The Giant Insider Online

NFL Preseason Week 1: Browns at Giants

The New York Giants (3-13 in 2017) host the Cleveland Browns (0-16) in the 2018 Preseason opener for both teams. The Giants and Browns meet again in the preseason for the second consecutive year in a row. The Browns won last year’s game in Cleveland, 10-6. The Giants lead the preseason series that began in 1970, 9-8

Site: MetLife Stadium Kickoff: 7:00pm

TV: WNBC Ch4. Bob Papa will call the play-by-play and Carl Banks will provide the analysis. Bruce Beck and Howard Cross will report from the sidelines. The game will also broadcast on NFL Network.

Key numbers….

15.4/14.6

The average number of points per game scored by the Giants and Browns respectively last season. Both teams found out it’s difficult to win when you can’t score. It was the second straight season in which the Giants had averaged under 20 points per game. The Browns? They’ve only eclipsed 20 points per game twice since coming back into the league in 1999. The last time was 2007 when they scored 402 points and finished 10-6.

Obviously wins and losses are determined by the number of points scored, so it’s no wonder why both teams have been beefing up their offenses. The Giants are opening up their offense and also trying to balance their attack. The Browns are looking for any kind of consistency on offense and have had anything but under Hue Jackson since he got here.

27

The number of sacks the Giants compiled in 2017. Only the Indianapolis Colts (25) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (22) had fewer. Jason Pierre-Paul (8.5) led Big Blue in sacks last season, but the club sent him and his bloated contract down to Tampa Bay in March, leaving them with a load of question marks in the pass rush.

Olivier Vernon moves to outside linebacker in new defensive coordinator James Bettcher’s 3-4 alignment and will be joined by free agents Connor Barwin, Kareem Martin and rookie Lorenzo Carter in Bettcher’s new blitz-happy scheme. They might just have 27 sacks by November 1 this year.

7

The number of interceptions by the Browns’ defense in 2017. Only the Oakland Raiders (5) had fewer. Cleveland was dead last in turnover ratio (-28, Denver was next at -17), but there was no way any defense could have kept up with those turnovers (41 in all).

This year, the Browns have a little more going for them in the secondary. They used the fourth overall selection in the NFL Draft on Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward, traded for Green Bay safety Damarious Randall and signed free agent cornerback Terrance Mitchell to go with the returning Jabrill Peppers at safety.

61.4/79.8

The respective QBR for the Browns and Giants last year. The Browns were the worst in the NFL behind rookie DeShone Kizer, who threw 22 interceptions to just 11 touchdowns. He’s gone to Green Bay and Tyrod Taylor is in from Buffalo. It won’t be long until Mayfield is ready and the addition of players such as catch-machine Jarvis Landry should help the quarterbacks with their completion percentage.

The Giants were 23rd, but with veteran Eli Manning at the helm the club was expecting better. Manning was left high and dry early on when wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall went down with season-ending injuries followed by Sterling Shepard later on in the season. The remaining Giants led the NFL in dropped passes further impacting the quarterback numbers. This year, with everyone healthy and Saquon Barkley in the fold, things should improve.

What to watch for….

Will OBJ Play?

Even though Odell Beckham, Jr. is currently under contract and obligated to practice and play -which he’s been doing – that doesn’t mean he will. He is eager and anxious to show the world that he’s worthy of a contract extension that will make him the highest-paid in the league at his position, but that comes with a risk.

Coming off an ankle injury that ended his 2017 season and required surgery, both the Giants and Beckham’s representatives could be leery of exposing him here in the preseason, contract extension or not. Head coach Pat Shurmur was noncommittal on Tuesday when asked about snap counts for any of his players come Thursday night.

“Every player will receive the consideration necessary with regard to the play time,” said Shurmur. “I have a general blueprint in my brain as to how much I want guys to play, and it changes as we go through the preseason, depending on where they’re at. But you like to see them do something, and we’ll just see how it plays out.”

Beckham tweeted back in February that he planned on taking “0” snaps in preseason when a fan suggested he sit out the games.

He since has had a change of heart as he has appeared to fully recovered from the surgery and has been performing his usual theatrics at training camp.

How much will we see of RB Saquon Barkley?

The game is being televised nationally, so they’ll not only be thrilled to have Beckham on display but Barkley as well. In addition to Barkley making his NFL debut, so will two of the Browns’ rookies: QB Baker Mayfield and CB Denzel Ward. Also featured in the game will be Beckham’s close personal friend and former college teammate WR Jarvis Landry, who was just signed to a whopping contract extension himself.

Shurmur has been “smart” with Barkley thus far, exposing him to everything at first and then scaling him back once he got his feet wet. They will likely give him a few series so that he can enjoy the experience and then get him out in favor of Jonathan Stewart and Wayne Gallman.

“Definitely looking forward to the first hit,” Barkley said this week. “The first hit in the game is the thing that knocks everything out – whether you’re nervous, you’re overthinking stuff. So, it definitely helps. Like I was saying out there, I haven’t really got the time to really sit down and think about playing in my first NFL game. But, I’m definitely looking forward to the opportunity.”

The key to Barkley becoming a three-down back will be his ability to block and pick up the blitz. That is usually the determining factor to whether or not a running back makes it in this league. If he does that well, the Giants would consider his selection a success.

The Davis Webb mystery will finally be uncovered

The Giants did not draft one of the marquee quarterbacks in the first round of the NFL Draft for two reasons. First, Eli Manning, although 37, is in phenomenal shape and still a viable option to start at the position. Second, they took a QB high in last year’s draft, Cal’s Davis Webb, and have yet to see him play in a live game. GM Dave Gettleman and Shurmur still took a QB in this draft, Kyle Lauletta of Richmond, in the fourth round.

Lauletta has had his moments but Webb is still ahead of him on the depth chart. Webb is the bigger player, moves in the pocket better and has the stronger arm. Giant fans are curious about both players and are looking forward to seeing both of them take snaps in the preseason. Shurmur has not said who would be Manning’s primary backup but it’s obvious to the naked eye that Webb is further along at this point in time.

It’s unclear how many series Manning will play this Thursday, but it is clear that Webb will be next man up when Eli takes a seat. Webb has been preparing for this game for the last six months, or more. He was robbed of his opportunity last year when then head coach Ben McAdoo played Geno Smith over him after benching Manning. Now it comes to light that had McAdoo not been fired Webb would have started the final three games of last season.

That won’t happen this year, but the team is anxious to see Webb in action to make some type of determination on him.

“He’ll play throughout the preseason like the other quarterbacks.  … I think along the way I’ve gained an appreciation for Davis and his skillset and what he’s able to do, and so I’m looking forward to seeing it in the game,” said Shurmur.

The revamped O-line will be under much scrutiny

Nate Solder is in at left tackle and the team has moved the embattled Ereck Flowers to the right side. Rookie Will Hernandez makes his pro debut at left guard and Patrick Omameh makes his Giants debut at right guard.

The center position is still up for grabs with Brett Jones and Jon Halapio vying for the right to snap the ball this season. So far in camp, Halapio has been lining up with the ‘ones’ more often but Shurmur, a former center himself, has declared the competition as still very much open.

What will be interesting to see is if the quarterbacks will continue to deliver the football within 2.5 seconds of the snap, something they did last year under McAdoo, or trust the line and hold the ball a little longer. Manning has a quick trigger and is not adept at extending plays with his feet, so we might have to wait for the backup QBs to enter the game to find this out.

All eyes will be on the backup tackles, Chad Wheeler and Nick Becton, who have been beaten consistently by the Giants’ pass rushers in camp. Veteran John Jerry, who has been a guard here the past three seasons, has been worked out at tackle in event of an injury.

The Giants will be unveiling their new defense

Incoming defensive coordinator James Bettcher will be be bringing the heat with his 3-4 defensive alignment this season. His philosophy is predicated on pressure and the Giants have been accumulating players that will assist in bringing that philosophy to life.

This will be the first time the Giants will employ a 3-4 defensive base since 1993, which was Dan Reeves’ first year as the head coach. Mike Nolan was the defensive coordinator and the club still had Lawrence Taylor (his last season) at linebacker. They switched to a 4-3 the next season.

What we’ll be focusing on is, well, just about everything. Olivier Vernon is now an outside linebacker and the club has four productive players along the spine of their defense: DT Damon Harrison, LBs B.J. Goodson and Alec Ogletree and safety Landon Collins.

Keep an eye on second-year DT Dalvin Tomlinson and rookies B.J. Hill and Lorenzo Carter as well. All are considered ascending players. There are also open spots to be won at outside linebacker, free safety and nickel back, so be aware of those competitions.

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