Home > NFL, Roster Roundouts > Roster Roundouts ’10: A New York Giants Season Preview

Roster Roundouts ’10: A New York Giants Season Preview

See all of the previous LiveBall Roster Roundouts articles: BucsBrownsChiefsJaguarsRams, Seahawks, Bengals, Bills, Lions.

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New York Giants (projected record: 7-9)

Team synopsis:  The Giants’ defense fell hard last season, dropping the team from a 13-3 finish in 2008 to a 8-8 record in 2009.  The splits on their record was even worse: 4 of those wins were against NFC East teams Washington and Dallas, and Washington in particular is going to be the biggest difference for the Giants this year.  After starting 3-0 against non-divisional opponents last year, the Giants finished 1-6 against mediocre competition from the AFC West and NFC South.  The result of a more balanced schedule with fewer cupcakes means that even though the defense gets a little better this year, there’s no rebound in the cards for this team.

Best Players

  • QB Eli Manning (drafted — Ole Miss/2004 1st round pick)
  • WR Steve Smith (drafted — USC/2007 2nd round pick)
  • TE Kevin Boss (drafted — Western Oregon/2007 5th round pick)
  • C Shaun O’Hara (signed — Cleveland/2004 Free Agent)
  • RG Chris Snee (drafted — Boston College/2004 2nd round pick)
  • DE Justin Tuck (drafted — Notre Dame/2005 3rd round pick
  • DE Matthias Kiwanuka (drafted — Boston College/2006 1st round pick)
  • CB Corey Webster (drafted — LSU/2005 2nd round pick)

Best Prospects

  • WR Hakeem Nicks (drafted — North Carolina/2009 1st round pick)
  • OT William Beatty (drafted — Connecticut/2009 2nd round pick)
  • DT Linval Joseph (drafted — East Carolina/2010 2nd round pick)
  • LB Philip Dillard (drafted — Nebraska/2010 4th round pick)
  • LB Jonathon Goff  (drafted — Vanderbilt/2008 5th round pick)

We’re not quite beyond the final ten teams in terms of purely the smallest amount of talent on the roster, but we’ve already arrived at a New York Giants team that won the super bowl just 30 months ago.  Do I have this thing backwards?  Where is all the talent on the Giants roster?

It’s there.  The problem is that the Giants have very little talent that could be referred to as “hidden”, those players pushed further down on the depth chart that scouts (or stats) love, but have yet to get their crack at the lineup.  A lot of the Giants’ talent is out in the open: at quarterback and receiver.  They’ve invested a lot in that defensive side of the football, but they don’t have nearly as much talent there as that investment would suggest.

Consider: that the recent amount of drafted talent that would fall under the “best prospect” category on the Giants exceeds that of the following pre-Giant roster roundout articles: Bucs, and Chiefs.  That’s it.  Every other team you would think of as having less premature talent than the Giants on the roster is, at the very least, comprable.

And it’s not like the Giants have developed their talent so quickly that players from the last two drafts are among the best on the team.  That’s not the case at all.  Most of the best players on the Giants were also the best players on their super bowl team.  Now, Kiwanuka, Webster, Smith, and Boss have all gone on to have better years than 2007 since, and for those four, and probably Manning as well, the best may lie ahead, but, really the Giants are expecting the breakout of just a single player this year: WR Hakeem Nicks.

To cover all my bases, I’d like to point out that I left four players off the defensive side that arguably could have been on: S Kenny Phillips, LB Clint Sintim, CB Terrell Thomas, and DE Jason Pierre-Paul, the team’s first round pick.  The only reasons I’d point to as to why Pierre-Paul isn’t even considered a prospect, for the purposes of this article, is because of a poor SackSEER projection, and more directly, because he had five college sacks, and played across from George Selvie, one of the most prolific pass rushers in college history.  He might be a physical freak, and said freaks tend to have long careers, but physical defensive ends who aren’t pass rushers aren’t prospects.  They just are what they are: a troublesome player to drive out of the way in the running game.  The team hasn’t given up hope that Sintim can be more than just a passable LB, Phillips is a great player (and young) if, and when, he’s ever 100% again, and Terrell Thomas will have to fight his way out of the nickel role again this year.

But the Giants have also made really bad FA moves to cover for some weaker drafting (aside from the 2007 class that powered the super bowl run as rookies).  Last year, it was $8 mil/year for DT Chris Canty who is a nice player to have on the edge in a 4-3 or 3-4, but the Giants were expecting to turn him into a superstar player on the interior, where he was barely passable, and for the money, it can only be deemed a failure.  This year, it’s Antrel Rolle the team’s new free safety.  Rolle was on the road to Bustsville as a corner drafted 7th overall in 2005, but the team had a huge hole at safety and figured if they could get anything out of the pick, they should.  Well, he hit free agency a year early because the Cardinals weren’t willing to raise his salary to get the same production.  The Giants did raise his salary, by a lot, so they’ll try to turn him into a valuable safety.  The mistakes here are being repeated: Canty, Rolle, Pierre-Paul.  The Giants are trying to take physical football players and place them around the existing defensive stars, in many cases, playing them out of position.

Earlier this week, New York signed Keith Bulluck to play middle linebacker.  Bulluck still has a lot left, but he used to be a three skill linebacker: pass coverage, pass rush, and explosive against the run.  He’s still quick to the ball when it’s in front of him, but that’s his only skill.  He probably is the Giants best option at linebacker, but that means Jonathon Goff and Phillip Dillard will have to wait for their turn to show what they can do.  Linebacker is the Giants deepest position, but Bulluck enters as perhaps the best of all the Giants linebackers, which essentially means that it doesn’t matter who starts: the defensive rebound will not be coming from the defensive front seven.

They’ll rely on Corey Webster’s health to fuel that rebound, but if it turns out that Webster’s 2008 was merely a single year aberration in terms of health, and that Webster is hardly an elite player, then that could be a short lived idea.  Kenny Phillips should make every player better on the defense, once he is finally back on the field.  But there’s almost no depth in this unit, and it probably will not be long until the Antrel Rolle signing looks very foolish.

The picture on offense is a lot rosier.  Eli Manning is solidly one of the seven best quarterbacks in the game: he’s got the pocket presence that puts him above guys like Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers even if traditional statistics do not.  The running game is in flux, with player movement on the offensive line for the first time since 2006: David Diehl is kicking inside, replacing Rich Seubert in the lineup, with 2009 second round pick William Beatty stepping into the LT position.  Beatty and Kareem McKenzie might make up the weakest OT tandem in the division (though perhaps Doug Free and Marc Columbo aren’t too far off).  Diehl-O’Hara-Snee is the best interior OL trio in the division, so things aren’t bad on the line.

Though the Jacobs/Bradshaw/Ware trio that Manning lines up in front of is lacking in explosiveness and receiving ability, Manning throws to a really impressive number of receivers, of which Steve Smith is merely the best.  I’m not 100% sold on Hakeem Nicks as a number one NFL receiver, considering he was mostly a number two in college, but his explosive ability was on display last year for anyone who wanted to see highlight reel catches.  Mario Manningham is kind of a flake, but he’s in a good spot as no. 1 receiver on the Giants.  Anything the team gets out of its third rounder from 2009, Ramses Barden, is gravy.  His asset is being tall.

Kevin Boss is the kind of player who would be a poor receiving tight end on a limited offense, but as the fourth option in the Giants passing game, the shoe fits.  Boss is a fantastic short range receiver, and he’s an excellent in-line blocker.  Being adept at both skills allows the Giants to play 3 WRs frequently without giving up their running game, which could use a more explosive lead back than Brandon Jacobs.  With Darcy Johnson elsewhere, 2009 3rd rounder Travis Beckum gets a chance to play in the offense.  Wisconsin-product TEs have a pretty impressive recent history in the NFL.

Fighting for a spot on the roster

The two guys who the Giants are carrying on the roster at RB who aren’t part of the Jacobs/Bradshaw/Ware trio aren’t some odd camp scrubs, but Andre Brown and Gartrell Johnson are both mid-round draft picks from the 2009 draft (Johnson by San Diego) who are highly thought of by league observers and this blog alike.  They are in competition with each other for a spot on the roster, but it’s not unfathomable to see the both of them force Ware off the roster.  The offseason injury to WR/KR Domenik Hixon only makes it more likely that the Giants will keep four RBs, now thinner at WR.

If Barden can be penciled in as the fourth receiver — we’ll say that the Giants won’t yet give up on a third round pick from a year ago — Derek Hagan and Sinorice Moss would be in direct competition for the 5th WR spot.  It’s not unfathomable that Manningham could get the axe, just unlikely that the team would see a lot of reason to keep Santana Moss’ brother around too much longer.  The fact that it’s now 2010, and that Sinorice Moss and Byron Westbrook are still employed by NFC East franchises — this may be the sincerest form of flattery.

Rich Seubert should slide in nicely as a dual-backup at left guard and center, but should Beatty fail to lock down that left side, the Giants could end up with depth chart issues on the OL.  Guy Whimper should remain the first OT off the bench on this team, but could face pressure from Adam Koets.  The backup right guard should be rookie Mitch Petrus.  Jacob Bender is likely to be the swingman.  That means that Kevin Boothe, a waiver pickup from Oakland two years ago, could be the guy who loses his roster spot to Petrus.

The defensive front is where the Giants could pretty much pick names out of a hat and not miss a beat in performance.  How do you keep just 16 of these guys?  Tuck and Kiwanuka are the only irreplaceables here, but even that’s a bit tongue in cheek since Osi Umenyiora is still around and could replace either for a three or four game stretch.  Having three quality DEs wouldn’t seem like a curse, but YOU try to develop Jason Pierre-Paul in these conditions.  No, I’m serious, I don’t think it could be done.

With Jay Alford and Barry Cofield as the starting tackles, and Chris Canty’s contract giving him plenty of job security, and a desire to push Linval Joseph towards the starting lineup as quickly as possible, Rocky Bernard seems like a 5th tackle on this team.  It’s not uncommon for a 4-3 team to keep 9 defensive lineman, but I don’t think the Giants will.  There are 11 linebackers on the roster right now, and 10 of them could start on this team.  Zac DeOssie offers double value because he also snaps, but Bernard’s release will lead the Giants towards being able to hold 8 LBs total: Bulluck, Goff, and Dillard in the middle, then Clint Sintim, Adrian Tracy, and DeOssie on the strong side, and Michael Boley on the weak side.  That’s only seven LBs, so Chase Blackburn and Bryan Kehl are the last two guys who could make it.  The team likes Kehl more I think, and so Coughlin-favorite Blackburn could be the release here.

The corners who will play the most are Webster, Aaron Ross, and Terrell Thomas, and Bruce Johnson isn’t a bad option at dime back.  Deon Grant and Michael Johnson are the backup safeties, and should split dime back duties on a very deep defense that has a weird affinity for complimenting organizational depth with other team’s trash.

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