So after nearly eight months since the last time they played a regular season game, the Giants are set to kick off their schedule with a doozy of a game in Detroit (the same team they played in a regular season game last year) on Monday night.
For better or worse, the Giants are ready to open another season. Unlike previous seasons, the expectations for them to compete are not what they once were. It is the Eagles who are the perceived heavy favorites in NFC East, with the Giants, Cowboys and Redskins all being big question marks.
Nevertheless, the Giants— try as they might— enter 2014 with a renewed sense of hope, with the addition of many offseason acquisitions and a new offensive philosophy. Right off the bat, the Giants have a challenge in facing the offensively-gifted Lions. Here then are five things to watch for.
How will Ben McAdoo and his West Coast offense look?
Suffice to say, the Giants offense has looked atrocious this preseason, despite the team going 5-0.
Eli Manning is just not grasping McAdoo’s offense right now and there is no telling when he will. It looks like Manning is not comfortable and he is clearly not in good rhythm with any of his receivers. Will we see some new wrinkles and some improvement? Or will it be status quo?
With the offense not yet in synch, especially the passing game, the Giants may want to make a more conscious effort to run the ball in Monday’s game, which leads to the next point.
Can Giants establish running game?
If there is one asset of the offense that has looked good in the preseason, it has been the play of the backfield, as new backs Rashad Jennings (free agent) and Andre Williams (draft pick) have reinvigorated the running game.
In five preseason games, Jennings and Williams combined to rush for 407 yards and three touchdowns on 73 carries. It’s too bad the Lions have a tough front seven, as the running lanes may be hard to come by.
Hopefully the Giants can establish the run game, allowing for some play-action passes, while catching the Lions off guard.
How will the new additions on defense play?
With a shoddy secondary and line-backing unit last year, the Giants made some key additions in the offseason with the acquisitions of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Jameel McClain and the selection of Devon Kennard in the NFL draft.
The defense just never got on the same page last year and the Giants are hoping an infusion of new talent and along with the health of several key players, that maybe it will restore some pride. It will certainly be the defense that carries the Giants this year, at least initially.
The going will certainly get tough Monday, as the Lions have one of the more explosive and dynamic offenses in the league. They are sufficient in either passing or running the ball, and the Giants will clearly need to bring their A-game Monday.
Can Jason Pierre-Paul rebound and make his presence felt?
A lot is riding on the health of Pierre-Paul this year, as he will no doubt be the Giants anchor on defense this year.
With the the Giants letting go of Justin Tuck in the offseason, they are banking on a big, rebound season from Pierre-Paul and thus far he has looked efficient in the preseason, but not stellar. If he he can get pressure on Lions quarterback Matt Stafford, it would go along way in making this a competitive game.
It would be encouraging to see Pierre-Paul start off with a bang, as his play is paramount to any success the Giants have on defense this year.
How do Giants contain Calvin Johnson?
As you’re probably all aware, Johnson is just a beast of a receiver and widely regarded as the best in the game.
However, the Giants did a fantastic job limiting Johnson last year, when they held the stud receiver to just three receptions for 43 yards. That was the last game of the season though, when Johnson was banged up. Starting off a new season and looking for revenge, Johnson will be hard to contain in this affair.
It will be interesting to see who the Giants use to cover him, as they can use either Rodgers-Cromartie or Prince Amukumara. It’s not just Johnson who the Giants have to worry about in the Lions offense, as both backs (Reggie Bush and Joique Bell), wide receiver free-agent acquisition Golden Tate and new tight end Eric Ebron give the Lions a potent offensive attack.
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