Giants Preseason Positional Battles: Earn Your Stripes

Tom BarnettCorrespondent IMay 20, 2009

Let's fast forward a few months to the first week of August, when Tom Coughlin and the Giants will travel to the University of Albany to begin training camp.  What players should we key in on?  What positions still have roles up for grabs?

Let's take a look at each spot up for grabs.

Wide Receiver

No. 1—Steve Smith

No. 2—Domenik Hixon vs. Hakeem Nicks

No. 3—Ramses Barden vs. Mario Manningham vs. Sinorice Moss vs. David Tyree

Well, there it is.  The most discussed position for the Giants this offseason.  Will all seven of these players make the team?  Well, it's a long shot.

I fully expect the Giants' receiving battle to be open as the season goes on, with players earning their playing time if they showcase the ability to perform on Sundays.  Until someone emerges during the season, we will likely see a rotation of players come in and out at the receiver position.

In my opinion, Steve Smith has earned the No. 1 receiver spot.  He has been Eli Manning's go-to-guy on third downs and provides the team with a bit of experience.  Plus, it's going to be Smith's third season in the NFL, which is typically when most receivers have their breakout seasons (don't worry, I knocked on wood).

Domenik Hixon will likely be second on the depth chart, but I don't think he'll be on the field as often as most No. 2 wide receivers because he should also be used where he excels, on special teams. 

I think the Giants will heavily use a bit of a rotation here to give everyone a chance early on, unless someone clearly emerges during the preseason or training camp as the best receiving threat.  Ultimately, the Giants' first-round pick, Hakeem Nicks, will likely split time with Hixon heavily.

The third receiver could often depend on the defensive personnel of the opposing team.  The Giants could either take advantage of small corners with the height of Ramses Barden or take advantage of their potential deep threat in Mario Manningham.  Eli Manning said he feels Manningham can step up and contribute a lot to the team this season as a deep threat, so we'll see how that goes.

David Tyree probably won't see much time as a receiver, due to the depth already present.  His role on the team is special teams play, still.

Sinorice Moss appears to be the odd man out in New York, after three disappointing seasons.

Predicted Depth Chart: Steve Smith, Domenik Hixon, Hakeem Nicks, Mario Manningham, Ramses Barden, David Tyree


Strongside Linebacker

Danny Clark vs. Clint Sintim vs. Bryan Kehl vs. Chase Blackburn

This position battle should come down to Danny Clark and Clint Sintim, since Bryan Kehl and Chase Blackburn are both naturally weakside linebackers.

Clark has the experience and has already adjusted to the Giants defensive system.  On the other hand, Sintim played college football at Virginia, where they primarily run the 3-4 defense.

Clark will most likely be the starter Week One, but I expect to see Sintim on the field in pass-rush situations.  Sintim had 11 sacks last season for Virginia.  Sintim's one weakness may be stopping the rush, which may cost him the starting spot during preseason.

Predicted Winner: Danny Clark

Running back

First, you wear them down with Brandon Jacobs.  Then what?  This season, the Giants will be without Derrick Ward, their No. 2 back last year.  However, they have two options competing for the number two spot in Ahmad Bradshaw and Danny Ware, plus rookie running back Andre Brown.

While Bradshaw and Ware will enter the season in a competition for the second spot, I think Bradshaw has the clear advantage, since he was higher on the depth chart last season and has more playing experience.  Ware will definitely see more than the two touches he had last season, though.  Perhaps this is the second version of the three-headed monster?

Predicted Winner: Ahmad Bradshaw


Quarterback No. 3

Andre Woodson vs. Rhett Bomar

We all know the first two spots are locked up by Eli Manning and David Carr, but third string is still up for grabs. 

Last season, the Giants drafted Andre Woodson in the sixth round, hoping to groom him into a formidable player they could trade for draft picks in a few years in a similar fashion as the Falcons did with Matt Schaub. 

Woodson had a great college career, but slid all the way to the sixth round because scouts were worried about his throwing motion.  However, Woodson still threw for 40 touchdowns during his senior season at Kentucky, go 325 pass attempts without throwing an interception, and also broke Kentucky's all-time touchdown passes mark with 81, surpassing Jared Lorenzen's previous record of 78 touchdown passes.

Since making it to the NFL, though, Woodson has been unimpressive.  Woodson went 3-9 last preseason and threw for just 41 yards.  Even though he saw very limited time on the field, he still managed to throw one interception and fumble twice.

Rhett Bomar was drafted this year in the fifth round and will give Woodson plenty of competition.  Bomar moved his way to the top of the depth chart in just the second game of his freshman season at Oklahoma. 

He started off slow, but improved each week and eventually earned MVP honors in the Holiday Bowl against Oregon.  Bomar was dismissed by head coach Bob Stoops the next season, though, for accepting payments from a car dealership for work he didn't do.  Bomar then transferred to Sam Houston State for his last two years of eligibility, where he went on to win the Walter Payton Award, which is awarded to the best player in the Football Champtionship Subdivsion.

The battle is really wide open.  Woodson seemed to have the jitters during the preseason last year and struggled learning the playbook, but those problems really should be gone by now.  I feel that Woodson will use the selection of another quarterback as his fuel to succeed, while Bomar will struggle a bit as he tries to pick up the Giants' in-depth playbook.  I expect the loser of this battle to remain with the team on the practice squad, though.

Predicted Winner: Andre Woodson


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