Every season, New York football fans can feel the tension mount as the third week of the NFL preseason approaches. The respective fan bases of the New York Jets and Giants eagerly anticipate the rights to bragging, pride, and over-analysis.
Never just another preseason game, the contest on Aug. 23 promises to be filled with just as much drama as there will be football.
Sports fans outside of New York never quite understand the importance of this game. They find it to be an unimportant contest given that it’s not the traditional NFL divisional rivalry. But that is inconsequential when these two teams face off, as their battle for the admiration of the greatest city in the world trumps any league alignments.
At this point, the defending Super Bowl champions must be feeling a little bit slighted since the arrival of Brett Favre snatched away the spotlight. The New York Giants are undoubtedly looking to remind the town of a resilient QB that’s not named Brett Favre.
The New York Jets are certainly looking to prove that the off-season spending spree was not in vain.
Over the last few seasons, Jets fans have watched their team succumb to the will of Big Blue as they abandoned their own game plan and played into that of the Giants.
The Giants steamrolled the Jets with a score of 35-24 in their 2007 regular season match. The Jets need to show that their $150 million dollar investments won’t allow a repeat of such a catastrophe.
Favre faces the team that ended the Packers 2007 campaign. Despite Favre’s claims to the contrary, football fans know he’s itching for an opportunity to dissect the Giants secondary. And Jets’ fans want to see it, too.
The Jets’ first defense will have their hands full as they try and stop the Giants’ three-headed rushing attack. This will be the first real test for the squad as their efficiency, or lack thereof, will allow fans to properly gauge their expectations.
While the majority of the defensive packages have been very basic to this point, fans should hope to see a surprise alignment or two thrown at the Giants. That’s not to say Eric Mangini and Co. are going to be flaunting the goods, but they certainly would want to show a strong defensive front.
Last season, Plaxico Burress stiff-armed his way through Andre Dyson and up the sidelines to make his way to the end zone. While stopping the Giants’ running game may be the focus, the entire world now recognizes that Eli Manning can make things happen with his arm. Stopping the run should be the priority, but its crucial for the defense to show no vulnerability against a well-rounded offense.
Mangini also announced that rookie corner back, Dwight Lowery, will be running with the first unit. Early in training camp, Justin Miller was the clear favorite for the starting corner back job opposite Darrelle Revis. Lowery’s emergence as a very good cover corner made that job an even more difficult one for the veterans to secure.
Hopefully, this move can provide an opportunity for Justin Miller to move to the safety spot opposite Kerry Rhodes. Miller’s speed and aggressive style may translate well in run support.
Offensively, the new line has done very well in pass protection. The one sack the revamped unit has given up came on a collapsed screen pass against the Washington Redskins. However, the Giants’ pass rushing schemes have always been regarded as dominant, so taming them and controlling the line of scrimmage will be a priority for Saturday’s game.
When the teams met last October, a weak Jets’ line held Osi Umenyiora and company to only one sack. That came a week after the Giants monstrous 12-sack performance against the Eagles.
Giving time to the new QB will be of the essence. Brett Favre and his new wide receivers will need every opportunity they can get to continue building their chemistry.
Jerricho Cotchery and Dustin Keller appear to be moving along well in developing their rapport with Favre. Hopefully more players can find a comfort level with the general.
Jets’ fans are also hoping for a more aggressive rushing attack of their own this week. Thus far the run game has failed to impress, staggering forward for minimal yardage in the last two contests.
Outside of Jesse Chatman’s 17-yard break against the Redskins, the Jets longest gain from scrimmage has been a nine-yard run by Musa Smith.
Remember, the end of the first half does not spell the end of the game’s significance.
The Jets will want another look at Brett Ratliff as he looks to cement his place on the roster. Fans are wondering if this game will provide Erik Ainge with an opportunity to play and try to close the gap Ratliff has created.
The injury to stand out WR David Clowney also poses an interesting opportunity for the other young receivers.
It appears Chansi Stuckey will continue to battle with Brad Smith for the third receiver slot. With the severity of Clowney’s injury shrouded in secrecy, Wallace Wright jumps into a three-way competition for the third, fourth and fifth receiver spots. The depth chart will fall into place as soon as one man wins the third opening.
Defensively, the very expensive sixth-overall draft pick, Vernon Gholston, must show some kinds of flash as well. So far, the Ohio State product has looked stiff and slow. Coming in to the draft, he was touted as a player with freakish athletic ability, but that hasn’t been on display yet. Fans are eager to see if the mental aspect of the game can catch up to his physical capabilities.
The third pre-season game is typically regarded as the most accurate portrayal of a regular-season performance. Starters play longer, the hits are a bit harder and the pace is expected to be faster. Couple that belief with the pride of professional athletes, and fans should expect a fairly realistic glimpse of what’s in store for their teams this season.
The results may be meaningless, but the desire inside the players cannot be denied.