The easiest decision Pat Shurmur will have to make this preseason is to sit his all-world wide receiver in the preseason opener on Thursday night. Why would they even dream of risking their best player while he's still technically recovering from ankle surgery in this completely meaningless game?
They almost certainly won't. And that knowledge is enough to make almost everyone change the channel or keep the TV off entirely while the Giants play the Cleveland Browns. But it might be worth rethinking if that is, indeed, your plan. Because there are a few compelling reasons for you to watch this game even though No. 13 likely won't play...
See Saquon Barkley's debut
Don't blink or you might miss it, because while the Giants want to give him a taste of the NFL they also don't want to put him at risk. He's not nearly as important as Beckham, but he might be close. The Giants will likely try to keep their super-rookie away from danger, which means few tough inside runs and probably mostly plays in the open field. That will give him a chance to show off his moves and maybe his speed. And if training camp is any indication, the crowd will go wild for absolutely anything he does.
Watch the birth of the battle to be Eli Manning's successor
This may take a while, but Davis Webb and rookie Kyle Lauletta are locked in a competition to be the man who replaces The Mann. Webb has an advantage since he's already been here a year. But Lauletta has an advantage because he was drafted by this Giants' regime, which makes him Dave Gettleman's and Pat Shurmur's guy. Nothing will be decided this preseason, of course, but it'll be fascinating to see how much Webb has improved and how quickly Lauletta can catch up.
Judge if Ereck Flowers has improved at all. Judging by training camp, he hasn't improved much
That's not a surprise, since simply moving from left tackle to right tackle was never going to guarantee an improvement in technique or ability. The hope is that with the pressure off things will start to click, especially if he can pick up some pointers from the more talented teammates around him. His camp work has been spotty. He'll get plenty of time to prove himself in the preseason (and so will his current backups).
How many years have we all been watching the Giants and lamenting how far their linebacker corps had fallen from the days of Lawrence Taylor, Carl Banks, Harry Carson, etc. With a few notable exceptions (like Michael Barrow and Antonio Pierce) the landscape has been barren. Not so anymore. With the switch to the 3-4, the Giants imported real quality at that position in Alec Ogletree and Kareem Martin, plus they drafted the impressive Lorenzo Carter and moved Olivier Vernon back from defensive end. Maybe they're not the "Crunch Bunch" (Iook it up, kids), but they might be the Giants' best group on paper since then.
Focus on impressive rookie B.J. Hill.
If it weren't for Barkley, the Giants' most-hyped rookie might be this defensive tackle from N.C. State that they selected in the third round. Fellow defensive tackle Damon Harrison called him "the most athletic defensive lineman that we have." And playing defensive end in the Giants' 3-4, the expectations are high. He's a big, strong run-stuffer and could provide the kind of interior pass rush the Giants have been missing for years. And yes, I know, second-round guard Will Hernandez is getting plenty of hype too. But he's still a guard.
Enjoy the fact that Ben McAdoo isn't on the sidelines anymore
Not only is Pat Shurmur an "adult," as GM Dave Gettleman famously called him, but he is a complete professional and a brilliant offensive mind. Not that McAdoo wasn't thought to be those things once too, but he had trouble balancing those attributes with everything else that went along with being a head coach. So far that doesn't seem to be an issue for Shurmur, who has a grasp of the full job, a willingness to be creative on offense, and has earned the trust of his players. This figures to be the start of a new era for Giants fans not yelling at their TV about the lack of variety on offense or mind-blowing in-game decisions. Maybe preseason isn't the best place to judge that, but it's a good place to start.
Check out Baker Mayfield, the No. 1 overall pick at "savior" of the Cleveland Browns
I know Giants fans don't care, especially since he was never in the mix for their team at No. 2, but Mayfield was a somewhat controversial pick at No. 1. He's a dynamic player (and personality) but was rated by many scouts and experts to be behind Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen and in some cases even Josh Allen. Did the Browns make the right choice? He'll make his debut and likely play two quarters on Thursday night. Maybe he'll flash some of whatever it was that sold the Browns.