Panthers 24, Giants 21: Not an impressive start

I forced myself to endure the Giants entire exhibition opener last night against. And it was definitely a test of endurance.

The more I watched, the less I found to be happy about during the Giants 24-21 loss to Carolina. Except for a few individual performances, I didn't see a whole lot that I felt good about.

The Giants first-team defense was particularly awful. Carolina gashed the Giants, ripping off huge chunks of yardage on almost every running play. There wasn't much in the way of pass defense or pass rush, either.

I know it's only the first pre-season game. I know Michael Strahan is still "retired." I know Mathias Kiwanuka was seeing his first live game action as a linebacker.

I also know, though, that new defensive coordinator Stave Spagnuolo could not have been happy with what he saw.

The players love Spagnuolo's system, which allows them to play more freely and be more aggressive than the passive system previously employed by Tim Lewis.

The way the first defensive unit played was eerily reminiscent of last season, even with the new system. Too many missed tackles, blown assignments and stupid penalties. The Panthers scored on four of their first five possessions.

"We didn't look very good even though this was our first preseason game. We've got a lot of work to do," Osi Umenyiora told Newsday. "They got a couple of big runs on us, a couple of cutbacks on us, and that's not good. We have to get a lot better."

I know some of the mistakes can be chalked up to a learning curve involved with a new system. Spagnuolo needs to find some answers, though. It will be a long season if the defense can't do better than what it showed last night.

Let's take a quick look at some of the players who stood out, both good and bad.

Thumbs up

• Jared Lorenzen. He looked comfortable in extended playing time, moved the team, didn't make any mistakes and threw a beautiful touchdown pass to Anthony Mix.

• Derrick Ward. The veteran running back is fighting to keep his spot on this team, and he stated his case last night. Two excellent kickoff returns, including a 67-yarder, and 29 yards rushing in five carries made him noticeable.

• Zak DeOssie. He snapped flawlessly on punts and played linebacker with some passion in the second half, even recording a sack.

• Ahmad Bradshaw. The seventh-round pick from Marshall is likely Ward's competition for the last running back slot. He showed the ability to catch with three receptions and to make defenders miss. He also had a 35-yard kickoff return. He did, however, fumble at the end of the game to kill the Giants chance for a comeback.

Thumbs down

• William Joseph. I know he's not a natural defensive end, but he was helpless to contain the run on his side of the field.

• Craig Dahl. The rookie free agent safety very possibly played himself off the roster. He got burned on a couple of long scoring passes, committed a costly penalty and missed a handful of tackles.

• The entire secondary. This unit has been a weakness for the past couple of seasons, and I saw very little that encouraged me last night. Kevin Dockery has had a pretty good training camp, but he wasn't very good last night.

• Mathias Kiwanuka. It's obvious he has a lot of work to do to become a quality outside linebacker.

Your thoughts?

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