The Giants open up their regular-season slate Sunday with a road matchup against the Titans. Yes — a team on its third head coach in four seasons will face last year’s top AFC playoff seed. Not an ideal way to start the 2022 campaign for Big Blue.
Don’t expect much from the Giants this year. They employ a rookie head coach in Brian Daboll, rookie general manager in Joe Schoen, and minimal talent throughout the roster. The secondary is too young, the offensive line is already banged up, and quarterback Daniel Jones isn’t the future. The Giants also needed to dump cornerback James Bradberry, safety Logan Ryan, and linebacker Blake Martinez, either due to scheme or for salary cap purposes, in recent months.
But it is indeed the beginning of a new era. A new regime is running the show in East Rutherford and the hope is it’s focusing on the long-term picture of the rebuild. This might mean punting on the 2022 season, but at least Sunday (and the rest of the year) could be a precursor to better days.
Giants at Titans
When: Sunday, Sept. 11, 2022.
Where: Nissan Stadium in Nashville.
Time: 4:25 p.m. ET.
Radio: WFAN 101.9 FM.
Giants’ keys to victory
Stop the run. While the Giants employ a young and inexperienced secondary, the Titans aren’t going to beat you through the air. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill is inconsistent (21 touchdowns to 14 interceptions with an 89.6 passer rating last year) and star receiver A.J. Brown is now in Philly. Running back Derrick Henry is the superstar of the unit — weaken his impact any which way you can.
Involve everyone. While there are question marks surrounding the wide receiving corps, the Giants at least have bodies (although many are inconsistent). Over the last two offseasons, they’ve signed Kenny Golladay, drafted Kadarius Toney and Wan’Dale Robinson, and restructured Sterling Shepard’s contract to ensure he stayed. Running back Saquon Barkley is also looking to rediscover that 2018 rookie-year form. Daboll and offensive coordinator Mike Kafka need to get each healthy weapon involved to overwhelm this talented Titans defense.
Pressure, pressure, pressure. On passing downs, Wink Martindale must retain his reputation as a blitz-heavy defensive coordinator and pressure Tannehill constantly. The veteran quarterback is a true pocket passer and will make mistakes if he doesn’t have the necessary time to operate.
Third-year safety Xavier McKinney is playing for a pretty decent payday next offseason. After an injury-hampered rookie season, the former Alabama standout was the star of this Giants defense last year and picked off a team-leading five passes. Sunday should at least give us an idea of whether McKinney is headed in the right direction.
Did you know?
The Giants have defeated the Tennessee Titans only once since they started calling themselves the “Titans” in 1999. The Titans were the Houston Oilers from 1960-96 and then the Tennessee Oilers from 1997-98.
Big Blue is 1-5 since the name change, with the lone win coming in a December 2014 game (New York won 36-7). Losses include the rain-soaked 17-0 defeat in 2018 and the fourth-quarter collapse in November 2006.
That latter defeat was highlighted by defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka voluntarily letting go of a would-be sack of Vince Young on a late fourth-down play. Regardless of the reason for Kiwanuka’s blunder, the then-rookie quarterback scrambled for a first down on a game-tying possession.
The Titans eventually won 24-21 on a game-winning field goal from Rob Bironas after the Giants were up 21-0 entering the final frame.
The Giants must stop the run and pressure Tannehill on passing downs to give themselves even a slight chance to win (the Giants offense isn’t expected to provide much help).
The problem is they don’t have the depth to do either of those things.
Outside linebackers Kayvon Thibodeaux (knee) and Azeez Ojulari (calf) are doubtful for the game and the Giants just released Martinez, who would’ve been a starter.
So now you’re left with Tae Crowder, rookie Micah McFadden, and 28-year-old journeyman Austin Calitro at inside linebacker with Oshane Ximines and Jihad Ward serving the edge-rushing duties. And on top of that, a lack of true experience in the secondary.
That’s a recipe for disaster. Don’t expect this Giants defense to take pressure off a Jones-led offense that already can’t be trusted. Titans 27, Giants 13.