It is the annual end of the preseason tradition. The New England Patriots and the New York Giants will play their final exhibition games before the season starts a week from Wednesday. Yes, the media is going to focus a lot on the Giants’ Super Bowl victory over New England back in February, but now it is time to look at these teams as potentially meeting again in New Orleans this February.
On Monday, Giants’ head coach Tom Coughlin said that the starters will play in this game, including wide receiver Hakeem Nicks, who has missed most of training camp with a foot injury. For the Patriots, they are looking to gain some offensive rhythm. That has been the problem in this preseason for the Pats. The offensive line has been sub-par without some of its regular and we have seen both quarterback Tom Brady and tight end Rob Gronkowski be frustrated by the lack of scoring from the first team.
While it is the last chance to gain rhythm before the opener, it also is the last chance for players on the bubble to show the coaching staff that they can make the 53-man roster. We have already seen some camp casualties including wide receivers Donte Stallworth and Jabar Gaffney as well as defensive lineman Gerard Warren.
Here are some storylines to watch in this final game:
1. Running For A Spot: After the Patriots cut Gaffney and Stallworth on Monday, the skill position that most people will keep an eye on in Wednesday’s game are the running backs. Jeffrey Demps made a huge spark on Friday with a 29 yard run and a 24 yard punt return that was negated by a penalty. With Demps’ spot all but secure, the spotlight shifts to Brandon Bolden. The undrafted rookie out of Ole Miss looked great at the onset of camp, but he has had some punt return issues. The battle between him and maybe even Danny Woodhead for that last running back spot will be something to watch.
2. Pass Rhythm Needs A Beat: The problems for the Patriots’ offense has come from the protection up front, but skill players like Brady and Gronkowski won’t use that as an excuse. This game provides the perfect opportunity for a little over a quarter to find the rhythm before the opener. The Giants have suffered injuries this summer to two of their key secondary players (Terrell Thomas and Prince Amukamara). Will Brady and company use that to their advantage? Plus, Ryan Mallett will try to build off his solid performance in Tampa.
3. Cornering Them In: New England has an interesting battle going for one of those cornerback spots. The secondary has shown great strides in the preseason, but has suffered its share of injuries at safety with Patrick Chung and Steve Gregory going down. But, the battle I am intrigued by is between 7th round pick Alfonzo Dennard and Marquise Cole. Dennard has been bothered by a hamstring injury and has not seen much action on the field. As for Cole, he has been on the bubble, but made a team high five tackles on Friday against the Bucs.