As the Giants prepare to take on the crosstown rival New York Jets, there are three main things to watch when this game kicks off Saturday, Aug. 24 at 7 p.m. EDT:
Eli Manning's Chemistry With ReceiversI wouldn't necessarily blame it all on the captain of the Giants' offense, but Manning didn't have a strong showing against the Colts, and a lot of that has to do with the chemistry and amount of work put in between quarterback and wide receiver.
Manning was just 8-of-17 for 91 yards and an interceptions vs. Indianapolis, and he clearly still has some rust to shake off before New York opens its season against the rival Dallas Cowboys on Sept. 8.The fact that Victor Cruz left the game with a heel injury also didn't help, nor does the fact that Hakeem Nicks has missed a lot of time this offseason recovering from injury in hopes of being 100 percent when the regular season begins.
Nonetheless, not a single member of the Giants' passing game stood out Sunday night, as Ramses Barden led the team in receptions with four, and rookie running back Michael Cox finished with a team-high 48 receiving yards.
For a team that will be featuring a sophomore in the backfield this season, the Giants need to get the passing game going against the crosstown Jets. The third preseason game is usually the key indicator as to where a team stands entering the regular season, which is why it's crucial for Manning and his receivers to get their chemistry down and look sharp.
Linebacker PlayThe Giants don't require stud linebackers to be competitive, but the linebacker play so far this preseason has been sub-par. New York's LBs looked dismal against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first preseason game and submitted a less than memorable night against the Colts this past Sunday.
While an offense like the Jets' isn't a true test for Big Blue's defense, the third preseason game will be an important one for New York to regain its confidence as the regular season quickly approaches.
Neither Mark Herzlich nor Dan Connor has established himself as the clear-cut favorite to win the starting MLB job, and the Giants have a slew of other moving parts at linebacker with guys like Keith Rivers, Spencer Paysinger, Jacquian Williams, Aaron Curry and more all in the mix.
Coming off a season in which the Giants ranked 31st in total defense, New York has to get its linebacking corps in line to compete for a playoff spot. With NFL offenses becoming more dynamic -- led by Robert Griffin III and the divisional rival Washington Redskins -- the linebacker position is an extremely vital one to the G-Men.
Red Zone EfficiencyWhat I'll be most focused on when the Giants and Jets meet is Big Blue's ability to put the ball in the end zone from the red zone.
Red zone efficiency has been a woe for the Giants throughout the preseason so far, as the G-Men are 0-for-6, including zero scores in four chances against Indianapolis. Manning's timing and communication with his wideouts definitely plays into the struggle, but New York's offense as a whole just has to be better from that close to the end zone.I loved the Giants' acquisition of kicker Josh Brown this offseason, but he's getting too many chances already. Brown has connected on seven of eight chances this preseason, highlighted by a 4-for-4 performance against the Colts -- which also accounted for all of the Giants' offense.
The Jets' defense has already surrendered 39 points this preseason, which should give the Giants a chance to work on their red zone struggles, but this is certainly something to keep your eye on throughout the remainder of the preseason and into the start of the regular season.If the Giants can't score in the red zone against the Jets, there will be big problems for Big Blue in 2013.
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