The popular belief amongst many fans is that a team’s improvement relies heavily on the draft and free agency. That is true to a certain extent, but what is more important is the development of the players already on the roster.
Players in their rookie years rarely make big impacts on the season. Instead, players say, their third year in the league is the year they turn into the consistent and productive players that teams rely on. The players on the Giants entering their third years are: Hakeem Nicks, Clint Sintim, William Beatty, Ramses Barden, and Travis Beckum. If those players take the necessary step, the Giants will be a much improved team.
Hakeem Nicks has, not so quietly, been evolving into a great player. Many experts expect him to be amongst the top receivers in the league soon. He was explosive last season posting 79 receptions for 1,052 yards, and 11 touchdowns. With Smith likely missing the start of the season, it is imperative that Nicks take the next step, and be a consistent and reliable producer for Eli and the offense.
Clint Sintim is a player with tons of potential. A player many believed the Giants would take in the first round, unexpectedly slipped to the second, where the Giants were able to pick him up with the first of their two second round picks. He was an OLB in a 3-4 in college and has had trouble adjusting to the Giants system. The coaching staff still has tons of faith in him, and the hope is he can figure it out in his third season. If Sintim can win the starting spot, he gives the Giants another pass rushing option, and another player with long arms to disrupt the passing lanes.
William Beatty was another player that could have been taken in the second round, but, in a class with a ton of talent at tackle, fell to the second round. He has quick feet that should help him against speed rushers, but his technique needed some refining, and he needed to bulk up. With Diehl moved to guard, it looks like Beatty will be taking over at left tackle. If Beatty can come in and play up to his potential, he should solidify an offensive line that is in flux. Beatty is easily the biggest question mark on that line, and if he can play well he can turn that question mark into a big stregnth.
Ramses Barden has been dubbed as a replacement for Plaxico Burress. Gifted with the height of a small giant, (no pun intended) Barden has been targeted as the Giants’ big redzone target. He was injured last season, when injuries to Smith and Nicks gave him an opportunity to show off his potential, but if he can come on strong and win the third receiver spot while Smith is gone, all will be forgiven. He came from a small program in college, and so the learning curve was expected to be steep, but this is his third season and he has tons of talent. If he can have a big training camp, the Giants have a lot to look forward to.
Travis Beckum has become increasingly more important today. After the news that Kevin Boss has signed with the Raiders, Beckum has become the starter for Big Blue. There is still the chance that the Giants opt to start Ben Patrick, as they prefer their tight ends to be blockers over receivers, but if Beckum continues to impress in camp, he could hold down the starting spot this season. Drafted to be an H-Back for the Giants, Beckum has yet to really contribute. The sad part about this, is every time he does see the field, he seems to make a great catch. The only reasons I could fathom as to why he has not seen the field more is his poor blocking, or perhaps a lack of knowledge of the offense. In his third season, he better have a good grasp of the offense, and for the blocking, all reports from camp indicate he has improved drastically. In college he was used almost exclusively as a receiver, so the learning curve was to be expected. Don’t forget, Boss was terrible at blocking in his first season starting. Smith and Boss were the big targets over the middle for Manning. With both likely out (at least for the first couple weeks for Smith), it would be a huge boost if Beckum could win the starting spot.
There are other, non-third year, players that could play important roles on this team based on their development, but these guys are, perhaps, the most important.
The biggest question marks going into this season are on the offensive line, the linebacking corp, and, with the loss of Boss, the tight ends. If Beatty can hold his own, the offensive line should be a strength for the Giants. If Sintim can reach his potential, the Giants will be able to pair him with last year’s starters, Jonathan Goff and Michael Boley, to form a pretty solid unit. And if Beckum keeps turning heads like he has been doing in camp so far, the Giants should not have many problems with their tight ends. Also, the development of the Barden and Nicks could help ease the transition without Boss and Smith.
While a big free agent signing would be fun, the Giants have new, talented starters in place already.