By Eric from BigBlueInteractive.com
Approach to the Game – Carolina Panthers at New York Giants, August 17, 2009: I say the same thing every year, the first preseason game is a glorified scrimmage. Don’t make more out of it than that. If the Giants look bad, don’t worry; if the Giants look great, don’t get too excited. All that really matters is that no one gets hurt while the players get valuable practice reps against another team. Just look at 2007. The Giants’ preseason record that year was 1-3.
As a reminder, the third preseason game is the main dress rehearsal for the season. The second game is the next important.
My preseason previews rarely focus on the opponent. The opponent doesn’t matter. So let’s look at the individual positions.
Quarterbacks: Get Eli some work and get him out of there quickly. Carr is obviously entrenched as the #2 quarterback. These preseason games are everything for Andre’ Woodson and Rhett Bomar. Will the Giants carry three quarterbacks this year? If so, will it be Woodson or Bomar? Woodson is more acclimated to the Giants’ system and may look much sharper, but Bomar may be the better prospect.
Wide Receivers: This is the area that is receiving all of the attention from fans. The Giants will likely only carry six wide receivers. Barring injury, Domenik Hixon, Steve Smith, Hakeem Nicks, and Ramses Barden will be four of those players. That leaves two spots for Mario Manningham, Sinorice Moss, David Tyree, and Derek Hagan. Smith (knee) may not play on Monday. Nicks has been hampered by a hamstring. Barden and Hagan have received a lot of positive reviews from camp practices. This preseason is particularly important for Manningham and Moss.
Tight Ends: Kevin Boss and Travis Beckum are givens. In my mind, it is quite possible that the Giants could carry four tight ends because Beckum is really more of an H-Back than true tight end. But there will only be one or two spots for Darcy Johnson, Michael Matthews, and Lee Vickers. Johnson and Vickers have flashed catching the ball in camp and Matthews is a good blocker.
Running Backs: Madison Hedgecock is the fullback. The halfbacks will be Brandon Jacobs, Ahmad Bradshaw, Danny Ware, and Andre Brown. The Giants are loaded at this spot. The only question is how the carries will be divvied up. (Late note: Brown ruptured his Achilles in practice on Friday evening).
Offensive Line: The line may be rusty in the first preseason game as all of the starters, with the exception of David Diehl, has missed practice time. The real questions here are how many back-ups will the Giants carry and who will those players be? Tutan Reyes seems to have become a primary back-up at guard. Kevin Boothe has seen most of his time at guard too, with some time at center and right tackle. Adam Koets, who has had problems with the snap, appears to be the new back-up center. William Beatty will make the team, but is probably a year away from really contributing. Guy Whimper returns and is probably the obvious candidate for left tackle if Diehl were to get hurt. The Giants can’t carry five back-ups. Someone has to go.
Defensive Line: The Giants vaunted defensive line has been hampered by injuries. Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck, Fred Robbins, and Barry Cofield are all still recovering from injuries they suffered last season. Chris Canty and Rocky Bernard have missed too much valuable practice time. Canty needs the reps in the 4-3, which he has never played before (even in college). Jay Alford has had a strong camp, seeing a lot of time with the first-team. Mathias Kiwanuka provides superior depth. All eight of these players will make the team. Dave Tollefson is probably battling Maurice Evans for the last roster spot (and a regular appearance on the inactive list unless someone gets hurt).
Linebackers: There is intense competition for roster spots here too. How many linebackers will the Giants keep? Seven? Antonio Pierce, Michael Boley, Clint Sintim, and Bryan Kehl are probably the sure bets. It would be hard to see the Giants part ways with Chase Blackburn because he is a good special teams player and can play all three spots. Zak DeOssie is a long snapper, but hasn’t contributed much as a linebacker. That’s six. Can they afford to keep DeOssie? Can they afford not to? There may only be one spot for Danny Clark, Jonathan Goff, and Gerris Wilkinson.
Defensive Backs: The Giants may have the best secondary in football. That said, two of their best players, Corey Webster and Aaron Ross have missed a lot of practice time and probably won’t play on Monday. Expect Terrell Thomas and Kevin Dockery to start at corner. The last cornerback spot will go to Stoney Woodson, DeAndre Wright, or Bruce Johnson. All three are rookies who will be tested in the game.
At safety, Kenny Phillips looks set to have a breakout season. Michael Johnson is very underrated. C.C. Brown provide quality veteran depth. The last safety spot will be between Sha’reff Rashad, Vince Anderson, and Travonti Johnson.
Special Teams: Lawrence Tynes and Jeff Feagles are the kickers.
With so many rookies playing on specials, there are often big returns in preseason games. But young players can make or break their chances to make a team by their play on specials in the preseason.
The real area of interest is the return game. Who will be the Giants’ primary kickoff and punt returners in 2009? Hixon appears to be the Giants best kickoff returner, but took him off kick returns last year once he became the starter.