Key Matchup Alert: Giants vs. Cardinals – 5 Must-Watch Elements for Week 2 of the 2023 NFL Season

Key Matchup Alert: Giants vs. Cardinals – 5 Must-Watch Elements for Week 2 of the 2023 NFL Season

Daniel Jones / Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

Week 1 couldn’t have gone much worse for the Giants, as they were blown out by 40 points by the Cowboys on national television. However, this week gives them a good chance to hit the reset button as they face a team considered by many to be one of the league’s weakest in the Arizona Cardinals.

With Kyler Murray still rehabbing a torn ACL, it’s widely assumed the Cardinals will be in the mix for the first overall pick in next April’s draft. And if the Giants can’t bounce back from last week’s debacle with a win, the pressure on them will intensify.

Here are some of the biggest stories to watch as the Giants look to turn their season around…

Can the Giants put last week behind them?

The Giants entered the season-opener with plenty of optimism but what unfolded was essentially their worst nightmare. They couldn’t have expected to get shut out, or to give up 40 points.

New York had a good initial plan and drove downfield well on their opening drive to set up a field goal attempt to take the lead. From that point on, every bounce seemed to go against them. Graham Gano’s kick was blocked and returned for a long touchdown, and then a Daniel Jones pass was knocked out of Saquon Barkley’s hands and bounced right to DaRon Payne for another easy touchdown to put them in an early 16-point hole.

Compounding matters, even when they made some positive plays, the bounces went against them. Bobby Okereke forced a fumble in the red zone, but it bounced right to Tyler Biadasz down the field, leading to another touchdown a few plays later.

Then when Jones finally made a downfield connection with one of his receivers, the ball was stripped away from Isaiah Hodgins for another turnover. The Giants must accept that you can have days like this and remain confident in their game plan as they iron out some of the deficiencies from the first week.

Will the Giants do a better job of protecting Jones against a less-fearsome defensive front?

Jones had one of the worst games of his career against Dallas, mainly as a result of the consistent pressure he was under. The Cowboys racked up seven sacks and held Jones to just 104 passing yards. After the first drive, they also did a good job of containing his scrambling.

The Cardinals don’t have the same kind of top-end talent or as deep of a group of pass-rushers, which bodes well for the Giants having better results in pass-protection on Sunday. However, they did rack up six sacks in their Wek 1 loss to the Washington Commanders, including two by Dennis Gardeck.

The Giants were hoping that Evan Neal would take a step forward in 2023, but he looked overmatched for most of Sunday night’s game. To make things even worse, right guard Mark Glowinski struggled just as badly on his inside shoulder. This duo must do a better job of handling their individual matchups and working together to pick up stunts.

New York Giants wide receiver Darius Slayton (86) gains yards after the catch during the second half against the Philadelphia Eagles at MetLife Stadium

Can New York get their wide receivers involved?

One thing the Giants must do is get their wide receivers more involved. Hodgins fumbled his only catch, Jalin Hyatt and Sterling Shepard were shut out, and Parris Campbell and Darius Slayton combined for just 17 yards on nine targets. In fact, Jones didn’t complete a pass to a wide receiver until less than seven minutes remained in the third quarter.

Darren Waller is still likely to be the primary target and he has had success against Arizona before. He had six catches for 50 yards and a touchdown against the Cardinals in week two last season.

Will Arizona be able to force turnovers?

The only thing that kept Arizona in the game against the Commanders was the fact that they forced three turnovers. Linebacker Zaven Collins had an interception and a fumble recovery, while Cameron Thomas scored their only touchdown on another fumble.

The Giants’ offense was among the league-leaders in terms of committing the fewest turnovers last season, but uncharacteristically lost the turnover battle 3-0 to Dallas. A conservative approach might be advisable against a team that probably doesn’t pose much of a threat to put together long drives or make big plays.

Can Big Blue generate more of a pass rush than they did against Dallas?

In addition to Neal, defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux is another player the Giants will be hoping can make a leap in 2023. However, the lack of pressure generated by Thibodeaux and the rest of the Giants’ pass rushers on Sunday night was disappointing.

Cardinals starting quarterback Joshua Dobbs, who has been with the team for less than a month, was sacked three times on Sunday. But Arizona was quick to get rid of the ball with a lot of short passes. Dobbs averaged just 4.4 yards per pass attempt with leading receiver Zach Ertz catching six passes but for just 21 yards.

Dobbs has good mobility, so the Giants need to ensure that they not only put him under pressure when he looks to throw, but prevent him from making plays to extend drives with his legs.

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