Aug 082014
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (August 3, 2014)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Pittsburgh Steelers at New York Giants, August 9 , 2014

It’s a gradual learning process with the New York Giants this season as the offense continues to learn Ben McAdoo’s new West Coast scheme. Sunday’s Hall of Fame game was a taste. Saturday’s game versus Pittsburgh should be the appetizer.

THE STORYLINE:
Progress. Progress. Progress. Last week versus the Buffalo Bills, the Giants’ starting offense took the field for three possessions. Two looks very bad, one looked very good. The good one came against the Buffalo’s No. 2 defense. Tom Coughlin said on Tuesday the Giants installed two new elements of the offense in practice this week. Is there an improvement with the starters? We’ll see.

FOUR DOWNS:

Andre Williams, New York Giants (August 3, 2014)

Andre Williams – © USA TODAY Sports Images

First Down
Who’s the Giants’ No. 2 running back?
When David Wilson announced his retirement, it ended the career of a promising back far too soon, but it also opened up questions on who exactly will be spelling Rashad Jennings. Andre Williams flashed in Canton, but he hasn’t proven he can catch. Peyton Hillis has proven he can be a serviceable back, but he’s dealing with an ankle injury. Kendall Gaskins and Michael Cox? The two had a combined 22 carries a year ago. Can someone from this group step up?

Second Down
Can Charles James II handle punt return duties?
When Giants’ special teams coordinator Tom Quinn spoke to the media last week, he said Charles James II and Preston Parker would get extended looks as a punt returner with Odell Beckham Jr. and Trindon Holliday ailing. Holliday is no sure bet to make the team, James isn’t exactly a lock either. The chance to show his value on special teams should be music to his ears for the young corner. If James can show he can be a serviceable returner, reliable with the chance at a big return every now and then, it could go a long way for him making the team. He’s on the bubble as a corner, being a returner could be just the edge James needs.

Third Down
Will the first-team offensive line and tight end be able to generate running room for Rashad Jennings?
Last week, the answer was no. Last year, Eli Manning found himself constantly in 3rd-and-long situations because the Giants had no running game. The Steelers will be a good test.

Fourth Down
Can the first-team defensive line generate a pass rush?
Last week, the answer was again no. The Giants need to see more of pass rush from Jason Pierre-Paul, Mathias Kiwanuka, Cullen Jenkins, and Johnathan Hankins.

Michael Cox, New York Giants (August 3, 2014)

Michael Cox – © USA TODAY Sports Images

PLAYERS TO WATCH:
Connor Hughes – RB Michael Cox
Playing with some very, very bad offensive linemen in front of him, Michael Cox flashed versus the Bills on Sunday. The one play that stood out to me was the screen pass in which he applied a perfect chip bock, then took a few steps up, caught the ball and picked up a good gain. With Hillis ailing and Wilson retired, Cox should see extended reps at running back. This is his chance to not only prove he deserves a spot on the final 53-man roster, but a role on the offense as well. There are reps to be had, Cox needs to grab them. If he can’t? Well, there could be a roster move made next week to bring in another body.

Eric Kennedy – WR Rueben Randle
We heard last  year at camp how great Randle was doing. We’ve heard that times this year as well. Last week, Randle didn’t have a pass thrown in his direction. In 2013, Randle played in all 16 games but he only averaged 2.5 catches per game, did not score in the last six games of the season, and only had one 100-yard receiving game all year (the opener). With Hakeem Nicks gone, Rueben is being penciled in as the the starting split end or X-receiver. He’s got to be a guy who can get open and make plays against top cornerbacks. If not, teams will constantly double Cruz. Who knows when Odell Beckham will be able to play, and how productive he will be since he is so far behind? Randle needs to prove he can do it.

THE INJURY REPORT:

• Jon Beason (PUP LIST/foot/out)
• Will Beatty (pre-planned/leg/out)
• Trumaine McBride (pre-planned/hip/out)
• Odell Beckham Jr. (hamstring/out)
• Xavier Grimble (hamstring/tbd)
• Geoff Schwartz (knee/tbd)
• Mike Patterson (shoulder/tbd)
• Trindon Holliday (leg/out)

FROM THE COACHES MOUTH:
Tom Coughlin: (on how he manages a second preseason game when for many its their first) “If there is a normal role, I suppose you are describing it. Our guys will play the same amount or maybe a little bit more than they did before. I still want to see, if we can, everyone who is dressed. If they are able to play, I would like to see them all.”

THE FINAL WORD:
Connor Hughes – There was promise shown in Canton, now it’s time to build on that and develop consistency. I want to see what Eli Manning looks like another week into the offense. I want to see an improvement amongst the offensive line. I want to see if Marcus Harris can continue to move what he’s shown in training camp to the game day field. But more importantly, as the story line says, I just want to see progress. Because I got the score right last week, although teams wrong, I’m picking again :)
Giants 20 – Steelers 14

Eric Kennedy – On the offensive side of the ball, I still expect growing pains (ups and downs) with Eli Manning and the new offense. But he’s still not my #1 concern. My number one concern is do the Giants still have enough offensive weapons to really scare other teams. We have Cruz. But we don’t have a tight end. I’m not sure we have a starting split end (Randle has to show me; how far behind is Beckham?). I like the running backs, but losing David Wilson takes away the home-run hitter who I think would have done very well in Ben McAdoo’s offense. When will Will Beatty be able to play a full game? And how will he rebound? Do we have a starting-caliber right guard? Defensively, everyone has been saying JPP is back, but we haven’t seen it yet. Can these ends rush the passer?
Steelers 20 – Giants – 13

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Connor Hughes/BBI

Connor Hughes has been working in both the broadcasting and journalism fields for the last seven years. His work has been heard on WMCX, WBZC and Lenape District Television, while read on the pages of The Star-Ledger and The Burlington County Times. Connor can be reached via email ([email protected]) or on twitter (@Connor_J_Hughes)

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