5 Biggest Takeaways from New York Giants' Week 1 Loss

Patricia Traina@Patricia_TrainaFeatured Columnist IVSeptember 14, 2015

5 Biggest Takeaways from New York Giants' Week 1 Loss

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    Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

    There is a lot to digest from the New York Giants’ 27-26 loss to the Dallas Cowboys in Week 1, a mixture of good sprinkled in with just enough bad to have caused an otherwise surprising effort to sour in a hurry.

    Overall, it was encouraging to see the Giants be able to hang with the Cowboys, especially on defense where New York forced three fumbles, one of which was returned for a touchdown, and picked off two passes on a night where the offensive couldn’t get much of anything going.

    What were some initial things that jumped out from this game? Read on to find out.

The Giants Lack a Pass Rush

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    Going against Dallas’ all-world offensive line that features three Pro Bowl players, the Giants registered zero sacks and just one quarterback hit, oftentimes being pushed around the field like a bunch of rag dolls.

    While credit obviously is due to the Cowboys’ human wall, this has unfortunately been a trend for New York going back to the preseason, when they finished with 10 sacks, of which, 3.5 were recorded by Damontre Moore who this week didn’t even dent the stat sheet.

    That has to change moving forward, as at times, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo had a ridiculous amount of time to dissect the coverage and do what he seems to do best: crush the Giants in the game’s closing minutes.

The Special Teams Units Have Improved

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    Uncredited/Associated Press

    It’s only one game, but for the first time in a while, it’s probably fair to say the Giants’ special teams did not factor into a losing effort.

    Besides some solid kicking from Josh Brown, who made every single field-goal and extra-point attempt and who boomed his kickoffs high and deep, new punter Brad Wing did a solid job with placing his punts outside the numbers, just as special teams coordinator Tom Quinn seems to prefer.

    The only concerning blip on the unit’s showing was, ironically, the poor performance of its $17.5 million dollar man, returner Dwayne Harris, who averaged 1.5 yards per punt return on two attempts, thanks to his maddening tendency this week to run east and west instead of north and south.  

    In the end, the Giants won the field-position battle, and it wasn’t even close. New York’s average starting field position was its 31; the Cowboys’ starting field position was their 20.

The Defense Showed Some Signs of Improvement

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    Tom Pennington/Getty Images

    Yes, the defense gave up two too-easy scoring drives to the Cowboys at the end of the game—those no doubt partially a result of the defense being gassed from being on the field for so long.

    However, there were a few things to like from this effort, starting with the fact that for the most part, no Dallas ball-carrier got very far without at least one Giants defender on his trail. As a result, the Cowboys' longest play from scrimmage was a 25-yard pass to running back Joseph Randle.

    While that’s a nice chunk of yardage, the fact that the Giants didn’t give up 30-plus yardage plays, which were a staple of nearly every game played last year, is a step in the right direction as is the fact that the Giants seemed to tackle much better this week than they did last year.  

    One other positive stat to come from this game: The Giants run defense, which finished 30th in the league last year, allowed just 80 yards on 23 carries (3.5 avg.). In particular, it did a better job playing the gaps and it was rarely beaten on the edges as was the case too often last year.

Shane Vereen Needs to Touch the Ball More

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    Tom Pennington/Getty Images

    Shane Vereen Needs to Touch the Ball More

    The Giants have entered the 2015 season with a running back-by-committee approach that needs some tinkering.

    According to the final game book, Rashad Jennings, listed as the starter, touched the ball 14 times (13 rushes) for 52 yards and one touchdown.

    Andre Williams touched the ball six times for 14 yards, all carries given his continued struggles with catching the ball.

    Shane Vereen? He was given eight opportunities to touch the ball, three as a runner and five as a receiver (he caught four of his five pass targets).

    His total production? Fifty all-purpose yards.

    For now, Vereen has a specific role on the Giants offense, that being on third down where his versatility allows offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo the option to run or pass.

    Vereen needs to see more touches than Williams, whose sluggish development as a receiver all but broadcasts in lights what is coming, or what isn’t coming, as the case may be.

LB Uani' Unga Showed He Can Hold His Own Against the Starters

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Let’s get the obvious out of the way.

    Cowboys tight end Jason Witten just has a way of eating Giants defenders alive. It’s what he has always done and what he might very well unfortunately continue to do, regardless of who is in there against him.

    So while Witten made first-year linebacker Uani’ Unga look foolish at times, overall Unga, making his first NFL start, held up fairly well for the most part with very few hiccups.

    With starter Jon Beason left behind to nurse a sprained knee, Unga was given the radio in his helmet this week, and other than a couple of blips, he seemed to do well with making the calls.

    Unga also led the team in tackles with 12 (10 solo) and came up with an alert play when he picked off Tony Romo’s pass intended for Witten, with 55 seconds left in the first half.

    Unga’s play would have given the Giants the ball at the Cowboys’ 21, except defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins was flagged for an unnecessary-roughness penalty that set the Giants back to the Cowboys’ 36.

    Still, New York managed to convert on the turnover, scoring on kicker Josh Brown's 40-yard field goal .

    In breaking down Unga’s 12 tackles, he had six tackles in the run game, all of which went for five yards or less, which is a solid showing. His coverage for the game's first three quarters consisted of two tackles, each play coming within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage, which was also good.

    It was in the fourth quarter, when the defensive approach seemed to change (and perhaps when the defensive players began to really show their fatigue after being on the field so much), Unga began to be gouged in coverage, allowing 68 yards on four pass targets.

    Still, at a quick glance, Unga didn’t seem to do any worse than Beason has since coming to the Giants.

    Patricia Traina covers the Giants for Inside Football, the Journal Inquirer and Sports Xchange. All quotes and information were obtained firsthand unless otherwise sourced.

    Follow @Patricia_Traina.

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