Giants vs. Bears: 10 Key Things to Watch for in Friday Night's Preseason Game

Doug Rush@Doug_RushSenior Analyst IAugust 24, 2012

Giants vs. Bears: 10 Key Things to Watch for in Friday Night's Preseason Game

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    The NFL regular season is now less than two weeks away from kicking off.

    For a lot of kids, that means back to school is right around the corner; a very depressing time for those who don't want the summer to end.

    But for most adults, back-to-school time usually gets tied in with the start of the NFL season, which is an exciting time of year on the sports calendar.

    The New York Giants are getting closer to kicking off their 2012 season as the defending champions of the league and will square off against the Chicago Bears on Friday night.

    The Bears have been a common opponent for the Giants in recent preseason history, and the last time these two teams met in a regular season game, the Giants defense took out not one, but two quarterbacks back in 2010.

    Will Tom Coughlin play his first- and second-team starters deeper into the game, or will they get the usual preseason rest and let the others fight for positions on the team?

    In this slideshow, here are 10 things to look for in Friday night's showdown at MetLife Stadium between the Giants and Bears.

The Play of the Giants Offensive Line

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    The Giants offensive line has yet to gel and mesh like they did at the end of the season.

    It was also a big reason why the Giants ranked dead last in rushing last season; something they usually rank near the top of.

    Will Beatty has yet to prove that he deserves the starting left tackle job, which is a big problem considering he has to cover Eli Manning's blind side.

    Sean Locklear has been playing at the left tackle spot, but has yet to secure the starting job for the Giants.

    With the struggles, don't be shocked if David Diehl gets shifted back over from right to left tackle if Beatty doesn't get over the injuries (back).

    Either way, the Giants unit needs to improve in order to help out the running game and protect their franchise quarterback.

David Wilson's Development

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    Ahmad Bradshaw has been bothered by an injured hand, and he is out for tonight's game.

    If the Giants hold Bradshaw back and don't want to further the injury, that means more extended playing time for David Wilson, the Giants' first-round draft pick.

    Wilson ran plays with the first team this past week and is looking forward to showing the coaches what he is capable of.

    Wilson has started out the preseason third on the depth chart behind Bradshaw and D.J. Ware, but the Giants know it's time to see what their rookie can do with the regular starters.

    Because of the void Brandon Jacobs left when he departed via free agency to San Francisco this offseason, Wilson and Ware are battling for the second spot behind Bradshaw.

    Ultimately, Wilson is the one the Giants want for that spot. Now it's up to him to show he can deliver.

JPP's Injury Gives Others a Chance

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    Jason Pierre-Paul recently has been suffering from back spasms and will not play in the game on Friday night.

    The Giants only view this as a minor injury, and JPP will likely be ready for the start of the 2012 season.

    With JPP on the sidelines, it gives the backups a chance to earn spots.

    Osi Umenyiora will likely be starting in his place, but his spot on the Giants is already secure.

    Adrian Tracy, Craig Marshall and Adewale Ojomo will all get more reps and playing time with a shot to make the team.

    Of those three, Tracy has looked the best of the bunch and could end up taking the spot that Dave Tollefson voided when he departed as a free agent.

    In fact, some of my fellow writers here on B/R have predicted Tracy to make the final 53-man roster this season.

    If he continues to have a strong preseason, Tracy will likely make the team. The injury to JPP will give him more opportunities to get more reps in against better opponents.

Prince Amukamara's Confidence Level as a Starter

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    After the Jets game, the video of Prince Amukamara getting thrown into the tub of ice water surfaced, raising a lot of questions about hazing.

    Many of the Giants players have said it wasn't hazing and the players were just "horsing around."

    In Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News' column, he talked about how the Giants want Amukamara to assert more confidence in himself and "play with swagger."

    In the story, Vacchiano speculated that the reason why Amukamara got dunked was the Giants teammates were trying to toughen him up, and Amukamara needs to start standing up for himself more.

    Because of the injury to Terrell Thomas, Amukamara will likely be the starter when the 2012 season opens; something he was unavailable for last season during his rookie year.

    Amukamara suffered from a broken foot and didn't play until November 20 against the Eagles. During the end of last season, Amukamara looked a step or two off.

    With him being able to participate and play in the preseason, he's getting more reps and is learning the Giants defense.

    Will he play with that swagger the Giants want from him?

Chase Blackburn vs. Mark Herzlich

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    Who knew when the start of the Giants preseason began that the middle linebacker spot would be a battle?

    Chase Blackburn is back with a guaranteed contract and has a spot on this team after he helped solidify the position late last season.

    His heroics in Super Bowl XLVI will forever be remembered by Giants fans, as he leaped over Rob Gronkowski and intercepted a Tom Brady pass deep downfield that certainly would have been a touchdown.

    His competition is Mark Herzlich, who has said he wants the starting job for 2012.

    Herzlich overcame a rare form of cancer while in college and was signed by the Giants as an undrafted free agent before 2011.

    Herzlich got his chances to play in 2011, but suffered from nagging injuries. Herzlich being injured was a reason why Blackburn was brought back in the middle of the season.

    The battle for the starting spot has been back and forth, although Herzlich suffering a hip-pointer against the Jets didn't help his cause.

    It'll be interesting to see how this position battle ends and who comes away with the job on September 5.

    Right now, my money is on Blackburn.

Will D.J. Ware Take over the "Brandon Jacobs Role?"

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    We have talked about David Wilson and the possibility of his role on the team.

    D.J. Ware has a chance to do what Brandon Jacobs used to for the Giants, which is get tough, important yards on short-yardage situations.

    Bradshaw and Wilson are the speed backs on the Giants, so Ware gets the opportunity to be the change-of-pace bruiser the Giants need.

    Not only does Bradshaw think Ware is ready to step into the role, but Jacobs himself, who is now a member of the 49ers, also thinks Ware can fill the void he left, according to Mike Garafolo of the Newark-Star Ledger.

    In Ware's first preseason game against the Jaguars, he had five carries for 30 yards and scored a touchdown.

    In the second preseason game against the Jets, he had 11 carries for 15 yards and no touchdowns.

    His game against Jacksonville was more impressive than the one against the Jets.

    Against the Bears, Ware will still get many touches, but his competition may now come from Da'Rel Scott and the fight for the third running back spot.

    Ware will have to show the Giants he can be the bruiser Jacobs once was.

The No. 3 Wide Receiver Battle

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    Just like Brandon Jacobs, Mario Manningham also left a void in the Giants offense when he departed to the San Francisco 49ers this offseason.

    With Manningham gone, it gives a lot of different receivers a chance to take the job.

    The Giants drafted Rueben Randle in the second round of the 2012 NFL draft with high expectations for him.

    Randle has looked very impressive in the preseason, catching a touchdown against the Jaguars and then catching a 49-yard pass downfield against the Jets.

    Ramses Barden, Jerrel Jernigan and Domenik Hixon are also all battling for the same spot along with Randle.

    Hixon is better suited as the fourth or fifth receiver and on special teams as a return man.

    Neither Jernigan nor Barden has done anything impressive enough to earn the No. 3 receiver spot. While Jernigan is still developing, Barden may be on his last chance with the team—especially if he doesn't step up and become the Plaxico Burress-type receiver everyone thought he would be when he came out of college.

    Going into the game against the Bears, Randle is hands-down the clear favorite to win the job.

Jayron Hosley's Continuing Development

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    Last week against the Jets, rookie cornerback Jayron Hosley impressed the Giants coaches and fans.

    Hosley intercepted a pass by Mark Sanchez and took it back to the end zone for a 77-yard touchdown, making it 13-0 Giants in the second quarter.

    Hosley read the play beautifully and looked more like a seasoned veteran than he did a rookie.

    On the depth chart, Hosley has played behind Corey Webster, and due to Terrell Thomas recovering from a knee injury, Hosley has gotten more playing time this preseason.

    Hosley has also been used on special teams as a punt returner, and while he botched a punt against the Jaguars that led to a touchdown, he was much better against the Jets and didn't cough up a ball.

    The Giants like to use different coverages with different backs, and Hosley is expected to get playing time in 2012.

    Hosley is listed on the injured list as having a foot injury, and his status for Friday night's game is uncertain.

    Can he be a playmaker on defense like he was against the Jets and give the Giants another weapon during the season?

Keith Rivers Impressing with Michael Boley Out

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    Starting outside linebacker Michael Boley has spent most of the preseason on the sideline with a hamstring injury, giving Keith Rivers a chance to step up on the defense.

    Last year when Boley was sidelined due to injury, the Giants defense suffered tremendously and went on a four-game losing streak. Boley was another one of the linebackers who contributed to the Giants bringing back Chase Blackburn.

    The Giants aren't scrambling now like they were last year because they made the deal back in April with the Bengals to get Rivers.

    According to Tom Rock from Newsday, Rivers has gotten comfortable on his new team and looked very sharp against the Jets, flying to the football and making solid tackles.

    Not having Boley hurts the Giants defense, but having Rivers certainly helps, especially if he lives up to the hype that surrounded him when he was a first-round pick back in 2008.

    By playing this strong in the preseason, Rivers may end up winning a starting job and holding onto it during the season.

The Giants' Core Units Looking Like Super Bowl Champions

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    What has really impressed me most about the Giants this summer is how they have looked the part of a defending champion.

    In the first half against the Jaguars, the Giants dominated them on offense and defense and led 24-14. Their third and fourth stringers lost the game 32-31, but it's only preseason.

    In the first half against the Jets, the Giants physically destroyed the Jets in every aspect of the game and lead 13-0 at halftime and ended up winning 26-3.

    Last season, Jets head coach Rex Ryan declared his team "the big brothers of New York," but yet on Christmas Eve, the Giants proved him wrong and beat the Jets 29-14. Then, last Saturday, Ryan had his nose rubbed in the dirt a little further by Tom Coughlin and his group at MetLife Stadium.

    Clearly, New Jersey and New York is still Giants country, and until the Jets can prove otherwise, they will always play second-fiddle and be the little brothers.

    The Giants' main players have looked impressive early on. The offense wasn't as sharp against the Jets as it was against the Jaguars, but in both games, the defense has looked spectacular.

    The offensive unit will eventually gel together, but if the defense can continue to play at a high level like it has, then the Giants will be set up for success in 2012.

    Against the Bears, the Giants' main units will continue to look the part as the reigning champions and dominate Jay Cutler and company at MetLife Stadium on Friday night.

    Stay tuned, Giants fans.