Print and Go Back ESPN.com: BlogsColumns [Print without images]

Thursday, June 14, 2012
Confident Coughlin closes camp

By Ohm Youngmisuk
ESPNNewYork.com

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Tom Coughlin needed only three minutes to deliver his final message to the New York Giants as they broke minicamp and headed off into the summer.

As always, Coughlin told his players to be safe and smart about what they do in the offseason. And he reminded his players to be committed toward entering training camp in terrific shape.

But Coughlin didn't spend too much time harping on it because the head coach is confident his team is ready to defend its world title.

Tom Coughlin
At the close of minicamp, Giants HC Tom Coughlin speaks of the "principles and values" that will carry the team forward.

"I certainly am [excited]," Coughlin said about starting the title defense. "You talk about the world champions. There are changes. There is no doubt about that. I like the way our team responded and finished the season. I have every confidence that they will come back just as inspired and want to play at their very best."

While the Giants did lose some key pieces like Mario Manningham and Brandon Jacobs in free agency, Coughlin's championship core is still very much intact. And as long as he can incorporate some new parts like rookie running back David Wilson, rookie receiver Rueben Randle and tight end Martellus Bennett -- and keep his defense healthy -- Coughlin could have another championship run in him.

In 2008, the last time they were coming off a Super Bowl victory, the Giants opened the season 11-1. But Plaxico Burress accidentally shot himself in the thigh and the Giants unraveled soon after with a quick exit in the playoffs.

Veterans like Justin Tuck and Eli Manning learned from that title defense and will apply the knowledge this season.

"We had a pretty successful team that year, but it is always about playing as a team," Tuck said. "As long as we do that, make sure we don't become selfish or bigheaded and thinking that we arrived and remember what we went through last year to get to that point of being Super Bowl champion, we will be fine.

"We got the talent," Tuck said. "Definitely got the coaching staff. Staying healthy is a big key. As long as we can control what we can control, we will be fine."

The Giants' formula for success remains the same. They will be driven by Manning and his dangerous receiving duo of Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz while being fueled by perhaps the NFL's most fearsome pass rush -- Tuck, Jason Pierre-Paul and Osi Umenyiora.

Offensively, Manning still has to find a new third receiver to replace Manningham, and the competition will heat up in camp among Domenik Hixon, Ramses Barden, Jerrel Jernigan and Randle.

The quarterback will have to find a new tight end for the second straight summer and work with an offensive line that has moved some parts around. But after seeing what Manning did last year with so many new pieces in a lockout-shortened period, the Giants don't have much concern about him leading the way.

The Giants' defense should be better, as their pass-rushing trio is surrounded by veterans like Corey Webster, Mathias Kiwanuka, Michael Boley, Chase Blackburn, Chris Canty, Antrel Rolle and Kenny Phillips, among others. Cornerback Terrell Thomas, who missed all of last season with a torn ACL, has returned and, if all goes well, will start opposite Webster.

Last year's top two draft picks, Prince Amukamara and Marvin Austin, should see more playing time. And the Giants hope the addition of outside linebacker Keith Rivers will help as well.

The Giants remain a very confident group, filled with the type of resolution that can only come from winning their last six games of the 2011 season.

"We are a very confident bunch, and we believe in ourselves and know when we go out and play football the way we are supposed to play it, we can play with any team," Tuck said. "I know a lot of people made headlines about our [tough] schedule. We look forward to that. For us, we look at it as pressure not busting pipes but making us excel."

Perhaps that is why Coughlin didn't need to overdo it when addressing his team for the final time before next month's training camp. He senses that his players get it already.

"The big key for our team is the bridging of all those values and principles that we carried forward from 7-7 [last year] on," Coughlin said. "If we play with harmony, all three phases like we are capable of and we carry these things over -- there are multiple, multiple areas that we can improve in, but if we can make considerable improvement in those areas, we'll be representative."