Three Giants writers discuss takeaways from the preseason opener:
One down. Three to go.
The New York Giants kicked off the 2017 preseason on Friday night, falling 20-12 to the Pittsburgh Steelers at MetLife Stadium.
They play next Monday in Cleveland, kicking off a span of three games in 10 days. They return home to play the Jets on Saturday, Aug. 26, and finish in New England the following Thursday (Aug. 31).
In this week's Cover 3, our staffers talk about what caught their eye in the opener. JOHN SCHMEELK
The one thing that jumped out at me was how much the Giants were in formations that had two running backs and a tight end. I saw more 21 (HB, FB, TE) and 12 (1RB, 2 TE) personnel than I saw for most of last season. Some of this must be taken with a grain of salt since Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard didn't play and Brandon Marshall saw extremely limited action. If those three players are in the lineup, it is fair to ask whether the Giants would have gone away from 11 personnel (1 RB, 1 TE, 3 WR) as much as they did.
There's nothing like a good, old-fashioned kicking competition to spice up the Giants' first game in seven months. Aldrick Rosas had been the only kicker on the roster until two weeks ago, when the Giants signed Mike Nugent. That pitted a guy with no regular-season experience against a former second-round draft pick with 13 seasons under his belt. Ben McAdoo alternated them kick-for-kick on Friday night, with Rosas making his attempts from 27 and 52 yards, while Nugent was also perfect from 30 and 45.
These five players made a key impact in Friday's matchup with the Steelers
The head coach said it was exciting to see and that he was even "champing at the bit" when they got the ball down to the 35-yard line late in the game, but they were trailing by eight points. In a training camp without much uncertainty in the starting lineup, the placekicker position can't be overlooked, especially for a franchise that was sent to two Super Bowls on a field goal and won another on a missed attempt by the opponent.
There's only so much you can read into one preseason game, but there were certainly a number of players who helped their cause and showed that their flashes in practice could translate to the game field. Last week, coach Ben McAdoo said tight end Rhett Ellison was "underutilized" as a receiver in Minnesota and they clearly proved that in just one drive when he caught three passes in the span of four plays. To put things in perspective, Ellison had just nine receptions on 15 targets in 15 games in 2016. Ellison is more than just a blocker. It's simply a matter of him getting more opportunities in other areas and it will be interesting to see what type of a role he serves moving forward, given his versatility. The varied usage of the fullback also caught my attention on offense. Shane Smith and Jacob Huesman both saw action on run plays, especially in short yardage situations. This is worth noting because after Will Johnson was placed on injured reserve before the start of last season, the Giants chose not to carry a fullback on the roster.
On defense, Jay Bromley continues to improve and shouldn't be overlooked in the push to claim Johnathan Hankins' spot. He and Kerry Wynn both had success getting to the backfield and combined for six tackles, three for loss, and a sack. Bromley and Wynn could both play key roles on the Giants' defensive line as defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo searches for more options to rotate in and out of the lineup. B.J. Goodson also stood out as he looks to solidify his hold on the starting middle linebacker job. Not only was he comfortable running the defense, but he also recorded a sack by anticipating a play before it even developed.
One of the most intriguing competitions to watch throughout camp has been kicker, which showcases youth (Aldrick Rosas) against experience (Mike Nugent) -- and neither disappointed. They each converted on both of their field goal attempts, but I thought Rosas made quite a statement by drilling a 52-yarder. Even though he's been with the team since January, it's hard to get an idea of how effective a kicker will be until he's put in an actual game situation. Rosas answered that question in a big way.