The more things change, the more they remain the same. The New York Giants (0-1) lost again, a 20-15 result to the Jacksonville Jaguars (1-0) continuing the trend of losing ways that were established by this team last year.
The result underscores that despite the roster turnover and a new head coach, this team is still very much a work in progress. And truthfully based off their season opener, they don’t look like a playoff team anytime soon.
In a game that was a snoozefest for the first three quarters, finally getting exciting in the fourth quarter as the Giants, down 20-9 at the time, clawed back into the game as rookie Saquon Barkley ran for a 68-yard touchdown.
But outside of that one moment of brilliance, the Giants offense struggled against one of the best defenses in the league in 2017. It sounds like a repeat of last season.
After a 3-13 season last year, this was a chance for the Giants to help eradicate the memories of that difficult 2017 campaign. Against a team that won their division and made it to the AFC Championship Game last year, it certainly wasn’t an easy test.
But the Giants, who went through a massive roster shakeup this offseason, didn’t look or play any different than they did a season ago.
Three Things Learned from the Giants in Week 1:
Saquon needs help – The highly-touted Barkley debuted on Sunday, the first round pick and No. 2 overall selection in April’s NFL Draft came into the game with ridiculously high expectations. Truthfully, not even the second coming of Barry Sanders could likely live up to this hype.
And by and large, Barkley didn’t. He struggled to find holes to run through as his line offered him little help. The Penn State running back managed just 37 rushing yards on his first 16 carries.
But on touch No. 17, Barkley got free down the right side and with good blocking was able to break three tackles for a 68-yard touchdown rumble.
There were flashes in the passing game too, such as an 18-yard catch out of the backfield on his first career reception, a play where the Giants got him in space and had good downfield blocking. But those moments were few and far between and came too late.
It is hard to blame Barkley though as some of the blocking was abysmal. Finishing with 106 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries, however, shows his potential.
If only he could get some blocking help.
Revamped line – Speaking of the line, one of the big talking points this offseason was the narrative that the Giants offensive line has been vastly improved. Turns out it really isn’t much better, at least not on a macro level.
One of the worst lines in the league the past three years, the signing of left tackle Nate Solder and the drafting of guard Will Hernandez was supposed to instantly upgrade this unit. And while the talent level might be improved, the actual performance isn’t any better.
The line didn’t open many holes for the running game and the pass protection wasn’t much better. This inability to do its basic function is typified in the fourth quarter with 11:26 left in the game where the Jaguars edge rush forced Eli Manning to step up into the pocket, leading to his pass being tipped and intercepted for a pick-6 by Myles Jack.
The 20-9 lead put the game away for the visitors, even as the Giants scored on their next possession.
Manning, constantly under pressure all day, didn’t throw for a touchdown. He managed to finish 23-for-37 for 224 yards and an interception. The line was to blame here for the poor protection of their quarterback.
Outside of Barkley’s 68-yard touchdown run, the Giants running game amounted to just 2.09 yards per carry. The line is to blame here too, failing to open holes or lanes for the running backs.
The Beckham-Ramsey showdown – There were no fireworks and no fisticuffs between Jaguars safety Jalen Ramsey and Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.
And while Beckham finished with 11 catches for 111 yards, Ramsey did a good job of limiting Beckham from big plays and keeping the wide receiver in front of him for chunk change catches.
However, Beckham consistently got himself open in the fourth quarter, showing that last year’s ankle injury seems to be a thing of the past.
Even though he didn’t break a big play down the field, the Giants did a decent job of getting the ball into his hands, finding him on slants and underneath routes.