An inside look at Sunday’s Giants-Panthers Week 7 matchup at MetLife Stadium:
Panthers OLB Haason Reddick vs. Giants OTs Matt Peart and Nate Solder
Reddick owes the Giants some money. He signed a one-year deal with the Panthers for $6 million, and part of that payout is a direct aftereffect of his five-sack, three-forced-fumble domination of the Giants when he was with the Cardinals last season.
This would have been a great duel for left tackle Andrew Thomas, but the Giants’ 2020 first-round pick is on injured reserve. Peart, a third-round pick last year, must be able to prevent free rushers on the left side. Solder must hold up on the right side. Reddick, quick as can be at 6-foot-1 and 235 pounds, already has 6.5 sacks in six games for his new team.
The Giants have trouble with everyone — the powerful, the mediocre, the dregs — so a visit by the so-so Panthers is a game that should be a fair fight. Forcing Sam Darnold into at least two turnovers is must, but no one prefaces “Giants defense’’ with “opportunistic.’’ So many weapons injured and out on offense makes it easy to anticipate more boos than points at MetLife. Sigh.
Panther 24, Giants 16
In with the old: Did you like the look of the Giants’ offense in 2020? Nah, we didn’t think so. They spent big bucks and used draft capital to make the attack more explosive, but Kenny Golladay (knee) and Kadarius Toney (ankle) are injured and out. Plus, the return to health of Saquon Barkley after he tore his ACL in Week 2 has thus far been a dud. He is hurt, and out again, this time with an ankle problem.
So, the offense is left with last year’s weapons: Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton — if their balky hamstrings hold up — as the primary targets, Evan Engram at tight end and a running back (Devontae Booker) who is not Barkley. Lest we forget, the 2020 Giants averaged a measly 17.5 points a game.
Leg man: Derrick Henry leads the NFL with 10 rushing touchdowns. Five players are tied for second with five TDs, and two of them — Sam Darnold and Jalen Hurts — are quarterbacks. Darnold has slumped after a hot start for the Panthers — he has seven passing touchdowns and seven interceptions — but he knows how to get into the end zone with his legs.
“You’ve got to make sure someone is accountable for the quarterback every time,’’ Giants defensive coordinator Patrick Graham said, “especially down there in the red area where it seems to come up, whether it’s quarterback draws, zone read or him just making a play in the scrambles.’’
Back out: What a running back duel this might have been. Barkley for the Giants, Christian McCaffrey for the Panthers, perhaps the two most versatile players at their position in the league. Also, alas, the two most unavailable. Barkley (ankle) and McCaffrey (hamstring) are out, again, and the prudence of building an offense around a running back is once more an issue.
“That’s a pretty big article question there,’’ head coach Joe Judge said, not really addressing the subject.
“I don’t think anyone’s building it around one player,’’ Panthers head coach Matt Rhule said. “I think if you do build around one player, it has to be the quarterback.’’
That unfamiliar feeling: During Nate Solder’s seven years with the Patriots, they went 88-24, never winning fewer than 12 games in any season. He played in four Super Bowls, winning two of them. With the Giants in 2018 and 2019, as a team captain, the towering offensive tackle went 5-11 and 4-12, opted out in 2020 and is 1-5 this season. All he knew was winning, and now all he knows is losing.
“I don’t think anything in my past — just because you’ve won a lot doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s not going to be difficult to regroup and all that sort of thing,’’ Solder said.
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