With the offseason workout program now a thing of the past and the official start to training camp coming up on July 21st (report date and physicals), it's time to look ahead to each positional battle and how they will ultimately shape the New York Giants' final 53-man roster. Today we examine the offensive line.
Who's in: Brandon McManus, Trindon Holliday, Quintin Demps, Odell Beckham Jr.
Who's out: No change
The Names: Zak DeOssie, Steve Weatherford, Josh Brown, Brandon McManus, Trindon Holliday, Quintin Demps, David Wilson, Odell Beckham Jr., Michael Cox, Rueben Randle, Jerrel Jernigan, Jayron Hosley
Starting with the glaringly obvious, Steve Weatherford will remain Big Blue's punter in 2014. He has no competition going into camp and nor should he. Despite the entire unit struggling in 2013 — and he was no exception — Weatherford remains one of the best punters in the NFL and has also become an important piece of the local community and the Giants' locker-room.
One of the biggest issues facing the Giants' Special Teams unit in 2014 is cleaning up their punt return coverage. After surrendering only one punt return touchdown in the first seven years of his NFL career, Weatherford and the Giants coughed up three in 2013 alone.
“We didn’t take care of the ball as well as we wanted to earlier in the season, and special teams definitely hurt us with punt returns,” Weatherford told Giants.com. “We had three of them this year, and that’s something I take pride in — in the previous seven years in the NFL, I gave up one. To give up three this year was really frustrating because [special teams coordinator] Tom Quinn does such a great job in coaching us up. We fought, and there’s a lot of pride on this team. I think starting 0-6 and finishing the way we did says a lot about our locker room, a lot about the leaders.”
That will absolutely be a point of emphasis throughout training camp and the preseason.
VETERAN OR YOUNGSTER?
The Giants will have a legitimate kicking competition in 2014, having brought in talented youngster Brandon McManus, who spent training camp with the Indianapolis Colts in 2013 after going undrafted out of Temple. And while he was ultimately beaten out by Adam Vinatieri, the competition was exceptionally close and should serve to propel him here in 2014.
"I see everything as a competition," special teams coordinator Tom Quinn. "I really like McManus. I liked him coming out. I thought he was a really good kicker coming out of Temple. He's kicked in the Northeast at a high level, and I think he's got a lot of upside."
However, beating out Josh Brown is not going to be an easy task. The long-time veteran is prepped and ready for a fierce competition, understanding that despite his service to the Giants and the league, this is a business first and foremost.
Despite the Giants' Special Teams struggles in 2013, Brown was among the most consistent. He missed only three field goals — two of which were beyond 40 yards and one from beyond 50 — and automatic on extra points.
However, he had only 35 touchbacks on 68 kickoffs, which is something the Giants would like to see him improve. It's also an area in which coaches are pleased with McManus, a first-team all-Big East kicker in 2012, who has a very strong leg.
“They are impressed with my leg strength,” McManus said. “I wish that could mean a job, but obviously as the saying goes, this is a business and hopefully I will latch on in the NFL.”
The battle between Brown and McManus may linger far longer than some fans or experts expect, and could, legitimately, come down to the wire.
The big competition for the New York Giants on Special Teams will come by way of their return men. General Manager Jerry Reese was very aggressive in free agency, signing a multitude of players who could not only fill in at an offensive or defensive position, but could also make an impact on Special Teams by returning punts and kicks. Chief among those additions was wide receiver Trindon Holliday, who a skill set that makes him an explosively dangerous punt returner.
"We've always known about him. You study all of the really good returners and so you have a book on them all. When he became available we were happy to go get him," said Giants' special teams' coach Tom Quinn. "His speed's an asset, that's for sure. He's a strong guy for his size, ball security obviously will be his biggest focus once we start putting pads on and start knocking him around a little bit."
The big issue plaguing Holliday in his quest to earn a spot on the 53-man roster is not only his lack of experience on the offensive side of the ball — something the Giants worked on throughout the offseason workout program — but also that he's fumbled 11 times in 130 career returns. Under Tom Coughlin, that's something that's not at all acceptable and something that, if it continues in training camp and the preseason, could spell the end of a very short Giants career for the former Denver Bronco.
Holliday with likely battle it out with wide receiver Rueben Randle and cornerback Jayron Hosley for the punt return job, but with Randle expected to see an increased role on offense and Hosley facing a four-game suspension to start the season (and no guarantee to make the roster at all), Holliday's toughest competition will likely be himself and ball security.
As far as their kick returner, the Giants also added safety Quintin Demps (Kansas City Chiefs) this offseason.
Another explosive return man who offers legitimate versatility as he also plays safety (he's expected to be the No. 3 safety), Demps will battle it out with Jerrel Jernigan, Michael Cox and possibly even David Wilson (pending health) and Victor Cruz, who fielded some punts and kicks during Organized Team Activities (OTAs), for the kick returner job. And, unlike Holliday, comes with no fumbling baggage, having only put the ball on the ground once during his NFL career (96 kick returns).
Averaging 27.4 yards per return on his career, Demps has the best statistical advantage of the group, but counting out a healthy David Wilson would be jumping the gun. If he comes back cleared, he, too, offers the Giants some game-changing ability at the position. However, chances are the team will be extremely careful with him, leaving Demps to beat out a secondary group for the job.
Of course, none of these statistics and none of the returner's potential matters if the Giants are unable to get a little help in their punt and kick return protection. That's where guys like Mark Herzlich, Charles James and Zak DeOssie step in and step up, but the team will need larger contributions from players other than those three if they wish to turn things around in 2014.
Projected Starters: Josh Brown (K), Steve Weatherford (P), Zak DeOssie (LS), Trindon Holliday (PR), Quintin Demps (KR)
Additional Depth: David Wilson, Odell Beckham Jr., Michael Cox, Rueben Randle, Jerrel Jernigan, Jayron Hosley
Released: Brandon McManus
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Tags: Brandon McManus, Football, Jayron Hosley, Jerrel Jernigan, Josh Brown, Michael Cox, New York, New York Giants, NFL, Odell Beckham Jr., Quintin Demps, Rueben Randle, Steve Weatherford, Trindon Holliday, Zak DeOssie
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