As I watched the new New York Giants go through the motions for the first time in the first preseason game on their home field in East Rutherford, I couldn’t help but feel angry. What happened to all the hard work in OTAs and practice? And even before that, when coach Pat Shurmur jumped on board and began crafting the dream team? All the excellent moves made in the off-season, including free agency and the draft?
Of course, passing all of this work off as a waste is juvenile. Once I got over myself I was able to see what the G-Men walked onto the field to do this past Thursday. While a win against the long-broken Cleveland Browns would have been ideal, it wasn’t in the cards, because it wasn’t of interest.
Here are the biggest takeaways from Thursday night’s game.
What the New York Giants Proved in the Preseason Opener
1. Saquon Barkley Really is “All That”
The most electrifying play from Thursday night was undoubtedly the first carry by rookie running back, Saquon Barkley. The 39 yards began the game exactly how Giants fans had been longing for since last season’s catastrophic beginning. The handoff from Eli Manning was clean, coming almost unexpected to a Browns defense that couldn’t seem to catch the player, as he battled off all in his path with physical agility to match his speed. Those 39 may have been Barkley’s only substantial yards of gain in the game, but they were exactly what the people had hoped for.
It’s too early to tell, but that run shows Barkley could live up his combine comparison Barry Sanders. His humility and simultaneous confidence joined him on the field on Thursday. “What I saw on that first carry, the offensive line did a great job of creating space and creating a hole,’’ Barkley credited to his teammates.
2. Eli’s Successor is Anyone’s Game
Veteran quarterback Eli Manning attempted seven passes in the preseason opener, completing four. After that, Shurmur ushered in the skills of presumed backup, Davis Webb. Webb played the majority of the game’s middle snaps, completing only nine of his 22 passes. After that, rookie fifth-round draft pick Kyle Lauletta from Richmond took over. Lauletta had a totally underrated five-year college career, acting as the team’s starter for his last three seasons. Lauletta held his rank at Richmond through multiple coaching changes and is familiar with working with a team through structural changes. In many ways, his college tenure prepared him for New Yorks current transition.
Clearly, from Lauletta’s time on the field on Thursday, we can see that he has been hard at work improving his arm strength. Lauletta successfully completed six of the nine passes he made—a higher percentile than any of his fellow quarterbacks, Manning included.
Fourth-string free agent Alex Tanney took the final snaps of the game. Tanney successfully completed three of seven passes, a percentage nearly matching Webb’s for the game. Nothing noteworthy from Tanney begs the question of Shurmur’s plan for backup this season.
Maybe none of these guys are sufficient enough playmakers to take over when Eli’s day is done. Thankfully, there are plenty of free agents to explore when that time comes. But for now, we’ve seen all four quarterbacks work (even if they played with mostly their fellow non-starters), and we have the rest of pre-season to look forward to watching their development in Shurmur’s scheme. We just have to hope our o-line does the work necessary to protect Manning as best as possible.
3. The Offensive Line is Looking Sharp
Remember back when the Giants once had the most legendary offensive line in the league? I don’t. I wasn’t alive for this part of the team’s legacy. And with that knowledge, it’s impossible to wish that this year’s group of protectors will create the same kind of trouble. Back then, rules were different—heck, the whole game was different. But the franchise I’ve known has always had issues at offense, and this game was a delightful preview of a united and productive chemistry amongst our new build (or, one version of it).
Left tackle Nate Solder, left guard Will Hernandez, right tackle Ereck Flowers, and right guard Patrick Omameh performed all sixteen of the Giants’ offensive plays with center Jon Halapio, who is currently battling for the position with Brett Jones. Halapio credits the things that went right in the game with the offensive chemistry on the field and is in agreement with the experts that there is technique work to be done if the group is to finish their drives.
The Last Word
If the game would have counted, no doubt, the Giants would have won. This introduction to the 2018 season was exactly what it was supposed to be—a presentation, and introduction of the new members of the Big Blue squad. Dave Gettleman’s men held out this week to properly demonstrate the versatility of our new coaching staff and players. The roster that was played was purely demonstrative, and we still have much to see from what this group is capable of. Had Odell Beckham Jr. played, we can assume that we would have seen a far higher reception percentage. Had Shurmur stuck with Lauletta, we might have put some more points on the board towards the end of the game. Had we switched out our center, there might have been better coverage.
Luckily for us, we have three more exhibitory performances to maneuver the roster before every game counts for the playoff-hopeful new Giants.
Embed from Getty Images