The New York Giants debuted their revamped squad on a soggy Sunday afternoon in East Rutherford, NJ. And revamped it was. Resurrected into winning form? Maybe not quite yet. In an almost-there performance against the Blake Bortles-led Jacksonville Jaguars, the G-Men had serious protection issues. Despite a highly penalized Jags team, a full roster of receivers and runners and no injuries to speak of, Big Blue once again met defeat. Still, this defeat was of a very different kind than that which was suffered last season. Our old faithful Eli Manning managed the game and gave us a reason to look forward to greater days ahead.
Sunday’s New York Giants Were Eli Manning Against the Jacksonville Jaguars Vaunted Defense
The Giants’ reimagined offensive line needs some time and allowed far too much pressure on Manning. Ereck Flowers was the primary culprit, allowing a disastrous opening drive backup to the one-yard line on the wrong side of the field. Flowers alone cannot be blamed. Nate Solder seemed to have some struggles, and rookie Will Hernandez wasn’t much of a match for Jags defensive end Calais Campbell.
The Giants did manage to end the game with only a five-point deficit to arguably the league’s best defense. That fact alone is slightly settling. Flowers, the weak link of the bunch, also showed improvement when assisted by tackle Chad Wheeler, who was put in for a number of plays.
Certainly, there’s work to be done here in protecting Manning’s ability to pass and general physicality. Nevertheless, it’s difficult to get a good read on this line against a defense as superior as Jacksonville’s.
Too Much Too Late
MetLife Stadium saw Manning complete 23/37 passes for 224 yards on Sunday. Sterling Shepard had the strongest first half, assisted by Odell Beckham Jr. Beckham, who made his return to the NFL after sustaining a fractured left ankle against the Los Angeles Chargers last October, racked up 111 receiving yards. Rookie Saquon Barkley’s 106 yards over 18 carries were largely supplemented by his 68-yard run for his first career touchdown. The score, the only six-pointer for the Giants, lit the match for the remainder of the fourth quarter.
A lot of weight was placed on Beckham and Barkley for the first three quarters of the game. New head coach Pat Shurmur has praised Barkley as both a running back and a receiver, historically alluding to the idea that he might not have been their big first-round draft pick had he not demonstrated his ability to do both jobs. From Beckham’s return, we can take his special awareness to every happening on the field during a play. Even when he was the intended receiver, Beckham held out on rushing for the ball on certain plays in anticipation of a flag on another player yards away from him.
Manning’s communication with his corps, as well as his arm, were near flawless the whole game. His only faults – a few overthrown balls and a single interception – were a result of his trying to accomplish too much too late in the game. If Manning can remember in the future, against less exquisite defenses, that he has the help from Beckham and Barkley that he lacked last year, we can anticipate a high-octane offense in future matchups.
Last Word on Sunday’s Giants
In spite of a ferocious secondary appearance from Jacksonville in the season opener, the Giants managed to push down the field for several beautiful drives that were almost meaningful to the score. Defensively, Janoris Jenkins pulled out one of his jackrabbit-like interceptions early in the game, and the whole crew contributed to pushing hard against one of the largest offensive lines in the NFL. They forced punts on Jacksonville’s last seven possessions, and never lost sight of the win on the line. The unfortunate final play of the game, a muffed punt recovered by Jacksonville, ultimately was what cost them the long and Manning-strong battle. For that, it’s hard to consider the contest a loss.