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Rashad Jennings, New York Giants (November 30, 2014)

Rashad Jennings – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Jacksonville Jaguars at New York Giants, August 22, 2015

THE STORYLINE:
The second preseason game is more serious than the first. The starters will play a bit longer and coaches want to see their players beginning to round into form a bit more. That said, winning the game takes a backseat to getting quality practice reps and working on areas of weakness.

Head Coach Tom Coughlin would like to see much more productivity out of his passing offense than he did last week but that will be tough with Victor Cruz and Rueban Randle once again on the sideline. “Everybody wants to talk about our passing game,” lamented Coughlin earlier this week. “Unless we get out there and practice together, what passing game?” While the offensive line was not the huge issue that some made it out to be last week, the team will be looking for fewer individual breakdowns that sabotaged a number of running plays.

Where the Giants really need to show marked improvement is on defense. The starting defense played horribly against the Cincinnati Bengals, and the back-ups were not all that much better. A Giants defense that has made it mission #1 to stop the run gave up 225 yards rushing in Cincinnati.

With an extensive injury list already, particularly in the secondary, keep your fingers crossed the Giants come out of this game relatively healthy. Not counting safety Mykkele Thompson who is on Injured Reserve, the Giants will be down six defensive backs heading into this contest.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • WR Victor Cruz (calf – will not play)
  • WR Rueben Randle (knee tendinitis – will not play)
  • WR Julian Talley (toe – will not play)
  • OG/OT Brandon Mosley (back – will not play)
  • LT Will Beatty (pectoral – on PUP and will not play)
  • DE George Selvie (knee – will not play)
  • LB Jonathan Casillas  (unknown – will not play)
  • CB Prince Amukamara (groin – will not play)
  • CB Chykie Brown (knee – will not play)
  • CB Jayron Hosley (concussion – will not play)
  • CB Chandler Fenner (injured in practice on Thursday – will not play)
  • S Landon Collins (knee – will not play)
  • S Nat Berhe (calf – will not play)
  • S Cooper Taylor (toe – will not play)

FOUR DOWNS:
First Down
How will the offensive line perform?
We asked this same question last week. The results in Cincinnati were mixed. The first-team offensive line pass protected reasonably well although their performance was aided Eli Manning getting rid of the ball quickly. This week the Giants focused more on their downfield passing attack and Eli may need to hold the ball a bit longer. And the Giants certainly want more consistency and productivity in running the ball with their main backs (Rashad Jennings, Andre Williams, Shane Vereen). Fans will be focusing on left tackle Ereck Flowers, right guard John Jerry, right tackle Marshall Newhouse, and right guard/tackle Geoff Schwartz in particular. Schwartz won’t start, but he should receive a decent amount of playing time.

Second Down
Can the defense stop the run?
We asked this same question last week and the answer was definitely not. The team gave up an unacceptable 225 rushing yards. The Giants not only had issues at the point-of-attack, but the younger defenders were often fooled by misdirection. Jacksonville wants to run the ball so this will be a good test. The Giants must determine who should be starting at defensive tackle alongside Johnathan Hankins in the base defense.

Third Down
Who will do well or poorly at cornerback?
Same question as last week. The good news is that Prince Amukamara (groin) will probably play. The bad news is the Giants are still really thin at corner with injuries to Chykie Brown, Jayron Hosley, and possibly Chandler Fenner. The problem remains for New York – after Amukamara and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, the team has nothing but question marks. Trevin Wade has a nose for the football but he also gives up big plays. Trumaine McBride left last week’s game early with a hamstring issue; he needs to step it up. Other candidates for serious playing time include Mike Harris and Josh Gordy. All will see serious playing time in the second half given the injury situation. Will any take advantage of the opportunity?

Fourth Down
How will the new safeties perform?
Broken record – same question as last week. Landon Collins is missing valuable practice and playing time. Mykkele Thompson – who was receiving some first-team reps – is now gone for the season. Nat Berhe has yet to practice or play this summer. Now Cooper Taylor is hurt again. The starters for this game will likely be Jeromy Miles and Bennett Jackson. Miles didn’t really distinguish himself last week and Jackson was up and down. The only others healthy enough to play are Justin Currie, Justin Halley, and newcomer Brandon Meriweather. It’s not a pretty situation.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:
Markus Kuhn
The coaches and players keep talking up Markus Kuhn, who started against the Bengals, but we have yet to see the improved performance on the playing field. To be fair to Kuhn, defensive tackles often do the dirty work and it’s difficult for them to flash. But one does expect a defender to make an obvious positive play once in a while against the run and pass. Jay Bromley and Kenrick Ellis played better last week – albeit against reserves. With the Giants unlikely to part ways with 3rd rounder Bromley this year, the final defensive tackle spot could be between Kuhn and Ellis. The Giants could possibly keep five defensive tackles, but even given that scenario, it would be extremely difficult for them to activate all five on game day. “The big guys, they set the tone,” Kuhn said. “We have to push back the offensive line, we have to set the new line of scrimmage.”

Marshall Newhouse
It seems like the Giants would like Newhouse to really take hold of the right tackle position, at least until Will Beatty returns in October. That way, Geoff Schwartz and John Jerry can battle it out at right guard with the hope that Schwartz moves Jerry to the bench. But the Giants are hedging their bets here by having Schwartz practice at both right guard and right tackle. Newhouse did not play poorly last week, but the spotlight remains on a player who was benched by his two previous teams. “I have confidence in Marshall, I’ve been around him at a different spot before, and he’s an athletic guy,” said Offensive Coordinator Ben McAdoo this week. “He’s a smart guy and I look forward to him growing in the offense.”

James Jones
Rueben Randle is having a disappointing summer. We haven’t heard much noise when he has practiced and he has missed most of the last two weeks with knee tendinitis. The assumption is that he is on the verge of a breakout season in his contract year, but if the Giants can’t count on him, there may be an opportunity here for someone to move past him on the depth chart. James Jones seems to be coming on. I wouldn’t be shocked if he makes a serious push to become the team’s new third receiver. “He was out of work for a little bit, he’s getting his football legs underneath him, the last two days of practice he’s stood out a little bit, and it’ll be exciting to see him over this next week get out there a perform,” said McAdoo this week.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Tom Coughlin (on the Jacksonville Jaguars): “This weekend will be an outstanding test because you have a team that’s trying to be very physical and wants to run the ball, has a good run defense, so it’ll be a good test.”

THE FINAL WORD:
I’m not sure the Giants will satisfy their fans yet by looking like a well-oiled machine on Saturday night. Hopefully, the starting defense puts up a little resistance this week, but there could be issues with Jeromy Miles and Bennett Jackson as the starting safeties. And down six defensive backs, the secondary could be a problem all night, especially once Amukamara and DRC exit the game. The Giants may frustrate fans by trying to work on their running game against a good run defense, in other words, playing weakness against strength, but that’s the point of preseason. It also hurts that Cruz and Randle will not play. Don’t get too depressed! This is practice.

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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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