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Giants at Lions: 5 things we learned from the Giants’ 21-16 loss

What can we take away from the Giants’ first preseason game?

New York Giants v Detroit Lions Photo by Mike Mulholland/Getty Images

The New York Giants fell 21-16 to the Detroit Lions to open the 2023 preseason.

The Giants probably should have won the game after Lions’ quarterback Nate Sudfeld made several regrettable (for him) throws. The Giants just couldn’t capitalize on their opportunities.

Instead, they let the Lions hang around, and Detroit was ultimately able to claw their way back for the fourth-quarter victory.

This game was a mixed bag for the Giants, with several great performances, as well as several coaching points and opportunities for improvement.

So what can we take away from preseason Week 1?

The Jason Pinnock show

The start of the game was, frankly, the Jason Pinnock show. Pinnock wasn’t just around the ball on every play for the Giants’ defense, he was making plays on the ball (or ball carrier) on just about every play. He started off the game by picking off an ill-advised throw from Sudfeld, giving the Giants’ offense the ball on a short field. He followed that up with a great run stuff to put the Lions behind the chains on their second drive, which set up a turnover on downs to end their second drive. And, of course, it was Pinnock who got the stop on fourth down.

Pinnock was largely overlooked at the start of camp and it was a surprise when he played next to Xavier McKinney with the starters. But it would be a surprise if Pinnock wasn’t a starter after tonight.

Third down was a problem

The Giants’ offense wasn’t great a year ago, but they were remarkably efficient. They generally stayed ahead of the chains and were at least able to put Graham Gano in position to end drives with points.

The Giants struggled mightily to convert third downs in this game, and were just 2 of 13 (15.4%) overall.

The Giants generally ran a fairly familiar brand of offense with quick rhythm passes, bootlegs, and running plays. However, they had few explosive plays (Jashaun Corbin’s 33-yard run was by far the Giants’ longest play) and got behind the chains too often. The Giants’ offense appeared to be stuck in neutral for most of the game.

I certainly didn’t expect the Giants to show off any wrinkles or innovative plays or packages, however I expected them to better execute the foundations of their offense. That’s something coaches will likely want to work on over the remainder of the preseason.

Tommy DeVito is fun

I don’t know if he’s going to make the final roster, and honestly, he probably won’t. However, the rookie out of Illinois (and Syracuse) was one of the highlights for the Giants on the offensive side of the ball.

He showed good mobility and the ability to throw off-platform in college, and that showed up again in this game.

DeVito was pretty accurate for an undrafted rookie in his first NFL action, finishing 15 for 24, with 155 yards, a touchdown, an interception while being sacked five times.

He was largely efficient, showed good decision making, and threw good, catchable passes. DeVito also did some damage with his legs against the Lions. He showed both the ability to operate the play-action bootleg plays that formed the basis for the Giants’ offense a year ago, as well as picking up yardage on his own.

DeVito is (very) unlikely to upset Tyrod Taylor for QB2 this year. However, he’s suggested that he has the upside to succeed Taylor next year with some development this year. And at the very least, he’s made a solid case for himself to take Davis Webb’s spot as the emergency QB3 on the practice squad in 2023.

Tre Hawkins continues to shine

I’m not going to proclaim former Old Dominion CB Tre Hawkins III a steal or that the Giants struck gold in the sixth round.

At least not yet, but it’s getting close.

Hawkins has been getting reps in practice with the first team in practice, and I expect that to continue after this game. Hawkins was in great coverage throughout the evening, and was matched up on Jameson Williams several times. Hawkins looked the part in those match-ups, and wasn’t outmatched against a player who would have been a first rounders if it weren’t for an injury.

Hawkins’ success might have been to the detriment of Darnay Holmes and Cor’Dale Flott, not to mention Aaron Robinson. It will be interesting to see if we the Giants make more use of Hawkins and Banks on the perimeter and Adoree’ Jackson in the slot after tonight.

Hawkins might even have looked a bit better than Deonte Banks, if I’m being perfectly honest. Sudfeld went after Banks a couple times, and those plays probably should have been completions if Sudfeld had placed the ball better. That isn’t to say that Banks played poorly, more that Hawkins played particularly well.

The offensive line

I’m going to start out with the important part: John Michael Schmitz looked pretty good. Maybe not perfect, but he looked comfortable and quick on the field. He stood out amongst the various second-teamers on the field. Schmitz was generally in good position, creating movement on the ground and was a rock in pass protection. He was easily the best offensive lineman on the field for the Giants.

If we’re looking for coaching points, and part of these games is to find them, I would like to see Schmitz play with more consistent leverage over the next two preseason games. There were several times I noticed him lunging at defenders, particularly in the run game. Leverage is all-important on the offensive interior, and maintaining it will be key to his success for the Giants. I’m not overly worried at this point — he’s a rookie in his very first NFL action, and leverage was one of the highlights of his scouting report. I expect him to improve in this regard, but it’s also something he’s going to need to work on in the coming days and weeks.

The flip side of that is that three of the guys Schmitz was showing up are guys who might be important players on the Giants’ offensive line. Joshua Ezeudu and Ben Bredeson started on either side of Schmitz, and the Lions had a bit too much presence in the Giants’ backfield. Their defensive linemen and linebackers were able to knife into the backfield too often, and the Giants were in long down and distances because of it. The Giants have been working both Bredeson and Ezeudu as starters at the guard spots, and their youth makes you think the Giants hope they can be long-term answers.

Matt Peart got out to a good start and certainly looked better than Korey Cunningham on the Giants’ first two short drives, he reminded why he could be on the roster bubble after that. He was rocked by a CB on a run stuff early in the Giants’ third drive, and then let pressure into the backfield after that. Peart was the first player up when Evan Neal suffered a concussion last week, but he might have opened the door for Tyre Phillips or Devery Hamilton to take the swing tackle job, or at least make the competition interesting.