The 2014 NFL season is officially underway, and we are only a couple of days from seeing the New York Giants open their own season vs. the Detroit Lions on Monday Night Football. Here are a few key things to watch during that game.
Can the Giants handle Detroit's defensive line?
The Giants have rookie Weston Richburg at left guard, and newcomers J.D. Walton at center and John Jerry at right guard. The Lions have all-world defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and an impressive array of talent in the front seven of their defense. In addition to Suh, the Lions have Ziggy Ansah (eight sacks in 2013), Nick Fairley (six sacks) and middle linebacker Stephen Tulloch, who had 135 tackles and 3.5 sacks last season. This is an immensely difficult challenge for the revamped offensive line.
"It's a big challenge. They're an outstanding defensive team and an outstanding defensive front with exceptional players," Giants head coach Tom Coughlin said. "That having been said, we're well-aware of that, we're preparing ourselves the best we can and I'm sure that our players will get ready and will be highly competitive."
The Giants' secondary vs. Detroit's array of receivers
The Giants spent a lot of money to upgrade their secondary, adding free agent cornerbacks Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Walter Thurmond and Zack Bowman. They join Prince Amukamara. At safety, the Giants have Antrel Rolle and Stevie Brown, back after missing last season with a torn ACL.
The Lions offer an immediate test of that group. Calvin Johnson is acknowledged as the league's best receiver and might be shadowed Monday by Rodgers-Cromartie. The Lions also have Golden Tate, a trio of tight ends who can catch the ball and capable pass catchers in running backs Reggie Bush and Joique Bell. If the Giants can contain this group it should bode well for their secondary throughout the season.
Can the Giants attack Detroit's secondary?
Pass defense is an acknowledged question mark for Detroit. Eli Manning and the Giants have not, however, been a juggernaut in the passing game during the preseason. Can the Giants protect Manning, and can he and his receivers get on the same page often enough to take advantage of Detroit's apparent weakness in the secondary?
How effective will Jon Beason be?
Beason just returned to practice Monday after missing all of the preseason with a broken foot. The Giants seem to believe Beason is on track to play against the Lions. How effective will he be? How many snaps will he be able to play? If he isn't effective, how willing will the Giants to pull the plug and put Jameel McClain in the middle?
Will Jason Pierre-Paul back up his talk?
Pierre-Paul has talked ... and talked ... and talked some more about how he believes he can return to his All-Pro form of 2011 this season. If you read BBV regularly you know that I have often been critical of Pierre-Paul's verbosity. I freely admit I am tired of Pierre-Paul's braggadocio. Well, after a pedestrian preseason during which JPP seemed to be trying only not to get hurt it is time for Pierre-Paul to back up his boasts. The Giants need for him to be their best defensive player Monday night, and pretty much every week after that. They need him to have an impact, to make game-changing plays. If he can do that the Giants defense can be very, very good. If he can't? Well, even the best defensive backs in the world can only cover guys for so long.