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5 storylines to follow as Dolphins prep gets underway

ELI-MANNING-LOOKS-AHEAD

The New York Giants (2-11) take the field against the Miami Dolphins (3-10) at MetLife Stadium this Sunday. This is the first meeting between the two teams since 2015, when the Giants defeated the Dolphins, 31-24.

Miami is coming off a last-second 22-21 loss to the New York Jets last week, as the Jets kicked a game-winning field goal as time expired. The Dolphins sit in last place in the AFC East, two games behind the Jets. Miami has gone 1-2 against the NFC East this season, losing in Dallas and at home against Washington while defeating Philadelphia at Hard Rock Stadium.

Here are five storylines to follow ahead of the Week 15 matchup and the rest of the Giants' season:

Manning to get another start?

Coach Shurmur wouldn't commit to a starting quarterback Wednesday, and while the week is still young, early signs point towards Eli Manning possibly getting his second consecutive start. Manning completed 15 of 30 passes for 203 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions against the Eagles Monday night, his first start since Week 2. Most of that production came in the first half, as the veteran went into halftime with 11 completions for 179 yards and the two scores.

"I thought we executed in the passing game pretty well," coach Pat Shurmur said after Monday's game about Manning's first half. "We were making plays and actually getting explosive plays… I thought he battled. He did a lot of good things."

Daniel Jones was officially limited at Wednesday's practice. His ankle sprain still has a few more days to heal before a decision must be made, but it appears that Manning could start in front of the home crowd.

"He's moving around a little bit," Shurmur said about the rookie quarterback. "We just have to see how he does by the end of the week. He's out here. He's out of the boot, he's into his regular shoes and he's out here practicing. Again, we didn't do much today. We'll just have to see how he feels by the end of the week to see if he fits into the equation here."

Slayton has another breakout game

Darius Slayton had another breakout performance this past week. The rookie receiver caught five passes for 154 yards and both Giants' touchdowns Monday, including a nifty play in which he shed Eagles cornerback Ronald Darby to break free for the team's first score. It was his third multi-touchdown game of the season. Slayton earned an overall grade of 90.3 from Pro Football Focus, making him the highest-graded Giant in Week 14, according to PFF.

"He does a good job of getting separation, a great job on the slant getting a lot of separation," Manning told the media Wednesday about the rookie receiver. "I think one go ball was a busted coverage, but the other was just man and off coverage, and ran right by him. I think he's got good speed, tracks the ball well and has some playmaking abilities. He's an easy target, a big target, to throw to."

Slayton was the 18th wide receiver selected in the 2019 NFL Draft. Yet 13 games into the season, the fifth-round pick finds himself at or near the top of the rookie leaderboard in most receiving categories. Slayton leads all rookie wide receivers with seven touchdowns, while ranking fourth with 659 yards and third with 59.9 yards per game. He is also tied for third among first-year receivers in first downs (29) and tied for fourth in receptions (42) and catches of 20+ yards (12).

"I knew I wanted to come in and make an impact," Slayton said about his expectations this season. "I knew I could come in and make an impact. I didn't really know how much I was going to be able to do that, but like I said, I've definitely been blessed. Daniel, Eli, having two really good quarterbacks to play with in my rookie season has definitely helped me out a lot."

With Zeitler sidelined, Gates could step back into starting lineup

Kevin Zeitler has started 85 consecutive games, but following his injury last week, his streak appears to be in danger. Zeitler hurt his ankle Monday and did not participate in Wednesday's practice. If Zeitler is unable to suit up Sunday, second-year lineman Nick Gates is likely to fill his spot on the offensive line.

"I don't know that," Shurmur said about Zeitler's chances of playing Sunday. "I don't know that. He wasn't able to be out here today, and he's a tough son of a gun. We'll just have to see how today goes, evaluate it this afternoon and see what he can do tomorrow."

If Gates is inserted into the lineup for Sunday's game against Miami, it would be the second start of his career. The swing lineman filled in for right tackle Mike Remmers during the team's Week 10 loss to the New York Jets and played well. Gates could have another opportunity to showcase his skill set this week against the Dolphins if Zeitler can't make it back in time.

Will Giants finally have all offensive weapons available?

Thirteen games into the season, the Giants have yet to have all their top offensive weapons active in the same game. Saquon Barkley, Sterling Shepard, Golden Tate, Darius Slayton and Evan Engram have all missed time this year due to various injuries or suspension. But with Engram participating in practice Wednesday, albeit in a limited fashion, it appears as if the Giants at least have a chance to have all of their top skill position players available for the first time against Miami.

"I think what it does is it allows us to not necessarily go and feature one guy," Offensive Coordinator Mike Shula told reporters last week about what having all of the skill players healthy does for the offense. "I think it presents, hopefully for the defense, it presents a personnel grouping of, 'Hey, we need to be careful here because if we focus our attention on this guy, then we have a one on one on that side,' or 'If we try to go split safeties, two-deep shell, where we're trying to umbrella coverage or we're trying to help out in cover, now we have to be careful about Saquon (Barkley) running the ball.' Hopefully, that's what it presents."

While his participation in practice is encouraging, it is not guaranteed that Engram will suit up this week. The third-year tight end practiced on a limited basis last week and was still inactive Monday night. If Engram is unable to go, rookie Kaden Smith will once again fill in as the team's starting tight end. Serving in that role for the last three games, Smith has caught 13 passes for 96 yards and a touchdown.

"He's done a good job each week getting better," Shula told the media last week about the rookie tight end. "He's still learning the offense. He knows the offense, he's a smart guy. But just all the kind of little adjustments that you make last minute or just coverage tweaks or things that the quarterbacks might be looking for. I think he's, from what we've seen, just going to continue to get better. He's proven that he can make some plays and catch the ball, make contested catches and hold onto it. Hopefully he'll stay on that trend."

Love continues to perform as starting safety

It's been two and a half games since Julian Love replaced the injured Jabrill Peppers at safety, and the rookie has continuously shown that he is up for the challenge. Love put together yet another strong performance against the Eagles, picking up six solo tackles and a tackle for loss.

"He's got a real good feel," Shurmur said last week about the fourth-round rookie. "Some people have a feel for things and some people don't. He's one of those guys that has a feel for it."

Over the last three weeks, the 21-year-old has recorded 14 tackles (11 solo), one tackle for loss, one pass defended, one interception and one forced fumble. On Wednesday, Love was promoted to starting safety on the team's unofficial Week 15 depth chart.

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