New York Giants: Chase Blackburn

Did Blackburn's intel help sink Giants?

September, 24, 2013
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Yeah, they're feeling pretty good about themselves down there in Charlotte, N.C., after the Carolina Panthers' 38-0 drubbing of the New York Giants this past Sunday. This latest is all about how former Giants linebacker Chase Blackburn, now with the Panthers, helped the Carolina game plan with his inside knowledge of the Giants' offense. Per the Charlotte Observer:
Blackburn
“I had an idea of what they run and what they like to do in situations,” Blackburn said. “We had a great game plan going in. I’ve been sharing all the information all week. Guys, all of us, linebackers were out there knowing what to do; (defensive backs) knew what kind of routes they were going to get off the route combinations.

“It makes for a big difference when you can play the game at that speed. We were able to play fast because we were aware of what they were going to do.”

...

“This was one of those things when you have a guy who knows the other team and you sit there and you listen to him when he is watching tape, before the play even happens, he calls the play out,” Rivera said. “You go, ‘He has a grasp of it.’ We saw it in practice. He was focused, he was excited and he brought a lot of energy.”

Hey, I have little doubt that Blackburn, who'll always retain a special place in Giants history for his Super Bowl interception of Tom Brady two seasons ago, was able to offer help due to his experience in New York. But let's not go overboard here. This kind of thing happens all the time around the league, and you tend to hear more about it when the team wins 38-0 than when they don't. After the Giants lost their season opener in Dallas, for example, you didn't hear anyone in their locker room talking about how big a help it was that Dan Connor had played for the Cowboys last year.

Blackburn has played a total of 17 defensive snaps for Carolina so far -- all 17 in Sunday's game. So my thought here is that it's a good bit of coaching by Ron Rivera to single him out for a contribution to the team's first victory of the year. And I'm sure he had something to do with it. It's just hard to believe that Blackburn's inside info was worth 38 points, is all.

Best Giants camp battles

July, 31, 2013
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Tom Coughlin says he has never had a training camp competition as wide open as the one he currently has at linebacker.

Linebacker is just one of the positions where there will be competition. Here's a look at the best camp battles for the New York Giants:

1. Linebackers.

The competitors: MLB Mark Herzlich, OLB Keith Rivers, OLB Spencer Paysinger, OLB Jacquian Williams, MLB Dan Connor, OLB Aaron Curry, LB Kyle Bosworth, MLB Jake Muasau, LB Etienne Sabino.

The 411: Herzlich, Rivers and Paysinger are the starters so far in camp. Williams, Connor and Curry make up the second team. Herzlich and Connor are competing to replace Chase Blackburn, and it appears like it's Herzlich's job to lose thus far. Paysinger definitely has a chance to hold on to a starting spot. If Rivers can stay healthy, he can do some of the things Michael Boley did. When healthy, Williams can be a three-down linebacker and his speed and athleticism allows him to cover tight ends. Curry is a wild card.

What they're saying: "They told us nothing is set in stone, everybody has to work," Paysinger said of the coaches' message. "They say that when it comes to the depth chart, it can change any day, that we dictate how the depth chart goes. If one person has a great day, he might be going with the ones, if a person slips up a little bit, he might be going with the twos and threes."

2. Right tackle.

The competitors: David Diehl, Justin Pugh, James Brewer.

The 411: Diehl is the front-runner due to his experience and is the starter right now. Pugh was drafted for a reason with the team's first-round pick. Jerry Reese said there was initial concern about Pugh's arm length for the tackle position. However, the Giants will see what Pugh can do at right tackle with the second team. Brewer has been getting first-team reps at right guard while Chris Snee makes his way back from offseason hip surgery, but Coughlin says Brewer is in the mix.

What they're saying: "David Diehl is a highly motivated guy in the first place and competition always brings out the best," Coughlin said.

3. Backup defensive tackle.

The competitors: Shaun Rogers, Johnathan Hankins, Mike Patterson, Marvin Austin, Markus Kuhn, Frank Okam.

The 411: The Giants loaded up at defensive tackle in an effort to stop the run this season. Linval Joseph and Cullen Jenkins will start at defensive tackle. There will be stiff competition for the spots behind the starters. When motivated and healthy, Rogers is a load. He and Hankins, the team's second-round pick, have been working with the second team. Patterson and Austin have received third-team snaps. Austin, the team's second-round pick in 2011, is going to have to fight for a roster spot. Kuhn, who impressed the coaches last season, is on the PUP list.

What they're saying: "He's been healthy for the first time," defensive line coach Robert Nunn said about Austin. "He's where he needs to be right now. He just can't disappear when the pads come on."

4. Fourth defensive end.

The competitors: Adrian Tracy, Damontre Moore, Justin Trattou, Matt Broha, Adewale Ojomo.

The 411: With Osi Umenyiora gone, the Giants need a fourth pass rusher to emerge to play behind -- and sometimes alongside -- Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck and Mathias Kiwanuka. Tracy is the leading candidate for the fourth end spot, but Moore, the team's third-round pick, has impressed early. Until JPP is healthy, both Tracy and Moore could see snaps as the third and fourth ends.

What they're saying: "We've got some young guys that have to show up," Nunn said. "They look good when they're running around with no pads on, but you still see some things that get you excited."

5. Running back.

The competitors: David Wilson and Andre Brown.

The 411: Wilson and Brown technically are competing for the starting spot. But Wilson is the starter in camp and should be the starter for the season. Still, the two running backs likely could share carries with the hot hand getting the majority of the carries in any given game. Brown is expected to resume his role as goal-line back as well.

What they're saying: "David is a different style of back than we've ever really had here at the Giants over the years," quarterback Eli Manning said. "A lot of speed and explosiveness. Both of them [Wilson and Brown] are different style runners and we'll kind of understand that and put them in to do things that they are best at."
Eli ManningTim Farrell/THE STAR-LEDGER/USA TODAY SportsEli Manning and the Giants report to camp in East Rutherford, N.J., on Friday.
It's that time of the year again.

"Steppin' to the AM" means only one thing -- training camp is here. For those of you who don't know, I'm an old school hip-hop head. So the daily camp morning prep blog is named after 3rd Bass' song. We're all family here at the Giants blog so leave comments, let me know what you want to read about in camp and ask any questions you may have.

In case you missed it: So, it's time to get you ready for camp. Here's 10 issues facing the Giants heading into camp.

Also, John Mara believes this team can be as good as the 2011 team that at one point was 7-7 but got hot and won it all.

And, Antrel Rolle plans on being even more of a leader this season with vets such as Chris Canty, Ahmad Bradshaw, Michael Boley, Kenny Phillips and Chase Blackburn gone. I believe Rolle is going to have to have a major impact on and off the field for the Giants this season.

Finally, the Giants also signed their two remaining unsigned draft picks -- Justin Pugh and Ryan Nassib.

On deck: The Giants report to camp Friday and have a conditioning evaluation test scheduled for 4 p.m. We'll talk to Tom Coughlin and select players afterward, so check back at the blog throughout the day and later in the afternoon.

In the meantime, celebrate the start of training camp, which officially begins on Saturday with the first practice.

Camp preview: 10 hottest issues

July, 23, 2013
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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
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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: 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.
Justin Tuck knows the New York Giants will go as far as Eli Manning takes them.

Still, the defensive captain wants his unit to start thinking that it must carry the Giants and not have to rely on the offense to lead the way to victory.

“I hope this defense can carry the team,” Tuck said last week at the Big Daddy Celebrity Golf Classic at Oheka Castle in Huntington, N.Y. “Every time we go out on the field this year, we can’t think that [the offense will carry the team].”

[+] EnlargeJusin Tuck
Elsa/Getty ImagesJustin Tuck has a new task for the defense to tackle.
“We have to think like we are going to carry this team,” Tuck added.

Last season, the Giants averaged 26.8 points, sixth best in the NFL. The defense allowed 21.5 points to finish 13th among defenses. But the Giants finished 31st in total yards allowed (383.4), 28th in passing yards allowed (254.2) and 25th in rushing yards allowed (129.1).

GM Jerry Reese made changes to the defense in the offseason. Osi Umenyiora, Michael Boley, Kenny Phillips, Chase Blackburn and Chris Canty are gone.

Reese focused on beefing up his defensive line by adding defensive tackles Cullen Jenkins, Mike Patterson and drafting Johnathan Hankins. He brought back Aaron Ross and Shaun Rogers and signed Aaron Curry and Dan Connor, among other moves.

But Tuck thinks the Giants can also improve from within by altering their mindset. He wants his defense to adopt an old school Giants' defensive mentality and stop relying so much on the offense.

“That might be something we lack because our offense is so good, thinking to ourselves that we can kind of give up this and that,” Tuck said. “[We have] to kind of get away from that and approach the game in a way that those '80’s teams did with [Lawrence Taylor] and all those guys.

“They went out into a game trying to kill an offense and not give them anything,” Tuck continued. “We have to get back to that on defense. I don’t care if our offense puts up 40 points a game. We have to put up six.”

Tell us what you think of the Giants' defense this season.

Coach talk: Herrmann on linebackers

June, 20, 2013
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With the Giants off until training camp, we're periodically taking a look at what the coaches are saying about how their positions looked this offseason in OTAs.

Today, we look at Jim Herrmann's thoughts on the linebackers.


G-Unit: The linebackers are expected to be the most heavily competitive position group in training camp.

Jacquian Williams, Mark Herzlich and Keith Rivers could enter camp as the starters in the Giants' base defense. But, Perry Fewell used Herzlich, Rivers and Spencer Paysinger as the starters in OTAs and minicamp while Williams was limited as he recovers from a PCL knee injury from last year.

[+] EnlargeSpencer Paysinger, Keith Rivers and Mark Herzlich.
Jim O'Connor/USA TODAY SportsSpencer Paysinger (52) , Keith Rivers (55) and Mark Herzlich (58) are vying for starting jobs.
Herrmann said the most important thing, in the wake of changes to the linebackers group, is developing a cohesive unit. Mathias Kiwanuka is moving back to defensive end and Chase Blackburn and Michael Boley are no longer with the team.

"This is basically a new group of guys," Herrmann said recently. "And I think the biggest thing right now is we are going out and learning what to do and competing. To me, the competition is going to keep going and keep going and keep going –- which is going to make us all better."

Situational subs: Herrmann was asked whether situations will dictate who plays at linebacker.

Is it possible that Herzlich could start at middle linebacker in some games, based on the opponent's tendencies, and the following week a new starter could be in there against a different type of offense?

"I think that is a big part of the NFL game today," Herrmann said. "It is very situational. It is dictated a lot by the offense -– what is the offense running? Who is going to be out there? What are our best matchups? Because the NFL is a game of matchups."

Perhaps the Giants can go with Herzlich, Dan Connor and Aaron Curry at middle linebacker depending on the type of offense they are facing on a given Sunday. In passing situations when the Giants use two linebackers, Fewell could go with Williams, Rivers and/or Paysinger.

Spencer for hire: If Paysinger continues to impress in camp, the formerly undrafted linebacker out of Oregon could surprise and win a starting outside linebacker spot. At the very least, Paysinger should see more snaps this season than he has in his three-year career.

Paysinger will have to contend with the likes of Williams, Rivers and Curry, among others.

"He is doing a good job," Herrmann said of Paysinger. "He is competing for the job. To me, the biggest thing I have seen was his maturity level, because he is comfortable with the formation. Now he is going to go out and take the next step forward because he is anticipating the plays faster and faster.

"He's not worried about, 'What do I do in this defense?' It is, 'OK, I know what I am doing -– now what is the offense going to do?' And he is anticipating. And all of those guys have done a much better job of that."

Tell us how you feel about the linebackers situation and how you want to see Fewell use his linebackers.
Charles Woodson is one of the many veteran free agents still available, and the Giants are always in the market for veterans on the cheap.

Woodson's agent, Carl Poston, told ESPN's Josina Anderson that "The Giants have just put their toe in the water again for Charles Woodson."

If Woodson, 36, is willing to accept an affordable deal, the move makes sense. If healthy, Woodson would be an intriguing piece.

He could instantly be one Perry Fewell's top three safeties. He would provide the kind of veteran voice and leadership that the team had when Deon Grant was roaming around as the third safety. Woodson would immediately add to the leadership in a locker room that lost Ahmad Bradshaw, Chris Canty, Osi Umenyiora, Chase Blackburn, Michael Boley and Kenny Phillips this offseason.

And if he's still playing at a high level, Woodson could challenge Stevie Brown to start opposite Antrel Rolle. He could also provide the team with a veteran who can play corner if needed, be but my guess is he would be a safety and help cover if needed in certain packages or in case of injuries to other corners.

Woodson recently left a visit with the Broncos without a deal, according to the Denver Post. And he also reportedly has the Panthers and Raiders interested in him. So he might have options.

It remains to be seen just how interested the Giants are, but it certainly doesn't hurt to look.

Hightower update: Another veteran free agent the Giants have been interested in is running back Tim Hightower. The Washington Post reports that the Giants and Redskins are interested in Hightower. The Post says that the Giants could meet with Hightower again in a couple of weeks, according to a source.

Hightower tore his ACL in 2011 with the Redskins and attempted a comeback, but was released last year in final cuts. If healthy, Hightower could provide the Giants with a third running back who can catch out of the backfield. At the moment, the Giants have Da'Rel Scott, Ryan Torain and seventh-round pick Michael Cox behind David Wilson and Andre Brown.

Tell us if you want to see the Giants go after Woodson and how you think he might help.

Draft positional preview: Linebacker

April, 23, 2013
4/23/13
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This is the eighth installment in a position-by-position analysis of the Giants as they prepare for the draft:

Position: Linebacker.

Depth chart: Jacquian Williams, Dan Connor, Keith Rivers, LB/DE Mathias Kiwanuka, Mark Herzlich, Spencer Paysinger, Jake Muasau.

The departed: Michael Boley (free agent), Chase Blackburn (Carolina).

[+] EnlargeAlec Ogletree
AP Photo/Dave MartinAlec Ogletree is the kind of athlete the Giants like, but does he bring too much off-field baggage?
Scouting report: The Giants went out and added beef to the front line by signing defensive tackles Cullen Jenkins and Mike Patterson and re-signing Shaun Rogers to try to stop the run.

They made three moves at linebacker: releasing Boley in a cost-cutting move, re-signing Rivers and adding Connor. Kiwanuka seems likely to move back to defensive end to help offset the loss of Osi Umenyiora in free agency. If Williams and Rivers can remain healthy, they give the Giants good speed on defense and are candidates to play on passing downs when Perry Fewell can go with three safeties on the field. Paysinger also could get an opportunity to see more snaps.

The Giants are hoping Connor will be a good fit for their scheme. Herzlich could compete with Connor for the starting middle linebacker job. Muasau left a positive impression on the coaching staff in rookie camp last year.

The last time: The Giants last drafted a linebacker in 2011 when they took Greg Jones and Williams in the sixth round.

Potential targets: Since Antonio Pierce went down with a career-ending injury in 2009, the Giants have pretty much tried filling the middle linebacker spot with minor signings in free agency or mid-to-late draft picks. The organization does not value the position in the same manner as pass rusher or cornerback when it comes to first-round picks.

The Giants haven't drafted a linebacker in the first round since 1984 when they took Carl Banks out of Michigan State.

This year, the Giants will likely have at least two prospects available when they draft at 19. Georgia's Alec Ogletree and Notre Dame's Manti Te'o are the best inside linebackers and they are widely considered to go in the neighborhood of where the Giants are picking.

But would the coaching staff play Ogletree or Te'o this season ahead of Connor or Herzlich? And in 2014 and beyond, would either prospect play more than two downs and be used on passing downs by the Giants? Will the Giants get the kind of value they need at 19 by picking a linebacker as opposed to picking an offensive lineman, pass rusher or cornerback that they will need in 2014 and beyond?

Both also have had to deal with some off-the-field issues. Ogletree was arrested for DUI in February and he was suspended for four games last season for reportedly failing a drug test. Te'o was the center of an Internet-girlfriend hoax that became national news.

Ogletree, though, sounds like the kind of athlete the Giants can use, a converted safety -- GM Jerry Reese likes guys who played multiple positions in the past -- who can fly and deliver big hits. Te'o could also have the kind of on-field leadership qualities the Giants find appealing.

Reese has drafted eight linebackers (if you include Adrian Tracy, who now is a defensive end) since he took over as GM in 2007. So while he doesn't use first-round picks on linebackers, he could certainly draft one later on.

If the Giants pass on linebacker at 19, LSU’s Kevin Minter could be an option in the second round. As far as outside linebackers, Kansas State's Arthur Brown and UConn's Sio Moore also could be options.

Some mid-round prospects could include North Carolina's Kevin Reddick, Rutgers' Khaseem Greene, Southern Mississippi's Jamie Collins, Florida State's Brandon Jenkins, Oregon's Kiko Alonso, South Carolina's DeVonte Holloman, Florida's Jonathan Bostic and Texas A&M's Sean Porter.

The Giants have shown some interest in Ohio State's Nathan Williams, who could be a late-round target.

Need rating (scale of 1 to 10): 8.

Draft preview: Giants defense/special teams

April, 16, 2013
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At the end of the Giants' failed 2012 title defense, Jerry Reese made it clear that he felt the roster was not "that far off" from contending again.

But the disappointed general manager said his team "will look a little differently" in 2013. As the Giants near next week's draft, Reese's defense will definitely sport a different look.

Osi Umenyiora, Kenny Phillips, Chris Canty, Michael Boley and Chase Blackburn are gone.

Former Eagles Cullen Jenkins and Mike Patterson are now Giants run-stuffers. Dan Connor is projected to start at middle linebacker and Aaron Ross is back in the secondary.

Despite cap constraints, Reese made a concerted effort to try to fortify a defense that finished 31st overall and 25th against the run last season. That effort will continue next week when Reese will add more defensive players.

When Reese selected running back David Wilson and wide receiver Rueben Randle last year, it was the first time the Giants did not draft a defensive player in the first two rounds since 2004.

It would be a surprise if Reese goes offense again with his first two picks. While the Giants have a need at offensive line and could opt to take a lineman early, Reese can use another pass-rusher.

Umenyiora is gone and Justin Tuck is entering the final year of his deal. And we know how much Reese values his defensive ends and how he has no issue spending a first-round pick on one.

The Giants pick 19th overall and it remains to be seen what the caliber of defensive ends will be when Reese is on the clock.

Ends like BYU's Ezekiel Ansah and LSU's Barkevious Mingo are expected to be long gone. But Florida State's Bjoern Werner and Cornellius Carradine, UCLA's Datone Jones, SMU's Margus Hunt and LSU's Sam Montgomery are among the defensive ends who could go in the first two rounds.

If Reese feels the quality of pass-rushers available at 19 are not that much better than what he might be able to get in the second round, the GM could opt to plug another area at 19.

The Giants are stocked at defensive tackle with Linval Joseph, Jenkins, Patterson, Shaun Rogers, Marvin Austin and Markus Kuhn. But Reese has never been one to shy away from taking the best player available on his board, regardless of position, and the defensive tackle position is considered to be deep in this draft.

But Reese has other areas of concern on defense. The cornerback play was shaky last season and the future at the position remains a concern with Corey Webster, Ross and Terrell Thomas, who is making a third comeback from an ACL injury, all on one-year deals.

So drafting a cornerback, potentially high, to go with young corners Prince Amukamara and Jayron Hosley makes sense for the future. That's why Washington’s Desmond Trufant, who could be available at 19, is intriguing. Houston's D.J. Hayden, Boise State's Jamar Taylor, UConn's Blidi Wreh-Wilson, Florida State's Xavier Rhodes, Mississippi State's Johnthan Banks and Darius Slay all could be options in the first three rounds. And of course, there's LSU's Tyrann Mathieu, who comes with his share of talent and baggage.

The Giants will move forward this season at linebacker without Boley and Blackburn –- two players who helped the Giants win the Super Bowl in 2011 and were valuable extensions of Perry Fewell on the field in the past.

Fans will continue their annual call for Reese to add a stud linebacker early. Georgia's Alec Ogletree and Notre Dame’s Manti Te'o have been linked often by draft prognosticators to the Giants. But the franchise hasn't spent a first-round pick on a linebacker since selecting Carl Banks in 1984. So if the Giants opt to pass on linebacker in the first round, they could look to take one later in the draft.

The Giants seem set at safety for this season with Antrel Rolle, Stevie Brown, Will Hill, Ryan Mundy and Tyler Sash. But Brown is playing this season on a one-year restricted free-agent tender and it is always possible Reese could draft a safety for the future with Phillips gone and Rolle's contract expiring after 2014.

On special teams, the Giants are moving on without Lawrence Tynes after signing kickers Josh Brown, David Buehler and kicker/punter Jake Rogers in the offseason. Punter Steve Weatherford and long-snapper Zak DeOssie return.

The Giants, though, can always use a dynamic punt returner and they could look to add a receiver or cornerback with return skills in the draft with Domenik Hixon gone. A returner on kickoffs also makes sense since Wilson's workload at running back will increase.

Tell us how you feel about the defense and special teams entering the draft.

Hixon opts for Carolina; Edelman visits

April, 3, 2013
4/03/13
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Free-agent receiver Domenik Hixon is following linebacker Chase Blackburn to Carolina.

[+] EnlargeJulian Edelman
AP Photo/Charlie RiedelJulian Edelman (11) and the Patriots squared off against the Giants in Super Bowl XLVI.
The Giants are meeting with Patriots free-agent receiver Julian Edelman on Wednesday and Thursday, according to a source. Edelman would be a nice replacement for Hixon, who will sign a one-year deal with the Panthers, ESPN NFL insider Adam Schefter confirmed.

Edelman was scheduled to have dinner with coaches Wednesday night and then will visit the team facility on Thursday. A source also confirmed that former Houston center Antoine Caldwell, who has started 19 games in four seasons for the Texans, is also visiting this week with the Giants.

Hixon was the Giants' fourth receiver and a sure-handed returner. Hixon -- who had 39 receptions for 567 yards and two touchdowns and was the team's punt returner by the end of the season -- joins Blackburn and Dave Gettleman, who left the Giants as the team's pro personnel guru to become the Panthers' GM.

The Giants currently have Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz, Rueben Randle, Jerrel Jernigan and Louis Murphy, but can use another receiver.

Edelman would give the Giants an experienced returner on punts and kickoffs and a player who can excel in the slot and provide insurance if anything were to happen with Cruz, who is a restricted free agent.

Edelman had 21 receptions for 235 yards and three touchdowns and started in three games last season before suffering a foot injury in December. He is expected to be ready for training camp. The Patriots, though, likely want to re-sign Edelman and might be able to offer more than the Giants, who have been looking to sign productive free agents for minimum-type deals.

Tell us what you think of Hixon leaving and the Giants looking at Edelman.

Chase heads to Carolina

March, 27, 2013
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One of Perry Fewell's most beloved players is joining Dave Gettleman in Carolina.

[+] EnlargeChase Blackburn
Jim McIsaac/Getty ImagesChase Blackburn is the second linebacker to leave the Giants this offseason.
Chase Blackburn, who had the big interception in Super Bowl XLVI, tweeted he is going to sign with the Panthers. A source confirmed the signing, which will be a two-year deal.

"Thanks for 8 great yrs @Giants," Blackburn tweeted. "But it's time for the #nextChapter @Panthers. Excited for the new opportunity. Where all the Panther fans at"

Blackburn was the starting middle linebacker for the Giants last season, but he had to find a new home after the Giants signed linebacker Dan Connor.

The 6-foot-4 linebacker will join Gettleman, who left his post as director of pro personnel with the Giants to become the Panthers' general manager. Blackburn started a total of 19 games in the past two seasons. He had 64 tackles, four forced fumbles and one interception last season, which was his eighth season with the Giants.

Blackburn is the second starting linebacker who will not return for this season. The Giants released Michael Boley in a cap-cutting move in February.

The Giants currently have Connor, Jacquian Williams, Keith Rivers, Mark Herzlich, Spencer Paysinger and Mathias Kiwanuka at linebacker. Kiwanuka, though, likely could move back to defensive end full time this coming season.

Rivers returns to help fill Boley void

March, 14, 2013
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The Giants made another relatively minor move that could pay off big this season by bringing back Keith Rivers.

A source confirmed Rivers agreed to return to the Giants for a one-year deal, as first reported by the Newark Star-Ledger. If Rivers can stay healthy, he can help replace Michael Boley. Boley, released in a cap-cutting move, had provided the Giants with speed and athleticism.

The Giants might not have a lot of cap space but they are doing what they can to improve a unit that finished 31st in total defense last year. They signed defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins to a three-year deal for $8 million prior to free agency as well.

Rivers can offer similar qualities to Boley if he can stay healthy. Last season, he was slowed by a variety of injuries (calf, knee and hamstring) and only played in 11 games. He started in six games and had 44 tackles. He did show glimpses of being able to fill Boley’s shoes in the Giants’ defense.

The Giants still need to add another linebacker. Starting middle linebacker Chase Blackburn is a free agent. He still could return for a cheap short-term deal but Blackburn is exploring his options on the market. The Giants currently have Rivers, Jacquian Williams, Mark Herzlich and Spencer Paysinger. Mathias Kiwanuka likely could move back to defensive end full time this season.

The Giants had Minnesota free-agent linebacker Jasper Brinkley in for a visit on Wednesday and ESPN NFL insider Adam Schefter also reported that the Giants have expressed some interest in Cincinnati free agent linebacker Rey Maualuga.

Williams and Rivers are in the mix to start this season. If both can stay healthy, that's good speed for the Giants at linebacker. But they still need to add another body or two.

What do you think of Rivers returning?

Giants express interest in Maualuga

March, 14, 2013
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The Giants are in the market for a veteran linebacker and they are looking at Cincinnati's Rey Maualuga.

ESPN NFL insider Adam Schefter reported that the Giants have expressed "at least some interest" in the Bengals free agent. It remains to be seen how much Maualuga will command on the free agent market. He visited Arizona recently but left without a deal according to USA Today.

Maualuga, 26, had a career-high 122 total tackles and one sack last season. He has 348 tackles, three sacks and three interceptions in four seasons as a starter for the Bengals.

The Giants have also expressed some interest in Detroit free agent linebacker Justin Durant, according to the Newark Star-Ledger. The Giants, who had Minnesota's Jasper Brinkley in for a visit on Wednesday, have a need for some linebackers. Chase Blackburn and Keith Rivers are both free agents and the team released Michael Boley earlier in the offseason.

But they might not have a ton of money to spend on a linebacker -- barring some cap maneuvering -- since they are hoping to re-sign left guard Kevin Boothe and likely have limited cap space.

Giants free agent tracker

March, 12, 2013
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Here's our home for the Giants' free agency tracker. We'll keep updating this particular blog to keep you on top of the Giants' moves and where Giants' free agents are going. Also, check out ESPN's free agency tracker with all the free agents. You can sort by team and position.

Remember, the Giants don't have a ton of cap space and likely have some maneuvering to do. So they aren't expected to be big-time spenders in free agency. Keeping their own key free agents and maybe adding some cheap veterans or some young unproven players with potential is a likely route for the Giants to take in free agency.

SIGNED

T Will Beatty -- Re-signed to a five-year deal for as much as $38.75 million.
DT Cullen Jenkins -- Signed three-year deal for $8 million. Could be biggest add in '13.
CB Aaron Ross -- Team's 2007 first-round pick is back to help secondary depth.
DT Shaun Rogers -- Back again after blood clot kept him out last year.
RB Ryan Torain -- Back to add RB depth.
K Josh Brown -- Likely the end of the Lawrence Tynes' era.
LB Keith Rivers -- Signed one-year deal, will try to fill Michael Boley's role.
S Ryan Mundy -- Will try to be Giants' third safety.

GONE

TE Martellus Bennett -- Signed four-year, $20 million deal with Bears.
S Kenny Phillips -- Signed with Philadelphia for one-year deal.

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

G Kevin Boothe -- Giants' priority is to bring back Boothe, who is testing the market.
DE Osi Umenyiora -- Osi has wanted to be a free agent for a long time.
LB Chase Blackburn -- Testing the market. If he's back, it will be for cheap.
K Lawrence Tynes -- Giants signed Brown, the third K added this offseason.
DT Rocky Bernard -- Solid but Giants re-signed Shaun Rogers, though.
WR Domenik Hixon -- Solid vet provides depth but is considering other options.
WR Ramses Barden -- Ramses says he's ready for a fresh start elsewhere.
QB David Carr -- Solid backup will look around for opportunities with playing potential.
TE Travis Beckum -- Injuries hampered Giants career.
T Sean Locklear -- We'll see later this summer based on knee recovery.
CB Justin Tryon -- Giants will be looking for corners but Tryon may move on.
RB Kregg Lumpkin -- Giants re-signed Ryan Torain.
CB Brian Witherspoon -- Has to come back from another ACL tear.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

WR Victor Cruz -- Handed first-round tender. Now we wait for an offer.
S Stevie Brown -- Tendered at second-round level.
RB Andre Brown -- Tendered at second-round level.
TE Bear Pascoe -- Giants already re-signed blocking tight end.

EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS

DE Adrian Tracy -- Already tendered. Could compete for fourth DE spot.
C Jim Cordle -- Already tendered. Will provide much-needed O-line depth.
DE Justin Trattou -- Trattou is back and may compete with Tracy as extra pass rusher.

Alright guys, let's hear who you want back and who you want to walk.

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