By Paul Dottino
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Get out of the preseason finale against the New England Patriots without any more injuries — it’s that simple.
Giants coach Tom Coughlin has enough to worry about without having to further stress over his roster, which has to be reduced from 75 to 53 by Saturday at 6 p.m.
Wide receiver Victor Cruz, defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, center David Baas and fullback Henry Hynoski lead the list of walking wounded who may prompt the team to alter its positional allotment in the final cut.
Coughlin said he plans to play his starters from 12-15 snaps – which means they aren’t likely to go beyond the first quarter.
Here are three of the most important angles you want to look for in the game:
1. The O-line. This is getting to sound like a broken record. But if the game begins in the trenches, the Giants must continue to stress over their third different offensive line combination in three weeks.
LG Kevin Boothe has been shifted to center, where Jim Cordle had a difficult time last weekend against the Jets. Boothe has done well in this spot before, specifically in the run game, so there is some logic behind this move.
James Brewer will start at left guard, even though – until this week – he’d only practiced at the two tackle spots and right guard since he was drafted in 2011.
It’s possible that Coughlin will allow this unit to play a bit longer, since they might represent the starting five against Dallas in Week 1.
2. Four to three. Coughlin said he plans to get all four of his quarterbacks in the game, beginning with Eli Manning, then fourth-rounder c, followed by David Carr and Curtis Painter.
Given Nassib will be working with the second unit, this should be his best opportunity to shine. It’s assumed he will stick on the roster as the No. 3, but the Giants would like to see his play improve over the inconsistent performance he’s exhibited throughout training camp.
To many, it’s a mystery as to why Coughlin has pitted Carr against Painter for the No. 2 job, given their resumes and abilities. Carr has done enough to win this spot by now, yet Painter remains on the roster.
3. Punt returns. The good news for Coughlin is that he ought to have enough evidence to feel good about putting seventh-round RB Michael Cox on kickoff returns.
The bad news for the coach is that CB Jayron Hosley – who may be best suited for punt return duties, but has yet to lock up the job – is coming off a sprained ankle, so the team may not want to send him out on special teams (if he plays at all). Look for WR Rueben Randle and CB Charles James to get reps in this spot against the Patriots. James has impressed the staff in many ways, but he still might have to settle for a spot on the practice squad.
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