The game, similar to the first week of the preseason, is unlikely to feature many starters but there will be a few. There will also be several role players being evaluated for depth positions.
Here are five Giants with the most to gain against the Browns.
AP Photo/Stephen Brashear
To start things off, Carter Coughlin is a 2020 seventh-round pick out of Minnesota. The fact that he is even still around as a seventh-round selection is already a showing of how determined Coughlin is. The former Golden Gopher had a promising rookie season where he recorded 17 tackles and one sack in two starts for the Giants. However, he played an even bigger role in the special teams unit as he appeared in 36-percent of the Giants special teams' plays. Now in 2021, Coughlin will have an opportunity to carve out an even larger role for himself as he moves from outside linebacker to inside linebacker. In his preseason debut playing inside, the sophomore put up a stellar performance recording five tackles and one sack. This change to inside linebacker is something that is new for Coughlin as he has been primarily a pass rusher his entire career. However, he has been picking it up quickly and making the most of this opportunity. This positional change benefits both Coughlin and the Giants. After Blake Martinez, Big Blue is currently thin at the inside linebacker position. Due to this hole, Coughlin stands to gain a lot of regular season playing time if he can go out against Cleveland and prove that he has what it takes to be an inside linebacker at the NFL level.
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Another young edge rusher with a lot to gain on Sunday is Azeez Ojulari. The 50th overall pick slid from his first-round projections due to his "scary" college injury history (or so some experts would have you believe). Nevertheless, the Giants ended up with Ojulari (after passing up on him three times) and look at him as the steal of the draft. During his time at Georgia, Ojulari was a monster. In just 23 games, the former Bulldog recorded 68 tackles, 18.5 tackles for loss, and 15 sacks. Much of these stats came in his final season where he had a breakout year featuring 31 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, and 9.5 sacks in 11 games. Ojulari will look to transfer this production to the NFL where he will have the chance to come in and be an immediate starter at the outside linebacker position. He is currently second on the depth chart behind Oshane Ximines (a two-year veteran with limited NFL production). While Ojulari did have a quiet game in his NFL debut against the Jets, he did have one memorable play that flashed his true potential. In this play, Ojulari beat former first-round pick Mekhi Becton and was able to record his only tackle of the night, stopping the Jets running back for minimal to no gain. If Ojulari can build on this play and the work he is doing in practice and have it show on Sunday, he will be firmly in the mix for the starting outside linebacker position.
AP Photo/Adam Hunger
A potential partner in crime to Ojulari, Lorenzo Carter, also will have the ability to heavily increase his stock in Cleveland. Carter, who is also an outside linebacker out of Georgia, is currently coming off of an Achilles tear that happened in Week 5 of last season. This was a devastating injury as it seemed that Carter was just starting to heat up and finally have himself a breakout year. Unfortunately, this potential emergence from Carter was postponed to 2021. It will now be a make-or-break year for him as he is entering the last year of his rookie deal. For Carter to sign a big-time extension, like every NFL player desires, he will have to prove his worth on the field this season. Luckily for Carter, he has gotten out to a hot start. In joint practices with the Browns, he has been a standout player. Carter has been all over the field causing havoc as he has recorded many pressures and has even gotten the best of big-name tackles such as Jedrick Wills Jr. Carter has been truly dominant during the practices in Cleveland. If he can transfer this to the field on Sunday, this will help him lock up his spot as the Giants' No. 1 edge rusher and allow him to have the opportunity at the breakout year that the Giants have been waiting for him to have since 2019.
AP Photo/John Munson
Now to the offensive side of the ball. Matt Peart arguably has the most to prove against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday. The second-year tackle is currently coming off of a bipolar performance against the New York Jets last week. While he allowed one inexcusable sack to Bryce Huff on Mike Glennon, it was his only allowed pressure of the day. Outside of that play, Peart had himself a pretty solid performance as he ended up as the Giants' second highest-graded offensive player by Pro Football Focus. This rating was carried by his great run-blocking grade of 80.8. Run-blocking seems to be the best portion of Peart's game. During his small playing time in 2020 (140 snaps at tackle) he earned a run-blocking grade of 81.7. However, it is clear that his pass protection is not nearly at the same level as his PFF grade for this was merely a 46.9. This will be something that Peart seriously needs to improve on here in 2021 if he wants to solidify himself as the starting right tackle for the Giants.
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Another offensive lineman that can help improve his standing with the Giants on Sunday is Ted Larsen. Larsen is an 11-year veteran who the Giants picked up on August 14th due to their ultra-thin depth at the interior of the offensive line. Despite being on the team for less than a week, Larsen has already begun to carve out a role for himself as he even got time with the Giants' first-team offense, relieving Shane Lemieux at left guard, on Friday, per Art Stapleton. Right now the biggest focus for Larsen is making the roster (currently a fourth-team guard on the depth chart). But if he can continue making some positive noise, especially on Sunday against the Browns, he will surely have an opportunity at making the roster and maybe even competing with Hernandez or Lemieux for a starting job down the line.