So far, knock on wood, it’s been a relatively uneventful training camp and preseason for the New York Giants. And that’s the way the franchise prefers it. Keep chugging along, getting ready for the September 10th opener, which is a little over three weeks away.

Head Coach Brian Daboll has not provided any information on who will be playing against the Carolina Panthers. My guess is we will see many of the starters, possibly for as much as a quarter.

The most significant injury this summer has been the concussion suffered by RT Evan Neal on August 4th. Although he officially cleared the concussion protocol on Wednesday, he has not participated in a full-contact practice in two weeks. I think he needs to play on Friday. He’s missed too much valuable practice time.

WR Wan’Dale Robinson (ACL) and CB Aaron Robinson (ACL) remain on the Active/Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) List.

RB Gary Brightwell (unknown), WR Collin Johnson (knee), OL Tyre Phillips (unknown), DL Ryder Anderson (triceps), and LB Cam Brown (unknown) did not practice this week and probably won’t play. WR Cole Beasley (leg) could also be out.

The greatest sense of unease surrounding the team right now remains the offensive line. Evan Neal’s concussion was a big setback. With only a handful of practices and one more preseason game remaining on the schedule, he probably has to play in this game just to get the reps. Expect him to be a bit rusty after missing two weeks of practice. (There was also one report that he tweaked his ankle in practice on Wednesday). At the other tackle spot, Andrew Thomas may get a few reps, but the priority is keeping him healthy. I would expect John Michael Schmitz to play possibly as much as the first half. Again, he needs the reps to acclimatize himself to the pro game.

Other than Neal, there is a great deal of uncertainty at the two guard spots. It’s pretty clear the coaching staff is still trying to determine who starts at both left and right guard. It was assumed before camp started that Mark Glowinski’s starting spot at right guard was safe. That’s not the case as Ben Bredeson is still getting snaps there and at left guard with the first unit. The Giants have not ruled out guard-by-committee approach. Regardless, with three weeks to go before the Cowboys, the Giants don’t know who two of their opening day starters on the offensive line will be. That’s a bit disconcerting.

The performance of the back-ups against the Detroit Lions last Friday also raised some red flags. Part of that was exacerbated by the absence of Tyre Phillips and Devery Hamilton from that game. Phillips will likely miss this game and Hamilton has since been waived/injured. The two worst culprits were tackles Korey Cunningham, who much more was expected out of, and Wyatt Davis, a guard who was playing out of position. The Giants signed offensive tackle Julién Davenport off of the street this week. The ones to watch here are Matt Peart and Korey Cunningham at tackle, Shane Lemieux at center and/or guard, Marcus McKethan at guard and/or tackle, and Joshua Ezeudu and Ben Bredeson at guard. The Giants are likely to keep nine offensive linemen with Thomas, Neal, Schmitz, Bredeson, Glowinski, and Ezeudu being the sure bets. That leaves Phillips (who won’t play), Peart, Cunningham, Lemieux, and McKethan fighting for three spots. A waiver-wire pick-up or trade is also an option.

While there is unease on the offensive line, there is fan confusion at wide receiver. Entering camp, nine different receivers could make a strong case for one of the six or seven roster spots. Collin Johnson’s knee injury may have taken him out of the equation, but Joe Schoen has also indicated that Wan’Dale Robinson won’t start the season on the PUP. So we still have eight players fighting for six, maybe seven openings. One has to figure that Isaiah Hodgins, Parris Campbell, Darius Slayton, Jalin Hyatt, and Wan’Dale Robinson make it. Two guys who fans originally did not think had much of chance – Cole Beasley and Jamison Crowder – stood out against the Detroit Lions. Sterling Shepard has yet to play, but seems to be rounding into form quicker than expected. So who goes? Are any of these guys willing to remain on the Practice Squad?

Likely influencing the discussion at wide receiver is the situation at tight end. Tommy Sweeney has not received enough attention from fans as a possible valuable back-up as a blocking tight end. With the Giants likely to run a lot of 12 personnel this year with both Darren Waller and Daniel Bellinger on the field together, it is very possible the Giants decide to keep four tight ends. That makes it tougher to keep seven wide receivers. It also begs the question is it worth keeping seven wide receivers if much of your base offense is 12 personnel? So the preseason remains very important for guys like Lawrence Cager and Tommy Sweeney. Both could make it. Or the team could let go of one.

Finally, there is a pretty good fight going on at running back too. Saquon Barkley is obviously safe and should not play much. It is very unlikely for the team to part ways with a rookie draft pick (Eric Gray), especially since they seem to grooming him for return duty. Do the Giants keep three or four running backs? If three, and the coaching staff wants Matt Breida on this roster, then James Robinson, Jashaun Corbin, and Gary Brightwell will have to hope for a Practice Squad spot. Brightwell’s injury is not helping his cause for the 53-man roster.

When the Giants landed Deonte Banks, John Michael Schmitz, and Jalin Hyatt with their first three draft picks, fans were ecstatic to the point of largely ignoring the remaining four picks. Eric Gray got some love for being a good value in the 5th round, but the remaining 6th-round and two 7th-round selections seemed more throw-aways at the time. Fast forward to mid-August. 6th rounder Tre Hawkins is seriously pushing for a starting outside corner spot. He looks like the complete package – a big, fast, physical corner who can play press coverage. 7th rounder defensive lineman Jordon Riley has caught the eye of the coaches. Defensive Line Coach Andre Patterson, who has coached a lot of great players over the years, thinks he has the ability to be a good player. The second 7th-rounder, safety Gervarrius Owens, has flashed both in camp and the first preseason game. Right now, the 2023 Draft Class is looking like a home run. Keep that in mind when someone tells you late picks don’t matter.

Last Friday’s preseason game was interesting in that both primary back-up defensive linemen, A’Shawn Robinson and Rakeem Nunez-Roches, did not play. Personally, I’m dying to see them both in action for the first time, as well as continued snaps from Jordon Riley. Add to the mix that D.J. Davidson was just activated from the PUP. He is recovering from an ACL. I’m curious to see if he plays. Ryder Anderson is missing a lot of time, and he may have cost himself a spot.

We also did not see the headliners at linebacker: Kayvon Thibodeaux, Azeez Ojulari, and Bobby Okereke. I would expect all three to see snaps against the Panthers. Micah McFadden clearly has the advantage over Darrian Beavers, who is still being brought along slowing coming off his own ACL. McFadden flashed in run defense, but he’s still under the microscope, particularly in pass coverage. Does Beavers play this week and get a chance to make a statement?

One of the more interesting battles is back-up outside linebacker/edge. We know Jihad Ward will be one of the guys. The question is who else? Tomon Fox caused the first turnover last week. Tashawn Bower made some plays in run defense. Habakkuk Baldonado got to the quarterback twice. Oshane Ximines is also in the picture. This is also another area where the Giants may seek outside reinforcements before September 10th.

Defensive Backs Coach Jerome Henderson said Wednesday that this was the deepest group he’s had since being with the Giants. He said all of the players on this 90-man roster can play in the NFL and that’s not always been the case for him. That seems fairly obvious at safety. Where there was once concern about the position with the departure of Julian Love, the Giants now seem to have a numbers problem. Jason Pinnock appears to have the starting spot locked up opposite of Xavier McKinney. Dane Belton seems to have a good hold on the third safety spot. That leaves Nick McCloud, Bobby McCain, Gervarrius Owens, and Alex Cook. At least two of these players have to go. And it’s not a given that they can be safely stashed on the Practice Squad.

Meanwhile, it appears the Giants got two starting cornerbacks out of the same draft. Jackpot. There will be growing pains during their rookie year. Games will be lost because of their youth. But both have the look and feel of long-term studs at a critical position. So much so that the Giants are using their only proven commodity at outside corner in the slot now. Who would have thought that a few weeks ago? Yet I’m still greedy. I want to know if we have a quality 4th outside corner on the roster. Interestingly, the Giants moved Cor’Dale Flott outside this week. That seems to suggest that Adoree’ Jackson and Darnay Holmes will be the two top slot corners with Flott now having to make his mark outside. These last two games are huge for both Rodarius Williams and Amani Oruwariye.

I warned about a breakdown on punt and/or kickoff coverage in my preview last week, and it happened with the 95-yarder that changed the outcome of the game. Again, while I prefer that doesn’t happen, I don’t get bent out of shape over special teams snafus in the preseason. This is where the coaches are trying new players and seeing who can and can’t cut it.

More than the coverage, it’s important to note that the coaches said Jamie Gillan out-kicked his coverage. That’s a problem. He’s young, but entering his second season, he can’t do these things without causing bigger issues for his coverage team.

I also must admit that I’m not totally comfortable with handing the punt and kickoff duties to a rookie running back with virtually no experience at doing either in college. For years, this franchise has curiously ignored finding and using a true return specialist. This has come back to haunt a number of different coaching staffs, and yet the Giants appear to be going down that road again. I get it. Roster spots are valuable. But the return game matters.

My expectation is that the starters will play at least a quarter. Get them in and out. Much attention will be on the offensive line, both front-line starters and reserves. We also should see Daniel Jones for the first time.