New York Giants: Cullen Jenkins

Practice report: Jon Beason sits out

September, 11, 2014
Sep 11
3:10
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Linebacker Jon Beason surprisingly sat out New York Giants practice Thursday due to continued soreness in his foot.

Giants coach Tom Coughlin said he didn't know whether Beason would practice Friday. He said he expected Beason to play in Sunday's game against the Arizona Cardinals, but since he didn't expect him to miss practice Thursday, it's obviously possible something could happen to change the prognosis.

Beason was seen before practice trying out different shoes. He's struggled to find the right footwear to help relieve the pain from the foot fracture he suffered in an OTA practice in June. Beason missed all of training camp and all five preseason games while rehabbing the injury but managed to start and play a decent amount of Monday's regular-season opener.

If Beason can't go Sunday, Jameel McClain likely would take over as middle linebacker. But what complicates the situation is that rookie linebacker Devon Kennard is also out with a hamstring injury and sounds unlikely to be ready to play Sunday. He'd be McClain's backup in the middle and likely the starter on the strong side if McClain had to move into the middle.

Of course, since the Cardinals run so many four- and five-wide receiver sets on offense, the Giants are likely to be in nickel and dime defenses much of the afternoon and may not need three linebackers on the field.

Punter Steve Weatherford (ankle) missed another practice but seems optimistic that he'll be ready to punt come Sunday.

Rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (hamstring) did his usual running on a side field and did not practice with the team. His debut continues to be on hold.

Defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins (hip) returned to practice after missing it Wednesday. Defensive tackle Markus Kuhn (ankle) worked on the side.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul came out of Monday night's game briefly with a neck/shoulder injury, but he returned and finished the game. The Giants had some concern that the problem might continue into this week, but so far it has not. Pierre-Paul practiced with the team in full Wednesday and said afterwards that he had no limitations.

Pierre-Paul
"I feel good," Pierre-Paul said. "I'll be out there. Full go."

Not participating in practice were wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (hamstring), offensive lineman James Brewer (back), defensive tackle Markus Kuhn (ankle), punter Steve Weatherford (ankle), linebacker Devon Kennard (hamstring) and defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins (hip).

The Weatherford, Kennard and Jenkins injuries all happened in Monday's game. Jenkins said he expects to play Sunday but couldn't be sure he'd practice Thursday. If he can't go Sunday, that would leave the Giants very thin at defensive tackle assuming Kuhn is still out.

Kennard said he pulled his right hamstring on the first defensive snap of the game (and of his NFL career) when he caught his cleat on the turf. He has no idea when they'll let him practice.

Weatherford got good news on his sprained ankle. He's got some torn ligaments but won't need surgery, and he's not ruling out the chance he can be on the field Sunday.

Beckham fielded some punts at the beginning of practice, which he didn't do last week, but he didn't run with them and continued to work off to the side while the team practiced.
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DETROIT -- The worst part for the New York Giants was that they didn't have anything they could feel good about. Week 1 is supposed to be about optimism and looking forward with hope. But after a 35-14 loss to the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on Monday night, the Giants couldn't come up with anything positive to say about their performance.

"No excuses. We played very poorly," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "We don't have a lot to be proud of here. It was a nightmare performance."

Coughlin wasn't happy about the pass protection, as the Lions registered two sacks and nine hits of Giants quarterback Eli Manning. He was unhappy about a running game that gained 53 yards on 22 carries. He was upset about the breakdowns in pass coverage that allowed Calvin Johnson to perform like the video-game version of himself to the tune of seven catches for 164 yards and two touchdowns, and that allowed Golden Tate to gain 44 yards on a key third-and-11. He was unhappy about Manning's two interceptions and the inability of receivers Victor Cruz and Rueben Randle to make plays.

Everybody was unhappy. We even asked defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins, who had a good game stopping the run, whether he felt good about that at least. He did not.

"Right now, I don't feel like I did a good job of anything," Jenkins said. "I feel like we could have made it a lot easier on our secondary if we'd played better up front."

Safety Antrel Rolle said "there definitely wasn't enough fight" in his team in its first game of the season. And after the mess they made of last season, all of the changes they made in the offseason and the grief they took from outside critics in the preseason, you would have thought that wouldn't be a problem.

Instead, those who endured last year's 0-6 start seemed to be experiencing a sick and familiar feeling as they dressed and packed and headed for the plane.

"We shouldn't be talking right now about comparing the way we lost to last year," Jenkins said. "We should be talking about what we learned from last year, and how that made us better."

But they weren't, and the reason was the familiarity of the overmatched feeling they felt on the field. The Lions came at them with star players at wide receiver, running back, defensive line and, of course, quarterback. The Giants looked like a patchwork science project of a team whose pieces aren't good enough on their own to scare anyone and don't yet fit together in any kind of productive way.

"How are guys that you don't know going to respond to adversity now?" linebacker and newly minted team captain Jon Beason asked. "We have a new group of guys here. Owning up to what you did wrong is the first step, and it's an important one."

Tuesday and Wednesday aren't going to be fun days for the Giants as they review what went on in their first game of the season. To make sure the feeling doesn't repeat itself, they must correct the mistakes and start playing better. The long-term problem is that they may not have enough quality players on this roster to allow them to do that. The short-term problem is that Monday night's opener didn't offer any evidence to the contrary.

Rapid Reaction: New York Giants

September, 8, 2014
Sep 8
10:07
PM ET

DETROIT -- A few thoughts on the New York Giants' 35-14 loss to the Detroit Lions at Ford Field.

What it means: As we told you going into the season, the Giants' offense is not a finished product. Not even close. But the problems go well beyond whether they're picking up offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo's new schemes. The Giants' problems are about personnel. The offensive line isn't good enough. They don't have enough at wide receiver, as Victor Cruz is easily erased from the game and Jerrel Jernigan and Rueben Randle aren't reliable. They have no dynamic tight end. And they didn't run the ball especially well Monday, either. Eli Manning's interceptions were bad, especially the second one, but the quality of the group around him needs to improve.

Stock Watch: The new Giants' secondary, DOWN. Yes, I know Calvin Johnson makes everybody look bad, but the breakdowns in the zones were terrible, and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie made way too many mistakes, letting Johnson go into empty space on the first touchdown and letting Golden Tate get past him for a critical 44-yard catch on third down in the second half. The Giants aren't good enough on offense to allow for a leaky secondary. This is supposed to be the strength of the team, but it was a weakness Monday.

Line must improve: Pass protection was Manning's biggest problem last year, was a major issue in the preseason and was terrible again Monday night. Left tackle Will Beatty looks lost, and he and the rest of the offensive line need to figure out some things in a hurry if the Giants are to avoid a repeat of last year's offensive crater.

Game ball: Defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins. The one bright spot, I thought, was the Giants' run defense, led by the play of the beefy defensive tackles on the inside. Especially with only three of them active for the game, Jenkins, Johnathan Hankins and Mike Patterson had to handle a lot of the load and held up well, limiting a talented Detroit running game to 76 yards on 30 carries. Jenkins made the plays that stood out most to me, so I pick him.

What's next: The Giants host the Arizona Cardinals at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday at MetLife Stadium.

W2W4: New York Giants

August, 16, 2014
Aug 16
12:00
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The New York Giants (2-0) and the Indianapolis Colts (0-1) face off in an NFL preseason game at 7 p.m. ET Saturday night at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

1. Can the Giants get the offense going? The first-team offense has scored a touchdown in each of the first two games, but both have come from the running game. Eli Manning and the passing game could use a strong showing to prove to themselves and the outside world that the new offense is working. Starting left tackle Will Beatty, who missed the first two games as part of his rehab from a broken leg, is scheduled to start, which could help. But Manning could use a couple of quick ones to Victor Cruz to help pick up first downs and sustain a drive.

2. The defense up front: Giants coach Tom Coughlin made a point this week of saying he'd be watching the first-team run defense after the Pittsburgh Steelers ran the ball well against them last Saturday. There are questions about the defensive tackle rotation, as Johnathan Hankins and Markus Kuhn are inexperienced, Cullen Jenkins has struggled and Mike Patterson has been out with a shoulder injury. The defensive line composition as a whole will be interesting to watch, as the Giants would like to change up looks involving ends Robert Ayers, Damontre Moore and even newcomer Israel Idonije, who's also a helper on special teams.

3. The backup quarterback competition: Curtis Painter takes over for Ryan Nassib as the No. 2 quarterback this week. Nassib has been a disappointment this preseason in spite of being handed every opportunity to seize the backup job for himself. Could they be demoting him to send a message? Or are they starting to feel they'll have to cut bait on their 2013 fourth-rounder and get Painter ready for the season? Nassib has a major problem with accuracy, and he'll have to show a lot in this game to get back into good graces and see his practice reps increase again next week.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Former Denver Broncos first-round pick Robert Ayers wasn't always thrilled with the way the Broncos used him. Drafted as a pass-rusher out of Tennessee, Ayers was asked by various Denver coaches and coordinators over the years to drop into coverage, to line up as a 3-4 defensive end ... to more or less do anything but rush the passer. Last year the Broncos used him where he was comfortable, and he ended up with 5.5 sacks, flashing what he could do as a key piece in the Broncos' run to the Super Bowl.

A free agent this offseason, Ayers signed with the New York Giants. So far in training camp and the preseason, the Giants have lined up Ayers at various positions on the defensive line. But whether he's played defensive end or defensive tackle, his mission has been the same: go get the quarterback.

"I can rush inside, I can rush outside," Ayers said this week. "When they signed me, they knew that's what I could do well. When I first came to the NFL, teams knew what I could do. The Giants are just using me to my strength."

[+] EnlargeBryant McKinnie
Doug Pensinger/Getty ImagesWhile with the Denver Broncos, Robert Ayers wasn't always able to do what he does best: rush the passer. He'll get a chance to do that with the Giants.
The Giants, who had a mere 34 sacks last season, are trying to replace longtime defensive end Justin Tuck, who had 11 of them and is now with the Raiders. Ayers is among the candidates to be that replacement, but so is longtime Giants defensive lineman Mathias Kiwanuka, who ranks first on the depth chart right now at left defensive end and believes it's his time to be the man opposite right defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul.

"I look at it as, right now that's where I'm at, that's my position and I'm not going to relinquish it," Kiwanuka said. "But the main goal is about getting everybody involved, playing everybody as a group. Because you don't win with just one guy or just two guys. When you look at a defensive line, there's a rotation that has to be established early on so that guys understand how to play well with each other. That's how we've won championships."

Yes, the defensive line and specifically the pass rush have been staples of the Giants' Super Bowl title teams. Pierre-Paul and Kiwanuka were both on the last one, but they're the only ones currently in the defensive line room who were. So among them, Ayers, second-year end Damontre Moore and veteran Israel Idonije, who showed up as a bit of a surprise signing last week, the Giants are trying to piece together a rotation.

"You know, we're not here just to accept smaller roles," Ayers said. "We all want to be a starter. I definitely want to start. Mathias definitely wants to start. Damontre wants to start. Izzy is here now, and he wants to start. JPP wants to start. Everybody wants to be the lead dog. But the thing I like about it, it's all competition and it's all friendly. There's no bitterness, no rivalry or whatever. Everybody's here to work, and that's how we go about the business. If I'm not the starter, I'm not going to play any less hard."

That's partly because these guys all know they'll play no matter what. Ayers was lined up with Cullen Jenkins as the defensive tackles, for example, between Kiwanuka and Pierre-Paul when the Giants went to four pass-rushers on third down against the Steelers last weekend. Idonije has been getting looks at defensive end in practice with Pierre-Paul moving inside. The Giants are trying to figure out what their new defensive line will and should look like, and they're sorting through the pieces.

"We have a lot of people, you know," said Jenkins, who has experience at defensive tackle and at defensive end in different fronts. "Rob can play inside, Kiwi and JPP, they can rush inside as well. So along that front, adding Damontre to the mix too, we've got a lot of guys on the D-line that can rush all across. So I think it'll be a lot of mixing and matching this year."
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Much of the attention on the New York Giants' defense this summer has focused on the secondary, where they beefed up significantly at cornerback and believe that's the strongest position group on the team. But there's no secondary that's at its best when the big guys up front aren't doing the job, and for that reason the Giants are spending time this summer figuring things out on the defensive line.

In Saturday's 20-16 preseason victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Giants' defensive line was a mixed bag, but I saw more good than bad. Some specific thoughts:
    Pierre-Paul
  • Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul was better in this game. When the play was to his side, he was unquestionably a factor. He got into the backfield to pressure the quarterback at least once that I saw. He ran down Markus Wheaton from behind on a first-quarter end-around that looked as though it could have gone for a lot more yards than just 10. He was credited with four tackles and a hurry.
  • Defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins, starting in place of a still-injured Mike Patterson, showed good ability to crash the pocket from the interior. He's more or less been a run-stopper for the Giants in his short career so far, but if he can generate pressure up the middle, that will be a bonus.
  • Hankins comes off the field on third downs, and the Giants put defensive end Robert Ayers in at defensive tackle next to Cullen Jenkins and between Pierre-Paul and Kiwanuka. That's the new "NASCAR" look with four pass-rushers, and Ayers said he enjoys the role. "It's something I've done in the past, but for whatever reason in Denver last year they didn't ask me to do it," he said after the game. "It's nice to be with a team that appreciates that I can do a lot of different things."
  • Jenkins seemed to struggle a bit with the Steelers' interior offensive linemen, getting pushed back on a couple of run plays in the first quarter. He needs to play stronger up front in the run game.
  • Damontre Moore is fast enough to beat these second-team offensive tackles off the line and into the backfield. I'll be interested to see whether they start giving him first-team looks in the remaining preseason games to determine whether they can give him more significant snaps once the games count.
  • Rookie defensive tackle Jay Bromley, who I thought was a reach in the third round and would be a developmental guy, showed up nicely in the second half against those same backup linemen. He shows an ability to break through the line and get into the backfield. He did it once to snuff out a run play and once to pressure the quarterback. Bromley's played better than expected.
  • Defensive tackle Markus Kuhn and backup defensive end Jordan Stanton each got a sack. Stanton also got credit for the forced fumble that C.J. Barnett recovered in the fourth quarter.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- It's hard to imagine a less visually appropriate nickname for a defensive tackle than "Gumby," and when the New York Giants' Mike Patterson heard that it had been applied to him, he gave a deep chuckle that sounded nothing like anything that little green stretchy character had ever uttered. But he's heard it before and he takes pride in it.

[+] EnlargeTerrell Thomas
AP Photo/Michael PerezDefensive tackle Mike Patterson's ability to twist out of tough blocks has landed him atop the Giants' depth chart.
It was Giants offensive line coach Pat Flaherty who said it last week, describing Patterson as "Gumby" for his ability to bend and twist his way through blocks. It is clear from talking to teammates that the nickname has been used before, and that they think it's a good one.

"I've seen him recover from positions that you wouldn't think would be possible," fellow defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins said. "I've seen him lose a step and go down to almost a knee and a hand and then be able to fight back out of it and make a play. He's a great athlete."

Patterson doesn't resemble a great athlete any more than he resembles Gumby. He's 6-foot-1 and, by his own count Tuesday morning, 316 pounds. But he was, back in 2005, a first-round draft pick. And even if you're a defensive tackle, you need to be more than just a big, chubby guy to get picked in the first round.

"I'm able to pretty much have a good bend in my hips," the genial Patterson said after he got done chuckling. "A lot of guys are still and not able to get down low and stay low and take on double teams and move around like that. It's most definitely a technique learned over time and something I didn't get right off the bat. But I kept working on it and it became natural."

Frankly, Patterson's just thrilled about where he is right now, in life and in football. Three years ago, Patterson collapsed on a practice field at Lehigh University during training camp with the Philadelphia Eagles. He played the entire 2011 season once he recovered, but the following offseason he was diagnosed with a rare brain condition called arteriovenous malformation (AVM). That required an extensive surgery that involved removing a part of his skull.

Patterson played only five games in 2012 while recovering from the surgery and then signed with the Giants prior to 2013. He performed well enough in a reserve role last year that the Giants re-signed him when they decided to let Linval Joseph leave as a free agent. And when the first depth chart of training camp hit last week, you'd better believe Patterson enjoyed seeing himself listed as a starting defensive tackle next to Jenkins.

"I'm very excited and very thankful that this opportunity wasn't cut down or cut short for me," Patterson said before Giants practice Tuesday. "Since I've been able to get back to that starting role, I'm taking it very serious and very personal to keep it. I want to go out there and do my best to show them I'm still a good player."

The Giants rotate their defensive tackles routinely, and Patterson knows that he and Jenkins will share playing time with Markus Kuhn and 2013 second-round pick Johnathan Hankins. He knows that Hankins may ultimately be ticketed to replace him as a starter, maybe even by the end of this camp if Hankins shows enough. But in the meantime, Patterson's pride in having re-established himself as an NFL starter is evident -- and justified.

"The AVM stuff, I'm just happy to finally put that behind me and just move on," Patterson said. "I've had a lot of questions. People were wondering if I was going to be able to play, things like that. But all that's behind me. Now I'm here, a fresh new year and I'm just excited to be out there with nothing to worry about."
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Damontre Moore is something of a wild card on the New York Giants' defensive line this year. The 2013 third-round selection played little on defense last year as he worked to pick up the playbook, but he was a terror on special teams, showcasing his athleticism while blocking punts and laying out return men.

Moore
If Moore can make a big jump this year as a pass-rushing defensive end, it would be a significant boost to a Giants pass rush that's working to replace stalwart Justin Tuck and the team-leading 11 sacks he had last year. Moore is in the mix with veteran Mathias Kiwanuka and free-agent signee Robert Ayers for the defensive end spot opposite Jason Pierre-Paul, but if Moore develops quickly he offers more explosiveness and a higher ceiling than Kiwanuka and Ayers do.

At least one of Moore's defensive linemates has noticed major progress.

"His athleticism is hard to compare," defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins said. "But from where he was last year, technique-wise and some of the things he was doing to how he's come back in this camp, it's been amazing. How he's setting the edge in the run game. How he's transitioning to the pass, working on some of the techniques that he didn't have last year. He's really working hard and really improving."

That's the key for Moore, who's loaded with natural ability but needs to refine it if he's to be trusted with significant snaps on defense. What Jenkins said about setting the edge in the run game is especially important, since that was a huge part of Tuck's game and is also a strength of Ayers' game. If Moore is getting those techniques down, in addition to being able to fly to the quarterback, that could be a big surprise benefit.

"Yeah, he's taken a major step," Jenkins said. "He's just a lot more physical and holding his ground. You look at him now and he's a completely different player than you saw last year."

Could be just camp hype, but Jenkins volunteered this. He wasn't asked directly about Moore. Jenkins seems to legitimately think Moore stands out in terms of the amount of work he's done and the quality of it. Since those were the lingering questions about Moore after his rookie season, it has to be encouraging for the Giants and their fans to hear it.
Two weeks ago, we took a position-by-position look at the Giants' offense heading into training camp. We'll do the same for the defense this week, one position group per day. Today's edition looks at the defensive line.

[+] EnlargeJason Pierre-Paul
AP Photo/Evan PinkusThe Giants need Jason Pierre-Paul to become a star again on the defensive line.
Projected starters: DE Jason Pierre-Paul, DE Mathias Kiwanuka, DT Cullen Jenkins, DT Johnathan Hankins

Projected backups: DE Robert Ayers, DE Damontre Moore, DT Mike Patterson, DT Markus Kuhn, DT Jay Bromley

Others competing for roster spots: DE Kendrick Adams, DE Emmanuel Dieke, DE Jordan Stanton, DE Kerry Wynn, DT Everett Dawkins, DT Kelcy Quarles

Pierre-Paul is the key to the defense, no matter how much money the Giants spent on cornerback this offseason. He's the one pass-rusher they have who they've seen perform at an elite level, and with Justin Tuck gone off to Oakland, the pass rush will depend on Pierre-Paul's ability to stay healthy and perform the way he did in 2011 and early 2012. If that doesn't happen, they have major issues trying to fill in for him and make up for that production with underwhelming or questionable options.

Kiwanuka's penciled in atop the depth chart at the other DE spot, though he could be surpassed by Ayers or even Moore. Ayers has proven something as a run-stopping defensive end in Denver, though he's never piled up sacks. Moore is a second-year player with a lot of athletic ability and a very high motor who needs to progress in terms of learning the defense and playing with discipline. He's a helper on special teams, where he likes to block kicks and punts, and if he can develop enough to be used as either as a starter or a situational pass-rusher, that'd be a fun thing for the Giants' defense. Kiwanuka is best off as a rotational player, and ideally Ayers or Moore would show enough to allow them to continue to use him that way.

Jenkins is the sure-thing starter at defensive tackle right now, and the hope is that second-year man Hankins is ready to take over Linval Joseph's starting spot with Joseph now in Minnesota. They also like Kuhn's upside, and they'll give him a look in camp, while Patterson was a strong contributor as a backup and rotational guy last season. The goal is to have at least four defensive tackles they can rotate in and out, though they're likely to keep at least five on the roster while Bromley, this year's third-round pick, develops. Of the "others," Quarles is the most interesting to watch as an undrafted free agent out of South Carolina.
The New York Giants' ideal plan with their defensive tackles is to rotate them to keep them fresh. At this point, they project to have a four-man rotation at that position that includes veterans Cullen Jenkins and Mike Patterson and young players Johnathan Hankins and Markus Kuhn.

Kuhn
Hankins
Coming out of minicamp, the Giants' coaches felt very good about Hankins and Kuhn, and the plan going into training camp will be to give them more reps than their veteran counterparts. The idea is to accelerate the young guys' development and also make sure the veterans get the appropriate amount of rest they need to get to Week 1 in the best possible physical condition.

"They're solid guys, solid veteran guys," defensive line coach Robert Nunn said of Jenkins and Patterson. "And they understand where they are in this stage of their careers. We'll have to take care of them through training camp, but both of those guys had outstanding offseasons. It's so hard to tell, because we're so limited in what we can do in the offseason now, but those guys are in great shape and a really good frame of mind. They've done a really good job with leadership with the younger players."

Hankins was the Giants' second-round pick in 2013 but had a tough time getting on the field for much of the season due to the depth the Giants had at defensive tackle. When he did play, he impressed his coaches with his performance and left them eager to see what he could do this year as the internal replacement for free agent Linval Joseph. Kuhn was a seventh-round pick in 2012 who appeared in 10 games as a rookie but only five last year due to injury. The Giants picked the German-born Kuhn as a project they hoped could develop into a starter-quality NFL defensive lineman, and they think that time may be arriving.

"He had an outstanding offseason, really oustanding practices, he and Hankins," Nunn said. "He showed up every day. When we go out there and go in team situations, there wasn't a day that went by that we didn't call Markus' name out in a positive manner."

The Giants knew they were letting go of a quality young player when they let Joseph sign with Minnesota. But part of the reason they did so was because they felt they had enough talent on their roster that they could replace him. Hankins and Kuhn will get a chance in 2014 to show them whether they were right.
You used the #nygmail hashtag on Twitter this week, and I thank you for it.

@DanGrazianoESPN: Let's assume, for the sake of this discussion, that middle linebacker Jon Beason does not make it back from his foot injury to play for the New York Giants in Week 1 in Detroit. If that is the case (as seems likely), then Jameel McClain is the front-runner to start at middle linebacker.

At this point, the starters on the outside would be Spencer Paysinger and Jacquian Williams, but rookie fifth-rounder Devon Kennard impressed coaches in the spring program and could be in the mix to start on the strong side. What's interesting to me is that linebackers coach Eric Hermann had a lot to say Thursday about the improvement Williams has shown as a weakside linebacker in the Giants' base defense. They already love him on the weak side in their nickel package due to his speed and coverage ability. But if they like him there in the base as well, Williams might be ahead of Paysinger to start there even once Beason returns and McClain moves back to the strong side. So to answer your question, I'd expect to see McClain in the middle, Williams on the weak side and either Paysinger or, if he has a big camp, Kennard on the strong side in Week 1.

@DanGrazianoESPN: No. I mean, obviously the short answer is no at this point, because Ryan Nassib, who didn't play at all as a rookie (by design) is still a work in progress.

Giants coaches like his progress. Quarterbacks coach Danny Langsdorf on Thursday praised Nassib's intelligence and his ability to pick up the new system but said he's still got to work on his accuracy and his timing. Which is understandable, given that he's still a young quarterback who's never played in the league. It's clear they view him as the No. 2 right now behind Eli Manning -- or that they're at least giving him every chance to beat out Curtis Painter for that spot in camp. But no, if Manning got hurt, at this point the Giants would not have honest confidence in Nassib or anyone else who might replace him.

Manning costs the Giants 17 percent of their salary cap. He's the player around whom their team is built. If they don't have him, they simply won't be a remotely competitive team. Even if Nassib comes quickly in camp and becomes a viable No. 2, there's no chance that, in 2014, he offers anything close to what Manning offers as a starting NFL quarterback. All the Giants want from Nassib is continued growth and development, and their hope is that he's a decent backup/emergency option this year and maybe more down the road.

@DanGrazianoESPN: I agree that the Giants' defensive line is questionable behind the starters, and that there's a chance it could be a bad defensive line. They desperately need Jason Pierre-Paul to stay healthy and dominate from the defensive end position, because honestly they're not going to get much pass rush from the other side at this point. Mathias Kiwanuka and Robert Ayers are what they are, and they're not the kinds of defensive ends who are going to whip tackles regularly and pile up sacks. And Damontre Moore is still developing.

On the inside, you mention Cullen Jenkins, and I agree he's key because he's the one guy in there who's not a question mark. Coaches were raving this week about the development defensive tackles Johnathan Hankins and Markus Kuhn have shown, and if so then that's a positive thing for them and for the Giants. But there's no way to know until they can practice in pads and play against other teams what they really have in there. To me, the Giants are hoping a lot of people -- namely, Hankins, Kuhn, Moore, Ayers and Kiwanuka -- outperform anything they've yet shown in the league in order to make them strong on the defensive line. It's not nuts to think one or two of them will, but... all of them?

@DanGrazianoESPN: The first-team offensive line in minicamp was, left to right: Charles Brown, Geoff Schwartz, J.D. Walton, Brandon Mosley, Justin Pugh. Which, no, is not good. They believe Chris Snee could play right guard if he had to right now, but he's working his way back from elbow and hip surgeries and they're taking it slowly with him. And they're also hoping Will Beatty is healthy enough to play left tackle in training camp ahead of Brown, who was signed as a backup. Rookie Weston Richburg is in a straight-up competition with Walton for the starting center spot. So it's possible that by Week 1 it's Beatty/Schwartz/Richburg/Snee/Pugh, which would look a lot better than what they ran out there this week. But as of now, that's your starting five.

Mosley's an interesting case. They like him and think his development has been hurt by injuries. But the fact that Snee and John Jerry (knee surgery) haven't been able to get on the field helped Mosley get a lot of first-team reps this spring. And that can only help him if they need to turn to him to play a starting role in camp, in the preseason or in the season.

Thanks for all of your questions. Enjoy the first weekend of summer. 

The scramble in the wake of the NFL draft for the lists of undrafted free agents agreeing to terms with teams is an ugly one. The process is a mess, as players and teams will "agree" on terms only to break said "agreements" moments later for better offers. Players will tweet that they have signed with a team when in fact they're only getting a tryout. It's a wreck. So, as you may have noticed, I really don't get involved in putting names out there.

Monday afternoon, however, the New York Giants actually released the names of five undrafted free agents they signed. They are as follows:

Kelcy Quarles, DT, South Carolina
Eathyn Manumaleuna, DT, BYU
Kerry Wynn, DE, Richmond
Justin Anderson, LB, Louisiana-Lafayette
Thomas Gordon, S, Michigan

There are more to come, obviously, and the Giants will clear room accordingly. Monday, they waived linebacker Allen Bradford, cornerback Junior Mertile and punter Jordan Gay and terminated the contract of quarterback Rusty Smith, who signed just a couple of weeks ago when they were stocking up on quarterbacks in the wake of the Eli Manning and Curtis Painter surgeries.

As for this group of undrafteds, the biggest name is Quarles, who made our list of the top 10 undrafted players Saturday evening and seems to offer the size and the interior pass-rush ability the Giants look for in their defensive tackles. They currently project Johnathan Hankins and Cullen Jenkins as starters at that position with Mike Patterson, Markus Kuhn and third-round pick Jay Bromley as backups and members of the rotation. But defensive tackle is definitely a spot at which an undrafted player could work his way into practice reps this summer and possibly even playing time in the fall.

Every undrafted player who signs with the Giants gets to look firsthand at the example of star wide receiver Victor Cruz, who was himself undrafted, for inspiration.
Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald has become a more popular name in recent mock drafts for the New York Giants at No. 12 in the first round. And it's easy to see why. Donald is a fearsome playmaker on the interior of the defensive line -- a spot at which the Giants have subtracted and not added during their free-agent-heavy offseason so far. He'd be a fun and fine pick for the Giants at 12 -- immediate and long-term help at a position where they value quality depth.

But if they don't take him -- if he's gone before 12, or if they decide their better choice there is someone who plays offensive line or some other position -- the Giants will be counting on people who are already on their roster to help fortify the defensive line for 2014.

"We have guys who need to step up," Giants GM Jerry Reese said in his pre-draft news conference last week. "We brought in some defensive linemen in free agency. We have some guys from last year. [Cullen] Jenkins. We have [Johnathan] Hankins from last year. We have [Markus] Kuhn coming back from the knee injury, so we have some defensive linemen. Jason Pierre-Paul is coming back from his injury. So we have guys that we like. Damontre Moore. We want to upgrade everywhere. We'll try to upgrade our defensive line as we move forward as well."

Now, first of all, they did not bring in "some defensive linemen" in free agency. They brought in one -- former Broncos first-rounder Robert Ayers, a defensive end who's known to play the run well but hasn't been a big sacker of quarterbacks so far in his career. The only other defensive lineman they signed was Mike Patterson, who was on their team last year and therefore can't be counted as an addition. They lost Linval Joseph at defensive tackle and Justin Tuck at defensive end, and there's little doubt that those were their two best defensive linemen in 2013.

Getting a healthy Pierre-Paul back would be like adding a whopper of a free agent, since Pierre-Paul was a non-factor in 2013 due to injury. Beyond that, Reese is hoping 2013 second-round pick Johnathan Hankins and Moore, a 2013 third-round pick, can take on much larger roles as key starters on the defensive line. If they can do that, things will be good. If they can't, we're going to be sitting here a year from now convinced that defensive line is the Giants' biggest draft need.

So what they have right now is potential internal solutions that are, at this point, question marks. I am often told by readers that Hankins and Moore will ascend the way Joseph and Pierre-Paul did in their second seasons, and they may. But to assume they will is to insult Joseph and Pierre-Paul, who are star-caliber players at their positions and whose accomplishments are difficult standards to impose on young players still developing. The hope, obviously, is that Hankins and Moore are stars in the making. It's the job of the Giants' coaching staff to make that happen. But until it does happen, there's always a chance it won't. So at this point, the Giants are holding their breath on the defensive line and hoping/working to make their young players into productive starters.

As for Donald as a potential helper in the first round, Reese was asked a question about him specifically. The criticism of Donald is that, while he was tremendously productive in college, he's a bit undersized (6-foot-1, 285) for an NFL defensive tackle. Reese was asked how important size was when evaluating that position.

"Well, it's important, but making plays is important as well," Reese said. "It's a combination. We like guys who can make plays. We like big guys. We like fast guys. We like smart guys. We like tough guys. That's what we like."

All righty then. Three more days, folks.
You ask the questions (and use the #nygmail hashtag) on Twitter, I answer them here. And we all have a lovely weekend.
 

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