Giants' plan for Patriots includes resting some (but not all) of their starters

Most of the Giants' starters will sit out the preseason finale, but offensive linemen such as Ereck Flowers could play. Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- When the New York Giants take the field Thursday night to play the New England Patriots, don't expect many of their top veterans on the field. Ben McAdoo plans to approach the fourth preseason game much like he did last year, when it was his first season as head coach.

Quarterback Eli Manning didn't play in that contest. Neither did star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., center Weston Richburg and most of the veteran starters on defense.

Beckham was never going to play Thursday night anyway because of an ankle injury. He hasn't been at practice since suffering the injury last Monday night and is in a race against time to be ready for the season opener Sept. 10 against the Dallas Cowboys.

Manning, Richburg, defensive ends Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon, defensive tackle Damon Harrison, linebackers Jonathan Casillas and Devon Kennard, cornerbacks Janoris Jenkins and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and safety Landon Collins are unlikely to play against the Patriots based on McAdoo's comments.

"Again, we're going to play the game very similar to the way we played last year's [fourth preseason] game," he said Tuesday.

Veteran wide receiver Brandon Marshall is also unlikely to get into this year's final preseason game. He recently was dealing with a shoulder injury.

Marshall returned to practice Monday. He caught a touchdown pass after running a physical pattern against cornerback Daniel Gray during a red zone drill on Tuesday.

"Brandon looked good," McAdoo said. "It was good to have him back out there at practice, knock some rust off. He made a nice, physical play at the back pylon there to the left. But as far as the play-time goes, we'll handle it very similar to the way we handled last year's play-time [in the fourth preseason game]."

The quarterback situation is one area that may be handled differently, in part because this year the Giants have an extra quarterback and a true competition for the backup job. Backup Ryan Nassib played into the fourth quarter last year, with Logan Thomas handling mop-up duties.

This year the Giants want to get Geno Smith, Josh Johnson and rookie Davis Webb into their final preseason game.

"Davis factors [in], yes," McAdoo said.

Smith and Johnson are expected to split the first half, with Webb handling most of the second half, according to a source. Even that is subject to change depending on the number of snaps in each quarter.

Smith should get the first crack at the Patriots given that the Giants have alternated between Johnson and Smith with the second team throughout the summer. Johnson was first up Saturday against the Jets. It’s Smith's turn against New England as they battle for the backup job behind Manning.

And they could be playing behind most of the starting offensive line. All the Giants' offensive line starters played in last year's preseason finale except Richburg, who was replaced by Brett Jones. McAdoo expects much of the same on Thursday.

"That could be a good place to start, yes," he said when asked if they had the same plan for this year.

But mostly it will be second- and third-team players trying to win roster spots. That is the point of the fourth and final preseason game, especially with the new rules allowing 90 men on the roster for this contest.

"We want to give every player who's on the bubble an opportunity to show what they can do," McAdoo said.

Some players to watch include running back Shaun Draughn, tight ends Will Tye and Matt LaCosse, kickers Aldrick Rosas and Mike Nugent, linebackers J.T. Thomas, Calvin Munson and Curtis Grant and cornerback Donte Deayon.

Wide receiver Tavarres King (ankle), cornerbacks Michael Hunter (concussion) and Eli Apple (ankle), linebackers Keenan Robinson (concussion) and Mark Herzlich (stinger), defensive tackle Jay Bromley (knee) and safety Duke Ihenacho (knee) did not practice this week and are also not expected to play against the Patriots.