1) The Giants have two rookie cornerbacks starting in this game, how have they performed through two weeks, and how do you feel they will handle the 49ers sophisticated passing attack?
— The rookie cornerbacks, first-round pick Deonte Banks and sixth-round pick Tre Hawkins III, have been the least of the Giants’ problems so far. Banks is a physical press corner perfect for Martindale and should be a good player. We keep waiting for Hawkins to fail, and it hasn’t happened yet. The Giants want to be man-heavy in coverage, which simplifies the reads and decisions for cornerbacks, anyway.
2) How much will the Giants lean on Daniel Jones in the running game and do you think that they can find success on the ground without Saquon Barkley, who is out with an ankle sprain?
— Brian Daboll is being cagey and claiming there is a possibility Barkley plays Thursday. I’m not buying it. The Giants like to use Jones in the run game - doing it enough to make the defense aware of it is part of their offense. He’s faster than you think, which showed up a couple of times against Arizona. A lot of Jones’ running, though, comes when he’s escaping the pocket.
3) After a surprise playoff appearance a year ago, what are the fans expectations of the Giants this season, and how has their 1-1 start matched or failed those expectations?
— Expectations are that the Giants continue to grow and build. The fan base is expecting another playoff appearance, and honestly might be setting itself up for disappointment. Getting back to the playoffs is a daunting task. GM Joe Schoen has talked a lot about closing the talent gap with the top teams — like the 49ers, Chiefs, Cowboys and Eagles. The 40-0 loss to Dallas did not show evidence that they have done that yet. The overwhelming nature of that loss is something that has left many fans disillusioned about the 2023 Giants.
4) Do you think staying on the West Coast and having a short week of practice will affect the momentum of this team following their comeback victory over the Cardinals?
— I think it was really the only logical thing to do. They played in the 4 p.m. ET window on Sunday. Had they traveled home they would have gotten into New Jersey really late, then would have had to fly to California on Wednesday. That much time in the air, and crossing time zones, made no sense. Staying in Arizona (they are practicing at Arizona State) is the only thing that made sense.
5) Is there a specific 49ers player that you think has an opportunity for a big game due to any weaknesses on the Giants roster? The Niners are over 10.5 point favorites on DraftKings Sportsbook, so it doesn’t seem like it.
— Well, the questions about the Giants always revolve around the offensive line. They aren’t going away this week. Second-team All-Pro LT Andrew Thomas (hamstring) might miss another game. LG Ben Bredson (concussion) won’t play. That means Josh Ezeudu will probably make his second career start at LT. Mark Glowinski will probably start at LG for the first time since 2016. Marcus McKethan will be making his second career start at RG. John Michael Schmitz is a rookie center. Evan Neal is still trying to prove he can handle right tackle.
That group actually did an admirable job against Arizona, and the fact that Jones can escape the pocket helps. I would say, though, that Nick Bosa, Javon Hargrave and Co. have a decided advantage on paper.