EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – The Giants came into yesterday’s opening day match up with several questions still unanswered from this summer’s training camp. By 8pm Sunday night, few of those questions remained open for discussion. Among the three biggest concerns had to be how the corps of talented but youthful receivers would do without at least one veteran on the roster as a stabilizing force. Even though first round draft choice Hakeem Nicks sprained his foot, Steve Smith, Mario Manningham, and Tight End Kevin Boss all stepped up and played very well.
There was a reason Coach Tom Coughlin and GM Jerry Reese decided to carry 7 receivers to open the season. Injuries. Nicks’ foot could be worse however, as the x-ray’s were negative. Just how bad the sprain is has yet to be determined. An x-ray can only tell you so much. It could be 2 weeks or 4, as a foot sprain is almost like a bad back, it’s very tricky. One sports medicine expert we speak with who is familiar with lower limb injuries tells us that a severe sprain could sometimes be worse then an actual fractured bone. Now the Giants offense is down to 6 wide outs. The other receiver drafted in 2009, Ramses Barden, was inactive for the game but will most likely now be an active roster move for the next several weeks while Nicks recovers.
The second most important question was how the Giants pass rush would do with the infusion of free agents obtained in the past offseason. We saw that they did just fine up front defensively, putting pressure on Redskins QB Jason Campbell on several long second and third down plays. Osi Umenyiora had a 37yard fumble recovery return for a touchdown, and Justin Tuck, Chris Canty, and the rest of the Giants defense looked like the same unit that has won 22 regular season games over the last two years. The concerns still remain over the secondary however, where there is still work to be done. That being said, Corey Webster’s sideline interception took the “wind out of Washington’s sails” on a key offensive possession.
The final major question was how well Eli Manning deals with the partial turn over in personnel. With the exception of a few skittish moments early in the game’s first half, Manning also looked like the same player who had the fantastic 2007 and most of 2008 seasons. But now, a new set of questions arise like any other Monday morning in the NFL.
Will the Giants continue to have trouble scoring Touchdowns in the “Green” zone? (Something both Coach Coughlin and Eli Manning made note of as needing improvement in the post game press conference). Will Danny Ware’s wrist keep him out of any games? Will Mario Manningham continue to emerge as the big play threat (his 30 yard catch and run touchdown while tight-roping the sideline was a thing of beauty)? Or will Kevin Boss fulfill that role?
While the defense saved the day for NY, there were some shaky moments as we mentioned earlier. Redskins Runningback Clinton Portis seemed to play like a hall of famer at times, running through gaps in the Giants run defense large enough to drive an Abrams tank through. This will need to be corrected at some point if the Giants expect to contend for another trip to the Super Bowl. Overall they played well enough to win and did just that, but they missed out on some scoring chances, leaving at least 14 points on the field, meaning the final score should have been more like 34-17 or 37-17 rather then 23-17.
Next week the Giants will play Dallas on “Sunday Night Football” to open the new Stadium. Dallas beat Tampa Bay 34 21 in Tampa this week, and will pose many more problems then Washington did this week. It won’t be easy for NY to walk away with a victory next week. The fact that Eli Manning was able to spread the football around against the Redskins (Smith 6 catches, Boss, Manningham, and Bradshaw 3 each, Nicks, Jacobs 2 each and Hixon 1) will be the one facet of the Giants offense that the Cowboys have trouble with, and what Coach Coughlin should go after Sunday night.
The other telling stat that signals a problem for the Giants against teams with strong run defenses: Washington held the Giants to just 106 total rushing yards, Plus Danny Ware also left the game with a dislocated elbow and probably won’t play for at least 1-2 weeks. Overall the Giants totaled 351 yards of offense to Washington’s 272, with just 85 of that being on the ground.