Straight Talk: Recipe for Success

Take us through each position group and the important questions that must be answered in camp and during the season.

Quarterback – When we talk about questions surrounding this team going into camp, there is only one huge question looming and that involves Eli Manning. He finished last season with a poor taste in his mouth from the Carolina playoff loss. Hopefully that performance will spur him on to greater performance. He is starting his third year in the league and it's time to look for and expect the consistency that has not been there to date. For all the flashes of brilliance we've seen, we have seen him be equally poor. Everyone has overlooked his shortcomings because he was a baby as far as NFL QBs go. It's time for him to grow up. We believe his mechanics have been holding him back. We are anxious to see if the offseason of hard work has meant improvement, especially in accuracy. He must raise his completion percentage. We saw a recent study that the Giants had more touchdowns within the last two minutes of a half than any other team in the league. That is great news. It shows he can and has moved the team for scores during crunch time. The backup quarterback race should be interesting. Someone, be it Tim Hasselbeck, Rob Johnson or Jared Lorenzen, needs to step up and win the backup job. We are particularly interested in Lorenzen. The "Hefty Lefty" has a real shot to make it.

QB Questions: Will this be the year Manning arrives as a QB that can lead the team consistently? Will he improve his accuracy?

Running Back – As Tiki Barber goes so goes the Giants offense. Barber has gotten better every year, but let's face it, they will be fortunate if they get the same year out of him that they did in '05. A question here is whether or not he will hold up for another year. A big surprise in the offseason was that they did not draft or sign a RB. We like Derrick Ward. He can relieve Tiki for a few plays during a game. Because of that he should be a good backup to Tiki, but what if he is called on to play an extended period of time? We aren't sure how well he would do if he were asked to shoulder the running load. The same thing is true with Brandon Jacobs. This will be his second year and he needs to improve his running style. Because he is such an upright runner he is an easy target. Runners that run the way he does generally do not last long. His upright style also makes him less effective as a short yardage back. If Tiki is Tiki then there are no worries, but if they need a replacement back for a long period, we aren't sure that ideal back is on the roster.

RB Questions: Will Tiki need to have the same kind of year or will other offensive improvements take some pressure off him? Are Ward and Jacobs good enough to carry the load if needed?

Wide Receiver – The drafting of Sinorice Moss could be a significant addition to this group. It was a shaky unit to begin with because of the uncertainty of Plaxico Burress, the age of Amani Toomer, who will be 32 when the season starts, and the unreliable Tim Carter. Moss has a chance to make an impact as a rookie. Frankly, he isn't as good as his brother Santana was when he entered the league, but his skills are such that he can help. One of the big things to watch this year is whether the relationship between Tom Coughlin and Burress develops into a soap opera. It has that potential, as they appear to be oil and water. For a coach whose method of operation is discipline, Burress got away with quite a few things last year – not the least of which was his poor demeanor on the field. Toomer's skills have deteriorated. He still, however, can be an effective second receiver. He is still a reliable receiver and Manning needs that. What this group needs, in our opinion, is a guy like Ricky Proehl, who is currently available. He's a Jersey guy who probably wouldn't mind finishing his career in the Meadowlands. He can be the sure-handed, security blanket receiver Manning seems to need.

WR Questions: Will Tim Carter finally stay healthy and use his substantial skills? Will Burress add value to the team and not be a detractor? Will Moss develop rapidly enough for him to make a strong contribution?

Tight End – Depth is a concern at TE. We expect Jeremy Shockey to have another very good year. Barring injury he should be a Pro Bowl player again. After Shockey, the questions here surround the backups. Ideally, when a team has a dominant TE like Shockey, the second and third TE, if they keep three, should be specialists in either blocking or receiving. Visanthe Shiancoe has not developed as much as a third round pick should have. He is a marginal receiver and cannot be trusted in clutch situations. His blocking is average at best. Boo Williams was an interesting pickup. He does have catching and blocking ability but he did not show progression in his years with the Saints. They need for at least one of these guys to have a year that is commensurate with their ability. Wade Fletcher has an outside chance to make the squad. With Shockey as the starter they need for one of these guys to become the TE blocking specialist. The ideal second TE would be someone like Dan Campbell. Remember him? He was a very good blocker and he wasn't a receiving liability.

TE Questions: Will they get at least satisfactory TE play from reserves Shiancoe and/or Williams? Will their blocking be good enough?

Offensive Line – This is another unit that has made great strides in the last year. They went from being one of the league's worst to having a chance to be one of the better lines in the league. They are young and they have talent. What they need to do is continue to gain cohesiveness and chemistry, which comes with playing together. Another good thing is, with the exception of center Shaun O'Hara, whom they are expected to retain, all the starting linemen are signed and they can keep the same group together for a while. Our biggest concern is with left tackle Luke Petitgout. He's not awful but he is very average. His high amount of penalties has been a concern. They should be hopeful that fourth round pick Guy Whimper will challenge him. That most likely won't happen this year, but he definitely has the athletic ability to play the position. What makes this line better than in the past is that there are solid subs. Bob Whitfield, Rich Seubert, Lewis Kelly and Grey Ruegamer can all play if needed. If they only carry eight linemen the competition here should be fierce.

OL Question: Will Petitgout have a better year? Will he and the whole line in general cut down on the high amount of annoying penalties, notably the false starts?

Defensive Line – Is the defensive line glass half full or half empty? One could answer that it's both. Defensive end may be the single strongest position on the team. It will be a challenge to work Justin Tuck and Mathias Kiwanuka into the game with Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora. It can be done without sacrificing the core of the pass rush – Strahan and Umenyiora. In obvious passing situations it's not inconceivable all four could be on the field at the same time. They could move Tuck and Kiwi around and even deploy them as linebackers. These four should be fresh all game and when they add LaVar Arrington into the mix, they should have one heck of a pass rush.

When we look at defensive tackle, the glass if half empty, or it appears it could be. Will any of these six players emerge as reliable run stoppers? The pass rush looks solid already, but they need studs in the middle whose first goal is to stop the run. The better they are able to stop the run, the better the linebackers will play. Kendrick Clancy is gone and he will be missed. He did a nice job for them in the middle; Kenderick Allen will be missed to a lesser extent, but he's one more guy out of the mix who made a contribution last season. Fred Robbins and William Joseph appear to be the starters going into camp. Damane Duckett, Jonas Seawright, Junior Ioane and Barry Cofield will put on one of the most interesting camp battles. It is doubtful they will carry six DTs. There isn't enough roster space for that, so the competition will be intense, which is good. Competition makes players better. Robbins and Joseph present concerns. Robbins is a better inside pass rusher than he is a run stopper. Joseph has showed flashes at times, but he still needs to shed the "lazy" tag and become more consistent. It would also help if he would stay healthy. We will see how much Seawright has progressed. We know they are high on him but he needs to show it when it counts. Duckett has been an interesting guy who may just be ready to blossom. We like the athletic ability of Cofield, but it remains to be seen if he is strong enough to handle the heavy going inside. Ioane is a big guy with experience from his time with the Raiders and Texans.

DL Question: Can Tim Lewis utilize the immense DE talent he has? Will at least two DTs step up and become top-notch run stoppers?

Linebacker – A big factor here is getting everyone back healthy. We cannot remember when a position group was so totally decimated as this one was last year. Not only are they now healthy, but they also added significant talent in LaVar Arrington, Brandon Short and Gerris Wilkinson. Obviously Arrington is a marquee addition, but he may also be their biggest question in this group. He comes with a bad reputation from Washington for being a freelance soloist. Will he be able to play within Tim Lewis' system? Will he want to play in that system? He has the ability to be a superstar, but for him to be truly effective, it can't be 10 guys playing the system and LaVar doing his own thing. Lewis' challenge will be to get the most out of Arrington. They also need to squeeze another year out of Carlos Emmons, but if they can't, Short and Wilkinson should help. They also need to utilize the talents of Reggie Torbor as a forward playing pass rusher. Antonio Pierce backed up by Chase Blackburn in the middle will be fine. Pierce should have another big year, especially if the DTs do the job they are supposed to.

LB Questions: Will Pierce return to pre-injury form? Will Arrington make the impact expected of him? Will Emmons, Short or Wilkinson become an effective weakside linebacker?

Defensive Backs – Has this group been upgraded? Time will tell. Sam Madison was a solid acquisition for sure. He replaces Will Allen as their lead corner. For those of you – and I'm including myself – who got tired of Allen's lack of playmaking ability, Madison should be an improvement. He is however, a 32-year-old corner whose performance has slipped a bit lately, but he's still good enough to have an impact. Corey Webster has a full year under his belt and that should help. We saw flashes of very solid play as a rookie, but hopefully he will be more consistent this season. The battle for the remaining CB spots should be intense. Curtis Deloatch, R.W. McQuarters, Jason Bell, Frank Walker and Gerrick McPhearson are all in the mix for reserve roles. McQuarters and Bell both have an edge because they are strong special teams players. Will Peterson will be missed, but injuries are part of the game. Someone needs to step up to fill the nickel role. At safety, the addition of Will Demps is huge. He is a quality safety and along with Gibril Wilson they should be a solid duo. Wilson needs to continue his progress. Quentin Harris, James Butler and Charlie Peprah will wage their own battle for backup safety positions. One good thing is that there is a lot of talent here and plenty of competition, which is always good.

DB Questions: Is Madison still good enough to be a shut down corner? Will Webster improve in his sophomore season? Will Wilson improve in his third season?

Special Teams – This unit could be one of the premier special teams units in the league. They've come a long way. Remember, not too long ago, this unit used to cost the Giants games. Now they help them win games. It's good that Jeff Feagles will be back. He can control a game with field position. There is only one player in the league older than Feagles – John Carney of the Saints. Still, Feagles should be productive as long as he doesn't try to make any tackles. They need Jay Feely not to go into a funk like he did last year for a short period. He has proven that he can kick in Giants Stadium. Ryan Kuehl is an excellent snapper. They apparently have lost confidence in Willie Ponder as a kick returner, but R.W. McQuarters, Chad Morton, Derrick Ward and Sinorice Moss all have either kick or punt return skills. Coverage teams standouts are David Tyree, Jason Bell and Chase Blackburn.

ST Questions: Will someone win the kickoff return job and flourish? Will Feagles make it through the year? Will Feely be consistent for the full season?

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