While the season opener did not go as Joe Judge and the Giants would have hoped, there were still some encouraging signs to come out of the Week 1 loss to Pittsburgh.
Darius Slayton and several other of the young cornerstone pieces played well against a tough Steelers team. The Giants trailed by six just points heading into the fourth quarter, and Daniel Jones was able to lead the offense on a 19-play, nearly nine-minute drive before throwing an interception on the goal line. Jones finished the game with 279 passing yards against a staunch secondary.
The Giants are faced with another tough matchup Sunday in Week 2, as Judge's squad will travel to Chicago to take on the Bears. Chicago emerged with the 19-14 victory last season when the two clubs met at Soldier Field.
Here are five story lines to follow heading into the Week 2 matchup:
Saquon looks to get on track
Throughout his first two years in the NFL, Saquon Barkley has made countless jaw-dropping plays on his way to becoming the first back in franchise history to eclipse 1,000 rushing yards in each of his first two seasons. That is why his rough outing against the Steelers (15 carries for six yards) came as a surprise to everyone watching the Monday night showdown. Barkley was constantly met by Steelers defenders behind the line of scrimmage.
Week 1 is in the rearview mirror with the focus shifted towards Chicago. This is far from an easy matchup, as Barkley was held to just 59 yards on 17 carries against them last season. But the Bears allowed veteran Adrian Peterson to rush for 93 yards on 14 carries while beating the Lions in Week 1, good for an average of 6.6 yards per carry.
All five starters on the Giants' offensive line got to play in a real game together fir the first time last week, so some growing pains should have been expected. But with another week of practice under their belts, the unit should see some improvement.
"As a unit, we just need to go ahead and keep improving collectively," Judge told reporters Tuesday about the O-line. "That's the biggest thing. The one thing about those bigs is it doesn't matter how one guy plays. It's all five have to play in-sync, all the time. They have to get that chemistry as you're referring to going forward. I have no doubt that there's going to be a lot of improvement going forward."
Slayton continues to find the end zone
By now, everyone knows how strong of a rookie campaign Darius Slayton had last season. He matched Tennessee's A.J. Brown for the rookie lead in touchdown receptions with eight, and made big plays for the Giants in each of his 14 games.
Slayton got his sophomore season off to a similar start Monday, catching six passes for 102 yards and two touchdowns. Since Week 5 of the 2019 season, Slayton leads the NFL with 10 total touchdowns, an impressive feat for a former fifth-round pick.
The Bears boast a talented pair of outside corners in Kyle Fuller and rookie Jaylon Johnson, both of whom recorded overall grades above 75.0 from Pro Football Focus last week. However, a tough matchup didn't slow Slayton at all in Week 1. The second-year received matched Barkley for the team-lead in targets (nine) against Pittsburgh, putting his growing connection with Daniel Jones on full display.
Will DJ limit turnovers?
As mentioned in the intro, Daniel Jones led the Giants offense on an impressive 19-play drive that took nearly nine minutes off the clock in the third quarter. On that drive, Jones went 9-of-11 for 67 yards with two rushes for an additional 10 yards prior to throwing the interception on a 2nd-and-3 from the Pittsburgh 4.
Jones was faced pressure from Pittsburgh's pass rush, yet still managed to complete over 63 percent of his passes for 279 yards and two touchdowns. He earned the ninth-highest mark among quarterbacks in Week 1 with his 82.1 overall grade from PFF, which also happens to be the highest grade of Jones' young career.
The Bears' defense presents another tough matchup for Jones. Khalil Mack is one of the top edge rushers in the NFL, and he leads a pass rushing group that also consists of talented players such as Akiem Hicks and Robert Quinn. But Judge and the team have the utmost confidence in their young signal-caller.
"Obviously, there are things we have to clean up with the decision-making," Judge said of his quarterback. "But I can tell you right now, I think that guy stood in the pocket with a lot of courage last night, delivered a lot of really good balls for us, really controlled the flow of the game, did a heck of a job under pressure. I'm very pleased with the way Daniel played last night. I know the rest of the team feels very confident with him in there calling the signals for us."
Continue to generate pressure on the QB
While the box score from Monday night shows the Giants recorded just two sacks of Ben Roethlisberger, the stat is a bit misleading. Roethlisberger was under pressure throughout the game, constantly being forced out of the pocket by the pass rush.
Leonard Williams recorded one of the team's two sacks, finishing the game with five tackles (four solo), one tackle for loss, one QB hit and the sack. He also had three pressures, matching Lorenzo Carter for the team lead. Carter registered an 81.5 overall grade from PFF, the 10th-highest mark of all edge rushers.
The Bears' offensive line performed well against the Lions in the opener. Trubisky was hit four times but sacked just once, and was given enough time in the pocket to throw for 242 yards and three touchdowns. Trubisky is much more of a running threat than Roethlisberger at this point in their careers, so the Giants must keep an eye on the fourth-year QB taking off with the ball.
Limiting Allen Robinson, Anthony Miller
Chicago's defense may get a lot of the attention, but the team's offense also has some very talented players that cannot be overlooked, especially at wide receiver. The group contains a strong 1-2 punch at the top of the depth chart - Allen Robinson and Anthony Miller have proven to be matchup nightmares.
In the Week 1 game against Detroit, Robinson caught a team-high five passes for 74 yards, earning an overall grade of 79.1 from PFF (13th-highest among WRs). Meanwhile Miller, who the Bears will line up all over the field, reeled in four catches for 76 yards and a touchdown. The third-year receiver graded out at 90.0 from the analytics site, receiving the second-highest mark of all qualified wide receivers, and caught the game-winning touchdown with under two minutes left in the game.
Chicago overcame a 23-6 deficit late in the game to defeat the Lions last Sunday. A big part of that was due to the play of Robinson and Miller, with both players stepping up big in the second half. James Bradberry is likely to see a lot of Robinson on the outside, while the responsibility of covering Miller in the slot could fall on the shoulders of several members of the secondary.
View rare photos of the history between the New York Giants and Chicago Bears.