Broncos pass rushers Von Miller and Bradley Chubb vs. Giants offensive tackles Andrew Thomas and Nate Solder
If the Giants survive these confrontations, they should be fine. That is an enormous “if.’’ Thomas actually had a solid summer, until a terrible first joint practice against the Patriots and a brutal half in the ensuing preseason game started alarm bells ringing. The organization wanted second-year Matt Peart to control the right tackle job, but he never fired on all cylinders, thus Solder, 33, returning after opting out in 2020, beat him out. Peart could get some snaps, as the Giants are not adverse to rotating their linemen on certain series. Chubb has been slowed by an ankle issue and is listed as questionable. The Giants figure to be sweating all this out all day.
The Broncos last season won five games — one fewer than the Giants — and yet are far more highly regarded heading into 2021. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is steady, though limited, and they have an outstanding defensive backfield. Perhaps all the new weapons on offense come together at just the right time for the Giants. Perhaps Daniel Jones has the time he needs to get the ball to those weapons. Or, perhaps not.
Broncos 24, Giants 16
“THE’’ Year or “A’’ Year?
The third season for an NFL quarterback is not always the litmus test, but it is a significant indicator of where he is and where he might be going. It is Year No. 3 for Daniel Jones, and there is no doubt, around the league, there are far more disbelievers than believers in his present and future. Inside the building, there is great hope and plenty of confidence, but everyone knows it is time.
“I’m not really seeing it that way, I guess,’’ Jones said. “My mindset is just to go out and help this team win games. I think we’re in a position, we’ve had a good camp and we’re prepared, and my job is to put the team in a position to win games, to protect the football and distribute the ball to guys who can make plays for us. That’s kind of how I’m looking at it.’’
Von Miller, 32, is entering his 11th NFL season after missing all of 2020 with a torn ankle tendon. He has 106 career sacks, but the last time he reached double-digits was 2018. Given the injury he is coming off, he strongly prefers to play on grass, but he will face the Giants on the MetLife Stadium artificial turf.
“Yeah, I can’t sit this one out,’’ Miller said. “It’s just a couple of games I have to play on turf. I think it’s like three or four games. I just have to be able to tough it out. I don’t want this to get in my head about it. I don’t want to make it more mental than what it is.’’
It is not only what Saquon Barkley can do for the rushing offense or for his quarterback that has the Giants intrigued. He is an emotional leader, and his teammates feed off his energy. This is why Sterling Shepard admitted he often peeked to see what No. 26 was doing out on the practice field.
“All the time,’’ Shepard said. “I’m always focused on what I have to do first, but you can’t help but get excited sometimes seeing him running around out there.’’
What did Shepard see? “Saquon stuff,’’ he said. “Hitting the holes, making cuts, doing stuff that he always does, making those wild plays.’’
The defense doesn’t rest
The NFL is a passing league. The rules favor the offense. We know all this. Until all the weapons brought in to help with the point production get in sync, the Giants might have to be carried by their defense, an experienced and polished group that laid strong groundwork in 2020.
“We have such high expectations for ourselves and we want to go out there and be the game wreckers and do things that allow our offense to have that much easier of a game,’’ linebacker Blake Martinez said. “That’s our mindset no matter what team we’re playing, what day we’re playing. Yeah, it’s definitely a thing we think about.’’