By Eric from BigBlueInteractive.com
Approach to the Game – New York Giants at Carolina Panthers, August 13, 2011: The older I get, the more meaningless I think preseason games are. Don’t get me wrong; they are not meaningless for the players and coaches. The games are extremely important practice time for the players – even more so this year because of the lockout. There were no mini-camps, coach-monitored passing camps, or Organized Team Activity (OTA) practices. The new Giants only got their playbooks two weeks ago. But the PRACTICE is important – the very act of being on the field and getting valuable repetitions at full speed in pads. Remember – the number of padded practices both before and during the season have now been cut by the new CBA.
But I just don’t think the outcome of the game is all that important. And – to go one step further – I’m not sure it is all that important that the Giants look sharper than the other team. I’ve seen far too many preseason games to fall into the trap of saying one team is going to have a better or worse season based on how sharp or poor a team does in an exhibition game. In addition, the first preseason games are usually sloppy. I expect them to be even worse this year due to all the missed offseason work.
My point? Don’t get too worked up over these games.
Does that mean I won’t watch? Hell no! Football is back. I love preseason. I love watching the new players – the rookies and the new veterans. I also will be very interested in seeing how the second- and third-year players are progressing.
Giants on Offense: Unless injuries become a big factor again, the Giants’ offense is actually in very good shape except for one position. Let’s take a quick look at the offensive side of the ball:
Quarterback: Eli Manning is a franchise quarterback in his prime. The Giants have a nice little quarterback battle for the second spot with Sage Rosenfels, David Carr, and Ryan Perrilloux. Don’t count out Perrilloux who has been having a good camp.
Running Back: The main cast of characters who rushed for over 2,000 yards are back. But the position may even be deeper this year with the additions of Da’Rel Scott and Andre Brown. There is no superstar here, but the Giants have enviable quality and depth.
Fullback: Henry Hynoski may be a rookie, but he’s been impressive at camp. There will be growing pains but he looks to have a bright future. The Giants also can shift Bear Pascoe and Daniel Coats to fullback if needed.
Wide Receiver: The Giants have two studs in Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham. Then they have a cast of characters who have been getting noticed at camp including Domenik Hixon, Victor Cruz, Darius Reynaud, and Devin Thomas. The Giants also drafted Jerrel Jernigan who will likely take some time to develop. The guys to watch are these players behind the big two. Can someone step forward and make an impact for the departed Steve Smith? Also, pray Nicks and Manningham stay healthy.
Offensive Line: There is a big shake up here, but the talent appears to be in place as long as Will Beatty can gain consistency. He’s the key. David Baas is an upgrade over Shaun O’Hara and David Diehl can handle left guard. Expect some growing pains early as the line will take some time to come together. There are interesting depth battles with the likes of Mitch Petrus, Kevin Boothe, Stacy Andrews, and James Brewer on the roster. But having both Adam Koets (knee) and Jim Cordle (knee) out hurts the depth situation at center right now.
Tight End: Here is the spot that worries me. Even the coaches admit that Travis Beckum is more of an H-Back than true tight end. They will put him down in a traditional TE spot from time to time, but he won’t make a living out of it. He’s going to be more a situational, move-type player. So if the Giants use a true TE, they are going to have to use Jake Ballard, Bear Pascoe, or Daniel Coats there until they make another roster move. None of these guys will scare anyone in the passing game.
Giants on Defense: The Giants have quite a bit of talent here, but we need to see more of a killer instinct than we saw against the Eagles and Packers late in the season last year.
Defensive Line: It appears the Osi Umenyiora situation may be settling down. If so, the Giants still have the deepest and most talented group of defensive ends in the NFL with Tuck, Umenyiora, Pierre-Paul, and – if need be – Kiwanuka. Dave Tollefson is back and rookie Justin Trattou has been making some noise.
Where the Giants will need to deal with a transition is at defensive tackle. Chris Canty is back and will remain a rock inside. But Barry Cofield is gone and Linval Joseph will have to quickly adapt to being a new NFL starter. He has the talent but he is very, very green; same story with rookie Marvin Austin. Rocky Bernard and Gabe Watson provide veteran competition/insurance. These two are probably battling for one spot.
Linebackers: With the Giants employing a lot of nickel, three linebackers won’t see the field all that much. And Mathias Kiwanuka will be on the field at linebacker on first and second down in the base defense. This is a big year for Jon Goff who played fairly well as a first-time starter last season but needs to keep improving. Michael Boley mans the other outside spot.
Giants fans are very excited to see all the young linebackers on the team including Clint Sintim, Mark Herzlich, Phillip Dillard, Greg Jones, Kenny Ingram, Jacquian Williams, Spencer Paysinger, and Adrian Tracy. All of these guys have talent. Special teams may be the deciding factor for many.
Defensive Backs: At safety, the Giants are set with Antrel Rolle and Kenny Phillips. The key battle here is for the backup spots. Tyler Sash has impressed at camp and most likely has the lead for the #3 spot. Fellow rookies Jerrard Tarrant and David Sims are competing too, and Brian Jackson can play both corner and safety (though he has missed time with a back issue).
At cornerback, it really stinks that Prince Amukamara got hurt. He’s really going to be set back by all the missed time. The Giants have three good corners in Corey Webster, Terrell Thomas, and Aaron Ross. Webster and Thomas have been impressive in camp and both may vie for Pro Bowl honors. Ross is playing for a new contract – probably with another team. With Amukamara out until at least October, who is the 4th corner?
Giants on Special Teams: Aside from place kicker, there are question marks all over this unit. Who will win the punting battle? Matt Dodge or Steve Weatherford. Will Hixon regain his duties as the primary kickoff and punt returner? (I wonder how much the Giants will use him in the preseason given the fact he is coming off of knee surgery). Will the coverage units improve with the influx of young second- and third-teamers at linebacker and defensive back? How much of an impact will new assistant special teams coach Larry Izzo have on the team?