The Giants overcame a 13-0 halftime deficit last weekend in Nashville en route to a 21-20 victory over the Tennessee Titans. Now the team returns home to make its 2022 debut in front of the home crowd at MetLife Stadium against the Carolina Panthers. Coach Brian Daboll talked about the passion shown by the Giants fanbase and how excited the team is to take the field in front of the Big Blue faithful.
"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."
Sunday's game marks the 13th matchup all-time between the Giants and Panthers. Carolina holds a slight edge over the Giants, going 6-5 in regular-season matchups and also winning the lone postseason contest (2006 NFC Wild Card Game). But the Giants picked up the victory in the most recent matchup, defeating the Panthers 25-3 at MetLife Stadium last season. The defense registered six sacks, including five from the trio of Leonard Williams (1.5), Azeez Ojulari (2.5) and Dexter Lawrence (1.0), and an interception. On offense, Daniel Jones threw for 203 yards and a touchdown, added 28 yards on the ground and made a spectacular one-handed catch for 16 yards.
Out: CB Nick McCloud (hamstring), S Jason Pinnock (shoulder), CB Aaron Robinson (appendicitis), WR Wan'Dale Robinson (knee)
Doubtful: OLB Azeez Ojulari (calf), OLB Kayvon Thibodeaux (knee)
Questionable: WR Kadarius Toney (hamstring)
Doubtful: LB Brandon Smith (thigh)
Questionable: WR Shi Smith (groin)
STARTING SEASON STRONG
The Giants were able to pick up the win in the opener and now have an opportunity to start the season with two consecutive victories. "Everything is better whenever you win," wide receiver Sterling Shepard said. "I told the guys that, because a lot of them weren't here whenever we were winning games, that's just something that comes along with winning games, and everybody loves that feeling. So, we have to continue to execute throughout the week so we can continue to have that feeling."
KEEP SAQUON ROLLING
Saquon Barkley got his 2022 season off to a strong start. The 25-year-old rushed for 164 yards on 18 carries (9.1 avg.) and a touchdown and added a team-high six receptions for 30 yards. He broke 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 1:06 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 great but any individual award is really a team award," said the running back. "I don't get that without the help of my offensive linemen, wide receivers blocking down the field, (Quarterback) Daniel (Jones) making great calls and (Offensive Coordinator Mike) Kafka making great calls. At the end of the day the most important thing last week was getting the win and we've got to shift to Carolina."
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.
"That helps us in the pass game, opens up some opportunities for us, and helps us move it down the field," Daniel Jones added. "Those guys did a great job up front, opening up some holes. And Saquon did a great job hitting them and creating explosive plays for us. So, that was huge."
FILLING IN FOR ROBINSON
Daboll announced Wednesday that starting outside cornerback Aaron Robinson will miss Sunday's game after having his appendix removed. Robinson received 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 earlier this week. "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."
View photos from practice as the New York Giants gear up for the home opener against the Carolina Panthers.
Rookie safety Dane Belton was a full participant in practice Friday, marking the third straight day in which he's been a full-go. Coach Brian Daboll told reporters on Wednesday that he expects Belton to make his NFL debut this Sunday, and the 21-year-old told the media that he's had his sights set on Week 2 for a while.
"Right when I got hurt, they told me a timeline, six to eight (weeks), so I did everything I could to come back in six," Belton said Thursday. "Exactly six weeks and a day was the first game so, that was my mentality. Just getting back up to strength with my shoulder and my collarbone. It got to the week before, I was like five and a half, I got a CT-scan and they were like, 'You look good, but we might keep you out of this first game just to be safe.' Once they told me that, I knew week two was a possibility, so my thought was just toward that week."
While Belton appears set to make his NFL debut against the Panthers, another rookie's status is still up in the air. Outside linebacker Kayvon Thibodeaux was limited all week with a knee injury that has kept him out since the second preseason game against the Bengals, and was listed as doubtful on the final injury report. Although the No. 5 overall pick would not commit to making his debut this Sunday, he told the media Thursday his knee is improving.
"It feels a lot better," the rookie OLB said Thursday. "I've just been making really good gains every day. Just continuing to kind of bring back those reps, a different kind of motion and getting comfortable back in my position…
"We've been making great gains. Ultimately it will come to how I feel come Friday and Saturday. Everything has been going well and yeah, I'm optimistic about it."
Additionally, with Robinson ruled out at corner, rookie Cor'Dale Flott could see more playing time in Week 2. Flott played just two snaps in the season opener.
BRING THE NOISE
When speaking to the media Thursday, defensive coordinator Wink Martindale made it very clear that he hopes and expects Giants fans to bring the noise on Sunday, especially when the Big Blue defense is on the field.
"I know we're talking about changing the culture and changing the culture defensively," the defensive coordinator said. "This is one of the biggest changes you'll see is this week to bring back great defense in this facility; and I've only lived here for a short period of time, but I know New Yorkers are loud. We need to be loud in that stadium. They have to go on silent count. If you want to be part of changing this culture here with the Giants, be loud and have that place rocking where people don't want to come to our stadium. We'll take care of the rest, and we'll give you something to be loud about. But just be loud. I can't wait to see it…
"I hope it's loud and having a great time. That's what I hope it is. That's what I expect the crowd to be like. I know this place loves defense, so we'll do our part. You guys do yours. That's the way I look at it, and it'll be fun. It should be when you come to the stadium."
Shepard, the longest-tenured player on the team, echoed this sentiment.
"The crowd, I expect they're going to be, loud and pretty upbeat because obviously, we won last week," said Shepard. "We're trying to establish a winning culture at home so, guys are pretty amped up about it and I'm sure the fans will be too."
In his Carolina Panthers debut last week, Baker Mayfield completed 16 of 27 passes (59.3 percent) for 235 yards, one touchdown and one interception and added six yards and a touchdown on the ground. Mayfield helped the Panthers come back from a 20-7 deficit in the fourth quarter, but a 58-yard field goal from Browns kicker Cade York in the final seconds of the game sealed the victory for the Browns.
Mayfield has just one career game against the Giants. In that Week 15 matchup back in 2020, he completed 27 of 32 passes (84.4 percent) for 297 yards and two touchdowns. While the Giants defense may not have a ton of experience against Mayfield, defensive coordinator Wink Martindale is plenty familiar with the young quarterback. Martindale served as the Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator from 2018-2021, the same span that Mayfield was the Browns starting quarterback. The two faced each other eight times, and in those matchups Mayfield averaged 277.6 passing yards per game, had a 58.4 completion percentage and a 13-9 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
"I know him, and he knows me," the defensive coordinator said about the Panthers QB. "So, it helps him, too. He's one of those guys. And I've done this comparison before with him, and I said before when he first came out and playing against him, he's a gun slinger. Who did they always call gun slinger? (Former Quarterback) Brett Favre. Right? And what did Brett Favre do? He left Atlanta, went to Green Bay, and he took off. Might be the same thing here for Baker."
Martindale isn't the only Giant with familiarity with Mayfield. Sterling Shepard and Mayfield were teammates at Oklahoma during the 2015 season, which led to Shepard's most productive collegiate season. The receiver caught 86 passes for 1,288 yards and 11 touchdowns that year, which played a role in the Giants drafting him in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft. Leading up to this weekend's matchup, the veteran was complimentary of his former quarterback.
"He's one of the biggest competitors that I know other than Saquon," said Shepard. "Definitely a guy that you've always got to continue to fight and try to get down. He's not one of those guys that's going to go down easily, he's not going to give up, he's definitely keeps his group up and the morale up of those guys. I mean, he's smart so defense definitely has their challenges but I'm sure Wink is getting those guys right and getting them prepared for his play style."
CONTAINING PANTHERS PLAYMAKERS
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 gained 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.
In addition to McCaffrey, the Panthers also have a talented pair of wide receivers at the top of the depth chart in DJ Moore and Robbie Anderson. Moore is coming off three consecutive seasons with 1,150+ yards, while Anderson led the team with five receptions for 102 yards and a touchdown last week.
View rare photos of the history between the New York Giants and Carolina Panthers.