Game Preview: Bears at Giants
By Bob Folger, Inside Football Senior Analyst
The third pre-season game is the closest you’re going to get to regular-season speed. The starters will play into the third quarter before taking a seat. Winning the game is a minor objective. Fine-tuning your schemes is a priority but not as high as getting off the field unscathed. By this point most, of the grading has been done. It’s all about getting up to game speed now.
Giants on Offense
The Giants’ starting roster is mostly settled, the only quasi-question mark being left tackle. Will Beatty’s back problems have essentially handed the job to veteran Sean Locklear, who has been what the Giants need him to be, solid and professional.
The comfort level that David Diehl provides at right tackle continues to amaze. Has there been a more versatile Giants’ offensive lineman?
The interior threesome appears to be settled, though communication remains an issue in the running game. James Brewer still needs to prove he can be a swing tackle.
It seems to us that Mitch Petrus, Jim Cordle, and Selvish Capers are fighting over one spot. Capers’ ability to play both guard and tackle cannot be under-valued nor can Cordle’s ability to play guard and center.
Brandon Mosley barely saw the field last week due to an ankle injury and is questionable for Friday.
As a group, the running backs have shown that they give up on their blocks too soon. They have also made some many bad decisions. We’re not sure what can be done to fix it.
Another point of focus is the help blocking, which needs to be sharpened. There’s nothing worse than a bad help block from a back, which can get a quarterback killed. A key matchup this week will be Pro Bowl DE Julius Peppers, who will line up over Locklear.
David Wilson will get some snap with the starters with Bradshaw unlikely to play due to his wrist injury and DJ Ware still struggling to find consistency in his game. Physically, Wilson is by far the team’s most talented back. Doing the things without the ball in his hands is his biggest challenge. We’d also like to see him used out of the backfield once or twice. Getting Wilson the ball in space is a big play waiting to happen.
Eli Manning looked sharp last week throwing the West Coast-style short stuff, but his long passes were a bit off. The identity of Manning’s third receiver needs to be learned – we think it will be Domenik Hixon to start the season given his reliability and experience.
Down the road, though, Rueben Randle looks like a natural split wide while Jerrel Jernigan looks like a natural slot. We really need to see more of David Douglas, who’s fighting for that last spot with the underachieving Ramses Barden.
At tight end, Bear Pascoe’s versatility will help him fend off the challenges of three very intriguing youngsters– Larry Donnell, Ryan Purvis, and Christian Hopkins. The Giants might very well try to stash at least one of these youngsters for the future on their practice squad.
None of them are finished products, but each of them does something well and with Pascoe and Martellus Bennett seeing their contracts expire after this season, there could be an opening down the line.
Giants on Defense
Keeping the defensive line healthy is always an ongoing concern. Justin Tuck left last week to ice down his neck and shoulder as a precautionary. Chris Canty will likely start the season on PUP, and Marvin Austin will not play due to a “back.”
Newly signed defensive tackle Marcus Thomas needs to show that he can still play. Marcus Kuhn has looked good enough against backups, but is he ready for a spot on the Final 53?
The fourth defensive end spot is intriguing. Adrian Tracy has the inside track but his hamstring has him sidelined, which will open up lots of snaps for Matt Broha, Adewale Ojomo, and Craig Marshall, each of whom has impressed.
At linebacker, Michael Boley’s on-going hamstring injury has given Keith Rivers lots of snaps to open eyes, and he’s been more than fine. We are surprised how physical he is.
The ever-reliable Chase Blackburn has the job in the middle locked up for the time being, though Mark Herzlich is the future. Jacquian Williams should see his first pre-season action after missing time with a hip injury.
Special teams ace Greg Jones is very much on the bubble, as he’s behind Spencer Paysinger, who has performed well this pre-season. Jake Muasau is likely headed to the practice squad.
The nickel job is currently a question mark with rookie Jayron Hosley (turf toe) on the shelf. Will Hill has really flashed in limited snaps as the nickel, but he needs to make smarter reads in coverage. Hill’s run defense instincts are unusually advanced for a young player.
Michael Coe needs to make the team by showing he can stay on the field. The quiet man, Antwaun Molden, never seems to get dinged up. There’s a lot to be said for being able to stay on the field.
Giants on Special Teams
The Giants’ kicking game should be able to neutralize Devin Hester. The punt return job needs to be won. With Hosley out, we suspect that David Douglas will get more opportunities to prove he can take care of the ball, make good decisions, and thus make the team.
We don’t think the coaches will “waste” Domenik Hixon as a punt returner now, especially as they continue to bring him along from last year’s knee surgery.
David Wilson appears to have won the kickoff return job, though we wonder how long he’ll hold that, especially once he starts seeing more time on offense. Jerrel Jernigan will likely back up both return spots, at least until Hosley returns to action.