Allowing 23 unanswered points to lose a season opener in primetime against a good Pittsburgh Steelers team isn’t necessarily the kind of start the New York Giants were hoping for.
But unlike seasons past, fans and media alike came out of Week 1 with some optimism rather than cynicism.
First-year bosses, head coach Joe Judge and offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, look as though the Giants can remain competitive week in and week out rather than be a simple result on the schedule of better opponents.
That’s not saying the Giants will exceed expectations of going, say, 6-10 this season, but things are trending up for the first time in a few years.
Week 2 provides a matchup with the Chicago Bears (1 p.m. ET, CBS) and with it, their best opportunity to nab a win over their first five weeks of a brutal schedule.
The Bears are coming off an improbable 17-point fourth-quarter comeback win over the Detroit Lions where their much-scrutinized quarterback, Mitch Trubisky, seemingly woke up and played up to the level many thought he would when drafted No. 2 overall in 2017.
Trubisky and the Chicago quarterback situation has been the Achilles heel of the Bears’ hopes of late, especially with a high-caliber defense headlined by All-Pro defensive end Khalil Mack.
It’s just as stiff a test as what the Steelers’ defense threw at the Giants, if not more, which will test the mettle of New York’s young stars.
Here’s what to watch for:
Will the running game get rolling?
Saquon Barkley is coming off a nightmarish season debut in which he gained just six yards on 15 carries — becoming just the sixth player in NFL history since 1970 to post a single-digit output on 15 or more carries.
Plenty of blame has to be shifted on the offensive line, which allowed Steelers defenders to get into the backfield and hit the star running back on 11 of those 15 attempts.
Barkley has to be an engine of the Giants’ offense if they want to exceed expectations in 2020, but he can only do so much if the run blocking is suspect at best.
Look for Garrett to get creative to get Barkley’s ground game going.
There were flashes last season that the second-year battery of quarterback Daniel Jones and wide receiver Darius Slayton could be a force for years to come at MetLife Stadium.
They didn’t miss a beat in Week 1, albeit against a Steelers defense that was practically giving the Giants the aerial attack.
Jones targeted Slayton nine times, connecting on six of those for 102 yards and a pair of touchdowns — the headliner coming in the form of a 41-yard bomb right down the middle of the field.
With opposing defenses already having to contend with the likes of Sterling Shepard, Golden Tate (if healthy), and tight end Evan Engram, Slayton has a chance to keep putting up those gaudy numbers.
Promising pass rush
In the early portions of Monday night, the Giants’ pass rush actually got to Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers offense — proving a rare glimpse of the glory days when the organization was built on a vaunted defense.
The posted two sacks on the night and hurried Roethlisberger three additional times, but the Steelers’ quarterback was afforded too much time, especially in the second half, to put the Giants away after their promising start.
A more consistent effort will be a topic of conversation, especially against a quarterback who can be thrown off his game like Trubisky.