There are several interesting battles taking shape on this Giants team.
On offense, the team is looking to get second-year man Will Beatty into the lineup at tackle. The common belief is that Beatty will challenge incumbent David Diehl, who last year went to his first Pro Bowl as an alternate.
Another area where the Giants could be looking to add competition is at tight end, where they have yet to find a legitimate blocking prospect that can excel at that task. New York will go into 2010 with Kevin Boss and Travis Beckum as one and two respectively, while Bear Pascoe and Scott Chandler will almost certainly have additional competition.
On defense, Gerris Wilkinson will compete with
Over to special teams, K Lawrence Tynes will see his first real competition in two seasons, as Sam Swank will push him for the kickoff role. Meanwhile, Domenik Hixon could see some competition for the kickoff and punt return jobs he held last season.
Although the Giants are expected to place a premium on the defensive side of the ball in this month's draft, some people believe that the team could go offense in round one, especially if RB CJ Spiller of Clemson is sitting there when the Giants are on the clock.
Spiller could perhaps provide the Giants with an additional dimension given his speed and athleticism that would enable him to be split out wide, similar to how the Saints have employed Reggie Bush.
With question marks surrounding the durability of starters Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw, and the uncertainty of last year's fourth round draft pick, Andre Brown, who admitted that his biggest challenge is going to be erasing the memory of his Achilles injury when he runs, it would not be surprising if the Giants were looking elsewhere for that needed boost to their running game.
Someone like Spiller could be just what the doctor ordered in terms of a third down back, a role that neither D.J. Ware nor Gartrell Johnson have yet to claim as their own.
Moreover, Spiller has experience as a kickoff returner, which is another area where the Giants would no doubt welcome an upgrade.
1. Linebacker: Although Jonathan Goff and Gerris Wilkinson are expected to compete for the middle linebacker position to round out a trio that will also include Clint Sintim at the strong side and Michael Boley on the weak side, New York will no doubt want to upgrade their depth as last year, the drop off in the depth once the starters were forced from the lineup due to injury was very discernable.
2. Defensive Tackle: With this year's crop said to be very deep, the Giants could take advantage of the surplus by grabbing another big-bodied nose tackle who can add some depth behind starter Barry Cofield and backup Rocky Bernard, the latter of whom is on the wrong side of 30 and who is coming off shoulder surgery.
3. Offensive Line: Tackle and center remain the most glaring needs along this unit, in that order. While the team could wait another before taking a center, given the depth they will have at tackle plus the fact that Kareem McKenzie, who has two years remaining on his contract, odds are good that the Giants will look to begin grooming McKenzie's eventual successor.
DT Jay Alford (knee). Alford said he is getting close to returning to full speed seven months after having knee surgery to repair a torn ligament.
"Everything is good; I'm a 100 percent," he said recently.
Alford has been limited to three workouts a week instead of the usual four. "They're just being cautious and don't want me to overdo it right now because it's March, and I still have a few months left before I get into full stride," he explained.
Alford said the time away from the game made him develop a new depth of appreciation for it. "You can't take it for granted because just like that, it can be taken away."
--RB Andre Brown (Achilles), indicated that he is back to full speed after missing all of last year with a torn Achilles. Brown, whom the team had hoped would compete for the third down back last season before his injury, will still need to overcome the mental challenges that come with returning from a serious injury, something he has admitted might be an issue.
--DE Justin Tuck (shoulder), said that he is on schedule in his recovery; however, he has not been fully cleared to participate in all of the off-season conditioning drills. Tuck told reporters that every week the medical staff clears him to do a little bit more in terms of weight training.
He also didn't sound certain that he'd be ready to go for the team's upcoming OTAs that begin in May. "I'll be here," he said. "I don't know how much they'll want me to do -- that's still to be determined."
Tuck will likely be limited during the spring drills and is expected to be one of a handful of players who are put on managed schedules during training camp.
"I don't want to put any specifics on anything," he said when asked if he thought he would be ready to go full speed by the start of training camp. "I just know that I'm ahead of where I thought I'd be at this point so I'm happy with that."
--CB Aaron Ross (hamstring), who finished the season on injured reserve with a badly strained hamstring, has been participating in the team's offseason conditioning program. He told reporters in passing that his hamstring has been pain-free for several weeks now.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
--LB Danny Clark has been a solid contributor for the team at strong-side linebacker, but due to his age and the expected development of LB Clint Sintim, Clark is not expected to be back.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (*indicates restricted because of uncapped year)
--*S C.C. Brown (tendered at $1.226M with no compensation) struggled when pressed into action last season after the Giants lost S
--*DT Barry Cofield (tendered at $1.759M with second-round pick as compensation) played well despite his continued recovery from knee surgery from the prior year. He is still a solid young player who is expected to be a core presence on the defensive line.
--*WR Derek Hagan (tendered at $1.176M with third-round pick as compensation) was a nice addition to the special teams unit and contributed when called upon in the offense, where he ran nice routes and was reliable with the ball in traffic. His special teams play alone -- he was most noticeable in providing consistency on kickoff coverage, an area that as a whole didn't always perform up to expectations, should give him an advantage in securing a roster spot in 2010.
--WR Domenik Hixon (tendered at $1.759M with second-round pick as compensation) took over the punt- and kick-return specialist roles, showing an ability to break tackles and change direction. He also received snaps on the offense and mostly did well with his opportunities, further solidifying his ability to contribute in multiple roles.
--*WR Sinorice Moss (tendered at $1.176M with third-round pick as compensation) was unable to transfer a strong spring and summer into game-day production, losing out to
--*T Guy Whimper (tendered at $1.176M with fourth-round pick as compensation) has been unable to make enough progress since being drafted in the fourth round of the 2006 draft. Whimper, who was back after missing all of 2008 with a broken leg, was passed on the depth chart by both Kevin Boothe and Will Beatty; as such.
--*LB Gerris Wilkinson (expected to be tendered at $1.176M with third-round pick as compensation) again fell victim to the injury bug, this year succumbing to a dislocated wrist that required season-ending surgery. Wilkinson has shown flashes of talent both as a linebacker and on special teams, but his inability to stay on the field and to show the coaches he has what it takes to be a regular part of the defense makes him highly unlikely to receive a tender.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS
--S/CB D.J. Johnson saw some late-season action mostly on special teams and in limited defensive snaps. He will most likely be tendered to compete for a backup and special-teams role.
--*G/T Kevin Boothe: RFA; (tendered at $1.176M with sixth-round pick as compensation); $1.176M/1 yr.
--TE Scott Chandler: ERFA; $395,000/1 yr.
--P Jeff Feagles: UFA; terms unknown.
--DE Dave Tollefson: RFA; (tendered at $1.684M with second-round pick as compensation); $1.684M/1 yr.
--RB D.J. Ware: ERFA; $545,000/1 yr.
--S Antrel Rolle: FA Cardinals; $37M/5 yrs, $15M guaranteed/$5M SB.
--QB Jim Sorgi: FA Colts; $1.152M/1 yr, $175,000 SB.
--OT Herb Taylor: Waivers Broncos.
--QB David Carr: UFA 49ers; $6.25M/2 yrs, $2M SB.
--*CB Kevin Dockery: Not tendered as RFA/Rams; $630,000/1 yr.
--TE Darcy Johnson: Not tendered as RFA/Rams; $470,000/1 yr.
--LB Antonio Pierce (released/failed physical).
--DT Fred Robbins: UFA Rams; $11.25M/3 yrs, $3.395M RB 2010.
--S Aaron Rouse (released).
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