By Brad Carroll
The NFL’s fourth preseason game doesn’t offer much in terms of getting the fan base excited. For better or worse, the final exhibition has become nothing more than a battle between players on both sides who are longshots to make the team, or are simply getting reps in because they won’t be playing at all once the regular season begins.
But even though Giants fans won’t get to see what the offense or defense will look like come Week 1, there are some reasons to tune in to Thursday’s game against the New England Patriots. Eli Manning, Odell Beckham Jr., Jason Pierre-Paul and a host of others won’t play, but there are still a couple of important jobs to be won on the field.
Here are three of the top storylines to watch as the Giants close the preseason.
Youth or Experience At Kicker?
Both Mike Nugent, the veteran, and Aldrick Rosas, the rookie, have played well this preseason and throughout training camp, leaving the competition equal. A decision on a winner will have to be made after the game, however, and while it could come down to who is the best kicker, it could also come down to money if the competition is still close. Rosas will make just under $500K while Nugent would make double that. Last week against the Jets, Nugent made his case to win the job, hitting both of his field goals, including one from 54 yards out. He also kicked an extra point. Rosas made his only kick, from 24 yards out, and nailed both of his extra points. If either one misses a kick against the Patriots, it could result in a pink slip.
Geno’s Last Chance
It’s been a common thread this offseason: Who will win the backup quarterback job, Geno Smith or Josh Johnson? Neither has looked very good, with Smith turning the ball over a bunch and Johnson simply not making a convincing case to win the job. Johnson relieved Eli Manning last week against the Jets and went 4-of-6 for 67 yards. Smith went 5-of-10 for 51 yards. Obviously, those aren’t Earth-shattering numbers. Smith likely starts this game, with Johnson coming on in relief. It’s their last chance to impress, as likely one of them will be released soon after the game. Davis Webb, by the way, should get a chance to play a lot, which should give fans something to tune in for after halftime. He is likely going to get a “redshirt” year, though.
Running Back Logjam
The Giants have five running backs who all have a case to make the final roster, but it’s unlikely they will keep them all, so this could be a position to watch Thursday. Paul Perkins likely wrapped up the starting job last week against the Jets after rushing for 33 yards on six carries. Rookie Wayne Gallman was solid as well, rushing for 43 yards on 12 carries, and will easily make the team. Then there’s Orleans Darkwa, Shane Vereen and Shaun Draughn. One or even two of those players could be released following the game, so this could be the last chance they have to grab a roster spot.