The Giants get their 2009 preseason started on Monday night against the Panthers on ESPN (8:15 PM EST), a rematch of the best game of the 2008 NFL regular season. But while the actual outcome of this game means nothing, there are still reasons for Giants fans to watch.
For those interested in how the 2009 roster will shape up, here are five things to watch for.
1. The Defensive Line
I have no idea how the defensive line will shake out. There are at least eight guys that could be starting on many teams (Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora, Mathias Kiwanuka, Fred Robbins, Barry Cofield, Chris Canty, Rocky Bernard, and Jay Alford).
Then throw in the injury concerns with about half of these guys, and you have an even more muddled picture. We'll get a sneak peak at what new defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan plans to do with all of these names.
We'll also get to see some of the guys fighting for a roster spot, including promising youngster Maurice Evans and hungry roster returnee Dave Tollefson.
2. Receiver Battle: Hagan vs. Tyree
Word from Albany is that Derek Hagan is opening eyes in practice. Like Domenik Hixon, Hagan was a mid-season waiver wire pickup by Jerry Reese. Hagan was let go by the Dolphins last season due to his propensity for dropped balls.
But so far, he has caught everything thrown to him at Giants camp. Also like Domenik Hixon, Hagan may be putting his name into contention for a roster spot with his exceptional play during practice.
That roster spot may come at the expense of David Tyree, who has had an abominable camp after missing the entire 2008 season.
Tyree will forever have a place in Giants fans' hearts after his heroic Super Bowl catch, but he'll need to perform in the preseason if he wants to make sure that catch is not his last as a Giant.
3. Chemistry: Manning and Hixon
Late last season, there seemed to be a lack of chemistry between Eli Manning and Domenik Hixon. The receiver did all that he could to fill in for Plaxico Burress, but the shoes were just too large to fill. It didn't help that Manning and Hixon were clearly out of sync.
So far, the two have been on the same page in practice, which is encouraging. It would be nice to see Manning and Hixon hook up at least once during Monday night's game, but both players will likely see limited time on the field.
4. End Zone Targets
With Plaxico Burress gone, the Giants are without their top end zone target from a year ago. Kevin Boss, Ramses Barden and Travis Beckum are all good candidates to see targets inside the green zone this season.
It'll be interesting to see how these three big receivers are used if and when the Giants make it inside the 20 on Monday night. The two rookies Barden and Beckum have had great camps, and I am excited to see them in their first NFL action. Barden in particular has impressed nearly every day of camp.
If first round pick Hakeem Nicks is healthy, he can contribute everywhere on the field, including the green zone.
Staying healthy is always the number one priority in preseason games.
Last season, the Giants suffered a serious blow when Osi Umenyiora sustained a season-ending knee injury. That one moment was one of the turning points of the Giants' season. Hopefully, the Giants can make it through the preseason without suffering anything nearly as crippling as that injury.
A season cannot be won in August, but it sure can be lost.