From Lou Musto of Giants Rush
The New York Giants kick off their 2013 preseason schedule on the road against the Pittsburgh Steelers. A season ago, the Steelers dropped the Giants in a heart-wrenching 24-20 game that included a 147-yard rushing performance by third-string running back Isaac Redman.
Since Tom Coughlin was hired as head coach in 2004, the Giants have had just two winning preseason campaigns. Not that that matters much: the Dallas Cowboys have been the division’s top preseason performer during that span and have just three playoff appearances (and one playoff victory) to show for it.
What to expect from the Giants: Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell has been tinkering with his scheme and using players in various positions to find something, anything that works. This matchup with the Steelers will be his first opportunity to test out these changes. On offense, don’t expect to see much—if any—of Hakeem Nicks. Nicks has been very careful about his participation in camp after straining his groin on July 28. He says he’s back at 100 percent, but this game will likely prove to be more of an introduction to free-agent acquisitions tight end Brandon Myers and speedy receiver Louis Murphy.
What to expect from the Steelers: There are a couple former Giants on the Steelers’ roster—Guy Whimper and Plaxico Burress—but it’s unlikely either will be available after suffering injuries Thursday. Burress’ career is potentially finished after suffering a torn rotator cuff and Whimper left with an undisclosed injury of his own.
The Steelers are a team in very similar position to the Giants. Having taken a step back in 2012, they are working to replace their aging veterans while getting a new crop of young talent acclimated to the Steelers’ way of business. The secondary, much like the Giants’ group, is an eyesore with so many question marks behind starting cornerbacks Ike Taylor and William Gay.
FIVE GIANTS TO WATCH
Brandon Mosley – With Chris Snee only just recently coming off the PUP list, 2012 fourth-rounder Brandon Mosley is expected to start in his place. Mosley did not play a snap last season, but has shown a lot of progress during camp thus far. The Giants are looking to get younger along the offensive line and a big performance from Mosley would certainly be a positive sign that they’re headed in the right direction.
Rueben Randle – No one knows what the future holds for Hakeem Nicks in Big Blue, so the Giants—and their fans—are clinging to the hope that Rueben Randle can develop into the dangerous outside receiver they’ll need if Nicks leaves in the offseason. Randle has starred in camp, showcasing outstanding hands that will make him a very popular household name in New York if it continues.
Cullen Jenkins – Justin Tuck is out for the Giants’ preseason opener, leaving Cullen Jenkins—typically a defensive tackle and an expected starter—to start at defensive end against the Steelers. The Giants are a team that often employ different fronts and move players around, so it will be interesting to see if the former Eagle can get some pressure on the quarterback off the edge.
Ryan Nassib – The Giants are hopeful they never have to see how well Ryan Nassib can play when his number is called upon, but it wouldn’t hurt to get a glimpse of his potential in a real NFL game. This is especially so if the Giants hope they can deal him the same way teams like the Packers were able to unload backup Matt Flynn for a big return in the past.
Prince Amukamara – It’s only the first preseason game so how much of the starters we’ll actually get to see likely won’t be much. But Prince Amukamara is the future at the cornerback position and it would be nice to see how his development is coming. He made vast improvements last seasons and was actually one of the more underrated shutdown corners, according to Pro Football Focus. The Giants will need him to continue to blossom in 2013 to have any chance of competing defensively.
Louis Musto is a featured columnist for Giants Rush. You can follow him on Twitter @LouisMusto.