By Eric from BigBlueInteractive.com
Approach to the Game – New York Giants at Detroit Lions, August 7, 2008: Knock on wood. So far, so good. Aside from a number of nagging-type injuries, most notably at the wide receiver spot, this training camp has been just what Tom Coughlin probably wanted. No major controversies. No major disruptions. Just hard work and a team focused on defending its title.
For those fans who are not aware, the first preseason game is largely a glorified scrimmage. The most important preseason game is the third one. The next most important is the second game. The regulars rarely play all the much in the first or fourth preseason games.
For the defending NFL Champions, the preseason is not about wins and losses, but about getting primed for the regular season. Get the work in, get used to the rigors of the upcoming NFL season, demonstrate some semblance of being ready, and get out of the games as healthy as you can.
For the coaches and fans, the first game is a good opportunity to see the young players, many of whom will not make the team. But it is fun to watch those who will and who could be pressing the starters for playing time.
Regardless, fans should not get too worked up one way or the other about the preseason. Leave that to Redskins’ fans.
Giants on Offense: The first-team offense will really be hurt by the fact that the bulk of Manning’s fire power has been hampered by injury. Plaxico Burress (ankle) and Steve Smith (groin) won’t play. Amani Toomer (leg) has missed practiced time and may not play long. Mario Manningham (quad) and David Tyree (knee – PUP) won’t play either.
So don’t expect Eli to look too sharp. The good news is that this will give guys like Sinorice Moss, Domenik Hixon, Brandon London, Michael Jennings, Craphonso Thorpe, and D.J. Hall a chance to shine. Only one or two of these guys is likely to make the team this year since Burress, Toomer, Smith, and Manningham are locks (and David Tyree may be). The guy to watch is Hixon, who has been performing very well at camp. This will also be an important game for Moss, who hasn’t done much in his first two seasons with the team.
The Giants’ starting offensive line is set, though RG Chris Snee (shoulder) may sit out. If he does, Kevin Boothe will start in his place. I’m very curious to see how the second-string offensive line of Guy Whimper, Na’Shan Goddard, Grey Ruegamer, Boothe, and Adam Koets performs. (Shane Olivea has been bothered by a bad back).
The Giants are loaded at running back. The biggest question here is whether or not to keep a fourth halfback and who that should be – Reuben Droughns or Danny Ware.
At tight end, one would think that Kevin Boss, Darcy Johnson, and Michael Matthews are the favorites to win roster spots. But the Giants need all three to elevate their games to at least partially replace Jeremy Shockey. Jerome Collins and Eric Butler will have to impress if they have any hopes of dislodging Johnson or Matthews.
Finally, at quarterback, the Giants will likely only give Manning a series or two. All of the other quarterbacks – Anthony Wright, David Carr, and Andre Woodson – are expected to play. The real competition here is probably between Wright and Carr, as Woodson is likely to be the #3 quarterback. This game is probably most important for Wright and Carr.
Giants on Defense: Life without Michael Strahan. This will be strange. It is the first time since 1992 that the Giants have started the preseason without Strahan being on the team.
Knocking on wood, the Giants’ defense has been relatively healthy in training camp though the two leading candidates at weakside linebacker – Danny Clark (sports hernia – limited to one practice per day) and Gerris Wilkinson (knee – just began practicing on Monday) – have had issues. So has CB Sam Madison (sports hernia). Wilkinson and Madison won’t play against Detroit.
Up front, the Giants have two very good bookends in Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora. If needed, Mathias Kiwanuka can and will play in the down position too. But the guy I really want to watch is Dave Tollefson. Can he become a quality, viable reserve at defensive end? Others who factor into the picture are veteran Renaldo Wynn (who can also play tackle) and rookies Robert Henderson, Wallace Gilberry, and Alex Morrow. Henderson is another guy to watch.
Inside, the top three are set with Fred Robbins, Barry Cofield, and Jay Alford. Will the Giants’ carry a fourth defensive tackle? If so, Ogemdi Nwagbuo, Rodney Leisle, and Jeremy Clark have to show something. If not, with Tuck and Wynn being able to play inside, the Giants may go with three.
At linebacker, Wilkinson’s injury has really opened the door at weakside for Clark, who has practiced more. But Chase Blackburn and Bryan Kehl have been getting reps there too. I’m really curious to see the backups at the other positions, particularly Jonathan Goff at middle linebacker and Zak DeOssie at strongside linebacker. Tank Daniels is an aggressive player too.
The young guns – Corey Webster and Aaron Ross – start at corner. What version of Webster will we see? I’m very curious to see Terrell Thomas at corner. Kevin Dockery and R.W. McQuarters return. Sam Madison (sports hernia) will not play. Darren Barnett and Geoffrey Pope are long shots who need to impress.
The competition at safety – both for starting jobs and roster spots – is fierce. Michael Johnson and James Butler have been starting, but Sammy Knight and Kenny Phillips are breathing down their necks. Rookie Nehemiah Warrick has received praise from the coaches and Craig Dahl recently returned.
Giants on Special Teams: My chief concerns here are (1) hoping that Lawrence Tynes justifies the 5-year contract the Giants rewarded him with in the offseason, and (2) possibly finding another punt returner though I have a funny feeling that McQuarters will still have that job in 2008 because he is the most sure-handed.