The Giants opened up their preseason schedule against the Lions Friday night, partaking in one of just three exhibition games before the regular season begins in September.
Big Blue was defeated by the Lions, 21-16, but the scoreboard obviously doesn’t matter here. What matters is how the youngsters on the roster, especially the rookies, handled the big stage. And New York’s novice defensive backs certainly gave fans a reason to believe.
Let’s discuss that and some more takeaways from the Giants’ preseason opener.
Secondary impact. New York could employ several young defensive backs alongside veteran corner Adoree’ Jackson and safety Xavier McKinney. Cornerbacks Tre Hawkins and Deonte Banks are rookies, while safety Jason Pinnock is in his third year. Both safety Dane Belton and slot corner Cor’Dale Flott are in year two.
But if Friday night’s performance was any sort of indication of what’s to come in the regular season, the Giants’ defensive backfield could be in good hands.
Inexperience could be a recipe for disaster in coordinator Wink Martindale’s man-heavy defense. However, the young guys played exceptionally well against the Lions. Hawkins, a sixth-rounder who has impressed enough to earn first-team reps, had great coverage on the first play from scrimmage that led to a nearby interception for Pinnock. We could see Hawkins as one of the starting boundary corners in the regular season, with Pinnock the starting strong safety next to McKinney.
Then later in the opening quarter, the first-rounder Banks broke up a third-down pass in the red zone despite an apparent push-off from Lions receiver Chase Cota.
To top off a great first half for the secondary, Belton picked off a Detroit pass in the second quarter and returned it 41 yards. Meanwhile, Flott — who is battling for the starting slot corner job — forced an end-zone incompletion for a turnover on downs.
Beasley stock up? The Giants brought in wide receiver Cole Beasley, who had experience with head coach Brian Daboll in Buffalo, late last month. And he was always supposed to be just a training camp body to spark competition.
Beasley produced on a number of occasions against the Lions and could make a push for a roster spot. The former Cowboy, Bill, and Buccaneer finished with four catches for 33 yards. He wokred with backup quarterbacks Tyrod Taylor and Tommy DeVito.
The Giants have six receivers expected to make the final roster. That’d be Darius Slayton, Isaiah Hodgins, Parris Campbell, Sterling Shepard, Jalin Hyatt, and Wan’Dale Robinson. But Shepard is injury-prone and Robinson is still on the PUP list after tearing his ACL last November. So we shall see if the staff considers keeping Beasley later this summer.
Up-and-down special teams. Placekicker Graham Gano looks like he’s in midseason form. What else is new? One of the more productive players on the Giants roster (no, seriously) converted all three of his field-goal attempts (from 48, 42, and 47 yards) and his lone extra-point attempt. So, that’s the good news.
The bad news has to do with the punt cover team. The Giants allowed a 95-yard punt return for a touchdown from Maurice Alexander in the third quarter. Missed tackles and poor coverage on Big Blue’s part led to the Lions’ first touchdown of the preseason.
Then later in the third quarter, on another punt, Gillan landed awkwardly on his left (punting) foot and limped off the field. He continued playing, but his injury (if it pops up again) could be something to monitor.