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Hard Decisions Ahead

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Hard Decisions Ahead

Post  Big_Pete on Mon Jun 16, 2008 5:05 pm


Hard Decisions Ahead

Stricter guidelines will lead to harder decisions on cuts for the Giants

By Mike Eisen,

JUNE 16, 2008

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - Tom Coughlin will face one of the most challenging training camps of his head coaching career this summer, and it has nothing to do with the Giants’ status as defending world champions.

The NFL has mandated that camp rosters must be limited to 80 players, which will force most coaches to limit how hard and how long they work in camp. Back in the 1960s and 70s, many teams routinely started camp with more than 100 players on their roster. In recent years, teams were able to use NFL Europe roster exemptions, which added approximately six players to each roster for the duration of camp. But NFL Europe was disbanded after the 2007 season and the NFL is holding firm to the 80-man limit.

“It is a big difference,” Coughlin said when the Giants wrapped up their mini-camp last week. “You will have to (change your planning). Hopefully, you will be as healthy as you can be and you won’t have to do a lot of radical changing. I’m not a mathematician, but most of you guys can figure out that by the time you include special teams, you are not talking 80, you are talking in the 70s. And then when you have people that are coming off surgeries and can’t work, even if it is the one (practice) a day type thing, you have to be sure that the other players at that position – even if they are young - don’t get the overexposures. But as a whole you still have to move forward. I can’t tell you when I went to a camp with 80 guys.”

The Giants’ currently have 86 players on their roster (including the seven unsigned draft choices, which means six of the players on the roster today will be waived as the draft choices are signed). The players are scheduled to report to training camp at the University at Albany on July 24.

One position that will almost certainly see changes is at quarterback, where the Giants had five players working in the mini-camp. We’ll go out on a limb and say Eli Manning will still be on the roster when camp opens. The other four are holdovers Jared Lorenzen and Anthony Wright and newcomers David Carr and sixth-round draft choice Andre Woodson.

Asked about keeping just three quarterbacks because of roster restrictions, Coughlin said, “That was the intent all along.” He could still take four to Albany, but it’s unlikely he’ll start with five.

“That would be an unheard of number,” offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride said. “I would be very surprised if that happened, but stranger things happen.”

The roster restrictions will also significantly affect special teams. Last year, the Giants brought two kickers and two punters to camp. Next month, Lawrence Tynes and Jeff Feagles will have to handle those duties solo.

“We have to be smart,” special teams coordinator Tom Quinn said. “Obviously, we are not going to take an extra kicker or an extra punter, so we have to be very smart with keeping them on a count, but it also affects the guys that are covering. We don’t want to wear them down as well so the roster size does affect us.”

And everyone else.

*The mini-camp was the first time the Giants were on the field since Michael Strahan announced his retirement last week. Justin Tuck, who had 10.0 sacks last season, is ready to assume Strahan's old spot at left end.

“Anytime you lose, in my opinion, a future Hall of Famer, that is tough to replace,” defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said. “I don’t think you look to replace that caliber of guy, but the next guy steps in and we go through the same process and if we have done our job as coaches then the next guy that steps in is ready to go and hopefully we don’t skip a beat. He is a special, special player, special man, and maybe it will take three guys to replace Michael.”

Strahan left with the Giants-record 141.5 sacks, but Spagnuolo said his ability to harass quarterbacks is only part of the reason the seven-time Pro Bowler will be missed.

“The thing about Mike is that he is such a complete player,” Spagnuolo said. “Sacks are the glorified stat, but what he did do in the run game - it was always amazing to me really at the weight that he played at and going against the heavier, bigger guys that he was able to leverage those guys and very rarely get knocked off the ball. He knew his opponents real well, especially the other three NFC East teams, and I think that helped him tremendously. It helped us because he used to share it with the other guys, too, but you're just talking about a smart, complete, NFL defensive end. We will miss him, no question.”

*Like Coughlin before him, Spagnuolo was asked if, in light of Strahan’s retirement, Mathias Kiwanuka might move back to defensive end.

“We are not making any hard decisions right now,” Spagnuolo said. “No knee jerk reactions. It would be just like if somebody got hurt in a game. We don’t panic, we will think this thing through. Coach Coughlin and I and the other coaches, and we will do what is best for the team. It will work itself out.”

*Gilbride exited the mini-camp with good feelings about several players and groups.

“I thought some of our positions showed some good things,” Gilbride said. “I thought the quarterback was particularly sharp for this early in the year, and not only with his accuracy, but also recognizing blitzes. It is not something we are going over and all of a sudden the defense is showing some of the blitzes, which is a fairly complicated package, and for him to react the way he did and shut it down with the protections and make some deep throws, I was very, very pleased.

“I also was pleased with some of the young receivers. I thought in general all of them did a better job of getting off the press, which we got a lot of work on, and I thought that was great to see because that was an area that probably was one of our weaker spots and the fact that we were able to get that now we can take advantage of some of the speed once they get going. I thought they did a great job. Of course the old man, all he does is show up and make plays - Amani (Toomer) just does a great job and so it was good to see that. The line is good and I think our biggest challenge is to find some of the guys that we know will have to step up and serve in a starting role at some time during the season just because everybody gets injuries. That is really the biggest challenge we have right now with the group up front.”

*Coughlin and Quinn have been auditioning several candidates for kickoff and punt returns.

“I think the kickoff returners of Domenik (Hixon) and Ahmad (Bradshaw) and Reuben (Droughns), and also the addition of Derrick Ward, who has done it successfully in the past, makes it pretty solid there,” Quinn said. “The punt return game, we are trying to get more guys involved with that. Obviously, R.W. (McQuarters) has done a good job really fielding the ball and making good decisions and then Domenik took some positive strides this spring with his ability to catch the ball and run. He did that in Denver and we had known that, but we are always trying to develop guys that can have that skill.

“(Michael Jennings) is in the mix with Sinorice Moss and Ahmad Bradshaw and R.W. and Domenik.”

*Former general manager Ernie Accorsi has been hired as a consultant to the NFL office and will co-chair a new General Managers Advisory Committee, NFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations Ray Anderson announced today.

In his new role, Accorsi will focus on assisting the NFL in monitoring compliance with rules and policies and achieving better and more consistent communication with senior club football personnel.

Accorsi retired from the Giants after the 2006 season following a 35-year career in the NFL, the last 14 with the Giants, including nine as general manager. He also served as general manager of the Cleveland Browns (1985-92) and Baltimore Colts (1982-83).

The General Managers Advisory Committee will provide advice and other feedback to the NFL Football Operations department headed by Anderson. Areas of focus for the committee will include:

  • Protecting and supporting the integrity of the game
  • Expanded use of technology
  • Player development and scouting opportunities
  • Development of innovative ideas to improve the Pro Bowl, Scouting Combine, NFL Draft, and preseason

“With our emphasis on innovation, collaboration, and accountability of all personnel in protecting the integrity of the game, the General Managers Advisory Committee gives our clubs a new mechanism for consistent communication with the league office and will result in better information for our office,” Anderson said.

The General Managers Advisory Committee will be co-chaired by Anderson and Accorsi.

Other members of the committee are Jerry Reese of the Giants, Jerry Angelo (Chicago Bears), Kevin Colbert (Pittsburgh Steelers), Rod Graves (Arizona Cardinals), James Harris (Jacksonville Jaguars), Tom Heckert (Philadelphia Eagles), Marty Hurney (Carolina Panthers), Mickey Loomis (New Orleans Saints), Carl Peterson (Kansas City Chiefs), Tim Ruskell (Seattle Seahawks), Rick Smith (Houston Texans), and Mike Tannenbaum (New York Jets).
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