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Ten Giant(s) Questions

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Ten Giant(s) Questions

Post  Big_Pete on Mon Jul 25, 2011 1:02 am

Ten Giant(s) Questions
07/24/2011 | Author Pat Traina

Psst…guess what?

Yep, that long, frustrating drought known as the lockout which shut down the league’s activities for more than four months was finally laid to rest – hopefully with cement shoes so that the NFL’s loyal following NEVER has to go through this again.

If you’ve been starving for football news, then brace yourself. You’re going to be bombarded in the days and weeks ahead to where even annoying stories such as the Brett Favre watch will be a much welcome topic to read about.

If all goes well with the players’ upcoming vote, training camps will be starting soon and there won’t be much time (thankfully) to dwell on the Favre watch, not with free agency expected to run alongside of camp.

So with that said, here is my annual list of what I think are the most pressing questions facing the Giants this year.

1. Which free agents will be back?

The Giants are set to have about 15 unrestricted free agents. While that seems like a lot, in reality, the team is probably eye-balling just 3-4 of them, including:

  • RB Ahmad Bradshaw, who I think will return despite agent Drew Rosenhaus’ attempt to drum up interest with Miami
  • TE Kevin Boss , who should return based on league-wide supply and demand – not many starting tight end spots seem to be available around the league, so if he wants to be paid like a starter, the Giants probably represent his best chance
  • WR Steve Smith, who I think will be back with the Giants despite concerns about his knee because if he’s far enough along in his rehab to where he could participate in a limited basis at the start of camp, a two-year contract wouldn’t be shocking)
  • DE Mathias Kiwanuka, whose neck remains a red flag but who, after having been cleared by the doctors to return, should befit from the reduced padded practices and fewer contact opportunities that the new CBA calls for.

Meanwhile, you can probably say good-bye to DT Barry Cofield (Marvin Austin and Linval Joseph are waiting in the wings), LB Keith Bulluck (he’s said in the past that he believes he can be the play maker he was in Tennessee); and S Deon Grant (I got the impression he was unhappy not being a starter, but being the professional he is, he kept his mouth shut and performed well).

2. What kind of an effect will the reduced contact/pad practice schedule have on the quality of football?
That remains to be seen, and quite frankly, it’s a concern I have considering that there was no football activities all spring.

I’ve talked to players in the past who were injured about the challenges of not being on the field, and if they’re missing anything by sitting idly by and into participating in the practices, and all have said that not being able to practice at an up-tempo speed can hurt one’s timing.

In this case, they’ll be able to practice, but on days when pads aren’t allowed, the pace of the practice will be more like a walk through. However, it remains to be seen if teams will be able to work out in helmets and shells — that matter hasn’t been clarified in information released to the public so far.

3. What will the starting offensive line look like?
The Giants might very well gotten the last ounce of juice from the incumbent group of David Diehl, Rich Seubert, Shaun O’Hara, Chris Snee, and Kareem McKenzie.

Seubert has been diligently rehabbing from a serious knee injury suffered in January and there are some who believe he might begin camp on PUP.

Meanwhile general manager Jerry Reese expressed a desire to see young veterans like Will Beatty (a former second-round draft pick) step up this year. Thus it sounds like Beatty will get another shot at earning a starting job.

Then there’s the matter at center. When healthy, O’Hara is one of the best in the league. However, he wasn’t healthy this year, and he wasn’t healthy for most of the off-season – he wasn’t even able to participate fully in the player-organized workouts.

Toss in the fact that O’Hara has a $4.95M cap number for 2011, the final year of his contract, and you have all the elements for what could be a difficult decision especially if Adam Koets (knee) isn’t ready to go.

Overall, I’d be stunned if center isn’t a high priority ont he Giants’ free agency shopping list.

4. Who will be the starting strong side linebacker?
The other young veteran Reese challenged to step up this year is Clint Sintim, a former second round draft pick who last year went into camp with virtually no one challenging him for the job.

This year, however, Sintim is coming back from a season-ending knee injury and while he should be ready, how much did the time away from the field coupled with the time not spent working with the coaches this spring hurt him and others like him?

I still think that despite Reese’s downplaying the need at linebacker (which he did at the season-ending press conference, long before the team added LBs Greg Jones and Jacquian Williams via the draft), a veteran linebacker is going to be added via free agency if just to provide some leadership and experience to what’s otherwise a very young and mostly inexperienced group.

5. Will DE Osi Umenyiora play nice?
Call me crazy, but I think he and Reese will work things out. As I wrote yesterday, Umenyiora, it seems, stands to lose a lot more than he has to gain if he holds out in an attempt to force the Giants’ hand. Right now, he doesn’t have any guarantees that a team would be willing to trade for him and give him top-five money he wants (though as injuries begin to pop up in the NFL, someone might become desperate).

6. Who will be the starting fullback?

Numerous people seem to think that incumbent Madison Hedgecock, who missed most of last season with a hamstring strain, is finished with the Giants, and he might very well be.

Before Hedgecock was injured, he was still a far cry from displaying the dominating force from the 2007 and 2008 seasons, and the thinking was that his surgically repaired shoulder might still have been an issue.

Assuming he comes back, Hedgecock should, repeat should, be fully healthy from all of his injuries.

Do the Giants bring him back to compete with Bear Pascoe or perhaps an undrafted free agent. e.g., Henry Hynoski? Or do they make a pitch to land Vonta Leach (who they wanted before they were awarded Hedgecock off waivers from St. Louis), or maybe Cleveland’s Lawrence Vickers?

My guess is that Pascoe will go back to being a tight end, as good run-blocking blocking tight ends are so rare to find these days, and he can probably take a great deal of the experience he acquired from fullback to build on in that area.

Meanwhile, if the Giants do decide to upgrade the fullback position, my guess is they’ll look for someone who, when he trots out to the field, won’t automatically tip off what the play is likely going to be.

7. How much of an impact will the rookies realistically have this season?
I think it’s probably safe to assume that the rookies won’t have too much of an impact in the beginning as they continue to learn the playbook.

However, the answer to this question will depend on who is willing to put in overtime to study, work on technique, and basically take a crash course in playing his position at the NFL level.

I think CB Prince Amukamara and S Tyler Sash are tow rookies that could potentially be contributing sooner than later on defense. I also think WR Jerrel Jernigan could emerge as a special teams candidate.

8. Is DE Jason Pierre-Paul ready for a bigger role?
The Giants’ first round draft pick last year began to flash as the season wore on and proved to be a quick study. So might he be ready for a starting job if Kiwanuka departs via free agency and if Umenyiora sticks to his guns about wanting a new contract or wanting out?

In an ideal world, Umenyiora comes back and builds on 2010’s showing, thus giving Pierre-Paul another year to learn his craft. Then perhaps in 2012, the Giants look to move him into the starting lineup. However, as is often the case, rarely do football teams experience the “ideal” scenario.

Let’s say the worst scenario does happen – that Kiwanuka and Umenyiora are not on the roster in 2011. The most logical solution would be to try to land a veteran defensive end to keep the seat warm until Pierre-Paul is fully ready for full-time duty.

Then again, Pierre-Paul just might be more ready than anyone realizes. We’ll see what happens when the players report and get on the field.

9. Is this a “make or break” year for head coach Tom Coughlin?
Lost in the lockout talk is the fact that the contract extension that co-owners John Mara and Steve Tisch said would be forthcoming for Coughlin was put on the back burner.

However, with the lockout gasping for life, the team will likely move quickly to extend Coughlin’s deal so that this year he’s not a lame duck coach (I’ve heard the extension could be 2-3 years).

An interesting point pre-lockout is that it was pretty much assumed by many that Coughlin would be a goner if the Giants failed to make the playoffs for a third year in a row. With the lockout having gone on for as long as it has, I have to wonder if the coach will get a pass if the Giants are competitive, even if they don’t make the playoffs.

Here’s why. While I realize the Giants are a veteran team, what also has to be considered is that there are likely going to be changes to the starting offense line (see question #3), the linebacking corps (see question #4), and the starting defensive line (if Umenyiora and Cofield are not on the roster).

While it’s likely that any changes made to these and other units will consist of players already on the roster that are familiar with the schemes, again, remember that these guys haven’t had a chance to work together all spring, so I’d think communication and/or timing could be an issue until enough reps are accumulated to smooth out the rough patches.

The best-case scenario is the Giants get back into the playoffs, making this entire question a non-issue. If they don’t, I think Coughlin could very well get a pass unless the team completely checks out on him.

10. Where are they health wise?
If you were to judge by player tweets and public statements, the entire team is at 100 percent. However, as we have often seen, what a player says/believes and what the actual truth is are two very different things. (Hey, I don’t blame them for trying to be positive.)

As I mentioned previously, the biggest concerns from an injury perspective seem to be Smith, O’Hara, and Seubert. There may be others that we don’t know about yet , so until these guys are able to report to the team facilities for head-to-toe physicals and until we see who can do what on the field, this question remains open.
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Re: Ten Giant(s) Questions

Post  56 Crazed Dogs on Mon Jul 25, 2011 10:27 am

The Giants have a lot of work to do now that the lockout is nearly over. We have a lot of good vets that are either still injured or expected to leave via free agency. That could really make it or break it for us in 2011.
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Re: Ten Giant(s) Questions

Post  Pizan on Mon Jul 25, 2011 3:40 pm

The biggest thing is figuring out what to do at Center. I hope O'Hara has enough for a year but if not is Koets really a starter? I don't think so. This could be the end to Seubert and O'Hara. Two really tough decisions to make.

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