The third preseason game is often referred to as the most important. It's when teams truly begin to extend their players in preparation for week one of the regular season. Generally, starters will play the first half and sometimes into the third quarter — in other words, it's the first and only time fans and experts get a truly good feel for what their team has to offer.
For the New York Giants, seas are a bit rough. While starters will, in fact, play into the third quarter, the team will be short at least 11 players including safety Antrel Rolle, wide receiver Victor Cruz and defensive end Damontre Moore. Despite that, there are still a number of things to key in on as they take on the New York Jets in MetLife Bowl III.
Offensive line: David Baas is out with an MCL injury and David Diehl is expected to miss six weeks following surgery on his thumb. As a result, the Giants have been forced to shuffle their offensive line a bit and what they roll out on Saturday night could, ultimately, be the same line that faces the Dallas Cowboys in week one. Of course, that is predicated on the notion that Jim Cordle performs well at center, while Justin Pugh makes a rapid transition to the NFL at right tackle. Both could potentially play huge roles for the Giants in 2013 and that starts tonight.
Terrell Thomas' Return: It's been quite some time since Thomas took the field for a live game — two years in fact. Coming off of two consecutive ACL tears (and three overall), Thomas is attempting to become only the second player in NFL history to return from three. And although he seems to have gotten his legs under him in practice — even drawing praise from his teammates — there has to be some uneasiness for the veteran. Not only hasn't he played in two years, but the player who was once poised to take over the No. 1 cornerback spot for Big Blue is now battling just to stay on the 53-man roster.
Jerrel Jernigan's Final Chance: There will be no Victor Cruz, Ramses Barden or Louis Murphy for the Giants on Saturday night, so a slew of undrafted rookies and third-year wideout Jerrel Jernigan will get the bulk of the work. And for Jernigan, who was aptly nicknamed "One-Play JJ" by head coach Tom Coughlin, it could be his last opportunity with the Giants. Largely considered a disappointment thus far in his career, Jernigan isn't just battling for playing time, but his job all together. He needs to have a big game or it could be all she wrote for him in blue.
Tick. Tock. It's only a matter of hours now.
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