NFC East: justin pugh

You used the #nygmail hashtag on Twitter this week, and I thank you for it.

@DanGrazianoESPN: Let's assume, for the sake of this discussion, that middle linebacker Jon Beason does not make it back from his foot injury to play for the New York Giants in Week 1 in Detroit. If that is the case (as seems likely), then Jameel McClain is the front-runner to start at middle linebacker.

At this point, the starters on the outside would be Spencer Paysinger and Jacquian Williams, but rookie fifth-rounder Devon Kennard impressed coaches in the spring program and could be in the mix to start on the strong side. What's interesting to me is that linebackers coach Eric Hermann had a lot to say Thursday about the improvement Williams has shown as a weakside linebacker in the Giants' base defense. They already love him on the weak side in their nickel package due to his speed and coverage ability. But if they like him there in the base as well, Williams might be ahead of Paysinger to start there even once Beason returns and McClain moves back to the strong side. So to answer your question, I'd expect to see McClain in the middle, Williams on the weak side and either Paysinger or, if he has a big camp, Kennard on the strong side in Week 1.

@DanGrazianoESPN: No. I mean, obviously the short answer is no at this point, because Ryan Nassib, who didn't play at all as a rookie (by design) is still a work in progress.

Giants coaches like his progress. Quarterbacks coach Danny Langsdorf on Thursday praised Nassib's intelligence and his ability to pick up the new system but said he's still got to work on his accuracy and his timing. Which is understandable, given that he's still a young quarterback who's never played in the league. It's clear they view him as the No. 2 right now behind Eli Manning -- or that they're at least giving him every chance to beat out Curtis Painter for that spot in camp. But no, if Manning got hurt, at this point the Giants would not have honest confidence in Nassib or anyone else who might replace him.

Manning costs the Giants 17 percent of their salary cap. He's the player around whom their team is built. If they don't have him, they simply won't be a remotely competitive team. Even if Nassib comes quickly in camp and becomes a viable No. 2, there's no chance that, in 2014, he offers anything close to what Manning offers as a starting NFL quarterback. All the Giants want from Nassib is continued growth and development, and their hope is that he's a decent backup/emergency option this year and maybe more down the road.

@DanGrazianoESPN: I agree that the Giants' defensive line is questionable behind the starters, and that there's a chance it could be a bad defensive line. They desperately need Jason Pierre-Paul to stay healthy and dominate from the defensive end position, because honestly they're not going to get much pass rush from the other side at this point. Mathias Kiwanuka and Robert Ayers are what they are, and they're not the kinds of defensive ends who are going to whip tackles regularly and pile up sacks. And Damontre Moore is still developing.

On the inside, you mention Cullen Jenkins, and I agree he's key because he's the one guy in there who's not a question mark. Coaches were raving this week about the development defensive tackles Johnathan Hankins and Markus Kuhn have shown, and if so then that's a positive thing for them and for the Giants. But there's no way to know until they can practice in pads and play against other teams what they really have in there. To me, the Giants are hoping a lot of people -- namely, Hankins, Kuhn, Moore, Ayers and Kiwanuka -- outperform anything they've yet shown in the league in order to make them strong on the defensive line. It's not nuts to think one or two of them will, but... all of them?

@DanGrazianoESPN: The first-team offensive line in minicamp was, left to right: Charles Brown, Geoff Schwartz, J.D. Walton, Brandon Mosley, Justin Pugh. Which, no, is not good. They believe Chris Snee could play right guard if he had to right now, but he's working his way back from elbow and hip surgeries and they're taking it slowly with him. And they're also hoping Will Beatty is healthy enough to play left tackle in training camp ahead of Brown, who was signed as a backup. Rookie Weston Richburg is in a straight-up competition with Walton for the starting center spot. So it's possible that by Week 1 it's Beatty/Schwartz/Richburg/Snee/Pugh, which would look a lot better than what they ran out there this week. But as of now, that's your starting five.

Mosley's an interesting case. They like him and think his development has been hurt by injuries. But the fact that Snee and John Jerry (knee surgery) haven't been able to get on the field helped Mosley get a lot of first-team reps this spring. And that can only help him if they need to turn to him to play a starting role in camp, in the preseason or in the season.

Thanks for all of your questions. Enjoy the first weekend of summer. 

Justin Pugh started all 16 games at right tackle for the New York Giants as a rookie in 2013. But because he was a first-round pick and left tackle Will Beatty struggled, there are those who wonder if Pugh will or should be moved to left tackle, either now or in the future. And because many pre-draft scouting evaluations categorized Pugh as a better fit at guard than tackle in the NFL, there are those who wonder if he will or should be moved to one of the guard spots.

[+] EnlargeJustin Pugh
Brad Penner/USA TODAY SportsJustin Pugh, who is entering his second season with the Giants, will stay at right tackle -- that is if coach Pat Flaherty has anything to do with the decision.
None of it makes sense to Giants offensive line coach Pat Flaherty.

"I don't see wiggle room," Flaherty said Thursday. "Matter of fact, somebody -- not anybody with anything to do with decision-making -- asked me, 'Would you experiment with him?' Why experiment? He's a starting right tackle. Do I need to move him over to left guard? He's a starting right tackle. I tell the offensive linemen: 'You're a starter. You have a position. You earned that position. To move you has got to be to help the football team.'

"Now, a guy that's a backup right tackle, to move him to left tackle, to move him to left guard, that's versatility, as everybody says. But the reason for that is he's not a starter. He's got to earn his starting position."

In Flaherty's eyes, which seem to reflect the Giants' overall organizational view, Pugh has earned that position and should stay there.

"Justin got better each and every game last year, and he needs to get a lot better, but I don't see it," Flaherty said of moving Pugh off of right tackle. "I don't see it in the near future. I guess you never say never, but if you're asking me today, no, I don't foresee that. You don't want to fight change if you have to do it because it's going to help your football team, but my vision right now is him being the right tackle."

Pugh said earlier in the spring that he'd added 10 pounds this offseason. Flaherty said Pugh played at 300 pounds last year but is now working at 313 or 314 due to an aggressive offseason strength program that should help him play stronger this year.

"He has been, knock on wood, this past offseason, the healthiest he's been in a while," Flaherty said. "And he attacks the weight room and his technique and his fundamentals like you want somebody on the offensive line to attack, and that's to get better. So I like his attitude, and he has gotten bigger."

The Giants didn't draft Pugh thinking he'd start 16 games as a rookie, but they're happy he was able to do it and they believe it can only help his development, which they see as a bright long-term proposition.

"He's got a high ceiling," Flaherty said. "He's nowhere close to it, as you will see. He is going to be a good player. Is he there yet? It's hard to be there after one year, it really is. But he's progressing."
New York GiantsAl Bello/Getty ImagesAfter a disastrous 2013 season for the Giants offensive line, did the team do enough in the offseason to upgrade?
The New York Giants will arrive at the gates of the 2014 season as great an unknown as any team in the league. An offseason of change has brought a new offensive coordinator and a dozen new starters. And while there's little doubt that change and rosterwide upgrades were needed after last season's 7-9 flop, the amount of change the Giants have undergone brings with it a flurry of questions.

By this point in the offseason, those questions have grown familiar: Can Eli Manning bounce back from the worst season of his career? What will the new offense look like? Can young receivers Rueben Randle and Odell Beckham Jr. make a major 2014 impact? How will the running back rotation shake out? Who in the heck is going to play tight end? Is there enough leadership left in the locker room? Can Tom Coughlin and the coaching staff get it all to mesh together in such a short period of time?

All good, important, worthwhile questions. But I'd argue that not one of them matters nearly as much as this one:

Did the Giants do enough to fix their offensive line?

Tell me the 2013 Giants had a lot of problems and I won't say you're wrong. I was there for all 16 games. They were awful. Much worse, I believe, than their final 7-9 record would indicate. But there's no question that, of their myriad problems, the offensive line was the biggest and most devastating. Everything else can be traced to the meltdown on the line.

Sure, David Wilson was an early-season fumbler and he and Andre Brown got hurt. But even if he'd held onto the ball and they'd stayed healthy, there were no holes for Giants backs to run through unless they were playing the Bears or the Raiders. Flanking Jim Cordle with Kevin Boothe and 2013 David Diehl is no way to push the pile.

And, yeah, you can argue that part of Manning's job is to overcome adversity and raise the level of play of those around him. But even the best quarterbacks need at least some time to do that stuff, and Manning's pass protection was cripplingly bad last year. The Carolina Panthers sacked him six times in the first 17 minutes of the Week 3 loss in Charlotte. It's easy for you and me to say a guy should do more to rise above his circumstances. It's quite another to actually do it when your circumstances include defensive linemen running next to you during your drops.

The point is that the biggest and most important of the Giants' 2014 unknowns is that offensive line, which still has legitimate question marks at all five positions. To wit:

Left tackle: Even before breaking his leg in the season finale, Will Beatty was having a bad enough season that he was soul-searching in December. Beatty has got to get right physically and mentally if he's to justify his contract and keep Manning from playing legitimately scared again all season.

[+] EnlargeGeoff Schwartz
Denny Medley/USA TODAY SportsThe Giants added former Chief Geoff Schwartz to take over the left guard spot.
Left guard: Upgrading from Boothe to Geoff Schwartz in free agency was a solid move, and Schwartz should be fine. The only reason he's a question mark is that he's new and people don't always do well in new surroundings. There's nothing about Schwartz specifically to engender concern, but until we know for sure ...

Center: Is it J.D. Walton, who hasn't played in two years because of an ankle injury? Is it second-round pick Weston Richburg, who's a rookie? Regardless of which is the answer, will it be good enough? The player at center has more responsibility in this new offense than he did in the old one, and Manning has no prior relationship with either of these guys.

Right guard: Chris Snee is back, and he says he feels great. The question here is whether his surgically repaired hips will allow him to last and play with the same fierceness that characterized the prime of his career. If Snee is what he used to be, this could be the key to the whole line. If he struggles, then they have the same problem they had last year, except with John Jerry as the fallback plan instead of Diehl.

Right tackle: Justin Pugh played well for a rookie and offered reason for hope. He says his footwork improved as the season went on, and the Giants' hope is that he continues to make the necessary improvements. If he has a sophomore slump, that brings up a fresh question mark on which they aren't currently counting.

You can make the argument that this year's starting group looks more talented than the one with which the Giants started the 2013 season -- especially if this year's version of Snee is healthy, which last year's was not. But what remains to be seen is how they'll play together and how they'll all hold up. More than any other item on the Giants' list of offseason questions, the answer to this one will determine how much the team can improve over last season.

Twitter mailbag: OTA thoughts

June, 7, 2014
Jun 7
11:14
AM ET
You asked. You used the #nygmail hashtag on Twitter. I scrolled. I answer.
 
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- It's tough to imagine having to tell an NFL offensive lineman how to eat. New York Giants left guard Geoff Schwartz, for example, is 6-foot-6, 340 pounds. Guys like that don't strike you as the sort who have to be selective at the buffet line.

But to hear Schwartz tell it, until he hooked up with former NFL offensive lineman LeCharles Bentley at Bentley's offensive line academy in Arizona a couple of years ago, he was doing it all wrong.

"It's just a whole lifestyle change, but the diet especially," Schwartz said Tuesday during a break from the Giants' offseason workouts. "[Bentley] really is big on that. Because if you're lifting and you're not eating right, you're just not getting the most out of it. And it affects everything you do, really."

[+] EnlargeGeoff Schwartz
Denny Medley/USA TODAY SportsGeoff Schwartz saw results after altering his diet.
Bentley, who played for the New Orleans Saints from 2002 to 2005 and sustained a career-ending knee injury in 2006, runs a year-round program called "LB O-line Performance." He recruits a handful of candidates each year from the college and professional ranks and brings them out to Arizona for training specific to the needs of their size and their position. Then he stays in touch throughout the year, checking in weekly or more often with nutrition advice, changes in workout routines, film reviews, etc.

"That's what makes him so special," said center Weston Richburg, the Giants' second-round pick in this year's draft and another Bentley protégé. "He's made it specific for each different person, and you can call on him at any time for anything you need."

Schwartz said his nutrition program is different than Richburg's, since Richburg is about 40 pounds lighter and has different needs. The rookie might need to add weight during the season, whereas Schwartz wants to take some off or maintain. Schwartz said he no longer eats carbs in the offseason, which has been driving him crazy during his wife's pregnancy but has helped to change him as a player. Schwartz signed a four-year, $16.8 million contract with the Giants in March after emerging as a star at guard with the Chiefs last year. He doesn't think it's any coincidence that 2013 was his first year in Bentley's program, and neither does Bentley.

"The idea is to be able to put yourself in a situation where you're in top shape year-round," Bentley said in a phone interview Monday. "I always equate it to a bank account. Most big athletes take so much out, and bigger withdrawals every time with the effort they put in athletically. And when you compound it with poor choices in terms of quality of life, then you're not putting anything back in. Or what you put in isn't big enough to make up for those withdrawals. Little guys, leaner guys like wide receivers have a bit more of a head start. They can eat those candy bars and get away with it."

Schwartz and Richburg, who could form two-fifths of the Giants' starting offensive line in 2014, are converts. And Bentley believes the Giants, whose offensive line issues were thoroughly devastating in 2013, will look a lot different because of them.

"Now you're able to open up your playbook as an offensive coordinator," Bentley said. "Chris Snee was like that for the Giants for so long, and with guys like this they're getting back to that -- versatile guys who can play tough and strong and quick and athletic and anything you need. With these guys, you're not limited in terms of your ability to be creative as an offensive coordinator. I know for sure they have two guys who can address every need in terms of offensive line play. As a matter of fact, these two guys expand what you're able to do."

Bentley is a fan of Justin Pugh, the 2013 first-round pick who started all 16 games at right tackle for the Giants as a rookie. And Snee is still on the team and hoping to hold up for a season at right guard. If Richburg can beat out J.D. Walton for the starting center job, his responsibilities in new coordinator Ben McAdoo's offense will be extensive, before the snap as well as after it.

"I felt Weston was the most pro-ready center in this year's draft class, and I still stand firmly on that," Bentley said. "He can do exactly what Ben wants him to do. In terms of his mental decorum, he's built for this. He's designed to take on a lead role. And he's not, for lack of a better term, some nerd who's only out there because he can make the calls. He's a bona fide football player."

Richburg and Schwartz both believe they're better football players for having hooked up with Bentley. The Giants, who needed all kinds of help on the offensive line, stand to benefit a great deal from that in 2014 and beyond.
All right. It's time. Well, it's not actually time, since NFL draft doesn't start for eight more hours and the New York Giants aren't likely making their pick at No. 12 for at least nine more hours or so. But it's time for me to tell you what I think will happen, for whatever that's worth.

My prediction is that the Giants will select Notre Dame offensive lineman Zack Martin with the No. 12 pick in the draft.

Why Martin? I think he'll end up being the best player available, in their judgment, at No. 12. I think they see too many red flags with guys like Michigan tackle Taylor Lewan and North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron. I think they will decide (if they haven't already) that Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald is too small to play defensive tackle for them. I don't think they will or should be willing to pay what it would take to trade up for Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans. And while they went 13 years without drafting an offensive lineman in the first round before taking Justin Pugh last year, they recognize that they've let the offensive line erode to a detrimental extent. Martin is fine value at No. 12 and, like Pugh last year, can play a variety of positions along the line. So going forward, they can play him or Pugh at guard or center and the other at right tackle. Or if they decide to cut ties with Will Beatty next summer, they could play first-rounders Pugh and Martin at the tackle spots long term. The point is to load up on top talent at a vital and neglected position. Martin would represent the best player available at this point at a position of both short-term and long-term need for the Giants.

What if Martin is gone already? My sleeper pick for the Giants at this point is LSU wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. I think that's the guy they'd take if Martin were taken in the top 11, and I think there's an outside chance they could take him even if Martin is still there. Beckham has incredible speed and is known as a playmaker with the ball in his hands. New offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo is installing a system that's likely to resemble Green Bay's West Coast-style offense and lean on the idea of getting its playmakers the ball and letting them function after the catch. Like current Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz, Beckham fits this description and would be a fun toy for McAdoo and Eli Manning. I personally don't love the idea of Beckham at No. 12, since he seems a little too much like Cruz and Jerrel Jernigan. I think this is a very deep wide receiver draft and that the Giants could find good value at the position in the second or third round if they really want one, and that they would do well to draft one with size. Rueben Randle hasn't yet shown that he can handle the outside job full time, and Manning has shown in the past that he would benefit from a taller receiver on the outside. I think they need that more than they need a guy like Beckham. But that's just my opinion, not theirs.

What if they're both gone? I guess maybe Ebron, though I still don't think so. Maybe a trade down, though that's going to be tough at that point in the round with so many other teams thinking along the same lines. If they stay put at 12 and can't get either of their top two choices (assuming those are Martin and Beckham), your guess is as good as mine. But just to throw one out, I'll say Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. Yes, I still believe they need to address offensive here. But Clinton-Dix would be good value at No. 12, and Cooper Taylor is the only Giants safety currently under contract beyond 2014. The Giants have taken a defensive back with their first pick in four of their last nine drafts, so it would also be in character, as fallback plans often are.
We held our NFL Nation mock draft on Tuesday. Each ESPN NFL team reporter made the pick for his or her team in the first round. So I had the New York Giants' pick at No. 12, and I took Michigan tackle Taylor Lewan.

You can see the whole mock draft here.

I got an email from Vikings reporter Ben Goessling asking if I'd be interested in trading up from No. 12 to No. 8. I told him we could talk if Greg Robinson, Jake Matthews or Mike Evans were still there when his pick came around. But Robinson went No. 2 to St. Louis, Matthews went No. 6 to Atlanta and Evans when No. 7 to Tampa Bay. So there wasn't anyone for whom I'd have been willing to send, say, a third-round pick to Ben to move up four spots. (We never did talk price.)

Then when Mike Rothstein was on the board for the Lions at No. 10, he and I talked trade. He offered me the No. 10 pick in exchange for the No. 12 and a fifth-rounder (No. 152). But at that point, Lewan and Zack Martin were still on the board, and I didn't have any fear that they'd go at 10 and 11. I felt strongly that one of them would fall to 12, so I decided just to sit tight and take whichever one did.

Turns out, they both did. Mike took Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, and Paul Kuharsky took Eric Ebron for the Titans at No. 11, which meant I didn't have to explain why I don't think the Giants will take Ebron.

(NOTE: Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald was still on the board, and I know some of you think the Giants should or would take him in that case. But I look at the profile of the defensive tackles the Giants like, and I fear Donald's relative lack of size for the position will scare them off. I don't think it should, mind you. I think Donald is great and would be a wonderful pick here. But I'm supposed to try to do what I think the Giants would do in this scenario, and my hunch is that they'd pass on Donald.)

So I had a choice between Lewan and Martin, and it was a tough one. Martin may be the "cleaner" prospect -- as in, the one that comes with fewer red flags. He's also the more versatile -- a guy they can use at tackle or guard or even center as their needs dictate now and in the future, whereas Lewan is a tackle only. But the Giants always talk about taking the best player available, and in my opinion Lewan is the better player, so I took him. If he's great and Will Beatty rebounds and Justin Pugh keeps playing well, they could sort out who plays tackle and who plays guard down the road. Good problem to have, etc.

What I do not know at this point is what the Giants would do in this scenario. I don't know whether they'd take Lewan over Martin or vice-versa. I hope to know more between now and the time they pick Thursday night, but as everyone knows it's tough to know what to believe when people tell you things this time of year.

Regardless, if the No. 12 pick comes around Thursday night and the Giants have a choice between two offensive linemen this good, I believe they'd be thrilled.
You ask the questions (and use the #nygmail hashtag) on Twitter, I answer them here. And we all have a lovely weekend.
 

Analyzing McShay mock: Giants 

April, 24, 2014
Apr 24
12:15
PM ET
The NFL draft is now just two weeks away, and the New York Giants hold the No. 12 pick in the first round. In spite of a free-agent signing spree that landed them 15 new players at various positions, the Giants still have a lot of short-term and long-term needs they could address in the first round. They could plausibly pick an offensive lineman, a wide receiver, a tight end or a defensive lineman and fill a need right away.

Todd McShay's latest mock draft is out today Insider, and he's got a brand-new name in that No. 12 slot for the Giants.

The New York Giants hold the No. 12 pick in the first round of this year's NFL draft after their 7-9 season in 2013. Even after signing 14 outside free agents and re-signing 10 of their own, the Giants have a variety of specific needs and an overall need to improve the quality of the depth of their roster. You could reasonably make a case for them to draft an offensive lineman, a defensive lineman, a wide receiver or even a tight end with that first pick.

Todd McShay's fourth mock draft of 2014 is out today. It's an Insider post, but it stretches two rounds. His choice for the Giants in the first may not be the exciting pick for which Giants fans are hoping.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

You've got questions, I've got answers. Especially if you used the #nygmail hashtag with your question on Twitter.
 
In general, I'm not a fan of throwing big money at the top-line, most established free agents out there. Unless you're looking at franchise quarterbacks, NFL careers are too short and players' primes are too fleeting. If you're spending big bucks on a guy who's already done a lot, odds are you'll end up paying for some bad years -- or trying to find a way out of a bad contract.

So in general, I like what the New York Giants did Tuesday on the first day of free agency. I think they still have a lot to do, but the guys they did sign fit a desirable profile when I look at what free agency is at its best. They were looking for players who are somewhat established in the league but still have upside and lots to prove. And I think they may have found it with these three interesting signings:

Guard Geoff Schwartz. A former 16-game starter who's played guard and tackle in the league and only this past year fully recovered from a 2011 hip injury. He was one of the top interior linemen in the league over the second half of 2013 for Kansas City, turns 28 in July and feels like a player on the upswing, the way Evan Mathis was when the Eagles signed him under the radar in 2011. He also has some experience playing tackle, so they could potentially use him there if they decide to rearrange anything with Justin Pugh or Will Beatty.

Running back Rashad Jennings. Hasn't had much opportunity to start in the NFL, but as a result he also has a bit more tread on his tires than your typical 29-year-old running back. The Giants have some underlying numbers to indicate Jennings is capable of big things if given more carries than he's been given at this point in his career. If they choose to rely on him as a starter, he could explode. If David Wilson is viable and they use Jennings as a complementary back, they could find him useful for a long time to come. Another guy who may be ready to take off.

Linebacker O'Brien Schofield. This one's kind of a wild card. Schofield hasn't done much as an outside linebacker in the NFL so far, but he was a pass-rusher in college at Wisconsin and finished second (to Ryan Kerrigan) in the Big Ten in sacks in 2009. So you look at the two-year, $8 million deal and wonder what this guy has done to earn it. But (a) let's see what the contract numbers really look like once we have details and (b) the Giants appear to be trying to pay guys for what they think they will do for them, rather than for what they've done for their former teams. So if they look at Schofield as a player who can contribute to the pass rush, and they plan to use him that way, the money starts to make more sense.

Some other notes:

The Giants also have brought back four of their own free agents -- running back Peyton Hillis, safety Stevie Brown, kicker Josh Brown and cornerback Trumaine McBride. All depth moves, though McBride and/or Brown could end up starting if other things don't work out.

Linebacker Jon Beason remains someone the Giants hope to re-sign, but because he's acting as his own agent, he wasn't allowed to have any contact with teams until 4 p.m. Tuesday (as opposed to noon Saturday, when agents were allowed to talk to teams but players weren't). So Beason is only 17 hours into his market, and he's wise to find out what that market is before just accepting what the Giants have to offer.

Two of the Giants' own free agents left -- defensive tackle Linval Joseph to the Vikings and safety Ryan Mundy to the Bears. As I wrote Tuesday night, I think they'll miss Joseph. At 25, I think he fits the profile of the kind of free agent you look to sign, rather than the kind you let walk out the door. But the Giants didn't feel like spending $6 million a year on a defensive tackle, so Joseph is gone.

With DeMarcus Ware and Julius Peppers getting cut Tuesday, the market for veteran pass-rushers is suddenly flooded with huge names. That would seem to mean Justin Tuck isn't likely to strike gold elsewhere. There was industry sentiment that Tuck won't find enough on the market to convince him to leave the Giants, and that he'd re-sign and try to play out his whole career with the same team. However, Adam Schefter reported late Tuesday that Tuck had a visit scheduled with the Raiders today, and no one has more to spend right now than the Raiders. They're also hosting pass-rusher LaMarr Woodley, but there's nothing to stop them from signing both Woodley and Tuck if they choose. So stay tuned on that.

I still think they need to add a center, and I don't think bringing back Kevin Boothe is the answer. They need to think about long-term solutions on the offensive line, and if Boothe and Chris Snee are two of their starters next year, I don't see how they're doing that. None of the free-agent centers signed Tuesday, though Evan Dietrich-Smith is visiting Tampa Bay today, so he could be off the market soon.

NFL Network reported that cornerback Tracy Porter was in for a visit Tuesday night. Ran back an Eli Manning interception for a touchdown for the Raiders in Week 10 last year. Along with his game-sealing interception touchdown in Super Bowl XLIV, that made him the first player to return both an Eli Manning interception and a Peyton Manning interception for a touchdown. Porter doesn't turn 28 until August and fits that same model of guys who have done something but may be on the cusp of more. He doesn't strike me as the answer if what they wanted was a top corner to pair with Prince Amukamara, but maybe they really see McBride as the outside starter again. I think they should be thinking bigger.

Other needs still to be addressed include wide receiver, tight end, middle linebacker (could be Beason), defensive line (Tuck or his replacement and a low-priced free-agent defensive tackle) and kick returner (could be Jacoby Jones, who's in for a visit Wednesday). The Giants entered the offseason in need of a full-on roster rebuild, and they've only been at it one day. Expect them to continue to be busy.
Jordan Raanan of NJ.com reports that the New York Giants will begin free agency next month by pursuing some of the top young guards on the market -- guys in their mid-20s to late-20s who rank among the best available at the position this offseason. He lists Kansas City's Jon Asamoah and Geoff Schwartz, the Chargers' Chad Rinehart, Denver's Zane Beadles and the Browns' Shawn Lauvao as possibilities. They're all between 25 and 28 years old, which is a smart age range at which to target free agents. In that age range, you can find players who have established themselves as capable, productive performers but who still have prime years left and are hungry to keep proving themselves.

So with David Diehl retiring, Chris Snee trying to work his way back from another hip surgery and Kevin Boothe also a free agent, this is a sensible way for the Giants to go, for sure. The Giants are invested in Will Beatty at left tackle for the long term, and they like 2013 first-round pick Justin Pugh at right tackle for now, so they will focus on the interior of the offensive line, which was their greatest weakness last season.

What confuses me a bit is the David Baas situation, as I expected the Giants would move on from Baas and find a new center this offseason. This report here makes it sound as though they expect to keep Baas, as long as he comes back from his neck injury OK. But I think that'd be a bit of a mistake. The Giants have always seemed to like Baas more than the empirical evidence indicates they should, starting with when they signed him, so it's possible they could be holding on because they see something we don't. And if they are to cut him, he makes more sense as a June 1 cut, where he'd save them $5 million in 2014 cap space as opposed to the $1.8 million he'd save them if they cut him now. So maybe that decision comes later, with the potential re-signing of Boothe (who can play center) as a hedge in case they don't find Baas' replacement in the draft.

Either way, the Giants need to keep adding quality pieces to an offensive line that wasn't great to begin with in 2013 and offered very little help from the bench when the starters went down. This isn't about plugging a couple of holes; it's about improving the overall quality of a unit that's been neglected. Targeting the best guards available in free agency would be a fine start.
INDIANAPOLIS -- One day after ESPN reported that running back David Wilson is targeting a training-camp return, New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin tried to tamp down expectations, saying he's not sure when Wilson will be cleared.

Wilson
"Do I think he'll be ready for training camp? I really don't know the answer to that," Coughlin said Friday at the NFL scouting combine. "A lot has to do with his attitude, the way he feels and the way the doctors and trainers obviously feel. He's not going to be put out there until he's ready for that. I'm not even (sure) how (much) he's going to be limited in the spring."

Wilson suffered a herniated disk last Oct. 6 and underwent surgery Jan. 16.

Coughlin said Wilson was in good spirits when they talked a few days ago. Wilson has begun light weight-lifting with his legs, reporting little pain, according to Coughlin.

"Forget about the fact that he could be a difference-maker on our team; it's the idea, is he going to be healthy enough to be able to withstand?" the coach said. "We're not going to put him out there unless he really, really believes in himself and when the doctors believe he's ready to go."

Coughlin addressed other issues:

• He sounded confident that guard Chris Snee will rehab his surgically repaired hip and will return for the 2014 season. Coughlin said there's "no question" that Snee will be ready. He likely will have to restructure his contract.

• Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul is making "very good progress" with his troublesome back. Said Coughlin: "He wants to be the player he was a couple of years ago. I'm interested in that."

• Second-year tackle Justin Pugh has been encouraged to gain weight. Coughlin said he wants Pugh in the 310- to 315-pound range. "That," he said, "would add power in his play."

• Coughlin declined to speculate on the future of defensive end Justin Tuck and wide receiver Hakeem Nicks, both of whom will be free agents on March 11.
We love our mock drafts, and today we have two of them -- one brand-new one each from Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay, who differ on their projection of which player the New York Giants will take with the No. 12 pick in the first round.

Todd's mock Insider has the Giants taking Michigan tackle Taylor Lewan, and I think that would be a fantastic pick. I know their immediate offensive line needs are at guard and center, but adding a top tackle adds options. Maybe you get someone who ends up being an upgrade over Will Beatty. Maybe Justin Pugh could move to guard and dominate inside. Point is, the Giants' offensive line situation is so awful that they could only benefit from adding more top talent, regardless of position.

Mel's mock Insider is sticking with Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley, who would be their first first-round linebacker in 30 years, as Mel is well aware. I agree with Mel that Mosley would be a great pick for the Giants. I just don't think they would take him. The way Mel's first round falls right now, it's easier to see the Giants picking Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans, North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron, or even Florida State defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan, given their history.

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