EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - It's too early to make sweeping judgements, but the first impressions of the Giants offensive line on Saturday night were that they looked a lot like last year's offensive line.
And obviously that's not good.
Whatever improvement GM Jerry Reese was hoping for when he stuck with the status quo this offseason was not evident early in what turned into a 20-12 loss by the Giants to the Steelers in their preseason opener at the Meadowlands. The first-team offensive line gave up three sacks, and powered a rushing game that gained eight yards on six carries - and that included a seven-yard run for Paul Perkins' first carry.
Now, it wasn't all the offensive line. Backup quarterback Josh Johnson was holding the ball terribly long and probably was responsible for one of his three sacks. At least one was a total coverage sack thanks to a group of receivers that was missing Odell Beckham Jr., Sterling Shepard, Tavarres King and (for the most part) Brandon Marshall.
But the line didn't help. Perkins took a beating in the backfield before he got to the line of scrimmage. Center Weston Richburg struggled, including the first sack where he gave up interior pressure that forced Johnson to step up into Steelers rookie LB T.J. Watt, who had driven back embattled Giants left tackle Ereck Flowers. Right tackle Bobby Hart got bowled over on one near sack.
And the second-team offensive line … well, at the start it was even worse.
Granted, it's early. Very early. But the offensive line has been the Giants' biggest area of concern since last season. And from the looks of it, it's still pretty concerning.
Other thoughts from the Giants' preseason opener …
- Perkins didn't help much in the run game. It's hard to say if he was slow to react or waiting for holes but at times he looked like he was running in slow motion to the line of scrimmage. He finished with three yards on five carries. Notably, his backup, Orleans Darkwa - who has always been quick to the hole - had three rushes for 18 yards.
- With Josh Johnson struggling (5 of 10, 31 yards), Geno Smith (10 of 16 for 114 yards) looked poised to take the lead in the backup quarterback competition. He looked healthy, decisive, he flashed his strong arm. He hurt himself with a terrible interception in the third quarter, though, after having one negated by a penalty late in the first half.
- Johnson's night could've been better with a little more help from WR Roger Lewis. He caught one touchdown pass from Johnson that was negated because he stepped out the back of the end zone and then came back in, and he dropped another catchable pass in the end zone. The Giants have several receivers, including King and Darius Powe (1-15) who could push him out of a job.
- S Landon Collins looked like he picked up right where he left off last season with an incredibly active first couple of series. He seemed to be everywhere on the field.
- The Giants think TE Rhett Ellison was underutilized as a receiver last season, so perhaps it shouldn't be a surprise that he led the way for the first-team passing offense with three catches for 20 yards.
- Kicker Aldrick Rosas didn't flinch in his first taste of competition, converting both of his field goal attempts including one from 52 yards (the other was from 27). Veteran Mike Nugent kept pace connecting on his attempts from 30 and 45.
- It's hard to know how much this matters in preseason, but Giants coach Ben McAdoo definitely didn't overload on "11 personnel" (three WRs, one TE, one RB) like he did last season. He used two TEs, a fullback, he even used a tight end in the backfield as a H-back. The offense looked diverse.
- As promised, rookie Davis Webb made his NFL debut late in the fourth quarter. Playing with a bunch of guys who mostly are unlikely to make the final roster - and often forced to run for his life - he did not look overwhelmed. He completed 10 of 16 passes for 67 yards. His passer rating was 61.2, which beat both Smith (57.8) and Johnson (56.7) for the night.
- It's going to be hard for Donte Deayon to make the roster as a 5-9, 163-pound cornerback, but he was in on dime defenses at the start (with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie not playing) and was in on a couple of plays. Then, he muffed a punt return that led to a late Steelers touchdown. That won't help his cause.
- Travis Rudolph, an undrafted free agent receiver with a longshot chance at the roster, fumbled his first kickoff return attempt, too. He did catch a pass for 14 yards, though, and later had a 31-yard kickoff return.
- Devin Taylor, the Giants' 6-8 defensive end, was very active when he was in the game. He even dropped into coverage and picked off a pass.
- The best news for the Giants: Only one reported injury - a hamstring injury to S Duke Ihenacho.