Sunday, July 31, 2011 Updated: August 1, 10:01 AM ET
Jilted Giants face major question marks
By Ohm Youngmisuk ESPNNewYork.com
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Osi Umenyiora slowly pedaled a stationary bike as he made his first public appearance at the New York Giants' practice facility Sunday night.
And just as the Giants were starting their second practice of the season with Umenyiora watching, Plaxico Burress was being introduced to the media on a conference call as a New York Jet.
On Sunday, the Giants lost one former star to the Jets as they tried to figure out what the deal is with another star who helped them win Super Bowl XLII.
The Giants are only two practices into training camp but there are a lot of question marks swirling around Tom Coughlin's team.
Start with Umenyiora, who has ended his holdout and has even spoken to Jerry Reese. However, all indications are that the defensive end still wants a new contract or to be traded. He also has yet to practice and his health is in question since Coughlin said Umenyiora was scheduled to meet with team doctor Russell Warren on Sunday afternoon and might not be cleared to practice.
Then there's free agents Ahmad Bradshaw, Steve Smith and Kevin Boss -- three starters who remained unsigned as of last night. And their first-round pick, Prince Amukamara, also missed his second straight practice while the Giants try to sign the cornerback.
One thing we do know is that Burress won't be reuniting with the Giants.
"It's disappointing," defensive end Justin Tuck said on the Ian O'Connor Show on ESPN New York 1050 on Sunday. "But for Plaxico it is a great opportunity for him to get back to playing football. Give the Jets credit. For the Giants, for us, it is moving forward now."
It certainly has not been the smoothest start to the 2011 training camp for the Giants. While some teams like the Eagles have made waves in free agency, the Giants have been in somewhat of a holding pattern.
So far, the Giants' biggest signings have been their re-signing of Mathias Kiwanuka and the addition of former San Francisco center David Baas.
Their biggest splash of free agency really has been the releasing of center Shaun O'Hara, guard Rich Seubert, tackle Shawn Andrews and losing Barry Cofield to the Redskins.
The Burress decision stings a bit since many Giants campaigned for him and it would have been nice to have Burress complement Hakeem Nicks against the Eagles' star-studded secondary featuring Nnamdi Asomugha.
But that will feel like a mosquito bite if the Giants lose Bradshaw, Smith and/or Boss this week. And even if they are able to re-sign all three, it still would be nice to see the Giants make another key free-agent move.
Osi Umenyiora (center) watched from the sideline at Giants camp Sunday.
Last season, the Giants won 10 games but really would have made the playoffs if they could have gotten out of their own way with turnovers, played better special teams and avoided one epic meltdown against the Eagles.
But this season, it appears that not only will the Giants have to play more disciplined football and cut down on the interceptions and fumbles, they'll also have to rely on a few unproven players.
On the offensive line, Baas will have to replace O'Hara and the chemistry the veteran center had with Manning with only one full season as the starting center in San Francisco. There also likely will be somebody new covering Manning's blindside as the Giants appear ready to hand the left tackle job over to Will Beatty, their 2009 second-round pick.
Defensively, the Giants hope a trio of second-round picks will plug some holes for them. Last year's second-rounder, Linval Joseph, and this year's second-round pick, Marvin Austin, will have to replace Cofield at defensive tackle.
And at linebacker, the position at which the Giants can use the most improvement, Clint Sintim, who is coming off ACL surgery last year, hopes to prove Reese was correct in using another 2009 second-round pick on the Virginia linebacker.
"With the opportunity to play a year ago, the extensive play time that a lot of these guys have had, this is going to be better," Coughlin said of his linebackers. "I think Jonathan Goff is going to be better, for example. Hopefully Sintim will stay on the field and be the player that we drafted him to be."
Only time will tell if Beatty, Sintim, Joseph and Austin will be upgrades at left tackle, linebacker and defensive tackle. But life certainly will be easier for them and the Giants if they can bring back their key free agents and add another veteran.
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The Giants are working on a contingency plan as they will bring in Atlanta running back Jason Snelling for a visit on Monday, according to a source, and also will take a look at former Cardinals tight Ben Patrick. Perhaps they'll take a look at free-agent running back Ronnie Brown, although the free-agent market does appear to be drying up for Bradshaw with Miami, Cincinnati and Washington all appearing set at running back now.
Burress also would have been nice to have in case Smith, if re-signed, isn't ready for the start of the season. There's no guarantee, as Smith is coming off microfracture knee surgery in December.
Reese is a man who always has a plan. By the end of the week, he could have a much better idea what his team will look like. Players such as Kiwanuka, Baas, running back Brandon Jacobs and punter Steve Weatherford will be allowed to start practice on Aug. 4 due to the transition rules.
And perhaps by the end of the week, the Umenyiora situation will clear up and Bradshaw, Smith and Boss will be rejoining their teammates. Until then, several questions remain about the Giants.
At least Tuck is still confident about his team.
"We still need to try our best to get our free agents, like a Boss, Steve Smith, Osi [Umenyiora, who wants a new contract] and Ahmad," Tuck said. "But no one really gave us a shot the year we won the Super Bowl. We like the situation. We really do."
"We feed off of it," he added about the talk being centered on the Eagles and Jets over the weekend. "I think we play better when we are backed into a corner. We like kind of being under the radar. You give the Philadelphia Eagles and the Jets credit. They got players they felt they needed. We will see what happens."