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Giants camp preview
15 years ago  ::  Jul 25, 2007 - 4:41PM #1
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Giants camp preview


Updated: July 18, 2007

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New York Giants training camp
Site: University of Albany
Location: Albany, N.Y.
First practice: July 28
2006 Record: 8-8

Expanded NFL training camp coverage

Three Burning Questions

1. Can Tom Coughlin keep this locker room together?
He is under tremendous pressure to produce positive results in 2007, and does not exactly have the personality or demeanor that players rally around. For all of his toughness and attention to discipline, Coughlin's teams tend to be undisciplined on game day with too many penalties and an overly emotional sideline. Nobody doubts he is a good football coach, but if this team fades in 2007, the players could easily bail on him. This is not the most cohesive locker room in the NFL to begin with, and pressure from the media is off the charts. Don't expect these players to win for Coughlin, but if they play well and keep winning, the relationship they have with their coach won't matter.

Camp battle to watch

Left cornerbacks Sam Madison vs. Aaron Ross
Corey Webster will start almost by default on the right side, but the real battle is between these two guys at opposite ends of the football spectrum. Madison is 33 years old and has lost a step. For all of his experience, he is probably not more than a complementary corner at this stage of his career. Ross was this year's first-round draft pick and has loads of talent, but will he be ready to compete at this level this early? His strength is the ability to play press coverage, and to play a physical style versus the big receivers in this division. If his lack of experience keeps Madison in front of him, he could easily become the No. 3 corner and play over the slot receiver. However, if Ross could emerge as the starter, Madison could move inside over the slot to disguise his fading skills, which would give the Giants two quality nickel cover guys in Madison and R.W. McQuarters, and two young starting corners in Ross and Webster.
2. How can the Giants replace Tiki Barber?
Not only does he retire as the Giants' all-time leading rusher, he has been the heart and soul of this offense. While his overall running skills will obviously be missed, right now the spot where the Giants cannot replace him is on third down. Not only was Barber an excellent receiver out of the backfield who could turn a third-and-long situation into a first down, but he was also a underrated pass blocker with an uncanny knack for picking up the blitz. Right now the Giants have nobody on the roster to pick up that slack. With Brandon Jacobs and Reuben Droughns they will be a more physical, between-the-tackles running team, but don't look for a lot of explosiveness or the big plays that Barber gave them.

3. Is this team rebuilding or retooling?
For a contending team, the Giants are going through a lot of offseason changes heading into the 2007 season. They have two new coordinators, a new running back, new left tackle and two new linebackers. They also have a coach who is under a lot of pressure. In addition, some of their stars, like DE Michael Strahan and WR Amani Toomer, are close to retirement. This is a roster going through a lot of turnover. The Giants even have a new general manager, which may not impact the players on the field, but will affect how they acquire players and make personnel decisions. The defense will play a 4-3 over and under style with less 3-4 principles, and players will have to adjust quickly. Eli Manning will be asked to dramatically improve his consistency under new offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride. That's a lot of changes for a veteran team in a very competitive division.

The player under the microscope

RB Brandon Jacobs. Like it or not, he is now the guy who must replace the Giants' all-time leading rusher. At 260 pounds, he can run over a lot of defenders and in his short NFL career has scored 16 touchdowns on only 134 carries, which takes care of the Giants' goal-line concerns. However, his upright running style leads to a lot of direct hits, and he lacks the flashy moves and quickness of his predecessor. The Giants may only go as far as Jacobs' legs carry them.

Fantasy take

How many carries Brandon Jacobs is expected to get will dictate where he goes in drafts this year. If the Giants feel they can give him the ball 25 times a game, he's a first-round running back. If he's more of a red-zone/third-down specialist, he's no better than a third-rounder. Watch how he is used in preseason games and how he fares with the ball between the 20s.
-- Matthew Berry
⁈ ¢ Complete ESPN.com fantasy coverage

Breakout player

Mathias Kiwanuka. As a defensive end last season, he was undersized, but as an outside linebacker in 2007 he has more than enough size. His speed and athleticism are top-notch. He has the skills to drop into coverage, but his first-step quickness makes him a huge threat as an edge blitzer. He will be coming from the same side as either Strahan or Osi Umenyiora, and that makes it difficult to double-team him. He is the perfect fit at OLB and can still fill in at either DE position if needed.

Comeback player of the year

QB Eli Manning. Gilbride believes he can improve Manning's play with better play calling that gets him into a rhythm and plays to his strengths. He will also work with his quarterback on his mechanics, footwork and attention to detail, leading to more positive plays. A combination of a more between-the-tackles power run game and vertical passes will keep defenses off balance, allowing Manning to really open up this offense and be more consistent.

Offensive philosophy

Two coaches will be asked to not only retool this offense, but also take Manning's game to a new level. Gilbride will be the offensive coordinator and call the plays, while Chris Palmer will serve as quarterbacks coach and work closely with Manning. Look for a power run game that pounds between the tackles and hopefully lures defenders into the box. That's when Gilbride likes to take some deep shots, and this is a style the coaches think Manning can really excel at. Gilbride also thinks better play calling will get his quarterback into a rhythm and cut down on the inconsistent play that has plagued him for much of his career. A year ago, the play calling seemed to be chaotic and Gilbride will provide much-needed calmness in that area. Because the Giants will run a fairly simple power offense without Barber, there will be a renewed emphasis on executing, cutting down on penalties and playing smarter football.

Defensive philosophy

For all of their talent, the Giants did not play with enough aggressiveness last season under defensive coordinator Tim Lewis. They replaced him with former Eagles linebackers coach Steve Spagnuolo and will try to steal a page out of Philadelphia's playbook. However, they will do it from a 4-3 front, with less 3-4 principals than we saw last season. They will attack off the edges with their outside linebackers, safeties and even corners, and will play some man-to-man press schemes behind it. They will use a lot of slants and movement up front, concentrating on getting upfield. The Giants need Strahan to stay healthy and for Kiwanuka to make a successful transition from DE to OLB to give this defense the best chance to improve.

Gary Horton, a pro scout for Scouts Inc., has been a football talent evaluator for more than 30 years. He spent 10 years in the NFL and 10 years at the college level before launching a private scouting firm called "The War Room."

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