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Giants vs. Patriots: 3 things to watch

It’s the final preseason game for the Giants and they still have a lot to work on. We look at three keys to the game.

It’s the final preseason game for the Giants and they still have a lot to work on. We look at three keys to the game.

1. We won’t see much of the starters

Head coach Tom Coughlin has been tight-lipped about the subject, but even quarterback Eli Manning says he doesn’t think he’ll play more than “a series or two.”

That’s too bad, specifically on offense, because Manning and his receivers have been out of sync this preseason. The new-look offensive line was the popular choice for units that might struggle but it’s been solid. What’s drawn Coughlin’s ire is the back-up and slot receivers. Someone other than Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham need to step up and fill Steve Smith’s shoes. Something out of the tight ends wouldn’t hurt either.

2. Stay healthy, please?!

Veterans say the preseason is about honing skills, but more importantly staying healthy. No team has had such a rash of injuries as the Giants – and to important parts, too. They may enter the Sept. 11 opener without defensive end Osi Umenyiora (knee), they’re definitely without promising rookie defensive tackle Marvin Austin (IR, pectoral) and they’ve lost five cornerbacks to injury in camp.

Tonight’s scoreboard is nowhere near as important as the number of guys who might need medical attention.

3. Special teams aren’t anywhere near special

Rookie wideout Jerrel Jernigan had an awful night Monday — misplaying several punts, including muffing two. Veteran return man Domenik Hixon is still playing his way back from last year’s torn ACL, while wideout Victor Cruz and cornerback Aaron Ross have return experience, but figure to play larger every down roles.

While Coughlin isn’t against putting a starter back there just to “catch the ball — that’s the number one duty,” he’d rather save their energy and use reserves. Jernigan has most likely played his way out of the slot receiver competition, but another night like Monday and he’ll also likely play his way out of playing time altogether.

Follow Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8 for breaking news and updates on the Giants all season long.

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