The buzzword for 2010 is redemption.
As the Giants concluded their mini-camp on Thursday, defensive end Justin Tuck spoke with the media. “The word for me today is redemption,” the starting defensive end said. “We’ve got a lot to come back and redeem ourselves from last year. I hope they keep that in mind.”
Although Tuck is saying the right thing, in today’s NFL rosters change dramatically from year to year. Whether a team finishes strong ie Cowboys or flames out like last year’s Giants, the past is the past. 2010 is a fresh start for every team in the NFL. If the Giants can stay healthy, improve their giveaway/takeaway ratio (last year they were a negative SEVEN), have a better rushing attack, and make necessary corrections in the red zone, they will have a successful 2010 campaign. However, despite the offseason optimism, Tuck did go on to say, “Even though we’re kind of young, a lot of guys understand what’s at stake this year — what people are expecting from us, I guess.”
Generally speaking, each season there is pressure on teams to win. And from Tuck’s quote about guys understand what is at stake spells out a lot. First, if the Giants do not perform well this year, there will be a seismic shift within the organization. Most likely, Coughlin will be gone and Reese will be put on notice. And there will be a major shake up of the entire roster. Second, without question, Giants co-owner John Mara has high expectations for his team: “We have a couple of question marks which hopefully get ironed out in training camp, but going into this season we should be a better team than we were last year. We better be.“
With high expectations from management, the extra pressure placed on winning can have a positive or negative affect on this team. Until the season begins, we will see how this team responds with the extra weight placed on them. In the meantime, Mara stated there are a couple of question marks on this team. A couple is minimizing the situation. So, what are the questions marks which need to get ironed out at training camp? Well, an avid commenter on UltimateNYG Mitch a.k.a. I Bleed Blue raised his concerns about the current state of this team.
I should stop complaining and realize we have a lot of unanswered questions that need to be addressed…
1. Hixon is out. I believe that our returner is not even on the roster yet. Does anyone?
2. Osi vs. Kiwi. Who will start?
3. Winning the MLB race is?
4. Barden is fourth or fifth on the depth chart?
5. Sintim’s job to lose?
6. Thomas or Ross at corner?
7. Does it look like Phillips will be ready?
8. Who is winning the race to be our punter?
9. Is Beatty ready to be our LT?
New York Daily News’ Ralph Vacchiano addresses some of these questions on his blog.
1. On a replacement for Hixon: GM Jerry Reese tabbed WR Mario Manningham as a possible replacement for Hixon on punt returns. I don’t see it mostly because he may be too valuable as the third receiver and Tom Coughlin doesn’t like to have players pull that kind of double duty. Remember, once Hixon started being the primary return guy again last year, his role in the offense greatly diminished. Using Aaron Ross makes a little more sense to me, especially if he’s going to be the nickel corner (with Corey Webster and Terrell Thomas as the starters). If nothing else, Ross will have a series to rest after fielding a punt while the offense is on the field
2. Osi vs Kiwi: I like that the coaches didn’t bow to Osi Umenyiora’s pressure and made him start mini-camp as the second-teamer. That’s a great way to let him know you can’t demand a job. Still, knowing the two participants in this battle, I think the only eventual solution to this potential mess is to let Umenyiora start during the regular season and have Mathias Kiwanuka come off the bench. I don’t think Umenyiora will be able to help himself from being a disruption if he’s coming off the bench on game days, regardless of how much defensive coordinator Perry Fewell intends to use all his ends. Kiwanuka won’t be happy about being a backup either, but he’s more reasonable. I think. I realize that’s not exactly the best way to determine a starting job, but they’ve got to keep the peace. They can’t afford to have anyone causing the distraction that Umenyiora caused last season. And in theory, they’ll both get about the same amount of snaps anyway
3. Winning MLB: Everyone seems to still be up in arms over the Giants’ middle
“I mean people are projecting a 4th round draft pick to be our starting MLB? That is just crazy. Even a 1st round pick at MLB would be a question mark to start in his rookie season. But a fourth rounder? That is like hoping CC Brown is the next Ronnie Lott. Right now we have one LB, Boley and he has his issues. Sintim, and the rest just don’t inspire me.
“Reese had one good draft. His subsequent ones are questionable. But his filling out of the roster is what worries me the most. LB was and is a glaring need and the Giants just basically ignored it except for a 4th round pick. I would bet that the likelihood of a 4th round pick have a career grade of even 3 is quite small. I would suspect that historically 4th round picks have a career grade of about 6! So we effectively did nothing for our LB corp.”
NFL.com’s Steve Wyche thinks the Giants return to prominence hinges on the defense. In Wyche’s article, there is an interesting take on Michael Boley: “Boley also has to be better, especially more stout against the run. It’s been a knock on him for years, but he’s got to change things up with this young unit to prevent it from being targeted.”
4. Barden: I know I said this all last summer, but Ramses Barden has some serious skills. If he really is comfortable with the offense now, there’s no way the coaches can keep him off the field. I know he’s still got some things to work on – – in fact, Gilbride said he still has a lot of things to work on – – but he’s got great size, terrific hands, and he seems to know how to get open. Given their red-zone issues the last few years, how could they possibly justify not using him at least inside the 20?
7. Kenny Phillips: I love Kenny Phillips’ attitude, he seems like a great guy, and truth be told I’m rooting for him to make it all the way back from his knee injury. I just wouldn’t get my hopes up if I were you. I know everyone is saying the right things, but actions speak louder than words. And the actions say Phillips still isn’t cutting much yet, while the Giants spent $38 million on Antrel Rolle, signed Deon Grant and drafted a safety in the third round. They needed help at safety after last year’s disaster, but if they were sure Phillips would be ready, would they have done all of those things? Probably not. Maybe Phillips comes back and is everything the Giants always expected he’d be before the injury. But if that happens, consider it an unexpected bonus. A gift. The Giants have prepared themselves in case he’s not the same player, and I think that is telling.
I will answer questions 5, 6, 8, and 9.
5. Sintim: Apparently, the SAM position is Sintim’s job to lose. According to Newark Star-Ledger’s Mike Garafolo, last year’s second-round pick has been the starter on the strong side for the Giants all spring. No splitting reps, no working his way up to the first team and not even talk from the team or coaches about how he still has to
6. Thomas or Ross at corner: It is my opinion, Thomas will be a starter at cornerback. Additionally, he is going to be the best cornerback on the team. Here is ESPN’s Mark Mosley on Giants cornerback Terrell Thomas: “The Giants had injuries at the position and Thomas stepped in and played really well. He should keep his job this season, even with Corey Webster and Aaron Ross healthy again.”
8. Who will be our punter? The Giants have Jy Bond and rookie Matt Dodge. According to former Giant Jeff Feagles who was at mini-camp in an advisory role, “the main purpose right now with both of them is to get them to be consistent so they can hit one after another instead of one out of five. The direction will come sooner or later. But right now, they need to work on the fundamentals better.”
Not having an experienced punter can come back and haunt the Giants. In 2001 and 2002, the Giants had Rodney Willliams and Matt Allen handling the punting duties respectively. Both guys were woefully inconsistent. Because of their erratic punting, they both lasted one season with the Giants. More importantly, the new stadium has different wind patterns than Giants Stadium. During mini-camp, Giants radio voice Bob Papa talked with head coach Coughlin about the new stadium. Unprovoked, Coughlin talked about the wind. Inferring from Coughlin, wind will be a factor at PSL stadium. Therefore, with an inexperienced punter kicking in an environment in which wind and cold inclement weather is a factor, conceivably, the Giants could surrender field position in crucial December games at PSL stadium. In December, the Giants play arch rivals Washington and Philadelphia. Moreover, whoever wins the punting competition will also handle kickoffs.
9. Is Beatty going to be the starting LT? According to the Football Outsiders, “The coaches would like to see William Beatty win the left tackle job, which would allow them to kick David Diehl inside to left guard and push Rich Seubert into a reserve role.” On the other hand, Seubert is going to fight to keep his starting job.
The Giants will begin the process of redeeming themselves on August 1 which is the first day of training camp.
What are your thoughts?