New York vs. Indianapolis: Giants Preseason Week 2 Game Preview

Kevin BoilardCorrespondent IAugust 14, 2014

New York vs. Indianapolis: Giants Preseason Week 2 Game Preview

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    The Giants take on the Colts in Week 2 of the preseason.
    The Giants take on the Colts in Week 2 of the preseason.USA TODAY Sports

    The New York Giants (2-0) will lay their perfect preseason record on the line when they travel to Lucas Oil Stadium, where they're scheduled to face off with the Indianapolis Colts Saturday at 7 p.m. ET.

    The Colts (0-1) have transitioned seamlessly into the Andrew Luck era, as the 24-year-old passer has led Indianapolis to two consecutive postseason berths.

    Former Super Bowl champion running back Ahmad Bradshaw is one familiar face on the Colts offense; wide receiver Hakeem Nicks, one of Luck's newest pass targets, is the other.

    They'll all be back for one great, big reunion at the site of Super Bowl XLVI, the game in which quarterback Eli Manning became a two-time Super Bowl MVP and wide receiver Mario Manningham became a hero. 

    The atmosphere this time around is bound to be a bit different, as the stakes have been lowered to a next-round-of-talent-evaluation level compared to the win-at-all-costs level the venue hosted in February 2012.

    These two teams met last year in Week 2 of the preseason, and the Colts won, 20-12. Luck moved the ball with ease against the Giants defense while not one of New York's four scoring drives resulted in a touchdown.

    The Colts, in search of their first win of the preseason, are coming off a 13-10 loss to the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium last week. New York will do all it can to keep the Colts winless through the weekend.

    Read on to get the latest news, injury updates, matchups to watch and more.

Giants Preseason Week 1 Recap

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    Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

    The Giants nabbed their second win of the preseason against the Pittsburgh Steelers last weekend. Undrafted rookie wide receiver Corey Washington was the star of the fourth quarter once again, as quarterback Curtis Painter found him on a fade from three yards out to give New York its 20-16 lead with less than three minutes to play.

    Against the Buffalo Bills the week before, Washington hauled in a 73-yard touchdown from Ryan Nassib.

    The first-team offense must get going, though, for if the Giants are counting on Washington and Painter to stage fourth-quarter comebacks during the regular season, something has gone terribly wrong.

    Aside from a 73-yard touchdown burst from running back Rashad Jennings, the Giants starters did not have much to show for their efforts against the Steelers.

    Both of quarterback Eli Manning's two pass attempts in Week 1 of the preseason fell incomplete. After a 27-interception season in 2013, Giants fans are yearning for a longer look at the former Super Bowl MVP to see if new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo has truly healed him.

    Jordan Raanan of NJ.com thinks McAdoo is playing it safe with Manning, noting that the 11th-year veteran has yet to attempt a pass traveling farther than 10 yards in the air during the 2014 preseason.

    The first-team defense, on the other hand, has not allowed a touchdown so far this preseason. Although Pittsburgh's Dri Archer was able to get loose for a 46-yard catch-and-run on the Steelers' opening drive, the secondary looked as strong as advertised.

    Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul could revive the Giants' pass rush; he laid a big hit on Steelers backup Bruce Gradkowski just as the ball left his hand.

    Head coach Tom Coughlin said the starters, particularly on offense, may see extended time in the Giants' second preseason game against the Colts, per Howie Kussoy of the New York Post.

    Rookie running back Andre Williams (14 rushes, 83 yards in preseason) and second-year defensive end Damontre Moore (six tackles, one sack) are two reserves that deserve to see action with the first team.

News and Notes

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    Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

    Reports of OBJ Sightings Surface

    Odell Beckham Jr., a nimble wideout and the Giants' 2014 first-round selection (12th overall), hasn't had much of a chance to wow the coaching staff with those clean, crisp routes we've heard so much about. On Monday, August 11, Beckham returned to practice—but on a limited basis.

    On the first day of training camp, Beckham aggravated a hamstring injury first suffered in the spring and has since spent most practices on the sideline. He has worked his way back into the mix little by little, engaging in his first live action Wednesday, August 13. During Wednesday's practice, Beckham caught a pass from Curtis Painter during a red-zone drill and ran into the end zone.

    Throughout training camp, head coach Tom Coughlin has been vocal with his frustration over the first-rounder's absence from practice. Beckham wants to be on the field, too, but the training staff is playing it safe with a player who figures to be a big part of the offense in 2014 and beyond.

    Beckham will not play against the Colts, per Jordan Raanan of NJ.com.

     

    Manningham's (Un)happy Reunion

    Thirty-one months and a world of difference separate Manningham's iconic catch in Super Bowl XLVI and the 17-yard reception he made in the fourth quarter of the Hall of Fame Game vs. the Buffalo Bills.

    Manningham hasn't taken the field until garbage time in each of the Giants' two preseason games to date. The former Super Bowl hero hasn't been all that impressive even when he does get in. While he made the most of his lone target against the Bills, Manningham couldn't handle either of the two passes thrown his way late in the Steelers game.

    Upon examination, Manningham's chances to make the team are not looking good. The 2008 third-round selection is now 28 years old and doesn't play special teams. With several younger, healthier receivers looking more and more promising with each passing preseason game, Manningham's veteran experience holds less and less weight.

    Savor what may very well be this famous receiver's final days with Big Blue.

     

    Battle for Backup QB?

    The Giants kept 2013 fourth-rounder Ryan Nassib as an inactive, third-string quarterback for all of last season. This year, Nassib was supposed to take the next step forward, assume the immediate backup role to Eli Manning and allow New York to carry only two quarterbacks. The extra roster spot would be used on a special-teamer.

    That plan hasn't been ditched, but it has taken a significant hit this preseason. Last year's backup, Curtis Painter, has outplayed Nassib, for the most part.

    After Nassib ceded the lead in the fourth quarter on an ill-advised backwards pass that was returned for a touchdown, Painter had to come in and clean up the mess. Painter, who hasn't thrown an incomplete pass during the 2014 preseason, went 7-for-7 to lead an 80-yard, game-winning drive that chewed up seven minutes, 26 seconds.

    Now, Painter is receiving backup reps in practice at Nassib's expense, per Connor Orr of The Star-Ledger. Perhaps it's standard "back and forth," as Coughlin told Orr. But maybe it's something more.

    Painter will play with the second string ahead of Nassib, against the Colts, according to Raanan.

    Chances are that neither Nassib nor Painter would be effective versus any team's first-string defense. Still, the Giants need someone—preferably just one guy—that can be relied upon in a pinch in case Manning is ever injured.

Injury Report

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    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    Below is a list of injured Giants and their statuses as of Thursday's practice:

    PLAYERINJURYSTATUS
    WR Odell Beckham Jr.HamstringOUT
    WR Trindon HollidayHamstringDNP
    RB Peyton HillisAnkle/FootOUT
    LB Jon BeasonFoot/PUPOUT
    TE Daniel FellsKneeOUT
    TE Xavier GrimbleHamstringDNP
    FB John ConnerConcussionN/A

    Jerrel Jernigan, who had a knee injury earlier in the week, will fill in for Beckham with the first-team unit for the third preseason game in a row. The other hamstrung receiver, Trindon Holliday, is watching his value as a return specialist wane from the sidelines; Quintin Demps and Preston Parker have done just fine handling kicks and punts.

    Peyton Hillis is aiming for a return to practice Monday, according to Ebenezer Samuel of the New York Daily News. In the meantime, Andre Williams will continue to star in that backup running back role. Williams is not as strong a blocker or receiver as Hillis, although he is the more explosive ball-carrier.

    Larry Donnell isn't pulling away in the tight end race, but injuries to Daniel Fells and Xavier Grimble are keeping them from gaining any ground on Donnell's top spot on the depth chart. Although healthy, Adrien Robinson and Kellen Davis haven't made much noise in this competition either.

    All summer, John Conner has trailed Henry Hynoski in the fullback competition, which may wind up being a race to nowhere. Hynoski has shed weight, according to Paul Schwartz of the New York Post, in an attempt to increase his versatility. He has also taken on some tight end responsibilities this summer, per Schwartz.

X-Factors and Matchups to Watch

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    David Richard/Associated Press

    Giants Secondary vs. Andrew Luck

    The Giants' defensive backfield is ripe with talent, and, on paper, it looks like it could be one of the league's finest in 2014. They will be put to the test against the Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium, where they will face the NFL's most-celebrated young quarterback, 2012 first-overall pick Andrew Luck.

    Prince Amukamara and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie will limit Luck's opportunities on the outsides, so expect the Colts quarterback to turn to the slot, where one of his favorite targets, T.Y. Hilton, can do a lot of damage.

    Giants slot cornerback Walter Thurmond III drew praise from DRC this week, per Ed Valentine of Big Blue View, and that ability will be on display against Indianapolis.

    Last preseason, Luck got the better of New York's secondary, completing nine of 13 attempts for 107 yards and two touchdowns. It'll be interesting to see if he can connect with former Giant Hakeem Nicks for a completion Saturday. Nicks caught one pass for 15 yards in the Colts' preseason opener vs. the New York Jets.

     

    Will Beatty vs. Robert Mathis (...or Bjoern Werner)

    Left tackle and Eli Manning's personal blind-side protector (sometimes), Will Beatty, is expected to make his preseason debut against the Colts, per Bob Glauber of Newsday. And if Beatty thinks he might be able to ease his way back into the action, like he has at practice, he can think again—he will likely face rush linebacker Robert Mathis.

    Mathis led the NFL with 19.5 sacks last year. Beatty, on the other hand, had an awful season in which his quarterback was constantly harassed. Throw in the fact that this is Beatty's first game back from a broken leg he suffered in Week 17 of last season, and it goes from being a lopsided matchup to a nightmarish one. 

    Beatty told Art Stapleton of The Record that his matchup with Mathis will be the "true test" to see where he stands in his comeback.

    Mathis, however, is suspended the first four games of the season and did not play in the Colts' preseason opener. Although Mathis is expected to play some this preseason, Beatty may luck out and end up seeing more of 2013 first-rounder (24th overall) Bjoern Werner than Mathis Saturday.

     

    Victor Cruz vs. Darius Butler

    Victor Cruz thinks he can catch 100 passes this season, yet he hasn't even been targeted once during the preseason. Instead, Manning has more often looked to Jerrel Jernigan (possibly a placeholder for rookie Odell Beckham Jr.) and running back Rashad Jennings releasing out of the backfield.

    Cruz said he "would love some" targets in the preseason, per Tom Rock of Newsday. To get one against the Colts, Cruz will need to create space between himself and slot cornerback Darius Butler.

    Once considered a second-round bust with the New England Patriots and Carolina Panthers, Butler has carved out a nice little role for himself as an inside corner in Indianapolis, picking off eight passes—and returning three for touchdowns—over the past two seasons.

    Butler should be close by in coverage, but this is a matchup we should expect Cruz to win as one of the league's premier slot receivers. If he does not catch a pass for the third straight game, it may be time to consider the new offense's affect on Cruz's chemistry with Manning.

     

    Giants X-Factor of the Week: Corey Washington

    Undrafted rookie wideout Corey Washington has been the X-Factor in each of New York's past two preseason contests, so there's a good chance nothing changes against the Colts Saturday.

    Through two preseason games, Washington has accumulated four catches for 96 yards and two touchdowns.

    In addition to what he's done in front of a large audience, Washington has also stood out in practice. Offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo said Washington has "really done some special things over the last week," per Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News. Rodgers-Cromartie added that he would be surprised if Washington didn't make the team.

    After getting a few runs with the first team this week, perhaps Washington will get into the Colts game a bit earlier than he did against either the Bills or Steelers. If so, he will need to make a play or two against some heightened competition to keep the hype train rolling.

Prediction

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    Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

    Although the Giants' first-string defense has yet to yield a touchdown, Andrew Luck will test the unit in ways E.J. Manuel and Ben Roethlisberger could not.

    Luck will put New York's super-secondary to the test, and, if it comes away unscathed, this group of athletes in the defensive backfield can be considered the real deal.

    As adept as a quarterback Luck is, even he will not be able to escape a hungry Jason Pierre-Paul, who will notch his first sack of the preseason.

    After an abysmal 2013 season, JPP looks to have regained some of his strength and speed in pursuit. He will take the next step toward recreating his monstrous 2011 season by taking down Luck Saturday.

    Rookie linebacker Devon Kennard has been the talk of training camp, but nothing about his performance in preseason games can be described as extraordinary.

    Aside from five nondescript tackles (although one was for a loss against the Bills), Kennard has been mostly invisible. It's not easy to stand out as a strong-side linebacker in New York's 4-3 defense, but the rookie will find some way to make his first impact play of the preseason Saturday.

    Victor Cruz will make his first catch of the preseason, but that will be a small consolation prize for an offense that will continue to sputter. Unless Rashad Jennings breaks loose for another long gain, expect a conservative approach on offense. Eli Manning has shown that he is in no rush to try anything too aggressive in the passing game.

    Curtis Painter will continue to outshine Ryan Nassib, further complicating the Giants' situation at backup quarterback. One of the two will connect with Corey Washington for at least one big gain before the final gun sounds.

    This preseason game will look a lot like the one played last year, with the Giants trying to catch Indianapolis' touchdowns with field goals. If only longer field goals were worth more points (the NFL seems to be doing the opposite with the new, 33-yard extra point).

    Brandon McManus, after making a 47-yarder vs. the Bills and a 46-yarder against the Steelers, will make another long field goal, heating up the race for kicking duties with Josh Brown.