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Fact or Fiction: Rookie impact, key players for Week 1


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

Giants rookies will account for at least 10 combined offensive touches in their debuts

John Schmeelk: Fiction – Will Wan'Dale Robinson and Daniel Bellinger touch the ball at least 10 times? It's too high of a number. If this was at six or seven, you would go over, but 10 is a big ask given Saquon Barkley, Kenny Golladay, Kadarius Toney and possibly Sterling Shepard will be on the field. You can expect Wan'Dale Robinson to be a big part of the offense, but 10 is too high of a threshold to cross. He'll catch four passes, run it twice, and Bellinger will catch two passes.

Dan Salomone: Fact – Don't forget about Wan'Dale Robinson's ability to take handoffs. Since Day 1, coach Brian Daboll has talked about having a "clear vision" for the second-round pick. The public just hasn't been able to see it yet. That will change starting on Sunday.

Lance Medow: Fiction – The only two players that account for this statement are Wan'Dale Robinson and Daniel Bellinger. While Robinson's versatility could increase his chances for touches both as a runner and receiver, he still has competition with Kadarius Toney, Sterling Shepard and Saquon Barkley in the mix. On top of that, Bellinger is a wild card as to how much he'll be targeted within the offense. When you take those factors into consideration, go with the under.

Matt Citak: Fact – This one is going to be close, as the 10 combined touches would have to come from just Wan'Dale Robinson and Daniel Bellinger as they are the only two rookie skill position players. Both players are listed on the unofficial depth chart as starters and figure to play key roles in the offense this season. Robinson also has the capability to register a rushing attempt or two, which could help push the total to double digits. Brian Daboll and Mike Kafka are going to find creative ways to get the ball into their playmakers' hands, so don't be surprised to see the pair reach 10 touches in some intriguing ways.

Limiting Titans running back Derrick Henry is the Giants' top priority on Sunday

John Schmeelk: Fact – The Titans had the highest run rate on 1st-and-10 in the NFL last season. They want to wear defenses down with Derrick Henry, which can lead to explosive runs in the fourth quarter. If the Giants can slow down Henry on early downs and prevent those explosive plays, they will have a good chance at winning the game. It is important to note that the Titans are also an excellent early-down play-action team, which could burn the Giants if they dedicate too much of their focus against Henry.

Dan Salomone: Fact – Something we can all agree on, which is saying something in this weekly feature. Henry took home the rushing triple crown in his last two healthy seasons and still finished in the Top 10 in rushing last year despite missing nine games. 

Lance Medow: Fact – This is a fact in all capital letters. Derrick Henry missed nine games last season with a foot injury yet he still led the NFL in carries (27) and rushing yards (117) per contest. He's an extremely powerful back, who wears down defenses with his size, strength and physicality. Tennessee's identity is the ground attack. Last season, the Titans were fifth in the NFL in rushing yards per game with 141. If you don't slow down their run game, it's going to be a very long day at the office and Henry's presence and production specifically opens up the play-action game for Ryan Tannehill. Case in point, in 2021, Tannehill averaged more passing yards per attempt and had a better touchdown-to-interception ratio and passer rating when Henry was on the field for eight games versus when he was sidelined for nine.

Matt Citak: Fact – As Wink Martindale told the media Wednesday, there's a reason why he is referred to as King Henry. In just eight games last season, Henry registered 937 yards and 10 touchdowns before he missed the remainder of the season with a foot injury. In the previous two seasons, he rushed for a total of 33 touchdowns and over 3,500 yards, and was named Offensive Player of the Year for his 2020 campaign. The Titans' offense moves with Henry. Slowing him down will have to be the defense's top priority Sunday.

View rare photos of the all-time history between the New York Giants and Tennessee Titans.

The Giants will win if they rush for more than 100 yards

John Schmeelk: Fiction – The Giants are more likely to win in this scenario, but it isn't a guarantee. How many rushes does it take to get to 100 yards? How many of those yards come on one big run? The details matter here. It would be an impressive feat to get to 100 yards given the strength of the Titans' front and defense overall. A performance like that would give Giants fans faith in the unit heading into the remainder of the season.

Dan Salomone: Fact – The Titans were 11-3 when they didn't allow 100 yards on the ground last season. When they did, they were 1-2. Then again, the Titans allowed 198 yards to the Jaguars in Week 5 last season and then just eight to them in Week 14 – and Tennessee still won both games. That was one of the crazier stats that came up in this week's research.

Lance Medow: Fiction – If the Giants pile up more than 100 rushing yards, that's great but the Titans could very well do the same so this stat alone indicates much. Only three teams managed to surpass the century mark on the ground last season against Tennessee and one of those teams, Jacksonville, racked up 198 yards. The Jaguars still lost by 18. How the Giants' defense performs is just as crucial.

Matt Citak: Fiction – A hundred yards on the ground would be a great start to the season for the run game, but it does not necessarily mean the Giants will come out on top. The team went 2-5 in the seven games they rushed for 100 or more yards last year, including three losses in which they registered 130+ yards on the ground. But getting Saquon Barkley's season off on a strong note could go a long way for the offense's success this season. On the flip side, the Giants will emerge from Nashville with the victory if they can contain the Titans to less than 100 rushing yards.

Defensive lineman Leonard Williams is the most important player for the Giants' defense vs. Tennessee

John Schmeelk: Fiction – Let's go with Julian Love. Wink Martindale will line him up all over the formation, much like the other safeties that will be active on game day. But Love will find himself closer to the line of scrimmage more often than McKinney. He will have to tackle Derrick Henry. He might have to set the edge on some outside zone runs if he is lined up on the line of scrimmage tight to the edge. He will have to use judgment to get into those short zone areas to disrupt the play-action pass game.

Dan Salomone: Fact – The Giants need to stop the run and might need more help generating pressure depending on the statuses of Kayvon Thibodeaux and Azeez Ojulari. Leonard Williams can do both. The newly-minted captain looks at home in this defense and with the team as a whole.

Lance Medow: Fact – You can easily make an argument for several players because it's going to take a group effort to slow down Derrick Henry, but I'd put Leonard Williams atop the list given his versatility in being able to play inside and outside. If Williams is No. 1, then Dexter Lawrence would be No. 1A, especially if Azeez Ojulari and Kayvon Thibodeaux don't play, which seems likely. The Giants will need as many bodies as possible to clog up those run lanes and Williams and Lawrence have the physique to answer that call.

Matt Citak: Fact – This was a close one, as an argument could be made for Adoree' Jackson, Tae Crowder and whoever ends up starting next to Crowder at inside linebacker. But Williams gets the nod due to his impact in both the run defense and pass rush. As noted above, stopping Henry has to be the defense's top priority, and last season Williams registered one of the highest PFF run defense grades on the team. Williams clogging up the middle should help limit Henry. The defensive lineman's ability as a pass rusher will also play a vital role in the defense's success Sunday. Williams led the team with 47 total pressures in 2021. It marked the second consecutive year in which he led the team in that category after he had 62 total pressures in 2020. If Williams can make his presence felt in both areas against the Titans, it would provide the defense with a significant boost.

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