Four Things We've Learned so Far from New York Giants OTAs
We're told time and again not to read much into what's said and what's done during organized team activities, but we never tried to pretend we could help ourselves.
The New York Giants are in the midst of their fourth OTA practice, with five still to go before a three-day minicamp in June. Here are four things we've learned from the G-men thus far.
The Offensive Line Scares the Coaches, Too
That's right, it's not just you and your friends who are concerned about the state of an offensive line that, statistically, was the worst pass-blocking unit in football last season.
Here's what offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride told the media at OTAs on Wednesday:
The offensive line is a concern. Some of those guys that haven't been needed to be depended upon have got to show up for us to have a chance. Otherwise, it doesn't matter how good your quarterback and receivers are if your quarterback is flat on his back.
Left tackle Will Beatty, who missed a large chunk of 2011 due to an eye problem, is already missing practices as a result of a what New York Daily News beat man Ebenezer Samuel calls "a back issue."
Despite barely playing last year, 2011 fourth-round pick James Brewer could be asked to do a lot throughout the offseason and into the regular season. That's something that should scare Giants fans.
Remember, Eli Manning's sack total rose 75 percent from 16 in 2010 to 28 in 2011. Manning is a veteran with superb pocket presence and grace under fire, but all it takes is one awkward hit....
Domenik Hixon Could Be the Early Favorite to Replace Hakeem Nicks
Now, the Giants might not have to replace Nicks for any meaningful games, but it looks as though Hixon is showing no effects from his second surgery to repair a torn ACL. If he can keep it up and hold off rookie second-round pick Rueben Randle, who impressed in rookie camp earlier this month, Hixon will likely be the favorite to win the No. 3 receiver job in New York.
Hixon's twice-repaired knee looked fine when he made a nice leaping catch after fighting through an aggressive jam from CB Michael Coe. Hixon received plenty of praise from Tom Coughlin as well as the assistant coaches today for his reliability in carrying out his assignments. "He's a great role model and a great example of, 'We asked you to set up the route this way, take this footwork, do this stem and attack this shoulder,'" offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride said. "He always does it exactly the way you want him to do it." Later in practice, during 7-on-7s, Hixon got loose up the sideline against a Cover-2 zone.
"They say that after knee surgery, you're supposed to be slower,'' Hixon told the media this week. "I'd like to put that to the test anytime. Go get the clock, run a 40-yard dash, do all that.''
Slowly, the Cornerbacks Are Coming Along
There's been some justifiable concern about the cornerback position this offseason. Terrell Thomas is coming off a torn ACL, Prince Amukamara had surgery on his foot in March, Aaron Ross is gone and no one knows exactly what rookie Jayron Hosley will bring to the table.
The good news is that we're looking at an upward trajectory for all of these players. Thomas is now participating in individual drills as he attempts to get back to full speed, while Amukamara started running this week for the first time since his procedure.
These guys still have two months to get adjusted, and they won't fall far behind because the Giants don't use press coverage in OTAs.
Two other corners who missed all of 2011 due to injury are Brian Witherspoon and Bruce Johnson. Witherspoon has already blown out his knee again, but Johnson has impressed cornerbacks coach Peter Giunta. From CBS Sports:
"You would never know that he tore his Achilles. His quickness has been very good."
The Giants have a lot of depth at the position—I haven't even mentioned Antwaun Molden, Dante Hughes, Justin Tyron, Brandon Bing and Michael Coe—but there are question marks surrounding the health and/or ability of every corner on the roster, except for Corey Webster.
With Linebacker Becoming a Strength, the Numbers Game Will Be Fun to Watch
It wasn't long ago that the Giants' linebacking corps was criticized for being shallow and void of talent. But with Chase Blackburn and Mark Herzlich stepping up in 2011 and Keith Rivers joining the fray this offseason, it suddenly looks like the team is in great shape at linebacker.
SNY's John Fennelly notes that the team certainly has the numbers at the position this year. In fact, the crowd at linebacker might make it difficult for talented young players like Clint Sintim, Spencer Paysinger, Greg Jones, Adrian Tracy and Jacquian Williams to make the roster.
We learned Wednesday from defensive coordinator Perry Fewell that they'd like undrafted rookie Jake Muasau to move in behind Blackburn and Herzlich in the middle, while Jones gets a chance to back up Mathias Kiwanuka, Michael Boley and Rivers on the outside.
So, Perry, where does that leave Sintim, the injury-prone 2009 second-round pick?
We really can't say because he's being handled by the doctors on what he can do and what he can't do. Mentally, he's in the meetings... I was in the linebacker meeting today and we were talking about different defenses and reactions, so he was mentally in tune with what we're doing. Physically, he's being handled by our training staff, so I can't really say where he's going to fit right now because I have to wait.
Hm. Don't be surprised if he doesn't make the final roster.