2012 training camp preview: New York Giants

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Training camp goals

1. Settle the offensive line. With the Giants not re-signing veteran Kareem McKenzie, the plan is to move David Diehl to the vacant right tackle spot. Last year Diehl started the season as the starting left guard before moving to left tackle after Will Beatty suffered a season-ending eye injury. Meanwhile, at left guard, Kevin Boothe is expected to enter camp as the incumbent, though Mitch Petrus will compete for that spot as well.

The problem, though, is that Beatty, who was cleared medically as far as his eye injury is concerned, developed a back problem early in the spring that sidelined him throughout the OTAs and the spring minicamp. While he was optimistic that the rest would help him be ready for the start of camp, offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride made little attempt to hide his concern when the team concluded its spring program.

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LB Chase Blackburn was a super sub for the Giants last season, even making a huge play in the Super Bowl. (AP)

If Beatty is limited in any way, the coaches will audition veteran free agent Sean Locklear, acquired this spring, and second-year man James Brewer, who last year was mostly inactive at that position.

2. Find a starting middle linebacker. The good news is that the team brought back Chase Blackburn, who after signing with the Giants in December following an ankle injury to Mark Herzlich, held onto the job and performed well right through the Super Bowl. Blackburn will enter training camp as the incumbent MLB, though whether he exits camp with the job remains to be seen.

[Around the NFL: 2012 training camp schedules, key questions, fantasy advice and more]

The Giants have an abundance of talent that is set to challenge for his job. In addition to Herzlich, the undrafted free agent whose inspirational comeback from cancer has made him a fan favorite, there's former sixth-round draft pick Greg Jones, who last season began the year as the starter after Jonathan Goff suffered a season-ending knee injury.

Player to watch

Safety Will Hill, an undrafted free agent out of Florida, got himself noticed this spring by making plays against the run and in coverage. If he builds on his strong spring showing during the preseason, he could find himself as the recipient of one of the 53 available roster spots.

On the hot seat

Tight end Martellus Bennett, the free-agent acquisition from the Cowboys, comes to the Giants with 85 receptions for 846 yards and four touchdowns over a four-year career playing behind All-Pro Jason Witten. While those numbers aren't gaudy, over the course of his career, Bennett has caught 70 percent of the balls thrown his way, an encouraging statistic.

However, he comes to the Giants with questions about his work ethic and his offseason weight gain. If Bennett doesn't produce, the team may be forced to rely on rookie Adrien Robinson, who missed most of the Giants' spring orientation and workouts because he had to finish his classes at the University of Cincinnati, a lot sooner than they'd probably like.

Strategy and personnel

Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell reiterated that Blackburn will be the team's starting middle linebacker when they open training camp on July 26 at the University of Albany.

"Right now Chase is our guy and no one's clearly beaten him out for the position," Fewell said after the Giants wrapped up their three-day minicamp earlier this month.

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"Chase has some distinct advantages over some of the other guys. I said to the defense in our meeting, if I want to re-write my playbook, I would get Chase's notes and re-write our playbook. When I ask a question or when I talk about a defense in there, he puts the addendum in. He probably knows as much about our defense and how to make the calls and run our defense as any of those linebackers, with the exception of Michael Boley right now."

However, Fewell admitted that Blackburn's hold on the starting job was far from being a slam dunk given the competition that will include Jones, Herzlich, and Keith Rivers.

"I'd love for him to physically hang in there and [remain the starter], no doubt about it," Fewell said. "He does add something to our unit, so I would love for him to do that. Can he do that? I can't say."

Medical watch

DT Chris Canty (knee) missed the entire offseason program, but says he will be ready for camp.

Full Giants team report

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