Preseason Game Preview: New York Giants at Cleveland Browns, August 21, 2017
The second preseason game is a much more serious affair than the first. All of the team’s healthy starters should play, providing a better indication of where this team is at and potential trouble spots. You may or may not think it is premature to worry about aspects of the team, but there are early indications that the offensive line and running game could be issues once again. Defensively, the team looks strong but there are concerns about depth in the secondary. Of course, many eyes will be on Aldrick Rosas and whether or not he can be relied upon.
THE INJURY REPORT:
- RB Shaun Draughn (ankle)
- WR Dwayne Harris (upper body)
- WR Darius Powe (hamstring)
- LB Keenan Robinson (concussion)
- LB Mark Herzlich (stinger)
- LB J.T. Thomas (knee)
- CB Eli Apple (ankle)
- S Duke Ihenacho (hamstring)
- S Ryan Murphy (lower body)
NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
The blocking up front remains a concern. Against the Steelers, center Weston Richburg and right guard John Jerry did not have good games. And tackles Ereck Flowers and Bobby Hart have been inconsistent in practice. The running game against the Steelers was putrid despite Ben McAdoo’s desire to focus on that aspect of the offense. There are still questions about whether or not Paul Perkins is a legitimate NFL starter.
We should get our first look at the real first-team offense with Eli Manning at quarterback and Odell Beckham, Brandon Marshall, and Sterling Shepard at wide receiver. Much attention will be on how the offensive line protects Eli and opens up holes for Perkins. Can the line provide Manning with enough time to utilize all of his dangerous weapons? Can the running game keep him out of 2nd-and-10 and 3rd-and-9 situations? When this offense is in true regular-season mode, Shane Vereen is the third-down back and a feature in the passing game. We’ll probably get a good indication on how seriously the Giants are taking this game by how much Vereen plays (Vereen tends to get nicked up so the Giants probably won’t play him all that much). It will be interesting to see if the Giants also send tight end Evan Engram on more vertical routes or whether the team is “hiding” that for the regular season. Up front, now is the time for D.J. Fluker to make a serious push for playing time. Jerry has opened the door for him. Jerry is the better pass protector and Fluker the better run blocker.
In terms of competition for roster spots, Geno Smith seemed to take the lead in the quarterback battle over Josh Johnson, but Smith made a stupid killer mistake in the Steelers game. Smith can solidify his chances with a sound game. If Johnson out-plays Smith in Cleveland, things will start to get a bit dicey. It will be interesting to see if Davis Webb plays in the second or third preseason games. Snaps are limited.
Among the tight ends and receivers, Matt LaCosse has been a camp all-star again, but we need to see it in games. Right now, it looks like Rhett Ellison, Evan Engram, and Jerell Adams are the locks with LaCosse and Will Tye on the bubble. Things are more cloudy at wide receiver once you get past the top four of Beckham, Marshall, Shepard, and Dwayne Harris. Tavarres King was a favorite at one point, but he has missed a lot of time due to an ankle injury. Roger Lewis is coming off a bad game and remains inconsistent. Darius Powe now has a hamstring issue. Travis Rudolph just may not have enough athletic ability. Could someone like Jerome Lane now sneak into the picture? On the line, much attention will be focused on back-up tackles Adam Bisnowaty and Chad Wheeler again. Both had rough moments against Pittsburgh.
NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
The starters looked good against the Steelers, but keep in mind that Pittsburgh also sat their starting quarterback and best weapons. The Giants appear to be in good shape with multiple all-stars on the defensive line and in the secondary. But depth at safety (3rd and 4th safeties) and cornerback (5th corner) remain areas of concern. The linebacking unit has also been a bit nicked up.
Up front, the concerns about the defensive tackle spot alongside Damon Harrison appears to be diminishing with the strong efforts of Jay Bromley and Dalvin Tomlinson. Robert Thomas missed the first preseason game and should now get a chance to show his wares. Jason Pierre-Paul also did not play against the Steelers. Olivier Vernon looks set for a big year. But again, is there a back-up pass rusher on this team? Kerry Wynn had a strong game last week. Can he build upon it?
At linebacker, B.J. Goodson was a bit inconsistent, but he looks much more athletic this preseason. Combine that with his physical, aggressive nature and the Giants are willing to live with some growing pains there. What is interesting is that Calvin Munson appears to be making a serious push for a roster spot.
Landon Collins was all over the field against the Steelers. He’s one of those guys you want to get out of the game as soon as possible. He’s ready. Darian Thompson will be the other starter. Regardless of his upside, Andrew Adams is the primary back-up here. Nat Berhe is coming off a rough game and time may be running out on him. If Eric Pinkins makes it, it may be solely for special teams. I’m not sure the 4th safety is on this team yet. And I’m not sure the Giants really want Adams being the primary back-up. At corner, the big story is the emergence of Michael Hunter as a viable NFL cornerback. If he truly pans out, the Giants are in very good shape and ideally only need to find that 5th corner in case injuries start piling up. Valentino Blake and DaShaun Amos are coming off a rough game. The coaches seem to like Donte Deayon but he doesn’t offer and special teams value.
NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
Both Aldrick Rosas and Mike Nugent went 2-for-2 last week and both hit long field goals, though Rosas was more impressive with his 52 yarder in the rain. In the event of a tie, one would think the Giants would go with youth over the fading veteran. But we shall see. The Giants did not use Dwayne Harris last week. Will they continue to keep him in bubble wrap in the preseason? (He had the hell beat out of him last year).
FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Ben McAdoo on the second preseason game: “We want to stack some success with the way the game management went last week. We had 11 guys on the field each play, and that is easier said than done in the first preseason game. And just keep continuing to build. Go good to great on defense. Offense, be more productive. We are going to have everybody in the mix there and special teams, continue to improve.”
THE FINAL WORD:
My focus will be on pass protection and the running game on offense. I’m starting to get worried about both these areas again. Defensively, can Jay Bromley and Kerry Wynn string together two good games? What do the Giants have in Robert Thomas? How worried should we be about the back-up safeties? Of course, the field goal battle is a primary focal point. This is actually one of those games where you may want to see drives stall in enemy territory so you can get a better read on Rosas.