The New York Giants and New York Jets clash in what is always an exciting preseason matchup filled with highlight-reel grabs and breakout performances.
Two years again, Victor Cruz caught everyone’s eye and presented everyone with a wonderful preview of what was to come for him the following season. Could someone do the same this season for either team?
There will be much to watch for both teams in this game. Injuries have riddled both rosters—most notably the Giants—and new acquisitions and young players have big opportunities showcase their abilities and earn some playing time.
With all that said, here are some things to watch for in the Giants’ second preseason tune-up of the season.
1. Could Sean Locklear snatch up the starting LT spot?
Incumbent starter Will Beatty has struggled with back issues all preseason and free-agent acquisition Sean Locklear saw most of the reps at left tackle this week in practice. Locklear has played primarily at right tackle in his NFL career, but may be the Giants’ best option to fill the void left by Beatty.
Whether or not he will be able to handle that duty will be put on display against the Jets, who plan to boast a fierce pass rush this season.
Locklear has a lot of responsibilities at hand—he must protect Eli Manning. If he cannot do that, former left tackle David Diehl may be forced back into the role despite a dismal performance in the position last season.
2. All Eyes on Prince Amukamara
The 2011 first-rounder has been underwhelming to date. His coverage skills have been exposed by nearly every quarterback he has faced and last week’s performance against the Jacksonville Jaguars was not a promising look at what may be to come.
If Amukamara wishes to earn a starting role with the defense in place of the injuries Terrell Thomas, he must step up and step up fast. What better to impress than against the equally unimpressive passing collective that is Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow?
3. Mark Herzlich vs. Chase Blackburn
The battle at middle linebacker has becoming one of the most exciting camp competitions for the Giants. Mark Herzlich and 2011 hero Chase Blackburn are at the forefront for this battle.
Both men will have another opportunity to showcase themselves against the Jets. Thus far in camp, Herzlich has looked like the far better option over Blackburn, continuing his stout play with a strong performance vs. the Jaguars last week.
Herzlich has made unbelievable progress this season, showing slight flashes of the first-round prospect he was at Boston College. But Blackburn has an outstanding edge in veteran leadership and knowledge of the Giants defense.
Both players will certainly be valuable contributors in 2012, but this position battle is one to keep an eye on.
4. Young Defensive Players Look to Make Their Mark
With so many injuries, a vast amount of uncertainty hangs overhead of the Giants roster.
Terrell Thomas was originally expected to be the nickelback, but with him out for some time, someone must step and prove they can fill the void. Antrel Rolle handled the services last season, and though he is more than filling to step up and do it again, it’s likely the Giants would prefer to keep him in his natural position and have another player handle nickelback duties.
Rookie Jayron Hosley, Prince Amukamara, Will Hill and Rolle are all guys to watch in nickel packages against the Jets.
Meanwhile, third-year defensive tackle Dwayne Hendricks has a massive opportunity to earn some playing time with so many injuries to the defensive tackles. Hendricks has played in just one game during his tenure with the Giants, but his play last week against the Jaguars should garner him some more time this week to show what he is made of.
Hendricks tallied two sacks and provided a ton of pressure through the middle—with the help of defensive end Adrian Tracy, another guy to keep an eye on.
Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell loves shuffling in pass rushers in all sorts of packages throughout a game. If Hendricks keeps up his strong play, he could work himself into a role similar to the one Dave Tollefson held down last season.