For the New York Football Giants, it was one step forward and another two steps back, as the team triumphed over the Jacksonville Jaguars 22-12 last night at MetLife Stadium. More concerning than the continued struggles of the first-team offense and defense are the plethora of injuries, particularly in the defensive backfield. As the game unfolded, two starters on defense, linebacker Jon Beason and safety Bennett Jackson, left the game with knee injuries, and a key special teams performer, Mark Herzlich, suffered a concussion on the opening kickoff..
As the roster game of attrition keeps occurring for Giants’ Tom Coughlin, the head coach must also prepare his troops for opening day against the Dallas Cowboys on September 13th, without a clue about who might be his starting safeties in Texas. The New York Post reported last night that Jackson suffered a right knee injury in the game. “[Jackson] left the locker room with a heavy wrap on his right knee and declined to comment, but clearly looked disconsolate, as if he knew bad news was coming.”
While the G-men rode five Josh Brown field goals to victory, the first-team offenses and defenses struggled against the Jaguars’ first units. Big Blue quarterback Eli Manning was only 4-16 for 46 yards against the visitors from north Florida, while Jacksonville signal-caller Blake Bortles led the Jaguars to scoring drives on his three offensive series on the field. Manning missed connection with 2014 NFL rookie-of-the-year Odell Beckham, Jr. four times, and Beckham also dropped a potential 29-yard completion deep into the Jaguars’ zone that was originally called a catch, but overturned on review.
Unfortunately for New York, the main story lines center around the injuries, and with opening day fast approaching, the necessity of figuring who may be available, and who will not, against the Cowboys. “It’s amazing with the way that’s going,” coach Tom Coughlin said after the game. “We earmarked it as a problem position for us with the safety position and we had two guys hurt tonight in that spot. Hopefully, we’ll get a couple of guys back to practice that weren’t able to play. It’s just hard to even comment on.” Overall, here are the three main areas of concern:
- SAFETY IN NUMBERS: Our parents always told us this, but we never believed them. The Giants are finding out how true this sentiment really is, as the last man standing is Jeromy Miles, a veteran free agent pickup from the Baltimore Ravens. Miles looks like he will be one starter at the position, almost by default. The other spot remains in flux as the G-men have seen Landon Collins, Cooper Taylor and Nat Berhe sidelined in camp with various health problems. Adding to the woes last night were serious injuries to undrafted free agent Justin Currie, who fractured his ankle on special teams, and Jackson, who was making headway in the battle for a starting nod. New York signed veteran Brandon Merriweather as insurance last week, and the G-men will likely have to collect on that policy sooner rather than later. Certainly we will see more of veteran Josh Gordy and rookie Justin Halley this week, but are either players really the answer? Veteran stop gaps measures like Dewan Landry and Thomas DeCoud are available and may be necessary.
- LINE DANCING: The offensive line took a step forward with the return of Geoff Schwartz to the line-up. Schwartz was alternated between right tackle and guard by spelling either tackle Marshall Newhouse or guard John Jerry. It seemed to make a difference, as the unit provided running lanes and better protection in the passing game. With rookie Ereck Flowers and Justin Pugh along the left side of the line, and second-year man, Weston Richburg, at center, it appears the Giants are slowly getting clarity with the unit. Dallas Reynolds appears to be a very capable backup at center, but important reserve roles will still need to be allocated. Rookie Bobby Hart is beginning to turn some heads, especially with Brandon Mosley sidelined again, this time with back spasms. Canadian import Brett Jones received some repetitions at both guard and center, but still would seem to be a long shot to make the club.
- NO RUSH TO JUDGEMENT: The defensive front four has been an area of discussion since camp began, with the accident to Jason Pierre-Paul leaving a huge void in the unit. It would seem that three players are in position to claim starting jobs right now, Cullen Jenkins, Robert Ayers, Jr. and Johnathan Hankins, Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo has tinkered with Jenkins at the defensive end position, giving Markus Kuhn first dibs in the interior. Kuhn has not been great, but he should not be the scapegoat for the entire unit either. Veteran George Selvie could be a good Plan B at the end position on a rotational basis, with rookie Owa Odigizuwa seeing time on passing downs. Selvie missed this contest with a knee injury though. Pass rushing specialist Damontre Moore has been better in this training camp, his third, but he also yet to prove he is a full-time contributor. Second-year man Jay Bromley has been progressing, and the Giants definitely need quality snaps from him this season. There has not been much separation created with players like Kerry Wynn and Kenrick Ellis, and the team also claimed Jimmy Staten off of waivers from Seattle at the defensive tackle position. Injuries aside, there is much yet to be decided here, as Spagnuolo searches for a combination that will get to the quarterback.