Five Giants players to watch as they get set to face the Patriots Thursday night.
Davis Webb will throw multiple touchdowns on Thursday night against the Patriots.
JOHN SCHMEELK: Fact - Sure, why not? What? You need more than that? Fine. Although coach Pat Shurmur has been cagey as to which starters won’t play in the fourth preseason game, I am guessing (partly based on what we saw in practice on Tuesday) that Eli Manning will be one of them. He doesn’t need any more preseason snaps to be ready to be the Giants’ starting quarterback in Week 1 against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Davis Webb should play at least a half of football, and he has not hesitated trying to get the ball down the field when he has played this preseason. He’ll be throwing to many of the same receivers he has been in practice, and I could see a couple of big plays for scores to the likes to Russell Shepard, Roger Lewis, Hunter Sharp or Kalif Raymond.
DAN SALOMONE: Fact - Webb doesn’t know when the next time he plays in a game will be, so he is going to try to make the most of it. After admitting that he was a little too amped up in the preseason opener, his first game in nearly a year and his first with the new offense, Webb settled down in the second game in Detroit and completed 14 of 20 passes for 140 yards and a touchdown as the starter. I think he gets multiple scores with another extended opportunity against the Patriots.
LANCE MEDOW: Fiction - Davis Webb has thrown one touchdown pass in the first three preseason games combined. His lone score came in the second game in Detroit when he connected with Wayne Gallman on an eight-yard pass to cap an impressive 17 play, 79-yard drive. While it’s not a stretch to argue Webb will throw multiple touchdown passes Thursday night against the Patriots because of his strong arm and confidence in taking chances down the field, I think the Giants will look to establish the run early to give the offensive line quality reps and to determine how many backs they’ll choose to keep
Hunter Sharp has the most to gain from the preseason finale.
JOHN SCHMEELK: Fiction - I’m going with a dark horse here: William Gay. After playing slot cornerback all spring and the first two weeks of training camp, Gay has been transitioned to safety. He was with the second unit in the third preseason game and at practice this week. Gay has natural coverage skills from his time as a cornerback and excellent football intelligence thanks to his vast experience, but he is still learning a new position. If he can take advantage of the snaps at safety in this game and prove he could perform at a high level in every aspect of the safety position, he can find himself having a role with the defense this season as a versatile piece in the defensive backfield.
DAN SALOMONE: Fact - Sharp was an absolute pro in his postgame locker room interview after the Jets game. While he produced the highlight of the game with his 55-yard punt return touchdown, he was sincerely angry with himself about having no catches on three targets, including a drop on third down. He not only wants the ball to come his way this week to redeem himself, but he wants a pass to be bad so he can redeem himself and show he can make the difficult catch. A roster spot might depend on it.
LANCE MEDOW: Fact - I think Hunter Sharp, Kalif Raymond and Roger Lewis all fall under that category but the reason I’d put Sharp at the head of the list is because through the first three preseason games, he’s had mixed results. While a 55-yard punt return for a score against the Jets is among his highlights, at the same time he had some ball security issues on two returns in Detroit and a few drops against the Jets. This final preseason game is a golden opportunity for him to prove he can quickly bounce back from some mishaps and be a consistent producer. The back end of the wide receiver depth chart has to contribute on specials teams and Sharp certainly has that working in his favor.
Special teams has been the most improved phase of the game.
JOHN SCHMEELK: Fiction It has to be the passing game. From the pass protection of the offensive line to the health of the skill position players to the scheme that emphasizes throwing the ball down the field, the Giants’ passing attack looks completely different than it did last season. You could see the changes in the scheme as far back as the spring when balls were flying down the field during OTAs far more frequently than they have in the past. The addition of Saquon Barkley and the return of a healthy Odell Beckham Jr. in this new system makes the possibilities endless, as long as Eli Manning is given time to take advantage of it. So far, at least in the preseason, the returns have been positive and my expectations are high.
DAN SALOMONE: Fact - While the Giants did come three yards shy of eclipsing their entire 2017 punt return yardage (148) in one fell swoop last week, special teams has been impressive all preseason – and not just based on a flashy return here and there. You have had long snapper Zak DeOssie recover a fumble in the opener, key blocks springing the long punt returns, Riley Dixon downing multiple punts inside the 10-yard line, and Aldrick Rosas being perfect on field goals.
LANCE MEDOW: Fact - Regardless of some of the strides the team has made on offense and defense, in the preseason, it’s not even close to how far special teams has come. Aldrick Rosas is a perfect six for six on field goal attempts and Riley Dixon has been effective in the punting department. The coverage units have stood out thanks to Kerry Wynn’s stellar play along with Ray-Ray Armstrong and Russell Shepard. Wynn and Armstrong have each forced fumbles that the Giants recovered and, in the return game, Hunter Sharp and Kalif Raymond have both showed flashes. Sharp returned a kickoff for 42 yards against the Browns and then returned a punt 55 yards for a score against the Jets and Raymond added a 35-yard punt return against the Jets. Special teams has been impressive across the board
The run game is the Giants’ biggest concern based on the preseason.
JOHN SCHMEELK: Fiction If you are speaking only about the offense, this is undoubtedly a fact. There were far too many free runners penetrating the Giants’ backfield in the preseason, often times giving the running back little chance for success. I don’t think, however, it is a bigger problem than the team’s pass defense. Aside from Janoris Jenkins (putting aside the one long pass he allowed to Jarvis Landry against Cleveland), other defenders have allowed too many opposing players to get free in preseason games. There also hasn’t been a consistent enough pass rush. One of those things needs to get better in the regular season for the defense to have a reasonable chance of slowing down opposing quarterbacks. It is a passing league, and if you can’t stop teams from airing the ball out, it is probably going to be a long season.
DAN SALOMONE: Fiction - First of all, Saquon Barkley has played in only one of the games. Secondly, you don’t judge a run game based on one quarter or even one half. It’s a game-long investment that sometimes doesn’t pay off until the end of the game when you need it most. Right now, I think the biggest concern is the status of Olivier Vernon, who was just putting the finishing touches on an impressive summer before spraining his ankle this week.
LANCE MEDOW: Fact - If you solely focus on the first team’s production on the ground, then I think it’s fair to argue this statement is a fact. In fairness, Wayne Gallman, Jhurell Pressley, Jalen Simmons and Robert Martin have all had their moments but their impressive runs occurred later in games when starters on both sides were no longer on the field. It’s also important to note, Saquon Barkley played in just one of the three preseason games so that’s why I don’t think it’s an overwhelming concern but the Giants certainly want to see more production early in games. It seems as if the run game picks up some steam as they get later into contests. New York has four rushing touchdowns (three in Detroit) this preseason but all four have come in the second half and, with the exception of Barkley’s 39-yard run in the opener against the Browns, the majority of the Giants’ double-digits runs have also come in the third and fourth quarters.