In years past, I haven’t even bothered to watch the final preseason game of the year. New England Patriots vs. New York Giants has been a late August tradition for years now, as backups compete against backups in the most meaningless game on the entire NFL calendar. However, now that Week 3 has kind of turned into Week 4, tonight’s contest may very well carry with it a few things worth watching; I’ll be curious to see how the receivers play, and I’m looking forward to seeing Mac Jones continue to get more meaningful reps.
That said, there are still a few things I most certainly won’t be paying attention to in the slightest, for the very last time this year. The answer to this question in seasons past would simply be “the entire game,” but given the structural changes surrounding the preseason, here are three things in particular that especially don’t matter.
Anything the running backs do. With Sony Michel now a Ram, the RB room seems to be set. Given how well this unit has performed, I can’t imagine anyone else gets cut at this point. Brandon Bolden is your special teamer/20 carries a year guy, Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson are your early-down backs, James White is your receiving/3rd down back, and J.J. Taylor is your gadget/change of pace back the way Danny Woodhead and Dion Lewis were. Nothing we see from any of these guys is going to alter that narrative. So give them all a few carries and don’t overexert any of them just in case an injury happens.
QB hits, pressures, and sacks. Other than not wanting to see Mac Jones take unnecessary hits and risk injury, there’s not going to be much need to worry if the young signal caller takes a bit of a beating. This is the last chance for a fairly deep offensive line position to play with different combinations and further evaluate backup potential and positional versatility, so I for sure expect a few communication issues and mistakes. In fact, I wouldn’t even be opposed to seeing how Jones responds to pressure and whether he’s as accurate with a defender in his face as he has been in weeks past. As long as nobody gets hurt, a shaky day from the offensive line could be a good learning experience. So don’t worry if the RBs get nowhere and the Giants are in the backfield all night long.
Pretty much everything after the beginning of the third quarter. Other than making the obvious connection between who is still on the field late in this game and who isn’t likely to make the team come cutdown day, there isn’t a whole lot we’ll be able to take away from whatever ends up happening after Brian Hoyer takes the field. Maybe one player stands out enough to sneak onto one of the final roster spots, but odds are that anyone who is going to be making a real impact this season has already showcased their wares enough not to see any time late in this one.