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Giants vs. Panthers: Week 2 storylines to follow


The Giants will make their 2022 MetLife Stadium debut this Sunday as they welcome the Carolina Panthers to East Rutherford.

Fresh off a thrilling 21-20 victory over the Tennessee Titans, the Giants will look to start the season 2-0 for the first time since 2016 when they take on the Panthers. The two teams faced off last year at MetLife Stadium, where the Giants picked up a 25-3 win behind five total sacks from Azeez Ojulari (2.5), Leonard Williams (1.5) and Dexter Lawrence (1.0).

The Panthers opened up the season with a 26-24 loss at home against the Cleveland Browns, as QB Baker Mayfield went up against his former team in his Panthers debut.

Here are five storylines to follow in the Week 2 matchup.

1. Daboll's home debut

Coach Brian Daboll was visibly excited on the sideline after picking up his first win as head coach. Although he enjoyed celebrating with his team, the head coach did not take very long before he flipped the page to this week's opponent.

"It was good to share that moment with the players," Daboll said Monday. "And then you're on a flight home. You're watching the tape. I finished watching it this morning; there's not a lot of sleep when you have road games or later road games. It's standard operating procedure. What we've been doing up to this point is meeting as a staff for a few hours. I meet with Joe (Schoen). I meet with the players, and I do this media session and then really get going on Carolina here. So again, pleased with the result. But proud of what they've done up to this point relative to getting ready for that game. And now turning the page as quick as we can to go against Carolina."

This weekend's game will mark another milestone for Daboll's career. The matchup against the Panthers will serve as the first regular season game that the 47-year-old takes the sideline at MetLife Stadium as head coach of the Giants, a moment the head coach is very much looking forward to.

"This has been a great spot for myself and I know for the coaches and our families and the people around this community," Daboll said Wednesday. "And I understand how important the New York Football Giants are to a lot of people around here, and they're important to us. I've come across a lot of great people in this community and had some really good conversations. And I'm looking forward to being on this sideline, where it's always cool as a coach, you pull up to the parking lots, and you get a sense even before you go into the game of what kind of day the fans are going to have. And I love our fanbase. I love the support. They're on you when it's bad, and they're supporting you when it's good. And that's the way it is. That's this area.

"I grew up in western New York on the other side of it, but New York/New Jersey mentality. And I'm looking forward to having a packed house and them being as loud as they can be on third down or when Carolina's on offense. They're pretty smart fans up here, so the more we can get in there, the better it'll be. They're part of our team on home games, and I firmly believe that. Wherever I've been, the places that have great support like we do, you go into those places, and it's hard. It's hard to communicate as an offense when you're on the other side, and you get a lot of energy when you're playing special teams and on defense. And we've got to give them a reason to cheer, too. And that's why we're working the way that we're working and focused on what we're focused on."

2. Keep the run game rolling

Saquon Barkley got his 2022 season off on a dominant note. The 25-year-old running back rushed for 164 yards on 18 carries (9.1 avg.) and a touchdown and added a team-high six receptions for 30 yards. He busted out a 68-yard run that helped set up his 4-yard touchdown burst, and went on to score the game-winning two-point conversion with just more than a minute left in the game. His 164 rushing yards and 194 total yards from scrimmage were both the most in the NFL over the first week of the season, and led to him being named NFC Offensive Player of the Week.

"It's just one game, to be honest," Barkley told the media after the game. "That's how I look at it. Obviously, at the end of the day, I'm excited to get the win. Personally, just got to keep coming in. Something that just keeps tickling me that Coach (Daboll) says, 'Just enjoy the process.' And that's something I've been battling in the last few years with rehabbing and injuries. That's been my mindset. No matter what, win, loss, tie, I just want to come here with the same mindset and just keep enjoying the process and come to work every single day. We had a great week of practice and no matter what the result was going to be, we can't let that alter what happens this week. So we've got to keep grinding and keep leaning on each other."

As a team, the Giants finished with a league-high 238 rushing yards. Daniel Jones added 25 yards on six carries (4.2 avg.), Matt Breida recorded five rushes for 24 yards (4.8 avg.) and Kadarius Toney took two carries for 23 yards (11.5 avg.). The team's 7.4 yards per carry average was the second-highest in the NFL behind the Saints' 7.9 avg. The head coach credited both Barkley and the offensive coaching staff for the team's success on the ground.

"He's a really good player," Daboll said Monday about Barkley. "I've said that since I got here and watched him take care of his business both on and off the field. And I don't think there's many runs that you – he looks good in a lot of different runs. And our job up front and on the perimeter is to get a hat on these guys, and it doesn't have to be for a sustained amount of time usually because he is quick and explosive through the hole. But he ran hard like he has all camp

"(Offensive Coordinator) Mike (Kafka) and (Offensive Line Coach) Bobby (Johnson), (Assistant Offensive Line Coach) Tony Sparano (Jr.), (Tight Ends Coach Andy Bischoff) Bisch, (Running Backs Coach) Deandre Smith – those guys work hard and try to come up and develop a run-scheme each week. And that's different week to week based on who we play and matchups, and that's what we need to be. And Saquon just has to trust the blocking and run the way he knows how to run."

3. Competition continues at LG

With Shane Lemieux on injured reserve, Ben Bredeson and Josh Ezeudu have been competing for playing time at left guard. The two split snaps almost evenly in Week 1, with Bredeson on the field for 33 snaps and Ezeudu for 29. The two played a part in the Giants totaling 238 yards on the ground, especially Ezeudu, who finished with the second-highest run block grade among the team's linemen.

Daboll has not yet decided whether or not the two linemen will rotate at left guard again this weekend. The coaching staff will make a decision at the end of the week after evaluating the two at practice.

"We'll rotate them here in practice, and then by Friday evening, we'll make a decision," the head coach said. "But Ezeudu is a young player that we're developing, and Bredeson has done a good job throughout camp of playing every position that we asked him to. So, they both earned it. They earned it with their preparation. They earned it with their practice habits, and they both deserve to play. We'll see how it goes this week."

View rare photos of the history between the New York Giants and Carolina Panthers.

4. Injury updates; Robinson out for Week 2

Daboll announced Wednesday that starting outside cornerback Aaron Robinson will miss Sunday's game after having his appendix removed. Robinson received with the third-highest overall PFF grade on the Giants defense in Week 1. His 73.4 mark also ranked 11th among all cornerbacks, while his 72.4 coverage grade ranked 15th. The second-year corner finished with a 72.9 passer rating when targeted and registered a pass breakup. The head coach said there will be competition throughout the week for Robinson's spot opposite Adoree' Jackson in the starting lineup.

"We have guys on the roster, whether they're on the practice squad, that are going to compete – (Defensive Back Cor'Dale) Flott; (Defensive Back Fabian) Moreau, (Defensive Back Nick) McCloud, we'll see where he's at; (Cornerback) Zyon (Gilbert); (Cornerback Justin) Layne," Daboll told the media. "So, we got a group in there that will work to compete, and we'll end up picking like we usually do on Friday evening usually."

WR Wan'Dale Robinson (knee) and McCloud (hamstring) left Sunday's game, and both missed Wednesday's practice. Despite not participating in practice, Robinson has made great strides over the last couple of days, according to the head coach.

"He's grinding back," Daboll said. "I'd say the difference of him from the day after the game to even today is pretty significant. So, we'll see how it goes. We're not going to put him out there today. But he's gotten a lot better just in those two days. So, we'll see where it goes."

Outside linebackers Kayvon Thibodeaux (knee) and Azeez Ojulari (calf) were limited in practice Wednesday, as well as center Jon Feliciano (lower leg) and safety Jason Pinnock (shoulder). Rookie safety Dane Belton, who's been out since injuring his clavicle towards the start of training camp, was a full participant at Wednesday's practice.

5. Containing McCaffrey

Christian McCaffrey did not blow up the box score last week. He rushed the ball only 10 times for 33 yards, but was able to find the end zone. He also added four receptions for 24 yards. Although his stats may not be eye-opening, McCaffrey's success goes beyond the usual stats. His 79.5 overall PFF grade was the third-highest at the running back position last week as he put up solid marks across the board in the run game (77.1), passing game (76.5) and pass protection (78.1). His skillset is very different from Derrick Henry, which means McCaffrey presents a whole different challenge for the Giants' defense.

"McCaffrey is dynamic with the ball in his hand as well, maybe a little bit different," Daboll said about the differences between McCaffrey and Henry. "Obviously, doesn't have the size, but he's a hard player to cover. He's very, very good in space. He can take it the distance anytime he touches the ball. They can line him up at one, two, three in the backfield. He can break tackles. But he's very athletic. He's a unique player in the fact he can do a lot of things playing that running back position, but he can also do them on the perimeter if they choose to use him."

Wink Martindale's unit was able to hold Henry to 82 yards on 21 carries (3.9 avg.). As a team, the Titans were able to gain only 93 yards on 26 rush attempts (3.6 avg.). Tennessee had one of the top rushing attacks in the NFL last season, and that was with Henry missing half of the season.

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