The most highly anticipated NFL season in a long time has arrived, and week one has already finished. The Giants hosted the Steelers in primetime on Monday night, and to the surprise of few Giants fans, they lost 26-16. Let’s delve into exactly what went right, and what went wrong.
First, I want to give a ton of credit to Joe Judge, Jason Garrett, Patrick Graham, Thomas McGaughey, and the rest of the Giants coaching staff. During perhaps the toughest offseason ever, this new staff took over a team that went 4-12 and kept them in the game against one of the league’s top defenses.
A bunch of players stood out in a good way despite the loss. Darius Slayton, Lorenzo Carter, and Blake Martinez had very good games. First, let’s talk about Slayton. He picked up right where he left off last year, bringing in 6 of 9 targets for 102 yards and 2 touchdowns. His hands looked even better than they did last year (he only dropped 1 pass) and his routes looked more crisp. Next, let’s talk about Lorenzo Carter. Patrick Graham loves versatile, athletic defenders, and Carter showed he was that and much more on Monday night. Carter played extremely well in run defense, did a fantastic job dropping back into pass coverage, and consistently got pressure on Ben Roethlisberger. Martinez, who I have heavily criticized before, played very well. He was incredible in run defense, got pressure on some blitzes, and did a good job in coverage.
Now, let’s talk about some players who struggled: Evan Engram, Nick Gates, Cam Fleming, and the entire secondary (except for James Bradberry). Engram was PFF’s worst graded player in the entire NFL for Week 1. He struggled as a receiver and a blocker. Gates and Fleming struggled massively as both run blockers and pass blockers, as was evident in Saquon Barkley’s statline (15 carries for 6 yards). Lastly, the secondary. Jabrill Peppers did well as a punt returner but was lackluster in coverage. He allowed Eric Ebron to get a big gain over him and struggled the whole game in coverage. Corey Ballentine, Isaac Yiadom (newly acquired from Denver), and Darnay Holmes all took turns guarding Juju Smith-Schuster and struggled miserably. Holmes and Yiadom deserve some slack because it was their first game with the team, but Ballentine should not be playing corner for an nfl team.
In summary, the Giants did a lot of things well and also struggled a lot in their season opener. They were great in run defense, generated a decent amount of pass rush, and were good passing the ball (other than a few stupid mistakes by Daniel Jones). They struggled massively to block the Steelers pressure on both running and passing plays, could not guard Juju Smith-Schuster, and were bad in run defense, allowing Benny Snell to rush for over 100 yards. Hopefully, Joe Judge and the staff key into these struggles in practice this week and get the team ready for another tough defense in Chicago. If not, it could be another long season.