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New York Giants Mailbag: Victor Cruz, the Linebackers, and the Most Intense Competition

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COMMENTARY | With hard core football news likely to be scarce over the next six weeks or so, I thought I'd switch things up a bit by introducing a reader mailbag featuring the most debated questions surrounding the New York Giants.

In this inaugural installment, the topics include three of the most popular questions I've gotten on Twitter, as follows:

Q: Why did Victor Cruz wait so long to sign his contract?

A: There are likely a couple of reasons. One, Cruz did not want to risk suffering an injury in the spring, much like what happened to fellow receiver Hakeem Nicks last year. The second reason probably had to do with June 17 being the date that the Giants could have rescinded Cruz's $2.879 million tender and replaced it with a one-year deal worth $630,000.

There was a report by the NFL Network that the Giants were "indeed going to reduce tender to Victor Cruz if he didn't sign." Assuming that report is correct - remember the Giants management considers every option- by signing on June 14, Cruz managed to avoid putting himself in a situation where he was at risk for injury and ensured himself of a healthy pay increase that tops what he made in his first three years in the league combined.

Q: Who will be the starting linebackers?

A: I'm not so sure that there will be a consistent set of "starting" linebackers. In having spoken to the coaches and the players, I'm starting to think that they'll mix and match personnel based on what they are projecting the opponents to do.

So one week, you might see a starting lineup that includes just two linebackers because they opened in the nickel. Another you might see the traditional base defense. Then there could be a package with one linebacker and a host of defensive backs, depending on what the safeties and corners show this summer. The combinations are potentially endless.

I think a better question to think about is which linebackers stand to see the field the most, regardless of the personnel packages used. Assuming there are no injuries that cause them to miss any camp, I would not be surprised if the plan is to get Keith Rivers and Jacquian Williams on the field as much as possible given both are fast and athletic.

At middle linebacker, Mark Herzlich finished the spring as the incumbent, but that doesn't mean he's a lock for the job. As the coaches have pointed out so many times, it's a whole other ballgame once the pads go on. Aaron Curry and Dan Connor are still very much in the mix for that role, as are others, so we likely won't know who the starter is until we get deep into camp.

Q: What training camp battles will be the most intense?

A: There will be competition all across the board, but I think one of the top ones to watch will be at defensive tackle, were they have eight people competing for what likely amounts to four openings. The candidates include Linval Joseph, Cullen Jenkins, Johnathan Hankins, Mike Patterson, Shaun Rogers, Frank Okam, Markus Kuhn, and Marvin Austin.

Figure that barring injury, Joseph, Jenkins and Hankins are locks. Also, it wouldn't be a surprise if Kuhn, who spent a good portion of the spring working with trainers while sporting a huge wrap around his surgically repaired knee, starts camp on PUP.

So who's the fourth defensive tackle going to be? Will they go with the oft-injured former second-round draft pick, Austin, or will they opt for a seasoned veteran such as Rogers, whose knowledge and experience in the game has been invaluable to some of the youngsters? Again, we might not have the answer to this question until we get deeper into training camp.

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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