The NFL preseason has begun and the first team on the docket for the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants is head coach Tom Coughlin’s former team—the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Coughlin coached the Jaguars for the first eight seasons of the franchise’s existence, guiding them to four postseason berths and two AFC Championship Games.
On the opposite side of the field is former Giants first-round cornerback Aaron Ross. Ross was signed by the Jaguars in the offseason after five seasons in New York.
This preseason opener will be an exciting first test for both teams as they look to shape up their rosters and shore up any questions they may have regarding some of their younger players. Despite coming off a Super Bowl victory, the Giants have a number of issues to sort out before the season gets underway and this game in Jacksonville is a fine place to find out just how serious some of those concerns may be.
As a result, there will be plenty of players trying to prove they deserve a spot with the Giants. Here’s a look at four must-watch players in the Giants’ matchup with the Jaguars:
Ramses Barden, WR
Barden has been underwhelming despite big expectations for the 2009 third-round receiver from Cal Poly. This season, Barden is at risk of his disappointment costing him a spot on the Giants roster.
With Domenik Hixon, Rueben Randle, Jerrel Jernigan and even undrafted rookie David Douglas vying for receiver spots on the depth chart, Barden has a lot to prove and little time to do so. He has tallied just 15 catches for 174 yards in his NFL career, marred by injuries and inconsistent play on both the practice field and on gameday. There has been plenty of speculation that the Giants may cut Barden before the season begins and a dismal showing could do him in.
David Diehl, OT
Diehl had a terrible season for the Giants last season, struggling at both tackle positions. A sturdy, dependable veteran for some time now along that Giants offensive line, it appears age and the brutal beating a lineman takes is catching up to him.
Diehl is in competition for the right tackle position at this time, but another dismal start could mean the end for this longtime Giant. The Giants have other options at right tackle and, assuming Will Beatty can hold the fort at left tackle, Diehl could easily get demoted to the backup slot.
Diehl has had a strong camp thus far, but there are still concerns about him. His performance early on against Jacksonville could be a good indicator of what to expect from the 10-year veteran.
Prince Amukamara, CB
All eyes are on second-year cornerback Prince Amukamara.
After Terrell Thomas went down with another ACL injury, Amukamara was the guy whose turn it was to step up and prove he can fill the void. Amukamara had lofty expectations placed on him as a first-round steal by the Giants and they expect the former Nebraska Cornhusker to deliver when they need him to.
Amukamara missed training camp and half of last season with a broken left foot after the lockout hindered his opportunity to learn the playbook and get together with coaches to learn the schemes.
This season, he has had an entire offseason to work with the Giants coaches, get acclimated to the defense and work on improving his game day-by-day. There won’t be any excuses for the Amukamara this time around and the Giants would really love to see him step up and fill in with Thomas out for the time being.
David Douglas, WR
Speaking of the rookie from Arizona, David Douglas has wowed audiences and the media alike at training camp with fantastic grabs and stellar play. Now it’s time to see if what he does on the practice field translates to what he can do on gameday.
The Jaguars boast a feisty defense that should prove to be a good test for the undrafted receiver. Douglas’ ability to get separation and make the important catches will be on focus, as will his ability as a run blocker. This is a big opportunity for Douglas, similar to Victor Cruz during the past two preseasons, to show what he is capable of when the stadium lights are lit.
Douglas caught 65 passes for 666 yards and four touchdowns last season for the Wildcats with fellow rookie Nick Foles slinging the football. He displays outstanding speed, something you can never have too much of on the football field. If Douglas performs well, he will do wonders to solidify himself a spot on the Giants roster when first cuts are made on August 28th.