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.
ON SECOND THOUGHT: AFTER MINI-CAMP,
WHAT ARE THE BURNING QUESTIONS?
By Aaron Klein
we are in the in-between, the weigh station that is the last light of the off-season
before the Giants and the rest of the NFL start the full-time work with training
camp, beginning in just over a month.
For the record, the Giants will kick off camp with the rookies on July 22 and
the veterans on July 25. The team's first pre-season game is set for Aug. 9, at
home against the Cleveland Browns.
where are we? What are the biggest storylines swirling about with camp a little
over a month away? What are the positions of strength and weakness?
Let's take a bird's eye view of the 2018 Giants in this calm before the season.
IS ELI MANNING REALLY FACING HIS TWILIGHT?
we can't know how he'll hold up during camp, the pre-season and the 17-week regular
season, Eli Manning showed no signs of slowing down or an inability to do everything
necessary. Of course, he has some competition pushing him a more than in past
years. That's not to say that second-year quarterback Davis Webb is ready to take
over or will ever out-play Manning, but he's got some swagger and his hard work
over the last year, which includes guidance and tutelage from Manning, who seems
to relish healthy competition, might be paying off. Webb looked strong and finished
mini-camp taking all the first-team reps on the last day.
While it's just mini-camp, Webb might be showing signs of having a future with
the Giants ... long term.
The most likely
scenario, despite the selection of Kyle Lauletta in the April draft, is that Manning
will start the season and play all year, barring injury, while Webb settles firmly
into the No. 2 job; Lauletta is too talented to pass through waivers to put him
on the practice squad. He is the No. 3.
DO THEY HAVE A RUNNING GAME?
the answer is most certainly yes. In fact, between first-round pick Saquon Barkley,
free agent veteran Jonathan Stewart and not-to-be-forgotten Wayne Gallman, the
Giants may just have the backfield they need to open the passing game that much
more. Right, Barkley does that, too.
HAS THE TEAM FINALLY BUILT A SOLID OFFENSIVE LINE?
It sure seems that the offensive line is not only rebuilt but is better because
of it. Of course, there is no way to know for sure until the defensive units they
face are enemies.
Yes, the Giants made
veteran free agent Nate Solder the highest-paid left tackle in the league and
they probably know they overpaid. However, there wasn't going to be a chance they
wouldn't overpay if they wanted to find a legitimate cornerstone. Signing Solder
pushed would-be bust Ereck Flowers to right tackle, and the former first-rounder
seems to have taken to the new role.
The guard spots will also see new faces, with second-round pick Will Hernandez
already locking up the left guard job and free agent Patrick Omameh seemingly
secure at right tackle.
despite the re-signing of Brett Jones to start at the position, former reserve
guard/center Jon Halapio took nearly all the first-team snaps at center, which
makes it appears he and not Jones will start in 2018. Jones, it is assumed, would
be the swing guard and backup center instead, bringing talent and versatility
... unless he wins the job back in training camp.
major concern: Chad Wheeler appears to be the best reserve tackle and that's not
IS THERE A PROBLEM AT CORNERBACK?
At this stage, the Giants' cornerbacks group has some question marks despite the
level of pure talent. The team hopes that Janoris Jenkins returns to his 2016
form, when he was one of the best in the league, and that Eli Apple will finally
pay off as a former first-rounder. Jenkins and Apple are the starters now and
most likely for the year, regardless of how they perform.
Letting Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie go during free agency might come back to haunt
the Giants, unless they find a way to bring him back. The door, as they say, is
not closed. In his place, the Giants need to find a top slot corner and will hope
that one of three players (William Gay, Donte Deayon, Grant Haley) can take over.
There are plenty of corners on the roster, but most are inexperienced and are
more prospects than anything else.
WHAT ABOUT THE SPECIAL TEAMS?
bringing in free agent kicker Marshall Koehn to compete with Aldrick Rosas (Rosas
needs better competition than Koehn), and cutting punter Brad Wing and acquiring
punters Riley Dixon and Taylor Symmank, the Giants also made Zak DeOssie the highest-paid
long snapper in the league. The Giants also brought in a bevy of linebackers,
defensive backs, receivers and other athletes to rebuild the coverage and return
One under-the-radar question
on special teams is: Who will return kicks and punts? The Giants had to let Dwayne
Harris go for many reasons this off-season and are possibly looking at Sterling
Shepard as the lead kick returner and free agent Kalif Raymond on punt returns.
However, they will surely try just about any fast and capable back, receiver or
even defensive back in order to keep Shepard out of the picture as he's the solid
No. 2 wide receiver and the team can ill afford to lose him to injury while returning
HOW DO THE ROOKIES LOOK?
First of all, Barkley appears to be as good as advertised and much more. Hernandez
is a starter at left guard. Linebacker Lorenzo Carter shows promise and may start
out on the bench but should contribute. Lauletta is firmly entrenched as the No.
3 and it would be a surprise if he did not remain in that spot all season. If
rookie defensive lineman B.J. Hill gets back on the field before second-year lineman
Avery Moss (both are injured), he could find a spot. Defensive end B.J. McIntosh
has looked like a guy with a future. Undrafted free agents Haley and Chris Lewis-Harris
should find jobs in the secondary, too. Do not rule out any surprises, but the
are probably the best of the rookies.
Questions? Comments? Something to say?
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