This is the first in a series of weekly articles that recaps the week that was for the New York Football Giants.
Secondary - After spending the bulk of 2009 looking dazed and confused, the play of the secondary in training camp remains the top story. The improvement has come in ways large and small:
- Antrel Rolle's contract still seems outlandish, but the player has delivered leadership and a knack for constantly coming away with the football.
- Perry Fewell's multiple looks and attacking style have put cornerbacks Webster, Thomas and Ross in the best position to succeed by having them play facing the quarterback.
- The return of once, and hopefully still, promising safety Kenny Phillips from microfracture surgery. While he rounds into form, the Giants can turn to veteran Deon Grant to provide a steady hand.
- Pre-season stats back up the assessment that this is an improved unit: Against the Jets first unit, Rolle started the game with a near pick-6 (only to be stopped at the 1 yard line). Against the Steelers first unit, Corey Webster had a superb interception off of Roethlisberger. Both the Jets and Steelers starting units were left stymied without TDs.
Running Backs - Two years ago the Giants physical style of play was exemplified by the powerful locomotive known as Brandon Jacobs. As camp breaks, it is clear that Ahmad Bradshaw is the team's feature back. Freshly recovered from two offseason ankle surgeries, Bradshaw continues to show great burst and the ability to elude tacklers. His evolution as a player is reminiscent of Tiki Barber.
Andre Brown has surprised many by returning from a torn Achilles tendon suffered a little more than a year ago. He has shown great power and a low center of gravity. Against the Steelers he was very effective at moving the pile forward.
Lawrence Tynes - In seasons past this was the one player that would cause most Giants' fans to cringe. Simply put, he has had the best camp of his career, both in making field goals and in consistently providing deep kickoffs. If he keeps up this pace a Pro-Bowl appearance is not out of the question. The Giants offense can score so he will be a very busy man.
Offensive Line - The Giants opened training camp wanting to introduce competition in the line after a huge step back in the ground game in 2009. As camp closes not one starter has been challenged and it has not been close. The line is another year older with only Chris Snee finishing the season under the age of 30. The Giants reached out to Eagles discarded Tackle/Guard Shawn Andrews on a make good contract that would pay him close to $40 million if all incentives are met. A desperate move and an indictment on the early returns of William Beatty and the rest of the back-ups.
Eli's Gash - The team will need Eli Manning to continue to remain healthy and upright. There is simply no depth behind him. Jim Sorgi was brought on board as the primary back-up but he has a bad wing. Not that he was counted on to win games. Rhett Bomar had his best day as a pro starting (and nearly finishing) the preseason game against the Steelers. This will be the highlight of his career. As of this writing, the next best quarterback on the team is starting safety Antrel Rolle. Yikes.
Wide Receiver - The Giants so called depth at receiver needs to be re-examined. The Giants have no depth. It is Steve Smith, Mario Manningham and Hakeem Nicks. That's it. Ramses Barden and Victor Cruz have had solid camps, but until they can consistently repeat their efforts in game situations they must be viewed as suspect. The back-up receivers will need to be special teams aces as well. Other than Derek Hagan, I don't see any positives on that end either.
Matt Dodge - He will average 45 yards per punt in a full season, alternating 70 yard blasts with 30 yard shanks. He gets no hang time whatsoever and has a slow release. This is already ugly. It could cost the Giants a win.
Tight Ends - Kevin Boss took some big hits in 2009 and has spent the better part of training camp on the sidelines. He is the only reliable player at the position. The Giants opened camp looking for a blocking compliment. They leave camp still searching for that player.
Linebackers - Camp began with openings at the middle and strong side linebacker positions. Camp will soon close and we still don't have an answer to this question. One thing that is certain is that Michael Boley and Keith Bullock will start. Michael Boley is definitely the weakside linebacker. Where Bullock starts, and who starts alongside him, remains a mystery. Perry Fewell has experimented with every combination at linebacker, including bringing Mathias Kiwanuka out from his defensive end position.
The 2009 Draft - Other than Hakeen Nicks, who looks poised to move into the starting lineup opposite Steve Smith, there is an overall lack of impact. Stintum (2nd round) has been underwhelming at the strong side linebacker position. Beatty (3rd round) was given every opportunity to take over as the left tackle, but failed to capitalize on the opportunity. Beckum (3rd round) can't stay on the field to add offensive wrinkles out of the H-Back position. If the second best pick of this draft is recently coming back from an Achilles tear (Brown - 4th round), that is not a good sign.
Who are the 2010 New York Giants? At this point, we still don't know. This is a team in transition. On offense, the team is clearly moving toward a wide open attack with a single back (Bradshaw) and three wide (Nicks, Smith and Manningham). They may talk like a physical football team, but they are getting long in the tooth on the line to back that talk up.
On defense, Perry Fewell has added the fire and swagger back to the team. We'll see very quickly if the Giants can take a punch starting against a running oriented team in Carolina and a prolific offense in Indianoplois.