New York Giants: What to Look for This Weekend
This weekend, the Giants return to the scene of that glorious triumph, albeit under much different circumstances. They’ll face the Indianapolis Colts on Saturday in their third preseason game.
Because the two teams will meet in the regular season, don't expect to see much in the way of game planning, as both teams will look to keep things very vanilla.
As such, the outcome of the game is irrelevant, though the level of competition that the Colts potentially pose should be a good litmus test for the Giants to determine where they are both on offense and defense.
Here’s a look at five areas of note to watch this weekend when the Giants visit the Colts, including specific unit competitions and some ongoing Giants personnel battles that could begin to gain some clarity this weekend.
Giants Defense vs. Colts QB Andrew Luck and the Hurry-Up Offense
With all due respect to E.J. Manuel of the Buffalo Bills and Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Indianapolis Colts probably have one of the most challenging passing attacks the Giants will face this preseason because of quarterback Andrew Luck.
In limited preseason action, Luck has completed four of five pass attempts for 53 yards, with 60 percent of his completions going for first-down conversions.
The biggest test, though, for the Giants defense will be Luck’s ability to execute the hurry-up offense, which he did in the first drive of their game against the Jets last week.
In that drive, according to the NFL game book, Luck drove the offense 12 plays for 59 yards, with the drive ending in a 39-yard field goal. According to Mike Wells of ESPN.com, Luck was in the shotgun for most of that drive.
"They took the no-huddle and went down the field and had a little malfunction, but otherwise, they had to be pleased with their first drive," Giants head coach Tom Coughlin noted.
The good news for the Giants is that the defense has been working against an uptempo offense all camp long—their own, of course—and has done well against it. Will they be able to keep up though with another team’s offense?
The Return of Giants LT Will Beatty
Giants head coach Tom Coughlin confirmed that left tackle Will Beatty will return to the playing field on Saturday against the Colts, albeit in just a dozen or so snaps.
Beatty is looking not only to bounce back from a severely fractured right leg but a disappointing 2013 campaign in which he was Pro Football Focus' (subscription required) 38th-worst tackle.
Beatty will get a good test in his first action against a different team's jersey if Colts outside linebacker Robert Mathis gets on the field, which is why he told reporters that he's expecting a lot from himself when he gets back on the field.
"I am expecting a lot from myself," he said. "This is my marker of how well I have trained during the offseason to recover and get back to top shape."
FB Henry Hynoski's Increased Role
With the Giants tight end situation being in a state of flux as far as the identity of the starter, a potential starter at another position is going to see if he can shoulder some of the load in the interim.
That would be fullback Henry Hynoski, who spent this week in practice taking snaps as an H-back and doing some roles that were previously run by the tight ends.
In fact, about the only thing Hynoski won't do is line up to block in-line, according to head coach Tom Coughlin, who expressed confidence in his fourth-year fullback to handle some of the H-back duties this weekend.
"He is not going to line up on the line of scrimmage, but he will line up at the up position, in the flood wing position and all over the backfield," Coughlin said.
Hynoski, who's always eager to do what he can to help the team, said he's more than up for the challenge of taking on the extra roles.
"I’m really asked to do a lot. Right now I can play fullback, obviously, and running back, and tight end is something I feel I can do also," he told reporters.
"Getting into some routes, some in-line blocking and that type of thing—in this league, the more you can do, the better. It certainly won’t hurt if I can expand my role a little bit more."
If he can execute those roles, that could help alleviate any concerns about the inconsistencies at tight end.
Giants Defensive Backs vs. Colts Receivers
The Giants spent a lot of money in the offseason on free agents, placing a heavy emphasis on improving their defensive secondary.
The thinking, no doubt, was to replicate the success of the defending Super Bowl champion Seahawks, whose stellar back end often succeeded in blanketing opposing receivers. That, in turn, forced the quarterback to hold the ball longer—and opened things up for more sack opportunities by the defensive front.
The Giants, who added Walter Thurmond from that Seattle defense and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie from the Denver Broncos, will face a tough task against the Colts receiving corps.
That group includes T.Y. Hilton, former Giant Hakeem Nicks and rookie Donte Moncrief, who have combined for five receptions for 69 of the Colts’ 163 passing yards. (Reggie Wayne isn’t expected to play this weekend.)
How much of a difference might Thurmond and Rodgers-Cromartie make? Last year, per Pro Football Focus, they finished with NFL defender ratings of 67.5 and 67.8, respectively—both ratings were better than any of the Giants’ cornerbacks last season.
The Continued Evolution of the Giants Offense
The installment of the Giants offense is complete, at least according to receiver Victor Cruz, but the unit still has a ways to go before it reaches the level that offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo envisions.
According to data culled from the NFL game books covering the Hall of Fame Game and last week's contest against Pittsburgh, the Giants starting offense has played in eight series.
Half of those series have resulted in a three-and-out situation, and the 14 points scored have come on rushing touchdowns.
“Monday night in Detroit, we need to be 100 percent ready to go,” McAdoo said. “We’re not there yet. We’re making small strides. You’d like to say you’re taking two steps forward every day and one step back. At this point in time, we took a couple of steps forward (Tuesday)."
The problem, though, is that the starting offense has yet to get into any kind of rhythm.
Last week against the Steelers, quarterback Eli Manning failed to complete any passes in two attempts. That lack of rhythm hasn’t been lost on McAdoo, who expressed a desire to see the offense start faster.
“You’d like to have that every time you step on the field. That’s not going to be the case. At the same point in time, we need to take that leap of faith. We need to play fast, and we need to trust our instincts.
"It’s a game of anticipation and belief in your teammates. If we can’t do that, then we’re not going to grow. We can’t be afraid to go out there and make mistakes,” he added.