The Giants haven’t won a regular-season opener since 2016 when they barely edged out the Dallas Cowboys, 20-19 on the road to kick off what would become an 11-5 season and their first playoff berth since the 2011 season.
To find a winning home opener, you’d have to go back even farther than that—to September 12, 2010, when they trampled the Carolina Panthers 31-18 during the Giants’ christening of the then-brand-new MetLife Stadium.
So what can the Giants do to make sure that they begin this new decade of football and the second season of the Joe Judge era on the right foot? Obviously, outscore the Denver Broncos, this week’s opponent is the top (and obvious) key, but to it take a lot of little things for that to happen, including this three thing…
Find Success in the Red Zone
Last season the Broncos boasted the No. 1 ranked red-zone defense (47.54 percent) while the Giants had the 31st-ranked red zone offense in the red zone .
Although both teams are slightly different from a year ago, that’s still not a statistic that favors the Giants, whose nucleus on offense is mostly the same save for a couple of key additions.
One such addition is tight end Kyle Rudolph, who has recorded 40 of his 48 career touchdown receptions (83.3 percent) from inside the opponent’s 20-yard line.
Rudolph, who at 6’6” has hands of glue—he’s dropped just one pass on 167 targets between 2018-20 figures to be a favored red zone target of quarterback Daniel Jones this season. And if Rudolph can continue that kind of production he’s had in his career, he will have been worth the price of his contract.
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No Bad Decisions
While everyone is fixated on the Giants offensive line and who will or won’t be in the lineup, more eyes probably need to be on quarterback Daniel Jones, who in Year 2 of the same offensive system and Year 3 in the NFL, needs to morph from game manager to game-winner.
A big way for Jones to do this is to cut down on mistakes. In the limited preseason snaps he had against the Patriots in the finale, the throw across his body to a drifting Evan Engram was one that probably should have never been made.
There was another missed opportunity in which Jones had Devontae Booker wide open as he crossed the middle of the field on a second-quarter play—a play in which Jones didn’t even see him and ended up having to take a sack on a second down.
These kinds of mistakes all tie into questions about Jones’ post-snap processing ability. His decision-making not only needs to be accomplished quickly but with fewer mistakes than, when added up, end up costing the team yardage—and, potentially, points.
Limit Noah Fant’s YAC
There’s just something about opposing tight ends that have given the Giants fits over the years. But last year, the Giants finally did something about it by improving the middle of their defense with players like linebackers Blake Martinez and Tae Crowder and safety Jabrill Peppers.
They and their teammates held opposing tight ends 777 yards and four touchdowns on 70 pass receptions, with 254 yards (32.6 percent) coming after the catch last season.
This weekend the Giants will see a lot of Denver’s very talented third-year tight end, Noah Fant, who has 1,235 yards on 102 career receptions, and six touchdowns. Of Fant’s receiving yardage, 703 have come after the catch, as he’s averaging nearly 7.0 yards of YAC for his career.
Last season, Fant led all of the Broncos receiving targets with 372 YAC, so getting him wrapped up and on the ground is going to be of the utmost importance in thwarting Denver’s chances of moving the chains.
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