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Giants rookie report, Week 1: Not a good start

Most of the Giants’ rookies were disappointing against Dallas.

Dallas Cowboys v New York Giants
Tre Hawkins
Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

One of the reasons for excitement about the New York Giants heading into the season was their 2023 draft class. Deonte Banks, John Michael Schmitz, and Jalin Hyatt, taken in the first three rounds, were all considered potential game-changing talents, even though Hyatt was not expected to start. During training camp, Tre’ Hawkins and Jordon Riley stood out, raising hopes that the rookie class would raise both the floor and ceiling of the roster.

In the first game, though, that was not the case. Most of the Giants’ rookies struggled, some to a greater extent than others. Let’s review their performance according to Pro Football Focus.

Deonte Banks

Banks actually graded out reasonably well in his first game as a pro, garnering a 67.0 overall PFF grade. That ranked 28th out of 68 cornerbacks who played at least 20 snaps in Week 1 (excluding the Monday Night Football game). His 65.5 coverage grade ranked 31st. He was targeted twice during the game and was credited with two passes defensed and one assisted tackle. His hiccup was an illegal contact penalty on a second-and-4 play from the Giants’ 16.

All in all, Banks’ play was solid but unspectacular in the first half before he left with cramps.

John Michael Schmitz

After grabbing the starting center job fairly early in training camp, Schmitz had a rough go of it in his first game. He ranked last among 30 centers with a 42.8 overall grade, including 29th in run-blocking (41.7) and 26th in pass-blocking (41.7). PFF charged him with three total pressures on 49 pass-blocking snaps (6.1%), including a quarterback hit. For reference, the 2022 league average for starting centers was 3.2%.

Most critically, Schmitz had an errant snap past Daniel Jones’ head on a third-and-7 play from the Cowboys’ 13-yard line. Although the trend of the game thereafter makes it doubtful that the Giants would have converted, it nevertheless forced the Giants into a 45-yard field goal, which was promptly blocked and returned for a touchdown.

Because he did not allow a sack, Schmitz’s 96.6 pass-blocking efficiency ranked 20th out of 30 centers. Still, this was not the start the Giants were hoping for. Schmitz’s poor run-blocking grade is particularly disappointing since that was supposed to be both his strength and a weakness of the Cowboys’ defensive front.

There also seemed to be a lot of miscommunication along the Giants’ offensive line, something the center often has a role in. Those are part of the growing pains of starting a rookie center in Week 1.

Jalin Hyatt

Hyatt ran 17 routes and had just one target, which he dropped. Although the ball was somewhat behind him, it’s a catch an NFL receiver should make. That earned him a 45.9 PFF grade, including 46.7 for route-running and 27.9 for hands. The first two marks ranked 110th out of 119 targeted receivers, while the third ranked 103rd out of 108.

It’s a small sample size for Hyatt, but drops were a concern coming out of college. He had a 6.9% drop rate in 2022 and 14.3% the year prior (three drops on just 28 targets). In the preseason, while his talent shone in his route-running with a long touchdown against the Panthers and two routes where he blazed past Sauce Gardner, he also came out with a drop on his first target against Carolina.

Tre Hawkins III

Banks and Tre Hawkins became the first rookie cornerback duo to start on the outside since 2000. Of the two, Hawkins more visibly struggled. Overall, his 44.7 coverage grade ranked 72nd out of 78 cornerbacks with at least 30 coverage snaps, although he was tagged with just one reception allowed for 19 yards.

Hawkins’ key error, though, was a 37-yard pass interference penalty while covering Brandin Cooks. Hawkins appeared to be in fairly good position, but he put his arm around Cooks’ neck. The flag came on a third-and-12 from the Cowboys’ 18 with the score 16-0, and a stop could have kept the Giants in the game. Although the drive resulted in a field goal rather than a touchdown, it moved the Giants’ deficit to three scores and pretty much sealed the game. Hawkins was also called for defensive holding later in the game, although by then it was 33-0.

Overall, it was a rude introduction to the NFL for the sixth-round pick. In a faint bright spot, he ranked 15th among cornerbacks with a 71.3 run defense grade and 18th with a 78.7 tackling grade, even though his overall 51.9 grade was nothing to write home about. He recorded six combined tackles, including three in the run game. This continued a trend from college, where he had the third-highest run defense grade in the nation in 2022.

Other rookies

  • Eric Gray did not see any snaps on offense but was on the field for 11 snaps in the return game. He recorded one punt return for seven yards and had a 57.4 PFF grade as a returner.
  • Jordon Riley played 17 total snaps and fared pretty well, ranked 19th out of 120 defensive tackles with a 74.2 PFF grade. That included a 20th-ranked 72.6 run defense grade, primarily on the strength of a run stuff for a two-yard loss.
  • Gervarrius Owens was inactive for the game with a hamstring injury.

All in all, it was a game to forget for the Giants’ draft class. Banks flashed the most signs but was not tested that much in his half-game of play. Facing a far less talented team in Arizona next week, can the rookies bounce back?