Here's a review of the final week of training camp and a final look back at the 24-10 loss to the Ravens.
Defensive Line Play: The unit remains the deepest part of the roster. Justin Tuck and Rocky Bernard starred with 2 sacks each. Bernard's play in particular needed to be mentioned as he was missing in action for all of 2009.
Matt Dodge: After making the Ugly list for the first three weeks of the preseason, Dodge played well against the Ravens. He had a lot of practice, punting nine times for a 49.1 average (including a 73-yard blast), but only a net of 38.3. Part of that is due to a relatively low hang time. A lot has to do with poor coverage (see Ugly)
G Shawn Andrews: After missing 30 out of the last 32 games, Andrews looked surprisingly sharp coming on in relief in the second half. In particular, there was a stretch of a couple of plays where he was able to win the one-on-one battle against the Ravens' Ngata.
Defense's Mental Toughness and Depth: Injuries are a part of football. Those teams that are better able to withstand injuries are the ones that find themselves continuously in the playoffs. The Giants faced injuries to four of their top five defensive players (Tuck, Ross, Phillips, Pierce) and were never able to adequately replace them. Worse than that, the 2009 team appeared apathetic, particularly in the loss to the Panthers to close out Giants Stadium.
Fast forward to the Ravens game. The blueprint for beating the Giants remains unchanged from last season. Open up with three or four wide receivers and exploit the Giants in the middle of the field.
After the game, the players and coaches tried to chalk this up to the typical experiments that occur in the preseason. Fewell IS trying to figure out how to best assemble the linebackers and trying to assimilate Ross and Phillips back into the secondary. What I don't see or hear from anyone on the team is a sense of urgency.
Not So Special Teams: The coverage teams on both kick offs and punt returns remains a source of worry. The Giants will face several elite special teams this season, and you can put it down now that they will give up at least three scores on specials.
Offensive Line: There is no push on this line. The unit as a whole could not win the battle of the trenches at any point against the Ravens. If the Giants are to return to the playoffs, the line will need to come together quickly. Andrews will be a starter by Week 3 at the latest. McKenzie looks to be the weakest link. Unfortunately, his back-up, Beatty, was a turnstile allowing everyone to have their turn.
Linebackers: Put simply, the unit does not have the speed needed in today's NFL. This is squarely on GM Jerry Reese. He is picking the wrong players both in free agency and in the draft to man the second line of defense.
The offense better score early and often because the Giants are going to be in a lot of shootouts. This is not what the ownership dreamed of when opening their new $1.5 billion home.
If the Giants offensive line can settle down quickly, the offense looks to be one of the league's better options.
On the defensive side of the ball, Fewell may be able to mask some of the team's deficiencies. The NFL is a copycat league. Until the Giants are able to stop passing attacks, the linebackers and secondary will continue to be targeted.
Expected Finish: 9-7, a bubble team for the playoffs.
The record could be better if the Giants are able to beat either Indianapolis or Tennessee to start the season.
I see a split against the NFC East (4 wins). Wins at home against Carolina, Chicago, Detroit, and Jacksonville (4 wins). Win on the road against Seattle (1 win).