Aug 282015
 
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Odell Beckham, New York Giants (August 14, 2015)

Odell Beckham – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Jets at New York Giants, August 29, 2015

THE STORYLINE:
New York Giants fans are in a generally pissy mood. While a number of teams have already been hit hard on the injury front, the Giants have seen over 20 percent of their 90-man roster on the injury report and have already lost four safeties for the season. Throw in the uncertain injury status of important cogs such as Victor Cruz, Rueben Randle, Weston Richburg, and Jon Beason, and Giants fans fear that medical issues will once again sabotage the season. And we have yet to even play the third preseason game!

The third preseason game is the most important dress rehearsal for the regular season. It’s the game where the starters play the longest – usually at least the first half. And it’s the preseason game where coaches want to see positive performances and consistency. Yet as a fan, at this point, I just find myself not caring about that and just praying no one else gets hurt.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • WR Victor Cruz (calf – will not play)
  • WR Rueben Randle (knee – expected to play)
  • RT Marshall Newhouse (ankle – expected to play)
  • OC Weston Richburg (knee – will not play)
  • RT/RG Brandon Mosley (back – will not play)
  • LT Will Beatty (pectoral – on PUP and will not play)
  • DE George Selvie (knee – will not play)
  • LB Jon Beason (knee – will not play)
  • LB Jonathan Casillas (neck – will not play)
  • LB Mark Herzlich (concussion – will not play)
  • CB Chykie Brown (knee – will not play)
  • CB Jayron Hosley (concussion – expected to play)
  • CB Chandler Fenner (hamstring – will not play)
  • S Landon Collins (knee – expected to play)
  • S Nat Berhe (calf – underwent surgery on Friday and will not play)

FOUR DOWNS: No, I’m not lazy… the main questions this team faces remain the same for the third week in a row.

First Down
How will the offensive line perform?
The New York Jets are very talented up front. They are big and physical and this will be a great test for the Giants. Unfortunately, Weston Richburg continues to be bothered by knee tendinitis and did not practice all week. Dallas Reynolds may be starting in his place on Saturday. The Giants have yet to officially move Geoff Schwartz back into the starting line-up at right guard or right tackle either. With the start of the regular season only two weeks away, the offensive line still seems far too unsettled.

Second Down
Can the defense stop the run?
For whatever reason, the coaching staff seems determined to start Cullen Jenkins at defensive end and Markus Kuhn at defensive tackle despite the fact that these two have struggled in holding up at the point-of-attack in the first two preseason games. Fellow starters defensive end Robert Ayers and defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins did not play well against the run against the Jaguars either. If the Jets are able to generate decent yardage totals on the ground on Saturday against the starting group, the alarm bells will start to sound. On the other hand, since the starters for both teams will play the entire first half, we may finally get a better gauge on Jay Bromley, Kenrick Ellis, Owamagbe Odighizuwa, Kerry Wynn, and Damontre Moore if they are allowed some quality reps against the Jets starting offensive line in the first half.

Third Down
Who will do well or poorly at cornerback?
For the first time this preseason, Prince Amukamara will be on the field alongside Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. That’s the good news. The bad news is we still don’t know who the main nickel corner is, as well as who are the primary back-ups at corner in case a starter gets hurt. The under-the-radar injury that has hurt the Giants is the knee injury suffered by Chykie Brown early in training camp. He should return soon, but he has missed valuable practice time. Jayron Hosley returns this week after missing most of the first preseason game and all of the second with a concussion. Hosley is competing for playing time and a roster spot along with Trevin Wade, Trumaine McBride, Mike Harris, Josh Gordy, and Chandler Fenner. Wade seems to the favorite right now among an uninspiring group.

Fourth Down
How will the new safeties perform?
The football gods must be playing a bad joke on the G-Men. Considered by many the weakest position on the team heading into training camp, the Giants have now lost three players who had a legitimate chance to start in Nat Berhe, Bennett Jackson, and Mykkele Thompson. Worse is that two others – Landon Collins and Cooper Taylor – have missed valuable practice time due to injury. Now the penciled-in starters are veteran journeymen Jeromy Miles (who has yet to flash this preseason) and Brandon Meriweather (who was just picked off the NFL scrap heap). Both lack range. The only other two safeties on the roster are rookie free agents who were only signed because of all of the injuries (Justin Halley and C.J. Conway).

PLAYERS TO WATCH:
Brandon Meriweather
The Giants desperately need some good fortunate at safety. What they need is for Brandon Meriweather to demonstrate that he can be a viable NFL starter.

Markus Kuhn
Kuhn has been starting at defensive tackle since the May/June OTA’s, but he has yet to demonstrate why. Unless he shows greater stoutness against the run, the decision-making process of the coaching staff will come into question. Jay Bromley and Kenrick Ellis have played better in the preseason.

Johnathan Hankins
For as much grief as Kuhn has received from fans, Johnathan Hankins hasn’t been making much of an impact against the run either yet this preseason. It’s time for him to start rounding his game into form.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Tom Coughlin on what he wants to see from his offensive football team against the Jets: “It is continued improvement for me. The timing of the passing game is not there yet, and it’s got to happen. I thought our protection did a nice job early on (against the Jaguars). We’ll be tested this week, the Jets have an outstanding pressure package – they also have an outstanding front, a big front, so we are going to be tested with regards to that, too. That brings up the idea of some kind of consistency with your run game. We have got to have that. We had it at times the other night (against the Jaguars); we need it more often but we are going up against a very good front, so those would be the ways, you mentioned offense, where we would be looking to see us make progress.”

THE FINAL WORD:
I hate to admit it, but the injuries are sapping my enthusiasm. The team can’t catch a break. Things could still work out if Landon Collins is as good as advertised, but rookie safeties who miss half the preseason usually don’t excel. The Giants also need Brandon Meriweather to experience an unlikely career renaissance. Can this team stop the run? Can it rush the passer? Can they cover?

Offensively, the injury issues to Victor Cruz and Rueben Randle are not ideal. The top three targets have yet to play in a game together. And the Giants still have not set on what their final offensive line heading into the season will look like. The clock is ticking. The season starts in two weeks.

I feel like the Giants are an Eli Manning or Odell Beckham injury away from a true disaster.

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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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