Giants Training Camp Preview: Part 2/2
Here is part 2 of my Giants training camp preview.
POTENTIAL BUBBLE BOYS
A lot can and will change over the next few weeks, so this is based on where we left off in the spring.
Clint Sintim: Sintim, who’s been working hard to recover from his second knee surgery, missed the entire spring and has seemingly slipped into oblivion I the depth cart as the team has not only secured Mathias Kiwanuka to play the strongside spot for a few more years, they’ve also been training Greg Jones, Spencer Paysinger, and Keith Rivers to learn that position (remember, in the Giants’ defensive scheme, the weakside backer usually lines up over the tight end.) The bottom line is that if Sintim is limited in any way this summer, his chances of catching up just don’t look promising.
Tyler Sash: A former sixth round draft pick, Sash, who was a major contributor on special teams last year could – repeat, could – be on the bubble going into camp.
The coaches really gushed about undrafted rookie safety Will Hill this spring, and with a strong summer showing, Hill could find himself on the 53-man roster. Another guy whom the coaches gushed about is Steve Brown, who showed defensive coordinator Perry Fewell an ability to blitz, something that plays right into what the Giants defense likes to do as far as putting pressure on the passer. Finally, if veteran safety Deon Grant’s “expectations” about re-signing with the Giants at some point this summer come to fruition, you suddenly have a crowded field at safeties.
Sash? When safeties coach David Merritt was asked back in May if Sash was a consideration for the third safety spot, he said, “We’ll see.” Maybe it’s just me, but when a Giants coach says, “we’ll see” in response to a question that has a yes or no answer, it’s generally not hard to read between the lines.
Spencer Paysinger: My concern with Paysinger is that he might be swept up in the numbers. If the Giants keep seven linebackers, I think Michael Boley, Mathias Kiwanuka, Mark Herzlich, Chase Blackburn, Greg Jones, Jacquian Williams, and Keith Rivers are the seven they go with. If they go with eight, then I think Paysinger is the eighth. The question though is will injuries that tend to pop up at other positions allow them to carry eight linebackers? I wish I could say for certain, but my gut feeling is that this won’t be the case, which would be a shame, as for an undrafted free agent, Paysinger showed that he belonged out there last year.
DJ Ware: I looked back at my notes from last spring as well as from years past and just little things such as head coach Tom Coughlin saying a few years ago that Ware needed to do more with his opportunities, and Ware ‘s realizing that he didn’t fully take advantage of the opportunities given to him http://insidefootball.com/blog/archives/4144 have me wondering if his days as a Giant are coming to an end.
Ware has been with the team since 2007, when he was signed off the jets’ practice squad. In that time, he’s been unable to grab the number two back spot. If the coaches and front office thought that Ware had the makings of being the number two back, would they have drafted David Wilson? Maybe yes, but one thing that would not be surprising is if Ware has finally run out of chances to gain the coach’s trust.
Andre Brown: He’s athletic, he’s speedy, and he seems to have taken to the offense. But if it comes down to him and Da’Rel Scott, I thin the Giants go with the latter if Scott can show he’s fixed any ball security issues that plagued him last year.
Ramses Barden: You could make a case for giving him another season de to his injuries, but what I can’t get pas is how last year, he was inactive over rookie Jerrel Jernigan – and no, that inactivity wasn’t because he was still injured. The reason for that was that Barden doesn’t play special teams. Well guess what? The fourth receiver on down needs to be able to contribute on special teams; if he can’t, chances are he won’t stick around.
If Barden doesn’t win the third receiver spot this year – the early favorite is Rueben Randle, though I wouldn’t count Domenik Hixon out of the mix to at least start the year in that role – Barden’s roster spot could go the way of the dinosaur. And if that happens, then the only way I see him sticking is if there is legitimate concern about Nicks being ready to start the season which would in turn force the coaches to carry an extra receiver.
UNDER THE RADAR BATTLE
It’s not quite as sexy as say the second running back or the third receiver or, if you disagree with my Most Overrated Camp battle choice, but the battle for the fourth defensive end between Justin Trattou and Adrian Tracy is huge on several levels.
The winner of this battle will replace the departed Dave Tollefson, the guy who was good for 19 total tackles, three tackles for a loss, six quarterback hits, five sacks and one pass defensed last year. Those might not sound like gaudy numbers, but they were a part of the defense’s pass rush production and cannot be dismissed.
There’s another reason , though, why this battle should get a little more attention than it’s been getting. Should Trattou and Tracy struggle, the likely solution would be to move Mathias Kiwanuka to that spot. While Kiwanuka will continue to play with his hand in the dirt in some packages – he’ll likely return as a member of the Four Aces pass rushing package as one of the defensive ends – I’m sure the coaches would much prefer to put Kiwanuka on the line according to a plan and not according to necessity. With the latter, that could potentially disrupt things in the linebacking unit if no one emerges as a clear backup on the strongside.
So who has the edge in this battle? Right now, I’d have to go with Tracy only because he has a little more versatility, in that he can play both standing up and with his hand in the dirt.
THREE REASONS FOR HOPE
1. Eli Manning. No, he’s not perfect, but he should have been ranked higher than 31 in the NFL Top 100 Player of 2012 poll . Manning has reached a point in his career where he helps make stars and is as good as anyone out there diagnosing defenses and adjusting on the fly – all while staying calm. So long as Manning is out there leading the offense, the rest should fall into place.
2. Steve Weatherford. The Giants’ colorful punter keeps saying he has ways to go before he’s as good as Jeff Feagles in directional kicking. I don’t know about anyone else, but I thought there were times lat year that Weatherford’s directional kicking was beyond phenomenal, especially his ability to pin opponents inside the 20. Weatherford’s leg is a weapon that is underrated but oh so important..
3. The pass rush. With the defensive line set to mostly return intact, the only minor concern that exists before camp is the health of starting tackles Chris Canty and Linval Joseph, and the depth behind them. Otherwise, if the Giants get a truly healthy Terrell Thomas back to his pre-injury form last year, the pass rush combined with the back-end coverage is going to make the Giants defense scary to face.
1. The punt return game has not been the same in two years. Coincidentally, Domenik Hixon has missed the last two seasons. Can he return to his 2008 self or will second-year man Jerrel Jernigan, who last summer famously looked lost in this is role but who later settled down and began to intrigue, emerge as the winner? However this plays out, the Giants need to get better production from their punt return game.
2. Yes, every team has them, but ever notice how the Giants seem to suffer injuries to key players? Timing, of course, is everything – last year, they got healthy at the right time – but there’s always that one or two injuries that completely change the team’s plans – and not always for the better.
3. The offensive line was inconsistent last year, but I am willing to give it a pass only because contrary to what they all said at some point or another, not having an off-season to work together following the shakeup of that unit hurt them more than they’re willing to admit. This year the nit should be better, but with another shakeup in the works – David Diehl will move to right tackle to replace Kareem McKenzie while Kevin Boothe is projected to move in at left guard – it’s almost like starting over. This group will need to come together quickly and stay healthy in order to build that continuity that was missing last year.