Giants offense’s dismal preseason opener could be latest warning sign

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Guilty, until proven innocent.

Sorry, but this is the way it must be with the Giants and their woebegone offense. Until they do it, the assumption has to be that they cannot.

That it is the middle of August, often a time for football mirages, only means there is another month to wonder and worry about what we see and what we don’t. There is plenty of time to get things right, but sometimes all the time in the world is not enough time.

These are not conclusions or damnations based on the one terrible offensive showcase in Saturday night’s 12-7 preseason loss to the Jets. You know the line about Vegas? Likewise, what happens in preseason openers should stay in preseason openers. So, when fourth-fifths of the projected offensive line, working with none of the running backs, wide receivers or tight ends on top of the depth chart, failed to generate many yards or any points, it can be sloughed off as a clearing of the throat before giving a speech.

It can also be a warning sign that the fix is not in.

Take a look around the league in Week 1 of the preseason. Quarterbacks of all sorts of differing pedigrees dumped the ball off in front of vanilla defenses, completing passes and looking competent. Kyle Lauletta, a former Giants backup, with a passer rating of 118.1 for the Browns. P.J. Walker, 116.9 for the Panthers. Dwayne Haskins, 108.3 for the Steelers. Logan Woodside, 103.2 for the Titans. Drew Lock, 153.3 for the Broncos. Colt McCoy, the Giants’ backup last season, 107.7 for the Cardinals. Even Davis Webb got into the act. The Giants’ 2017 third-round draft pick compiled a passer rating of 103.6 in the Bills’ opener Friday night.

The Giants offensive line allows a sack to the Jets defense Saturday.
Getty Images

This was functioning. The Giants did not function, evidenced by ridiculous and unsightly numbers from Mike Glennon (3 of 7, 20 yards, passer rating of 50.3) and Clayton Thorson (5 of 16, 72 yards, rating of 67.7).

The counterpoint: Yeah, but when Daniel Jones gets out there and he is throwing to Kenny Golladay, Sterling Shepard, Kadarius Toney and Evan Engram and handing it to Saquon Barkley, it will all look so much different, so much better.

Will it?

Not if the offensive line does not greatly improve and defy the almost laughably low expectations those outside the organization have for this group. Four of the five projected starters (Andrew Thomas, Nick Gates, Will Hernandez and Matt Peart) were on the field for the first 18 snaps on offense, four series. The output: Zero points (a fumble at the Jets’ 3-yard line by Corey Clement was costly), 60 total yards, seven first downs.

“There were enough positives right there to really get a look in terms of what we can do to keep helping these guys and put them in the right position,’’ coach Joe Judge said Sunday, “and maybe some things you want to stay away from in the future in terms of play calling or snaps. But this is the time of year you really find out about that. In practice, you find out about some things. When you see a foreign opponent, you find out a little bit more about it right there.’’

The Giants (31st in the NFL in scoring in 2020) need to find more things the offensive line can do and less that it cannot do.

“I think the preseason games are huge for us, especially with our young offensive line, it gives us reps, it gets us going against other pass rushers and run stoppers,’’ Gates, returning for a second year as the starting center, said. “There’s good and there’s bad. There’s definitely things we need to clean up and things we need to do better, but there’s definitely some things we did a lot better than we did last year.’’

The communication, passing off pass rushers from one offensive lineman to another, was better. But not good enough. The first round of cuts (five per team) will be made early this week and Judge said “there’s a good chance’’ the Giants will sign an offensive lineman, as another body is needed for the two-day joint practice in Cleveland on Thursday and Friday in advance of preseason game No. 2, against the Browns.

A castoff from another team is not going to come in and challenge for a starting job on the Giants offensive line. Other than moving veteran Nate Solder in for Peart at right tackle, there are very few legitimate options from within.

Jones and most, or some, of his main targets will get out there soon enough and it is likely the offensive line gets a boost from that. In the past, an offensive malaise in the summer was waved off as no big deal and then a lousy start to the real season proved it was a big deal. There is no benefit of the doubt here with the Giants, their offense and their offensive line.

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