Heading into this offseason, the Giants knew it would be vital to work quickly as the lockout threatened to diminish their negotiating time. Perhaps the most daunting task was to re-sign their own free agents. Several key players were available for free agency including Ahmad Bradshaw, Kevin Boss, Steve Smith, Barry Cofield, and Mathias Kiwanuka. They also had to decide what to do with several aging players and big contracts. The Giants began the free agency period by cutting longtime linemen Shaun O’Hara and Rich Seubert, much to the surprise of fans. Shortly after, Barry Cofield announced his intentions to sign a huge deal with the Washington Redskins. The loss of Cofield was a huge blow to the defensive line and with the Giants being known for their deep DL and pass rush, they moved quickly to sign Kiwanuka to a 1-year deal. Kiwi is coming off a serious neck injury and will be looking to show he is back to full strength and worthy of a long-term deal. Next the Giants restructured Brandon Jacobs deal, giving them the flexibility they needed to sign Ahmad Bradshaw to a 4-year deal. The Giants did take a blow when Kevin Boss announced last week that he was signing with the Oakland Raiders, leaving the G-Men with a huge gap to fill at tight end. At the time this article was published, wide receiver Steve Smith, who is coming off a tremendous season that was cut short by injury, is still unsigned. Perhaps the most disconcerting issue in all of the offseason is the holdout of All-Pro DE Osi Umenyiora, who is unhappy with his contract and doesn’t appear to be getting back on the field anytime soon.
The Giants have been one of the better teams in the league as it pertains to identifying, drafting, and developing young talent. The 2010 Draft seems to have fallen in line with this theory as it initially appears that the Giants struck gold. Sitting at the #20 spot in the first round, the Giants scooped up Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamara, who was supposed to be a Top-10 pick. They were elated that he fell to them and despite having bigger needs on the offensive line, he was too good a value to pass up. They again hit it big in the second round when UNC DT Marvin Austin was still available. Prior to last season, Austin was widely considered a Top-20 talent but his stock took a huge hit when he was suspended for all of last season by the NCAA. With the selection of Austin, it appears the Giants were able to land two top flight starters for years to come. With pick 83 in the 3rd round, the Giants grabbed yet ANOTHER player who had an inexplicable fall on draft day, Troy WR Jerrel Jernigan. With the injury to Steve Smith, Jernigan could very well see action as a rookie. With their final 5 picks, the Giants added depth across the board. Usually this late in the draft, teams are looking for players who can simply make the roster, but the Giants appear to have found players that will not only make the roster, but potentially make an impact down the line. The highlights of these picks were 4th round selection James Brewer (OT, Indiana) who some projected as a second round pick, Michigan State LB Greg Jones, who was one of college football’s best linebackers as a senior, and Maryland RB Da’Rel Scott, who may have the opportunity for carries as early as this season.
As everyone in the NFL knows, this team will only go as far as quarterback Eli Manning can take them. While he is one of the better young signal callers in the league, and does have a Super Bowl ring to his credit, he needs to continue to develop and take on more of a leadership role coming off of a disappointing season. The Giants also recently signed David Carr to become Manning’s backup. At running back, the Giants return their leading rusher Ahmad Bradshaw as well as Brandon Jacobs. Bradshaw enjoyed a breakout season last year rushing for over 1,200 yards, while Jacobs led the team with 9 rushing TDs. They will once again be one of the better running back tandems in the league, provided they can cut back on the mistakes, namely Bradshaw’s fumbling habit. The wide receiver position exemplifies the Giants ability to identify, draft, and develop young talent as their three leading receivers were top draft picks the past few drafts. Hakeem Nicks led the team in receiving with over 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns, while Mario Manningham finished just shy of the century mark. Steve Smith has proven to be one of the best young receivers in the league, however he endured a pretty bad injury and it remains to be seen if he can return to form. At tight end, the Giants are hoping former 3rd round draft pick Travis Beckum can step up as they lost Kevin Boss to the Raiders. Beckum is more of a receiving tight end in the mold of the Jets’ Dustin Keller, as he is only 6’3 240 lbs. He will compete with Bear Pascoe for time. The starting offensive line come opening day will look nothing like it has the past few seasons. David Diehl, the returning starter at LT, will slide inside to LG as former 2nd round pick Will Beatty takes over at LT. Free agent signee David Baas will fill the opening at center, while Chris Snee returns at RG and Kareem McKenzie is the returning starter at RT. The Giants have decent depth with former Seahawks RT Stacy Andrews, Adam Koets, and rookie James Brewer.
The key to the Giants improbable Super Bowl run a few years ago was their insanely deep and talented defensive line. While they lost a huge piece of that line when Barry Cofield signed with the Redskins, they return a good amount of talent here. It will be imperative that they come to some kind of terms with Pro Bowler Osi Umenyiora because they may not be able to overcome losing a pass rusher as talented as him. Captain Justin Tuck anchors one defensive end position, while second-year DE Jason Pierre-Paul, who came on strong at the end of his rookie season last year after becoming a first-round pick out of USF, has the makings of a star and will start across from him. Mathias Kiwanuka will flip back and forth between DE and OLB. At defensive tackle, the Giants return Chris Canty, last offseason’s big free agent acquisition. They are hoping that second-year man Linval Joseph can step up at the other DT position, or rookie Marvin Austin may be forced into action. If Umenyiora does return at some point, expect to see plenty of looks that offer Umenyiora, Tuck, Pierre-Paul, and Canty, all of whom can get to the quarterback. The linebacker position is clearly the weakest link on the defense. While OLB Michael Boley is far and away the team’s best LB, there is room for improvement across the board. Expect Boley to start at one OLB spot, with Jonathan Goff at MLB, and Clint Sintim at the other OLB post. Even with the injury to Prince Amukamara, the secondary remains strong. The Giants have two top-flight cornerbacks in Corey Webster and Terrell Thomas, with Aaron Ross as perhaps the best nickel cornerback in the league. They also have one of the leagues best duos at safety with Kenny Phillips and Antrel Rolle, both former Miami Hurricanes.
The Giants return the steady Lawrence Tynes at Kicker, who has come up big in clutch situations. Matt Dodge is the returning starter at punter, but the Giants brought in former Jet Sam Weatherford to provide competition. Dodge has a huge leg, but has problems with directional punting. Darius Reynaud, a late season acquisition from the Minnesota Vikings last year, returns as the primary KR and PR. Danny Ware will also return kicks.
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