Rapid Reaction: Giants 6, Patriots 3

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. –- The New York Giants can begin their title defense now after closing the preseason with a 6-3 victory over New England.

PatriotsGiantsWhat it means: The Patriots rested their starters, but the Giants actually played theirs –- what remained of their first team with several starters resting -- into the beginning of the second quarter. The offense looked sluggish. But it really doesn't mean anything for the starters, as the Giants just need to stay healthy entering the season opener next Wednesday.

The biggest thing to take from this game is the performance by backups who are fighting for roster spots. The Giants will trim their roster to 53 on Friday; here's my roster breakdown of the offense and defense.

Hakeem's debut: Wide receiver Hakeem Nicks made his preseason debut and had a catch across the middle for six yards in limited action. Nicks has looked good in practice, and the most important thing is that he stayed healthy and is set to play against the Cowboys next week after undergoing toe surgery in late May.

"It felt real good to be out there for the first time this preseason," Nicks said. "Went out there, got my feet wet, got a couple reps. It was exactly what I needed to know that I'll be ready for next week.

"It was pretty much what I expected," Nicks continued. "No problem with the foot. It felt good, and I'll be ready to start the season."

Line issues: The Giants' offensive line struggled in the first half. With Chris Snee (leg), Will Beatty (back) and James Brewer (back) on the sideline, the first and second-team offensive line couldn't get the running game going while allowing three sacks.

Mitch Petrus started in place of Snee at right guard and was beaten badly by Jermaine Cunningham for a sack of Eli Manning. Backup quarterback David Carr was sacked twice in the second quarter.

Though the ground game got going in the third quarter behind Andre Brown's hard running, the offensive line reserves clearly have a lot to work on.

And it still remains to be seen who the Giants will trot out at left tackle. Beatty returned to practice this week but Sean Locklear has started at left tackle and has been solid.

Running back competition: Rookie David Wilson started in place of Ahmad Bradshaw (hand) and gained just 13 yards on eight carries. But the first-round pick made his case to be Bradshaw's backup with a strong game against Chicago last weekend.

Brown was impressive on the first drive of the third quarter as he gained 52 yards rushing and had nine yards on a reception. He also converted on a second-and-1 and third-and-1. But he fumbled the ball near the Giants' goal line midway through the fourth quarter. Bear Pascoe recovered the ball at the Giants' own 1.

D.J. Ware came in as the third-down back when Wilson was in the game with the starters, as the team opted to take a longer look at Brown and Da'Rel Scott.

Giants highlights: Wide receiver Ramses Barden followed up a strong performance against Chicago with another good outing. He had four catches for 31 yards and had another impressive catch nullified by a holding penalty. ... Middle linebacker Mark Herzlich was active and stuffed a run on a third-and-3 at the Giants' 3-yard-line. ... Defensive ends Adewale Ojomo and Matt Broha continued to look good. Ojomo looked good stopping the run with two big run-stuffing tackles and Broha had a half-sack in the first half. Ojomo also had a huge strip sack on Brian Hoyer that Marcus Thomas recovered and advanced to the Patriots' 17 with 2:27 left in the game. ... Linebacker Greg Jones, who could be fighting for a roster spot, had a sack in the third quarter.

What's next: The season finally begins next Wednesday when the Giants start their title defense against Dallas at home.