After falling to the New York Jets in the first preseason game of the season, the New York Giants are looking to bounce back on Sunday against the Cleveland Browns. Having hosted joint practices in Cleveland, the Giants have their fair share of positives and negatives.
Big Blue is expected to rest wide receivers Kadarius Toney and Kenny Golladay and will also be sitting running back Saquon Barkley. With three of the team’s primary offensive weapons failing to make a preseason appearance due to injury, they will all target the final game of the off-season to add some live action against the New England Patriots next week. For now, with roster cuts quickly approaching, the Giants are gauging the value of bubble players.
Nonetheless, preparing the starters for a grueling 17-week regular season is essential, so let’s take a look at several players we should keep an eye on against Cleveland.
Three players to watch in New York Giants V Cleveland Browns pre-season game:
1.) Andrew Thomas
Left tackle Andrew Thomas is going into his second professional season, and he has looked far better this training camp compared to his rookie campaign. Most reports regarding Thomas have been positive, as he stood out against the Browns in joint practices. ESPN coined Thomas, a second-year breakout candidate, and he is living up to expectations thus far in camp, but live-action is an entirely different ball game.
Last week against the Jets, Thomas was on the field for 18 snaps, successfully stopping any pass rushers from generating pressure on the quarterback. He will be looking to produce a second consecutive positive performance and based on his practice this week, that should be the expectation.
2.) Azeez Ojulari
The Giants’ 50th overall pick in the most recent draft class was Georgia stand out pass rusher Azeez Ojulari. After dealing with a minor injury to open camp, Ojulari has showcased his abilities the past few days.
Shedding massive left tackle Mekhi Becton to make a play in the running game last week against the Jets stood out, and he’ll be looking to gain a little bit more exposure against Cleveland. With a solid offensive front, Ojulari dominated tackle Jedrick Wills at times on Friday, forcing a defensive holding and getting into the backfield for a sack on Baker Mayfield.
Ojulari led the SEC last season in sacks and forced fumbles, and he will be looking to roll his success over to the NFL. While it will take him some time to adapt to the physicality and speed, Ojulari will immediately be used as a pass rusher. He’s an expected starter to open the year at this point in the off-season. Another solid outing against Cleveland would further cement that expectation.
3.) Daniel Jones
There is plenty of anticipation revolving around quarterback Daniel Jones and his first action of the preseason on Sunday. It is yet to be known if he will take the field, but Jones could use the reps and a full series to get his legs working. While live-action drills during practice are beneficial, the emotion and feel of a live NFL game are quite different, and with Patrick Mahomes enjoying few snaps against the Cardinals on Friday, it is fair to imagine the Giants will approach Jones similarly.
The hopeful franchise quarterback has had his fair share of ups and downs this training camp but had a stellar outing against Cleveland on Friday, picking them apart in red-zone drills and finding his receivers routinely. He connected with TE Evan Engram several times up the seam and hit Darius Slayton on numerous occasions in the end zone.
He seems to be more comfortable in the pocket, but Jones will only go as far as the offensive line takes him, and the Giants are still nervous about allowing too much pressure and potentially putting him in harm’s way. Allowing him to take a few snaps shouldn’t curate too much fear, as sooner rather than later, the Giants are going to have to test things in real-time.