By Eric from BigBlueInteractive.com
Approach to the Game – Cleveland Browns at New York Giants, August 18, 2008: The second preseason game is the second most important preseason game. The starters won’t play as long as they will in the third preseason game, but they will play longer than the first and fourth preseason games.
Giants on Offense: The big concern here is the injury situation at wide receiver. While it is likely that Plaxico Burress, Amani Toomer, and Steve Smith will play in the season opener against the Redskins, the problem is that Eli Manning is not getting enough work with these three. It’s more of a concern with Burress and Smith. Burress hardly practiced at all last season, missed all of the offseason workouts before camp, and has not practiced at all in team drills this summer. Imagine how deadly the Eli-to-Plax connection would be if these two had any decent amount of practice time together to improve their timing and feel for each other? Smith hardly had any practice time last year with Manning due to injuries and has missed way too much practice time again this summer. Again, that doesn’t mean he won’t be effective, but he won’t be as effective as he could be.
How could this impact the Giants? Well, early in the season, Eli may look inconsistent, and the media and fans could be on his back again. But the issue will likely not be with Manning, but the receivers.
Contrary to popular belief, it was not likely that Mario Manningham would have seen much action this year unless there was a significant injury to the top three receivers. But he too has missed the bulk of training camp with a nagging quad injury. That’s not good for a receiver coming out of an unsophisticated collegiate passing attack and who has had question marks surrounding his ability to retain information. Let’s hope that 2008 is not a wash for him and 2009 becomes his true rookie season.
And while Super Bowl hero David Tyree has never been a significant factor in the Giants’ passing attack and in year’s past has been assured of a roster spot due to his special teams play, one wonders if the Giants can afford that luxury now. It’s more likely that he will remain on the PUP List heading into the season.
So, in the short-term, that leaves the Giants with Domenik Hixon and Sinorice Moss as the starting wide receivers. And Brandon London, Michael Jennings, Craphonso Thorpe, and D.J. Hall the back-ups. The good news is that these six are being given a wonderful opportunity as they are all getting far more reps than expected (and quality reps with he first- and second-teams). The bad news is that only one or two of these guys will likely make the team.
To me, the guys to really focus on are Hixon, Moss, and London. Do these three have an NFL future as wide receivers? Can they beat starting defensive backs? Can they make big plays in the clutch?
With Burress, Toomer, and Smith out, the absence of Jeremy Shockey is even more glaring. I thought Kevin Boss performed well as a receiver last week and I actually think the Giants will be OK with Boss as a receiver. How fast he can improve his blocking will be key. But keep in mind, he’s a young guy from a small school. He’s come a long way already, but some degree of patience is needed.
What disappointed me more against the Lions was the play of Darcy Johnson. I wasn’t impressed with his blocking (I actually saw him whiff on a critical short-yardage play). He needs to step it up or the Giants may be scanning the waiver wire.
At running back, the only real question is Reuben Droughns versus Danny Ware. Special teams may be deciding factor. If all else is equal, one would think the Giants would go with the younger player.
Figuring out who will make it at back-up offensive line became a tad easier with the loss of Shane Olivea. One has to figure that Guy Whimper, Kevin Boothe, and Grey Ruegamer are the front-runners. But Adam Koets and Na’Shan Goddard have talent and the ability to play multiple positions too. All five of these guys are players to watch on Monday.
For the second week in a row, Anthony Wright will enter the game as the #2. If it is truly an equal competition, David Carr should come in as the #2 against the Jets in the next preseason game. We shall see. Regardless, Andre Woodson will finally see his first game action as he will enter the game after Wright, with Carr mopping up if there is time. Woodson likely has the team made as the developmental guy so the most important thing to watch is to see how Wright and Carr perform.
Giants on Defense: Fortunately for the Giants, (knock on wood) injuries haven’t been a big issue here. Mathias Kiwanuka (groin) will likely miss this game and that’s too bad, but he should be back shortly. It also stinks that Jonathan Goff (back) will be out at least two more games and possibly the season. He’s a guy who I was told has really impressed the coaches. CB Sam Madison (sports hernia) has missed most of camp, but he’s a vet and the Giants – finally – have the talent and depth to survive that injury.
With Kiwanuka out, Danny Clark will likely start on the strongside with Gerris Wilkinson on the weakside. This will be Wilkinson’s first action of the preseason. He needs to demonstrate greater toughness than he has to date. Those two guys – Clark and Wilkinson – are the ones to watch this week.
As for the back-ups, Bryan Kehl flashed last week. Let’s see if he can build on that. So did Chase Blackburn. My only concern with Chase is that he sometimes doesn’t look very athletic in coverage. I hope we see something more from Zak DeOssie this week. And I still wouldn’t totally discount Tank Daniels.
In the secondary, all eyes will be on last game’s star, Kenny Phillips. Does he get the starting nod this week? It seems only a matter of time before he does. Who will be the other starting safety? James Butler? Michael Johnson? Sammy Knight? Can newcomer Stuart Schweigert – who has been cut by two teams this offseason – steal a roster spot?
One has to figure that Corey Webster, Aaron Ross, Terrell Thomas, Sam Madison, and Kevin Dockery will make the team. Is there room for R.W. McQuarters? His hip flexor injury will prevent him from playing on Monday.
Up front, the sure bets seem to be Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora, Dave Tollefson, Renaldo Wynn, Fred Robbins, Barry Cofield, and Jay Alford. That’s seven. Do the Giants keep eight? If so, who? Wallace Gilberry? Ogemdi Nwagbuo? These guys need to make some plays to stick.
Giants on Special Teams: With R.W. McQuarters out, there is a great opportunity for a player to make a statement (either positively or negatively) on punt returns.
Bubble players can help or hurt themselves on special teams. And special teams play in the preseason may determine which young players are active on game day when the bullets start flying for real. Terrell Thomas made such a statement last week as a gunner.