Lions vs. Giants preview: DBs could give Detroit fits
James Hawkins of The Detroit News breaks down Monday’s Lions-Giants game at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. (8:30 p.m., ESPN, Channel 7, WJR 760).
GIANTS TO WATCH
Landon Collins, SS: The first-team All-Pro is coming off an impressive sophomore campaign, where a position switch from free safety to strong safety led to a Defensive Player of the Year-caliber season with 125 tackles, 13 passes defensed, five interceptions and four sacks. Being moved closer to the action has made him a force against the run and an impact playmaker in New York’s swarming secondary.
Damon Harrison, DT: Good luck running the ball against Harrison. The six-year pro is a menacing force and has established himself as one of the premier run defenders in the game. According to Pro Football Focus, Harrison has led the league in run-stop percentage each of the past four seasons and had 49 run stops in 2016 – 10 more than any other defensive tackle and helped him earn first-team All-Pro honors.
Odell Beckham Jr., WR: The star receiver has been on the mend since injuring his left ankle Aug. 21 in the team’s second preseason game against the Browns and said it’ll take him six to eight weeks to fully recover. If he’s cleared and able to make his regular-season debut, Beckham provides an immediate spark with his ability to make jaw-dropping catches and turn routine plays into much larger gains. Over his first three seasons, Beckham has averaged 96 catches, 1,374 yards and roughly 12 touchdowns per year.
Beckham watch: Will Odell Beckham Jr. be ready? The Giants proved just how much their offense revolves around Beckham after scuffling in the season opener and failing to surpass 200 total yards of offense until a late drive in garbage time against the Cowboys. He was limited in practice during the week and will be a game-time decision.
Rocky road: Last season, the Giants and Lions ranked 29th and 30th, respectively, in rushing yards per game. It appears not much has changed as both teams’ rushing attack got off to a lackluster start. Lead backs Ameer Abdullah and Dwayne Washington combined for 52 yards on 21 carries for the Lions, and Paul Perkins and Orleans Darkwa totaled 30 yards on 10 rushes for the Giants in Week 1.
Rowdy atmosphere: Running a no-huddle offense in enemy territory is no easy task because of the crowd noise, but it should be even more challenging for the Lions to communicate in what’s expected to be a raucous primetime environment at the Giants’ home opener. “We got to really evaluate (going no-huddle) every time we go on the road, but we’re looking at a lot of different things and we do think it provides value versus certain opponents or when we get sort of the right looks,” offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter said.
No-fly zone? After throwing against one of the top corners in the league — Arizona’s Patrick Peterson — in the opener, it doesn’t get any easier in Week 2 for Matthew Stafford as he faces arguably the best secondary in the league. In addition to SS Landon Collins, the Giants also boast one of top cornerback tandems in Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Janoris Jenkins along with up-and-comer Eli Apple.
FACTS AND FIGURES
* Giants QB Eli Manning is 4-1 against the Lions in his career with seven TDs, three INTs and an 87.4 passer rating. He has been sacked twice in every meeting, including last season’s 17-6 win at home.
* The Giants’ offense crossed the 50 just twice in nine drives in their opener against the Cowboys.
* In Week 1, the Lions recorded four takeaways (three INTs, fumble recovery) in a game for the first time since the 2013 season (Week 4 vs. Chicago).
* The Lions are 10-16 in road games, including playoffs, under coach Jim Caldwell.
* The Giants haven’t scored more than 20 points in a game since Week 12 of the 2016 season.