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Updating New York Giants' Key Position Battles Early in Training Camp

Kevin BoilardCorrespondent IJuly 27, 2014

Updating New York Giants' Key Position Battles Early in Training Camp

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    Kellen Davis is trying to make the Giants roster as a tight end.
    Kellen Davis is trying to make the Giants roster as a tight end.Associated Press

    A week has passed since the New York Giants first reported to training camp. Already, some of the team's key position battles are beginning to unfold.

    The Giants have question marks at several positions. By the end of training camp—three weeks from now—the goal is to have answered all of these uncertainties. Until then, the players on the 90-man roster will fight to be the solution at their respective positions.

    This article will highlight and update the Giants' five biggest training camp battles.

Tight End

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    Seth Wenig/Associated Press

    The Giants' tight end situation has not improved since training camp opened. None of the five tight ends on the current roster has taken a decisive step forward in the race for the starting job.

    Second-year player Larry Donnell, however, appears to be a shade ahead of the rest of the pack. The team released its first unofficial depth chart of the summer, and Donnell sat atop it:

    1. Larry Donnell
    2. Daniel Fells
    3. Xavier Grimble
    4. Kellen Davis
    5. Adrien Robinson

    Donnell made the team as an undrafted rookie out of Grambling State last season. Although he was active on special teams, he only caught three passes in all of 2013, making him somewhat of a surprise to lead this early depth chart at tight end.

    A bigger surprise than Donnell leading this list is Robinson being dead last. Picked in the fourth round of the 2012 draft, Robinson should be the front-runner for the starting job. After two disappointing seasons, however, the Giants are clearly making Robinson prove his value to the team.

    Between Donnell and Robinson are the two seven-year veterans, Daniel Fells and Kellen Davis, as well as undrafted rookie Xavier Grimble out of USC.

    Fells appears to have the upper hand on Davis in blocking situations, per Jordan Raanan of NJ.com and Connor Orr of The Star-Ledger. Grimble is jockeying for a roster spot, but he will be lost in the mix if he cannot stay on the field. He was carted off with a heat-related issue on the first day of camp and tweaked his hamstring on Sunday, per Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News.

Fullback

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    The Star-Ledger-USA TODAY Sports

    The Giants have two very strong fullback candidates on their current roster.

    But what happens if they wish to keep neither of them?

    That scenario was recently explored by Connor Orr of The Star-Ledger. If the Giants part ways with both Super Bowl champion Henry Hynoski and the man who replaced him in 2013, John Conner, they will likely mold a couple of their five tight ends into hybrid-type roles.

    Tom Coughlin is usually painted as old-school, and his recommitment to a power-running game is no secret after his Giants averaged just 3.5 yards per carry in 2013, ranking 30th in the NFL. Coughlin would likely agree with Hynoski, who is listed ahead of Conner on the unofficial depth chart, when he says "you need a fullback," via Jordan Raanan of NJ.com.

    But the offense is now in the hands of coordinator Ben McAdoo, who envisions the 2014 platoon moving at a faster pace than it has in the past. While running an uptempo, hurry-up offense, the Giants may not have room for a fullback, a position that traditionally lacks versatility.

    The Philadelphia Eagles, who installed a fast-paced offense of their own under Chip Kelly last year, led the league in rushing with 5.1 yards per carry. Their 2013 roster did not feature a fullback.

Defensive End

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    Julie Jacobson/Associated Press

    Jason Pierre-Paul claims to be "110 percent" healthy this training camp, via Giants.com, so the only uncertainty is the player taking the field opposite him.

    According to the unofficial depth chart, 10th-year veteran Mathias Kiwanuka leads the way on the left side:

    1. Mathias Kiwanuka
    2. Robert Ayers
    3. Kerry Wynn
    4. Jordan Stanton

    Kiwanuka, who, in the past, has been utilized as a strong-side linebacker, is a formidable run defender. He is a downhill defender who will be serviceable in this role if 28-year-old Robert Ayers is unable to squeeze him out of a starting job. Both Kiwanuka (2006) and Ayers (2009) are former first-round selections.

    Damontre Moore, a 2013 third-round selection, was also expected to get in the mix on the left side with Justin Tuck out of the picture. His 250-pound frame makes him a better blindside pass-rusher, though, and that's where the Giants have him on the unofficial depth chart:

    1. Jason Pierre-Paul
    2. Damontre Moore
    3. Kendrick Adams
    4. Emmanuel Dieke

    Assuming Jason Pierre-Paul returns to form, Moore can still be the Giants' second-most effective pass-rusher in 2014. However, unless his run-defending ability improves drastically, he will only see the field as a situational pass-rusher this season. Recently, veteran defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins endorsed Moore's all-around athleticism and improvement, per Dan Graziano of ESPN.com.

Kicker

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    Seth Wenig/Associated Press

    Whose foot will handle New York's kickoff, field-goal and extra-point duties in 2014?

    The answer may not be as clear as you think.

    Josh Brown did a solid job last season, his first with the Giants, converting 23 of his 26 field-goal attempts, including a 52-yarder and an overtime-winner, both versus the Detroit Lions in Week 16. This offseason, the Giants agreed to pay $2.6 million to retain the services of the 35-year-old kicker for two more seasons.

    However, they also brought in former Indianapolis Colt Brandon McManus to compete with Brown. McManus, who kicked and punted at Temple, did not make the Colts roster, as Adam Vinatieri edged him out for the job—Brown will be easier to beat. Believe it or not, McManus claims to have hit a 75-yarder while training at Lehigh University this summer, per Mitch Abramson of the New York Daily News.

    Right now, Brown is still ahead of McManus on the depth chart, even though McManus has been the more efficient kicker in camp so far, per Connor Hughes of The Star-Ledger.

Backup Quarterback

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    USA TODAY Sports

    A serviceable backup quarterback is an undervalued commodity in today's NFL.

    The Giants may not have one in the battle between Curtis Painter and Ryan Nassib.

    Painter was Eli Manning's backup in 2013, and in limited action, he was incredibly unimpressive. The 2009 sixth-round selection out of Purdue completed eight of only 16 attempts, two of which were intercepted. He did not throw a touchdown pass.

    But the real pressure to perform is not on Painter. Instead, it's on Nassib, the Giants' fourth-round selection in 2013. With Manning entrenched as the starter, the Nassib pick, which the Giants traded up to make, did not come without criticism from the fanbase.

    Those same fans who lambasted the pick are now reveling in their opportunity to say, "I told you so."

    Jordan Raanan of NJ.com and Connor Orr of The Star-Ledger have described Nassib as a "train wreck" so far in camp, inspiring little comfort in case Manning is injured. The Giants also had Josh Freeman and Rusty Smith under contract earlier in the offseason, but the terms of both deals were terminated before training camp opened.

    The Giants are once again banking on the health of Manning, who is still riding the league's longest active iron-man streak (for a quarterback) despite an ankle injury that forced him out of action in Week 17 last year.

     

    *All statistical information courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.com.

    Kevin is a New York Giants Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter here.

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