Starters To Be Scarce Come Thursday

Because of the proximity to Monday's Giants-Jets game, Thursday's preseason finale in New England may feature no Giants starters. Can't blame Tom Coughlin if he decides to keep everybody on the bench.

Tom Coughlin hadn't decided to keep his starters sideline-bound for Thursday night's preseason finale against New England, but who could blame him if he did?

With just two days of walk-throughs, and still sore from Monday's 17-3 loss to the Jets, the starters surely don't need to put their health at risk. The fourth preseason game is traditionally used as the coach's final look at younger players and backups, anyway, with starters relegated to a series or two at most. So why bother?

Heaven knows, Eli Manning's awkward passing isn't going to improve for Sept. 11 in Washington because of a couple of dropbacks at Gillette Stadium. And the ground game that stumbled against the Jets won't get that needed boost because of a few carries early.

Better to keep everybody safe and sound, the exact philosophy Coughlin's counterpart, Bill Belichick, often uses for his preseason finales. The two years before 2010, Tom Brady and his main players didn't even suit up for the game, that's how protective Belichick was of them.

Plus, the lack of practice time due to the hurricane throwing off all the schedules could make for a dangerous situation for key players. With Terrell Thomas already gone, they don't need another starter out.

"You are supposed to be in training camp to prepare and that certainly means to practice," Coughlin said. "Just take a look at the practices we will not have this week.

"You are talking about a force of nature, you're not talking about someone making a decision not to practice. We were all caught short and we were instructed to play it safe. We got a practice in Saturday, and Sunday and Monday came along. This week, you are only talking about jog throughs. You are into that mode. It is a lot of forced learning and you have a lot of sore people who are going through the idea of sitting right down the next day.

"Are they complaining? No, nobody is complaining. Whatever we are assigned to do, we will do it. It is just not an optimum situation."

It could potentially be a great situation for folks like veteran receiver Michael Clayton, first-year WR Victor Cruz, and rookie LB Greg Jones as they hunger for more time in the offense and defense. Andre Brown and Da'Rel Scott should also see the lions share of carries and have the opportunity to make those final cuts a bit harder.

Also, look for drafted special teamer Jerrel Jernigan to clean up the greatly-flawed return mechanics that caused him to fumble a couple of punts against the Jets. Though Domenik Hixon probably will be back there once the season starts, Jernigan needs to become a reliable option in the event of injury.

So watch the game. Enjoy. Rate the kids. But don't expect to see the starters for long, if at all.

From this viewpoint, Coughlin would be wise to keep them all seated and safe.

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