Approach to the Game – Chicago Bears at New York Giants, August 24, 2012: As most of you know, the third preseason game is considered by most, if not all, teams as the primary dress rehearsal for the regular season. The starters will play longer in this game than any other, usually into the third quarter. The starters will probably play some in the preseason finale, but not much, so this is basically the last serious action the team will see before playing the Dallas Cowboys on September 5.
And the Giants couldn’t have picked a better opponent to give them a good test. The Bears are one of the NFL’s more well-rounded teams. Chicago’s offense can throw the ball and the Bears always play tough, physical defense. They have good special teams and are well coached.
Giants on Offense: The Giants will probably be without Hakeem Nicks (foot) and Brandon Mosley (ankle) and definitely without LT Will Beatty (back) and Travis Beckum (knee – PUP).
With the opener less than two weeks away, and with the Giants only having five practices left before the regular-season starts (not counting walk-thrus), it seems unlikely that Will Beatty will be able to return to the starting lineup in time for Dallas. Even if he is healthy, he has missed so much practice time (all of the OTAs and mini-camp, most of training camp, at least three preseason games) that it has to affect his play. Keep in mind that Beatty is still relatively inexperienced.
It appears that the Giants have seen enough good things from Sean Locklear at left tackle to discourage them from shaking up the line and moving David Diehl back to left tackle. If true, then the Giants will be counting on an aging, declining veteran who spent the bulk of his career at right tackle protecting Eli Manning’s blindside. So obviously, he is the main focus. Julius Peppers is one of the best in the business and this will be a very, very serious test for Locklear and the Giants’ offense.
The Giants have yet to get their ground game on track, and I would not expect a breakout game against the Bears’ defense. But the Giants need to keep practicing running plays now, even if they don’t work. Run blocking is a lot tougher than many think because all of the parts (five linemen, 1-2 tight ends, fullback, and receivers) must be in harmony and execute for a play to usually work. Practice makes perfect. And remember, these games are practice. As I’ve harped on, under the new CBA, this is the only time teams can really get quality, physical, full-contact reps with their blockers. If you could hear me during this game, you would hear me shout at the TV, “Keep running it!” Just keep in mind, the Bears were 5th in rushing defense in 2011. They are good.
Ahmad Bradshaw was a bit limited in practice this week due to his sore hand. Interestingly, David Wilson got some serious work with the first team in practice. The Giants are trying to downplay that fact and say it was scheduled. I don’t believe that. I think Wilson has at least temporarily jumped ahead of some folks on the depth chart, perhaps everyone but Bradshaw. It will be very telling to see who gets most of the action at running back besides Bradshaw when the starters are in there. It could still be D.J. Ware (blitz pickups). If Wilson really wants to take the bull by the horns, obviously he has to demonstrate he can protect Eli, hold onto the football, and not make mental mistakes.
Assuming the Giants keep six wide receivers (and that’s not a lock), I think five of those guys are Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz, Rueben Randle, Domenik Hixon, and Jerrel Jernigan. I don’t think Ramses Barden is a lock. So this is a big game for Ramses and his competition – Isaiah Stanback (who has not been getting enough pub), David Douglas, and Dan DePalma.
Giants on Defense: The Giants defense will be missing a number of important parts, most notably Jason Pierre-Paul (back), the Giants’ best defensive player. But they will also be without LB Michael Boley (hamstring), DE Adrian Tracy (hamstring), DT Chris Canty (PUP – knee), DT Marvin Austin (back), DT Shaun Rogers (blood clot), CB Terrell Thomas (knee), CB Jayron Hosley (toe), and CB Brandon Bing (hamstring). So please keep that in mind when grading this performance. Not only are the Giants missing key starters, but guys who are normally third-teams are now elevated to the second team. For example, if everyone was healthy, guys like Rocky Bernard, Osi Umenyiora, and Keith Rivers are backups, not starters.
The man to watch in this game is Prince Amukamara. He had a rough outing against the Jaguars. The Jets weren’t a serious test because they don’t/can’t throw the football down the field. Jay Cutler and the Bears will attack you deep. What stinks is that Jayron Hosley was becoming more comfortable with the nickel corner spot and he will miss this valuable learning experience. We should see more Will Hill with the first unit this week however.
Unless there is a setback with Thomas, the keepers at corner are Corey Webster, Thomas, Amukamara, and Hosley. But who makes the team after that? Justin Tryon and Bruce Johnson have been playing with the second unit, but have not stood out. This is a big game for both as well as Michael Coe, who is coming off of a hamstring injury. I’m still a little nervous about depth at safety. After Hill, no one has really stood out this preseason, including the soon-to-be suspended Tyler Sash. I still would not discount the Giants bringing back Deon Grant.
At linebacker, the injury to Boley is a concern. He’s missed a lot of time and doesn’t seem close to returning. The trade for Rivers looks huge now, especially given the fact that Jacquian Williams has missed so much time with a hip injury. Williams is back this week and this will be his first preseason action. The Bears have good tight ends so this will be a good test for the linebackers in coverage. Chase Blackburn vs. Mark Herzlich – round three. Last week’s early departure from the game did not help Herzlich.
Up front, the absence of JPP takes a bit of luster off this game for me personally. It’s like going into a fight with one arm tied behind your back. The second unit will also be hampered by the absence of Adrian Tracy and Marvin Austin.
I’ll be curious to see how Adewale Ojomo does this week, but it’s difficult to see how he makes the 53-man roster. Of all the guys the Giants signed at defensive tackle last week, the guy to watch is Marcus Thomas. While not much of a pass rusher, he’s a good run defender in his prime and he could be an important factor early in the season for the Giants as a third defensive tackle.
Giants on Specials: Who are the returners for opening night?