The Giants’ football season got underway and the stillness of the night easily could have been overshadowed by the stillness of the game.
In Pittsburgh’s 20-12 victory Friday night at Met Life Stadium, the Giants’ offensive effort left the field with more questions than answers as they managed four field goals. Granted, the G-Men didn’t dress Eli Manning, Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard, while the defense was missing Jason Pierre Paul and Dominique Rogers-Cromartie.
On the flip side, Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown didn’t dress for the Steelers. Pittsburgh started rookie Josh Dobbs from Tennessee (8-for-15, 100 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs) and then countered with fellow rookie Bart Houston from Wisconsin (2-for-7, 24 yards).
It was a night in which backups had a chance to prove their mettle and try to elevate this status.
Here are five takeaways for the Giants’ loss to Pittsburgh.
QB BACKUPS: Without Manning taking the first snap, the honor belonged to journeyman Josh Johnson. From the start, Johnson couldn’t get into rhythm, and he was the victim of three first-quarter sacks and he has a pass batted away. However, he did move the team down the field deep into Pittsburgh territory courtesy of three straight completions. But the drive stalled due to a sack and an incompletion that forced the Giants to settle for a field goal and a 3-0 lead late in the quarter. Johnson finished the night completing 5 of 10 passes for 31 yards.
Enter ex-Jet Gino Smith, who received some jeers when he took the field with 5:45 remaining until halftime. Out of the shotgun on his first play, Smith hit a pass over the middle for 15 yards. In fact, he looked sharp in connecting on his first three attempts. With his team deep in Pittsburgh territory, Smith underthrew Jerrel Adams and suffered the first of his three sacks.
On the next series, Smith has an interception wiped out due to a holding penalty. In the second half, Smith showed some signs of his past with some passes that were either too high or too low. Yet, he did finish the night completing 10 of 16 attempts for 114 yards with an interception.
Early in the fourth quarter, rookie Davis Webb from Wisconsin got his chance. Webb was impressive early as he hit three of his first five passes and moved well around the pocket. He also elected to run out of bounds instead of forcing a pass along the sidelines. He ended the night 8-for-16 for 67 yards and recorded the highest quarterback rating of all three (61.2).
Who moves up or down? Time will need to short this out, but Smith and Webb may have increased their stock. Still, anyone wish Ryan Nassib was still here?
RUNNING GAME AND O-LINE: On the Giants’ first play from scrimmage, Paul Perkins burst up the middle for seven yards. It looked like the G-Men might be able to have a productive night on the ground. Unfortunately, it didn’t last.
The Giants finished the night with 73 yards in 23 carries for a skimpy 3.2 average per carry. The longest run was from wide receiver Travis Rudolph, who gained 19 yards on reverse. Orleans Darkwa had a modest 18 yards on three carries.
Most of the game, Giants’ running backs ran into their linemen who were pushed by the Steelers’ line or into the hands of a Pittsburgh defender. It wasn’t a glowing game for the offensive line, not only for the running attack but also for the seven sacks allowed.
DEFENSE: The Giants’ first-team defense was solid and the reserves also nicely filled most of the gaps. Valentino Blake intercepted a pass downfield, but he also was burned on a few plays including the Steelers’ touchdown. Devin Taylor had the defensive highlight when he stepped off the line, picked off a pass over the middle and nearly scored.
Second-round pick defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson was a force in the middle with four stops. Landon Collins was all over the field with five tackles, and Kerry Wynn, Jordan Williams, and B.J. Goodson all recorded sacks. Goodson had a good game at middle linebacker and took charge of the defense.
KICKING GAME: Unfortunately, all of the Giants’ points came from their kickers. It looks like it will be an interesting contest over the next few weeks between Aldrick Rosas and Mike Nugent.
Rosas started the game and booted a 27-yard, and Nugent then entered a kicked a 30-yarder. In the second half, Rosas had a 52-yarder with a few yards to spare and Nugent followed with 45-yarder with some more yards to go.
Nugent,a 13-year vet, apparently had the inside track at camp the last few weeks and has played in some big games, but the Giants’ like Rosas’ power. Both kickers also booted deep kickoffs and they looked impressive in warmups. This likely will be a battle until the end of camp.
QUIET AND STEADY NIGHTS: Brandon Marshall made his Giants’ debut and it was inconspicuous. He started the game, but didn’t catch a pass and made an early exit. No. 1 pick tight end Evan Engram got into the game in the second quarter and caught a pass for 11 yards. He did have a good game blocking. Rhett Ellison started the game at tight end and caught three balls for 20 yards. Jerrell Adams also had three catches for 28 yards.
Rudolph retuned three kicks for 66 yards, his longest a 31-yard dash up the middle. Brad Wing had another steady night punting, botting four kicks for an average of 45 yards.