Approach to the Game – New York Jets at New York Giants, August 25, 2007: As I’ve mentioned before, the third preseason game is the most important. It is the main dress rehearsal for the regular season. In the last preseason game, the starters don’t play much as the coaching staffs around the League fear injury.
That said, I wouldn’t get too excited about Saturday’s game against the Jets if the Giants don’t look great. The Jets got crushed last week by the Vikings and the Jets’ coaching staff was probably on the team hard all week. Whenever an NFL team gets beaten badly one week, you can almost always count on the team responding well the following week. Moreover, the Giants are probably feeling good about themselves after last week’s physical game against the Ravens. Lastly, the Jets and their fans both suffer from inferiority complex issues vis a vis the Giants and usually take this game far, far more seriously.
My point? Don’t get too worked up over this game and just pray for no injuries. The Giants will be a good team in 2007. What happens in this game will not impact that.
Quarterbacks: It would be nice to see Eli put together two back-to-back strong efforts. Jared Lorenzen will not play this week. This game will likely determine the winner of the Anthony Wright/Tim Hasselbeck competition for the third quarterback spot.
Running Backs: The key issue here is do the Giants feel comfortable with Robert Douglas at fullback? His lead blocking wasn’t very good against the Ravens. If Douglas doesn’t step it up, the Giants will be scanning the waiver wire.
Derrick Ward (ankle) will be a game-time decision. With the top four spots likely already determined, it looks like Ryan Grant may be looking for a new team soon.
Wide Receivers: David Tyree has been disappointing in camp and the preseason. He has not progressed as a receiver and he hasn’t stood out as a special teamer in two preseason games. I doubt he is on the bubble, but he needs to step it up. He’s being paid a lot of money for a special teamer.
We may see the first of Plaxico Burress (ankle) this preseason. Hopefully he doesn’t aggravate the injury. We also should see Sinorice Moss (ankle) for the second time this preseason. With Michael Jennings on Injured Reserve, it looks like Anthony Mix is the frontrunner for the final wide receiver spot if the Giants decide to keep six wide receivers.
Tight End: I doubt we see Jeremy “China Doll” Shockey (hamstring), nor should we. The guy is a ticking time bomb in terms of some new ailment with his legs (some workout program he has down in Miami there).
The good news is we will see a heavy dose of Kevin Boss and Michael Matthews at tight end. Both need the work. Boss is a much, much better player than he has demonstrated thus far in the preseason. Look for him to make a big play.
Offensive Line: The first-string offensive line played very well against a very tough, physical, and confusing defensive front last week. If they stay healthy, the line will be a strength this year. Still expect the occasional gaffes from David Diehl as he is still learning.
The more interesting developments will be with the second-team line. With important back-up Grey Ruegamer (ankle) out, the second-team line may struggle this week. Matt Lentz has flashed at times at guard, but has struggled at center. Plus, now with him not play at right guard, the interior of the second-string line has been weakened. It will be interesting to see how Adam Koets does at guard. It’s a good sign for him that the Giants have played him at a variety of spots.
This will be yet another good test for Guy Whimper. It is these preseason games that will largely determine if the Giants feel like they need to scan the waiver wire or look to address the position again next year in the draft and free agency.
Defensive Line: I have mixed emotions with DE Michael Strahan. I do expect him to be back, but I wonder if his presence will be more of a negative in terms of team chemistry when he returns. He is well-liked and respected by his teammates, but the last thing the Giants need is more Tiki Barber-like drama all year again. It’s not a good situation.
I think the defensive line of Justin Tuck, Fred Robbins, Barry Cofield, and Osi Umenyiora is a good one. I have no concerns there. The way the Giants now one-gap and attack up the field, we are going to see more hit-and-miss run defense. What I mean by that is we will see plays where the back is nailed in the back field and plays where defensive linemen take themselves out of the play by shooting the gap, leading to possibly a big run. It’s the nature of the defense. Fans need to recognize this and not always assume the defensive tackle is “getting killed.”
The interesting battles are in the back-up area. Jay Alford is a lock to make it as the third defensive tackle. But who will the fourth defensive tackle be? I have not been impressed with William Joseph, but he is versatile. Marcus Bell has not impressed and Jonas Seawright (concussion) probably won’t play and hasn’t been very noticeable. The guy I’m rooting for to make another play is Manny “Clothesline” Wright. This may be it for him – he has to play well.
The Giants are very thin outside if Strahan doesn’t show up. This is why Joseph may be kept another year. Adrian Awasom probably has made the team.
Linebackers: I think the Giants have a decent group of starting and back-up linebackers. Mathias Kiwanuka and Kawika Mitchell played much better last week and both look natural attacking the line of scrimmage. I’d like to see Antonio Pierce do a better job in pass coverage.
As for the back-ups, I like Chase Blackburn and Zak DeOssie (DeOssie was limited last week with an ankle). We should see him play more this week. It’s too bad we didn’t have a chance to see Gerris Wilkinson (knee) this preseason but he has likely made the team to form a solid three back-up grouping. Do the Giants keep seven linebackers? Reggie Torbor (who I thought played well last week) and Tyson Smith are on the bubble.
Defensive Backs: Again, this is my chief worry. The safeties don’t excite me. I don’t think the front office has done a very good job of addressing this area in years. Gibril Wilson doesn’t look any better to me than he did last year – a guy who will occasionally flash, but who disappears for long stretches and misses too many tackles. Will Demps (elbow) will be out at least two more weeks. It’s been a mixed bag for James Butler. If the Giants keep four safeties, it will likely come down to Michael Johnson versus newcomer J.R. Reed, the latter being a veteran who is somewhat familiar with Steve Spagnuolo’s system.
At corner, it was hoped that we would see more from E.J. Underwood and Gerrick McPhearson, but both look like they will be looking for work soon. The top five corners will likely be Sam Madison (who won’t play this week with a hamstring), R.W. McQuarters, Corey Webster (who I thought played well last week), Kevin Dockery, and Aaron Ross. It’s not a terribly exciting group.
Special Teams: Jeff Feagles (back) will not play. Cory Ohnesorge will handle the punting.
Josh Huston seems to be the frontrunner for the place-kicking job. Let’s pray he doesn’t take a step backwards this week. We need to see more field goal opportunities.
Oddly, the Giants don’t seem to want to give Ross a serious shot at punt returner this year. McQuarters handled the punt returns last week.
If Ward does not play, we might see more of Ahmad Bradshaw on kickoff returns. I think that is a good thing.
The Giants gave up a 52-yard kickoff return last week. That obviously isn’t good. Punt coverage will be tested without Feagles.