Approach to the Game – Indianapolis Colts at New York Giants, August 18, 2013: OK, things get more serious this week. Training camp is almost over. There are very few practices left before the start of the regular season. The starters usually play the entire first half of the second preseason game. This (expletive deleted) is about to get real.
With the limited number of practices and the reduced amount of contact within those practices under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), the preseason games are now more important than ever before. The games are the only time you can really go full contact and practice fundamentals like hitting and tackling at full speed. It’s the only time you can really practice special teams at full speed, and the only time you really can practice goal-line and short-yardage offense and defense.
The second and third preseason games are always the most important. Coach Coughlin and his staff are looking for sharp play on offense, defense, and special teams.
Quarterbacks: As important as it is to make sure Eli Manning comes out of this game healthy, he needs real-game practice in order to get ready for the season. Where the Giants need to show improvement – both passing and running – is in the green zone. Last week, the Giants had first-and-goal from the 5-yard line and settled for a field goal. That was too reminiscent of last season. Brandon Myers and Victor Cruz should give most teams fits in this area, especially with Hakeem Nicks and Rueben Randle on the outside.
We learned this week that Curtis Painter actually has a chance to unseat David Carr. So obviously, this is a big game for one of these two. (My guess is one of these two will play this week and the other next week). Ryan Nassib will likely clean up, but 2013 is really going to be a redshirt year for him.
Running Backs: David Wilson wasn’t terribly productive last week so hopefully we see more from him against the Colts. Again, a critical aspect to watch will be his pass protection. Aside from the embarrassing fumble last week, Andre Brown ran tough.
The battle for the #3 job continues. Da’Rel Scott received most of the chances last week, but Michael Cox did more with his chances. We should see Ryan Torain, who missed the last game with a concussion, for the first time.
Wide Receivers: We should see Hakeem Nicks for the first time this preseason. It will be interesting to see how sharp he is. Rueben Randle was an early target for Eli against the Steelers, but they could only connect on one-of-three chances. Look for more plays to get these two in sync.
I’m hoping they get more work for Louis Murphy, who is the clear-cut #4 receiver.
Contrary to the team’s usual practice, I’m thinking the Giants may only carry five receivers this year in order to carry an extra tight end. We’ll see. The leading candidate for the #5 spot is Jerrel Jernigan, but missing practice this week with “soreness” didn’t help. “I thought he was excellent (against the Steelers),” said Offensive Coordinator Kevin Gilbride. “I thought he did a lot of good things, if the quarterback had a few more counts. He ran a hook and up that he was wide open. He ran a corner route where he was wide open. Just couldn’t get him the ball. Biggest thing is he’s got to stay healthy. Sure enough, he’s got to stay out there, do it on a consistent basis. I think he’s always shown glimpses, he’s always shown flashes. As a coach, that’s what’s frustrating because you see it there and you want to get it out on a play-in play-out, day-in day-out basis. I thought he played really well Saturday night, so hopefully that will continue.”
Tight Ends: This week, during interviews, Coach Coughlin and General Manager Jerry Reese kept mentioning not only Brandon Myers, but the two “young, big tight ends” – clearly meaning Adrien Robinson and Larry Donnell. It’s sounding more and more like the Giants will keep these three players plus Bear Pascoe. With Henry Hynoski possibly starting the season on the PUP, carrying four might be easier than it usually is. I’m hoping to see more out of Robinson and Donnell in the passing game this week.
Offensive Line: It will be interesting to see if Chris Snee (hip) plays. If he does, the starting OL will be on the field together for the first time in a game this season. The left side of the line – Will Beatty and Kevin Boothe – doesn’t concern me. But Baas and Snee are coming off of offseason surgeries, and David Diehl still has to prove that father time hasn’t diminished his skills to the point where he is a liability. The Giants need Baas and Snee to live up to their contracts.
We should see Justin Pugh this week for the first time, and maybe James Brewer. Both are coming off of concussions. But Chris DeGeare (ankle) won’t play. Brandon Mosley has been a pleasant surprise this camp, rapidly coming on. It appears that Pugh, Brewer, and Mosley will be the chief reserves. Who else will make the team? Is there room for a ninth offensive lineman?
Defensive Line: Justin Tuck should play this week. So we should see Cullen Jenkins back at defensive tackle with Linval Joseph. It will be interesting to see how well the supposedly reinvigorated Tuck plays. Mathias Kiwanuka wasn’t terrible impressive against the Steelers, and neither was Linval Joseph.
Will Damontre Moore (shoulder) play? Adrian Tracy seems to be the coaches’ favorite for the final defensive end spot, but it will be interesting to see if Justin Trattou or Adewale Ojomo continue to make that decision more difficult.
Inside, Johnathan Hankins is a sure bet to make the team. Shaun Rogers has been playing with the second-team, and sometimes the first-team. The coaches have said they have seen progress from Marvin Austin, but want to see more.
Linebackers: This unit wasn’t very impressive last week in Pittsburgh. Perhaps too much is being expected from a bunch of castoffs and undrafted players? Or maybe the coaching staff isn’t doing such a great job of getting these guys ready? It will be Mark Herzlich versus Dan Connor – round two. Spencer Paysinger and Keith Rivers have to make some plays, not just run around out there. Jacquian Williams is a good cover linebacker, but he has to play the run too. I’d like to see more snaps from Aaron Curry in order to get a better read on him.
Defensive Backs: Prince Amukamara and Jayron Hosley are improving. The key for both is to stay healthy. Corey Webster has been missing some practices with nagging injuries again. Hopefully that stops soon. Aaron Ross seems sure to make the team and fingers remain crossed with Terrell Thomas (ACL) who probably will be kept out at least one more week. I liked what I saw from Trumaine McBride last week.
At safety, we’ll get a chance to see if the praise for Ryan Mundy has been justified since Antrel Rolle (ankle) is out. Both Mundy and Stevie Brown have to prove they can consistently patrol the middle of the field. Unfortunately, Cooper Taylor (hamstring) has been out all week again so he’s not likely to play. Tyler Sash stood out last week and we’ll have to see if he can perform well two weeks in a row. This is a big game for Will Hill, who may be on the bubble.
Special Teams: The returners didn’t get much of a chance to demonstrate their skills last week and hopefully they get more chances in this game. The return game is a big question mark for the Giants right now. Josh Brown missed a very makeable attempt last week, while nailing the longer chance.