What's Albany's biggest surprise so far?

Paul Schwartz: My assignment is to come up with what I've been most surprised about in the early stages of training camp. Easy. I'm surprised that Kenny actually made it out to a morning practice after a night of, shall we say, intense film study of the Giants punt coverage.

Or was it a night of researching the local brews in town? Either way, seeing Kenny diligently watching the Giants work out so soon after Happy Hour ended was inspiring. What was most confounding was looking out on the field and seeing Fred Robbins lined up at nose tackle. Everyone knew that spot was the one up for grabs, the one where the Giants had many candidates but no proven answers. The company line this offseason was that in the absence of Kendrick Clancy (gone to the Cardinals) the Giants would audition three youngsters at nose tackle: Jonas Seawright, Damane Duckett and rookie Barry Cofield. Then we get to camp and Robbins is getting first crack. What gives? Wasn't Robbins the player who at this time last year was running with the third team, dropped into Tom Coughlin's doghouse after showing up overweight? Wasn't Robbins the player who two years ago was tried at nose tackle and the result was a porous run defense? Robbins isn't even a natural nose tackle; he's more comfortable as the pass-rushing defensive tackle, not the plug-the-gap run stuffer who occupies two blockers and gets none of the glory. Sure, Robbins lost 15 pounds and looks serious about staying on the field. Of course, Tom Coughlin warned that all this means is Robbins gets first crack and that nothing is guaranteed. This still ranks as a major surprise. We'll see how long it lasts.

Ken Palmer: I guess you wanted Seawright in the starting lineup? Of course it's Robbins, as well it should be. He has the most experience and is the best candidate to play that position. Needless to say, each and every DT is supposed to be able to play the nose and the three-technique. However, we both know that means everyone but one – William Joseph, who's game obviously limits him to play only head up on the outside of a guard or inside a tackle and forces someone else (in this case, Robbins) to play out of position. Needless to say, that's hardly surprising. If you've been watching – instead of worrying about my whereabouts in God-forsaken Albany – you'd realize that the Giants offense jumped right out of the gate and has been humming since the get-go. Before Jeremy Shockey and Plaxico Burress got banged up, the Giants O looked well ahead of its counterparts. We all knew that all 11 offensive starters were returning, but it's been extremely surprising exactly how well they've started.

Paul Schwartz: Why are you so shocked that the offense hit the ground running? All 11 starters being back should make things operate smoothly, don't you think? Once again, your grasp of the obvious is overwhelming. Next you'll be declaring that Tiki Barber is a big part of the attack as if it's some great revelation. Speaking of revelations, the news delivered by Barber that this could likely be his last season in football hardly qualifies as a shocker. We all know how many off-field interests Barber has, how he's thrived in the media world working on television and hosting radio shows. He's headed to big things in a new career as soon as he puts to bed his life in football. That could come as soon as after this season and it will come after this season if the Giants are able to capture the only prize that has eluded Barber: A Super Bowl title. The question is this: Is Barber's honesty as far as admitting he's strongly considering retirement good for the team or counter-productive? I see no problem with Barber laying his cards on the table. He's putting the pressure on himself and his teammates. Win now, not later. Anyone who has been around Barber must know that he is a uniquely focused individual. He has too much pride in what he does to let other pursuits interfere with his commitment to the Giants. Now, if we could only persuade Kenny into early retirement.

Ken Palmer: I've been looking for early retirement for years, my friend – it just isn't going to happen in such a lucrative field as sports journalism. Tiki has long since passed the time where he worried what others thought and said about him. Sure, there are some in and around the organization that don't love (i.e. are extremely envious regarding) the fact that he's involved in so many different endeavors. But the bottom line is as Barber said himself: What can they say when I run for 1,800 yards? Barber has earned the right to do exactly what he wants around here and, for the most part, he does. We all should know by now that Tiki only says what's on his mind and how he truly feels – remember the out-coached comment after the playoff game? He thought it. He meant it. So he said it. So his revealing that this might actually be it for him is hardly a ploy to make headlines, it's just how he honestly feels. My guess is this is it for him, Super Bowl ring or no ring.

Paul Schwartz: Let's change the subject. It's not a front-burner issue but are you as interested as I am in the quarterback depth chart? You should be, considering how your beleaguered Phillies all but handed the pennant to the Yankees with some wimpy trades and can't see the Mets ahead of them with a telescope. Sorry, but there's no more baseball season for you to follow. Behind Eli Manning there's Rob Johnson, then Tim Hasselbeck and then Jared Lorenzen. The way I see the depth chart is Manning, Johnson, Lorenzen and Hasselbeck. If Johnson is recovered from his elbow surgery he should be the backup, based on his experience. The battle for the No. 3 job and the one roster spot figures to last all summer and I have a hunch that Lorenzen will fare much better in the preseason games this year than he did last year. The Giants wouldn't have kept him around, watching him battle through weight problems, if they didn't see potential in him. The big guy has to prove he's not merely a novelty act and he certainly looks much improved during training camp practices. Let's see if he can keep it up.

Ken Palmer: Stop the presses. I agree with Paul, which marks the first time in a long time that Schwartz can actually feel good about one of these exchanges. Manning's the starter, no doubt. It appears the easiest way to size up the rest of the QBs is that Lorenzen will almost certainly be the third quarterback. He's not ready to be number two just yet. That leaves the all-important backup spot to Johnson or Hasselbeck. It's way too early in camp to separate the two and you'd have to figure that Johnson has the inside track, based on his experience and gaudy career numbers. But Hasselbeck is still riding in the backup's seat and hasn't done anything early on to show himself in a bad light. I think it's still going to end up being Johnson's job; I just don't think it's going to be the slam dunk everyone seems to be expecting.

The Giants Beat Top Stories