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‘Things I think’ before Giants’ second preseason game: Evan Neal criticism, players to watch, more

A few ‘Valentine’s Views’ nuggets for you to spend the day arguing about

Pre]season - New England Patriots vs New York Giants Photo by Matt Stone/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald via Getty Images

The New York Giants face the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday night (7 p.m./NFL Network and NBC-4). Here are some ‘things I think’ heading into preseason Week 2.

Bashing of Evan Neal tiresome, misguided

It seems like everybody wants to take shot at Giants’ rookie right tackle Evan Neal these days. I’m going on record right now as saying that Neal is not Ereck Flowers 2.0. In the end, I think Neal will make the noise about him being “top heavy” or the hysteria every time he loses a rep look silly.

This is a good young player. A guy who is serious about his craft. An incredibly talented young man who is likely to be a good player for the Giants for the next several years.

Neal said that “I don’t really listen” to the noise.

“At the end of the day, I’m definitely not a finished product but I’m getting better and better every day,” Neal said. “I belong here, I belong in this league.”

Our Tony Del Genio did a great piece earlier this month on how long it can take young offensive tackles to develop. If you haven’t read it and you are worried about Neal, you need to.

There will be ups and downs for Neal in 2022. Rookies aren’t perfect. Did you see Ickey Ekwonu get sent flying by Patriots’ safety Kyle Duggar the other night? Neal is going to be just fine in the long run. And, all the people picking on every training camp mistake are going to end up needing to eat those words.

Players who need good games

The Giants have a looooong list of players who won’t play Sunday night against the Bengals. There are at least 18 players won’t suit up due to injuries. There are others — like Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley — who probably won’t play to protect them with so many offensive linemen on the shelf.

With nearly a quarter of the 85-man roster not available to play, that means there will be a ton of snaps available for the guys who do take the field. Let’s talk about some of the guys who really could use good games.

  • Aaron Robinson — The second-year cornerback had a rough outing against the New England Patriots in the preseason opener. Defensive coordinator Wink Martindale said “that was a great experience” for Robinson. We’ll see if he learned anything. If he isn’t better this time, that is going to be troubling.
  • Kenny Golladay — The veteran wide receiver drew criticism last week after a bad drop at the goal line. He has had an up-and-down training camp, though at least he has practiced regularly. He could use a nice catch on a 50-50 ball if he gets the chance. At the least, he needs to catch the balls he should catch and not let people think he isn’t giving effort.
  • Max Garcia — The Giants have gone through Jon Feliciano, Ben Bredeson, Jamil Douglas, Shane Lemieux and Garrett McGhin at center. They are all hurt. Sunday night belongs to Garcia and rookie Chris Owens, who just signed Friday and will be lucky if he knows the handful of plays the Giants will run. Garcia, a veteran guard/center, is not a lock to make the 53-man roster. This is his chance to show he belongs.
  • Oshane Ximines — He flashed a few times early in training camp, but has been quiet lately. He needs to make a few plays.
  • Carter Coughlin/Cam Brown — The 2020 draft picks have been passed on the linebacker depth chart by rookies Darrian Beavers and Micah McFadden. If they want to stick around, they are going to have to give the coaching staff a reason to keep them.
  • Darius Slayton — The better he plays the more he increases the possibility the Giants could trade him if they ultimately decide not to keep him on the 53-man roster.

Friday roster maneuvers

I think Friday’s roster moves by the Giants showed just how cut throat — and weird — the NFL can be sometimes.

Needing two roster spots for offensive linemen, the Giants announced they were cutting wide receiver Keelan Doss and defensive tackle Chris Hinton. Then, wide receiver Robert Foster suffered a hamstring injury at practice.

Now, a hamstring injury is not a season-ender. Unless you are a bubble player in training camp and the team needs your roster spot. Which is exactly what happened to Foster. Instead of making the 53-man roster, Foster finds himself on IR and will likely be waived with an injury settlement. Doss, seemingly cut in the morning, wasn’t cut by the afternoon.

Oh, and what about Josh Rivas? Cut on Sunday, back on Friday. With, per Newsday’s Tom Rock, a 4,000-mile journey in-between. Rivas knows the playbook and could see extensive playing time Sunday night.

Brandon Brown, ‘football solutions’ guy

I really think I wish I had been able to be in East Rutherford on Friday when assistant general manager Brandon Brown met with New York media for the first time. Brown, formerly with the Philadelphia Eagles, was an interesting hire by GM Joe Schoen. I would have enjoyed getting to talk to him.

Here is how Brown described his role in the front office:

“The biggest word I use is ‘football solutions’ where it’s overseeing pro personnel department, the college scouting department and also just being the checks and balances with Joe (Schoen) on the football operations side.”

Brown, who worked in pro personnel with the Eagles, will be a key figure as the Giants look to supplement the roster as cuts are made around the league.

“I’m knee deep in it right now ... it’s an ever-evolving process where every stone has to be (turned),” Brown said. “You want to make sure that you’re dotting your ‘Is’ crossing your ‘Ts’, whether it’s position need, whether it’s creating competition at all levels, you got to know what the marketplace is. Whether we’re looking or not, you got to know what’s out there. So, that’s what I’m doing.”

Process and patience

It would be great if the Giants’ new offense looked like the greatest show ever seen on Quest Diagnostics Training Center grass during every practice. It doesn’t. There have been some good days. There have been some ugly days. It is easy to be critical, and easy to jump all over Daniel Jones.

Reality is, no conclusions should be drawn by anything that happens before the Giants open the season Sept. 11 vs. the Tennessee Titans.

The Giants have preached process and patience. Offensive coordinator Mike Kafka did that again this week, and the way he answered a question about the “struggling” offense is a reminder that things may not always be what they seem.

“We preach in the offense it’s process, process, process, going through the process. There’s going to be ups and downs in the practices, it’s by design. We’re putting them in situations to face adversity so that they can problem solve on the fly, so that they can work through issues and communicate on the field. That’s all by design,” Kafka said. “I think when you go through a practice when you go through a training camp – it’s going to be hard. We want them so that they can work through those things early on in camp, and work on it throughout the offseason and the spring so that way when the season comes around, those things are easier and it’s easier to operate as an offense.”