EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- They’re finally going to play a game when the New York Giants host the Pittsburgh Steelers in their preseason opener Friday night at MetLife Stadium. It will provide the Giants with evidence to add to what they’ve seen this summer at training camp, and will help determine who makes the roster and who starts in Week 1.
That’s why these players and position battles should be watched closely:
Kicker: Aldrick Rosas vs. Mike Nugent. This is all about Rosas. Expect him to receive most, if not all, of the kicking opportunities against the Steelers. Rosas remains the front-runner for the job, and the Giants want to see what they have when they put him under the spotlight. The preseason is where he’ll win or lose the job. The way it seems right now, Rosas will be the kicker Week 1 against the Cowboys as long as he doesn’t flop in the preseason. He says he’s not nervous for the opportunity to kick in games. Instead, he’s excited. That excitement can't get the best of him. Friday night is vital for his future.
Backup quarterback: Josh Johnson vs. Geno Smith. Coach Ben McAdoo seemed to indicate that Eli Manning won’t play in the preseason opener. That means Johnson or Smith will handle a majority of the reps. Johnson was listed as the second-string quarterback on the “unofficial” depth chart, so it’s likely the incumbent will get the first crack at it on Friday night. That’s key because for most or all of the first quarter he will be alongside most of the starters. Whichever quarterback performs best in the preseason will likely win the job, as neither has distinguished himself at training camp.
Left tackle Ereck Flowers. All eyes will be on Flowers. The Giants sold him hard this offseason as their left tackle, noting his improved work ethic and conditioning. But his performance at training camp has been unconvincing. There have been ups and down, with signs that some of the problems that plagued him last year were not completely corrected. The preseason will be an opportunity for everyone to see whether the Giants have a competent protector for Manning's blind side.
Defensive tackle: Jay Bromley vs. Dalvin Tomlinson. These two are in the running to start alongside Damon Harrison on the defensive line. The third man in the competition, Robert Thomas, is likely sidelined with an injury. Bromley has enjoyed a strong training camp. He’ll see if it can carry over to the preseason. Tomlinson stepped it up this week at practice. He’ll also see if that can carry over to the preseason.
Wide receiver: Roger Lewis, Darius Powe, Travis Rudolph. There should be plenty of opportunity for these three, with Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard unlikely to play. Powe and Rudolph have played well throughout camp. It will help them greatly in their fight for a roster spot if they can perform well in a game, especially if it’s with the first-team offense. Lewis, who has little problem getting open, needs to prove he can be more consistent. He’s been up and down this summer with dropped passes again. The Giants have a lot of talent at wide receiver. Not everyone can make the final roster.
Free safety Darian Thompson. This will be his first game since Week 2 of last season. The second-year safety will likely take all the first-team reps since he’s worked with the starting defense all summer. It will be interesting to see how he does in game action for the first time in 11 months. Thompson could help take the defense to a new level.
Linebacker B.J. Goodson. He’s another second-year player who has jumped in as a starter and impressed this summer. But this will be Goodson’s first game action with the starting defense. It will be his chance to shine, or at least prove, like he’s done throughout training camp, that he deserves the confidence the Giants have shown in him as their starting middle linebacker. Goodson doesn’t even really have any serious competition for the job, but it would be nice to see him perform well in a game setting.
Tight end: Rhett Ellison, Evan Engram, Will Tye, Matt LaCosse, Jerell Adams, Colin Thompson. There is a serious competition going on at tight end. All six have flashed throughout training camp, and can earn a spot on the active roster -- or in Thompson’s case the practice squad – with a strong preseason. Ellison and Engram are obvious locks, but Friday night will be their first chance to show fans what they can do in a Giants uniform. LaCosse, Tye, Adams and Thompson need solid performances to increase their chances of winning a roster spot.
The rookies (Engram, Tomlinson, QB Davis Webb, DE Avery Moss, RB Wayne Gallman and T Adam Bisnowaty). This will be their first opportunity to show fans what they can do in a game setting. That is always exciting with talented young players.