Game Preview: Giants (0-0) at Steelers (0-0)

There will be certainly no shortage of stories as the New York Giants kickoff their 2013 preseason schedule tonight against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Before we go into those stories, I think it’s important to remember the following points:

  1. The purpose of preseason is to evaluate and experiment. Period. The preseason games do not factor into the playoff standings so if a team is blown out 35-0, it is not necessarily a sign of what’s to come.
  2. Players are going to have their highs and lows in the preseason games, and mistakes are going to be made, especially by the younger generation. You might see, for example, quarterback Ryan Nassib throw three interceptions during his time in the game. You might see Brandon Mosley whiff on a block or two. That does not mean either player is a bust who deserves to be cut immediately.
  3. There is no game planning in preseason action because, well, see the first item.
  4. While a win is always nice and preferred by a team, the more important thing, besides having a better idea of what they have on the roster, is to come out of the game with no major injuries.
  5. In addition to evaluating their own personnel, in the preseason, NFL coaches also often keep a closer eye on the fringe players from other teams who might potentially be roster cuts. Anyone remember Victor Cruz’s rookie season when he had his coming out party against the Jets?  Ryan marveled over Cruz, going so far as to say he hoped the Giants would cut the receiver so that the Jets could try to pick him up.

It’s been a while since the Giants ended last season with a 9-7 record and no playoff berth, so it’s very easy for any lingering bitterness to carry over if the Giants get off to a shaky start.

If it helps, remember that this is a new year with new personnel, new objectives, and new obstacles for New York to tackle if they are to become the first team to play a Super Bowl in their home stadium.  By the end of this month, we should have far more answers to exiting questions, and hopefully they’ll be positive.

THE SERIES
The Giants and Steelers are tied 13-13 in the preseason entering Saturday’s game. The Giants are 4-6 at Pittsburgh in the preseason, their last preseason victory coming against the Steelers in Pittsburgh on Sept, 5, 1987.

The Giants are 34-26-3 in preseason openers since 1950.

BROADCAST INFO
This week’s game will be broadcast locally on WNBC-4 New York starting at 7:30 p.m. ET from Heinz Field. The Giants’ usual radio team of Bob Papa (play-by-play) and Carl Banks (color commentary) will be the leads on the television broadcast. The sideline reporters will be Howard Cross and Bruce Beck.

The game will also be broadcast locally by WCBS 880 AM radio. Chris Carrino will handle play-by-play duties, and Roman Oben and Karl Nelson will handle color. Paul Dottino will be the sideline reporter. The Giants pregame radio show will begin at 6:35 p.m.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH

  1. The Pass Protection Game.  No one on the team will come right out and say it, but it’s hard to miss the concern that exists about the running backs ability to pass block. André Brown is currently the only healthy running back on the roster who is somewhat proven, and for that reason, he could be the starter for the immediate future.  David Wilson is learning and has made progress in that area, but as running backs coach Jerald Ingram said earlier this week, to be successful at pass protection, a player has to want to do it. “That’s where I have to do a better job of showing David and creating that ‘want to’ and that technique and the more he actually gets a chance to actually hit somebody, the better he’ll get,” Ingram said.
  2. The modified defensive front. The Giants have been experimenting with some 3-4 looks thus far in camp, looks in which a defensive end stands up rather than working from a three-point stance. While it was Justin Tuck who did a bit of this before he suffered his back problem, rookie Damontre Moore will also probably get a look-see in this capacity. Moore has looked very good in camp as a pass rusher, and will likely get a few looks in that “joker” role that the team hopes to use this season.
  3. The Linebackers. This past offseason, defensive coordinator Perry Fewell was given several new linebackers to work with. Each player, of course, brings his own unique skill set to the table, which is why Fewell has been experimenting with different combinations early in camp to find the right blend for all the defensive packages. With the team possibly having room for six linebackers instead of the usual seven, the competition for those last two linebacker spots is going to be just as intense as the competition for the starting jobs.
  4. The Backup Quarterback Battle. Based on the first two weeks of camp, this really isn’t even a battle, as Ryan Nassib, the team’s fourth-round draft pick this year, has been inconsistent as he continues his quest to learn the offense and cut down on the mistakes. Nassib is probably not going to beat out incumbent David Carr for the backup job to starter Eli Manning, but the thing to watch with Nassib, in addition to his mechanics will be how he leads in the huddle, the types of mistakes he makes, and if the mistakes are repeated.
  5. The Return Game. The Giants have some intriguing decisions to make on their roster this year, and the return game could very well help tilt the scales in the favor of whoever steps up in the return game.  On kickoffs, the team would probably prefer that David Wilson, who performed the job so well, focus on the offense.

FIVE PLAYERS TO WATCH
OL Brandon Mosley.
He’s getting the start for Chris Snee at right guard and he’s looked quite impressive in camp since stepping in with the ones. If he can hold his own against the Steelers’ starters and second –stringers, the Giants might just have something there.

TE Adrien Robinson. The game is finally starting to slow down for the 6-4 Robinson, who has made some gorgeous receptions and who sees to be more sure of himself in terms of his blocking assignments than he was last summer. Of note has been the coaches’ practice of using Robinson from the slot and down by the goal line.

FB Ryan D’Imperio. He only has one-year experience playing fullback, but he’s certainly come along well in the short time he’s been in the Giants camp. With starter Henry Hynoski still on PUP – there has been no update from the team as to when Hynoski will be activated off PUP – if D’Imperio can show he’s capable of handling the fullback duties this summer, that could allow the team to leave Bear Pascoe at tight end instead of him having to split his time between both jobs.

CB Prince Amukamara. He’s looked dynamite this summer against teammate Rueben Randle, showing that aggressiveness that the Giants saw in him when he was a standout at Nebraska. This year, the Giants have said they will be moving away from the traditional number one corner vs. number own receiver, etc. Instead, they will look to get the best matchups. Because of this, I wouldn’t be surprised if Amukamara draws the opponent’s number one receiver a lot more this year.

RB David Wilson. We know that Wilson can run like the wind with the ball in the hands. But can he pass block? If he can look anything close to former Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw in that area, the Giants running game will suddenly lot a lot more compete.

INJURY REPORT
The following players are not expected to play against the Steelers: DE Justin Tuck (back), S Cooper Taylor (hamstring), OT Justin Pugh (concussion), RB Ryan Torain (head injury), OL James Brewer (head injury), CB Terrell Thomas (knee), RG Chris Snee (hip), DT Markus Kuhn (knee/PUP), DE Jason Pierre-Paul (back/PUP), and FB Henry Hynoski (knee/PUP).

LINEUPS
Head coach Tom Coughlin has said that the starters will play for about a series or two, roughly 10-15 snaps, depending on the flow of the game.

Cullen Jenkins is projected to get the start for Justin Tuck. Brandon Mosley is projected to get the start at right guard for Chris Snee. Shaun Rogers is projected to get the start at defensive tackle for Jenkins.

The starting linebackers, based on how they’ve been lining up at camp so far, are projected to be Keith Rivers, Mark Herzlich, and Spencer Paysinger.

NEXT GAME
The Giants will host Indianapolis, led by second-year quarterback Andrew Luck, on Sunday, August 18 at MetLife Stadium, with a kickoff time of 7:00 p.m. The nationally broadcast game (FOX) will be the Giants’ first preseason meeting with the Colts since 1984.

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