Sunday’s disappointing season-opening loss to the Dallas Cowboys established what the New York Giants are not. That would be a Super Bowl contending team ready to go mano-a-mano with the best teams in the NFL.
The next three weeks, against developing teams like themselves that went a combined 18-30 in 2018, will tell us a whole lot more about what the 2019 Giants are. That begins on Sunday at MetLife Stadium when the Giants take on the Buffalo Bills in their home opener.
The 1-0 Bills are riding the high of coming back from a 16-0 deficit to defeat the New York Jets, 17-16, at MetLife in Week 1. The Giants are, of course, riding the low of being whipped by the Dallas Cowboys, 35-17, and having a young defense devoid of proven playmakers exposed. Especially in the air, where the Giants could not rush Dak Prescott and surrendered a league-worst 405 passing yards and four touchdowns.
“I think everybody has to work out kinks. No matter how much you play your guys in the preseason, this is the first time they are all playing a full game. In our case, we did play our ones a little more than some in the preseason, but we have a really young football team, especially on the defensive side of the ball, (and) especially in the back end. I think there is a lot to be learned from it,” head coach Pat Shurmur said of the loss to Dallas. “I have been on teams where you won the first game and had a so-so year, but I’ve also been on teams where we’ve lost the first game and (have) gone on and had playoff years. I think you just have to keep working. Just like between year one and year two you can make great improvement, I think the same thing can be said between game one and game two.”
If the Giants are going to show improvement in Year 2 of Shurmur’s time as the team’s head coach, they are going to need to improve quickly. Especially on defense.
We will delve more deeply into the Bills in our offensive and defensive previews later in the week. Suffice it to say, though, that the Bills are not the Cowboys on offense.
Second-year quarterback Josh Allen is not Dak Prescott. John Brown and Cole Beasley are not Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup. Frank Gore and Devin Montgomery are not Ezekiel Elliott. The Bills don’t have Jason Witten and Blake Jarwin. They don’t have the Dallas offensive line.
What, though, do the Giants have?
On offense, they have Saquon Barkley. Despite Shurmur’s protestations, they simply need to do a better job of getting Barkley opportunities to impact the game when it matters.
It appears they have an improved offensive line after that group gave up just one sack in 50 drop backs and came out of Week 1 as Football Outsiders No. 1 ranked run-blocking group.
They won’t have the suspended Golden Tate and probably won’t have Sterling Shepard (concussion).
More important, though, is what they have or don’t have on defense. Despite the concerns about the way Barkley is or is not used and the constant gnashing of teeth about why Eli Manning plays and Daniel Jones doesn’t it is going to be the development or lack thereof of a defense the Giants invested heavy draft and free agent capital in that determines whether or not the Giants take real steps forward in 2019.
With games coming up aqainst the Bills, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Washington Redskins over the next three weeks the Giants are staring at a window of opportunity.
We’ll have to wait and see if they actually have improved enough to take advantage of it.