The New York Giants last took the field in the final game of Wild Card Weekend more than seven months ago. After the ignominious end to their 2016 season they were chomping at the bit to take to the field, beginning a run they hope will end in Minneapolis for Super Bowl LII.
Their preseason began with a visit from the Pittsburgh Steelers, a team whose 2016 season ended with a loss to the eventual Super Bowl champion New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game.
The game was everything one would expect from a preseason opener: plays that showed potential and plays that reminded you neither team had taken the field since January. The Giants dropped their preseason opener 20-12 in a game that highlighted the good and the bad.
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Quarterback Eli Manning didn’t play so Josh Johnson got the start. Johnson’s play was uninspired and messy. He held on the ball too long and appeared to focus more on the rush than on the defense itself.
Geno Smith, in first his action since tearing his ACL last October, was more decisive and moved the ball better than Johnson. He was done in by poor decisions and two ill-advised interceptions. One pick was wiped out by a penalty, the other almost returned for a touchdown. Smith finished 10-of-16 for 144 yards.
The Giants starting defense came out and played like it was the middle of the regular season.
Safety Landon Collins made a hit that signified his intention to prove he’s the best safety in the NFL. The starting offense was mediocre at best, but they must be given a pass because they were without Manning, Odell Beckham Jr., and Sterling Shepard.
Friday’s preseason opener did very little to dissuade concerns about the Giants offensive line. The running game started well enough with a seven-yard run on their first possession. Then the Giants ran for eight yards on their next six carries. They also allowed three sacks. It wasn’t all doom and gloom for the o-line however.
The offense did convert a fourth-and-1 and the pass protection was better than expected. Ereck Flowers, the most criticized member of the offensive line, didn’t have a terrible game. At the same time, the o-line has plenty of work to do in the next 29 days to get ready for the regular season opener at the Dallas Cowboys.
The kickers, Aldrick Rosas and Mike Nugent, both performed well. They needed to because the Giants offense didn’t score a touchdown. Both kickers scored two field goals apiece, with Rosas kicking a 52-yard field goal and Nugent nailing one from 45 yards.
The Giants’ next preseason game is Monday, Aug. 21 against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium.