Tonight's The Night: Carolina Panthers Vs. New York Giants

AJ CusimanoCorrespondent IAugust 17, 2009

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - MAY 09:  Ramses Barden #13 and Hakeem Nicks #18 of the New York Giants works out at rookie camp on May 9, 2009 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

The night every serious football fan awaits, the first pre-season game.

The anticipation begins with the opening of training camp, reading all the blog posts of writers I follow, such as Ralph Vacchiano of the Daily News, and Mike Garafolo of the Newark Star Ledger. Thanks guys for keeping the fans up to date.

Tonight is all about the rookies in my opinion.  Getting their feet wet for the first time in the National Football League.  Seeing how much the speed of the game differs than college.  Some will melt under the spotlight, other will take it in stride.

Here are my players to watch:

Ramses Barden: Ramses has impressed in training camp, not just making catches, but also with his attitude.  He seems to be very much in control and comfortable with his role on the team.  Will he replace Plaxico?  I do not expect he will, but he may prove to be the steal of the draft.

Hakeem Nicks: The coveted first round draft pick, with the amazing hands, good speed and exciting performance against West Virginia in the bowl game last year.  How will he perform in real action?  I think Hakeem has all the tools to be the best wide receiver in this year's draft.

Will Beatty: Another excellent pick by the Giants, out of U-Conn.  I expect he will see some significant playing time.  It is never easy for an offensive lineman to break into the NFL, we will see how he performs under the spotlight.  While he has had his ups and downs during training camp, his time to shine will be tonight.  He seems focused and ready.

Stoney Woodson:  A little known Defensive Back out of South Carolina.  He was a late round pick, who has shown so far that he might stick.  Jerry Reese seems to specialize in finding kids who can contribute right away, which has been the mark of this team during the past couple of years.  Will Stoney "Stone" Steve Smith of Carolina?

DeAndre Wright:  A more heralded DB out of New Mexico.  He was injured in college, but has also been contributing during training camp.  Does he have the "Wright" stuff?

Travis Beckum: A really interesting pick by the Giants in the draft.  He showed good hands, toughness and good route running ability.  The key question is can he stay healthy and can he block?  The Mike Pope scheme for Tight End's in the Giants offense is their ability to block at the point of attack.  Will Travis show he can be another weapon on the field for the Giants?

There are several others to watch tonight when the Giants take the field:  The young DB's including Terrell Thomas and Kenny Phillips.  Can Maurice Evans break into the defensive line? Will Clint Sintim be the Outside Linebacker we all hope he can be?  Can David Tyree contribute the way he always has?  I cannot envision this team without David Tyree, who has contributed so much to this organization.

Lots of answers will begin unfolding tonight.  Can the Giants remain healthy throughout the pre-season?  Will we begin to see the chemistry developing between Eli and his core of young receivers?  Like all the other fans out there, I am excited to see this season begin.  There is great promise, an abundance of talent on both sides of the ball, a team built with winners and strong character.  How will we go this season will begin to be answered in the next few weeks, beginning tonight.

Notes:  My best wishes go out to Andre Brown.  He ruptured his Achilles Tendon in practice last week, in a non-contact injury.  It was unfortunate, as he was one of those rookies that showed great promise, and might even push Ahmad Bradshaw and Danny Ware.  The coaching staff was impressed with his overall performance, and was expected to be part of the offense and special teams.  Good Luck Andre, and focus on being part of the team next year!