Last year the battle for the final wide receiver slot was resolved shortly after the last pre-season game against the Patriots.
In what many speculated to be a race that was neck-and-neck throughout August, Sinorice Moss ultimately edged out Brandon London to earn the last slot on the depth chart. London was promptly cut then picked up by the Miami Dolphins.
Some may have thought this transaction occured because Sinorice Moss was simply the better player then Brandon London. However, this may not necessarily be true. In all likelihood, the Giants decided to hold on to Moss in order to fill a need.
London, a confident receiver from the University of Massachusetts, impressed many in the training camp of 2008. But what the 6'4 receiver offered the Giants already had in the 6'5 Plaxico Burress. Why would the Giants fill a valuable roster spot with a player that fits the same mold of their best receiver?
Additionally, the Giants had no player that could boast the skillset that Sinorice Moss possesses. Mario Manningham was drafted to stretch the field, but a training camp hampered by injuries essentially terminated any chance for Manningham to make an immediate impact. Thus, Moss was the only receiver on the team that could turn a short pass into a long touchdown, and his roster spot was safe.
Now let's fast-forward to the present. Moss, cleverly dubbed "Mr. August" due to his penchant to dominate the practice fields in Albany but disappear when the calendar turns to September, is again in a battle for his roster spot.
Derek Hagan, who is also heading into his fourth season, has been impressive in training camp and has given the coaches no choice but to seriously consider him making the final 53. His achilles heel has always been his case of the dropsies, but that issue has not plagued him this training camp. He's been incredibly smooth and a reliable target since camp opened.
Hagan also poses as a downfield threat, running a 4.45 in 2006, which was only .04 seconds behind Sinorice Moss. Their running styles are distinguished, as Moss is a lightning-quick fast due to his tiny 5'8 frame. Hagan on the other hand is 6'2 and isn't capable of stopping on a dime as Moss is, but can easily blow right by opposing corners.
Now Mario Manningham steps in.
Manningham stands at 5'11, directly in the middle of Hagan and Moss. His style of play resembles more of the quickness of Moss than the speed of Hagan. His rookie year was a wash due to his inability to stay healthy in training camp and catch up as the season progressed.
This year, there are new expectations stamped on Manningham. Suddenly, with the loss of Plaxico Burress and Amani Toomer, the burden is placed on the younger receivers that are capable of stretching the field. All reports appear to indicate that Manningham has taken well to the challenge, as he had a successful spring and an equally strong training camp.
If Manningham plays well in pre-season, then this could place Moss on the cusp of being cut. Moss has had three years to prove himself and has failed each season. If the Giants are confident that Manningham could fill the void of an underneath receiver that could burn the defense, what good would Moss serve?
Hagan has five inches on Moss and enough speed to stretch the field. His biggest weakness has seemingly been alleviated based on training camp. If he further proves himself in actual game-action, he offers too much to be cut in favor of Sinorice Moss.
All of this may be contingent on Manningham though. If he is unable to seize the oppurtunity and take a firm hold on being the "quickster" of the team, then the Giants may need to hold on to Moss for insurance purposes.
However, if he instills enough confidence in the brain trust of the Giants, then Hagan will be wearing blue on opening day.