By PAUL DOTTINO
Here’s our thumbnail review of how the Giants fared in our Things to Watch during their 20-10 loss to the Carolina Panthers in Saturday’s preseason opener.
* Communication of the first-string offensive line. To put it mildly? Not good. Coach Tom Coughlin worked his starters into the second quarter, but it was clear the lack of training camp practice time/lineup changes had an impact on their continuity. To be fair, this was expected and it’s difficult to predict how long the line will take to come together. The Panthers employed a heavy blitz package, which spelled trouble throughout the first half. Starting LT Will Beatty has the fewest pro starts of anyone on the line, so it’s possible he will need even more time than the rest of his linemates to find a groove.
* Depth at wide receiver. Domenik Hixon is back after missing last season following knee surgery and looks as if he hasn’t missed a step. In fact, the hard work he put in during his rehab may have helped him to develop into a better receiver. He finished the night with five catches for 86 yards, although it appeared he made one very costly mistake when he missed a “hot” read on a blitz and ran a deep route when he should have cut off the route to provide an outlet against the blitz. Devin Thomas had three grabs for 23 and looked as if he was playing at a mugh faster speed than the Panthers’ reserves – even if he was limited to catching short throws. He may have gained a leg up on the No. 4 spot. Last year’s sensation Victor Cruz, had one catch for eight yards and made a tackle on specials, but also failed to hold a ball in traffic and missed a tackle on specials in a rather pedestrian performance.
* Tight end production. Bear Pascoe lined up in multiple spots and showed why the coaches appreciate his unselfish play. Inexperienced blocking tight end Jake Ballard surprised when he caught a pass for eight yards. Late in the game, Daniel Coats snared three passes for 18. But the tight ends also shared in the blocking woes suffered by the first-team offensive line.
NOTE: PK Lawrence Tynes left the locker room on crutches and was set for an MRI after he took a helmet to the outside of his right thigh, just above the knee.