PRESEASON ROLLS ON
Brian Daboll made his NFL head coaching debut last week when the Giants traveled to Foxboro and defeated the Patriots, 23-21. Now it's time for Daboll to take the sideline at MetLife Stadium for the first time as head coach of the Giants as his squad will welcome the Cincinnati Bengals to East Rutherford on Sunday for their second preseason game at 7 p.m. Following the game, the Giants will have just one more preseason tuneup before the start of the regular season when they take on the Jets at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, Aug. 28 (1 p.m. kickoff).
"Just keep grinding away. Keep improving our fundamentals," Daboll has said of the week's work. "It's going to be a big thing. I thought we improved a little bit on that [vs. the Pats] pass protection-wise with the backs, playing the deep ball with the defensive backfield. Again, you can't tackle. I think we missed six tackles the first game. So improvements fundamentally is the most important."
The Giants and Bengals have met five times in the preseason with New York winning four of five meetings. The Bengals lead the all-time regular season series, 6-5, dating to 1972, but the Giants emerged with the victory in their last meeting in 2020.
There are no official injury reports in the preseason, but coach Brian Daboll announced this morning that the following players will likely not suit up against the Bengals: OL Ben Bredeson, OL Jon Feliciano, RB Matt Breida, RB Gary Brightwell, TE Andre Miller, TE Ricky Seals-Jones, OL Jamil Douglas, OL Shane Lemieux, WR Darius Slayton, WR Kadarius Toney, DL Leonard Williams, OLB Elerson Smith, T Garrett McGhin, OL Joshua Ezeudu, S Dane Belton, CB Cor'Dale Flott, CB Rodarius Williams, and OLB Jihad Ward. WR Sterling Shepard, C Nick Gates and T Matt Peart remain on the Physically Unable to Perform list and will not suit up.
GARCIA TO START AT CENTER
With the injuries to Feliciano, Douglas, Lemieux, Bredeson and McGhin, the Giants will have a new starting center for Sunday's game against the Bengals: Max Garcia. The eighth-year veteran played in 93 games (52 starts) for the Broncos and Cardinals since his selection in the fourth round of the 2015 NFL Draft. Garcia played 15 games (11 starts) for Arizona last year, four of which came at center (the other seven at right guard). He had success at the center position in his final year at Florida, as well, where he started all 13 games for the Gators and was voted Second-Team All-SEC.
The Giants made several moves at the start of the week, waiving FB/TE Jeremiah Hall, DB Gavin Heslop and WR Austin Proehl in order to reach the 85-man roster limit by Tuesday's deadline. The roster flux continued Friday as DL Christopher Hinton was waived and WR Robert Foster was placed on injured reserve in order to make room for OL Chris Owens and OL Josh Rivas, the latter of who was previously waived on Sunday.
More moves are coming in the next few days, as the Giants must get the roster down to 80 players by Tuesday. Teams will then have to reduce their rosters down to 53 by Tuesday, Aug. 30.
RUN GAME STRONG
The run offense got off to a stellar start against the Patriots last week. The Giants averaged nearly 5.5 yards per carry when they gained 177 yards on 33 carries. Antonio Williams led the way with nine rush attempts for 61 yards (6.8 avg.) and the lone touchdown on the ground.
"I thought they did a nice job with it," offensive coordinator Mike Kafka said Thursday. "There was definitely some production there and some good things from all the backs, really, and the o-line – they did a really good job in that game and that was definitely one of the highlights of the game."
Matt Breida will miss his second consecutive preseason game this weekend while Gary Brightwell, who gained 40 yards on seven rushes (5.7 avg.) against New England, will also miss the matchup against the Bengals. Daboll was noncommittal about whether or not Saquon Barkley will play Sunday, but regardless, Williams, Jashaun Corbin and Sandro Platzgummer should get extended action in the second preseason game.
Barkley saw his first preseason action since his rookie season last week when he totaled 21 yards on five touches (four rushes, one reception). After his day was done, Barkley, a team captain the last three seasons, was seen loudly cheering on his teammates on the sideline. Daboll touched on the importance of team camaraderie, and how Barkley has played a crucial part in that this year.
"We're just trying to build as good a team chemistry as we can," said Daboll. "That's important. That's important during the season, as you guys know; you've been through NFL seasons for a long time. There's a lot of things that don't go as planned, and you have to stay strong within your group. And you have to support one another. And you have to concentrate and focus on the things you can control.
"And I'll just say with Saquon in general, he's been excellent since he's been here in the spring, picking up our stuff and into summer. His leadership has really been good. It's stood out in a strong way to me as is his performance and the way that he approaches it on a day-to-day basis. He's been fantastic."
Another year removed from the torn ACL that forced him to miss almost the entire 2020 season, Barkley feels a lot more confident in his knee this season. The 25-year-old said he wanted to improve on his pass protection in 2022. Barkley was working on that aspect of his game with former Patriots RB Kevin Faulk, a Bill Walsh minority coaching intern on Daboll's staff, during a special teams period Thursday. The fifth-year veteran is ready to do whatever it takes to help the team.
"I'm just trying to do a really good job of listening to the coaches, listening to the training staff and come here and try to compete and get better every single day," Barkley said. "My motto this year is whatever the coaches want me to do, I just go out there and try to compete and do it to the best of my ability."
Kenny Golladay had arguably his strongest day of training camp on Thursday, catching several passes from Daniel Jones including a deep shot of 40+ yards.
"I thought he made some plays today," Jones told reporters after that session. "I thought we spread the ball around well, and obviously, he had the deep shot he made a nice adjustment on, a big play there. I think he's had a good camp, and we'll keep working with him."
With Kadarius Toney, Darius Slayton and Sterling Shepard missing Sunday's game, the coaching staff will get a great opportunity to see what the wide receivers battling for roster spots can do. Collin Johnson (seven receptions for 82 yards) and Richie James (three catches for 44 yards and a touchdown) led the team in receiving last week. Those two, along with C.J. Board, Marcus Kemp, David Sills and several others, should see plenty of action against the Bengals.
YOUNG LBs DEVELOPING
The Giants emerged from the 2022 NFL Draft with an 11-person draft class, two of which are listed as inside linebackers. On the latest unofficial depth chart, Darrian Beavers is listed on the second team at the WILL position, while Micah McFadden is the third-team MLB. Both rookies saw extended action against the Patriots last week and performed well. Beavers finished with three solo tackles, including a tackle for loss, while McFadden tied DB Darren Evans and LB Austin Calitro with a team-high four tackles. Wink Martindale is pleased with the growth he's seen out of the two rookies.
"I was really pleased with the whole linebacker room," said the defensive coordinator. "I told (Inside Linebackers Coach John Egorugwu) Egs that. Egs did a nice job of getting those guys ready for that game, the way they tackled, the way the pressed the line of scrimmage. And they're starting the younger linebackers, which is the hardest thing to teach, is they're using their hands better. Once you get a linebacker who can use his hands, then you've got a linebacker. I think they're both coming along really well and right on schedule."
Speaking of young linebackers, the Giants got Azeez Ojulari back on the field earlier this week. Ojulari had eight sacks last year and became the first player in franchise history to register a sack in each of his first three games. Ojulari will be joined on the edge by rookie OLB Kayvon Thibodeaux, and the two seem excited to challenge each other this season.
"Obviously, he's a great player and now that he's really back, we get to have his presence and get to continue to build that team camaraderie," Thibodeaux said Friday. "It's been great, I'm excited to keep it going... I told him yesterday in the meeting like everything he does I want to do it better. Whether it's eating, sleeping, or breathing, I'm going to try to do it better. So, just continuing to set a standard and continuing to chase and create that competitive banter."
SCOUTING THE BENGALS
The reigning AFC Champions sport one of the league's top offenses. The unit ranked seventh in the NFL in points scored last year, a group that featured QB Joe Burrow, RB Joe Mixon, and WRs Ja'Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd. The Bengals return that same core of playmakers with the one big difference coming at the tight end position. C.J. Uzomah signed with the New York Jets in free agency, but the Bengals replaced him with former first-round pick Hayden Hurst.
The Bengals and head coach Zac Taylor opened their preseason slate with a 36-23 loss last Friday against the Arizona Cardinals. Jake Browning saw the most snaps at quarterback and completed 13 of 24 passes for 190 yards. Kendric Pryor (four receptions for 89 yards and a touchdown) and Trent Taylor (four receptions for 74 yards) were the team's leading receivers. The Cincinnati defense registered three sacks against the Cardinals and limited the Arizona offense to 310 total yards.
It remains to be seen which Bengals starters, if any, will suit up for Sunday night's game.
View photos of the history between the New York Giants and Cincinnati Bengals.