Approach to the Game – New England Patriots at New York Giants, August 31, 2006: In terms of those players who form the starting lineups, this is the least important of all of the preseason games. Most starters will only play one or two possessions. Head Coach Tom Coughlin said his first-teamers will only see 10-12 snaps. The score of this game simply does not matter. What does matter is getting out of this game as healthy as possible.
Since it will be virtually impossible to get a good read on the starters, the focus of this preview will strictly be on what the final roster may look like and the key roster battles yet to be decided.
Quarterbacks: I’m sure many fans are ready overanalyze the five or six throws that Eli Manning will make in this game. All I care about is him getting out of the contest healthy.
The most critical and interesting roster battle on this team is who will be the primary backup to Manning. Just a month ago, who would have thought that Jared Lorenzen may have the inside track to the job? If he plays well against the Patriots, it sounds like the #2 spot is his. If he does not, and Hasselbeck plays well, the pecking order may be the same as last year. I don’t think the Giants will be looking at the waiver wire here.
Running Backs: Personally, I would not even play Tiki Barber. He’s ready. I would give Brandon Jacobs the 10-12 offensive snaps and then let James Sims and Mike Jemison duke it out from there. My gut tells me that Derrick Ward (foot) is still in the picture and that Sims and Jemison probably won’t make it. But this is their chance to shine in case the Giants do put Ward on Injured Reserve. It also wouldn’t surprise me if the Giants do keep a lookout on the waiver wire here if Ward is indeed lost.
Jim Finn will be the fullback.
Wide Receivers: The quad injury to Sinorice Moss confuses me. I don’t understand why it is taking so long to heal, especially since he supposedly originally suffered this injury at the NFL Combine in February. Based on the comments from Giants’ officials, it appears that Moss is still very much part of the offensive plans this year. Plaxico Burress, Amani Toomer, Tim Carter, David Tyree, and Moss are locks. The question remains – will the Giants carry six receivers? If so, whom? Michael Jennings has made more plays as a receiver and returner this preseason so I would guess he is the favorite. I would think the Giants are going to try to hide Anthony Mix on the Practice Squad. This may be Willie Ponders last game as a Giant.
Tight End: Jeremy Shockey and Visanthe Shiancoe are the locks. The remaining battle here is for the #3 tight end spot. Wade Fletcher and Darcy Johnson are the two other tight ends on the roster, but the Giants will probably be searching the waiver wire here for a blocking type.
Offensive Line: Barring injury, my mind has not changed since before camp that the Giants will carry nine offensive linemen and those nine will be Luke Petitgout, David Diehl, Shaun O’Hara, Chris Snee, Kareem McKenzie, Bob Whitfield, Guy Whimper, Grey Ruegamer, and Rich Seubert. The Giants may be VERY undermanned in this last preseason game with Petitgout (back), O’Hara (knee), and Seubert (toe) not likely to play.
The battles here among the backups will be for Practice Squad spots. I think the Giants like OG Matt Lentz and OT Na’Shan Goddard. OC Todd Londot could be in the picture as well.
Defensive Line: The Giants are going to be forced to cut some people here that are going to make it someplace else in the NFL. The ends, obviously, will be Michael Strahan, Osi Umenyiora, Mathias Kiwanuka, and Justin Tuck. If the Giants do not pick up another defensive tackle off the waiver wire, they will keep Barry Cofield, Fred Robbins, William Joseph, and Jonas Seawright. If the Giants carry nine defensive linemen (which they may not), the last spot is probably up for grabs between DE Adrian Awasom and DT Damane Duckett.
Linebackers: Do the Giants carry six or seven linebackers? I would think seven because of all the prior and current injury concerns. The sure things are Antonio Pierce, LaVar Arrington, and Gerris Wilkinson. I would put Chase Blackburn in that category too. I feel it is likely that Carlos Emmons, Brandon Short, and Reggie Torbor will round out the group, but I would not be shocked to see Nick McNeil steal a spot.
Defensive Backs: I think this is the most competitive area remaining on the team. It’s going to be tough – but not impossible – to carry ten defensive backs. We know that CB Corey Webster, CB Sam Madison, CB R.W. McQuarters, FS Will Demps, SS Gibril Wilson, and S James Butler are the locks. That leaves three, maybe four, spots. I would think the Giants would want at least two more corners and one more safety. However, a guy like Jason Bell – who also excels on specials – can play both spots. Frank Walker and Curtis Deloatch are the veterans at corner; Kevin Dockery and Gerrick McPhearson are trying desperately to make a last minute positive impression. I would think that Charlie Peprah is ahead of Quentin Harris.
Roster Dilemma: Figuring out the final 53 is tough. Three roster spots will be locked up by special teamers P Jeff Feagles, PK Jay Feely, and LS Ryan Kuehl. That leaves 50. If the Giants split offense and defense down the middle, I see them carrying seven linebackers, eight or nine defensive linemen, and nine or ten defensive backs. But what makes that calculation more difficult is that the Giants may decide to carry nine offensive linemen and six wide receivers. With the 11 other offensive spots locked up, that comes to 26. So the big question is do the Giants carry one less player at wide receiver, on the defensive line, or at defensive back? I doubt the Giants do something radical like only carry two tight ends or two halfbacks (plus Chad Morton).