By Paul Dottino
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Welcome to the most hectic evaluation week of coach Tom Coughlin’s summer. The Giants have two home preseason games within six days, beginning with Friday night’s matchup against the Chicago Bears.
NFL rules require the first cut from 90 to 75 players by Monday at 4 p.m. (ET) and then to 53 by Aug. 31 at 9 p.m. (ET) – this requires a lot of decisions to be made in a very short period of time, especially when the CBA has nearly reduced the number of practices in half.
As usual in preseason Week 3, the Giants are expected to play their starters for the first half – and this is important because it’s the only true test these players will get heading into their difficult regular season schedule. The Jaguars and Jets provided substandard competition, but the Bears will be a playoff contender. And Patriots coach Bill Belichick usually never plays any of his starters in the fourth preseason game. So pay attention to how well the “ones” do before they come out. After that, it’ll be a good look at the back of the depth chart.
Here are three things to look for:
1. Running game. The starters have not gotten this straightened out after the first two preseason games despite being Coughlin’s top priority coming into training camp. In addition, first-round RB David Wilson likely will get plenty of chances to run with the first team since Ahmad Bradshaw is nursing a sore hand.
Wilson has shown great speed when hitting the hole, but he’ll be required to show an all-around game if he’s to earn a bigger dose of regular season snaps. DJ Ware appears to be set as the third-down back, although it’s of some concern that he hasn’t run the ball as well as expected.
Da’Rel Scott and Andre Brown might have entered the preseason fighting for one roster spot – but injuries to other positions appear to be leaving both of them in a position to audition for other teams. And remember, Brown is eligible for the practice squad – again.
2. CB Prince Amukamara. He’s been inconsistent during camp and the preseason despite being given the inside track to start after Terrell Thomas (knee) was injured. The Giants need Amukamara to play up to the standards set by the rest of the defense because there is no way to tell if/when Thomas will return.
Rookie Jayron Hosley was making a big push up the depth chart into the third corner spot until he suffered a turf-toe type of injury last week and is out indefinitely.
Yes, the Giants have depth in numbers at corner, but these injuries mean they really don’t have an answer if Amukamara doesn’t not live up to his potential.
3. Return to sender. Nobody has seized either the punt return or kickoff return job, much to the dismay of coach Coughlin. He’s tried many combinations during the summer without getting the desired results.
Wide receiver Domenik Hixon is his ace in the hole, but there’s no reason to use him in the preseason because the coach knows exactly what he can do. The Giants will continue to hold auditions, hoping receiver Jerrel Jernigan can win the punt returner’s role and Wilson grabs the job on kickoffs.
Yes, there are others to try, but this duo could make Coughlin’s job a whole lot easier if they show they can get it done.
Who do you expect to step up Friday night? Let us know in the comments below!