NFL Nation: Justin Pugh

W2W4: New York Giants

August, 22, 2014
Aug 22
12:00
PM ET
The New York Giants (3-0) and the New York Jets (2-0) square off in their annual preseason meeting Friday at 7:30 p.m. ET at MetLife Stadium.

1. Time for the starters to show something. We've said this every week so far, but so far Eli Manning and the Giants' first-team offense hasn't shown anything encouraging in the preseason. There's some hope that the game-planning they've done for this game (where they didn't do any for the first three) might help the new Ben McAdoo offense look more in sync, though the Jets' tough defense could negate some of that. Giants coach Tom Coughlin hinted last weekend that Manning and the offense might not be able to take their accustomed breather in next week's preseason finale if he doesn't feel they've played well enough to deserve it. So they certainly should be motivated.

2. The offensive line. This seemed to be Coughlin's greatest source of consternation in practice this week -- the idea that he still doesn't have a five-man starting line combination with which he feels comfortable. Left tackle Will Beatty should play more than he did in his preseason debut last week, but if the Giants retain questions about how much they can expect of him, you wonder if you'll start seeing right tackle Justin Pugh over there. Pugh moved to the left side a few times in practice this week, with guys like Geoff Schwartz and Brandon Mosley getting reps at right tackle and rookie Weston Richburg playing guard. Watch to see who gets the snaps and at which positions on the line as the Giants continue to play around with this critical area.

3. Looking for playmakers. Will we see unproven wide receivers such as Corey Washington and Marcus Harris, who have been preseason stars, play with the first team at wide receiver? With first-rounder Odell Beckham Jr. still sidelined, the Giants are looking for answers on the outside. Not only could guys like Washington and Harris make the team with a strong showing, they could earn surprisingly large roles early in the season. Starting tight end remains up for grabs, and there still could be time for Jerry Reese favorite Adrien Robinson to overtake Larry Donnell. And there's still a lot to sort out at running back behind starter Rashad Jennings. Anyone who plays well in this game will set himself up nicely as roster cuts and other final decisions loom next week.
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.

Giants Camp Report: Day 15

August, 13, 2014
Aug 13
8:00
PM ET
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of New York Giants training camp:
  • Rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. continues to make significant progress from the hamstring injury that has held him out of practice since the first day of camp. The team's first-round pick even took a couple of snaps Wednesday in 11-on-11 drills and caught a touchdown pass on one of them. Giants coach Tom Coughlin didn't even rule out the possibility that Beckham could play in Saturday's preseason game in Indianapolis, though I have to think that's a long shot and that next Friday against the Jets is more likely.
  • Coughlin said left tackle Will Beatty and cornerback Trumaine McBride, who have been practicing but didn't play in the first two preseason games as part of the plan for their recoveries from offseason surgery, would play Saturday. He said to expect Beatty to play about as much as a starting offensive lineman would play in a first preseason game of the year. For comparison's sake, Geoff Schwartz and J.D. Walton played 20 snaps in the Hall of Fame Game, and right tackle Justin Pugh played 24.
  • Cornerback Walter Thurmond continues to dazzle, and I have to think it will be a huge relief for Giants slot receiver Victor Cruz to go up against whoever the Detroit Lions are using as a nickel cornerback Sept. 8 in Detroit. Thurmond's highlight plays Wednesday included a pass breakup on which he had tight end Larry Donnell blanketed over the middle and a stop on running back Rashad Jennings when Jennings caught a pass in the flat.
  • Other highlight plays: Rookie linebacker Devon Kennard knocking rookie running back Andre Williams to the ground in the backfield on a run play; Rueben Randle's acrobatic catch in the corner of the end zone against Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in one-on-one goal-line drills; Rookie cornerback Bennett Jackson ripping the ball out of wide receiver Travis Harvey's hands at the end of a long pass play; Interceptions of Curtis Painter by Mark Herzlich and Chandler Fenner in early team drills.
  • Wide receiver Jerrel Jernigan was back at practice after sitting out Monday and Tuesday with a knee injury. New to the list of injured players sitting out practice was cornerback Zack Bowman (unclear what his injury was). Also sitting out were running back Peyton Hillis (ankle), tight end Xavier Grimble (hamstring), tight end Daniel Fells (knee), return man Trindon Holliday (hamstring) and defensive tackle Mike Patterson (shoulder).
  • Cruz, who had some knee issues in practice this week, seemed completely fine and appeared to do everything in Wednesday's relatively short practice.
  • Though they will continue to practice here next week as they have been, Thursday marks the final official day of Giants training camp. That means Thursday's 1:20 pm practice will be the final practice of the year that is open to the public. So take off work and come out to say hi. Tell your boss I said it was okay.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- We got to talk to New York Giants offensive line coach Pat Flaherty on Friday, and it was excellent. He told us a story about how his father taught him to play center by having him practice in front of a huge oak tree that he'd have to jump up and hit every time he snapped the ball. It was horrifying and awesome all at the same time. I would like to talk to Pat Flaherty every day if possible, but it's not, so we enjoy what we get.

Also, I know most of you would rather hear about what is going on with the New York Giants' offensive line than what Flaherty did to that oak tree (or what that oak tree did to him). So here's a spot-by-spot breakdown of some stuff Flaherty said Friday:

Left tackle

Beatty
Beatty
Will Beatty has practiced a lot more than anyone expected he would coming off the broken leg he suffered in Week 17 last season. Beatty also has a bit more of an edge to him when he talks to you this summer. Not a ton, mind you. He's still mild-mannered Will. But he definitely seems extra motivated to get back out on the field and show what he can do. And the coaches have noticed.

"Will Beatty's working, and anytime you're at work playing football and putting the pads on, you're going to get better," Flaherty said. "The thing we don't have to have happen is regression with his rehab, but he's handling both things very well, as expected. He's got a ways to go, but he's progressing more now than he would by standing on the sidelines talking to me."

Beatty is coming off not just a broken leg but a rotten 2013 season in general. He signed a long-term contract extension with the team prior to last season and admitted late in the season that the pressure of it affected him.

Schwartz
"He's not that player," Flaherty said of the 2013 version of Beatty. "That starts with me coaching. To be able to coach somebody, he has to be out there on the practice field. If he's not out there practicing the day-to-day drills, then that sets him back and affects your technique on Sundays. Your flaws get magnified. That's what happend last year. This year, we'll see. He's attacking and making sure it doesn't happen again."

Left guard

Geoff Schwartz is a proud, beaming father who misses his newborn baby but looks forward to seeing him again when the family comes to town following the Aug. 3 Hall of Fame Game. The free-agent signee projects as one of the few sure things on this line. Flaherty didn't address him to any significant extent during his news conference.

Center

Walton
J.D. Walton is getting the first-team snaps ahead of rookie second-round pick Weston Richburg, and the sense I get is that the Giants are happy with Walton so far. The center is tasked with more responsibility in the new offense this year in terms of making the protection calls, and Walton told me it's been the toughest thing for him to learn. But Flaherty seems to think he's made a breakthrough. Walton missed the past two seasons with an ankle injury, and Flaherty was asked whether Walton was still shaking off rust.

"If he was rusty, I think he's had some WD-40, because he's out there greasing pretty good, each and every day," Flaherty said. "Was there mental rust? Was there physical rust? Probably. But I don't see rust anymore. He just has to go out and play. He's excited about the opportunity."

So is Richburg, who has been working at both center and right guard but is a rookie. The Giants think he's great, and drafted him in large part because of their belief that he could handle the center's responsibility in their new offense. But 2013 Justin Pugh notwithstanding, they don't rush rookies here.

"If and when Weston continues to develop, he's going to be a very good offensive lineman," Flaherty said. "But he's got to get in there and grow into that position. There's a sense of urgency about being able to grow into a position, and the only way you're going to be able to do that is if you have an opportunity to play."

Hence, all of the extra reps for the rookie at two positions. If Richburg dazzles the Giants at both, he improves his chances of winning one of the two starting spots.

Right guard

Mosley
With Chris Snee having retired Monday, this is wide open. Flaherty is a fan of John Jerry, but Jerry is still quite limited as he works his way back from knee surgery. So Brandon Mosley has been running with the first team at right guard.

"He has to be consistent," Flaherty said. "Somewhere in your career as a player, you have to get off the waves, and that's the point he's at. There will always be peaks and valleys, but you need to have more peaks than valleys. You have to be consistent as an offensive lineman. (Thursday) I saw more consistency. Those guys are pretty good that we're blocking in practice -- Mike Patterson and Cullen Jenkins. They're as good as there are in the league, and that's a great challenge for a guy like Brandon Mosley."

Guys like Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley, the defensive tackles who await the Giants in Week 1 in Detroit, might dispute Flaherty's assessment. But if Mosley takes advantage of his opportunity, he could get a shot at those guys Sept. 8.

Right tackle

Pugh
After starting 16 games as a rookie in 2013, Pugh projects as the starter at right tackle once again. Flaherty says he's told Pugh that he believes he wasn't 100 percent physically last season and that he needed to get into the weight room and hit it hard this offseason. Pugh apparently took that advice.

"It started in the weight room," Flaherty said. "His approach these past few months, starting back in February, has been a difference. I saw it for the first time when he came back. He was stronger. He weighs more, but more importantly he's stronger. And what he has between his ears in terms of wanting to be good, that's always going to be there. He wants to be the best at his position."
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. 

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.
 
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.

Analyzing McShay mock 4.0: Giants 

April, 10, 2014
Apr 10
12:15
PM ET
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.
Todd McShay's new mock draft Insider came out Thursday, but I was tied up with TV stuff and Matt Williamson had a reax post and so in terms of me reacting to it... well, that kind of fell through the cracks. My bad. Totally my fault, not yours. To make it up to you, I offer you a Friday afternoon snack in the form of some thoughts on Todd's pick for the New York Giants.

Lewan
No. 12: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan

Yeah, that's right. Same guy Todd had the Giants taking in Mock 2.0. Boooooring, right?

Well, maybe yes and maybe it's just the exact right pick for them. Ever think of that? Lewan is a tremendous call for a team that had major offensive line issues in 2013 and counts offensive line among its most pressing short-term and long-term needs. Yes, it would be the second year in a row they spent their first-round pick on an offensive lineman, but to that I would say, "Good! It's about time they prioritized it again."

Lewan could start at right tackle with 2013 first-rounder Justin Pugh moving inside to guard, where he'd be a monster. Or Lewan (or Pugh) could play left tackle if Will Beatty's 2013 struggles were to repeat themselves and the Giants had to move on from Beatty. The point is getting more talent in the pipeline on the offensive line, and Lewan is a high-end talent who'd represent good value at No. 12.

Here are a few guys still on Todd's board at 12 who would also make some degree of sense:

Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh. Not a need position to the extent that some are, but if Linval Joseph left in free agency, there'd be room for Donald in the defensive line rotation, and he is a straight-up monster.

C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama. This is the guy Mel Kiper Jr. keeps giving the Giants in his mocks, though Mel is well aware that the Giants haven't drafted a first-round linebacker since Carl Banks in 1984. Mel is right that Mosley would make a lot of sense as a long-term solution at a position of continual need, especially if Jon Beason isn't re-signed.

Marqise Lee, WR, USC. With the top wideouts off the board, Lee is the best one left, and the Giants need a Hakeem Nicks replacement.

Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame. Same reason Lewan's a good pick. Plus, Martin could be a right-away starter at guard.

Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina. Major passing-game weapon for Eli Manning, all-around athletic freak, and a long-term answer at a position where the Giants keep turning to short-term fixes.

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