NFL Nation: Travis Beckum

Giants' Canty out at least six games

August, 27, 2012
8/27/12
11:56
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NFL teams must reduce their rosters from the training camp size of 90 down to 75 by 4 p.m. ET today, so some folks are getting cut and some are being placed on injury lists. As part of their first round of cuts, the New York Giants announced that defensive tackle Chris Canty and tight end Travis Beckum will open the season on the reserve/physically unable to perform list. The rules require players on that list to sit out at least the first six regular-season games, which means the soonest Canty could return would be Week 7 against Washington.

But the situation with Canty, who had knee surgery in the offseason and has not taken part in training camp practices or preseason games at all, is obviously more dire than the Giants initially indicated. By placing him on PUP, the Giants are obviously leaving open the possibility that he plays this year. But the situation with his knee and the fact that he won't be eligible until Week 7 obviously raises the possibility that he will have to miss the entire season.

Canty was an important player to the Super Bowl-winning Giants last season and they would suffer for his absence. Starting defensive tackles Linval Joseph and Rocky Bernard have played well this preseason, but that's a position at which quality depth is important. They'd been hoping veteran Shaun Rogers and second-year man Marvin Austin would help, but each of them has a severe injury and can't be counted on any time soon, if at all this season. Recent signee Marcus Thomas, rookie Markus Kuhn and Dwayne Hendricks are among those being counted on as part of the rotation at defensive tackle at this point.

Beckum's no surprise, as he was one of two Giants tight ends who tore his ACL in the Super Bowl and it would be a surprise if he played this year.

To get their roster to 75, the Giants also cut veteran cornerback Antwaun Molden and waived tight ends Ryan Purvis and Christian Hopkins, defensive tackles Carlton Powell and Oren Wilson, defensive backs Chris Horton, Brandon Bing and JoJo Nicolas, wide receivers Julian Talley and Brandon Collins, fullback Joe Martinek and tackle Joel Reinders.
Bill Belichick's quest to take over the world with an army of tight ends has cost the New York Giants Jake Ballard. The Giants waived Ballard, who tore his ACL in the Super Bowl, on Monday thinking he'd clear waivers and they'd be able to sign him right back and put him on injured reserve because he was probably going to miss the season anyway. They told him he was in their plans for 2013, and as far as they knew, he was.

But Ballard did not clear waivers. He was claimed by the Patriots, who likely will be able to retain him next year as an exclusive rights free agent if he gets healthy in the meantime. The Patriots now have five tight ends on their roster, including star starters Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, and obviously did not have a need at the position.

Ballard did play very well against the Patriots in the Giants' regular-season victory over them last year, and he was part of the Giants team that defeated the Patriots in the Super Bowl. And it's clear that Belichick thinks tight ends are the wave of the future. I'm working on confirming a report that his new house in Farmington will be built entirely out of tight ends.

For 2012, this leaves the Giants no worse off than they already were at tight end. They have Martellus Bennett and Bear Pascoe and possibly Travis Beckum at some point, though he also tore his ACL in the Super Bowl and isn't likely to be ready to start the season if he can make it back at all in 2012.
I was kind of surprised it look that long, actually.

There was maybe a two-hour window between the time Monday morning that the news broke about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers shopping (and, more likely, cutting) tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. and when people started asking me on Twitter whether he'd make sense for their team. Usually it's quicker than that. But I guess it's a rainy Monday, and maybe folks aren't feeling like themselves. I include myself, of course. Did you catch that Matthew Berry-style column lead up there?

[+] EnlargeKellen Winslow
Jake Roth/US PresswireKellen Winslow has played in all 16 games in five of the past six seasons and has caught at least 66 passes in each of those five seasons.
Anyway, in response on Twitter I wrote that you could make a case for any of the four NFC East teams to pursue Winslow, to which four fan bases responded something along the lines of, "Really?", to which I said, "Yeah, really." But the limits of the 140-character Twitter world being what they are, I hereby expand:

Dallas Cowboys

They have been looking, since Martellus Bennett signed with the Giants, for a second tight end to replace Bennett. They drafted James Hanna, but he's not likely the solution right away. The issue here is that Winslow isn't really a blocking tight end, and it might be tough to convince him that he's not among the top options as a receiver.

New York Giants

They signed Bennett, but he only accounts for one of the two holes opened by the ACL injuries of tight ends Jake Ballard and Travis Beckum in the Super Bowl. There are reports that Beckum could be ready early in the season, but optimism sometimes gives way to reality, and the Giants may want to have coverage. As is always the case with the Giants, if they're interested, it would have to be for their specific price.

Philadelphia Eagles

There's been talk in Philly for a couple of years about Andy Reid wanting to use more two-tight-end sets. It hasn't come to fruition, but a re-energized Winslow paired with Brent Celek could open up some of those possibilities. Again, though, as in Dallas and New York, he wouldn't be among the top receiving options, given the rest of the talent on the roster.

Washington Redskins

This only makes sense if the Redskins decide to cut Chris Cooley loose for financial or injury reasons. If that happens, they don't have many (any?) real strong tight ends behind Fred Davis. Receiver Niles Paul and even linebacker Lorenzo Alexander have been mentioned as candidates for tight end snaps this offseason, so it's not as though the roster is currently teeming with options should Cooley be cut.
We did this for the Dallas Cowboys on Wednesday, and it only seems fair to keep it up for the other teams in our division (other than the Redskins, whose draft scenarios are too simple to warrant a whole post). Let's look at Todd McShay's latest mock draft Insider and the various scenarios he lays out for the New York Giants with the 32nd pick.

His No. 1 scenario for the Giants is that they take Ohio State tackle Mike Adams at No. 32. If he falls this far, Adams would be the perfect combination of value and positional need -- nearly an ideal pick for the Giants, who could start him at right tackle right away and possibly develop him into a left tackle if things don't work out with Will Beatty over there.

Scenario No. 2 for the Giants, Todd says, would be to "take advantage of value and make a luxury pick for a player such as Stanford TE Coby Fleener or Nebraska OLB Lavonte David."

This is a fun idea, and Super Bowl champions often do find themselves making "luxury picks" because they don't usually have many holes to fill. The Giants, at 9-7, had the worst regular-season record of any Super Bowl champion in history, so it's reasonable to assume they have more holes to fill than have most teams that have picked last in the first round. The good thing in this case is that players like Fleener and David would address specific holes the Giants do have, while also offering excellent value for the pick. Fleener would be a great hedge against the health of Jake Ballard and Travis Beckum (not to mention the as-yet-unrealized potential of Martellus Bennett), and David would add depth to their corps of very young linebackers, increasing the odds that the group eventually produces a starter or two.

And the third and final scenario Todd lays out is that they trade down, taking advantage of some team's desire to move up and pick a quarterback at the tail end of the first round and amassing picks later in the draft. This would be enticing for the Giants, and they're sure to be getting calls late on that Thursday night.

Giants to sign Martellus Bennett

March, 14, 2012
3/14/12
4:06
PM ET
After a day of meeting with the New York Giants in New Jersey, former Dallas Cowboys tight end Martellus Bennett tweeted a short time ago that he was "officially a New York Giant!!" Bennett deleted the tweet soon thereafter, as he'd done Tuesday night with a tweeted photo he took from a plane as he arrived in the New York area, but ESPN's Adam Schefter reports that the deal between Bennett and the Giants will be a one-year, $2.5 million contract once it is, in fact, official.

Good deal for the champs. Yes, Bennett was a disappointment in Dallas. But he's only 25 years old and he's an athlete of considerable physical talent. The Giants are a team that believes very strongly in the ability of its coaching staff and its quarterback to get the best out of players, and if they can get Bennett focused and dedicated, they could have a steal on their hands. If not, the deal appears to come with minimal risk. It doesn't lock them into Bennett beyond this season, and if he doesn't perform, they'll probably have injured tight ends Jake Ballard and Travis Beckum back at the end of the year and therefore plenty of options.

The Giants needed a tight end after losing Ballard and Beckum to knee injuries in the Super Bowl, and they got a young, cheap, talented one. We'll see if they continue to address the position in free agency or the draft, but they clearly targeted Bennett, and they got him locked up on the second day of free agency.

NFC East Tuesday: How was your day?

March, 14, 2012
3/14/12
12:05
AM ET
You've waited, speculated, hoped and fretted for months, and today it finally arrived -- the start of NFL free agency. It was a busy and hectic day, as it often is, and it's liable to continue into the wee hours of the morning. But for now, as we creep toward midnight, it seems like a good time to stop and ask each of our division's four teams our favorite free-agency question.

So. How was your day...

Washington Redskins?

"Exciting." The Redskins were extremely busy right away, agreeing to deals with wide receivers Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan and working on another for wide receiver Eddie Royal. The fact that they moved so quickly led to industry-wide cries of "Same old Redskins -- champions of March," because there's no more powerful force in the NFL than conventional wisdom. But an actual close look at what they're doing reveals the kind of smart, long-view plan that Mike Shanahan and Bruce Allen began working to execute last offseason.

The old, reckless-spending Redskins would not have been outbid for 29-year-old Vincent Jackson, who got $55.5 million ($26 million guaranteed) from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The receivers the Redskins signed will be 26 and 27 years old at the start of the season. And while five years, $42.5 million ($20.5 million guaranteed) is obviously too much for Garcon, who's never been a No. 1 wide receiver, it's what it cost to get him. Shanahan has identified him as a guy who can explode, based on where he is in his career, the way he'll fit in Shanahan's offense and the potential for him to grow along with Robert Griffin III. If Shanahan's wrong, the contract could haunt him. But he's not just throwing money around. Garcon is a guy Shanahan targeted, for good, specific reasons. There is a plan here, and it's likely to continue as they work to fill holes on the offensive line and in the secondary in the coming days and weeks.

The Redskins also re-signed Adam Carriker on Tuesday to maintain depth on the defensive line. What Redskins fans would like to see next is a re-signing of linebacker London Fletcher. I believe the Redskins would like that too, but the longer it goes without getting done, the greater the chance is that the Redskins will lose one of their most valuable defensive players. What's clear is that, in spite of being docked $36 million against the cap for violating some sort of amorphous fake spending limit during the uncapped 2010 season, the Redskins still have plenty of room under the cap with which to work.

Dallas Cowboys?

"Better than Monday." A day after learning that they'd be docked $10 million against the salary cap over the next two years for the same kinds of bogus violations that nailed the Redskins, the Cowboys set about executing their own plan. They cut Terence Newman and David Buehler and restructured the contracts of Doug Free and Orlando Scandrick -- a combination of moves that bought them about $15.8 million in extra cap room this year. Then, according to Adam Schefter, they brought in free-agent cornerback Brandon Carr, who at this writing seemed likely to sign with Dallas as Newman's replacement as early as Tuesday night. With Cortland Finnegan having signed for five years and $50 million in St. Louis, and Carlos Rogers having re-signed for four years and about $30 million in San Francisco, the market seemed set for Carr, and the Cowboys seemed determined not to let him leave Dallas without a deal.

Schefter also reported that the Cowboys were looking at Kyle Orton, who'd be an excellent veteran backup option for Tony Romo at quarterback. And ESPNDallas.com writes that they plan to bring in former Panthers linebacker Dan Connor and former Bears tight end Kellen Davis for visits as well. Connor makes sense because they'll need depth at linebacker and may need more time to Bruce Carter to develop behind a veteran. Davis makes sense as a possible replacement for Martellus Bennett, who's in New York to visit the Giants. So if they get Carr done, they'll have addressed their most glaring need on the first day and are already at work on filling some other important needs. They still need to find offensive line help, and it looks as though they could lose wide receiver Laurent Robinson to the Jaguars or Dolphins, but cornerback was the place for them to start.

New York Giants?

"Productive." The champs began the day by re-signing cornerback Terrell Thomas, which was a priority of theirs, and buying themselves some cap room with the restructuring of the contract of center David Baas. Then they flew Bennett in for a visit, since they need a tight end to replace the two they lost to serious knee injuries in the Super Bowl. Cowboys fans are chuckling at the idea that another team would want Bennett, who earned a reputation as a pass-dropping underachiever during his time in Dallas. But the Giants see a guy who's 6-foot-6, 270 pounds, fast and still just 25 years old. They certainly trust their coaching staff and their quarterback to get the most out of any player, and if they can get him on a reasonable deal, it's certainly worth a shot that he still could transform his remarkable physical talent into reliable on-field production. And if he can't, Jake Ballard and Travis Beckum should be back healthy at the end of the season anyway. It's worth the Giants' time to check on Bennett.

The Giants target guys they like but are otherwise patient, so don't expect to hear much about them and Mario Manningham, Aaron Ross or Jonathan Goff anytime soon. They'll let those guys see what they can get on the market, and if they come back disappointed and willing to sign for the Giants' numbers, they could return. If not, the Giants feel confident they can find replacements.

Philadelphia Eagles?

Wait. That was today?
Yeah, the Eagles had a quiet day. They extended Todd Herremans' contract and, as Sal Paolantonio reported, were working on an extension for Trent Cole as well. Part of the reason for the quiet is that the Eagles did a lot of work in free agency last year and expect those players to play better in 2012. Part of the reason is that the position at which they need the most help is linebacker, and the linebacker market hasn't really started humming yet. I still think Fletcher makes sense for them on a number of levels, and I wonder if he's a guy they're quietly targeting to steal away from Washington. We'll see. They won't go as nuts as they did last year, but the Eagles won't stay silent for long.

Giants TE Jake Ballard injured, too

February, 5, 2012
2/05/12
9:26
PM ET
INDIANAPOLIS — The New York Giants already lost backup tight end Travis Beckum to a knee injury in the first half of Super Bowl XLVI, and it appears as though they have lost starting tight end Jake Ballard to a knee injury as well. Ballard injured his knee on a play in the fourth quarter. And while he walked off the field under his own power, when he tried to test out the knee by running on the sideline he fell down and had to be helped to the locker room.

Assuming Ballard can't come back into the game, the only tight end the Giants have for the final 9:24 is Bear Pascoe.
Beckum
INDIANAPOLIS — New York Giants tight end Travis Beckum suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in the second quarter of the Super Bowl on Sunday night against the New England Patriots. He is obviously out for the remainder of the game, and his ability to be ready for the start of the 2012 season is in serious question.

Beckum was jammed by a defender while running a route with the Giants driving up 9-3 in the second quarter and crumpled to the ground. He had to be helped off the field by trainers, and the announcement of his injury came soon thereafter.

Beckum had five catches for 93 yards and a touchdown in the regular season and seven catches for 45 yards in the playoffs. He is not the Giants' primary tight end, and the fact that starter Jake Ballard is healthy helps lessen the loss. Tough break for Beckum, though, who has a long recovery ahead of him and has to watch the rest of the Super Bowl from the sideline.

Manningham, Ballard inactive for Giants

December, 24, 2011
12/24/11
11:48
AM ET
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — New York Giants wide receiver Mario Manningham, who has been struggling throughout the second half of this season with a knee injury, is not healthy enough to play Saturday against the Jets and is listed among the inactive players for the game. Also inactive is tight end Jake Ballard, who was announced as out earlier in the week due to his own knee injury. The injuries deprive Giants quarterback Eli Manning of two important receiving options for the game, and you can probably look for Ramses Barden and Travis Beckum to pick up the slack if anyone does.

Defensive end Osi Umenyiora will miss his fourth straight game with an ankle injury, but center David Baas returns to the starting lineup after missing three straight games with head and neck injuries. Baas will start at center while Kevin Boothe, who had been replacing him, moves back over to left guard and Mitch Petrus, who started the last three games at left guard, moves back to the bench.

I'm here at MetLife Stadium and will have updates for you throughout the game here and on Twitter.

The complete list of inactives:

GIANTS

WR Mario Manningham
TE Jake Ballard
DE Osi Umenyiora
LB Mark Herzlich
OL Jim Cordle
DT Jimmy Kennedy
OL James Brewer

JETS

QB Kevin O'Connell
WR Eron Riley
CB Marquice Cole
S Gerald Alexander
T Austin Howard
DE Ropati Pitoitua
DT Kenrick Ellis

Air Eli? Giants are a passing team now

December, 8, 2011
12/08/11
10:50
AM ET
Eli Manning John David Mercer/US PresswireLed by quarterback Eli Manning, the once-rugged Giants have changed their personality this season.
The New York Giants are supposed to be one of the furniture franchises of the NFL. You know where you stand with them. There's a reliable consistency to the way they conduct themselves, operate their franchise and play the game. When you think about the Giants, you think about tough defense and gritty offense. You think about running backs grinding out yards -- three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust-type stuff that works no matter the era, no matter the windy, cold late-season weather in northern New Jersey.

Which is why it's a little jarring to see that this Giants team -- the one that heads to Dallas on Sunday for a critical NFC East showdown with the Dallas Cowboys -- bears so little resemblance to its run-focused forebears. The 2011 Giants are a passing team, plain and simple. And with Eli Manning as their quarterback, they've become one of the best passing teams in the league.

"They're explosive at all of the skill positions," Cowboys safety Abram Elam said in a phone interview this week. "You've got a lot of guys to account for, and you always have to be aware that they can beat you with the big play in the passing game."

That sounds like the Patriots, and it sounds like the Saints and the Packers and maybe the Peyton Manning Colts. But it's still a little bit surprising, given what we thought we always knew about the Giants and their place in the NFL establishment, that such a description could apply to Big Blue. This year's Giants still wish they could run, and they still open the game trying to run. But there they sit at the very bottom of the stat sheet -- 32nd in the league at 3.3 yards per carry and 83.8 rush yards per game. If a team that really considered itself a running team put up numbers like that, it wouldn't win any games at all.

Fortunately for the Giants, they've turned into a high-octane passing offense. They rank fourth in the league in passing yards, behind only the Saints, Patriots and Packers. They have one wide receiver, Victor Cruz, who's already cracked 1,000 receiving yards and another, Hakeem Nicks, who's only 140 yards away. Manning is fourth in the league in passing yards and fifth in attempts, and he's 295 yards away from 4,000 for the season. That would be the fifth 4,000-yard passing season in Giants' team history. It would also be Manning's third in a row.

"Everybody last week was talking about Aaron Rodgers being a Super Bowl MVP, and he is a great quarterback and having an unbelievable year, but we have the same thing on our side behind us," Giants left tackle David Diehl said. "At the beginning of the season when he compared himself in the same caliber, he got a lot of heat for that and people said 'how can he do that?' But Eli's having an incredible year."

When the Giants need a play, Manning throws the ball. He has shrugged off the departure of Steve Smith and the injuries to Mario Manningham and helped turn Cruz into a superstar wide receiver on the opposite side of the field from the brilliant Nicks. He found tight end Jake Ballard in key situations on a game-winning drive this season in New England. He hooked up with tight end Travis Beckum for a long touchdown pass last week. Running back Ahmad Bradshaw returned after four missed games because of injury, and Manning started last week's game with a screen pass to him.

"The way he's playing, everybody's going to be looking to him," Nicks said of Manning. "He's leading our offense. He's staying confident until the last minute, motivating guys in the huddle, making sure everybody knows when the play could come to them. He's got that energy and that confidence in himself and in everybody else, and everyone on our offense feeds off of him."

They can resist it all they want, and preach the importance of balance on offense. But it doesn't look like this year's Giants, with a banged-up Bradshaw, a faded Brandon Jacobs and all of the offensive line problems they have had (not to mention their injury-riddled defense), can really make good on that.

The Giants are poised to make a run and, in spite of their current four-game losing streak, win the NFC East and get into the playoffs. They have four games left, two against first-place Dallas, and their fate is in their hands. They've had a chance to win every game they've played this season except the one two weeks ago in New Orleans, and there's little reason to think they can't or won't have chances to win these last four. But when they do get that chance, this season's Giants are going to do something the Giants of years past weren't known for doing. They're going to ask their quarterback to air it out. Because that's what this year's Giants do best.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- You could look at this two ways. You could say the New York Giants are only down by four points at the half to the 11-0 Super Bowl champions Green Bay Packers and therefore have a chance to win it. Or you could say that things have gone about as well as they possibly could have gone for the Giants so far and they're still losing. But you guys know me. I'm an optimist. I'm looking at it the first way.

The first drive of the game, when they went to Ahmad Bradshaw twice and then downfield to Travis Beckum for that dazzling catch-and-run for the long touchdown, showed that the Giants have what it takes to hang with the Packers offensively. Everybody laughed when I wrote last week that the Giants have enough in the passing game to outscore Green Bay, but it's true. The Packers came into this game ranked third in the league in pass yards per game, and the Giants were fourth. That's not a mismatch, and with the Packers' defense banged up, there will be and have been plenty of opportunities for Eli Manning down the field.

They key is to avoid turnovers, since that's the food that sustains the Packer defense. Manning made a poor decision on the early second-quarter interception that Clay Matthews returned for a touchdown. You just can't allow the Packers to put points on the board while Aaron Rodgers is on the sideline. The second turnover wasn't really Manning's fault, as the pass protection broke down and Matthews walloped him from behind to force a fumble. And it didn't end up costing anything (except a chance to score more points) because the Packers missed the field goal with time running out in the first half.

But the offensive line remains a concern. It has been a major weakness all season for the Giants, and now it is very banged up. With left tackle Will Beatty already out indefinitely and David Diehl having moved from guard to tackle to replace him, center David Baas was a late scratch due to headaches. So Kevin Boothe moved from left guard to center and Mitch Petrus started at left guard. While the line has blocked surprisingly well in the run game for Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs, they've been a mess in pass protection, and that's likely to cost the Giants as they'll have to throw to keep up with Rodgers and the Packers.

There is a chance they'll be able to do it, though. They've already intercepted Rodgers once, and their pass rush seems re-engergized and has been delivering hits on Rodgers all game long. If those hits add up and begin to rattle Rodgers into mistakes, the Giants might be able to keep this game close.

A couple more thoughts:
  • The main problem the Giants have with the Packers is that they can't cover everyone. Greg Jennings, their best receiver, is standing open by himself on the sideline in the first quarter. Donald Driver, their fifth-best receiver, is wide open in the end zone for a touchdown. Jermichael Finley, their huge and talented tight end, is a mismatch for anyone in their secondary. The Giants are playing with great energy, but might not have the personnel on defense that they need to stop the Packers. To be fair, though, no one in the league has this season.
  • The loss of running back James Starks, who left early in the game with an injury, hasn't seemed to affect the Packers, who have been able to use rookie Brandon Saine in the screen game and the run game with some success.
  • Chase Blackburn, re-signed just this last week because of the Osi Umenyiora injury, was the linebacker who made the interception of Rodgers. You could have gotten some good odds against that one a couple of days ago.

No surprise: Jackson, Amendola inactive

September, 19, 2011
9/19/11
7:29
PM ET
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The St. Louis Rams and New York Giants have submitted their inactive lists for their Monday night matchup.
We're about an hour from kickoff. I'm seeing Rams fans wearing Eric Dickerson and Jack Youngblood jerseys, and another with a Sam Bradford jersey. The stadium remains mostly empty at this time, however.

Observation deck: Giants-Bears

August, 22, 2011
8/22/11
11:33
PM ET
Observations from the Giants 41-13 preseason victory over the Chicago Bears on "Monday Night Football":

We preach all the time that preseason games don't matter, but so few people really take it to heart. Fans like to hang on every play, to wonder whether or not it matters that Eli Manning doesn't look sharp, or to try and figure out whether or not Brandon Jacobs deserves more carries than Ahmad Bradshaw. But in the end, there are no accurate judgments to be made off of these games and the only thing that actually matters in any of them is that nobody gets seriously hurt.

And that's why, regardless of the final score or the potentially very encouraging way the rest of the team played during the game itself, Monday night's victory over the Bears was a disaster for the New York Giants.

Shortly before halftime, Giants starting cornerback Terrell Thomas collided with Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul and limped off the field. At halftime, Giants coach Tom Coughlin revealed to ESPN's Suzy Kolber than Thomas had torn the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee and would miss the entire season.

[+] EnlargeNew York Giants Terrell Thomas
AP Photo/Bill KostrounNew York Giants cornerback Terrell Thomas has a torn the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee and will miss the entire season.
This is devastating news, first and foremost, for Thomas, one of the very good guys and leaders on the Giants' roster and a player who has one year left before free agency. Thoughts go out to him, and best wishes for a speedy recovery.

But it's also awful news for the Giants, who earlier this preseason lost cornerbacks Prince Amukamara and Bruce Johnson to major injuries (and later in this game saw Brian Witherspoon carted off with a knee injury). Amukamara is out for at least a couple of months, Johnson for the year and now a team that was already struggling for depth at cornerback has lost one of its starters. They've gone from hoping Aaron Ross could be a reliable No. 3 corner and play as their extra defensive back in passing situations to hoping Ross can be a reliable starter and probably using safety Deon Grant in that role as they did last year. The Giants weren't deep to begin with, and they came out of their second preseason game with a major hole on the roster and in the starting lineup.

So that's all that matters from this game, period. But if you want to know what else I saw that might have a chance to matter down the road if by some coincidence regular-season developments jive with preseason performance in specific areas, here you go.

1. On the bright side, Ross looked very good. He knocked down two Jay Cutler passes intended for Roy Williams on third down early in the game. He made another play on a receiver later to prevent a touchdown (though he may have pushed off on that coverage). He made a nice tackle on Marion Barber behind the line of scrimmage in the third quarter. You could do worse than Ross as a fill-in cornerback when one of your starters gets hurt, and it's encouraging that he played well. But again, the Giants were figuring on Ross as their third corner, not one of their top two.

2. Oh, and X-rays on William Beatty's foot were negative. Which is a good thing. Beatty didn't have to take on Julius Peppers all night as we expected, since the Bears moved Peppers over to the other side to terrorize Kareem McKenzie and the Giants' overmatched tight ends. Beatty looked better overall in this game, holding his own and keeping his man off the quarterback, though he still looks a little grabby to me. You don't like to see a left tackle reaching quite as much as Beatty does to try and prevent the edge rush. He's got to do a better job of getting his whole body in front of his guy, or he's going to be a walking holding penalty.

3. Giants' special teams looked better. Devin Thomas is really showing his speed and athleticism on kick returns. Matt Dodge and Steve Weatherford both bombed huge punts all night. There was good kick coverage, including a big tackle by receiver Victor Cruz as he continues to work to try and secure a spot in the receiving corps. Jerrel Jernigan doesn't show much on punt returns, but the Giants had so many problems on special teams last year that if they can get it down to just one, Coughlin is going to be ecstatic.

4. How did those receivers keep getting open between Corey Webster and Kenny Phillips? It happened twice in the first half, and Cutler hit it for a big gain each time. It looked as though the receiver got by Webster and Phillips didn't get over in time to help. There are three possibilities that I can see: 1. Webster let his man go by him without making sure he had the safety help; 2. Phillips was supposed to help but was slow getting over; 3. Phillips went with the tight end up the seam after the tight end got by middle linebacker Jonathan Goff, which would kind of lead back to (1.) though with some blame to be shared by Goff. Either way, I'm certain it'll be discussed in detail in meetings this week. The Giants will obviously need mistake-free play from Webster and Phillips with as vital a piece as Thomas now missing from the secondary.

5. Victor Cruz, preseason wonder. Domenik Hixon had the big touchdown catch, but I really believe the Giants are trying to bring Hixon along slowly as he's coming back from his knee injury. And if that's the case, it opens up opportunities for guys like Cruz to get more reps at wide receiver. Cruz lined up with the starters in the team's three-receiver sets at the start of the game, and he did a lot of good, athletic, impressive things, just like he did last year in the preseason. As long as he keeps contributing on special teams, he's a good bet to make the roster. And if he does and Hixon is still being babied come the regular season, Cruz should get a serious chance to show whether or not his preseason success can carry into the regular season this time.

6. Some notes on the sure things. Manning looked fine, though I wouldn't put him in John Beck's class as a preseason quarterback. (Easy, folks... I kid because I love...) Brandon Jacobs looked especially spry on his touchdown run. And how about Justin Tuck's downfield tackle on Matt Forte? Tuck's a beast, but I couldn't help thinking a linebacker or a safety should have made that unnecessary. Overall, the Giants' defense looked very good, especially when it came time to keep the Bears out of the end zone in goal-line situations. Mark Herzlich's interception on the fourth-down play late in the fourth quarter was the most fun of the stops.

7. Still could use a tight end. Not that this is a Priority No. 1 at this point, but Travis Beckum and Bear Pascoe have been fully underwhelming at a key position for the Giants' passing game. We saw Manning audible at the line a few times and look to check it down, but with Steve Smith in Philadelphia and Kevin Boss in Oakland, he's still looking for reliable options to serve as safety valves. There was a third-down throw on which he and Mario Manningham couldn't connect that made you think he missed Smith. But two more preseason games to go and work still to be done, as is the case with every team.

Camp Confidential: Giants

August, 14, 2011
8/14/11
12:02
PM ET
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- It's funny to say this about a team that plays where they play, but the New York Giants like it when nobody notices them. They like being forgotten, underestimated, treated as an afterthought. They're OK with the Jets getting all the back-page-tabloid attention and the Eagles being the big offseason story because of their free-agent shopping spree. The Giants believe in their own way of doing things, and if that means lying in the weeds while people on the outside are distracted by other teams that are hot at the moment, that's fine with them.

"We believe in our organization, and we believe in our coaches," said ninth-year offensive lineman David Diehl, who has moved from left tackle to left guard as part of the Giants' offensive line shuffle. "We're not running around doing the free-agency fiasco and all that stuff. Yeah, you hope that, if an opportunity arises, you bring in guys that fit holes. But at the same time, we've got guys that have been here, guys that are a part of this team, guys who know the system."

That's why, even though they lost tight end Kevin Boss and receiver Steve Smith in free agency and didn't sign new guys the way the Eagles did, the Giants say they're not worried. They have a different way of doing things here. They build through the draft and groom their own players to replace the ones who leave. And they have a few guys they think can fill the holes created by their cuts and free-agent defections. It remains to be seen whether they're right, of course, but the vibe at Giants training camp is clear: Go ahead, underestimate us. We'll see how it turns out in the end.

THREE HOT ISSUES

[+] EnlargeWilliam Beatty
Bruce Kluckhohn/US PresswireThe Giants will have a revamped offensive line that includes William Beatty, left, at left tackle.
1. The new offensive line. When they cut longtime center Shaun O'Hara and guard Rich Seubert on the first day of free agency, the Giants signaled a decision to change an aspect of their team that hadn't changed much over the past six or seven years. They signed free-agent center David Baas from San Francisco, moved Diehl inside, and gave the starting left tackle job to 2009 second-round draft pick William Beatty. So there are questions that must be answered about how quickly the newly configured group can jell, how smooth the relationship between Baas and quarterback Eli Manning will be and, perhaps most importantly, whether Beatty in his third NFL season is ready for the responsibility of protecting Manning's blind side.

"In the case of William Beatty, it's time," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "We've had him here. He's talented. He's had an opportunity to learn. He's practiced against some of the best. We've had some defensive ends around here that can play. So it's time. It's his turn."

Beatty started four games in his rookie season and two last season as he was being groomed for this opportunity. He's perhaps the best example of the Giants' belief in their ability to groom their own replacements for departing veterans rather than having to hit the free-agent market to do so. Now, he must prove that their faith in him was justified.

2. Can Osi Umenyiora be happy? Upset about his contract, the Giants' star defensive end has sat out practice and demanded that the team re-work his deal or trade him to a team that will. Neither of those things appears likely to happen, though the Giants have offered an olive branch in the form of some 2011 incentives depending on the number of sacks Umenyiora gets this year. He had his knee checked out last week and there's a sense he could return to practice Monday. The way Jason Pierre-Paul played in Saturday night's preseason opener only helped the Giants' leverage in this situation. They believe Pierre-Paul, their 2010 first-round pick, can be a capable replacement for Umenyiora at the defensive end spot opposite Justin Tuck. Of course, if Umenyiora wants to come back and play, they'll be thrilled to be able to rotate three such weapons at the defensive end spots. It would also enable them to put Mathias Kiwanuka at linebacker and leave him there.

3. Manning's safety valves. As the Giants' passing game evolved over the past couple of seasons, Manning relied heavily on Smith and Boss as targets when things broke down. Both are gone. The Giants hope that 2009 third-round pick Travis Beckum is ready to replace Boss. Beckum is a good receiver, but he doesn't have Boss' size or blocking ability. And they're trying everyone from Mario Manningham to Domenik Hixon to Victor Cruz in Smith's old slot-receiver role in the hopes that someone can play the position the way Smith did. Top receiver Hakeem Nicks appears poised to have another big year, and the Giants can use Manningham on the outside as they did last season. But Manning is justifiably concerned about who will be there for him when a play inevitably breaks down, and tight end and slot receiver are positions that need to be sorted out before camp ends.

"When we've gotten in trouble in the past, we always had Steve in the slot, and that's kind of all we worked on -- Steve's in the slot, there you go, he's got it down," Manning said. "And so last year, when he got hurt, we were in trouble. No one else really knew how to play it. So this year we're putting everybody -- Hakeem is in there, Manningham's getting in here, we're getting a lot of people in there to get them to learn some of it, so that'll probably create some more opportunities for us to move guys around and get some mismatches."

MAN IN THE MIDDLE

[+] EnlargeJonathan Goff
William Perlman/The Star-Ledger via US PresswireJonathan Goff is entering his second season as the starting middle linebacker.
Linebacker has been a weak spot for the Giants the past couple of years. Unable to add outside free agents because of cap concerns, they'll address it by moving Kiwanuka there for first and second downs. But much will still fall on the shoulders of Jonathan Goff, who enters his second season as starter at middle linebacker in the Giants' 4-3 defense. "I'll have better composure this year," Goff said. "Last year, being my first year, was a little bit of a learning experience for me. This year, I think we're all on the same page to move forward as a defense and get better. It's just natural now." Goff is responsible for communicating the calls from the sidelines and for making any front-seven checks. (The coverage checks are the responsibility of the safeties.) He knows he'll need to take a stronger on-field leadership role for the defense to play more consistently this season.

AN 'EXPLOSIVE' PHILLIPS

Two years ago, Kenny Phillips was on the verge of breaking out as one of the top safeties in the NFL. But he lost his 2009 season to a left knee injury, spent the 2009-10 offseason rehabbing the knee and wasn't the same player when he returned in 2010. This year, Phillips said, he was able to condition himself the way he normally would for a season, rather than have to rehab, and believes it has made a huge difference. "Just being more explosive," Phillips said. "Last year, just seeing the field, it was kind of difficult at times, because I'd been away from the game, to be able to break on the ball -- to actually see it and then be able to get to it. But this year, now, everything is just fluid. My technique and everything is sound. I just feel good about everything this year." Phillips said he learned a lot last season playing and working with veteran safety Deon Grant (who remains an unsigned free agent), and that, with his physical ability fully restored, he believes he'll be a better player.

OBSERVATION DECK

  • Hixon could be a very important player for the Giants if he's recovered from his knee injury. He showed ability to play that slot receiver position when he was healthy, and will get a chance to show it again, though it seems clear the Giants would like to have multiple options there in case something goes wrong.
  • Linval Joseph, the 2010 second-round pick, would seem to have the playing-time edge at defensive tackle over 2011 second-round pick Marvin Austin. But each brings impressive size and agility to the position, and between them the Giants should be able to capably replace Barry Cofield, who signed with Washington.
  • The starting secondary of Phillips, Antrel Rolle, Terrell Thomas and Corey Webster looks excellent in practice. The question is whether there's enough depth behind those guys if there's an injury. Cornerbacks Michael Coe and Brian Witherspoon and safety Tyler Sash have a chance to earn playing time with Prince Amukamara hurt and Grant not re-signed. Witherspoon has been impressive on special teams and looked good in Saturday's game. Sash appears to be very athletic, but he needs to play with more discipline.
  • Kiwanuka at linebacker is a work in progress. No question he has the ability to play it, but he over-pursued Saturday at times the way a defensive end might.
  • Even before he left Saturday's preseason game with a thigh injury, kicker Lawrence Tynes looked as though he might be cause for concern. Having missed a few practices as he recovers from knee surgery, Tynes was unable to boot kickoffs out of the back of the end zone the way it seems every other kicker in the league has so far this preseason. And he missed a couple of field goals (though the first was a 56-yarder he shouldn't have been asked to try). Worth keeping an eye out to see how he looks the rest of August.
  • As for punters, Matt Dodge has looked better than he did in his difficult rookie season, but it's going to be tough for him to beat out Steve Weatherford, who's just better at the job.
  • EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- All right. One more from New York Giants camp today before I go home to watch these Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys games. Remember when I said before that Giants GM Jerry Reese hadn't made himself available for interviews? Well, guess who held a news conference after the Giants finished practice this afternoon! That's right. Jerry Reese!!

    Ohm Youngmisuk will have all the details on ESPNNewYork.com, but I was there as well and so I'll give you my impressions of what Reese said and what it all means. Basically, I think the guy has been getting his rear end kicked this offseason and is in denial about it. It's one thing to say you don't feel the need to play big on the free-agent market the way some other teams are doing. It's fine to say you like your team the way it is. But if you're going to do that, step two of the plan is to keep your own players. And Reese has let two important parts of his passing game -- Steve Smith and Kevin Boss-- walk out the door without replacing them.

    "It seems like people are in a little bit of a panic over the perception that we're not dong a lot," Reese said.

    Yeah, it seems that way to me and my Twitter feed too, Jerry.

    Reese said all the right things about Smith signing with the Eagles -- wisely declining to get into the he said/she said back-and-forth about who promised what and counter-offers and all of that. But his general message was that, while other teams (he didn't say which but the presumption is that he was thinking of a team whose name rhymes with "Shmiladelphia Shmeagles") were making all the "sexy" moves, his team was staying the course, and confident in that course.

    "We were 10-6 last year and we expect to build off of that," Reese said. "If we make a couple of plays, we would've been in playoffs. We'll make the plays this time, we'll get in the playoffs and we'll make a run."

    And he could be right. As I pointed out in Breakfast Links this morning, the Giants' front-line players look very good, and if they stay healthy there's no reason to think this isn't a playoff team. But letting Smith and Boss go and hoping Victor Cruz, Domenik Hixon and Travis Beckum are ready to take over has left the Giants thin at some critical spots.

    My question to Reese was this: Part of this "game plan" he discussed was obviously an effort to sign a receiver and a tight end, since they tried on Plaxico Burress, Smith and Boss. They didn't get any of those guys, nor did they sign anyone else who may have constituted a backup plan at either position. So doesn't that indicate that things didn't go according to plan?

    His answer indicated was no, the Giants didn't think they needed a receiver and a tight end, but rather that they wanted to try and sign those particular players, knowing all along that their backup plans were guys who were already on the roster.

    "Kevin Boss caught 35 balls for us last year," he said. "Travis Beckum is certainly a guy we expect could catch 35 balls for us this year."

    Sounds like sour grapes to me. But most Giants fans seem to believe in Reese and be willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. He could prove us all wrong and go out and win the division with this team that made no big moves while the Eagles were signing everyone in sight. There's enough talent on the Giants' roster to pull something like that off, assuming they get really, really, really lucky with injuries. I believe that.

    But I also believe Reese was far less prepared for some of the things that have happened to him and the Giants since the offseason began, and that the way some of these situations broke have left him exposed in key spots. He'll look good if all of the backups who got promoted perform the way he hopes they will. It's just that, from here, that looks like a lot more of an "if" than his brave face is making it out to be.

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