Approach to the Game – New York Giants at New York Jets, August 18, 2012: I’ll be honest with you. For a veteran, NFL Championship team like the Giants, I just don’t think the outcome of preseason games matters. That’s not to say the games are not important. They are because the players need the reps. By merely playing in the games, the Giants are getting ready for the season. The outcome isn’t important, just the practice reps. Now, if the players were lazy or did not approach the practice games in a serious fashion, that would be a problem. But Tom Coughlin’s teams will never be lazy or not serious.
What I’m saying is this – even if the offense and defense don’t look particularly sharp on August 18, I’m not overly worried about it because I firmly believe that this team will be a different team on September 5. Tom and Eli will have this team ready on opening day.
The Jets? The Giants have beaten them five times in a row in regular-season games. The last time the Jets beat the Giants in a meaningful game was 1993. Most importantly, the Giants have been to five Super Bowls since Super Bowl III. The Giants own New York and the Jets can’t stand it. So each preseason they get their panties up in a bunch over this meaningless preseason game. Whatever. If you derive some sort of ego satisfaction from that then…well…you’ve got far bigger problems.
Now that all said, there are some cracks appearing in the team’s foundation – the offensive and defensive lines. The one player on the offensive line who needs reps more than any other to get ready for the season is the still relatively inexperienced Will Beatty. But he missed all of the OTAs and mini-camp with back issues that have also caused him to miss valuable practice time. He missed last week’s preseason game and will not play against the Jets. That’s very worrisome. The Giants need him to play and they need him to play well. Will he be ready to play against DeMarcus Ware on opening day? How much will the sciatica pester him throughout the season? How much will all this missed time set him back? Sean Locklear is not a guy you want starting. It’s not a good situation and you can tell Coach Coughlin is getting very frustrated by it.
It had looked like the Giants got out of training camp largely unscathed, but on the last day of camp, we learned that Shaun Rogers will be lost for the season due to a blood clot. And we learned Marvin Austin has a back issue that Coughlin seems to be worried about. Like Beatty, Austin is a guy who needed the reps more than most. He missed all of his last season in college and his first season in the pros. And the Giants were counting on him to be a valuable reserve in 2012. With Chris Canty still rehabbing his knee and his status uncertain for the early part of the season, the Giants once impressive looking depth at defensive tackle has vanished. I heard whispers a few months ago that Canty’s knee injury was more serious than the team was letting on, and that has clearly proven to be the case. It would appear that the team was relying on Rogers to serve as a replacement for Canty in the short term.
The problem now is the 33-year old Rocky Bernard has been elevated as a starter. Is he capable of the heavy duty that is now required of him? Can the Giants seriously get quality reps out of Dwayne Hendricks, Markus Kuhn, and Marcus Thomas? When can Austin return to practice and will he actually be a factor in 2012 or inactive for most games? An injury to Linval Joseph would be disastrous.
The Giants are still one of the top teams in the NFL because of their coaching staff, quarterback, defensive ends, wide receivers, and kicking game. But there are some cracks starting to appear.
Giants on Offense: The Giants needed Beatty to play this week and next week – the two most imporant dress rehearsals for the regular season. He needed the reps more than anyone else on the starting unit.
My focus in this game will be on the second-team offensive linemen. This unit played pretty well when David Carr was in the game last week, but the reserves struggled more when Ryan Perrilloux was in the game. In particular, I will be watching reserve tackles James Brewer and Matt McCants. And Brandon Mosley who will play both tackle and guard.
In terms of the skill positions, I want to see another strong game out of D.J. Ware. David Wilson’s pass protection remains key. Eli tried to get the ball to Jerrel Jernigan last week, but was unsuccessful. I want to see an impact play or two from Jerrel. Right now, I think Domenik Hixon is the third receiver, but I hope Rueben Randle gets some time with the first unit. I am anxious to see David Douglas and I want to see if Isaiah Stanback can continue to impress in live game action. Martellus Bennett had a really strong performance against Jacksonville. Consistency is the key. Adrien Robinson has been improving in practice. Will that translate to the games?
As for the quarterbacks, the one thing that still irrates me about David Carr is he holds onto the football too long. If Eli were to miss a game or two, the Giants need Carr to be quicker in his decision making and to throw the football away if he doesn’t see anyone open.
Giants on Defense: I don’t care if the Jets run up and down the field on the Giants. I just don’t want Linval Joseph or Rocky Bernard to get dinged in a meaningless game. Get them out of the contest as soon as possible. Obviously, many eyes will be on Dwayne Hendricks. Can he hold up against starting-caliber NFL players? Markus Kuhn is green, but the Giants need him to grow up fast. The Giants may have to have Marcus Thomas, Carlton Powell, and Oren Wilson play against the Jets after only being signed a couple of days before and with no training camp reps. That’s nuts.
At defensive end, I’m curious to see how Adrian Tracy does after a strong performance against the Jaguars. And I liked what I saw out of Matt Broha – he could be a good candidate for the Practice Squad.
One of the most underreported stories of the preseason is all of the time that Michael Boley (hamstring) and Jacquian Williams (hip) are missing. Both were to be key figures in the Giants’ pass defense packages. The trade for Keith Rivers becomes more important with each day these two miss.
Chase Blackburn versus Mark Herzlich. Round two. This really is the only serious battle for a starting job.
Spencer Paysinger was around the ball a lot last week. I was impressed. Greg Jones needs to make some plays fast.
In the secondary, another worrisome sign was the very disappointing play of Prince Amukamara last week. He’s still green, but he’s got to play better than that or the secondary will have issues. Making matters worse was that I was really disappointed in Justin Tryon’s play against the Jaguars. And Bruce Johnson didn’t look good either. At safety, Will Hill looks like a keeper, but I saw nothing from the other safeties who looked physically or mentally slow to react.
Giants on Specials: You know what the focus is…punt returns. Ball security is everything. Two muffed punts is unacceptable. Changes may have to be made there. Hixon?