Friday, September 4, 2009

Regular Season, Here We Come

Two things went through my head immediately following Thursday night’s final preseason game: “Yes, we made it.” and “Yes, the Fifth Element is on!” And while I had a few too many drinks in me to make it through the sci-fi classic without falling asleep, I was wide awake for the Giants’ last tune-up match…and I liked what I saw.

Arguably, Chris Tucker's least annoying role.

For many teams, the fourth preseason game carries very little weight and serves to function only as a final audition for those pushing for those last few roster spots. The Patriots embraced this notion fully, as they rested all of their starters. The Giants decided to bring out the big guns for a few series – a risky but wise move in my opinion – and they were firing on all cylinders.

Building Momentum

On both side of the ball, the Giants first-teamers did their jobs against the Patriots back-ups. On offense, Big Blue scored a touchdown on each of their first three drives, all through the air. Even more impressively, Eli Manning and David Carr did not throw an incomplete pass. Sinorice “I just made this team” Moss hauled in two TDs, and rookie Hakeem Nicks followed up on his two score performance in Week 3 with another long touchdown run. An interesting note on Nicks from Newsday’s Tom Rock: he leads the league in receptions during the preseason.

The Giants' first-round draft pick made a splash in the final weeks of August.

On defense, a chain of three-and-outs by the first-teamers, with sacks in the first two series and an interception that was not called was enough to impress through the TV. It took some top notch detective work after the fact from Mike Garafolo at the Newark Star Ledger to uncover that the Giants first team defense allowed a total of -6 yards!

I said “Phew, we made it” above because I was relieved we made through the preseason without catastrophic injury, but I thought we ended the exhibition season on a very positive and encouraging note. Both sides of the ball definitely took steps in the right direction last night and I think we have a lot of talent and momentum to build on as we prepare for the Redskins.

Off the Bubble

Of course, the main question of "Who is going to make the team?" was not overshadowed by the first team’s performance. Perhaps the biggest name on the bubble was Moss. I think his two touchdown performance secured him a spot on this team. He is undoubtedly a talent and somebody I think can deliver on this team when called upon in the right situations. I thought RB Allen Patrick also made his case for a roster spot with solid work running the ball and an energized effort on special teams.

WR Sinorice Moss showed he can make the plays when called upon.

No other bubble players jumped out at me. On the contrary, many made a case not to make the team. We don’t have a third quarterback worthy of a roster spot. After the top four CBs and starting Safeties, I don’t know that there is much depth at defensive back either. C.C. Brown will most likely make the team, but his play has been very inconsistent. My projection for fifth CB, Stoney Woodson, was cut last week because of an ankle injury. No one else on the Giants roster has stood up to claim that spot.

Ready for Battle

Of course, the Giants aren’t the only team making cuts on Saturday and some talent should be available at these weak positions. Philadelphia currently has four capable QBs on their roster so that’s one situation to keep an eye on. I will certainly be scanning the waiver wires to see which DB’s become available as well. I’m sure Jerry Reese and company will be doing the same. The Giants have landed some major contributors in free agency the last few seasons, including Domenik Hixon and Madison Hedgecock. We’ll see if they have some more magic in their hats this season.

Beyond addressing these depth concerns, the Giants have a roster ready to go. People will continue to question the wide receivers but the talent is undeniably there. They have a stable of wide-outs capable of getting behind defenses, and each brings something unique to the table. It will all come down to consistency of execution. Thursday night’s performance was a step in the right direction.

For me, the most pressing issue is getting guys healthy. DT Chris Canty and CB Aaron Ross are both nursing hamstring injuries that have kept them out for the bulk of the preseason. As one beat-writer pointed out, 10 of the Giants’ 11 projected starters have missed time this summer with injuries. All five of the Giants defensive tackles have missed time with injury, including Jay Alford who is out for the season. Not only do these injuries negate the Giants’ much-touted “depth” on defense, but they also complicate Bill Sheridan’s transition to Defensive Coordinator. We need to get guys healthy, otherwise the elite Giant defense everyone keeps praising could take more time to develop than the team can afford.

The regular season is days away. With some smart moves on the waiver wire and some good luck in the training room, this team looks ready for battle. Redskins, here we come!

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