5 New York Giants Players Who Will Surprise in Training Camp
It's during the month of August that opportunistic players find ways to draw attention to themselves. Whether it's due to a positional shift, an extra year of experience or an unexpected opening at a given position, several players have the potential to deliver surprise performances during training camp next month.
This slideshow will highlight five Giants who are likely to surprise both the coaching staff and diehard fans later this summer, resulting in a secured roster spot and, in some cases, a starting job.
DE Mathias Kiwanuka
A first-round draft choice in 2006, Mathias Kiwanuka is entering his eighth season in the NFL. After two seasons in which Kiwanuka primarily filled in as the Giants' strong-side linebacker, the Boston College product will transition back to full-time defensive end, his natural position, in 2013.
Longtime Giant Osi Umenyiora is now with the Atlanta Falcons, and fan favorite Jason Pierre-Paul is expected to miss camp after having back surgery in early June, leaving a noticeable vacancy along New York's defensive front. Kiwanuka and Justin Tuck will serve as veteran bookends for a defensive line looking to bounce back from a porous 2012 season.
Kiwanuka was serviceable as a linebacker, but he lacked opportunities to make game-changing plays while serving the Giants defense in a makeshift role.
A (hopefully final) shift to the line could rejuvenate the 30-year-old's career. The versatile defender will revel in his natural post, as he will surely seize the chance to stand out with his hand in the dirt.
Kiwanuka's most productive season as a professional came in 2008, when he started all 16 games at right defensive end in place of Umenyiora, who was lost for the entire season to a knee injury. The Giants fielded the league's fifth-ranked defense that season, as Kiwanuka recorded eight sacks and two forced fumbles.
LB Mark Herzlich
As a former undrafted free agent, linebacker Mark Herzlich is accustomed to not being on anybody's radar. When the Giants signed former Carolina Panther and Dallas Cowboy Dan Connor early in free agency, few predicted that Herzlich would ultimately beat him out for the starting middle linebacker job in 2013.
After all, Herzlich couldn't beat out Chase Blackburn for the starting job last summer, and Blackburn was out of football at that time only a year earlier. However, as Blackburn's effectiveness waned late in the season, Herzlich's snap count rose, allowing the second-year pro to gain valuable game experience in the Giants' complicated defensive scheme. He played in all 16 games—two of them as a starter.
Through organized team activities (OTAs) and mandatory minicamp Herzlich has remained the starter, manning the center of the Giants defense with great confidence and cerebral ability.
Athletically speaking, Connor does not provide much that Herzlich lacks. Herzlich's leadership and experience should allow him to hold off Connor for the starting job in camp.
The competition for the starting middle linebacker role will be one of the most contentious and intriguing positional battles to watch this summer.
S Will Hill
Last season, safety Stevie Brown hauled in eight interceptions, leading many to believe that he will start once again in 2013 opposite veteran leader Antrel Rolle. It's too soon to count out second-year safety Will Hill, though.
Hill is a playmaker who will surely work his way into the lineup in some capacity.
Once a highly touted high school athlete, Hill often found himself in the doghouse at the University of Florida, which raised several red flags with potential NFL suitors. After spending a year away from the game, Hill nixed those concerns, becoming one of the Giants' most impactful young defenders during the 2012 season.
He played in 12 games, collecting 38 tackles (solo and assisted), two forced fumbles and two pass defenses.
When given the opportunity, Hill was a disruptive force in several aspects of the game. He displayed the speed to hold his own in coverage or blitz off the edge. Hill is a strong tackler, and he is aggressive enough to make plays near the line of scrimmage.
The Giants like to run a three-safety set, which should allow Hill plenty of chances to get into the mix during the 2013 season. It wouldn't be surprising, however, to see him make a run for a starting job in camp.
WR Louis Murphy
When it comes to quarterback Eli Manning's pass-catchers, Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks have dominated the offseason storylines. Second-year pro Rueben Randle is one receiver who has stepped up with the spotlight elsewhere, and recently-acquired Louis Murphy may follow suit in training camp.
Murphy spent three seasons with the Oakland Raiders before landing with the Carolina Panthers in 2012. He projects to be the fourth wide receiver on the depth chart, but his ability to stretch the field will be hard for offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride to ignore. Through four seasons, Murphy has averaged nearly 15 yards per catch.
During training camp, where contact is limited, Murphy will have every opportunity to showcase his vertical threat capability. Murphy's chemistry with Manning should already be blossoming, as his workouts with his new quarterback date back to early April, when the Manning brothers each invited three receivers to throw around at Duke University.
Murphy will be hard to miss during training camp. His speed will make it difficult to deny him reps during the regular season.
RB Da'Rel Scott
Running backs David Wilson and Andre Brown are projected to be the No. 1 and No. 2 ball-carriers in the Giants offensive backfield this season, but the team's third back remains unknown.
Former Washington Redskin Ryan Torain and seventh-round selection Michael Cox could get involved, but third-year pro Da'Rel Scott is the favorite to have a breakout season in 2013.
Scott hasn't produced much in his two seasons of service. The University of Maryland speedster has just 11 carries for 25 yards under his belt. Last season, Scott played in only four games before landing on the injured reserve (IR) list to make room on the roster for defensive tackle Chris Canty, who was returning to action from the physically unable to perform (PUP) list.
Aside from a 97-yard touchdown run against the Chicago Bears during the 2011 preseason, Scott hasn't flashed much promise. That could change this summer, as the former seventh-round draft choice will have the chance to attack a wide-open dogfight for the third running back spot.
The competition is sparse, and Scott has a legitimate chance to make an impact. A few eye-catching runs in training camp could spring him into the lineup this fall.