After almost seven months of waiting, the New York Giants finally suited up and took the field for a game.
The Giants traveled to Detroit earlier this week for two joint practices with the Lions ahead of Friday night's preseason opener. Facing another opponent in practice is one thing, but going head to head against a different team in a game setting is another story.
In the confines of Ford Field, the Giants opened their three-game preseason slate with 21-16 loss to the Lions.
Here are five things we learned from the preseason loss.
1. Rookies get first taste of NFL
Despite a strong start, the Giants were unable to hold onto a 10-point halftime lead and fell to the Detroit Lions, 21-16, in the preseason opener.
The defense held the Lions to just three points in the first two quarters. However, the offense was unable to capitalize after starting consecutive drives on Detroit's 32-yard line, having to settle for field goals both times. The Giants were then outscored 18-3 in the second half.
"I think it's just next step, part of the process," coach Brian Daboll said about the preseason opener. "The practices and now the game and there's a lot of guys, particularly young guys that played in competitive spots and now to sit back and evaluate some of the things that we can fix and help those guys with, both as players and as coaches. This is the first game we coached in a while and there's plenty of things we can all do better, and that's – hopefully next week you improve on the things that weren't as good and make some strides for the next few days until we play Carolina."
Friday's contest served as the first NFL game action for the Giants' 15 rookies, some of whom took advantage of the opportunity. Cornerbacks Deonte Banks and Tre Hawkins III, center John Michael Schmitz, quarterback Tommy DeVito and outside linebacker Habakkuk Baldonado were just some of the first-year players to make an impact in Friday's contest. Despite the outcome of the game, the experience the rookies gained in Detroit will benefit them moving forward.
View photos from the Giants' preseason opener against the Lions in Detroit.
2. Young DBs with strong start
The Giants have numerous young players in their secondary, and it didn't take long for them to make an impact Friday. On the first defensive play of the game, safety Jason Pinnock intercepted a pass from Lions quarterback Nate Sudfield and returned it 17 yards the other way.
But Pinnock wasn't done there. On the first play of Detroit's second drive, the third-year safety tackled Lions running back Jahmyr Gibbs in the backfield for a three-yard loss. A few plays later on fourth and one, Pinnock recorded his second pass breakup on a pass to Lions rookie tight end Sam LaPorta, causing a turnover on downs. The 24-year-old was listed as the first-team strong safety on the Giants' first unofficial depth chart.
"It was good," Daboll said about Pinnock's performance. "He's had a good camp. We were going to play him in roughly 10 to 12 plays, but he had some productive plays early on. So, we got him out, gave some other guys some opportunity. But, pretty productive day for a short amount of time...
"He's athletic. He's explosive. He was a good addition to our team last year. He played a bunch of special teams but I think he's done a good job here in camp. Made the most of his opportunity in the short amount of plays, keep grinding along with him. But he's done a nice job for us."
Right behind Pinnock on the unofficial depth chart as the second-team strong safety is Dane Belton. The second-year player out of Iowa made his presence felt in the second quarter when he intercepted a Sudfield pass intended for Jameson Williams and took it 42 yards the other way, setting the Giants up on Detroit's 14-yard line. Belton finished last season with two interceptions and two fumble recoveries.
First-round pick Deonte Banks got his first NFL game action against the Lions. Banks had strong coverage in his limited action, forcing an incompletion on a pass to Williams.
3. Don Bosco connection leads to TD
The Giants' first touchdown of the game came in the second quarter thanks to a familiar connection. Tommy DeVito, the former Don Bosco Prep quarterback, threw a beautifully placed ball to his former high school teammate, tight end Tommy Sweeney, for a 14-yard touchdown. The score extended the Giants' lead to 13-3.
"Yeah, I know they'd like to get a couple more of those," Daboll said about the former high school teammates. "But it was – I think probably pretty cool for those two guys. I think he was a freshman when Sweeney was a senior. So sudden change you got there on the 13-yard line, and he made a nice rail swing, made a nice catch. Got to be able to do that more when we get the ball down there."
DeVito signed with the Giants as an undrafted rookie in the offseason. The Livingston, New Jersey native finished with 155 yards, one touchdown and one interception on 15 of 24 passing. DeVito also added 11 yards on four carries.
"I think it turned out well at times," the rookie quarterback told the media after the game. "There were a lot of things to clean up, a couple throws that I missed that will haunt me tonight, that I'll be sitting up thinking about. But I think it's just a step in the right direction and I look forward to getting up tomorrow and watching the film."
Sweeney's converted on his only target, turning it into the 14-yard touchdown reception.
4. Veteran WRs step up
It's no secret that one of the Giants' biggest competition battles this summer is at the wide receiver position. While not all of them suited up Friday night, a couple of reliable veterans made a strong impression.
The Giants' leading receiver in the preseason opener was Cole Beasley. The 34-year-old caught all four passes thrown his way and totaled 34 receiving yards. The 12th-year receiver signed with the team just a few days prior to the start of training camp after spending three seasons with Brian Daboll in Buffalo (2019-2021), one of which led to Beasley being named Second-Team All-Pro.
Finishing right behind Beasley in yards was fellow veteran Jamison Crowder. The 30-year-old receiver caught both of his targets for 32 yards. Crowder signed with the Giants back in March after racking up 415 career receptions for 4,667 yards and 28 touchdowns across eight seasons with the Commanders, Jets and Bills.
5. Injury updates; Johnson, Flott leave early
The Giants had a few players leave Friday's game early, starting with wide receiver Collin Johnson. The 25-year-old had one target before he was forced out of the game with a knee injury. Johnson missed the entire 2022 campaign after tearing his Achilles during training camp.
Second-year cornerback Cor'Dale Flott suffered an abdominal injury in the third quarter which forced him out of the game. Flott registered two tackles (one solo) and one pass defensed prior to leaving.
Running back Gary Brightwell and offensive lineman Devery Hamilton did not suit up Friday, but Daboll indicated neither injury appeared to be long-term. "I just think it might not be a day-to-day thing, it might be maybe a week," Daboll said earlier in the week. "Nothing long term."
Guard Tyre Phillips also sat out Friday after "he got dinged up" during practice earlier in the week.