Training Camp Battles: Where Champions Are Born

Alex MagidCorrespondent IMay 22, 2009


1. The act of competing, as for profit or a prize; rivalry.
2. A test of skill or ability; a contest: a skating competition.
3. Rivalry between two or more businesses striving for the same customer or market.
4. A competitor: The competition has cornered the market.
Competition has been around ever since the Earth was formed. What makes sports so great? It is the competition between individuals and teams, where intelligence, ability, and a little bit of luck is used.
Competition is supposed to bring out the best of each other, as players are tested to see how they perform under pressure and scrutiny of every little move they make.
The 2009 New York football Giants have high expectations going into the season as they look to make a fifth straight playoff appearance. The Giants roster is loaded with talent and superstars, but it is the under appreciated players that separate the men from the boys.
Training camp is a time for the younger plays to work, improve, and hone their skills, while the veterans knock the cob webs off that accumulated throughout the off season.

Third-String Quarterback: Andre Woodson vs. Rhett Bomar (rookie)
Coming out of the 2008 NFL Draft, many fans felt the Giants had a steal in Andre Woodson. Woodson was drafted out of Kentucky, and before the collegiate season began, he was projected as a first day pick.
Woodson rewrote the record books at the University of Kentucky, breaking many of Tim Couch's records. Couch was drafted 1st overall in the 1999 draft.
Bomar was a great prospect coming out of high school, and attended the University of Oklahoma. After a standout freshman season, Bomar was dismissed from the football team for taking money at a no-show car dealership job. Bomar then sat out a season (NCAA rules) and resurrected his career at Sam Houston State University.
The face of the Giants franchise resides at quarterback, as Eli Manning is a Super Bowl winning quarterback, that took in the MVP honors of the game. Second string quarterback is David Carr, who was the first ever draft pick for the expansion Houston Texans.
After those two, the competition begins. Woodson spent most of the season on the practice squad last year, and Bomar looks to take over the third string slot on the depth chart. Andre Woodson's critics say Woodson has a slow delivery and he can not be a successful NFL quarterback.
The knock on Bomar is that he has a quirky delivery, and some people fear he isn't as accurate as he should be. This position is completely up for grabs. You may not think this is an important battle as it is the third-string quarterback, but with one injury, they become one of the most important players on the team, the backup quarterback.

Second-String Running Back: Ahmad Bradshaw vs. Danny Ware vs. Andre Brown (rookie)
Bradshaw made a name for himself in the 2007 miraculous run, as he became a threat every time he touched the ball in his rookie season out of Marshall. Bradshaw is the perfect yin, to Brandon Jacobs yang.
Bradshaw had tremendous cutting ability, as he can stop on a dime, switch directions, and find the crease to slip his way through the line and break into the secondary.
In the opportunities that Danny Ware has been given, he has shined. Last preseason, Ware was the best running back for the Giants. Then again, his time came in the third and 4th quarters versus other opposing teams third and fourth stringers.
However, he did his job and that is all you can ask for. Ware was undrafted out of the University of Georgia, and has worked hard to make himself the best player that he can be.
Andre Brown is a rookie from North Carolina State University and was drafted in the fourth round. Brown has all the tools you look for in a running back, with the size, speed, vision, blocking ability, and toughness to become a successful NFL player.
Going into training camp, many people believe that Ahmad Bradshaw is the No. 2 running back behind Jacobs. I believe Bradshaw will show the coaches that he can receive more carries, and shoulder more of a workload than years past.
After that, I believe the battle will truly be between Ware and Brown. Obviously the Giants were high on Brown to take him in the draft, while they currently had three other running backs on the roster.
It should be interesting to watch, but if I had my input with Tom Coughlin the depth chart would read, Jacobs, Bradshaw, Brown, and then Ware. Ware would then also be an option in the return game.
Wide Receiver: The Entire Receiving Corps - Hixon, Smith, Moss, Manningham, Tyree, Nicks (rookie), Barden (rookie)
The biggest question going into the 2009 season is how the Giants will overcome the loss of Plaxico Burress. Kevin Gilbride understands his players strengths and weaknesses and he will be able to exploit defenses by focusing on the Giants strengths.
Mike Sullivan, the receivers coach, is the most important position coach this July and August. Each player brings their own set of skills that the Giants are going to use to their advantage. Instead of having a set depth chart look for the Giants to rotate their receivers in and out of packages, to create mismatches with the defense.
Domenik Hixon has speed which makes him a big play threat. Steve Smith is the perfect safety blanket for Eli Manning, as he finds the holes in the defense and is able to create enough space for Manning to throw to.
Smith has great hands and is commonly used on third downs to move the chains.
Sinorice Moss is a small, quick, elusive, fast wide receiver. With those four adjectives, you would think he would be a superstar. Moss has had trouble staying healthy, but this could be his year, as it is his contract year before free agency.
Mario Manningham is just a year removed from the college ranks, as he was a standout in the Big Ten Conference at the University of Michigan. Manningham has big play ability, and just has to tap into his great potential. David Tyree will forever be remembered for his play in Super Bowl XLII, but he wants to be more than just that.
Tyree is the elder among the corps, and hopes that with his veteran leadership, he can share his knowledge with the younger players. Then comes Hakeem Nicks, the 29th overall player drafted out of North Carolina. Nicks left after his junior season, and the last player to do that from North Carolina was Julius Peppers.
Nicks has everything you look for in a solid number one receiver, with the size, speed, hands, and route running ability to become a perennial pro-bowl candidate. Ramses Barden was drafted in the third round, and viewed as Plaxico Burress' replacement, because Barden is 6'6''.
Barden will be a "green zone" threat right away, starting week one just due to the main fact of the mismatches he will create.
Kevin Gilbride has come out and said that currently Hixon is the No. 1, Smith is the No. 2 (as he will be given an opportunity to win a spot on the outside, instead of the slot position), and Moss is the slot receiver.
This is all subject to change, as the Giants have a plethora of options at the position, but need to decipher which skill set is most useful.
In my opinion, don't be surprised to see at the end of training camp going into the regular season, Hixon at the No. 1, Nicks at the No. 2, Smith staying in the slot as the No. 3, and then Moss/Manningham filtering with each other as the No. 4.
Then when in the "green zone" Barden will come in for the fade route, and use his basketball background to out jump receivers with his vertical and freakish height.
Backup Lineman
Tackle - Kevin Boothe vs. Guy Whimper vs. William Beatty (rookie)
This position battle will be very interesting to watch. Boothe played a lot in the "green zone" when he was used as an extra blocker. Whimper was injured last season being placed on Injured Reserve.
Then the Giants spent their second round pick (60th overall) on Beatty, who possess great talent, but is raw at the position. The Giants are known for having a great offensive line, and part of the reason is because they are so familiar with each other.
They have started the past two seasons together so this position is very important to watch. If David Diehl or Kareem McKenzie goes down with an injury, it is important that his backup is capable of stepping in, and there be no significant drop off.
I personally believe Beatty will win the job, because the Giants were not going to use their second round pick, to have him be a practice squad player. Yes, I believe whoever is the odd man out in this threesome has a possibility of being placed on the practice squad, which means they are up for grabs to any team wanting their services.
This is just due to the fact of the Giants having so much talent elsewhere and only being allowed to keep 53 players on the roster.

Guard/Center - Adam Koets vs. Tutan Reyes
This is the other position battle along the offensive line to watch, as the Giants signed Reyes today showing their lack of depth in the interior of the offensive line. The Giants are trying to move Koets from tackle to center, as they decided to not resign Grey Ruegamer who was a versatile lineman that could play guard and center.
The Giants have other lineman vying for this spot (Alex Derenthal, Andrew Carnahan, Mike Fladell, and Cliff Louis) but I believe Koets and Reyes will separate themselves apart from the rest.
The Giants decision to sign Reyes who is a 10 year veteran in the NFL demonstrates that they want to have an experienced lineman that could step in right away. Reyes has started games in the past, and is the perfect replacement for Ruegamer.
I believe both will make the roster and the rest of the lineman listed before will be cut or demoted to the practice squad. If Seubert, O'Hara, or Snee goes down, Reyes will have his name called first.
Fourth defensive end- Dave Tollefson vs. Robert Henderson vs. Maurice Evans (rookie)
Jerry Reese has said you can never have enough pass rushers, and this Giants team is no different. The Giants have Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck, and Mathias Kiwanuka who will all see ample amounts of snaps, but the fourth spot is up for grabs. Tollefson has a relentless motor and has done well in limited playing time.
Henderson has had trouble staying healthy, and this could be his final chance. Then there is Maurice Evans, an undrafted rookie from Penn State. After his sophomore season, Evans was seen as a top 15 pick in the first round of the draft. Instead he got into trouble off the field, and was never able to get out of Joe Paterno's doghouse.
Evans lost his job to Aaron Maybin, who was drafted eleventh overall to the Buffalo Bills. The Giants feel they have really found a hidden gem in Evans, after watching him in Rookie Minicamp.
Don't be surprised to see Evans earn this spot, as he has all the tools you look for in an elite pass rusher. It will be tough for the Giants to keep Tollefson and Henderson on the 53 man roster, because of the style of defense they run. They are able to move Chris Canty to the end position, which creates another defensive end.

Defensive Tackle - Chris Canty vs. Rocky Bernard vs. Barry Cofield vs. Fred Robbins vs. Jay Alford
Chris Canty was signed from the rival Cowboys, and is a very productive NFL player. He was signed to a six-year deal, worth $42 million with an $8.5 million signing bonus and $17.25 million guaranteed. You don't spend that type of money to see him sit on the bench. Then the position battle comes down to Bernard, Cofield, and Robbins.
Alford will make the team due to his long snapping abilities. Don't be surprised to see them all make the team, but the real battle is for the playing time.
Bernard was signed during free agency from the Seahawks for four years and $16 million. Cofield has been a very productive pro in his young career, and Robbins was one of the best lineman for the Giants last season.
Mike Waufle, the defensive line coach, has said the best players will play, and players will be rotated in and out to stay fresh throughout the game, and more importantly, the season.
On passing situations, the Giants will move Tuck to the inside, having a defensive front of Osi, Tuck, Kiwanuka, and Canty. That is very intimidating. Therefore this position battle will be for first and second down, and then third and short.
I believe Canty will stay on the field for most of the downs, and then get his occasional rest. Then, the other starting defensive tackle will be Cofield, with Bernard and Robbins giving the starters a rest. Alford will see limited time at defensive tackle, but will be utilized on special teams.
Outside Linebacker - Michael Boley vs. Danny Clark vs. Gerris Wilkinson vs. Chase Blackburn vs. Bryan Kehl vs. Zak DeOssie vs. Clint Sintim (rookie)
Here is a seven-player battle, for two open positions. But in reality, its not as close as you may think. Boley was signed from the Atlanta Falcons to a five year deal worth $25 million, with $11 million guaranteed.
Boley has the speed the Giants have been lacking in their linebacking corps, and should be starting at weak side linebacker. Danny Clark has been around the NFL for a while, and its possible his time is up.
The Giants need speed and playmakers at the linebacker position, as they are ready for youth to be served. Wilkinson has a lot of potential but has had trouble staying healthy. Blackburn has a motor that never stops and always seems to be around the ball.
Kehl played sparingly in his rookie season last year, and has a lot of room for improvement. DeOssie was great on special teams, and then made the Pro Bowl for his long snapping duties.
Then comes the rookie, Clint Sintim, from the University of Virginia. Sintim has great speed and can make the plays in the backfield, which the Giants love to see. Getting stops for loss on first and second down creates obvious passing downs, which is when the Giants are best.
Then they can pin their ears back and really get after the quarterback.
Boley is going to the starting weak side linebacker, and Bill Sheridan (the Giants defensive coordinator) has been rumored to have said that Sintim will be the starting strong side linebacker. DeOssie will make the team on his special team attributes alone, and will see limited time at linebacker.
I believe Clark has a good chance of being cut, and then Blackburn, Wilkinson, and Kehl will have to vie for the two backup outside linebacker positions.

Instead of giving an indepth analysis of the secondary, I'll try to keep it short and sweet. Corey Webster and Aaron Ross have become a great starting duo at both corner spots.
Terrell Thomas should keep the spot of the No. 3 corner, and Kevin Dockery will win the No. 4 spot.
DeAndre Wright (Rookie - New Mexico), Stoney Woodson (Rookie - South Carolina), Bruce Johnson (Rookie - Miami University), and Vince Anderson (Rookie - Webber International) will all try to make the 53-man roster as a special teams contributor and improve their secondary cover skills to earn playing time.
Kenny Phillips and Michael Johnson are the starting two safeties, with CC Brown as the backup to both positions. Then the battle is between Sha'Reef Rashad (Rookie - Central Florida) and Steve Cargile. Look for Rashad to win this battle with his superior football IQ, and athleticism.

Kick/Punt Returner - Domenik Hixon vs. Sinorice Moss vs. Ahmad Bradshaw vs. Danny Ware
If Hixon and Moss are seeing extended playing time as wide receivers, they most likely will not be filling these duties. If Bradshaw is the No. 2 running back, he won't be returning either. Then it falls into Danny Ware's lap, unless the Giants decide to work out other players.
Then again, Joshua Cribbs, the Pro Bowl return man for the Cleveland Browns, is now demanding a trade after learning the Browns won't renegotiate his contract.
He may not be the receiver everyone wants from the Browns, but as we've all seen in the past, the return game has almost as much influence as the offensive and defensive sides of the ball.
That is doubtful, but if the Giants aren't happy with their return game, don't be surprised to see Jerry Reese pull the trigger for an established return man. Keep in mind, they waited until after the draft last season to trade Jeremy Shockey to the Saints.