Are the Giants really ready for 2005?

Paul Schwartz: One of the main things I learned after a month in Albany is that Kenny Palmer's wardrobe is – how shall we put it? – not exactly diverse. How many rumpled T-shirts can one guy own? But that's not what Giants fans need to know. They need to have confidence that if something major happens to Eli Manning their team won't crumble when the backup quarterback takes the field.

What I learned in camp is that Tim Hasselbeck is better than I thought. He does have a certain savvy that makes up for obvious physical limitations. He can direct an offense and knows what to do with the ball. But is he good enough? He's started just five games in a meandering NFL career and the Giants probably need someone with more experience. They took a look at Tim Couch and, even if they don't sign him – they likely won't – they're on the right track there. All along, I've wondered why the Giants didn't try to find a mentor-type for Manning after Jim Miller was injured and released. Manning has already started more games (seven) in the NFL than Hasselbeck, so there's not going to be a lot of mentoring going on. Hasselbeck may be serviceable but a smart veteran was and is the way to go.

Ken Palmer: I think you're finally correct here, Paul. Hasselbeck is certainly no world-beater, but he's plenty good enough to hold down the backup job. We've already discussed that Manning is beyond really needing to be mentored. That's what the coaching staff is for. We've also concluded that if Manning were to go down for an extended period of time, the Giants would be shot anyway. That said, Hasselbeck brings them enough ability and he's clearly got the arrow pointed in the right direction. Early in camp, he didn't look like he had much of a clue of what was going on. After extensive studying, he grew more comfortable and not only was given – but earned – the start against the Jets. The Giants could do a lot worse than Hasselbeck – like signing the lazy, unmotivated Couch – and I'm just not saying that because I hope his beautiful wife starts hanging around Giants Stadium. By the way, speaking of the opposite of beautiful – those jean shorts of yours went out of style way back when you were attending Albany in the ‘80s.

PS: Look, you're no NFL scout but even you can judge a talent disparity when it's obvious. So can I. Tim Carter's athletic ability dwarfs that of David Tyree. You know it, I know it, no doubt Tom Coughlin knows it. So why is it that one tidbit I picked up at training camp is that Tyree should be the No. 3 receiver to start the season? Reliability, my dear friend. Without it, you've got nothing. Carter's great speed and awesome physique do no good when he's standing on the sideline or getting iced down in the trainer's room. He simply can't be counted on. Not yet, anyway. Until Carter plays more than a handful of games, takes a licking and keeps on ticking, it's impossible to make him a key part of the gameplan. Tyree, on the other hand, does not tire. He runs like crazy on special teams, performing at a Pro Bowl level, and then is able to line up as a more-than-adequate receiver. Woody Allen once said one of the first keys to greatness is simply showing up. Tyree shows up. He gets hit and pops back up. He improves every time he takes a snap so there's no reason not to give him more and more.

KP: How did I know you'd start drinking the Kevin Gleason Tyree Kool-Aid? He's a superb special-teamer, more than adequate receiver and probably as hard a worker as the Giants have. But there's clearly a reason he wasn't picked until the sixth round while Carter was a second-rounder. Carter's faster, stronger, more athletic and just plain better. No, I can't defend all the missed time, but there's a reason the Giants have yet to play taps on Carter's career – because there's still so much potential and if they give up on him they're going to regret it for years. I'll be the third to admit – after Coughlin and Carter, himself – that he needs to stay healthy. But even if they had Carter as their third receiver for two-thirds of the season and me the final third, it would still be better than giving the third job to Tyree.

PS: Like I said, wake me when Carter and consistency can be spoken in the same sentence. As far as overall impressions, I can't say I feel a whole lot better about the Giants now than I did at the start of training camp. The good news is that the Giants escaped relatively injury free, unless you count the blows to Kenny Palmer's ego as a result of the repeated turndowns he received in Albany social situations. Manning looked OK but never strung together a series of superlative practices. His sprained right elbow is probably not serious but is cause for ongoing concern. The worries about the interior of the defensive line certainly weren't alleviated. No one came into camp calling the offensive line the weak link like we have so many times in years past. But can you really say with conviction that the line is going to be a strength? Not after the way the Panthers defensive front manhandled and confused the Giants. This doesn't mean I can't envision the Giants being much improved, because I believe they are a legitimate playoff contender. They just have to prove it after a so-so summer camp.

KP: There's my boy Paul missing the boat again. No one comes out of camp firing on all cylinders. The Giants are exactly on the path they need to be. Sure there are still questions to answer, but the real lights don't start shining until opening day. They'll be ready. Their first-team offense could have run for 9,000 yards in Cleveland if they wanted to, and fared well enough against one of the league's top defenses against the Panthers. Jeremy Shockey is healthy and ready to dominate, the OL, LBs and DBs are better than last year, and even the DTs – one of the biggest holes to fill at summer's outset – have shown themselves very well. Much better, of course, than Paul during his repeated failures to get coach Coughlin to crack a smile.

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