5 Thoughts from Giants 21-16 loss to Lions in preseason opener

Giants fall in preseason opener to Lions
New York Giants tight end Tommy Sweeney, defended by Detroit Lions linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin (42), catches a 14-yard pass for a touchdown during the first half of an NFL preseason football game, Friday, Aug. 11, 2023, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

The second season in the Brian Daboll era has officially begun Friday night for the New York Giants as Big Blue fell by a 21-16 final to the Detroit Lions in the first preseason action for either team. 

Looking to return to the postseason for the second straight season, a majority of key players for the G-Men did not participate in preseason action, but that doesn’t mean there were plenty of key players that looked strong. Whether it was rookies putting in strong debuts, or young players putting themselves on the map, there is plenty to be happy about for the New York Football Giants. 

Here are five of the biggest thoughts from New York’s preseason loss. 

Pressure = Turnovers

If the Giants are going to be competitive in the NFC East, their pass rush needs to be a big reason why. They showed exactly how good they could be on the first play of the game. Tomon Fox pressured Nate Sudfeld into a bad throw that resulted in an easy interception by Jason Pinnock. 

Pinnock has had an incredible camp to this point and showed exactly why the team was willing to be able to give him the other starting safety role outside of Xavier McKinney. In a three-play stretch after his interception, Pinnock had a tackle for loss and a pass breakup on fourth down to force a turnover on downs. 

He was easily their best defensive player on Friday and clearly entrenched himself as the starting safety, but showed just how good Wink Martindale’s scheme can be with consistent pressure.

Offensive Line Questions

Andrew Thomas and Evan Neal (concussion protocol) did not play in Friday’s game but rookie center John Michael Schmitz got the start along with other potential starters on the offensive line. New York may have scored on both offensive possessions to start the game, but they gave up multiple pressures throughout the first few possessions. 

New York’s interior line in general wasn’t able to get much of a push along the line to start the game. Starting guard Ben Bredeson gave up a sack before the end of the first quarter which shows just how flimsy the group can be if they aren’t protecting the quarterback at a high level this year. Pass protection got worse once the game continued as well. Detroit’s third-team pass rush made it difficult for anything to work for the Giants. 

That being said the expectation is this group should be a lot better once the first team group is back together. 

Rookie secondary update

It wasn’t just Pinnock that shined in Friday’s victory. New York’s big winners against Detroit happened to be their rookie/young corners. The combination of Tre Hawkins, Deonte Banks, and even Cor’Dale Flott came through in major ways throughout the first half. Hawkins and Banks specifically came away with multiple pass deflections and made things hard for Detroit’s quick receivers. 

It was the type of start that was very encouraging for a Giants secondary that struggled in 2022. Flott’s deflection ended the first half for the Lions in a goal-to-go situation that kept the Lions out of the end zone. 

Even Dane Belton came through with a big play in the second quarter to set up New York’s first offensive touchdown of the preseason. Belton was in perfect position for a Sudfeld overthrow that was the Giants’ second turnover force of the night. 

New York should be extremely happy with their young secondary Friday night.

 Special Teams have mixed results

Nothing major to report here. Graham Gano, one of the more dependable kickers in the NFL to date, was 3/3 on field goals Friday night. Jamie Gillan also had a good game punting with a 48-yard punt early in the contest. Both players are at the top of their position in the NFL and showed why in the Motor City. 

The big surprise came from their late-round running back Eric Gray. Gray had a 21-yard kick-off return and was overall very good in the return game. If the Giants can add a strong return game to their roster, the team will be even harder to beat in 2023. 

Of course, with all the success in the first half, the Giants’ punt coverage team did a poor job to start the third quarter at tackling. Maurice Alexander returned a 95-yard punt for a score to bring Detroit back into the game after being down by 10. Not all of New York’s punt coverage starting group was in on the play, but it’s not something that should happen at any point in an NFL game. 

Third-String Quarterback shines

Almost every single member of the Giants 2023 draft class came through with some impressive plays on Friday. 

The player who surprised the most was one of the players that the team did not draft from this class though. Tommy DeVito, an undrafted free agent picked up by the team a couple of days following April’s draft, carved up the Lions’ secondary throughout the entire game and showed why he was an intriguing prospect out of Syracuse. 

New York Giants quarterback Tommy DeVito (5) passes during the first half of an NFL preseason football game against the Detroit Lions, Friday, Aug. 11, 2023, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

DeVito finished the day 15/24 passing for 155 yards passing while rushing for nine yards on three carries. His second-quarter touchdown strike to Tommy Sweeney was the kind of throw expected from most veteran quarterbacks in the NFL. He was very poised in the pocket Friday, while also having the quickness to scramble when the situation called for it. Even with his interception to end the game, it was an impressive night for the undrafted rookie. 

If Pinnock was the best player on defense, then DeVito was certainly the best on offense.

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