The New York Giants take a big step toward the 2016 NFL regular season on Friday night when they host the Miami Dolphins in their preseason opener. Game time at MetLife Stadium is 7 p.m. ET.
This is an exciting time, of course, for players, coaches and fans. It is a first chance to see the rookies, drafted and undrafted, in game action. A chance to see the $200 million free agent group. A chance to see who jumps ahead in position battles like those at tight end and wide receiver. It’s a chance to actually watch football.
Here are five of the main things to watch for during the game.
Who’s calling the plays?
New head coach Ben McAdoo has treated this bit of information like a state secret, refusing to divulge whether he or offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan would be the play caller when the Giants have the ball.
Well, somebody has to call the plays on Friday night so the secret will be out.
Perhaps McAdoo and Sullivan split that role Friday night and throughout the preseason. The bet here, though, is that McAdoo will call plays in the regular season. Being a play caller is a big part of what got him the head coaching job in the first place.
Forget about playing time for the starters. We know how this works in the first preseason game. Almost certainly, it will be a few plays and out for the first-team guys. Where it gets interesting is to see which guys play the bulk of the game. There are several intense battles for roster spots going on with the Giants and Friday will give us clues who is winning them. Look for guys who play the bulk of the second and third quarters, maybe longer. Those are the guys who likely have legitimate shots at the roster. Not so much for the guys who make late-game cameos.
“We want to see guys compete for jobs,” McAdoo said. “We have to put guys in position to be successful and see if they’re going to compete and win jobs.”
What you want to see on both sides of the ball is for the Giants’ starters to experience immediate success. Put up some quick points on offense or have a couple of shut-down drives on defense, then get out of there and call it a good day.
What you don’t want is for guys on either side of the ball to have to linger in the game searching for something positive to take away.
The Giants drew a line in the sand with the 2015 first-round pick during the offseason, leaving him at left tackle despite a rocky rookie season. Has Flowers, under the tutelage of new offensive line coach Mike Solari and daily tests against Olivier Vernon, ironed out some of the technique issues that were problematic a year ago?
We will be paying special attention to Flowers throughout the preseason, beginning with trying to assess however many snaps he plays Friday night.
The young wide receivers
Yes, I know, you are fired up to see Sterling Shepard, the much-ballyhooed second-round pick. The real intrigue, though, comes from the guys farther down the roster. McAdoo said that preseason games weigh more heavily into roster decisions than training camp or offseason practices. So, who is going to perform? Geremy Davis, Myles White, Darius Powe, Roger Lewis, Tavarres King and maybe Anthony Dable are in contention for roster spots. Who will make himself noticed, in a good way, against the Dolphins?