The Hall of Fame Game marks the official kickoff of the 2014 NFL season, and with it came some interesting changes.
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NFL teams are experimenting with tablet devices to replace the old method of taking black-and-white photos to give teams images of the opponents' formations, and the new system — the sideline viewing system — can speed up the time it takes to present those personnel packages. And in color, too.
That said, it's not a perfect system just yet.
Doug Marrone says his tablet did not work in first half tonight. NFL implementing that technology on sidelines beginning tonight.— Mike Rodak (@mikerodak) August 4, 2014
Another change was the lengthening of the extra-point attempts. The league is using the first week of the preseason to move the kicks back from the equivalent of a 19-yard kick to a 33-yarder. For the record, all three extra points were perfect Sunday.
The starters did not last long for either team in this game, but the Giants surprisingly brought Eli Manning out for a third offensive series after he was strip-sacked by the Bills' Kyle Williams on the second possession after a Giants three-and-out on their first possession.
Good decision. Manning and the Giants got their new rhythm offense moving — albeit against the Bills' second-team defense — with a 12-play, 80-yard scoring drive that culminated with a 3-yard rushing TD from Giants rookie Andre Williams, one of the standouts from the game. The fourth-round pick rushed seven times for 48 yards and that score, and looked far more than the power back he was pegged to be.
With starter Rashad Jennings (43 yards from scrimmage on 10 touches) also looking good, it might not be surprising to see the Giants lean more on the rushing attack this season than many expect from new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo, who is coming from the Green Bay Packers' pass-heavy system.
For the Bills, the first-team offense showed little spark, and EJ Manuel and training camp star Sammy Watkins were not able to hook up. Manuel tried a fade down the left sideline to Watkins, who beat his man, but the throw was out of reach.
But their first-team defense had two impressive series, and the front four should win a lot of battles up front this season. Williams, Mario Williams, Marcel Dareus and company could be excellent this season if those first two possessions are some indication.
Of course, these games often are great opportunities not only for rookies to make their marks but also for second- and third-year players to display their growth. That is exactly what Giants QB Ryan Nassib needed after a training camp and preseason a year ago in which he struggled, and Nassib delivered with a solid game: he completed 7-of-12 passes for 139 yards and a 73-yard TD pass to Corey Washington. Nassib should play a lot this preseason, and he'll have a great chance to win the backup job to Eli Manning.
Football is here. The next week we won't have some kind of NFL action is February. That might have been the most exciting development to come out of Sunday's game in Canton, Ohio.
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