The news from Friday that likely will have the biggest effect on the Giants’ regular-season opener did not emanate from the 20-12 preseason loss to the Steelers at MetLife Stadium. Instead, it came from the NFL’s announcement that Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott has been suspended six games. The Giants open in Dallas on Sept. 10, so even if Elliott’s appeal reduces that punishment he likely will miss that game.
Not that any of the Giants were already chalking up a win.
“They’re still the Cowboys,” Giants cornerback Eli Apple said. “They’re a very talented team, they have other guys for sure. Their quarterback is really good, they have a great receiver. Great guys around him. It’s not just Zeke.”
“Dallas is still a great, formidable opponent,” defensive tackle Jay Bromley said. “They don’t have the dynamic player but they still have very capable backs that are good . . . [Alfred] Morris and [Darren] McFadden are proven vets who have had thousands of yards in this league. And that offensive line is still the same, they’re still blocking for them.”
The possibility of an Elliott suspension has lingered for some time. Friday’s announcement simply made it official.
Not all of the Giants were happy to hear it, either.
“It’s horrible that he’s not [going to be] there,” safety Landon Collins said. “I always say I want to play against the best and he’s one of the best out there. When you play against the best that’s how you become the best. I wish he was there and I hope his appeal goes down to three or two games so he can get back on the field.”
Some just tuned it out.
“One team is enough for me to worry about right now,” coach Ben McAdoo said. “I’ve got one team. That’s enough.”
Apple played at Ohio State with Elliott, so he had complicated feelings on the matter.
“It’s an interesting thing with that situation,” Apple said. “I know Zeke on a personal level so with me, I just hope he makes it through it and hopes he continues to stay the course with everything. I’m close with him a little bit, our families are close, so I wish him the best and I’m hoping he gets through the situation.”
There is no doubt that the loss of Elliott will be an advantage for the Giants. Playing a team without one of its top players always is.
That doesn’t mean it’ll be an easy game, though.
“We have to come in there on Sept. 10 and bring our big boy pads and know that they’re still going to run the ball,” Bromley said.
“It’s tough to say because we haven’t really seen them without Zeke,” Apple said when asked what the Cowboys offense will look like in such a state. “But I know they have great backups like Alfred Morris and Darren McFadden they can put in. The offense as a whole is really good. As a defense we know we have to continue to get better in the preseason and do our best to be at our best in the first game.”