Five New York Giants Training Camp Battles to Watch
Welcome back. Hopefully, you didn't miss it too much.
The Super Bowl champion New York Giants will be back on the gridiron before you know it, and anticipation is already building in the Empire State.
Last year, the steely G-Men ran through the NFL postseason and claimed their second Lombardi Trophy in four years. This year, they won't be surprising anybody.
The Giants enjoyed a successful draft in April and have made a few key, albeit hushed, free-agent signings, setting the stage for some crucial position battles.
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Who's it gonna be?
There's a talented but unproven cast eager to join Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks. Eli Manning's efficacious offense spreads the ball around. So whomever ends up at the third receiver spot will have plenty of opportunities in 2012.
On one end of the spectrum is Rueben Randle, Big Blue's second-round draft selection. A physical wideout from Louisiana State, Randle's 6'3" size mimics Nicks, and if he has a competitive training camp, he very well may win the reps.
Ramses Barden is a head-scratching "what if?" Perpetually injured and under-performing, he has shown bursts of promise in preseason ball. A strong training camp could put him in the running for the slot spot.
Moreover, the Giants dust off Domenik Hixon from the injured reserve in 2012. Hixon was explosive before succumbing to injury in the second game of last season (he notched an impressive juggling catch in the end zone in that game). A healthy Hixon could make sense in the slot as well.
Preliminary Prediction: Rueben Randle
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One of the few areas in dire need of improvement, the left guard position figures to be up for grabs in training camp.
Kevin Boothe was spotty at times in 2011, especially in run blocking. Mitch Petrus, a fifth-round selection in 2010, should battle him for the starting job.
After two years of breaking him in, you have to think that Tom Coughlin and company finally will go with the younger Petrus, assuming Jerry Reese doesn't have any other acquisitions up his sleeve.
Preliminary Prediction: Mitch Petrus
Although the Giants had their ups and downs in run defense and covering the tight end in pass coverage, their linebacking corps is certainly talented.
Michael Boley and Mathias Kiwanuka are fixtures at two of the linebacking spots, leaving it all up to the right-side linebacker to shift this unit back to elite status.
Newly signed Keith Rivers figures to be the starter, but his medical history draws warranted concern. If Rivers cannot return to form in training camp, look for Jacquian Williams. A Meadowlands hero for his game-saving forced fumble in the NFC championship game, Williams should be primed for a competitive 2012. He notched 78 tackles in 16 games last year.
In the end, if Rivers can live up to his potential and stay healthy, the position is really his to lose.
Preliminary Prediction: Keith Rivers
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True, the secondary was the team's Achilles' heel in 2011, but a healthy Terrell Thomas should change that this year.
Thomas and Corey Webster seem to have the starting corner spots all but locked down. The real question lies at the nickel position. Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell likes to keep extra bodies in the secondary, as the Giants' ferocious front four eliminates the need for excessive blitzing. Thus, the third corner should see plenty of playing time.
Antwan Molden was signed from New England in the offseason. He had two interceptions in a spotty Patriots secondary. With four years of NFL experience, he will likely put up a fight for the nickel spot.
Big Blue also took corner Jayron Hosley, a teammate of first-round selection David Wilson at Virginia Tech, in the draft. The Giants like the potential of Hosley, who should fit right into the fold in New York.
But all eyes are on former first-rounder Prince Amukamara. After a shaky rookie season in which he was only healthy for seven games, Amukamara should be ready to assume the nickel responsibilities.
Preliminary Prediction: Prince Amukamara
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This has been a nagging thorn in New York's proverbial side.
The return game has been fairly lackluster for the Giants over the years, and the coaching staff will likely look to switch things up in training camp.
Hosley was a return man in college, as was David Wilson. The latter ran two kickoffs back for scores in 2010.
Both Da'Rel Scott and Jerrel Jernigan were average at best in returns last year. There will likely be a whole lot of mixing and matching at this position before something hopefully sticks.
Preliminary Prediction: Returner-By-Committee, Led by Jayron Hosley and Jerrel Jernigan