After being active buyers in free agency and addressing most of their needs in the the 2013 NFL draft, the New York Giants will have plenty of heated roster battles this offseason as they prepare for the 2013 NFL season.
The absences of players like Ahmad Bradshaw and Chris Canty opens up two starting jobs for Big Blue this season, but there are many more positions that will be determined during OTAs, training camp and the preseason.
With the season fast approaching, here are the position battles to keep your eye on this offseason for the G-Men.
Conventional wisdom says that Corey Webster and Prince Amukamara will man the two starting corner spots in Week 1, but anything can happen between now and Sept. 8.
If you would have told me toward the end of the 2012 season that Webster could potentially be a starter in New York in the 2013 season, I probably would have laughed in your face, but because the Giants didn't address the corner spot in the draft, I think Webster gets the start.
Barring injury during training camp or preseason—which is always a possibility with him—I think Amukamara wins the other starting job, as he may emerge as New York's best cover corner this season.
Webster really struggled down the stretch last season, and it wouldn't surprise me if he was benched in favor of Thomas, Ross or Hosley at some point in the season.
Ultimately, if Thomas can stay healthy, he'll emerge as a huge playmaker and potential starter for the G-Men, as his 2009 and 2010 seasons were memorable ones for Big Blue.
Projected Winners: Corey Webster and Prince Amukamara
The Giants' 2013 first-round pick, Justin Pugh, played tackle at Syracuse, but because of his shorter arms, it looks like he's better served as a guard in the NFL, as ESPN's Dan Graziano notes.
Pugh will still have a chance to win the right tackle job on the Giants' offensive line, but he'll be competing with veteran David Diehl and third-year man James Brewer. Diehl looked weak at times last season and undeserving as a starter, and Art Stapleton of The Record writes that Brewer could emerge as the starter at right tackle:
The overlooked domino here is Brewer, of whom Reese has said “we expect 9him) to come on and contribute this year.”
Brewer worked at guard last season when Snee and Baas were banged up, and I could see one of the three (Pugh, Brewer, Diehl) having more of an impact at guard if someone should win the job at RT outright. Down the line, if Brewer proves he could handle RT, then in 2014 it would not surprise me if Pugh lands the starting job at LG with Boothe on a one-year deal.
After the way Diehl played last season, I love the idea of Brewer winning the job out of camp and Pugh becoming a starter next season when an opening at left guard opens up. The 6'6", 330-pound Brewer could be the anchor on the offensive line that the Giants desperately need.
Projected Winner: James Brewer
The release of Ahmad Bradshaw opened up the starting gig in the Giants' backfield and will see Andre Brown and David Wilson compete for the starting job throughout training camp.
Both backs had flashes of brilliance last season. Brown used his powerful running style to score eight touchdowns in 10 games while Wilson showed his versatile skills and speed by rushing for four touchdowns and scoring one in the passing game and on a kick return.
I think head coach Tom Coughlin is going to let these two battle it out for the starting job this offseason, but Brown will ultimately emerge as the victor.
He was an effective runner last season before breaking his leg and I think Wilson is still a bit too raw and inexperienced to be the starter in Week 1.
I wouldn't be surprised whatsoever to see Wilson finish the 2013 campaign as the starter in the backfield, but for now, I like Wilson making plays on special teams and Brown carrying the rock as the starter.
Projected Winner: Andre Brown
With former Giants middle linebacker Chase Blackburn now a member of the Carolina Panthers, Mark Herzlich and the newly-acquired Dan Connor will compete at as the middle linebacker signal-caller for New York's defense.
After spending four seasons with the Panthers, Connor was a member of the Dallas Cowboys' defense last season. Connor is a tough, excellent run stopper who can get between the tackles and help the Giants defense in 2013. After playing in Dallas last season, Connor got a taste of the NFC East and should win the starting job.
I still think there's a chance the Giants go out and sign a free agent like Karlos Dansby to compete for the starting gig, but that's all hypothetical at this point and I have to go off of who is on the roster.
Herzlich is another strong run-stopper, but I think the Giants signed Connor for a reason—to be the starter in the middle of New York's defense in 2013.
Projected Winner: Dan Connor
After drafting Johnathan Hankins with their second-round pick in the 2013 NFL draft, the Giants have a ton of depth at the defensive tackle spot.
Despite cutting Chris Canty, New York signed former Philadelphia Eagles Cullen Jenkins and Mike Patterson to bolster the interior of the defensive line and add more veterans to the locker room. The G-Men also still have a developing Marvin Austin and seasoned veteran in Shaun Rogers, as well as Markus Kuhn and of course, Linval Joseph.
Defensive tackle very well may be the deepest position on the Giants' depth chart for the upcoming season, giving Perry Fewell a ton of options with his blitz packages and run-defense schemes.
Joseph should retain his starting position and Jenkins will join him as starters at defensive tackle when the season opens. At this point in his career, Rogers can't handle a ton of snaps, but both he and Patterson will be excellent backups with Austin, Kuhn and Hankins all seeing some snaps as well.
Giants fans should see an improved rushing defense in 2013 with the offseason work done by the front office.
Projected Winners: Linval Joseph and Cullen Jenkins
The G-Men selected Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib with their fourth round pick as someone to groom under Eli Manning and potentially be the future leader under center in New York.
Nassib will have the opportunity to learn from one of the best QBs in the game right now, as Tom Coughlin told Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN;
This is a great opportunity for Ryan because he is going to be in the classroom with Eli Manning. That is going to be a tremendous learning experience. There is no way you can put a value on that for him. Now on top of that, he is a really sharp kid. He will learn; he will grow. He will learn by watching Eli. And when he gets opportunities in camp he will take full advantage of that and we will go from there.
Let's not forget though, the Giants still have David Carr, who has proven to be a reliable backup behind Manning.
Because of Carr's experience in the Giants' system and his understanding of the offense, I think Carr will remain the backup quarterback with Nassib as the third option on the depth chart.
Only time will tell if Nassib is a future quarterback for the Giants, but it's hard to argue with getting a talent like Nassib in the fourth round.
Projected Winner: David Carr
With Domenik Hixon out of the picture, Big Blue needs to use the offseason to figure out who will emerge as the No. 4 wide receiver on the depth chart behind Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz and Rueben Randle.
If I had to guess, I'd go with Louis Murphy to win the fourth spot for the Giants. Murphy was inked in the offseason and adds another dynamic threat to the passing game, bringing a vertical presence to New York's offense with his speed and 6'2" size.
Jerrel Jernigan could give Murphy a run at the No. 4 spot on the depth chart, but Murphy has the experience and the more fine-tuned skills entering training camp than Jernigan, who is entering his third season.
As the season progresses, it wouldn't surprise me to see Murphy surpass Randle as the third wideout option in the offense—that's how dangerous I think he can be when paired with Eli Manning and the Giants' passing offense.
Projected Winner: Louis Murphy
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