Keys To The Game, Panthers Edition

NEW JERSEY - AUGUST 17: David Carr #8 of the New York Giants scrambles away from Joe Fields #38 of the Carolina Panthers during preseason NFL action August 17, 2009 at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

“There are two keys, one is being on the bus and two, being on the right bus. I’m excited to be on this bus, and I think this is a bus that’s going places.”

QB Sage Rosenfels, on his trade to the New York Giants.

Podcast

Earlier this week I did an interview with Cat Crave Radio on the keys to the game for the Panthers/Giants game — here it is again if you haven’t listened to it yet.

[pro-player width='530' height='50' type='sound']http://fansidedblogs.net/podcasts/johnwhite/CCR126-9-8.mp3[/pro-player]

In a nutshell:

Pressure pressure pressure — the #1 key to this game is of course pressure. Can the reignited Giants defense get consistent pressure on Matt Moore and disrupt an already struggling Carolina offense coming off an extremely lackluster preseason?  Can the Giants offensive line sustain a pocket for Eli Manning to get into a grove early and distribute the ball well to the Giants various offensive weapons?  Can Brandon Jacobs bounce back from an off year and preseason where he lost his starting job to Ahmad Bradshaw?  Can Kenny Phillips prove his knee issues are a non issue and handle his starting role back at Safety?   Will Defensive Coordinator Perry Fewell respond to the pressure he is under from Tom Coughlin and Jerry Reese to bring the defensive swagger back to Big Blue?

Defensive keys to the game

• Even though veteran Keith Bulluck was brought to the NY Giants to shore up the middle linebacker position, it seems Jonathan Goff has earned his starting role at MLB with a very impressive preseason outing against the Patriots that included an interception and very impressive goal line stand.  With Bulluck and a re-energized Michael Boley on the outside, Goff will have to show during prime time that he’s versatile enough to shut down the middle of the field and step up to stop the run against a very powerful backfield in what the Panthers are packing with Williams and Stewart.

• Speaking of stopping the run, the front 4 has looked great this preseason in terms of stopping the run.  We know this is a major issue for Tom Coughlin, so I look for the Giants this week to get that crucial push up the middle to not only get after the QB, but disrupt the running lanes and force a stop before things spiral out of control. Carolina has a very ellusive backfield, the Giants know what they’re getting into this weekend with defending the ground game — it’s simply time to execute.

• Kenny Phillips will be starting this week while Deon Grant has now stepped into a backup role behind the third year standout who is reportedly 100% all the way back from his arthritic knee injury/surgery.  We all know how badly Phillips wanted to be back in the action week #1, and how hard it was for him last season as a competitor to go ahead and get the season ending surgery knowing his team truly needed him on the field… but he had no choice. And part of me wonders whether or not Phillips is 100% ready to go at full speed, and if it would be prudent to leave him in a backup role until his knee has been tested for longer periods of time at full speed.  But he says he’s ready, the coaches say he’s 100%, and the doctors agree — so who am I to worry about the star safety?  (gulp)

• Will the corners be able to shut down Carolina’s receivers?  Aaron Ross is feeling better but will likely not be ready for the game Sunday, so that means reserves for Corey Webster and Terrell Thomas are going to be minus one.  Bruce Johnson has had just an awful preseason, so with Ross out I’m not looking forward to Thomas or Webster taking a single snap off, for any reason.  Forget linebacker and safety — the lack of depth at corner this season is what has me worried.

• Perry Fewell’s energy level — will we see it hit some high notes on the field Sunday?  I hope so.

Offensive keys to the game

• Run and stop the run.  We’ve already discussed the importance of stopping the run defensively, now we need to solidify the Giants rushing attack with Ahmad Bradshaw leading the charge.  I’m not ashamed to admit I’ve wanted to see Bradshaw in a starting role or the longest time – not because he’ll take the first snap over Jacobs but because that will surely mean he gets the BULK of the snaps.  Bradshaw and Jacobs will split carries undoubtedly — I simply think Bradshaw with his energy, elusiveness, hands, and vision fits more completely into the Giants offense than Jacobs does.  He can be the every down back that Jacobs couldn’t be last year, and I’m looking forward to seeing Bradshaw take that first snap Sunday afternoon, because I think he’s earned it. Bradshaw said this week “I deserve it…”  I couldn’t agree more.

• And speaking or running, will the Offensive Line have anything to contribute?  Can we see some vintage 2008 running lanes for Bradshaw and Jacobs to work with? Even though it’s been an injury riddled preseason at OL,  it’s the same starting 5 who have played together for years — they should get back on track and in sync quickly.

• Will Eli Manning be comfortable early and lead his team down the field for a score on his very first drive?  And to be clear – by score I mean touchdown, not field goal.  It’s absolutely critical that Manning and his receivers establish a rhythm early in this game, because everything else seems to feed off the phenomenon of the Giants being up 7-0 after their first drive.  So if Manning is able to execute and Gilbride can call some decent series of plays, it will practically guarantee a victory for the Giants right from the get go. That is of course unless the Giants secondary turns into a sieve like last year… but what are the odds of lightning striking twice?

• Tight Ends — we have two of them.  Kevin Boss and Travis Beckum can be deadly weapons if they are used… both have good hands and they can get open when not asked to stay in to block.  The last game against the Patriots featured a couple of really nice pass selections to Boss, particularly the strike for 6 points when the Giants were in the red zone… I want to see a lot more of that this game.  I want the Giants to stay multidimensional in that regard, and make friends of their (tight) ends this game.  One touchdown each off a quick out inside the 10 yard line should do the trick. Let’s see it!

• Steve Smith, Hakeem Nicks, Mario Manningham, Ramses Barden, Victor Cruz, Duke Calhoun — plenty of weapons this year at WR. Barring a slew of dropped balls, I don’t see how the Giants don’t make yardage through the air this week.

Carolina Notes

• Cat Crave has up today the 10 reasons why they hate the NY Giants — the list is trite and completely inaccurate (Giants overrated!?!). But it’s worth the read to get fired up.

Final Predictions

Score:

Giants 24, Panthers 17

Leaders:

Eli Manning- 22/30, 264 yards 2 TDs

Ahmad Bradshaw- 20 Carries, 100 yards, 1 TD
Brandon Jacobs- 10 Carries, 40 yards

Justin Tuck- 2 sacks
Osi Umenyiora – 1 sack, 1 ff

Corey Webster – 1 INT

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