Saturday, August 25, 2012
Observation deck: Bears-Giants
By Dan Graziano
As great as the New York Giants' starters looked, on both sides of the ball, in Friday's 20-17 preseason loss to the Chicago Bears, the news of the night was injury news. Cornerback Prince Amukamara, who was already having a rough week after a video of him being dunked into a cold tub made it onto YouTube, suffered a high ankle sprain and had to leave the game. It's unclear how much time Amukamara will miss, but high ankle sprains can take several weeks to heal, so his availability for the regular-season opener 11 days from now has to be called into question.
With Terrell Thomas still recovering from his knee injury, that leaves a big hole at starting cornerback opposite Corey Webster. Rookie Jayron Hosley has looked very good, but he's out with turf toe. He's hoping to play in next week's preseason finale, and he was already getting a long look as the nickel corner. Either Hosley, Michael Coe, Bruce Johnson or Justin Tyron would be in line to fill in for Amukamara if he has to miss a lot of time.
The good news is that this is much better than last year, when Thomas blew out his knee in a preseason game and had to miss the season. The bad news is that, whatever you may have thought of Aaron Ross, there's no one that established among the replacements on this year's roster. The Giants let Ross leave via free agency because they believed they'd get Thomas and Amukamara back healthy. So they kind of need to hurry back.
That's the bad part of what happened Friday night. As I mentioned, though, most of the night was very good for the Giants. Here's what else I saw:
- Rookie running back David Wilson got the start and looked very impressive, running for 49 yards on five carries and gaining 26 more yards on two receptions. Wilson showed a good burst, good speed and an ability to keep running after first contact. They used him on a variety of plays, as if they were trying some sort of running back sampler platter to see how much he could handle. He looked especially good on that one where he took the handoff, faked left and ran around to the right with the defense fooled. And when the play wasn't designed for him, I thought he did a good job staying in the backfield and making sure he didn't have a blitzer to pick up before heading out into the flat where Eli Manning found him. Still didn't see much to indicate how he did picking up blitzers when they did come, and Wilson's playing time will be tied at least in part to his blocking ability in the passing game. But he's clearly got playmaking ability, and the Giants should be able to find spots in which to use him.
- Ramses Barden was the star of the wide receiver corps with three catches for 46 yards and a touchdown. His catches were tough ones, too. Barden's size gives him something that Jerrel Jernigan and Domenik Hixon don't offer in the receiving game. And if Barden is impressing the coaches as much in practice as he did in the game, you start to wonder about Jernigan's roster spot. Especially since David Douglas looked good returning punts.
- The false start call on Manning for his hand-fake in the shotgun caught me off guard, but my Twitter followers alerted me to the fact that that's a point of officiating emphasis this year. Quarterbacks aren't going to be allowed to make those exaggerated gestures with their hands and legs to try and draw defenses offsides. They got David Carr for the same thing in the fourth quarter. Will be interesting to watch, league-wide.
- Pick a defensive star. Mathias Kiwanuka has been playing great, and he says the groin injury that knocked him out of the game won't prevent him from playing Sept. 5. Keith Rivers may still be a backup linebacker, but the way he's playing sideline-to-sideline, he's making it less important that Michael Boley hurry back from his hamstring injury. Linval Joseph continues to be a beast at defensive tackle. Adewale Ojomo had a sack. As good as Manning and the first-team offense looked, the Giants' defense played very well in this game and looks to be ready for the season, other than that healthy-cornerback problem.
- Safety Kenny Phillips deserves a separate mention for his work in run support. He was in the backfield for a tackle on the first play and was in there a little bit later with Osi Umenyiora to make a stop on Matt Forte. Phillips had one shaky moment when he failed to come over to help after Brandon Marshall smoked Amukamara replacement Bruce Johnson for a touchdown, but it's clear he's a huge all-around asset for the defense who doesn't get talked about very much.
- Da'Rel Scott is the forgotten man in that backup running back derby, but he blocked a punt and had a nice 15-yard run. He's speedy.
- I also noticed linebacker Greg Jones twice -- when he scooped up the punt Scott blocked, and when he made a good open-field tackle in the third quarter. The Giants' depth at linebacker is very impressive now.
- I might take Victor Cruz pretty high in those fantasy leagues that award a point per reception.
- And finally not a Giants note, but I've watched him two weeks in a row now and I'd take Brandon Marshall in any league.