As we wrap up the preseason tonight, we continue our roundtable discussions with the Giants Beat, and tonight we discuss what to watch for in the regular season, not tonight. Tonight we will see some players earn jobs, but most teams are pretty much set and we won't see the starters. Here are the questions I had for Josh Fyffe, beat writer for The Giants Beat:
1. Are the Giants going to be able to stop anyone on defense in 2015? There defense was suspect to begin with, and now with Jason Pierre-Paul losing fingers and possibly never being the same player, can this defense give Giants fans any hope of a playoff spot?
I wouldn’t shoulder the Giants postseason hopes on the performance of their defense in 2015. That being said, the unit still has some potential despite a dismal and diminished looking roster. Jon Beason will be the man in the middle and will be active week 1, a huge advantage that the defense didn’t have a majority of 2014. Aside from Beason, the linebacking core is certainly an area of improvement and an overall weakness for the defense. In the secondary, both corners Amukamara and Rodgers-Cromartie possess speed and former first round talent. While it doesn’t matter where you are drafted in this league, it’s what you make of it, both players are coming into the season with a full bill of health and match up well against receivers in their division, sans Dez Bryant. The safeties should be rookie Landon Collins, who also compliments the speed dynamic of the secondary, and hard-hitting and former Patriot Brandon Meriweather, who has vowed to change his head-on collision tackling methods. The defensive line has taken a blow, losing their most explosive player for the entire offseason via the JPP fireworks/standoff saga. NFL.com, PFF, and NBC Sports have all released statements strongly speculating his return before the start of week 1. If he does return, defensive line coach said he would spend all-nighters catching the former all-pro up to speed. It’s unreasonable to expect Pierre-Paul’s impact to not be slightly diminished but he will still have all of the physical tools he previously had, just not his right index finger.
2. Can the Giants get production from their tight ends?
Honestly, the tight end position is probably the offenses’ shallowest position heading into the 2015 season; not necessarily a terrible position to be thin at. Larry Donnell started for the G-Men in all of 2014 and actually compiled a bit of a break out season, recording 63 receptions, 623 yards and 6 touchdowns, as Eli’s second leading receiver in terms of receptions. However, Donnell has taken a step back this preseason and allowed the role to be usurped by Daniel Fells, who is in his second year with the Giants, and his fifth overall NFL team. Fells posted 16 receptions for 188 yards and 4 touchdowns in his inaugural season with the Giants, but has been the starter since the first depth chart was released during camp. Both players are not Gronkowski like players by any means, but the Giants will have modest and competitive production from their tightends in 2015. I would also expect Eli Manning to target them less because of the trio of Cruz, OBJ and Randle, as well as the addition of Shane Vereen out of the backfield.
3. Victor Cruz appears ready to go after his awful season-ending injury last season. How has he looked in camp? Should we expect to see him starting come Week One?Cruz had made full recovery from his torn patella tendon from the previous season and looked fluent in the offense through training camp and the early preseason. However, Cruz suffered a mild calf strain that the Giants organization is taking very serious; more in a cautious sense. They have asked Cruz to not participate in any jogging or running this past week to ensure he gets the maximum amount of rest as possible, as well as diminishing the chance of further aggravating the calf injury. Speed is a large part to Cruz’s game and calves are a tricky injury to predict as the injury can reflare up spontaneously. The thought of having Cruz start week 1 is certainly in peril and will be largely up to how his calf recovers over the next week and a half. If he is not feeling close to 100%, the Giants may hold him out of the Dallas opener.
4. What has the running back rotation looked like so far in camp and preseason, and who looks like the frontrunner to receive the most carries?
The running back rotation will mostly be a tandem between Rashad Jennings and Shane Vereen, with spells of Andre Williams sprinkled in on between the tackle runs. Vereen will primarily be a third down back and has been molding into the Giants system throughout the offseason, which he initially described as a completely different language. I would expect that the more comfortable Vereen feels in the offense, the more he will be utilized as he possesses the most talent of the Giants running back core. For the start of the season, Jennings will receive a majority of the season and pick where he left off as the lead back (in terms of handoffs) from a season ago. But there is definitely no number one, Adrian Peterson or Jamaal Charles like option in backfield for the Giants this season.
5. Is the revamped offensive line going to be able to gel or is Eli Manning going to be running for his life in 2015?
A fun fact about the Giants offensive line is that while they have some returning players, no one is playing the same position they were playing a season ago. Despite going under a lot of change, every player is more comfortable playing in their current position, because a majority of last season they were all forced to step up and display their versatility due to injuries. Also, when you add a top ten overall pick to the line, usually the entire unit takes a step up and Flowers hasn’t disappointed thus far into the preseason, receiving ample amounts of praise from teammates and the coaching staff alike. I would expect some communication issues to ensue early on the season (which is custom for a lot of franchises) but as the season progresses, they solidify their play, continuing the trend they have been one since the start OTAs.
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