Strong Showing From Saquon, But Big Blue Still Has Work to Do

There were plenty of question marks and a few bright spots that emerged from the New York Giants 20-10 preseason-opener loss to the Cleveland Browns Thursday night.

It certainly wasn’t a clean performance. It looked more like the Giants team that finished with a 3-13 record than a team with legitimate playoff ambitions.

The good news is that there are some building blocks in place and this is only the first game of the preseason. The Giants do have three more games to straighten things out ahead of Week 1.

A few notes that emerged from the Giants’ preseason loss:

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – AUGUST 09: Saquon Barkley #26 of the New York Giants carries the ball as Emmanuel Ogbah #90 of the Cleveland Browns in the first quarter during their preseason game on August 9, 2018, at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

O-Line Struggling

There are still some issues along the offensive line. A lot will be made of rookie first-round pick Saquon Barkley ending the game with over 10 yards a carry, but the bulk of his 43 rushing yards came on a 39-yard run during the game’s opening play. The rest of the display was ordinary, but not an indictment of his ability.

Barkley got just four yards on the next three carries, including losing two yards the next time he touched the ball.

He wasn’t helped by the fact that the Giants’ offensive line, outside of that opening play, didn’t create a lot of holes or space for him to run. It is a limited sample size for sure but the first-team line struggled in this regard and also let up a lot of pressure on quarterback Eli Manning. In many ways, this is a continuation of their struggles a year ago.

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – AUGUST 09: Eli Manning #10 of the New York Giants scrambles in the first quarter against the Cleveland Browns during their preseason game on August 9, 2018 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

The line is improved over last year, but anyone expecting the changes to make an immediate impact … let’s just say that the offensive line is still a work in progress.

It is a group that might just benefit from plucking a veteran who is released as team’s whittle down their roster over the next few weeks.

For the Wynn

A lot of talk about the revamped defensive line for the Giants centered on how second-year lineman Dalvin Tomlinson and rookie B.J. Hill could fit into the unit’s new 3-4 defense. Turns out that someone else played well in Thursday’s game.

Kerry Wynn, a versatile defensive end who has been plugged into some big holes the past two years, showed some real flashes off the edge. He finished the game with three tackles but did a nice job of getting into the backfield. He also was dedicated in his gap assignments.

While it will be almost impossible to replace Jason Pierre Paul’s production the past several seasons for the Giants, Wynn showed against the Browns that he can be a valuable piece off the edge for this team.

Big Plays Without the Big Stars

Without the sidelined Odell Beckham Jr.  – the Giants’ star dressed but didn’t see the field – the Giants still managed to show more life down the field than they did a year ago.

Eight players managed multiple catches and the Giants showed the ability to use their running backs out of the backfield in the passing game but also take some shots down the field. While the playbook wasn’t opened up, the fact that the Giants seemed more balanced than a year ago is a real positive development from a ho-hum night for this team.

What’s impressive about the passing game is that the Giants not only had balance, they did so without some big names contributing to the numbers. Obviously, Beckham didn’t register a catch, nor did tight end Evan Engram or the aforementioned Barkley. All three, along with wide receiver Sterling Shepard who had two catches, figure to be major pieces of the passing game this year.

There are weapons for sure on this offense, but it will come down to the line protecting Manning and being able to block to get the ground game in gear.

[Watch a Full Recap of the Preseason Opener on Giants Training Camp Live Monday at 6 PM on MSG & MSG GO.]