It's possible that the Giants defense is actually worse than anyone thought.
That's hard to believe, considering how low expectations were, but it was like they were barely there in the Giants' 35-17 opening day loss in Dallas. They got no pass rush at all, and their secondary was a mess of poor coverage and broken plays. The result was a 405-yard, four-touchdown performance by Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott, who looked like he was running a 7-on-7 drill all day.
It was embarrassing, really. Also it was not surprising. It was clear the Giants weren't going to be able to generate much of a pass rush this season, and they drew a tough assignment anyway against the Cowboys' powerful offensive line. But the coverage was worse than advertised, particularly starting corner Antonio Hamilton, who was literally shoved around throughout the game.
In the second quarter, it looked like the Giants had stopped the Cowboys on a 3rd and 10 when Randall Cobb caught a pass short of the first-down marker. Hamilton had him wrapped, but Cobb just shoved him aside and gained 14 yards. The Cowboys scored on the next play. And later in the second quarter, Cobb did it again, stiff-arming Hamilton to pick up about eight extra yards on an 18-yard gain.
Rookie corner DeAndre Baker wasn't much better. He got beat deep on several big plays, including a 21-yard touchdown by Amari Cooper. And those were just the plays where it was obvious who was covering. Cobb scored on a 25-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter and not a single Giants defender even looked his way.
Actually, it didn't really matter if defenders were there. In the third quarter, Prescott hit Michael Gallup with a short pass that he caught in stride in between three Giants defenders, including Baker. None of them touched him and he took off for a 62-yard gain.
It was easy for the Cowboys, who totaled 495 yards. They didn't even need to have newly-signed Ezekiel Elliott break a sweat. They kept him under wraps for the most part (13 carries, 53 yards) and ripped through the Giants anyway.
It's going to be a long, long year if that keeps up.
Meanwhile, here are some other takeaways from the Giants' opening-day loss …
- Saquon Barkley fumbled on his first touch of the season -- the first fumble of his career -- and then ripped off a 59-yard run on the next play of the game. He finished with 11 carries for 120 yards. Why not more than 11 carries? That's a real good question. Also, it was really surprising they didn't get him more involved in the passing game. Just six passes thrown his way? His ability to catch passes was supposed to be a big part of how they'd make up for the loss of Odell Beckham Jr., especially with Golden Tate out. Overall, the Giants ran 66 plays but only 17 through Barkley. Very strange.
- Everyone agrees that Barkley is the Giants' most dangerous player, right? Good. So explain this. In the third quarter, trailing 28-10, the Giants have a 3rd and 2 at the Dallas 8. What do they do? They give it to fullback Eli Penny who picks up a yard. Then they go for it on 4th and 1 and … Manning rolls out with thoughts of passing to Sterling Shepard in the end zone before he's sacked. Is there any good reason why Pat Shurmur wouldn't just call for a run up the middle for Barkley in both those spots? (Don't bother answering. There's not).
- Stop if you've heard this before: The Giants can't cover tight ends. Their first touchdown was a 28-yard throw to tight end Blake Jarwin who was extremely wide open. TE Jason Witten was covered a little better when he escaped for his 4-yard touchdown. In all, the Cowboys tight ends caught six passes for 54 yard and two touchdowns. All in all, that could've been -- and has been -- a lot worse.
- The Giants' new-look offensive line looked good early, but then wore down. It was at its best on the game-opening, 91-yard touchdown drive. Eli Manning had a lot more time than he usually got last season. He was sacked only once. There was definitely some pressure. It wasn't perfect. But it was better.
- As for Manning, I'm sure his critics will find a way to blame this on him. But he was 30 for 44 for 306 yards and a touchdown. That performance wasn't awful at all. He had a couple of big plays to Cody Latimer (three catches, 74 yards) and was generally solid overall. The big issue with the offense wasn't him, it was the Giants' inability to convert on third downs (2 for 11). Manning had a hand in that, but some of that was play-calling, some of it was the offensive line, and some if it was receivers not getting open. Rookie Daniel Jones would not have made the end result any better.
- TE Evan Engram showed some flashes of why he could emerge as a very key cog in the Giants' offense machine. He finished with 11 catches for 116 yards and a touchdown, and he was a favorite target of Manning's late in the game when they were in their sort-of two-minute, catch-up mode. The Giants love his explosive ability, so figure he'll be more of a target as the season goes along.
- WR Sterling Shepard only had six catches for 42 yards. The Giants are going to need a lot more than that from him if he wants to truly be thought of as a No. 1 receiver.
- And yes, the Giants did get Jones in for one series at the end of the game. He went 3-for-4 for 17 yards, but his day ended when he scrambled for a first down, took a hit and fumbled the ball away. Smart move by Shurmur giving the rookie a chance to get into a game and at least get a bit of a feel for what it was like. Just don't read any more into it than that.