The NFL Week 2 preseason slate continued with two games, including an eye-opening performance by the New York Giants and a second tie in two nights.
1. Daniel Jones Has Some Big-Play Weapons
The Giants were one of the NFL’s surprise teams in 2022, improving from 4-13 to 9-7-1 and winning their first playoff game in 11 years.
They managed to do it with an offense that had one of the game’s top running backs (Saquon Barkley) but lacked big-play receiving threats in the passing game. The Giants’ had the fewest pass plays of 20 or more yards in the NFL last season (28).
Quarterback Daniel Jones finished 25th in yards per attempt (6.8) and 28th in touchdown percentage (3.2).
In the offseason, Giants general manager Joe Schoen went out and got Jones some big-play weapons, trading for tight end Darren Waller, signing wide receiver Parris Campbell in free agency and selecting University of Tennessee roadrunner Jalin Hyatt in the third round of the draft.
Jones and his new weapons made their first appearance of the preseason Friday night in the Giants’ 21-19 win over the Carolina Panthers. And while they were only on the field together for one series, it was long enough to make it clear that opposing defenses aren’t going to be able to just focus on Barkley this season.
Jones engineered an impressive game-opening 10-play, 75-yard touchdown drive against the Panthers’ first-team defense. He completed 8 of 9 passes, including three to Waller and two to Campbell before hitting No. 2 tight end Daniel Bellinger with a 4-yard touchdown pass.
Last year, the Giants scored a touchdown on their first possession of the game just twice in 17 regular-season games. Their 39 first-quarter points were the fifth-fewest in the league. So, the fact that they were able to put together an impressive touchdown drive like that right out of the chute is a good omen.
The Giants acquired the 6-foot-6, 255-pound Waller, who caught 197 passes for 2,341 yards and 12 touchdowns with the Raiders in 2019-20, for the third-round pick they received from the Kansas City Chiefs for WR Kadarius Toney.
Jones completed 7- and 11-yard passes to Waller on the Giants’ first two plays. He went to him again on the third play, but Panthers safety Vonn Bell knocked the ball loose for an incompletion.
Waller had 40 receiving yards on his three catches on the Giants’ first possession. The reason Bellinger was open on Jones’ touchdown pass was because the Panthers had to double-team Waller.
2. Panthers’ Leaky O-Line Not Helping Bryce Young
You can’t win in the NFL without a good quarterback. But you also can’t win without an offensive line capable of protecting that quarterback.
For the second consecutive week, the Panthers’ offensive line was shaky in front of rookie quarterback Bryce Young. It played better than it did a week earlier when it got manhandled by the New York Jets‘ defense and allowed Young to be hit on three of seven dropbacks. But it still has a lot of room for improvement.
Young played just two series against the Giants, completing 3 of 6 passes for 35 yards. On the second series, the Panthers drove from their 19 down to the Giants’ 10-yard line. But on a second-and-9, Giants defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux beat Panthers left tackle Ikem Ekwonu and sacked Young for a 7-yard loss.
That was followed by a delay of game penalty and a hold on right guard Chandler Zavala that pushed the Panthers back to the 32-yard line. A 13-yard pass from Young to wide receiver DJ Chark moved them close enough for a 37-yard Matthew Wright field goal.
Last year, the Panthers started three different quarterbacks. They finished with the league’s sixth-lowest passer rating (80.2) and third-fewest touchdown passes (16).
They traded four draft picks – two firsts and two seconds – and wide receiver DJ Moore to the Chicago Bears to move up to the top spot in the draft and take Young. But the offensive line, which actually was one of the team’s bright spots last season, needs to play better than it has in the first two preseason games, or Young is going to spend much of his rookie season running for his life.
3. This Robinson Kid Is Pretty Good
One of the hot topics in the NFL this offseason was the devaluation of running backs. But don’t tell Falcons coach Arthur Smith that.
The Falcons averaged an NFL-high 32.9 rushing attempts per game last season. Their 55.3 run-play percentage was the second-highest in the league, surpassed only by the Bears (56.2).
Given that they saw fit to use the eighth pick in the draft on University of Texas running back Bijan Robinson, the Falcons figure to be a run-heavy offense again this season as they try to improve on last year’s 7-10 record and get back to the playoffs for the first time since 2017.
Robinson made his first – and likely last – appearance of the preseason in Friday’s 13-13 tie with Cincinnati. He played one series, ran the ball four times for 20 yards and also had a 6-yard reception.
On his first carry, he cut back and weaved through traffic for 12 yards and a first down. The Falcons finished third in rushing last season, averaging 159.9 yards per game on the ground.
Robinson, who rushed for 1,580 yards and 18 touchdowns at Texas last year, joins a running back group that also includes Tyler Allgeier, who rushed for 1,035 yards last season and averaged 4.9 yards per carry, and Cordarrelle Patterson, who averaged 4.8 yards per carry and had eight rushing touchdowns.
4. Pencil Jonah Williams In at RT In Week 1
Williams, the 11th overall pick in the 2019 draft, had been the Bengals’ starting left tackle. But with Brown’s arrival, Williams was informed that he was being transferred to the right side.
Williams is coming off a disappointing season. Pro Football Focus graded him as the 49th-best tackle in the league last season. He gave up 12 sacks, which tied him with Tennessee’s Dennis Daley for the most in the league.
Williams missed the Bengals’ final two games, including their 23-20 AFC Championship Game loss to the Chiefs, with a dislocated kneecap that required offseason surgery.
The Bengals talked to other teams about Williams after he requested a trade. But he is entering the option year of his rookie deal and can become a free agent after the season. So, no one was interested in giving up a high pick for him.
On Friday night, Williams was the Bengals’ only offensive starter to play, which seemed to be a pretty good indication that he’s probably not going anywhere.
Paul Domowitch covered the Eagles and the NFL for the Philadelphia Daily News and Philadelphia Inquirer for four decades. You can follow him on Twitter at @pdomo.