New York Giants: Zak DeOssie

All this week, we took a position-by-position look at the New York Giants' offense as it heads into training camp. The week of July 14, we'll do the same with the defense. Today, though, as a Saturday special, we'll take a look at the way the Giants' special teams stack up with a couple of weeks still left before camp.

Kickers: Josh Brown, Brandon McManus

Punter: Steve Weatherford

Long snapper: Zak DeOssie

Kick returners: Quintin Demps, Trindon Holliday, Odell Beckham Jr.

Punt returners: Holliday, Beckham, Rueben Randle, Jerrel Jernigan

Gunners: Zack Bowman, Bennett Jackson, Charles James et al.

Special teams coach Tom Quinn said in June that he saw the placekicker position as a competition between Brown, who was the Giants' kicker last year, and McManus, a rookie out of Temple. That's a battle to watch in camp.

Demps was signed for kickoff returns, but the suspension and release of Will Hill has left the Giants thin at safety, and Demps likely will have to play more there than they originally planned. That could open the door for Holliday or rookie Beckham to get more kick-return chances, assuming they're not afraid to use this year's first-round pick there and expose him to injury that could limit him on offense. David Wilson, who was brilliant as a kick returner in his 2012 rookie season, is unlikely to find himself back in the mix even if he's cleared for contact following neck surgery. Michael Cox, if he makes the team at running back, could factor here as well.

Holliday should be the primary punt returner, though Beckham can likely do the job there too. Randle and Jernigan are holdovers from last year's punt-return unit, which was one of the worst in the league.

Bowman gets mentioned here because his ability to get down the field on special teams is a primary reason the Giants signed him. James and Jackson could use strong performances on the coverage teams in camp as a means of making the team in a crowded field of cornerbacks.

Weatherford's and DeOssie's spots are as secure as Eli Manning's is.
The weekend fruits of your #nygmail hashtag labor:
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Jerry ReesePat Lovell/USA TODAY SportsOf the 39 players drafted during GM Jerry Reese's first five drafts, only eight remain on the roster.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- There are New York Giants fans reading this who aren't sure how to feel about this year's draft but assume it'll be all right because they trust GM Jerry Reese as a good drafter.

They shouldn't. Because the evidence says he's not.

Reese's reputation as a good operator of the draft rests on two things -- his very good debut draft as Giants GM in 2007, and the fact that the Giants have won two Super Bowls during his seven seasons in the position. But that shouldn't be enough, really. The 2007 draft was seven years ago now, and he hasn't had a good draft since. And the Super Bowl is used far too often to excuse other sins. It's one game (or two, in this case). If Mario Manningham's pinkie toe is on the sideline when he makes that catch, or if Rob Gronkowski's end-zone lunge starts a half-second sooner that night in Indianapolis, would it then be OK to criticize the Giants' recent draft record? If the answer is yes, then it should be OK to do so anyway. Credit the people who run the Giants for the Super Bowl titles, but it's also on them that their team has missed the playoffs four of the past five years.

I don't think Reese is a bad GM. His in-season work last year to patch holes with guys such as Jon Beason and Brandon Jacobs kept the Giants from being historically awful. He was active and smart in free agency this spring, wisely identifying his roster as one that needed widespread repair. Victor Cruz as an undrafted free-agent find is on his résumé, too. But when it comes to the draft, a deeper look reveals a troubling lack of clothes on this particular emperor.

Discount, just for our purposes here, the 2012 and 2013 drafts, which are still too recent to evaluate. (Though it's tough to feel real excited about the David Wilson/Rueben Randle/Jayron Hosley start in 2012 so far). Look at Reese's first five drafts -- 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011. He selected a total of 39 players and only eight are on the current roster. One of those eight, Manningham, left for two years and came back. Four of the eight came from the 2011 draft, so only four of the 31 players he took in his first four drafts are on the team at the moment, and only three have been on it all along.

[+] EnlargeHakeem Nicks
Al Bello/Getty ImagesHakeem Nicks is the latest former Giants first-rounder who didn't sign a second contract with the team.
Of all the players Reese has drafted for the Giants, exactly three -- Ahmad Bradshaw, Will Beatty and Zak DeOssie -- signed second long-term contracts with the team after their rookie deals. Reese's first three first-rounders -- Aaron Ross, Kenny Phillips and Hakeem Nicks -- all signed elsewhere when they hit free agency. Linval Joseph, the second-round pick in 2010, also was not re-signed. These were fine picks who produced for the Giants, but you can't say you're building through the draft when you're not retaining those types of guys. Even in a league where the average player's career lasts less than four years, consistent failure to retain your top picks beyond that time frame is evidence that you're doing something wrong.

Who's Reese's best pick? After Bradshaw, the 2007 seventh-round steal who helped deliver one Super Bowl as a rookie and another as a veteran, it's probably 2010 first-rounder Jason Pierre-Paul. They don't make the 2011 playoffs, let alone win that year's Super Bowl, without Pierre-Paul. But 2011 was Pierre-Paul's only good year so far. He's a near-permanent resident of the weekly injury report and he has a total of two sacks in the Giants' past 23 games. He could become the fourth to join that list of second-contract guys, but so far he hasn't. And if he limps around and fails to produce this year, he becomes a contract-year question mark just like Phillips and Nicks were. Best pick? The most consistently reliable long-term contributor Reese has taken is DeOssie, the fourth-round mainstay long-snapper.

There's miss after miss at key spots in early and middle rounds, and Giants fans know their names: Clint Sintim, Ramses Barden, Phillip Dillard, Marvin Austin, James Brewer. Since Bradshaw in 2007, there are no late-round gems who've surprised and become major contributors. Some of it is because of injury. Some can be blamed on those charged with player development. But this is a results business, and for whatever reason -- too many risks, too much trust in poor evaluations, whatever -- Reese hasn't delivered the kinds of draft results that help build strong organizations.

The Giants have drafted as poorly over the past half-decade as any team in the league. The results showed up last year in a hollowed-out roster that had to overachieve to get to 7-9 and required Reese to sign more free agents than anyone else this offseason in order to fill its many holes. This past weekend, Reese delivered a tepid draft. The Giants are excited about the dynamic Odell Beckham Jr., their first-round pick. And they like the center, Weston Richburg, they got in the second round. But the rest of the draft was safe and dull, devoted to finding what Reese calls "clean" players. Every pick after the second round looks like a player who's just about at his ceiling and can make an immediate contribution as a backup and/or special-teamer, but almost all of them were reaches and very few look likely to blossom into future stars.

Maybe that's for the best. The Giants needed to draft differently this year than they have in recent years, because they've been absolutely terrible at it. They needed to pull a George Costanza and start doing everything the opposite of the way they usually do it, because it never seems to work out. Reese's reputation as a shrewd drafter isn't deserved, and good for him if he realized he needed to change things up. It's time to stop assuming all is well here just because of the four trophies in the lobby. It's time for the Giants to start thinking about what they can do to build their roster back up and put themselves back in a position to even have a shot at winning a fifth.
One of the major questions in the wake of Missouri defensive lineman Michael Sam's announcement he is gay is how NFL teams will react. With the draft less than three months away and the scouting combine next week, the focus will be on how and whether Sam's coming out will affect his draft stock. To hear the owners of the New York Giants tell it, it shouldn't affect it at all.

"I would just echo what the league and Zak DeOssie, one of our captains, have said in welcoming Michael into our league and supporting him as he attempts to achieve his dream of playing in the NFL," John Mara said Monday in a statement released by the team. "Our sport, our game, is the ultimate meritocracy. You earn your way with your ability. As Patrick Burke and Wade Davis constantly remind all of us, regardless of who you are, what your background is and what your personal or sexual orientation is, if you can play, you can play. Michael’s announcement will not affect his position on our draft board."

"As I said last night, Michael Sam is a gifted athlete and a courageous man," Steve Tisch said in his own statement released by the team. "I hope any NFL team would not hesitate to draft Michael if he is right for their team. Our game is the ultimate team game, and we often talk about how a team is a family. Regardless of where you are from, what your religious beliefs are, what your sexual orientation is, if you are good enough to be on the team, you are part of the family. How the University of Missouri and its football program embraced and supported Michael is a tremendous blueprint for all of us, but frankly, I think the lessons of our game also provide the same positive example."

I'll echo what I wrote this morning, which is that the Giants likely would be a welcoming environment for Sam due to their strong leadership. The question in the Giants' draft room will be whether Sam represents good value at the mid-round pick with which he'd be available to them. The Giants run a 4-3 defense, but while Sam played 4-3 defensive end in college, there is concern that his lack of prototypical size would inhibit his ability to do so in the NFL. That doesn't mean the Giants won't take him if they think he's a good enough player to help them on special teams and in certain roles, but it's hard to see him as the kind of player they have to have.

Special teams units step up, minus one play

October, 27, 2013
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PHILADELPHIA -- The New York Giants’ special-teams unit was nearly perfect in Sunday’s 15-7 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles.

The only blemish was a bad snap late in the fourth quarter by long-snapper Zak DeOssie, which turned into the Eagles' only touchdown.

That was it.

Kicker Josh Brown connected on a career-high five field goals and had five touchbacks, while punter Steve Weatherford hit three of his five punts inside the 20-yard line.

[+] EnlargeJosh Brown
Joe Camporeale/USA TODAY SportsJosh Brown accounted for all 15 of the Giants' points on Sunday.
Weatherford’s best punt of the day was a 68-yarder that landed at the Eagles' 3. Speedy return man DeSean Jackson, who has terrorized the Giants before, wasn’t able to do so this time.

“I’ve never hit a punt that long out of bounds in my life,” Weatherford said. “For me it was huge because it was a field-position game. We knew going into this game that it would be that type of game. We haven’t put up a ton of points this year, so field position’s been huge for us. That was the first punt that DeSean Jackson was back there, so I knew I needed to hit a good one.

“It landed at the 3-yard line, so obviously that was a huge momentum-changer for us.”

Said Weatherford of Brown, who went 5-for-5 and connected from 40, 44, 33, 46 and 27 yards out: “I can’t say enough about him. I thought special teams was a huge weapon for us today.”

The Giants were in the process of pitching a shutout when DeOssie’s snap sailed over Weatherford’s head with 4:11 remaining in the game. Weatherford tried to kick the ball out of the end zone for a safety, but linebacker Najee Goode landed on it for a touchdown.

“I kind of looked back so I’d have enough time to do it [kick it out of bounds], and when I drew [my leg] back, the ball kind of bounced toward me and to the side, and I was like ‘Oh [crud],’ so then I just tried to pick it up and obviously the guy was right on top of me,” Weatherford said. “But our defense was amazing today, and that was a nonfactor at the end of the day.”

Said DeOssie of his error: “It’s unacceptable and I totally bear that burden, but I know that my teammates have my back.”

They did.

Locker Room Buzz: New York Giants

September, 15, 2013
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Observed in the locker room after the New York Giants' 41-23 loss to the Denver Broncos.

Snee
They know they have been here before: Giants coach Tom Coughlin said the fact that the 2007 Giants started 0-2 and went on to win the Super Bowl "was mentioned" in the postgame locker room, and guard Chris Snee said he believed it was defensive end Justin Tuck who mentioned it. But Snee was ready for the question and not eager to rush to the comparison. "That was a different team," Snee said. "We'll see what kind of team we have and what kind of fight we have."

Brotherly love: Eli Manning said that he and his brother, Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, spoke for about 10 minutes before the game and that he didn't expect Peyton to give him a hard time about being 3-0 lifetime in their head-to-head starts. "These are our jobs," Eli said.

Unusual request: When there's a crowd of reporters around the locker of long snapper and special teamer Zak DeOssie, you know something went wrong. DeOssie didn't offer much of an explanation for Trindon Holliday's 81-yard punt return for a touchdown. "I missed him," DeOssie said. "I wish I hadn't."

Giants add Rolle and Snee as captains

September, 5, 2013
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Antrel Rolle said that one thing he gained this offseason was a better perspective of becoming more of a leader this season.

Snee
Rolle
For some reason, Rolle knew he would have to lead more. On Thursday, the Giants announced that Rolle was elected as one of five captains for this coming season. Eli Manning, Justin Tuck and Zak DeOssie will return as captains. But the players also elected Rolle and veteran guard Chris Snee -- two Giants who were also considered leaders in the locker room.

Rolle is one of the most respected voices on the team.

"I was extremely honored," Rolle said. "As a young kid, you always dream about certain things. You dream about playing in the NFL, you dream about making Pro Bowls. I know being named captain of the New York Football Giants is a huge accomplishment. It’s something I never, ever even imagined would take place. I’m definitely excited for it and I thank my teammates for even having that trust in me and the accountability in me to even name me a captain."

This is the first time the Giants have named five captains since the 2008 season when Manning, Amani Toomer, Antonio Pierce, Fred Robbins and Jeff Feagles were captains.

"These guys were all elected by the players,” Tom Coughlin said. “Am I happy they were selected? Yes, I am because I think the No. 1 thing is always ‘team’ and people have to lead by example and ‘well done is better than well said.’

"Yet, through the course of the long and difficult, challenging season, you’re going to see an opportunity for people to show what they’re made of in good and bad and that’s where leadership comes from. Adversity, remember, makes you stronger, according to John Wooden.”

Rolle said he is not going to change one thing about the way he acts or leads now that he is a captain.

"This is my first privilege to be captain on an NFL level," Rolle said. "I know what value it holds. Just go out there and play ball. You can say what you want, you can lead however you want but what gets determined more than anything [is how] you play between those white lines.

"That is my plan before anything else, go out there and being accountable, being in the right position where my teammates expect me to be, making the plays that present themselves and going out there and doing my thing."

Camp preview: Special teams

July, 20, 2013
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As training camp approaches, we're counting down to camp by taking a look at the Giants, position by position.

Position: Special teams.

Projected starters: K Josh Brown, P Steve Weatherford, LS Zak DeOssie, KR David Wilson, PR Rueben Randle.

Projected reserves: K David Buehler, KR/PR Jerrel Jernigan, PR Aaron Ross, PR Jayron Hosley.

[+] Enlarge David Wilson
Jim O'Connor/USA TODAY SportsDavid Wilson is an elite kick returner -- but is it worth the injury risk?
New faces: Brown, Buehler, Ross.

Going, going, gone: K Lawrence Tynes, PR Domenik Hixon.

Player to watch: Brown. The Giants brought him in to replace Tynes, who had been with the team for the past six years. Brown is a career 81.3 percent kicker, and has hit field goals from 52 yards or longer in nine of his 10 NFL seasons. Tynes was clutch, though, and had the valuable experience of knowing how to play in the Meadowlands weather. Brown will have to learn the nuances of the stadium and climate, beat out Buehler in camp, and develop the kind of chemistry Tynes had with DeOssie and Weatherford. That shouldn't be a problem, though.

Potential strength: Weatherford has been rock-solid and that shouldn’t change this season. And the Giants' coverage units went from a major weakness in 2010 to a prime strength the past couple of years. DeOssie, Mark Herzlich and Spencer Paysinger are among those who shine on coverage units. And those units should only get better with the addition of athletic young players like fifth-round draft pick Cooper Taylor.

Potential weakness: Punt returns. Giants punt returners have offered little the past couple of seasons, and the team really could use somebody reliable and exciting back there. Randle is the leading candidate, but Jernigan, Ross and Hosley all could get looks in the preseason. The Giants averaged 7.2 yards per punt return last season.

Wild card: Wilson. He was sensational as the team's kick returner last year. But now he is projected to start at running back, and the Giants must weigh the risk of using the 5-foot-9 Wilson at kick returner as well. Wilson wants to continue doing it. If the Giants don’t want to risk their starting running back, perhaps they could use Wilson there on a situational basis. If Wilson doesn’t return kicks, Jernigan could become the starter. Da’Rel Scott also could get chances in camp to return kickoffs. But having a guy like Wilson, who amassed 1,533 kickoff return yards and a return touchdown last season, is a major asset.

Tell us what you think of the special teams unit entering camp.

Draft positional preview: Special teams

April, 20, 2013
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This is the sixth installment in a position-by-position analysis of the Giants as they prepare for the draft:

Position: Special teams.

Depth chart: P Steve Weatherford, K Josh Brown, K David Buehler, P/K Jake Rogers, LS Zak DeOssie, KR David Wilson, KR Andre Brown, KR Jerrel Jernigan, PR Rueben Randle.

The departed: K Lawrence Tynes (free agent), PR Domenik Hixon (Carolina).

Scouting report: The Giants are solid at punter with Weatherford, who averaged 47.5 yards per punt last season and landed 22 of 58 punts inside the 20. Long snapper and special teams captain DeOssie adds stability and chemistry on special teams as well. But the unit will have a major change at kicker.

[+] EnlargeJosh Brown
AP Photo/Patric SchneiderJosh Brown is the leading candidate to be the Giants' kicker next season, replacing Lawrence Tynes.
The Giants are moving on without Tynes, signing three other kickers (Brown, Buehler and Rogers). Brown is expected to be the man, but Buehler should have an opportunity to compete for the job. Brown, 33, has had a season-long field goal of 52 yards or longer in each of his 10 seasons, with a career long of 58 yards, which was during his rookie season in 2003. He has made 81.3 percent of his kicks and averages 64.1 yards on kickoffs.

Buehler averages 66.8 yards on kickoffs and made 24 of 32 field goals in 2010, his only season kicking field goals, for the Cowboys. He has a career long of 53 yards.

After kicker, the Giants have some uncertainty in their return game. Wilson was electric on kickoffs last season, amassing 1,533 return yards and one touchdown. But his workload at running back is going to increase, and the Giants have to consider how much they want to risk their prized running back on kickoffs. If they opt not to use him, the Giants could turn to Jernigan or Brown on kickoffs.

Randle averaged 7.2 yards per punt return last year. He could be the punt returner again. Jernigan is also an option here. Aaron Ross has return experience and could be in the mix if the Giants want to try somebody else. Also, cornerback Jayron Hosley was a punt returner at Virginia Tech.

The coverage teams were strong last year with the likes of DeOssie, Mark Herzlich and Spencer Paysinger all contributing.

The last time: The Giants have not drafted a kicker or punter since 2010, when they took punter Matt Dodge in the seventh round.

Potential targets: Perhaps the most well-known prospect with dynamic return skills in the draft is LSU’s Tyrann Mathieu, who was a Heisman Trophy candidate before being dismissed from LSU. The cornerback comes with baggage, but he would have a ready and willing mentor in Corey Webster, a former LSU star who already has taken Mathieu under his wing.

“On the field he is a good player,” general manager Jerry Reese said this week. “Obviously, he has got some off-the-field issues that have been well-documented. So we’ll put all the pros and cons together and see if he fits anywhere for us.”

The Giants could use a cornerback, and Mississippi State cornerback Johnthan Banks is one of the top corners in the draft and also has a return touchdown on his résumé as well. Another potential top-10 cornerback is Southeastern Louisiana’s Robert Alford, who also has return experience. Texas A&M cornerback Dustin Harris led the country in punt return yardage, and Hawaii cornerback Mike Edwards returned three kickoffs for touchdowns last season.

Utah wide receiver Reggie Dunn might be the most explosive kick returner in the entire draft. The All-American returner, who was reportedly clocked at 4.2 in the 40 at Utah's pro day, has more 100-yard kickoff returns (5) than anybody else in NCAA history and had four last year alone. He sports a career average of 30.9 yards per kickoff return. The Giants could add one more receiver for depth as well.

Other prospects with return ability are Mississippi State wide receiver Chad Bumphis, Alcorn State wide receiver Terrance Lewis, UConn wide receiver Nick Williams, Central Arkansas wide receiver Jesse Grandy, South Carolina wide receiver Ace Sanders and NC State wide receiver Tobais Palmer.

Need rating (scale of 1 to 10): 4 (for a player with return ability).

Tell us what you think of the Giants' special teams entering the draft, and what they should do to improve.

Positional analysis: Special teams

February, 14, 2013
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David WilsonJim O'Connor/USA TODAY SportsDavid Wilson sparked the Giants special teams with 1,533 return yards and a touchdown.
We’ve been taking a look toward 2013 with a position-by-position breakdown of the Giants leading into the scouting combine and free agency.

So far, we have analyzed quarterback, running back, wide receiver, tight end, offensive line, defensive line, linebacker and the secondary. Today is the final installment with special teams.

SPECIAL TEAMS

2012 depth chart: K Lawrence Tynes, P Steve Weatherford, LS Zak DeOssie, KR David Wilson, PR Domenik Hixon, PR Rueben Randle.

Overview: Tynes started off strong, converting 24 of his first 26 attempts and made four or more field goals in four of the first eight games. But after the hot start, Tynes missed a field goal in four of the next six games and did not attempt a field goal in the last two games. Tynes converted all 46 of his extra point attempts and had 24 touchbacks on kickoffs.

Weatherford punted 24 fewer times than in 2011. His average went up by nearly two yards to 47.5 yards per punt with a net average of 39.4. Weatherford landed 22 punts inside the 20, just three fewer than he had in 2011.

[+] EnlargeLawrence Tynes
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY SportsWill Lawrence Tynes go or will he stay?
Wilson made an instant impact on special teams, setting the franchise record with 1,533 return yards and a touchdown and helping the Giants finish tied for sixth in kickoff return yard average (26.2). He provided the kind of dynamic, explosive element the Giants have been lacking in the kickoff return game.

Punt return, though, is still an area that needs more bite. Randle and Hixon didn’t make any major mistakes but they averaged just 7.2 yards per punt return. The Giants’ coverage units remained strengths and did not give up any touchdowns on punts or kickoffs.

Free agents: Tynes, Hixon.

2013 personnel preview: After kicking the Giants into two Super Bowls with game-winning field goals in the NFC Championship game during the 2007 and 2011 seasons, Tynes is entering free agency. The Giants signed former Cowboy kick David Buehler and kicker/punter Jake Rogers so far in the offseason in the case that Tynes does not return.

With Wilson set to potentially be the starting running back with Ahmad Bradshaw gone, the Giants will have to figure out what they want to do at kick returner. If the Giants want to protect Wilson and lighten his load, Jerrel Jernigan could be a candidate to return kickoffs. He took one kickoff 60 yards on a return. Wilson will probably want to remain on kickoffs. Hixon, who is a free agent, and Randle, may compete for the punt return duties again.

Salary cap situation: Considering that the Giants went out and signed Buehler and Rogers, they might be preparing for the prospect of Tynes leaving for more money. The Giants may re-sign Hixon for depth at receiver.

Tell us what you think of the Giants’ special teams going into 2013 and what you want to see happen in the offseason.

Giant five: Top leaders

January, 21, 2013
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This week we are rolling out some Giants top five lists.

So in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Inauguration Day, the first list of the week will focus on the Giants' five most important leaders on the roster with an eye toward the 2013 season.

These five Giants make this list because of their stature on the team, how vital their success on the field is to the Giants and how important their leadership skills are. These are five guys Tom Coughlin can use to lead in the locker room and on the field.

1. QB Eli Manning: He isn't the most vocal of this bunch. In fact, he might be the quietest of them all. But because this team follows his lead and the Giants go as far as he can take them, Manning is at the top of this list.

[+] EnlargeAntrel Rolle
Debby Wong/USA TODAY SportsAntrel Rolle is the most outspoken of the Giants' leaders.
In the rare moments that he does choose to talk, he commands the team's undivided attention. But really more than anything, Manning leads by example with his steady demeanor. If the Giants are going to be Super Bowl contenders in 2013, Manning has to lead the way and play like the elite quarterback that he was in 2011.

2. S Antrel Rolle: Rolle has emerged as one of the most important leaders on the team. The safety usually rings the alarm when the Giants need a wake-up call. When the Giants aren't showing enough fire or not enough "dog," the safety will let his teammates and the media know.

Rolle often spits out the hard truth when things are going bad and his criticism is often welcomed by teammates, who usually agree with what he has to say. On a team that often needs somebody to be vocal, hold nothing back and hold teammates accountable, Rolle might be the best to play that particular role.

3. DE Justin Tuck: The team's defensive captain rallies his unit on the field before every game and typically knows the pulse of the team. He is capable of delivering stirring halftime speeches to spark his team, like he did in a win over Jacksonville during the 2010 season. He prefers, however, to lead by example.

But Tuck hasn't played up to the level he is accustomed to recently. The Giants need a bounce-back season from Tuck, who is entering the final year of his contract.

4. DE Jason Pierre-Paul: The team's best young player was more comfortable this past season in voicing his opinion at times and telling it like it is. Like Rolle, he can be frank and straight to the point when the Giants are struggling.

Considering his stature on the team and his importance to the success of the Giants -- and with Osi Umenyiora potentially moving on -- it's time for JPP to grow more as a leader as well. He showed signs of doing that last season. GM Jerry Reese wants JPP to talk with Michael Strahan this offseason to learn how to deal better with double teams, but he certainly wouldn't mind Strahan sharing some leadership tips as well.

5. RB Ahmad Bradshaw: Bradshaw is another who leads by example. His strong, violent runs can often spark the team. He also rallies the team on the field with stirring pregame talks and his emotions can be good for the team. Sometimes he might take it a little too far, like he did during a game this season when he slapped Victor Cruz on the helmet too hard and exchanged some words with Coughlin on the sideline at one point.

But Bradshaw is the toughest Giant on the roster and can be the heart of the team. He would be higher on this list except for the fact that injuries have plagued him and he was uncertain about his future on the team with David Wilson emerging. Still, Coughlin likes to keep multiple backs and he loves Bradshaw for his toughness and heart.

Honorable mention: LS Zak DeOssie (special teams captain), RG Chris Snee, MLB Chase Blackburn (free agent), DT Chris Canty and LB Michael Boley (future uncertain).

Tell us below which Giants leaders are critical for the team's success in 2013.

Camp preview: Special teams

July, 22, 2012
7/22/12
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As training camp approaches, we're counting down to camp by taking a look at the defending champions, position by position.

Position: Special teams.

Projected starters: K Lawrence Tynes, P Steve Weatherford and LS Zak DeOssie.

New faces: WR Rueben Randle, CB Jayron Hosley and RB David Wilson.

Going, going, gone: PR Aaron Ross, KR Devin Thomas and PR Will Blackmon.

Player to watch: Weatherford. He turned a position of weakness back into a strength for Tom Coughlin with his outstanding punting last season. Weatherford averaged 45.7 yards per punt with a net average of 39.2 with 25 punts landing inside the 20-yard-line. He also was terrific in the postseason, landing a total of five punts inside the 20 against San Francisco and New England.

The Giants gave Weatherford their franchise tag before re-signing the punter to a five-year deal worth a reported $12.75 million according to the Newark Star-Ledger. That’s a lot of coin for a punter but Weatherford is eager to show that he is worth it.

Potential strength: Weatherford’s punting is just one reason why the Giants’ special teams improved last season. The other major reason was the coverage units. With Jerry Reese infusing the coverage team with youth and athleticism with several draft picks like Jacquian Williams, Mark Herzlich, Greg Jones and Tyler Sash, the Giants did not allow a single punt or kickoff return for a touchdown.

Considering that those rookies are now second-year players, the Giants coverage units could actually be better this season with more experience. Also, as the season progressed, the Giants utilized some of their defensive ends like Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Tuck on the front line to try and block punts or field goals and it paid off with JPP blocking Dallas’ potential overtime-forcing field goal in December.

Potential weakness: The punt return game was abysmal last season, providing no spark. The kickoff return game was slightly better but the Giants longest return of the season was for 40 yards but Thomas. Both Ross and Thomas left in free agency.

The Giants drafted Randle and Hosley knowing that the two have experience returning punts. Wilson has experience returning kickoffs as well. Randle, Hosley, Jerrel Jernigan and Domenik Hixon are in the mix at punt returner. They also give Victor Cruz reps in practice on punt returns as well. And on kickoffs, Da’Rel Scott, Jernigan, D.J. Ware, Hixon and perhaps Wilson could be the starter this season.

Wild card: Hixon. He is attempting to come back from a second torn ACL in as many years and the Giants likely will be cautious with Hixon, who is competing to become the third wide receiver spot. If the Giants don’t think Jernigan, Randle or Hosley is the answer at punt returner, they could look to Hixon. Hixon has scored a touchdown on a punt return and kickoff return during his Giants’ tenure. But if the Giants don’t want to risk Hixon, they may hope that Jernigan emerges as the primary returner since he shined on special teams while in college.

Tell us what you think of the special teams below.

Did Giants take shot at Jets on Twitter?

January, 23, 2012
1/23/12
4:49
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Following Sunday night's 20-17 win over the 49ers, the Giants official Twitter account, @Giants, posted a message that may have been a dig at their cross-town rivals. It tweeted:
Some teams are really happy getting to Conference Championship games, but #ImReallyGoodAt winning them! 5-0 all time! #ALLIN

The Jets have spent lots of time talking about their back-to-back trips to the AFC title games in 2009 and 2010, but the Jets, of course, did not win those games, falling to the Colts and Steelers, respectively. With the win on Sunday, the Giants have never lost in an NFC Championship Game and have been able to win two title games in the past four seasons.

The Giants and Jets have been engaging in verbal warfare over the course of the year. Back in May, Giants VP of communications Pat Hanlon responded to Jets coach Rex Ryan, who said the Jets would have beaten the Packers had they made it to the Super Bowl last season, via Twitter: “You gotta be in it to win it” and repeated a Giants motto: “Talk is cheap.”

Hanlon later tweeted: “Tom Coughlin wrote a book, too. It was about a team and an HC that won a Super Bowl.”

Ryan followed up by telling ESPN NewYork.com’s Jane McManus: “My big thing is, I think I can whip Pat. I'm worried about him throwing a BlackBerry at me.”

And then there was curtain-gate, which took place on Christmas Eve. Prior to the Giants-Jets game, the Jets covered up the “visiting” Giants’ Super Bowl logos outside their locker room with curtains -- just like they do before every home game. But the Giants saw it as a sign of disrespect.

They tried to remove the curtains, but a Jets official moved them right back into place. A security guard was put into place to prevent any further tampering.

But following their 29-14 victory over Gang Green, David Diehl, Lawrence Tynes and Zak DeOssie emerged from the locker room to push the curtains aside.

“This is Giants Stadium!” Diehl yelled as he headed back inside to join his teammates. "This is Giants Stadium!”

The game proved to be the turning point in both team’s seasons. The Giants ended up winning their next four games to reach the Super Bowl, while the Jets lost their season finale in Miami and ultimately failed to reach the playoffs after advancing to the AFC Championship game in both 2009 and 2010.

With all the talk from Ryan and the Jets about New York City being a Jets town, reading between the lines it seems that the Giants twitter account may have had some fun at the Jets expense. The twitter account is not run by John Mara or Jerry Reese, so it is not a dig from one of the Giants high-ranking officials.

QUESTION: Do you believe that tweet was a shot at the Jets? Let us know in the comments section below.

Giants injury report

September, 29, 2011
9/29/11
6:51
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Here's the Thursday Giants-Cardinals injury report:

NEW YORK GIANTS

DID NOT PARTICIPATE IN PRACTICE

CB Prince Amukamara (foot) -- Could still be weeks away from returning.

LS Zak DeOssie (back) -- Head coach Tom Coughlin expects DeOssie to play on Sunday. But LB Mark Herzlich and TE Travis Beckum did take turns long snapping.

WR Hakeem Nicks (knee) -- Nicks has swelling in his knee from the bone bruise and hyper-extended knee injury he suffered against the Redskins in Week 1. He says it will not hold him from playing on Sunday.

DE Justin Tuck (groin/neck) -- Tuck is trying to get the pain in both areas to quiet down. He is concerned about the pain in his neck lingering throughout the season. He says if he gets on the plane to Arizona on Saturday, he will play.

WR Brandon Stokley (quad) -- Coughlin did not want to reveal much at all about Stokley's condition. The wide receiver suffered a strained quad while running a route. Doesn't sound good for Stokley, who could miss the next few weeks.

LIMITED PARTICIPATION IN PRACTICE

WR Mario Manningham (concussion) -- Went through his second straight day of limited practice. He says he will play on Sunday.

DE Osi Umenyiora (knee) -- The defensive end went through his second straight day of limited practice. Coughlin said Umenyiora has not experienced any setbacks as far as swelling but the team continues to monitor his knee on a daily basis.

ARIZONA CARDINALS


DID NOT PARTICIPATE IN PRACTICE

TE Jim Dray (pectoral)

LIMITED PARTICIPATION IN PRACTICE

WR Chansi Stuckey (hamstring)
LB Paris Lenon (groin)
RB Beanie Wells (hamstring)

FULL PARTICIPATION IN PRACTICE

TE Todd Heap (ribs)
RB L.Stephens-Howling (hand)
Four Giants and two Jets will participate in the Pro Bowl (7 p.m. Sunday).

Two New York centers -- Nick Mangold of the Jets and Shaun O'Hara of the Giants -- were named to the Pro Bowl but will miss the game because of injuries.


Kirby Lee/Image of Sport/US PresswireThe Giants' Antrel Rolle will start at free safety for the NFC.


Zak DeOssie, Giants, long snapper: The NFC coach, Mike Smith of Atlanta, named DeOssie to his second Pro Bowl squad. DeOssie, 26, also made the team after the 2008 season.

D'Brickashaw Ferguson, Jets, offensive tackle: Ferguson, 27, made the team outright this season and will start. He replaced an injured Jake Long of Miami last year.

Darrelle Revis, Jets, cornerback: This is the third Pro Bowl in a row for Revis, 25, who will start. He had an interception in the 2009 game.

Antrel Rolle, Giants, safety: Rolle, 28, made the Pro Bowl in his first season with the Giants. He will start at free safety; the original starter, Nick Collins of the Packers, will miss the game because of the Super Bowl.

Chris Snee, Giants, guard: This is the third consecutive Pro Bowl for Snee, 29, who will start.

Justin Tuck, Giants, defensive end: This is the second Pro Bowl for Tuck, 27, who also earned a trip to Honolulu after the 2008 season.

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