Monday, July 30, 2012

Training Camp Battles

With all the analysis and focus in the papers on the performance of various players in training camp, it's important to remember that the players have only started putting on pads for a day. The local newspapers are filled with stories and blog posts about great catches, heroic INTs, great moves by the DEs to avoid a block and it's all pretty meaningless. While preseason games are unimportant - it's really only the results of the game... who wins and who loses....that are unimportant. The performance of the players in those games is often more important than what they do in practice. Remember an unknown named Victor Cruz who came into a Giants-Jets preseason game in 2010, caught three TD passes and captured everyone's attention. He made the team in 2010 got injured and was IR'ed early in the season. But to the watchful Giants coaches and front office, he may have been gone, but he was definitely not forgotten. As you all know, he made the team in 2011, broke the Giants single season record for passing yardage and really didn't even play the whole season. He played well in practice that summer, but opened eyes in the game. We won't really know who shines until the preseason games, but it is worthwhile to note that Jernigan, who was completely invisible last year and had the dear-in-the-headlights rookie look is making plays deep down the field in camp. Giants want Cruz to be the slot receiver in their three-WR formations, so it is important that Jenrigan can play on the outside, which he is apparently doing. Like I said, it's only practice - wait to see what he can do against live defenses.

The word from camp is that Herzlich looks very trim, quick and has improved his knowledge of the defense and especially his pass coverage skills. Blackburn is currently the starter, but everyone agrees that Herzlich is more athletic and faster, while Blackburn is bigger and more of a run stopper. Of course he did make two huge interceptions last year against two of the best QBs in football - Rodgers in his first game back and Brady in the Super Bowl. He also made a huge fumble recovery and return in the Packers playoff game, showing smarts and decent speed. I wonder if Giants will go to some sort of platoon at MLB, with Blackburn playing in short yardage and running down and with Herzlich playing on passing downs. Most teams don't like to do that, since the MLB is the play caller and center of the defense, but we'll see. Maybe Boley wears the wire and calls the plays, since he may be the only true 3-down LB on the team. The other indicator that the Giants really like Herzlich for the long term (and Blackburn for now) is that they have moved Greg Jones from the middle to the outside. They have so much depth (and talent, IMO) at LB, it will be really interesting to see how things shake out. I'm on record as saying that Kiwanuka should get more snaps as DE, to keep the rotation fresh and to replace Dave Tollefson in the 4-DE alignment (dubbed the NSACAR package). This sets him up to take over when/if Osi leaves at the end of the year. It looks to me like at least one very capable LB may not make the team coming out of camp.

There is also a big crowd in the offensive backfield. Behind Ahmad Bradshaw there is DJ Ware, Da'rel Scott, Andre Brown and rookie David Wilson. Giants won't carry all those RBs. Last year Brown was carried on practice squad and between Jacobs, Ware and Bradshaw, other RBs either didn't dress or if they did, got very few carries. It's easy to assume that Brown will not make the team again and Wilson will simply replace Brandon Jacobs on the roster. But I have a feeling it won't work that way. Last year, DJ Ware was often the Giants 3rd down back, being very effective catching out of the backfield and running the draw plays effectively. However the makeup of the RBs is different his year - Giants drafted Wilson to be the 3rd down breakaway threat and they lost the power back in Jacobs, ineffective though he might have been in those short yardage plays. But still, you want to have one RB with a bit more size and I think there's a good chance that the Giants will keep Andre Brown instead of Ware.Even though they are both about the same size, Brown is a bit more of a power back, while Ware is a little more of a finesses runner. I can see Giants trying to trade Ware towards the end of training camp or simply cutting him if they can't and keeping Brown instead of him.

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