New York Giants: Five Sleepers to Watch This Preseason
It's not easy to find unheralded players on championship rosters, but we'll still attempt to identify five sleepers who could break out during Big Blue's preseason campaign.
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Once looked at as a top-flight prospect, Will Hill's draft stock plummeted after he was suspended for violating team rules at the University of Florida. He went undrafted last spring and was out of football last year.
But now he's finally being given a chance to right the ship. We know he has the skills to be a very good safety at any level, but now he'll have to prove he has the discipline and maturity to hold down a job at this level.
With Antrel Rolle having to chip in as a cover guy and Tyler Sash suspended for the first four games, there will be a chance for Hill to impress throughout the month of August.
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A No. 9 overall pick in 2008, Keith Rivers has a chance to revive a once-promising career with Big Blue. He showed glimpses early in his run with Cincinnati, but he hasn't been the same since shattering his jaw as a rookie.
He missed all of 2011 due to a wrist problem that some believe could plague him for the remainder of his career. He claims the injury isn't degenerative, but now he's being slowed by a sore hamstring.
Rivers is more talented than incumbent starting middle linebacker Chase Blackburn, and if he can get—and stay—healthy, he should have a chance to supplant Blackburn. Right now, he's working primarily behind Michael Boley on the weak side.
Regardless, he should, at the very least, earn a roster spot this month.
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As an undrafted rookie out of Southeast Louisiana joining a championship team that makes its money through the air, you'd think Brandon Collins' chances of making the roster would be slim to none. But with Mario Manningham gone and Hakeem Nicks still recovering from a broken foot, there's a chance for a guy like Collins to emerge in the preseason.
Collins will also have to fight off young receivers who were, you know, actually drafted. Guys like Rueben Randle, Jerrel Jernigan, Ramses Barden and Domenik Hixon. But the fact that Victor Cruz also came out of nowhere could help Collins' cause.
"I think Brandon Collins has looked really, really impressive in practices. That has been fun to see, because I didn't know much about him," Gilbride said Thursday after mini-camp concluded. "I have seen better quickness than anything. That is what I have seen; great quickness, great speed; more quickness than speed. Good speed, great quickness, but also picking up the offense pretty quick."
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The Giants wouldn't have parted with Kareem McKenzie and waited four rounds to draft a tackle unless they believed second-year offensive tackle James Brewer could start on the right side of the line.
The 2011 fourth-round pick subbed in for the injured Will Beatty during offseason workouts, and he and Sean Locklear will be locked into a battle for backup reps this month. Considering how poorly David Diehl played last year and how much trouble Beatty has had with injuries, the winner of that battle is likely to play a major role throughout 2012.
My money's on Brewer, a 6'8" monster whom Football Outsiders believes is a hidden gem.
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Look for Justin Trattou to emerge this month to grab the rotation spot left behind by Dave Tollefson. The 23-year-old made the roster and looked quite good in six games despite going undrafted last year, and he should earn more opportunities going forward.
Yes, I know that Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora are going to grab the majority of the snaps, but Tuck and Umenyiora haven't been known for their ability to stay healthy. If any of those guys go down, the sneaky fast and strong Trattou should be first off the bench.
Of course, he himself will have to stay healthy as well. Trattou's a sleeper to watch, but you likely won't be able to watch him in the first preseason game Friday because he's still recovering from a sprained left ankle.