- Jane McManus, Reporter & Columnist, espnW.com
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I can't do it. There's plenty of symbolism here, but when it comes to the football, tonight's game is utterly meaningless. That may seem sacrilegious, but the Giants could serve as a poster group for the Hospital for Special Surgery and it makes no sense to risk their bodies in a preseason game.
This is likely to be the Jets' first string versus the Giants' second string for at least a quarter.
The Jets haven't yet sold out their limited number of personal seat licenses, even after prices were slashed on 9,000 seats. The Giants, meanwhile, have just 1,200 left, not bad considering each seat in the 82,500-seat stadium was slapped with the tax.
The green home team is making a bid to win over NFL fans across the country by opening up the bleeping practices and meeting rooms for HBO's "Hard Knocks." This game is ultimately a chance to step out of the Giants' shadow. A win might pull in some fans who were on the fence and move some of those PSLs.
There's plenty of tension between the new Meadowlands roommates this season. The volume of Rex Ryan's Super Bowl boasts has traversed from Cortland to Albany, which is probably why you've heard the back-and-forth between players and some fans.
It's a terrific buildup, and if this were October or -- dare we say it -- February, it would be decided on the field. But that's just not going to happen tonight.
The Jets are going full throttle with first-team offense and a blitzing defense playing into the second quarter, while the Giants will be resting two-fifths of their starting offensive line. Even the Giants' starters aren't necessarily starters. The Giants didn't practice in pads for three straight sessions rolling into this game. A crowd of more than 4,000 came to Albany to watch a walk-through in shorts and jerseys.
"We have four preseason games to tackle," Tom Coughlin said.
For Coughlin, it doesn't make sense to risk players when it won't count, but Ryan has had the Jets live tackling all camp -- even in some special-teams drills -- and probably wants to test his starters even in a preseason game.
"I think we'll play past the first quarter," Ryan said of his starters. "We might have a series after the first quarter. Because we've had such a long time off, I think that's probably what we'll do."
But Ryan is the kind of coach who could test his starters by keeping them in even longer.
Coughlin estimated that his starters would go 15 to 18 plays, a quarter at the outside. That's normal for this time of year, but Coughlin will likely pull his starters before Ryan does. That's because even though it's August, the Giants' injury report is in late-season form. His news conference on Saturday included a session where he was asked about a dozen or so players and whether they were ready to go.
Here's a taste:
Q: Are there definite outs?
A: There are definite outs.
Q: Snee? Boss?
A: Snee, Boss, Smith, Phillips, Bulluck.
Q: Bulluck is not going to play?
Q: One tight end I assume?
A: Well I don't know. We had a little bit of work this afternoon. [Scott] Chandler worked a little bit and we'll see how he is.
Times are tough. With all those tight ends on the bench, no less than DE Dave Tollefson might work in on some offensive formations.
For the record, here are all the likely outs: WR Tim Brown (groin), OG Chris Snee (knee), S Michael Johnson (back), WR Steve Smith (groin), S Kenny Phillips (knee), LB Keith Bulluck (knee), OG Rich Seubert (hand), TE Kevin Boss (hamstring) and WR Sinorice Moss (groin). There are a few maybes, including TE Jake Ballard (hamstring), TE Travis Beckum (hamstring), CB Terrell Thomas (knee), CB Corey Webster (glute) and TE Scott Chandler (hip).
Did you get all that?
So there you have it, two teams with two different objectives coming into this game. Winning would be nice, but this will be about evaluating new personnel and developing each team for the regular season.
If an on-field battle for NFL supremacy in New York is going to happen in the near future, it won't be decided by the lower third of both rosters during a game in mid-August. It'll be decided at the Super Bowl.
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