The Giants return to the RCA Dome in Indianapolis tonight at 7 for the first time since their Super Bowl 46 victory to take on the Colts in a week 2 preseason game. The first two night of games have featured a continuation of the festival of flags as the official continue to emphasize tight enforcement of defensive holding, illegal contact, and defensive pass interference penalties. Invisible so far in the preseason have been penalties for abusive or intolerant on field language, lost in the maelstrom of yellow as the official seemingly over emphasize their point on contact by defensive backs.
When the Giants and Colts take the field in a game that will be televised locally on NBC, there will be several position and individual player battled to Be On The Look Out for. Players have the game this week and next to make an impression on the coaching staff or audition for the other teams in the NFL in hope of landing on of the precious 1,696 jobs that will remain after final cut downs on August 30th. Here’s what to watch for tonight:
The Starting Offensive Line: Will Beatty’s return signals the presence of the starting line in a game for the first time this preseason. It also means that Ben McAdoo will have the freedom to call more aggressive plays, try some down field passes, and open up the offense. Charles Brown, who has been filling in for Beatty, has been questionable in pass protection, to put it kindly. In order to keep Eli Manning out of peril, the play calling in the first two preseason games has been catatonic. Expect that to change tonight. Keep your eyes peeled for James Brewer, who has graded out well in the first to outings. It would not be surprising if he entered the games before Brown to see how he performs against a high level of talent. Expect the starting line to play the entire first half to give them time to gel.
The Camp Star Wide Receivers: Marcus Harris and Corey Washington were the darlings of training camp. Harris has caught everything thrown his way, and Washington has used his size and reach to make big play after big play since joining the team in June. Both players are making a strong case for roster spots over returning veteran Mario Manninghan and chronically injured return specialist Trindon Holliday. They will be given snaps tonight early and often and the opportunity to impress the coaches and solidify their hold on the fifth and sixth receiver spots on the final 53. It will then be a matter of how many receivers the team decides to keep.
The Backup Quarterback: Curtis Football, otherwise known as Curtis Painter, came into last week’s game and drove the team to the winning touchdown. Granted, it was against players that will likely not make the Steelers final roster, but it was enough to elevate Painter to the second team over Ryan Nassib. Given every chance to win the backup job to Manning, Nassib seems intent on playing himself off the roster. If Painter maintains his level of performance against the Colts second team, his hold on the backup job will be strengthened. The bottom line remains, if either Painter or Nassib needs to take a significant number of meaningful regular season snaps, the Giants season will be lost.
The Defensive Line Rotation: Jordan Stanton made big plays in the fourth quarter of both games with a win on the line. Even though it’s only preseason, coaches want players on the roster who will step up when there’s something at stake. Stanton has demonstrated that big play potential. Rookie Jay Bromley has shown an ability to stuff the run that earned him second team snaps in practice this week. Perry Fewell will give him some chances to show he deserves a spot in the Giants regular season rotation by putting him in the game against the Colts second team tonight.
The Wealth of Defensive Backs: At Cornerback, Charles James, Trumaine McBride, and Bennett Jackson would be contributors on most NFL teams. Cooper Taylor and Nat Berhe can provide much needed depth at the safety position. With NFL teams passing more frequently then ever, defensive backs are at a premium, and the Giants have a wealth of them this season. Their importance has been exacerbated by the point of over-emphasis on contact in the secondary. Jayron Hosley is not in this list because he is unable to play within the rules and is among the most penalized defensive backs on the team. He won’t make the cut to 75 on August 26th. The team may try to sneak Jackson or Berhe through to the practice squad. The others performance on special teams will determine their fate and those that don’t make the Giants will find themselves with other teams as solid defensive backs always land job in the NFL.
The Kicking Battle: Brandon McManus has been booming field goals and kickoffs consistently thought training camp and in games, making like challenging for kicker Josh Brown, who likely thought the Giants kicking job was his to lost following a successful 2013 season where he was 23 for 26 on field goals. Coming into the off season program, McManus was little more than a strong leg to provide relief for Brown during special teams drills, but the young kicker has seized his opportunity and matched the veteran kick for kick. Every kickoff by both has been a touchback, and every place kick has gone through the uprights, making Tom Coughlin’s decision difficult. Could it come down to cap dollars?
While the intensity is does not approach the level of the regular season, the fight to make a roster will be in full force tonight, as will the Giants desire to show their mastery of the new offense. Victor Cruz wants to catch a pass and silence the questions about his lack of a reception this preseason. Manning wants to complete one longer than 10 yards down field to similarly silence the critics. However, the team down not want to put much on record against a team they will see again on November 3rd. And the chess game that is the NFL, plays on.
Check back tomorrow morning for a review of the game and see who played will and who took a few steps closer to the door in tonight’s game. Enjoy it, because even preseason NFL football is better than the alternative.