Rounding Up the Latest Offseason Buzz Surrounding New York Giants
Finding buzz in the New York Giants offseason has not been hard. Between injuries, contract squabbles and standout performances at OTAs and in minicamp, Big Blue has done their fair share of keeping fans engaged despite the lack of actual games.
With the team not reconvening again until late July, when training camp gets underway, now is a great time to review what story lines, both on and off the field, have been catching the attention of fans and media alike.
To make things interesting, level of buzz is used to order the slideshow. The first slide has a story line that is causing the least buzz while the last slide contains the most buzz worthy offseason event. If you're wondering the best way to define buzz, think about how likely each of the following storylines would come up in a Giants conversation with a friend, family member etc. The more likely it is to be discussed means it is generating more buzz.
Emergence of Brandon Collins
Brandon Collins refuses to go away and it may mean the Giants will have no choice but to put him on the 53 man roster come late August.
In 2012, the 24-year-old had a strong minicamp as an undrafted free agent out of Southeastern Louisiana, yet it only led to a spot on the practice squad. He obviously was not discouraged, however, as he impressed at both OTAs and minicamp this year.
Collins generates the least buzz on this list because a player that is not even a lock to make the team, let alone actually contribute during the regular season, doesn't exactly get the fan base bubbling with enthusiasm.
Still, Collins is definitely somebody to watch closely come late July and August. He is quick, athletic and has very good speed for the position. If he were needed to play, probably due to multiple injuries among the wide receivers, he has the talent to perform well.
And remember, at this time two years ago, most Giants fans didn't know who Victor Cruz was and now he is one of the best players on the team. If it can happen to the Salsa King, who also wasn't drafted out of college, it can certainly happen for Collins.
Prince Amukamara Aspires to Be Best Cornerback in the NFL
Prince Amukamara's first two seasons in the NFL have been a bit of a disappointment.
New York's 2011 first round pick has performed relatively well when he's played but staying on the field has been a struggle. He missed nine games in his rookie year due to a fractured foot he suffered in the preseason. Last season, he missed three games because of a high ankle sprain and minor hamstring injury.
While Amukamara's body has been fragile, his confidence certainly isn't hurting. He made it clear what his aspirations are as a Giant, and in the NFL, when speaking to reporters last Thursday at minicamp (courtesy of Yahoo!'s Patricia Traina):
"I really want to be the number one corner on this team and I feel like right now Corey (Webster) is, and my goal is to always just try to beat him out. I think as soon as I establish myself as the number one corner, then hopefully just become the number one corner in the whole league. I know that's going to take work, but guys that came out of my draft class are doing great: Patrick Peterson and Richard Sherman, and those are the guys I compare myself to. I'm just trying to exceed all of them."
Amukamara may come off as unnecessarily boastful in this statement, but he does have a reason to feel he can be the best cornerback in the NFL. The 24-year-old is very talented, possessing good size, speed and the quick-twitch ability to easily change direction.
He still has a lot to prove though. Staying healthy is the obvious starting point, but beyond that, he also has to show an ability to cover the other team's best wideout. That job has fallen on Corey Webster's shoulders the last two seasons.
Also, Amukamara must become more of a playmaker. He was expected to be a ball hawk coming out of Nebraska, yet he only has two interceptions to his credit in the NFL.
While Amukamara's "best cornerback" proclamation is more juicy than Collins' emergence, it still won't get Giants fans talking too much. Now, if he actually goes out and plays like a shutdown corner, that will cause a stir among the Big Blue faithful.
Maybe David Diehl Will Be the Starting Right Tackle After All
Who will be the Giants starting right tackle has been a hotly debated topic this offseason in the media. Rookie Justin Pugh has certainly been considered as an option, as well as has third-year player James Brewer.
A possibility that has been largely overlooked, however, is David Diehl, who started 10 games for New York at right tackle in 2012. Diehl was seen by many as a stronger bet to get released than be a starter in 2013. Well, he survived by taking a pay cut and according to his offensive coordinator, Kevin Gilbride, overtaking him as a starter won't be easy (courtesy of Sam Spiegelman at Big Blue View):
"(Diehl) is not going to give up the job. He doesn’t care who has been drafted; he was a low draft pick when he got here and no one ever expected a lot from him. What has he been playing now – 10 years? He has been a starter. I think it is going to be very difficult for someone to unseat him"
Diehl's play on the field has been shaky at best in recent years (he has had an overall Pro Football Focus rating of -6.8 or worse in each of the last three seasons), but he remains a favorite of the coaching staff.
This affection is probably a big reason why he is still with the team. A large part of Gilbride's statement likely comes from this affection, but it does prove that he will get the benefit of the doubt. In other words, if Diehl is competitive with Pugh and Brewer in training camp, he will likely earn the starting right tackle job, at least to begin the season.
When a starting job suddenly has a candidate that was left for dead, good buzz starts getting generated. This story easily tops Amukamara's bold words and Collins strong spring.
Rueben Randle's Rapid Growth
The Giants have not been thrilled with the way their starting receivers, Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks, have handled the offseason (more on this to come), but the praise of potential third wideout Rueben Randle has only grown throughout the spring.
First, the 22-year-old impressed his head coach, Tom Coughlin, during OTAs. Coughlin didn't proclaim that Randle has arrived but the below quote, courtesy of Michael Eisen at Giants.com, shows that he likes where he is headed:
"He’s moving in that direction. He certainly has had many, many opportunities, and if there’s a guy that really has a chance to step his game up and really show what he can do, it’s happening right now for Rueben."
Then last Thursday, at the conclusion of minicamp, Gilbride didn't hold back how happy he has been with Randle this offseason (as told by Kieran Darcy at ESPNNewYork.com):
"Rueben you saw emerge from a guy that showed flashes at times and always caught the ball well, but maybe didn't always run the routes as precisely, as crisply as you wanted, didn't have quite the understanding you wanted. [Over the past month] he looked like a guy that's been here for five or six years. He really benefited from the opportunity.
His whole demeanor, his whole professionalism was outstanding, Gilbride said. Now, is that because [Nicks and Cruz] weren't here, or because he got more reps, I don't know. But he certainly stepped into a leadership role.
Not only did he grow, he kind of became the bell cow of the receiving corps. He was first in line and did all those things. That was not what we saw last year, not by a long shot. So to see him grow like that was a great step forward for him that will help us down the road."
Randle's obvious growth has been impressive to see, but you get the feeling that he is almost receiving too much praise at this point. The amount of accolades being thrown his way (Eli Manning has also spoke positively of Randle) may end up going to his head. It would be nice to see the enthusiasm tempered a bit until he actually starts putting up solid production in the regular season.
Hearing key members of the Giants speak highly of a player with Randle's talent, though, does register pretty high on the buzz-o-meter. His rapid growth edges out Gilbride's quote on Diehl.
Mark Herzlich, Not Dan Connor, Is the Favorite to Start at Middle Linebacker
When the Giants signed Dan Connor back in March, it was thought that he would compete with Mark Herzlich for the starting middle linebacker.
Well, with the start of the 2013 season still almost three months away, Herzlich is the clear favorite to grab the role.
Herzlich's rise over the last month has been surprising. He impressed media members at OTAs a few weeks ago. Coming out of minicamp, he is the assumed starter heading into training camp. It was expected that there would still be doubt at this stage as to who the starter would be between Connor and Herzlich, but that is not the case.
Herzlich as the starting middle linebacker is intriguing because not long ago he was a top prospect at Boston College who appeared to have a Pro Bowl-caliber future in the NFL. Then he was sadly stricken with Ewing's sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer, in 2009.
He has beaten the odds by overcoming cancer and carving out an NFL career. If he can take the next step by becoming a quality starter, it would make an already great story even better. It would also help New York at a need position.
While Randle's great start to his second season definitely gets some notice, Herzlich's ascension is creating more buzz, given the importance of the position he plays and his inspiring back story.
Difference of Opinion on Hakeem Nicks' Absence at OTAs
After skipping OTAs, Nicks' mere arrival at minicamp made news. Nicks, however, wasn't done grabbing attention and he received some help from his offensive coordinator.
On the first day of minicamp last Tuesday, Nicks downplayed the importance of missing OTAs. Ed Valentine of Big Blue View provides the color commentary:
Nicks said he spent his time in North Carolina working out. He said missing classroom time during OTAs was not a big issue.
"Nothing too much is new for me in this offense, so it’s just basically getting back into the routine," he said. "Everything is just like clockwork to me now with this offense."
Well, sorry Hakeem, but that reasoning isn't going to fly with Gilbride. The brains behind the offense felt the time missed was damaging for both Nicks and Cruz, who also was a no-show for OTAs (courtesy of Michael J. Fensom at The Star-Ledger):
"They haven’t been working, listening or growing. They haven’t been developing. They haven’t been receiving the coaching that they need to get better. To be quite frank, both of them need it."
This difference of opinion won't mean much come September. All that matters is that he stays healthy and doesn't make his expiring contract an issue. If he accomplishes these two things, he should return to his 2010 and 2011 form.
Right now, though, the fact that Nicks and Gilbride so clearly disagree on the importance of OTAs is something that is going to get people talking. Based on sheer buzz, this tidbit beats Herzlich topping the depth chart at middle linebacker.
Key Players, Like Jason Pierre-Paul, Recovering from Surgery
The list keeps growing.
Entering offseason workouts, the Giants already had key players like Chris Snee, David Baas, Terrell Thomas and Markus Kuhn recovering from major surgery.
Now their starting fullback, Henry Hynoski, is healing from going under the knife due to a knee injury he suffered on the first day of OTAs. And worst of all, the team's best defensive player, Jason Pierre-Paul, surprisingly had back surgery to fix a herniated disk in his lower back in early June.
Pierre-Paul is on the mend and still has a shot to make opening night in Dallas on Sept. 8. The same goes for Hynoski and the other warriors of the operating room, who are all expected to be on the field at the start of training camp.
However, it is not good that, despite the positive outlooks on these players, so many key members of the team will be recovering from surgery before the start of the regular season. In the case of Hynoski and Pierre-Paul, they'll be doing it right up against the first game.
Given the number of players involved and the quality of those players, these surgeries easily take the second spot on this list. People are certainly talking about the Giants injury woes.
This chatter, however, comes no where near the buzz generated by number one.
Victor Cruz Under Contract/Still Seeking Long-Term Deal
Cruz has finally signed a contract.
Don't get too excited, though, because it was only his one-year tender. The negotiations continue to secure the 26-year-old under a long-term deal. The seven million dollar per year offer made by the Giants months ago still appears to be Cruz's to ink.
And you are all caught up on Cruz's quest to get paid. But wait, there's more. The Salsa King may holdout once training camp starts, even though he said he wouldn't back in October. Cruz hasn't explicitly said he is considering holding out, but the fact that the possibility is floating out there is disturbing.
Also we learned, after he inked his tender, that the Giants considered slashing it from $2.87 million all the way down to $630,000 if he didn't sign by June 17. This is according to a tweet by NFL.com's Aditi Kinkhabwala.
The drama needs to stop already. It appears that Cruz continues to drag this process out, despite a fair offer from the Giants, because he feels he should be paid like a number one receiver. The reality is that he isn't, despite his numbers suggesting otherwise. He is a glorified slot receiver that cannot do the things most number one receivers can, like go over the middle in traffic or consistently compete for jump balls.
Chances are Cruz will realize his true worth, or at least put his ego aside, and sign the Giants offer. He better because Big Blue has made no indication that they are willing to go much higher than what is currently on the table.
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