EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Saquon Barkley just might be the most hyped rookie in Giants history, and the first time he touched the ball in a Giants uniform he certainly lived up to it all.
It may have only been one moment, but it was a great moment - a 39-yard run by the second overall pick on the first play from scrimmage. Yeah, so he only had four yards on his other four carries in the Giants 20-10 loss to the Cleveland Browns on Thursday night. But that one run was enough to delight the sparse crowd - especially the many (and there were a lot of them) who showed up wearing his No. 26 jersey.
The run was outstanding. It was a handoff up the middle and he was stuck behind the line without a hole. So he sidestepped to his right and then darted through the line of scrimmage and the arms of two would-be tacklers. Then he turned to the right and out-raced S Damarious Randall towards the sideline and then turned upfield before he was finally nudged out of bounds.
"The offensive line did a great job of creating space and creating a hole," Barkley said. "I was able to have patience and Evan (Engram) did an unbelievable job of blocking on the backside, and I was able to burst through the hole, make a guy miss and get up field."
The run had everything - moves, patience, burst, speed. Just forget about the rest of his short night. The memory of that one run should keep everyone happy for at least a week.
Here are some more observations from the Giants' preseason opener …
- It probably goes without saying, but it was the absolute right call by the Giants to not play WR Odell Beckham. Sure, it's been 10 months since his ankle surgery and he's obviously pretty healthy, but why risk it? Also, the decision avoided a potential headache. What if they wanted him to play and he refused because of his contract situation? That would have created needless headlines. It's better to avoid that controversy and keep him safe.
- It was hard to get a real good read on the new-look offensive line in just two series. The protection seemed OK. The holes in the running game weren't there. And though it's hard to tell if it was all their fault, the Giants' attempts at screen passes were absolutely atrocious. Eli Manning hasn't been a very good screen QB. Then again, the Giants haven't had the running backs or line to run them successfully in many years.
- S Landon Collins, in his first game since needing surgery on his broken arm twice, was very active early. He had a near-sack on the first play of the game and stuffed Browns RB Carlos Hyde for a 1-yard loss on the third play. It's early, but defensive coordinator James Bettcher had him playing a lot like a linebacker in this game, up near the line of scrimmage.
- There was some spotty play in the defensive backfield when the starters were in. On the Browns' touchdown drive, CB Eli Apple got manhandled off the ball by WR Rashard Higgins for a 21-yard catch, and on the next play Browns TE David Njoku blew right by Giants LB Alec Ogletree for a 36-yard touchdown. That's not a particularly good sign considering Ogletree is supposed to help end the Giants' years-long problem of not being able to cover tight ends.
- Overall, Bettcher didn't unveil everything about his supposedly aggressive defense, but there were signs. On several occasions he had both outside linebackers rushing, turning his 3-4 team into a five-man front. With the speed of Olivier Vernon and Kareem Martin on the outside, and the power of Damon Harrison, Dalvin Tomlinson and rookie B.J. Hill on the inside, that has the potential to be very imposing.
- It's a good thing for Davis Webb that the battle to succeed Eli Manning will be a long one, because he didn't get off to a very good start. Despite some terrific offseason work and having a year in the NFL already under his belt, he completed just 3 of his first 14 passes for 27 yards. In a preseason game against a team coming off an 0-16 season, that's just horrendous. And many of his misses weren't close. For some odd reason almost all of his throws were high. He did finish the first half strong, but was still only 9 of 22 for 70 yards.
- It's hard to find a place for him in the running back rotation, but first-year pro Jalen Simmons had a strong debut for the Giants. The 5-7, 213-pounder runs real hard (and low, obviously) and had 38 yards and a touchdown on just seven carries.