The New York Giants face the Cleveland Browns Monday night in their second preseason game. The outcome, in terms of final score, makes no difference. What happens on the field, though, could make a lot of difference as the deadline for making decisions on the 53-man roster looms.
Let’s look at some of the key things to watch during the game.
Of course. What happens in games is more important than whether or not a player struggles in a given practice, and Flowers was good in the preaseason opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
It's only preseason, but Ereck Flowers held up in limited work in pass protection last week pic.twitter.com/saCG0jLybe— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) August 18, 2017
Can he continue that trend in what will certainly be a a more extended appearance Monday night? He will likely be lined up across from No. 1 overall pick Myles Garrett, which should be a good test. We’re sure no one will really go crazy one way or another about the outcome.
The Running Game
More specifically, the run-blocking.
There was some curious criticism of running back Paul Perkins last week from both head coach Ben McAdoo and offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan over Perkins’ inability to turn a 7-yard gain into a bigger play.
Perkins ended up with an abysmal-looking line of five carries for 3 yards, an average of 0.6 yards per carry. To me, though, Perkins wasn’t the problem. The run-blocking was, specifically on Perkins’ three carries that went for no gain or negative yardage. There were breakdowns on all three plays that have nothing to do with the running back.
Just one example, this a 4-yard loss right after Perkins’ 7-yard run.
Right guard John Jerry misses his block, gets shoved back into Evan Engram and blows up the play. Perkins clearly had no chance.
Criticize former Giants running back Rashad Jennings all you want, but negative plays like this were a bugaboo for the Giants last season. No matter who is carrying the ball nothing good will ever happen with “blocking” like that.
Backup QB Competition
Geno Smith appeared to nose in front of Josh Johnson after the first preseason game, but the former Jet didn’t have a great week. The Giants are begging one of these two veterans to grab the job. Can one of them do it?
Defensive End Competition
The Giants have more talented players at defensive end than they can possibly keep on the roster, or so it seems. Second-year man Romeo Okwara and fifth-round pick Avery Moss would seem set as backups to Olivier Vernon and Jason Pierre-Paul. Owamagbe Odighizuwa, Devin Taylor, Kerry Wynn and Jordan Williams are in the mix for whatever spots remain. They can’t all make the roster. Let’s see who steps up against the Browns.
Eli’s First Action
There might be an occasional deep ball that floats a bit, but all-in-all Eli Manning has looked terrific this summer as he enters his 14th NFL season. He gets his first preseason action Monday night. Let’s see if some positives come out of it for the Giants’ offense.
The Young Linebackers
The Giants are all kinds of banged up at the linebacker spot. Mark Herzlich (stinger) is out. Keenan Robinson is in the concussion protocol for the second time this summer. J.T. Thomas is still not ready for game action. Devon Kennard and B.J. Goodson both missed some practice time last week.
That means we will see an awful lot of the young hopefuls trying to earn a spot as reserve linebackers. Guys like Calvin Munson, Curtis Grant, Deontae Skinner and even Stansly Maponga should get plenty of opportunities to impress vs. the Browns.
Getting Their Kicks
Neither Aldrick Rosas nor Mike Nugent has flinched yet in the Giants’ placekicking competition. The two alternated kicks in the first preseason game and will likely do so again Monday night. Let’s see if one of them emerges from Monday with a clear advantage.
Other Bubble Players
There are plenty of players on the roster bubble who could benefit from a strong performance Monday. Among them are Matt LaCosse, Will Tye, Roger Lewis Jr., Donte Deayon and Eric Pinkins. Darius Powe, another bubble player, appears unlikely to play due to a hamstring injury.