Chalk up at least one more thing the New York Giants and New England Patriots do better than the New York Jets – they like to rest starters in meaningless preseason games.
Unlike Jets’ head coach Todd Bowles’s declaration that he may play some of his starters in tonight’s preseason finale against the Philadelphia Eagles, both Ben McAdoo of the Giants and Bill Belichick of the Patriots have essentially said that none of the essential figures on their title-contending rosters will see the field, tonight, when the Pats host the G-Men.
Belichick will likely start Jacoby Brissett at quarterback, with a possible cameo by No. 2 Jimmy Garoppolo. Star quarterback Tom Brady and co. are already on to the Kansas City Chiefs, as the Patriots are now game planning for next Thursday’s primetime season opener.
Brady and the vets are expected to get the night off, and McAdoo said the same when he was asked about his plans for his starters.
“As far as the play time goes, we’ll handle it very similar to the way we handled last year’s play time [in the fourth preseason game],” McAdoo said, slyly giving away his intentions without saying it, because the Giants sat their starters in last year’s preseason finale.
McAdoo was specifically asked about his offensive line, a maligned unit that could use all the work it could get. He was reminded that all but starting center Weston Richburg played in last year’s finale. The coach, who is as good as a government spy – or Belichick himself — in not divulging information, added it’s safe to assume the starting offensive line will play some snaps.
“That could be a good place to start, yes,” McAdoo said.
Tonight is for the fringe guys and players on the bubble, reasoned McAdoo, and not for the likes of quarterback Eli Manning, or star wideouts like Odell Beckham Jr. (ankle) and Brandon Marshall (shoulder).
“We want to give every player who’s on the bubble an opportunity to show what they can do. You want to get players work versus competitive players … [and] get them good, quality work at high speeds and physicality,” said McAdoo, adding he likes the new cut-down format of purging 37 guys all at once instead of the old way of a slow drip of cutting the roster down from 90 to 53 players. “I do like going from 90 to 53. I think it gives the players who are out there an opportunity to show well for your team and for other teams in the league.”
There will be as many as 864 guys out of a football jobs by Saturday evening – some temporarily and some permanently – because by 4 p.m., every team is required to cut to 53 players. Then each team may establish a 10-player practice squad any time after Sunday at 1 p.m. But until then, it’s going to be one last-ditch effort by the bubble guys to get noticed by either their own team or someone else.
Salute Magazine takes a look at some of the key storylines that face both the Giants and Patriots in the preseason finale.
#1 Who’s No. 2?… Geno Smith and Josh Johnson get their final chance to impress McAdoo for the right to likely never play a down this regular season. Manning is the league’s active Iron Man leader with 211 consecutive games started (including playoffs), so in all likelihood, the winner of this battle will enjoy a very cushy and well-compensated gig. The loser just may find himself unemployed, because there’s no chance rookie fourth-round pick Davis Webb gets cut and it’s unlikely Big Blue carries four quarterbacks on the active roster. McAdoo also reasoned that Davis “will factor in” when asked if the rookie will see any action tonight.
#2 The depth of the Giants’ defensive line… Even with the injury to Evan Schwan (broken foot) and the releasing of Owa Odighizuwa one day after being suspended for violating the league’s performance enhancing drug policy, there’s a glut of talent at the defensive end position. Tonight is the night for someone to either earn a job or start looking for another one. Giants’ fans should keep an eye on unsung names like Avery Moss and Jordan Williams. The latter is a former practice squad player with the Jets (in 2015) and Miami Dolphins (2016) who has made plays this preseason and has double value as the backup longsnapper to Zak DeOssie. The former is a favorite of McAdoo, who went out of his way to praise the fifth-round rookie from the University of Nebraska.
“Yeah, Avery’s working. I talked to him the other day about just letting it rip, just playing fast and aggressive instead of thinking too much and that’s what happens to a lot of young players at this time, especially with the cut down coming,” McAdoo said. “And on special teams, he’s making progress there, just playing fast. And on defense today … he flashes a couple times — whether it was an edge rush, or plucking the ball out of the air, or dropping [into coverage].”
#3 Who’ll get a kick out of being the primary guy?… McAdoo said there’s very little, to no, correlation to preseason success translating to regular-season success – except for placekicker. There’s been a good battle all summer between veteran Mike Nugent and undrafted rookie Aldrick Rosas. Both have had solid camps, as McAdoo and general manager Jerry Reese will need to make a decision that may ultimately come down to finances as much as performance.
“Yeah, that [salaries] will factor as we continue to look at the kickers and they continue to make everything. They continue to do a nice job. It’s a great competition, but we have to let the competition unfold,” McAdoo, highlighting the rookie from Southern Oregon University. “He booted a pretty nice one [kickoff], last week. He has a big leg, we know that. We know that he can kick the ball pretty deep, nine yards deep if need be with some hang on it. And he’s working on his game there. But, we’re confident in both guys that they can handle all aspects of the job.”