The Pat Shurmur era will officially begin on Thursday night as the New York Giants will play the Cleveland Browns in their preseason opener.
After two weeks of training camp practices, Pat Shurmur will finally get a chance to see his team battle a team with a different uniform as the New York Giants face the Cleveland Browns in their preseason opener Thursday night at MetLife Stadium.
After the team’s practice on Tuesday, Shurmur spoke about what he wants to get from his team on Thursday night.
“I think it’s important that we operate as a staff and getting in and out of the huddle, making sure we’ve got the right people on the field, and there’s a lot to be learned especially between the first and the second preseason game when you’re a new staff working together. We have a blueprint for how we want to do it, and games are uncontrolled settings, and there are things that happen. So, the more uncontrolled things that happen in the game, the more opportunity you have to learn, and I think that’s what we’re looking for. So, we’re trying to balance getting our team ready to play Jacksonville with doing the final evaluations on the guys that’ll be on our initial 53.”
In addition to seeing how Shurmur’s blueprint pans out, there are several things to watch for in Thursday’s game.
Here are seven things to watch for in the Giants preseason opener against the Browns:
1. Saquon Barkley
Giants’ fans will finally get a chance to see the number two overall pick, Saquon Barkley, in action on Thursday night. There was doubt earlier in the week if Barkley will play, but he said on Monday that he intends to give it a go.
Eli faking a screen to Odell, then throwing a screen to Barkley. #GiantsPride #NYG #GiantsCamp pic.twitter.com/rD2fs5SyRL
— Jason Leach (@JasonKLeach) August 6, 2018
Barkley has been amazing throughout training camp and has impressed his teammates and coaches. Now we’ll get to see him in live action against an opponent. Expect Barkley to play one or two series on Thursday.
2. Will Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr. play?
While Barkley is expected to play, the status of Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr. is unknown at this time.
Manning hasn’t played in the preseason opener the last two seasons while Beckham is coming off ankle surgery and hasn’t been on an NFL field in 10 months.
Beckham severely sprained his left ankle against the Browns in last preseason game due to a questionable hit by defensive back Briean Boddy-Calhoun which caused him to miss the season opener against the Cowboys. So as a precaution, the Giants may keep Beckham on the sidelines Thursday night.
Since the Giants are trying to get acclimated to Pat Shurmur’s offense, expect Manning to play at least one series.
3. The aggressiveness of James Bettcher’s defense
One of the reasons there’s excitement about the Giants in 2018 is the aggressiveness of James Bettcher’s aggressive 3-4 defense.
The Giants won’t unveil all of Bettcher’s schemes on Thursday night, but you can bet that the Giants will blitz often to rattle the Browns quarterbacks, especially rookie Baker Mayfield.
4. The progression of Davis Webb
One of the reasons the Giants did not take a quarterback with the second pick in the draft is because they believe one day Davis Webb can be Manning’s successor.
Davis Webb talking about playing on Thursday against the Browns and working on getting better. @EliteSportsNY #GiantsPride #NYG #GiantsCamp pic.twitter.com/JGZYQoeuQJ
— Jason Leach (@JasonKLeach) August 7, 2018
Webb had a solid first week of training camp, but experienced an up and down second week. One of the standouts in training camp has been the velocity of Webb’s passes. Now we’ll get to see if he’ll throw the ball with the same velocity in a game as he is expected to see a significant amount of playing time on Thursday. This night will serve as a huge step to see if Webb can one day be the Giants signal caller.
5. The rest of the rookie class
While Barkley has grabbed most of the headlines, the Giants are happy with their entire draft class. Guard Will Hernandez, defensive lineman B.J. Hill, linebacker Lorenzo Carter, quarterback Kyle Lauletta and undrafted rookie running back Robert Martin should all see significant action on Thursday night.
B.J. Hill at the podium #GiantsPride #NYG pic.twitter.com/jZ7DmHWwP8
— Jason Leach (@JasonKLeach) August 7, 2018
6. The new veteran faces
In addition to the rookies making their debuts with Big Blue, general manager Dave Gettleman signed several players this offseason to make an immediate impact on the team.
Some of Gettleman’s acquisitions include wide receiver Cody Latimer, linebackers Alec Ogletree and Kareem Martin, offensive guard Patrick Omameh, defensive backs William Gay, Curtis Riley, B.W, Webb and Michael Thomas, and running back Jalen Simmons.
Latimer, Martin and Omameh will all get reps with the first team offense and defense, and the others will also see significant playing time with the possible exception of Gay who tweaked his hamstring early in the week, as they try to solidify a position on the depth chart.
7. Is there any lingering bad blood from last season’s preseason game?
In last year’s preseason game in which the Browns won 10-6, Browns defensive back Briean Boddy-Calhoun undercut Beckham which resulted in Beckham sustaining a severely sprained ankle. Beckham and other Giants such as Landon Collins felt the hit was dirty.
It will be interesting to see if there’s any retaliation or bad blood between the two teams steaming from Calhoun’s hit on Beckham last year.