Approach to the Game – New York Giants at New England Patriots, August 29, 2013: I don’t know about others, but I find it difficult to believe that training camp, the preseason, and summer are almost over and that the regular season is less than two weeks away. But here we are, only 11 days from the opener in Dallas. Are the New York Giants ready? Only time will tell.
The loss of Stevie Brown for the season hurts, but if the Giants can get some of their walking wounded back soon, and no one gets hurt in New England, then the Giants will be in decent shape from an overall health perspective.
But the big “ifs” there are getting the walking wounded back: Victor Cruz, David Baas, Henry Hynoski, Jason Pierre-Paul, Damontre Moore, Corey Webster, Jayron Hosley, and Antrel Rolle; and no new injuries in this last preseason game.
Head Coach Tom Coughlin says the starters will play 12-15 snaps against New England. Let’s see some solid execution on both sides of the football and get out healthy.
There are some tough roster decisions to make. Ideally, the Giants would like to carry more defensive linemen, quarterbacks, tight ends, and maybe even defensive backs than they usually carry. If they are going to do that, they will need to carry fewer players at other positions.
Quarterbacks: Eli Manning will see 12-15 snaps. Then Ryan Nassib should receive his first real opportunity to show us what he has, as he will be the #2 quarterback to enter the game. It’s not the same as playing with the starters, but he won’t be playing with the third- and fourth-team guys who never really gave him a chance in the first and second preseason games. It remains to be seen who Eli’s primary back-up will be: David Carr? Curtis Painter? The long-shot dark horse obviously would be Nassib and the Giants going with only two quarterbacks again.
Running Backs: David Wilson and Andre Brown will see the bulk of the work this season barring injury. Michael Cox has flashed as a kickoff returner and running back. I think they only real question here is do the Giants risk it by going light at this position with only three halfbacks, or do they carry a fourth (someone like Ryan Torain or another veteran not currently with the team).
Wide Receivers: If everyone was healthy, the Giants would be in good shape. But Victor Cruz is still gimpy and Louis Murphy has missed a lot of time with a mysterious leg injury. Anyone who says offseason work between quarterback and receiver doesn’t matter only needs to watch how Manning and Hakeem Nicks have been off all preseason. The Giants need to get Cruz and Murphy back on the field soon, and Nicks needs to get in sync with Manning now.
The real questions here are: (1) is there really anyone worthy of the #5 receiver spot? and (2) do the Giants risk it by only carrying five receivers? Jerrel Jernigan hasn’t taken the bull by the horns. He may win the #5 job by default unless there is a dark horse candidate (Kevin Hardy, Julian Talley). I personally would not carry six. If injuries strike, re-sign Ramses Barden. No one is going to pick him up.
Tight Ends: The early rumblings coming out of the OTAs and early training camp was how well the tight ends were doing. That positive press seems to have faded. Brandon Myers has been invisible in the passing game (hopefully hiding him?) and has not stood out as a blocker. Adrien Robinson and Larry Donnell look the part and could have an impact in the future, possibly even this year, but they don’t really seem ready for prime time just yet. Bear Pascoe is versatile and reliable, but he’s just a guy out there. I still think the Giants want to carry four, instead of three as they normally do, because I think they see the promise that Robinson and Donnell offer.
Offensive Line: David Diehl will be inactive for at least the first month of the season so he’s out of the picture. We have no idea when injury-prone David Baas will return. Perhaps the best line in the short-term and perhaps long-term is Will Beatty, James Brewer, Kevin Boothe, Chris Snee, and Justin Pugh. The big question mark here is obviously Brewer. He is big and athletic. I’ve seen him maul people and I’ve seen him effectively block defenders at the second level. But can he handle the complicated stunts and blitz packages teams will throw at him? When someone punches him in the mouth, will he fight back? Will he protect Eli? All of that remains to be seen. There will be growing pains with Pugh and Brewer, but will it cost New York games?
On the other hand, if Baas is out a few more weeks, and if this line miraculously performs well, do the Giants re-insert Baas into the lineup at a later date? What about Diehl?
As for the back-ups, I’m not sure I see much there other than Brandon Mosley. Maybe Stephen Goodin or Eric Herman have a shot, but I’d keep an active eye on on the waiver wire. In short, one more injury and the Giants are in deep dog poo.
Defensive Line: This is the area where I have no idea what the Giants are going to do in terms of the numbers.
You have to think that Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck, Mathias Kiwanuka, Damontre Moore, Linval Joseph, Cullen Jenkins, Shaun Rogers, and Johnathan Hankins are going to make the team. That’s eight. Carrying nine or 10 would be tough, but a case could be made for carrying 11. Yet teams can’t activate 11 defensive linemen on game day. So isn’t that a misallocation of valuable roster spots? At the same time, Marvin Austin is improving and may be finally developing. And a guy like Mike Patterson really has more to offer in the short-term than Johnathan Hankins and possibly Austin. Patterson can play in this league, but can the Giants really carry six defensive tackles? Because Jenkins can play defensive end, possibly. But they would have to part ways with Adrian Tracy, Justin Trattou, Matt Broha, and Adewale Ojomo. How good really is Tracy? Or Trattou? Or Ojomo? Would the Giants be kicking themselves for releasing any of those guys down the road? Or not really? Keep in mind that a decision also has to be made regarding Markus Kuhn in seven weeks (assuming he is placed on the regular-season PUP). Can all of these defensive tackles really play? Perhaps they will need to part ways with Patterson despite the fact he can help them in the early going.
What to do? What to do? This last preseason game is huge for all of the on-the-cusp reserves.
Linebackers: I can’t recall the Giants ever going into the final preseason game with only six linebackers on the roster, but that’s where they are at right now. It would seem the Giants have already made up their mind who will be with the team. Could they go with only five? I don’t think so, especially when you consider linebackers are often core special teams players.
Defensive Backs: Like the defensive line, there are tough roster decisions to make here. With the season-ending injury to Stevie Brown and Will Hill’s 4-game suspension, the decisions are easier at safety. Antrel Rolle, Ryan Mundy, Taylor Cooper, and probably Tyler Sash will make the team. The dark horse possibility is David Caldwell, but Sash’s play on special teams may provide the advantage there. Still, it was telling that when Brown was lost, it was Hill, and not Sash who came into the game.
At corner, the sure-bets would appear to be Prince Amukamara, Corey Webster, Jayron Hosley, Terrell Thomas, and Aaron Ross. But Trumaine McBride has really flashed on defense and special teams. And Charles James seems to have some talent. Could Ross’ spot be in jeopardy? Will another team claim James if he is waived?
Special Teams: I like the kicking game. We know David Wilson is a dangerous kick returner and Michael Cox has flashed in that area. I think the punt returning spot is much more unsettled. Is the job Hosley’s? I think the Giants have a nice mix of headhunters on the coverage teams. This is an area where the Giants may actually out-play opposing teams.