The final preseason game is always the least watchable of these exhibition games in terms of quality, but if you are interested in seeing how the competition for the final roster spots pan out, then you will definitely want to tune in on Thursday night.
The battles in both pits are of particular interest. With the offensive line, there is a new starting alignment to evaluate, while the competition for roster spots up and down the defensive line remains fierce.
GIANTS ON OFFENSE
First, the backup quarterback spot needs to be won. We think Painter has the edge over Carr, but judging on the planned quarterback rotation for the preseason finale, which will be Manning, Nassib, Carr, and Painter, it looks as though Carr might be ahead in this competition.
The competition at running back is done. We still would like to see more of Michael Cox from scrimmage, but his special teams play has sealed his roster spot. Da’Rel Scott has, for all intents and purposes, played himself off this team. Ryan Torain probably won’t make the final cut due to numbers, but we’d keep his number on speed dial in case injuries were to strike.
At tight end, the question is can the team afford to keep four? The answer is yes, but only if they keep five receivers. Otherwise, the player on the bubble is Larry Donnell, who to our eyes has shown enough to stick.
He has great size and he can move, but the question that needs to be answered is if he better than having a sixth receiver? We think the answer is yes. We’d really like to see the coaches target him and Adrien Robinson in the passing game in this preseason finale.
Speaking of the young receivers, none of them have flashed, which is disappointing. Jerrel Jernigan has done enough to stick as the fifth WR but he needs to do more.
The new c alignment reflects the team’s slow but steady commitment to youth. We think James Brewer, a new starter at left guard, is ready for prime time. On the other side, we get to see more of rookie tackle Justin Pugh, who played well last week. It’s always fun to watch good, young players stepping up to the plate.
The final backup v spot is wide open for Jim Cordle, Stephen Goodin, Matt McCants, and Eric Herman to grab. We think the versatile Goodin has the edge, but McCants has the most talent and best long-range view. There’s also the possibility that the ninth offensive lineman isn’t currently on the roster.
GIANTS ON DEFENSE
The battle for the fifth defensive end spot is intense – we are projecting the team to keep one extra defensive end over a sixth linebacker, and as such, we think that whoever the fifth defensive end is, he’ll need to fulfill some linebacker responsibilities.
We know that Mathias Kiwanuka can play linebacker in a pinch. We also know that Adrian Tracy has played some linebacker. We’d like to see the team keep Justin Trattou as that extra defensive end over Adewale Ojomo.
Ojomo’s problem is that he can’t play linebacker, plus he hasn’t really flashed enough to where he has earned anything better than the garbage time sacks against competition that probably will be out of the NFL come opening day.
We think the Giants will keep five defensive tackles, which is unusual – in the past they’ve only kept three, but the run defense suffered and thus our reasoning for the bigger commitment to the position.
Even more surprising is the likelihood that Mike Patterson, the team’s best defensive tackle last week, might not be one of those five. Patterson has age (30) and health concerns (recent brain surgery) working against him.
Also, the fact that Cullen Jenkins is 32 and Shaun Rogers is 34 doesn’t help as the team has to take a long-term view when building a roster. At 30, Patterson may be in the prime of his athletic life, but youth, as well as draft lineage (Joseph, Hankins, Austin) must be served.
Hankins and Austin are strong possibilities for the final 53, but they have to play better. Hankins is struggling with the speed of the game and likely won’t dress very often this year, but he’s a Linval Joseph clone and that’s a good thing. Austin finally looks like he’s ready to take the bull by the horns.
The linebacker situation does not excite. If the team only keeps five, we think Kyle Bosworth might be the odd man out, even though he’s played well this summer.
Assuming he plays on Thursday rookie safety Cooper Taylor may get some linebacker snaps this week in passing situations. This would be his first time on the field, and he’s big, so he will bear watching if he can convince the team that he’s over his hamstring injury and doesn’t need to go on IR.
The secondary is in flux with Stevie Brown’s season-ending injury. Antrel Rolle and Ryan Mundy will start, but who will back up? Will Hill will get lots of snaps and needs to make something happen in coverage. He’s looked very instinctive against the run. But he’s also going to be serving a four-game suspension to start the season.
Tyler Sash is good against the run, but doesn’t have the ideal speed in coverage that you look for in a NFL safety. However, special teams contributions cannot be ignored, nor does he have a four-game ban lurking over his head. Meanwhile. David Caldwell is fun to watch in run support but he’s been shaky in coverage.
At cornerback, our favorite long shot is Charles James, the small but speedy corner who might make the team on his punt returning alone. With Jayron Hosley doing little with his own opportunities plus with him nursing a sprained ankle, the coaches will likely give James an extra-long look Thursday night. James is feisty, but he has to prove that he can hold up to the physicality of the game.
GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS
It looks as though all the jobs of note have been locked up. Michael Cox will return kickoffs, the two kickers look very good, and James appears has a foot up returning punts over Hosley.
Rueben Randle is a reliable option as a punt returner, but if the team keeps five receivers, he’s too valuable to expose on returns. Right now, it’s probably Hosley’s job to lose, but he always seems to be nicked up and James is breathing down his neck.