New York Giants: David Wilson
@DanGrazianoESPN: Brown looks just fine, as though nothing ever happened. The knee injury happened during a preseason game last year, so he's had just about a full year to recover, and he was at the Giants' facility throughout last season and through the winter and spring rehabbing the knee. Brown told me recently that it was January or February when he jumped to catch a ball in a rehab drill and landed hard on his left leg without even thinking about it. Since then he's felt good, and he's practicing in full as though it never happened. The Giants want to be able to switch him and Antrel Rolle off, and so we have seen Brown playing down in the box more against the run than he did when he was Mr. Interception in 2012. So far, so good with Stevie.
@DanGrazianoESPN: There's no real replacing what David Wilson would have brought to the run game had his career not ended this week because of repeated neck injuries. There's no other back on the roster who has anything resembling Wilson's uncommon speed or explosiveness. It's not as though they'll just plug Andre Williams or Michael Cox or Kendall Gaskins or Peyton Hillis into the plays that were designed for Wilson. Rashad Jennings is the clear starter at running back, and my sense from 30 days out is that they'd love it if the rookie Williams could advance to the point where he's the No. 2. If he can't, then it's Hillis (assuming he heals from a sprained ankle in time) or someone else -- maybe even someone not yet on the team. But as far as the back who goes in when Jennings needs a break, my sense is they'd love for it to be Williams, but he has to show them he's ready to handle that responsibility. He runs quite well with the ball in his hands, but he's not really a complete back in terms of being able to contribute in the passing game just yet. How quickly he develops in that area will determine how much they can use him this year.
@DanGrazianoESPN: We're doing roster projections every Monday morning throughout camp, and so far all of mine have had five wide receivers. This is because I believe the Giants want to carry four tight ends and a fullback, and even with only two quarterbacks, that really only leaves room for five wide receivers. Victor Cruz, Odell Beckham Jr., Rueben Randle and Jerrel Jernigan are sure things, and at this point I'd probably give the fifth spot to Marcus Harris. But the remaining weeks could obviously change things and even expand that group to six. They want to keep four tight ends, but given what they have there, it's entirely possible they could decide they don't have four worth keeping and they're better off adding an extra wideout instead. On the flip side, if their tight ends show enough in the intervening weeks, they could decide to go without a fullback and add another wideout. So as of now, I think five, but it could end up being six depending on how things shake out with the other position groups.
@DanGrazianoESPN: I think the most impressive player in Giants camp so far is cornerback Walter Thurmond, who's been making life miserable for slot receiver Victor Cruz in practice. Thurmond could be a difference-maker at that nickel corner position for the Giants this year. The most disappointing is obviously first-round pick Odell Beckham Jr., who hasn't practiced since the first day because of a hamstring injury. Ditto return man Trindon Holliday, who also remains out with a hamstring injury and now looks unlikely to make the team. And while I don't think expectations for him were overly high, I haven't see Brandon Mosley do very much with his opportunity to handle the starting right guard spot. Though I guess there you'd also have to say injured John Jerry is a disappointment because he can't get on the field to challenge Mosley for that spot. Thanks for the questions. I'll chat at you from the MetLife Stadium press box in a few hours.
Coach Tom Coughlin opened the team’s morning meeting talking about Wilson, who has been advised by doctors to discontinue playing football at the age of 23 due to the condition of his neck and spine.
“I relayed to them what I told [the media] yesterday -- about how he came into my office, his attitude, the way he was going to approach this,” Coughlin said. “The fact that he didn’t want pity, he didn’t want anybody feeling sorry for him. I thought that was a key, the way he left the office, talking about [being] once a Giant, always a Giant. It really did help me.
“David Wilson walked into my office and helped me understand and accept the fact that he was not going to be able to play anymore. I tried to relay all of that to our team.”
Wilson issued several quotes via press release Monday, but did not speak to reporters in person Tuesday. He may do so later this week. Quarterback Eli Manning said he hasn’t had the opportunity to speak with Wilson yet, either.
“Obviously I feel for him,” Manning said. “A tough situation. But obviously I guess it could have been a lot worse. And the fact that he’s making the right decision, and [you] don’t want to risk anything with that neck -- it’s scary and I feel for him. But David, he’s a good man and he’ll find something that he can do and he’ll do it well.”
Linebacker Jameel McClain suffered a spinal cord contusion in 2012 while playing for the Baltimore Ravens and was initially told he would never be able to play football again, either.
“This situation was so real to me, what he went through -- all I could think about was how he was feeling and how he was reacting through it, because it was something that I had to confront as soon as I met my first doctor and he told me I was never gonna play again,” McClain said. “It was something that I had to look at. To be in his position, it’s not an easy position; he’s a young man with a lot of talent. For me it hit in a way more personal place than probably it did for a lot of people.”
Wilson was one of five running backs on the Giants' roster. Veteran Peyton Hillis and rookie Andre Williams may see increased opportunities in the offense now, but both expressed sadness about Wilson’s predicament.
“I can’t even fathom it. He’s going through something right now that’s devastating,” Hillis said. “It hurts us as a running back room, it really does, because we really love David. David’s a great person -- David would always give you 100 percent on the field and he always gave you a smile when you looked at him. My prayers go out to him and his family.”
“David was a really dynamic running back,” Williams said. “He’s got a special ability, being able to start and stop, and being able to move at such a high speed. He does something special on the field, and he’s gonna be missed. Even in terms of his personality -- he always had a smile on his face, he was always upbeat, and people feed off that. We’re gonna miss his energy.”
For the entire team, this news is an ice-cold splash of reality in the heat of training camp -- a stark reminder of how violent the game of football is and how fleeting an NFL career can be.
But Wilson’s refreshing perspective, as evidenced by what he said Monday, could give this new group of Giants some extra inspiration as they continue to build toward the 2014 regular season.
“I think it’s a great example,” Coughlin said. “You don’t ever want to see it happen in that regard, but there are a lot of things that happen in life that are unexpected that you do have to be prepared for, and how to handle it is certainly demonstrated by David.”
Please note that Tuesday's practice is NOT OPEN TO THE PUBLIC. This is because, as I understand it, the musical group One Direction is having a concert at MetLife Stadium on Tuesday night. Thursday's practice is also not open to the public because the Jets are having a preseason game at MetLife that night. If you want to see one of these evening practices, Wednesday's is your only chance to show up and watch.
However, I will be there all three days, watching for those of you who cannot. Here are a couple of things I'll have my eye on:
- The health status of wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., left tackle Will Beatty and tight end Daniel Fells. Beckham hasn't practiced since July 22 due to a hamstring injury and is missing valuable reps in his first NFL training camp. The Giants won't put him on the field until they're sure he's not at risk for further injury. But it's possible he could get clearance this week. Beatty has been working his way back from a broken leg but missed some practice time due to illness last week. Fells hurt his knee in Sunday night's game.
- The running game. With David Wilson now out for good, the Giants may try to accelerate the development of rookie running back Andre Williams to see whether he can be a viable second option behind Rashad Jennings. If he can't, Peyton Hillis is the most likely guy to get the non-Jennings reps with the first team, though you wonder if they'll take a longer look at someone like Michael Cox or Kendall Gaskins as well. Williams showed a lot Sunday night but still has to prove he can contribute in the passing game as a receiver and a blocker before the Giants can trust him with significant reps.
- The defensive line rotation. With Mike Patterson hurt, can Johnathan Hankins show enough to steal his starting spot? With Robert Ayers hurt, does Damontre Moore step up and show he deserves a larger role this year? Lots still to be sorted out on the defensive line.
The Giants placed Wilson on injured reserve Monday, after the team's spine specialist advised the third-year tailback that he should no longer play football.
Wilson hurt his neck in practice last week, saw some doctors about it in New York City and believed he'd get good news Monday after being examined by the doctor who performed his surgery in January. But Wilson usually tweets good news, and his Instagram and Twitter accounts have been silent since Sunday.
We are in the process of trying to get more detail on the next steps, but one possibility is that the Giants ultimately reach an injury settlement with Wilson and release him.
Wilson's promising career appears over at the age of 23. And while it's almost certainly the right decision, because his life and health must absolutely take precedence over his football career, it's still heartbreaking that it would come to this.
Wilson was the Giants' first-round draft pick in 2012, the year after they won their most recent Super Bowl. He dazzled on the field as a kick returner but was used sparingly as a running back in his rookie year. At the start of 2013, the Giants handed Wilson the starting running back job. But he fumbled twice in the opener in Dallas and got benched, while coaches worked with him in practice on improving his ball-carrying technique. Once that improved, they worked him back into the offense, but he injured his neck in Week 5 against the Eagles and didn't play again all season.
Wilson's hope -- and the Giants' hope -- was that rest and rehab following surgery would make everything OK. And indeed, on July 21, the day before the Giants' first training camp practice, Wilson received clearance from doctors to practice in full. He did that for a week, but then this past Monday he ran head-first into the back of guard Eric Herman and walked off the practice field with a "burner."
Now he's certainly done for this season, and likely much longer. It's sad because Wilson is a great talent who it seems won't get to reach his potential. But anyone who's met the young man knows how happy and positive he is about everything, and your heart breaks for a guy who feels that way about life and the world and then gets a break like this. It's a part of the game, yes, and he's not the first one to whom this has happened and won't be the last. But here, on Aug. 4, 2014, within the context of this player and this team, this is sad news.
I am no fan of the Giants or any other team. I watch sports with the hope of being dazzled. And Wilson, when he has the ball in his hands, is capable of dazzling. So it makes me sad to think we won't get to watch him play anymore. But I wish him the best. And however crushed he is by today's news, I hope that someday he understands and appreciates the wisdom of the decision not to take chances with something as precious as his life.
@DanGrazianoESPN: Yeah, I think John Jerry and rookie Weston Richburg are both capable of winning that starting right guard spot to replace the retired Chris Snee. But as of now, the front-runner is Brandon Mosley, who's been taking the large majority of the first-team snaps at that position while Jerry works his way back from a knee injury and Richburg also plays center and goes through the typical and expected rookie development period. Mosley's a big, strong guy out of Auburn who was a fourth-round pick by the Giants in 2012 and is in his third year in their system. They would love it if he won the job, because developing their own players into starting roles is the way they like to build their roster, and they've had a tough time doing that in recent years.
@DanGrazianoESPN: Obviously, assuming David Wilson doesn't come back and play following his latest neck injury, Williams and anyone else who was behind Wilson on the running back depth chart (Peyton Hillis, Michael Cox, even Kendall Gaskins) move up. Williams is a fourth-round rookie out of Boston College, and while he was a dominant player in the ACC last year, the Giants aren't going to rush him into action if he's not ready. They think he might be able to help as a goal-line back right away. But they also feel they can use Hillis or starter Rashad Jennings in that role if Williams is not ready. As for regular snaps behind Jennings, I would think Hillis and maybe even Cox are ahead of Williams at this point because they were on the team last year and have experience with the protection schemes. Williams is a talent, but he's a rookie with a lot to learn. They'd like to see him pick up the blitz and catch the ball more reliably before they start using him with regularity in games.
@DanGrazianoESPN: The first thing rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. has to do is get on the field. The Giants' first-round draft pick injured his hamstring in the first practice of training camp on July 22 and has not practiced since. He also missed significant portions of the spring program, including the minicamp, with hamstring injuries. The more time he misses, the further behind he falls in his development, and that's tough, because the Giants did view him as a rookie who might be able to contribute right away. In their ideal scenario, Beckham would play the "X" receiver spot. That's the split end, or the receiver who's tethered to the line of scrimmage and doesn't motion. They believe he's capable of beating press coverage with his speed and getting downfield quickly, either allowing them to stretch the field with the vertical passing game or, more likely in the new scheme, help open things up closer to the line of scrimmage for Victor Cruz and the tight ends. Without Beckham, the offense can't operate the way it ideally wants to operate, because they don't have anyone to replace him who can run as fast as he can. So they do want him back, and soon, and if he can get back soon then I see him playing a major role.
@DanGrazianoESPN: Devon Kennard is the Giants' fifth-round pick out of USC, and he's received a fair bit of attention this spring and summer for his pleasantly surprising ability to master the defense quickly. They believe they could move him to the middle linebacker spot if Jameel McClain (who's filling in there for an injured Jon Beason) were to get injured. And in the meantime, Kennard projects to start at the strongside linebacker position with McClain in the middle. When Beason gets healthy, the likely plan is for McClain to move to the strong side and Kennard to back up at a couple of spots. But it's not out of the question that, depending on the way Kennard and McClain both play in the interim, Kennard could claim the spot for his own and send McClain to a backup role. He's certainly got the opportunity, and to this point he's doing well with it.
Thanks for the questions. Tweet at me Saturday night while I'm watching the Hall of Fame ceremony.
- Cornerback Bennett Jackson, the team's sixth-round pick out of Notre Dame, could be the most serious one. He got his feet tangled up with those of wide receiver Corey Washington on a deep pass play and injured his ankle. The team sent him for X-rays, and coach Tom Coughlin said he hoped it was just a sprain. Washington also sat out the remainder of practice with a sore heel following that play.
- Defensive end Robert Ayers also injured his ankle during team drills and did not return, but that injury did not seem to be as worrisome as Jackson's.
- Left tackle Will Beatty left practice early, but the team said that was due to an illness, and nothing to do with the leg injury from which he's been working his way back since he broke his leg in Week 17 of the 2013 season.
- Defensive tackle Mike Patterson sat out practice with a shoulder injury.
- Guard John Jerry, who had been doing some first-team work lately at right guard, missed Thursday's practice entirely due to some soreness in his surgically repaired knee.
- Linebacker Spencer Paysinger sat out practice with a concussion. He has not practiced since Sunday.
- Wide receiver/kick returner Trindon Holliday missed another practice due to a hamstring injury.
- On the good news front, wide receiver Rueben Randle practiced in full two days after missing Tuesday's practice with a hamstring injury.
- David Wilson, but we'll see whether we can get any more information on him and the condition of his neck. Wilson's out of practice for the rest of the week (which is Thursday and Friday, since the team travels to Canton, Ohio, on Saturday) and won't play in Sunday night's preseason game against the Buffalo Bills. The question at this point is whether Wilson will ever play again, and given that this could be a re-injury of the neck so soon after spinal fusion surgery, the team is likely to be overly cautious before putting Wilson back on the field. I feel for Wilson, who must be very frustrated and likely scared as well. We know we won't see running back
- It's doubtful that first-round pick Odell Beckham Jr. will practice as he continues to nurse a bad hamstring, but it's always worth watching to see whether he increases his activity at all. Fellow wide receiver Rueben Randle sat out Tuesday with a hamstring problem, so it will be interesting to see whether he practices, too.
- Giants coach Tom Coughlin said he'd have some idea after Thursday's practice about who's available to play (and for how long) in Sunday night's game. So I wonder if we might get news on that this afternoon, or if it will have to wait until Friday. I won't be here Friday, as I have to head to Canton to talk to Michael Strahan, but I believe Mike Mazzeo will have you covered. For Thursday, you get me and Kieran Darcy, and we'll try and get you everything you need.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- After a week of watching New York Giants training camp, it's clear the new offense is a smart, well-designed scheme. Ben McAdoo might be a first-time coordinator, but he has a plan and he's communicating it effectively, and the same goes for the new coaches he brought in and the ones he inherited. That Tom Coughlin oversees everything can only help matters, and if you want to be excited about the fresh, new ideas infusing the Giants offense in 2014, you're absolutely justified. It has a chance to be fun.
But it also has a chance to flop, at least in its first year, and not because of any fundamental flaw in design or planning. The biggest question isn't whether the new offense can work -- it's whether the Giants have good enough players to run it.
The focus will always be on the quarterback, but I think Eli Manning is the least of this team's concerns. He's 33, which is still a prime age for a quarterback in 2014, and there's no reason to think his mental or physical skills have eroded. The issue is the group around him, and the more you look at it compared with its chief competition, the more it starts to look substandard.
Wide receivers? Again, can't give them anything better than a No. 3 ranking in the division. I think Victor Cruz is fantastic, but he doesn't have enough help for anyone to consider ranking him with Washington's terrifying Pierre Garcon/DeSean Jackson/Andre Roberts trio. Cruz isn't as good as Dallas' Dez Bryant, and Terrance Williams has shown more as a No. 2 receiver than anyone else on the Giants has. So it's down to the Giants and Eagles for the No. 3 spot, and if you want to pick the Giants because Cruz is better than Jeremy Maclin or Riley Cooper, you're welcome to do so. Maclin's coming off injury, and Cooper is no sure thing to repeat 2013. But you'd like to see something out of Rueben Randle or Odell Beckham Jr. to help your argument.
We don't even want to talk about tight ends, where the Giants clearly have the fourth-best group in the division. They might have the 32nd-best group in the league, mainly because they've decided to expend no real resources on the position. If the Giants find a productive tight end from the group they have in camp, everyone will be surprised.
The offensive line is certainly not in a class with the ones in Philadelphia and Dallas. And while Washington is undergoing some change on theirs as well, the Giants' case here falls apart on the Trent Williams/Will Beatty left tackle comparison, which isn't close. Until it proves otherwise, you have to rank the Giants' offensive line fourth-best in the division.
Now, predictions in July aren't worth the bandwidth they occupy, and surely some of the players we've discussed here will outperform expectations, just as others will underperform. But this is a ton of question marks at nearly every single offensive position, and to think the Giants will answer all of their offensive questions satisfactorily is pure folly.
Should they give up? Of course not. This is the NFC East, which hasn't had an 11-game winner or multiple playoff teams since 2009. You could make a case for the Giants to win the division with a solid defense, a stellar secondary, strong coaching and a bounce-back season from Manning in spite of the group around him. You're not crazy. Last year showed us the Giants' floor is generally pretty high. They had one of the worst rosters in the league last year, and Coughlin still got them to 7-9. Positioning the Giants as contenders is never insane.
But if you're looking for this new offense to operate the way the Giants hope it can, I think there's a pretty good chance you're going to have to wait a year or so. The amount of change and the number of question marks are just going to be too much to overcome in one offseason. Given the issues they're facing up and down their depth chart, this new Giants offense is likely to remain a work in progress well into this season, and maybe even next.
- Unfortunately, the news of the day was injuries, headlined by running back David Wilson's neck burner. The Giants sent Wilson to New York and the Hospital for Special Surgery for a full battery of tests because they want to be as careful as possible with his neck as he's coming off spinal fusion surgery and only last week was cleared for full practice. It's possible this turns out just to be a low-level scare, but it's important to take every possible precaution given the recent history with Wilson and his neck. By comparison, the nagging hamstring troubles that kept Odell Beckham Jr., Rueben Randle, Xavier Grimble and Trindon Holliday sidelined seem like minor issues.
- Interesting practice for Larry Donnell, who's still No. 1 on the team's tight end depth chart and possibly in the coaches' hearts. He fumbled a ball near the goal line after one catch, but then got back up and made a leaping, one-handed touchdown grab in the back right corner of the end zone on the next play. All of the tight ends (except the injured Grimble) are getting lots of run, and they're all getting their share of first-team reps. There are a lot of formations the Giants are using in practice in which two tight ends are on the field at the same time, and they're lined up all over the place. They really need one or two guys to step forward from this group.
- Jerrel Jernigan dropped three punts that my "NFL Insiders" colleague Field Yates and I counted during punt-return drills. That's not good, and with Beckham and Holliday unable to return punts we're seeing a lot of David Wilson (before he had to leave), Victor Cruz (who's not going to do it in games) and Charles James on the punt return unit. Maybe that's a way for James to sneak onto the roster, who knows? It was good to see Field, regardless.
- Humorous highlights included a halfback pass from Peyton Hillis to Donnell that, shockingly, fell incomplete and a Trumaine McBride interception of Curtis Painter that he ran back for a touchdown with fellow corners Prince Amukamara and Walter Thurmond rushing off the sidelines and accompanying him home. I also thought it was funny that Jason Pierre-Paul joined in the defensive backs' post-practice huddle but left because their motivational chants are growing too complicated. Pierre-Paul continues to look fantastic in practice, by the way.
- And I haven't been charting each and every rep, but it seemed to me that John Jerry got more time at first-team right guard Tuesday than he has been. Brandon Mosley's still the main guy there, and certainly has an opportunity to hold off Jerry and claim the spot for his own. But they do like Jerry and want to give him a look as his surgically repaired knee allows.
- The Giants are off Wednesday and return to practice Thursday.
"I've never stopped growing," the New York Giants' new starting running back said before a practice last week. "I had to, because when I was a little, short, fat, overweight kid, dorky with glasses, I had to figure something out. It's a blessing not to be the most talented guy when you roll out of bed, not to be the fastest guy. It keeps that chip on your shoulder."
Now, he may not have to do all of those things, because right now they have David Wilson and Andre Williams and Peyton Hillis as options as well. And if everyone stays healthy, the running back group should be deep enough to help the coaches keep everyone fresh and put them in the best possible positions to succeed. But Jennings is ready for whatever they want to throw at him.
"This opportunity is great," Jennings said. "I have prepared to start every day since I've entered the league. I've been like that since college. I am not taking this for granted. I'm humble."
He looks good on the field so far in training camp in a variety of roles. He seems to have fit in quite nicely in the locker room. He has an engaging personality and a great deal of confidence, which he says is brought on by his devotion to year-round training and nutrition.
"What separates guys as they continue to play is what they do in the offseason," Jennings said. "I train year-round. And the way I eat, the way I sleep, the nutrition, massage, M.A.T., chiropractor, all those little things. If it works a little, I want a lot of it."
I had to look up M.A.T., but I'm pretty sure he's referring to muscle activation techniques, which is a process that measures and develops the efficiency of a person's muscle contraction. This is a dude who is paying attention to his body and making sure it's in the best possible condition to take advantage of the opportunity now in front of him. He said sitting behind Jones-Drew and McFadden gave him time (and motivation) to work on his fitness, nutrition and wellness techniques, and that the timing of his opportunity to be a full-time starter has therefore actually worked out well.
"I got a chance to mature," Jennings said. "I got a chance to learn how to take care of my body, and I've been blessed to have a chance to allow my body to catch up with my maturity."
Now, those things are intersecting with opportunity. Jennings has a chance to be the man in the ground game for a Giants offense that's ready to look at lot different than it did last year. He's been waiting -- and working -- for this chance for a long time.
No? I didn't think so. Good. Let's go.
The thing to remember, of course, is that the only place Robinson has ever been an effective pass-catching tight end is in Jerry Reese's imagination. Robinson caught a total of 29 passes in four years of college football at Cincinnati and didn't catch one in either of his first two NFL seasons. He's a blocking tight end, if anything, but Reese drafted him thinking he had the physical gifts to become a good NFL tight end. It's still possible he turns out to be correct, but to this point there's no evidence to support it.
The Giants' starting tight end job remains wide, wide, wide open and could conceivably still go to someone who's not yet on the team. But it's stunning to see Robinson listed all the way at the back of the depth chart when there was an assumption that he could get the first crack at it.
Elsewhere on this gilded document:
- Victor Cruz and Rueben Randle are listed as starting wide receivers, with rookie Odell Beckham Jr. behind Randle and Jerrel Jernigan behind Cruz. Beckham is, somewhat surprisingly, not listed at all among the kick returners or the punt returners, but that could be because he hasn't practiced much because of hamstring problems.
- J.D. Walton is listed as the starting center and Brandon Mosley as the starting right guard. Rookie Weston Richburg is listed as the backup center and John Jerry as the backup right guard. Those positions both could flip between now and Week 1. Richburg also could conceivably end up starting at right guard. Those two spots are in flux. Will Beatty, Geoff Schwartz and Justin Pugh are in their usual spots at left tackle, left guard and right tackle.
- Ryan Nassib is listed as the No. 2 quarterback, ahead of Curtis Painter. We'll see whether they keep two or three, but Nassib has to show more.
- Henry Hynoski is listed as the starting fullback ahead of John Conner, but man. The way they've been lining up tight ends in the backfield makes you wonder whether they'll carry either one.
- Rashad Jennings is the starting running back, with David Wilson, Peyton Hillis, Andre Williams, Kendall Gaskins and Michael Cox listed behind him, in that order.
- Mathias Kiwanuka and Jason Pierre-Paul are the starting defensive ends, with Robert Ayers behind Kiwanuka and Damontre Moore behind Pierre-Paul.
- Devon Kennard, whom we discussed Wednesday as a quick study, is listed as the starting strongside linebacker, with Jameel McClain in the middle in place of the injured Jon Beason. McClain could move back to the strong side when Beason returns, but Kennard has a chance for significant playing time as a rookie based on what he's shown so far. It wouldn't be a shock to see him hold on to the starting job. Jacquian Williams is listed ahead of Spencer Paysinger as the starter on the weak side. Rookie linebacker
- Cullen Jenkins and Mike Patterson are the starting defensive tackles, with Johnathan Hankins behind Jenkins and Markus Kuhn behind Patterson. They'd love for Hankins to play his way into a starting spot.
- Quintin Demps, Trindon Holliday, Wilson, Preston Parker and Jernigan are the listed kick returners, in that order.
- Holliday, Randle, Jernigan, Parker and Wilson are the listed punt returners, in that order.
I understand those who want to grumble their so-whats about Monday's big David Wilson news. If you're a New York Giants fan, there's a chance you're sick of hearing so much about Wilson and seeing so little from him. The Giants' 2012 first-round pick hasn't made much of an impact, and even he'd admit he needs to show more than he's shown.
All of that said, Monday's news (via Wilson himself on Twitter) that Wilson has been "cleared for everything" following neck surgery can only be a positive for the Giants as they open training camp Tuesday. They were prepared to move forward, if they had to, without Wilson in their backfield. But they're in much better shape with him as a viable option.
Start with Wilson's raw ability. He touched the ball only 75 times on offense as a rookie in 2012, but he averaged 5.0 yards per carry and 8.5 yards per reception. A better look at his game-breaking speed showed up on kick returns, where his 26.9-yard average ranked among the league leaders. There is little doubt that when the ball is in his hands, Wilson is a threat to do something special.
The issue in 2013 was getting and keeping the ball in Wilson's hands. After Andre Brown was hurt in the final preseason game, the Giants installed and talked up Wilson as their workhorse starter -- a role for which he may not have been psychologically prepared. He fumbled twice in the opener and was benched for it. The Giants eased him back into the offensive mix in a Week 3 loss in Carolina and a Week 4 loss in Kansas City, showing good flashes before getting hurt in the Week 5 loss to the Eagles. And that was the end of his season. A lost season, to be sure, but Wilson just turned 23 last month and there remains plenty of time for him to remind us of all the positives he brings.
Not having to deal with the pressure of being the only real option at running back, as he was in Week 1 last year, should be a help to Wilson. The depth of this year's group should protect against the total collapse the Giants suffered due to injury at the position, and the creativity of the coaching staff in making opportunities for all of the backs tailored to their specific abilities should help the running game be more productive. The Giants also believe their offensive line will block better this year, which shouldn't be hard.
Still ultra-talented, Wilson is also now apparently healthy again. He's learned his lesson from last September about the way they want him to carry the ball in traffic, and the manner in which that lesson was taught ensures he's not going to forget it. The current structure of the Giants' roster should land him in positions that maximize what he does well and minimize what he still struggles with. All in all, the return of Wilson to the backfield can be only a positive for the Giants in 2014.
@DanGrazianoESPN: Speed. Like the Eleanor Roosevelt quote says in the opening credits of Talladega Nights, "hot, nasty, bad-a** speed." Odell Beckham was drafted to give the Giants the field-stretching threat that Hakeem Nicks did not provide last year, and the team believes he can outrun defensive backs and help open things up for Ben McAdoo's offense near the line of scrimmage. Of course, assuming they're right, Beckham can provide a big-play threat in his own right down the field. But their hope is that he has the speed to beat press coverage and stretch out defenses in a way that allows their offense to operate with a variety of quick-hitting options. I have my own concerns over how Beckham will react to big, physical cornerbacks, but there are plenty of people I talk to around the league who like him a lot and believe he'll contribute right away. @DanGrazianoESPN: Well, I think very. But I don't think there's any way you can count on it to happen. Even if Snee stays healthy, can he possibly deliver the same old power and explosiveness, on a consistent, week-to-week basis, that he did early in his career? All due respect to a great player, but I don't see it. They need a reliable backup plan, and I doubt it's John Jerry. So watch Brandon Mosley closely in camp. The Giants liked what they saw from him in the spring, and they're hoping he emerges as a reliable backup option (or a starter option if they do lose Snee and/or Jerry) at guard. A healthy, 16-game Snee would be a huge benefit to the Giants' offensive line. But I think it's a real long shot that they get it. He's a tough, tough champion who could surprise, but bodies wear down over time, especially at that position. @DanGrazianoESPN: I mean, I don't know who you have in mind, but Daniel Fells and Kellen Davis each have five years' worth of experience in the NFL, and those guys are already on the team. Given what's left on the free-agent market at this point, it's hard to see how they could bring in anyone who's any different from those two guys to do what you're suggesting. The Giants honestly want to give Adrien Robinson and Larry Donnell a chance to show what they can do. They honestly don't believe in spending big resources on the position. But it's not as though they have NO TIGHT ENDS on the roster. What they lack is an experienced starting tight end they can trust to be a reliable option in the passing game. If none of the guys they have show any ability to be that, then sure, they could be shopping for tight end help once other teams start making cuts in late August. But given what the Giants tend to expect out of their tight ends, it's hard to imagine how someone on the roster won't emerge as at least a viable option. This is the group they're taking to camp at this point, and the truth is there's not a lot out there right now that would improve it. @DanGrazianoESPN: There's a role there for rookie fourth-round running back Andre Williams if he can take it. The Giants love to have a big, power running back who can grind out yards up the middle. No matter who the offensive coordinator is, that's going to be something Tom Coughlin wants. But they won't force Williams into playing time if he doesn't show he can handle some of the pass-protection responsibilities and maybe catch a ball or two. So while they like Williams and he was extremely productive in college last year, you shouldn't assume he's going to be a big factor in the run game right away. The Giants don't like to rush rookies, and everything I heard about Williams in spring practices indicated he needed a lot more work. They have Rashad Jennings, Peyton Hillis, Michael Cox and probably David Wilson, so they can certainly get by. When Williams is ready, they will have use for him. But that may not be Week 1.
Thanks for all of your questions. I'm'a check back in Monday from training camp, and we'll be off and running. Until then ... Shake n Bake.
Curtis Painter in OTAs and minicamp, and I think he'd have to fall flat on his face in order to lose the job. If Manning goes down, the Giants are cooked anyway, whether it's Painter or Nassib behind him. So they might as well keep developing the kid unless he's totally incompetent.
RUNNING BACKS (4)
Five running backs feels like a lot, so Hillis or 2013 seventh-rounder Michael Cox had to go. It's possible the Giants carry five and Williams could start out as this year's Nassib -- a fourth-rounder who's inactive for at least a little while as he gets his feet wet in the NFL with an eye toward a contribution further down the road. This list also assumes Wilson is cleared for contact by the neck exam he has scheduled for July 21, which is no sure thing. If he isn't, then Cox or Kendall Gaskins could find his way onto the team.
It's a camp battle between Hynoski and John Conner, but the Giants won't keep both. My hunch is that Hynoski has shown enough ability to produce with the ball in his hands that he'll get the edge in Ben McAdoo's new offense ahead of Conner as long as he's healthy.
WIDE RECEIVERS (6)
Holliday is likely to make the team as a return man, though it's possible he could get squeezed out if the team decides Beckham, Quintin Demps and either Randle or Jernigan are enough to handle those responsibilities. The Giants signed Holliday before they drafted Beckham, after all.
TIGHT ENDS (3)
In spite of the lack of quality experienced options, McAdoo's offense does appear to want to use the tight end a lot. Some Giants fans are hoping an outside name or two can replace some of the ones on this list, but as of now, this is what they have, and they'll hope something decent comes of it. They are eager to see what Robinson can do if he can ever keep himself healthy, and they love what Donnell showed them last year on special teams and think he deserves the reward of an opportunity here. Daniel Fells or Xavier Grimble could beat out Davis for that third spot without too much trouble.
OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (9)
- J.D. Walton
- Weston Richburg
- Will Beatty
- Justin Pugh
- Charles Brown
- Geoff Schwartz
- Brandon Mosley
- Chris Snee
- John Jerry
There are injury and health concerns with Beatty, Jerry and possibly Snee that could knock a name or two off this list with an IR or PUP designation. The Giants signed Brown and Jerry as veteran backups. They like Mosley's upside, and he could have the edge over someone like Eric Herman or James Brewer.
DEFENSIVE LINE (9)
- Jason Pierre-Paul
- Mathias Kiwanuka
- Robert Ayers
- Markus Kuhn
- Mike Patterson
- Johnathan Hankins
- Jay Bromley
- Damontre Moore
- Cullen Jenkins
I thought about undrafted Kelcy Quarles for one of the defensive tackle spots, and I guess it's possible he could beat out someone like Patterson in camp. But everyone else on here seems like a lock.
If Beason's foot injury isn't healed in time to allow him to start the season, someone like Terrell Manning or Dan Fox could sneak on here. More likely, the Giants would go with five linebackers while waiting for Beason and add someone on the defensive line or in the secondary.
It helps the numbers that Jayron Hosley will be suspended for the first four games of the regular season for a drug violation. If he does make the team, the Giants will have to clear a spot for him in Week 5. This group could also swell if the Giants decide they need to keep sixth-round pick Bennett Jackson and/or Charles James for special teams. It's going to be tough to make the Giants' roster as a corner this summer.
It's going to be tricky to get fifth-round pick Berhe on this roster, but the Giants like him enough to make room at the expense of someone like Brewer on the offensive line or Charles James at cornerback.
Special-teams coach Tom Quinn said there was a kicker competition between Brown and Brandon McManus, so flip a coin on that one. The other two spots here are in stone barring injury.
NFL Nation's Dan Graziano examines the three biggest issues facing the New York Giants heading into training camp.
The new offense: All eyes are on new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo and a Giants offense that's likely to look much different from the one quarterback Eli Manning ran for his first 10 years in the NFL. The fact that Manning was able to bounce back from his ankle surgery and participate in organized team activities and minicamp was a huge help to the learning process, but it's still an extensive and complex process that could conceivably linger into the season. Pay particular attention to the running game, whose concepts seem to be more complex than what the Giants are installing in the passing game. David Wilson said last month that the new offense gives the running backs the ability to "create and dictate" plays, but obviously a lot of that is going to depend on the ability of the offensive line to get the play blocked. There are a lot of questions to be answered on the offense: Who will the starting center be? Who will play tight end? Will Chris Snee be able to hold up at right guard? Can Will Beatty recover in time to start the season? Do the Giants have enough at wide receiver? Is Wilson healthy enough to be a factor in the run game? But central to everything is the ability of the players on the field to smoothly integrate themselves into a new system -- and to do so in time for the start of the regular season.
The defensive line. The Giants let 2013 sack leader Justin Tuck and top defensive tackle Linval Joseph go in free agency. They believe that Jason Pierre-Paul is healthy for the first time since October of 2012 and can dominate from the defensive end position the way he did in 2011. And they believe that young defensive tackles Johnathan Hankins and Markus Kuhn are ready to take the next developmental steps needed to absorb Joseph's workload and stuff up the middle against opposing run games. But they'll need Mathias Kiwanuka, Damontre Moore or Robert Ayers to emerge as a reasonable pass-rush threat on the other side to keep offenses' attention away from Pierre-Paul. And without injured middle linebacker Jon Beason around for camp and possibly the start of the season to get and keep things organized in the front seven, it would help if someone from the defensive line group could fill at least part of the vast leadership void created by Tuck's departure.
Team chemistry. The Giants don't go away for training camp anymore. They have camp right at the same East Rutherford, N.J., practice facility where they do their work during the regular season. They'll stay in a hotel as if they were away for camp, and they'll spend long days together in meeting rooms, on the field and in the cafeteria. But one of the big stories of this Giants season is the ability of the coaching staff to integrate a group of new players into the team culture and find leaders to replace guys like Tuck, Terrell Thomas, Kevin Boothe and David Diehl, who are no longer around to serve as locker room pillars. The Giants are counting on the ability of venerable head coach Tom Coughlin and his staff to do that, and they believe Beason and Antrel Rolle have emerged in recent years as big-time leaders on and off the field. But the vibe in the locker room is going to be different with so many new faces in place and so many familiar ones gone. It will be fascinating to see how that all comes together, and whether one offseason and one training camp is enough to make it all work.