NFL Nation: Michael Boley

Bengals practice without TE Gresham

November, 8, 2013
CINCINNATI -- For the second straight day, the Cincinnati Bengals practiced without tight end Jermaine Gresham. As the rest of the team went through its Friday walkthrough, he was sidelined once again with a bad groin.

But don't expect that to mean he'll miss any time this weekend when the Bengals travel to Baltimore to play the Ravens. According to coach Marvin Lewis, Gresham is "good."

"He should be fine," Lewis said. "We just had to put him at ease."

Added Lewis about Gresham's injury in common weather-related vernacular: "[He's] partly sunny."

Officially, Gresham is listed as questionable on the injury report released Friday.

He apparently suffered the injury in last Thursday's 22-20 overtime loss at Miami. After being given all of last weekend off, the Bengals didn't have their first full practice of this week until Wednesday. Although participating in a limited capacity, Gresham was out there with the rest of his teammates. It wasn't until Thursday that he ended up not practicing at all, joining a pair of others.

Defensive tackle Devon Still and linebacker Rey Maualuga missed another workout Friday as they continue to get through serious elbow and knee injuries, respectively. Still was hurt three games ago in Cincinnati's 27-24 win at Detroit. Maualuga left the next week suffering an MCL sprain and a concussion in the 49-9 win over the New York Jets. Both are trying to come back sooner, but it's likely they won't return until Dec. 1, when the Bengals come off a bye by playing at San Diego. Their only games before the bye are Sunday's and next week's home contest against the Browns.

If Gresham misses this weekend's game, it will be the first that he hasn't appeared in since 2011. He didn't play in two contests that year due to a hamstring injury.

While Lewis is confident they will have Gresham, if his offense has to play without the fourth-year standout, more opportunities likely would fall into rookie Tyler Eifert's lap. The Notre Dame product has 27 receptions for 301 yards and a touchdown this season. By comparison, Gresham has 33 receptions for 321 yards and a score in Cincinnati's offense that often features two-tight end sets. Without Gresham, the Bengals could move Orson Charles back into more traditional tight end sets, although he has mostly been featured as an H-back and fullback at times this season.

Here is the rest of the Bengals' injury report that includes running back Giovani Bernard's status as being questionable, following a rib injury he suffered at Miami last week:

DT Devon Still (elbow)
LB Rey Maualuga (knee)

OG Kevin Zeitler (hamstring -- full practice participation; was limited all week previously)

RB Giovani Bernard (ribs -- limited practice participation)
TE Jermaine Gresham (groin -- did not practice)

LB Michael Boley (hamstring -- did not practice; had been limited all week)
CINCINNATI -- If you're a Cincinnati Bengals fan and you enjoyed watching Giovani Bernard's zig-zagging, tackle-breaking 35-yard touchdown run at Miami last week, good news. There is a chance you could see another one this weekend when the Bengals visit Baltimore.

Eight days after leaving in the fourth quarter of Cincinnati's 22-20 overtime loss to the Dolphins with a rib injury, Bernard returned to practice Wednesday, a clear indication the rookie running back will be in uniform for this Sunday's division clash with the Ravens.

Wednesday's workout was the Bengals' first full session since the midweek loss. It came after a walkthrough and meetings on Monday, and a league-mandated day off Tuesday. Bernard was listed as having participated in a limited capacity. During his news conference Friday, coach Marvin Lewis said he believed Bernard would be healthy enough to compete this weekend. The injury scare, it seems, has subsided.

Along with Bernard's presence, the Bengals also were graced with a practice appearance from linebacker Michael Boley, who was inactive last week due to a hamstring injury. He was listed as having had limited practice participation.

While Boley and Bernard went through the practice, the Bengals were without veteran offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth and defensive tackle Devon Still and linebacker Rey Maualuga. Whitworth was out all last week with a knee injury, but was listed on Wednesday's injury report as out dealing with a non-injury related issue. He likely will miss each Wednesday practice from here on, as the Bengals try to give the eight-year veteran at least one practice off each week. He was outside with the team Wednesday observing drills during the rainy open practice period.

Still is in his third week trying to recover from an elbow injury first sustained in the 27-24 Week 7 win at Detroit. As much as he wants to play this week, he isn't banking on it happening.

"I think I need more time than just Sunday," he said. "I'm not trying to hold myself back from coming back too soon. I trust the advice that the people give me in the training room. When they say I'm ready to come back out there and play, then I'm going to come back out there and play. Right now, I'm just trying to focus on whatever I can to get my arm back to 100 percent."

Maualuga, who was hurt two games ago against the New York Jets, has been simultaneously fighting through a knee and head injury. The crutches he sported in the locker room last week have been ditched. Still, he has been expected to miss another two to three weeks with his MCL sprain.

Here's the Bengals' full injury report for Wednesday:

LB Rey Maualuga (knee/concussion)
OT Andrew Whitworth (non-injury related)
DT Devon Still (elbow)

RB Giovani Bernard (ribs)
LB Michael Boley (hamstring)
OG Kevin Zeitler (hamstring)
TE Jermaine Gresham (groin)

Whitworth among Bengals' inactives

October, 31, 2013
MIAMI -- The injury-weary Cincinnati Bengals came into Thursday night's game against the Miami Dolphins battered and bruised and hoping that at least two of their banged-up starters might actually be able to play.

One was, one wasn't.

Less than two hours before kickoff, the Bengals announced that Pro Bowl left offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth was among a group of inactives that also included linebackers Rey Maualuga and Michael Boley. Maualuga's inactive status had already been announced when he was declared out on Wednesday's injury report. Boley, who was fighting through a hamstring injury during this short week, had been hoping to play.

The other injured starter whose playing status was in doubt much of the week was receiver Mohamed Sanu. He didn't practice the first days of the week after trying to get over a shoulder injury suffered in last Sunday's 49-9 win over the New York Jets. He ended up being declared active after warming up before the game alongside other receivers, like Andrew Hawkins, who had been on the injured reserve list until Thursday morning. Hawkins, along with Ryan Whalen, will be active for the game.

In place of Whitworth, the Bengals will start backup tackle Anthony Collins. The reserve will be making his 20th career start and second of the season. Collins started against the Chicago Bears in Week 1, drawing the difficult task of keeping Pro Bowl defensive end Julius Peppers out of the backfield. He did his job. Peppers didn't record a sack.

In place of Maualuga, the Bengals will start Vincent Rey at middle linebacker. This will be his second career start.

Along with Maualuga's injury -- one that is expected to keep the linebacker out three to four weeks -- the Bengals also lost defensive back Taylor Mays for the season with a shoulder injury suffered in Sunday's game. Earlier this week, he joined defensive tackle Devon Still and cornerback Leon Hall as being declared out.

Here is the full list of inactives for both teams:

Bengals: LB Rey Maualuga, RB Rex Burkhead, CB Chris Lewis-Harris, LB Michael Boley, C Trevor Robinson, DT Devon Still, OT Andrew Whitworth

Dolphins: QB Pat Devlin, RB Mike Gillislee, CB Will Davis, OG Danny Watkins, OG Dallas Thomas, OT Jonathan Martin, TE Dion Sims

CINCINNATI -- All of a sudden, depth has become a concern for the Cincinnati Bengals.

Just this time two weeks ago, everything seemed fine on the injury front. The entire 53-man roster was in great shape. The Bengals were being lauded for their rather stunning health.

Yes, there were some bruises, to be sure. There were nicks and scrapes and bumps and discomfort, but overall, whatever issues individual players had were so minor that shots, painkillers and mental toughness were enough to keep them on the field.

That isn't the case now. The injury bug that had been doing such a great job avoiding Paul Brown Stadium can no longer stay away. Now it's taken up residence inside the Bengals' locker room, and doesn't appear to be leaving anytime soon.

On the same day ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter reported that linebacker Rey Maualuga would be out three to four weeks with an MCL sprain, the Bengals listed defensive back Taylor Mays as out on their first injury report of the short week. Mays will miss Thursday night's game at Miami, joining cornerback Leon Hall and defensive tackle Devon Still.

Maualuga, however, was not ruled out, even though he (and Mays) did not practice Monday. Maualuga left in the first half of Sunday's 49-9 win over the New York Jets with a knee injury and concussion. Even if the knee injury wasn't as bad as Schefter is reporting, the linebacker would have had a difficult time getting back on the field five days after a concussion.

Mays' right shoulder injury came on the final play of the first half.

Hall was lost for the year with an Achilles tear last week, but has not yet been put on injured reserve. No timeline has been provided for Still's injury, but he will be missing his second straight game after suffering an elbow injury against Detroit last week.

The timing of Mays' departure from the lineup, coupled with Maualuga's likely long-term injury, couldn't be worse. It creates a little uncertainty for the Bengals, who now have to move players around throughout the secondary to fill the gaps that have formed. If Maualuga is included, the Bengals would be down three key pieces of their secondary, including Hall and Mays. A versatile back-end defender, Mays has played some nickel linebacker this year and would have been a logical option to play more of that role this week to accommodate for Maualuga's absence at middle linebacker. Vontaze Burfict, who occupies one of the outside spots, would be able to play some at the Mike position in place of Maualuga if need be.

Since that scenario won't be able to take place, the Bengals likely will work some combination of Vincent Rey, Michael Boley and Jayson DiManche into the inside linebacker spot. It could even end up being just Rey and DiManche. Although there's little reason to indicate he won't play right now, Boley did appear on the did not participate portion of Monday's walk-through.

The Bengals have to be happy the Dolphins don't have an offense that mirrors theirs schematically. Unlike Cincinnati, Miami doesn't work a two-tight end set that often. For that reason, the nickel linebacker responsibilities and any other linebacker coverage responsibilities might not end up having the same necessity that they have had in past weeks. In an effort to not only match the Dolphins' wideout personnel, but also to meet their own depth concerns, the Bengals' nickel could end up resembling more of a dime setup, with an extra cornerback coming into the game.

As far as roster moves are concerned, it isn't likely any major ones will take shape before Thursday. As much as Cincinnati would like to add to its depth and bring in new bodies, three days simply isn't enough time for a brand new linebacker to come in, learn coordinator Mike Zimmer's complex defense and contribute. The only real change that appears like a distinct possibility is moving of linebacker J.K. Schaffer off the practice squad and onto the game roster. If that happens, the Cincinnati native would have a chance to play in his second career game. He played on special teams in the Week 2 home opener against Pittsburgh.

Regardless what moves the Bengals end up making, the fact remains: They are hurting.

For their aching, beat-up bodies, this weekend and its three straight off days couldn't come fast enough.

Here is Monday's full injury report:

CB Leon Hall (Achilles)
DB Taylor Mays (shoulder)
DT Devon Still (elbow)

LB Rey Maualuga (knee/concussion)
LB Michael Boley (hamstring)
WR Mohamed Sanu (shoulder)
OT Andrew Whitworth (knee)

RB Rex Burkhead (hamstring)
DE Wallace Gilberry (groin)

Bengals to try out Michael Boley at LB

September, 9, 2013
CINCINNATI -- Former New York Giants and Atlanta Falcons linebacker Michael Boley is heading to Cincinnati for a tryout with the Bengals, a source told ESPN's Adam Schefter on Monday.

With the Bengals in need of an outside linebacker due to injury woes that popped up at the end of preseason camp, the tryout makes sense.

A ninth-year player out of Southern Mississippi, Boley spent the last four seasons in New York before battling an off-field legal matter this offseason. He was charged with child abuse in May, marking the second time in two years that he had incurred such a charge. While playing for the Falcons, Boley also was arrested on domestic violence charges in 2008 for allegedly beating his wife. Even though the prosecutor didn't pursue those charges, he was suspended from the first game of the following season for violating the NFL's player conduct policy.

Boley played in all 16 of the Giants' games last season, starting in 11 of them. He had 64 total tackles and three interceptions in those games. He also deflected four passes and recovered two fumbles.

Bengals coach Marvin Lewis tried to laugh off a question during his Monday afternoon news conference that referenced a potential roster tweak in the coming days that might include Boley's addition.

"You guys and your reports," Lewis said, laughing, before adding, "you're correct in everything you said, but we'll see what happens."

This is the second time in as many weeks Cincinnati has tried out a player at the position. Last week, Thomas Howard and Tyrone McKenzie were tested at outside linebacker as the Bengals tried to shore up their depth following Emmanuel Lamur's season-ending injury that occurred in the preseason finale.

After being forced to use a pair of timeouts on the same fourth-quarter drive in Sunday's season opening loss to Chicago, the Bengals are looking for a solution to shifting in personnel at the Will and Nickel linebacker positions. Simple miscommunication was said to be the culprit in the use of the timeouts. It ended up proving costly, as Cincinnati was out of timeouts in the final eight minutes of the three-point game.
Ohm Youngmisuk has this from New York Giants camp on safety Antrel Rolle, who has shown an impressive ability to pick his spots as his own type of leader during his time with the Giants, and understands that he might have to pick more of them this season:
Already considered one of the most respected veterans, Rolle realizes the Giants will be looking to him to help replace the leadership lost in the locker room, with Ahmad Bradshaw, Osi Umenyiora, Michael Boley, Chris Canty, Chase Blackburn and Kenny Phillips all gone.

"I understand pretty much what it takes to be a leader a whole lot more this year, for whatever reason," Rolle, entering his fourth season with the Giants, said at the end of minicamp in June. "I think there are natural-born leaders. Some people try to adapt to it. I know I'm a natural-born leader."

I like Rolle as a locker-room guy for the Giants, and I think the fact that he's an unconventionally strong locker-room guy adds to his appeal. The standout moment came of course in the locker room following the loss to the Rex Grossman Redskins that dropped the Giants to 7-7 in 2011. That was the day Rolle made his comment about how guys who had nagging injuries might need to start practicing through them -- a comment that some of the more traditionally acknowledged locker-room leaders later admitted spurred them to action. But in a room filled with proud veterans, Rolle's approach to speaking up and picking his spots as a leader is appreciated, and he's probably right that he'll get (and should take) more opportunities this season.

My questions with Rolle this season are on-field ones -- specifically, what kind of player can he be in the absence of Kenny Phillips. When Phillips couldn't play last season, the answer to that question wasn't a great one for Rolle. He'll have to adjust his game this offseason knowing that Phillips won't be back (since he's with the Eagles now), and it remains to be seen whether the Giants' plans at safety will allow Rolle to settle into one comfortable spot rather than switching off roles with his opposite number as he and Phillips did so well. It's possible they'll just uncomplicate things and that Rolle will thrive, or that he'll step up his game with Phillips gone and lead a secondary that has to play better than it did last season.

What's certain is that this is a big, prove-it year for Rolle, as it is for Justin Tuck and David Diehl and some other championship-tested Giants vets. Rolle's salary-cap number is getting prohibitive, and unless he plays like a star this season, it's going to be tough for the Giants to keep him for 2014.

Giants keep breaking up the band

March, 28, 2013
News overnight Wednesday included the official (and long-expected) signing of Osi Umenyiora with the Falcons and the signing of Chase Blackburn with the Panthers. Neither of these New York Giants Super Bowl heroes had been expected back in 2013, and it does not appear the Giants made any real effort to keep either one. That's the way the Giants roll when it comes to players -- they look forward and not back. But it's worth a moment to stop and consider the changes they've seen in a little over a year.

It's been less than 14 months since the Giants beat the Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI, and 22 of the 45 players who played for them in that game are no longer on the roster. Another -- cornerback Aaron Ross -- left for a year and came back. This is the list of the 22:
  1. DE Osi Umenyiora
  2. LB Chase Blackburn
  3. RB Ahmad Bradshaw
  4. RB Brandon Jacobs
  5. RB D.J. Ware
  6. WR Mario Manningham
  7. TE Jake Ballard
  8. TE Travis Beckum
  9. OT Kareem McKenzie
  10. G Mitch Petrus
  11. OT Tony Ugoh
  12. WR Devin Thomas
  13. K Lawrence Tynes
  14. CB Will Blackmon
  15. LB Michael Boley
  16. S Kenny Phillips
  17. S Deon Grant
  18. DT Rocky Bernard (still a free agent, could return)
  19. DT Chris Canty
  20. DE Dave Tollefson
  21. CB Derrick Martin
  22. LB Greg Jones

Some fairly significant names in there, and while I don't think any of their departures represents a bad or ill-considered decision on the team's part, I just felt like it was worth looking back and assessing the turnover in light of the Umenyiora and Blackburn departures.

This is the way things work in the NFL. The Super Bowl champion Ravens have turned over basically their whole defense, and their title was less than two months ago. So the Giants haven't been gutted or pillaged or anything like that. They view their roster as an organic, constantly evolving entity, and they're not going to hold onto guys they shouldn't keep just because those guys helped win them a Super Bowl (or, in some cases, two). Some of these players will be missed, others will not, but if the Giants get back to the Super Bowl again in the next couple of years, the team is going to have a much different look at many positions than it did in the Super Bowl they won just last year.
Looking to add to their depth at linebacker, the New York Giants will bring back Keith Rivers, who played 11 games for them in 2012 after they acquired him from the Bengals last offseason.

Injuries have been Rivers' problem, in Cincinnati and again in New York, but another problem he had in 2012 was that the Giants didn't have an obvious place to play him. His position was the same one Michael Boley was playing in the Giants' defense, so when Boley was on the field they had to use Rivers in something of a utility linebacker role, and he didn't help much.

Boley's gone now, though, and the Giants' linebacking corps has very little experience on it. It's possible Rivers could simply take Boley's place, though it's also possible they're looking at Jacquian Williams for that role. As was the case last year, the Giants appear to be bringing in Rivers to give themselves as many options as possible for solving their annual issues at linebacker.

What they really need is a middle linebacker, as Chase Blackburn seems set on testing the market. Rivers is not that, and it's unclear what the Giants' plans are for that spot if Blackburn leaves. They like Mark Herzlich, but he didn't show much when given a chance to fill in for Blackburn last year. They have shown interest so far in Jasper Brinkley and Rey Maualuga among free-agent linebackers, and it appears as though they'll have some good linebacker options available to them with the 19th pick in next month's draft if they decide they want to go in that direction.

The Giants don't tend to prioritize the linebacker position, though, so I'd think it's likely they'll continue to work to patch it with mid-range options they find on the market for good prices or with some of their young internal inventory. And who knows? If he can stay healthy for a change, maybe Rivers turns out to be part of the 2013 answer.

Who's next to go for Giants?

February, 26, 2013
David Diehl is a 10-year NFL veteran who knows how the system works. And as he told Tom Rock of Newsday, he's aware that he could be the next New York Giants veteran to be released in advance of free agency:
"The thing you realize at an early age is that as an NFL player you have an expiration date on you and it comes with a price tag," the offensive lineman said Tuesday. "That's the way that it always goes. Nothing has been said to me yet, but that's all things you can't control. The only things you can control are the way you prepare each and every day, getting myself healthy, and whenever that comes about we'll deal with it. But as of now, nothing has been said."

Diehl, who will turn 33 in September and is preparing for his 11th NFL season, is due to earn a base salary of $4.475 million in 2013. It is the last year of his contract with the Giants. If the team signs free agents-to-be Will Beatty and Kevin Boothe and thinks that James Brewer is ready to take over at right tackle, there may not be room in the starting lineup for Diehl. And therefore, there may not be room on the roster for him and his salary.

Diehl's last couple of seasons haven't been his best, though he did play left tackle during the Giants' run to their Super Bowl title in 2011-12. He struggled at right tackle this year and lost playing time to Sean Locklear, and Pro Football Focus graded him out as the 60th-best tackle in the league for the 2012 season. The salary number is high for a 32-year-old who's shown signs of decline.

Yet, the Giants value Diehl for his versatility (he can play any position on the line) and could decide, for a lesser price, to keep him around as a backup even if Brewer or someone else takes over at right tackle. So don't assume Diehl's a slam-dunk to be cut just because you think he should be.

Same with cornerback Corey Webster and his $7 million salary. Webster played poorly in 2012 but very well in 2011, and the Giants don't have any obvious in-house options to replace him if he leaves. They probably can't carry him at that number, but the fact that he and Diehl weren't cut in the purge that sent away Ahmad Bradshaw, Chris Canty and Michael Boley a few weeks ago indicates that the team considers their cases more complex.

The Giants right now appear to be evaluating the situations with their own free agents, especially Beatty, and if costs get too high for the guys they decide to keep, that could impact what they do with some of the pricier veterans.

What should Giants do at linebacker?

February, 12, 2013
At the risk of burning a valuable Wednesday breakfast link (and nobody likes burned breakfast links), I refer you this Tuesday afternoon to Ohm's latest installment of his position-by-position New York Giants analysis. This one is on linebackers, that perpetually vexing position at which the Giants always seem to be looking for answers. With Michael Boley already cut, Keith Rivers and Chase Blackburn set to be free agents and Mathias Kiwanuka potentially moving back up to the defensive line to replace free agent Osi Umenyiora, the Giants' linebacker corps could look at lot different in 2013:
Blackburn knows Perry Fewell’s defense perhaps better than anyone and Rivers, when healthy, can do some similar things to Boley. Jacquian Williams should be in line for a bigger role with Boley’s departure and could start. And Spencer Paysinger and Mark Herzlich could be in store for more opportunities as well. The Giants could add another veteran linebacker in free agency and perhaps draft one as well.

Salary cap situation: The Giants cleared some cap space by releasing Boley. Blackburn and Rivers are free agents but the Giants could look into bringing either or both back for cheap. While the Giants could sign a veteran free agent linebacker, it might be a bit of a surprise if brass went after a high-priced free agent. And while the Giants could draft a linebacker in April, Jerry Reese usually uses his first-round picks on other areas of the defense, especially defensive line.

Ohm's obviously hit the nail on the head there at the end. The Giants don't prioritize linebacker, and it remains to be seen who from that Williams/Paysinger/Herzlich group that all came into the league together in 2011 will be a long-term contributor. Williams has shown the most, standing out in particular during the Super Bowl run last year, but he had injury problems in 2012. Herzlich didn't show much in short stints in relief of Blackburn in 2012, but the team retains high hopes for him. I wouldn't be surprised to see Blackburn return, and if they do move Kiwanuka back up to the line full-time they'll have more room for Rivers if they want him back. But as for potential free-agent or draft targets, your guess is as good as mine. I have to believe Reese and his staff are more focused on making sure the pass rush stays strong.
Thoughtful piece here from Paul Schwartz, with the help of former New York Giants tackle Luke Petitgout, on the Giants' preference for parting ways with players before those players lose their effectiveness. At the end of the week in which the Giants cut two-time Super Bowl-winning running back Ahmad Bradshaw, as well as linebacker Michael Boley and defensive tackle Chris Canty, Petitgout remembers his own experience and sees it reflected in what's going on now:
“The Giants are a family,’’ Petitgout said. “It’s something tough to accept, like when a girlfriend dumps you. They know when your time is up. Some guys may buck the trend and have a good couple years after that but if you’ve been there a long time, they know your medical history, they know your aches and pains, they usually make the right decision. I basically had a time bomb in my back and when I went to Tampa it went off. The Giants knew what they were doing.’’
[+] EnlargeAhmad Bradshaw
Jim O'Connor/USA TODAY SportsThe Giants parted ways this week with Ahmad Bradshaw, who was their leading rusher the past three seasons.
It cannot have been easy for GM Jerry Reese to say goodbye to Bradshaw, who played through significant pain to help deliver the team's Super Bowl title last year. But between Bradshaw's salary and the chronic foot injuries that kept him from practicing during the week or playing at full strength on Sundays, the Giants believed it was the right thing to do. It's not the first time they've cut a player while he was still an effective producer for them, and if Bradshaw's best days are behind him, it won't be the first time the Giants cut a still-productive player just in time:
Reese is rarely wrong. As a former scout, his eye for talent isn’t confined to youngsters. Steve Smith and Kevin Boss haven’t done a thing and haven’t stayed healthy. He traded away Jeremy Shockey. He did not re-sign Brandon Jacobs, Derrick Ward or Amani Toomer. He cut Shaun O'Hara, Rich Seubert and Kareem McKenzie. He didn’t think Antonio Pierce's neck was sound enough to continue playing. He passed on bringing back Plaxico Burress. In the same purge that caught Petitgout, Reese also jettisoned Carlos Emmons and LaVar Arrington. Did any of these players prove Reese wrong?

Pretty amazing list. Combine this idea with what we wrote about here Thursday -- the Giants' organizational belief in developing young players in their system so they're ready to take over when it's time for the veterans to go -- and it's easy to see that Reese has a definite plan and is sticking to it. Will it work? No way to know. If the Giants are in something of a rebuild mode, they're going to need many of their young players to be as good as the team thought they'd be when it drafted them. And not even Reese, with all of his track record, can predict how players are going to play. The point is, even as things change with the Giants and people come and go, it's still easy to see the consistency with which they operate, and it has served them well.
David Wilson and Jacquian WilliamsUSA TODAY SportsThe Giants hope players like David Wilson, left, and Jacquian Williams are ready for starting roles.
New York Giants general manager Jerry Reese has a reputation as a shrewd handler of the NFL draft. We are about to find out whether he deserves it.

Reese himself would tell you that the Giants look at the draft in a very specific way. They do not view it as an annual opportunity to make big-splash, instant-impact additions to the following season's team. The Giants use the draft as a means of crafting and maintaining a deep roster that can regenerate itself with players who have spent time developing in their system.

The cuts this week of championship mainstays Ahmad Bradshaw, Michael Boley and Chris Canty signal a time of such regeneration. The Giants make these moves -- and likely more cuts to come -- with the hope that the replacements for these players are already in their locker room. The extent to which that turns out to be the case will help determine just how good Reese's past few drafts have been.

The likely replacements for Bradshaw are David Wilson (first round, 2012) and Andre Brown (fourth round, 2009). Assuming they re-sign Brown coming off his broken leg, they'll find out whether that tandem can effect a smooth transition from the Bradshaw/Brandon Jacobs era at running back. Brown is a guy to whom they kept giving chances until he blossomed as a power runner in 2012. Wilson is the guy they said was at the top of their running back board in last year's draft. Were they telling the truth? Or did Tampa Bay outfox them by trading up to steal Doug Martin one pick earlier? It appears as though Wilson will get a good chance in 2013 to show whether he was indeed the right man for the Giants job.

Canty is a tough loss in the middle of the defensive line. And while Linval Joseph (second round, 2010) has already proved himself a reliable starter at defensive tackle, the Giants will hope this is the year that Marvin Austin (second round, 2011) blossoms into the interior pass-rusher they envisioned when they drafted him off his suspension season at North Carolina. That Austin pick has a chance to look really good if the young man rebounds from the two years in which he didn't see the field, but if he doesn't, the Giants will need to find more depth at that position.

Boley's most likely replacement at outside linebacker is Jacquian Williams (sixth round, 2011), who was a big help during the the most recent Super Bowl run and now likely gets a chance to show what he can do as an NFL starter. The Giants don't place a very high priority on the linebacker position, and if Williams blossoms as a starter out of the sixth round, he'll make that particular part of their strategy look pretty good.

There are other spots at which change is or could be coming. The Giants are almost certain to bid farewell, for instance, to defensive end Osi Umenyiora. And while Jason Pierre-Paul (first round, 2010) might already have taken Umenyiora's starting job, the Giants are eager to learn whether Pierre-Paul can be the relentless quarterback predator he was in 2011 and anchor their pass rush for years to come, or whether his more pedestrian 2012 season is what they should expect.

If they cut cornerback Corey Webster, is Prince Amukamara (first round, 2011) ready to cover the other team's No. 1 wide receiver on a regular basis? And is Jayron Hosley (third round, 2012) good enough to be a starter, or is he just a nickel corner? Can Rueben Randle (second round, 2012) and/or Jerrel Jernigan (third round, 2011) emerge as a playmaker and help make their wide receiver decisions on Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz less pressure-packed? Is tackle James Brewer (fourth round, 2011) ready to take his role as part of the offensive line rebuild?

Lots of questions with many potential answers for the Giants as they begin what appears to be an offseason makeover of some significance. This is the way they like to operate -- stocking their roster with talented young players they like, and working to help them be ready when opportunity arrives. It's why they believe in continuity on the coaching staff, and why they believe they can spend to the cap each year without having to pound the free-agent market too hard.

It is possible that the answers to the Giants' roster questions lie in the early and middle rounds of these past few drafts, and if they do, Reese's reputation as a master of the draft will be fortified by on-field results. If they do not, the Giants might find themselves in the uncomfortable position of having to alter their strategy and find some quick fixes for their holes next offseason. Reese and the Giants generally received high marks for the drafts they had in recent years. But with all of these veterans headed out of town, now's the time when we find out just how good those drafts really were.

Bradshaw, Canty latest Giants cuts

February, 6, 2013

Today's cuts cannot have been easy for the New York Giants, who are quite fond of running back Ahmad Bradshaw but apparently could not stomach the idea of paying him $3.75 million this year and $4 million in 2014 when his feet keep needing surgery. Per our man Adam Schefter, the Giants informed Bradshaw on Wednesday that he was being released.

Jenny Vrentas of The Star-Ledger also reports that defensive tackle Chris Canty has been released. Canty was due $6.25 million this year and $6.5 million in 2014.

The Giants need cap money to attempt to re-sign several of their own free agents, including safety Kenny Phillips, offensive linemen Will Beatty and Kevin Boothe and, with Bradshaw gone, probably running back Andre Brown. There are other cuts on the horizon, with veteran offensive lineman David Diehl and cornerback Corey Webster remaining as possible cap casualties as the Giants undergo something of a roster overhaul at the start of this offseason. They cut linebacker Michael Boley on Tuesday.

I think Bradshaw finds work somewhere. He's still one of the most complete running backs in the league -- a power back with good vision who's as good at blitz pickup as anyone in the NFL. The concern is that his feet can't stay healthy, and his latest surgery is going to keep him out for the next couple of months. Look for someone to give him a shot come training camp. Canty can surely help someone as well, as be brings interior pass rush along with his run-stopping ability, but not for that kind of salary.

The Giants will hope to fill in with younger players they've been working on developing, with someone like Marvin Austin perhaps moving up to a larger role at defensive tackle. Second-year running back David Wilson, along with Brown, is likely to see an increased workload with Bradshaw gone, though you can expect the Giants to add at that position as well, since they believe it's important to have quality depth there.

Much more on this to come, obviously, as the Giants are slashing and appear on the cusp of a very interesting offseason.
It might be disappointing for New York Giants fans who recall the contribution linebacker Michael Boley made to their 2011-12 Super Bowl run, but it is not a surprise that the Giants released Boley on Tuesday. He did not start any of their final three games in 2012 and, after a serious dropoff in performance, saw a reduction in playing time as the season went along. He was due $4.25 million in 2013 and the Giants have (a) salary-cap concerns, and (b) young linebackers they believe should be ready for more playing time. Jacquian Williams jumps out as the player most likely to take over Boley's role.

Last month, ESPN's John Clayton wrote that the Giants were expected to be about $4.7 million over this year's projected salary cap. In order to clear the room they'll need to try and re-sign players such as Kenny Phillips, Will Beatty and Kevin Boothe, and pursue upgrades elsewhere on the roster, they are likely to cut some more veterans this offseason. Possibilities range from cornerback Corey Webster to defensive tackle Chris Canty to offensive lineman David Diehl and even, possibly to core players such as running back Ahmad Bradshaw and defensive end Justin Tuck, though those last two seem unlikely.

With all of the linebackers the Giants brought in as rookies in 2011 about to head into their third seasons, the writing was on the wall for Boley. But he could be just the first of many familiar Giants faces who end up looking elsewhere for work this offseason.

Boley's playing time a sign of future?

December, 27, 2012
New York Giants linebacker Michael Boley says he's "a little bit" frustrated with the reduced playing time that's resulted from the many injuries he's had this year. A vital part of last year's Giants Super Bowl run, Boley is one of many players on the defensive side of the ball that's got to be wondering what the future holds for him in New York after the terrible way the past two weeks have gone. Per the New York Daily News:
Against Baltimore, he played only 25% of the defensive snaps, despite the fact that the Giants often used four linebackers at once. On Monday, Tom Coughlin had called Boley's reduction in playing time "a cumulative health thing," hinting that the back, hip and hamstring issues the linebacker dealt with all season had compromised his ability.

Boley said Wednesday that those issues "could have" been a factor, and he admitted that 2012 has not been "how I would like it to be." But he added that he's "still here, still playing," and that he felt he could have been effective on Sunday, especially since "at this time of year, nobody is 100%."

People have started to ask me whether the Giants would make major changes this offseason, especially if they don't get the four results they need Sunday and miss the playoffs. My answer is that I don't think the Giants have had those discussions yet, since I think they've been caught off-guard by the swift tumble this team has taken from first place to third place in such a short period of time.

But looking at a guy like Boley who's banged up, a guy like Justin Tuck who's not himself, a guy like Osi Umenyiora who seems eager for free agency, a guy like Corey Webster who's had a rough year... you start to wonder if next year's Giants defense could have a drastically different look from this year's and from the one that won last year's Super Bowl.

Sweeping offseason changes would be out of character for the Giants, but the team's decision-makers could, in a few days' time, be evaluating a roster that's missed the playoffs in three of the past four years. And that's the kind of thing that can change a team's opinion of itself.

The Giants expected to elevate their level of play this year to that of the elite teams in the league, using their Super Bowl experience to add consistency and reliability and not have to live on the edge as much as they did in 2011. Their inability to do that takes nothing away from last season's accomplishment, but it might underline for those in charge of building and maintaining the roster the idea that they're not what they hoped they'd be. And whether that means more reductions in playing time for some of their old reliable veterans or wholesale roster changes, you can believe the Giants will be looking at many different options.