Aug 252017
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (December 6, 2015)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Preseason Game Preview: New York Jets at New York Giants, August 26, 2017

THE STORYLINE:
From a fan and media perspective, it is clear this preseason is not going as hoped for the New York Giants. The offense – which struggled to score points in 2016 – has not yet scored a touchdown. The same weak spots in 2016 appear to still be weak spots this preseason, specifically the blocking up front and the inability to generate yards on the ground. And while the Giants have not had any devastating injuries (knock on wood), they have suffered a plethora of nagging injuries that have sabotaged practice time or caused the team to churn the bottom of the roster just in order to have enough players to practice and play in the preseason without exposing starters to unnecessary risk.

The good news? Most fans – including this one – couldn’t possibly tell you what the team’s preseason records in previous years. For most Giants fans, preseason memories are limited to who got hurt (Jason Sehorn) and the occasional breakout performance (Victor Cruz) or bizarre ending (Jack Golden). A year from now, most fans won’t remember a darn thing from the 2017 preseason. What is important is for the team to physically and mentally get ready for the Dallas Cowboys on opening day.

This third preseason game has always been a bitch for the Giants. The Jets and their fans always take this game way too seriously and this is the one game where both teams have been hit by devastating injuries in the past (yes, past performance is no guarantee of future results but I’m superstitious so lay off).

What do we want to see? Stay healthy. See SOME improvement in the running game. Score a touchdown or two.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • WR Odell Beckham, Jr. (ankle)
  • WR Brandon Marshall (shoulder)
  • WR Dwayne Harris (upper body)
  • WR Tavarres King (ankle)
  • LB Keenan Robinson (concussion)
  • LB Mark Herzlich (stinger)
  • LB J.T. Thomas (knee)
  • CB Eli Apple (ankle)
  • CB Michael Hunter (concussion)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
The red flags are there. It appears that the offensive line is still an issue. And the Giants simply cannot run the football. With respect to the line, the alarming thing is that it is not just the tackles who are inconsistent, but the interior of the line has been a problem as well. One of the greatest compliments you can give an offensive line and a coach is that the whole exceeds the sum of the parts. Well with the Giants, it appears the whole is LESS than the sum of the parts. Or perhaps, the Giants really screwed up in their evaluation of the parts. To the point, EVERYONE on the offensive line has to play better. At different points, Ereck Flowers, Bobby Hart, John Jerry, and Weston Richburg have struggled to create holes for the running backs and protect the quarterbacks. They are NOT getting the job done. And worse, the Giants have no fallback plan. The only realistic option to replace Flowers is Justin Pugh, but Pugh has not taken snaps at left tackle. D.J. Fluker has received most of his practice snaps at right guard and does not appear to be a threat to unseat Bobby Hart at all. And Fluker has not received first-team reps at right guard. Brett Jones has not worked with the first team at center, but did receive some first-team reps at right guard in practice this week. The two back-up tackles are green rookies. For better or worse (and right now it is looking like worse), the Giants are pretty much stuck with Flowers-Pugh-Richburg-Jerry-Hart again.

We cannot let Paul Perkins off of the hook either. Yes, he hasn’t had much room to operate. But he also is not creating on his own or running with a great deal of instinctiveness. There has been hesitation to his play. Right now, it is fair to wonder if the Giants truly have a legitimate NFL-quality starting running back on the roster.

So right now, we’re looking at another year of a finesse, pass-first West Coast Offense that has to rely on the short passing game in order to protect Eli Manning and which has trouble even picking up one yard on 3rd-and-1. This is not a physical offense. The Giants will have to cross their fingers that Eli rebounds with a stronger season and that Odell Beckham, Brandon Marshall, Sterling Shepard, Evan Engram, Rhett Ellison, and Shane Vereen can provide match-up problems in the passing game. Yards after the catch will be key.

With four of arguably the Giants five best wide receivers out of this game, don’t expect the offense to look sharp against the Jets.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
Right now, it looks like the Giants are going to sink or swim in 2017 based on the play of their defense. The good news is that the Giants may have an emerging force at linebacker in B.J. Goodson. The guy does something other Giants linebackers haven’t done in years: make plays. If everyone stays relatively healthy (a big if), the addition of a mobile, physical middle linebacker who makes plays to this defense is huge. There will still be growing pains with Goodson, but the arrow is definitely pointing up with him. Now if Darian Thompson can take hold of the free safety position, the Giants will be in great shape on defense.

The biggest worry here is the fact that Keenan Robinson is back in the concussion protocol. He clearly suffered a setback and if he concussed himself again, who knows how long he will be out?  He’s always been an injury-prone player, but he was an underrated performer for the Giants last year in pass coverage. Also keep your fingers crossed that Michael Hunter won’t be out long at cornerback. He has developed nicely and looks to be a serious upgrade over Trevin Wade and Coty Sensabaugh. That 4th cornerback spot is much more important than fans realize, especially with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Eli Apple having a history of missing time.

Ends Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon seem poised for a big season. I hope the Giants don’t risk them much more this preseason. Same with Damon Harrison, Janoris Jenkins, and Landon Collins. I don’t care if the Jets move the ball against our back-ups in a preseason game.

It’s been pointed out by others on BBI, but keep an eye on a couple of relative unknown players who are flying under the radar: DE/DT Jordan Williams and LB Calvin Munson.

With Hunter and possibly Eli Apple out, and Valentino Blake leaving the team, this will be a great opportunity for Donte Deayon to make a push for a roster spot. But since he is such a liability against the run and on specials, he will have to excel in pass coverage. If he doesn’t, the Giants will be keeping an eye on the waiver wire on September 2, and not just at corner, but at safety where the play of Nat Berhe remains a cause for concern.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
Not receiving a lot of press is the fact that while Aldrick Rosas has been perfect this preseason, he has begun to miss more kicks in practice, going 3-for-4 a number of times recently. Stating the obvious, this position is far from settled yet. Dwayne Harris was limited all of 2016 with various injury problems. What is a bit disconcerting is that he has been sidelined for a couple of weeks now with an unidentified “upper body” issue. The Giants not only need him on the field in the return game, but they need him close to 100 percent. Who knows what is wrong with him?

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Ben McAdoo on what he is looking for from an offense missing key components for this game: “I am looking for getting in a little bit of a rhythm. We want to take care of the ball. That’s important to us. We want to play with some physicality, complete the ball and just get a little bit better. Find a way to make some gains this week.”

THE FINAL WORD:
I don’t expect a performance by the Giants that will leave fans feeling terribly good about the state of the team. Too many of the top receivers will be out. The Giants should struggle to run the football against this defense. I’ll feel better when the preseason is past us.

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Eric Kennedy

Eric Kennedy is Editor-in-Chief of BigBlueInteractive.com, a publication of Big Blue Interactive, LLC. Follow @BigBlueInteract on Twitter.

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