Optimism Emerges in Giants’ Week 1 Effort

The Giants may be 0-1 after their Week 1 loss at home to the Jacksonville Jaguars, but, unlike last season, this team still faces a better direction and place than this time a year ago.

To start the 2017 campaign, the Giants lost their opener to the Dallas Cowboys, a game that foreshadowed their struggles in what would become a 3-13 season. In that matchup, the offense sputtered, the line struggled in pass protection as well as in the rushing game, and the defense underwhelmed. While Big Blue got off on the losing foot again this year, there is a different sense around this Giants squad.

This is a team that spent the offseason rebuilding and now is growing toward what will undoubtedly be improvement. They certainly aren’t 100% there yet, but it is a team where some of the pieces are coming together.

Sunday afternoon’s defeat vs. the Jags — the AFC South champion who made it to the AFC Championship a year ago — was disappointing in the fact it was a loss, but the Giants hung in against one of the best defenses in the league and managed to do some positive things: Saquon Barkley ran for over 100 yards in his debut, highlighted by a 68-yard TD run, Eli Manning connected on 63% of his throws and Odell Beckham Jr. caught 11 passes for 111 yards.

The predominant sense is that this is coming together under first-year head coach Pat Shurmur. The word around this team, this franchise, is “forward.”

“I’ve been involved in a lot of first games of the season – won about half of them, and lost about half of them,” Shurmur said. “You just move forward.”

“You learn from the mistakes you made, you build on the things you did well and you just keep moving. That may get old as we go through these Mondays with me saying that, but you can win a game and still go through that process. When you lose a game, it hurts more, but you still go through the same process.”

Against the Jaguars’ stingy defense, the offense sputtered at times, just 15 first downs and 4-for-13 on third down conversions. But, what needs to be emphasized is that this is a work in progress.

“Forward” involves many steps, a point not lost in light of the bitter campaign the Giants are coming off of in 2017.

This time a year ago, the disappointment of the Giants 19-3 loss in Dallas led to plenty of hand-wringing and a reality check for a team that some thought had the goods to make the Super Bowl. In many ways, that performance was a hint of what this team would become in 2017.

Now in light of the loss Sunday, there isn’t a feeling that this defeat shows a team that is rudderless and lacking direction. Instead, it is a reality check for a Giants group that hung with a team that was a game away from the Super Bowl.

It is evidence of a process, one that clearly isn’t anywhere close to being done for this franchise. A process that might be painful but one that has a direction and purpose.

“We don’t make excuses or let other people make them for us,” Shurmur said. “And that’s letting other people make them for us when we say, ‘well, we played a good opponent.’ Everybody’s good, and we expect to go out and win every game, so we don’t factor that in.”

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