Heading into this matchup, you would never know that the Giants—not the Jets—were the NFL champions fresh off their second such victory in five seasons over one of the NFL’s most successful teams—Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots.
But that is reality in New York, where the drama kings and attention-seekers get all the glamour. Fortunately, it’s the Giants—who couldn’t be bothered to be shown so annoyingly in the spotlight—who have had the opportunity to bask in the glory the Jets organization only wishes they could taste.
Tebowmania’s move east has had everyone’s focus on the great college quarterback Tim Tebow, despite the fact that the conclusion has already been discovered in his inability as a professional quarterback. If Tebow runs shirtless in the rain, the media is all over it. If he makes a rare, somewhat good pass, the media is all over it. If Tebow ate a little too much Mexican the night before and spends most of practice in the bathroom…I think you get the point.
Unfortunately, the circus that is Gang Green existed before Tebowmania ever came to town and, despite being an inferior team to Big Blue, continue to get all the focus.
When the Giants and Jets clash, the Super Bowl champions have a chance to sway some attention their way as they prepare for another title run. While the Giants look strong on paper—though with concerns of their own—the Jets are chock full of question marks, especially surrounding what their quarterback position will look like with an impending demand for Tebow to replace incumbent starter Mark Sanchez should he struggle early on.
There will be much to watch in this game, but here is a look at three players to watch for the New York Giants.
1. David Wilson, RB
The Giants rookie had a stellar performance in his preseason debut against the Jacksonville Jaguars. He gave some hope to a return game that has struggled for years in New York, and showed off outstanding speed and even some ability to break tackles while running the football.
Against the Jets, the Giants will be hoping to see much of the same from their first-round draft pick. A strong outing could help move him ahead of veteran D.J. Ware, who is having a good preseason himself thus far.
Another good night in the kick return role could thrust him into the starting position there as well. The Giants are in search of a capable kick returner and Wilson has shown a lot of promise.
2. Sean Locklear, OT
With Will Beatty once again struggling with a back injury that could sideline him for the foreseeable future, Sean Locklear will have much to prove when he sees the field. The Giants are in need of a dependable left tackle and Locklear has never been that before—he has played mostly right tackle in his NFL career.
However, Locklear wants to play and if that means earning the left tackle job to do so, you have to believe he’ll do what he can to fight for it.
The Giants’ offensive line was one of their biggest weaknesses in 2011, in part because of injuries that struck from nearly every angle. Former left tackle David Diehl was poor when he filled in at the position for Beatty last season, but he may be forced to fill the role again if Locklear is unimpressive.
3. Dwayne Hendricks, DT
The Giants defensive line is dismantled by injuries and suddenly, three-year defensive tackle Dwayne Hendricks—who has played just one game in his NFL career—has been thrust into the spotlight.
Hendricks had a surprisingly impressive performance in the preseason opener against the Jaguars, standing out as a force against the run and in the pass rush where he tallied two sacks. With so many injuries to the defensive line, the Giants will need to see some more of that to know whether or not Hendricks is a guy they can depend on heading into the season.
I wrote last week about how Hendricks would be a guy to watch going forward, but I had no idea his performance could potentially mean so much for the Giants defense.Hendricks has spent quite a bit of time on the bench now, and I’m certain he’d like nothing more than to seize this huge opportunity and earn some playing time in 2012.