Preseason Game Preview: New York Giants at New England Patriots, August 29, 2019
The primary goals of the final preseason game are (1) get out as healthy as possible, and (2) make final determinations on roster spots. We already know Eli Manning won’t play. Saquon Barkley is surely a healthy scratch and most starters won’t play or will barely play. Knock on wood, but the Giants have thus far made it through the summer without any serious injuries other than Corey Coleman. That said, the injury report (see below) is fairly long and quite a few players who would have benefited from playing in this game will not play.
THE INJURY REPORT:
The following players are not likely to play on Thursday night:
- RB Rod Smith (adductor)
- WR Golden Tate (concussion)
- WR Sterling Shepard (thumb)
- WR Darius Slayton (hamstring)
- WR Alex Wesley (ankle)
- TE Garrett Dickerson (quad)
- OT Chad Wheeler (back)
- OT George Asafo-Adjei (concussion)
- LB Alec Ogletree (calf)
- CB Antonio Hamilton (groin)
- CB Sam Beal (hamstring)
- S Kenny Ladler (hamstring)
NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
It is believed that the offense will be the stronger side of the ball once the regular season starts. Eli Manning has had a strong summer. He has his best offensive line in almost a decade. The Giants arguably have the best running back in football. Evan Engram can be a real match-up problem for safeties and linebackers. On paper, the wide-receiving corps looks weak and lacks a dynamic deep threat, but they may benefit from the threat of Barkley and Engram.
Manning won’t play on Thursday. Depending on what transpires during the next three months, this may be the final time we see Daniel Jones in a game until August 2020. Don’t take this the wrong way, but he’s due for a “bad game.” Right now, his overall numbers are insane: 25-of-30 (83.3 percent completion rate) for 369 yards and two touchdowns. That’s a 140.1 quarterback rating! That can’t continue. But if he has a decent game on Thursday, his rookie preseason has to be considered a tremendous success.
In terms of the pecking order, Alex Tanney still officially the 3rd-string quarterback with Kyle Lauletta pulling up the rear. Do the Giants carry three quarterbacks? If so, do they part ways already with their 4th-round pick in last year’s draft?
Saquon Barkley is the starter. Wayne Gallman is the back-up. Although he has only touched the ball once this preseason, Elijhaa Penny is the only back on the roster with fullback blocking skills. “I’m very fond of (Penny) because he’s one of the people in this building that, in my opinion, has never had a bad day,” said Pat Shurmur last week. “He’s a little bit of an inspiration to me because he just keeps going. He loves the game and he keeps playing. He’s done some good stuff for us.” Perhaps I’m falling for false praise, but I think he makes it. On the other hand, none of the other backs really impresses me. Paul Perkins has flashed catching the ball, but he plays small. I would not be shocked to see the Giants just carry three backs again. Or perhaps pick someone up off of the waiver wire.
Wide receiver is a bit convoluted because of Golden Tate’s suspension and nagging injuries to Sterling Shepard (thumb) and Darius Slayton (hamstring). Tate will start the season off of the 53-man roster on the suspended list. They won’t IR Slayton because of a hamstring. They will likely carry him on the 53-man roster and hold him inactive for a few weeks on game day. Sterling Shepard should be fine. I originally thought the Giants may only carry five wideouts but now I’m leaning towards six. Until Tate gets back, Cody Latimer and Bennie Fowler will see a lot of playing time. T.J. Jones was only signed when camp started, but he has surprisingly performed well and has veteran starting experience. Unless the Giants carry seven wideouts, that leaves only one spot for Russell Shepard (very good special teams player), Alonzo Russell (good size and has flashed), and Brittan Golden (special teams return ability and has flashed in passing game). I think they go with Russell Shepard. Look for at least one of these guys and Reggie White, Jr. to end up on the Practice Squad.
Evan Engram and Rhett Ellison remain the top two tight ends. But do the Giants carry three or four? Shurmur has praised C.J. Conrad’s blocking. Garrett Dickerson has flashed as a receiver, but is hurt by the fact he probably won’t play in this game. Scott Simonson can block, but he hasn’t helped his cause with some dropped passes.
We know who the starters are. It will be interesting to see if they play a series or two on Thursday with Daniel Jones. Interestingly, Nick Gates and Chad Slade came out of nowhere and seem to have elevated themselves as the primary OL back-ups other than Spencer Pulley. That’s eight; the Giants may keep nine. It was expected that Chad Wheeler (slowed by back issues) and Brian Mihalik (slowed by burner) would have been in the mix, but they may now be both outside looking in. George Asafo-Adjei’s summer was wrecked by a concussion and he is likely headed to IR.
NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
The defense is expected to be the weak spot on the 2019 New York Giants. We shall see. The prevailing narrative is that they should be tough to run on (inconsistent evidence of this in the preseason), have issues rushing the passer (confirmed during the preseason), and field a green secondary that will screw up but get better as the year progresses.
Dalvin Tomlinson, B.J. Hill, and Dexter Lawrence are the starters up front. They will be backed up by R.J. McIntosh and Olsen Pierre. Probably the only real battle here is John Jenkins versus Chris Slayton if the Giants only carry six defensive linemen.
The outside linebackers will be Lorenzo Carter, Markus Golden, Kareem Martin, and Oshane Ximines. The Giants are probably hoping Jake Carlock makes it to the Practice Squad. Inside, Alec Ogletree, Tae Davis, and Ryan Connelly are the sure bets. The tea leaves suggest the Giants are going to mistakenly keep Nate Stupar over B.J. Goodson. Josiah Tauaefa might end up on the Practice Squad.
Sam Beal missed both of his first two training camps. Like Darius Slayton, I think the Giants will carry him on the 53-man roster and keep him inactive until his hamstring is better (he’s finally doing individual drills). Deandre Baker’s knee injury and Antonio Hamilton’s groin injury has also complicated the picture. Based on the preseason pecking order, the coaches obviously like Hamilton more than most fans had expected.
Janoris Jenkins and Deandre Baker will be the starting corners with Grant Haley being the slot corner. Corey Ballentine will make the team, as well as Beal and Hamilton. That makes six. I think the Giants will keep four safeties. Jabrill Peppers and Antoine Bethea will start. Michael Thomas and Julian Love will be the back-ups. I don’t see a spot for Sean Chandler or Kenny Ladler unless the Giants carry 11 defensive backs.
NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
It’s pretty clear the coaches are not happy with the punting situation. The team will probably be scouring the waiver wire. The Corey Coleman injury did impact the return game and it seems like the Giants are still scrambling a bit. I’m still not sure who will be the opening day punt and kickoff returners. They could put Jabrill Peppers back there.
FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Head Coach Pat Shurmur on Benny Fowler and Cody Latimer: “There’s a veteran presence there. They know how to play the game. They played a lot of football, and there’s a confidence that they know what to do, they’ll compete and make plays.”
THE FINAL WORD:
The Giants must reduce the roster from 90 to 53 on Saturday so we will see at least 37 roster moves and probably more.