Week two brings to us a recent nemesis, one that I'm sure needs little introduction, but first, a few parting words regarding our most recent opponent.
Shawne Merriman's two sack performance was deemed an anomaly by several here. I'm not so sure. Merriman's early days in 2005 and 2006 were under defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, who ran an attacking blitz scheme similar to the blitzes employed by Wanny on Saturday night. While Merriman still had twelve and a half sacks in 2007 when Ron Rivera first moved to San DIego (At the time linebackers coach, became D-Coordinator in 2008), his 2008 was ended early by torn ligaments in his knee that cost him nine months of rehab, much less football activity - he was even quoted as saying if he played on it, it could threaten his career. Combine that with Rivera's scheme only led to a four sack performance in 2009 - which was second on the team. I'm not saying he will regain the form that made him a three-time Pro Bowler, one-time All-Pro, but in a scheme that utilizes him as a blitzer and after essentially a year off, I don't think we've heard the last from Merriman.
Now that I've got that out of the way, let's turn our attention to the New York Giants. Jump the fold with me and let's revisit an old fiend...
What'd They Do Last Year: 10-6, Tied for first in the NFC East; failed to make the playoffs on tiebreaker and a requirement the NFC West send a team to the playoffs.
When Last We Met: Bears fans would rather forget this game as the Day the Line was Bad. The Giants beat the Bears 17-3 as Jay Cutler left the game after the first half with a concussion and Todd Collins and Caleb Hanie could not move the ball. Ahmad Bradshaw ran 23 times for 129 yards and a touchdown and Brandon Jacobs added a touchdown of his own. Robbie Gould scored the lone points for the Bears with a 40-yard field goal.
The Giants prefer to not have the passing game carry the team despite the capability to, and instead play a balanced attack with a base on the powerful running game. Sounds weird to say after Eli Manning throws for 4000 yards, but the Giants did run for 2200 yards and 17 touchdowns on 480 attempts. Once the run game has been established behind Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs, Eli Manning is good enough on play-action to make it hurt. Turnovers are a problem, however - Manning did have 25 interceptions to go with his 31 touchdowns last season and Bradshaw put the ball on the ground seven times. WR Steve Smith flew the coop, so to speak - he's now a member of the Eagles. The offensive line is in a fair amount of flux as well; Shaun O'Hara, Rich Seubert and Shawn Andrews are all off last year's unit, with David Bass, Chris White and Stacy Andrews signed to fill those respective spots. Kevin Gilbride is the offensive coordinator with his son as his assistant.
The Giants employ Perry Fewell as their defensive coordinator - you might remember him as a guy the Bears were interested last offseason before settling on naming Rod Marinelli as defensive coordinator. Fewell is a Cover 2 guy, but mixes up his coverages more than the average Cover 2 disciple. When you talk about a team that uses the defensive line to drive the defense... this is it. The Giants have several players that can contribute on the line, between Mathias Kiwanuka, Justin Tuck, Jason Pierre-Paul and formerly disgruntled Osi Umenyiora. The primary area of concern for the Giants was the secondary, which the Giants hope is stronger with the drafting of Prince Amukamara (currently injured, broken foot), and re-signing Deon Grant and signing Derrick Martin at safety and Darnell Burks at cornerback.
As mentioned, Prince Amukara is out indefinitely with a broken foot. WR Ramses Barden is on the PUP list.
On the Bears end, Zack Bowman was diagnosed with a mild concussion, but has apparently blown through all the tests and should be good to go. DE Corey Wootton is out with meniscus damage in his knee, and he tweeted his surgery went well. Marcus Harrison had a shoulder injury in the second quarter on Saturday night, but should be good to go.
If the Bears do this...
With Amukamara out, the secondary continues to be the Giants' rough spot, but with the pass rush they can generate (um, in case you slept through last season, they sacked Jay and company an awful lot...) this is a dicey proposition. The important thing is to get the ball moving - short passes and grinding the ball down the field, plays that don't require a five or seven step drop. There's time later to attempt a deep play if something else is established. So for this one, I'm looking at the offensive line and receivers. If the line gives up another nine sacks, the calls to flip players around will be even louder than they already are. And after seeing Knox shield off a Bills cornerback on a slant, I want to make sure I wasn't hallucinating.
If the Giants do this...
The Bears' high point on defense is stopping the run (2nd in yards allowed, though fourth lowest attempts faced). Problem? Last year the Giants ran 32 times for a combined 189 yards and 2 TDs, or a 5.9 YPC. I don't see the same type of production out of Bradshaw and Jacobs this go-around, but the Bears have to stop the run early and force third and long, as cliche as that sounds. Manning still provides enough of a threat without the play-action, but making the Giants one-dimensional will be a start.
This may sound like a regular season preview than a preseason preview, but it's practice for me too. Again, it's preseason, but with the first stringers playing this for any length of time, they won't want a repeat of week four last year.