Giant head coach Tom Coughlin is infamous for running a tight ship and a physical training camp. This year seems to be a little tougher than most. No fewer than 16 players are nursing early camp injuries of various severity. CB Corey Webster (hip), CB Aaron Ross (leg), WR Steven Smith (knee), WR Hakeem Nicks (hamstring), DT Chris Canty (hamstring), OL Guy Whimper (toe), OT Cliff Louis (ankle), OT Kevin Boothe (pectoral) and DE Maurice Evans (hip) DT Fred Robbins (knee) and DE Justin Tuck (foot) OG Chris Snee (leg) C Shaun O’Hara (triceps) OG Rich Seubert (shoulder) WR David Tyree (knee) and DT Anthony Bryant (undisclosed) all have missed time at the camp. There are more people lined up at the trainer’s room than customers waiting to dump their rides in on Cash for Clunkers program. Even so, don’t look for the pace or intensity of the camp to change. That would not be consistent with Coughlin’s personality.
QB Eli Manning has his new deal. Now all he needs is a couple of dependable receivers. Manning is the offensive leader of the team but has struggled in the playoffs. His production fell off a cliff last year without Plaxico Burris. His second WR Amani Toomer was allowed to leave in free agency. Manning has to get a new best friend target he can depend on. That won’t be easy given the group of candidates. I would not pick Manning for my Fantasy Football team.
The Giants plan to have Steve Smith and Domenik Hixon as starters. Mario Manningham, Sinorice Moss and David Tyree provide the only experienced backups available. The starters have not impressed during OTAs and so far in camp. Tyree has a knee problem and may well not survive the final cut. Manningham and Moss show promise but Manningham had consistency problems at Michigan. The best hope for the team may be rookies Hakeem Nicks and Ramses Barden. The problem is that generally a WR doesn’t blossom in the NFL until his second or third year. Manning still has TE Kevin Boss who is a dependable pair of hands.
The running game is solid but lost a key component when backup Derrick Ward (1.025 yards in 08) was allowed to leave in free agency. RB Brandon Jacobs (4th round 05) was one of the all time great steals in the draft. He is a beast and even DTs don’t want to tackle him when he has a full head of steam. Anything that big that moves that fast should have the words “US Air Force” on the side. His only problem is that he runs upright and is subject to injury. His primary backup now is the speedy Ahmad Bradshaw. The question is can Bradshaw run inside like Ward did? Andre Ware and rookie RB Andre Brown provide further depth.
The O line has been one of the great strengths of the team. The lineup has been the same for 2 years and the combination of LT David Diehl, LG Rich Seubert, C Shaun O’Hara, RG Chris Snee and RT Kareem McKenzie provide protection for Manning and the push the runners need. Rookie LT Will Beatty has real potential but needs to get stronger. He may move into LT in 2010 and allow Diehl to move back to G. The bench is solid with T Guy Whimper, T Andrew Carnahan, and G Tutan Reyes being the prime candidates.
New defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan has a toy box full of goodies with which to play. The D line has LE Justin Tuck, LT Barry Cofield, RT Fred Robbins and RE Osi Umenyiora coming off of knee surgery that cost him all of 08. Assuming Osi is healthy, there isn’t a better group in the league. They also have great depth of DE Mathias Kiwanuka, DE/DT Chris Canty, DT Rocky Bernard and DT Jay Alford. Canty and Kiwanuka would start for a lot of NFL teams.
Injuries and changes make the LB group a little less solid. MLB Antonio Pierce is the leader. SLB Danny Clark is smart but not a great playmaker. He is a journeyman. WLB Michael Boley was signed to play that position but was injured. Last year 4th round pick Bryan Kehl stepped in and hasn’t given the spot back yet. 2nd round pick in 09 SLB Clint Sintim will challenge Clark and Boley and Gerris Wilkinson will try to unseat Kehl.
The starting group of LCB Aaron Ross, RCB Corey Webster, FS Michael Johnson and SS Kenny Phillips is as good as any in the league. Ross and Webster are playing at a pro bowl level. 08 first round pick Phillips stepped in to the SS spot and solidified it. CB Kevin Dockery, CB Bruce Johnson and CB Travonti Johnson provide strength at CB but there is not much at safety.
OVERALL: The Giants will be a force again in the playoffs if they survive Camp Coughlin. The NFC is wide open and the Giants will go just as far as Manning and the receiving corps takes them. My expectation is that they will make the NFC Championship game but home field and the success of Manning et. al. will determine if they make it to the Super Bowl.
That’s what I think. Tell me what you think.
Bill Smith is a former coach of several semi-pro teams, has officiated both football and basketball, done color on radio for college football and basketball and has scouted talent. He is a senior writer for and edits https://fryingpansports.com. He has also published several novels on and edits .