Dave Klein was the Giants' beat
writer for The Star-Ledger from 1961 to 1995.
He is the author of 26 books
and he is one of only three sportswriters to have covered all the Super Bowls.
Dave has allowed TEAM GIANTS to reprint some of his articles.
WHILE THE OFFENSE TURNS THE PAGE,
THE DEFENSE WORKS TO COME TOGETHER
By Dave Klein
As we head into the Giants' training camp, which begins Monday, there are a few
areas to mention -- and this time, they aren't going to be negative ones such
as who will play tight end, who will be the middle linebacker and who will start
at running back?
In this case, why not
concentrate on those who might come up with a superlative season?
1) Offensive tackle Justin Pugh played every game as a rookie and was virtually
uneaten in his head-to-head confrontations. He became the anchor of the offensive
line, one that was in disarray, and he can only become better with more experience.
2) Wide receiver Reuben Randle, whose chief problem last year as a rookie was
the playbook, has worked with quarterback Eli Manning all during the off-season
and appears to have nailed the concept of pro football. Teaming with Victor Cruz,
who needed no such tutelage, and No. 1 draft pick Odell Beckham Jr., the Giants'
passing attack under new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo might be explosive.
3) The secondary, featuring new acquisition Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Prince
Amukamara at corners, Antrel Rolle and Stevie Brown at safeties, might turn into
one of those "can't beat em, lock down" units.
4) Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, IF HE'S HEALTHY, has the ability to become
a Pro Bowl participant and his size-speed coordinates are almost impossible to
find in the NFL.
5) And finally, the
newest offensive linemen, veteran free agent guard Geoff Schwartz and rookie (No.
2 pick) center Weston Richburg. Schwartz is an immediate starter, replacing Kevin
Boothe (who went to Oakland); Richburg might have to convince the coaches that
he deserves the job ahead of another veteran free agent, center J.D. Walton (who
hasn't played in two years). But with him in the fold, why would the Giants draft
Richburg? You know the answer to start.
along with Schwartz and Richburg/Walton, will improve Manning's pass protection.
He was thrown around too many times last season -- sacked 39 times, with 27 interceptions
both career highs (though you might want to refer to them as lows).
was this? Well, tackle David Diehl was unacceptable; center David Baas missed
a lot of games and his various replacements were not the answer; guard Chris Snee
missed too much with his sore hip (which later required surgery) and left tackle
Will Beatty had one of those awful seasons when he has the tools to do so much
If Manning gets the time this
new (however young) line figures to provide, then he'll have the time to find
Cruz and Randle with Beckham, Jerrel Jernigan, newly-reacquired Mario Manningham
and lightning-fast Trindon Holliday frequently flooding the field to make other
defensive backfields wonder why they didn't take up dentistry.
It is also entirely possible that Beckham will earn the starting spot, leaving
Randle as a major threat in the slot or as a receiver-in-motuion.
as for the secondary, few quarterbacks will willingly throw into that meat-shredder.
ARC was the prize of free agency as far as the Giants are concerned. Amukamara
had his best season in 2013. Brown missed it with a broken leg but he's back to
take up the performance of his eight interceptions in 2012, and Rolle is the team
leader, a smart, almost intuitive player who hits far beyond the expectations
of his 6-0, 205-pound body.
is a genetic freak, too big to be so fast, too fast to be so big. He has some
catching up to do following his various ailments and injuries of 2013, but at
his best (as in 2011 when he recorded 16.5 sacks, as compared to 6.5 in 2012 and
just two last season) he is a force that can create offense-changing plans.
cannot block him," said Mike Shanahan, who was the Washington head coach
in 2011. "You just have to run the play away from him." And that, of
course, makes things easier for the other defensive linemen, even with the vacancy
caused by the defection of Justin Tuck (to Oakland) and Linval Joseph (to Minnesota).
The offensive line will take some time to gel, but the ingredients are there.
Snee vows to play all season and swears he is 100 percent. Beatty, one can only
hope, will start to earn his gigantic contract. Snee, Schwartz and Richburg/Walton
should fit in nicely.
A few brave souls
have picked the Giants to win the NFC East. Hey, it's not a killer division. Are
the Eagles the favorites? Yeah, probably, but certainly not unbeatable. The Cowboys
and Washington should finish third and fourth.
Nice to see some positives for a change, isn't it?
***** ***** ***** ***** *****
Tom Coughlin, facing a major turnaround in his team, commented on the offense
recently: "It's coming along slowly," he said, "but it's working.
It's nice to see the new guys fitting in, showing they have learned their playbooks."
Manning, too, appears excited about
the new offensive ingredients. "It's energizing," he says. "It
has re-energized me. Learning a new offense is exciting as well as a challenge,
and the job isn't leisurely but fast. I've got to learn it fast and then put it
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