COMMENTARY | With the start of the New York Giants training camp not too far away--the players report on July 26--it's time for another edition of the mailbag previewing some of the hot topics.
Q: Can David Wilson be the guy the Giants hope he would be when they drafted him or are we looking at a miss with that pick?
A: I think it says a lot about what the team must think about what Wilson can do in this, his second season because instead of approaching Ahmad Bradshaw about restructuring his contract, the Giants decided to cut ties with the two-time 1,000-yard rusher, who has since signed with the Indianapolis Colts.
Now with that said, there are still concerns about Wilson, the biggest being the reason why he rarely saw the field last year: pass blocking. Offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride noted in his press conference at the end of the spring minicamp that this aspect of Wilson's game is still a concern.
"He is still not 100%," Gilbride said of Wilson as a pass blocker. "He still makes mistakes but there has certainly been some significant growth.
"Now until you get the pads on--he has to show that he, as a smaller guy, can do the things necessary that other small backs in this league have done--you are still kind of holding your breath when you see him."
So yes, there is optimism that Wilson will be what they thought he would. He'll just need to calm any concerns the coaches might still have about his pass blocking when the pads go on and the tempo picks up.
Q: In your opinion, what is the weakest and the most improved areas of the Giants at the moment?
A: Interesting question. Before I answer it, I want to remind everyone that I'm basing my opinions on spring OTAs and minicamp, activities that are done without pads and at a slightly lesser tempo than training camp and preseason games.
Let's start out with the most improved, which I'd say is the receiving corps. Forget about the fact that Hakeem Nicks is healthy again, which is certainly a plus. The progress made by Rueben Randle this spring is huge because last year, the Giants really didn't have a deep receiving corps (again due to the Nicks injury). Because of that, opponents could clamp down on Victor Cruz instead of having to roll the dice as to which receiver to double in coverage.
This year, the Giants have a healthy Nicks, Cruz, Randle, and an equally impressive field stretcher in Louis Murphy, all of whom are projected to be the first four receivers on the depth chart. If that foursome stays healthy, that's a lot of firepower and it's a unit that could create headaches for opposing defenses.
There are several choices for which you can make a valid argument regarding the weakest unit, but after much consideration, I'd have to go with running back over the likely popular choice of linebacker.
As I mentioned in the previous response, there is still have some concern about David Wilson as a pass blocker. While Andre Brown can pass block, he needs to stay healthy, something he hasn't been able to do since he's turned pro. Also if Wilson proves he can't pass block consistently, now opposing defenses are going to have a better chance at guessing what is coming up when Wilson is on the field, not to mention if they get past the offensive line and Wilson can't pick up the blitz, quarterback Eli Manning will be in danger of being hit.
Add to the equation the questions regarding the return of fullback Henry Hynoski (knee) and the lack of an established third down back - veteran Ryan Torain sat out the minicamp with a hamstring, the severity of which wasn't disclosed--and you're left with the relatively inexperienced duo of Da'Rel Scott and rookie Michael Cox whose pass blocking abilities at this level remain to be seen.
Remember, a running back needs to do more than just sprint downfield with the ball in his hands. There's no question that the Giants are loaded with speedsters who can run to daylight, but as we saw last year with Wilson--and in the past with Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw--if a running back can't pass block, he's not getting on the field, no matter where he was drafted or how fast he is.
If you're wondering why I didn't say linebacker is the weakest position, I came away from the spring practices and interviews with the assistant coaches with the impression that they are going to mix and match different personnel sets to different situations and different opponents.
I also think that if that unit stays healthy, it could actually surprise a few people ( a big 'if' given its history, but anything is possible).
If I had to name the three guys who will open camp as the starters, my guesses would be Jacquian Williams and Keith Rivers on the outside, and Mark Herzlich in the middle.
One other thing to remember regarding the linebackers. In today's pass happy NFL, the days of having three bruising linebackers on the field for nearly every down are in the past. In most cases, if you have two solid linebackers who can stay on the field for every down, and at least one safety that can play that pseudo linebacker role in passing downs, you should be good to go.
Q: Any chance that Brandon Jacobs will be back in blue this year?
A: I think they might wait a few weeks into training camp before making any kind of move because I get the feeling that they want to see what they have on the roster first.
SOURCES: The New York Daily News, Giants.com
Have a Giants football question? Post it below in the comments and I'll use some of the best ones in future mailbags. Thanks!
Patricia Traina is a New Jersey-based, accredited sportswriter who covers the New York Giants for Inside Football. She is also a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. Follow her on Twitter @Patricia_Traina.
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