Preseason openers mean nothing when it comes to wins and losses. The New York Giants dropped their first preseason game to the Pittsburgh Steelers, 20-12 Friday night at MetLife Stadium. Although there are standings in the preseason, no one really cares about them.
The preseason is used to evaluate players, especially since it’s been, at the most, seven months since teams played a live game of football. Organized team activities (OTAs), mini-camps, and training camp practices can only do so much for coaching staffs deciding who’s good or who’s not, who stays and who goes.
This Week in NFL History: This Week in NFL History: August 6 through August 12
Preseason Opener: Giants drop their preseason opener to Steelers 20-12
Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger: Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger: A Rivalry That Never Happened
Mykkele Thompson: Giants waive safety Mykkele Thompson, sign linebacker Jimmy Herman
Brandon Marshall: Brandon Marshall reminds Eli Manning of Plaxico Burress
The best way to evaluate NFL players is to watch film of them in a live game. Head coach Ben McAdoo and his staff now have film to sort through and determine The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly of the New York Football Giants.
Safety Landon Collins—Collins was robbed of the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award in 2016. He put together a stat line (over 100 tackles, more than two sacks, at least five interceptions, and at least 12 passes defended) that no player in NFL history ever had. Collins finished third in the voting. He seemed to take that personally.
Collins came out and continued where he left off. He made punishing hits on the first two Steelers possessions, including a highlight-worthy hit that made the rounds on social media. Collins led the Giants with five tackles.
Running back Orleans Darkwa—Darkwa’s stat line (three carries for 18 yards) is nothing to write home about but he was the Giants’ most effective ball carrier against the Steelers. He has practiced with the first team offense because of an injury to Shaun Draughn and the desire to ease rookie Wayne Gallman slowly. Darkwa’s performance against the Steelers is an extension of what he’s done in practice: hard, effective running.
Kickers Mike Nugent and Aldrick Rosas—The Giants’ most competitive position battle, believe it or not, is between the veteran Nugent and the young, unproven Rosas. They scored all of the Giants’ points Friday night because the offense was unable to put the ball in the end zone. Both Nugent and Rosas scored two field goals each. Rosas, who never kicked in a regular season NFL game, nailed a 52-yard field. Nugent, who signed with the Giants last week to give Rosas some competition, matched the young pup with a 45-yard field goal.
Defensive end Kerry Wynn—Wynn seemed to be everywhere on the field. He had three tackles (two for a loss), a sack, one quarterback hit, and a pass defended. Like Collins, he seemed to play with a chip on his shoulder, as if he’s trying to remind the coaching staff and the fans at MetLife Stadium of his presence. Wynn will not be forgotten if he keeps playing like a man possessed.
Cornerback Valentino Blake—Blake’s night began on a positive note when he made a Madden NFL-like grab of the game’s first interception. That was the only positive of Blake’s evening. His coverage was shaky, none more than when he was beaten for a touchdown. Blake allowed another touchdown that was wiped out by a penalty. Not a very good evening for a player trying to earn a roster spot.
Quarterback Geno Smith—If the backup quarterback battle had to be decided today, Smith would win and it wouldn’t be even close. He ran well, showing no signs of the ACL injury that ended his 2016 season. Smith had a command of the offense that reminded everyone he was an NFL starting quarterback once upon a time.
This doesn’t mean everything went well with Smith. He made some questionable throws, including one that led to an interception. Smith never recovered from it and continued to make head scratching throws.
Cornerback Donte Deayon—Deayon has to be a contributor on special teams in order to earn a roster spot. He did very little to solidify that Friday night.
After a successful defensive series, Deayon muffed a punt return that gave the ball right back to the Steelers in great field position.
McAdoo wasn’t happy to say the least.
“We wanted to get a good look at him, but he’s got to take care of the ball,” McAdoo said. “That’s what stood out of me.”
Quarterback Josh Johnson—Johnson played for seven different NFL teams a United Football League franchise before landing with the Giants. He showed his journeyman quarterback colors against the Steelers.
He never looked comfortable out there, constantly shuffling his feet. Johnson paid more attention to the rush than the defense itself, leading to three sacks. He finished 5-of-10 for 31 yards.
Wide receiver Roger Lewis—Lewis dropped a touchdown but that wasn’t what earned McAdoo’s ire. It was the touchdown pass wiped out because he stepped out of the end zone.
“Not run out of bounds before you catch a touchdown would be a good start,” McAdoo said when asked how to convert red-zone opportunities into touchdowns.
Lewis only caught seven passes in 2016. He hasn’t exactly wowed the coaching staff in practice, routinely dropping passes. If he wants to remain on the team, he has to pick up his production.