FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Saquon Barkley had as many rushing attempts on the Giants' first possession as he had had in his preseason career. Daniel Jones took a shot to the body and a couple more downfield. Kayvon Thibodeaux was surprised at the speed of the pro game, but not how you might think. And Brian Daboll made his debut as a head coach but was not his team's offensive play-caller for the first time in six years.
Those were some of the notable spinoffs stemming from the Giants' preseason opener, a 23-21 victory against the New England Patriots in Gillette Stadium. Graham Gano provided the winning points with a 24-yard field goal as time expired, more than two hours after the starters had left the field.
"It was competitive," Daboll said. "…I like how they competed. I liked how physical they played. Certainly, there's a lot of areas to clean up, and that's what we'll try to do after we watch the tapes."
View photos from the preseason opener between the Giants and Patriots at Gillette Stadium.
Some notable takeaways:
*Barkley rushed for 13 yards on four carries and caught one pass for eight yards in just his second preseason game and first since the opener in his 2018 rookie season (when he had four rushing attempts for 43 yards, including a 39-yarder).
"I felt good," Barkley said. "I think our offensive line did a great job. We were able to move the ball. I was able to get a catch on a third-and-five to keep the sticks moving. It was a great throw by D.J. (Jones), great read by DJ. My body just feels really good. Taking it one day at a time and improve off this."
Barkley did not play in the preseason last year when the Giants were unwilling to expose his surgically repaired knee to unnecessary risks. But he is happy to test himself before the regular season begins.
"It's a little different for me," he said. "I feel like it's very important to get full speed reps against another opponent. Obviously, you get that tempo in practice going against the same guys, but when you go against another team, it always notches up. Go to another level. I feel like that's probably the most important part, that competitive level going against another team. But the coach has been doing a great job trying to simulate that in practice so when you get to the game you never have to think twice about it. I would say for me personally, that's the biggest difference. And when the regular season comes, you go to another level. So, I'm excited for that."
*Barkley and left tackle Andrew Thomas played just one series, while the rest of the starting offense was scheduled to go two. But left guard Shane Lemieux injured his toe and was replaced by rookie Joshua Ezeudu. Lemieux was in a walking boot after the game and Daboll did not immediately know the severity of the injury.
*Jones led the Giants to a field goal on the game's opening 13-play possession and completed six of 10 passes for 69 in his two series. The scoring drive was highlighted by 17-yard completions to Darius Slayton and Collin Johnson on consecutive plays.
"There was some good and some things we could have back," Daboll said. "He threw a couple of vertical plays there. They had a couple of free runners relative to the protection, but I thought he operated the offense well. He led them down on the first drive. We stalled there in the red zone. Good first start, but certainly things to clean up."
Perhaps just as significantly, Jones was sacked for an eight-yard loss by linebacker Josh Uche, the first hard hit he absorbed since suffering the neck injury that kept him out of the final six games of the 2021 season.
"Felt good," Jones said. "Felt good to get out there. It was just like it used to be. That's football, right? That's football.
"I really didn't think a whole lot about the neck or anything like that. I felt good. Just football."
*Tyrod Taylor followed Jones and completed 13 of 21 passes for 129 yards, including a seven-yard touchdown to Richie James. Davis Webb played the second half and hit eight of 16 passes for 51 yards.
*Thibodeaux, the pass-rushing linebacker who was the fifth overall selection of the 2022 NFL Draft, was credited with an assisted tackle in his brief appearance. But he was thrilled to get his first NFL action.
"I was using my moves and really putting everything I have been working on and making it happen in the game," Thibodeaux said." I was able to set edges. I was able to get hands on guys. I was able to get off blocks, and I was able to be real efficient in the run game. I feel like I have a lot to work on in the pass game. I have a lot more tools to sharpen, but I felt like it was a good day."
Many players jumping from college football to the NFL note how much faster the game is at this level, even in the preseason. Thibodeaux had a different perspective.
"It actually felt slower just in the sense of the speed of the game," he said. "Not in-between plays, but after the whistle. When you're setting up you got more time to breath, more time to process. So, it felt like a longer game."
*Offensive coordinator Mike Kafka called the plays from the coaches booth. Daboll, the coordinator at Alabama in 2017 and with the Buffalo Bills the previous four years, had last coached a game without calling plays when he was the Patriots' tight ends coach in 2016.
"I tell you when it was strange was before the game and the night before," Daboll said. "You're going through so many things in your head and thinking about situations, whether it's the preseason, regular season, or a playoff game, whatever it may be. It's a tough job to call plays, and you have to really put a lot of time and effort and energy into it, and Mike has done a good job with it. It's his first game. Certainly, there's no game-planning going on, but the operation of calling it, getting it in quick to the quarterbacks, giving little reminders. I thought he did a good job."
Instead of plotting the next offensive call, Daboll had to concern himself with game management, timeouts and challenges. In the fourth quarter, he challenged a pass from New England rookie Bailey Zappe to Kristian Wilkerson that gained eight yards for the Pats. But after review, the completion was upheld.
"I was upset about that," Daboll said. "That was my first one. I thought the coaches did a good job. I think (defensive coordinator) Wink (Martindale) had his staff really organized. Kafka did a really good job. I think he communicated well throughout the game. We're not making a ton of adjustments here. I was pleased with that. Pleased with the substitutions. It's our first step."
The second (game) step will be on Sunday night, Aug. 21, at home against the defending AFC champion Cincinnati Bengals.
*Wide receiver Collin Johnson continued his fine summer with team-high totals of seven catches and 82 yards. But Johnson lost a fumble after a 17-yard throw from Taylor in the second quarter.
*Rookie Antonio Williams led the Giants with 61 rushing yards on nine carries, including a two-yard touchdown.
*Linebacker Austin Calitro intercepted a pass and was one of three Giants with a team-high four tackles.
*Gano kicked field goals of 25, 40 and 24 yards.
*The following players did not make the trip: defensive linemen Leonard Williams and Justin Ellis; linebackers Blake Martinez and Carter Coughlin; wide receivers Kadarius Toney, David Sills and Austin Proehl; running back Matt Breida; tight ends Ricky Seals-Jones and Andre Miller; and defensive backs Rodarius Williams and Dane Belton.
In addition, wide receiver Sterling Shepard and offensive linemen Nick Gates and Matt Peart remain on the reserve/physically unable to perform list, and linebacker Azeez Ojulari in on the reserve/non-football injury list.