By Paul Dottino
EAST RUTHERFORD – If you were to ask coach Tom Coughlin if he thinks the Giants are ready to go after finishing their preseason at 2-2, he’d offer you his usual response – that you never have enough time to be comfortable with your team.
Nevertheless, the Giants answered the call with more determination and grit en route to a come-from-behind 20-17 victory over the New England Patriots in their preseason finale. The first-team offense, in particular, was very impressive as it opened the game with a nine-play, 86-yard touchdown drive, capped by Eli Manning’s 13-yard pass to Kevin Boss.
Manning was in outstanding form, finishing 7-of-9 for 91 yards and a score in limited action. But we already know that he’s going to make the team, which must get down from 75 to 53 players by Saturday. Let’s review the three things we told you to look for, beginning with those on the bubble:
1. Bubble guys. Quarterback Rhett Bomar had his best game of the preseason despite somewhat poor numbers of 11-of-24 for 171 yards. He again showed his toughness in the pocket, made several very sharp throws – including the winning 60-yard TD strike to Duke Calhoun with 1:49 remaining – scrambled for a third-down conversion an called the correct audible on a two-point conversion that closed the scoring.
Coughlin praised him after the game, but added there still were some mechanical (read this accuracy) issues to clean up. Bomar has made the No. 2 quarterback spot a very difficult decision, although I’d suspect he sticks. Punter Matt Dodge continues to have trouble getting consistent hang time, although he finished with a 42.0-yard net with a average gross of 47.4 on five punts. He also put two punts inside the 20, so he’s likely bought himself a spot on the roster. Former Rutgers wide receiver/kick returner Tim Brown had a very difficult night – with two dropped passes and an almost non-existent return game on a day when he HAD to have a breakout performance.
2. The example. Several veterans spoke last week of how the collective team needed to turn on the switch now (as Coughlin requested) rather than dangerously waiting until Week 1 against Carolina. Mission accomplished. It became apparent from the opening scoring drive that the leaders’ voices were heard. The backups reinforced this point with a sensational goal line stand bridging the third and fourth quarters – MLB Jonathan Goff, OLB Bryan Kehl and DE Jason Pierre-Paul were instrumental in stoning the Pats.
3. Cruz’-in along. Paterson native Victor Cruz continued to have a strong preseason from scrimmage, hauling in three passes for 46 yards, including a 24-yard gain. He was targeted six times and dropped a hard bullet from Bomar over the middle in the red zone. In a perfect world, your fifth and six receivers are solid special teams players – Cruz is not – but he does enough at his position to warrant a roster spot.