The first game of the (pre) season is in the books, and the New York Giants came away with a 27-10 loss to the Miami Dolphins. So, what can we take away from the throwdown (exhibition) between the teams with the two youngest head coaches in the league?
1. The 2016 Giants looked inconsistent
Everyone has been wondering what the Giants would look like with Ben McAdoo at the helm as opposed to Tom Coughlin. After eight long months of wondering, we finally have our first glimpse.
The Giants' first team was impressively physical, with strong running from Rashad Jennings and Andre Williams, and impressive down-field blocking from Sterling Shepard. The defense was stout, aggressive, and smothering as they swarmed to the ball. It was everything the Giants could have asked from their first foray onto the field for 2016.
From there, the Giants were painfully sloppy.
Four turnovers, several recovered fumbles, penalties, and off-target throws turned the game in the Dolphins' favor and a promising start into a mess. This game generated plenty of "teaching tape" for the Giants.
2. Ryan Nassib
Perhaps the first big surprise of the Giants season was Eli Manning NOT starting a game. This is the first time the Giants have taken the field without their franchise signal caller under center for the first snap since the second preseason game of 2010 -- Manning missed that game thanks to an injury suffered during a botched hand-off the previous week.
This was Nassib's first real opportunity to step out from behind Manning, and it definitely could have gone better (to say the very least).
Nassib started out strongly, hitting Geremy Davis, Shane Vereen, and Sterling Shepard for a combined 36 yards, including a fantastic 24-yard diving reception by Shepard. The opening drive was capped by a 3-yard touchdown run by Jennings.
Nassib's opportunity turned into a nightmare once the second- and third-string players started seeing the field. With two interceptions of underthrown passes intended for Shepard and a fumble on a scramble, Nassib became the Dolphins' best defensive player.
While he was able to fit the ball into a couple tight windows, Nassib's inconsistency is a concern for the Giants.
3. Free Agents
Practically every time the Giants are mentioned anymore, it's prefaced by their unprecedented off-season spending spree. The big-ticket free agents, Janoris Jenkins, Damon Harrison, and Olivier Vernon proved dominating. The Giants first-team defense held the Dolphins' starters to a paltry 19 yards and an interception in their first three possessions.
JPP and Vernon had Ryan Tannehill under siege, notching several quarterback hits. Inside, the Giants mountainous defensive tackles were next to impossible to run on.
Early indications are that the Giants' spending spree is paying dividends
4. The Rookies
Former Giants' beat writer Mike Garafolo mentioned on NFL Network that Giants camp had a new and different feeling under McAdoo. A big part of it was the willingness to rely on rookies to be regular contributors to the team. The "Big 3" rookies -- Eli Apple, Sterling Shepard, and Darian Thompson -- in particular are expected to play vital roles this year. But how did all of the rookies do in their first taste of NFL action?
Well, all things considered. Shepard's catch was the highlight of the night.
But rookies showed up all over the field. Eli Apple came up with a good stop to get the defense off the field on Miami's first possession and Darian Thompson also played well.
Despite a botched hand-off, Paul Perkins looked as quick and elusive as advertised and B.J. Goodson was all over the field. Defensive tackle Greg Milhouse was disruptive in the middle, notching one of the Giants' four sacks. Finally, Romeo Okwara had a good showing, playing well in the run game and getting pressure on the passer.
5. The Returning Injured
The Giants never intended to pair Brandon Merriweather and Craig Dahl with Landon Collins in 2015. Nor did they intend for Kerry Wynn to be a starter, or for Markus Kuhn to play quite as much as he did. But with injuries to Nat Berhe, Bennett Jackson, Mykkele Thompson, Jason Pierre-Paul, Owamagbe Odighizuwa, and Johnathan Hankins, Steve Spagnuolo was forced to play the hand he was dealt.
JPP's first game with his modified glove went well, showing no hesitation to use his maimed hand. At one point he simply walked the right tackle into Ryan Tannehill's lap, leaving him no place to go while Vernon came in for a hit.
But the biggest return was Odighizuwa, who finished the night with a pair of sacks for a loss of 10 yards. Owa's power and explosiveness were a problem for the Dolphins, and the Giants have to hope he builds on a good night and becomes a threat behind -- and alongside -- JPP and Vernon.
6. Surprise Of The Night
Ending on a good note, the surprise of the night has to be Andre Williams' running.
Before the game both Invictus and Ed thought that Williams' roster spot was in jeopardy, but the third-year back was the Giants best runner Friday night. He totaled 41 yards on 9 carries (4.6 yards per carry), and showed solid vision following his blockers and an improved burst through the hole. He played even better than the box score indicates, with a 12-yard run wiped out by a holding call, and a tackle for loss thanks to a blown block.
Hopefully, Williams can build on his strong performance throughout the preseason.