All eyes are on Odell Beckham since he came off the practice field on Monday. Jerry Reese said he didn’t have a setback, Tom Coughlin said he didn’t have a setback, and Beckham himself said he didn’t have a setback. Then he failed to practice yesterday. And today. And the team announced he will not make his preseason debut against the Jets on Friday night as previously scheduled. This brings two questions to mind… How is this not a setback? And if this isn’t a setback, what would qualify as one? Until Beckham is able to complete a full practice, running full speed, take some hits, and get up and come back the next day to repeat the effort, there is no way Tom Coughlin will trust him to play in a game that counts. Don’t expect to see him against the Detroit Lions on September 8th, unless it’s on the sideline, catching passes from the JUGGS machine.
Cooper Taylor needs surgery on his foot, and this means one of two things for the promising second year safety – injured reserve for the full season, or injured reserve for part of the season. Barring a serious injury to another more critical player, Taylor seems the likely candidate for the return designation. That will mean he has to be held on the final 53 man roster before the designation can be applied, and someone else will have to be exposed to waivers. We should know next Tuesday when the first cut downs are made – if he is going to be placed on season ending Injured Reserve, that’s when it will be done.
Coughlin has kept his promise to shuffle the offensive linemen. After bringing out the starting five from last Saturday’s Colts game, a game of musical linemen started with Justin Pugh seeing considerable time at left tackle, Geoff Schwartz shifting to both right guard and right tackle, Brandon Mosley seeing time at right tackle, and Weston Richburg playing all three interior positions. Schwartz’s best position is right guard, where he played last season for the Kansas City Chiefs. The Giants have kept him at left guard all off season, but seem to be toying with the concept of moving him to the other side. The opening day line will feature some combination of Will Beatty, Richburg, J.D. Walton, Schwartz, and Pugh. That lineup is my prediction, from left to right, barring injury.
In desperate search for a play maker on offense, Coughlin has also been shuffling the wide receivers. Mario Manningham has been the biggest beneficiary, having increased opportunities with the first team. Camp and preseason stars Marcus Harris and Corey “Fourth Quarter” Washington have also been given reps with the starters. The red zone portion of practice has featured fades to Washington, who excels in that role with his 6’4″ size advantage. It would not be a surprise to see him in a regular season red zone package. Coughlin said both Harris and Washington may see time with the first team on Friday night.
A fair amount of practice time has been devoted to specific preparation for the Jets, in what can only be a semi-desperate attempt to show signs of improvement in Friday’s game. The pistol and wildcat formations have been employed by the scout team to simulate the Jets offense, and some blitz packages thrown in by the defense. Most teams, especially Coughlin’s Giants, rarely game plan in the preseason, so if the showing mimics the previous three games, it’s cause for some concern.
The tight end of the week is Adrien Robinson, who has been praised in practice and been receiving additional first team snaps after his two big catches in the fourth quarter against the Colts. The pattern for tight ends in 2014 has been a practice field surge followed by an early game crash. Give what Robinson has shown on the field against quality competition in his career, expect this pattern to continue.
Coughlin said the starters will get 25-30 plays against the Jets. For the offense, let’s hope that’s not 8-10 possessions. The most interesting substitution to watch will be the offensive line, to see if the shuffling that occurred in practice carries over to the game. The Jets have one of the deepest and most talented defensive lines in the NFL and will provide a strong test for the Giants struggling line and a good opportunity to find a combination that works.
Questions have been raised about whether Eli Manning is suited for the west coast offense. Given his talent and intelligence, it shouldn’t be something questioned. Learning a new system after playing in another for 10 seasons takes some time, and we’re not seeing the entire offense in the preseason. Ben McAdoo and Coughlin are holding their cards close to the vest to keep opponents guessing. While 30 points per game can’t be expected right out of the box, the Giants will surprise the Lions on opening night with formations and play calling that’s not on film. The running game will also be more potent that in the past two seasons because of the upgraded run blockers on the line and better running backs.
Rex Ryan added some fuel to the preseason fire when he said of Giants rookie running back Andre Williams, “The last time I saw him, he was getting smoked by Clemson.” Ryan, known for his loose tongue, bold predictions, and acerbic comments, has added a fun dimension to an already testy rivalry between the two New Jersey teams. Williams threw some gasoline on the fire when he said that the Giants “Are the real New York team,” a statement that certainly caught the attention of the Jets, who have often felt overshadowed by the Giants. When Williams enters the game on Friday night, get your popcorn ready.
Keep your eyes posted here for more News, Notes, and Reflections, and be sure to look for this week’s game BOLO on Friday.