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Steelers 20, Giants 12: Winners And Losers In Giants’ Position Battles

Has the preseason opener changed the Giants’ position battles?

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at New York Giants
Geno Smith did some good things for the Giants on Friday night.
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants’ first preseason game resulted in a loss, but that isn’t really the point.

The point of preseason games is to get your team experience playing in real game situations, against players who aren’t their teammates — something that just can’t be simulated in practice. The other point of pre-season is to improve from game to game as the team rounds works toward the regular season.

It also gives coaches a chance to evaluate position battles throughout their roster, and the Giants are no different. They have battles going on at quarterback, wide receiver, tight end, defensive tackle, cornerback and kicker that all merit attention.

So let’s see who were the winners and losers of these battles in the first preseason game.


If this is truly a competition, the winner was plain to see against the Steelers, and it was Geno Smith.

Josh Johnson got the start and had the benefit of being surrounded by players who are largely at the top of the Giants’ depth chart. But the offense floundered despite that, only gaining traction following a Valentino Blake interception and repeated passes to Matt LaCosse.

The offense just seemed to function properly with Geno Smith under center. Despite a bad interception in the third quarter, Smith looked more comfortable and in command than Johnson. He moved well in the pocket and made some great completions to Evan Engram, Jerell Adams, Roger Lewis Jr., and Darius Powe.

Wide Receiver

The battle for the fifth and sixth wide receiver spots looks to be a good one.

After the first preseason game, Darius Powe looks to be the early winner. He made a nice 15-yard and drew an interference call on a go route, showing off his size and athleticism, as well as developing football acumen.

Roger Lewis had a couple poor plays, such as stepping out of the back of the end zone to wipe a touchdown off the board, having the ball bounce out of his hands. He has talent, but could be falling behind Powe.

Tavarres King did not play in the first preseason game, which opens the door for other players to put good play on film and leapfrog him on the depth chart.

Tight End

Rhett Ellison and Jerell Adams both played well. Ellison distinguished himself as the only receiver to produce much of anything with Josh Johnson under center. Adams showed off his athleticism down-field for Geno Smith and showed off some good blocking.

Will Tye didn’t distinguish himself much as a receiver, but he made a nice block on a screen pass to help convert a long third down.

Tye might not strictly be a loser based on his play, but he is definitely behind Engram, Ellison, LaCosse, and Adams.

Defensive Tackle

Jay Bromley got the start alongside Damon Harrison, and played well. He flashed several times in the first half, on one play knifing into the backfield past the Steelers’ starting left guard to blow up a running play.

Dalvin Tomlinson flashed at times as well. He looked strong in the middle of the defensive line, disrupting a couple inside runs.

Robert Thomas did not play in the preseason opener, and was therefore a loser by default. If you’re standing still while other players are making progress, you’re falling behind.


Michael Hunter Jr. is probably the winner in the battle to back up Janoris Jenkins, Eli Apple, and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.

Donte Deayon got reps with the starting unit in the slot and largely covered well, but he hurt his case with a costly muffed punt that lead to a Steelers’ touchdown.

Valentino Blake came up with the game’s first turnover, but also got beat down the field for a touchdown. Undrafted rookie DeShaun Amos out of East Carolina also got beaten deep.


Both kickers, Aldrick Rosas and Mike Nugent, kicked well in the game. If we’re naming a winner, it has to be Rosas for his impressive 52-yard field goal, that looked as if it would have been good from 60 yards. There were some questions about how the rookie would respond to competition and kicking under the pressure of a real game. He answered those questions well against the Steelers. Nugent didn’t do anything to hurt himself in the competition, but it looks as though he might need Rosas to stumble in order to pass him.