NFC East: Mario Manningham

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Mario Manningham was not one of the 15 players on the cut-down list Tuesday when the New York Giants reduced their roster from 90 to 75 players, but that doesn't mean he's making the team. The Giants still have a lot of sorting out to do at the wide receiver position before final cuts are made Saturday, and Manningham and his balky knee still have to show they belong.

Manningham
"He's had some spurts the last couple of weeks where he's done some things on the practice field, but it hasn't carried over into games," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said after Tuesday's practice. "He'll get another chance."

The Giants used Manningham a fair bit with their first-team offense in Friday night's preseason game against the Jets, and they're likely to give him a good look in Thursday's preseason finale against the Patriots. First-round pick Odell Beckham Jr. missed all of training camp with a hamstring injury and is unlikely to be ready for the Sept. 8 season opener, camp star Marcus Harris was placed on injured reserve Tuesday and there remain some open spots on the roster at wide receiver.

"Any of the guys who are left know it goes from 75 to 53," Coughlin said. "You're ending up in a numbers game, and it is competitive."

Victor Cruz, Rueben Randle and Beckham are sure things to make the roster at wide receiver. Jerrel Jernigan, who's been running with the first team in Beckham's place all summer, looks like a strong bet as well, especially since he's Cruz's primary backup at the slot receiver position. Undrafted rookie Corey Washington has caught a touchdown pass in each of the Giants' first four preseason games and has obviously helped his cause. Preston Parker, who caught 40 passes for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2011 but was out of football last season, appears to be the primary punt returner right now with Beckham and Trindon Holliday hurt, and that could help him earn a spot as a wide receiver as well. Julian Talley also survived Tuesday's cuts and therefore remains a candidate to be kept.

The Giants are likely to keep four tight ends when they cut the roster to 53 on Saturday, which might make it tough to keep six wide receivers, but if they need Parker for punt returns (or as a reserve wideout) while Beckham gets healthy, they may not have a choice.

Regardless, the numbers game doesn't seem to favor Manningham unless he blows the Giants away with a strong showing Thursday night. Maybe the fact the opponent is the Patriots, the team against which Manningham's career highlight came, will inspire him before it's too late.

New York Giants cut-down analysis

August, 26, 2014
Aug 26
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Most significant move: Marcus Harris had done enough to make the New York Giants at wide receiver, but he suffered an injury in Friday's preseason game and has been placed on season-ending injured reserve. The Giants and Harris said Friday his injury was to his shoulder, but in placing him on IR on Tuesday they announced it as a hip injury. Harris will have to miss the entire 2014 season. The injury and resulting move open up a spot for someone such as Corey Washington or Preston Parker to make the team at receiver. Veteran wide receiver Mario Manningham, who continues to struggle with a knee injury, also survived Tuesday's cuts, though he remains likely to be cut when the roster is reduced to 53 on Saturday.

Injuries change the plan: Usually, players cut in this first wave aren't practice squad candidates, but guys such as Charles James and Jerome Cunningham could be exceptions. The Giants certainly didn't want to cut James on Tuesday. But they've had so many injuries on the offensive line in the past week -- Geoff Schwartz, Brandon Mosley, James Brewer, Charles Brown -- that they find themselves having to keep back-of-the-roster offensive linemen (A) so that they have enough to use in Thursday's preseason finale and (B) in case one of them (Rogers Gaines?) ends up having to be on the final roster. So there could be an offensive lineman or two cut Saturday who's a less likely practice squad candidate than someone who was cut Tuesday.

Giants' cuts: K Brandon McManus, CB Charles James, TE Xavier Grimble, TE Jerome Cunningham, LB Spencer Adkins, DE Emmanuel Dieke, LB Justin Anderson, S Kyle Sebetic, CB Ross Weaver, WR Travis Harvey, OL John Sullen, S C.J. Barnett, DT Everett Dawkins, S Cooper Taylor (placed on season-ending injured reserve), WR Marcus Harris (placed on season-ending injured reserve).
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- For all of the very legitimate concern over the condition of Odell Beckham Jr.'s hamstring, the more pressing matter for the New York Giants with the season coming up quickly now is the state of the offensive line. The regular season begins in less than three weeks, and the Giants are still searching for the right starting-five combination of offensive linemen.

What's worse, the preseason has given them some reason to question whether they really are deeper on the line than they were during last season's meltdown.

The first-team line for Saturday's preseason game in Indianapolis was Will Beatty at left tackle, Geoff Schwartz at left guard, J.D. Walton at center, Brandon Mosley at right guard and Justin Pugh at right tackle. That's what it's been in practice since training camp started, and I think the Giants' ideal plan would be to feel good enough about that line to run it out there Week 1 in Detroit.

Problem is, Mosley has been inconsistent, Schwartz struggled a bit Saturday and Beatty's still recovering from (A) a broken leg and (B) a poor season, so they can't know what they have with him yet. He still needs to take practice reps off, and he did again Tuesday.

Now, the fill-in for Beatty earlier in camp was veteran Charles Brown, but he's got a shoulder injury now and was playing poorly even when healthy. With backup tackle James Brewer also hurt, the Giants tried something interesting Tuesday when Beatty had to come off the field. They moved Pugh from right tackle to left tackle, kicked Mosley out to right tackle and put rookie second-round pick Weston Richburg at right guard.

"They're all playing pretty much everywhere," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "You always attempt to be creative and flexible."

The goal is to find the best combination of five and let it play and jell together. But it seems clear at this point that the Giants don't feel they've done that yet. They could elevate Richburg, who's played both guard spots and center this camp, to starting guard in place of Mosley and put him and Schwartz on either side, really. If they ended up having to move Pugh to left tackle, they could play Schwartz at right tackle, where he has some experience, and keep Mosley and Richburg as the guards. Richburg could yet overtake Walton at center, which is the position he played in college.

What's disappointing, after a year in which they scrambled for depth on the line, is the backup situation. Brown was terrible at left tackle, and John Jerry has been a non-factor so far at guard. These were the veterans the Giants signed with the hope that they'd have more experience behind the starters this year than they did last year. Brewer hasn't developed and is on the roster bubble. Promising guard/center Eric Herman is suspended for the first four games of the season for a drug violation. Injuries to starters on the offensive line have a chance to put the Giants right back where they were when it all fell apart early last season. And in case you don't remember, that wasn't good.

Some other thoughts from Tuesday's practice:
  • This was a "cards" day, with time spent in preparation for Friday's preseason opponent, the Jets, specifically. So for much of practice, for example, the Giants' offense was running Jets plays. Eli Manning in the pistol, etc. And there were times when it was the defense's job to simulate Rex Ryan's exotic blitz schemes. This is the one preseason game for which the Giants devise a game plan, and it'll be interesting to see whether that helps the first-team offense look better.
  • Rookie linebacker Devon Kennard managed to tip and pick off a Manning pass in 7-on-7 drills while the defense was in a Jets-specific look. He's a fun player to watch in practice, though the special-teams coaches continue to work with him on technique on the coverage teams.
  • The Giants have tried the past couple of days to get Mario Manningham more looks on the outside at wide receiver to evaluate him and his balky knee. He does not seem to be performing at a high level. You wonder whether they will start using Victor Cruz outside more if they're not going to have Beckham to start the season, or whether they'll leave Cruz in the slot and use someone like Marcus Harris or Corey Washington on the outside.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants return Saturday night to Indianapolis, where the greatest catch of Mario Manningham's life helped them win the Super Bowl three seasons ago. Manningham doesn't want to talk about it.

Manningham
"I'm not really thinking about that anymore," Manningham said before Giants practice Wednesday. "I'm trying to make some new memories."

He's also trying to make the roster. After spending two injury-plagued seasons with the 49ers in the wake of that Super Bowl victory, Manningham re-signed with the Giants this offseason. At the time, it was assumed that they signed him with a plan to use him. But watching him in practice makes it obvious that his knee isn't healthy yet. And since they signed him, the Giants drafted wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. in the first round and have seen unheralded youngsters such as Marcus Harris and Corey Washington drastically outperform their Super Bowl-hero veteran in camp and preseason games.

"There's always competition," Manningham said. "This isn't the 1960s. There are going to be wide receivers out there. We're not just going to run the ball the whole game. So I'm just going to do what I've got to do, which is just make plays."

That would help, and an offense that's looking to make more of them in these preseason games could use a jolt from a motivated Manningham. But when the Giants signed him, they knew there was a chance that his physical situation might keep him from being able to help. They took a flier on an old friend at a position where they had a need. But that need might be filled by others if Manningham doesn't pick it up soon in practice. He says he's comfortable running routes and not thinking about the knee, but he clearly lacks the speed and explosiveness he had earlier in his career, and there are others moving past him on the depth chart.

"I'm not worrying about that," Manningham said. "I'm just going out and controlling what I can control. I'll leave it up to the coaching staff to decide."
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.

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.
One last New York Giants Twitter mailbag before I start a too-brief summer vacation ... @DanGrazianoESPN: Yeah, I think that's a fair expectation, and I think you saw the Giants lean that way last year with Terrell Thomas as the regular nickel corner. They signed Walter Thurmond to play that position, and he's as good at it as anyone in the league. And they're thin at safety with Will Hill suspended and released, Stevie Brown coming off knee surgery and Quintin Demps having been signed primarily to return kicks. They have been talking a lot about keeping Antrel Rolle at safety, rather than using him all over the field as they've done in years past, and obviously sticking with a three-cornerback look would help with that. I honestly don't see the need for the old three-safety package, especially if Jon Beason is back healthy at middle linebacker early in the season. It worked well during that 2011 Super Bowl season, but that year they were thin at cornerback and linebacker and deep at safety. You're right if your point is that the scheme should be based around the personnel, and right now cornerback is a Giants strength. @DanGrazianoESPN: With Beason nursing a foot injury, the starting middle linebacker in training camp (and probably for Week 1) is going to be Jameel McClain. He projects as the starting strongside linebacker if Beason's healthy, but he's taking over in the middle while he's not. Jacquian Williams is the front-runner for the starting weakside linebacker spot, and the strongside position should belong to either Spencer Paysinger or rookie Devon Kennard, who impressed coaches with his minicamp performance. As for receivers, that's an interesting case. My first thought is that they keep six -- Victor Cruz, Rueben Randle, Mario Manningham, Odell Beckham Jr., Jerrel Jernigan and Trindon Holliday. But Holliday isn't really likely to factor as a receiver, as he's pretty much exclusively a kick and punt returner. So that would leave them with five real receivers (four if Manningham's knee won't let him answer the bell). That opens it up for someone like a Marcus Harris, Julian Talley or Corey Washington to possibly sneak onto the roster with a good camp, but that's a long shot. @DanGrazianoESPN: Based on my conversations with Giants people (and with Will Beatty himself) last year and this spring, I think the main reason Beatty struggled was technique. He's not a big, monstrous, mauling left tackle who relies on strength and an ability to overpower people. Beatty's success, when he's had it, has had more to do with quickness and athleticism. I was told last season while he was struggling that Beatty was playing with his hands too low, giving away leverage and hurting his ability to dictate his matchups. That sounds like an easy thing to fix, but bad habits are tough to break, and as the year went along the struggles got into Beatty's head. He admitted in December that he'd felt the weight of his free-agent contract and let the pressure get to him, and I think he was looking forward to an offseason to clear his head. The problem is that Beatty's offseason has been about recovery from that broken leg he suffered in the Week 17 game against the Redskins, and he hasn't had time to practice getting back into good habits. I agree that a Beatty rebound would have a positive ripple effect along the rest of the line, but at this point you have to consider him a major question mark, and not just because of the injury. @DanGrazianoESPN: The firing of their longtime tight ends coach does rank among the more surprising moves of the Giants' offseason. But when they hired young Ben McAdoo as their new offensive coordinator, it was only fair to assume he'd want to bring in a few of his own coaches and help construct the staff. During those discussions, it was decided that Pope's position would be one of the ones to turn over. They moved wide receivers coach Kevin M. Gilbride (the son of the former offensive coordinator) to tight ends coach, Sean Ryan from quarterbacks coach back to wide receivers coach and hired Danny Langsdorf as the new quarterbacks coach. Pope was a Giants icon, and the only person whose name is on all four of the franchise's Super Bowl trophies. But there was an effort to get a bit younger on the coaching staff this offseason. Tight end Adrien Robinson spoke during OTAs about how he's felt a different kind of connection with the younger Gilbride than he did with Pope, and if that's the case with the rest of the group it might answer your question. Thanks for all of your questions. If you need me, I'm on the golf course.
A 7-9 season and a turbulent offseason has left the New York Giants' roster littered with question marks heading into 2014. There are so many positions -- receiver, offensive line, running back, tight end, defensive line, linebacker -- where they hope they've found answers but can't be sure. A lot is riding on the ability of Tom Coughlin and his coaching staff to bring it all together, and for help with that they will lean on the few positions at which they're sure they are set -- and the few players who remain roster rocks.

Victor Cruz appears to be such a player.

[+] EnlargeVictor Cruz
Al Bello/Getty ImagesVictor Cruz continued his quest for self-improvement, even after signing a big contract.
After signing his big contract extension last summer, Cruz showed up at training camp and told his coaches he wanted to work to improve his blocking. Yes, that's a wide receiver, in the wake of signing his big contract, deciding he wants to work on blocking because he knows he's got to get better at it to help the team and make himself a more complete player. At a time in his career when a lot of players might have started coasting, Cruz decided to work even harder at one of the toughest parts of his job.

"He's that way," Giants receivers coach Sean Ryan said last week. "For the kind of quick ascent he's had, none of that has ever gone to his head or to his work ethic. He's the same guy he was the day he walked in here in terms of working hard and being down to earth and wanting to be a complete football player. You've got to respect that."

Cruz did improve as a downfield blocker last year, in the estimation of the coaching staff. Like the rest of the offense, he endured a tough season from a production standpoint, catching only four touchdown passes and none after September. But toward the end of the season, he spoke with pride about the improvements he'd made in his game, and his coaches are eager to see him continue to work at it.

"With those guys and the blocking, it's about want-to," Ryan said. "They've got to want to do it. They've got to want to get in there and dig out safeties. And there's a lot of technique to it, too, just coming down and beating men to a spot versus just running out to where they are now. It's not blocking them where they are; it's blocking them where they're going to be. And I think he took a real interest in doing that and being good at it and making himself a complete player, and we're going to pick up on it and continue to improve on it with him and with everybody. You've got to block to play receiver in the NFL. You have to do it."

The return of Mario Manningham to the Giants brings someone who obviously knows all about that. Rueben Randle has the size to do it effectively if he'll commit to it as Cruz did. Rookie Odell Beckham Jr.? Too soon to know what his commitment will be to that nitty-gritty aspect of his position. But having Cruz around as an example can only help. He stands as an example of someone who's continued to work to get better even after brilliant early-career success.

"He's got that same skill set," Ryan said of Cruz now compared with early in his career. "He's an explosive player. His change of direction is excellent. I think he's gotten rid of, in my opinion, some concentration drops he had early in his career. I don't see as many of those. And from a leadership standpoint, he's really stepped to the forefront in terms of being vocal and being a leader on and off the field in that position."
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- It is extremely important to the New York Giants and their new offense that 32-year-old veteran right guard Chris Snee return from his various surgeries and remain fully healthy this season. To that end, the Giants held Snee out of team drills during Tuesday's minicamp practice and could hold him out all week to protect his surgically repaired elbow.

Snee was out on the field for the entirety of the morning practice Tuesday, but he worked on the side with team trainers, just running. He said his surgically repaired hips are feeling great, but that the team is just being cautious with the elbow as planned all along.

Snee
"You saw what the [San Antonio] Spurs did, right? Rested some older guys? We're following that blueprint," Snee joked after practice. "Everything's been good so far. But at this point in my career, if they say, 'Take a breather,' I'm going to take a breather."

Snee said the elbow surgery he had after the season was more involved and required more rehab than he initially thought it would, and that's why he and the team put in a plan to back him off of some spring practices. He believes he'll be 100 percent ready when training camp begins next month, and he said his hips feel fine. He lost 35 pounds last season to help his lower body recover from its latest surgery, dropping down to 275 pounds. He says he's now back up to 300 and planning to gain 10 more by training camp to return to his playing weight.

"The plan with him is to see if we can get the elbow right so that he feels comfortable and confident," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "We won't be in a rush in that regard. He's played enough that we can get him healthy and get him right back to where he was. We know what we have there."

What they don't know about Snee is what they have in terms of his ability to hold up for an entire season. That, it seems, will remain a question until he actually does it.

Some other notes from the first day of minicamp:

Also working on the side were left tackle Will Beatty (leg) and wide receiver Mario Manningham (knee), who are hoping to return in time for the July 22 start of training camp. Middle linebacker Jon Beason, who broke his foot in OTA practices last week, attended meetings with the team in the morning but was not on the field. The Giants said his foot will be immobilized for the next six weeks, after which he'll begin his rehab.

First-round wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. did some individual drills but was still out of team drills due to a hamstring injury. "He was able to go. Whether he could hit that top speed was another question. Why take a chance on it right now?" Coughlin said. "I’d like to have him practicing. That’s how you learn – you practice. He’s done all of the studying, he’s good in the classroom, but he’s got to get out here."

Running back David Wilson was out there, running around and catching passes. Wilson remains hopeful that he can be cleared for contact drills by the time training camp starts next month.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Offensive lineman John Jerry, who was implicated in the Miami Dolphins' bullying scandal last season and signed with the New York Giants this offseason to provide insurance at guard, recently had arthroscopic knee surgery and will miss OTAs and minicamp. Giants coach Tom Coughlin revealed this information following the Giants' practice Thursday.

It doesn't sound as though the injury should keep Jerry out of training camp, which starts in mid-July. But all of the Giants' offensive players are learning a new system under new coordinator Ben McAdoo, and the lack of practice time could hurt Jerry's ability to pick up what he needs to pick up.

There also remains a possibility that Jerry could face a league-imposed suspension for part of the 2014 season as a result of his involvement in the Richie Incognito/Jonathan Martin bullying fiasco, though the Giants do not seem to believe he will. They signed him in case veteran offensive lineman Chris Snee couldn't make it back from his second hip surgery and because they felt they needed more experience in the backup offensive line positions than they had last year.

Some other news and observations from Thursday's OTA workout:
  • Snee was out there practicing in full at right guard with the first-team offensive line. He said a few weeks ago that he feels great and hasn't been limited in any way.
  • Left tackle Will Beatty, who broke his leg in Week 17 of the 2013 season, and wide receiver Mario Manningham, who's had all kinds of knee problems, were working off to the side during practice. Coughlin said they were both on track to be ready by fall, which I took to mean training camp but I guess could technically mean the regular season. Charles Brown took Beatty's place at left tackle with the first-team line Thursday. J.D. Walton worked as the first-team center, with Geoff Schwartz at left guard and Justin Pugh at right tackle.
  • A variety of backup wide receivers got first-team reps with Manningham out and first-round pick Odell Beckham Jr. missing the day to attend the NFLPA Rookie Premiere event. Fourth-round pick Andre Williams also attended that event and was therefore absent Thursday.
  • Safeties Will Hill and Stevie Brown both practiced in full, Brown with the first-team defense and Hill with the second. Brown is recovering from ACL surgery that cost him the entire 2013 season, while Hill is appealing what would be his third drug suspension in as many years. Coughlin said that waiting for a resolution on Hill's status is difficult and would continue to be, but that the team has no idea when they can expect one.
  • Running back David Wilson was held out of any drills that may have resulted in contact, as he has yet to be cleared for contact following last season's neck surgery. Wilson said his next doctor's appointment is Wednesday. He says he feels no pain (and never did) and hopes to be cleared soon to practice with his team.
  • Oh, and quarterback Eli Manning, seven weeks removed from ankle surgery, practiced in full for the second day in a row.
After the New York Giants took LSU wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. with the No. 12 pick in the draft Thursday night, I wrote this about the risks inherent in falling in love with a player and trusting your own evaluations. This was a very specific, 500-word analysis about the Giants' methods, and it had nothing to do with the player himself or what the Giants liked about him.

But they obviously like him a great deal and for a number of reasons, many of which they went into Thursday night after making the pick.

"He's a dynamic receiver, dynamic punt returner and a dynamic kickoff returner," GM Jerry Reese said. "You're getting a guy that can score touchdowns in three different ways for you. There's no way we would pass him up."

Three different ways is a pretty cool concept, especially if you're picking someone to replace Hakeem Nicks, who scored touchdowns in no different ways in 2013. The Giants clearly fell in love with Beckham's ability as a player who can help them score points. Picking him sends a clear message that they're more concerned with exciting playmakers than with rebuilding the foundation of their crumbled offensive line. Not the way I'd have gone, as you know, but they believe this guy will be enough of a difference-maker to justify the decision.

"We're talking about the quarterback needing help, and this guy is a weapon," Reese said. "We need a weapon on the outside. Victor [Cruz] is more of an inside receiver. Victor can't play on the outside. We have Rueben Randle, Jerrel Jernigan and we got Mario Manningham back, so we're trying to get the quarterback some weapons. You need weapons in this league. We think this guy is a weapon."

Everything you hear about Beckham as a player backs up the evaluation. High-end speed, showcased at the highest level of college football in the SEC. Can take the top off a defense, force safeties to play deep, open things up underneath for Cruz and others. Reese described Beckham as "almost pro-ready," which indicates they expect a contribution at some point during his rookie season. And coach Tom Coughlin pointed out that Beckham's learning curve may not be that significant, given that the veterans, too, are learning a new offense this offseason under new coordinator Ben McAdoo.

"I think a young man of Odell's skill and his level of intelligence will pick this up relatively quickly," Coughlin said.

And good for the Giants if he does. They also raved about his abilities in the return game, which struck me as kind of odd after they spent free-agent money on return men Quintin Demps and Trindon Holliday. But when asked about potential redundancies there, Reese bristled a bit.

"It doesn't matter. It really doesn't matter," Reese said. "The more return guys you have in the building, the better. We haven't had any in the building in some time. So the more the merrier. We have some options there, and whoever wins the job, it's fine with me. Holliday is a fast guy. This guy is a fast guy. Speed kills."

The Giants really do get the benefit of the doubt a lot, though given Reese's draft track record I continue to fail to see why. When the Dallas Cowboys or the Oakland Raiders ignore long-range offensive line needs in favor of fun, speedy skill position players, they get ripped for it. Yet that's exactly what the Giants did Thursday and people seem OK with it. Yes, there are some offensive line options still available Friday night, but there are wide receiver options still available, too, so that argument doesn't really mitigate anything.

The Giants like a lot of things about Beckham, and he's put a lot on film for them and everyone else to like. If he's the player they imagine he'll be, then they'll be happy with the pick. The inherent flaw in the draft is that everyone imagines these best-case scenarios and they don't all come true. In the case of the Giants and Beckham, the excitement of what's imaginable carried the day.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- There's no getting around the fact that the New York Giants haven't drafted well in the middle and late rounds for the last half-decade or so. General manager Jerry Reese isn't hiding from it either. At his annual pre-draft news conference Thursday, Reese trotted out an old line about how "nobody's batting 1.000," but he also didn't defend the indefensible.

"We sure want to do better than we've done in the last few drafts with the middle and late-round picks," Reese said.

Of the 26 players the Giants drafted in the second round or later from 2008-11, only five are on their current roster. One of those five, Mario Manningham, spent the last two years with the 49ers and only re-signed this offseason. Of the five, the only projected starters are left tackle Will Beatty and linebacker Jacquian Williams, and neither of their spots is exactly rock-solid at this point.

All but one of the seven players the Giants took in the 2012 draft are still on the team, but the only ones who could be starters this year are second-round wide receiver Rueben Randle and maybe, if he develops and they don't upgrade, fourth-round tight end Adrien Robinson. Again, no sure things there. Last year's second-rounder and third-rounder, Johnathan Hankins and Damontre Moore, could be starters but are also question marks. The point remains that the Giants' inability to find and/or develop mid-round talent is the main reason their roster hollowed out to such an extent that they had to sign more free agents this offseason than any other team in the NFL.

"There are different reasons why guys don't make it," Reese said. "Sometimes you just miss on guys, and we've done that. Sometimes there have been injuries why guys didn't pan out, and some of the guys have panned out. It's personnel, and nobody's batting 1.000 in personnel."

Given the importance Giants ownership places on stability in leadership positions, and the relative lack of turnover in the Giants' GM office over the past several decades, I am not of the opinion that Reese is on the "hot seat." I think he's going to be the Giants' GM for a long time to come, regardless of the results of this draft or any other.

For that reason, Reese is invested in the need to do better than he's done in recent years. He's a proud guy and doesn't give away too much in these settings, but he can't hide from the past draft misses. And it's clear that while he doesn't intend to do that, it does weigh on him. Reese is an old scout who believes in his scouts and want to see better results. So for that reason, I think he's feeling the pressure to have a better draft this year. The Giants don't want to keep finding themselves in the position of having to sign 16 outside free agents every spring. They need to build and maintain a deep roster, and those middle rounds of the draft are the place to do that.
The New York Giants hold the No. 12 pick in the 2014 NFL draft following their 7-9 season. The Giants have been the NFL's most active team so far in free agency, signing a total of 13 free agents, including 13 from outside their own organization. They have filled a lot of holes, but that doesn't mean they are without needs both immediate and long-term.

Mel Kiper's fourth 2014 NFL mock draft is out today. If you're an Insider, you have access to the three-round mock and will see that his first-round pick for the Giants fills a glaring present-day hole with a pick that could bring long-term benefits as well.

I have to believe we sell a lot of ESPN Insider subscriptions this time of year, because the NFL draft content is just so good (and the draft of such great interest to so many) that people are more willing than ever to fork over the very reasonable fee for Insider membership.

For instance, Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay are taking position-by-position looks at prospects in their "Draft Lab" series, and their latest installment looks at the top wide receivers and tight ends in this year's draft.

So I write a New York Giants blog for ESPN.com, and I'm looking at what the Giants have right now at wide receiver and tight end (which is basically Victor Cruz and a couple of guys), and I'm thinking, "Giants fans would love this, right?"

Right?

Can't give it all away here, because ... well, you know, we want you to buy the Insider subscription. But I can offer a couple of teases.
  • Both Mel and Todd list wide receivers Sammy Watkins and Mike Evans and tight end Eric Ebron as likely to go in the first 12 picks. Not a coincidence that they pick that No. 12, which is the Giants' pick.
  • Todd gives Oregon's Colt Lyerla a second-round grade but cites off-field concerns that could steer teams away.
  • Todd also names Clemson wide receiver Martavius Bryant as a possible mid-round helper at wide receiver, in case the Giants (or other teams) are still looking for possible impact there.

Again, worth your time. The only pass catcher the Giants signed among their 19 free agents was Mario Manningham, who's obviously a question mark for injury and various other reasons. They're likely to try and find help there in the draft. Todd and Mel offer some names to keep an eye on.
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