Here’s what we learned from the New York Giants‘ week one victory over the Dallas Cowboys.
The New York Giants rectified their 2015 woes with a nail-biting victory over the Dallas Cowboys. It didn’t come easy, but a win is a win, and after a season full of disappointing losses, it was imperative that the players proved to themselves that they could hang onto a slim lead.
How the squad will progress is a mystery, but for now, one thing is for certain: Big Blue is 1-0.
The Good: Ben McAdoo
McAdoo’s regular-season debut was a complete success.
Throughout the preseason, the new head coach made it clear that he’s serious and dedicated, regimented and militaristic, seasoned and likeable.
Last night, he reminded many of a legendary skipper named Tom Coughlin, and it’s easy to tell why.
He’d make Vince Lombardi proud with the berating of his tight end, Larry Donnell, following a miscue. He’d make Coughlin jealous with his late-game decision-making. He actually made Jason Garrett wonder how poised a rookie head coach could be.
While it wasn’t perfect, it was commendable. If he continues to lead by example, McAdoo could potentially head to the postseason in his first year at the helm of the team.
The Good: Secondary Receivers
Victor Cruz and Sterling Shepard took completely different routes to get to this point.
Cruz was an undrafted free agent who was the most productive young receiver in franchise history before sustaining a plethora of injuries. It’s tough to say he could’ve drawn up his return any better if he tried, though.
His first game back in seven hundred days entailed a game-winning touchdown grab and three catches on a first-half touchdown drive. The Salsa dance returned for both Cruz and Odell Beckham Jr, as we’ll explain in a second.
Shepard was a highly-touted second round pick who was thrust into a starting role immediately. Although he dealt with the usual rookie miscues, he was largely effective.
The importance of the two wideouts was simple: they alleviated pressure off of Beckham. Although OBJ had a pro bowl caliber season in 2015, one can only imagine how much better it would have been had the team had another threat lining up across from him.
The Good: Offensive Line
Possibly the biggest question mark entering the season was the offensive line.
On Sunday, that unit held its own. Its splendid play did come against the depleted ‘Boys d-line, but there were some encouraging signs nonetheless.
Marshall Newhouse (team-high 83.6 Pro Football Focus grade) and John Jerry (75.6) both played the game of their lives, while Ereck Flowers (70.9) and Justin Pugh (79.7) both competed commendably. The one underachiever along the line was usually reliable center Weston Richburg (59.4), but even he was a force to be reckoned with on pass protection.
Under new offensive line coach Mike Solari, Big Blue’s maulers created holes at the line of scrimmage and allowed just five pressures and only one sack.
It’s a good start for a unit with many concerns entering the season.
The Good: Run Defense
The team’s prized free agents — Olivier Vernon and Damon “Snacks” Harrison — coupled with the team’s invaluable returnees — Jason Pierre-Paul and Johnathan Hankins — produced superior results.
The four defensive linemen combined to create 15 quarterback pressures and ten defensive stops, according to Pro Football Focus. Particularly impressive was Vernon (81.1), who was relentless in pursuit.
The idea of four stars going into battle together in the trenches is a nightmare for opposing offensive lines. The quartet of pass rushers/run stoppers were active against Dallas’ elite o-line, which shows just how good they can be.
The Bad: Randy Bullock
Josh Brown missed an extra point last season, but something just felt different with Bullock’s mishap. McAdoo better hope that Brown irons out his off-field problems, or the Giants special teams could be in for a long season.
The Ugly: Third Quarter
Quarters like this are going to happen again — they always do with Manning at the helm — but that doesn’t mean things don’t need to be ironed out.
New York’s offense replicated their preseason woes with a gruesome third quarter. Manning began the half by throwing an interception to Brandon Carr. He also had a forced backwards pass that almost resulted in a Dallas recovery. It’s not like he was effective when throwing to his receivers, either.
Brandon Carr's first interception since 2013! #CowboysNation https://t.co/abUiJjNwgW
— DemBoyzNation (@DemBoyzNation) September 11, 2016
While Manning was particularly effective at throwing the long ball, the third frame should serve as a poignant reminder of just how bad the New York Giants could be against a legitimate defensive threat.
The Ugly: Defending Crossing Routes
The Giants have always struggled at defending crossing routes, and defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo‘s zone schemes only add to the problem.
The strategy allowed Dak Prescott to dump the ball off short. Cole Beasley and Jason Witten both routinely got open within ten yards.
On a positive note, Janoris Jenkins limited Dez Bryant to one catch for eight yards.
Did Dez Bryant catch it?? https://t.co/q6OuhGssq5
— Everything Football (@DaFootballStart) September 11, 2016