FOXBOROUGH, MASS. – The Giants probably would have felt much better about their offense had they not seen as much of it.
Daniel Jones led the starting unit down the field for a field goal with a 13-play, 68-yard opening drive in Thursday night’s preseason opener against the Patriots. It was just about everything anyone could have hoped to see from the new system in a game which traditionally functions without any zest in the play-calling or thought to the game-planning.
The ball moved forward – never backward – on each snap, there were no penalties, Jones had time to throw, and even Saquon Barkley, who hasn’t appeared in a preseason game since his rookie year in 2018, had a few carries. Things were going swimmingly right up until Jones tried to hit Kenny Golladay on a third-down pass from the New England 6 that the receiver dropped. Graham Gano trotted out for a 25-yard field goal to cap what should have been a satisfying initial excursion.
But Brian Daboll wanted to see more. Instead he saw less.
He sent most of his starters out for a second drive that was far less inspiring. Jones was roughed up and took his first and only sack of the game when tight end Chris Myarick appeared to miss his block, rookie guard Joshua Ezeudu was pushed back into running back Gary Brightwell on a play that resulted in no gain, and the Giants wound up punting after gaining just 19 yards on the drive.
Will those two possessions mean anything when the regular season begins in what is now less than a month? Hardly. They’ll barely be remembered for anything substantial through this weekend. But in a season in which Daboll is trying to instill a new attitude and winning culture for the team, in which the new regime is trying desperately to distance themselves from the way things have been for the past decade or so, perception may be more important that points at this time of year.
The majority of the starting defense played two series as well and faced nearly the same phenomenon. They had a strong first drive to force a punt then allowed the Patriots to march down the field for a touchdown on the final play of the first quarter.
There are fewer concerns about that side of the ball going into this season, however, and the exotic blitzes and stunts coordinator Wink Martindale has been throwing at his own team throughout training camp were tabled for when the games actually count. Martindale spent the night pretending to be driving a Mister Softee truck delivering nothing but soft-serve vanilla.
Backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor hit receiver Richie James for a 7-yard touchdown late in the second quarter to give the Giants a 10-7 lead at halftime. James made a terrific catch earlier in the drive pulling in a pass that was intended for fellow receiver Collin Johnson but glanced into the air off his hands. Not quite as immaculate as Franco Harris, but serendipitous nonetheless.
Jones said earlier this week he was looking forward to the preseason and a chance to unveil the new offense (or at least the smidgen of it that the Giants were using).
“I’m excited for those opportunities,” he said. “There’s a lot we need to continue to work on and keep making progress on. The preseason’s an opportunity to do that and a game situation gives you an opportunity to prepare for a game. Obviously it’s not the same level of game-planning, but we will prepare for that and go out and try to execute in a live situation.”
Jones finished the game after that second drive with six completions on 10 attempts for 69 yards and an 80.8 passer rating. Barkley carried the ball four times for 13 yards, none longer than 5 yards, but also caught an 8-yard reception to convert a third-and-5. There were no turnovers by the starting group and no penalties for a clean operation.
Promising, sure, given the recent state of matters.
It just would have felt more like a victory worth celebrating had their night ended a tad sooner.