New York Giants: jon beason

One last New York Giants Twitter mailbag before I start a too-brief summer vacation ... @DanGrazianoESPN: Yeah, I think that's a fair expectation, and I think you saw the Giants lean that way last year with Terrell Thomas as the regular nickel corner. They signed Walter Thurmond to play that position, and he's as good at it as anyone in the league. And they're thin at safety with Will Hill suspended and released, Stevie Brown coming off knee surgery and Quintin Demps having been signed primarily to return kicks. They have been talking a lot about keeping Antrel Rolle at safety, rather than using him all over the field as they've done in years past, and obviously sticking with a three-cornerback look would help with that. I honestly don't see the need for the old three-safety package, especially if Jon Beason is back healthy at middle linebacker early in the season. It worked well during that 2011 Super Bowl season, but that year they were thin at cornerback and linebacker and deep at safety. You're right if your point is that the scheme should be based around the personnel, and right now cornerback is a Giants strength. @DanGrazianoESPN: With Beason nursing a foot injury, the starting middle linebacker in training camp (and probably for Week 1) is going to be Jameel McClain. He projects as the starting strongside linebacker if Beason's healthy, but he's taking over in the middle while he's not. Jacquian Williams is the front-runner for the starting weakside linebacker spot, and the strongside position should belong to either Spencer Paysinger or rookie Devon Kennard, who impressed coaches with his minicamp performance. As for receivers, that's an interesting case. My first thought is that they keep six -- Victor Cruz, Rueben Randle, Mario Manningham, Odell Beckham Jr., Jerrel Jernigan and Trindon Holliday. But Holliday isn't really likely to factor as a receiver, as he's pretty much exclusively a kick and punt returner. So that would leave them with five real receivers (four if Manningham's knee won't let him answer the bell). That opens it up for someone like a Marcus Harris, Julian Talley or Corey Washington to possibly sneak onto the roster with a good camp, but that's a long shot. @DanGrazianoESPN: Based on my conversations with Giants people (and with Will Beatty himself) last year and this spring, I think the main reason Beatty struggled was technique. He's not a big, monstrous, mauling left tackle who relies on strength and an ability to overpower people. Beatty's success, when he's had it, has had more to do with quickness and athleticism. I was told last season while he was struggling that Beatty was playing with his hands too low, giving away leverage and hurting his ability to dictate his matchups. That sounds like an easy thing to fix, but bad habits are tough to break, and as the year went along the struggles got into Beatty's head. He admitted in December that he'd felt the weight of his free-agent contract and let the pressure get to him, and I think he was looking forward to an offseason to clear his head. The problem is that Beatty's offseason has been about recovery from that broken leg he suffered in the Week 17 game against the Redskins, and he hasn't had time to practice getting back into good habits. I agree that a Beatty rebound would have a positive ripple effect along the rest of the line, but at this point you have to consider him a major question mark, and not just because of the injury. @DanGrazianoESPN: The firing of their longtime tight ends coach does rank among the more surprising moves of the Giants' offseason. But when they hired young Ben McAdoo as their new offensive coordinator, it was only fair to assume he'd want to bring in a few of his own coaches and help construct the staff. During those discussions, it was decided that Pope's position would be one of the ones to turn over. They moved wide receivers coach Kevin M. Gilbride (the son of the former offensive coordinator) to tight ends coach, Sean Ryan from quarterbacks coach back to wide receivers coach and hired Danny Langsdorf as the new quarterbacks coach. Pope was a Giants icon, and the only person whose name is on all four of the franchise's Super Bowl trophies. But there was an effort to get a bit younger on the coaching staff this offseason. Tight end Adrien Robinson spoke during OTAs about how he's felt a different kind of connection with the younger Gilbride than he did with Pope, and if that's the case with the rest of the group it might answer your question. Thanks for all of your questions. If you need me, I'm on the golf course.
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. 

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo was the main attraction at Giants camp Thursday, but defensive coordinator Perry Fewell took questions from the media as well.

Fewell is entering his fourth season on the job, but had several new players to incorporate this spring, including at least a couple starters.

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie will play cornerback opposite Prince Amukamara, with Walter Thurmond seeing plenty of action as well as the team's nickel corner. Jameel McClain will almost certainly start at linebacker -- in the middle until Jon Beason is healthy, and then alongside Beason after that. Then there are the other free-agent acquisitions, plus the team's draft class.

Fewell likes the new "tools" at his disposal. "I definitely think those tools allow us to do a lot more different things than we've done in the past," he said. "I was very excited about what we were able to install [this spring], some of the things we were able to do, the information they retained, and executed at a high level."

The most attention-grabbing additions the Giants made this offseason, defensively, were in the secondary. But the team lost 50 percent of its starting D-line with the departures of Linval Joseph and Justin Tuck, both of whom played well in 2013.

The Giants do have veteran replacements for each in Mike Patterson and Mathias Kiwanuka, to plug in with Cullen Jenkins and Jason Pierre-Paul. But both Fewell and defensive line coach Robert Nunn singled out young defensive tackles Johnathan Hankins and Markus Kuhn in particular on Thursday.

"I've been extremely impressed with both those guys," Fewell said. "Technique-wise they have accomplished a lot in Phase 1, Phase 2 and Phase 3 of the offseason program. And then just their knowledge of the game -- I think they've done a really, really nice job."

Hankins, a second-round draft pick in 2013, played in 11 games last season, with 16 tackles. Kuhn, a seventh-round pick in 2012, tore an ACL late in his rookie year, but was able to play in five games late last season.

"We've got a very healthy situation there at defensive tackle," Nunn said. "We've got two veterans (Jenkins and Patterson) that have had an outstanding offseason. And we've got two young players that have come in here -- it was every day that one of those two, Hankins or Kuhn, either myself or Perry was pointing out positive things that they did, every single day."

So the Giants feel good about what they have up front. They're expecting Beason to return from his injured foot early in the season, if not by Week 1, and aren't too concerned about his absence in the meantime.

"We install, we go as we need to go, and we go with it with the intent that Jon will be ready when he's ready," Fewell said. "Just him being in the meeting room, being there, hearing his voice is enough for us. So we proceed as follows."

Fewell also spoke very highly of rookie linebacker Devon Kennard, a fifth-round pick who got some reps with the first team during minicamp this week. "He blew us away," Fewell said, of the USC product's football knowledge.

And regarding the secondary, beyond the new additions, Fewell sounds very pleased to have safety Stevie Brown back, after Brown missed all of last season with a torn ACL.

"He looked pretty good this spring," Fewell said. "Obviously he hasn't tackled, he hasn't hit anyone, but Stevie is -- we'll use the term, on point. He's on point to returning to that form where he was when he left off."

It's easy to be optimistic in mid-June, with the regular-season opener nearly three months away. We'll learn a lot more starting July 21, when the Giants reconvene here for training camp.

This was Fewell's answer when asked about second-year defensive end Damontre Moore's progress, but it applies across the board:

"I would really like to give you a set answer. [But] I think preseason games will be the measuring stick," Fewell said. "We all look pretty good when we're running around in underwear, shorts. But when you get hit in the mouth and that person reacts, that's when you can measure and find out where you really are."
What we learned on Day 1 of New York Giants minicamp is that free-agent signee Jameel McClain is the first in line to replace the injured Jon Beason at middle linebacker. As Kieran Darcy writes, McClain is comfortable in the leader's role and likely well suited for the motivational and organizational responsibilities that come along with Beason's job. What we don't know -- and won't know, until the pads go on and there are opposing teams out there in different-colored jerseys trying to score against the Giants -- is whether McClain can play like Beason.

The Giants didn't sign McClain to be a three-down thumper who's willing to take on offensive tackles in the open field at the second level. That's what Beason was for them last year. It's a big reason he was able to earn his teammates' respect so instantly. And it's why the Giants made it a priority to re-sign him at the beginning of the offseason. McClain might be able to replace Beason as a player, and the Giants might only need him to do it for one or two regular-season weeks. But that's the lingering question for me off of Tuesday. I have little doubt that McClain will be good in the huddle. How good will he be once it breaks?

In other matters:

The Giants are being cautious with veteran guard Chris Snee, who's rehabbing from elbow surgery as well as hip surgery.

Eli Manning likes the progress the new offense is making.

And according to Conor Orr at NJ.com, Mathias Kiwanuka is not happy he was asked to take a pay cut this offseason, though Kiwanuka does acknowledge that the collectively bargained rules governing NFL contract make this the way of his world.

Back out there today for more from Giants minicamp. We'll keep you posted.

Jameel McClain moves to middle of defense

June, 17, 2014
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants received encouraging news about Jon Beason on Tuesday, and Jameel McClain as well.

McClain was inserted at middle linebacker with the first unit in Beason's absence, on Day 1 of the Giants' three-day mandatory minicamp. And by the sounds of it, he already has the confidence of the team's other defensive leaders.

Beason
McClain
"[McClain] knows exactly what to do, when to do it and how to do it," safety Antrel Rolle said. "He's a guy that, if need be, can definitely step up and fill whatever role that he needs to fill and make sure we don't miss a beat."

The addition of McClain back in mid-March did not generate much buzz -- in fact, it was overshadowed by Beason himself, who re-upped with the Giants just one day before. But it could prove to be one of the Giants' most important moves of the offseason.

If Beason makes it back by Week 1, which is the goal, McClain will probably still start alongside him. And if Beason isn't ready, the Giants have a very experienced player to fill his shoes.

The seven-year veteran, who will turn 29 next month, played in 87 games for the Baltimore Ravens from 2008 to 2013, including 55 starts -- not too shabby for an undrafted free agent.

McClain started all 10 games he played in last season, after recovering from a spinal cord contusion the year before. But the Ravens cut him at the end of February, saving $3.2 million in salary-cap space.

He played in a 3-4 system in Baltimore, but McClain sounds confident he can adapt to the Giants' 4-3 scheme quickly. He has played both inside and outside linebacker, and often made the defensive calls for the Ravens, meaning he should have little trouble handling that when manning the middle for the Giants.

"It is a little different [system], but football is football," McClain said. "Most important is knowing what you're doing, how to get people lined up, and how to play this game physical. That’s football, in any position."

The charismatic Beason emerged as a team leader after the Giants acquired him from the Carolina Panthers last October. McClain appears to have a similar personality. He looks and sounds very comfortable here already, singing on his way out of the shower Tuesday and embracing the media swarm around his locker.

"That's what this league is. This league is opportunity, and the chance for players to show themselves," McClain said. "Fortunately we will get Jon back, so we're blessed to have that. But what we have now is the chance for a lot of people to step up and step into positions that they normally wouldn't have been in, and that's always good for a football team."

Veteran defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka said it's possible for a new player like McClain to become a team leader very quickly.

"I think the nature of that position, people have to hear your voice every play," Kiwanuka said. "And the kind of guy that he is, how hard he works, that kind of thing, people respect production. If you’re out there on the field every day and producing ... that's something that people want to follow."

The Giants' defense will be following McClain for the rest of this three-day minicamp and most of training camp, if not longer. He is suddenly one of the team's most important players, and will be providing some unique touches, as evidenced by the "Woo!" shouts that punctuated the Giants' defensive huddles Tuesday.

"Yeah, that was a little Ric Flair," McClain said, chuckling. "That was something that I brought to give a little flavor to some already flavorful and colorful players."
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- It is extremely important to the New York Giants and their new offense that 32-year-old veteran right guard Chris Snee return from his various surgeries and remain fully healthy this season. To that end, the Giants held Snee out of team drills during Tuesday's minicamp practice and could hold him out all week to protect his surgically repaired elbow.

Snee was out on the field for the entirety of the morning practice Tuesday, but he worked on the side with team trainers, just running. He said his surgically repaired hips are feeling great, but that the team is just being cautious with the elbow as planned all along.

Snee
"You saw what the [San Antonio] Spurs did, right? Rested some older guys? We're following that blueprint," Snee joked after practice. "Everything's been good so far. But at this point in my career, if they say, 'Take a breather,' I'm going to take a breather."

Snee said the elbow surgery he had after the season was more involved and required more rehab than he initially thought it would, and that's why he and the team put in a plan to back him off of some spring practices. He believes he'll be 100 percent ready when training camp begins next month, and he said his hips feel fine. He lost 35 pounds last season to help his lower body recover from its latest surgery, dropping down to 275 pounds. He says he's now back up to 300 and planning to gain 10 more by training camp to return to his playing weight.

"The plan with him is to see if we can get the elbow right so that he feels comfortable and confident," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "We won't be in a rush in that regard. He's played enough that we can get him healthy and get him right back to where he was. We know what we have there."

What they don't know about Snee is what they have in terms of his ability to hold up for an entire season. That, it seems, will remain a question until he actually does it.

Some other notes from the first day of minicamp:

Also working on the side were left tackle Will Beatty (leg) and wide receiver Mario Manningham (knee), who are hoping to return in time for the July 22 start of training camp. Middle linebacker Jon Beason, who broke his foot in OTA practices last week, attended meetings with the team in the morning but was not on the field. The Giants said his foot will be immobilized for the next six weeks, after which he'll begin his rehab.

First-round wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. did some individual drills but was still out of team drills due to a hamstring injury. "He was able to go. Whether he could hit that top speed was another question. Why take a chance on it right now?" Coughlin said. "I’d like to have him practicing. That’s how you learn – you practice. He’s done all of the studying, he’s good in the classroom, but he’s got to get out here."

Running back David Wilson was out there, running around and catching passes. Wilson remains hopeful that he can be cleared for contact drills by the time training camp starts next month.

Giants sign LB Terrell Manning

June, 16, 2014
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With middle linebacker Jon Beason out at least through training camp due to a broken foot, the New York Giants needed to bolster their roster at linebacker. To that end, they have announced the signing of linebacker Terrell Manning.

Manning was a fifth-round draft pick by the Packers in 2012. He played in five regular-season games and two postseason games for Green Bay that season and one game with the Chargers in 2013. He's shown an ability to be a helper on special teams, which bodes well for his chances if he gets an opportunity to show anything on defense. I imagine they'll use him on the weak side and maybe give him a chance to show whether he can handle Beason's middle linebacker job, since they don't have a clear and obvious replacement on the roster right now.

The Giants also announced that third-round draft pick Jay Bromley has signed his rookie contract, which means all seven of their 2014 draft picks are now under contract.

W2W4: Giants minicamp

June, 16, 2014
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The New York Giants begin the final phase of their offseason program Tuesday with the start of a three-day minicamp in East Rutherford, New Jersey. This will be the last time they're all on the field together until they start training camp July 22. Here's a look at what we'll be watching during these final three days of June practice:

[+] EnlargeEli Manning
William Perlman/The Star-Ledger-USA TODAY SportsThe Giants are looking for Eli Manning and the offense to make progress in learning Ben McAdoo's system.
Progress with the new offense: It's clear by now that quarterback Eli Manning is healed from his April ankle surgery and practicing as he normally would practice this time of year. That means that the Giants should be making as-planned progress in new coordinator Ben McAdoo's offense. That progress has been somewhat haphazard to this point, as it's reasonable to expect. While the passing game concepts might be simpler under McAdoo than they were previously, the run-game concepts appear to be more complex. What little we got to see of the new offense in organized team activities (OTAs) looked disorganized and confused. Again, that's all understandable, and I would expect to see more of the same this week. But Tom Coughlin and his coaching staff want to see progress -- want to see things begin to look smoother. And while there will still be no pads or contact at this point in the offseason program, the expanded practice time should allow for some visible progress.

Middle linebacker: With Jon Beason out with a foot injury, who will take over his responsibilities in the middle of the front seven? Has Mark Herzlich advanced enough since last September to handle it? Can Jameel McClain move inside to a larger role than the one for which he was signed? Is rookie Devon Kennard a legitimate candidate? Much of what the Giants do on defense relies on Beason's ability to get and keep things organized. How organized will it look without him?

The offensive line: Who's getting more first-team snaps at center, J.D. Walton or Weston Richburg? Can Chris Snee practice every day, or are his surgically repaired hips slowing him down? And who's getting the left tackle reps with Will Beatty out? The offensive line remains the biggest issue this team faces in 2014, and the sooner things start to look settled there, the better.

Odell Beckham Jr.: The Giants' first-round pick missed a chunk of OTA time due to a hamstring injury, and it's unclear whether he'll participate this week. I still don't think we'll be able to make any judgments about the speedy wide receiver until we see him against real competition and can tell how he's going to react to physical press coverage. But just getting him on the field with the rest of the offense would be a benefit, if only to keep everyone else in their proper positions and working on plays that involve Beckham's downfield speed.

Tight ends: They're going to need one. Is Adrien Robinson looking like a real candidate? Is Daniel Fells? Are there different roles possible for guys like Kellen Davis and Larry Donnell as blockers? The Giants' weakest position group bears watching until we get a better handle on the ways in which its members can be expected to contribute.
So yeah. Took a little vacation time last week. Relaxed, unplugged, all that good stuff. Figured I'd catch up on the New York Giants when I got back to work this morning, see who got the latest drug suspension, stuff like that...

Wait. Jon Beason broke his foot in organized team activities?

Beason
Well, that's not good.

The team-issued prognosis indicates Beason will certainly miss all of training camp and quite possible the season opener as he heals, and that's a blow. The Giants finally invest in a linebacker and he breaks his foot in OTAs. Can't make this stuff up.

We've written and talked a lot about Beason as a team leader, which he was instantly upon arrival from Carolina last October, and that's going to be difficult to replace. His intelligence and his ability to get and keep things organized from play-to-play in the front seven was something that stood out. He also played quite well, showing surprising speed, good instincts for the ball and a toughness that helped fortify those leadership credentials. When your teammates see you, as a 6-foot, 235-pound linebacker, willing to take on a 300-pound offensive tackle in the open field, that gets their attention. The Giants will miss Beason for however long he's out and will be eager to get him back as soon as possible.

Meantime, who plays middle linebacker? The options don't look fantastic. Mark Herzlich has played it, but not so well that the team didn't feel the need to go out and get Beason last year. Rookie fifth-rounder Devon Kennard apparently worked in Beason's place last week after the injury, but that'd be a lot to ask of a rookie fifth-rounder. Jameel McClain, signed from the Ravens to play one of the outside linebacker spots, said two weeks ago he's been working alongside Beason and helping make the calls. But McClain doesn't profile as a three-down playmaker on the inside.

If you want to look on the bright side, it's easy to say that they were able to fix a middle linebacker problem last year by trading a seventh-rounder for Beason, and that there will be options on the market for a good price. But the Cowboys have been looking for the same thing since Sean Lee got hurt a few weeks back, and they haven't turned up much. The Giants got a real gem in Beason and are unlikely to replicate that success if they have to go out on the market and find a replacement for him this year.
We get back out to New York Giants OTAs on Thursday this week, but until then we have to rely on information the team puts out about who looks good in practice and who's playing in what roles. So here's a link to today's Giants.com OTA report, which mentions a few specifics. This one caught my eye:
McClain
4. Jameel McClain is a great wingman for Jon Beason at linebacker. He flashes the same leadership qualities and has a good eye for defensive adjustments, often barking out audibles based on what the offense is showing.

Obviously, it's no surprise that the team's official web site has positive things to say, but part of the reason the Giants signed McClain is that he's a veteran who's played at a high level in a winning organization (Baltimore) and has been a leader on defense in the past. Having lost Justin Tuck and Terrell Thomas, two of the more vocal on-field and off-field leaders their defense had, the Giants wanted to bring in someone who could help get and keep things organized. Antrel Rolle does a good job of that in the secondary, and Beason ran things in the front seven after coming over in the trade with Carolina, but the more help on this front, the better.

The Giants are obviously a roster in tremendous flux, and one of the major questions is the extent to which all of the new pieces will fit together. If McClain can be the kind of player and leader who can help with that, he'll have a value to them beyond what a lot of people may have been expecting when he signed.

Giants depth chart: Defense

May, 16, 2014
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A look at the New York Giants' depth chart on the defensive side of the ball following free agency and the draft.

Right defensive end
Jason Pierre-Paul
Damontre Moore

Pierre-Paul
Entirely possible, of course, that Moore could play his way into a starting spot on the other side. The Giants' defensive end situation is in flux after Pierre-Paul, whom they hope is finally fully healthy after a couple of injury-plagued seasons.

Left defensive end
Mathias Kiwanuka
Robert Ayers

Wide open here, but these are the two run-stopping defensive ends who likely will vie for the difficult task of replacing Justin Tuck on the side opposite Pierre-Paul.

Right defensive tackle
Cullen Jenkins
Mike Patterson
Jay Bromley

It will be interesting to see whether Bromley, whose 10 sacks from an interior line position last year at Syracuse caught the Giants' attention, can force his way into the defensive tackle rotation as a rookie.

Left defensive tackle
Johnathan Hankins
Markus Kuhn
Jay Bromley

The Giants are counting on Hankins being able to take on a larger role in his second year after they let 25-year-old mainstay Linval Joseph leave via free agency.

Beason
Middle linebacker
Jon Beason
Mark Herzlich
Devon Kennard

Beason was re-signed to play this position and to help run the defense as the player who makes the calls and sets the alignment in the front seven. Fifth-round pick Kennard's future, to the extent that he has one, could be here or on the strong side. He'd have to be a special teams ace, though, to push Herzlich out at this point.

Weakside linebacker
Jacquian Williams
Spencer Paysinger
Spencer Adkins

Williams or Paysinger could be the starter here, and they also could split snaps as situations and opponents dictate.

Strongside linebacker
Jameel McClain
Kendrick Adams
Devon Kennard

The Giants also can use Paysinger on this side if need be. But this is the role for which they signed former Ravens starter McClain.

Rodgers-Cromartie
Left cornerback
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
Walter Thurmond
Trumaine McBride
Zack Bowman

Coach Tom Coughlin has said Rodgers-Cromartie will cover the opposing team's best wide receiver each week. Thurmond is likely to play the slot corner position primarily but can play outside if need be.

Right cornerback
Prince Amukamara
Walter Thurmond
Charles James
Bennett Jackson

It's a big year for Amukamara, whose 2015 option was picked up but still isn't guaranteed. Thurmond is on a one-year deal and could end up replacing him if he outplays him.

Slot cornerback
Walter Thurmond
Jayron Hosley

Thurmond
Thurmond is the top slot corner in the league, and if Rodgers-Cromartie and Amukamara can lock things down on the outside, he'll give the Giants a major matchup advantage in the middle of the field.

Strong safety
Antrel Rolle
Stevie Brown
Cooper Taylor
Quintin Demps

Free safety
Stevie Brown
Will Hill
Nat Berhe

Hill is the starter if his appeal of his latest drug suspension succeeds. If it doesn't, he could be cut outright. Brown can play either safety spot and was slated to be a starter last year before he tore his ACL in the preseason. The Giants may have to bring him along slowly because of the injury, and if he has a setback and Hill is suspended, they could find themselves thin here.
video The pick: Devon Kennard, outside linebacker, USC

My take: The guy is a bit of a tweener pass-rusher who played outside linebacker in a 3-4 in college, but guess what? Yeah, that's right. He was a team captain at USC. (Time to link back to this from last night).

Todd McShay gave Kennard a seventh-round grade, and our ESPN scouts rated him the No. 16 outside linebacker in the draft. But as we discussed earlier with the Giants' first fifth-rounder, Nat Berhe, what they're looking for here are hard-working smart guys who can contribute right away on special teams and maybe develop into more useful players than that down the road. Everyone being taken Saturday is a developmental player, and the Giants are looking for guys whose makeup leads them to believe they can develop relatively quickly.

His father, Derek Kennard, played 11 seasons and started 122 games in the NFL as an offensive lineman for the Cardinals, Saints and Cowboys from 1986-96.

Injury concerns?: Kennard wasn't overly healthy in college. He had hip and thumb surgeries following the 2010 season and tore a pectoral muscle prior to the 2012 season.

What's next: Unless they trade it back to add more picks, the Giants have one pick left in this year's draft. It is the 11th pick of the sixth round, No. 187 overall. They traded their seventh-round pick for Jon Beason during the 2013 season.

Giants Saturday draft reset

May, 10, 2014
May 10
11:00
AM ET
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- An hour from now, the fourth round of the NFL draft will begin. The draft will conclude sometime this afternoon or evening once through seven rounds. The New York Giants have the following four picks remaining, barring any trades today that change the number:
  • Fourth round, No. 13 (113 overall)
  • Fifth round, No. 12 (152 overall)
  • Fifth round, No. 34 (174 overall)
  • Sixth round, No. 11 (187 overall)

The Giants do not have a seventh-round pick, because they traded it to the Carolina Panthers for Jon Beason during the 2013 season. Their extra fifth-rounder is a compensatory selection that resulted from free-agent activity during the 2012 offseason. Compensatory picks cannot be traded.

Obviously, there's no way to predict with any accuracy who the Giants will take with any of these picks (though you are welcome to go through the list of best remaining available players and find the ones who were team captains in college). But here are some thoughts on positions the Giants may or may not address on the final day:

Safety. Antrel Rolle is entering the final year of his deal, Stevie Brown is coming back from ACL surgery and Will Hill is facing a third drug suspension in as many years. Cooper Taylor is the only safety they have locked up beyond 2014 right now. Minnesota's Brock Vereen and LSU's Craig Loston are the two highest-rated available safeties right now according to our scouts.

Running back. They always seem to take one somewhere, and they don't believe they can have enough depth at running back. Florida State's Devonta Freeman and Boston College's Andre Williams are the top two left on this board.

Pass rusher. Seems weird they haven't taken one (though they'd happily tell you that third-rounder Jay Bromley got 10 sacks from the defensive tackle position last year at Syracuse), but this isn't a great draft for pass-rushers. Not too many inspiring names left on this list or this list.

Tight end. I don't see it. If they really felt they needed a tight end, they'd have taken one already. At this point, why take a fourth-round tight end when you already have one of those, in Adrien Robinson, who's been in your building for a couple of years already and you want to see what he's got? But if you really want the list, here. Fresno State's Marcel Jensen and Oregon's Colt Lyerla are the top names left on it.
Yes, the first round of the NFL draft is tonight, finally, after far too long a wait, and as you well know the New York Giants hold the No. 12 overall pick. Here is what I've got for you with about 12 hours until it's the Giants' turn to pick:
  • I picked Michigan tackle Taylor Lewan for the Giants in our NFL Nation mock draft on ESPN.com on Tuesday and on SportsCenter on Wednesday, but the situation is fluid and as of this morning I do not think Lewan will be the pick. First of all, I think he will be gone by No. 12. And second of all, even if he is gone, I think they have other guys they like better, including Notre Dame offensive lineman Zack Martin. This is my impression based on a number of conversations I've had in recent days with people who have at least some insight into the Giants' thought process. If the choice at No. 12 comes down to Martin or Lewan, I believe they would take Martin.
  • Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley told reporters in New York City on Wednesday that the Giants "pretty much said that if I get to them, they'd be looking for me to be on the field starting the first game," per Conor Orr. I like Mosley a lot, and I think he would be a fine pick for the Giants at No. 12. But (a) they need this pick to be an offensive player, because that is the side of the ball on which they need the most work, and (b) the Giants haven't taken a linebacker in the first round since (all together now!) Carl Banks in 1984. They don't do it. They won't do it. They just paid fairly big money to lock up Jon Beason. As I said on Twitter on Wednesday, if the Giants take Mosley with the No. 12 pick tonight, I will walk the 14.3 miles home from East Rutherford.
  • LSU wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. said his former college teammate, Giants wide receiver Rueben Randle, told him "they're interested, and if they can get me, they'll get me," per Art Stapleton. Beckham also says he went to the same high school as Eli Manning. Beckham, I believe, is a much more realistic possibility than has been reported up until now, and I will address the likelihood of his being the pick later today in a prediction post.

I'll check back in with that post and maybe one or two more as the day goes along, though I do have some Mother's Day errands to knock out. (Yeah, that's right. Don't forget!) I will also be in East Rutherford at the Giants' team facility tonight during the draft, and will fill you in on everything they say about their pick after they make it. I'll be back there again Friday night and Saturday afternoon for all of your Giants draft weekend needs. Meantime, enjoy the breathless anticipation.
The New York Giants have been the NFL's most active team so far this offseason, adding 14 free agents from outside their organization and re-signing 10 of their own. But free agency is no cure-all, as we've all heard countless times. So each day this week, we'll take a look at one question that still remains following the Giants' spring splurge. Today we ask:

How will the locker room come together with so many new faces?

[+] EnlargeNew York Giants
AP Photo/Evan PinkusIt's going to fall on coach Tom Coughlin to keep the chemistry and professionalism alive in the Giants' locker room.
One of the acknowledged strengths of the Giants in recent years has been their team chemistry -- the extent to which their players buy into the whole idea of being a Giant, and what that all means. It has served them well in good times and in bad. Their ability to hang together helped elevate them from a 7-7 morass in late December of 2011 to Super Bowl champions a little more than a month later. It helped them right the ship after last year's 0-6 start to win seven of their final 10 games and salvage some respectability. A lot of that generates from the tone set by ownership and of course head coach Tom Coughlin, but for a long time there has been a core group of players in the locker room who could be counted on to buy into the "Giant way" of doing things.

Is that still the case? Here is a partial list of significant departures this offseason:

David Baas

Kevin Boothe

David Diehl

Linval Joseph

Hakeem Nicks

Terrell Thomas

Justin Tuck

Corey Webster

Those eight players take with them a combined total of 52 seasons played as Giants and 11 Super Bowl rings won as Giants. Now, other than Joseph and maybe Tuck, it's tough to make a strong argument that any of them should have been brought back, but that's not the point we're discussing here. The point is that, whatever these guys were by the end of 2013, they were longtime Giants who didn't have to be educated about the coaches' or the organization's expectations of what that meant. Webster was no locker room leader, but he was no troublemaker either. Nicks was horrible last year, but even at his worst he was no boat-rocker. He just didn't play as hard as they wanted him to play. Even at 0-6 and with guys like that playing their worst, there was never any locker-room turmoil with the 2013 Giants, because the room was built around professionals and champions who knew how to pull together for the greater good.

So because of the extent of the change, this is a question that needs asking. The Giants believe they retained some of last year's strong leadership with returning captain Antrel Rolle and middle linebacker Jon Beason on defense. Eli Manning remains a strong locker room presence, and the return of offensive lineman Chris Snee is a benefit from a leadership standpoint. The retention of Coughlin, who sets the tone for the locker room as head coach, is the most important key to keeping this all together, and he himself admits that it's his mission to make sure the new pieces all mesh as effectively as the old ones did.

But until we see that happen, there's no way to know for sure. What if guys like Rashad Jennings and Geoff Schwartz and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie don't like the way the Giants operate? If the team gets wiped out in September again, can this new group be counted on to handle it as professionally as last year's did? If the team finishes 9-7 or 10-6 and gets into the playoffs, can this new group be counted on to turn up its play to a championship level the way the 2011 group did?

It's a mystery, as it must be when a team engages in this level of turnover. And it's really not a question to which we're likely to have a concrete answer any time soon. The free-agent frenzy has changed the look of the Giants and by necessity will alter the vibe in the locker room. Some of the new players will be obvious assets. Some will not. Time will tell which will be which, and the manner in which the players and the coaches manage the good and the bad will determine how it all comes together. It's a big project, and not an easy one. There remains a strong chance this is only the first offseason in a larger rebuilding project, and that parts of this question will have to be addressed again next spring.

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