Approach to the Game – New York Jets at New York Giants, August 24, 2013: I always tell fans not to get too excited or too depressed over preseason performances. That said, there are some troubling signs for the Giants as they are about to play the most serious dress rehearsal for the regular season. It’s hard to believe, but the regular-season opener is just over two weeks away.
- Until proven otherwise, the offense remains the strength of this team. However, new and old injuries have kept the critical component parts from getting much practice time together.
- Whether it has to do with the missing components, Eli Manning has not looked terribly sharp this preseason. We need more 2011 out of him, not 2012. The Giants also do not appear to be in good shape in the short-term behind Eli if he were to miss a game or two.
- Victor Cruz is out and it remains to be seen how soon he will return, and once he returns, if his heel injury will nag him and affect his performance. Hakeem Nicks hasn’t looked like the old Hakeem yet. Rueben Randle – who I do like – gets more positive press for someone who has done very little in the first two preseason games. Now Louis Murphy is out with some mysterious leg ailment. Jerrel Jernigan has been nagged all spring/summer with a hamstring injury and has yet to show he’s an NFL-caliber wide receiver. This position is looking shakier than anticipated.
- The offensive line. How can anyone not be concerned at this point? The left side seems in good shape with Will Beatty and Kevin Boothe. But David Baas seems to be always hurt and who knows when he will return from his MCL injury, and when he does, how effective he will be? In his place is the unproven Jim Cordle who, on the surface, seems strictly a back-up type who could be a liability. Chris Snee missed most of the summer recovering from hip surgery (glad that Pro Bowl appearance was so important Chris) and he still has not rounded into form. As someone who respects what David Diehl has done for this team, I have to admit that Justin Pugh’s promotion is probably the best thing for the team right now although there is sure to be growing pains with the rookie (I hope Giants fans recognize this fact). So the Giants will have two inexperienced players starting until Baas comes back and that is bound to affect the overall offense. More troubling is the now paper-thin depth. James Brewer still may come on, but it appears right now he hasn’t developed as hoped. Brandon Mosley has flashed and may have an NFL future, but he’s basically a rookie too. The rest look like garbage right now. Once again, the offensive line seems to be a weakness.
- Short-yardage offense. This remains a problem. It shows up not only on second- and third-and-short, but also inside the red zone. The inability to run the football in tight quarters is killing this offense in terms of keeping drives alive as well as touchdowns instead of field goals.
- Defense. The run defense was much, much better against the Colts, but in the first two games, the first-team defense has had trouble stopping the run (first game) and pass (second game).
- Up front, Justin Tuck still has to show he can be Justin Tuck of 2010. When will Jason Pierre-Paul be back? And when he does come back, how rusty will he be? I assume the Giants will have to start him off as a situational pass rusher until he gets used to the contact and gets into football shape. How badly will the back surgery and long layoff affect his performance?
- Linebacker. Are there any play-makers in this group? Dan Connor seems to have won the middle linebacker position and seems adequate. Are Keith Rivers and Spencer Paysinger NFL-caliber linebackers who can help stop varied and difficult-to-defend offenses, especially in Washington, Dallas, and Philadelphia? They have to be physical and smart. And they need to make plays.
- Defensive Backs. The safety position seems more settled, especially when Antrel Rolle returns. But once again, Corey Webster is battling injuries (knee/groin) that have caused him to miss valuable practice time and could impact his performance. His body seems to be breaking down. Behind him are Jayron Hosley, Aaron Ross, and Terrell Thomas. Hosley and Ross were shaky against the Colts. We still don’t know if Thomas can still play this game. The cornerback position is far shakier than some want to admit.
- Coaching Staff. There are no doubt talent issues affecting on-field performance, but Perry Fewell has to find a way to get this defense to the middle-of-the-pack. When the game is on the line, can the defense be counted on? Can they get the ball back for the offense in good scoring position? On the other side of the ball, Kevin Gilbride has to come up with be options inside the red zone.
I’m not feeling very warm and fuzzy about this team right now (which is probably a good thing, because when I don’t, they seem to do well). Some of the aging veterans who are on their last go-around with this team still need to prove they got one more good year left in them (Webster, Tuck, Snee, Shaun Rogers). We also have to see how injuries will impact guys like Cruz, Nicks, JPP, Webster, Baas, and Henry Hynoski. Talent/depth at linebacker and the offensive line remain HUGE question marks that General Manager Jerry Reese may not have addressed to a sufficient extent. Lastly, Manning has to prove that 2011 wasn’t the high-point of his career.
Outsiders and critics are going to say the Giants’ window is closing or has closed. It’s up to the front office, coaches, and players to prove otherwise.