It's been very quiet in Giants world for the last month or so, since the signing of Antrel Rolle, but now that the Giants have reported to the voluntary off season workout program, there is a little bit of news. Tom Coughlin, in the coaches breakfast at a recent NFL meeting, said that while S Kenny Phillips rehabilitation from his microfracture knee surgery is progressing, it is far from certain that he will be ready for the start of training camp, at least without restrictions on his practice habits. Kenny Phillips himself remained optimistic and upbeat, but realistically, he has not been cleared to start running yet and it is reasonable to assume he won't be completely ready. If he is restricted from participating in two practices per day and can only do one, or perhaps needs to take a practice off once in a while, that would not be terrible, because it probably means he could get ready for the regular season. The key really is not when he will be ready, but if the microfracture surgery has been successful and his speed and tackling ability returns. Phillips is a hard hitter and sure tackler for someone his size and that is something that is separate from how hard you run. It's not just a matter of physics applying Newton's first law: F=ma (Force=mass x acceleration), because then the only things that would matter would be the speed and size of the player. Furthermore, the player that delivers a big hit is also absorbing a hit from a player that may be bigger. However we have all seen players that are very physical and hit harder than what it seems they should based only on their mass. Giants seem to have another player on their team that fits this category in Ahmad Bradshaw that can seemingly take a hit from bigger players and keep going. I saw an interesting article that asserted that the muscle and skeletal structure of the player and his ability to tense his body muscles up in a tight central core precisely at the moment of collision, while accelerating through the hit, is what gives some players the ability to be bigger hitters than would seem possible from their size. If Phillips loses some speed and somehow his base and balance is affected by this injury, his ability to tense his muscles and explode through the collision, accelerating at the precise moment of impact with perfect timing might be affected as well. No reason to obsess about these things - we'll have to wait and see.
The drama from this camp will certainly come from the Osi Umenyiora situation. He was demoted to situational pass rusher last year and accepted it gracefully during the season, but whined about it in the off-season. He even said that he would retire or demand a trade if he was not returned to the starting lineup. Osi made one probowl but realistically was never a great run stopper. He is a speed player and when in top form is a very good edge pass rusher. In previous years, with Strahan on one side, with outstanding DT play in the middle of the DL, with Pierce and the other LBs playing well behind him, any actual weakness in run stopping ability was masked. However, last year, with Osi coming off a knee injury, with Pierce slipping, with poor DT play and an overall decline in the entire defense, Osi's run stopping weakness was exposed, or perhaps even was exacerbated. The question is: what is Osi's true overall level of play? Did he appear worse than he actually is last year because of the factors that I mentioned. Conversely, did he appear better than he actually is in previous years because of the overall quality play of the players around him. Coaches have to assess this and make accurate evaluations.
Making these questions more interesting is what the Giants do in the draft. With the departure of Pierce, there is a huge hole in the middle of the defense at MLB. The Giants have several players at LB that they were high on in past years, Ryan Kehl, Brian Goff and Gerris Wilkinson, but there is a strong feeling that the starting MLB for the 2010 season is not currently on the roster. Goff played last year replacing Chase Blackburn, who had replaced Pierce earlier and showed some ability, but also did not blow anyone away with his play making talent. This is reputed to be one of the best drafts ever and is particularly strong in the DL and OL. There are a few good LBs, but the draft is deeper in the DL. The Giants do not like to draft for need and will always lean to pick the best player available. They also weigh players heavily by position, meaning a great LT will be more valuable than a great interior OL-man. If the Giants are able to pick up a great DE in the draft, perhaps they will be motivated to trade Osi to a team with a surplus of LBs and a need for a speed rushing DE. (Giants co-residents come to mind as a team that might fit this bill - Osi for Harris?) If they draft Alabama LB Rolando McClain, that everyone seems to be very high on, the situation is changed, and perhaps Osi stays.
Speaking of the LBs currently on the team, it's unfortunate that we didn't see enough out of Kehl and Goff to know if they are good enough to be starters in the league. We also didn't see enough from Sintim to know if he can play LB. (Perhaps he can be the situational pass rusher that the Giants will need if they trade Osi.) Wilkinson might be the most talented LB, as measured by size, speed and athleticism. His problem is that he can't stay on the field and is constantly injured. If he can get past the injury bug, he might be a contributor. I did find it interesting that the Giants tendered him a contact. Reese has showed an inclination in the past to move away from players that are often injured and goes for younger, healthier players. I found it interesting that he tendered a contract to oft-injured Gerris Wilkinson. It must mean that they still hold out hope for him to become an NFL caliber player.