Steelers Scouting Report: What to Expect From the New York Giants
After what has been a crazy, far from normal 2020, football fans finally have something to look forward to as the NFL is finally back in action this week!
For Steelers fans, it is the first opportunity to get a look at what should be a much improved team following a disappointing 2019 season. It also marks the return of Ben Roethlisberger to lead the offense following a very serious elbow injury that ended his season last year.
While the Steelers didn’t had the best 2019 season, their Week One opponent had an even rougher one. The New York Giants finished at an embarrassing 4-12 record last season and are looking for any sign of improvement from one of the younger teams in the league. With that being said, let’s take a look at this week’s opponent.
For their Monday night match up with the Steelers, the Giants do have multiple key injuries to take note of and monitor.
On the defensive side of the ball, rookie safety Xavier McKinney (Foot) and outside linebacker David Mayo (Meniscus) were both placed on the Injured Reserve list and are not expected to return until Week 9. Free safety Adrian Colbert and outside linebacker Markus Golden are both listed as questionable with illnesses. Golden did not participate in Thursday’s practice and Colbert was limited.
On offense, the Giants have already lost two backup receivers in Cody Core (Achilles) and David Sills (Foot) who were both placed on the Injured Reserve list. Veteran wide receiver Golden Tate and backup tight end Levine Toilolo are both listed as questionable with hamstring injuries. Both Tate and Toilolo were able to have limited participation in Thursday’s practice.
Can Saquon Barkley get some help from the passing game?
As has been the case over the past two seasons, the offense of the New York Giants will continue to lean on the ability to get their extremely talented running back, Saquon Barkley going. Coming into his third season in the league, Barkley has run for over 1,000 yards in each of his seasons as a pro.
He will be running behind an offensive line that added a solid piece in the 2020 NFL Draft in left tackle Andrew Thomas. Thomas is joined by newly acquired free agent Cameron Fleming at right tackle with third year starter Will Hernandez at left guard, veteran Kevin Zeitler at right guard, and Nick Gates at center. Barkley will be going up against a Steelers defense that finished 14th against the run last season, allowing 109.6 yards per game.
While Barkley is definitely a top tier talent, he will need some help from the passing game if the Giants want to see any signs of improvement this year. Daniel Jones returns for his second year as the starting quarterback after being drafted in the first round in the 2019 NFL Draft. He showed signs of promise as a rookie but still has a lot of room for improvement as he threw for 3,027 yards, 24 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions in his 12 starts after replacing Eli Manning.
His best target this season will likely be tight end Evan Engram who is expected to have a big year after missing a lot of the 2019 season with a foot injury. As far as the receiving core goes, they are slim in depth with Sterling Shepard listed as the WR1 with Golden Tate III and Darius Slayton as the other starters. The only other two receivers listed are Damion Ratley and C.J. Board so I expect to see a lot of action from the tight ends and running backs in the passing game.
Jones will be up to a tough task on Monday Night as he faces one of the top secondaries in the league led by free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick. The Steelers finished third in passing defense last season, alowing 194.6 yards per game. Not to mention, he will have to deal with the pass rush duo of TJ Watt and Bud Dupree coming at him all night.
Young Giants defense looks to improve in 2020
For Giants fans, they are hoping that things can only get better on the defensive side of the ball in 2020. Last season, the Giants finished 26th in the league in total defense, allowing 377.3 yards per game. They added a much needed improvement at middle linebacker during the offseason in former Green Bay Packer Blake Martinez. He will look to help improve a run defense that finished 20th in the league last season, giving up 113.2 yards per game.
Joining him at the opposite inside linebacker spot is Devante Downs with Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines on the outside. Markus Golden and Kyler Fackrell will also be in the rotation at outside linebacker. On the defensive line, former first round pick Leonard Williams looks to prove himself at defensive tackle and is joined by Dalvin Tomlinson at nose and Dexter Lawrence II at defensive end. They will be facing a Steelers rushing attack led by James Conner who will be looking to get off to a hot start to a hopefully fully healthy 2020 season.
While they weren’t great against the run last season, this defense was even worse defending the pass. They finished 28th in passing defense, allowing 264.1 yards per game. Former first round pick Jabrill Peppers enters his second year at strong safety for the Giants after being acquired from Cleveland last season. Last year’s fourth round pick, Julian Love is listed as the starter at free safety but newly acquired Logan Ryan should see some time and will likely earn the starting spot at some point.
Former Carolina Panther, James Bradberry with start at the left corner spot with Corey Ballentine on the opposite side. It will be an interesting test as they will be the first secondary to face Roethlisberger since his surgery and he has a wide variety of weapons to throw to in Juju Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, James Washington, and Chase Claypool, along with tight ends Eric Ebron and Vance McDonald.
While this shouldn’t be one of the tougher games on the schedule by any means, this game comes down to one thing for me. How is Big Ben going to look? If he’s the same Ben, this game should be no problem. However, it may still take some time to get going. Barkley will get a score or two to keep the Giants competitive for a little while.
With that being said, talent will take over for the Steelers and I don’t see Jones being able to get much done against this secondary. I have the Steelers getting off to a great start to the 2020 season with a 31-17 win at the Meadowlands.