The New York Giants have reached the halfway point of the preseason. That means we have turned a corner and are heading down the home stretch toward the 2018 NFL regular season. Let’s stop, catch our breath for a second, and assess where the Giants are right now. Here are “10 things I think I think” heading into the third preseason game.
I think the best development of the first two games has been the play of the starting defense. Aside, of course, from the pass “coverage” of Alec Ogletree. Through two games, the Giants are giving up just 2.13 yards per carry against the run, which would lead the league if those stats counted. The Giants wanted to build a wall against the run with Damon Harrison, B.J. Hill and Dalvin Tomlinson anchoring the line and it looks like they have done it.
The pass rush has been a pleasant surprise. Now, maybe it is because the offensive lines of the Cleveland Browns and Detroit Lions aren’t exactly impenetrable, but the ability through two games to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks while sending just four rushers is a positive sign. Behind all of that, the pass coverage has been good enough.
I think I don’t care if Saquon Barkley or Odell Beckham Jr. plays another preseason snap. Maybe both guys get some work Friday against the New York Jets. Maybe they don’t. Doesn’t matter to me. I have seen enough from Beckham to know he is healthy, and he has been getting plenty of practice reps with Eli Manning. As for Barkley, I haven’t seen anything that tells me he isn’t ready. Let him work in practice once that hamstring heals and don’t expose him to extra hits.
I think the Giants are going to have to help Patrick Omameh and Ereck Flowers. All of the pass pressure the Lions generated Friday with the starting line in the game came from the right side, with Omameh at guard and Flowers at tackle. It very nearly cost the Giants a sack fumble that would have set Detroit up inside the 5-yard line, but for a replay overturn.
Omameh and Flowers are powerful players who will help in the run-blocking, but they are going to need help protecting Eli Manning if he is going to have time to take full advantage of the plethora of pass catchers the Giants have.
I think I’ve been blown away by Kerry Wynn. For four seasons, Wynn has provided the Giants with decent depth at defensive end. He hasn’t been a dynamic play-maker or anything special. I have never thought he was more than a part-time player. This preseason? Wynn has been special. Five tackles on defense, four on special teams, a sack in two games. I really wondered how a 265-pound defensive end was going to function in James Bettcher’s defense. Well, Wynn is showing me. Whether he can keep up this kind of play in the regular season I have no idea, but he is proving that he will undoubtedly have value.
I think Eli Manning is going to have a successful year. He’s shown nothing in the spring and summer that makes me think he won’t be able to get the ball to his play-makers on a consistent basis. If the offensive line gives him a chance I believe Manning will be able to survey the situation at the line of scrimmage, identify the mismatches and get the ball out to the right place.
I think the Giants have to get a veteran swing tackle. I can’t say the idea of Chad Wheeler or Nick Becton coming off the bench to try and protect Manning is a comforting thought. I will be very surprised if the Giants don’t look to add someone once teams trim their rosters at the end of the preseason.
I think there are still roster spots available at cornerback. I believe B.W. Webb and Leonard Johnson have done enough to make the roster. Both are veterans who know what they are doing, and Johnson in particular flashed a few times on Friday. Grant Haley? I’m just not sure yet. William Gay? The Giants have been using him at safety, and I’m just not sure where he fits. Donte Deayon? Can’t make the team if you can’t get on the field, and he hasn’t practiced or played in two weeks.
I think the return game hasn’t been good enough. Neither Hunter Sharp, who fumbled twice on Friday, nor Kalif Raymond has distinguished themselves. If one of them is going to be the primary guy returning kickoffs and punts, they have to show more. I’m sure the Giants really don’t want to have to expose Beckham, Barkley and Sterling Shepard on returns — at least not on any type of regular basis.
I think this about the young quarterbacks. I think I’ve seen enough from both Davis Webb and Kyle Lauletta to think there is a chance the Giants will be OK at quarterback once Manning’s time is up. I didn’t write Webb off after a bad game, and I won’t anoint him after a good one. He has the tools, and they are worth being excited about. Lauletta doesn’t have Webb’s size or arm strength, but there is a lot to like. He missed a couple of throws Friday, but he makes good decisions, throws with excellent timing and usually good accuracy, can make plays with his feet and does a good job protecting the ball. As coach Pat Shurmur has said, he finds a way.
I think the Giants are more prepared than they were a year ago. And yes, you can clearly read this as a shot at Ben McAdoo. A year ago, the Giants spent much of training camp conducting walk-thrus, practicing in shorts and shells and doing very little hitting. There were only a few padded practices, probably less than five. This year, new coach Pat Shurmur has had the Giants in pads at every opportunity. There have been no wasted practices. The joint practices in Detroit, especially the first two, should be a huge plus. I have no idea how the Giants will make out against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Dallas Cowboys and Houston Texans in the first three games of the season but I know that at least this season the Giants will be ready when the season opens.
I think it’s cool that Saquon Barkley got to meet Barry Sanders on Friday. I think it’s a bummer that Barkley didn’t bring his Barry Sanders action figure to Detroit so Sanders could sign it. No one will ever be Sanders, but Barkley’s elusiveness and ability to cut with power and speed sometimes remind of Sanders. The other Hall of Famer Barkley sometimes reminds me of, and you probably need to be an old guy to appreciate this, is Gale Sayers. Like those two, Barkley in the open field is an utter nightmare for defenses.
I think I’m already dreading Jets-Giants week. I can’t imagine how many Barkley vs. Sam Darnold, Darnold vs. Manning, Darnold vs. Webb/Lauletta, Jets-Giants battle for supremacy stories I’m going to have to read. Or, for that matter, write.
E-mail Ed at email@example.com if you have questions or comments.