Approach to the Game – New York Giants at New York Jets, August 25, 2006: The third preseason game is always the most serious. Most teams, including the Giants, leave their starters in the game into the third quarter. This is THE dress rehearsal for the regular season. The regulars won’t see much time in the preseason finale.
“This will be a good test for us to see where we are as a team for an extended period of time, instead of having some guys play only nine or 10 plays,” says HB Tiki Barber. “You need a game where you get hit, where you go in at halftime and come out and make those adjustments and keep playing well. This is probably our most important preseason game, because for some of our starters it may be the last one in which they play significantly.”
“This is a big game,” says QB Eli Manning. “Your third preseason is always the one – you’re going to go out there and play into the third quarter. You’ll have a lot of possessions and you want to go out there and play well. You’re going to have to play more series, so you want to make good decisions and make more plays. It’s our final real test before the regular season. The final preseason game you might get a possession or two but this is the real test to see how we can do.”
Giants on Offense: Three of the Giants’ top six offensive linemen will miss this game: LT Luke Petitgout (back), OC Shaun O’Hara (knee), and OG/OC Rich Seubert (toe). That is not only going to affect the quality of play of the first-team offense, but it will also have a trickle-down effect to the second-team offense since Tom Coughlin may not want LT Bob Whitfield and OC Grey Ruegamer (the replacements for Petitgout and O’Hara, respectively) to play a whole game. It also hurts not having Seubert in there for both units.
The guy up front who interests me the most is Ruegamer – I am curious to see how he does against a pretty good defensive line.
Of course, all eyes will continue to be on Manning since this will be his longest stretch of playing time in the preseason. He looked very sharp last week against the Chiefs, can he demonstrate consistently strong play? Behind him, it is notable that Jared Lorenzen will get a shot with the #2′s in this game. It would seem to suggest that Lorenzen not only has the inside track on a roster spot since he is the only quarterback other than Eli to play in all three games, but that he might have a legitimate outside shot at the primary backup position. This is a HUGE game for him. “I think (Tom Coughlin is) serious about considering me,” says Lorenzen.
In reality, barring injury, there really are not many roster spots left up for grabs on offense. Based on camp practice reps, it would appear that Tim Hasselbeck is ahead of Rob Johnson. The top two halfbacks are set with Tiki Barber and Brandon Jacobs. Jim Finn will be the fullback. The top two tight ends are set with Jeremy Shockey and Visanthe Shiancoe. The top five wide receivers will be Plaxico Burress, Amani Toomer, Sinorice Moss, Tim Carter, and David Tyree. The top nine offensive linemen will be Petitgout, David Diehl, O’Hara, Chris Snee, Kareem McKenzie, Rich Seubert, Bob Whitfield, Grey Ruegamer, and Guy Whimper.
What is left to be decided? Do the Giants keep Hasselbeck or Johnson? Do the Giants wait for Derrick Ward (foot) to recover, do they keep one of the existing halfbacks on the roster such as Mike Jemison, or do they pick up someone off the waiver wire? Who is the #3 tight end or is that guy not on the roster yet? Do the Giants carry six wide receivers, and if so, who is the last guy (Michael Jennings, Willie Ponder, Anthony Mix)?
Giants on Defense: There are many more interesting roster battles on defense, including for starting positions.
The Jets are putting together a pretty good offensive line so this will be a good test for the Giants up front. There is media speculation that rookie DT Barry Cofield may start, and thus, this will be a huge game for him, as well as for nose tackle Fred Robbins and 3-technique tackle William Joseph. NT Jonas Seawright also needs to continue to improve as the Giants are keeping an eye out on the open market for interior defensive linemen. Damane Duckett may be left on the outside looking in.
Barring injury, we know the top four ends will be Michael Strahan, Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck, and Mathias Kiwanuka. Do the Giants have room for someone like Adrian Awasom, who has had a strong preseason?
At linebacker, Carlos Emmons (burner) will not play again. Interestingly, and very significantly, there is media speculation that rookie Gerris Wilkinson will start at weakside linebacker – not Brandon Short. Short may be in trouble – or Emmons – if Wilkinson can somehow manage to convince the coaches that he can start earlier rather than later. What could also impact this decision is that a number of the “camp fodder” linebackers have actually looked pretty good such as Nick McNeil and Tyson Smith.
LaVar Arrington should see his first extended action. We know that he and Antonio Pierce are entrenched as starters. Chase Blackburn has had a very good preseason and one would think Reggie Torbor is still very much in the backup picture. If the Giants keep seven linebackers, could someone like McNeil steal a roster spot now?
The key players in the secondary are set, but we don’t know what the back-up situation will look like. Corey Webster and Sam Madison will start at the corner spots, Will Demps and Gibril Wilson are the safeties, and R.W. McQuarters will be the nickel back. But if the Giants carry two or three more corners, who will they be? There have been positive reports on Frank Walker (who has practiced with the first unit), E.J. Underwood (who saw time with the first-team dime defense last week), and Kevin Dockery. What about Curtis Deloatch and Gerrick McPhearson? At safety, James Butler is a lock, but do the Giants carry one or two more safeties? And who? Jason Bell (who can help at corner and is a very good special teams player), Charlie Peprah (can also play some corner and is a draft pick), and Quentin Harris (good special teams player) are all in the picture? Tough, tough decisions here.
Giants on Special Teams: There isn’t a lot of mystery here. We know who the kickers will be. The primary returner will be Chad Morton, with R.W. McQuarters also factoring into the picture. For those guys on the bubble, special teams play in the final two preseason games will be critical.