NFC East: Mike Patterson

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- See now, this is what I'm talking about. The New York Giants just handed out a depth chart here in the media room. And while the nice gentleman who handed it out kept saying, "Officially unofficial," and while it's only July 24, I see no reason why we can't pick through it and overreact to what's on it, do you?

No? I didn't think so. Good. Let's go.

[+] EnlargeAdrien Robinson
Jim O'Connor/USA TODAY SportsAdrien Robinson is buried on the Giants' initial training camp depth chart.
First thing that jumps out is that Larry Donnell is listed as the starting tight end. That's not as surprising as the fact that Adrien Robinson is listed as the No. 5 tight end, behind Donnell, Daniel Fells, Xavier Grimble and Kellen Davis. That seems like a message from the coaching staff about Robinson's progress, and it's somewhat shocking considering that Robinson and Donnell have been the guys most mentioned when the organization has talked about expecting its young tight ends to step up.

The thing to remember, of course, is that the only place Robinson has ever been an effective pass-catching tight end is in Jerry Reese's imagination. Robinson caught a total of 29 passes in four years of college football at Cincinnati and didn't catch one in either of his first two NFL seasons. He's a blocking tight end, if anything, but Reese drafted him thinking he had the physical gifts to become a good NFL tight end. It's still possible he turns out to be correct, but to this point there's no evidence to support it.

The Giants' starting tight end job remains wide, wide, wide open and could conceivably still go to someone who's not yet on the team. But it's stunning to see Robinson listed all the way at the back of the depth chart when there was an assumption that he could get the first crack at it.

Elsewhere on this gilded document:
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.

Always remember to use the #nygmail hashtag on Twitter, and you have a chance to have your New York Giants question answered here each Saturday morning. Thanks.

To me, Linval Joseph is the kind of player you work to keep. He's 25 years old. He's an accomplished run-stuffer who also can crash the pocket from the interior of the defensive line. He's a solid, well-liked teammate who carries himself like a pro and doesn't do anything to embarrass your franchise on or off the field. He's missed one game in the past three years. He's a Super Bowl champion. He was a second-round draft pick who really panned out.

Joseph
And yet, the New York Giants did not keep Joseph, who has agreed to a five-year, $31.5 million free-agent contract with the Minnesota Vikings. It doesn't even appear as though the Giants made a real effort to keep him, which I think was a mistake. I understand that they have a lot of needs and a fair bit of depth at defensive tackle, but Joseph strikes me as a player they will miss.

The plan for replacing Joseph is easy to figure out. The Giants drafted defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins in the second round last year and liked what he showed them as a rookie. They also still have Cullen Jenkins under contract and could easily bring back Mike Patterson, who performed well at the position in 2013. They need a pass-rushing end, a middle linebacker, a cornerback, a tight end, a center and a wide receiver -- even after the early signings they made Tuesday. So spending $6 million-plus per year on a defensive tackle likely didn't seem like a smart play. They looked into Arthur Jones, but he signed with the Colts for $6 million a year. It's possible they just don't want to be in the high-end defensive tackle market.

And who knows? Maybe they don't like Joseph as much as I do (or as much as the Vikings do). Maybe they have some reason to worry he'll break down, even though he won't turn 30 until the final year of this deal he just signed. We can't predict the future or how guys are going to play, and neither can the Giants' front office. All they can do is use the data they have in the present to make the best possible decisions and hope they work out. To me, though, it seemed as though the data on Joseph made him look like a player to bring back. I'm willing to bet they will miss him.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Observed in the locker room after the Philadelphia Eagles' 36-21 victory over the winless New York Giants:

Jones
Kendricks
Stumbled, humbled. Linebacker Mychal Kendricks intercepted the first pass of his NFL career. He probably should have scored his first touchdown, as well. But Kendrick lost his footing a little bit and was tripped up from behind by Giants running back Brandon Jacobs. It must be noted that Jacobs is not exactly the speediest runner in football. "I know I'm faster than him, he knows I'm faster than him," Kendricks said, shaking his head in disbelief. "He got me, though." Kendricks had an ice pack on his knee, but said that was unrelated: "I just got cut [blocked] a little bit," he said.

Blur defense. Brandon Boykin wasn't able to break down his interception quite as well. The slot corner was matched up with Victor Cruz in the fourth quarter. Eli Manning threw the ball for Cruz. Boykin lunged, got a hand on it and somehow managed to get control of the ball before hitting the ground. The play was reviewed by the officials and confirmed as an interception. "It happened too fast," Boykin said. "When I felt it, I just tried to establish possession. A lot of times, if it's a tie, they give it to the receiver."

5-for-5. Kicker Alex Henery missed a field goal in each of the Eagles' three losses. All were from the mid-40s. Coach Chip Kelly had expressed confidence in Henery all along, but the questions were different after Henery hit five kicks from 40, 27, 29, 36 and 41 yards. The last one gave the Eagles a 22-21 lead late in the third quarter. "I think myself and him were the most surprised with the three misses that he had this year," Kelly said.

Familiar face(mask). The Eagles faced a third-and-2 situation early in the third quarter. LeSean McCoy got the carry and headed toward the right side. He was met by a Giants defensive lineman who wrapped him up and dropped him for a 6-yard loss. It was Mike Patterson, McCoy's teammate for the first four years of his Eagles career. "I messed with him," McCoy said. "Even though he made the stop, I messed with him. He's just a Giant now."

Giants' defense wants out of its rut

September, 8, 2013
9/08/13
10:00
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Shaun Rogers and Cullen JenkinsUSA TODAY SportsThe additions of Shaun Rogers and Cullen Jenkins should help bolster New York's run defense.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The question was about the New York Giants' sparkling 4-0 record at Cowboys Stadium, which is now called AT&T Stadium and is where the Giants will open their regular season Sunday night against the Dallas Cowboys. It was a leading question, about a point of Giants pride, and its author was asking it of almost everyone in the room. But the answer from Justin Tuck, captain of the Giants' defense, may have transcended the topic.

"I've never left from Jerry's World feeling good about our performance on defense," Tuck said. "Obviously, you feel good about the win, but we don't like to put the pressure on Eli [Manning] and the offense to have to score 30 points to win a game. I hope they only have to score 10. We have to play a great game."

Such this the state of the Giants' defense at the dawn of the 2013 season. They intend to be great. They believe they can be great. But when you get right down to it ... they haven't really been great for some time. Oh, there are spurts, sure. They were unquestionably great for a six-week stretch from late December 2011 to early February 2012, and that stretch helped deliver the franchise's fourth Super Bowl title. They were great last year in San Francisco, when they dominated the eventual NFC champs in a game that seemed to stamp them as a serious threat to defend their title.

But in the big picture ... not great. The Giants ranked 27th in the 32-team National Football League in total defense in the 2011 regular season. They dropped to 31st last year, when they finished with an identical 9-7 record that this time wasn't good enough to get them into the playoffs. Blame to go around, for sure, but one can't help but think fielding a top-30 defense might have meant the one more win they needed, right?

"It is quite motivating," Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said of that No. 31 ranking from a year ago. "It never goes out of my mind. You never want to be ranked last, or near last, in anything you compete at as a professional. So we are very motivated to erase that number and be a top defense in the league."

It's a long way back to anything resembling the top for these Giants, who as part of the plan to jump as many of those 30 spots as possible are counting on players like Tuck and cornerback Corey Webster to simply play better than they did in 2012. Both players say they're sure they can do it, but August talk is the cheapest talk and we'll start actually finding out tonight. Other parts of the improvement plan, Fewell said, include (a) supplementing the front four's pass rush with increased help from blitzing linebackers and (b) using players with larger backsides.

"We've got bigger butts," Fewell said. "Shaun Rogers is in there. Cullen Jenkins is in there. The butts are a lot bigger, so it looks different."

He laughed, as we all did, but he wasn't really kidding. Adding size at defensive tackle, as they did by bringing in Rogers, Jenkins, Mike Patterson and second-round pick Johnathan Hankins, was part of the Giants' offseason plan to beef up the middle of their defensive line and be tougher against the run.

"It's a huge factor is helping us be a better run defense," Fewell said. "The mass, the size, the strength is noticeably different for us."

All right. We can give him that. Defensive tackle appears to be the one spot at which the Giants clearly upgraded on defense this offseason. But questions remain in the secondary, where Webster is a mystery and Prince Amukamara is still emerging and safety is all kinds of banged up with Kenny Phillips gone and Stevie Brown out for the season with a torn ACL. They have their usual patchwork at linebacker, a position at which the plan appears to be for Fewell to rotate players in and out of the lineup depending on how their individual strengths and weaknesses mesh with the situation. And in the end, it all likely comes down to whether their pass-rushing defensive ends can be dominant, and whether they can be that way every week.

"We know what it's about for us," defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka said. "The reason it's frustrating is because one week we can look like the best defense in the league and then the next week, we go out and we don't. If you want to be one of the best defenses in the league, you have to do it week in and week out. And that's what we haven't done."

That's the mission for the Giants' defense as 2013 dawns -- to play back up to its old reputation and keep it there. If it doesn't, then things could start to look a lot different on that side of the ball starting next year. Tuck could be gone. Fewell could be gone. Webster and Antrel Rolle and who knows who else could be gone. The Giants may consider themselves underachievers, but one more year near the bottom of the league would make it hard for anyone else to believe they're not just a bad defensive team.

W2W4: Giants at Cowboys

September, 6, 2013
9/06/13
10:02
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. –- The New York Giants have waited nine months to erase the sour taste of last season’s failed title defense.

On Sunday night, they finally get back on the field looking to find consistency and a chance to do something they didn’t do last season –- start off on the right foot against the Dallas Cowboys.

Here are five things to watch for:

JPP’s back: Will Jason Pierre-Paul play and, more important, will his surgically repaired back hold up? The defensive end says he is a game-time decision, but Giants coach Tom Coughlin says a decision will be made well in advance about the team’s best defensive player. Considering that JPP practiced all week on a limited basis, but did everything he was asked and is making the trip, the Giants should have Pierre-Paul on the field barring an unforeseen setback.

But if he plays, how effective will he be and how many snaps will he play? Will he start, or rotate in behind Mathias Kiwanuka? Having him on the field, even if on a situational basis, could make a big difference. Remember, JPP once practically beat Dallas by himself with two sacks, a safety, a forced fumble and the block of a potential overtime-forcing field goal in a 2011 victory.

[+] EnlargeJason Pierre-Paul
AP Photo/Frank Franklin IITom Coughlin has likely already decided the status of Jason Pierre-Paul, who's played well in Dallas.
Big Blue got back: After finishing 31st overall in total defense last season, the Giants added a lot of beef on the front line. Or, as defensive coordinator Perry Fewell likes to say, “We’ve got bigger butts. … The butts are a lot bigger.”

Sir Mix-A-Lot would be proud. The Giants are hoping Cullen Jenkins', Linval Joseph's, Shaun Rogers', Johnathan Hankins' and Mike Patterson's big rear ends will help the defense be much stingier against the run than last season, and help spark the pass rush as well. Justin Tuck came into the season in terrific shape and is determined to perform in a contract year. Kiwanuka is back at his natural position and Jenkins will be used as an extra pass-rusher as well. The Giants’ front line has to have an impact on this game. Otherwise, the secondary could have another long night against Dez Bryant and Jason Witten.

Cruz and Nicks: Victor Cruz says his bruised heel is ready to go. Hakeem Nicks says he feels as good as he has in a long time. Quarterback Eli Manning will need his two star receivers to get back to doing their normal damage against the Cowboys. Last season, Nicks had only eight receptions for 84 yards in two games against Dallas while dealing with foot and knee injuries. And Cruz totaled just eight catches for 81 yards in two games against Dallas.

The Giants need more from those two and Rueben Randle against the Cowboys' secondary on Sunday night if they’re going to remain a perfect 5-0 at Jerry World. We’ll see how in tune Manning is with Cruz and Nicks after having their offseason and training-camp practice time repeatedly interrupted by injury and a contract negotiation.

Wilson’s revenge: A year ago, David Wilson fumbled the second carry of his pro career against the Cowboys -- and it cost him dearly, as he was locked in Coughlin’s doghouse for the next 11 games. On Sunday night, he’ll open his second NFL season with the role of starter and Giants feature back. With Andre Brown out for the first eight weeks, Wilson is the man. He has to stay healthy. He must protect Manning in pass situations. If he can do both, he’ll get his share of touches and opportunities to deliver big plays, starting against the Cowboys.

Front line: Offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride isn’t sure if he will have to alter his game plan according to his offensive line. If all goes well, he won't. The Giants will have two inexperienced starters on the line in first-round pick Justin Pugh at right tackle and James Brewer at left guard. Left tackle Will Beatty, center Kevin Boothe and right guard Chris Snee will surround the two with plenty of experience. The Giants hope the revamped line will get the ground game going and keep Manning clean.

New York Giants cut-down analysis

August, 31, 2013
8/31/13
6:43
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Most significant move: It was 2011 second-round draft pick Marvin Austin who was the odd man out of the numbers game at defensive tackle when the New York Giants announced their final roster cuts Saturday night. Austin was beaten out for a roster spot by former Eagle Mike Patterson, whose final two years in Philadelphia were negatively impacted by a brain condition for which he underwent surgery. Patterson and veteran Shaun Rogers were impressive in camp and will join a deep defensive tackle rotation along with starters Linval Joseph and Cullen Jenkins as well as 2013 second-rounder Johnathan Hankins. The reason the move is possibly significant is that this was the position from which the Giants were most likely to cut someone who could be of use to another team. If I'm the Dallas Cowboys, who are banged-up and shorthanded on the defensive line and play the Giants eight days from right now I'm looking into Austin if only for some intel on the enemy. Austin showed potential, but early-career injury issues held back his development, and he didn't perform well enough this offseason to earn a place on the team.

Shorthanded September?: Obviously, there are always more moves to come in the next few days as the Giants sort through the waiver process and see which players who just became available today could be of use to them. One spot where the Giants likely will look to beef up is at running back. They terminated the contract of Ryan Torain, leaving them with four running backs on the roster -- starter David Wilson, backups Michael Cox and Da'Rel Scott and "co-starter" Andre Brown, who's likely out four to six weeks with a fracture in his left leg. Keeping Brown indicates that the Giants do indeed expect him back at some point during the season, but it also leaves them with only three healthy backs to start the season. It's possible they could put Brown on injured reserve with a designation to return this season, but they can't do that until Tuesday. If they did, they could add a running back (or a player at some other position). Brown is one of at least seven players (along with Victor Cruz, Henry Hynoski, David Baas, David Diehl, Jason Pierre-Paul and Damontre Moore) whose status for the early part of the season is in doubt or worse due to injury, so there may not be a lot of wiggle room in picking inactives for the opener.

What's next: Based on performance, the release of Tyler Sash isn't overly surprising, but it does leave the Giants thin at the safety position and leads you to believe they'll try to acquire another safety at some point this week. The first name that will jump to mind is that of former Giant Kenny Phillips, who obviously knows the defense and was released by the Eagles last week. But don't assume they'll view Phillips as their best option. The main reason they let him go this offseason was their concern that he'd never be able to get his knee fully healthy, and the reason the Eagles (who aren't exactly strong at safety themselves) let him go was because he couldn't get healthy enough to practice. The Giants like what rookie Cooper Taylor has shown lately, and they like Will Hill as an option at safety, so they may decide they only need to weather the four games for which Hill is suspended to start the season. While Phillips is a possibility, there will be other choices, and likely a few the Giants like better.

Giants moves:

Waived: DE Matt Broha, OT Stephen Goodin, S David Caldwell, OL Matt McCants, CB Charles James, CB Terrence Frederick, WR Julian Talley, LB Kyle Bosworth, DE Adrian Tracy, DE Adewale Ojomo, DT Marvin Austin, OL Eric Herman, OL Bryant Browning, WR Kevin Hardy, WR Marcus Harris

Contracts terminated: QB David Carr, RB Ryan Torain

Waived/injured: S Tyler Sash, OL Selvish Capers

Reserve/physically unable to perform list: DT Markus Kuhn (knee)

Injured reserve: WR Ramses Barden (knee)

Suspended: S Will Hill

Welcome to cut-down day

August, 31, 2013
8/31/13
11:15
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Ah, yes. That gloriously inexplicable day for fans to obsess over players who are either not good enough or barely good enough to make their team. NFL teams must trim their rosters from 75 to 53 by 6 p.m. ET, and I shall, of course, be here to track all of the New York Giants' moves. The agent for defensive end Matt Broha, for instance, has already tweeted that Broha will be hitting the waiver wire. Possible practice squad candidate if he gets through waivers, but certainly not a surprise cut.

Brown
The interesting story of the day to me is what the Giants do with regard to running back Andre Brown, who fractured his left leg in Thursday night's preseason game in New England. The early timetable for Brown's recovery is four to six weeks, which would seem to indicate they could keep him on the 53-man roster and wait it out. But if they're concerned the recovery might last longer than that, they could place him on injured reserve.

Now, there are two types of injured reserve. The first is the season-ending type. If the Giants put Brown on IR today, he's out for the year, no questions asked. The other type is the injured reserve with a designation for return, which would allow Brown to return as long as he sits out at least six weeks of practice and at least eight weeks' worth of games. But teams can't use that designation until Tuesday, which means Brown would have to first make the 53-man roster today and then be designated Tuesday. At that time, the Giants could add a player, but they'd have to cut someone today to hold a spot for Brown. Also, teams may only use the IR/designated for return on one player per season, so if they used it on Brown and someone else suffered a six-week or eight-week injury in September, they would face a tough decision on that player.

Other key decisions loom at backup quarterback, where Curtis Painter and David Carr have fought it out for one spot, and at defensive tackle, where the team may be debating whether to give up on 2011 second-round pick Marvin Austin in favor of impressive veteran Mike Patterson.

As I said, I'll keep you posted throughout the day.

 
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. –- The New York Giants suffered yet another significant preseason injury Thursday, as running back Andre Brown broke his left leg during the Giants' 28-20 loss to the New England Patriots.

What it means: One week after losing safety Stevie Brown for the season to a torn ACL in a preseason game, Andre Brown breaks his left leg. It’s the same leg on which Andre fractured his fibula against the Packers on Nov. 25 last year. The Giants said Andre could have returned that season if they made it to the Super Bowl, so he could be a candidate for the injured reserve/"designated to return" spot that would allow him to come back after eight weeks.

Andre Brown’s injury is a blow to the running game. Coach Tom Coughlin wanted a one-two punch with David Wilson and Brown, who is the Giants’ most well-rounded running back. Brown could run with power and speed and catch out of the backfield and was the team’s best pass-protecting back. The team will now have to depend on and trust Wilson even more. Seventh-round pick Michael Cox might move up to the backup spot. Ryan Torain’s and Da’Rel Scott’s chances of making the team have increased with Saturday’s final cuts looming.

The Giants could also always look outside and see what is available, especially after teams make final cuts on Saturday.

More injuries: Brown wasn’t the only Giant to suffer an injury. Backup safety Tyler Sash suffered a concussion, and the Giants were already smarting there with the loss of Stevie Brown for the year. With Will Hill having to serve a four-game suspension to start the regular season, the Giants can’t afford to lose Sash for an extended amount of time. Rookie Cooper Taylor will be behind starters Antrel Rolle and Ryan Mundy if Sash has to miss time.

Also, tight end Adrien Robinson suffered an injury to what appeared to be his left foot. The severity of the injury wasn’t immediately known. Already this preseason, the Giants have watched starters such as Victor Cruz (heel), David Baas (left MCL), David Diehl (thumb) and the two Browns suffer injuries in preseason games.

Offense awakens: On a very small side note, the starting offense finished the preseason strong by scoring a touchdown in the red zone. After struggling in the preseason inside the opponent’s 20, Eli Manning orchestrated a 10-play, 91-yard drive that resulted in a 3-yard touchdown strike to Hakeem Nicks.

Manning opened the drive with a 37-yard completion to Louis Murphy. Manning also hit tight end Brandon Myers on a 10-yard gain, and Wilson had a 16-yard run as well on the drive.

One more time: Several Giants tried to make a final impression in the last preseason game. Defensive tackle Mike Patterson looked good, applying pressure to the quarterback several times and getting a sack and a half. Patterson might have solidified a roster spot with that performance. Marvin Austin, a second-round pick in 2011, might be fighting for a roster spot.

Middle linebacker Mark Herzlich also had a strong outing, snatching an interception off a deflection right before it hit the turf. Defensive ends Matt Broha, Justin Trattou and Adewale Ojomo all had sacks on Tim Tebow as well.

What’s next: The Giants will make final cuts on Saturday and play in Dallas in the season opener on Sept. 8.

Giants Stock Watch

August, 28, 2013
8/28/13
9:33
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A look at whose stock is rising and falling with the New York Giants on the eve of their final preseason game.

FALLING

The secondary. No one was expecting another eight-interception year from Stevie Brown, but he was slated to be a starting safety and had worked hard all offseason to learn and master more of the defense than he knew when he was thrust surprisingly into a starter's role in 2012. Brown tore his ACL in Saturday night's preseason game against the Jets, leaving an already-questionable part of the Giants' roster thin. Newcomer Ryan Mundy takes over as the starter for now opposite Antrel Rolle, who's still working his way back from an ankle sprain. But the guy the Giants really like for that spot is Will Hill, who is suspended for the first four games of the season.

Manning
Eli Manning's comfort. Injuries along the offensive line have prompted three rearrangements of the starting group in the past nine days. After Jim Cordle struggled at center Saturday, the Giants moved Kevin Boothe to center and elevated James Brewer to the starting left guard spot. While Brewer has worked at guard in practice a bit this offseason, he's a natural tackle with little experience on the inside. But Boothe is the team's best option at center after the injured David Baas, and that position is more essential as Manning works to get comfortable behind all the shuffling. Manning is fine with shuttling different receivers and tight ends in and out of the lineup, but he's a little bit less fine with not being able to count on his protection to stay reliable. If Baas were able to return by Week 1, that would be a big help. One positive development: Rookie right tackle Justin Pugh seemed to hold up fine in his first game action as a starter.

RISING

Tuck
The defensive line. You saw Justin Tuck's interception of Geno Smith on a play where he hid and then dropped into coverage. Tuck looks fantastic. But what's stood out to me in these preseason games so far (and in the practices I've attended) is the play of the Giants' defensive tackles. Shaun Rogers and Mike Patterson, in particular, looked great Saturday night helping to collapse the pocket with interior pressure. A couple of guys like that in rotation with Linval Joseph and Cullen Jenkins could give the Giants something they didn't have last year as far as disruptive toughness in the interior of the defensive line.

Andre Brown. You're getting sick of me writing about this, but it's a real issue. David Wilson's 84-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage was the play of the game. But in a game in which Manning and the first-team offense took 34 snaps, Brown was on the field for 26 and Wilson was on the field for just 14. Brown has consistently been the third-down back and the goal-line back this preseason, but he was also the first-down back and the second-down back in the second quarter Saturday. Giants coach Tom Coughlin said the team found itself in more passing downs in the second quarter. And while he said "not necessarily" when I asked him if he trusts Brown more than he trusts Wilson in pass protection, the proof is in the pudding. When the Giants are in passing downs, Brown is the halfback and Wilson is on the bench. This is a major conundrum for the Giants, because they need Wilson for his breathtaking big-play ability but don't yet trust him to help protect Manning, which is their top priority. Meantime, more snaps for Brown, who's been great in practice even though he was so-so in Saturday's game.

Observation deck: Giants-Jets

August, 24, 2013
8/24/13
11:55
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- It sure looked as though it would be David Wilson's night when the explosive second-year back ran 84 yards for a touchdown on the New York Giants' first play from scrimmage. And there's no denying Wilson's rare ability as a runner. He can make things happen that most other running backs can't when he has his hands on the ball.

However.

Wilson got only four more carries in the rest of the Giants' 24-21 preseason overtime loss to the New York Jets, while Andre Brown got seven. And I'm interested to see the snap-count numbers, because I believe Brown was on the field considerably more in the first half than Wilson was (neither played in the second). Of the eight third-down plays the Giants ran in the first half, Brown was the lone halfback on six of them, Wilson on one and both were in on one. Brown was also on the field (and Wilson on the sideline) for all four of the plays the Giants ran inside the Jets' 10-yard line. And in the second quarter, he got the bulk of the first-down and second-down work as well.

What's it mean? Well, I think the reason Brown was getting the third-down work Sunday night and again Saturday was because the Giants trust him more in pass protection right now than they trust Wilson. And I wonder if he started getting the early-down work for the same reason, because Eli Manning looked uncharacteristically uneasy in the first quarter behind a revamped offensive line that lost starters David Baas and David Diehl to injury in the Colts game Sunday. It's possible the Giants put Brown in because they're worried the depleted line can't protect Manning sufficiently right now, and if that concern were to linger into the regular season, Brown could end up getting first-down and second-down carries even then.

It's a real conundrum, because the Giants can't ignore what Wilson offers them as a runner, but their No. 1 priority is absolutely the protection of Manning. It's possible they do trust Wilson in pass protection more than it appears and they're giving Brown all the extra work in an effort to preserve Wilson for the season. But they weren't preserving any of their other starters in the first half Saturday night, and I know they like the way Brown has run the ball this summer. So this remains a situation worth watching closely when the regular season begins.

Anyway, here are some other things I took away from an unnecessarily late night at the Meadowlands:
  • The knee injury to starting safety Stevie Brown could be pretty serious. Giants coach Tom Coughlin said he didn't have any new information after the game, but he also said, "I feel bad for Stevie. He's been a tremendous addition to our team, and the guy has another interception and then that happens." Brown, who had eight interceptions last season and is one of the Giants' projected starting safeties this season as a result, appeared to go down without being hit while returning an interception in the first quarter. He'll surely have an MRI on Monday, and the Giants will hope the news isn't as bad as they fear.
  • Cornerback Jayron Hosley also left the game in the first quarter with an injury the team called an ankle sprain. He'll surely find his way into an MRI tube on Monday as well.
  • I'm not sure how Coughlin could watch the Jets and think he has problems, but he was sure upset about the way his offense performed in this game. Manning was 8-for-20 for 83 yards. The ground game averaged 2.5 yards per carry if you take out Wilson's first run (though, on the plus side, it was 6.0 yards per carry if you don't!). They were 3-for-18 on third downs. They allowed four sacks. They couldn't get in on four tries at the goal line. "It's very obvious that, in all three areas, we're not doing what we need to do on the offensive end," Coughlin said. "We've got work to do."
  • Jim Cordle played center in place of the injured Baas and got run over a couple of times, most notably by Sheldon Richardson on a play that resulted in a sack of Manning. Cordle said he struggled with the twists and other wrinkles the Jets front was throwing at the Giants. "Some of it was stuff I hadn't seen, but most of it was stuff we had seen and you've just got to reach a little bit faster," Cordle said. First-round pick Justin Pugh looked passable at right tackle, but there were communication issues along the line all night, as you'd expect with so much change in a short period of time.
  • Terrell Thomas got "20-plus plays," mostly as the nickel cornerback, in his first game action in two years. Thomas, who's recovering from two surgeries on the anterior cruciate ligament his right knee in the past two years, said he felt great playing again and will continue to build strength and confidence. Still no way to be sure what role, if any, he has on this season's team. The injuries to Brown and Hosley could conceivably create opportunities for him, though, if he shows he can play at a high enough level.
  • Wide receiver Hakeem Nicks wasn't on the same page with Manning all night, but he did make a one-handed circus catch along the sideline while being blatantly interfered with by Jets cornerback Kyle Wilson. And he delivered a key block on the edge to help spring Wilson on his big run. Nicks is the total package at wide receiver, and the most important thing for the Giants about him Saturday night was that he said he felt healthy.
  • Ryan Torain was the running back getting all of the carries once the second half started. The Giants like him as a pass protector as well.
  • Former Eagles defensive tackle Mike Patterson, who had brain surgery a year and a half ago after collapsing on the field during an Eagles training camp practice in 2011, looked impressive for the second game in a row. The defensive tackle play in general was a bright spot, and Patterson looks like a guy who deserves a spot in the rotation.
  • Finally, a word on the concept of overtime in the preseason: seriously? What a farce. In this era of supposed emphasis on player safety, the Giants and the Jets played half of an extra period to decide a winner in a game that doesn't count. Giants cornerback Laron Scott even got injured on a play in the overtime. I'd say the NFL needs to make a new rule that says preseason games can't go to overtime, but I'm astounded to learn that wasn't a rule already. It's preposterous that they'd even consider playing overtime in the preseason. Overtime is a mechanism for determining a winner in a game that ends in a tie. Preseason games do not require winners. Therefore, they do not require overtime. Pretty simple. Preseason overtime is one of the stupidest NFL things I've ever heard of. And you know, if you read me regularly, that I have a long list.

Anyway, I'll check in with you next week. Hope you enjoyed this game more than I did.

Best Giants camp battles

July, 31, 2013
7/31/13
5:11
PM ET

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

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

1. Linebackers.

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

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

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

2. Right tackle.

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

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

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

3. Backup defensive tackle.

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

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

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

4. Fourth defensive end.

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

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

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

5. Running back.

The competitors: David Wilson and Andre Brown.

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

What they're saying: "David is a different style of back than we've ever really had here at the Giants over the years," quarterback Eli Manning said. "A lot of speed and explosiveness. Both of them [Wilson and Brown] are different style runners, and we'll kind of understand that and put them in to do things that they are best at."
Up at New York Giants training camp on Saturday, coach Tom Coughlin was talking the old offseason talk about getting back to Giants-style football. They talk about this every year in Giants camp, and some years they make good on it and other years they don't. This specific talk Saturday was about the defense, and its need to play tougher. Per Ohm:
"Physical, New York Giant defense -- tough, physical and hard-nosed defense," Coughlin responded when asked what identity he wants to see his defense establish this season. "We're not that far removed from that and hopefully we'll get right back to it."
You know the Giants finished 31st in the 32-team NFL last year in total defense and were beaten too often by big plays in the passing game. But they weren't exactly stout against the run, either. They ranked 25th in the league with an average of 129.1 rushing yards allowed per game and 28th in the league with an average of 4.6 yards allowed per rush. In short, they need to do a better job of controlling the line of scrimmage.

To their credit, the Giants know this and made it something of an offseason priority. They like Linval Joseph at defensive tackle and were happy with the way he played there last year, but they needed to build up the group around him. So they brought in former Eagles defensive tackles Cullen Jenkins and Mike Patterson, drafted massive Johnathan Hankins in the second round and brought back veteran Shaun Rogers, who made a strong impression on them in last year's training camp but had to miss the season due to a blood clot in his leg.

Is that enough? Jenkins played very well in Philadelphia two years ago but less so last year. But almost no one played well in Philadelphia last year, and Jenkins was asked to move around on the defensive line there more than he'll be asked to move around in New York. Hankins is a rookie, and the Giants don't tend to ask much of their rookies, so if he becomes a major factor in the rotation it'll be because he picked things up quickly and earned the playing time. Rogers and Patterson are wild-cards as they're both coming back from unusual medical troubles.

I think you can make the case that defensive tackle is the one area of the defense in which it looks as though the Giants are improved over last year. They only had one way to go, though, after allowing 4.6 yards per rush. If this year's group can't stop the run better than last year's group did, it's hard to see the pass rush or the secondary bouncing back either.

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