5 Lessons for New York Giants from Week 1 Loss
What We Learned from Week 1
Sunday night the New York Giants lost a frustrating game to the Dallas Cowboys. In the end this loss may not matter much in terms of playoff and Super Bowl hopes. What the game did do was illuminate issues and necessary improvements for the Giants. After a few weeks fans and analysts will start to have a feel for the good and the bad teams, but at first this can be difficult. For example, the Arizona Cardinals beat the Seattle Seahawks in Week 1 last year, so seeing who will be successful and who will not be successful isn’t always easy. Still, the opening game can offer clues to what is to come.
The Giants leave Dallas down a game, but played well and were in the game for most of it. In fact, except for a few bad bounces they may have outplayed the Cowboys as they averaged more yards per play. Certainly there are gaps, though. When turnovers abound, a lot of finger-pointing follows. Some of those turnovers are indicative of future problems - some are not. Losing in week one puts on a lot of pressure for week two, but there were good signs for the Giants suggesting they might be able to get a win at home against the Denver Broncos.
In all honestly it will be a few weeks before people can fully figure out what kind of team the Giants are, especially because they will likely sign another running back and possibly add some depth at safety. Regardless, there were some clear lessons from week one, so let’s look at them.
5. The Giants Need a Veteran Running Back
The Giants simply need a veteran running back. After David Wilson fumbled twice he will be in Tom Coughlin's doghouse, and rightfully so. However, his pass protection is another part of the problem; it was downright awful. In fact, once he was benched, Eli Manning suddenly started moving the ball down the field with ease.
A veteran running back like Brandon Jacobs or Willis McGahee will help a lot with pass blocking and can mean Wilson does not have to have as many carries. Less carries means less chance of losing the football, while still using Wilson’s sky-high potential.
Wilson has a ton of talent, but he is not quite ready yet and week one illustrated that clearly.
4. The Defensive Line Should be Better
Despite giving up 36 points the defensive line looked strong. That 36-point figure is deceptive since the Cowboys scored two touchdowns as direct results of turnovers. Furthermore, because of six turnovers the defense was constantly on the field.
The best stat to illustrate the defensive line’s strong play is that Tony Romo only averaged five passing yards per attempt, even while completing a decently high percentage. The defensive line was getting enough pressure that Romo could not go deep.
The defensive tackles for the Giants did a good job against the run as well, holding Dallas’ overall yards per rush at just 3.8. With just two sacks, the Giants' line was not flashy, but they did get good pressure while rarely blitzing and knocked Romo down six times. It was not a dominant outing, but it was better than much of last year and somewhat encouraging going forward
3. Secondary Depth Will be an Issue
Going into the season this was a worry, so it is not exactly new. What this game did illustrate, though, is that there probably will not be a surprise star emerging. Terrell Thomas came back to play real football for the first time in two years. He looked better than expected, making some nice tackles, but was certainly not great as Miles Austin beat him and Corey Webster repeatedly.
In addition to their previous injuries Prince Amukamara is down. He got a concussion and is uncertain for next week. If he misses a lot of time the Giants are in real trouble. Amukamara has been brilliant of late, essentially shutting down Dez Bryant (to be fair, the Giants’ safeties did give him a lot of help). Amukamara is a key for the Giants' defense, and without him the Giants have no way of containing top wide receivers. Unfortunately their next opponent, the Broncos, have three great ones. If Amukamara cannot get back soon the Giants will have a serious problem.
2. If Hakeem Nicks is Healthy the Offense Will be High Powered
Hakeem Nicks was stellar against Dallas, getting 114 yards on five catches. Manning looked to him downfield and Nicks often got open to make a catch. Nicks has been hurt on and off the last two years and rarely looked himself. Last night he was the Nicks of old and uncoverable one-on-one.
The Giants' offense will be great with Nicks because of others, however. The Giants have two top wide receivers to pair with strong pass catchers in Brandon Myers and Rueben Randle. When the offense also has Victor Cruz and Nicks they simply line up and whoever does not have a double team gets the ball. At some points last night Dallas gave heavy safety help on both Nicks and Cruz, so Manning just went to Randle and he was ready. Randle had 100 yards receiving. If Nicks is healthy all year the Giants receiving corps could be a three-headed, unstoppable monster.
1. The New York Giants Will be Alright
Look, the Giants have some major concerns and made some major mistakes, but all in all they played well. The media loves to say a team played terrible when they lost or great when they won. This game basically came down to fumble recoveries. Recoveries have been shown to be essentially a random 50-50 bet for each team. There were five fumbles and the Cowboys got all five. That happens less than three percent of the time for particular team.
Not only that, but a lot of the other turnovers were fluky. For example, on Manning’s pass to Da’Rel Scott the ball bounced off his hands right to Dallas’ Brandon Carr. Carr made a great play, give him credit, but plays like that do not suggest major issues going forward. On the Giants' muffed punt, the ball hit the ground and went directly sideways, just touching a Giant player. These kinds of plays rarely happen and their occurrence does not suggest a serious cause for concern (like, say, a running back who keeps fumbling does).
The Giants have issues, but this week’s loss actually suggested the Giants are in good shape, not that they are doomed.