Head coach Tom Coughlin will be looking for signs on Friday night against the Chicago Bears that his New York Giants understand that the regular-season opener against the Dallas Cowboys is just 13 days away. He is hoping to see a team that is beginning to look like one that is ready to begin defending its Super Bowl title.
"Offensively we need to go. We need to get something done here. We have some people who need to show that. Yes, quite frankly, we had a special teams error in both games. That’s got to be eliminated. We’ve got to put the ball in the end zone, that’s something that’s a challenge for the offensive team," Coughlin said. "The defense played well last week. We had the ball run on us the week before, so it’s a consistency thing. Can we go do that week in and week out? Against a team that scored a lot of points the other day and moved right down the field, advancing the ball in the air. It’s a good football team. It’s time for us to start to move in the direction of the execution and the performance being at a high level."
With that in mind, here are some of the things to look for Friday night.
Running/Stopping the run
Can the Giants run the football effectively? The emphasis on that throughout preseason has been heavy, but the results have been mixed. The absence of Will Beatty from the offensive doesn't help. What will we see from David Wilson when the first-round pick gets his earliest and most extensive action of the preseason?
In terms of stopping the run, what will the Giants get from Marcus Thomas and any of their other newly-signed defensive tackles? The Giants have to be able to put teams into long-yardage situations to take advantage of their vaunted pass rush.
Sean Locklear (or James Brewer)
Locklear, the veteran left tackle who has been replacing the injured Beatty, figures to have Julius Peppers lined up against him quite a bit Friday night. Can he stand up to the challenge? If he can, all of the recent worry about whether the Giants need to shuffle the line to move David Diehl back to the left side with Beatty out can be quelled for now. It will also be interesting to see if Brewer gets some snaps on the left side, and if so how well he handles them.
Who does what in the return game is still anything but clear.
Jayron Hosley (turf toe) won't play, and he has been handling punt returns in the first half of games. Thus, Jerrel Jernigan and others get a real opportunity to show what they can do here.
In terms of kickoff returns, Jernigan and Wilson seem like the favorites to land that job. Recently-signed Laron Scott could be a guy to watch if he gets a chance.
There is still no clear front-runner for the third wide receiver slot. Reuben Randle (three catches, 76 yards, 25.3 yards per catch), Jernigan (two catches, 26 yards) and Domenik Hixon would appear to be in that discussion. Ramses Barden (one catch, 14 yards) probably needs a good effort to stay in the race. David Douglas and Isaiah Stanback are still trying to prove they belong on the roster, or the practice squad.
Who Doesn't Play
First cuts (to 75 from 90) are on Monday. Guys who dress but don't play, or barely play, are your likely candidates to be getting a visit from the Turk on Monday. So, if you like figuring out the roster ahead of time, keep track of which guys you don't see Friday night.