An in-depth preview of the Detroit Lions week two battle against the Giants in New York
Giants 2017 New Additions
The Giants off-season was a fairly quiet one. In Free Agency their big splash free agent was veteran wide receiver Brandon Marshall, who adds to an already potent offensive attack. But that addition may be mitigated by the report that O’dell Beckham Jr. is likely to miss the Giants matchup vs Detroit. However, outside of Marshall, the most notable free agent acquired this off-season is the offensive tackle D.J. Fluker. However, Fluker is listed as their number two right tackle on the New York depth chart.
Where the Giants added more electric players was through the draft with picks like tight end Evan Engram and defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson. Engram may be listed as a tight end, but he plays much more like a bigger bodied receiver. He is 6’3″ and nearly 240 lbs but also ran a 4.40 40 yard dash time, showcasing his explosive abilities. He may not be the most physical tight end, but he can make you pay in the vertical passing game. This was an issue area for Detroit in 2016, so the combo of Engrams and starting tight end Rhett Ellison could be another good test for Lions rookie linebacker Jarrad Davis and co. to show that they have taken strides forward in this area.
Giants second-round pick Dalvin Tomlinson profiles very similar to Lions defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson, who was Tomlinson’s predecessor at Alabama. He is very strong and can be hard to move out of running lanes. Tomlinson should take time to develop pass-rushing traits but could be a huge force in the running game.
Matchups to Watch For
Lions Defensive Line vs Giants Offensive Line
This is likely going to be the feature matchup of the game. The Giants have a potent passing attack, even if O’dell Beckham Jr. is out. If the Lions defensive line gives Giants quarterback Eli Manning enough time to survey the field, it could be a long day for the Lions secondary. Even though it was looked to originally be a weakness, the Lions’ defensive line performed very well against the Arizona Cardinals in week one and could serve as a strength in this game.
While Ziggy Ansah has been battling injuries, this is a great matchup for Ansah to get back into the swing of things, as Giants left tackle Erick Flowers struggled in pass protection again to start this season. Flowers uses his physical tools well in the running game, but his struggles in pass protection should give Ansah the opportunity to put the questions about his health behind him.
However, the other Lions on the defensive line have impressed so far this season. Defensive end Anthony Zettel is off to a good start in 2017 registering two run stops, five quarterback pressures, and a crucial third-down sack against the Cardinals in week one. Zettel would likely be seeing a lot of time at left defensive end lined up against Giants right tackle Bobby Hart. However, Hart missed practice on Thursday and the Giants may be forced to shuffle their offensive line around. Currently, it is believed that either undrafted rookie free agent Chad Wheeler or guard Justin Pugh will take over these responsibilities. If Wheeler takes over the job, Zettel could have a big game. And if Justin Pugh is forced to vacate his left guard position, the rotation of defensive tackles A’Shawn Robinson, Akeem Spence, and Jeremiah Ledbetter could take advantage of this weakness in the line.
When you look at how the Giants are built to win on offense, it is through the air. If the Lions defensive line continues to build off their week one performance, it is likely Detroit is able to win this matchup.
Lions Passing Attack vs Giants Coverage
The Lions’ offense week one looked great following half-time adjustments, carving up the Cardinals’ defense for four touchdowns through the air. When the pass protection was good and the Lions’ line was able to give quarterback Matthew Stafford time to survey the field, the Lions’ offense was able to move the ball down the field consistently. Receivers Marvin Jones, Golden Tate, and rookie Kenny Golladay‘s ability to create separation and get open for Stafford was essential for the Lions passing attack to succeed.
This group will face debatably the strongest secondary of the season as they travel to New York. Giants safety Landon Collins had a bounce-back season when switched back to strong safety and finished third in voting for the NFL’s 2016 defensive player of the year award. He is joined by a trio talented athletic cornerbacks in Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Janoris Jenkins, and Eli Apple.
The Lions wide receiver group will have their work cut out for them. The group may need work to create separation quickly, as the Giants’ potent pass rush could be impactful to the Lions offensive success. However, if the Lions air game can get on track and stay on track, they have proven how potent they can be as well.
Prediction: Lions 24 – Giants 16
Expect this one to be fairly close, but if the Lions can generate turnovers and pressure like they did in week one, I could see Detroit running with this game a bit. The Giants’ offensive line is a big question mark right now and could cost their team a win against a hungry Lions’ pass rush.