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Top 7 Position Battles to Watch in New York Giants Training Camp

Jeff ShullAnalyst IMay 16, 2012

Top 7 Position Battles to Watch in New York Giants Training Camp

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    Though the New York Giants are fresh off a Super Bowl championship, they have openings at several positions. This offseason is an opportunity for some young players to step up and fill voids created by losses in free agency.

    This slideshow will highlight the most compelling positional battles to watch during Giants camp.

    There should be no surprises for you, but to keep things interesting, I've also included my prediction as to which player will win said battle.

    Feel free to comment below if you disagree.

Backup Running Back

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    When the Giants cut Brandon Jacobs, it opened up a competition for the backup running back spot. After the Giants drafted David Wilson in the first round of the 2012 NFL draft, it seemed to close the door on that battle.

    Not so fast. Though the Giants are impressed with the rookie, they have shown a propensity to ease their rookies into the lineup, especially under Tom Coughlin. The coaches will leave the door open for any of their young running backs to step up.

    Da'Rel Scott had an impressive preseason as a rookie in 2011, but in limited regular-season opportunities he did not do much to impress. Can he improve with a full offseason under his belt?

    Absolutely.

    Scott has NFL speed and doubled as the team's kick returner at times last year. If he can develop the mental aspects (vision, patience, pass-blocking), he could easily compete for the backup job.

    Having said all of that, Wilson is the early favorite to back up Ahmad Bradshaw, and he'll show why during training camp this year.

    Winner: David Wilson

Wide Receiver No. 3

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    The Giants let Mario Manningham test the free-agent market, and the Super Bowl hero ultimately decided moving on was his best course of action. His departure opens the door for several young players yet to be tested at the NFL level.

    Domenik Hixon is the only player in this position battle who has serious NFL experience (43 catches, 596 yards in 2008), but he's not necessarily the favorite to win the job at this point. He and Ramses Barden have both been with the team for a while now, but injuries have held them back from unleashing their full potential.

    New York's 2011 third-round pick, Jerrel Jernigan, did not have a catch last season, but his scouting report coming out of college indicated he could be a valuable slot receiver.

    Then there is 2012 second-round pick Rueben Randle, whom the coaches and front-office guys have all called "NFL ready." Randle was very impressive during minicamp this weekend, and with how high the Giants are on him, he could have the inside track to taking Super Mario's spot.

    Fitting that the Giants gave Randle No. 82.

    Winner: Rueben Randle

Left Guard

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    Depending on how you look at the group, the Giants have multiple openings along their offensive line. Some believe every spot besides Chris Snee's is up for grabs. I wouldn't go that far, but left guard is definitely a position that will be fought for during camp.

    David Diehl was a disaster at the spot last year, so for me, it's going to come down to Kevin Boothe and Mitch Petrus.

    This is probably the most difficult to predict. I firmly believe Boothe has hit his ceiling and is not going to get better. He filled in admirably at multiple positions last season, but I can't see him as the long term solution at left guard.

    Petrus is brutally strong and a better run blocker than Boothe. If he can improve his technique as a pass-blocker, the job is his.

    Winner: Mitch Petrus

Right Tackle

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    Another job that's completely wide open is the right tackle position. The Giants chose not to bring back Kareem McKenzie who manned the spot for several years.

    Jerry Reese hinted they believe David Diehl could slide over and play the right side, but I'm not sure he'll do enough to warrant keeping a starting job in camp. If you ask him, however, he'll tell you he's going to start, he's just not sure where.

    “Competition only makes me better and makes me have a stronger mindset,” Diehl said. “Do you think I’m going to let somebody come in and take my job from me, take away my chance to provide for my daughter? Over my dead body will I let that happen.”

    I will disagree with him, respectfully, as I expect 2011 fourth-round pick James Brewer to impress more during camp. Diehl was ranked the worst pass-blocking tackle in 2011 by Pro Football Focus, and he matched the feat as a guard.

    Lord knows the entire offensive line struggled to run block, so it would seem Diehl has some work to do in order to keep his job.

    The Giants also added veteran right tackle Sean Locklear as a free agent this season. The competition for this spot will be intense, with no clear favorite at the moment.

    Winner: James Brewer

Middle Linebacker

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    Another one of the more intense battles will be for the middle linebacker spot. Michael Boley essentially played this role from a leadership and play-calling standpoint last season. Jerry Reese and defensive coordinator Perry Fewell mentioned him as a possible candidate, even though it's not his natural position.

    Boley was second to Antrel Rolle with 93 total tackles in 2011.

    The Giants did bring back Chase Blackburn, who started at middle linebacker from the Green Bay Packers game in November all the way through Super Bowl XLVI. He had a huge play in the Super Bowl when he intercepted a Tom Brady pass intended for Rob Gronkowski.

    Fewell seemed to hint (in the press conference transcript linked above) the defense could actually have a combination of Blackburn and Boley at middle linebacker, which is what they did last season. Blackburn is more of a run stuffer, so he would be relegated to a two-down role.

    Having said that, the addition of Keith Rivers could throw a wrench in that plan, with Boley playing more in the middle than Blackburn.

    It's near impossible to get a beat on who will be the opening-day starters, but I'd put my money on Boley in the middle.

    Winner: Michael Boley

Safety No. 3

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    Now that the Giants unfortunately had to part ways with Chad Jones, who had a minor setback in his recovery, the third safety in Perry Fewell's 4-2-5 defense will come down to two players.

    2011 sixth-round pick Tyler Sash got some reps with the defense last season and was impressive in camp. 2012 undrafted free agent Janzen Jackson is an intriguing prospect with unlimited upside but fell due to problems off the field. 

    Jackson was dismissed from Tennessee, but as a football player, he's got all the tools. His issue will be getting his weight back up and proving he is passed all his problems that troubled him throughout college. Jackson was a ball hawk and big hitter in college, but how will his game translate to the NFL as an undersized guy?

    At this point, Jackson is a developmental prospect for the future; Sash is the favorite to get extra reps behind Antrel Rolle and Kenny Phillips.

    Winner: Tyler Sash

Cornerback No. 3

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    Corey Webster and Terrell Thomas are ensconced as the starting cornerbacks, but after that, it gets cloudy. The Giants have an embarrassment of riches at the corner position as long as everyone stays healthy.

    Prince Amukamara, Jayron Hosley, Antwaun Molden, Justin Tryon, Brandon Bing, Michael Coe and Bruce Johnson will all be competing for spots on the roster this season.

    I do not envy whoever has to make the decision on final cuts.

    As of now, I believe the three to make the roster behind Webster and Thomas are Amukamara, Hosley and Molden.

    Amukamara got an opportunity coming off his foot injury in the second half of last season, but by the end of the year, he had fallen out of favor with the defensive coaches. He did not see near as much playing time in the playoffs and managed just 14 tackles and one interception in seven regular-season games. He should get better with health and a full offseason of coaching.

    Hosley had nine interceptions in an All-American 2010 campaign at Virginia Tech. As teams avoided him in 2011, that number dipped to three, but he's got great cover skills, and the Giants like his attitude and toughness.

    Molden was a fill-in guy for the New England Patriots last season and actually started against the Giants in the Super Bowl. I got the opportunity to watch him at Houston Texans training camp last year and was impressed. He's got good size for the position but still needs work in man coverage. Molden grabbed two interceptions in 2011.

    If Amukamara bounces back from his foot injury last year, he should get the job. In fact, Amukamara actually believes he'll compete for the starting job with Thomas. I like the mentality. Hopefully, it translates to improvement on the field.

    Winner: Prince Amukamara

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