When it comes to the nuance and execution of offensive football, take this Giants preseason opener, please.
There is no need to panic or make any definitive statements about what transpired Saturday night. There is also no reason to assuage any fears about the capability of the guys who get paid to protect the quarterback and open holes for the runners.
Anything positive head coach Joe Judge can glean out of the offensive showing of his team in a 12-7 preseason opening loss to the Jets at MetLife Stadium figures to be few and far between. Does this come as a great surprise? Not really. The work of the offense in training camp has often been lackluster and that carried over into this first opportunity under the lights in a game.
Some perspective is in order here.
Daniel Jones was held out. Big-ticket free-agent wide receiver Kenny Golladay is on the mend from a hamstring strain and was held out. Rookie target Kadarius Toney, the first round pick recovering from a slow start to his first NFL training camp after landing on the COVID list, was held out. Sterling Shepard did not play. Saquon Barkley, of course, is not yet ready for this sort of live action.
So, this was not even a reasonable facsimile of the offensive firepower the Giants expect to trot out onto the field Sept. 12 in the season opener against the Broncos. Four of the five projected starters on the offensive line were out there, though, and that group did nothing to make anyone think they are close to the form needed for the real season.
“I think as a team we started slow on both sides of the ball,’’ coach Joe Judge said. “I saw some improvement as we went on, we were able to move the ball a little bit.
“There’s some things we can highlight in terms of the offensive line as far as the direction we have to go. There’s obviously a lot of things we can clean up as well.’’
Andrew Thomas started at left guard, Kenny Wiggins filled in for Shane Lemieux (still dealing with a knee issue) at left guard, Nick Gates was at center, Will Hernandez was at right guard and Matt Peart took his spot at right tackle.
“I wanted to get those guys some more chemistry on the field against a different opponent,’’ Judge said of why he started his first-team line.
That line went against the Jets’ first-string defense. It was not pretty.
On the second snap, Wiggins was beaten badly by Sheldon Rankins, who put a big hit on quarterback Mike Glennon. On the next play, third down, Bryce Hull whipped Peart for a 7-yard sack. You want to try to extricate something positive out of that third down play? Thomas did a good job escorting Carl Lawson wide and away from Mike Glennon in the pocket. Lawson has been dominating left tackle Mekhi Becton at Jets camp, so this was a good sign from Thomas, the No. 4 overall pick in the 2020 draft.
On the next series, the Giants picked up three first downs but stalled when John Franklin-Myers sped past Wiggins to deflect Glennon’s pass out of the air.
“Good and bad,’’ Wiggins said, assessing his performance. “There’s plays you want to have back every single time.’’
The Giants got into a groove running the ball with Corey Clement and would have put points on the board on the third series, but Clement lost a fumble on the Jets’ 3-yard line.
In three series going against the Jets’ starters on defense, the Giants’ offensive line could not keep Glennon (3-of-7, 20 yards) clean, making life miserable for the 31-year-old career backup. The passing game was anemic.
The second-team offensive line did not distinguish itself. Chad Slade at right tackle was called for a false start. Clayton Thorson, the No. 3 quarterback, was hurried repeatedly. When Thorson did have time, he had some problems. He had Damion Willis running free deep down the right sideline early in the fourth quarter but overthrew him by more than a little. Thorson connected with Willis for a 21-yard touchdown hookup with 7:05 remaining for the Giants’ only points.
The Giants are going to need a great deal of work to fix what ails their offense, especially up front. Nearly five minutes into the fourth quarter, they had mustered only 98 total yards (they finished with 163). As a final indignity, Thorson was sacked in the end zone for a safety with 1:39 remaining.
“You don’t want to end any game with a safety,’’ Judge said.
And you do not want to start any game the way the Giants did in this one.
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