Thursday marks the official end to the 2014 preseason, and for the New York Giants, it will conclude with a matchup against the New England Patriots. And while the starters are only slated to play for one or two series, there are still plenty of fringe players that make the game worth watching.
The Giants still have an overwhelming amount of questions to answer, and that includes how their depth will be shaped. Now removed from the first cutdown down, 75 players will be competing for the final 53 spots (not including the 10 Practice Squad spots).
What to Watch For:
- Final Offensive Tune-Up – It took until the final 2:00 of their fourth preseason game, but Big Blue's new-look offense finally showed a little life against the ever-obsessed New York Jets. And although quarterback Eli Manning & Co. will only play a series or two, it would be a tremendous boost for them to build off of that performance and give themselves a little motivation going into the regular season.
- First-Team Offensive Line – Both Geoff Schwartz (toe) and Brandon Mosley (back) will miss Thursday's game, so the Giants will get a unique first-string look that will likely include both Weston Richburg and John Jerry as their starters. How the line functions with two new plugins has the potential to be either disastrous or encouraging. And given what we've seen of Richburg to date, it's more likely to be the latter. Either way, it's definitely something worth keeping an eye on.
- Bottom of the Depth Chart – There are more than a handful of players who will be playing for their NFL lives on Thursday, and as this game represents their final chance, you can expect all players on the bubble to give whatever it is they have left in their preseason tanks. Don't be surprised to see someone stand out who hasn't made much of an impact thus far.
- Remaining Tight Ends – And then there were four. Daniel Fells is poised to receive some first-team reps on Thursday, but fans should expect a healthy mix of Fells, Adrien Robinson, Larry Donnell and Kellen Davis throughout the game. Head coach Tom Coughlin recently said the inability of any one player to stand out has led the team to move forward with a tight end-by-committee, but Thursday presents one last chance for someone to truly shine.
Five Players to Watch:
- Running Back Michael Cox – With Peyton Hillis finally back from his ankle sprain, Cox will likely be battling it out with Kendall Gaskins for the final running back spot on the 53-man roster. Both he and Gaskins are sure to get a large number of looks on Thursday, but Cox came into camp in tremendous shape and immediately drew the praise of head coach Tom Coughlin. Now the question becomes: can he offer enough for the Giants to bookend his training camp/preseason with good news and a roster spot?
- Linebacker Mark Herzlich – Herzlich is no stranger to relentless questions and doubt — he's faced them every single year of his NFL career. But at this point, does he offer the Giants enough to warrant keeping him on the 53-man roster? His Special Teams value is most certainly treasured by Big Blue, but with so many other talented linebackers now on the roster, does he need to offer them something more?
- Wide Receivers Mario Manningham/Preston Parker – With Odell Beckham Jr. still injured and Marcus Harris now on Injured Reserve, an unexpected spot has opened up at wide receiver. And after surviving the first cutdown down, both Manningham and Parker will head into the final game of the preseason with a fighting chance to earn a roster spot. However, when including Jerrel Jernigan and even Julian Talley, there are a lot of bodies and precious few remaining spots.
- Defensive End Mathias Kiwanuka – Contrary to popular belief, Kiwi has had a relatively successful preseason campaign, compiling a +3.5 rating from Pro Football Focus. Still, all stats and ratings aside, there's no denying that Damontre Moore has made some truly impressive leaps and bounds in his game. At this point, he's certainly on Kiwi's heels for a starting job, so with whatever reps he receives on Thursday night, Kiwi needs to perform well and cap off a solid preseason in an effort to keep Moore at bay … for now.
What say you, Giants fans? What are you most looking forward to seeing on Saturday night?
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Seeing your team play in the SuperBowl is priceless. Watching the SuperBowl live in the stands for $1 per week is beyond priceless. Find out how at TicketScore.com, the future of Championship Tickets. Tags: Adrien Robinson, Brandon Mosley, Daniel Fells, Eli Manning, Football, Geoff Schwartz, Kendall Gaskins, Larry Donnell, Mario Manningham, Mark Herzlich, Mathias Kiwanuka, Michael Cox, New York, New York Giants, NFL