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9/2/2009

By Eric from BigBlueInteractive.com

Approach to the Game – New York Giants at New England Patriots, September 3, 2009: This is a game I’d rather not have the Giants play.  And I’m pretty sure the Giants feel the same way.  Aside from the nagging injury situation, the Giants are as ready as they will ever be to start the season.  Bullcrap you say?  The Giants are a good team that have used the preseason for what it was meant for – to get work in so the team is mentally and physically ready to play when the games count.  Eli has been sharp.  The ground game looks as strong as ever.  The starting five on the offensive line are rock solid.  The young receivers could use more work with Eli, but that’s not going to happen much, if any, in this game.  Defensively, the Giants’ biggest problem is all of the missing injured players.  Once they return, this unit should come together pretty quickly.

But the Giants are 1-2 in the preseason!  So what?  Look at the other teams in the NFC East.  Everyone is 1-2.  I guarantee you that this isn’t a 4-8-type division.

The last preseason game is usually an ugly affair because the starters don’t play long and anyone with any kind of injury concern doesn’t play, period.  If you don’t like watching bad football, I suggest you don’t watch.  If you read too much into the outcome of this game, you don’t know much about pro football.

Why watch at all?  First, because what else are you going to do?  It’s the Giants.  Secondly, this game will matter to the players on the bubble or those vying for additional playing time in the regular season.  I recently read that Phil Simms told Jessie Armstead that the Giants had made the decision to cut him after the final preseason game in Jessie’s rookie season.  But Jessie’s play in that game convinced the Giants to keep Armstead.  Jessie went onto become one of the best linebackers in Giants’ history, a five-time Pro Bowler.

Quarterbacks: With David Diehl (knee) out and Guy Whimper (hip) likely out, I wouldn’t even play Eli Manning.  If he does play, get him out of there quickly.

It will be interesting to see how much Rhett Bomar plays.  I get the feeling the Giants are hiding him and want to stash him on the Practice Squad.  But since anyone can be claimed off of waivers or signed off of the Practice Squad, Bomar is not safe there if he looks sharp in this game.

Wide Receivers: Again, barring a trade, we know Steve Smith, Domenik Hixon, Mario Manningham, Hakeem Nicks, and Ramses Barden will be on this team.  The latter three could use the work in this game, even if it is with back-up quarterbacks. As for Smith and Hixon, I think too much is being made of the dropped passes last week. We know Smith is a clutch player. We saw it repeatedly in the 2007 playoffs in the biggest of games. We don’t know if Hixon is clutch, but he isn’t known for having bad hands. Catching the football is the easy part, getting open is the hard part. Last week, the Giants receivers got open.

I’m starting to wonder if the Giants will carry only five wide receivers.  If they carry six, will it be Sinorice Moss or Derek Hagan?  Moss hardly played last week while Hagan was named a team captain for the Jets’ game.  Hmmm.  David Tyree?  He keeps getting hurt and did not have a good camp and preseason.  It looks like the end of the line for him with the Giants.

Running Backs: Like Manning, I hope Brandon Jacobs doesn’t play or barely plays.  Ahmad Bradshaw doesn’t really need the work either.  The problem is Danny Ware (chest) won’t play in this game.  I really hope they do not overwork Bradshaw in a meaningless game.  I would give the bulk of the carries to Allen Patrick, who isn’t likely to even make the team.

Tight Ends: Again, the question here is how many tight ends?  If they only keep three, Darcy Johnson or Michael Matthews is likely gone.  I think they may keep four.

Offensive Line: The practice injury to Whimper (hip) is a real short-term problem.  Rookie William Beatty is likely to start at left tackle and protect Eli’s blindside if Eli plays.  Beatty against the veteran rushers of the Patriots?  Yikes!  Look for lots of help from the tight ends and backs.

My only concern with the regular starting five are the nagging injuries – David Diehl (knee), Rich Seubert (shoulder), Chris Snee (knee), and Kareem McKenzie (back).  Let’s hope these injuries don’t become a chronic problem in 2009.

My guess is that Whimper, Reyes, Boothe, and Beatty will all make the team.  Do the Giants keep Koets?  10 offensive linemen is a lot to carry.

Defensive Line: I was pleased to see Mathias Kiwanuka look better last week.  I get the sense that Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora are coasting a bit, but they’ll be ready when it counts.

Once Chris Canty returns, he will really be the fourth defensive end.  But I was disappointed to see that none of the other ends really stood out this preseason.  Neither Maurice Evans (aside from the first game) nor Dave Tollefson has flashed.  Indeed, Tollefson has been very disappointing.

Inside, it’s all about health.  The Giants are in good shape if Barry Cofield, Fred Robbins, and Rocky Bernard are near 100 percent.  They are in great shape if Canty can come back and play like he is capable of.  But those are big “ifs”.

Linebackers: I thought the linebackers looked pretty sharp against the Jets.  This remains the one area of the roster I can’t figure out yet.  Broken record time…Antonio Pierce, Michael Boley, Clint Sintim, and Zak DeOssie are sure things.  If the Giants carry seven linebackers, who goes?  Danny Clark is still the starting strongside linebacker and he is probably safe.  Chase Blackburn can play all of the linebacker spots and is a good special teams player.  Jonathan Goff has had a good preseason.  Bryan Kehl and Gerris Wilkinson have been vying for the starting weakside spot with Boley out.

Defensive Backs: With the injury to Aaron Ross (hamstring), the Giants are short at cornerback.  Pray that Corey Webster, Terrell Thomas, and Kevin Dockery don’t get hurt.  It looked like Stoney Woodson might be the fifth corner, but he was injured/waived with an ankle injury (look for him to possibly make the Practice Squad).  I have not been impressed with DeAndre Wright.  Bruce Johnson has flashed at times.  Also keep in mind that Vince Anderson and Travonti Johnson have experience at corner.

At safety, C.C. Brown has not impressed at all.  I wonder if the Giants will be scanning the waiver wire.  The coaches have raved about Sha’reff Rashad’s intelligence, but he hasn’t really flashed in the preseason.  Johnson has at times and may make it.

Special Teams: It was nice to see Domenik Hixon back on returns.  That was a VERY interesting development.  Ware hasn’t looked bad at all on kickoff returns, but he won’t play this week.

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Eric Kennedy

Founder and owner of BigBlueInteractive.com, which is now entering its 20th season. Follow Eric on Twitter @BigBlueInteract.

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