Aug 282021
 
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Trent Harris, New York Giants (August 22, 2021)

Trent Harris – © USA TODAY Sports

THE STORYLINE:
Preseason is much different now. Aside the obvious of it being reduced to three games, it is becoming clear that many coaches see joint practices as more important. For the Giants, another major difference is the last preseason game, and not the third preseason game in the old 4-game format, is now the primary dress rehearsal. For those who have not been paying attention, this is the FIRST and ONLY time that most of the starters will play in the preseason. The only first-string unit to receive playing time up to now was the offensive line, which only got in a couple of series against the Jets in the first game. That’s crazy. The game has changed.

THE INJURY REPORT:
Since Coach Judge usually does not provide much information on injuries, we don’t really know the true status of most of the people listed below. Some may play. Judge has said Barkley, Golladay, and Rudolph will not. Robinson is still on the PUP. It’s not likely we will see Toney, Ross, Mack, Lemieux, and Adoree’ Jackson.

  • RB Saquon Barkley (knee)
  • WR Kenny Golladay (hamstring)
  • WR Kadarius Toney (unknown)
  • WR John Ross (hamstring?)
  • WR Austin Mack (hamstring?)
  • TE Kyle Rudolph (foot)
  • OG Shane Lemieux (knee)
  • OT Nate Solder (shoulder?)
  • NT Danny Shelton (unknown)
  • LB Tae Crowder (unknown)
  • LB Elerson Smith (hamstring)
  • CB Adoree’ Jackson (ankle)
  • CB Aaron Robinson (core muscle)
  • CB Josh Jackson (unknown)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
On paper, the Giants had a strong offseason. Coming off a dreadful offensive performance in 2020, the team added WR Kenny Golladay, WR Kadarius Toney, TE Kyle Rudolph, WR John Ross, RB Devontae Booker, and RB Corey Clement to upgrade that side of the ball. They also tweaked the offensive line by signing Zach Fulton and Joe Looney.

But those plans have unravelled. Fulton and Looney retired and the Giants were forced to scramble and sign 34-year old Ted Larsen late in camp. Golladay and Ross have been out all month with hamstring pulls, receiving very little practice time. Toney has been a train wreck, for all intents and purposes not practicing since the team drafted him due to COVID and unknown issues. Rudolph has been brought along slowly as expected, but it is still unknown when he will be able to be a significant contributor. On top of all of this, the team’s most dangerous play-maker, Saquon Barkley, has yet to allowed to practice with contact. When he first plays, Barkley will likely be on a low pitch count.

What this all means is that, as of late August, the Giants’ offense remains eerily similar to the unit that finished 31st last year. Golden Tate is gone, but Darius Slayton, Sterling Shepard, and Evan Engram are the main targets for 3rd-year quarterback Daniel Jones. Oddly, Judge decided not to give the embattled Jones any playing time this preseason until this game. Until Barkley is fully back, Booker, Clement, and possibly fullback Eli Penny will receive the bulk of the carries. They won’t scare many teams.

Then comes the offensive line. Not only were the depth losses of Fulton and Looney unexpected, but the Giants lost starting left guard Shane Lemieux for all of camp and the preseason with a knee injury that he still has not completely recovered from. Lemieux needed that practice time. We don’t even know if he will be ready for the opener. On top of that, the starting unit has only played in a couple of series up until this point. Matt Peart has been up-and-down. Lemieux’s replacement, the 33-year old Kenny Wiggins, has struggled.

It’s not a rosy picture. Things can rapidly change when and if Barkley is nearing full strength and Golladay, Toney, and Rudolph return. But they will be rusty and not completely in sync with Jones. Helmuth von Moltke once famously said, “No battle plan survives first contact with the enemy.” Well, the Giants plans didn’t even survive camp. Coach Judge and his coaching staff will have to adjust. There are some very tough defenses coming up to start the season.

So with some understanding, fans are going to overreact to what they see on Sunday against the Patriots. After all, this will be only time we’ll see the first-string offense before the real bullets fly. If the Giants struggle to move the ball and score in the first half, The Corner Forum is going to be pretty ugly.

The second half of this game will be last hurrah for many. On Tuesday, the Giants must remove 27 players from the roster. The most interesting decisions will probably be at wide receiver.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
The Giants fielded a surprisingly strong defense under apparent Miami Dolphin castoff Patrick Graham last season. On paper, the Giants look like they have upgraded that unit too with the additions of CB Adoree’ Jackson, NT Danny Shelton, LB Reggie Ragland, LB Ifeadi Odenigbo, LB Azeez Ojulari, CB Aaron Robinson, and LB Elerson Smith. Unfortunately, Robinson and Smith have missed all of camp and the preseason and are way, way behind. On the positive side, 6th-round CB Rodarius Williams has been a pleasant surprise to the coaches, even though he has been up-and-down.

Still, the defense appears to be the strength of this team, with a strong defensive line and secondary. The Giants have a very good inside linebacker in Blake Martinez. Tae Crowder and Reggie Ragland will likely battle for playing time at the other spot. Crowder has been nagged by an unknown injury and we don’t know if he will play on Sunday.

The most interesting decisions will come at outside linebacker. Is rookie Azeez Ojulari an opening day starter along with Lorenzo Carter? Oshane Ximines has flashed as a pass rusher, but appears to still have issues setting the edge in run defense. Trent Harris is making a strong push to remain on the team. How does the team handle Elerson Smith, who has missed way too much time? Then there is Ifeadi Odenigbo, Cam Brown, Carter Coughlin, and Niko Lalos. Since Brown and Coughlin have received time inside, that could create room for others.

One of the pleasant surprises of camp has been the performance of two guys who were regarded as camp fodder on the defense line: Raymond Johnson and David Moa. Is there room for both on the roster?

Fans will not get a true good look at their secondary on Sunday since Adoree’ Jackson will likely be out. Also, keep in mind the team felt Aaron Robinson was a 1st-round talent, and he is still on the PUP. The biggest concern right now is the slot corner spot. Darnay Holmes has been a bit shaky. He could be pressed by Julian Love if necessary, but this where the team also misses Robinson. The coaches seem to really like Rodarius Williams, but he’s been up and down. He is still learning. What do the Giants have in recently-acquired (by trade) Keion Crossen and Josh Jackson? Jackson’s been hurt. If he gets cut, the team may have been better of keeping Isaac Yiadom in the short term.

Nevertheless, with the Giants being able to field James Bradberry, Adoree’ Jackson, Jabrill Peppers, Logan Ryan, Xavier McKinney, this unit should excel. The team just needs to settle down the slot corner spot.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
As expected, Ryan Santoso was traded. Another pick was added to the 2022 NFL Draft (now up to 11 picks). The kickers and long snapper are the same from last year. What we still don’t know is who will be actually returning punts and kickoffs on opening day when the games count. The unofficial depth chart says Jabrill Peppers and John Ross. Will the Giants want to risk Peppers in that role? Ross may not even make the team.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Head Coach Joe Judge on the final preseason game:We’re going to handle this as truly the dress rehearsal for the season. We expect to play the majority of our players for a minimum of one half. We’re going to make sure there’s some key positions where we have to see some guys with a little bit of an extended exposure and make the right decision on the roster. There’s still some jobs that are very competitive for the final 53. We’ll make sure we have enough film and evidence and exposure to make the right decision.

THE FINAL WORD:
The only time fans get to see the first team in a true dress rehearsal is the final game of the preseason. Different times. I hope Coach Judge has this team ready in two weeks. There are a lot of parts missing.

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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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