Approach to the Game – Pittsburgh Steelers at New York Giants, August 21, 2010: The Giants-Jets preseason opener was far more entertaining than most preseason games, especially the first game. But now that the media show is over, the Giants’ focus is now completely on getting ready for the September 12 opener against the Carolina Panthers.
The second preseason game is the second most important preseason game. The starters will play more than any other game other than the third game. The problem for the Giants is that their #1 and #2 quarterbacks will be out. So the keys to the Cadillac have been handed over to third-stringer Rhett Bomar, who faces a daunting task against one of the top defenses in the NFL.
Giants on Offense: The Giants need to get their running game untracked and this is not a good situation (#3 quarterback starting) or opponent (tough Steelers’ defense) to do it against. Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs could get nothing going against the Jets. Most of the blame had to do with very poor run blocking by the offensive line and tight ends.
It probably won’t get any prettier this Saturday as the Steelers are unlikely to be too fearful of Bomar. Plus, the offensive line will likely be a makeshift group again with Chris Snee (knee) and perhaps Rich Seubert (hand) out. The good news is that Will Beatty is getting some good work as is Guy Whimper. It also helps that the tight ends are starting to get healthy again.
The injuries to Manning and Sorgi have provided Rhett Bomar with a tremendous opportunity. He will now see far more action – both in practice and in games – and experience is what any young quarterback needs. There will be mistakes, but if Rhett Bomar is ever going to be the #2 quarterback on this team – either this season or next – he needs the opportunity to impress. Well now he has it.
Blitzing by the Jets caused problems last Monday night. The Giants will see that again against the aggressive, blitzing 3-4 defense of the Steelers. I’d like to see the line, tight ends, and backs make fewer mental mistakes that lead to free shots on the quarterback.
In the receiving department, it will be good to see Steve Smith back on the field. Mario Manningham (groin) hasn’t been himself however all camp and preseason. With Ramses Barden (back) also ailing, Victor Cruz has an opportunity to move up the depth chart. Tom Coughlin clearly loves this kid. Can he make plays for the second game in a row? Personally, barring injury, I think the wide receiver spots are already locked up – Steve Smith, Hakeem Nicks, Mario Manningham, Derek Hagan, Ramses Barden, and Victor Cruz. It’s the pecking order that remains to be determined and who will be inactive on game day.
I also think this is a big game for Travis Beckum, who has a very disappointing summer due to all the time he has missed with a hamstring injury. He has to start making plays or we may not see much of him again in 2010. Kevin Boss has missed a lot of time, and he is coming off late offseason ankle surgery. He needs the work.
Giants on Defense: I was pretty impressed with the run defense against the Jets. In particular, I thought the defensive tackles did well. Chris Canty, Joseph Linval, and Nate Collins all stood out to me. But I’d like to see more in the pass rush department, especially from Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora, and Mathias Kiwanuka. They’re supposed to be “studs” – I’d like to see them start playing like it.
I think there were quite a few positives (and some negatives) from most of the linebackers. Jonathan Goff and Phillip Dillard flashed to me at times. But I think we all expect Keith Bulluck to man the middle once the season starts. I saw some good things out of Gerris Wilkinson and Bryan Kehl too. And I think Michael Boley is going to have a big year. Clint Sintim was pretty quiet against the Jets, but sometimes that is the nature of the strongside linebacker position. Still, I’d like to see a little more noise from him.
Having all of the corners back is comforting. Corey Webster, Terrell Thomas, Aaron Ross, and Bruce Johnson are obviously the top four guys. The real battle is who will be the fifth guy. D.J. Johnson and Courtney Brown seemed to get most of the backup reps against the Jets.
The Giants will remain a little thin at safety until Kenny Phillips plays. It really sucks that Chad Jones’ career is likely over…the Giants could really use him right now. Antrel Rolle and Deon Grant are a very good combo, but Michael Johnson (back) has been missing a lot of time and its questionable whether or not Sha’reff Rashad, John Busing, and Michael Greco are NFL-caliber players.
Giants on Special Teams: I have a feeling this is going to be the Giants’ Achilles heel in 2010. And it’s not just the punting game.
First of all, the return game went from dynamic to pretty unimpressive with the loss of Domenik Hixon. Hixon has game-changing return skills and those will be sorely missed. While other teams regularly get to the Giants’ 30-yard on kickoff returns, the Giants struggle to get past the 20-yard line. And I really don’t want Aaron Ross to return punts. Hopefully Victor Cruz can make some noise there.
Punting. I have never seen a worse performance by a punter in a game where wind was not a factor than Matt Dodge’s effort against the Jets. That was putrid. Personally, I doubt he turns it around in time. I think the Giants have to be very worried about this. Football is all about field position – it really is. And a bad punter could cost the Giants two games. That’s the difference between being 8-8 and 10-6. No playoffs and playoffs.