The New York Giants enter their third preseason game against the Chicago Bears ready to start fine-tuning their team as they prepare to defend their Super Bowl title. Injuries have allowed several Giants players to move up the depth chart temporarily and show the coaching staff what they have. Here are five players to keep an eye on this Friday night:
1. David Wilson, running back. Wilson practiced with the first team for the first time this week in the wake of Ahmad Bradshaw’s injury to his hand. Bradshaw’s injury isn’t serious but the Giants would like to see what Wilson can do with the first team offense. It will be interesting to see how Wilson responds as he is fighting for playing time as the number two running back slot with D.J. Ware, Andre Brown, and, to a lesser extent, Da’Rel Scott. Ware and Brown have shown some impressive stretches this preseason and Wilson had a decent game against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the first preseason game but he struggled against the New York Jets. Now is the time for Wilson to step up and show he can handle the duties behind Bradshaw.
2. Will Hill, safety. Hill has gone from afterthought to potential impact player in the span of a few weeks. The New Jersey native is trying to resuscitate his football career after spending last season in the Arena Football League. Hill’s emergence as the Giants “in the box safety” that is sometimes employed in place of a third linebacker in certain situations, has allowed them to forgo signing Deon Grant, at least for now. Hill seems to excel at running down hill and meeting the ball carrier at the line of scrimmage. He has been stable in pass protection as well. It looks like Hill will definitely have a spot on this team but the question is, will he replace Grant as the “in the box safety,” a position Grant filled very well over the last two years.
3. Sean Locklear, tackle. When the Giants signed Locklear as a free agent it was seen as nothing more than a depth signing. They thought Locklear would be a good addition to add to the rotation of front as he can play both inside and outside. Now, with Will Beatty’s injury, Locklear is being thrust in to the starting left tackle job. This obviously isn’t the ideal situation for the Giants as they hoped Locklear would be a kind of sixth offensive lineman, able to play inside or outside as needed. Now, on top of learning a new offense, he has to adjust to a new position. Locklear has mostly been a right tackle in his career, performing well enough to stick around in the NFL but not exactly a Pro Bowl player. The Giants don’t need a Pro Bowl performance from Locklear, just a good one. It won’t be easy as the Bears will be sending Julius Peppers at him.
4. Marcus Thomas, defensive tackle. Thomas was signed by the Giants last week but was not eligible to play in the game against the New York Jets. The 6th year veteran was sitting at home when the Giants called despite having a fairly good season with the Denver Broncos last year during which he recorded 43 tackles. He is new to the defense and it might take him a little while to get acclimated but the Giants plan to use Thomas because of injuries to Marvin Austin and Shaun Rogers and Chris Canty still recovering from knee surgery. The Giants might need Thomas to accelerate his learning curve and produce early.
5. Jerrel Jernigan, wide receiver. Jernigan is being given every chance to show he can contribute in this offense and on special teams. He has shown improvement on offense, making some nice plays from the slot position and using his speed to exploit holes in defense. However, he still leaves a lot to be desired on special teams. His propensity for muffing punts has become a cause of concern for the Giants. With Jayron Hosley nursing his turf toe, Jernigan might see quite a bit of time as the Giants punt returner. It is up to him to show he can produce. If he struggles he might end up so far in coach Tom Coughlin’s doghouse that he may never get out.