AT A GLANCE
Brian Daboll manned the sideline for the first time as head coach, and general manager Joe Schoen watched his inaugural roster start to come to life. Together, they won their first preseason game as a tandem. Graham Gano kicked a 24-yard field goal as time expired for a 23-21 victory over the Patriots in New England.
While Thursday night marked one month to go until the regular season, the Giants return to training camp on Sunday and, along with the rest of the league, must reduce their roster to 85 players on Aug. 16. The Giants then face the Cincinnati Bengals in their second preseason game on Sunday night at MetLife Stadium. The action only picks up from there as the Giants will host a joint practice with the Jets the following week leading up to their matchup in the preseason finale. The final 53-man roster will be announced on Aug. 30.
View photos from the preseason opener between the Giants and Patriots at Gillette Stadium.
WHAT WE LEARNED ABOUT THE OFFENSE
*Daboll has not publicly announced who will call the team's offensive plays when the regular season starts, but Mike Kafka, the Giants' first-year offensive coordinator, assumed that duty throughout the offseason practices and in training camp. He also did so on Thursday night from the booth at Gillette Stadium.
"I look at it as an opportunity," Kafka said earlier this week. "An opportunity not only for myself, but for the players. Everyone out there is working hard to make the team and show what they can do and show that they can build themselves a role. So, I'm looking to go out and do my job to the best of my ability and put the guys in the best position to be successful and show what they can do."
*Quarterback Daniel Jones played the first two series of the game, completing six of 10 passes for 69 yards and was sacked once for a loss of eight yards. He also scrambled for six yards on a third-and-four on the opening drive, which eventually resulted in a short field goal after the offense stalled inside the 10.
*Evan Neal, the seventh overall pick in the 2022 draft, made his NFL debut at right tackle. The Alabama product has held down the top spot since he arrived in East Rutherford. This week, he got a little more comfortable as he switched jersey numbers back to 73 from 70. Neal had worn No. 73 from his freshman year of high school through his All-American college career. The number opened up this week when the Giants released offensive tackle Matt Gono, who had been on the exempt/left squad list. The Giants also recently lost rookie lineman Marcus McKethan, a fifth-round pick, due to a knee injury.
*The depth took more hits when starting left guard Shane Lemieux left in the first quarter with a toe injury and did not return. The third-year pro had worked himself back to the top of the depth chart after missing all but the first game of last season with a knee injury. Jamil Douglas was later ruled out with an ankle injury.
*Backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor saw extensive action and completed 13 of 21 passes for 129 yards, including a seven-yard touchdown to wide receiver Richie James. The two offseason additions have found each other frequently in practice this summer.
*With no tackling in practice, Thursday night provided the best look yet at the running game. Antonio Williams, who spent time with Daboll in Buffalo, led the way with nine runs for 61 yards, including a long of 19 yards and a two-yard touchdown to cap an impressive drive in the second half. Gary Brightwell added seven carries for 40 yards with a long of 16 yards as the Giants ran for 177 yards as a team.
*Wide receiver Collin Johnson led the team in receiving with seven catches for 82 yards but was also stripped by Terrance Mitchell on a 17-yard gain early in the second quarter. Super Bowl XLIX hero Malcolm Butler recovered the fumble for the Patriots.
WHAT WE LEARNED ABOUT THE DEFENSE
*Defensive coordinator Wink Martindale said the three preseason games are all about "finding out who's the smartest, who's the toughest and who's the most dependable – because all three of those factors are what we're going to build on." The Giants had a handful of players fit that bill on Thursday. Linebacker Darrian Beavers, a rookie sixth-round pick, made his presence felt with three tackles, including one for a loss.
*The first sack of Martindale's tenure with the Giants went to … undrafted rookie safety Trenton Thompson. The San Diego State product took down Bailey Zappe late in the first half for a loss of eight yards on third down, forcing a New England punt.
*Rookie cornerback Cor'Dale Flott, a third-round pick from LSU, left in the fourth quarter with a groin injury and did not return.
*Signed just weeks ago at the start of camp, linebacker Austin Calitro tipped a ball to himself to secure an interception in the fourth quarter. Calitro, 6-0 and 240 pounds, has played in 47 regular-season games with nine starts for, in order, Seattle, Jacksonville, Denver and Cincinnati. He also played one postseason game for the Seahawks, with whom he signed as a rookie free agent in 2018. Calitro was cut by the Bengals in February after playing five games in the 2021 season.
WHAT WE LEARNED ABOUT SPECIAL TEAMS
*Graham Gano is consistent no matter what number he wears. The veteran kicker made all three of his field goal attempts from 40, 25, and 24 yards, the last of which was the game-winner. Over the offseason, he gave up No. 5 jersey to rookie Kayvon Thibodeaux in exchange for a $50,000 donation to Puppies Behind Bars, which provides service dogs for wounded war veterans and first responders, in addition to explosive-detection canines for law enforcement. Gano now wears No. 9.
*Jamie Gillan, known as the Scottish Hammer, made his Giants debut, punting twice for an average of 46 yards. Myles Bryant returned his first punt 30 yards up the sideline, leading to a Patriots touchdown.
OL Shane Lemieux (toe)
OL Jamil Douglas (ankle)
CB Cor'Dale Flott (groin)