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Giants vs. Broncos: Players to watch in opener


As they say, it's not about the Xs and Os. It's the Jimmys and Joes.

Here are the players to watch in the season opener between the New York Giants and Denver Broncos:

QB Daniel Jones

The Giants' moves in the draft and free agency centered around helping Daniel Jones get over the hump. His third season begins Sunday against a talented defense under Broncos coach Vic Fangio. Jones was asked this week if it's make-or-break time.

"I'm not really seeing it that way, I guess," Jones said. "I think my mindset is just to go out and help this team win games. I think we're in a position, we've had a good camp and we're prepared, and my job is to put the team in a position to win games, to protect the football and distribute the ball to guys who can make plays for us. That's kind of how I'm looking at it."

C Nick Gates

Gates, a former undrafted prosect, gets "chills" every time he thinks about being voted a captain for the first time this season. There will be no time for reflection on Sunday, though, as he leads a group charged with protecting Jones from Von Miller and Co.. Gates said the offensive line is chomping at the bit to prove itself.

"It's exciting to get out there on game day and compete every day and show what we've been doing for what the past five, six weeks out here," Gates said, "and finally get to put it on camera and on the field and just go have fun with the guys."

CB James Bradberry

Bradberry returns from his first Pro Bowl campaign and is the only player in the NFL with at least 10 passes defensed in each of past five seasons. He will go up against Jerry Jeudy and an ascending group of receivers on Sunday, when veteran Teddy Bridgewater will make his Broncos debut at quarterback.

"They've got a mixture of some down-the-field, vertical guys and then they've got some shifty guys with Jeudy," Bradberry said. "Of course, [Courtland] Sutton and Tim Patrick are the deep ball guys, bigger physical receivers that catch the 50-50 balls down the field. They've also got some speedsters too in K.J. Hamler."

WR Sterling Shepard

Shepard, the longest-tenured active Giants player, was a constant for the offense this summer as other weapons missed time this summer. Although they may be getting some of them back on Sunday, Shepard is not to be overlooked. He had one of the best camps of his career and has an opportunity to climb into the Giants' top five in career receptions. He currently ranks 11th all-time (313) in franchise history and needs 59 receptions to surpass Jeremy Shockey at No. 5.

"I'm happy to be on the field with all the guys and all the different pieces and getting to see everybody work together," Shepard said. "Starting to make this thing gel, just got to put it together on Sunday."

To Be Determined: RB Saquon Barkley (knee), WR Kenny Golladay (hamstring), WR Kadarius Toney (hamstring), TE Kyle Rudolph (foot)

All four of them were limited in practice to start the week, but the Giants are optimistic about their chances for Week 1. We may not know definitively until 90 minutes before kickoff when the inactives are announced, but the Giants are eager to see the offense that they drew up in the off-season – whenever that may be.

"I've been thinking about just playing back on Sunday in front of fans since probably a week after my injury," Barkley said. "Obviously, you have that little state of mind where you're upset. You're like, 'Why me?' You're depressed and this and that, but then it's come to kind of right after – you've got to start grinding and getting yourself back. I'm a big visualizer thinker so I've been fantasizing of getting back on that field with my teammates and playing in there in front of fans. Obviously, last year we didn't have fans, so whenever the opportunity does come, it's something that I'm definitely going to cherish and never take for granted again."

View photos of the Denver Broncos starters ahead of the Week 1 matchup against the Giants.


Limited Tickets Available for Giants vs. Broncos

Limited tickets are available for the Giants' home opener vs. the Broncos on Sunday

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