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Giants at Cardinals: 4 storylines to follow

The Giants will be in Arizona looking for their first victory of the season on Sunday

New York Giants vs Detroit Lions
Andrew Thomas
Photo by Jorge Lemus/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The New York Giants (0-1) try to get up off the deck on Sunday and earn their first victory of the 2023 NFL season. They will be on the road to face the 0-1 Arizona Cardinals, widely considered to be the weakest foe on the Giants’ schedule this season. Here are some of the storylines to follow this week.

The Giants will win ... RIGHT?

As I told Patricia Traina during a visit to the ‘Locked on Giants’ podcast, they had better. I might have to retire if they don’t. I do not want to deal with the BBV comments section or the mentions on the @BigBlueView ‘X’ account if they somehow manage to lose to the tanking Cardinals.

Now, I don’t think the Giants will lose this game. They are better than the Cardinals. I do think, though, that the game becomes dangerous for the Giants if they have any sort of hangover from the humiliation the Dallas Cowboys handed them on Sunday night.

Offensive line configuration

Who is going to play on the Giants’ beleaguered offensive line? And, considering the team’s injury situation, where will they be lined up?

First, the Giants need to figure out if star left tackle Andrew Thomas (hamstring) is going to play. His injury is not expected to be a long-term one, but will he be available against the Cardinals? Would it be smart to give him a few extra days of rest to be available next Thursday against the San Francisco 49ers?

If Thomas can’t play, can swing tackle Matt Peart? He also went down with an injury Sunday. We don’t yet know what that injury was, or the severity.

If neither of those guys can play, second-year offensive lineman Joshua Ezeudu probably slides over to that spot.

What about right guard? Mark Glowinski was terrible on Sunday. Would the Giants bump him out of the lineup in favor of a young player like Ezeudu or Marcus McKethan? Would they give Shane Lemieux an opportunity?

No matter who plays or where they play, the Giants’ offensive line has to be better than it was against Dallas. They can’t function on offense with the poor play they got from the line on Sunday.

Isaiah Simmons’s revenge game

The Giants got Simmons, the No. 8 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, from the Cardinals for a seventh-round pick, near the end of the preseason.

Simmons never really found a true role in Arizona and did not play up to his top-10 draft status. You can bet he wants to make an impact on Sunday’s game to show the Cardinals what they are missing.

Special teams

The Giants’ special teams are truly not special. They have largely been a disaster since the preseason began. Punter Jamie Gillan consistently outkicks coverage, resulting in long returns — one for a touchdown. Players not knowing when they were supposed to be on the field.

Last week the Giants had the blocked field goal that completely swung the early momentum of the game as it was scooped up and run back for a touchdown. I don’t know if it was Ezeudu or Ben Bredeson, or both, who blew the assignment on that play. All I know is you can never allow an inside rusher to come through clean on a field goal or extra-point attempt and neither of them bothered to try and block Juanyeh Thomas.

That blocked kick cost the Giants, three points and gave the Cowboys six. It was also the play in which Thomas suffered his hamstring. For good measure, placekicker Graham Gano got cleated in the kicking leg. He admitted after the game that he was kicking in pain after that, which was likely part of the reason he later uncharacteristically missed a 36-yard field goal try.

The problem is, Sunday’s breakdown wasn’t an isolated incident. It’s been happening for several seasons now. It seems like there have been a few games in each of the past few seasons negatively impacted by special teams play. We have seen too many breakdowns in knowing or executing assignments, too many punts that don’t go where they are supposed to go, too much failure to find a competent return man or be able to adequately block returns.

Thomas McGaughey is a veteran special teams coordinator. He is highly respected. He is likable. He is well-spoken. Yes, special teams units involve a constantly rotating cast of characters. McGaughey likes to say you make the gumbo with whatever ingredients you are given.

The bottom line, though, is the coach has to figure out why far too often Giants’ special teamers don’t seem to know or be able to execute their assignments.