It’s still early in pre-season. Nobody cares about the final score except the bettors, while the diehards will watch intently for a glimmer of flash from their favorite long shot. In addition, anyone with any sense will hope and pray for their team to escape another meaningless football game without serious injury.
In preseason week 2, you can expect the starters to play a little bit longer, while the kids who the week before opened a few more eyes a bit wider will try and build on what they showed last week. Some will regress, some will improve.
The battle for the bottom roster is what’s really at stake here. With training camp dwindling down and practice reps now becoming a premium, the best way for the young player to make his name is on a game film. This week could make or break it for a few of them.
GIANTS ON OFFENSE
Figure that quarterback Eli Manning will get more than a quarter but less than a half to further work with his intriguing set of wide outs and tight ends. An unexpected competition has popped up between David Carr and Curtis Painter for the backup job, so expect both of them to get an equal amount of playing time. That might not leave much room for the wildly inconsistent rookie Ryan Nassib, who will make the team as a third quarterback despite being miles away from being ready.
Painter intrigues us because he’s so similar in style to Manning. He has a real good back pedal, a nice overhead throwing motion, and zero mobility, which makes him a true pocket passer.
Carr’s sidearm delivery and lack of sideline touch hampers him, and his mobility is oddly a bit of a negative because he relies on it so quickly to break the pocket. You make big plays from the pocket in this offense, not on the run, something that Carr hasn’t really been able to do much of in this offense when given the chance.
At running back, David Wilson must show he can step up and meet a blitzer in the hole on a consistent basis. Diving at a blitzer’s feet is just not going to get it done. Andre Brown must hold onto the ball, and Michael Cox needs to get a few more touches to confirm that the flashes of breakaway speed that he showed last week weren’t a mirage.
Cox also needs to show that he can do the little things too, specifically pass block, and, hopefully, this week on special teams he gets a few chances to bring a kickoff out of the end zone, something he didn’t get to do last week given the depth of the Steelers’ kickoffs.
The tight end position is intriguing. Adrien Robinson has the look of a full-time tight end, especially in the blocking game, which will be crucial to the success of this offense. Larry Donnell seems to have more mobility, which he really showed on special teams coverage last week, but now he’s dealing with a potentially serious knee injury, the extent of which is not yet know. We had really hoped to see more of both Donnell and Robison, as well as keying in on Brandon Myers’ blocking, which we thought last week was spotty.
At wide receiver, we need to see more of Jerrel Jernigan and Louis Murphy. Jernigan has been sidelined this week due to a nagging injury, which is not a good thing for a player who’s potentially on the bubble to win points with the coaches. Murphy should make the team as the fourth receiver, but he has to make plays.
The group of no-name wide outs at the bottom of the depth chart likely don’t have much of a chance, and that includes Ramses Barden, who despite catching everything thrown his way, doesn’t seem to like the physical aspect of the game which can make or break a fringe player’s success.
First-round pick Justin Pugh is expected to make his NFL debut this week after missing last week’s affair with a concussion. Look for Pugh to get snaps at both tackle spots, with perhaps a sprinkling or two at right tackle with the starters.
The two young offensive linemen that intrigue us with their physical ability alone — but not their readiness — are Matt McCants and Eric Herman. Both kids have excellent size and the athletic ability to develop into starters down the road, but at this point we’re only talking about potential here. Can either of these kids show enough to survive the final 53?
It was a shaky start for McCants last week, whom the coaches have now tried at every position along the offensive line. Herman fared a little better, but both players are far from being a finished product.
We weren’t as impressed with Brandon Mosley, who spent more time on the ground than we would have liked to see, or Selvish Capers last week. Who will step up this week?
Michael Jasper and Stephen Goodin are two more blockers from whom we’d like to see more. Young vet Chris DeGeare caught our eye blocking the edge and has excellent size. We’d really like to see him inside, but it’s uncertain that he’ll play due to an ankle injury suffered last week.
GIANTS ON DEFENSE
The defensive line had its moments last week, but most of them came from Damontre Moore, who will not play due to a shoulder contusion. We really want Justin Trattou to make this team because he plays such an intelligent game and seems to have enough size and athleticism to contribute in numerous ways, but the numbers are stacked against him right now.
Meanwhile Adrian Tracy, who is in competition with Trattou for that roster spot, is more of a physical type who rarely makes flashy plays, but he’s always in the right place. We like both Tracy and Trattou players, and if there were a way for the team to keep both, we’d welcome that.
To our eyes, Mike Patterson, Frank Okam, Adewale Ojomo and Matt Broha are on the outside looking in. All four can play, but Marvin Austin has youth and size over Patterson, Okam and Broha. Ojomo needs to get time with the ones to see if he can in fact play with them, as there’s no doubt that he can abuse third stringers.
The linebacker position continues to frustrate. We’re still waiting for somebody to step up and take the bull by the horns. Aaron Curry needs more playing time to enact his physicality on the game. Can he play with his head as well as with his heart? There’s a lot of talent wound up like a tight coil in his big body, but a linebacker has to be cognitive as well as violent.
Dan Connor looks like the best middle of the bunch. We still don’t know why the coaches fail to try Spencer Paysinger in the middle, as he has the size and, we think, the smarts for it. We were extremely disappointed with Mark Herzlich’s continued invisible play last week. Can he step it up? We suspect that he lacks the physical tools.
Keith Rivers is another player who needs to sharpen his game. If we were to guess which of the bottom linebackers will make the practice squad, at this point we’d guess Etienne Sabino over Jake Muasau, as Sabino, to our eyes, has flashed the most out of the backup depth.
The defensive backfield should welcome the long-anticipated return of Terrell Thomas to the field. If he plays, it will likely be in the slot and on a very limited number of snaps. Jayron Hosley looked quite instinctive late playing the run from the slot, and has had a good week of practice. Might this second-year player be ready to blossom?
Last week, we were intrigued by Junior Mertile’s size at corner and David Caldwell’s aggressiveness at safety. Charles James lacks size, but he has excellent speed, while Trumaine McBride looked sharp and was physical.
Tyler Sash and Ryan Mundy will play more this week at safety with Antrel Rolle sidelined, but our most intriguing safety Will Hill continues to look like the prototype safety, despite that four-game suspension hanging over his head.
GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS
The gunner work of Michael Cox and the punt coverage of Zak DeOssie really stood out last week. However, the return game wasn’t so good, though to be fair, many of the kickoffs were booted deep into the end zone.
Let’s hope that Cox finally gets a chance to return a kickoff, while Hosley needs to show a bit more feel on punt returns. The rookie James has the game-breaking speed that you look for, but his lack of size is worrisome.