New York Giants: Questions That Still Must Be Answered This Preseason
The New York Giants are about four weeks into summer training camp, and two-fifths of the way through their preseason schedule.
While the daily practices and preseason games played have allowed the coaches a better look at how their various personnel packages are coming together and to identify potential hidden gems to help the football team in 2014, there are still plenty of unresolved questions that need to be answered sooner than later.
Here’s a look at five questions to which the organization is hoping to have a resounding “yes” by opening day.
Who Will Be the Starting Tight End?
The Giants’ tight end situation has pretty much been like a box of chocolates in that you never know what you’re going to get.
Indeed, one day it could be Larry Donnell having a strong practice, while the next day it’s Adrien Robinson. Because of the inconsistency, the team seems no closer to naming a starting tight end now than it did at the beginning of camp.
“The tight end group is similar to the rest of the offense at this point,” offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo told reporters this week. “We will take a couple of steps forward, a step back. Every day is a new day. They just need to keep pushing forward.”
McAdoo did, however, identify two candidates who have at least distinguished themselves, those being Donnell and Daniel Fells. The problem though is Fells missed some practice time with a bone bruise while Donnell has had some glaring mental mistakes in executing his assignments.
Still, to hear McAdoo speak about Donnell, it sounds as though the second-year tight end is leading the competition.
“I think Larry is conscientious guy. He is a big body; he’s capable of blocking sometimes better than he does on tape,” McAdoo said.
“He can go down the middle of the field and make a play on the ball. That needs to show up all the time. It is important to take care of your teammates on the field and that seems like it is pretty important to him.”
Is Ryan Nassib Ready to Handle the Backup Quarterback Job?
It’s been an interesting summer for second-year quarterback Ryan Nassib.
It took him about a week-and-a-half before the light bulb finally went on, and he started showing improvement in his quest to win the primary backup job behind Eli Manning.
However, he’s occasionally made some mental errors, most notably when he feels the heat, and has not always shown consistency in when to throw bullets and when to put some touch on the ball.
For example, there was a seven-on-seven play in practice this past week in which, despite having no pass rush in his face, Nassib drilled the ball at receiver Marcus Harris, who hadn’t yet completed his route and turned around.
All Nassib had to do on that particular play was lob it over the top of the defense, where Harris could have easily plucked it out of the air.
Also of note this week is Nassib taking reps with the third-string offense, which suggests he's fallen behind Curtis Painter in the battle for the No. 2 quarterback role.
This is not necessarily the case, though. Painter’s 7-of-7 performance last week against the Pittsburgh Steelers, combined with his throwing the game-winning touchdown, earned him snaps with the second team, where he’ll have a chance to continue putting together quality performances should he indeed be cut from the team.
Make no mistake about it: Nassib is the desired backup to Manning, and he’s leaps and bounds ahead of where he was at this time last preseason.
He isn’t a finished product by any means, and he probably would be a gamble if he has to go in there and play multiple games in the event of Manning can’t go.
However, he’s likely shown enough to assuage any concerns that he can be a serviceable backup in this league.
Will Linebacker Jon Beason Be Ready for Opening Day?
It’s been almost a month since the media as a group last heard from middle linebacker Jon Beason, the only Giant who is on the PUP list.
Beason, who is recovering from a broken foot suffered in during OTAs in June, has been on the field with the team every day, standing on the sideline watching when he hasn’t been off to the side working with a trainer.
Otherwise, he’s believed to have been hard at work rehabbing his foot so that he can be on the field for the Sept. 8 opener.
While Beason has a lot of reasons to be on the field for opening night—per Over the Cap, he’s due to earn a per-game active-roster bonus of $46,785—there is still some trepidation on the part of the coaches regarding whether the eighth-year linebacker’s goal is realistic.
“I’m optimistic, but I don’t know,” defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said, adding that he hasn’t personally seen anything to damper the optimism the coaches had about Beason’s initial timetable.
“He’s not there until they tell me he’s there; I have to plan accordingly,” added linebackers coach Jim Herrmann, who confirmed that Beason is in all of the defensive and positional meetings.
“I’ll plan as if he’s not going to be there, and then when he’s there, he’s there.”
The good news is that Beason, who will at some point be removed from the active PUP list before the final roster cut down date, was sprinting on a treadmill, according to Paul Dottino of WFAN. He’s also been spotted on a back field jogging under the watchful eye of a trainer.
Art Stapleton of The Record reports that the linebacker is still on schedule for a Week 1 return and is focused on limiting next day soreness and finding the right orthotics to protect his foot.
However, running straight ahead is one thing; what Beason and the trainers need to determine is if he can change direction without any issues. Once he reaches that milestone, then it becomes a matter of probably a week or two before he makes his way back to the playing field.
"It's coming along," Beason told Dan Graziano of ESPN. "We still have time. I'm just trying to listen to the staff, who I trust, and trying to listen to my body. But we are playing on Monday night and it's still a little over three weeks before the game, so a lot can happen between now and then."
Will Odell Beckham Jr.'s Hamstring Be a Season-Long Issue?
Receiver Odell Beckham Jr., the Giants first-round draft pick this year, hasn’t taken part in a full training camp practice yet, the reason being a balky and lingering hamstring from the spring that has forced him to exercise caution.
Despite all of the missed reps, Beckham, who this week started to increase what he’s been able to do in practice, said he “absolutely” believes he can have a productive rookie season.
“I feel like once I get back out there, I’ll feel comfortable and allow yourself to open up,” Beckham said.
“It is kind of one of those things you just have to feel comfortable with. Being a guy who really loves to use his speed and you don’t have as much, it kind of takes away from so many things. I just want to make sure I can get that back, and the rest will develop.”
While his optimism is admirable, head coach Tom Coughlin has said numerous times that there is no substitution for practice reps, which Beckham has missed.
In addition, when the hamstring reared its ugly head in the spring, there was hope that the month off before camp would cure what ailed him.
Beckham himself acknowledged that there is always a chance of the injury becoming aggravated.
“It’s something that can reoccur very easily if it is not strong enough,” he said. “You really just test the strength and the muscle groups around it. It’s almost that time…around the corner.”
There’s little question that Beckham is going to get to the field this year once his hamstring is stabilized. However, how much will he realistically be able to contribute given the missed practice time? And can he and the Giants medial staff keep the hamstring under control moving forward?
Will the Offensive Line Be Settled by Opening Day?
It really doesn’t matter who a team has at quarterback, receiver, tight end or running back because if the five guys lining up in front of them aren’t functioning as a well-oiled machine, it’s going to make life difficult for the offense.
So that brings us to the Giants offensive line, where there are still questions regarding what the starting unit will look like on opening day.
One of those questions pertains to left tackle, where incumbent Will Beatty is still working his way back from a severely broken leg.
The good news is that Beatty has been increasing his reps in practice and is on track to play in his first preseason action this weekend against the Indianapolis Colts.
Right guard Brandon Mosley appears to have the lead in the competition to replace the retired Chris Snee, but, per Pro Football Focus, Mosley’s 55 snaps in two games have garnered a minus-1.0 overall grade which also consisted of a minus-1.1 run-blocking grade.
The good news is that head coach Tom Coughlin likes what he's seen of Mosley this week.
"He has had a pretty good week, I think. I thought his game was a little better," Coughlin said, noting that Mosley has eliminated some of the errors that were dragging his game down previously.
"He is a big, strong guy that has had lots of time in the classroom and some work on the field as a backup. We certainly would like to see him just kind of take off and be the player we hope he is going to be."
As for the line in general, there’s a matter of finding that cohesiveness that has thus far eluded the unit.
"Am I encouraged? I want to be encouraged," Coughlin said. "We just have some ways to go."