Second-Year Players Will Determine Giants’ Fate
John Fennelly , Executive Editor
In the decade or so that I’ve been doing this I’ve learned to watch, read and listen to as much as you can, but don’t believe anything until you see it for yourself. The Giants will play their first game tonight in Jacksonville and it will be the first time they will be making contact in full pads this summer. They will finally be playing some football.
We posted some links below of what for to look for, which is all well and good, but I find watching the game as a fan is still the best approach. Sure, I write down who excels and who underperforms (so I don’t forget) but you can miss a lot while trying to catch a little.
I do focus on a few things each week and tonight will be no different. When people ask me about the Giants and their drafts, I always tell them the same thing: wait until year two. So that means whatever a rookie does tonight – or this season – is a plus. It’s last year’s rookies that I’ll be concentrating on this year.
Keep in mind that due to the lockout, the Class of 2011 did not have the benefit of OTAs and minicamps. They entered training camp with one wheel in the sand and coaches were reluctant to use them in key spots. In fact, some of them haven’t even played a down in the NFL yet.
Top pick CB Prince Amukamara’s rookie year was a waste. He came to camp late, got hurt and missed half the season. By the time he got healthy, he was so far behind the learning curve he was practically useless. He did play but he looked lost half the time. This year, the Giants want him to play like a first-round pick. He is currently slotted to start at RCB tonight in place of the injured Terrell Thomas. As long as he ends up being better than his predecessor – Aaron Ross – I don’t think fans will complain.
Second-round pick Marvin Austin, a DT out of North Carolina, is a complete question mark. He was said to be a first-round talent that fell to the second round last year. The reason? He was suspended his senior year due to academic improprieties. Last year, he came to camp, tore a pectoral muscle and missed the season. He hasn’t played in a game in over two years and is as rusty as they come. We need to see him in game action before we make a determination.
WR Jerrel Jernigan got some opportunities last year, but ball security issues caused him to be doubted by the coaches. He could not be trusted as a returner, and he was buried on the depth chart at receiver. This year, he is more confident and has more of a clue of what is going on. The punt returner job is his to lose and he is no longer an afterthought in the passing game. His speed and elusiveness can make him an asset in both areas. I expect a huge leap forward for him in 2012.
OT James Brewer is big, but that’s all we really know about him. He didn’t get on the field in 2011 and it doesn’t look like he’ll see much action this season, either. He was a reach in the fourth round in last year’s draft and he’s done nothing to change anyone’s opinion on that. Unless I’m missing something, this guy isn’t ready to help this team at this point in time.
LBs Greg Jones and Jacquian Williams both saw action last year, but neither will challenge for a starting job in 2011. Jones has always been small for a MLB, and is really not equipped play there at this level. The Giants have moved him to the outside, where he can use his quickness and not get tied up by lineman. Williams runs like a safety and thanks to an offseason weightlifting program, finally looks like a linebacker. They both play well on specials, which is where they will make the most noise this season.
Safety Tyler Sash is basically a special teamer who the Giants plan to use in certain defensive packages. He is progressing nicely as a pro, but that progression will be on hold until October, when returns from his suspension for violating the league policy on PEDs.
RB Da’Rel Scott can run, as we have seen, but what else can he do? Last year, after making a splash in preseason, he saw hardly any action much to the dismay of fans. The reason? The Giants need their backs to be able to block and they were not comfortable with Scott’s ability to keep Eli Manning from getting pummeled. This summer, Scott has been hampered by injuries and Tom Coughlin has not exactly lit up a smile when Scott’s name has been mentioned.
Last year’s UDFAs are actually making more of an impact than the the draftees. Henry Hynoski is the starting fullback and is scheduled to be more prominent in the offense this fall. LB Spencer Paysinger is making great strides and is currently starting at WLB in Michael Boley’s absence. Many believe Mark Herzlich will be the Giants’ MLB by midseason – or sooner. DE Justin Trattou is dealing with an ankle issue right now, but the Giants would like him to step into the Dave Tollefson role in the defensive line rotation.
So, watch those second-year guys. If they step up and succeed, these Giants will be a tough bunch to beat going forward.