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Giants Now: Darius Slayton a bright spot in Week 1

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Darius Slayton, young Giants shine in Week 1

While Monday night's loss to the Steelers was not how the Giants envisioned their season starting, there were several encouraging signs that came from Week 1.

Wide receiver Darius Slayton got his sophomore campaign off to a great start, leading the team with six receptions for 102 yards and two touchdowns. He earned a 76.6 overall grade from Pro Football Focus, the 16th-highest mark among all wide receivers in the opening weekend. 

Slayton now has 10 touchdowns since Week 5 of the 2019 season, more than any other player in the NFL. The former fifth-round pick has shown tremendous chemistry with Daniel Jones, as Slayton tied with Saquon Barkley for the most targets (nine) in Monday's game.

Another young Giant who enjoyed a strong performance against the Steelers was outside linebacker Lorenzo Carter.

Carter accumulated seven tackles (four solo), one QB hit and three pressures on Monday. His 81.5 grade from PFF was the 10th-best among the league's edge rushers in Week 1, a possible sign that a breakout season could be coming for the third-year player who put together an impressive training camp.

Other notes from PFF:

*Carter was far from the only young defensive starter to have a strong season debut. Dalvin Tomlinson earned the 11th-highest grade among interior defensive lineman from PFF, while Dexter Lawrence received the 13th-highest grade at the position after picking up a sack, tackle for loss and QB hit. 

*Jabrill Peppers had a strong outing as the Giants' punt returner on Monday, returning three punts for 39 yards (13.0 yards per return). He was PFF’s highest-graded punt returner from opening weekend.

*While turnovers proved costly, Daniel Jones had one of the strongest overall outings of his young career against the Steelers defense. Jones completed over 63 percent of his passes for 279 yards, two touchdowns and the two interceptions, adding four carries for 22 yards (5.5 yards per carry). He earned an 82.1 overall grade from PFF, the best of his career and the highest among the team's offensive starters Monday, despite being under pressure on 26 of his drop-backs, six more than any other QB.  He earned the ninth-highest grade among all QBs in Week 1.

*Kaden Smith played just 29 snaps on offense against Pittsburgh but made the most of his opportunities, earning the fifth-highest grade among all tight ends (82.0). 

*Blake Martinez was the Giants' highest-graded player Monday, earning an elite 83.9 overall grade and a 90.9 run defense grade after picking up 12 total tackles (eight solo) and a tackle for loss. He was one of PFF’s highest-graded inside linebackers in Week 1.

Notebook: Joe Judge liked effort level, but corrections must be made

Given the attention and importance accorded the Giants’ offensive line, it was fitting that Joe Judge's first day-after-game Zoom call with reporters began and ended today with questions about that unit.

The line has three new starters – center Nick Gates and tackles Cam Fleming and Andrew Thomas, the Giants' first-round draft choice this year – and was challenged throughout the season-opening 26-16 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers last night in MetLife Stadium.

The performance was a mixed bag, which is typical in most games and certainly unsurprising after a spring with no on-field work and a summer without preseason games. Daniel Jones threw for 279 yards and two touchdowns and the offense put together drives of 87, 75 and 75 yards. However, the first of those possessions yielded no points because Jones faced a heavy rush, his arm was hit by Bud Dupree and his pass was picked off in the end zone by Cameron Heyward.

The play was indicative of the duress Jones was frequently under. He was sacked three times and Pittsburgh was credited with eight quarterback hits. The running game gained only 29 yards on 20 attempts, including Saquon Barkley's stat line of 15 carries for six yards.

But Judge, who conceded that public criticism of players will not be a frequent feature of these postmortems, praised the O-line group and the individuals he was queried about.

"First off, I'm really pleased with how they played as a unit together," Judge said of the group that also includes guards Will Hernandez and Kevin Zeitler. "It was the first time they got to go into a competitive situation against a foreign opponent, so obviously, a lot of different looks, both in individuals with the personnel as well as collectively as a scheme. I thought throughout the night they did make some necessary adjustments. We'll make a lot of improvement going forward, but I'm pleased with the way they competed and the way (position coach) Marc (Colombo) made some adjustments in the game."

All eyes were on Thomas, the left tackle who was the fourth overall selection in the draft. Thomas went head-to-head much of the night with Dupree, who had four tackles, including two for loss.

"I think he showed he has a lot of ability in this league, and there's a reason he's here," Judge said. "He fought really hard. I think he played well overall. He learned a lot of valuable lessons going against a top opponent like Bud Dupree. That's something you can't simulate. I don't care who you have on your defensive front, he's just different from guys you may have. He plays with a distinct motor. He's a tough competitor. You have to have a lot of respect for him. For Andrew to have his first NFL competition in a game against a guy like that, that says a lot for how he was able to hold up throughout the game."

Daniel Jones extends TD streak in MNF loss

Notes and statistics from the Giants' 26-16 season-opening loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in MetLife Stadium.

*The Giants are 50-41-5 in openers, 50-43-3 in home openers, 3-8 in MetLife openers and 17-14 in season-opening home games, including 1-3 in MetLife.

*This was the Giants' 11th season opener against Pittsburgh – but the first since 1968 and the first at home. They are 6-2-3 in openers vs. Steelers.

*This was the Giants' first Monday night season opener since 2014, when they lost in Detroit; their first Monday night home opener since 1995, when they lost to Dallas; and the first time their opening home game was played on a Monday night since 2011, when they defeated the St. Louis Rams in Week 2.

*The Giants rushed for 29 yards (on 20 attempts), their lowest total since they ran for 23 yards at the Jets last Nov. 10.

*Each team converted eight of 15 third-down opportunities (53%).

*The Giants had a third-quarter drive in which they ran 19 plays and consumed 8:50. It was their longest drive by number of plays since they had a 19-play possession on a touchdown drive in Jacksonville on Nov. 30, 2014 and their longest in terms of time since Dec. 1, 2019, when they took 9:31 off the clock on a field goal drive vs. Green Bay.

*Joe Judge, the 19th head coach in Giants history, lost his debut. The record for head coaches and interim head coaches in their first games with the Giants is 9-9-1.

*Quarterback Daniel Jones completed 26 of 41 passes for 279 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions for a passer rating of 79.2. The picks – by linebacker T.J. Watt in the second quarter and defensive tackle Cameron Heyward in the third – led to nine Steelers points. It was Heyward's first interception in 140 regular-season and postseason games.

*Jones has thrown at least one touchdown pass in each of his first 13 career starts, the fourth-longest streak among quarterbacks who started their careers since the 1970 merger.

View photos from the Week 1 matchup between the Giants and Steelers on Monday Night Football.

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