For a few minutes there, it looked like the New York Giants would open their 2019 season with a bang against the Dallas Cowboys. But things quickly went off the rails for New York and they fell to Dallas 35-17 in a one-sided affair that has looked depressingly familiar.
We came in to the regular season with plenty of questions regarding the Giants, and we got answers — not terribly palatable answers, but none the less we learned things about this team.
Saquon Barkley is (still) good
Okay, this isn’t so much “learned” as “confirmed.” He had the first fumble of his NFL career, but immediately followed that up with an explosive 59-yard run, sealed by an block by Evan Engram — who capped the drive with a touchdown catch on play action.
Barkley finished the game with 120 yards on 11 carries, good for 10.9 yards per carry. The only problem? The Giants still didn’t put him in position to really have an impact on the game. They looked to Elijhaa Penny on a third-and-3 that could have kept them in the game, and while they targeted Barkley 8 times over the course of the game, his average catch was only 4.8 yards.
Barkley is a phenomenal player, but the Giants need to unleash him.
The Giants STILL can’t cover a tight end
Blake Jarwin, who the Giants last saw scoring three touchdowns on them in the 2018 finale, scored the Cowboys’ first touchdown of the evening. And in a show we’ve seen time and time again, Jason Witten scored a touchdown (Dallas’ second score). The middle of the field was open all afternoon for the Cowboys, and Prescott did not hesitate to take advantage.
The last time the Giants could effectively limit the damage tight ends Jacquian Williams was on the defense. This is a problem the Giants need to get fixed, but the answers might not be there.
The concerns about the Giants’ defense seem to be warranted
The Cowboys absolutely shredded the Giants’ secondary, picking on Antonio Hamilton and DeAndre Baker in coverage — as well as Antoine Bethea when he was in man coverage. Making matters worse, the Giants’ pass rush was nonexistent, giving Prescott all the time he needed to pick the secondary apart.
The Giants’ run defense was stout enough early in the game, holding Ezekiel Elliott to 4.1 yards per carry, but that doesn’t matter much when Prescott completed 78 percent of his passes for 405 yards and 4 touchdowns.
Hopefully the Giants’ young defense will be able to regroup and come together as the season progresses. They’ve invested a lot in deconstruction and rebuilding of the defense and need it to pay off.
The Giants’ offense has no teeth
New York got off to a fantastic start which looked to silence all the doubters, sprinting down the field to score a touchdown on their opening possession.
And then that was it.
Saquon Barkley got his yards on the ground, but the Giants never really gave him a chance through the air. As mentioned above, Barkley’s targets all came short — as they did a year ago. Evan Engram was the Giants’ most dangerous receiving option and picked up 116 yards and a touchdown on 11 receptions (14 targets), but it never felt like he was a focus of the offense or used to attack the defense. The Giants receivers largely failed to get much separation or make much happen.
As we saw last year, the vast majority of the Giants’ offense took place around the line of scrimmage, and they just spun their wheels. The only time the offense really seemed to get going were on long passes to Cody Latimer and Bennie Fowler. But also, as we saw a year ago, rather than keep with it and attack the defense, the Giants reverted to their short, quick passes, and it wasn’t effective.
The Giants have the players to field an effective offense, but the coaching staff needs to put them in position to do so.