Giants Notes

Quietly, the Giants are filling in pieces of the puzzle in what they hope will be a finished product that takes them deep into the playoffs at the conclusion of the 2006 season. The big names are in, biggest of them being veteran free agent linebacker LaVar Arrington (Redskins), already established as the starter on the strong side.

But there are others such as free safety Will Demps (Ravens), cornerbacks Sam Madison (Miami) and R.W. McQuarters (Lions), defensive tackle Junior Ioane (Texans), quarterback Rob Johnson (Bucs) and offensive lineman Grey Ruegamer (Packers).

So now, having solidified both offense and defense, they are finding a part here, a part there, all designed to allow the overall units to mesh properly and operate smoothly. Latest is the signing of former New Orleans tight end Eddie Lee "Boo" Williams, 6-feet-4 and 265 pounds, who spent the 2005 season out of football because of a knee injury (torn anterior cruciate ligament) that required surgery. He was released by the Saints on Feb. 23.

With his background -- he played in all 16 New Orleans games from 2002 through 2004 -- they hope the backup position behind Pro Bowl tight end Jeremy Shockey is more secure than with just Visanthe Shiancoe, who was a third-round draft pick out of small-school Morgan State (Md.) in 2003 who has never fully vindicated that status.

To make room for Williams, the Giants released tight end Matt Kranchick, 6-7 and 260. He joined the team on Dec. 19, 2005, and played in two games at the end of the season.

Having signed the veteran free agents they did, having spent the money they were able to spend, the Giants continue to address backup roles, in effect swapping players signed for players released.

"I am feeling good about this team," said coach Tom Coughlin. "We have made several changes and I am pleased with them."

Feeling better than he did entering the 2005 season, Coughlin nevertheless took the Giants to a record of 11-5 and the NFC East championship.

But the ignominy of their 23-0 home field loss to Carolina in the first round of the playoffs has clearly spurred the offseason activities, which when coupled with a sensible draft might push the team just a little farther in what might be considered the toughest division in the NFL.


--Former Giant DE Bob Taylor (1963, 1964) died earlier this week in New York City from complications arising from colon cancer surgery. He was 68 years old and was a ninth-round draft pick in 1963 out of Maryland State. Taylor saw action in the 1963 NFL championship game (the Giants lost to Chicago, 14-7).

--With the signing of free agent QB Rob Johnson, the Giants appear on the verge of waving goodbye to their current backup, Tim Hasselbeck. He was the backup to Eli Manning last year, taking that job from Jesse Palmer (now with San Francisco). But there are still reports that the team isn't satisfied with this nominal upgrade, and the names Jay Fiedler and former Giant Kerry Collins continue to surface.

--One of the areas slowly building into a top unit is the offensive line, and a breakdown is in order. RG Chris Snee may well be on his way to Pro Bowl stature in this, his third season. RT Kareem McKenzie, the highest-paid lineman on the team, showed solid improvement as the season progressed (his first season since signing on from the AFC New York Jets). LT Luke Petitgout, despite too many false start penalties, is an experienced performer. LG David Diehl has started every game since his rookie year in 2003 while playing three different positions. C Shaun O'Hara, another veteran, plays smart if not with power.

--Offensive coordinator John Hufnagel and head coach Tom Coughlin are busily installing new pass patterns to take advantage of the speed and moves of their second round draft pick, Sinorice Moss (5-8, 185). Look for him to be the third receiver on the field -- but on the field a lot.

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