Giants vs. Steelers: 3 things to watch
The Giants open the preseason with a trip to Pittsburgh Saturday night (7:30 p.m., NBC).
Quarterback Eli Manning likely won’t see much more than a series or two, nor will many of the offensive or defensive stars. But there are plenty of battles elsewhere as the team gets real-time action for the first time since December’s disappointing end to the regular season.
Three things to watch for …
1. Which burgeoning pass rusher steps up?
Last preseason, undrafted rookie defensive end Adewale Ojomo was the star of the defense as he tallied four sacks in the four games. A cynic would point out he did so against most teams’ third and fourth stringers, but the proof was there that Ojomo has a natural burst around the edge. He’s struggled in the early portion of camp during live team drills, but Ojomo could be the type of player who plays best when the action is for real. Along with Ojomo, there are a couple of other pass rushers who will look to make a name for themselves, like third-year player Adrian Tracy and rookie Damontre Moore. The former has been a special teams standout so far but will get a chance to show his wares as an edge rusher, while the latter was one of the most heralded pass rushers in college last season at Texas A&M.
2. Running back by committee
When the Giants released their unofficial depth chart last week, much was made about displaying two starting tailbacks — David Wilson and Andre Brown. Wilson, a second-year player who was mainly used as a return specialist last season – albeit one of the best in the league – wants more added to his plate. He will get the chance to show he can be the featured back with Ahmad Bradshaw in Indianapolis. Brown is a fourth-year veteran with just 75 career carries and is just as green as Wilson (71 career carries) despite his two extra years in the league. They’ll both likely see short work since it’s the opening preseason game, but when they’re in there, they will get a good test because the Steelers play an aggressive 3-4 defensive front and are traditionally stingy against the run.
3. Stepping out of the shadows
Starting receivers Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks have a stranglehold on the top two spots, as well as Manning’s full trust. It’s now up to the others on the roster, a group that includes Rueben Randle, Jerrel Jernigan and Louis Murphy, to show the coaching staff they are worthy of being the No. 3 wideout. Randle seemingly has the inside track after a solid rookie campaign last season, but Jernigan and Murphy are better deep threats in a Giants offense that likes to go vertical. Randle has really taken advantage of the extra reps he got when both Cruz and Nicks skipped the voluntary spring workouts, and has impressed Manning with his route running and footwork along the sidelines. But Murphy is explosive and has elite speed, which has been flashed at times during 7-on-7 passing drills. Jernigan, meanwhile, has the most years (four) in the system, but has yet to differentiate himself from the rest of the pack.
Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.