After practice on Monday, the Giants fly to Detroit, where they will hold three days of joint practices with the Lions before the teams meet Friday night in the second preseason game. In this week's "Cover 3" on Giants.com, our staffers preview what they will be looking for on this extended road trip based on what they saw in the preseason opener against Cleveland.
JOHN SCHMEELK: When answering a question like this, I think back to the last time the Giants had joint practices against another team. In 2015, Tom Coughlin's last year as head coach, the Giants went to Cincinnati for practices against the Bengals that were eye opening. So, this week in Detroit, I'm going to try to watch the areas of the team I'm not quite sure about to see how they play against a live opponent not wearing Giants blue and white.
My main focus will be up front. I want to see how the Giants' offensive line pass protects, and how the defensive front rushes the quarterback. The Lions have made a lot of investments in their offensive line with players like Taylor Decker, Frank Ragnow, Ricky Wagner and T.J. Lang, and they will be a nice challenge for the Giants' defensive front. Robert Thomas had the only sack for the Giants against the Browns.
I want to see the starting and backup unit of the Giants block a live opponent in one-on-one pass protection situations and see how they handle some of the twists and stunts the Lions defensive line will show them in team drills.
My other main focus will be the secondary. The Lions have three quality receivers in Golden Tate, Marvin Jones and Kenny Golladay, and I want to see how the Giants' defensive backfield handles them. Just as important is how the back end of the Giants' depth chart does covering the Lions' reserve wide receivers. The Giants allowed a whopping seven pass plays of 19 yards or more last Thursday, which is far too many. You learn a lot from these joint practices, and I can't wait to watch them.
DAN SALOMONE: Pat Shurmur likes to keep things simple. After the game, the head coach told his team that "if each guy cleans up one mistake, then we end up being on the winning end." That do-your-job approach will be reverberating around Allen Park, Michigan, where Lions head coach and Bill Belichick disciple Matt Patricia will host the Giants for a week of joint practices leading up to their preseason game on Friday night. Coming out of the opener against the Browns, the Giants made the typical list of things they did well and things they did not do so well. The good was that they ran the ball as well as stopped it. The bad was not completing enough passes, not forcing turnovers and giving up too many big plays as a result of some tight coverage.
Heading to Detroit, what you're looking for is each player and each unit to take a step forward while building some camaraderie in the process as they get away from the comforts and monotony of home. That's why these joint practices come at a perfect time. The blood will be pumping a little more as they break the grind of training camp. They will be practicing at a new facility. They will be sleeping and eating in different places. They will also be hitting people not wearing a Giants uniform. Two-time Pro Bowl safety Landon Collins, who was a rookie the last time the Giants held joint practices, said it best: "You can finally get more aggressive with your teammates." Coaches, players and front office members saw what they've been building since the end of last season in live action for the first time last week. Now they get to see it for a full week in addition to a game.
That was all very macro stuff, but on a micro level, there are a number of things to keep an eye on this week. Shurmur admitted after the Cleveland game that he didn't get any "clarity" on the free safety competition with guys coming in and out because of injuries. I think the running back depth behind Saquon Barkley and Jonathan Stewart also became very interesting after the first preseason game. Wayne Gallman had a team-high four receptions and Jalen Simmons led the way on the ground and rushed for the team's only touchdown. And then you also want to see what the backup quarterbacks can do against Patricia's decorated defensive scheme as they vie to be the first off the bench behind Eli Manning.
LANCE MEDOW: Joint practices are usually great opportunities to monitor one-on-one matchups given the competitive fire is a bit higher than a typical training camp practice amongst teammates. That means the battles in the trenches should be fun to watch, as well as wide receivers against corners. From a defensive standpoint, the Giants were far more effective in stopping the run than the pass in their preseason opener against the Browns. They held Cleveland to just 50 rushing yards on 33 carries and the Browns' longest run was just seven yards.
While the Big Blue front seven was effective in containing the ground attack, the Giants collected just one sack courtesy of Robert Thomas. If you're James Bettcher, I'm sure you're looking to see if you can get more pressure on the opposing quarterbacks in the second preseason game against the Lions. That's why monitoring how the defensive line and linebackers fare against the Detroit offensive line during joint practices will be right at the top of the list. The Lions have a veteran offensive line. Taylor Decker, Graham Glasgow, T.J. Lang and Ricky Wagner have all played at least two seasons in the league and first round pick Frank Ragnow is the only rookie in the mix, so this will be a good test for the Giants' front seven.
Given Browns tight end David Njoku's two touchdown catches, including a 36-yard grab, seeing how the Giants' linebackers match up with the Lions' tight ends, especially in coverage, will be something to watch. With respect to the secondary, after Thursday night's preseason opener, head coach Pat Shurmur said, "We were tight in coverage, but at times we just didn't make enough plays." Well, now Janoris Jenkins, Eli Apple and company will go head to head with a Detroit receiving corps that showcases Golden Tate, Marvin Jones and Kenny Golladay. On the flip side, the Lions have a solid secondary that includes corner Darius Slay and safety Glover Quin, so Eli Manning and his receivers will be tested.