Jets vs. Giants: Giants’ 3 things to watch

Justin Pugh, left, got his first taste of NFL action this weekend. Credit: Getty Images
Justin Pugh, left, suddenly steps into an important position with David Diehl’s injury.
Credit: Getty Images

The Giants head into Saturday night’s matchup (7 p.m., NBC) against their MetLife co-tenants with almost as many question marks as the usually dysfunctional Jets.

As news broke on Wednesday morning that right tackle David Diehl would be lost for as many as six weeks following surgery on his right thumb — this just days after the Giants may possibly miss starting center David Baas (knee) for as long — Big Blue’s offensive line is in flux.

The Jets also have their share of question marks — including a new West Coast offense and battles at quarterback, receiver and running back — so something has to give.

Three things to watch for …

1. Line dancing

The third preseason game is customarily known as the dress rehearsal game for teams since it’s the one game starters and regulars see extended action. The Jets offer a 3-4 defensive front (three down linemen and four linebackers), which causes problems for most offensive lines that have been together for a while, let alone one that’s being patched together on the fly. Eli Manning figures to play into the third quarter, but will he last that long? Big Blue will likely trot out rookie Justin Pugh at right tackle and lightly used young players Jim Cordle, James Brewer and Brandon Mosley. The test will be for the youngsters to catch up to speed and protect their franchise player.

2. Edge rush

Sanchez, the maligned Jets’ quarterback hasn’t been awful this preseason — but he hasn’t been stellar either. Meanwhile, Smith is a rookie who has been dealing with a sprained ankle and some uneven play in practices. Smith will get the start, but whoever is playing should make the Giants’ starting pass rush salivate.

The problem for Big Blue, however, is that its pass rush has lacked bite this preseason. They have only one registered sack by a Giants defensive starter — Cullen Jenkins on Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in the opening game. Either Sanchez or Smith should be a prime target for a Giants pass rush that needs to flex some muscle. After all, if playing against a rookie or the same old Sanchez doesn’t ignite the Giants pass rush, nothing will.

3. Into the void

Second-year receiver Rueben Randle stands to gain the most out of Victor Cruz likely sitting out the remainder of the preseason with a heel injury. His stellar training camp has certainly given the coaching staff some confidence that things will go on smoothly. But can Randle transfer his minicamp and training camp success into a solid performance in an actual game? If not Randle, the speedy, yet banged-up Louis Murphy could push Randle. Jerrel Jernigan and Kevin Hardy are also pushing for more playing time, so they could give starting wideout Hakeem Nicks some relief on the other side.

Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.


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