As the New York Giants roll toward the conclusion of another poor season maybe you need reasons to continue paying attention. Here are five things to watch on Sunday when the Giants host the Green Bay Packers.
The young and the vulnerable
Aaron Rodgers is a 15-year veteran and future Hall of Fame quarterback. DeAndre Baker and Julian Love are rookies, while Sam Beal is a second-year player with two games under his belt. The Giants will likely be without the injured Jabrill Peppers this week.
The matchup of one of the best quarterbacks of all time against a mostly inexperienced, vulnerable secondary is one that could be nightmarish for the Giants.
The good news for the Giants? Baker, the Giants’ third first-round pick, had his best game of the season last week vs. the Chicago Bears. Hopefully, that’s a sign that he is beginning to figure things out.
The Giants have gone through a trio of veteran punt returners this season with Golden Tate (6 returns), Jabrill Peppers (4) the now-released T.J. Jones (8) all getting opportunities. None of those players is an ideal punt returner, yet somehow the Giants are actually leading the league with an average 11.9 yards per return.
With Tate (concussion) and Peppers (transverse process fracture) unavailable Sunday, the Giants will turn to Da’Mari Scott.
Scott, a 24-year-old wide receiver signed off the practice squad this week, played three games for the Buffalo Bills last season. He did not catch any passes and was not used as a return man by the Bills.
At Fresno State, Scott returned seven punts for an average of 7.6 yards and 73 kickoffs for an averaged of 21.4 yards.
Scott was with the Giants in training camp but was waived at his own request on Aug. 21. He re-signed to the practice squad on Oct. 1. Scott caught two passes for 47 yards in the preseason and fair caught one punt.
No matter what the return yardage is, I think the Giants will be satisfied if Scott simply handles the punt return task cleanly.
Who is in the stands?
There isn’t likely to be a whole lot of energy from the fans at MetLife Stadium on Sunday. Unless it comes from cheesehead-wearing Packers fans. Near the ends of many recent losing seasons it has become commonplace for Giants home games to be sad affairs. They often feature thousands of empty seats, with the filled ones containing as many or more fans of the opponent as they do Giants fans. This could easily be one of those.
Will the real Saquon ever stand up?
We know Barkley is better than the guy who has averaged 2.63 yards per carry (89 carries, 234 yards) over his past seven games. The ankle injury, the blocking, the play-calling, failure by the rookie quarterback to change plays at the line of scrimmage have probably all contributed to Barkley’s struggles.
Barkley wants to be an all-time great and he said this week that “the great ones figure it out.” It sure would be nice to see both he and the Giants begin to do that on Sunday against a less-than-dominant Green Bay defense.
Let’s play ‘Operation’
The Giants’ field goal operation has been a mess the past couple of weeks. Placekicker Aldrick Rosas has alarmingly missed at least one kick in six straight games. Part of that reason likely has been the scattershot snapping of Zak DeOssie, which culminated in a rolled snap last Sunday vs. the Chicago Bears. It has led the Giants to try out kickers and to potentially place DeOssie on injured reserve with knee and elbow injuries, something special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey claimed not to know about on Friday.
It comes down to a simple fact — the Giants have to stop missing kicks. If they don’t, Rosas might be out of a job despite making the Pro Bowl a season ago.