AT A GLANCE: Despite their dynamic rookie running back breathing late life into the game with a long touchdown run, the New York Giants did not have enough against one of the premier defenses in the NFL as they fell to the Jacksonville Jaguars, 20-15, in the season opener.
UP NEXT: In a scheduling twist, the NFL powers that be did not place the Giants in Dallas once again for the opener. Instead, they made them wait all the way until Week 2. Big Blue plays back-to-back weeks in the Lone Star State, beginning with a Sunday night game against the Cowboys. In Week 3, they travel to face the Houston Texans.
WHAT WE LEARNED ABOUT THE OFFENSE:
• Saquon Barkley’s first carry of the preseason? Thirty-nine yards. His first of the regular season? No gain. That’s what happens when things are ratcheted up a notch in Week 1 against a Jacksonville defense that returned six Pro Bowlers. The Giants’ opening drive of the season was not how you draw it up. Right tackle Ereck Flowers was called for two penalties (tripping and holding) as the Giants avoided a safety twice while backed up deep in their own territory. However, after the Giants fell behind by 11 points on a pick-six with 11 minutes to go, Barkley shocked the Giants back to life with a 68-yard touchdown run, a play that college football had seen time and time again over the past couple years. Barkley finished the game with 106 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. He also had two receptions for 22 yards, including an 18-yarder.
• Eli Manning completed 23 of 37 passes for 224 yards as the offense failed to score a passing touchdown. The turning point came in the fourth quarter when Manning’s pass intended for Barkley was tipped up by defensive tackle Abry Jones. Linebacker Myles Jack caught it and took it 32 yards the other way for a touchdown and a two-possession Jaguars lead with 11:24 left in the game. The Giants had one last attempt on offense on fourth-and-six after the two-minute warning, but Manning’s attempt to Sterling Shepard down the sideline fell incomplete. Manning was hit six times in the game, including two sacks.
• In his first game in 336 days, wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. recorded 11 catches for 111 yards. He also proved to be just as dangerous without the ball in his hands. Late in the first half, Beckham drew a 30-yard passing interference penalty on safety Barry Church to move the ball to the Jaguars 20, and another on All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey for 15 yards to bring the Giants down to the 11. The Giants kicked a short field to cut the deficit to 13-6 before halftime. In the process, Beckham set the NFL record for most catches in a player’s first 50 career games.
• After the Giants released Davis Webb last weekend, Alex Tanney dressed as Manning’s backup quarterback. Rookie Kyle Lauletta, the fourth-round draft choice was inactive. Shurmur had said all summer that there was no depth chart behind Manning, only that he does “like having a veteran presence in that group.” Tanney, 30, fits the bill.
• Manning played in his 217th regular-season game, surpassing Pro Football Hall of Famer Michael Strahan (216) for most in a Giants uniform. Manning made his debut on Sept. 12, 2004 against Philadelphia.
WHAT WE LEARNED ABOUT THE DEFENSE:
• Outside linebacker Olivier Vernon, who got his feet tangled up on a play and sprained his ankle at practice two weeks to the day before the season opener, was ruled out of Sunday’s game along with linebacker Tae Davis (hamstring). Vernon did not participate in practice all week, making his absence more likely with each day. Rookie third-round pick Lorenzo Carter started in his place.
• Like the offense, the defense got things going on the second series of the game. Kareem Martin, who got the initial pressure up the middle, and Kerry Wynn teamed up for a sack of Blake Bortles. On the next play, cornerback Janoris Jenkins intercepted him on the sideline. The pass was intended for Donte Moncrief, but Jenkins turned around at the right time and did a high-wire act to stay in bounds as he caught the ball. The Giants turned it the takeaway into a field goal on the ensuing possession.
• Running back Leonard Fournette left midway through second quarter with hamstring. T.J. Yeldon took over from there as the run-heavy Jaguars finished with 137 yards on 28 carries. Bortles accounted for 41 of those yards on one rush.
• Cornerback Eli Apple had two key passes defensed on third down. In the first quarter, he forced Jacksonville to settle for a short field goal. In the fourth quarter, the Jaguars had to punt as a result of the play.
WHAT WE LEARNED ABOUT SPECIAL TEAMS:
• Kicker Aldrick Rosas carried over his perfect preseason and made all three of his field goal attempts on Sunday from 27, 31, and 44 yards.
• Newcomer Kaelin Clay muffed a punt that Jacksonville recovered with 45 seconds left in the game, taking away any chance of a final comeback drive for the offense.
INACTIVES: OLB Olivier Vernon (ankle), ILB Tae Davis (hamstring), QB Kyle Lauletta, S Kamrin Moore, CB Michael Jordan, OL Evan Brown, OL Spencer Pulley
LINEUP CHANGES: Lorenzo Carter for Vernon at WILL
TEAM CAPTAINS: Coach Pat Shurmur announced last week that six players were selected as captains of the 2018 Giants in a vote by the team’s players and coaches. Offense: Eli Manning and Nate Solder. Defense: Landon Collins and Alec Ogletree. Special Teams: Zak DeOssie and Michael Thomas.
INJURY REPORT: RB Wayne Gallman (knee)