NFC East: Eli Manning

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- After a week of watching New York Giants training camp, it's clear the new offense is a smart, well-designed scheme. Ben McAdoo might be a first-time coordinator, but he has a plan and he's communicating it effectively, and the same goes for the new coaches he brought in and the ones he inherited. That Tom Coughlin oversees everything can only help matters, and if you want to be excited about the fresh, new ideas infusing the Giants offense in 2014, you're absolutely justified. It has a chance to be fun.

But it also has a chance to flop, at least in its first year, and not because of any fundamental flaw in design or planning. The biggest question isn't whether the new offense can work -- it's whether the Giants have good enough players to run it.

The focus will always be on the quarterback, but I think Eli Manning is the least of this team's concerns. He's 33, which is still a prime age for a quarterback in 2014, and there's no reason to think his mental or physical skills have eroded. The issue is the group around him, and the more you look at it compared with its chief competition, the more it starts to look substandard.

[+] EnlargeVictor Cruz, Jarvis Jenkins
Brad Mills/USA TODAY SportsVictor Cruz is a proven commodity, but besides him and Eli Manning, the Giants' offense is filled with question marks.
Where does the Giants' running back group rank in the NFC East? Even if you assume David Wilson can stay healthy (and everyone's holding their breath on that after Tuesday), you can't rank them any better than third. Philadelphia's LeSean McCoy/Darren Sproles group is a clear No. 1, followed by Alfred Morris/Roy Helu in Washington. You can argue Rashad Jennings vs. DeMarco Murray, but you could argue it either way. The Giants' running back corps is either third- or fourth-best in the NFC East.

Wide receivers? Again, can't give them anything better than a No. 3 ranking in the division. I think Victor Cruz is fantastic, but he doesn't have enough help for anyone to consider ranking him with Washington's terrifying Pierre Garcon/DeSean Jackson/Andre Roberts trio. Cruz isn't as good as Dallas' Dez Bryant, and Terrance Williams has shown more as a No. 2 receiver than anyone else on the Giants has. So it's down to the Giants and Eagles for the No. 3 spot, and if you want to pick the Giants because Cruz is better than Jeremy Maclin or Riley Cooper, you're welcome to do so. Maclin's coming off injury, and Cooper is no sure thing to repeat 2013. But you'd like to see something out of Rueben Randle or Odell Beckham Jr. to help your argument.

We don't even want to talk about tight ends, where the Giants clearly have the fourth-best group in the division. They might have the 32nd-best group in the league, mainly because they've decided to expend no real resources on the position. If the Giants find a productive tight end from the group they have in camp, everyone will be surprised.

The offensive line is certainly not in a class with the ones in Philadelphia and Dallas. And while Washington is undergoing some change on theirs as well, the Giants' case here falls apart on the Trent Williams/Will Beatty left tackle comparison, which isn't close. Until it proves otherwise, you have to rank the Giants' offensive line fourth-best in the division.

Now, predictions in July aren't worth the bandwidth they occupy, and surely some of the players we've discussed here will outperform expectations, just as others will underperform. But this is a ton of question marks at nearly every single offensive position, and to think the Giants will answer all of their offensive questions satisfactorily is pure folly.

Should they give up? Of course not. This is the NFC East, which hasn't had an 11-game winner or multiple playoff teams since 2009. You could make a case for the Giants to win the division with a solid defense, a stellar secondary, strong coaching and a bounce-back season from Manning in spite of the group around him. You're not crazy. Last year showed us the Giants' floor is generally pretty high. They had one of the worst rosters in the league last year, and Coughlin still got them to 7-9. Positioning the Giants as contenders is never insane.

But if you're looking for this new offense to operate the way the Giants hope it can, I think there's a pretty good chance you're going to have to wait a year or so. The amount of change and the number of question marks are just going to be too much to overcome in one offseason. Given the issues they're facing up and down their depth chart, this new Giants offense is likely to remain a work in progress well into this season, and maybe even next.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin hasn't decided yet who will play -- or how much they'll play -- in Sunday night's preseason opener against the Buffalo Bills in Canton, Ohio. Coughlin said after Monday's practice that he'd wait until after Thursday's practice to decide. But you can expect to see quarterback Eli Manning out there for at least the start of the game, even though it's an extra preseason game for the team this year.

Manning
"I'll listen to what the coaches decide, obviously, but if you could you'd like to get out there for an extra series or so just to get your mechanics down, get into the rhythm of it," Manning said Monday. "The first preseason game, you don't really do a whole lot, but it'll be interesting to see the mechanics of everything, the game-planning and how it all works in this new offense."

New offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo, who's never been a coordinator or a game-day playcaller before, will coach from the sidelines. Manning said he's been practicing with the radio in his helmet to get used to hearing McAdoo's voice calling the plays.

The Hall of Fame Game means the Giants will get five preseason games this year instead of the usual four. Manning usually sits out the final game of the preseason and likely will again this year. So if he wanted to get in his usual three, he could skip Sunday's. Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo didn't play in the Hall of Fame Game last year, but Romo was coming off of back surgery and the Cowboys weren't installing a completely new offense. In this case, Manning will draw some benefit from playing an extra game.

"There are five games, and you approach it in different ways when you have five instead of four," Coughlin said. "But we are going to benefit from this, from more opportunities in the new offense."

Don't expect to see the first team at full strength Sunday night. First-round wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. still hasn't practiced in a week due to a hamstring injury, and it would be a huge surprise to see him on the field. Wide receiver Mario Manningham continues to be limited by a sore knee. And while left tackle Will Beatty has been taking the bulk of the snaps at left tackle in practice, the Giants may not be ready to expose him to game conditions just yet as he continues to recover from the broken leg he suffered in the 2013 season finale.
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Look, I'm not saying he can and I'm not saying he can't. I have nothing but respect for Eli Manning's abilities and the things he can do. He can beat Tom Brady in the Super Bowl, and if you didn't believe that after the first time, he did it again for good measure. The New York Giants' quarterback is largely underrated and underappreciated, and he's perfectly capable of having a great season even though he's coming off his worst season.

However.

If Manning completes 70 percent of his passes this year in Ben McAdoo's new offense, as quarterbacks coach Danny Langsdorf said Monday he'd challenged Manning to do, then McAdoo, Langsdorf and anyone else who had a hand in it should have their choice of NFL head-coaching jobs next January. And they can ride unicorns with Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny to the interviews.

Start with the very short list of quarterbacks who've ever hit that number in a full NFL season. It's basically Drew Brees (twice, in 2009 and 2011), Joe Montana (1989) and Steve Young (1994). Langsdorf said the list he gave Manning also included Sammy Baugh, Ken Anderson and Alex Smith. But Baugh played only eight games in the 1945 season in which he hit the mark (the league played a 10-game season that year). Anderson's 1982 season was only nine games long due to a players strike. And Smith put up his 70.2 mark in 10 games in 2012 before losing his job to Colin Kaepernick.

So if Manning is to hit this goal over a full season, he'll be doing something only three other players -- two of whom are in the Hall of Fame, and one of whom surely will be -- have done. The fact that it's a nearly impossible achievement is the first and best reason to doubt it. Manning's career completion percentage is 58.5, and his career high for a single season is 62.9, set in 2010. He would have had to complete an additional 69 passes in 2013 to get to 70 percent from the dismal 57.5 at which he finished. That's 4.3 more completions per game. Even in 2010, he would have needed 39 more completions, or 2.4 per game. May not sound like a lot, but it is when you think about what it means.

Secondly, as much as we've written about the Giants' new offensive scheme, there are still legitimate concerns about whether they have the personnel to run it effectively. The offensive line isn't set yet. Their wide receiver group is littered with question marks after Victor Cruz. They do not have a reliable pass-catching tight end on the roster. And as much as they want to stress high-percentage plays and completion percentage, it's tough to imagine they'll throw to the running backs all season.

Which kind of leads me to my final point: Eli Manning, risk-taker. Manning's calling card as a quarterback has always been, to me, his fearlessness. He has the confidence to try any throw, no matter how risky, because (a) he believes he can make it, and (b) he has an uncommon ability to put mistakes behind him and not let them affect his performance as the game goes along.

It's inconceivable to think that McAdoo and Langsdorf could change this about Manning even if they wanted to, and it's inconceivable to believe they would want to. Manning's ability to deliver an uncanny throw in a huge spot is one of the few things you can point to right now in this Giants offense that might have a chance to set it apart from others in the league. Their challenge is to install an offense that's more efficient and less turnover-prone while still making use of what Manning does best. So there's still going to be plenty of downfield stuff, and that stuff will come with more risk.

Now, OK. I understand about coaching and motivation. If Langsdorf sets a goal of 70 percent and Manning aims for it but falls 5 percent short, he'd still obliterate his career high and improve on last year by 7.5 percent. The Giants would surely take that. But hearing Langsdorf say this Monday brought home the ideas of (a) how much different this offense is going to be than it has been for the past decade, and (b) how hard it's going to be for the Giants to be proficient in their new offense in its first season.

Giants Camp Report: Day 4

July, 25, 2014
Jul 25
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of New York Giants training camp:


  • Man, the Giants' offense looks like hot garbage right now. Eli Manning threw a ball so badly to Jerrel Jernigan that Antrel Rolle and Prince Amukamara almost killed each other as they collided to try to intercept it. Ryan Nassib (to Charles James) and Curtis Painter (to Mark Herzlich) also threw picks. There was a play in which Manning tripped over the feet of running back Rashad Jennings and fell to the ground. (He got right up, don't worry.) Kendall Gaskins fumbled a ball and coach Tom Coughlin began screaming and cursing at the top of his lungs, wheeling on the offensive players who were standing on the sideline and not in the drill and yelling, "Hang onto the [bleep-bleep] ball!" over and over. Mario Manningham beat Walter Thurmond on a slant route for a nice catch, but Thurmond stayed with the play and knocked the ball out of his hands. I mean, ugly. Still way early, but tough to watch.
  • This was the first day they practiced in shoulder pads, and the first thing I saw when I went out to the field to watch was rookie running back Andre Williams absolutely lay out linebacker Justin Anderson in a one-on-one kick-return drill. It was as though Williams was taking out all of his frustrations about Thursday's dropped passes on poor Anderson. But everyone was feisty. At the end of one drill, linebacker Dan Fox playfully tackled GM Jerry Reese, who was watching by the goal post.
  • Things that are real that you wouldn't have expected: Rookie linebacker Devon Kennard is a guy the coaches and other players continue to rave about, and Brandon McManus remains a threat to take the kicker's job from Josh Brown. McManus is 8-for-8 on field goals so far, was making them easily from long distance Friday and looks more powerful on kickoffs, which ends up mattering to coaches in a big way when these decisions are made. If it's close on the field goals, they take the guy who can kick it out of the back of the end zone. Field position matters.
  • Still no Odell Beckham Jr., and no word on when his hamstring will allow him to practice. Yes, the Giants are frustrated that their first-round pick is not on the field.
  • Keep an eye on Preston Parker, a third-year wide receiver out of Florida State who had legal trouble in college and has bounced around. The Giants are using him a lot with the first-team offense and on returns.

Giants Camp Report: Day 3

July, 24, 2014
Jul 24
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of training camp:


  • I know you guys want to know about tight ends, so we keep asking. As I wrote here, the initial "unofficial" depth chart listed Larry Donnell as the starter and Adrien Robinson as the No. 5 tight end. Robinson has not impressed coaches in the early going with his ability to catch the ball, and Donnell's was the only name coach Tom Coughlin mentioned when asked if anyone was standing out in the group so far. Coughlin said different guys do on different days, but he mentioned that Donnell had a strong practice Wednesday.
  • The Giants cut practice short to get in a "recovery stretch" because the GPS monitors they're attaching to their players told them it would be a good day to do so. There's a renewed emphasis on injury prevention and overall health and wellness in this year's Giants camp. Candy and other sweet snacks have been removed from the players' cafeteria as well.
  • The play of the day at practice was a long Curtis Painter pass that Corey Washington caught with one hand in double-coverage. It was a great play that got the few fans who were on hand fired up, but honestly, if Painter and Washington are in a regular-season game, a lot of things will have gone horribly wrong.
  • The defensive star of the day for me was defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka, who batted down an Eli Manning pass and also stuffed a Rashad Jennings run play. Kiwanuka seemed to be getting into the backfield quickly all day. He said earlier in the day that his pass-rush responsibilities have increased this year due to the free-agent departure of Justin Tuck.
  • No one who was worried about rookie running back Andre Williams' ability to catch the ball out of the backfield went home Thursday feeling any better about it. It's not just bad hands. Williams seems to pick up the ball late and doesn't get himself or his hands in position to catch it. They can use him as a goal-line back right away, and he does show more speed and shiftiness getting through the line than his reputation may indicate. But there are plenty of parts of his game that need work, as he himself has admitted.
  • Coughlin said the players would practice in "uppers" (meaning shells and shoulder pads) on Friday and that the first full-pads practice would be Sunday after they come back from Saturday's off-day.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Eli Manning is 33 years old and coming off the worst season of his career. But New York Giants GM Jerry Reese said Wednesday that the team expects a return to top form by their franchise quarterback in 2014.

Manning
"I expect nothing except for him to bounce back and be the Pro Bowl-caliber player that we know he can be," Reese said before Giants training camp practice. "He's still a young football player, all things considered, with respect to the quarterback position. So we expect him to come back and be a leader and bounce back and not have some of the things that happened to him last year and be a dynamic football player for us."

Manning threw a career-high and league-leading 27 interceptions in 2013. His completion percentage and yardage totals were his lowest since 2007 and 2008, respectively. And his 18 touchdown passes were the fewest he's ever thrown in a full season. It's fair to ask the question of whether Manning is on the decline, but the determination the Giants made this offseason was that he is not.

"Quarterback's a little bit different," Reese said. "Thirty-three is getting up there, but it's not like a running back at that age or some other position. Quarterbacks don't take hits like a lot of other positions do. So hopefully, Eli doesn't take a lot of hits like he took last year."

Many of Manning's problems in 2013 were traceable to the complete collapse of the Giants' offensive line in front of him. Still, his performance was alarming enough that the organization decided not to extend his contract this offseason. Manning is signed through 2015, and the Giants could have helped themselves against the salary cap with an extension, but they decided not to do it, and Reese said Wednesday they're not working on anything now, either.

"We keep all of our options open with respect to that, but right now it's nothing really to talk about," Reese said. "We're two days into training camp, and there's really no need to talk about contracts at this point."

With a big year, Manning could ensure one more big quarterback contract (likely an extension signed next offseason) to carry him through the end of his career. But if he slumps again, the Giants are going to have to start asking some tough questions about whether they need to replace him sooner than they expected to.

Giants Camp Report: Day 1

July, 22, 2014
Jul 22
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of training camp:

Giants coach Tom Coughlin was not at all happy that four of his players had to leave the team's first practice of training camp with heat-related problems. Guard Brandon Mosley, who had been working at starting right guard in place of the retired Chris Snee, was carted off early in practice. The cart also came for linebacker Spencer Adkins and tackle Charles Brown for what Coughlin described as heat-related issues, and Coughlin made it clear in an interview with Sports Illustrated's Don Banks that he was not pleased about it. The Giants will look to make it all the way through their second practice Wednesday, when the high temperature is forecast to be 92 degrees. The high Tuesday was 89.

Linebacker Jameel McClain was also carted off, but that was due to a foot injury. X-rays on McClain's foot were negative, which is good news for the Giants as McClain is filling in for middle linebacker Jon Beason, who also has a foot injury but hopes to be back in time for Week 1. For what it's worth, rookie Devon Kennard continues to look good at linebacker. He worked on the strong side but has been mentioned as someone who could handle the middle linebacker responsibilities.

Rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr., the team's first-round pick, pulled up short on a pass route in practice, leading to an interception of Eli Manning by Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Coughlin seemed annoyed about that and said of Beckham, "He has a ways to go." Earlier in the day, Beckham told us he was planning to watch out for and be careful with the hamstring injury that held him back in minicamp. It's possible the incident here was an example of that, but Beckham's health and overall progress will be worth watching as camp goes along. He has obvious blazing speed and good hands, but he will need to run his routes and run them again if he's to advance to the point where he's a Week 1 helper in the new offense.

Manning shows absolutely no ill effects of the ankle surgery that sidelined him for a portion of his spring work. He's practicing as usual and seems excited about working in the new offense.

The Giants used rookie running back Andre Williams as the goal-line back during that portion of practice Tuesday. Williams likely could slide into that role right away while he works on the finer points of his NFL game as a rookie.
Chris SneeJason O. Watson/Getty ImagesChris Snee retires after 10 seasons and two Super Bowl titles with the Giants.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Offensive linemen don't get stats. They don't gain yards or score touchdowns or sack quarterbacks. Check out Chris Snee's page on ESPN.com right here and, well, you don't see a whole lot of information. But Snee makes a strong case as the best offensive lineman in New York Giants history. And on the occasion of his retirement Monday after 10 seasons, four Pro Bowl appearances and two Super Bowl titles with the Giants, it was clear that his legacy would live large in the memories of those who watched him up close.

"Strength, power, mental toughness, work ethic, the way he approached the game ... he had everything you want," former Giants offensive lineman David Diehl said in a phone interview Monday. "Sincerely, one of the best guards I've ever seen."

You have to play guard at a pretty high level -- and for a pretty long time -- in the NFL to make the kind of imprint Snee made on the game. Monday afternoon, Giants owner John Mara said Snee was the first player he'd ever told, on the occasion of his retirement, that he would definitely be in the team's Ring of Honor.

"We just have to figure out a date," Mara said shortly before Snee came out to formally announce his retirement.

Mara recalled that 2004 draft, in which the Giants were making the big blockbuster deal to trade up for quarterback Eli Manning. He said there was a debate about whether to include that year's second-round pick (No. 34 overall) or the 2005 first-rounder in the deal, and they ultimately decided to hold onto the 2004 second-rounder, "because we felt like it was going to be a real good player, and was it ever."

Snee was that player, though at the time he was picked the bigger headline was about his relationship with Kate Coughlin, the daughter of Giants coach Tom Coughlin. Snee would end up marrying Kate and fathering three of Coughlin's grandsons -- creating a professional arrangement that could have been awkward but which both son-in-law and father-in-law discussed emotionally and lovingly Monday at its end.

"People say, 'You're not very objective about this.' Well, I'm not pleading my case for objectivity right now," Coughlin said. "I'm just telling you the quality of the man is greater than the quality and the ability of the football player, and that's as good as it gets. People asked about coaching your son-in-law, 'Is it hard?' I'll take 100 of them. If there's 53, I'll take 53 of him."

Manning smiled Monday as he recalled coming into the league at the same time as Snee. Two quiet guys who didn't say much, even to each other as they roomed together in camp and on the road that year, Manning and Snee ended up as part of the backbone of a team that won two Super Bowls. Manning said Snee took some grief early in his career for being the coach's son-in-law, but that he handled it the best way anyone could.

"He became a dominant player," Manning said. "And that helped him really take it in stride."

Dominant. The best player on an offensive line that became a Giants calling card from 2006-10. Snee, Diehl, Shaun O'Hara, Rich Seubert and Kareem McKenzie quite famously started 38 games in a row at one point. They helped knock off the undefeated New England Patriots and win Super Bowl XLII. Diehl says he still has the copy of the January 12, 2009 ESPN the Magazine cover that pictured the five of them in a circle, looking down at the camera, under the headline "Are These Guys the NFL's Real MVPs?"

"We wanted to be the leaders of our football team," Diehl said. "We had a mentality that we were going to push for each other, work for each other and turn things around for the New York Giants. Chris embodied everything about that mentality. He did it quietly, but he lived it."

Snee lists at 6-foot-3, 310 pounds, which makes him a large human being but not an especially large NFL guard. He fought the perception that he was undersized and did it by emphasizing strength and power in his game. Coughlin said Monday that Snee and former defensive tackle Linval Joseph regularly competed in the weight room for the title of strongest player on the team.

"People knocked him for his size, said he was short," Diehl said. "But he had incredible strength, an ability to get under people on double teams, use his legs to move people off a spot and dictate the action. Just a tough, hard-nosed, hard-working football player."

The incredibly physical way Snee played is likely the reason it's over for him at 32. Both hips and his right elbow are shot to the point where he doesn't feel he can play anymore, and after an offseason of trying to get himself in shape to do that, he figured out within the past couple of weeks that he could not.

"I have to admit that I can no longer play," Snee said. "It's a sad day, but once I leave here, I'll be at peace with it."

Snee is a guard, and as such he's a guy who doesn't get or seek a lot of attention. So Monday wasn't easy. He broke down at the start of his retirement news conference, and when it ended he gathered two of his sons in his arms as they cried. He said he'd have to "disappear" for a couple of weeks, but that he expected to return at some point this season to catch a practice and some games because his sons love it so much.

"This is home," Snee said. "My kids love the games. They're going to want to come. I'm going to want to go. It's going to be tough at first, but that's the way life goes."

Snee said "everybody wants the Strahan ending," referring to the fact that former Giant Michael Strahan's final game was the Super Bowl XLII victory over the Patriots, but he's OK with not getting that ending. He'll wish his final game had been something better than the seven-sack mess the Giants delivered in Week 3 of 2013 in Carolina, but that's not in his control. And if he listened to those who spoke around him Monday, he knows he doesn't have to worry about that being a part of his legacy.

"As an offensive lineman, you don't want the glory, you don't want the fame," Diehl said. "All you want is that 'W' for your team."

The New York Giants won 89 games with Snee on the field from 2004 to 2012. Two of those 89 were Super Bowls. Offensive linemen don't get stats, but they'll take those. And if you're wondering about Chris Snee's legacy, it doesn't need numbers. All you had to do Monday for proof of that was ask. Anybody.

Giants' projected roster

July, 18, 2014
Jul 18
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Projecting the New York Giants' 53-man roster before training camp begins:

QUARTERBACKS (2)
The Giants didn't like carrying three quarterbacks last year. They did so because they drafted Nassib as a fourth-round project with the thought that he wouldn't be active for any games as a rookie. But this year, they've come out and said that Nassib needs to win the No. 2 job. He worked as the clear No. 2 ahead of Curtis Painter in OTAs and minicamp, and I think he'd have to fall flat on his face in order to lose the job. If Manning goes down, the Giants are cooked anyway, whether it's Painter or Nassib behind him. So they might as well keep developing the kid unless he's totally incompetent.

RUNNING BACKS (4)

Five running backs feels like a lot, so Hillis or 2013 seventh-rounder Michael Cox had to go. It's possible the Giants carry five and Williams could start out as this year's Nassib -- a fourth-rounder who's inactive for at least a little while as he gets his feet wet in the NFL with an eye toward a contribution further down the road. This list also assumes Wilson is cleared for contact by the neck exam he has scheduled for July 21, which is no sure thing. If he isn't, then Cox or Kendall Gaskins could find his way onto the team.

FULLBACK (1)

It's a camp battle between Hynoski and John Conner, but the Giants won't keep both. My hunch is that Hynoski has shown enough ability to produce with the ball in his hands that he'll get the edge in Ben McAdoo's new offense ahead of Conner as long as he's healthy.

WIDE RECEIVERS (6)

Holliday is likely to make the team as a return man, though it's possible he could get squeezed out if the team decides Beckham, Quintin Demps and either Randle or Jernigan are enough to handle those responsibilities. The Giants signed Holliday before they drafted Beckham, after all.

TIGHT ENDS (3)

In spite of the lack of quality experienced options, McAdoo's offense does appear to want to use the tight end a lot. Some Giants fans are hoping an outside name or two can replace some of the ones on this list, but as of now, this is what they have, and they'll hope something decent comes of it. They are eager to see what Robinson can do if he can ever keep himself healthy, and they love what Donnell showed them last year on special teams and think he deserves the reward of an opportunity here. Daniel Fells or Xavier Grimble could beat out Davis for that third spot without too much trouble.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (9)

There are injury and health concerns with Beatty, Jerry and possibly Snee that could knock a name or two off this list with an IR or PUP designation. The Giants signed Brown and Jerry as veteran backups. They like Mosley's upside, and he could have the edge over someone like Eric Herman or James Brewer.

DEFENSIVE LINE (9)

I thought about undrafted Kelcy Quarles for one of the defensive tackle spots, and I guess it's possible he could beat out someone like Patterson in camp. But everyone else on here seems like a lock.

LINEBACKERS (6)

If Beason's foot injury isn't healed in time to allow him to start the season, someone like Terrell Manning or Dan Fox could sneak on here. More likely, the Giants would go with five linebackers while waiting for Beason and add someone on the defensive line or in the secondary.

CORNERBACKS (5)

It helps the numbers that Jayron Hosley will be suspended for the first four games of the regular season for a drug violation. If he does make the team, the Giants will have to clear a spot for him in Week 5. This group could also swell if the Giants decide they need to keep sixth-round pick Bennett Jackson and/or Charles James for special teams. It's going to be tough to make the Giants' roster as a corner this summer.

SAFETIES (5)

It's going to be tricky to get fifth-round pick Berhe on this roster, but the Giants like him enough to make room at the expense of someone like Brewer on the offensive line or Charles James at cornerback.

SPECIALISTS (3)

Special-teams coach Tom Quinn said there was a kicker competition between Brown and Brandon McManus, so flip a coin on that one. The other two spots here are in stone barring injury.

Camp preview: New York Giants

July, 17, 2014
Jul 17
10:00
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NFL Nation's Dan Graziano examines the three biggest issues facing the New York Giants heading into training camp.

The new offense: All eyes are on new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo and a Giants offense that's likely to look much different from the one quarterback Eli Manning ran for his first 10 years in the NFL. The fact that Manning was able to bounce back from his ankle surgery and participate in organized team activities and minicamp was a huge help to the learning process, but it's still an extensive and complex process that could conceivably linger into the season. Pay particular attention to the running game, whose concepts seem to be more complex than what the Giants are installing in the passing game. David Wilson said last month that the new offense gives the running backs the ability to "create and dictate" plays, but obviously a lot of that is going to depend on the ability of the offensive line to get the play blocked. There are a lot of questions to be answered on the offense: Who will the starting center be? Who will play tight end? Will Chris Snee be able to hold up at right guard? Can Will Beatty recover in time to start the season? Do the Giants have enough at wide receiver? Is Wilson healthy enough to be a factor in the run game? But central to everything is the ability of the players on the field to smoothly integrate themselves into a new system -- and to do so in time for the start of the regular season.

The defensive line. The Giants let 2013 sack leader Justin Tuck and top defensive tackle Linval Joseph go in free agency. They believe that Jason Pierre-Paul is healthy for the first time since October of 2012 and can dominate from the defensive end position the way he did in 2011. And they believe that young defensive tackles Johnathan Hankins and Markus Kuhn are ready to take the next developmental steps needed to absorb Joseph's workload and stuff up the middle against opposing run games. But they'll need Mathias Kiwanuka, Damontre Moore or Robert Ayers to emerge as a reasonable pass-rush threat on the other side to keep offenses' attention away from Pierre-Paul. And without injured middle linebacker Jon Beason around for camp and possibly the start of the season to get and keep things organized in the front seven, it would help if someone from the defensive line group could fill at least part of the vast leadership void created by Tuck's departure.

Team chemistry. The Giants don't go away for training camp anymore. They have camp right at the same East Rutherford, N.J., practice facility where they do their work during the regular season. They'll stay in a hotel as if they were away for camp, and they'll spend long days together in meeting rooms, on the field and in the cafeteria. But one of the big stories of this Giants season is the ability of the coaching staff to integrate a group of new players into the team culture and find leaders to replace guys like Tuck, Terrell Thomas, Kevin Boothe and David Diehl, who are no longer around to serve as locker room pillars. The Giants are counting on the ability of venerable head coach Tom Coughlin and his staff to do that, and they believe Beason and Antrel Rolle have emerged in recent years as big-time leaders on and off the field. But the vibe in the locker room is going to be different with so many new faces in place and so many familiar ones gone. It will be fascinating to see how that all comes together, and whether one offseason and one training camp is enough to make it all work.
David TyreeJohn David Mercer/USA TODAY Sports
Score: Giants 17, Patriots 14
Date: Feb. 3, 2008. Site: University of Phoenix Stadium.

This was not a difficult call for me. The third-down Eli Manning pass that David Tyree caught against his helmet in the waning minutes of the Super Bowl XLII victory over the New England Patriots had to be the winner for most memorable play in New York Giants history.

The helmet catch was a runaway winner in fan balloting, pulling in more than 70 percent of the votes.

SportsNation

Which is the most memorable play in Giants' history?

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    72%
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    20%
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    8%

Discuss (Total votes: 44,899)

The other two nominees came in Giants losses. That surely doesn't disqualify them as "memorable," and it's not as though the Giants' history doesn't have its share of lean times. But this is a franchise that has won four Super Bowls, and it seems to me that the winning play should come from one of those.

So what are the possibilities? The Phil Simms Super Bowl doesn't really have a standout play. It was a thrashing from the start. The most memorable play from the second Bill Parcells Super Bowl win was a missed field goal by the Buffalo Bills' Scott Norwood at the end of the game. And while Mario Manningham's sideline catch in Super Bowl XLVI was an all-time play, I rate the Tyree play ahead of it because of the difference in the significance of those two Super Bowls in NFL history.

The first Manning/Tom Coughlin Super Bowl was one of the greatest upsets in the history of sports, the Giants coming from behind against a Patriots team that was 18-0 and had set multiple offensive records. Also, the play had more to it than the helmet catch, as Manning had to escape what looked like a sure sack in order to get the throw off.

The Giants converted a fourth down earlier in that drive and would have to convert another third down later in it to keep their hopes alive before Manning connected with Plaxico Burress for the game-winning touchdown. But the Tyree play was so brilliantly improbable, so incredibly clutch on both ends and so significant in changing the history of the NFL (the 2007 Patriots would have plausibly been able to call themselves the greatest team ever) that it had to be the winner.

Giants' biggest key to success

July, 10, 2014
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The biggest key to the New York Giants' success over the next three years is a player who's only signed for two of them, and it's not a young player. Quarterback Eli Manning is as vital to his team's success as any player in the league, and the extent to which the Giants can handle the tremendous offseason roster turnover they underwent this season and return to contender status in the NFC rests on Manning's ability to reinvent himself in a new offense this year and in the years immediately following.

Manning
Manning's 2013 season was the worst of his career so far, as he threw a career-high and league-leading 27 interceptions. The offense crumbled around him. The offensive line collapsed due to injuries. Top wide receiver Hakeem Nicks mysteriously shut it down in a contract year. The running game never showed up. But Manning would admit that he was also part of the problem. He appeared to let the mess that was mushrooming around him affect his performance and his decision-making, and the result was an unacceptable level of performance.

Manning is 33 years old now and has two years remaining on his contract. Somewhat surprisingly, the Giants chose not to try to extend Manning's contract this offseason, though it would have saved them significant cap room. His cap numbers the next two years are $20.4 million and $19.75 million, which are monster numbers that make it difficult for the Giants to budget around him, but they don't mind that if he's performing like a two-time Super Bowl MVP.

That's why the biggest key to the Giants' success over the next three years is Manning's ability to master new coordinator Ben McAdoo's offense, help all of the new pieces jell together and convince the Giants that an extension that keeps him in blue for the remainder of his career is a no-brainer. If Manning flames out in 2014, then the Giants have a major decision to make about the most important position on their roster. And that would throw their next three years -- and likely a few after that -- into disarray.
DeSean JacksonDrew Hallowell/Philadelphia Eagles/Getty Images
» VOTE HERE » NFC Plays: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

This is the last of three plays nominated as the most memorable play in team history. In the previous two days, we featured the first Miracle at the Meadowlands against the Giants in 1978 and Wilbert Montgomery's touchdown in the 1980 NFC Championship Game. Please vote for your choice as the Eagles' most memorable play.

Score: Eagles 38, Giants 31
Date: Dec. 19, 2010 Site: New Giants Stadium

When Kevin Boss scored on an 8-yard touchdown pass from Eli Manning, the New York Giants had a 31-10 lead with 8:12 left in the fourth quarter. That gave the Giants, according to the formula, a 100 percent win probability for that game against the Philadelphia Eagles.

When Michael Vick hit tight end Brent Celek for a 65-yard touchdown a couple of minutes later, the Giants’ win probability stayed at 99.9 percent. When Vick ran 4 yards for a touchdown with 5:32 left in the fourth quarter, the Giants still had a 97.8 percent chance to win the game. Even after Vick tied it with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Jeremy Maclin with 1:16 to play, the Giants had the ball with a chance to win. But two incomplete passes and a sack later, New York had to punt with 14 seconds left.

SportsNation

Which is the most memorable play in Eagles' history?

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    45%
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    46%
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    9%

Discuss (Total votes: 35,685)

You get the point. The Giants had the game in the bag. The Eagles came back from 100 percent dead in the water and won it thanks to what was quickly dubbed Miracle of the New Meadowlands, for the new Giants stadium had just opened across the parking lot from the site of Herman Edwards' 1978 miracle fumble recovery.

This time around, the winning play itself was almost as improbable as the three-touchdown spree that set it up. Giants punter Matt Dodge was kicking from his own 29-yard line. All he had to do was avoid Eagles return man DeSean Jackson. Instead, Dodge kicked it right to Jackson, who fumbled the punt, picked it up at his own 35-yard line and started to run. He didn’t stop until he was approaching the goal line, where Jackson changed his course of approach to make sure the clock ran down to zero before he crossed the line.

"I was thinking to myself, like, 'They're not going to kick it to me,'" Jackson said. "I was thinking he was going to kick it out of bounds. But it got to me. From there, I just used my instincts and my speed to get into the end zone."

The 65-yard return ended a 28-point Eagles comeback rally and gave them a tiebreaker edge on the Giants for the NFC East title. That meant Jackson’s return contributed to the last of Eagles coach Andy Reid’s nine playoff appearances with the team.

An era was ending, but it was delayed by Jackson’s improbable return and the Eagles’ statistically impossible comeback.

David TyreeJohn David Mercer/USA TODAY Sports
» VOTE HERE » NFC Plays: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

This is one of three nominations for the most memorable play in New York Giants history. In the next two days, we'll feature Lawrence Taylor's sack that broke Joe Theismann's leg in 1985 and the Joe Pisarcik-Herman Edwards "Miracle at the Meadowlands" play from 1978. Please vote for your choice as the Giants' most memorable play.

Score: Giants 17, Patriots 14
Date: Feb. 3, 2008 Site: University of Phoenix Stadium

SportsNation

Which is the most memorable play in Giants' history?

  •  
    72%
  •  
    20%
  •  
    8%

Discuss (Total votes: 44,899)

What's forgotten about this play is that Giants quarterback Eli Manning was as close to being sacked as a quarterback can possibly be without actually being sacked. The Giants trailed the undefeated New England Patriots 14-10 with a little more than a minute left in Super Bowl XLII. It was third-and-5 on the Giants' 44-yard line, the eighth play of a drive on which the Giants already had converted a fourth down and would later need to convert another third. The play broke down and it appeared as though the Giants would have to pick up a long fourth down to keep their hopes of the upset alive. But Manning slipped out of the grasp of New England defensive end Jarvis Green, stepped forward in the pocket and fired the ball over the middle, where little-used Giants wide receiver David Tyree and Patriots defensive back Rodney Harrison were jumping for it at the same time.

Replays would show that Tyree caught the ball with both hands but that Harrison's hand got there too and knocked Tyree's left hand off the ball. As the two fell to the ground together, Tyree pinned the ball against the forehead of his helmet with his left hand, then managed somehow to get his left hand back on the ball and maintain possession all the way to the ground.

The result was a miraculous 32-yard gain and a first down that kept alive the Giants' chances. Three plays later, Manning found Steve Smith to convert a third-and-11, and on the play after that, he connected with Plaxico Burress for the 13-yard touchdown catch that gave the Giants the 17-14 lead.

The Giants kicked the ball back to New England, but with only 29 seconds left on the clock, Tom Brady couldn't get the ball out of his own end, and the Giants secured the third, and most astounding, Super Bowl title in their history. Tyree's catch was improbable enough to fit the moment. No one thought the Patriots, who carried an 18-0 record into the game and would have been only the second team in NFL history to finish a season undefeated, would lose. Most expected this to be a coronation of the best team in the history of the game. Manning, Tyree and the Giants did everything they possibly could to deny it.
IRVING, Texas -- When it comes to ranking quarterbacks, the debates can be endless and sometimes pointless, but Mike Sando took the question to people inside the NFL with his latest ESPN Insider piece. Insider

Romo
It might surprise some of you that Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo finished tied for eighth in the tier-rankings of 26 general managers, former GMs, pro personnel people, coordinators, head coaches, position coaches and an executive.

Four players tied for the top spot in Sando’s rankings, using a 1 for the best at the position and a 5 for the worst. Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees shared the top spot. Andrew Luck was fifth.

Romo checked in after Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger and tied with Russell Wilson and Eli Manning in the second tier.

Here’s what Sando wrote and the insiders had to say about Romo:
T-8. Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys (2.23 average rating)

A few evaluators questioned whether Romo had the mind-set to play at the highest level consistently. It's a familiar refrain in league circles, a feeling that Romo is an undisciplined QB playing for an undisciplined organization with a poorly constructed roster.

"People want to knock him," one GM responded, "but the guy has talent and is one of the top 10 starters in the league."

Romo is 34 years old and coming off back surgery, but he still could be in line for a "monster" season, one evaluator said. "But I absolutely believe they will not win big with him. As soon as he decides it's a clutch moment, his brain goes elsewhere. He loses focus and tries to create something."




What’s funny is that the GM and evaluator have the same thoughts of those who love Romo or loathe Romo who are not on the inside. Pete Prisco of CBS Sports went so far as to call Romo “underrated” in his yearly rankings, which drew the ire of some.

The “clutch” talk has been a big thing around Romo since the bobbled snap in 2006 against the Seattle Seahawks in the playoffs. That talk is always followed up with Romo having the best fourth-quarter passer rating in NFL history (102.4) and his 20 come-from-behind wins.

Those numbers aren’t hollow, although with one playoff win to his credit that’s what his detractors will say.

That’s why this debate is a good one. Both sides can declare victory with their points. If Romo were to ever win a Super Bowl -- or perhaps just get to one -- then the perception would change entirely.

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