The New York Giants first preseason game of 2022 is upon us. In a break from tradition, the Giants will be playing the New England Patriots in the preseason opener, as opposed to the last game before the start of the regular season.
It’s always a good game when these two teams square off. Not only do we have the regional rivalry at stake, but there’s some big history between these two teams. Regardless of who is on the field, the Giants and Pats always play each other hard.
Preseason football doesn’t have the stakes of a regular game, and the play can be... uneven as players down the depth chart are rotated onto the field. That tends to make the exhibition games unpopular with some fans. However, there are some things that have little to do with the final score that we can — and should — watch for.
This one has to be first and foremost for any preseason game. It’s important to get the players ready to play meaningful football, but preseason injuries can be devastating.
While the top of the Giants’ depth chart is still mostly healthy, attrition has already been whittling away the depth at some positions. The offensive line, tight end, linebacker, and defensive back positions, in particular, could get scary quickly if the injury bug bites.
The first preseason game is really about setting a baseline for subsequent practices and games. We should avoid making sweeping judgements about this team — in either direction — based on the outcome of the game.
The biggest win is for the team make it through the game intact and able to build on whatever happened between the whistles.
Obviously, everyone is excited to see the newest Giants in action. That’s doubly true considering the Giants will be relying heavily on rookies at several positions.
How does Kayvon Thibodeaux look in team play going against offensive tackles he’s never seen before?
There’s been much hand-wringing over Evan Neal’s struggles in 1-on-1 drills. But those drills tend to put linemen in the worst possible position and at a massive disadvantage to the opposing defender. How will he look as a part of a unit with a teammate to his left?
Wan’Dale Robinson looks to be the Giants’ starting slot receiver, so we’ll probably be seeing a lot of him. But where will he play? Will the Giants show some of the packages we’ve heard about with Kadarius Toney and Robinson in the backfield? Will we see screens, and rub routes? Or just more vanilla slants, come-backs, and crossing routes? And how does Robinson look as a receiver? He only had one year as a “real” receiver in college and did have some issues double-catching the ball on tape.
Daniel Bellinger looks to have locked up the starting tight end job, but what does that look like on the field? How do the Giants use their tight ends in the new offense? That also brings us to Jeremiah Hall. Hall stands out on the Giants’ roster thanks to his position and skill set. He looks like a thumping fullback, but was much more of a receiving H-back in Oklahoma’s scheme. Could he take the next step toward securing a roster spot in the Giants’ suspect TE/H-back depth chart?
Flipping over to the defensive side of the ball, Cor’Dale Flott might not play with the ones, but he should still be an important piece. Wink Martindale uses a lot of sub-packages and we’ve all seen how injuries can turn depth players into starters in an instant.
We could also say the same thing about Micah McFadden, Darian Beavers, and Yusuf Corker. McFadden was heavily involved as a blitzer in college, but will we see any of that today? Or will he be used as more of an off-ball WILL linebacker? Beavers is great playing downhill, but there are questions regarding his play in space. Will he answer those?
Corker has emerged as one of the camp heroes and one of a couple UDFAs with a realistic chance to make the final roster. Can he, like Hall, take the next step toward forcing a veteran down the depth chart and seize a spot on the final roster?
How much the starters play
Coach Brian Daboll already confirmed that everyone who is healthy enough to play, will play. But that doesn’t necessarily tell us how much.
We heard this morning that the New England Patriots are unlikely to play most of their starters, and the ones who do play, won’t play much.
Per sources, Mac Jones and most of the starters won't play tonight. Writing was on the wall when #Patriots worked off cards for the first time Tuesday and the only QBs to rep vs what was acting as the Giants defense were Brian Hoyer and Bailey Zappe.— Mike Giardi (@MikeGiardi) August 11, 2022
Both teams need to strike a delicate balance between getting their players ready and preserving them for a 17-game season. And frankly, teams are still feeing the three-game preseason schedule out and trying to find a ramp-up schedule that works for them.
However, we also need to recognize that the Giants and Patriots are in different positions. The Pats made the playoffs a year ago, and while they have a second-year quarterback who’s adapting to coaching changes, they still have Bill Belichick on the sidelines.
The Giants have an almost completely revamped coaching staff, a brand new offensive line, and have had a lot of turnover at just about every position. They need reps together on the field to build chemistry and cohesiveness. The flip side is that the preseason is also about evaluating the team’s depth players as well. The first and fourth games used to be all about the second, third, and fourth strings, while the starters barely played. There are players fighting for their careers who also deserve a chance to shine.
It’ll be interesting to see what kind of balance Daboll strikes.
The Giants’ secondary has been one of the team’s big question marks since 2022 started.
Adoree Jackson hasn’t been a “Number One” corner before, and Aaron Robinson has largely played the slot. Xavier McKinney only has one full year of NFL football under his belt and is being tasked with calling the defense (which also calls into question just how much Blake Martinez will be on the field). Julian Love has played a lot, but it’s mostly been as a backup utility DB. Cor’Dale Flott is a rookie and there are questions about how his narrow frame will hold up at the NFL level.
And while the Giants’ pass rush has been doing a lot of winning in practice, Wink Martindale’s track record tells us that his defense will go as his secondary goes. His whole philosophy hinges on aggression underpinned by tight coverage in the secondary. If the secondary breaks down, aggressive defenses can get burned badly. As I said above, we need to avoid overreacting to any preseason game (particularly the first one), but we should probably watch the secondary a little more closely over the next three weeks.
The general shape of things
Neither team is game planning today. They are both going to run the most vanilla versions of their schemes, both to make sure they can execute the basics and to keep as much as possible from their early-season opponents.
But we can still get some useful information from the game. What kinds of blocking schemes and running plays are called? Where are certain players on the depth chart? How much time does the defense spend in nickel or dime packages? How cohesive are the various units? Are players communicating well?
We aren’t going to get any definitive answers, and the answers we do get could change over the course of the preseason and into the regular season. However, we can start to get a general idea of what this team looks like when playing real football, and not just 11-on-11 drills.