4 Biggest Areas of Concern for New York Giants Heading into Training Camp
What keeps diehard New York Giants fans up at night?
It will be another week before the Giants take the field again, this time for training camp. The monthlong practice session is designed to hammer out any troubles that have lingered over a long offseason without contact. New York's aim is to no longer have these concerns by the time training camp and the preseason have passed.
After a particularly poor season in which the Giants posted a 7-9 record, falling short of the playoffs for a second straight year, New York's training camp concerns are more prominent than they have been in past years. Much work has already been done this offseason through free agency and the draft, and soon it will be time to put those personnel moves to the test on the field.
Read on to learn more about the Giants' four biggest areas of concern heading into training camp.
*All roster information courtesy of Giants.com.
**All statistical information courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.com.
The Giants are directionless at tight end. The team currently has five options, and not one of them is particularly enticing.
There is no front-runner for the starting job at this time. Adrien Robinson, a fourth-round pick out of Cincinnati in 2012, should be that player. However, Robinson is developing into an NFL-caliber player at a snail's pace. Injuries and inexperience have limited his appearances to just three games over the past two seasons.
Patience is growing thin on that front.
Robinson and Larry Donnell are New York's two most athletic tight ends. Donnell is now in his second NFL season after making the team as an undrafted free agent out of Grambling State in 2012 and spending his first year on the practice squad. In 2013, Donnell played in all 16 games, catching just three passes for 31 yards—all against the Denver Broncos in Week 2.
There lies potential in the bulky bodies of Robinson (6'4", 264 lbs) and Donnell (6'6", 265 lbs), but it has not yet manifested itself on the playing field.
Two seventh-year veterans, Kellen Davis and Daniel Fells, are also in the mix. Davis was signed as a free agent this offseason after spending 2013 with the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks—he was a Chicago Bear for his first five NFL seasons. Fells joined the team on a reserve/future contract on the last day of 2013. Most of Fells' productivity came as a St. Louis Ram and as a Denver Bronco; he last caught a pass in 2012 as a member of the New England Patriots.
Neither Davis nor Fells is likely to become a prolific pass-catcher with the Giants. If either player makes the team, it will be more so as a blocking specialist than as a veritable receiving threat.
The dark horse in this race is undrafted rookie Xavier Grimble out of USC. Grimble's collegiate career—terminated a year early—was somewhat underwhelming, yet he has an opportunity to stand out against a drab cast of tight ends in training camp. Grimble may be the most natural pass-catcher of the bunch.
There is a mountain of uncertainty at defensive end, and at its peak is Jason Pierre-Paul—a first-round draft choice in 2010.
The decline of the one-time All-Pro is evident. His season-and-a-half-long sack rampage was interrupted in mid-2012 by a back injury, which required corrective surgery that sapped him of all effectiveness in 2013. New York's pass-rushing efficiency rides on Pierre-Paul's return to dominance more so than any other factor.
Beyond Pierre-Paul, the Giants' next most-hyped defensive end is Damontre Moore, a 2013 third-round selection out of Texas A&M. Although he was an especially dangerous edge-rusher in college, Moore was mostly invisible as an NFL rookie. He did make a few exceptional plays, though, like his punt-block versus the Oakland Raiders in Week 10.
However, don't expect the 250-pound Moore to take over the vacancy left by Justin Tuck on the strong side of the defense. Although he is a candidate for that job, Moore is a better fit on the right side or as a situational pass-rusher.
The real competition for Tuck's old duties will be between Mathias Kiwanuka and Robert Ayers. Kiwanuka was a first-round pick of the Giants back in 2006, while Ayers, acquired in free agency, was the Denver Broncos' first-round pick three years later. From a strictly statistical standpoint, neither player has fulfilled his respective draft-day potential. Kiwanuka, unlike Ayers, has avoided the bust label through his versatility and willingness to play any position in the front seven.
The remaining defensive end cast consists of three undrafted rookies and Kendrick Adams, who has not recorded a tackle for any of the four teams he's played for since 2012. Larger undrafted rookies Kerry Wynn (6'5", 266 lbs) and Jordan Stanton (6'4", 280 lbs) have some ability to swing inside and out, yet neither is likely to stick. Emmanuel Dieke, another undrafted rookie, had a rather unproductive college career at Georgia Tech, recording just five sacks through three seasons.
Jon Beason's Foot
When the Giants added middle linebacker Jon Beason via trade last season, it made a visible difference on defense.
New York is now without him, as Beason will rest a sore foot throughout training camp.
At this time last year, Beason was becoming an afterthought with the Carolina Panthers—he was not even on the Giants' radar. The 2007 first-round selection and 2008 first-team All-Pro played in only five games in the 2011 and 2012 seasons combined, as an Achilles injury and a knee injury ended those respective campaigns prematurely.
It took a total face-plant for the Giants to realize they needed a linebacker of Beason's caliber on their squad. They were lucky to acquire him for only a seventh-round pick, as he played a much larger role than your average seventh-rounder would in the Giants' 7-3 turnaround to close out the forgettable 2013 season.
This offseason, Beason, only 29, was offered a three-year deal worth up to $19 million. With Justin Tuck out of the picture, Beason appeared to be the heir apparent to Tuck's leadership role on the defense. That may still be the case, but for now, he'll need to do his cheerleading from the sideline.
In his place, a competition is brewing between Jameel McClain and Devon Kennard. McClain, signed in free agency, comes from a historically stingy Baltimore Ravens defense, where he spent six seasons as an inside linebacker. Kennard, a fifth-round selection in this year's draft, has drawn early praise for his quick transition to NFL practices.
Although both candidates to replace Beason seem adequate, neither has any experience in a leadership role with the Giants. The middle linebacker must be a natural leader of the defense, which Beason proved himself to be a season ago. The jury is still out on McClain's ability to step in and do the same, and that's a lot of responsibility for Kennard to take on during his first season as a professional.
Eli Manning's Arm
Above all other concerns is the one involving Eli Manning's arm.
No, it's not injured like Jon Beason's foot, but, after last season's performance, it's under just as much scrutiny.
Manning, just two seasons removed from his second Super Bowl MVP distinction, suffered through his worst full season as a professional in 2013. He failed to crack 4,000 yards, completed less than 58 percent of his passes and, worst of all, threw a league-leading and career-high 27 interceptions.
It was an all-around ugly year for Manning.
The Giants' fortunes go as Manning's arm goes. When he is on his game, they are verified Super Bowl contenders. And when he's off, they become bottom-feeders.
That's why the team's No. 1 concern heading into training camp has to be Manning's condition.
New York hopes it was the surrounding circumstances—and not Manning's deteriorating ability—that led to such an awful season last year. The offensive line was in shambles, and there was no reliable backfield mate for Manning to hand the ball to in times of trouble. Hakeem Nicks, the Giants' supposed No. 1 receiver, finished the season without a single touchdown catch.
In response to this, the Giants bolstered the O-line and running back units a bit during the offseason. They also spent their first-round pick on a shiny new weapon for Manning—Odell Beckham Jr., a fluid pass-catcher out of LSU.
On top of that, the entire offensive scheme was scrapped and replaced by new coordinator Ben McAdoo.
Manning claims these changes have "reenergized" him, according to the New York Daily News.
However, until we see that arm in action, it will remain a major concern.
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