Giant Reactions to Week 1

att-stadium-scene

The Giants kicked off their 2016 campaign with a big win in Dallas. (AP / Ron Jenkins)

– Jim Bearor

A 20-19 road win over the Cowboys was a solid start to the Ben McAdoo Era, all things considered. Terrance Williams’ poor decision that cost Dallas a chance at the end was huge, but it wasn’t everything. To me – and many other Giants fans, I assume – it felt like sweet poetic justice for Eli’s blunder at the end of this game last year. Every matchup between these two seems to be great entertaining football that usually comes down to a dramatic do-or-die drive near the finish, and this one fit the mold nicely. I’m so happy.

Victor Cruz is back. The offensive line looked very good even when keeping in mind that Dallas’ defensive line – an average unit at full capacity – was sorely missing edge rushers Demarcus Lawrence and Greg Hardy. I thought Big Blue’s offense looked great for most of the game, their biggest issue was getting on the field. The Cowboys dominated the time of possession right from the go, with Prescott looking impressive throughout his inaugural drive. A couple missed opportunities early cued up those uneasy feelings that I became so used to last season, but Eli and the boys eventually got the ball rolling. Everything came together beautifully for the offense on their last drive before halftime, and it looked an awful lot like the best case scenario. Beckham converts a short third down to start the drive, Jennings and Vereen have a couple nice runs, Cruz makes his first catch in 700 something days and the crowd (or some of it) goes “CRUUUUUUUZZZ!” Will Tye gets involved, then Vereen, Cruz, Cruz, Tye. The rookie Shepard gets the touchdown. It felt perfect.

cruz-after-touchdown

Victor Cruz made his presence felt in a big way Sunday. (AP/Michael Ainsworth)

The rest of the game wasn’t as aesthetically pleasing for the most part. Dallas moved the ball pretty well, but a lot of their drives were Ezekiel Elliot running into the line for a short gain then maybe a Dak Prescott conversion or two. Prescott played with poise and looked fairly in control of the offense, consistent with all the clichés that have been thrown around about him in the past month or so. He also was a bit reluctant to open up the offense and take shots down field. Dez Bryant was targeted four times and had one catch for eight yards. Prescott threw 45 passes, completed 25 of them for a modest 225 yards, and looked like a quarterback who was told not to lose the game. What a shame, I can imagine what this loss feels like for Dallas fans, many of whom having spent the majority of last season yelling at the television “Throw it to Dez for once!” Conservative offense is the absolute worst, I feel you.

bryant-rodgers-cromartie-jumpball

After an early catch, Dez Bryant was shut out for the rest of the game.(AP/Ron Jenkins)

It wouldn’t have looked like that if they had gotten the ground game going though, it likely would have meant a Cowboys victory. That didn’t happen of course, and outside of a too-little-too late success on the ground, the shiny new front four of the Giants won the battle in the trenches. They didn’t pressure Dak – zero sacks on the game – but there was excellent run defense all around, and it’s safe to assume that was the main focus in preparing for this game. It makes more sense to prevent this offensive line from getting in the habit of pushing you down the field early on, and to force Dak to beat you. This will likely be the formula for anyone who plays Dallas until Prescott breaks out. I actually like this approach from the Cowboys, and most of the defensive lines they’ll face will be worse than New York’s. If they’re able to establish a ground game and their rookie quarterback can play within his means while feeding Bryant here and there, they’re still going to be a potent offense. If not, and Dak is forced to a lot of plays, chances are he’ll get exposed and so will his defense that can’t get off the field.

For the G-men, my biggest takeaway was the W and how there’s finally some ink on the paper. Victor Cruz’s name can be found in the box score, he really played and he looked good. Shepard had that one weird miscommunication with Eli that resulted in a pick (I’m not really sure what went on there), but otherwise he had a nice debut. We got to see the offensive line play. There’s finally tangible data we can use as a reference point for this team and even though we’ll blow everything out of proportion for the next eight weeks or so, it’s cool to finally have something to go off of.

Oh, so this is what the defensive line looks like.

Sterling Shepard passes the eyeball test.

Look how much time Eli is getting… I wasn’t expecting this.

Like I said, all of this was taken with a grain of salt because of the wonkiness of Week 1, the absence of Hardy and Lawrence, and a rookie quarterback in his first game. Still, it was thoroughly satisfying to see so many of the things I was hoping for from certain players. Sprinkle in a little bit of good luck – something that was nowhere to be found last year – and I’m about as happy as can be with the Giants as of now.

Knee-jerk reactions:

  • We won’t know anything about this offensive line yet, and there’s a good chance they’re not tested again next week against the Saints.
  • The defensive line can stop the run. Everyone looked solid, but Vernon and Harrison stood out to me. They always got a push, and if they can push these guys…
  • The Giants may be playing kicker roulette pretty soon.
  • Weston Richburg and Justin Pugh are still good. Newhouse is probably still not good, but another good game like this – even against New Orleans’ soft defense – might cool his seat down a little.
  • JPP looked awesome, and should continue to benefit tremendously from the talent around him going forward.
  • I’m feeling great about my “Eli throws 40 touchdowns” prediction, and next week his top receivers are matched up against a band of rookie corners. All aboard the Eli hype train everyone, I don’t want to crash and burn alone.
  • Outside of one time management issue, McAdoo didn’t do anything really dumb and looked pretty good on the sideline, even though he’s PC Principal with a bowl cut. I liked how he went for it on fourth down.
  • The split between Jennings and Vereen seemed like the formula to me. The Giants will usually run more offensive plays than what they did on Sunday, and maybe that means Darkwa comes in for a few snaps, but both Vereen and Jennings were able to find a groove and that shouldn’t be tweaked too much.

 

– Jim Bearor (@JimBearor)jimbearor

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