By Paul Dottino
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One more chance for some while the clock ticks on others.
The Giants go into tonight’s annual preseason rivalry against the Jets knowing they’ll have to get down to 80 players by Tuesday at 4 p.m. There usually aren’t any surprises in the first cut of the summer, but one never knows.
Coach Tom Coughlin has said he’s had to put a heavy emphasis on grading every play – not just in the preseason games – but in practice, as well, given the new CBA rules. And with less than 24 hours to watch tonight’s game film, those practice reps likely will have an even bigger influence on some of his decisions.
He has said he expects to get 30-35 snaps (or the entire first half) out of his regulars.
Here are three things to watch for from the Giants tonight:
1. New nickel package. Injuries to four cornerbacks have forced the Giants to get creative, so they’ve begun using free safety Antrel Rolle as a nickel corner at practice. Rolle played corner early in his career with the Arizona Cardinals and he’s quick enough to display cover skills, but lining him up in this fashion may reduce the effectiveness of defensive coordinator Perry Fewell’s three-safety “Ghidorah” package – which was a key to last year’s defense.
Other options include former Falcons and Vikings corner Brian Williams, who was signed last week, and former Jaguars defensive back Michael Coe. Former Giants corner Kevin Dockery was cut by the Steelers on Sunday and might be worth a look, but that would be more of a long-range possibility for opening day.
2. Best foot forward. If there’s been one topic to put a smile on Coughlin’s face during camp, it’s been the battle between punters Matt Dodge and Steve Weatherford. It has been an even competition to this point, although Dodge cleared a significant hurdle last Monday night against the Chicago Bears.
In his first home performance of the year, Dodge was booed by Giants fans before coming up with two outstanding punts that appeared to quiet the crowd. Dodge’s ability to kick through this adversity impressed several of his teammates, who explained his response enhanced their confidence in him. Still, he cannot afford to slip up in this competition or Coughlin will have to pull the plug.
3. Power running game. The offensive line showed dramatic improvement from the preseason opener in Carolina to the second game last week, but it still has a way to go before anyone could mark this down as a team strength.
In limited action, Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw appear to be running as well as they ever have in their careers, but this won’t matter if the line doesn’t mesh.
The Jets, under coach Rex Ryan, have been dominant against the run for the past two years, so this will be an outstanding challenge for the O-line to show how much better it has to get in order to compete with the elite.
Is it a good idea to play Rolle at corner? Be heard in the comments below…