By Eric from BigBlueInteractive.com
Approach to the Game: The Giants suffered their third most significant injury this week (after Domenik Hixon and Chad Jones), and perhaps their most worrisome. While Aaron Ross is not lost for the season, the plantar fascia tear is a very painful, nagging injury that will likely limit him all season. The third corner is as important as a starter. And if Corey Webster or Terrell Thomas get hurt, even for a game or two, the Giants cornerback situation just got a lot more scary.
Eric the Nervous Nelly Warning Alert: One also wonders if the Giants are going to get off to a slow start in 2010. The starting offensive line is far from settled and the anticipated starters have rarely practiced and not played together all preseason. That’s going to hurt early-season cohesion. Eli Manning also missed a week of valuable practice time with his young receivers. Defensively, remember it took a couple of games for the Giant defenders to become accustomed to Steve Spagnuolo’s schemes in 2007 as the Giants gave up 80 points in the first two games of the season that year. And the secondary is a bit unsettled too with Kenny Phillips still rounding into form and the injury issue to Ross.
So enter the Ravens. The third preseason game is the primary dress-rehearsal for all teams in the NFL. The starters usually play about three quarters of football. If there is game-planning in the preseason, this is the one you usually see it in.
The Ravens are the third tough, physical team the Giants will see in a row – both on offense and defense. Don’t expect it to be pretty.
Giants on Offense: Entering training camp, I was completely worry-free about the offensive line. That has changed with Shaun O’Hara’s chronic ankle injury, Chris Snee’s mysterious knee ailment, and Rich Seubert’s broken hand. Throw in the fact that David Diehl has virtually gotten zero reps at left tackle, the position he is likely to start the season at, and that shows you why I’m worried. The line is starting to appear brittle.
Eli Manning is the most important player on this team. But the offensive line is what makes the Giants’ offense go. If it is playing at a diminished level or out of sync, the entire offense will suffer. This game against the Ravens is important for the starting five to work together as a unit. Hopefully, O’Hara, Snee, and Seubert won’t set themselves back physically. (Late note: O’Hara has been placed in a cast and will not play against the Ravens and probably not against the Patriots in the preseason finale. Seubert will start at center.)
Facing a tough, physical defense like the Ravens, with an offensive line not in top form, is a bit scary given the fact that one good hit may re-open Eli Manning’s wound on his head. Those big guys up front had better play their asses off to keep Manning on his feet.
For his part, Manning needs the work to get into sync with Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham in particular.
Brandon Jacobs hasn’t seen all that much action yet either. It’s important for him to get it going - even if Ahmad Bradshaw becomes the new starter. The Giants need an effective one-two punch with both running backs.
Giants on Defense: I was feeling good about this unit until the injury to Ross. Bruce Johnson becomes much more prominent in the Giants’ plans now, and he’s been inconsistent. The fifth corner also becomes much more important. Is the fifth corner on this team right now?
The injuries to Chad Jones (offseason car accident) and Michael Johnson (back) has once-again raised depth concerns at safety. Mike Greco was waived and John Busing and Matt O’Hanlon are not the answer. Sha’reff Rashad has a chance to make the squad but will be out of this game with a concussion.
At linebacker, it looks like Jonathan Goff is the new starting middle linebacker with Keith Bulluck being moved to the weakside (Giants call this the strongside but it’s really the weakside). He will likely unseat Clint Sintim. Contrary to what most think on BBI, I don’t really see that as an indictment against Sintim. Bulluck still has the goods and Sintim is still growing. The good news for the Giants is that Gerris Wilkinson has been flashing as Michael Boley’s backup on the strongside. He’s even received some first-team reps in practice. Chase Blackburn, who is still out with a knee injury, may be in trouble. The Giants still need to make a decision on Bryan Kehl too.
I’m a bit old school and traditional so having “light” coverage-type linebackers playing the strongside concerns me a little. Yes, it will help against the TE in coverage. But you also run the risk in getting mauled at the point-of-attack. Justin Tuck is not the stud run defender that Michael Strahan was. Combine that with Boley over there on the strongside and teams may be able to run more in that direction than we’ve become accustomed to. Perry Fewell’s defense against the run in Buffalo was dreadful last season – so this bears watching.
I’ve seen zilch from Dave Tollefson and Jay Alford this preseason. And Rocky Bernard, aside from one series against the Steelers, still does not look like the same player he was in Seattle. I was disappointed we didn’t see more of Nate Collins against the Steelers, but perhaps the Giants are not as high on him as I am. I think they’ll lose him if they put him on the Practice Squad.
Giants on Special Teams: Bank it…special teams are going to cost the Giants at least two games this year. Hopefully that doesn’t mean bye-bye to the playoffs.
Matt Dodge was better last week. Not good, but better.
Giants’ kickoff coverage unit has not been good despite good kickoffs from Lawrence Tynes. Punt coverage is suffering from Dodge’s line drives and his punts straight down the middle of the field.
Aside from Tynes, Aaron Ross was the lone bright spot on specials this preseason and now you’ve got to figure the Giants won’t use him there with his plantar fascia tear. Punt returners – Hixon gone, Chad Jones gone, Ross not likely to continue… next up Mario Manningham? I also wouldn’t give up on Victor Cruz as a returner just yet.
The blocking on the Giants’ kickoff returns is embarrassingly bad.
Special Teams Coordinator Tom Quinn may be this year’s Bill Sheridan.