Many weeks during the season we do a "Five things to watch" post as part of our pre-game coverage. With the New York Giants hosting the Jacksonville Jaguars in preseason action Saturday night at MetLife Stadium (7:30 p.m. ET/WNBC TV) let's change things up a little bit. Let's look at "Five players to watch" for the Giants during Saturday evening's action.
Make no mistake, the Giants have gone out of their way to put some heat on the veteran offensive lineman heading into Saturday's game.
"I need to see Geoff play," offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo said. "He's coming off of a major injury. He needs to get back out on the field and needs to do it on a consistent basis."
Head coach Tom Coughlin has made reference to the fact that Schwartz, still dealing with the lingering effects of a broken ankle suffered vs. Jacksonville last season "hasn't practiced much." Schwartz missed roughly two weeks of practice to rest and rehabilitate his ankle. He participated fully in every practice this week, playing both right guard and right tackle.
John Jerry (RG) and Marshall Newhouse (RT) will start vs. the Jaguars. Schwartz figures to see significant time at both spots as the Giants try to figure out a) how to configure the right side of their line and b) whether or not Schwartz is going to give them something for the four-year, $16.8 million ($5.7M guaranteed) contract they gave him before the 2014 season.
Like it or not -- and I am fully aware many of you don't -- the controversial veteran safety is a Giant now. The question of why the Giants signed him or should the Giants have signed him doesn't matter. The only thing that matters is whether or not he can help them. Coughlin expects Meriweather to play a "limited amount" of snaps on Saturday.
"He's been here a very short time and this will be his first experience," Coughlin said. "He's trying to understand what we want of him and understand the terminology as best he can."
With Landon Collins and Nat Berhe still sidelined, the Giants are stretched thin at safety. Meriweather figures to see as much action as he can handle as the Giants try to figure out if the 31-year-old has enough left to help them.
The undrafted free agent middle linebacker impressed against the Cincinnati Bengals. He had three tackles, a pass defensed, three stops and a +1.5 Pro Football Focus score in 37 defensive snaps. Unga, 27, has been out of football since suffering a devastating knee injury during the final game of his collegiate career at BYU in 2013.
"He did a great job, as a young player. I don't know how long exactly it's been since he's actually played in a game because he was hurt his senior year, didn't play last year. So it's been about a year and three quarters since he's played in a true game," linebackers coach Jim Herrmann said. "I thought he did a great job of taking over the role as the Mike backer and making calls, he made a great call in there and got the guys lined up. Did a good job, and I like his development. I think he's doing a great job of — he got in on a few plays, made a hell of a play tipping the ball. I think he's going to get better and better as he goes."
Can Unga actually make the team. The Giants appear to have six linebackers already with Jon Beason, J.T. Thomas, Devon Kennard, Jonathan Casillas, Jameel McClain and Mark Herzlich. He will need more performances like last Friday's to either push a veteran off the roster or make the coaching staff see him as a viable replacement in event of injury.
Giants' defensive end Damontre Moore got so frustrated by the strength of the 6-foot-6, 329-pound rookie that he ended up taking swings at him during practice this week. Moore then said Flowers was the strongest player he has ever faced.
The rookie left tackle has held his own thus far. The right side of the offensive line is in disarray at this point. The Giants need Flowers to continue to show them that he can be trusted on the left side.
Wade, 26, was an unknown entering training camp after stops with the New Orleans Saints and Cleveland Browns his first two seasons. With injuries mounting at the cornerback position, Wade has taken full advantage. There are roster spots to be had behind Prince Amukamara and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. If he continues his solid play, one of them is going to end up belonging to Wade.
Position battle to watch
There are, of course, a number of position battles still to be decided three weeks before the regular season opens. One spot where the Giants should be able to get some information on Saturday night is wide receiver.
Victor Cruz and Rueben Randle are not expected to play. Odell Beckham will play, but odds are his appearance will be brief. That will leave a ton of snaps for Dwayne Harris, James Jones, Geremy Davis, Preston Parker, Corey Washington and Julian Talley. Perhaps after the game there will be a little more clarity as to which players have the inside track on the last couple of wide receiver roster spots.
"I see it as it's all up in the air right now," McAdoo said. "There's a lot guys in, a lot of guys out, a lot of opportunities for young guys. It's who takes advantage of it is going to get the nod, I would think."