New York Giants: 5 Players to Watch vs. Denver Broncos

Patricia Traina@Patricia_TrainaFeatured Columnist IVSeptember 13, 2013

New York Giants: 5 Players to Watch vs. Denver Broncos

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    This week, the New York Giants will be looking to avoid their first 0-2 regular-season start since 2007, when they dropped back-to-back games at Dallas and at home against Green Bay.

    The task, however, won't be an easy one, as the Giants open at home against the high-flying Denver Broncos, whose future Hall of Fame quarterback, Peyton Manning, lit up the scoreboard with seven touchdown passes against the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens.

    Giants’ cornerback Terrell Thomas, who emphasized that he has all the respect in the world for Manning and the Broncos, has a theory for why Denver was so wildly successful against the Ravens in the second half of their regular season opener.

    "If you watch the game, they (the Ravens) got out of their game plan in the second half," Thomas said. "Peyton caught them off balance a lot of plays. More than anything, they weren’t set. I think he was dictating to them compared to the first half."

    So does that mean that Manning and Company can expect another high-scoring affair against the Giants?

    Obviously, New York is vowing that it won't happen, but lest anyone think that the Giants are simply engaging in dreaming, just look at their success last year against two other potent passing offenses.

    Against the New Orleans Saints, the Giants held quarterback Drew Brees and friends to 5.9 yards per pass completed and 345 net passing yards.

    Against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers, the Giants held them to 6.3 yards per pass completion and 201 net passing yards. Both of those games were Giants wins.

    Defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka discussed what the Giants can take from those two games into this weekend's affair:

    The main thing, the biggest thing, is that it’s a mindset. With this group upfront and, with the guys we have behind us, when we decide that we’re going to get there, when we decide that we’re going to go out there and play our technique, then the outcome of the game is in our hands. That’s how we feel and that’s how we’ve always felt.

    Statistics aside, the Manning Bowl III promises to be the toast of the town on Sunday, as it will likely be the last regular season match-up between the two brothers' respective teams. It will take more than just a strong defensive performance against the Broncos for the Giants to come out on top.

    Here's a look at five Giants who will need to have a strong game if the Giants are to win.

    Note: All quotes obtained firsthand, unless otherwise noted.

Cornerback Terrell Thomas

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    The first thing you need to know about Giants cornerback Terrell Thomas, whom defensive coordinator Perry Fewell confirmed would be the slot corner for the time being, is that his thrice-repaired knee is fine.

    "I’m not worried about it; my knee is fine," Thomas said. "I’ve proven that in this last game going against another slot receiver in Miles Austin, who’s a little bit bigger, more powerful guy, but I think I held my own against him."

    That's good news for the Giants defense, who will put Thomas against Broncos slot receiver Wes Welker, who according to Fewell, isn't doing all that much differently now that he's with Denver than he did when he was with the New England Patriots:

    We think that he has some routes that he likes to run that he’s very comfortable running. Peyton gets him involved in the offense in a way that he feels that’s a seamless transition and he has the ability to take it vertically and go down the field and he has the ability to work you inside. So it’s classic Wes Welker and he’s at his best.

    Although the Giants have faced Welker several times before, this will be the first time Thomas will match wits against the veteran.

    "He’s good at (getting open) and he’s a slot wide receiver to the T," Thomas said. "He’s very explosive out of his breaks. If you can be explosive out of your breaks out of the slot it makes you very productive. He’s very good east and west and north and south but he’s not explosive north to south compared to east to west."

    So then what will Thomas need to do in order to contain Welker when he's in the slot?

    "You can try to take him out and be physical with him, but he finds a way to win and his quarterback that he played with in New England was very motivated and he expected him to win," Fewell noted.

    I’m sure Peyton expects him to win in matchups also. You cannot take one play off. Yes, you must be physical, yet you can’t show them the same things over and over and over, but you have to take that physical mentality and that mindset into the game and compete and challenge them on every single down.

Running Back David Wilson

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    Giants head coach Tom Coughlin didn't wait for the question to be asked during his post-practice Thursday press conference.

    "David Wilson did okay with his technique today," he said. "He had multiple carries and he also carried the ball and put it in the proper position, so I would say today he made good progress."

    That's all well and good, but the fact of the matter is that the speed and intensity of practice isn't quite the same as what one will find in a game. Where Wilson tends to get into trouble with his ball security is when he goes to make a move to gain additional yardage, a process in which the ball tends to shift in his grasp to a less than secure position. 

    In an exclusive interview posted on the team's official web site (, Coughlin said he made it very clear to Wilson what he's expecting out of the young man moving forward.

    “You have to make sure that there is no time when the player deviates from the exact technique that you’re looking for," he said. "Right now, at the expense of maybe speed, he’ll have two hands on the ball when he runs with the ball. Period. He’s got to prove that part, because he’s a marked man.”

    Coughlin wouldn't commit when asked if Wilson will start, but given the depth at the position—the team added Brandon Jacobs this week, but he's probably not going to get many, if any touches in his first game action back in almost a year.

    According to the depth chart by the team to the media, Wilson is still listed as the starter, as the Giants are hoping to establish a running game early to avoid becoming one-dimensional.

    "I definitely want to do things to help my team and not hurt my team," Wilson said. "We’re looking forward to getting a win this weekend, getting things going back in the right direction, a positive direction."

Linebacker Jacquian Williams

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    There probably isn't any question that the strength of a Peyton Manning-led offense is the passing game.

    However, Giants historians might remember that the last time New York faced a Manning offense in 2010 when he was with the Colts, defensive coordinator Perry Fewell made the critical mistake of loading up on coverage specialists at the expense of giving up the run.

    What happened? Of the Colts 410 net yards that day, 160 came on the ground as Manning had his team run on 43 of the 70 offensive snaps in what was a 24-13 win over the Giants.

    This time around, Fewell isn't going to make that same mistake.

    "I felt like, from a planning standpoint, that we planned properly but it was not the best plan we could have come up with," he said.

    "Without trying to reveal a lot of things I learned, I would just say that we’re doing it differently. We’re doing it much differently because there’s some things that when you go into a contest and you have a plan against a guy like that, you come out and make some notes to improve. So when you take that test again you got your cheat sheet and hope you’re much better."

    One of the things that Fewell will try to balance is having enough firepower for both the run and the pass. Last week, his "bigger butts" up front did a good job against the Dallas Cowboys' running game, holding them to just 87 yards.

    In addition, though, Fewell will likely use a lot of nickel coverage which would put athletic linebacker Jacquian Williams on the field a lot more, ahead of the middle linebacker spot that's expected to be manned by Mark Herzlich now that starter Dan Connor has been placed on season-ending injured reserve. 

    Williams has the speed and the aggressiveness to keep up in the passing game, but what he doesn’t always have is discipline. A 2011 sixth-round draft pick, Williams was slowed last season by a PCL injury, which continued to dog him this spring. He's finally healthy, but he hasn't been able to move past Spencer Paysinger on the depth chart at weak-side linebacker.

    Still, Williams will probably have a big role, along with Paysinger, on Sunday in the nickel package. The key for Williams will be not to lose sight of what Manning is doing in the pocket and to release his man if he sees that Manning is going in the other direction, something that Williams, in the past, hasn't always been consistent doing. 

Fullback Henry Hynoski

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    Whatever fullback Henry Hynoski seems to set his mind to doing, he usually gets it done.

    Just look at how smoothly his rehab from knee surgery at the end of May went, a procedure that had many people doubting if his goal to be ready for opening day was realistic.

    While he was ready physically, unfortunately, the lack of training camp and the preseason showed in his performance as he was missing blocks and dropping passes that he normally makes in his sleep, and even appeared to have a mental error on a play in which he was called for an illegal shift.

    "Yeah, I felt a little rusty," he admitted. "You can’t simulate the speed of the game in practice. You have to have that little acclimation period and I’m glad that it happened now in the first game as opposed to later."

    A much-improved Hynoski will be great news for a Giants running game that sorely missed its lead blocker, especially down by the goal line where the Giants got absolutely no push against the Cowboys banged up defensive line.

    Hynoski was removed from the injury report this week and took all of his reps. That should mean that he's had enough time to shake off any remaining rust.

    If the Giants can jump start their running game this week—last week's affair consisted of just 14 attempts, two of those by quarterback Eli Manning who had eight of the 50 rushing yards—that should go a long way toward controlling the clock and keeping Peyton Manning and his potent offense off the field.

The Giants Defensive Line

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    The Giants defensive line is, for the most part, at full strength—the lone exception appears to be rookie defensive end Damontre Moore, who will probably miss his fifth consecutive game dating back to the preseason with a shoulder contusion.

    End Jason Pierre-Paul, who last week returned to his first action after having back surgery in June, admitted that his extended action in the regular season opener—he had 52 plays, which, he said, isn't too far off from the 60 he usually gets—was a bit of a challenge.

    "I’m not at that game mode; I’m fatigued," he said. "My legs are getting fatigued sometimes. I’m just trying to do the best I can. I’m trying to get that burning sensation out of my legs."

    The good news is that he went through another week of practice taking his full reps, and that should certainly help him with getting his legs back under him.  

    "I’m not going to be on the injury report unless something happens to me," he said. "I’m basically out here practicing with this team. I’m back on and I’m doing everything I can to get better."

    That's good news for the Giants four-man defensive front who will have the task of trying to pressure Peyton Manning into making throws before he's ready to do so. Improving the pass rush has been a point of emphasis this week for New York after last week's performance in which they were often late in getting to Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo. 

    Manning does have a pair of solid offensive tackles in Ryan Clady and Orlando Franklin to help hold of the Giants pass rush, and figures to potentially throw a lot of quick passes. Still there are things that the Giants defensive line believes they can do to thwart that strategy.

    "If he’s going to throw the really quick one, you have to get your hands up," defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka said.

    Besides the passing game, the Giants obviously don't want to get burned by the Broncos' running game.  Last week against Dallas, the defensive interior did a nice job of creating congestion to take away the cutback lanes. They will no doubt look to continue that practice again this week.

    "Even if they are a predominately passing team, you’ve got to make sure you stop the run because that’s the way for them to bleed the clock and to keep our offense off the field, so the basics are always going to be the same," Kiwanuka said. 

    Patricia Traina (@Patricia_Traina) is the senior editor at