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Giants At Bucs 2017, Week 4: Five Things To Watch

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Here are some of the things that could have an impact on Sunday

New York Giants v Philadelphia Eagles
Victories have been out of reach for the Giants thus far in 2017.
Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

We have been dissecting Sunday’s New York Giants-Tampa Bay Buccaneers a number of ways. Here is one more. Here are “Five Things To Watch” Sunday as the 0-3 Giants desperately seek their first victory.

Will Olivier Vernon Play?

If his injured ankle gives him any chance at all, you know he’s going to try. In his sixth season, Vernon has never missed a game. He played through a broken hand last season. If he can’t play that would be a huge loss for the Giants — we learned that in the fourth quarter last week when the Philadelphia Eagles abused his replacements.

Ya Gotta Have Hart

Bobby Hart is off the injury report for the Giants and, while coach Ben McAdoo wouldn’t say so on Friday, it seems a pretty safe bet that he will be back at right tackle on Sunday with Justin Pugh returning to left guard. After a strong preseason, Hart got hurt early in Week 1. We haven’t had the opportunity yet in the regular season to see him play when healthy. Let’s hope it makes a difference for a Giants offensive line that could use the help.

Odell Beckham Jr.

There have been times since Beckham became a Giant that the entire offense seemed to be Eli Manning throwing to Beckham. Are we headed back in that direction? Ben McAdoo sure made it sound like that this week when speaking to Giants.com:

“If Odell is one-on-one, throw it to him. If he’s one-on-one, throw him the ball.”

Then, of course, there is the whole “how will Beckham behave?” thing. Beckham talked this week about the need not to get penalties for his touchdown celebrations, but he didn’t exactly seem to think his penalized celebration last week was wrong, or to be clear on what he could and couldn’t do.

Back to ‘11’?

The Giants ran ‘11’ personnel on offense — three wide receivers, one running back, one tight end — more than 90 percent of the time last season. They promised all offseason to be more multiple, to vary their personnel packages and formations. They even kept fullback Shane Smith on the roster after not carrying a fullback in 2016.

Through two weeks, that was the case. Last week, though, Smith did not play and the Giants were in ‘11’ personnel 89 percent of the time. Now, Smith has been cut.

The Giants could use Rhett Ellison as a fullback if they want to go into a power formation. The Giants have thus far run the ball fewer times than any team in the league, only 15.7 per game, and are 29th in yards per rushing attempt at 3.1. They could be trending toward a pass-heavy attack where real running plays function as little more than a change of pace.

"We obviously want to run the football. That’s important to us, but we need to get the ball in the hands of the people who can make the plays for us. The players who can change the game and can change the score for us,” McAdoo said. “But running the ball helps us stay balanced, it helps us play with physicality, and it helps us in pass protection as well.”

Can The Real Giants’ Defense Please Stand Up?

By that, of course, I mean the dominant unit that largely won games by itself last season. Not the one that gave up 193 yards rushing last week, is currently last in the league in that department, and seems to have forgotten how to tackle moving objects.

Whether Vernon plays or not on Sunday could have something to do with that. Jonathan Casillas (ankle) is also questionable. The return of middle linebacker B.J. Goodson should help. Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo also said during the week that struggling safety Darian Thompson will likely split time with Andrew Adams this week. Adams started 13 games last season when Thompson was out with a foot injury.

It would also be nice if the Giants, who don’t yet have an interception this season, can take a couple of Jameis Winston passes in the other direction.