Carolina @ NY Giants
Power rankings: Carolina 30, NY Giants 32
When Carolina has the ball:
With respect to Baker Mayfield, much of the offseason focused on his 2021 season being a fluke -- a direct result of playing through a shoulder injury that he never should have been playing through. While I'm fully on board and believe he's a quality NFL quarterback, the narrative didn't hold for week 1 when he had a 57.1% completion percentage against his former team. PFF gave him a 47.0 grade and charted him with two turnover worthy throws. His receiving core by routes run: DJ Moore, Robbie Anderson, Shi Smith, Christian McCaffrey, and Ian Thomas. Moore had a tough start to the season, but there is absolutely no reason to worry about the quality of his play. Anderson, coming off a horrendously bad 2021 season for his standards, did flash his big play upside with a 75 yard touchdown reception. If Anderson can tap back into his pre 2021 production, he and Moore along with McCaffrey should at least be a worrisome receiving core for opposing defenses. The offensive line does appear to be a problem -- Mayfield was under pressure on 42.4% of dropbacks last week despite getting rid of the ball in just 2.54 seconds on average. 8th overall selection Ikem Ekwonu struggled at left tackle -- he gave up 4 pressures and had an abysmal 17.9 PFF pass blocking grade. Ekwonu didn't grade too well pass blocking at USC either, and was equally bad in the preseason. I'm certainly not advancing that he can't develop, but we should expect him to be a problem until he can prove otherwise. McCaffrey had a tough day running, averaging just 3.3 yards per carry, but he's Christian McCaffrey -- as long as he's healthy (knock on wood), he'll be just fine. The good news is they'll be up against a Giants defensive line that is very much a work in progress. Edge rushers Kayvon Thibodeaux (5th overall selection) and Azeez Ojulari (broke the Giants single season rookie sack record last year) both missed last week. This week they're both limited in practice, and will presumably have a chance to play, but they certainly won't be 100%. The linebacking duo of Austin Calitro and Tae Crowder predictably struggled last week, earning PFF grades of 28.9 and 29.0 (seriously). The Giants secondary is all extremely inexperienced outside of Adoree' Jackson, and all of them were bad last week, except for Adoree' Jackson. DJ Moore and Baker Mayfield should have any issues bouncing back.
When the Giants have the ball:
Daniel Jones played his usual unspectacular blend of football last week. Though he did complete 81% of his passes, he did on just 21 attempts and an aDOT of 6.9. In total, he gained just 188 yards through the air and had two touchdowns to one interception. His top receivers by routes run: Saquon Barkely, Richie James Jr, Kenny Golladay, Sterling Shepard, and Tanner Hudson. Yes, Saquon Barkley, who actually plays running back, ran more passing routes than anyone on the roster. Kadarius Toney, the 20th overall selection from 2021, ran just 4 routes -- his lone boxscore stat was a 23 yard run. It'll be interesting to see how the Giants receiving core works itself out as the season progresses, but for now, it's not scaring anybody. The offensive line, outside of Andrew Thomas, who was his usual productive self, struggled. The Giants didn't do much in the offseason outside of let a good corner walk for nothing, but they did at least attempt to rejuvenate the offensive line, which included drafting RT Evan Neal 7th overall. Neal gave up 2 pressures on 31 pass blocking snaps against a Titans defense that lost their best edge rusher to a torn ACL. The lone positive (outside of Thomas) was Barkley as a runner, where he averaged 9.1 yards per carry over 18 attempts. Of course, a whole bunch needs to improve for the Giants to move the ball effectively on offense. The Panthers defensive line does a few bright spots, notably Brian Burns, who notched 4 pressures last week. Derrick Brow, the 7th overall pick from 2020, also played well -- a good sign for Panthers fans as Brown has certainly not lived up to the hype. Along with Matt Ioannidis and Yetur Gross-Matos, it's far from the best line in the game, but it should be good enough to give the Giants some issues if they played like they did week 1. The problem with the Panthers defense is their secondary, where, much like the Giants, they rely on young players. Jaycee Horn, the 8th overall selection from last year, gave up 4 receptions on 5 targets for 31 yards and had 2 penalties. They do at least have a veteran presence at the safety position with Xavier Woods.