Game Preview: Miami Dolphins at New York Giants, August 12, 2016
Experienced fans understand that the first preseason game is nothing more than a glorified scrimmage. But this first game has a far deeper meaning. For the first time in 12 years, a new head coach for the New York Giants will be walking the sidelines. The three most successful head coaches in franchise history were Steve Owen (24 years), Bill Parcells (8 years), and Tom Coughlin (12 years). Will Ben McAdoo become a franchise fixture, lasting 10+ years or will he be gone in three years? Nothing is given. No one knows the answer to that question.
Some young Giants fans have known nothing but Tom Coughlin. They can’t remember a day when he wasn’t the head coach walking the sideline. Or they have a hazy memory of Jim Fassel or Dan Reeves. Love or hate Tom Coughlin, he knew how to run the ship. Everything was organized. The Giants were a well-run machine. On Friday night against the Miami Dolphins, we’ll receive our very first impression of how tight a ship Ben McAdoo operates. The first preseason game is often sloppy, but we want to see things run generally smoothly. Disorderly and undisciplined teams usually do not succeed.
The starters will only play about 15 snaps. This first game will be more important for the current reserves who are either trying to push for starting playing time or simply trying to make the team.
THE INJURY REPORT:
- DT Jay Bromley (ankle – on the PUP)
- LB J.T. Thomas (hamstring – on the PUP)
- WR Victor Cruz (groin)
- DE Kerry Wynn (groin)
- LB Keenan Robinson (groin)
NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
WR Victor Cruz will not play and with each passing day, one wonders if he will ever be the same player again. Indeed, it may not be a given that he makes the team. Cruz has yet to make much noise in training camp and the clock is ticking. 2011-12 was a long time ago.
The quarterbacks in 2016 will be Eli Manning and Ryan Nassib again. The starting offensive line returns intact. So does the running back corps plus Paul Perkins. There is more competition at tight end but the front runners likely remain Larry Donnell and Will Tye. The key difference between the 2015 and 2016 New York Giants on offense appears to be the subtraction of WR Rueben Randle and the addition of WR Sterling Shepard – which appears to be a huge upgrade.
The leading wide receivers for New York in 2015 were Odell Beckham (96 catches for 1,450 yards and 13 touchdowns), Randle (57 catches for 797 yards and 8 touchdowns), and Dwayne Harris (36 catches for 396 yards and 4 touchdowns). No other wide receiver on the roster had more than seven catches! The hope here is that Shepard becomes an instant impact player who is able to take pressure off of Beckham. The Giants also need a productive Cruz to return or another receiver to step up and produce as the third receiver. The chief candidates right now are Geremy Davis, Myles White, Tavarres King, Roger Lewis, and Darius Powe. Are these just guys or is there someone here who can serve as a legitimate threat?
Beyond the receiver concerns, the main focus on offense will be for jobs and playing time behind the starters. There are a lot of bodies at running back and tight end. After Rashad Jennings and Shane Vereen, who will receive the few remaining touches at running back? Andre Williams, Orleans Darkwa, Paul Perkins, or Bobby Rainey? Ben McAdoo loves to employ tight ends in multiple packages. I expect four tight ends to make the roster. Will Johnson is a jack-of-all-trades player who can play fullback, H-Back, and tight end. Aside from Donnell and Tye, Matt LaCosse has been making noise in camp. Does Nikita Whitlock have a role on this team?
Then there is the ever-present concern about depth and competition on the offensive line. At this point, it appears the same five starters will remain intact in 2016. But the back-ups – who could quickly become important in the event of an injury – are relatively unknown and unproven. The primary candidates right now are Bobby Hart, Byron Stingily, Ryan Seymour, Emmett Cleary, Shane McDermott, and Adam Gettis. Who? The performance of the second-team offensive line will be something to concentrate on during the game.
NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
The New York Giants were a disaster on defense in 2015. The team could not stop the run or the pass. The Giants were statistically dead last in the NFL and one of the worst in NFL history. In reality, except for spurts here and there (notably the 2011 playoff run), the Giants haven’t been playing good defense for years. Indeed, there is an entire generation of young Giants fans who have no idea what consistently good Giants defense looks like. It’s an embarrassment for a franchise that prided itself on good defense even during bad years.
The pressure is on Steve Spagnuolo to deliver at least a middle-of-the-pack defense. The Giants spent big bucks in free agency and invested much in the draft on defense. DE Olivier Vernon, DT Damon Harrison, CB Janoris Jenkins, CB Leon Hall, CB Eli Apple, and FS Darian Thompson were added. Much is expected from second- and third-year players like DE Owamagbe Odighizuwa, LB Devon Kennard, and S Landon Collins. Keenan Robinson, Kelvin Sheppard, and B.J. Goodson were also added to the linebacking corps.
The primary challenge of course is to get everyone playing cohesive and effective defense as soon as possible. There will be at least four new starters with many new faces also receiving a lot of playing time like Leon Hall at slot corner. Who will the middle linebacker be? Jasper Brinkley, Kelvin Sheppard, or Keenan Robinson? J.T. Thomas’ hamstring injury has sidelined him for all of training camp and Jonathan Casillas appears to have taken over his outside job. Can Kennard stay healthy?
With a plethora of quality defensive backs, one would expect Spagnuolo to use packages that take advantage of Apple and Hall in addition to Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Jenkins. It will be interesting to see how rookie safety Thompson performs as the new starter and Collins as a second-year player in a more natural strong safety position. Time is running out on guys like Nat Berhe, Mykkele Thompson, Cooper Taylor, and Bennett Jackson.
Up front, Jay Bromley’s late ankle surgery has really set him back. Much was expected of him as a reserve. Can he catch up? Who now are the primary back-ups behind Johnathan Hankins and Harrison? Greg Milhouse is a rookie to watch. The Giants also need quality reserve minutes from Odighizuwa and a 4th defensive end – Kerry Wynn, Stansly Maponga, or Romeo Okwara.
NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
This is an area where there is very little change. The kickers remain Josh Brown and Brad Wing. Dwayne Harris is the primary returner. Tom Quinn has been the special teams coordinator since 2007. Dwayne Stukes is his new assistant. While the New York Giants were vastly improved on special teams in 2015, special teams snafus still were a factor in a number of defeats. That needs to be cleaned up.
FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Ben McAdoo on Preseason Playing Time: “We’re going to be consistent. We’re going treat every guy differently. We’re going to take every player case by case. We’ll start with the first group, probably, for maybe 15 plays or so and then either dial it back or push it forward based on what we need to see and what we want to see.”
THE FINAL WORD:
The #1 concern is always coming out of the preseason healthy. In addition to that, what we need to see is how well run the entire operation is under the new head coach. Who will call the offensive plays now? If it is McAdoo, can he handle that responsibility in addition to his head coaching duties? The Giants need to find other offensive threats to complement Odell Beckham. Sterling Shepard is hopefully one piece. Defensively, who are the leaders? Can this team quickly jump from dead last to at least middle-of-the-pack defensively?