New York Giants: Camp Preview

Camp preview: Defensive backs

July, 24, 2013
As training camp approaches, we're counting down to camp by taking a look at the Giants, position by position.

Position: Defensive backs.

Projected starters: CB Corey Webster, CB Prince Amukamara, S Antrel Rolle, S Stevie Brown.

Projected reserves: CB Aaron Ross, CB Jayron Hosley, CB Terrell Thomas, S Ryan Mundy, S Will Hill, S Cooper Taylor, S Tyler Sash, CB Terrence Frederick, DB Laron Scott, CB Antonio Dennard, DB Trumaine McBride, DB Charles James, DB Junior Mertile, DB Alonzo Tweedy, DB David Caldwell.

New faces: Ross, Mundy, Taylor, Dennard, McBride, James, Mertile, Tweedy, Caldwell.

Going, going, gone: Kenny Phillips, Justin Tryon, Brian Witherspoon.

Player to watch: Webster. The Giants need a big-time bounce-back season from Webster. According to, Webster allowed eight touchdown receptions, tied for second-most among cornerbacks. The website also had Webster ranked last against the run with one tackle for a loss among the 26 cornerbacks on the field for 75 percent of run plays. Webster, who broke his hand early in the season but kept playing, is still considered the Giants’ top corner and has to play like it for Perry Fewell’s defense to improve upon last year’s 31st ranking in total defense.

[+] EnlargeCorey Webster
Jim O'Connor/USA TODAY SportsCan Corey Webster bounce back in the Giants' secondary? Big Blue needs him to rebound.
Potential strength: The Giants have the ability to create turnovers in the secondary. Brown had eight interceptions and 307 return yards last season, and Webster added four picks. Rolle hopes to roam and be more of a playmaker and cover less in the slot. If Webster plays closer to his normal form, Prince and Hosley continue to improve and Thomas can come back healthy, the Giants’ secondary has the potential to be much better. Safeties coach Dave Merritt said the Giants might use a defensive back to play the third safety role but added that Mundy impressed in OTAs and minicamp.

Potential weakness: Health and depth at corner. Without knowing how Thomas’ comeback will play out, the Giants basically have four cornerbacks with experience in Webster, Amukamara, Ross and Hosley. One or two injuries to that group will seriously hurt the Giants' secondary. Losing Phillips’ experience at safety also could have an impact, especially with the chemistry in the back of the defense. Hill will have to serve a four-game suspension to start the season. And if Webster is on the decline and doesn't rebound from last year, the Giants' secondary could be in for a long season.

Wild card: Thomas. If Thomas’ third comeback from an ACL injury is a successful one, the Giants’ secondary will greatly benefit. Thomas can help at corner, in the slot and even perhaps as a third safety. Before getting injured, Thomas was one of the Giants’ best tacklers. Thomas could be the difference between a solid secondary and a good one. "The Giants have a great plan for me this upcoming season," Thomas blogged on his website. "We are going to start off slow like counting my reps and going in that direction. I am excited about camp starting this week, I feel like a big question mark on defense and I love it... I feel like I am the X factor for the defense, I think I can be a big key for our defense this year as far as my physical play combined with my knowledge, communication and leadership skills."

Tell us what you think of the secondary going into camp.

Camp preview: 10 hottest issues

July, 23, 2013

The New York Giants open camp with their first practice on Saturday.

Here are some pressing issues Tom Coughlin's team will face in camp:

1. JPP's back injury: Jason Pierre-Paul underwent back surgery in the offseason and might not be ready for the season opener. Mathias Kiwanuka will start until JPP is healthy. Pierre-Paul's timetable for recovery has him potentially being ready for the season opener, but the Giants should be cautious with their franchise defensive end. JPP's health could decide just how good the Giants will be defensively this season.

2. Hakeem Nicks' health: Nicks is entering the final year of his deal, and it's a big year for him. He did not participate in voluntary OTAs this offseason; one positive is that Nicks did not risk potential injury. A healthy Nicks is critical for the Giants' success this season after the offense struggled with him laboring through knee and foot injuries last year. Expect Nicks to be cautious to make sure he enters this contract year healthy and at full strength. Health, overall, is a major issue with the Giants since G Chris Snee and C David Baas also are coming off offseason surgeries.

3. Right tackle: Who will start? David Diehl enters camp as the starter and likely favorite, but he might have to hold off first-round pick Justin Pugh and James Brewer. The Giants coaching staff values Diehl's experience and versatility. Pugh is a first-round pick for a reason, but the Giants typically like to develop their rookies before playing them a ton of snaps.

4. Reviving the pass rush: Justin Tuck, JPP and Kiwanuka have to get after the quarterback. And a fourth pass-rusher must emerge with Osi Umenyiora gone. Adrian Tracy, Damontre Moore, Justin Trattou and Adewale Ojomo will all have opportunities to show what they can do in camp.

5. Stopping the run: The Giants struggled against the run last year and finished 31st overall in total defense. Co-owner John Mara wanted his team to fortify the defensive line and Jerry Reese signed Cullen Jenkins and Mike Patterson, re-signed Shaun Rogers and drafted Johnathan Hankins to beef up the front line.

6. Secondary: Corey Webster needs a bounce-back season after struggling last year. Prince Amukamara also has to continue to ascend. The Giants brought back Aaron Ross to join Jayron Hosley for depth. And Terrell Thomas is making another comeback. Still, the Giants' secondary can't afford many injuries. While it should be better than last season, it remains to be seen how much more improved the secondary will be. The Giants can use some surprises in camp to emerge as backups to strengthen the depth.

7. Linebacker: Who will replace Chase Blackburn and Michael Boley? Mark Herzlich and Dan Connor hope to fill Blackburn's cleats at middle linebacker and will be two participants in one of the most-watched competitions of camp. It's a big season for Jacquian Williams. If he can stay healthy, he could be a three-down linebacker. The Giants will also depend on Keith Rivers and need him to stay injury-free. Spencer Paysinger could be a dark horse for more snaps and Aaron Curry hopes to realize his potential with the Giants.

8. Replacing Ahmad: Can David Wilson and Andre Brown fill the Ahmad Bradshaw void? Wilson should inherit Bradshaw's starting spot, but Coughlin will likely split carries between Wilson and Brown. And Brown plans on pushing Wilson for the starting job. The two combined should make for a nice one-two punch, especially if Wilson can pass-protect. And at fullback, tight end Bear Pascoe likely will fill in until the injured Henry Hynoski is ready to return from offseason knee surgery.

9. One more time: A few long-time veteran Giants need to step up in what could be their last go-around with the team in the final year of contracts. Tuck, Diehl and Webster -- three Giants who helped the franchise win two Super Bowls -- could all be entering their final seasons as Giants. They are loaded with pride and are highly motivated to lead the Giants back to the postseason.

10. Victor Cruz: The salsa is here to stay after Cruz re-signed with the team. But he missed all of OTAs and minicamp. He has some catching up to do, but it shouldn't be an issue considering his outstanding chemistry with Eli Manning. Cruz also looked to be in excellent shape.

Camp preview: Linebackers

July, 23, 2013
As training camp approaches, we're counting down to camp by taking a look at the Giants, position by position.

Position: Linebacker.

Projected starters: OLB Jacquian Williams, MLB Mark Herzlich, OLB Keith Rivers.

Projected reserves: MLB Dan Connor, OLB Spencer Paysinger, LB Aaron Curry, LB Jake Muasau, LB Kyle Bosworth, LB Etienne Sabino.

New faces: Connor, Curry, Bosworth, Sabino.

Going, going, gone: Michael Boley, Chase Blackburn.

Player to watch: Williams. He took things slowly in OTAs and minicamp with a PCL injury suffered from last season. If he can remain healthy this season, Williams could emerge as the team's most important linebacker. He is capable of playing all three downs and being the linebacker used by Perry Fewell in passing situations alongside a third safety/defensive back that could potentially be Ryan Mundy, Cooper Taylor or Terrell Thomas. Rivers is capable of doing the same but the Giants have always liked Williams' speed and ability to cover tight ends. The question is Williams' health and if he can show his potential over a full season in a starting role. If Williams misses any time due to injury, Rivers' importance only increases that much more. And the team is counting on Rivers this season already. Paysinger, who worked with the starters in the offseason, is a dark horse. Any time Williams misses means more time for Paysinger.

Potential strength: Youth and speed. The Giants lost a lot of experience this offseason when they released Boley and Blackburn left in free agency. And Mathias Kiwanuka is moving back to defensive end. But they should be a quicker unit with Williams and Rivers playing more snaps. The Giants also are confident Herzlich or Connor can handle the middle linebacker duties Blackburn had last season. If Curry shows any of the potential that made him the fourth overall pick in the draft in 2009, Jerry Reese will have a steal.

Potential weakness: Experience and health. Boley and Blackburn helped the Giants win a Super Bowl just two years ago. Both were an extension of Fewell on the field. The Giants lost a lot of starting experience. Also, health is a major factor with the Giants linebackers. Williams missed six games and Rivers missed five last season due to injuries. Those two are going to be key to whether the Giants' linebackers have a successful season. But if they miss any time, Paysinger and Curry will have to step in. And there's the unknown at middle linebacker as well.

Wild card: Herzlich. He enters camp as the starter at middle linebacker and he'll have to hold off Connor and possibly Curry as well. He has impressed coaches thus far with his handle on the defense and poise in the huddle. While the middle linebacker may play two downs and then come out on passing situations, Herzlich has the potential to be a factor against the run –- an area the Giants have put great emphasis on this offseason.

Let us know what your thoughts are on the linebackers entering camp.

Camp preview: Special teams

July, 20, 2013
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.

Camp preview: Offensive line

July, 19, 2013
New York GiantsTim Farrell/USA TODAY SportsWill David Diehl (No. 66) be a part of the Giants' starting offensive line in 2013? We'll soon find out.
As training camp approaches, we're counting down to camp by taking a look at the Giants, position by position.

Position: Offensive line.

Projected starters: LT Will Beatty, LG Kevin Boothe, C David Baas, RG Chris Snee, RT David Diehl.

Projected reserves: T/G Justin Pugh, T James Brewer, C Jim Cordle, G Eric Herman, G Brandon Mosley, T Matt McCants, T Selvish Capers, G Stephen Goodin, G Bryant Browning, G Chris DeGeare and G Michael Jasper.

New faces: Pugh, Herman, Browning, DeGeare, Jasper.

Going, going, gone: T Sean Locklear.

Player to watch: The man who wins the starting right tackle job. The veteran Diehl is the front-runner going into camp, but first-round pick Pugh and Brewer will get a chance to prove they can do the job. Diehl has battled through injuries the past couple of seasons but the coaching staff values his experience and versatility. The coaches trust Diehl, and that could end up being the deciding factor. If Pugh or Brewer are going to start, they will have to beat Diehl out. GM Jerry Reese is ready to see what Brewer can do with playing time. Brewer or Pugh could serve as an extra blocker if Diehl wins the RT job.

Potential strength: The Giants have versatility, experience and some much-needed depth on the line. Diehl, Boothe, Pugh, Brewer and Cordle all can play multiple positions on the line. This is extremely important considering the Giants almost always get hit with injuries to the O-line. With Baas and Snee recovering from offseason surgeries, the Giants have used linemen like Boothe at different spots, which bodes well in case injuries shake things up. The Giants' O-line also did a good job of protecting Eli Manning last season, allowing 19 sacks, nine fewer than the previous year.

Potential weakness: Age and health. By the end of September, Beatty, Boothe, Baas, Snee and Diehl will have a combined average age of 31. Snee and Baas also did not participate in OTAs and minicamp as they were coming off surgeries. The line was banged up last year, and co-owner John Mara said he wanted to see the group get stronger and better. The offensive line needs to impose its will on defenses more in the run game. The line showed it can dominate against the Browns last year when Ahmad Bradshaw rushed for 200 yards and David Wilson added 44 yards rushing.

Wild card: Pugh. The Giants drafted Pugh in the first round because of his versatility. But they used him mostly at right tackle during the offseason training program to prep him for the right tackle competition. If Pugh has an impressive camp, the rookie could either win the right tackle job or be the extra blocker in big packages.

Tell us what you think of the offensive line entering camp.

Camp preview: Tight end

July, 18, 2013
Brandon Myers, Bear Pascoe and Chase ClementJim O'Connor/USA TODAY SportsBrandon Myers (far l.) and Chase Clement (far r.) join Bear Pascoe among the Giants' tight ends.
As training camp approaches, we're counting down to camp by taking a look at the Giants, position by position.

Position: Tight end.

Projected starters: Bear Pascoe, Brandon Myers.

Projected reserves: Adrien Robinson.

New faces: Myers, Chase Clement, Jamie Childers.

The departed: Martellus Bennett.

Player to watch: Myers. The Giants lost a lot of potential and talent in Bennett but they replaced him with a tight end that had 79 receptions for 806 yards in Oakland last year. While he likely will not see as many targets with Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz on the field, Myers gives Manning another weapon that defenses will need to account for. The question is whether Myers can block enough to stay on the field.

Potential strength: Manning needs a pass-catching tight end when defenses try to take Nicks and Cruz away. Tight ends have sometimes come up big for Manning over the years on third downs, on fourth-quarter comeback drives and in the red zone. The Giants have versatility in their tight ends. Pascoe, who excels as a hybrid tight end/fullback, will see more snaps in the backfield filling in for the injured Henry Hynoski. Myers has the potential to be one of Manning’s best pass-catching tight ends. Robinson’s potential is intriguing and his size could be an asset in the red zone if he continues to develop. The Giants also like Larry Donnell and Clement, who has drawn very early comparisons to Jake Ballard and could be a practice squad candidate.

Potential weakness: Myers is the fourth starting tight end Manning will have had in as many seasons. Even though Bennett had 55 receptions last year in his one and only season with Manning, the quarterback and tight end often were not on the same page when it came to their timing and routes. Now Manning has to develop a new chemistry and rapport with Myers and potentially the young and inexperienced Robinson.

Wild card: Robinson. He’s a huge target for Manning and that was on display at times during red zone drills in OTAs and minicamp this offseason. Jerry Reese has raved about his potential and nobody has forgotten the “JPP of tight ends” label. Robinson might have an opportunity to show what he can do in camp with Pascoe playing more fullback.

Tell us what you think of the tight ends entering camp.

Camp preview: Wide receivers

July, 17, 2013

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

Position: Wide receiver.

Projected starters: Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz.

[+] EnlargeEli Manning and Hakeem Nicks
Jim O'Conno/USA TODAY SportsEli Manning and the Giants will have reason to smile if Hakeem Nicks is healthy in 2013.
Projected reserves: Rueben Randle, Louis Murphy, Jerrel Jernigan, Ramses Barden.

New faces: Murphy, Brandon Collins, Jeremy Horne, Kris Adams, Kevin Hardy, Keith Carlos.

The departed: Domenik Hixon.

Player to watch: How important is Nicks? Though their defensive struggles were a major factor in the Giants' disappointing 2012, a healthy Nicks could've been the difference between the Giants winning 10 games and making the playoffs and winning nine games and missing the postseason. Nicks, who missed three games and struggled with foot and knee injuries, opens things up for Cruz and will be highly motivated to excel in a contract year. If Nicks is healthy again, the Giants and Eli Manning should be running on all cylinders.

Potential strength: The Giants could potentially be as deep as they have been at wide receiver in some time. Nicks and Cruz make up one of the best receiving tandems in the NFL, and offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride raved about Randle's progress during OTAs and minicamp. On top of that, the Giants believe Murphy has the type of speed to give them an over-the-top threat that could make an already dangerous passing attack even more potent. During OTAs, the Giants worked on the long ball with Murphy while Cruz and Nicks skipped the voluntary workouts. They are also hoping Jernigan can provide another speedy option from time to time.

Potential weakness: Health is always a concern with the Giants. But when one receiver goes down, Manning usually makes things work with the next receiver in line. One potential weakness is experience. Super Bowl champions Nicks and Cruz have caught big-time passes on the biggest stage there is. But outside of that duo, the Giants don't have a ton of experience at receiver. Randle had just 19 catches during his rookie season. Murphy has started a total of six games in the last two seasons. Jernigan and Barden have limited experience as well, although Barden delivered in a start against Carolina last year.

Wild card: Randle showed in the season finale against Philadelphia last year that the Giants could have another potent receiving trio, like the one they had with Nicks, Cruz and Mario Manningham. The last time Manning had that at his disposal, he won his second Super Bowl MVP trophy.

Tell us what you think of the Giants' receivers entering camp.

Camp preview: Running backs

July, 16, 2013
As training camp approaches, we're counting down to camp by taking a look at the Giants, position by position.

Position: Running backs.

Projected starters: RB David Wilson, FB Henry Hynoski.

Projected reserves: RB Andre Brown, RB Da'Rel Scott, RB Michael Cox, RB Ryan Torain.

[+] EnlargeDavid Wilson
AP Photo/Frank Franklin IIDavid Wilson has an opportunity to earn the starting job.
New faces: Cox.

The departed: Ahmad Bradshaw, Kregg Lumpkin.

Player to watch: All eyes will be on Wilson, whose opportunity to be the lead back has come one season after being drafted in the first round. He has a lot to prove in camp and has been working hard to master the offense. Wilson needs to beat out Brown for the starting job and earn the trust of the coaching staff and Manning that he can protect the quarterback and recognize defenses. There is no doubting Wilson's warp speed and big-play ability. But will the coaches ultimately trust Wilson enough to give him ample enough carries to break off some of those monster runs and be a 1,000-yard rusher?

Potential strength: Tom Coughlin will likely split carries between Wilson and Brown, who should complement each other well. While Wilson brings the home-run threat, Brown offers the Giants a well-rounded option. He can run with power, can catch out of the backfield, block and excel in the short-yardage game.

If Brown is healthy after breaking his leg last year, don't be surprised to see the former well-traveled running back get the majority of carries in some games. He should be the goal-line back again. With Bradshaw gone, the coaches might trust the veteran Brown a bit more than Wilson at the moment. But they also love Wilson's explosive ability and acknowledge his improvement from last year. Coughlin will likely go with the hot hand and whomever he trusts in crunch time. Either way, the combination should offer some diversity to the running game.

Potential weakness: There's a lot of ifs when it comes to the running game this season. Even though Bradshaw was oft-injured, he was the heart and soul of the offense and the toughest player the Giants had. He also was their best pass protector in the backfield. Bradshaw was a major presence on the team in the locker room and one of the most respected Giants. The Giants didn't just lose Bradshaw -- they also lost Martellus Bennett's blocking with the tight end going to Chicago in free agency.

With Hynoski recovering from knee surgery and the possibility that the fullback might not be ready for the start of the season, the Giants have some run-blocking concerns. They will have to play Bear Pascoe at fullback more and Brandon Myers or Adrien Robinson will have to provide blocking at the tight end spot at times. And we still have to see who will start at right tackle –- David Diehl, James Brewer or Justin Pugh.

Wild card: Cox. Coughlin said Cox impressed him at times during rookie camp and OTAs and the head coach has often talked about how he loved having three backs contribute like the trio he once had in Bradshaw, Brandon Jacobs and Derrick Ward. The Giants would be thrilled to have a third back emerge whether it is seventh-round pick Cox or former seventh-round pick Scott.

Tell us what you think about the running backs entering camp.

Camp preview: Quarterbacks

July, 15, 2013
Eli Manning Jim McIsaac/Getty ImagesThe success of the Giants lies on Eli Manning's shoulders.
We're counting down to training camp with a look at the Giants, position by position, starting with quarterback.

Position: Quarterback.

Projected starter: Eli Manning.

Projected reserves: David Carr, Ryan Nassib.

New faces: Nassib, Curtis Painter.

The departed: None.

Player to watch: Manning. As Eli goes, so do the Giants. Manning has proven that he is an elite quarterback thanks to his two Super Bowl rings. But he has to play more consistently than he did last year for the Giants to be contenders again. When the defense struggles like it did last year, the Giants depend so much on Manning. Last season, Manning fell short of his normal level of play with 3,948 passing yards and 26 touchdowns -- the first time he failed to throw for 4,000 yards and 27 touchdowns since 2008. He set career highs with 510 yards against Tampa Bay and five touchdowns against Philadelphia, but also had a three-game touchdown drought in the middle of the season -– the worst stretch since his rookie season. Manning and the offense need to be more consistent and a healthy Hakeem Nicks should make a major difference. The defense also needs to give Manning more help and opportunities this year.

Potential strength: The Giants have surrounded Manning with the weapons and supporting cast he needs to have an explosive offense again. The Giants scored the second-highest points in franchise history last year and that was with a banged up Nicks. Manning’s top receiver is expected to be healthier than he was last season when knee and foot injuries slowed the offense at times. And he will be motivated in a contract year. Victor Cruz has the security of a new deal and will continue to thrive with Manning. The Giants added speedster Louis Murphy as a deep threat and Brandon Myers provides a pass-catching tight end as a safety valve. David Wilson and Andre Brown should provide Manning with a good enough one-two punch in the running game. And Jerry Reese re-signed left tackle Will Beatty and used his first-round pick on offensive lineman Justin Pugh to protect Manning.

Potential weakness: Health. Manning needs his receivers and offensive linemen to stay healthy. Two of his starting offensive linemen (Chris Snee and David Baas) are returning from offseason surgeries. Nicks’ health and explosion is vital considering Manning threw for one touchdown or less in 10 games last year. When the Giants needed points the most last season, they scored a total of 14 in two losses at Atlanta and Baltimore. And of course, Manning has to remain injury-free as well. Manning has been a rock and never misses games. But when he struggled through a three-game touchdown drought last season, there were rumblings of a tired arm. Sometimes it's easy to forget that Manning can get banged up as well since he always gets up after a hit. The Giants have depth at quarterback but it's a luxury they hope they won’t need this season. Even though Reese surprised many by drafting Nassib to provide depth and a young prospect to groom at quarterback, a serious Manning injury would cripple the Giants’ title chances this season.

Wild card: Nassib. It will be very interesting to watch his progression in training camp and how he develops. The fourth-round pick impressed coaches early in rookie camp with his ability to orchestrate the huddle. Nassib probably isn't ready to assume the sole backup job to Manning yet. A strong camp showing could convince the coaches that they only need to keep two quarterbacks. But Carr provides the kind of experience the Giants need behind Manning. Even though Tom Coughlin would rather have the extra roster spot, the coach probably will have to keep three quarterbacks on the roster this season while Nassib develops.

Tell us your thoughts on the Giants quarterbacks entering camp.

Camp preview: Wide receiver

July, 25, 2012
Training camp starts tomorrow. Here is the final installment of our position-by-position countdown to Giants camp.

Position: Wide receiver.

Projected starters: Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz.

Projected reserves: Domenik Hixon, Rueben Randle, Ramses Barden and Jerrel Jernigan.

New faces: Randle, Brandon Collins, David Douglas and Julian Talley.

Going, going, gone: Mario Manningham, Devin Thomas and Michael Clayton.

Player to watch: Cruz. He exploded onto not just the NFL scene last year with a record-setting season but he arguably is one of the most visible and popular Giants players. But Cruz is motivated to prove that he is not a one-hit wonder. Topping 82 receptions for 1,536 yards and nine touchdowns will be difficult.

It will be interesting to see how he adapts to more defensive attention this season. Cruz is more experienced and should continue to get better. With Nicks recovering from a broken toe, Cruz will benefit in camp by taking No. 1 reps with Eli Manning.

Last year, he felt pressure to make the team and remain in the NFL. Now he has the pressure to prove that he is a star and should be paid like one since he is in the final year of his contract.

Potential strength: The Giants have one of the best receiving tandems in the NFL with Nicks and Cruz. Nicks is expected to be ready for the season opener and when healthy he is capable of being one of the league’s dominant receivers as evidenced by his seven catches for 165 yards and two touchdowns against Green Bay in the playoffs. He also had 10 receptions for 109 yards in the Super Bowl and those are the type of big-game performances that could carry over to this season and catapult his game to another level.

With Nicks and Cruz at his disposal, Manning has two playmakers that can break a big play on any throw. Nicks and Cruz combined for 14 plays of 40 yards gained or more on catches last season.

Hixon has the most experience after those two and is the front-runner entering camp as the third receiver. Barden and Jernigan are eager to show what they are capable of and the Giants are excited about Randle. It remains to be seen how many receivers the Giants keep on the roster. Collins has impressed some at OTAs and minicamp. Collins, Douglas, Talley, Isaiah Stanback and Dan DePalma will be fighting for a roster spot.

Potential weakness: The loss of Manningham hurts if the team cannot find a third threat to replace him. Manningham may have been inconsistent at times but defenses had to respect his big-play ability. Nicks and Cruz, especially, benefited from Manningham being on the field.

Manningham also provided the team with a capable starter if Nicks or Cruz had to miss time due to injury. The Giants drafted Randle with hopes that the LSU receiver can replace Manningham. Until he is ready to do so, Hixon is the leading candidate to be the third wideout. But he is returning from a torn ACL for the second straight season so the team will be cautious with him.

Barden and Jernigan hope to show the coaches that they are up to the task in camp. For Barden, this is his biggest opportunity to show that he is worth the third-round pick the Giants spent on him in 2009. This is also a big camp for Jernigan, the team’s third-rounder in 2011. Jernigan has a chance to show he can be the third receiver while also potentially becoming the team’s punt returner as well. But both Barden and Jernigan have limited experience.

Wildcard: Randle. If Randle is everything he’s advertised to be –- NFL-ready with deceptive speed and big-play ability –- the Giants have their third receiver. It remains to be seen how long it will take to become comfortable with Kevin Gilbride’s offense, to learn to react to defensive coverages and adjust to Manning’s audibles. But the coaches and Manning have been impressed with Randle through OTAs and minicamp and they believe he does have the ability to stretch the field.

If Randle doesn’t win the job by the end of camp, he could emerge as a factor as the season goes on. Remember, Cruz didn’t emerge until the third game of the season although he did have two training camps under his belt whereas Randle is going through his first camp.

Tell us what you think of the wide receivers.

Camp preview: Tight end

July, 24, 2012
As training camp approaches, we're counting down to camp by taking a look at the defending champions, position by position.

Projected starters: Bear Pascoe and Martellus Bennett.

Projected reserves: Travis Beckum, Adrien Robinson and Christian Hopkins.

New faces: Bennett, Robinson, Larry Donnell and Ryan Purvis.

Going, going, gone: Jake Ballard.

Player to watch: Bennett. The Giants made signing Bennett a priority in free agency. Bennett practically oozes potential. He has terrific size at 6-6. He has soft hands and nice athleticism. He is a good blocker. Bennett could be a terrific red zone target for Manning. The hope is Bennett will fulfill his potential now that he has a chance to start after backing up Jason Witten in Dallas. With Eli Manning and tight ends guru Mike Pope at his side, Bennett has a chance to shine. He just has to learn the new offense and put it all together.

Potential strength: Besides showing that he is an elite quarterback, Manning displayed the ability to make players better and develop unknown players like Ballard and Victor Cruz last season. Pope, the tight ends coach, is one of the best in the business so there’s a good chance either Pascoe, Bennett, Hopkins or Robinson emerges into a viable option at tight end.

Beckum will be in that mix as an option in the passing game once he recovers from ACL surgery and is ready to play.

Pascoe enters camp as the starter and the Giants like how he can block, catch and play both tight end and fullback. But the job as Manning’s new tight end target is there for Bennett to take.

Robinson, the team’s fourth-round pick, may be a year away from contributing and is still learning the system and game. But if he truly is the “JPP of tight ends” as Jerry Reese labeled him, Robinson will be contributing in some form and flashing his potential by the end of the season.

It remains to be seen how many tight ends the Giants will keep. They carried three on the roster last season.

Potential weakness: Lack of experience. Pascoe has started 11 games in each of the last two seasons as a hybrid tight end/fullback but only has caught 22 passes in three seasons. Bennett has a total of 85 receptions and 31 starts in his four seasons with the Cowboys. Beckum has a total of 26 receptions in three seasons.

After those three, only Purvis has NFL experience among the remaining tight ends on the roster. Purvis played in 10 games last season in Tampa Bay and catching five passes.

Wild card: Robinson and Hopkins. With the job up for grabs, anybody could conceivably emerge so we are going with two wild card options. The Giants love Robinson’s athleticism and raw potential. Robinson, though, missed OTAs as he finished up school. If he really is as athletic and gifted as advertised, Robinson could develop with Manning and Pope’s help into a contributor this season if he can grasp the offense and game quickly enough.

Pope helped develop Ballard and Pascoe, relatively anonymous tight ends before, into starters. He could keep that streak going with Hopkins, a 6-5, 277-pound tight end that the Giants kept on the practice squad last season. Reese has been talking Hopkins up since just after the Super Bowl as an option to replace Ballard and the injured Beckum. He has some athleticism and hands as well.

Tell us what you think of the tight ends below.

Camp preview: Offensive line

July, 23, 2012
As training camp approaches, we're counting down to camp by taking a look at the defending champions, position by position.

Position: Offensive line.

Projected starters: LT Will Beatty, LG Kevin Boothe, C David Baas, RG Chris Snee and RT David Diehl.

Projected reserves: T James Brewer, G Mitch Petrus, C Jim Cordle, T Sean Locklear, G/T Brandon Mosley, T Matt McCants.

New faces: Locklear, Mosley, McCants, T Joel Reinders, G Stephen Goodin and C Chris White.

Going, going, gone: RT Kareem McKenzie, T Stacy Andrews and T Tony Ugoh.

Player to watch: Beatty. His back kept him out for most of OTAs and minicamp. He still took mental reps and was in on all the classes. But Tom Coughlin was concerned about his left tackle's health. Beatty assured reporters his back will be fine once camp starts. But backs are always tricky and you never know when it can flare up. If his back continues to be problematic, Brewer and Locklear will see snaps at left tackle or they could move Diehl back to left tackle and play Brewer or Locklear at right tackle.

Potential strength: The Giants are hoping that their offensive line will be better this season by having a healthier line. Last season, Baas, Snee and Diehl battled through injuries while Beatty’s season ended after 10 games due to an eye injury.

The Giants also believe moving Diehl to right tackle to replace McKenzie and having Beatty back at left tackle is the answer. The versatile Boothe will start at left guard unless there’s an injury at center which could always force the Giants to move Boothe there to plug a hole. The feisty Petrus showed last season he is a capable starter when he started three games due to injury.

Baas had an up and down season due to injuries but the Giants are banking on a healthier Baas to play better and be more comfortable in his second season with the Giants. If Baas performs the way the Giants believe he can, the offensive line will be better and more physical.

If the offensive line can stay healthy, it should be better having had a full offseason and camp to work together. Last year, Eli Manning and the line had basically just a month in camp to come together due to the lockout.

Potential weakness: The running game. The Giants finished last in rushing last season and the offensive line has to show that it can dominate at the line of scrimmage and open holes for the running backs.

The Giants did improve late in the season, rushing for 100 yards or more in six of their final nine games, including the postseason.

But if the Giants can’t get the running game going, Manning will have to shoulder the load once again. He passed for nearly 5,000 yards and had to produce several fourth-quarter comebacks. He will be even deadlier with a potent running game.

Also, the Giants must protect Manning. While the line allowed Manning to work his magic in so many of those fourth-quarter comebacks, it did allow three or more sacks in eight games last season, including a total of six sacks against San Francisco in the NFC Championship game.

Wild card: Brewer. If Beatty’s back becomes an issue throughout camp and even during the season, Brewer needs to be the guy to step in either at left tackle or at right tackle if Diehl moves back to left tackle in the case Beatty is injured. Locklear provides veteran insurance at tackle and the Giants also liked Selvish Capers to keep him on the practice squad last year. But Brewer is the guy the Giants want to see emerge because they have high hopes for their fourth-round pick for the future.

Camp preview: Special teams

July, 22, 2012
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.

Camp preview: Running back

July, 20, 2012
As training camp approaches, we're taking a look at the defending champions, position by position.

Position: Running back.

Projected starter: RB Ahmad Bradshaw.

Projected reserves: RB D.J. Ware, RB David Wilson, RB Andre Brown, RB Da'Rel Scott and FB Henry Hynoski.

New faces: Wilson and RB/FB Joe Martinek.

Jason O. Watson/US PresswireAhmad Bradshaw

Going, going, gone: Brandon Jacobs.

Player to watch: Wilson. All eyes will be on the Giants' first-round pick. Wilson has already flashed some of his talents in OTAs and minicamp. He is quick and shifty and has shown some explosion at the line of scrimmage in non-contact practices. He can catch out of the backfield, but he will have to learn pass protection schemes and grasp the offense and how to react to defenses.

Offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride said Wilson is likely the most explosive player on the team. We'll see how long it takes for the rookie to learn the offense, pass protection and earn the trust of the coaching staff in order to replace Jacobs. If it doesn't happen by the end of camp, the Giants might go with a veteran like Ware or Brown initially as Bradshaw's backup until Wilson gets more comfortable and emerges.

Potential strength: The Giants lose size, experience and power with Jacobs in San Francisco. But one positive is the Giants are getting younger –- and likely quicker -- at a position where that often matters.

Bradshaw is the undisputed starter and wants to carry the bulk of the load. Bradshaw should also be the goal-line back, which he was at times even with Jacobs around. But if the Giants want to stick to the two-back formula, Ware, Wilson, Brown or Scott will have to earn more carries. All of them bring somewhat different strengths. Ware can catch out of the backfield and has the most experience of the backups. Wilson may be the quickest, shiftiest and perhaps the most explosive of the group. Brown could be the most well-rounded back, offering muscle, good speed and the ability to catch. Running backs coach Jerald Ingram likened Brown to former Giant Derrick Ward. Scott has top-end speed and potential big-play ability but has to show he is more comfortable with the offense this season after losing offseason training and coaching due to the lockout last year as a rookie.

All of those backs have little pro mileage on their legs, which should help since the combination of Bradshaw and Jacobs had wear and tear. It remains to be seen how many running backs the Giants will keep -- Hynoski is the fullback and did show the ability to catch out of the backfield as well -- but the rushing attack will look different than it has in years past with Jacobs gone. That might not be such a bad thing after finishing last in rushing last season.

Potential weakness: Health and inexperience. Bradshaw wants to carry the load and be the main guy now. Bradshaw is the toughest player, pound for pound, on the team and runs as hard as anyone in the league. But health is always a concern, with his surgically repaired feet and ankles. If Bradshaw misses time –- he played in just 12 games in the regular season last year and had an injection in the offseason to help his foot –- the Giants are left with a group of running backs that has little NFL experience. Ware has a total of 81 carries but Brown, Wilson, Scott and Hynoski combine for a total of seven NFL carries. One of those backs will have to spell Bradshaw to keep him fresh and healthy for the end of the season.

Also, Jacobs brought intangibles that must be replaced. He was one of the team's most vocal leaders on the field, firing up teammates on the field before every game. Having his size and brute force gave the Giants some swagger. He injected a spark throughout the team whenever he delivered a physical punishing run, firing up the Giants' defense on the sideline. The Giants will have to find a way to replace that and Bradshaw can assume that role.

Wild card: The offensive line. If the line blocks better and opens up bigger holes than it did a year ago, it won't matter who is carrying the ball. The running game will be better if the line can dominate and be physical at the line of scrimmage. The line and running game got better as the season progressed, rushing for 100 yards or more in six of the last nine games of the season –- including the playoffs. It's imperative that the Giants carry that over to this season to help Eli Manning.

Tell us what you think of the running backs below.

Camp preview: Quarterback

July, 19, 2012
As training camp approaches, we’re counting down to camp by taking a look at the defending champions position-by-position.

Position: Quarterback.

Projected starter: Eli Manning.

Rob Tringali for ESPN.comEli Manning
Projected reserves: David Carr.

New faces: None.

Going, going, gone: None.

Player to watch: Manning. Obviously, the Giants have one of the best quarterbacks in the game, in his prime. Manning is coming off his second Super Bowl victory and second Super Bowl MVP performance. And he’s only getting better. Carr provides the team with a veteran backup. The Giants like third-string QB Ryan Perrilloux, but he'll likely have to beat out Carr since the team probably will carry two quarterbacks on the final roster.

Potential strength: Manning’s ability to make players around him better. Last year, he was charged with developing a new third receiver and new tight end. Manning helped Victor Cruz and Jake Ballard emerge as major contributors on the team. He also had to work with a revamped offensive line with no offseason team training due to the lockout. This season, Manning again has to develop a new tight end target and third wide receiver. And he will have some moving parts on the offensive line as well. After seeing what Manning did last season, there’s no reason to doubt that he could do the same thing with Martellus Bennett, Bear Pascoe, Rueben Randle, Domenik Hixon, Ramses Barden or Jerrel Jernigan.

Potential weakness: Offensive line. Offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride has said during the offseason that he is concerned about the line. While he may be overly concerned, Gilbride has a familiar face in a new place (David Diehl at right tackle) and a starting left tackle (Will Beatty) with a back issue. Beatty missed most of the offseason activities with a back problem and says he will be ready for camp. Kevin Boothe is now the full-time starter at left guard, and David Baas should be better in his second season with the Giants. The line has to protect Manning, who was sacked 28 times last season, not including the six times he was sacked by San Francisco in the NFC Championship Game.

Wild card: The running game. If the Giants can get their running game going again, Manning will be that much more dangerous. Last season, the Giants finished last in rushing. Imagine how much deadlier Manning can be with an effective running game and play-action? Manning threw for 4,933 yards and 29 touchdowns last season without a top-notch running game. With an improved ground game, Manning might not need to execute so many fourth-quarter comebacks this season.

Tell us what you think of the quarterbacks entering camp below.