Giants Players to Watch Ahead of Preseason Week 1

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistAugust 9, 2021

Giants Players to Watch Ahead of Preseason Week 1

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    Corey Sipkin/Associated Press

    The New York Giants are looking to improve on a 2020 season that yielded only six wins but a lot of promise. While the offense struggled early and often—thanks in no small part to Saquon Barkley's season-ending injury—the defense ranked ninth in points allowed and nearly helped deliver a division title.

    New York made some key offensive additions this offseason who should bring more balance to the roster and help get the most out of third-year quarterback Daniel Jones. 

    While the Giants will face some stiff competition in the NFC East—especially with the Dallas Cowboys getting Dak Prescott back from injury—they can be divisional contenders. Their fight to return to relevance begins Saturday when they'll face the cross-town Jets

    Here are three players fans will want to be sure to follow during New York's preseason opener.   

QB Daniel Jones

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    John Munson/Associated Press

    Jones may not see extensive action in the preseason opener because key starters rarely do. However, the Giants will likely want at least a small look at their quarterback. This is a critical year for the Duke product, and Jones has shown some signs of progress during camp.

    "Because of Jones’ increased knowledge of the scheme, compared to this time last year, his coaches are seeing quicker decisions from him—with going through his reads, etc. And they hope that is the key to cutting down on his turnovers," Darryl Slater of wrote. 

    New York may not get a long look at Jones and all of his new weapons, and Barkley is expected to miss time into the regular season. Therefore, an early look may not be an accurate portrayal of what the team can expect during the regular season. However, a successful series or two could be enough to start getting Jones into a rhythm and gain him some confidence.

    If Jones truly has been processing information more quickly in camp, that's a good sign, but Joe Judge and the rest of the coaching staff will want to see that translate on the game field. Jones should get his first crack at an actual opponent on Saturday.  

RB Devontae Booker

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Because Barkley is not yet back to 100 percent, offseason addition Devontae Booker has been taking the first-team reps at running back in camp. For all intents and purposes, Booker will be New York's starter on opening day.

    However, he hasn't felt added pressure during camp.

    "I just go out there every day and just try to be a better running back and be better on how I can help our group be better," Booker said, per Michael Eisen of the team's official website. 

    Booker, who played for the Las Vegas Raiders in 2020, finished the year with 423 rushing yards and a 4.5 yards-per-carry average. He isn't the multi-dimensional threat that Barkley is when healthy, but he should be able to keep the ground game rolling until Barkley returns.

    Fans should get their first look at their new ball-carrier against the Jets. 

WR Kadarius Toney

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    Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

    NFL teams are usually eager to see rookie first-round picks in action. This will be the case with rookie wideout Kadarius Toney, who was taken 20th overall out of Florida.

    Though a relatively raw prospect, Toney has the potential to be a home-run threat in New York's offense. However, if he doesn't adjust quickly to the physicality and the nuances of the pro game, he could also be a mere gadget player as a rookie.

    "Essentially, you’re betting on the flash with Toney and hoping he develops into a consistent superweapon creating yards from across the formation for a creative play-caller," Nate Tice of the B/R Scouting Department wrote. 

    It'll be interesting to see how offensive coordinator Jason Garrett utilizes Toney in a live game situation. It won't be a surprise if the Giants look to ease Toney in with a couple of simple swing passes or bubble screens to get him into space. 

    Regardless of how New York gets the ball into Toney's hands, seeing him turn on the jets for the first time should be a thrill for fans.