The New York Giants started their 2020 season Monday night with a 26-16 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. It was a disappointing start to Joe Judge’s tenure. The Giants had chances to score more than just their one non-garbage time touchdown, but couldn’t capitalize. The first came when Pittsburgh’s Diontae Johnson muffed a punt after New York’s opening drive stalled at mid-field. The Giants recovered at the Steelers 3-yard line, but had to kick a field goal after a one-yard run and two incompletions.

The second chance came on their first possession of the third quarter, when Daniel Jones led a mammoth drive that took nearly nine minutes off the clock. On a second-and-3 from inside Pittsburgh’s five-yard line, Jones forced a throw back towards the middle of the field while rolling to his left. His arm was hit and the ball fluttered into the waiting arms of Steeler lineman Cameron Heyward. The interception killed all the momentum from New York’s time-consuming drive, and they never recovered. Pittsburgh cruised to their ten-point victory.

With Big Blue’s season finally underway, it’s time to unveil our “Podium/Sodium” gimmick. After each Giants game, we’ll earmark three players fans will want given a medal, and three players they’ll be salty about. So, without further ado, here are your Week 1 Podium/Sodium players.

Podium Players

Gold Medal: WR Darius Slayton

Giants fans will have a lot to complain about after this game, but they won’t have a bad word to say about Slayton (neither will his fantasy owners). The second-year wideout made big plays all night, including a 41-yard touchdown reception in the first half that put New York up 10-3. His 19-yard catch on third-and-14 from the Giants’ five-yard line jumpstarted New York’s 19-play drive. He even caught a garbage-time touchdown to pad his numbers. His final stat-line (six catches for 102 yards and two touchdowns) is top receiver material.

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Silver Medal: DL Leonard Williams

Many Giants’ fans have soured on Williams since the way New York acquired him wasn’t exactly great asset management. Monday night, he showed why those fans should still be happy he’s on the team. Williams was a disruptive force, finishing with two tackles-for-loss, a sack, and two quarterback hits. He spearheaded a stout Big Blue run defense all game.

Bronze Medal: LT Andrew Thomas

The offensive line provided plenty to gripe about (see below), but Thomas was it’s lone member to have a strong night. The 2020 fourth-overall pick held up well at left tackle in his rookie debut. The Giants, for the most part, left him one-on-one against edge rusher Bud Dupree, and he surrendered very little pressure on Jones.

Sodium Players

Salty: RB Saquon Barkley

Barkley’s rushing stats from last night are not a sight for sore eyes. He managed just six total yards and 0.4 yards per attempt. Barkley can’t be blamed for those paltry numbers, as a Steeler defender met him in the backfield on 11 of his 15 carries. He was, however, poor in pass-protection once again. He did catch six passes for 60 yards to boost his numbers, but he also had a bad first-quarter drop. It was the type of performance that provides ammunition to those who criticized his selection at number-two overall in the 2018 draft.

Saltier: TE Evan Engram

After all the training-camp buzz about how well Engram had been showing, Monday night was certainly a let down. He had just nine yards on two catches. He also caught a 24-yard seam pass in the second quarter, which was negated by his offensive pass interference penalty. His blocking continued to be subpar. His missed block on T.J. Watt near Pittsburgh’s goal line nearly caused a Jones fumble. If Engram isn’t making an impact as a pass catcher, he doesn’t provide much else.

Saltiest: RT Cameron Fleming/C Nick Gates

It’s not an overstatement to say the Giants rushing attack Monday night was truly abyssmal. Barkley’s numbers speak for themselves, but the hopelessnes of each rushing attempt was startling. Nearly every time Barkley got the ball, he was immediately swarmed by multiple Steeler defenders.

 

Usually, Gates or Fleming getting beaten badly at the line of scrimmage was the cause of these run-game blow ups.

Gates’ pass blocking was fine in his debut at a new position, but Fleming struggled dealing with Watt coming off the edge. Right tackle and center were the two positions along the offensive line that Giants fans were most concerned about. The performance by these two players Monday night did nothing to quell those fears.

– Ryan Cuneo is the Managing Editor of Full Press Giants. He covers the New York Giants. Like and follow on and Facebook.

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