Training Camp is starting in Albany and the Super Bowl champion Giants have a few questions as to who will start or keep a spot on the roster come week one.
There's no question that Super Bowl M.V.P. Eli Manning will be first on the depth chart, but the two backup roles are a different story.
Without recently waived QB Jarred Lorenzon, the Giants are left with three quarterbacks in veterans David Carr and Anthony Wright along with rookie Andre Woodson, and only two spots.
Wright held the third string job for most of the season last year, before moving up to second string following an injury to Lorenzon. The Giants are likely to keep one veteran and a rookie to groom to eventually take over, so Woodson is probably a lock at third string.
As for second string, it all depends on who performs in training camp. Look for former No. 1 overall pick Carr to beat out Wright and assume the backup role.
Big Blue had a very good running game last season, with bruiser Brandon Jacobs as the featured back.
Derrick Ward opened the season in the backup role, until going down with a broken leg in a game against the Bears that shut him down for the season. Although Ward was having a great season in the backup spot, substituting for Jacobs when he got nicked up, something bright did come out of his injury. It opened the doors for Ahmad Bradshaw.
Bradshaw proved to be a great change of pace compared to Jacobs. Bradshaw was the lightning to Jacobs' thunder. When Bradshaw emerged, Reuben Droughns, who led the team in rushing touchdowns with six, got lost and didn't do much the rest of the season.
The Giants also have a young runningback with some potential in Danny Ware. Ware runs much like Jacobs, although he is not as big, does not go down on first contact.
I'm seeing Jacobs getting most of the carries next season, but also giving Bradshaw and Ward a lot of carries.
Here's where things get interesting.
Plaxico Burress, assuming he gets a new contract and plays, will be the No. 1 receiver.
Amani Toomer, who is nearing the back end of his career but is still a solid receiver, will open the season as the No. 2 receiver.
The Giants have 11 receivers on the roster right now. I can see four of those guys (Sinorice Moss, Steve Smith, Mario Manningham, and David Tyree) winning the No. 3 receiver spot.
Steve Smith, who held the position most of last year, proved to have great potential, despite being injured twice.
Sinorice Moss has never had a chance to show what he can do because he has been injured so much, but he claims he has made great strides in the offseason and is ready to shine.
David Tyree was hurt most of last season and didn't have much of an impact until the postseason.
Mario Manningham, the Giants' third round pick this year, was once seen as a sure first round pick, but fell to the third round because of off the field issues.
Manningham, who was a Heisman Trophy candidate, should prove to be a playmaker. I'm thinking something like a young, raw Steve Smith (of the Carolina Panthers). My bet is that Smith will keep the third WR spot and Manningham, if he can stay out of trouble, will get the fourth spot.
Tyree and Moss will be kept on the active roster, but will not see much playing time. Moss will see more time than Tyree, though, because of his blazing speed.
The Giants also have a receiver in Dominik Hixon, who might be granted a roster spot as the kick returner. Hixon proved to be a good return man last season.
The Giants' defensive line obviously took a huge hit with the retirement of Michael Strahan. Osi Umenyiora will keep his spot at right end, and Justin Tuck will take over for Strahan at left end.
This could be worse than people think. Tuck, who is so explosive on the inside, will now have to play outside, where he won't have the same impact. He will still be phenomenal, but as Strahan said in an interview with Fox, Tuck is more valuable on the inside.
Strahan also said that Mathias Kiwanuka, a defensive end/converted linebacker, is an explosive end and the Giants would benefit by letting him start at left end, and having Tuck play defensive tackle.
I don't see this happening, though, because Kiwanuka has developed into a starting outside linebacker, and with the losses of Reggie Torbor and Kawika Mitchell via free agency, the Giants can't afford to do this.
The Giants also signed veteran Renaldo Wynn. Wynn can play both tackle and end and his versatility will be valuable to the line.
Fred Robbins and Barry Cofield are the starting defensive tackles and should put up solid numbers, as they always do.
The Giants' linebacker corps also took a hit with the losses of Kawika Mitchell and Reggie Torbor, but I'm betting they will come out okay.
The Giants lost their starting strong side linebacker early in the season, when Mathias Kiwanuka fractured his tibia. Big Blue will be getting him back, making up for the loss of Torbor.
To try to make up for losing Mitchell, the Giants drafted outside linebacker Bryan Kehl in the fourth round of this year's draft. Kehl is an athletic linebacker, who has great football knowledge and was a leader of his college team, BYU.
The Giants also have a young, talented linebacker in Gerris Wilkinson. The Giants have high hopes for Wilkinson, and they should. Wilkinson has all the tools to be an above average linebacker in the NFL. He's got speed, good hands, is a sure tackler, and can cover a receiver just as well as anyone.
The Giants also drafted inside linebacker Jonathon Goff in the fifth round and signed Danny Clark. Goff is an inside linebacker who is not as athletic as Kehl, but still has great football smarts and put up solid numbers at Vanderbilt. Clark can play all linebacker positions and should prove to be a valuable reserve, if he doesn't end up starting in the spot left by Mitchell.
Antonio Pierce is the starting middle linebacker and will most likely put up anywhere from solid to great numbers, which he always does. I'm thinking that the starting linebackers will be Kiwanuka on the strong side, Pierce in the middle, and Wilkinson on the weak side. But don't be surprised to see Clark or Kehl starting on the weak side either.
The Giants have a surplus of capable cornerbacks, and it will be interesting to see what will happen.
I see Aaron Ross, last year's first round pick, as a lock for a starting job. The other cornerback spot should be given to whomever performs the best in training camp and the preseason. The front runners are Corey Webster and Sam Madison.
Webster began the season as the starter, but then lost his spot after under performing. However, he did have a phenomenal postseason.
Sam Madison, a veteran, was the one who took over for Webster. Madison had a solid regular season, until getting hurt in the week 17 loss to the Patriots. The job was given back to Webster, who kept it throughout the postseason.
The loser will most likely end up being the nickelback. Terrell Thomas, who the Giants drafted in the second round of this year's draft, will probably be the dimeback, with R.W. McQuarters as the reserve.
Phillips was the first safety taken in the draft. James Butler was the starting strong safety last year. Butler lacks the speed Wilson had, but is always a sure tackler and is a run stopping safety. The Giants have said that the starters right now are Butler at strong safety and second year pro Michael Johnson at free safety.
Johnson, a seventh round pick last year, proved to be a solid backup for Wilson when he went down with an injury for two weeks.
By the start of the season, I expect to see Kenny Phillips starting at free safety and James Butler at strong safety, but I also wouldnt be surprised to see Michael Johnson start at either safety position. I also expect to see Sammy Knight as more of a mentor to all the young safeties.
It will be interesting so see how these position battles work out.
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