It is late early for the Giants.
Really and truly.
Yup, it was Monday on the calendar the day after their distasteful 27-13 loss to the Broncos but already getting treated like a day much later in the week in the hearts and minds of the Giants. They have an extremely quick turnaround, as they get their first road game of the season, Thursday night in Washington, in a “battle’’ of 0-1 teams in the NFC East.
Essentially, the Giants get one full day to practice for this game — that would be Tuesday — and they hit the rails for a Wednesday afternoon chartered train ride to Washington.
This could work to their benefit. They did not get beat up badly — at least not physically — and their bodies are fresher now than they would be if their Thursday night game came a month or two from now. Plus, ridding their minds as soon as possible of how crummy they played, on offense and defense, in the 2021 opener is a positive development.
“We get to play some football again,’’ safety Logan Ryan said. “It’s honestly a positive after a loss. You have to play quicker and we’re excited for it.’’
There is no time to waste when it comes to getting a woebegone offense to generate more than the seven points the Giants mustered until Daniel Jones ran for a meaningless touchdown as the clock expired. This led to the predictable and understandable outcry that offensive coordinator Jason Garrett’s system is not up to the modern standards of the current NFL scoring marketplace.
“The big focus for us right now is making sure we’re gonna keep putting players in position to be successful,’’ coach Joe Judge said Monday, certainly not sounding as if any major changes are forthcoming. “There’s a number of plays you can play with and you can draw up a lot of different patterns and routes. Obviously we have to be creative and give the players a chance. I’m more focused on the fundamentals and the execution that we go with.’’
A derrick is needed to unearth feel-good performances hidden deep under the surface of all the slop the Giants served up. The run blocking was abysmal — they averaged only 3 yards per attempt, with a rusty Saquon Barkley not yet in sync. The nicest thing that can be said is that the offensive line was not terrible. Granted, that is not a high bar. But it is something.
Jones threw from a clean pocket on 74.4 percent of his dropbacks, the second-best protection in his three-year career, according to Pro Football Focus. Left tackle Andrew Thomas, everyone’s favorite target, had the highest pass-block grade (87.6) of his career, which spans 17 games. Left guard Shane Lemieux, dealing with a knee issue (patella tendinitis) was limited to only 17 snaps, but PFF gave him the highest pass blocking grade in his two-year career.
“You’re not going to win too many games if you can’t run the ball on the ground — be able to pound the rock,’’ center Nick Gates said. “I felt pass-pro was a lot better than it was at this time last year. We got to keep moving forward when it comes to that.’’
Moving forward will happen more swiftly once the new playmakers are fully acclimated, as Kenny Golladay, tight end Kyle Rudolph and rookie Kadarius Toney played in the opener despite missing most of training camp and all three preseason games dealing with injuries. Barkley played 29 snaps in his return from reconstructive knee surgery in his first game in 11 months.
Golladay caught four passes for 64 yards in his Giants debut and, especially late in the game, felt he started to develop some chemistry with Jones.
“I’m glad I was able to make those plays because everything isn’t just gonna be wide open and I do want him to have that trust in me and I know that’s gonna take time,’’ Golladay said.
It will take time. Golladay last week warned, because of all these factors, the offense might get off to a slow start. He was proven to be prescient.
“First off, like I’ve been saying, this is Week 1 and guys are really just now starting to get back out there,’’ Golladay said. “I think we can be explosive, just pretty much what everybody else thinks. When you just look at it, you have a lot of guys that are on this offense that [have] made a lot of big plays. To be honest, the sky’s the limit for us as long as we put the work in.’’
That work has to be condensed in the shortest week of the season for the Giants.