I recently had the opportunity to pose five questions to New York Giants beat writer Tom Rock, who writes for New York Newsday (you can read his blog by clicking here). He gave some great insight into the Giants receiving corps, who may replace Derrick Ward, the team’s defense and much more. Let’s take a look at what he had to say:
1) Which of the young wide receivers do you see stepping up and filling the void created by the departures of Plaxico Burress and Amani Toomer?
Tom Rock: So far in minicamp, the star has been the mini-receiver! Sinorice Moss has been fantastic, better than he’s looked since the minicamp of his rookie year (before those injuries started hitting him). Now, catching passes in June is different from doing it in September, but even his teammates have noticed an increased hunger and focus from him as he enters the fourth year of what has, to this point, been a pretty unfulfilling career. The other receiver I would keep an eye on is Mario Manningham. He’s a kid with all of the physical tools, but his development was slowed last year when he was injured for most of training camp and fell behind the learning curve. He committed himself to the playbook this offseason and has looked very sharp so far.
2) How do you see the Giants splitting the carries this season? Who, if anyone, will step in and fill the void created by Derrick Ward’s departure?
Tom Rock: The Giants have a couple of options at running back. Ahmad Bradshaw is really developing and could be another 1,000-yard rusher behind Brandon Jacobs if he stays healthy. He’s explosive – he has two of the six longest runs from scrimmage in the NFL over the last two years – and elusive with a quickness that can’t be coached. There have been some rumors about Bradshaw not working hard or being lazy, but the people I talk to say that’s not the case and that when he’s at work his focus is on getting better. The Giants also have Danny Ware, an undrafted back out of Georgia a few years ago, who has showed glimpses of excellence in the preseason but was unable to get many carries with the “Earth, Wind and Fire” combination last season. It could be an interesting battle between Bradshaw and Ware – the elusive playmaker vs. the more traditional, strong back – for the No. 2 job. Either way the Giants will have a No. 3 who could be a starter for several NFL teams.
3) The big-ticket free agent additions all came to the defense in Michael Boley, Chris Canty and Rocky Bernard. Just how good could the defense be with these additions? Can we expect a healthy Osi Umenyiora?
Tom Rock: Osi’s health is near perfect. In fact, because the knee injury had been slowing him down for some time – including, he said, during the Super Bowl season when he went to the Pro Bowl – the surgery has made him feel stronger and more comfortable than he’s felt in years. Bad news for opposing QBs and o-linemen who have to deal with Osi on one side of the defense and Justin Tuck on the other. Add those additions at tackle with Canty and Bernard and have Mathias Kiwanuka coming off the bench to rotate and keep everyone fresh, and this could be the most daunting defensive line in Giants history. The Giants have traditionally built their defenses around linebackers, but this team is going to be all about the up-front battle at the line of scrimmage, causing chaos in the backfield, and pressuring QBs into making mistakes. That was the gameplan in Super Bowl XLII, and it’s the gameplan for 2009.
4) Aside from Hakeen Nicks, which player selected in the 2009 draft do you see making a major impact on the team this season?
Tom Rock: I really liked the Travis Beckum pick. I think he brings a new dimension to an offense that is in need of an overhaul now that Plaxico Burress is no longer around. The Giants couldn’t change their identity on the fly last season, but they are spending the offseason trying to do that and Beckum presents matchup challenges for LBs and safeties. He’s been nursing some injuries so far this spring, but if he’s healthy for training camp, he’ll add a few wrinkles to the playbook. It’s been a long time since the Giants have had an H-back threat like Beckum, and the offensive coaches have been furiously developing plays just for him.
5) Heading into 2008 many though Kevin Boss could emerge as a pass catching tight end, but he managed just 33 receptions. Is there anything to make us believe that this could be the year he turns the corner?
Tom Rock: Boss had just 33 receptions but six of them were for TDs, a team-high. And he hardly ever missed a pass thrown to him. He has tremendous hands and is athletic enough to run seam routes and get open. Last year, though, he became more of an all-around TE and improved his blocking. He was one of the reasons the Giants led the NFL in rushing and had two 1,000-yard backs. Those things don’t show up on stat sheets. But now that Plaxico is gone, Boss could become a receiving weapon, especially in the red zone. His receptions might never be very high, but his TDs per reception should be strong once again.
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