From Lou Musto, Big Blue Blitz contributor:
Coming off a victory in their preseason opener, the Giants will square off against the Colts at MetLife Stadium in Week 2. There were plenty of positives and negatives to take away from their Week 1 game against the Steelers, and New York will be looking to build upon them.
With their preseason home opener set for Sunday night, here are a few things to keep an eye on:
1. Can the running game improve?
On paper, the Giants’ passing attack looks like it could be one of the NFL’s best. But the running game will need to be effective for that to happen.
The opener against Pittsburgh was not a good start. The Giants’ running backs averaged just 2.5 yards per carry, and potential starter Andre Brown putting the football on the ground with one of the most befuddling fumbles ever seen.
Breakout candidate and former first-round pick David Wilson was underwhelming. He carried the football five times for 16 yards, while showcasing much of the negatives he displayed during his rookie year – too many short-yardage gains. Three of his five carries went for one yard or less.
2. Is the run defense for real?
Last season, the Giants’ run defense was embarrassing. They allowed 129.1 yards per game on the ground, including 100-yard performances for the Saints (the league’s worst rushing team) and Steelers third-string back Isaac Redman.
In the preseason opener, the Giants held the Steelers to just 3.5 yards per carry; a far cry from the 4.6 they surrendered in 2012.
3. All eyes on DaMontre Moore
Everyone knows the Giants’ pass rush needs to improve, and with Jason Pierre-Paul sidelined for the foreseeable future, another stellar performance from rookie defensive end DaMontre Moore would be a pleasant sight.
Moore had a strong showing against the Steelers, blocking a punt in the first quarter and generating a lot of pressure on defense.
After years of dominance as a pass-rushing team, the Giants recorded a lowly 33 sacks last season – good for 22nd in the NFL. They will need to be much improved in 2013 if they wish to alleviate some of the pressure resting on their questionable secondary’s shoulders.
4. Who is the punt returner?
Special teams coordinator Tom Quinn noted this week that the punt return job was still very much up for grabs with a lot of players competing for it.
Last year’s return man, Rueben Randle, is in a fierce battle with guys like Jayron Hosley and Jerrel Jernigan, while newcomers such as receiver Kevin Hardy are looking to earn a roster spot by any means necessary.
“It’s wide open,” Quinn said, via SNY Giants. ”We’ve got Rueben. We’ve got Jayron Hosley. We’ve got Jernigan. David is taking some reps back there and then we also have some young guys that we’re interested about like Hardy. Kevin Hardy is one receiver. Laron Scott. So those are the guys that are in the mix right now.”
5. Who’s playing?
Defensive end and captain Justin Tuck is expected to play for the Giants, but there are still a number of key players sidelined with injuries.
No. 1 receiver Hakeem Nicks was a question mark, as usual, but will play tonight. Cornerback Terrell Thomas and defensive end Pierre-Paul are still unable to suit up as they return from major injuries.
First-round pick Justin Pugh will make his debut for Big Blue, though. Widely considered a reach by most draft analysts, Pugh will have his first opportunity to prove those detractors wrong while gaining valuable NFL playing time.
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