Cement the secondary
As the Giants begin their training camp program, the depth chart for the secondary shows three vacancies. Gone are cornerbacks Will Allen and Will Peterson and free safety Brent Alexander.
The new starters, at least in pencil, are left corner Sam Madison, right corner Corey Webster and free safety Will Demps. The only returning starter, therefore, is strong safety Gibril Wilson.
"We have some questions in the secondary," admits head coach Tom Coughlin, "but at the same time we feel confident with the players we have."
There are several hopeful backups, including strong safety James Butler, free safety Quentin Harris, rookie Charlie Peprah and cornerbacks R.W. McQuarters, Brandon Williams, Jason Bell, Curtis Deloatch, Frank Walker and rookie Gerrick McPherson. Deciding on the status of the secondary appears to be Job One when camp opens.
Can anybody around here play defensive tackle?
The Giants plan to use more and more of a 3-4 alignment, but when they don't, they need two productive defensive tackles. Their best, Kendrick Clancy, walked out the door and all the way to Arizona as free agent.
So now the two projected starters are Fred Robbins and William Joseph (pictured, right), but there are so many more who will get the chance to win a job. They include the weight room star of the off-season, Jonas Seawright (6-6, 335), Damane Duckett, free agent signee Junior Ioane, fourth-round draft pick Barry Cofield and a handful of free agent hopefuls.
Joseph was the team's first-round pick in 2003 and has showed improvement, though not consistently, since then. Robbins has the experience, the defensive coaches like Cofield and Seawright is intriguing. Only four will be kept.
The big question is which situation will have a bigger impact on the outcome of the game when the Colts meet the Giants.
While the secondary will likely boast more pure talent than the defensive tackles, their lack of experience playing together is likely to create multiple instances of coverage breakdowns. Former Colts safety Gerome Sapp recently pointed out how important it is for defensive backs to know how their teammates in the secondary will read and react during game situations to different routes, motion, play-action, and alignments so each player can adjust on-the-fly accordingly. With three new starters, and only two having played together before (Webster and Wilson), expect to see a few instances of players pointing to different areas of the field and trying to figure out who should have done what after Manning exploits coverage breakdowns.
The defensive tackle uncertainty will cause some defensive line chemistry problems, but it should be more evident in the running game than the passing game. The Giants are talented enough at the defensive end positions to keep pressure on Manning, but the Colts interior line of Ryan Lilja, Jeff Saturday and Jake Scott should be able to use their experience and sound fundamentals to their advantage to consistently open holes for Dominic Rhodes and Joseph Addai against the eventual winners of New York's defensive tackle derby.