When the Giants host the Jacksonville Jaguars on Saturday night, they’ll be battling a young team with budding talent.
Sure, the Jaguars annually pick near the top of the draft board, but that just means they have a slew of budding talent on their roster. The talent and speed on Jacksonville will be a great test for a Giants squad that has question marks at key positions, like offensive line and the injury-ravaged secondary – which are two areas the Jaguars are apt to attack.
Jacksonville boasts a nice pass rush – even with their first-round pick, linebacker Dante Fowler Jr., lost for the year -- so Big Blue will need to do a good job at protecting quarterback Eli Manning during the time he’s in the game.
Metro takes a look at some key storylines to watch.
What to watch for:
1. Can the offensive line hold up against the Jaguars’ pass-rushing rotation?
Jacksonville has been building towards a dominant defensive front seven since Gus Bradley took the reins a couple seasons ago. The former architect of the Seattle Seahawks’ vaunted defense, Bradley knows a thing or two about getting after the quarterback and making things difficult for an offense – especially an offense that has a work-in-progress offensive line. How well rookie Ereck Flowers and Co. handle the stunts and blitzes of a Jaguars defense, led by defensive lineman Jared Odrick and wily veteran linebacker Paul Posluszny, will go a long way toward getting this unit to gel.
2. Who will suit up in the secondary for Big Blue?
The Giants’ secondary has been ravaged with injuries over the last two weeks. There are currently 11 cornerbacks on the camp roster, and it seems as though every one of them has had a nagging injury or two. The same could be said for a safety position that’s already lost rookie Mykkele Thompson for the season with an Achilles injury, which led to the desperate signing of Brandon Meriweather – who’s been as big a fine and penalty target in the NFL as any player in recent seasons. Jacksonville won’t have Pro Bowl tight end Julius Thomas (broken finger) in the lineup to test the new defensive backs, but they’ll still boast an underrated receiving corps, featuring the trio of Marqise Lee, Allen Robinson, and Allen Hurns.
3. How much action will Victor Cruz see?
The popular Cruz has yet to really test his rehabbed patella tendon since suffering the horrific injury last October. It’s been 314 days since he’s played in a game. He’s been seen in some individual work over the summer workouts, against his own team and the joint sessions with the Cincinnati Bengals, and is starting to participate regularly in the team’s 11-on-11 drills, but did not play in their preseason opener. This could be the week that head coach Tom Coughlin allows his wideout to debut. Starting Jaguar cornerbacks Davon House and Aaron Colvin – and nickelback Dwayne Gratz -- would provide a nice test for Cruz, as they are all fast and physical. Cruz is excited about the prospect of actual game action: “I’ll definitely be a little emotional since it’s been 10 months since I’ve been on the field. I’m excited to get back with my teammates and feel that football energy ... I feel I can be a little faster and quicker [after] working hard on my core muscles and the surrounding muscles [of his patella tendon].”
Coughlin has always taken a wait and see approach, but hinted at a Cruz appearance.
“We’ll pick when he goes, but he’s done everything," Coughlin said. "He has to do things gradually, and he’s doing them gradually. He’s getting to where he needs to be, and his mindset is outstanding … He’s looking forward to going to the next step.”