As the New York Giants go through their OTA's and off season workout programs, the team is looking for some new stars to step up and have break out seasons.
Although Burress' spot is biggest to fill on the offensive side of the ball, New York must also have great productivity on defense, as well as on special teams.
The defense must have a player whose going to take over the role of James Butler, who is now with the St. Louis Rams, because he was a veteran leader on that side of the ball.
A unique special teams player must also rise to the occasion, because if Domenik Hixon is going to be getting a lot of time on offense, then New York must have a solid return man who has the threat of taking it for six every time.
Here are the three breakout players, from all three phases of the game, who are projected to have fantastic seasons.
Offense - Steve Smith, Wide Receiver
With Burress now long gone, the Giants' offense must now look for that one threat to go to when the time is needed.
New York drafted Hakeem Nicks and Ramses Barden in this year's draft, and both players will be called upon to have great years.
Yet, as in the past two seasons, quarterback Eli Manning has always looked for a certain receiver to throw too when he is getting in trouble.
That player is third year man Steve Smith whose role should increase after the departure of Burress. Smith as always been used in the slot position and Manning always looked for him to be open on critical third downs.
Smith will now be looked upon more often because he has the most experience out of all the wide receivers. Hixon only started to come on towards the end of the 2007 season and throughout last season, Nicks and Barden are both rookies, and Sinorice Moss, Mario Manningham, and David Tyree have all been plagued with injuries in their first few seasons with the Giants.
Manning will be looking to get Smith the ball on all three downs, instead of just relying on him to always be open on third down.
Defense - Kenny Phillips, Safety
Although James Butler was not the super star player of the Giants' defense the past couple of years, he was a key component to the Super Bowl run as well as in last year's division winning season.
He followed ex-defensive coordinator Steve Spagnulo to St. Louis and New York is looking for a stud to play along side Michael Johnson in the defensive backfield.
2008 first round draft pick Kenny Phillips should have no problem filling in as the full time safety for Butler.
Even though Phillips was only on the defensive side of the ball on certain packages, he did have two starts throughout the year, and also got some valuable time on special teams.
Phillips is a hard hitting, hard nose guy who loves to fly to the ball, which we saw glimpses of last season and throughout his entire college career at Miami.
He is looked at by many critics and analysts to become one of the next super star safeties in the league, and if he continues to learn and grow as an NFL player, there will be no difficulty in him taking over.
Special Teams - Ahmad Bradshaw, Kick Returner/Punt Returner
This part of the game is very important to the Giants and Coach Tom Coughlin loves winning the battle of field position.
Hixon and R.W. McQuarters did a very nice job in returning kicks and punts for the Giants, but with Hixon's role on the offense more demanding and McQuarters no longer being on the team, the battle for the return specialist is up for grabs.
Ahmad Bradshaw should come out of camp winning this job, even though his role on offense has also gone up and he will be the second running back due to Derrick Ward leaving for Tampa Bay.
Bradshaw also has experience returning kicks for the Giants and with his speed and agility, he always as the ability to take it all the way.
If he does a good job of setting up the Giants with good field position, he would be helping out his offensive teammates, as well as himself, in scoring more touchdowns instead of settling for field goals.
These three Giants' players should all have breakout seasons and contribute to the success that this team is bound to have.
*Also check this article that I have written on blogNYG.com
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