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Cover 4: First impressions from preseason


The reacts to the team's 23-21 win over the Patriots in the preseason opener:

John Schmeelk: Everyone wondered what kind of changes Wink Martindale would make to the Giants defense compared to what he did in his prior stop with the Baltimore Ravens. There shouldn't be too many conclusions drawn from one preseason game, but it certainly looks like he intends to bring his aggressive play-calling profile with him from Baltimore. The Giants used multiple and varied fronts with multiple pass-rushers standing up at the line of scrimmage on Thursday night.

According to Pro Football Focus (PFF), the Giants blitzed on just under 49% of the Patriots' pass snaps. They put their cornerbacks on islands in man coverage and tried to force the opposing quarterback into quick decisions. The result was Giants' cornerbacks having to cover down the field in man coverage when the Patriots challenged Martindale's aggression with aggressive downfield passes of their own. It was a good experience for the young secondary to practice in a game situation and should help them to improve.

Dan Salomone: People tend to forget that Brian Daboll and Mike Kafka will in fact run the ball. The head coach and offensive play-caller (for now) came over with much fanfare in the passing game, rightfully so, but they are also looking to be dynamic on the ground. Thursday was the best evaluation of this facet due to the nature of "thud tempo" practices, where players are not taken to the ground.

"It's definitely something we want to establish," general manager Joe Schoen said during an appearance in the broadcast booth on Thursday night. "And again, we want to see these running backs. It's good competition for some of these backup guys, and it's a good opportunity for them to make some plays. And it's been an emphasis during training camp trying to develop the physicality up front on both sides of the ball while also evaluating these running backs."

The results were positive, albeit preseason.

The Giants averaged 5.4 yards on 33 carries for 177 yards. Antonio Williams, an off-season addition who played in Daboll's offense with the Bills, led the way with 61 yards and a touchdown on nine attempts. Gary Brightwell, a sixth-round choice in 2021, was one of three backs with a run of at least 15 yards (Williams and Sandro Platzgummer were the others).

Likewise, people get caught up in Wink Martindale's ability to get after the quarterback. The same goes for fifth overall pick Kayvon Thibodeaux, but how he and the Giants defended the run was just as important on Thursday night. They held the Patriots to just 2.9 yards per carry.

"I was able to set edges," said Thibodeaux, assessing his first NFL game. "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."

View photos from the preseason opener between the Giants and Patriots at Gillette Stadium.

Lance Medow: When it comes to preseason games, you can put much more substance behind individual performances as opposed to overall team results and accomplishments. Playing time for notable players fluctuates so much that it's impossible to tell how a game would have turned out if the main starters played the bulk of the contest. On offense, Richie James was the standout player. He also had a lot to gain by proving he can be as much a key receiver as a special teams contributor. In his four seasons with the Niners, James established himself as a dynamic return man but due to the San Francisco depth chart and injuries, he never really had a chance to showcase his skills as an offensive weapon. In this game, he took full advantage of his snaps and made several key plays including a great catch off a deflection and a touchdown reception off a nifty route. If you're going serve as the fifth or sixth receiver, you have to be a reliable special teamer. Given James has already proved that, it was more of him demonstrating his value as a potential target for Daniel Jones.

On defense, rookie linebacker Darrian Beavers was very active with three tackles including one for a loss. Beavers was a versatile player in college during stints at UConn and Cincinnati as he played both linebacker and defensive end. His skills seem to be a great fit for Wink Martindale's scheme and it would not be surprising if Beavers carves out a role for himself on defense as opposed to mainly being a special teams ace. Fellow rookie Micah McFadden also showcased his ability to get after the quarterback, which isn't necessarily a surprise given he was asked to do just that at Indiana.

On the injury front, with two offensive linemen, Shane Lemieux and Jamil Douglass, as well as rookie corner Cor'Dale Flott, leaving the game, depth is a concern because the team already has lost Matt Gono and Marcus McKethan. Lemieux missed all of last season with a knee injury and the team is experimenting with him at center to provide additional insurance so every snap he can log during practice and in preseason games is valuable and Flott can play both inside and outside providing flexibility.

Matt Citak: With Kadarius Toney missing the preseason opener and Sterling Shepard still on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list, several of the Giants' other wide receivers were given more chances to showcase their talent against the Patriots.

Two of those receivers in particular took advantage of the extra opportunities, starting with Collin Johnson. The third-year receiver lost a fumble early in the game but rebounded nicely, finishing with a team-high seven receptions for 82 yards and earning a 109.9 passer rating generated, according to PFF. The 6-foot-6, 220-pound receiver hauled in seven of eight targets.

Richie James was another receiver that shined in the opener, bringing in three of four targets for 44 yards and a touchdown. At one point, James made a nice catch on a tipped pass for a gain of 26 yards, putting his quick reflexes on full display. The 26-year-old finished with a 150.0 passer rating generated.

Toney, Kenny Golladay and Wan'Dale Robinson are listed as the starting wide receivers on the team's first unofficial depth chart. There appears to be some opportunities behind them, but how the rest of the Giants' receiver depth is filled remains to be seen. The roster must be reduced to 85 players on August 16.


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