NFL camp preview: Giants have long road to local Super Bowl

Patti Traina, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

EAST RUTHERFORD, N. J. -- There is one thing that will not impact the New York Giants when veterans report to training camp Friday and the full squad has its first workout on the field Saturday.
There will be no Super Bowl hangover.
After outlasting the New England Patriots to win Super Bowl XVI, 21-17, the Giants fell to earth with a thud last season, finishing second to Washington in the NFC East with a 9-7 record.
This year the Super Bowl will be in New York, or nearby in MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, but if the Giants want to be a part of the party, they have a long way to go.
On offense, the line is depending on starters to heal. At wide receiver, contract issues kept Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks from working out in the offseason. And at running back, long-time starter Ahmad Bradshaw is now with the Indianapolis Colts and second-year speedster David Wilson must prove he is a reliable pass blocker.
All that obviously impacts starting quarterback Eli Manning, who, despite possessing Super Bowl credentials, is trying to show the consistency that will allow him to be considered elite.
On the line, the Giants are hoping that offensive linemen Chris Snee and David Baas, who were spectators during the offseason workouts, are ready to participate in some capacity.
Snee, who had hip surgery in February, was able to do some rehab work by pushing a weighted cart up and down a field, and the feeling is that he will be cleared to work on a limited basis at the start of camp.
Baas, who had multiple surgeries spread out over the winter and early spring months, is more of a question mark. He has said he'll be ready for training camp, but if he isn't, left guard Kevin Boothe might have to slide over to center, which would likely mean that this year's first-rounder Justin Pugh would see snaps at left guard in addition to right tackle.
Meanwhile, Pugh is penciled in to compete with James Brewer and David Diehl at right tackle, and was told by coaches he might get some work at Boothe's left guard spot in camp.
In addition to Wilson needing to mature at halfback, fullback Henry Hynoski is recovering from offseason knee surgery that he had in late May to repair a fractured lateral plateau and MCL injury. Hynoski, who hopes to be ready for the start of the season, will likely begin training camp on PUP.
Tight end Bear Pascoe is penciled in to fill in at fullback for the interim, but the Giants have apparently not ruled out adding another fullback pending Hynoski's progress. The team has inquired about Vonta Leach, who was released by the Baltimore Ravens in a salary-cap move. But it is believed the Giants can only offer the three-time Pro Bowler a one-year deal worth the veteran minimum and if that is his best offer, he may return to Baltimore or sign with another team.
On defense, the biggest injury issue is with defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, who had back surgery on June 4. Pierre-Paul will more than likely start training camp on PUP, and while the team did provide a 12-week estimate that would have Pierre-Paul returning by opening day, head coach Tom Coughlin didn't sound convinced that Pierre-Paul would be ready by then.
"We would like to have him for the beginning of the year," Coughlin said. "If anybody can do it, it is him."
The Giants have moved Mathias Kiwanuka to Pierre-Paul's starting spot. Meanwhile, Adrian Tracy has seen an increase in his reps, and could end up being an under-the-radar type that plays a larger role than originally expected.
Last year, cornerback Prince Amukamara finally started to play like the first-round talent that the Giants believed him to be when they plucked him out of Nebraska in 2011. Amukamara continued to look good in offseason workouts.
"The more I play the more confidence I get," Amukamara said. "You know what you're doing now. Now you're in your third year, so now you know what the safety is doing and know what the nickel is doing, and it will make you play a lot better and a lot faster."
The linebacker corps is in for a complete overhaul. On the weak side, the team will be looking at third-year man Jacquian Williams to take over for Michael Boley. On the strong side, oft-injured former first-round pick Keith Rivers appears to be the leading candidate in that race.
However, given the injury histories of Williams and Rivers, the door is open for the underrated Spencer Paysinger, who can play either outside linebacker position, to gain some ground. Paysinger took all of the reps with the starters during the offseason at the weak-side spot while Williams, who was limited, worked with the second team when he was not resting his knee.
In the middle, the picture isn't as clear. The primary competitors for former starter Chase Blackburn's spot include Mark Herzlich, who finished with a solid offseason; former first rounder Aaron Curry; Dan Connor, who was signed during the offseason as an unrestricted free agent; and Kyle Bosworth, a late free-agent addition to the competition.
So even if this season's Super Bowl is in their own back yard, the Giants have a long ways to go to be a part of the party.

What to Read Next