Three Things to Watch for in Tonight's Giants Game
Forget that it will be in the upper 70s when the Giants come out in their home blue and white's.
It's football season, and speculation is finally about to materialize into concrete hard-hitting live action football.
This what-to-watch edition is going to attempt to avoid the obvious. For instance, I don't have to tell anyone to keep an eye out for 6'6'' rookie receiver Ramses Barden. I have a feeling your eyes will naturally be locked in on this monster whenever he takes the field.
But there are certain aspects of tonight's game that are as equally important as a Ramses Barden jump-ball catch. They just aren't under the same microscope. Here are three subtle phases of the game to keep an eye on.
1. Andre Woodson's release
Yeah, he's merely in a heated competition for the third quarterback job. And yeah, considering Eli Manning hasn't missed a game since he took control of this offense in 2005, the odds of seeing Woodson taking meaningful snaps in 2009 are as slim as the Lions postseason chances.
Nonetheless, the Giants project Woodson to be Manning's primary backup in short time. Current backup David Carr is one good preseason away from bolting his way to a team that wants fresh blood for a potential quarterback controversy. That would leave Andre Woodson, or fifth round rookie Rhett Bomar as the potential replacements.
Coughlin has been pleased by Woodson's progress in training camp, but needs to see it translate into an on-the-field performance. Woodson was shaky last preseason, and needs to redeem himself.
One of his most heralded weaknesses, even when he came out of college, was the period of time it took for Woodson to simply throw the ball. Despite a stellar college career, this worried scouts enough that Woodson dropped all the way to the sixth round where the Giants grabbed him.
But Woodson has adjusted, and it has come to fruition on the practice field. It's tough to get a concrete confirmation merely through practice, thereby making tonight the first oppurtunity for the Giants to analyze if he has legitimately developed a quicker release.
Therefore, don't look as much into if the ball gets from Point A to Point B, but rather how quick the ball shoots out of Woodson's arm from the instant he begins to wind up.
2. Justin Tuck—How's the foot feel?
You could say I am to Justin Tuck's foot as Eminem is to Mariah Carey. Obsessed. Or at least, that's how the song goes.* Since October, I have not been reluctant to point out how Tuck was clearly struggling with an injury that was much worse than the Giants were letting on.
Justin Tuck is crucial to the Giants chances this year. Which means his previously injured foot is just as important. Last year, when Tuck initially suffered the injury, he got up slowly and walked off the field at normal speed. This allowed him to avoid speculation from major media outlets (not this one).
Tonight, in Tuck's first live-game action since the playoffs, one would be keen to see how he responds to getting pancaked or being turned awkwardly. While this would hold true for every game this season, it will be a much easier process to erase fears of the foot injury returning after the first game.
3. Kareem McKenzie—Will speed kill?
Placed into perspective, it is truly incredible that the Giants offensive line has attained such tremendous continuity. Along the lines of the higher you go, harder you fall mantra, the same holds true for this Giants line. Eventually, this group will deteriorate. It is part of the game.
It is in the Giants best interest for this to happen at a slow pace, so they could groom future replacements when the inevitable happens. And all signs point to the grim reaper getting his hands on Kareem McKenzie first.
A 30-year-old right tackle, McKenzie signed a seven-year deal in 2005 that would install discipline and consistency in a Giants offensve line that was in the process of being revamped. He's been remarkably solid in his tenure with the Giants, but injuries and speed rushers have made him look extremely vulnerable.
McKenzie has missed time this summer due to a back problem. One that has plagued him at some point in each of the last three seasons. For a heavy offensive linemen, a back problem instills fear into teammates and coaches.
Tonight, McKenzie has a tough task in going up against Julius Peppers. Although not a true left end, he has been practicing from that side in training camp. Regardless of what side he comes from, Peppers is a menace to block. McKenzie generally has trouble with elite pass rushers, and tonight will be a tremendous test for him.
Ultimately, the most important part of the game tonight will be avoiding serious injuries. But if you want to look beyond the simplicity of the obvious, those are some aspects you may want to keep an eye on.
*Writer's Note: Doesn't mean I think she's right Eminem, no need to dig through my article archives and ruin my credibility in your next album. Thanks.
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