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Giants vs. Steelers: 10 Things To Watch Friday Night

Preseason games are meaningless? Not if you know what to watch for

NFL: New York Giants-Training Camp William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants open their preseason Friday night vs. the Pittsburgh Steelers. Giants fans have waited a loooooong time to see the 2017 version of their team, and Friday they finally get a glimpse. Here are 10 things to watch.

Placekicker Competition

We don’t what the rotation will look like between youngster Aldrick Rosas and Mike Nugent. Maybe both will kick Friday night. Maybe one kicks this week and one kicks in the next game, which will be against the Cincinnati Bengals.

In my view, this competition is all about Rosas. Can the young man, who was in camp with the Tennessee Titans last year but has never kicked in a regular-season game, handle the heat? The veteran Nugent is there to put a little pressure on him. Nugent has made only 72-of-90 field goals (80 percent) the last three years, and missed six extra points in 29 tries a year ago. I have a hard time seeing him as the Week 1 kicker.

Coach Ben McAdoo said this week that Rosas “hasn’t flinched” since Nugent was added to the roster last week. The real test, though, comes in the games.

Backup Quarterbacks

Well, this one is easy. You won’t be watching Eli Manning play, so you will have to watch the backups.

Veterans Josh Johnson and Geno Smith will be competing to get a leg up on the backup quarterback job. Rookie third-round pick Davis Webb will also get some snaps. Will Webb have a deer-in-the-headlights look, or will he look like he has command of what he is doing?

Backup Wide Receivers

Roger Lewis Jr., Darius Powe and Travis Rudolph all appear to be possibilities to fill what might end up being just one roster spot. Can one of them make a couple of plays and gain an advantage?

Tight End Competition

We know Evan Engram and Rhett Ellison are making the team, provided they are healthy. It stands to reason that 2016 sixth-round pick Jerell Adams is probably making the team. That means this is really about Will Tye and Matt LaCosse. Can Tye step up? Can LaCosse continue to make plays, and continue to stay healthy? Undrafted free agent Colin Thompson could be a practice squad candidate.

Offensive Line Stuff

  • This will be the first chance to see if Ereck Flowers shows improvement in real game action. Same with right tackle Bobby Hart.
  • What will rookie offensive tackles Chad Wheeler and Adam Bisnowaty show in live action?
  • D.J. Fluker is a mountain of a man. He has spent nearly all of his time at right guard with the Giants. Will he look like a player who can help?

Running Game

We have been hearing a lot of optimistic talk about the running game. The first-team offensive line isn’t likely to play for long, but it will be interesting to see if the Giants can pop a running play or two while their primary guys are in the game.

Evan Engram

Of course, there will be excitement about seeing what the first-round pick can do against someone other than the Giants’ defense.

Backup Corners

The Giants have waived/injured Mykkele Thompson. That means players like Valentino Blake, Michael Hunter and Donte Deayon have an even better opportunity now. Will someone like Nigel Tribune or DeShaun Amos make enough of an impression to join the competition?

Variety Is The Spice Of Life

The Giants will likely keep things pretty vanilla Friday, and throughout the preseason. Still, after using ‘11’ personnel 92 percent of the time last season it will be interesting to see if there is a noticeable shift in philosophy.

Special Teams

We talked about the placekicker situation above, but there is much more that that to pay attention to on special teams. McAdoo said this week that special teams are “everything” for young players trying to make the roster.

“If you can’t contribute on special teams, you are not going to make the roster,” he said flatly.

Guys like Rudolph, Powe, Lewis, linebackers Calvin Munson and Deontae Skinner, safety Eric Pinkins and any of the young cornerbacks fighting for a roster spot are going to have to shine in this area. So, watch to see who makes plays and who doesn’t in the kicking game.