New York Giants off to shaky start under new coach Joe Judge

NFL Dallas

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP)If New York Giants fans were hoping for a quick turnaround under new coach Joe Judge, it might be time to reevaluate.

The Judge era got off to a shaky start Monday night in a 26-16 loss to Ben Roethlisberger and an impressive Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense.

The biggest concern on Tuesday has to be the play of the revamped offensive line and its inability to give Saquon Barkley any running room. The second pick overall in 2018 carried the ball 15 times for 6 yards. He was hit near or behind the line of scrimmage at least on 10 of those carries.

Unless this changes, it could be another long year for New York, which won four games last season and has made the playoffs once since 2012.

The line, which has three new faces in tackles Andrew Thomas and Cam Fleming and center Nick Gates, faced one of the NFL’s top defensive fronts. It has to improve collectively.

”That’s the biggest thing,” Judge said Tuesday. ”That’s the thing about those bigs, it does not matter how one guy plays. It’s all five have to play in sync, all the time.”

Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin said the Steelers focused on stopping Barkley. There is little doubt Bears coach Matt Nagy will look to do the same this weekend in looking for a second straight win.

Barkley was clearly frustrated during the game, but added he has to be better. He missed a hole or two and some of the plays were too slow developing.

”Internally we will address things always,” said Judge, who refused to say whether he would either calmly correct the problems or lay down the law. ”We will be blunt and honest. We are very transparent in this organization and we will be very direct with what we have to do to correct it.

WHAT’S WORKING

Take away the two interceptions – especially the one at the end of an 87-yard drive – and Daniel Jones played well. He stood in the pocket under good pressure and threw for 279 yards and two touchdowns to Darius Slayton (six catches, 102 yards). Jones, the No. 6 pick in the 2019 draft, also ran four times for 22 yards, accounting for most of the Giants’ rushing yards.

WHAT NEEDS HELP

The secondary. After Sam Beal opted out and DeAndre Baker was released because of an arrest for armed robbery, the Giants knew they had to find a cornerback to play opposite James Bradberry. Second-year pro Corey Ballentine was targeted by the Steelers. He was good in run support but his coverage was so-so. Pittsburgh also took advantage of big holes in zone defenses.

STOCK UP

Linebacker Blake Martinez missed some practices in the weeks leading up to the opener for an undisclosed reasons. No concern. The former Packers standout led New York with 12 tackles, most near the line of scrimmage.

STOCK DOWN

This was supposed to be the breakout season for tight end Evan Engram. He dropped a pass on the third play from scrimmage and was called for offensive pass interference in the second quarter, negating a 24-yard gain. He had two catches on seven targets for 9 yards.

INJURED

No major injuries. Starting receiver Golden Tate missed the opener with a hamstring.

KEY NUMBER

29 – The number of rushing yards the Giants gained on 20 carries, a 1.5-yard average. It’s hard to win in the NFL with that.

NEXT STEPS

Correct the mistakes before heading to Chicago. The O-line has to get off the ball and give Barkley some room. Jones needs to avoid the turnovers. The front seven needs to pressure the quarterback for more than a half. Special teams was excellent. The unit forced a fumble on a punt early to set up a field goal and Jabrill Peppers averaged 13 yards on three punt returns, nearly breaking one.

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