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Giants at Browns: 5 things to watch in second preseason game

Some of the roster decisions could begin to clarify

Cleveland Browns Training Camp Photo by Nick Cammett/Getty Images

The New York Giants face the Cleveland Browns on Sunday (1 p.m. ET) in their second preseason game. Here are some of the things to watch during the game.

Will starters play?

The only starters who played against the New York Jets in the preseason opener were the offensive linemen and wide receiver Darius Slayton. Coach Joe Judge was non-committal on Friday about whether quarterback Daniel Jones and other starters would see action on Sunday.

“I haven’t decided, yet,” Judge said. “I just want to make sure we keep our overall players’ loads in consideration going into it because it’ll also be a quick turnaround going from Cleveland, getting back home, training up to Boston and going against New England for a couple of days before playing the preseason game, through which we’re going to truly treat as more of that regular season dress rehearsal.”

New guys

The Giants have several new players who either were not on the roster or did not participate in the first preseason game against the New York Jets.

The Giants traded for a pair of cornerbacks in recent days, and they should debut Sunday. Keion Crossen came from the Houston Texans in exchange for a 2023 sixth-round pick. Josh Jackson came from the Green Bay Packers in exchange for a cornerback who no longer fit what the Giants really wanted, Isaac Yiadom.

Both players are expected to provide secondary depth and be special teams contributors.

Interior offensive lineman Ted Larsen is in his 11th NFL season. The 34-year-old has played center and both guards during his career. He signed with the Giants the day before the preseason opener.

Larsen worked at both guard spots during joint practices against the Browns, even getting a handful of first-team reps. Could Larsen be part of the solution as the Giants search for offensive line depth? Sunday afternoon should give us a hint.

Quarterback Brian Lewerke replaced Clayton Thorson on the roster this week after Thorson was waived/injured. Thorson suffered a concussion against the Jets. If Lewerke shows the Giants enough over the next couple of weeks he could land on the team’s practice squad.

Wide receiver competition

In my most recent 53-man roster projection, I have the Giants keeping seven wide receivers. To be honest, that’s probably at least one too many.

David Sills had had back-to-back impressive training camps. He has the trust of Daniel Jones. The negative for Sills is that he doesn’t contribute much, if anything, on special teams. That is something the fifth, sixth or seventh wide receiver on a roster needs to be able to do.

C.J. Board contributes as a punt gunner, on the kickoff coverage team and as a punt and kickoff returner.

Matt Cole was impressive working as a punt gunner against the Jets. He has return skills. Let’s see if he can build on his play from last week.

Austin Mack has been kind of a forgotten man as he has been hurt most of training camp. He played in 11 games for the Giants last season, and earned the trust of the coaching staff. Mack returned to practice this week. Does he have time to earn a spot?

Offensive line progress

The starting offensive line, aside from Kenny Wiggins filling in for Shane Lemieux, did an adequate job against the Jets. Right tackle Matt Peart gave up a sack, but otherwise did well in three series.

Can the young line continue to build on that against a good Cleveland defense?

Beyond that, can any of the backups show that they deserve roster spots? We have talked about Larsen’s opportunity. Wiggins struggled last week. Nate Solder (shoulder) won’t play. Can veteran backup center Jonotthan Harrison secure a spot? Could undrafted players Brett Heggie or Jake Burton be part of the solution?

Opportunities abound. Can anyone take advantage?

Edge competition

It isn’t easy to figure out the last couple of spots on the depth chart when it comes to edge defender. That’s a good thing. Will Sunday give us any clues?

Oshane Ximines, Niko Lalos, Ryan Anderson and Trent Harris would appear to be competing for, at most, two roster spots. Harris has been getting more opportunities, and has been more impressive, than I expected. He is a dark horse to earn a spot.