It wasn’t always pretty – and truthfully, it may not have been much of an improvement over the offense’s displays the past few weeks – but Geno Smith’s debut as the New York Giants starting quarterback showed some promise.
And it was his special relationship with rookie tight end Evan Engram that stood out the most in Sunday’s 24-17 loss at Oakland.
Finishing the game 21-of-34 for 212 yards and a touchdown means that Smith has earned the right to be in the conversation to start for the Giants next week. That he did so well in connecting with the Giants best, current offensive weapon gives a little bit of hope for the future.
Smith’s day was far from perfect, but showed some flashes. On their first three series, all of which were three-and-outs, the Giants generated a total of just seven yards of offense. But after that, Smith was able to dust off some of the rust.
Smith showed mobility in the pocket, such as early in the second quarter when he stepped up to make a throw to Engram for 16 yards. He reacted well in the pocket and Engram, seeing his quarterback on the run, did well to put himself in a position to make the play.
But as has been the case for Smith throughout his career, inconsistencies plagued his game.
He fumbled the ball twice and was called on a delay of game, perhaps the signs of a player who hasn’t started in over a year. He overthrew some targets, held onto the ball too long and got happy feet in the pocket. All things that, with time, might be correctable. And while there were issues with Smith, he showed plenty of spark.
There is also a growing comfort level with Engram, who finished the day with seven catches for 99 yards. He led all targets on either team in the game in both receptions and receiving yards.
Engram bailed Smith out on a couple of occasions, including a spectacular one-handed catch in traffic on the stroke of the two-minute warning in the fourth quarter, a play that fueled the Giants hopes at a comeback attempt.
They wouldn’t win the game, but it was the kind of clutch play that shows why the Giants invested a first-round pick on Engram.
Where this leaves the Giants, now at 2-10, is still in a wait-and-see mode. But the positives to emerge from this game give a glimmer of hope.
The defense, despite some struggles by the offense, continued its recent string of better play. And Aldrick Rosas’ 52-yard field goal late in the game to cut the Raiders’ lead to a touchdown showed some poise from the rookie kicker.
Nothing was as positive for the Giants in this game as much as how Smith and Engram hooked up. Engram was reliable in the red zone as he has been all year, a second quarter touchdown catch showing why he is easily the best option for the Giants inside the red zone.
It may not be enough to take away the sting of a 10th loss for the Giants this year, as the team once again failed late in a game to get a big play to spur a win. But for a team that is now all about developing talent for next year, the fact that Smith and Engram seem to be on to something good is a building block.
And right now in a year of hurt and emotion, perhaps a building block is what was needed.