Giants-Bills: What to watch for tonight

John Fennelly, Lead Writer

The Giants have been have having some heated practices the past two weeks in preparation for tonight’s preseason debut vs Buffalo in the Hall of Fame game.

As a Giant fan, you should be watching for the following…

Offense

It’s all new, from the philosophy to the personnel. QB Eli Manning, WRs Victor Cruz and Rueben Randle and OTs Justin Pugh and Will Beatty (health permitting) are your returning starters. There is a new center (JD Walton), a new LG (Geoff Schwartz) and several new RBs. The TE spot is wide open and the team is in the throes of replacing the retired Chris Snee at RG.

Philosophy: New OC Ben McAdoo has never called a play in his pro career. Tonight, we’ll get our first look at how he handles himself on the sidelines. The playcalling process promises to be a quick, clean one with the onus on getting the team to the line faster and with a better understanding of the streamlined playbook. Screen passes and a shorter, more precise route tree have been installed. Instead of Eli languishing in the pocket, you should see a more confident and efficient QB that delivers the ball to his targets in three seconds or less.

Who to focus on…

Eli is secure as a the starter at QB but the role of primary backup is wide open. Ryan Nassib has made some strides, but he has to sell the Giants on the fact that he’s ready for the NFL.

Here’s what coach Tom Coughlin said the other day when asked how Nassib was progressing:

“I expect to see him have plenty of playing time and take full advantage of it and prove to the world what he can do….Last year he was trying to find the door to the field, but this year he has a lot of offseason study, he has had a lot spring work, he was here on his own over the summer. He is a very meticulous, conscientiousness kid, studies well, and retains well. The experience factor has to come for Ryan right now through these preseason games.”

Rashad Jennings has been one of the league’s most underrated RBs over the past few seasons. This year, he will play the role of the featured back. All eyes will be on him and rookie Andre Williams tonight.

With Cruz and Randle the starters and top pick Odell Beckham, Jr. (hamstring) on the shelf, the fight for the remaining roster spots at WR begins. Jerrel Jernigan and Mario Manningham plan on sticking, so a group of free agent youngsters (insert names here) will be seeking to distinguish themselves. Of the group, Julian Talley may have an inside track, but the competition is wide open.

If TE Larry Donnell makes a few plays tonight, he’ll continue to be the frontrunner in that competition.

Brandon Mosley will likely get the nod at RG with rookie Weston Richburg seeing some reps as well. Richburg may also see some reps at center.

If Beatty cannot go tonight, you’ll see free agent Charles Brown at LT.

Keep an eye on the FB competition as well. John Conner and Henry Hynoski are in a battle for a job that both seem very capable of handling.

Defense

It used to be all about pressure, but now after GM Jerry Reese fortified the back seven, it’s a more balanced approach. Among the newcomers that should make a difference are free agent CBs Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Walter Thurmond III; free agent LB Jameel McClain and fifth round draft pick LB Devon Kennard.

MLB Jon Beason, the defensive centerpiece, is on PUP but could return for the final preseason game. In his absence McClain will take his spot and wear the headset. McClain is an accomplished veteran. As a Raven, he earned a Super Bowl ring and has years of experience playing alongside the great Ray Lewis.

Kennard is the most pleasant surprise in camp. He looks like a seasoned pro out there. Wherever the ball is, expect to find Kennard close by.

Thurmond can cover. As a member of last season’s Legion of Boom in Seattle, Thurmond brings swagger, attitude and talent to a unit that has been taking on the chin the past few years.

S Will Hill is gone, but Stevie Brown is back after missing last season with a torn ACL. Can he return to form?

DE Damontre Moore is being counted on to get to the QB. In watching him, it appears he will do that. He better, because Jason Pierre-Paul and Mathias Kiwanuka need all the help they can get.

We know DTs Mike Patterson and Cullen Jenkins can do the job, but what about the youngsters behind them? The Giants have a lot riding on Jon Hankins and Marcus Kuhn. Rookies Jay Bromley and Kelcy Quarles will also get reps. Both need the work.

Special Teams

Steve Weatherford is the punter and Zak DeOssie the long snapper. The PK job is still TBD. Incumbent Josh Brown will face off against strong-legged Brandon McManus. Should be fun to watch.

The KR/PR jobs have free agents Quentin Demps, Trindon Holliday and Jernigan as the top candidates. RB Michael Cox is in the mix as well. These competitions morph drastically as the preseason unfolds, so, anything is possible.




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