The preseason finally comes to an end for the New York Giants on Thursday night when they face the New England Patriots. The outcomes doesn't matter, not even a little bit. Some of what goes on during the game could matter a great deal, however. Let's look at five things to watch.
The starters -- briefly
Head coach Tom Coughlin says starters will play "very little" Thursday night. "Very little" would likely be defined as one series, maybe two. What would Coughlin like to see in that cameo?
"Play well. Take it and score. Stop the other guy. Stop the run. Run the ball," Coughlin said. "I'll get some opinions based on that stuff."
Phil Simms said this week that the Giants have "shown nothing" in preseason. Tiki Barber chimed in by saying the Giants "need to find themselves." As much as you hate to agree with the two former Giants who are now media talking heads, they are right.
The Giants have been outscored, 23-3 in the first quarter of three preseason games, roughly when starters have been matched up against each other. They have gotten one good drive out of their first-team offense in three games. The starting defense has made the pedestrian offenses of the Jacksonville Jaguars and New York Jets look, well, much better than pedestrian.
The Giants and Patriots have been matching up in this preseason finale for years now. If history holds, New England starters won't go anywhere near the field Thursday night. That means that for whatever time they are in the game, Giants' starters will be matched up against New England reserves. It would certainly be nice to see the Giants have the better of the action early on. If they don't, that will be troublesome.
The offensive line
Isn't the offensive line ALWAYS worth watching with the current iteration of the Giants? The right guard spot still seems undecided, with Geoff Schwartz and John Jerry splitting time. Too bad there is no way to meld Schwartz's run-blocking with Jerry's pass-blocking. If you could then you would have, if not in-his-prime Chris Snee, at least a quality all-around player. Can Justin Pugh rebound from a bad game. How will Weston Richburg look after another flare-up of tendinitis in his left knee? Can Ereck Flowers continue to improve?
How about the backups? After Dallas Reynolds, the last couple of spots remain unsettled. Brett Jones, Adam Gettis, Bobby Hart and even Sean Donnelly might have shots at roster spots. They might also be competing for their NFL lives against the waiver wire.
There are lots of roster spots on the line Thursday night, and the Giants' decision-makers will be watching intently.
"I am very interested in that, how they handle that, the situation," Coughlin said. "Some of the roster spots are definitely -- decisions have to be made. It's spelled opportunity. When you get a chance to play like this -- have a game in which you can amass 60 snaps or something along those lines, plus special teams, would be a good thing."
As we addressed above, who will the reserve offensive linemen be? How will the tight end situation be decided? Who will end up getting the final couple of roster spots at wide receiver? That, around here, is otherwise known as the "Will Corey Washington get cut?" question. Can Uani Unga earn a roster spot as a reserve linebacker? Who will the reserve cornerbacks be?
There is much to be decided, and Thursday's game will undoubtedly help make some of those decisions.
Because, hey, the third-string quarterback is almost certainly going to play. And it will almost certainly be the last time you see him in a Giants' uniform. So, get your Stanzi fill while you can.
No injuries ... please
This isn't something to watch as much as it is something to pray for. The Giants have already suffered enough injuries, more than their fair share. Let's get through this game without anyone else going down. Heck, let's get through warmups without anyone getting hurt.