Everything you need to know heading into Preseason Week 3:
1. On the road again. After playing their first two preseason games at home, the Giants take their first road trip of 2019 this week. They will look to improve to 3-0 on Thursday night against the Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium. After that, they travel to Foxborough to wrap things up against the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots.
2. Playing time will “reveal itself.” The third preseason game is typically when coaches play their starters the longest before resting them in the fourth. So you can expect to see plenty of Eli Manning and the first-team offense as the defense also looks to build momentum heading into the regular season, which starts in two weeks. Meanwhile, healthy players like Saquon Barkley and tight end Evan Engram have been healthy scratches. Coach Pat Shurmur said he will “let it reveal itself” as to whether they play on Thursday night.
“People are starting to divert their opinions as to the importance of playing your players in the preseason games,” Shurmur said. “I’ve already heard people talking to me about the third preseason game and it’s your dress rehearsal, that’s kind of like your halftime adjustments. I think you are getting ready to play every practice and every game. As a coach, you have to weigh the importance of the work you are doing and how much work each guy gets.”
3. Injury report. The following players did not play against the Bears last week due to injuries: RB Wayne Gallman (foot), CB Sam Beal (hamstring), CB DeAndre Baker (knee), LB Alec Ogletree (calf), OT Brian Mihalik (burner), OT George Asafo-Adjei (concussion), WR Darius Slayton (hamstring), WR Sterling Shepard (thumb), and LS Zak DeOssie (toe).
In practice this week, Shepard shed the yellow “don’t hit him” pinny, which was another step in the right direction toward Week 1 in Dallas. Shepard, who thought the healing process would take longer, said he doesn’t see anything holding him back for Week 1. However, the thumb is still not ready for a preseason game. Slayton, meanwhile, is getting “really, really close” to playing in his first game after a hamstring set him back following a strong spring.
4. Quarterbacks dominating preseason. It’s only the preseason, but Shurmur and offensive coordinator Mike Shula have to be pleased with what they’re seeing from top to bottom in the quarterbacks room. With all four quarterbacks playing, they were 29 of 37 for 374 yards and three touchdowns with a 136.0 passer rating in the opener against the Jets. Last week, they were 21 of 30 for 250 yards, three touchdowns and an interception for a passer rating of 117.4.
5. Eli looks to stay perfect. Granted he has thrown only five passes, Manning has yet to have a ball hit the ground in the preseason. Four of those completions came on a single drive last week, which ended with a touchdown pass to wide receiver Bennie Fowler. It followed up a quick three-and-out on his lone drive in the opener.
6. DJ leads NFL in YPA and passer rating. Daniel Jones, the sixth overall pick, is averaging 12.0 yards per throw with a passer rating of 151.8. Both marks are the best in the NFL among quarterbacks with more than six pass attempts this preseason. The rookie did face some adversity last week after losing two fumbles.
“That’s just part of the growing, but he didn’t panic,” Shurmur said after the game. “He dropped the ball a couple times, but he didn’t call his parents. He just went back to work and did a good job at getting us in the end zone.”
7. Pass rush gets going. The Giants had three sacks last week, which were three more than they had in the preseason opener against the Jets. A point of emphasis this offseason, it was encouraging for the Giants to see all the sacks come from newcomers. Markus Golden and Olsen Pierre, two veterans with prior experience playing for defensive coordinator James Bettcher in Arizona, both got to the quarterback. So did rookie Oshane Ximines, an intriguing third-round draft pick out of Old Dominion.
8. Life behind Saquon Barkley. While the 2018 Offensive Rookie of the Year sat the first two weeks, the depth of the run game has been put to the test. The results were varied. Against the Jets, they ran the ball 18 times for 40 yards, including a lost fumble by Paul Perkins. The next week, Rod Smith, who got the start, set the tone from the first drive as the team racked up 161 yards on 35 carries. That included a touchdown from Jonathan Hilliman, an undrafted rookie from Rutgers who finished with a team-high 16 attempts for 56 yards.
9. Don’t overlook the return game. The return specialists have stepped up after Corey Coleman went down early in camp with a torn ACL. Last week, TJ Jones had a 43-yard kickoff return while Brittan Golden had a long punt return of 20 yards. The week before, rookie cornerback Corey Ballentine, a former track star in college, had a 40-yard kickoff return.
10. Roster decisions come up quick. After Thursday’s game, there are just nine days until the 53-man roster must be set at 4 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 31. In between, there are a few remaining practices of camp and a the preseason finale vs. New England. And that’s it. Then it’s all systems go for Sept. 9 in Dallas.