Let’s get one thing clear: Osi Umenyiora deserved to be benched last season. The Giants Pro Bowl defensive end became a liability as a playside run-defender. At times, it was worse than you could imagine. Offenses were clearly altering their game-plan to dial up run after run to Umenyiora’s side of the field. And not only was Umenyiora getting blocked, but opposing linemen were, at times, steering him in the direction they wanted him to go. Umenyiora was getting manhandled; the Giants had no choice but to bench him.
Now, let’s get something else clear: Umenyiora is a good player. And, prior to his ’08 knee injury, he had been a solid all-around run-defender. He’s still quick and agile, and he shows an acute ability to make run stops as a backside defender (when he can use his speed to chase the ball). Considering this and the fact that he’s still a 10-sack-caliber pass-rusher, it’d be foolish to write him off.
The 28-year-old Umenyiora is intelligent and outspoken. He has clashed with coaches in the past and wasn’t happy about the way his ’09 season finished out. With the first-round selection of Jason Pierre-Paul, many figured Umenyiora would have been traded by now. But the Giants, since the days of George Young and Ernie Accorsi, have always horded pass-rushers the way schizophrenics horde cats. So Umenyiora is on the roster and trying to climb from the second string back to the first. He must overtake Mathias Kiwanuka, a solid player with a similar skill set.
Umenyiora was asked today by ESPNNewYork.com’s Ohm Youngmisuk about playing the second string. Here was his response:
"Would I be cool? If I truly was not the best player, then I would be cool with it. If I feel like I am the best player and everybody in this league knows the type of player that I am, if I am able to play the way that I am capable of playing -- and I haven't played that way in my whole career in my mind -- the minute in my mind that I am playing the way that I am capable of playing when I am out on the field, then of course, it is going to be a problem. But I don't think that is going to happen."
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