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Fact or Fiction: Most encouraging part of Giants vs. Patriots


The crew is presented with four statements and must decide whether they are Fact or Fiction.

Richie James was the biggest offensive standout in the preseason opener.

John Schmeelk: Fiction – Although he had a fumble, it's easy to be in the Collin Johnson camp. He got open on different routes and against different coverages throughout the game. He showed he could defeat press coverage and run routes from both the inside and outside spots as a wide receiver. Let's give an honorable mention to the running backs, who ran the ball effectively by showing off their different unique skillsets. The one thing they had in common? They all got downhill quickly throughout the game.

Dan Salomone: Fact – And it was really just a carryover from what he's done in practice going back to the Spring. Most of his production with he 49ers was as a returner, but Brian Daboll is a fan of him on offense. "He's got quickness," Daboll said last week. "He has the ability to play inside and outside. We've put him really in all three spots or four spots when we're going with four wide receivers. I think the quarterbacks can read his body language. He has good hands, knows what to do, dependable. So he's been a good addition for us."

Lance Medow: Fact – It's not about who fills up the stat sheet the most but who makes impactful plays and the latter applies to Richie James. He made a great catch in the middle of the field off a deflection and then finished a lengthy drive with a touchdown reception off a nifty route.

Matt Citak: Fiction – After a solid showing throughout the first two weeks of training camp, Richie James continued his strong performance in the preseason opener. James reeled in three of four targets for 44 yards and a TD, earning a 150.0 passer rating generated (according to PFF). But the biggest offensive standout against the Patriots was running back Antonio Williams. The 24-year-old back gained 61 yards on just nine carries (6.8 avg.) and was able to capitalize on his lone attempt inside the 5-yard line for a touchdown. He averaged 4.6 yards after contact per attempt, while forcing three missed tackles. It was a very positive first showing for the back who spent time with Brian Daboll in Buffalo the past two seasons.

Darrian Beavers was the breakout player on defense

John Schmeelk: Fact - Beavers was my favorite Day 3 selection by the Giants at the end of April and he has done nothing to temper my enthusiasm for him. He is quick to recognize the play and get downhill. His impressive size and length allows him to be effective at the line of scrimmage against the run and rushing the passer. He has a chance to have a long and productive NFL career. Micah McFadden played a strong game, too.

Dan Salomone: Fact – The rookie sixth-round pick was a Dick Butkus Award finalist on a dominant Cincinnati defense, so it's no surprise that his game jumped off the screen in his first taste of live NFL action. Wink Martindale said he is toughest on the inside linebackers because he's coached that position "forever," and Beavers has accepted the challenge.

Lance Medow: Fact – When you're a sixth-round pick, more often than not, your biggest impact as a rookie will come on special teams, assuming you can make the team. In his preseason debut, Darrian Beavers showed why Wink Martindale may want to carve out a role for him on defense. The former UConn and Cincinnati product was very active with three tackles including one for loss. He seemed comfortable with the scheme and put his great instincts on full display.  

Matt Citak: Fiction – Beavers came in a close second on this one. The rookie linebacker picked up three solo tackles, including a tackle for loss, in his first NFL action and seemed to be near the ball on almost every play. But the breakout defensive player against New England was linebacker Austin Calitro. The veteran had the Giants' only turnover of the day when he tipped a pass up to himself before coming down with the interception. Calitro added four tackles (two solo) and a quarterback hit, and wound up receiving the highest PFF mark on either team with his 95.6 overall grade. Despite just signing with the team a few weeks ago, Calitro had a standout performance Thursday.

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

The run game was the most encouraging part of Thursday night

John Schmeelk: Fact – All the running backs played well and the offensive line was able to play physical football and create room around the line of scrimmage. It was more of a power-oriented rushing attack that got downhill quickly. Saquon Barkley was decisive in getting through the line of scrimmage. Gary Brightwell and Antonio Williams ran with power and broke tackles. Jashaun Corbin showed explosiveness and quickness.

Dan Salomone: Fact – Not just on offense, either. The way the Giants stopped the run was just as important on Thursday night. It was one of the major deficiencies last season, when the Giants gave up 129 yards per game on the ground.

Lance Medow: Fiction – Go with the play of Richie James and Darrian Beavers, who could prove to be valuable commodities on the depth chart, thanks to their versatility and varied roles - especially James, who still has potential at wide receiver in his fifth season in the league.

Matt Citak: Fact – The Giants gained 177 yards on the ground against the Patriots while averaging 5.4 yards per carry. Williams was the most productive with his 61 yards on nine carries, but the team saw promising performances from several of its backs, including Gary Brightwell (seven carries for 40 yards) and Sandro Platzgummer (three attempts for 21 yards). Offensive coordinator Mike Kafka, who called plays for the first time in a game , even dialed in a few wide receiver runs which gained positive yardage. Despite changes across the offensive line, the run game still shined in the opener.

The offensive line depth is now the biggest question for the Giants because of injuries

John Schmeelk: Fact - Shane Lemieux's toe injury puts this as the No. 1 potential issue. If Lemieux missed significant time, combined with Matt Gono's injury taking him off the field, it's questionable who is up next behind Ben Bredeson among the backups. There are a lot of new faces on the offensive line who haven't gotten a lot of reps so there's a lot to learn over the next month before the regular season starts. Honorable mention to the defensive backfield depth here, especially with the injury to Cor'Dale Flott.

Dan Salomone: Fact – There's no way around it after the Giants' recent string of injuries up front. Coach Brian Daboll didn't have an immediate assessment of their severity after the game, so it will definitely be something to monitor.

Lance Medow: Fact – Prior to the preseason game, the Giants already lost Matt Gono and Marcus McKethan due to injuries. With Shane Lemieux (toe) and Jamil Douglas (ankle) hurting, the volume of issues is starting to grow. Depth in the secondary is a close second but injuries have taken a bit more of a toll on the offensive line.

Matt Citak: Fact – O-line depth was already a question for the Giants heading into the game against New England, and then Shane Lemieux (toe) and Jamil Douglas (ankle) got nicked. The severity of the injuries are not yet known, but Lemieux was spotted in a walking boot following the game. While they will need additional bodies on the O-line if those two are forced to miss time, the Giants saw some positives from a few of their reserve linemen. Ben Bredeson did not allow any pressures on 38 pass blocking snaps, helping him earn a 90.0 overall grade from PFF, while Devery Hamilton picked up a 90.1 mark from the analytics site.


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