There are going to be some high-profile battles in training camp this summer that many of us are looking forward to. Who will win the “starting” cornerback job, Terrell Thomas or Prince Amukamara? Who will be the team’s key third receiver? How will the offensive line shake out? The defensive line?
But training camp isn’t all about starters. Sometimes it’s about making the team. So when I go to Albany later this week I’ll be keeping tabs on the top of the depth chart but I’ll also be watching the bottom of it too. The Giants have 90 men heading to Albany. By the time they face the Cowboys in six weeks and two days, they’ll be down to 53.
Here are some of the depth battles that should intrigue us for the next several weeks:
The Giants are very deep and very experienced at this position. Ideally Corey Webster, Thomas and Amukamara will be the three players in the nickel package. Third-round draft pick Jayron Hosley is virtually assured a spot on the team. That leaves a few guys scrambling for reps on sub-sub packages and special teams roles. Veterans Michael Coe, Antwaun Molden and Justin Tryon have experience. Brandon Bing showed some nice flashed in the spring. Janzen Jackson could be a surprise undrafted free agent. And Bruce Johnson is coming back from an Achilles injury. Last year the corners were depleted by injuries. This year, if they stay healthy, the Giants will have to face some tough decisions and let go of some players who could help them (or another NFL team).
Drafted players normally get the benefit of at least a few years to develop in the system. But last year the Giants showed that they wouldn’t have that much patience. They liked their young crop of linebackers so much, in fact, that they waived Phillip Dillard, a former fourth round pick, after just one season. Now, with a crowded linebacker room, the Giants will likely have to make tough decisions once again. How deep is the position? Well Chase Blackburn is slated as the starting middle linebacker and there’s no guarantee he’ll even make the team. It will be interesting to see what they do with Keith Rivers. Clint Sintim’s career may be coming to an end quickly, and as for the second-year guys, Greg Jones and Spencer Paysinger both probably need to turn some heads in the coming weeks to make the team.
Ahmad Bradshaw will be the starter. David Wilson, the first-round pick, will have at least a minimal role on the team (if not, as some expect, a pretty large one). That leaves DJ Ware, Andre Brown and Da’Rel Scott to fight it out for what figures to be the two remaining running back jobs. Three pieces for two holes. Ware knows the system, but the Giants know Ware (or, more specifically, know his ceiling). Brown was still coming off his Achilles issues last season and should be stronger this summer. Scott never quite fit into the offense as a rookie, but his speed was impressive in the preseason. If the Giants are looking to go with lightning-quick backs instead of the bruisers they’ve employed in the past, it could be bad news for Ware.
Deon Grant said in a report this weekend that he expects to be re-signed by the Giants during training camp. There are a bunch of guys who are trying to make that move unnecessary. Antrel Rolle and Kenny Phillips will be the starters, but then there are guys like Tyler Sash, Stevie Brown and Chris Horton who will be trying to become that third safety the Giants have employed so often in the last two years. Then again, if the corners can remain healthy, the Giants may need only two traditional safeties (that’s Antrel Rolle you hear applauding that idea). Grant may be back, but it will only be if he’s needed due to injuries or if no one can step up by the second preseason game.
Tick tock. That’s the clock of patience that is beating away on a few Giants receivers. The team is hoping to finally see what they thought Ramses Barden capable of when they drafted him this summer. If not, he could very well be a goner by September. Domenik Hixon is a wonderful story and will be competing for the No. 3 receiver job, but he’s a sore knee away from having the organization raise eyebrows and wonder what his shelflife will be like after two consecutive ACL tears. And Jerrel Jernigan was one of the players who really suffered from the lack of an offseason program last spring and summer. He’ll be trying to carve out his role in the offense in the coming weeks. With a new crop of rookies like Wilson and Hosley and Rueben Randle expected to make an impact on special teams, Jernigan won’t have his return game to help him make the team. And if Jernigan doesn’t think the Giants would cut a fourth-round pick after just one season, well, he can talk to Phillip Dillard about that.