we are going to chalk it up as an oopsie. He also experienced 26 drop-back pressures, which was the most experienced by any Quarterback in week 1. It is only uphill for the 2nd year Quarterback, and he will bounce back from this opener.
Slayton was a breath of fresh air during Monday's loss. He tallied 102 yards and 2 TDs on 6 catches and was flashy running his routes. The fifth-rounder out of Auburn was a great steal in last year's draft, and he is showing that last year was no fluke. The DJ-to-DS connection is one that is here for good. The duo's chemistry continues from last season and they are a bright spot in New York's offensive strategy.
Former G-Men kicker, 2x Super Bowl Champ Lawrence Tynes, even chimed in on the 2nd year wideout.
This was going to be a work-in-progress from the beginning. Left Tackle Andrew Thomas had a decent game against Bud Dupree. On the other side, Right Tackle cam Fleming was a liability all game long. Starting Nick Gates at Center over Spencer Pulley is still questionable. He never played the position fully, so we can't give him a hard time yet.
I would run a line (from left to right) of Thomas - Hernandez - Pulley - Zeitler - Gates, with Fleming rotating in and out. He was a swing guard anyway on both the Patriots and the Cowboys. There are two rookies to watch that will be waiting in the wings. Matt Peart from UCONN and Shane Lemieux from Oregon.
While the pass protection hovered around the average range, the run blocking was embarrassing, which we will discuss next.
Run Blocking / Saquon Barkley
We already covered the O-Line, who had a difficult matchup against Pittsburgh's front-seven. The ground game was nonexistent, and in order for the Giants to win games and utilize the beast they have in Barkley, they need to fix this issue fast. The line made negative holes for Saquon, who finished the game with 6 yards on 15 carries. Barkley was contacted at or behind the line of scrimmage on 10 of his 15 carries, yikes. I am not worried yet, but they need to help create opportunities for this man. Now Saquon did have 60 yards receiving on 6 catches, but his real bread and butter is handoffs down the field and making spectacular cuts. The Giants only used Fullback, Eli Penney, on three snaps. Maybe they should try to throw the bruiser in the create some holes.
Engram was just plain old sloppy in the game. He dropped his first target, then narrowly missed a wide-open touchdown shortly after, failing to connect with quarterback Daniel Jones from two yards out. It was a disappointing season debut.
He is a guy the Giants are counting on to be a real weapon. When healthy and playing to his capabilities, he is one of the best receiving Tight Ends in the league. He is essentially another tall wideout, creating incredible mismatches against the defense. Engram is entering his fourth NFL season having missed 14 of 48 possible games due to injury, including five games in 2018 and eight last season
Kaden Smith had more yards and proved to be a better block in the scheme too. Let's hope it was just an adjustment game.
The Giants head down to Chicago to face the Bears for their Week 2 matchup. The Bear's defense is good, but not as good as the Steelers. They will have another difficult foe in Khalil Mack, who will for sure cause some disruption in the backfield.
Week One was a learning curve. Adjustments will be made, Saquon will most definitely bounce back from that dud of a performance. I am not too sold on Mitchell Trubisky and there is drama brewing with pro-bowl wide receiver, Allen Robinson. My money is on the Giants. 24-17.
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