Tonight is the first preseason game vs Cleveland. For new visitors (and a refresher for old) these are the things we look for in general, and specifically here in 2018:
1) Can the Offense move the ball? Sounds simple but in recent years the Giants Offense was dysfunctional in preseason and it was a tell for general malaise in the regular season. So what you look for is, with normal conditions, can they move the sticks? It doesn’t even mean TDs. If penalties destroy drives yet they move the ball otherwise, that’s fine.
2) What does First Team look like? Which unit of the opposing team are they playing against? If my first team can’t do anything vs their second team, not good. So this is the relativity of preseason.
3) The score is irrelevant. Yah, I’d prefer to win at least one game in preseason, but as a reminder, the 0-16 Lions were 4-0 in preseason.
4) Watch individual players. Is speed there? Is strength there? Is technique there? There are so many players missing their assignments that you can lose individual effort when viewing Overal team dysfunction. Identifying individual performance amidst the cacophony is a leading indicator of team success.
5) Watch the rookies. In 2007 this blog was all over a rookie R7 Running back named Ahmad Bradshaw. In 2010 a UFA named Victor Cruz caught 3 TD passes. Both were huge cogs for Super Bowl runs. They flashed in preseason of their debuts. Additionally, are prominent high draft picks looking the part? Jeremy Shockey literally ran over a former Jet (who was plucked for the expansion Texans) in his first preseason game. Highlight reel stuff. He was more than ready for the NFL.
6) Q4 is the Keystone Cops. This is when mayhem breaks loose. Teams are getting looks at the bottom of their bloated rosters to see if guys are capable of (learning and) executing their assignments. Forget about the silly stupid turnovers and just look for a few players who may make the team. Most of these guys will not be on the final roster in September. A few will make it to the practice squad.
7) Special teams tryouts are real. Gunners, long snappers, kickers, & punters get meaningful opportunities to make the squad. If it’s close between two backups, the guy who makes it will be the one who executes on Specials.
Specific to 2018
1) OFFENSIVE LINE. This is what I will be watching. While everyone else is m*******ing to Saquon Barkley, I’ll be watching OL. I’ve said it here and on Twitter- as the OL goes, so will the season. The Giants are loaded with skill players. BLEEPING LOADED. And it doesn’t mean a damn if the OL can’t get it done.
1a) Ereck Flowers still s*ck? Believe it or not, Flowers in the 2nd half of 2017 was not a total zero. He sometimes rose to mediocrity, which is all we need from him this year.
1b) How is Solder on the speed rush? Showing any signs of age?
1c) Will Hernandez- is he looking the part and flashing?
1d) Halapio and Jones blocking it up?
1e) Omameh run blocking anything beyond perfunctory?
1f) Is there anyone else worth anything?
2) Eli arm strength. Zip on the ball?
3) Is Davis Webb capable of not only being a credible backup but also being a legitimate NFL QB?
4) What does the pass rush look like? Bettcher blitzes a lot. Filter.
5) Is Eli Apple the year 1 version (as reported by the media) or the year 2 version?
6) Any sense from the Free Safety lottery?
7) is Landon Collins back?
8) Are Carter and Hill backing up the hype?
9) Preseason is full of surprises. Surprise us. There are a lot of players I specifically did not mention but we already know about. As an example, Etta-Tawo, Latimer and Raymond should all show us something at WR. Goodson, when healthy, will show us something. Ogletree and Vernon will be leaders of the defensive effort. Engram, OBJ (not expected to play) and Shepard are known quantities. Barkley will be special. These are NOT the players I’m going to be watching in preseason.
Football is back. The wait is over.