The New York Giants got on a plane and flew to Cincinnati for their first preseason game of the season last Friday, but their starting offense never left the ground.
Surely, Eli Manning and Co. will be searching for a way to light an offensive fire against the Jaguars tomorrow night. This should be a substantial test for the Jaguars' defense, as the Giants' starting O-line could end up seeing 30-35 snaps.
This biggest takeaway from the Giants' first preseason game, however, was not the first-team offense's hardship. It was the team performance on the opposite side of the ball.
Making their debut in a brand new system under new Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, the Giants' defense got caught out of assignment on several occasions. The defense appeared confused and heavy-footed as growing pains exposed themselves in the first full-speed implementation last Friday night.
As Blake Bortles uncovers more playing time in the second game of the preseason, he'll look to uncover more success against a wobbly New York defense. Greg Olson's new easy-read offense has an opportunity to tear the game wide open as the Giants settle back in to more insipid defensive sets.
"We went into it saying, look, we're going to stay very vanilla," Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said about his unit's performance against the Bengals. The Giants will certainly maintain their vanilla looks, but will look also to play more inspired football against the Jaguars on Saturday night.
Many of the Giants' defensive starters are young, new to the team, or both. The communicational component to Spagnuolo's defense proved to be a restraint on the group in their first live-setting scenario of the season. Many players slowed down as they allowed overthinking to shell their playing.
Against the Bengals, the Giants fielded their bland defensive sets and relied on the secondary's aggressiveness to make plays. This isn't far off from the norm, as most NFL teams conceal more advanced apparatuses until the regular season.
It is very clear, however, that the Giants' defense was struggling as a collective unit on Saturday night. On the Bengals' opening drive, QB Andy Dalton and RB Jeremy Hill burned the Giants for 38 yards in the first three plays. Dalton found success both in the pocket and rolling out, while Jeremy Hill ripped through the middle of the line for 10 yards.
Three plays later, the Bengals scored on a Dalton TD pass to a wide-open Mohammed Sanu. Dalton went 3/3 on the opening drive, and Jeremy Hill stacked up some yards on the ground.
It's only the preseason, and the Giants will most likely tighten up on defense eventually. The group carries a few big names, and there's a good chance that the new system will start to click in rhythm with the on-field talent when the Giants iron out their play in the regular season.
Still early in preseason, however, the Jaguars have a great opportunity to build off of a steady offensive performance in week 1. Greg Olson's offensive installation is completed, for the most part, and Blake Bortles carries both the ability and playbook to do some real damage to a developing Giants defense. It also doesn't hurt that four Giants cornerbacks and three Giants safeties are expected to miss the contest on Saturday night.
Likewise, the Giants' defense, thin or not, holds an opportunity to bounce back against a young Jaguars offense. Either way, it'll be something to pay close attention to on Saturday night.