Thursday, July 30, 2009

Giants: Training Camp Preview III


There is potential for lots of change in the LB unit. Giants brought in two new players this year: Michael Boley as a FA from Atlanta and Clint Sintim, a draftee from University of Virginia. In theory, two players would have be taken off of last year's unit in order to make room for these new players, but it is of course, not always a push-pull situation like that. Especially at the LB, RB, WR and DB position, where so many of the ST players come from, a little bit of maneuvering is possible, carrying an extra player on one unit and carrying one fewer in another. (BTW - it was on ST that I had my eyes first opened to the fact that Justin Tuck was going to be a superb player. It's rare that DL-men play on special teams and when they do, they're usually either in the wedge or the wedge-busters. I saw Tuck running down the middle of the field on KO coverage. He shed easily someone who was trying to block him and ran straight for the kick returner. The KR tried to juke him, then tried to outrun him to the sideline and Tuck flat outran the returner, whom he outweighed by probably 50-60 pounds. When he caught up to him he absolutely flattened him, of course. It was an early season game in his rookie year, or maybe even a preseason game, but when I saw that I realized that this player is gong to be a star. Turns out I was right.)

Anyway - back to the LB unit - unless there is an unusual glut of talent at one unit, or a player that they want to squeeze on the team, you can expect the Giants to keep 6 or 7 LBs, just like last year. DeOssie is listed as LB but is the long snapper for punts, so that saves a roster spot for the Giants. The starters at the end of last year were Antonio Pierce, Danny Clark and Chase Blackburn. The Giants were very high on Jonathan Goff and Ryan Kehl who were rookies last year. Gerris Wilkinson has a lot of talent, is a good hitter and is very fast, but has been hurt every year that he's been in the NFL. I am sure the Giants are looking impatiently at his progress and he needs to show big things this training camp to even make the team. But here's the thing - if he does step up and show good things, maybe he could squeeze someone else out of the rotation, like an aging Danny Clark. With Michael Boley's injury, he will surely be on the PUP list at the start of camp and probably into the opening of the season. This gives the Giants a roster exemption so they can give Wilkinson all the time he needs to show progress before they make a decision. Coming into camp, it is certainly true that Wilkinson is on the bubble. Chase Blackburn, even though he started last year, is considered a backup player and may not stick. Pierce is the only legitimate MLB on the team. The Giants think that Goff is a future starter at MLB, but he also has to develop and show something in training camp and the preseason games. The LB unit is very unpredictable and there is potentially a lot of shifting possible. The Giants might even pick up another team's released player to prop up this unit.

Looking forward, one could ask the following question: is the long term replacement to Antonio Pierce on the roster now? Even the most optimistic Giants fan would have trouble answering that question in the affirmative. Blackburn played MLB for about a game before he was injured in his rookie year. Goff was on the team last year but hardly played. All the other players on the roster are considered corner LBs. With Pierce getting older, with a noticeable decline in his play last year and with the legal trouble now surrounding him, this is not just an academic question but one that needs to be considered carefully. MLB might be the Giants most vulnerable position - the position at which they can least afford to suffer an injury.

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