Bright Spots From The Giants' Win Over The Bills
Football is back, which means we’re all excited — some maybe more than others (some people are Jaguars fans). I’m a part of the overly excited crowd, although for the sake of this column, I’ll try to dial it down a notch or two. Why? Well, because the first preseason game is barely a step up from a training camp scrimmage, and I know better than to put too much stock in the Hall-of-Fame game.
But that doesn’t mean there weren’t any bright spots. There were quite a few, in fact. One of those bright spots was the running game, something we haven’t been able to say a whole lot of the last few seasons.
The Giants community got some sad news this week when doctors told RB David Wilson that they have advised against him returning to the game of football because of the risk of further injuring his neck. The team was looking forward to getting Wilson’s speed and dynamic playmaking ability back on the field this season, but a player’s health always comes first, and his teammates and Giants fans alike will certainly miss him.
However, it’s much easier to swallow that bitter pill after seeing how the Giants stable of running backs performed against Buffalo’s defense on Sunday night. Last week, I questioned how the Giants planned to use their backs in the first preseason game and how they would distribute the carries. Well, as it turns out, Rashad Jennings, Andre Williams and Peyton Hillis each received seven carries, and they sure made the most of them.
The three backs combined for 107 yards on the ground, with the newcomers Jennings and Williams looking very impressive in their Giants debuts. Williams, who finished the night with 48 yards and a touchdown run on seven carries, showed the speed he’s capable of with a 21-yard burst on the Giants’ second offensive possession of the night. Wearing the No. 44, his bruising, downhill running style is so similar to Ahmad Bradshaw’s that I had to remind myself more than once that Bradshaw was not actually on the field.
So, anyway, the running game showed a lot of promise. But what about the new offense? How did Ben McAdoo’s shiny new West Coast system look in its first unveiling? Well, let’s just say that there are still some kinks that need to be worked out. But that’s true for practically everyone during Week 1 of the preseason. Overall, it looked very much like we expected it to: a lot of quick passes in the short-to-medium range, and a high completion rate for Eli Manning. Manning finished 6-of-7 for 43 yards on three drives, although he was sacked once and fumbled, turning it over to the Bills deep in Giants territory. However, much of the pressure Manning experienced on Sunday can be attributed to a mostly brand-new offensive line playing together for the first time.
One thing we did see a lot of that Giants fans can be happy about is the use of screen passes in the new offense. Jennings featured heavily in the passing game, catching three balls out of the backfield for 20 yards. Although the offense looked a little disjointed at times, especially on the opening drive, the Giants were playing with three of their top wide receivers — namely Odell Beckham Jr., Reuben Randle and Victor Cruz. Instead, Jerrel Jernigan, Marcus Harris and Corey Washington carried most of the load in the passing game.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Giants looked very solid, bending a few times but rarely breaking. Mathias Kiwanuka looked strong with a batted pass on the Bills’ opening possession, and Damontre Moore recorded a sack on Buffalo backup Jeff Tuel late in the first half.
As for the Giants’ second-team players? Ryan Nassib sure looked impressive, and reminded Giants fans why the team went out of their way to draft him last season. His 73-yard touchdown pass to Corey Washington early in the third quarter was a well-thrown ball (with an equally impressive catch by Washington) and a perfect opportunity for Nassib to show off his arm. I’m not kicking Manning out the door anytime soon, but it’s good to know that Nassib continues to improve, and he certainly looks much more comfortable on the field this year.
The Giants will now head back home to face Pittsburgh at MetLife Stadium on Saturday night, when hopefully we’ll get to see a little bit more from the first-team offense against a tough Steelers defense.