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Eli Manning, New York Giants (November 11, 2012)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants at Cincinnati Bengals, August 14, 2015

THE STORYLINE:
Fans often read too much into the first preseason game, which is basically nothing more than a glorified scrimmage. The point is not so much to win – though that is nice – but to simply get some quality full-speed, full-contact practice reps against a different opponent. The starters usually only play for part of the first quarter before giving way to the second- and third-teamers.

In 2014, the Bengals were a 10-5-1 playoff team in a very tough division. The two days of practice plus this preseason game should serve the Giants well in preparing for the 2015 season.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • WR Victor Cruz (recovering from knee surgery – will not play)
  • WR Rueben Randle (knee tendinitis – questionable)
  • CB Prince Amukamara (groin – will not play)
  • CB Chykie Brown (knee – will not play)
  • OG Geoff Schwartz (ankle – will not play)
  • LT Will Beatty (pectoral – on PUP and will not play)
  • LB Jameel McClain (neck – will not play)
  • S Nat Berhe (calf – will not play)

FOUR DOWNS:
First Down
How will the offensive line perform?
On paper, the New York Giants offense looks set except for one major exception: the offensive line. Barring injury, left tackle Ereck Flowers, left guard Justin Pugh, and center Weston Richburg should eventually become stalwarts. But it is unusual for a rookie to start at left tackle and do well in his first season. And there are major question marks on the right side of the line. Geoff Schwartz seems more interested in interviews and his twitter account than getting back onto the playing field. John Jerry was extremely inconsistent in 2014 at right guard. And right tackle Marshall Newhouse has been discarded by two teams that benched him. There are also serious reservations about the team’s depth. Do any of the the young reserves have NFL talent? It’s been a long time since Offensive Line Coach Pat Flaherty as turned one of the reserves into a legitimate starter.

Second Down
Can the defense stop the run?
The Giants were dead last in the NFL in 2014 in run defense in terms of yards allowed per rush. Teams that can’t stop the run usually lose, and lose a lot. The Bengals were 6th in the NFL in rushing the football in 2014. This will be a good test for the defensive line, particularly the defensive ends. Those who perform best against the run at both tackle and end are far more likely to start when the real bullets starting flying. It will also be interesting to see how the revamped linebacking and safety corps perform in run defense.

Third Down
Who will do well or poorly at cornerback?
With no Prince Amukamara (groin) and Chykie Brown (knee), Jayron Hosley has been starting with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie this week. He’s been up and down. The Bengals have very good wide receivers, led by A.J. Green and Mohamed Sanu. The Giants have a bunch of question marks after Amukmara and DRC. Who will take advantage of the opportunity? Or will the third/fourth cornerback positions be a sore spot all season for New York?

Fourth Down
How will the new safeties perform?
Outside of veteran journeyman Jeromy Miles, the safeties are very young and green as grass. There is talent, but opposing teams will test their inexperience throughout the upcoming season with play-action, pump fakes, misdirection, and other tactics. It’s assumed that Landon Collins will start at one position, but there is still an open competition at the other spot with Miles and Jackson currently the two leading candidates. Others who could factor into the picture include Mykkele Thompson and Cooper Taylor. Nat Berhe was supposed to be a leading candidate but he remains sidelined with a torn calf muscle.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:
Ereck Flowers
The two tackle spots could be problem spots in 2015. Flowers appears to have the tools and temperament to succeed, but he is very young and raw. It’s a huge risk to entrust Eli Manning’s blindside to a rookie. If Flowers struggles all preseason, the Giants may have to consider shifting Justin Pugh to left tackle.

Marshall Newhouse
Marshall Newhouse is big and athletic, but he simply has not been able to put it all together in his five NFL seasons with two teams. The odds on him turning it around in New York are not good, but he certainly is being handed a wonderful opportunity. If Newhouse struggles, the Giants will have to sign someone or hope one of the younger players such as Brandon Mosley or Bobby Hart can replace him. Moving Geoff Schwartz to right tackle remains a possibility too if he will ever get back on the field.

Jon Beason
The injury-prone Jon Beason is the cerebral and emotional leader of the defense. Can he stay healthy? And if so, have all of the injuries – including the most recent foot injury – sabotaged his mobility to the point where he is now an ineffective player? The Giants need Beason to be a stud against the run and not too bad of a liability in pass defense.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Tom Coughlin (on what he expects from the rookies in the preseason): “Play hard. Play hard. Give great effort, let’s see what you’ve got. Plenty of spots out there to be (taken). You’ve seen the guys that are competing for starting jobs. Hopefully all that is going to do is get better.”

THE FINAL WORD:
The Bengals should win the game because they are the better team with more stability and depth. Also keep in mind that the Giants will be missing a few of their most important players such as Victor Cruz, Prince Amukamara, and Geoff Schwartz. The Giants offense is a much different animal with both Odell Beckham and Cruz in the line-up at the same time. Same with the defense with Rodgers-Cromartie and Amukamara. The most important thing for the Giants – other than avoiding injuries – is to simply see some progress in the offensive line and the defense overall. I expect some rough moments in both areas. The second- and third-team offensive lines could really struggle. And the Bengals have enough offensive weapons to give the Giants undermanned and young secondary problems.

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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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