Let’s state the obvious. Eli Manning is the starter. Continuing with the obvious theme, Manning needs to improve.
I don’t want to hear one more excuse about the players around him, injuries, or any other outside factor. He is supposedly the chosen one, the franchise symbol. Yes, many of his interceptions last season bounced off receiver’s hands. Yes the run game bottomed out at times in 2009. Yes, two seasons ago he surpassed 4,000 yards in the air. It doesn’t matter. He’s being paid to be a leader. If a receiver can’t catch, teach him how. If a member of your offense is obnoxious and overbearing in the huddle/locker room, handle it.
David Carr is my favorite to win out the back up job. He is capable, a favorite among the coaching staff, and frankly cheaper than Sage Rosenfels.
I expect the Giants to keep 3 QBs this season and that job will go to Ryan Perrilloux . The team feels that they may have found a solid investment in the young QB out of LSU and would like to develop him further.
Perhaps the biggest story at this position right now is the return of Andre Brown. Not to undermine the needed retention of Ahmad Bradshaw, but Coach Coughlin commented today that Brown looks better now than when they drafted him in the 4th round of the 2009 draft.
Brown reminds me of Derrick Ward. In his first three seasons with the Giants, Ward struggled to make an impact (aside from a kickoff return for a TD against Washington in 2004). His feet seemed to be restrained by cement bricks when given rushing opportunities. Brown looked similar during his limited 2010 preseason reps in New York (never saw game action because of his Achilles injury in 2009). Zero explosion or cutting ability was evident.
As you know, Ward broke out when called upon in an emergency situation during 2007’s opener in Dallas. In 2008 he rushed for 1,025 yards. Brown has yet to accomplish that feat, but his training camp performance thus far shows signs that he might be a sleeper in the Giants backfield.
Obviously, Ahmad Bradshaw is the main event star right now and I expect him to get the first hand off of the game. Brandon Jacobs will see at least 5 touches a game and if he shows that he is capable of returning to 2008 form, he may suddenly challenge for the main event spotlight once again.
What I love about this position group is the depth. At this position in this day and age, keeping backs fresh is essential but extremely difficult. I see the Giants keeping 4 running backs, but would not be surprised to see opt for 5. They did that in 2008 in order to keep both Reuben Droughns and DJ Ware.
If someone is the odd man out, my money is on Ware. Rookie Da’Rel Scott has been showing off impressive speed and he may factor in the return game immediately. Of all the problems the Giants have had thus far in 2011, they just may have to deal with the pleasant issue of a running back logjam similar to the one they maneuvered in 2008.
I expect both Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham to have big years and showcase continued growth as professional receivers. Of those two however, my eye is on Manningham in particular. He was the only man left standing last year when Nicks, Steve Smith, and Domenik Hixon were all out with injuries at the same time. With the help of now Raiders WR Derek Hagan, and TE Kevin Boss Mario helped keep a struggling offensive attack afloat.
He possess great footwork (arguably better than even Amani Toomer’s), usually soft hands, and impressive elusiveness. He’s both a deep threat and dangerous on screen passes.
But the real focus for now is on the 3rd slot and beyond. Hixon is definitely a candidate to see an increased number of snaps, but Victor Cruz and Devin Thomas are providing quite the battle. It appears that for now, Cruz is ahead of the former Redskin, as Thomas cannot practice until a dislocated finger heals. Both have been impressive and both have loads of potential.
I expect the Giants to retain 6-7 receivers (not including Steve Smith should he choose to re-sign). The obvious locks are Manningham, Nicks, Hixon, and Jerrel Jernigan. Jernigan has blown the coaching staff away by his speed. Rumor has it, he could see some time in a wildcat style formation as well.
Although Darius Reynaud has had a decent camp, I see the final two spots going to Cruz and Thomas. Both are two young and talented to cast off. I don’t see Ramses Barden in the Giants future, simply because he cannot find a way to stay on the field. He has been on PUP since the start of camp. It’s a shame because the team could certainly have used his big body now that Kevin Boss is a Raider.
Too be fair, this was a solid C when I started writing this. Since then however, Ben Patrick retired and Kevin Boss was officially off the market.
It seems certain that Bear Pascoe will be a true TE this season. He has reportedly been only attending TE meetings. That means that Henry Hynoski will likely start at FB for the Giants this Saturday.
Getting FB out of the way, I have heard only good things about Hynoski and after watching some film on the PITT alum, I give him my vote of confidence. It doesn’t worry me that he went undrafted because FBs aren’t usually draft day priorities. Also, if Hynoski can get the playbook down fairly easily, there should only be a slight rookie transition for him. He plays physical, has decent hands, and has expressed a strong desire to clobber anyone and anything he can. Give him a helmet and send the kid in.
Still, even with FB covered, Pascoe isn’t necessarily the answer at TE. He’s a great second option and a great blocker, but I’m not quite ready to hang my hat on him.
If you’ve read my work before, you know how I feel about Travis Beckum. He isn’t a TE. He is too small to block a lineman and barely big enough to take on a medium sized LB. If anything, he’s useful out of the backfield or in the slot. But that can be handled by players like Hynoski and Jernigan. I know they won’t but the Giants should part with him.
Daniel Coates (an emergency signing after Patrick unexpectedly left the team) and Jake Ballard are decent blockers but are not known for their receiving talents. With Pascoe’s longest reception going for 12 yards, the answer at TE is not yet on the roster.
I’m for trading Osi for John Carlson in Seattle. Carlson reminds me a lot of Kevin Boss but he faltered with only 31 receptions in 2010. Big things had been expected of him after he notched over 100 total catches during his first two years as a pro. Likely, Carlson’s numbers suffered because of the QB issues that Seattle endured last season.
The Giants could use his 6’5 251 lb frame and the Seahawks are in a position to deal him. They brought in Zach Miller via free agency and are now saddled with two starting caliber receiving TE’s. Jerry Reese expects to keep Osi, but trading him to Seattle might be wiser.
This may draw heat, but I agree with the necessary moves that cost Rich Seubert, Shaun O’hara, and Shawn Andrews their jobs. Seubert played exceptionally well in 2010, but how many devastating injuries can you expect an aging player to battle through and still perform at a high level. O’hara had been on the decline for two years. Andrews was simply too expensive for an injury prone player.
I’m excited to see what John Baas can do and I’m comforted by the fact that O’hara was also converted from G to C when he arrived in NY. Obviously Chris Snee is a star player. I also like David Diehl’s return to the G spot. He should enjoy success there.
The tackle spots worry me and I’d like to see Kareem McKenzie step up his game this season. I have more faith in Will Beatty than I used to, but the Giants wouldn’t start him at LT unless he was truly ready to go. He is the future at that spot whether we like that or not. That rhymed by accident I promise.
If Beatty doesn’t work, I’d really like to see Diehl shift back so that Mitch Petrus (baby Seubert) can get his shot at LG. I’m very excited about that young kid’s ability.
With or without Osi, I feel good about this group. It is time for Jason Pierre-Paul to be the starter anyway. Osi is playing on borrowed time as it is thanks to a hip injury. Right now it looks as if JPP will be the number one guy on the right side since Mathias Kiwanuka was named the started today at LOLB.
Justin Tuck. Not much to say, I just felt I needed to at least mention him. Great player, great captain. The End.
The interior of the line is youthful and promising. Remember the increased role that Jay Alford was supposed to assume in 2009 but was lost in the preseason to a chest injury? Well that’s the feel right now with Linval Joseph, who essentially red shirted his rookie season before getting significant playing time versus Washington in Week 17.
Joseph’s minimal impact last season does not change the fact that he is likely to be one of the starting two DTs come Week 1 (alongside Chris Canty). For those of you who are worried about him making the leap from bench sitter to starter, I’d kindly ask you to view footage of Manningham’s 2008 and 2009 seasons back to back. Joseph isn’t a lock to be special, but I have a good feeling about him.
He will be pushed by an eager Marvin Austin. I have and will continue to argue that the Giants stole a second 1st round pick when they got Austin. He might make an impact early.
Perhaps that’s over eager. But I’m excited for the young talent that the Giants boast at this position. Jonathan Goff will break out this year. He is a prototypical LB with great eyes for the ball and power behind his hits. He closes caps in the offensive line very quickly.
Michael Boley is adequate at ROLB but I see either him or Kiwanuka getting pushed by either Mark Herzlich. Herzlich is another 1st round pick quality player and I see him becoming an established member of this defense shortly.
Jaquan Williams shows promise for the future, but I see him contributing mainly on special teams in 2011.
Losing Prince Amukamara for an undetermined length of time is obviously a blow. But Corey Webster and Terrell Thomas are quality corners. I expect a rejuvenated and fully healed Kenny Phillips on the field and this should make Antrel Rolle look more like the star the Giants had hoped for when they signed him.
The news of the hour is the impressive showing from rookie safety Tyler Sash. Sash has been getting significant reps with the first team defense. The Giants like to keep their DB’s fresh, so I would not be surprised to see Sash rotate in early and also help bring back the 3 safety set that Perry Fewell loves to run.
When Amukamara returns he will still be behind the learning curve. However, he could contribute as a nickel corner towards the homestretch of the season.
Special Teams: B
As far as the return game is concerned, the Giants could not be happier to have Domenik Hixon back. He, Jernigan, and Scott should bring this area back to prominence.
I also love the signing of Steve Weatherford. Matt Dodge can boot them far in practice, but he should have been able to compose himself in game situations by December of last season. The Giants can’t afford to let him struggle on their watch and I expect the seasoned vet, Weatherford, to win this battle.