Game Preview: New York Giants at Buffalo Bills, August 20, 2016
Normally the two most important preseason games for the starters in terms of regular-season preparation are the third and second preseason games. Minus a number of injured starters, we should get a much better impression of the starting offensive and defensive units this week. In addition, Rex Ryan usually takes preseason games more seriously.
THE INJURY REPORT:
- LB J.T. Thomas (hamstring – on the PUP – did not make trip)
- WR Victor Cruz (groin)
- WR Geremy Davis (hamstring – did not make trip)
- TE Will Johnson (burner – did not make trip)
- LG Justin Pugh (shoulder)
- DE Kerry Wynn (groin – did not make trip)
- CB Eli Apple (strained leg muscle)
- CB Leon McFadden (bruised lower leg – did not make trip)
NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
This week the Giants offense will benefit from the addition of its two best players: Eli Manning and Odell Beckham. Unfortunately, the clock is ticking on Victor Cruz and the coaching staff must now operate under the assumption that Cruz will not be a factor for at least the first part of the season and perhaps beyond. Making matters worse is that the favorite to replace Cruz in three-wide receiver sets – Geremy Davis – has been missing valuable practice and now game time with a hamstring injury. Keep in mind that Davis is still pretty darn green.
So the attention really shifts to other green receivers such as Tavarres King, Roger Lewis, and Darius Powe – three who didn’t get much of a chance to impress last week due to crappy quarterbacking from Ryan Nassib. Unless one of these three or Myles White shines and gains the trust of Ben McAdoo and Eli Manning, the third receiver on opening day may remain Dwayne Harris. In this offense, the third receiver is a de facto starter.
On the running back front, it appears Rashad Jennings is 1a and Shane Vereen 1b. Paul Perkins will also make the 53-man roster. Bobby Rainey played earlier than expected last week. He’s vying with Andre Williams and Orleans Darkwa for possibly one roster spot. Personally, I’d like to see a heavy dose of Williams and Darkwa in order to get a better read on those two.
At tight end, Larry Donnell and Will Tye seem to be locks. Matt LaCosse has received a lot of attention from the coaches but he’s battling the ultra versatile Will Johnson (who is out this game) and rookie draft pick Jerell Adams for a roster spot. The Giants may keep four tight ends, but someone has to go other than Ryan Malleck unless the Giants ditch Nikita Whitlock and use Johnson at fullback too.
Justin Pugh (shoulder) made the trip but it is unknown if he will play. If he doesn’t, Bobby Hart will have a busy night, playing with the first-unit at left guard and then the second-unit at right tackle. The starters remain pretty much set. What we don’t know is – other than Hart – who the back-ups will be. There are a bunch of journeymen no-names in this group who have yet to inspire a lot of confidence. Depth on the offensive line is a serious concern.
On a final note, Ryan Nassib simply stunk last week. He’s a lock to make the roster, but he has to play with a lot more confidence and credibility.
NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
The early returns with the starting unit were impressive last week, but that was only one game against a suspect offense. That said, if the Giants defensive line performs as well as it did last week throughout this upcoming season, the Giants are in good shape. The front was tough against the run and able to pressure the passer without bringing extra rushers. That’s huge.
The Giants also appear to have a nice battle brewing at back-up defensive end. Owamagbe Odighizuwa and Romeo Okwara not only flashed as pass rushers, but they showed a great deal of versatility by being able to play defensive tackle in pass-rush situations. Kerry Wynn – who was doing some nice things at camp before getting hurt – has missed a lot of time with a groin injury. Even Stansly Maponga and Mike Rose have flashed some.
Depth at defensive tackle behind Damon Harrison and Johnathan Hankins is more shaky. Jay Bromley is finally back after late offseason ankle surgery. The Giants very much need him to come into his own this year. Greg Milhouse, Jermelle Cudjo, Davon Coleman, Louis Nix, and Montori Hughes are probably battling for one roster spot.
It’s still not known who the Giants middle linebacker and principle defensive front-seven signal-caller will be on opening night. Kelvin Sheppard and Jasper Brinkley are the leading contenders. Jonathan Casillas has taken full advantage of J.T. Thomas’ (hamstring) absence and appears firmly entrenched as a starter and nickel linebacker. Keenan Robinson also has seen a lot of time with the nickel defense. We get our first look at him this week as he missed last week with an injury. Devon Kennard was very quiet in the first preseason game. B.J. Goodson had a mostly positive game and was in on a lot of tackles, but he needs to show more in coverage. This appears to be a deep group, but are there any consistent play makers?
The secondary is shaking up to be a strong unit. Eli Apple (leg) made the trip but it remains to be seen if he plays. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Janoris Jenkins weren’t even tested in the preseason opener. Ben McAdoo said rookie free safety Darian Thompson was virtually perfect in his assignments. I’d like to see more flash out of Landon Collins. The Giants invested a high #2 in him. The nickel corner spot has been dramatically upgraded with the addition of Leon Hall. With Leon McFadden out, Donte Deayon should see a lot of action, and possibly Bennett Jackson, at corner. I still don’t have a good sense of whether or not the Giants have an NFL-caliber back-up safeties. Nat Berhe, Cooper Taylor, Mykkele Thompson, and Andrew Adams all had their ups and downs last week. This is an important game for them.
NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
The one-game suspension of Josh Brown and ensuing media controversy about his domestic violence past may be upsetting the apple cart here. Is Tom Obarski the guy you want kicking against the Cowboys with the game on the line in the opener? Will the media storm surrounding Brown die away or force the team’s hand? Often unrecognized by fans is that the Giants have a heck of a punter in Brad Wing now. That was a good trade last year. Team punt coverage last week was very shoddy and needs to improve.
FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Ben McAdoo on the Second Preseason Game: “It’s good to get the first group out there. A chance to knock the rust off. We played a few snaps in that first game but to get out there with Eli and Odell and get the whole group together and work the instincts. Anticipation is exciting.”
THE FINAL WORD:
The Giants were too sloppy last week. Hopefully that starts getting cleaned up as we progress towards the regular-season opener. Mike Sullivan called the plays. Will that continue? Who will be the middle linebacker? Who is the #3 wide receiver on this team? If Landon Collins or Darian Thompson get hurt, who is the primary back-up at safety?