New York Giants: 5 Questions Team Must Answer in Training Camp
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In September, the New York Giants will christen their campaign as defending Super Bowl champions.
In June, they still have their work cut out for them.
The G-Men claimed their second Lombardi Trophy in four years in 2011-12, but still finished with a pedestrian 9-7 record in regular-season play. With a stagnant running game, a questionable offensive line and a bevy of uncertainties lingering in the secondary, Big Blue needs to make a few improvements to return to championship form.
Here are five huge questions that still need to be answered at Giants training camp.
1. Can David Wilson and Ahmad Bradshaw Resuscitate the Ground Game?
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Behind running backs Ahmad Bradshaw and former Giant Brandon Jacobs, New York scrapped for 4.6 yards per carry in 2010, which was good for sixth-best in the league.
Last year, New York's backfield was relegated to an NFL-worst 3.5 yards per attempt.
Without a dependable running game to set the pace, the Giants offense became one-dimensional. If quarterback Eli Manning hopes to duplicate his 2011 success, he'll need to see improvements on the ground. In particular, a rejuvenated ground game would open up play action, where Manning has thrived in the past.
The G-Men brought in David Wilson from Virginia Tech with the 32nd selection in April's draft. Wilson figures to add an agile presence between the tackles, which New York sorely missed last season. The Giants ranked 23rd and 26th rushing behind the left and right tackles, respectively.
For now, the bulk of the carries seems to fall on Bradshaw's shoulders. The sixth-year pro rushed for just 659 yards on 171 carries in 2011, and although his production rose come playoff time, he'll still be watched closely as the season inches closer.
After missing four games last year, can Bradshaw stay healthy this time around? Can he continue to make strides as a receiver as well? Where will David Wilson piece into the equation? These questions need answers, sooner rather than later.
2. What Will Martellus Bennett Offer the Giants Offense?
With Travis Beckum recovering from an ACL tear and Jake Ballard off to New England, newcomer Martellus Bennett is now the go-to guy at tight end.
Augmented tight end presence would create a more balanced, efficient mid-level offense, but Bennett appears to be sending some mixed signals out of training camp.
The ex-Cowboy weighed in at a whopping 291 pounds this spring, but claims that his imploding poundage is due to his transformation into a "physical freak."
For now, Bennett gets the benefit of the doubt, but he'll still need to have a strong summer to fully erase criticism. Is Bennett fit for starting responsibilities? Just what impact will he be able to make? Time will tell.
3. What's the Deal with David Diehl?
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After being arraigned on DUI charges earlier this month, tackle David Diehl is on thin ice.
When New York's previously-dominant offensive line hit a rough patch in 2011, Diehl followed suit. Now, amidst a potential position change—the fourth of his career—he'll be expected to play an integral role in reviving the line, anchoring the running game and protecting Eli Manning.
With young tackles like James Brewer waiting in the wings, Diehl needs to produce out of the gate. The Giants play six of the league's top 10 defenses from a year ago, and their schedule picks up quickly.
Can Diehl make a smooth transition if needed? Will his DUI hangover carry into the regular season?
4. Will Terrell Thomas Return to Form?
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Cornerback Terrell Thomas faces an uphill battle in reforming the league's 29th-ranked pass defense. After missing the entirely of last season with a torn ACL, Thomas is back with a newly-inked contract.
Expectations will be sky high for the standout corner. Thomas notched five interceptions and four forced fumbles back in 2010, establishing himself as a fan favorite through his aggressive, hard-nosed style of play.
However, a year removed from football in the ever-competitive NFC East could have serious repercussions. According to The Star-Ledger, Thomas has "no doubt" he'll be ready for training camp, but New York's secondary can't afford for him to lose even a step.
Will Thomas return to form in 2012? Will he have to face off against second-year corner Prince Amukamara for playing time?
5. Where Will Key Defensive Reserves Fit In?
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Big Blue has a slew of serviceable role players and backups that could wind up making big impacts on defense, if managed properly.
Where does cornerback Prince Amukamara fit into things? The nuances of playing nickelback in the NFL can be harmful to a corner's development (think Philadelphia's Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie). However, as of now, both starting corner spots are filled. The same goes for third-round draftee Jayron Hosley.
How can Marvin Austin and Shaun Rogers see the field at defensive tackle? Incumbent tackles Chris Canty and Linval Joseph are reliable, but with such a deep defensive line, plenty of snaps are up for grabs. Of course, star defensive tackle Osi Umenyiora makes his way into the debate as well, with Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul manning the starting end positions.
Just how will New York attack its middle linebacker situation? Backups Mark Herzlich and Keith Rivers appear to be vying for snaps with current starter Chase Blackburn.
All in all, the Giants can enjoy their newfound defensive depth, as keeping a healthy head count was a problem in 2011. Having said that, this mixing and matching should be settled as soon as possible.