Believe it or not, football is back...well, fake football, but nonetheless, football. This Friday, guys in Bengals uniforms will line up against guys in Giants uniforms and tackle each other and all will be right again in the world. To give us some insight on this week's opponent, we are joined by Ed Valentine, Editor of SB Nation's Big Blue View.
Q: The Giants were my preseason pick to win the NFC East in 2014. They started 3-2 and ended the season winning three of their last four, but lost seven straight in the middle of the season. What went wrong during the 2014 season?
A: Many things. For the second straight season the Giants led the league in 'Adjusted Games Lost' to injury. They also led the league last season, I believe, in players on IR. Many of these were crucial players -- Geoff Schwartz, Jon Beason, Victor Cruz, Prince Amukamara. The list goes on. Odell Beckham missed four games. Rashad Jennings missed five. They struggled to find any continuity, and the defense was awful.
Q: Victor Cruz tore his patellar tendon last October. He won't be playing on Friday, but how is he looking? And do the Giants expect him back for the season opener?
A: Cruz looks good. He has participated in every practice, including doing the 11-on-11 portion each day. He probably doesn't have the burst he once had at this point, and maybe he doesn't always look smooth, but he is working, and that's good. The Giants do anticipate he will play in the season opener.
Q: Marvin Lewis normally plays his starters for a drive or two in the preseason openers. Will we see many Giants starters playing on Friday?
A: Yes. I would expect the majority of the starters, including Eli Manning, to play at least a series. That has been Tom Coughlin's style. If the first series goes well, they will be done. If it doesn't, guys will play more.
Q: What is the deepest/strongest position on this 2015 Giants team?
A: Wide receiver. Odell Beckham, Victor Cruz and Rueben Randle are, for my money, as good as any trio in the league. Provided, of course, all are healthy. They have eight players for probably six spots.
Q: What is the most intriguing roster battle in Giants camp this year?
A: Wide receiver... After Cruz, Beckham and Randle, the fourth guy guaranteed a roster spot is KR/WR Dwayne Harris. After that the Giants have four quality players for what will likely be two roster spots. James Jones, Preston Parker, Corey Washington and rookie Geremy Davis are all guys who belong on an NFL roster.
Q: Who is a player most Bengals fans won't know, but should know, or should look for on Friday?
A: Well, it's the first preseason game so you are going to mostly see guys you haven't heard much of. Watch for Davis on offense and special teams, fullback Nikita Whitlock has impressed at least one teammate. Other names might be tight ends Jerome Cunningham and Will Tye, running back Akeem Hunt, defensive end Brad Bars, and center Brett Jones (a CFL signee).
Q: What are the strengths of the 2015 Giants? And, what areas of this Giants team concern you?
A: The offense should be among the league's best, with the receiving weapons, including tight end Larry Donnell, with Eli Manning, with a trio of running backs including Shane Vereen. The question is can they settle the offensive line to take advantage of those weapons.
Defensively, the Giants were among the worst in the league last year. Steve Spagnuolo is back as defensive coordinator. There is no Jason Pierre-Paul right now. There are no proven safeties. There isn't a ton of depth at corner or even linebacker. So, the defense is a question mark.
Q: The Giants were 6-10 in 2014 and finished 3rd in the NFC East. What is your prediction for the Giants (record wise) and where do you see the Giants finishing in the NFC East in 2015?
A: I truly believe the Giants have a chance to win the division. Of course, I also believe they have a chance to go 6-10 again. They have a ton of question marks, but they could be soooooo good offensively it's scary. I believe the Cowboys are not likely to be as good as they were a year ago, and I have no clue what to make of the Eagles. There is such little separation in the NFL from 6-10 to 10-6. Things could go either way for the Giants.