NFC East: D.J. Ware

Big Blue Morning: Auditions continue

October, 16, 2013
Your daily morning check-in on news and notes about and of interest to the New York Giants.

The news of the day: I'm not sure what I'd still be writing about at this point if not for the Giants' rapidly spinning running back carousel. But on Tuesday they waived/injured Da'Rel Scott and had a bunch of guys in for workouts, including former Browns star Peyton Hillis and former Giants Ryan Torain and D.J. Ware. As I understand it, all of the guys who worked out Tuesday will be back in the building for physicals Wednesday, and the Giants plan to sign one or maybe even two of them. Remember that starter David Wilson is out a few more weeks with his neck injury and fill-in Brandon Jacobs has a hamstring injury of his own. In other news, the Giants remained at No. 31 in this week's edition of the Power Rankings, and you can watch Mike Sando, Jamison Hensley and myself discuss the Power Rankings in this most excellent Spreecast video session.

Behind enemy lines: This is going to be some clash of the NFL juggernauts on "Monday Night Football" between the 0-6 Giants and the 1-4 Vikings, who are 29th in the Power Rankings. One of their players said it's starting to feel like the team's 3-13 season of two years ago. Yipes.

Around the division: Calvin Watkins looks back at the draft-day trade that ended with the Cowboys picking center Travis Frederick and adding a pick that ended up being wide receiver Terrance Williams. In light of the team's significant injuries on the defensive line, that deal is being called into question once again. But a huge part of what's gone right for the Cowboys this season has been the improved play of their offensive line. Not to mention what a good job Williams has done filling in for the injured Miles Austin.

Around the league: With Peyton Manning's Broncos heading to Indianapolis on Sunday to play Andrew Luck and the Colts, Mike Wells asked Colts fans whether they regret the team's decision to move on from all-time great Manning and draft Luck with the first pick in the 2012 draft. Most of the folks Mike found support the decision, which was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to replace one all-time great with a prospect who looks as though he has the ability to be another.

Giants throw a 2009 class party

September, 21, 2012

If the New York Giants' 2009 draft had produced nothing of value other than first-rounder Hakeem Nicks, it certainly wouldn't have been the worst thing ever to happen to the franchise. Nicks has blossomed into one of the best wide receivers in the NFL -- a reliable and electric target for Eli Manning, and a major contributor to the Giants' fourth Super Bowl championship.

But scouts and general managers and personnel people work hard on their drafts and want them to be deep with productive players. They want to be able to point back to a draft and say, "See? Look how many useful guys we got that year." And this is why Thursday night's 36-7 victory against the Carolina Panthers had to be as much fun for Giants GM Jerry Reese as any regular-season game he's ever seen.

Nicks was on the shelf, first of all, which is the great irony of this point: Three of the game's most important surprise stars were also members of that same 2009 draft class. Tackle Will Beatty, who was their second pick in that year's second round, returned from an injury-ravaged offseason and was outstanding as the offensive line played its best game of the year. Wide receiver Ramses Barden, the first of that year's two third-round picks, started in Nicks' place and caught nine passes for 138 yards. And running back Andre Brown, who was their fourth-round pick in 2009, got injured that year and has since been cut eight times by NFL teams including twice by the Giants, ran for 113 yards and two touchdowns in place of injured running back Ahmad Bradshaw.

Per Ohm Youngmisuk of
Reese said he doesn't always subscribe to the theory that a player usually has to show something by his third season in the league. Some are just late-bloomers.

"I have seen a lot of guys after their third year enter their fourth year and turn it on," Reese said. "Amani Toomer comes to mind. His first three years, he was trying to get it, trying to get it.

"In his fourth year, he was lights out," Reese continued. "He was one of the all-time great receivers. It is not always a three-year rule with guys."

It is not, but it came pretty close. The Giants did give up on Brown twice, and he had to beat out D.J. Ware in camp to make this year's team as a backup. Barden also entered the preseason on the roster bubble, but won his spot with an excellent camp. Beatty has been anointed the left tackle of the future for the Giants, but his play in that role was spotty last year before an eye injury ended his season prematurely, and it's been easy to detect the organization's frustration with him as he's struggled with a back injury this summer. Even once he returned healthy, Beatty found himself on the bench, and it took an injury to David Diehl to get him back into the starting lineup.

So a lot of this is luck and fate, and it's not exactly as simple as crediting the Giants for staying patient with their guys. But they're more patient than most organizations are, and Thursday offered them a chance to feel good about that. The stability they've established at the ownership, GM and coach level -- along with the success they've had -- allows the Giants to run their team without the panicky, knee-jerk issues that afflict so many of the league's franchises in this win-now-or-else era. They believe in their program. They believe in player development. They believe, stubbornly, that when they have a hole to fill they can generally fill it with someone in their own locker room.

This is worth remembering for Giants fans who start to get impatient with players like Prince Amukamara and David Wilson. The Giants don't necessarily draft guys to make an instant impact. It's nice when they do, sure, but for every Jason Pierre-Paul there's a Kenny Phillips. For every Mathias Kiwanuka an Eli Manning. Some guys hit it big right away. Others need to play and learn and develop and improve. It's that latter group that the Giants believe forms the backbone of what they do. And on Thursday night, they got to watch that philosophy pay off with a big, fun and decisive win.

Injury meets opportunity for Giants

September, 19, 2012
The New York Giants made it official Wednesday, ruling starting running back Ahmad Bradshaw, right tackle David Diehl and wide receiver Domenik Hixon out of Thursday's game against the Carolina Panthers due to their various injuries. That's two offensive starters and their No. 3 wide receiver in a game that figures to offer the opportunity for lots of offense on both sides -- and, no, that's not good.

However, the injuries do open up opportunity for several other players who may well be poised to take advantage of them. In particular, with the way the Giants' running game has struggled since the start of the 2011 season, circumstances that require them to try solutions other than Bradshaw and Diehl might not be altogether unwelcome. A look at the people who could get a chance to play their way into larger roles Thursday as a result of the injuries:

RB Andre Brown. The team's fourth-round pick in the Hakeem Nicks draft of 2009 (there's a theme building here, by the way), Brown didn't do much in his first three years behind Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs on the depth chart. But he beat out D.J. Ware for the backup running back job in training camp, and he ran well in relief of Bradshaw on Sunday against Tampa Bay. Thrilled to finally get his shot as a starter in the state in which he played college football at NC State, Brown should see the bulk of the carries, including those on the goal line, in Thursday's game. The Giants have been coy about Bradshaw's status, but if Brown plays well and Bradshaw is slow to heal, this might not be the last you hear of him.

RB David Wilson. A lot of people assumed this year's first-round pick would be Bradshaw's backup or maybe even share carries with him. And Wilson was the first back to relieve Bradshaw in the season opener. But he fumbled early in that game and didn't see the field again until Week 2, when it was clear the coaches trusted Brown more. They have some plays in which they feel Wilson can help them, and you never know -- it could be that he's the featured guy Thursday. At the very least, he could get a chance to prove he can hold on to the ball and make things happen in the run game.

OT Will Beatty. One of two Giants second-round picks in that aforementioned 2009 draft, Beatty was the starting left tackle last year before an eye injury ended his season after 10 games. Back problems cost him his starting job this summer, but with Diehl out, it looks as though Sean Locklear will swing over to right tackle and make room for Beatty to get another shot as the starter at left tackle. Surely the Giants would like to see him play well enough to convince them to leave him there for the foreseeable future and beyond.

WR Ramses Barden. The Giants' third-round pick in -- you guessed it! -- 2009, Barden had a hard time finding the field in his first three years, as injuries slowed his development. But he showed a lot in training camp and in the preseason, and when he's been in games, Eli Manning has seemed comfortable throwing to him. Barden's size gives him an advantage over defensive backs, and he showed in the preseason that he knows how to use his body to shield the ball from the defender. He could be the one who takes over Hixon's snaps.

WR Rueben Randle. This year's second-round pick is a player for whom the Giants have high hopes, though there haven't been any indications yet that he's ready for an increased role. But Hixon's injury opens up opportunity in general, and if Randle gets on the field, he'll have his best chance yet to show what he can do.

Breakfast links: Too soon to cut Felix

September, 18, 2012
Raining pretty hard out there. Morning commute could be rough. And Power Rankings are just hours away. You'd better have some links.

Philadelphia Eagles

The loss of center Jason Kelce is a tough one for the Eagles, Jeff McLane writes, because while they have a ready replacement in Dallas Reynolds, the issue becomes one of depth behind the starters on the offensive line.

Safety was the biggest question mark on the Eagles' defense going into training camp. But after two games, Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman appear to be filling their roles quite nicely along with the rest of the players on that side of the ball.

Dallas Cowboys

Felix Jones does not look like an NFL player right now, and there's much debate in the wake of his performance in Seattle on Sunday as to whether the Cowboys ought to just cut him. But Jean-Jacques Taylor thinks it would be foolish to drop a 25-year-old running back with Jones' physical skills just because he's not good enough to be the starter and he's had a couple of bad games to start the season. I'm with Jacques, but I do think they have to find out what the other backs on their roster look like as DeMarco Murray's backup.

Barry Church and Gerald Sensabaugh are both dealing with injuries, which could lead the Cowboys to seek safety help in the coming week or weeks.

Washington Redskins

While no one wants to throw cold water on a season two games in regardless of the level of bad injury news they've just received, Jason Reid says the Redskins just don't have backups capable of delivering what Brian Orakpo and Adam Carriker bring to the table.

No, of course Mike Shanahan is not going to cut Josh Morgan, one of two wide receivers he signed to long-term contracts in the first hour of free agency to build an offense around franchise quarterback Robert Griffin III. The more sensible move is of course to use Morgan's late-game gaffe as a learning tool that helps Morgan grow as a player.

New York Giants

It was something of a surprise that Andre Brown beat out D.J. Ware for one of the Giants' backup running back spots. Now, with starter Ahmad Bradshaw hurt, first-round pick David Wilson not yet ready and the Giants playing the day after tomorrow, Brown is excited for the chance to build on the positives he showed when he had to go into the game Sunday.

Corey Webster, who's had two rough games in pass coverage to start the season, thinks the Giants' defensive backs need to be more aggressive with receivers at the line of scrimmage. No word from the Giants' coaches on whether that's something they want their defensive backs to do at this point.

New York Giants cut-down analysis

August, 31, 2012
Click here for the complete list of New York Giants' roster moves.

Most significant move: The Giants announced they have placed cornerback Terrell Thomas on injured reserve, and not the new, temporary kind. Thomas will miss his second consecutive season due to his inability to make a full recovery from last summer's knee surgery. It's an incredibly disappointing result for Thomas, who had hoped to be ready for the regular-season opener but suffered a setback in his recovery early in camp and now can hope to return to the field no sooner than 2013. He is not eligible to return after eight weeks per the new IR rule, because he is not a member of the 53-man roster that was submitted Friday night. The same is true of defensive tackle Shaun Rogers, who started camp strong but was shut down with a blood clot in his leg. He's also on full-season injured reserve. ... Defensive end Adewale Ojomo and safety Will Hill, both serious long shots entering camp, made the roster.

Onward and upward: Calvin Watkins of suggested early Friday that the Cowboys could have interest in wide receiver David Douglas if the Giants were to cut him. They did, and he looked to be a speedy and useful special-teams performer when he was on the field in preseason. He should draw interest, be it in Dallas or elsewhere. ... D.J. Ware is a running back with some NFL experience who theoretically could draw interest from another team in need of running back help. He lost his spot to Andre Brown, who had a better camp, and Da'Rel Scott, who's too important on special teams to cut.

What's next: Defensive tackle Marvin Austin, who's out with a back injury, made the roster but could be a candidate for that short-term IR designation. ... The Giants were said Friday to be looking for offensive line help. Even though left tackle Will Beatty now could be ready to play in Wednesday's season opener, they remain thin at tackle and on the line in general.

NFC East cut day RB shuffle

August, 31, 2012
We're going to have a post on the final cuts for each team once they're all... you know... finalized. But as some of the news begins to trickle in, there are a couple of newsworthy developments in the NFC East. Some of them involve the running back situations with the New York Giants and the Washington Redskins.

Giants running back D.J. Ware sent out a tweet indicating that he'd been told he was being cut by the team. In recent days, Giants beat writers have been suggesting that Ware could be in trouble, since Andre Brown showed an ability to run with power and also catch the ball out of the backfield while Da'Rel Scott was a special teams standout. This struck me as a surprising idea, since Ware entered camp as the Giants' best pass-protection back outside of starter Ahmad Bradshaw. But the beat guys were watching every day (and talking to the coaches), and as usual they knew what they were talking about. Brown passed Ware on the depth chart, and with Bradshaw and rookie first-round pick David Wilson sure things to make the roster, they could only keep four running backs. The question now is which of the backups is Bradshaw's No. 2, as there's very little in the way of experience among the group.

The Redskins, meanwhile, are apparently cutting veteran running back Tim Hightower because his surgically repaired knee just isn't coming around quickly enough. Hightower was the coaching staff's favorite back on the roster when healthy, and the favorite to be the starter if he could get the knee right. But he couldn't, and the Redskins like their other backs enough that they believe they can afford to cut him. Evan Royster, Roy Helu or rookie Alfred Morris all appear capable of starting Week 1 against the Saints, and it's likely each will get a chance as the starter at some point this season.

Additionally, reports indicate that the Redskins are working on trading wide receiver Anthony Armstrong to the Dolphins for running back Steve Slaton. Seems like a reasonable move, assuming Armstrong was the odd man out among the Redskins' wide receivers. They had too many wide receivers and needed help at running back, and Slaton comes with more NFL experience than any back still left on the roster. He also worked with Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan when both were with the Texans. Slaton rushed for 1,281 yards and caught 50 passes for 377 yards as a rookie with the Texans in 2008 but has not been the same player since. Still, he's a good fit for the Redskins' offense and only 26 years old, so it's not out of the realm of possibility that he could make a contribution.

As I said, more to come.

Observation deck: Patriots-Giants

August, 30, 2012

I don't know why New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin played his starting offense for four series in Wednesday night's 6-3 preseason victory over the New England Patriots. It's kind of accepted that you're not supposed to play your veteran starters in the final preseason game, and it does seem silly to risk injury to them with a week left before the first game that actually counts. But Coughlin knows what he's doing, and he tends to do it his way. And hey, maybe Eli Manning really is indestructible -- and while we just joke about it, Coughlin knows for sure.

Anyway, everybody came out of it fine, including star wide receiver Hakeem Nicks, who only played the first two series as he got his first game action of the preseason. Nicks didn't show any effects from the foot fracture he suffered in the spring, and he should be good to go next Wednesday night against the Cowboys.

As for this game, in the four series he played, Manning didn't look in sync with his receivers, the offensive line looked awful in run-blocking and (likely as a result) the running backs didn't show much. No, not even David Wilson. What's it all mean? Absolutely nothing, of course. There's no way the Giants game-planned for this game and no way they were going to put anything on tape Wednesday night that might have been potentially helpful to the Cowboys next week. Manning and his gang will be ready, of that there should be no fear. Not now that they've made it through the preseason games healthy.

What else did we see in this fiasco of a non-game?
  • Defensive end Adewale Ojomo has to make the team, right? I don't know whether that means Adrian Tracy has to go or what, but Ojomo's done nothing to deserve being cut. Another sack, and man did he look good stuffing the run. If these games are ways for off-the-roster guys to make the roster, Ojomo could end up being this year's prime example.
  • While we're on the defensive line, Linval Joseph has flat-out been one of my favorite players to watch in this preseason. He's playing like a man possessed, and between him and Rocky Bernard the Giants shouldn't miss a beat in the first half of games in spite of their injuries at defensive tackle. My only question is if they have the depth they need to spell those guys and make sure they don't wear down in the second half or as the season goes along. But when Joseph is on the field, they have another dimension to the line. He's everywhere making plays right now.
  • The other line? Not so much. Chris Snee and Will Beatty sat this one out with injuries, and the issue with the line continues to be depth. Mitch Petrus had some trouble at guard, and the interior of the line just gets pushed back too easily, especially on run plays. They need to find better ways to extend forward and open some holes for the backs than they did this preseason. And last year, for that matter.
  • Ramses Barden made a highlight-film catch, reaching behind himself and a defender, and continues to impress. Finally healthy and producing, Barden looks like he's got a chance to make the team and an impact. Jerrel Jernigan helps more on special teams, and it's hard to see them cutting him so soon after drafting him so high, but again, Barden has outplayed him.
  • They're still using D.J. Ware as the third-down back, even with Wilson in the game, and that tells you what they think about Ware (and maybe Wilson) in pass protection.
  • I saw some nice plays by linebackers Greg Jones and Mark Herzlich in the third quarter. But I was watching three games at once by that point, so I can't tell you how they looked overall.
  • Can't imagine that Andre Brown fumble makes him feel real good about his chances with 36 hours left until final cuts are due.
  • Steve Weatherford is fantastic. He must really like punting against the Patriots.

Breakfast links: One week to go

August, 29, 2012
Yes, the NFL season opener between the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Giants is exactly one week from tonight. That's seven days, people. Seven. We can do that standing on our heads. I mean, not that we need to, or even should. But we could, if we wanted to. That's how easy it is, is what I'm getting at. Anyway, links.

Washington Redskins

The Tuesday release of Chris Cooley brings the importance of tight end Fred Davis into even greater focus, and Davis says it was nice to get a couple of catches in the third preseason game after not getting any in the first two. I don't think you make much of Davis being lightly targeted in the preseason. It seems fairly clear that the Redskins have been trying very hard not to show too much of their actual playbook.

Speaking of which, Robert Griffin III will not play in tonight's preseason finale, but that means nothing. Most teams don't play their starting quarterbacks (or any of their other starters) in the final preseason game, and no one in Washington is concerned about Griffin's readiness for the Sept. 9 opener in New Orleans.

Dallas Cowboys

I'd like to promise you that I'll write something as good as this Peter King piece in advance of next week's opener. I'd like to, but I can't. I mean, I'll try and all, but... oh well, just read it. Peter talked to Tony Romo about what he goes through as he prepares to face the Giants' defense. It'll get you fired up whichever team you root for.

According to Dez Bryant's adviser, David Wells, the new rules the Cowboys have in place for Bryant's off-field behavior came about at Bryant's request. That's a good and encouraging story if it's true, but as usual, it appears the people around Bryant are posturing to try and make themselves look good. And none of this matters as much as Bryant actually getting the help everyone seems to agree he needs. So we'll see.

New York Giants

Ohm's doing roster projections for the Giants, and this one focuses on the offense. The surprising part is the part where he does not have D.J. Ware making the team as one of the running backs. Ohm makes the good case that Andre Brown runs with more power and Da'Rel Scott looks like a special teams whiz, and of course he may be right. He's closer to the situation than I am. My sense is just that the passing game is the most important thing to the Giants, and that Ware is the best from among this group as a receiver and a blocker.

The Star-Ledger is debating whether Hakeem Nicks should play tonight in the Giants' preseason finale. Nicks is recovering from a broken foot and wants to play a few snaps because he hasn't yet this preseason. Personally, if it were me, I'd be too scared to play him. But the Giants trust Nicks, and he's a trustworthy and responsible player, so I guess they'll let him give it a go and hope he doesn't hurt himself.

Philadelphia Eagles

Andy Reid says that rookie Nick Foles is the Eagles' backup quarterback right now behind Michael Vick. Mike Kafka, whose hand is still broken and won't play in Thursday's preseason finale, appears to be in danger of not making the roster at all.

And in keeping with the Clinton Portis trend of running backs "retiring" long after their final games, Brian Westbrook is going to announce his retirement as an Eagle today and be honored by the team at a game in December.

David Wilson getting his chance

August, 21, 2012
A hand injury to New York Giants starting running back Ahmad Bradshaw has opened up first-team reps in practice this week, and those first-team reps have been going to 2012 first-round draft pick David Wilson. To this point, Wilson had been buried behind D.J. Ware and Andre Brown on the Giants' depth chart, but a first-round pick is a first-round pick for a reason, and Giants coach Tom Coughlin said the plan all along has been to get Wilson work with the first-team offense.

"I was nervous a little bit when they first told me I was going to go with the ones," Wilson said, according to the daily quotes e-mailed by the team's media relations department. "It had to sink in, and I got out in practice yesterday and you could tell I was a little bit jittery and nervous. I settled in and now I'm just looking forward to the game."

Coughlin said Wilson probably would not start this weekend's preseason game but would get plenty of reps in it. Wilson is happy for whatever first-team work he gets.

"I mean, I'm in there with Eli [Manning] and those guys," Wilson said. "You want to go out there and show what you can do, and hopefully you can get more reps with Eli and be getting more plays with the ones."

It's going to take a Bradshaw injury for Wilson or Ware or anyone else to get reps with the ones, but that's what has happened, and it's a reminder that Bradshaw hasn't been the most durable back in the league over the past couple of years. Bradshaw's hope, and the Giants' preference, is that he is the lead back this year and Wilson, Ware and the rest of the backs on the roster are there to spell him when he needs a break. But if there's to be a significant 2012 role for Wilson, this week is his first chance to claim it.

The Giants love the way he runs. They like his speed and his ability to generate explosive offensive plays. In many ways, he's much more a change of pace from Bradshaw than Bradshaw ever was from Brandon Jacobs, since those two are both power runners. What Wilson has to show in order to keep his significant reps is improvement in his blocking and blitz pickup and command of the Giants' playbook. If he doesn't have that stuff down now, two weeks before the start of his first NFL season, that's fine. The Giants are happy to work with and develop their talented young players and wait until they're ready before using them in games. But if Wilson is capable of developing quickly and playing a significant number of snaps for the Giants this year, they'd like to at least give him the chance to show that. And that's why he's been running with the first team this week.

Observation deck: Giants-Jets

August, 18, 2012

The good postgame news for the New York Giants following their 26-3 preseason victory over the Jets is that starting running back Ahmad Bradshaw's hand seems OK. The Giants took X-rays that came back negative, and Bradshaw told reporters after the game that he had a cyst on his hand that burst when he hit it on someone's helmet. I do not know why a cyst bursting would require an X-ray, but I am not a doctor. Upshot appears to be that Bradshaw will be fine, which is significant for a Giants team whose running game still needs work.

The Giants finished 32nd in the league in rush offense in the regular season last year, mainly because of a line that couldn't get any push forward in the run game. That was on display again Saturday night, as neither Bradshaw nor D.J. Ware nor Andre Brown nor David Wilson could find a hole all night. The Giants finished with 58 yards on 32 carries, which is dreadful. Now, rush defense appears to be one of the few things the Jets do well, so that might have had something to do with it. But the concern with the Giants when they struggle is that they get physically handled in the trenches. The offensive line struggled with that last year and has so far in this preseason.

Now, that intro breaks my general rule about trying to open with a positive in these preseason game reviews. But I thought Bradshaw was the biggest news of the night, and in fairness it is a positive that his hand is not broken. And there are a ton of Giants positives in the remainder of my review of what I saw Saturday night:

1. The defensive line looks as though it will be just fine. Even with Justin Tuck leaving early with a neck injury (he also said he was fine), the Giants' pass rush completely abused Wayne Hunter and an overmatched Jets offensive line. Jason Pierre-Paul and reserve defensive end Adewale Ojomo each had two sacks and the Giants had seven as a team to go with their nine quarterback hits and nine tackles for loss. But what I thought was most impressive while the first-team defense was in there was the performance of starting defensive tackles Linval Joseph and Rocky Bernard, who forced the issue in the middle of the line and limited the Jets on the ground as well. The Giants are banged up at defensive tackle with Chris Canty and Marvin Austin on the shelf, but Bernard and Joseph played as though they didn't want anyone to worry.

2. Eli Manning likes throwing to Victor Cruz. Manning didn't do a lot to help the Giants find their No. 3 wide receiver. Five of his seven completions were caught by Cruz, and while that was fun for Giants fans to watch, everybody already knew that hookup worked. Ramses Barden did drop one Manning pass early on, which didn't help his case. Overall, Manning had a poor night, completing 7 of 14 for 62 yards and an ugly overthrow interception. But he's obviously the least of their worries.

3. As for those No. 3 receiver candidates ... Rookie Rueben Randle made the best catch of the night, a leaping 49-yarder from David Carr. But it was his only catch of the game. Jerrel Jernigan caught two passes for 26 yards, Domenik Hixon one for four yards and Barden was shut out. The buzz during the week was about a Manning quote that said they could rotate guys into that role and into situations that maximize their different strengths, and that's a reasonable way to handle the situation. But I still think Barden's going to have to grab that role if he wants to make the team. The other guys help on special teams.

4. Chase Blackburn's probably safe for a while. Blackburn and Kenny Phillips combined to fill a gap and make a nice stop on Shonn Greene on a second-down run. Later in the game, Mark Herzlich suffered a hip pointer. Blackburn's the starting middle linebacker for now, and Herzlich's going to have to come and take the job from him. Blackburn hasn't done anything to lose it, and now Herzlich's hurt. Keith Rivers, by the way, looked active on the outside, starting in place of an injured Michael Boley.

5. Got to like Jayron Hosley. The rookie cornerback was a star of the game on defense and on special teams, where he returned an interception 77 yards for a touchdown. Reports from the postgame locker room say Hosley had his foot in a walking boot, so it seems as though he got injured, too. Would be a shame if he had to miss time. It looks as though the Giants want to use him a lot, and other than last week's muffed punt, everything he's done on the field has made him look like a very useful guy.

6. Wilson does show something. The rookie running back out of Virginia Tech was a first-round pick for a reason. You can see, when he gets room to run, what he brings in terms of explosiveness. I believe he'll be a good player for the Giants. He even looked good in blitz pickup once he got into the game. But this national perception that he's the sure-thing backup or some sort of threat to take carries away from Bradshaw has gotten out of hand. He's clearly fourth on the running-back depth chart right now, and Ware has earned that No. 2 spot. Wilson will develop, maybe quickly, and likely be an asset for the Giants down the road. But he has developing to do, and there's nothing wrong with that. It's kind of how the Giants roll.

7. Will Hill. He's getting to be a fun story, playing well at safety and coming up with a sack of Tim Tebow. Could be a nice latent-talent find by the Giants' front office, a la Herzlich and of course Cruz.

What I'll be watching: Giants-Jets

August, 18, 2012
The New York Giants play their second preseason game of the year Saturday night at 7 pm against the Jets in East Rutherford, N.J. (It's technically a Jets home game, in case you're wondering.) Here's a look at what I'll be watching...

Most closely: The tackles. Will Beatty is out again with the same back injury that's been bugging him since the spring. Based on his brief time as a starter last year, this is still a player who needs practice. And he's not getting any. The longer they go without Beatty on the field, the more the Giants have to wonder if the player they have been hoping could be their long-term answer at left tackle is someone on whom they can rely. If the answer is no, a solution must be found, and I don't think it's as simple as moving David Diehl back over from right tackle in the middle of the preseason. And even if it is or not, someone like Sean Locklear or James Brewer will have to show something on the left or right side to make the Giants think he can be their Week 1 starter. Beatty still could be that, of course, but the game is in 18 days and he can't get on the field. So I'll be watching to see how Diehl, Locklear and Brewer look blocking for the run and against Quinton Coples and the Jets' pass rush.

On the other side of the ball: Prince Amukamara. The Giants' second-year cornerback and 2011 first-round draft pick was picked on during the first preseason game against Jacksonville and said this week he expects more of the same while he works to prove himself. He's getting a chance with Terrell Thomas on the shelf, and the uncertainty that surrounds Thomas and his recovery from knee surgery means Amukamara is a starting corner for the time being. He's got a chance to look good against a banged-up Jets wide receiver corps tonight.

If I think of it: Jayron Hosley, at nickel corner and on punt returns... D.J. Ware vs. David Wilson for the backup running back spot... Mark Herzlich vs. Chase Blackburn at middle linebacker... Which receivers Eli Manning looks as though he trusts most, out of Rueben Randle, Domenik Hixon, Ramses Barden, Jerrel Jernigan and, yes, Martellus Bennett.
Good morning. Hope everyone made it through those nasty northeast storms okay. Kids thought the lightning was awesome. Wife, not so much. But it's all good. Kids like the links, too.

Washington Redskins

Jammal Brown continues to seek a treatment that will help him get back on the field quickly and avoid surgery. But the Redskins' right tackle isn't having a lot of luck fixing that troublesome hip of his. And until he's 100 percent reliably healthy, the Redskins are likely to go with others at the position. Read into that what you will with regard to Brown and his chances of making the roster.

You've likely heard of the league-wide trend of teams transitioning to the use of iPads to replace the old, traditional, clunky playbooks. Stephen Whyno takes a look at what life is like among the Redskins with that new technology. Makes nothing but sense to me. I have to believe textbooks are on their way out, too, for the same reason. You know, those things so many of you should be reading all day while you're on here instead?

Dallas Cowboys

Jason Garrett called Jason Witten's spleen injury "very serious," and that Witten would have to be "still and idle" for a week to 10 days. And while he would not entertain questions about Witten's availability for the season opener 20 days from now, Garrett did say Witten would miss the remainder of the preseason. Which, again, certainly calls into question his ability to play in a real game one week after the final preseason game.

The good news out of Cowboys camp is that rookie cornerback Morris Claiborne is expected to play in Saturday's preseason game against the Chargers. Claiborne missed the preseason opener with a knee injury, and the Cowboys are eager to see what their first-round pick has to offer in live action.

New York Giants

The Giants like to use Kenny Phillips deep, where he's as good as anyone in the league. Phillips says he'd like to move up a bit every now and then, maybe snag a couple more interceptions, show he's good at more than just that center-field role. Coincidentally, Phillips is in the final year of his contract, and interception numbers can make a free-agent safety look good. I'm not saying, I'm just saying. There's little reason for me to believe the Giants have any interest in changing Phillips' role in their defense, where he's one of the most important and reliable pieces.

For all of the excitement about first-round pick David Wilson, it's worth remembering that he's still behind veteran D.J. Ware in line for carries and the role of Ahmad Bradshaw's backup. Ware looks good so far in camp, even if there are still a few things he needs to work on if he wants to hold off the rookie and secure that job.

Philadelphia Eagles

Les Bowen has a breakdown of the decisions looming about the Eagles' 53-man roster. And with Cedric Thornton and Phillip Hunt both making the case to stay, there's a feeling developing that the final defensive line spot could come down to Antonio Dixon versus Darryl Tapp. If that happens, it could make sense for them to try to trade Tapp and his $2.6 million salary. Long way to go yet, of course.

Oh, and if there's one team in the league you're 100 percent sure would be intrigued about the idea of an Olympic sprinter that was interested in playing in the NFL, which team would it be? Yeah, that's right.
On Tuesday, as we do every Tuesday, rain or shine, home or road, we had our weekly chat. It was fun, as always. It was entertaining. I hope it was informative, but that's not for me to decide. If you missed it, I have some highlights. But stop missing it!

Justin (Meadville, PA): Dan I never understood how anyone could say the Giants had a better pass rush than the Eagles when the Eagles had more sacks and actually fared better against the run. After being in tc and watching their first preseason game without Babin and Cole are you ready to reconsider?

Dan Graziano: I'm willing to admit, as I always have been, that it's a close call. But you can't tell me Jason Babin/Trent Cole is clearly better than Justin Tuck/Jason Pierre-Paul, and you surely can't tell me that Brandon Graham is better than Osi Umenyiora. It's a very close call ranking these two pass rushes, but I still like the Giants' guys if they're healthy. And incidentially, they are right now and Philly's guys are not.

st8prop (Atlanta, GA): Dan...remind Justin that the Eagles only had 2 more sacks than the wasn't some huge margin. Also, I would like to think had Tuck and Osi not been out for almost half the season, the giants would have held the edge in sacks. Agree?

DG: I don't know what happens in alternate universes where different people are healthy. But yes, 50 sacks vs 48 is not a significant enough margin on which to base a definitive opinion, and there are other things to consider besides sack totals.

Joey (Cali): When the Cowboys drafted Tyrone Crawford you had your doubts that he could contribute soon and called him a developmental player, have your views changed at all? How do you think he fits this year?

DG: Yes, having visited Cowboys camp, watched practice and asked the coaches directly, my views have changed. Their plan is to use Crawford some this year as a situational pass rusher, maybe in nickel and dime packages, while continuing to try and add size to his frame in the hope that he can someday be a starting end for them. That is slightly different from my initial analysis. I always remain open to changing my opinions after further education and reporting.

Steve (Troy): Dan I know it was the preseason and almost useless to judge, but the Cowboys defense felt different and more relentless, what were your thoughts?

DG: My thoughts are that it was the preseason, and almost useless to judge.

Mark (Oregon): Do you think that Mike Shanahan is out of patience with Jammal Brown? Are they just waiting till he gets healthy enough to release?

DG: I don't think he has to be healthy for them to release him, and I don't think Shanahan is out of patience with him. I do think that Shanahan believes he's better off with a fully healthy backup-type player like Tyler Polumbus at RT than he'd be with an 80-perecent-healthy Brown.

Tony (McLean, VA): Can it be argued that it has been the Redskins QB's in fact, and not the O-line that has plagued team for the last few years?

DG: Pretty sure that's been argued to death. I think Mike Shanahan argued it so hard that he convinced his owner it was a good idea to trade three first-round picks and a second-round pick to get a new one.

Dan (Boring, MD): Any good grasp of who will backup Ahmad Bradshaw in NY? The rookie seems a bit unpolished as of yet and they keep a pretty good stable laying around.

DG: At this point, I don't see why it wouldn't be D.J. Ware.

Mark (Los Angeles): Michael Vick seemed awful confused when the Steelers backed out of the blitz on that one play. Is that first preseason game jitters or is he still not getting it?

DG: Yes, yes he did. Again, though, no long-term judgments based on preseason games. I understand it's scary when they remind you of old concerns, but deep breaths, people. Long way to go here.

Drop by next Tuesday, would ya?

Observation deck: Giants-Jaguars

August, 10, 2012

This was one of the preseasoniest preseason games any of us has ever seen. The New York Giants' 32-31 exhibition loss to the Jaguars in Jacksonville on Friday night was by turns sloppy, silly and downright ugly for both teams. Blown coverages, muffed punts and the sad struggles of the nervous, overmatched replacement officials made this a game that showed exactly why there's nearly a full month left before the start of the regular season -- because everybody needs that time.

All of that said, though, the Giants got some long looks at a few key players who are likely to factor into their 2012 regular season. And that's what this is all about. We draw no long-range conclusions from these ridiculous games. We merely observe, report and discuss. So please bear that in mind as you read.

1. There's lots to like about David Wilson. He's no threat to Ahmad Bradshaw's job security, but Wilson looks like a dangerous dude with the ball in his hands. His speed is legitimate, and likely the main reason he was used on kick returns. And it helped him break a few runs. He had a really interesting statistical night -- 43 yards on seven carries for an impressive 6.1 yards-per-carry average. But these were the lengths of his seven runs, in chronological order: 0, 26, minus-5, 17, minus-1, 6, 0. That's some variety right there, and it would appear to be evidence of a work in progress. Wilson is capable of big things as a first-rounder should be, but he has some things he needs to refine. The Giants have a high-caliber starting running back in Bradshaw, and right now Wilson may be behind D.J. Ware as well. But as he progress with his vision, his cuts and his pass protection, he should be able to move up quickly and maybe even become the Giants' No. 2 back at some point this season. He also caught two passes for 26 yards, which is important to note, as the Giants like to use their running backs as receivers in the screen game.

2. Prince Amukamara isn't all the way there yet. His highlight play was an outstanding forced fumble, which I really liked because he didn't just sell out for the strip, but actually had his other armed wrapped around the ballcarrier's shoulder. Going for the turnover without sacrificing tackling technique -- a rare sight and the mark of a sound and smart player. Unfortunately by that point in the game, Amukamara had already been burned twice in coverage, including for a touchdown, and coverage is the more important part of his game. With Terrell Thomas continuing to struggle with knee issues, Amukamara is a starting cornerback for the Giants right now, and needs to do better in the coming weeks if the Giants are to feel good about starting the year that way.

3. A Black Unicorn sighting. Tight end Martellus Bennett has made headlines since arriving in New York for the interesting things he's called himself in group interviews. But he caught all three balls thrown to him Friday night, including a 12-yard touchdown from David Carr. The Giants got him mainly to help as a blocker in the run game, and he (as well as fullback Henry Hynoski) offered plenty of proof Friday that they can help there. But if he can be a legitimate threat to catch the ball, that's a huge bonus for the Giants. We shall see. He had some big August games in Dallas, too. The more important thing is that he's always been a good blocker, and the run game needs that.

4. The No. 3 receiver battle. It was interesting that Ramses Barden got the start due to a Domenik Hixon hamstring injury. Whichever of these receiver candidates is working with Eli Manning on a given night is automatically going to have an advantage, and Barden was the lucky guy in this one. He had a 14-yard catch early in the game and looked good using his big body to shield the defender from the ball. Jerrel Jernigan might have had a touchdown catch, but his right arm was held by the defensive back and so he had to try (unsuccessfully) to catch the ball only with his left hand. And rookie Rueben Randle looked good late, using his size to gain an advantage in the end zone and corral a 6-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Perrilloux. It's worth noting that Isaiah Stanback, who's not in this mix but is trying to make the team, made a circus catch for a touchdown from David Carr in the second quarter.

5. Sloppy, sloppy. Hixon could be the No. 3 receiver if he can get on the field, but where the Giants really could have used him Friday was on punt returns, where both Jayron Hosley and Jernigan muffed punts. Shame about rookie cornerback Hosley, who was having a good game to that point with a good return and a sack.

6. Being physical. At times over the past few years, when the Giants' defense has underachieved from week-to-week, it's been because they were physically pushed around by other teams' offensive lines. This was the case for much of the early part of Friday's game. The Jaguars' first touchdown drive covered 89 yards in 13 plays and took 6:09 as running back Rashad Jennings and quarterback Blaine Gabbert were able to do whatever they wanted. I'm certainly not saying the Giants will play defense like that in the regular season, but we have seen that they can, and I'm sure the first-team defensive linemen weren't thrilled about the way their night went.

7. Miscellany: Adrian Tracy, who's being converted from linebacker to defensive end, looked athletic and able, if a little jumpy pre-snap. ... Marvin Austin continues to look rusty but has potential. On one play he got pushed back easily, on the next he collapsed the pocket to help Tracy get a sack. ... Mark Herzlich looked very good as he continues to push Chase Blackburn for that starting middle linebacker spot. ... Backup defensive lineman Dwayne Hendricks had two sacks and a nice overall game as a back-of-the-roster guy trying to stick. ... Steve Weatherford picked up right where he left off in the Super Bowl, nailing perfect punts. He even looked good compared to that punter the Jags drafted in the third round! But that guy's clearly awesome. He punts the ball so no one can catch it!

That's plenty from this game for me. What'd you guys see?
ALBANY, N.Y. -- The task for New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin, as he works this summer to keep his Super Bowl champions from getting complacent, is to remind them of all of the things about which they have no right to be complacent.

In a meeting on the first day of camp, Coughlin showed his team a few stats. Under the heading "Worst to Best," he reminded the Giants that they ranked last in the league in rushing offense in the 2011 regular season and 27th in total defense. He put up the number 400, which is the number of points the Giants allowed en route to a 9-7 regular-season record -- more than all but seven teams in the league, not one of which reached the playoffs.

"There's a lot of improvement to be made," Coughlin said after Saturday's practice. "And the challenge has been, 'Which team are we?' Are we the 7-7 team, or are we the Super Bowl champions?"

They are both, of course. They are the team that went 7-7 in its first 14 games, playing inconsistent defense, running the ball into the backs of its linemen and asking quarterback Eli Manning to bring it back from behind in the fourth quarter almost every week. But they are also the team that galvanized itself after its Week 15 loss to the Redskins and won six in a row, including the Super Bowl. Coughlin wants his charges to remember both parts and give them equal weight. The latter part, he says, gives the Giants the confidence to know they can fight through any challenge. The former reminds them of how much work they have to do.

"I think last year was a tale of two teams," defensive end Justin Tuck said. "The first half was the tale of a team that didn't play well together, had egos, was injured, didn't have a full complement of players. And the second half was us coming together. 'All-in' became our slogan, and guys really checked their egos at the door and sacrificed whatever personal things we had to become that great team."

The knowledge that they're capable of being the best team in the league is a helpful thing for the Giants to carry with them. But the tone here at Giants training camp is not one of cockiness or a Super Bowl hangover. The Giants are a serious, professional bunch whose hope is to maintain the intense focus of those final six games and apply it over the course of at least 16 this time around. Tuck said the Giants can trust in "the mental compass of this team" to make sure the issues that plagued them last year don't resurface, and as they go through their preparations for 2012, that is the priority.

"We've got to find a way to get our work done," Tuck said. "That's the only way you win championships."


[+] EnlargeWill Beatty
AP Photo/Evan PinkusInjuries have kept Will Beatty from establishing at left tackle, making him the biggest uncertainty on an uncertain offensive line.
1. Can Will Beatty play left tackle? The offensive line is the biggest question, and the key to the line is Beatty, who still has yet to establish himself as the reliable starter the Giants believe he can be at left tackle. He missed the final six games of the regular season with an eye injury and says the good thing about that is he didn't beat up his body as badly as the rest of his teammates did, but he did miss the reps and the experience he would have accrued had he been able to complete his first year as a starter. So he remains a question.

"That's definitely something that he's got to work at," right tackle David Diehl said. "When you miss that much time of football, you've got to get back at things, and he missed some time during minicamp due to a back injury, so he's got his work cut out for him to come into this season. But we all know he's physically capable."

2. Who replaces Brandon Jacobs and Mario Manningham? They weren't starters, but Jacobs had 167 touches last year and Manningham caught 39 passes. They will need to be replaced, and the candidates to do so are young and unproven. First-round pick David Wilson is competing with D.J. Ware and Da'Rel Scott to be the backup running back behind Ahmad Bradshaw. Second-round pick Rueben Randle is competing with Domenik Hixon, Jerrel Jernigan and Ramses Barden to be the No. 3 wide receiver. Training camp and the preseason will be a tryout camp for the guys at those positions. Starting wide receivers Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz are excellent, as is Bradshaw if he can keep his feet healthy all year. But this offense likes to spread it around, and some of the players in these competitions must step up as reliable options.

3. Is Terrell Thomas back? The Giants' secondary was more good than bad last year, but it did have its bad moments. Thomas, who suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in the preseason and missed all of 2011, believes he's healthy and ready to reclaim his position as an emerging star at cornerback. If he's not, the Giants will look to 2011 first-round pick Prince Amukamara to man the cornerback spot opposite Corey Webster. But Amukamara comes with plenty of his own questions, and the Giants need this camp to help them figure out exactly what they have on the back end of that defense. The pass rush remains excellent and the linebacking depth is improved, but if there's a spot at which the defense is a bump or a bruise away from being very wobbly, it's that secondary.


Where the Giants are strong, they are as strong as anyone in the league. The pass rush, led by defensive ends Tuck, Jason Pierre-Paul and Osi Umenyiora, is fearsome when only two of that threesome are healthy. If all three can stay healthy this year, they should be devastating. "That's our strength, no question," Tuck said. "We know it. It's a lot of pressure on us, but we thrive on it, and hopefully we can build on last year and play 16 games together this year so we can see how scary that can be."

They're also obviously quite strong at quarterback, where Manning has established himself as the most clutch player in the league. He led seven fourth-quarter comebacks last year, including one in the NFC Championship Game and one in the Super Bowl. He never misses a game, works hard at making those around him better and has become the unquestioned leader of the team. In a quarterback-driven league, the Giants wouldn't trade their guy for anyone.


[+] EnlargeEli Manning
Elsa/Getty Images"Let's not overuse it," Eli Manning says of his abillity to lead late comebacks, something he did seven times last season.
The one potential downside to that last thing, however, is that the Giants may have come to count on Manning too much. Manning himself said that, while knowing you can make a fourth-quarter comeback is nice, the Giants need to stop making them so necessary.

"It kind of means, when you're doing that a bunch, that you're not playing real well the first three quarters," Manning said. "So let's step it up and play with that kind of energy and enthusiasm and that 'Hey, we need to score here' kind of attitude in the first three quarters. Obviously I still want it at the end, and there's going to be some games where you need it. But let's not overuse it, because sometimes you're going to get a bad break. Sometimes the ball's going to get tipped. Sometimes a bad play is going to happen and then you're just out of time. So let's not always put ourselves in that situation."

The Giants didn't actively go out and get many solutions to the problems that put Manning in those situations so often last year. They're relying on the guys they have to play better and stay healthier. And if they don't ... well, you just can't count on seven fourth-quarter comebacks every year, no matter how good your quarterback is.


  • It looks as though Chase Blackburn will begin the season as the starting middle linebacker, though newcomer Keith Rivers could overtake him if he shows the ability to play the middle. The second-team middle linebacker right now is Mark Herzlich, who also could overtake Blackburn if healthy and leave Rivers in a utility linebacker role. This is suddenly a position of great depth for the Giants, who have four second-year linebackers they like as well as Rivers and starting outside linebackers Michael Boley and Mathias Kiwanuka.
  • Don't assume rookie Wilson wins the backup running back job just because he was picked in the first round. The Giants love him, but they'll be perfectly willing to keep him in the background and develop him if he doesn't show enough in camp and someone such as Ware does. Wilson is getting a lot of practice reps, so they will be able to make a thorough judgment on him, but he's still behind Ware on the depth chart.
  • Former Giants safety Deon Grant said last week that he expects to re-sign with the Giants at some point during camp, but I did not get that vibe from the Giants. They feel good about their linebacker and cornerback depth, and barring injury, I don't think they'll feel the need to bring back Grant and run all of those three-safety sets they ran the past couple of seasons.
  • Beatty said he came to camp lighter this year (310 pounds) than last (319). He believes he can put the weight back on as muscle now that he's able to work out again. After he injured his back and developed a sciatic nerve problem during minicamp last year, he was unable to work out the way he usually does in the summer.
  • While the Giants' pass rush is keyed around their defensive ends, they believe second-year defensive tackle Marvin Austin can help them generate more pressure up the middle on first and second downs. "He's a fast-twitch guy, especially for a 320-pounder," Tuck said of Austin, who missed his senior season at North Carolina in 2010 due to suspension and his rookie NFL season in 2011 due to injury.
  • Should something happen to Beatty or Diehl, the Giants hope 2011 fourth-round pick James Brewer can be a reliable first option as backup at either tackle position. Their hope is that he develops into a reliable right tackle who can eventually replace Diehl, though they're not expecting that this season.
  • Fullback Henry Hynoski caught passes out of the backfield early in camp. He's good at it, and especially given the Giants' questions at tight end, it's an option you should probably expect them to use in the passing game.



Sunday, 10/5
Monday, 10/6