An interesting battle looks like it will shape up in the DL unit. In my estimation, as well as that of all the experts, there is a lot of talent in this DL and therefore, there could be some big surprises. Last year the Giants DL wore down towards the end of the year and they reinvigorated it by adding some talented players at that position. Last year the Giants carried 8 DL-men on their roster. They carried 4 DE's: Justin Tuck, Matthias Kiwanuka, Dave Tollefson and Renaldo Wynn; and they carried 4 DT's: Fred Robbins, Barry Cofield, Jay Alford and Jerome McDougle. The Giants are adding 3 players to the roster this year at these positions: Osi Ueminyora who was on IR last year and therefore did count officially on the 53 man roster; and FAs Chris Canty and Rocky Bernard. Two DL-men from last year's team are already gone: Wynn and McDougle, but that leaves one more to be released, assuming that the Giants don't want to carry 9 DL-men. In fact, the Giants also signed several other DL-men and invited them to come to camp which will make the competition even more fierce to see who sticks on the team from this group. The other players the Giants signed are: Anthony Bryant, a 3rd year player; as well as Jeremy Clark, Maurice Evans, Tommie Hill and Leger Douzable (ya' gotta love that name). I don't give any players form this last group a great chance to make the team, but Anthony Bryant is a huge player from Alabama who weighs in at 337. He has lots of potential but is a little raw.
Assuming a surprise player does not emerge from this new group, there is one more player that must go from last year's unit to make room for the three players that are getting added to the roster at this position. The obvious choice is Dave Tollefson who can play only the DE position, and although he tries real hard and he had some success last year, he is a little light at 245 and somewhat one-dimensional in that he is a pass rush specialist. Kiwanuka is a light-ish pass rusher also and the Giants may not want to keep two similar players on the team. I think that there is potential for a huge surprise in the DL and it is possible that Fred Robbins may not make the team. Robbins is a very talented player and is a great run stuffer. He had a great year last year until the end of the year when he wore down and was slowed by some injuries. I thought the DTs were dominant on the Giants DL and added much to the success of the defense. But here's the problem: Robbins is a 10 year veteran and is coming off a year where he suffered through several injuries. He broke his hands early in the year, had some shoulder problems and had knee injuries towards the end of the year. He had surgery in the off-season on his knees and the rumor is that the recovery from his surgery is not proceeding as well as is Cofield's recovery who also had his knees scoped. Cofield's injury and surgery were apparently not as severe as were Robbins' and he is doing well. Robbins had the always risky microfracture surgery to completely repair his knees, much moe severe than simpler and less invasive arthroscopy. Even if he makes it healthy to camp, we know of Jerry Reese's philosophy about not keeping older players around, espcially when they start to get injuries. He would rather keep a bench player who is young, hungry and less likely to be injured than an older, more injury-prone player. Of course, this always has to be balanced with the experience factor and certainly talent always prevails. But with all things being more or less equal, Reese will go with the younger player. In Robbins case, when he has already started to break down, it may speed the decision process to give him an injury settlement and convince him to retire. The Guants could take a more gentle route and put Robbins on IR which will guarantee him his 2009 salary (also keep him from signing with another team in the division). As good as Robbins is, I don't think he's a lock to make the team.
Logic dictates, that coming off this microfracture surgery, Robbins will be put on the PUP (physically unable to perform) list when reporting to camp. This gives the Giants a roster exemption for Robbins and allows a little more flexibility when the final roster cuts are made. A player can stay on PUP going into the season and a final decision has to be made on him in certain windows in the season. This is what the Giants did with Tyree last year, finally putting him on IR.
The other obvious factor that could affect this decision is that the Giants made two big FA signings at the DT position, in Canty and Bernard. Canty did not get big FA money to sit on the bench. He will surely start and get significant playing time. Cofield is a better pass rusher than Robbins, and is younger and healthier. Canty is the bull who is impossible to move in tghe middle against the run and Bernard is one of the best pass rushing DT's in football. Where does that leave an opportunity for Robbins to get on the field? If Canty, Bernard and Cofield are slated to take significant playing time at DT, it just adds fuel to the fire that Robbins job may be at risk. He is in the last year of his contract; consequently there will be no salary cap hit for cutting him. I am not saying it is guaranteed he will be cut; I am just saying he is at risk. If one of the young DTs steps up and shows some talent, especially a big run stuffer like 337 lb Anthony Bryant, both Robbins and Tollefson could be released.