All NFL head coaches lead their teams to believe that every position is up for grabs during the preseason. And while a handful of jobs are destined to change hands, the fact is the exhibition season mostly affects the bottom-rung of the roster.
The Giants are no different, as they head into Thursday night’s preseason finale against the New England Patriots. Head coach Tom Coughlin has already noted that the starters won’t play long (“maybe a series or two”), meaning the final exhibition game will be an audition for the fringe guys.
Metro takes a look at key storylines to follow, as Big Blue tries to put the finishing touches on their roster.
What to watch for:
1. Who will suit up?
The Giants have been decimated by injuries this summer, so don’t look for many key guys to even dress, let alone play. As a precaution, the team has already ruled out wideout Victor Cruz, which means the former star will not play a single down in the preseason as he’s now battling a calf injury while still recovering from his season-ending knee injury, last October. Other regular starters who may not see action are defensive end Robert Ayers Jr. (leg), and linebacker Jon Beason (knee). Even kicker Josh Brown won’t play, as he will sit out with a gimpy hamstring after making a tackle against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the second preseason game. The team was forced to re-sign Chris Boswell, who was with them in minicamp and early in training camp, to handle kicking duties.
2. How fast can Stevie Brown get up to speed, and how much will he play?
The return of Brown was a necessity, even if the Giants sent lukewarm feelers for his return when his contract expired following the 2014-15 season. The veteran safety has never played for new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, meaning he must learn a new scheme on the fly. So far, so good in recent practices for Brown, but the real test will be his first extended action.
Brown said he’s excited to learn Spagnuolo’s philosophies.
“It’s been nothing but good things so far. I like Coach Spags. And by talking with [secondary/safety] Coach [Dave] Merritt, learning the nuances and having it all explained to me has been smooth. … I’m used to being a post player [free safety], but it’s fun knowing I’ll be able to come down into the box here and do what I need to do. The safeties are interchangeable, so there will be some good things that I can do.”
3. Which bubbles will burst?
Last season, wideout Corey Washington was the summer’s star, as he and backup quarterback Ryan Nassib tore up the competition. It didn’t translate to the regular season, but at least Washington was able to land employment with Big Blue’s practice squad. He’s yet to really have a breakout game this preseason, so Thursday is as good a time as any. Other fringe guys like safety Jeromy Miles, linebacker Unai’ Unga, cornerback Trevin Wade, safety Cooper Taylor, and tight end Adrien Robinson will need to impress to at least reserve a practice squad invitation should they not make the final 53-man gameday roster.