Camp preview: 10 hottest issues
July, 23, 2013
By Ohm Youngmisuk | ESPNNewYork.com
The New York Giants open camp with their first practice on Saturday.
Here are some pressing issues Tom Coughlin's team will face in camp:
1. JPP's back injury: Jason Pierre-Paul underwent back surgery in the offseason and might not be ready for the season opener. Mathias Kiwanuka will start until JPP is healthy. Pierre-Paul's timetable for recovery has him potentially being ready for the season opener, but the Giants should be cautious with their franchise defensive end. JPP's health could decide just how good the Giants will be defensively this season.
2. Hakeem Nicks' health: Nicks is entering the final year of his deal, and it's a big year for him. He did not participate in voluntary OTAs this offseason; one positive is that Nicks did not risk potential injury. A healthy Nicks is critical for the Giants' success this season after the offense struggled with him laboring through knee and foot injuries last year. Expect Nicks to be cautious to make sure he enters this contract year healthy and at full strength. Health, overall, is a major issue with the Giants since G Chris Snee and C David Baas also are coming off offseason surgeries.
3. Right tackle: Who will start? David Diehl enters camp as the starter and likely favorite, but he might have to hold off first-round pick Justin Pugh and James Brewer. The Giants coaching staff values Diehl's experience and versatility. Pugh is a first-round pick for a reason, but the Giants typically like to develop their rookies before playing them a ton of snaps.
4. Reviving the pass rush: Justin Tuck, JPP and Kiwanuka have to get after the quarterback. And a fourth pass-rusher must emerge with Osi Umenyiora gone. Adrian Tracy, Damontre Moore, Justin Trattou and Adewale Ojomo will all have opportunities to show what they can do in camp.
5. Stopping the run: The Giants struggled against the run last year and finished 31st overall in total defense. Co-owner John Mara wanted his team to fortify the defensive line and Jerry Reese signed Cullen Jenkins and Mike Patterson, re-signed Shaun Rogers and drafted Johnathan Hankins to beef up the front line.
6. Secondary: Corey Webster needs a bounce-back season after struggling last year. Prince Amukamara also has to continue to ascend. The Giants brought back Aaron Ross to join Jayron Hosley for depth. And Terrell Thomas is making another comeback. Still, the Giants' secondary can't afford many injuries. While it should be better than last season, it remains to be seen how much more improved the secondary will be. The Giants can use some surprises in camp to emerge as backups to strengthen the depth.
7. Linebacker: Who will replace Chase Blackburn and Michael Boley? Mark Herzlich and Dan Connor hope to fill Blackburn's cleats at middle linebacker and will be two participants in one of the most-watched competitions of camp. It's a big season for Jacquian Williams. If he can stay healthy, he could be a three-down linebacker. The Giants will also depend on Keith Rivers and need him to stay injury-free. Spencer Paysinger could be a dark horse for more snaps and Aaron Curry hopes to realize his potential with the Giants.
8. Replacing Ahmad: Can David Wilson and Andre Brown fill the Ahmad Bradshaw void? Wilson should inherit Bradshaw's starting spot, but Coughlin will likely split carries between Wilson and Brown. And Brown plans on pushing Wilson for the starting job. The two combined should make for a nice one-two punch, especially if Wilson can pass-protect. And at fullback, tight end Bear Pascoe likely will fill in until the injured Henry Hynoski is ready to return from offseason knee surgery.
9. One more time: A few long-time veteran Giants need to step up in what could be their last go-around with the team in the final year of contracts. Tuck, Diehl and Webster -- three Giants who helped the franchise win two Super Bowls -- could all be entering their final seasons as Giants. They are loaded with pride and are highly motivated to lead the Giants back to the postseason.
10. Victor Cruz: The salsa is here to stay after Cruz re-signed with the team. But he missed all of OTAs and minicamp. He has some catching up to do, but it shouldn't be an issue considering his outstanding chemistry with Eli Manning. Cruz also looked to be in excellent shape.