Patrolling the Depths is a weekly look at the depth chart battles all over the NFL.
With NFL preseason camps just over a month away, this time of year is crucial for coaches around the league to implement changes to the playbooks and tweaks to the roster. Each team will go into summer camp with high hopes for some players to step up and increase their role in helping their team win games.
Every week, we will take a look at key players, the positional battles being waged this offseason, and how this will affect the squads on their respective quests toward the playoffs.
New York Giants – Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Considering the level of talent on the New York Giants’ roster, this may the single most important positional question in all of the NFL—they are that close to being a complete team. The Plaxico Burress incident has been covered ad nauseum, but the hole left by his departure is significant as evidenced by the Giants late-season collapse and quick playoff ouster in 2008.
The veteran leadership lost by Burress’ absence along with Amani Toomer not being offered an extension is also something to consider as the G-Men look to right the ship for a run at Super Bowl XLIV.
Third-year offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride recently stated that every position at wideout is up for grabs, which will create a very competitive atmosphere through summer camp and beyond. Wide receiver Steve Smith and tight end Kevin Boss are the only players guaranteed touches, as Boss will be starting again and Smith will be the slot receiver, a role he successfully grew into last season.
Steve Smith - Smith led the Giants with 57 receptions in ’08 and will look to build on his second-year success. It is possible that he earns the coveted No. 1 receiver position and play outside which would leave the Giants looking for someone else to step into the slot role. Either way, he will be quarterback Eli Manning’s number one option this season.
Kevin Boss – He has proven his ability to be a go-to player and we are likely to see an increase in his role in the Giants’ offense. As the wide receivers try to fit into their new roles, Boss will open up the middle of the field for the Giants dominant ground attack, which was first in the league last season.
Dominik Hixon – Hixon stepped up in his first full season with the Giants becoming not only the regular punt returner but also grabbing 43 passes, third most on the team. He showed the coaches exactly what they needed to see, that he can be a reliable option for Manning. Hixon will be a valuable starter again this season and will have to prove himself all over again so as not to lose playing time to the big-time rookies the Giants acquired on draft day.
Hakeem Nicks – The North Carolina product became the Giants’ No. 1 draft pick in 2009 and will be expected to produce early and often. While he certainly projects to be Manning’s number one option at some point, it is rare that a rookie can step into that role seamlessly. Expect to see him on the field from Week 1and to see the size of his role increase through the season.
Ramses Barden – The third round draft pick out of Cal Poly has generated a fair amount of buzz simply due to his physical attributes at 6’6” and 227 pounds. He reeled in 18 touchdown passes last year alone so the hope is that some of that big-play ability can translate to the much higher level of competition. Barden will have the opportunity to crack the regular lineup but, at the very least, Manning will have another big target to utilize in the red zone.
Travis Beckum – The Wisconsin rookie is probably going to be used as a hybrid tight end and H-Back with the Giants so he will be catching passes out of the backfield. Derrick Ward had 41 receptions out of the backfield last season but his departure to Tampa Bay will ensure that the Giants need someone to fill that need immediately, expect Beckum to be that player.
Sinorice Moss – The 2006 second-round pick has been a disappointment thus far in his Giants’ career with only 38 catches to date, but the expectation will be that he can play a role providing reliable depth and flash his ability to break a big play on occasion.
David Tyree – The Super Bowl XLII hero will have his work cut out for him after missing the entire 2008 season due to injury. Despite roles being up for grabs, quite a few players are battling for them and someone will have to be a casualty.
Mario Manningham – After only four catches as a rookie, the Giants sent a message by taking two more rookies at his position. He will have to prove that he is worthy of a roster spot this August.
Overall, the Giants have good depth at these positions but may lack the big play receiver that they had in Burress for three-and-a-half seasons. It is imperative that the rookies contribute and other veterans raise their game because the Giants have the type of roster that can win a ring if they get a little more from their pass catchers. I think this will be a struggle for at least the first half of the season but the focus for this team is January—only time will tell us how these players develop.
This article was originally published on www.fantasypros911.com