Whether you’re considered the best team in the NFL or the worst, you’ve got holes in your roster somewhere. So in addition to preparing for the regular season, training camp allows teams and coaches to evaluate the talent they have in order to put the best team on the field every Sunday.
Below is a list of battles you should expect to see during New York Giants training camp this summer in Albany.
There are few fans that care about the third-string quarterbacks, but it’s legitimate and important position nonetheless. And after drafting Sam Houston State QB Rhett Bomar in round five (151st overall), the New York Giants will now add that to several position battles they’ve have a close eye on throughout training camp.
In rookie mini-camp, Bomar really impressed. He showed a strong arm, good accuracy and an overall ability that a fifth-round draft pick shouldn’t have. Meanwhile, Andre’ Woodson, the teams current third-string quarterback, continued to be somewhat of a letdown.
The purpose of both quarterbacks’ is not necessarily to play in New York, but to groom behind Eli Manning and eventually trade for picks higher than what they were drafted (ala Matt Schaub).
The loser of the battle is going to be cut, and for that reason alone, it’s extremely important.
Projected Winner – Rhett Bomar
Back-Up Running Back
With Derrick Ward now residing in Tampa Bay, it’s up to the Giants to fill his shoes. And although the general consensus is that Ahmad Bradshaw will be the one stepping up, there’s no reason to snooze on Danny Ware.
Only a year ago, Ware dominated the preseason and looked like New York’s best running back. And although he did it against lesser competition, he went on to showcase that same ability with his two regular season carries. Sure, it may not be much of a sample size, but it’s proof that the preseason was no fluke.
Still, Bradshaw has to be the favorite going into camp. After all, he was a hero throughout the 2007 NFL Playoffs and looked just as explosive (averaging 5.3 ypc) last season. The only real knock against him is a mild case of fumblitis…but as we know, that’s nothing Tom Coughlin can’t cure.
Projected Winner – Ahmad Bradshaw
When people talk about intriguing training camp battles, they can’t help but mention the Giants wide receivers. With both Plaxico Burress and Amani Toomer no longer with the team, and only a crop of extremely young players left, this battle may be most important of any across the NFL.
Not only will the Giants be looking to fill the No. 1 spot, but due to so much uncertainty, they’ll be looking to fill the entire depth chart at wide receiver.
1) Domenik Hixon
Hixon took over in place of Burress as the Giants No. 1 last season, and although he held his own, he also had a few drops in big spots and looked a bit out of his league at times.
He may not be the No. 1 wide receiver New York is looking for, but he plays well enough to earn a spot and can be very valuable on Special Teams, specifically as a return man.
2) Steve Smith
At 5’11’’, Smith doesn’t really have the size needed to be a true number one in the Giants system. But that’s not to say he isn’t extremely valuable…in fact, he may very well be New York’s most valuable asset at wide receiver.
Like a young Amani Toomer, he is a tremendous possession receiver and has earned the trust of quarterback Eli Manning.
3) Sinorice Moss
As hard as it may be to believe, Moss is now the Giants most veteran receiver. With four years of what we’ll call experience (spent mostly on the bench), he’s the elder of the group and one the rookies will look to for advice.
Unfortunately for Moss, that may be his greatest value. Despite his speed and the ability he showed coming out of college, he hasn’t been able to translate that potential to the field. He’s also become a constant injury concern.
4) Mario Manningham
Many fans expected big things from Manningham in 2008, but after looking completely overwhelmed in the few opportunities he was given, those high hopes have faded a bit.
Still, the second-year man out of Michigan possesses an interesting set of skills that includes blazing speed and fantastic hands.
If he can get his head on straight and find the motivation he needs to get himself to the next level, he could be a tremendous asset for offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride.
5) Ramses Barden
Listed at 6’6’’ and known for his ability to get open behind defenders, Barden is the closest thing the Giants currently have to a prototypical number one.
Unfortunately, he doesn’t possess the same speed as some of the earlier wide receivers mentioned and may not have the same success against NFL cornerbacks as he did in college.
That said, he’s still a big target and will most certainly play a huge role once the Giants get into the green zone.
6) Hakeem Nicks
Rarely does a rookie wide receiver come into the NFL and have a tremendous impact off the bat, but it’s not impossible.
And as the most polished wideout taken in the draft, Nicks is NFL-ready and positioned to take over for the now departed Plaxico Burress. With size 4XL hands, decent speed, good size and a knack for making the big play,
Nicks could make Big Blue fans forget all about what they lost in the offseason.
7) David Tyree, Taye Biddle, Derek Hagan, Micah Rucker and Shaun Bodiford
Given their sudden depth on the defensive line, there’s no telling how many wide receivers the Giants are going to carry this season. And with so many players and only a certain number of spots available, you can expect the best everyone has to offer during training camp.
After his heroics in Super Bowl XLII and his tremendous Special Teams ability, David Tyree likely has the inside track to the final wide receiver position.
And if the Giants decide to go with only six receivers* as opposed to seven, there’s a good chance that could spell the end for Sinorice Moss.
Projected Depth Chart – Hakeem Nicks, Steve Smith, Domenik Hixon, Ramses Barden, Mario Manningham, David Tyree and Sinorice Moss*.
Third Tight End
Like their wide receiver corps, the Giants tight ends are very young…and likely getting younger.
Behind Kevin Boss, it’s probable that Travis Beckum, a rookie out of Wisconsin, will get the nod. The Giants plan to use him similarly to the way the Washington Redskins use Chris Cooley, and that leaves only one remaining spot with five other players vying for it.
The offseason addition of Lee Vickers doesn’t mean he’s a shoe-in for the job, but it does mean New York wasn’t overly satisfied with their backups. So they’ll be keeping an eye on him as well as Darcy Johnson and Michael Matthews.
In the end, I think Vickers size and blocking ability will be enough to win the job, but I wouldn’t expect that decision to be made until the last possible second.
This may be the most intense, yet rarely talked about Giants training camp battle.
Projected Winner – Lee Vickers
One of the Giants weakest positions over the last few seasons has been at linebacker, but with the free agent addition of Michael Boley and the second-round selection of Clint Sintim, the tides may have finally turned.
While Boley has a clear path to the starting job on the weak-side, the same cannot be said for Sintim on the strong-side. He’ll have to come in and compete with Danny Clark, who performed well last season despite being unfamiliar with the Giants’ system.
Many fans have already chalked Sintim up as the winner of this battle, but as the saying goes, that’s why they play the game.
Sintim may have good size, speed and strength, but he doesn’t have experience in this sort of system. And while defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan, who took over for Steve Spagnuolo, plans to change some things up, there will still be a significant learning curve for Sintim.
Meanwhile, Clark, who faced a similar challenge last year, has one-year of experience in the Giants system and thus, the leg up. That’s not to say he couldn’t lose the starting job, however. He clearly showed some weaknesses in 2008 and if they cannot be corrected, the door may be wide open for the rookie.
Either way, this will likely be a very good battle.
Projected Winner – Danny Clark
Perhaps the Giants weakest area is also their thinnest. As it stands right now, Big Blue has only five safeties on their roster vying for four sports. And with Michael Johnson, Kenny Phillips and C.C. Brown all locked in, that leaves little room for any significant battle.
Barring another addition, Steve Cargile, a Denver castoff who has only played in 15 career games, and Sha’reff Rashad, an undrafted rookie free agent, will battle for the final spot.
When you consider how deep the Giants are at almost every other position, it’s somewhat baffling to see the backend of their safety depth. Neither of these players brings anything tremendous to the table and in the event of an injury, would be huge liability for one of the best defenses in the league.
Lucky for the Giants, they also signed undrafted rookie free agent Kenny Ingram.
Although listed as a linebacker, Ingram does have experience as a safety and has all of the tools necessary to play that position. In addition to great size (6’5’’, 239 lbs.), Ingram has impressive speed for a big man (4.52 40-yard dash) and very good hands.
If the Giants move him to safety, as it’s expect they will, there’s little doubt that he can beat out the rest of the competition for the final spot.
Projected Winner – Kenny Ingram