By Eric from BigBlueInteractive.com
Approach to the Game: I will address the historical significance and opportunity that lies ahead of the Giants in my game preview for the regular-season opener. I will also address the mental approach the team should take this season at that time. That later preview will be more emotional. This preview will be more analytical.
Every year, I say the same thing for each first preseason game preview. But it bears repeating. This game is a glorified scrimmage. You would be mistaken to make any sort of significant or final conclusions based on how the overall team and specific individuals perform in this game. If some players look great, that’s exciting, but players who play well in the first preseason game sometimes fade. And the reverse is very true. Players who struggle in the first preseason game often play very well in the regular season. In particular, the rookies will be very nervous for their first pro game. Mistakes – a dropped pass, a fumble, a blown block, a missed tackle, a blown coverage – will be made. That does not mean the player can’t and won’t develop into a good football player.
In summary, relax. It’s a scrimmage. The big thing is for players to get some live action at full speed. And hope no one gets hurt.
Let’s take a quick look at each position. Most starting jobs are locked up on this team, but there will be some tough decisions regarding the reserves.
Quarterback: Just give Eli a drive or two and get him out of the game. Unless Ryan Perrilloux comes on like gangbusters this preseason, David Carr will be the backup and Perrilloux will likely be cut.
Running Backs: Henry Hynoski is the entrenched starter at fullback and should be dramatically better this year as both a blocker and receiver.
Ahmad Bradshaw appears to be the healthiest he has been in years and could have a big year. He will be pressed for playing time by David Wilson, who by all accounts is going to provide another big play threat as a runner and receiver. The key for Wilson will be blitz pick-ups. Watch that area of his game this preseason.
The real roster battles here will be for the third and fourth spots with D.J. Ware, Da’Rel Scott, Andre Brown, and Joe Martinek likely fighting for two spots. Ware is the steady veteran who can pick up the blitz, but Scott has homerun ability. Martinek is a jack-of-all-trades type who might be headed to the Practice Squad unless he impresses big time.
Wide Receivers: Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz, Rueben Randle, Domenik Hixon, and Jerrel Jernigan are the locks to make the roster. The Giants will keep only one or two more receivers. Ramses Barden is a huge target and will play somewhere in the NFL in 2012. Will it be with the Giants? I see two problems with keeping him: (1) he still isn’t really a good special teams player so he probably won’t be active on gameday, and (2) he will be a free agent next offseason. Do the Giants keep him at the expense of some surprising young guys such as David Douglas, Brandon Collins, and Dan DePalma? If Barden kicks ass in the preseason, it will very difficult to let him go unless the Giants work out a trade. But if one of the youngsters out-performs Barden, then the choice should be obvious.
Tight Ends: Martellus Bennett will be the traditional, two-way tight end. Jerry Reese says he’s the best blocker the Giants have had at the position since Howard Cross. Bear Pascoe is the jack-of-all-trades type who can play tight end, H-Back, and even some fullback. Adrien Robinson is a talented project. Right now, like many rookies, he is thinking too much. He’s more worried about running the right route than he is on catching the football – hence the drops. Once he gains experience and settles down, he will be fine. Travis Beckum will start the year on the PUP.
Offensive Line: Unlike many, I’m very comfortable with most of the starters. I really like the interior trio of Kevin Boothe, David Baas, and Chris Snee. That’s a big, physical group that played together last year. They will be much better this year. David Diehl should be steady and reliable at right tackle. It’s going to be a transition for him and there will probably be some early rough moments, but he’ll see fewer speed rushers on the strongside. Will Beatty is suffering from a sciatic nerve issue so the Giants are being cautious with him. They don’t want a setback. But he’s missing valuable reps. Hopefully he will be back soon. Problem is James Brewer has also missed some time with a back issue as well. I’m not a big fan of Sean Locklear – hopefully he doesn’t get Eli killed in the preseason.
The real interesting roster battles will be for the backup spots. I think James Brewer, Mitch Petrus, and Brandon Mosley are locks. I think it is risky to put a big, athletic left tackle on the Practice Squad so I can see the Giants keeping Matt McCants on the 53-man roster and him being inactive all year (like Brewer last year). But that’s a lot of inexperienced depth. Like the linebacker situation last year, do the Giants go with inexperienced youth? Or do they keep a guy like Locklear on the roster? Keep an eye on Stephen Goodin. He might be a good candidate for the Practice Squad. Is there room for Jim Cordle, who has spent two seasons with the Giants?
Defensive Line: Justin Tuck, Jason Pierre-Paul, and Osi Umenyiora are the obvious locks. The injury to Justin Trattou really has put him at a disadvantage. Could Trattou and Adrian Tracy switch spots now, that is, Trattou be headed to the Practice Squad and Tracy for the 53-man roster?
The real dilemma is who to keep at defensive tackle. Assuming Canty’s knee is not bad enough for him to miss the first six games of the season (PUP), the Giants usually only keep three more defensive tackles on the 53-man roster. The Giants think Linval Joseph is going to have a big year. And it’s extremely difficult to see them part ways with Marvin Austin at this point. So there may only be one more spot for Shaun Rogers, Rocky Bernard, and Markus Kuhn. The way the coaches are talking, it sounds like they have plans for Rogers. And Kuhn has been flashing lately in camp. Is Bernard the odd man out? Do the Giants have room to carry Kuhn?
Linebackers: Michael Boley is still the best of the bunch and very underrated by many fans. Mathias Kiwanuka is more comfortable at linebacker than ever and will be an important part of the pass rush package. The young guns at linebacker are no longer rookies so this group should be dramatically better. And the Giants added the athletic Keith Rivers. Again, it’s a numbers game here.
I think Mark Herzlich is going to beat out Chase Blackburn for the starting spot. If he does, the real question is do you keep Blackburn on the roster this year and part ways with a younger, more athletic player such as Spencer Paysinger? Jacquian Williams is likely a lock to make the team. And Greg Jones has been having a strong camp. Jake Muasau has probably missed too much camp time with a hamstring issue and is likely headed to the Practice Squad. Keep in mind that linebackers are usually good special teams players.
Defensive Backs: At safety, Tyler Sash’s 4-game suspension complicates matters. Antrel Rolle and Kenny Phillips remain the starters, but how much will they miss Deon Grant? I heard at camp he was the guy who held the secondary together down the stretch. I also heard that the team loves Will Hill. The big thing for him is to stay away from drugs. My guess is that Stevie Brown or Chris Horton makes it unless the team re-signs Grant. Don’t be surprised to see Jojo Nicolas make the Practice Squad.
Terrell Thomas’ injury really complicates matters. Assuming the Giants keep him on the 53-man roster (they can’t put him on the PUP), then the team will have to use a roster spot on a player whose ACL might go at any point. The good news is that Prince Amukamara is developing and should be a good starter in this League. Just keep in mind that he’s still very green and will take time to fully develop. He hardly played last year. Corey Webster is rock solid at the other corner. Michael Coe has flashed and Justin Tryon has ability. And rookie Jayron Hosley has been making plays at camp.
Special Teams: The Giants are rock solid with Steve Weatherford, Lawrence Tynes, and Zak DeOssie.
The key is to find reliable and potentially explosive returners. Look for Jerrel Jernigan to make some noise now that his nerves are under control. (After all, this guy returned kicks in the Super Bowl). It will be interesting to see if Hixon is used as a returner in the preseason. It will also be interesting to see if the young receivers can unseat Barden with superior special teams performance.