Ross Lone Source of Giant Excitement

There was a moment recently when it was fun to talk about the Giants again. It came shortly after they used their 20th pick in the NFL draft to select Texas cornerback Aaron Ross. A bit later he was piped into a conference call with the Giants media and we heard the voice of youth.

"I think being star-struck,'' Ross said when asked about his toughest adjustment. "Facing TO. Facing Chad Johnson. Making myself realize that they are not on a video game any more, or on Monday Night Football.''

There is nothing like the draft to freshen the season in April. You hear the kids talk and feel their excitement and it's easy to conclude that anything is possible come fall.

Soon the draft was over and an uneasy reality set in. These were pretty much the Giants we are going to see on Sept. 9 at Dallas.

Like someone in the throes of a mid-life crisis would say, "Is this all I have to look forward to?''

God bless new general manager Jerry Reese heading his first draft. He didn't flinch through the questions, didn't even barely form a frown, while media members tried to make sense of it all.

Left tackle? We've got a left tackle we've won a game with, Reese said, correcting his earlier statement of having a left tackle the Giants have won "games'' with. The Giants are 1-1 with Diehl at left tackle.

Linebacker? Guys, we have linebackers, Reese said, somewhat scoldingly in the middle of the draft's first day.

Reese announced the next day that one of them would be defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka. But Kiwi's move not only fails to cover up a mediocre draft, it fails to cover the team's sudden lack of depth at defensive end. Remember, Michael Strahan has missed significant time in two of the past three seasons with injuries. And D-end Justin Tuck doesn't exactly instill confidence in Giants fans.

So the Giants are at phase three after pretty much flopping in phases one (free agency) and two (draft).

Ross will be a nice addition, he really will. Sam Madison often played like he was wearing concrete cleats, and Corey Webster's name jumped from the injury report more than it did the stat sheet.

But Reese said so himself, the draft is about developing players, not starting them on opening day. That's why Reese was dead-on correct about not selecting Central Michigan left tackle Joe Staley. Why should Reese select Staley if he's confident in Diehl and his one career win at the position?

Less excusable was the sabbatical the Giants took during free agency. What exactly were they waiting for? Reese called the market prices "out of control,'' so the Giants moved on.

Now they must move on to mini-camps and training camp and, finally, to opening day 2007. They must move on without having moved up in the NFC East.

You know what's sad? The Giants aren't the team that finished 8-8 and crawled into the playoffs four months ago. And that team wasn't any good. The best player in team history is gone, even if his mouth is still active. The franchise defensive end is closer to the end of his career than the beginning of a Giants renaissance. The defense has more holes than a New York City street.

And for the purpose of maintaining steady heartbeats among Giants fans today, I will leave Eli Manning out of the conversation for now.

Or maybe we are supposed to get excited over Plaxico Burress showing up for mini-camp. What a lovely gesture, wouldn't you agree? What next? Plax refraining from throwing his hands up in frustration when Manning – sorry, promise I won't mention the name again – throws the ball to someone else.

Let's be honest: The only thing worth getting excited over in mini-camp would be if Tiki Barber showed up. And we all know, as Barber has made quite clear by now, there's a better chance of him turning up at Michael Irvin's Hall of Fame induction ceremony than stepping within a country mile of land occupied by Thomas Richard Coughlin.

(By the way, I'd be remiss if I didn't publicly thank Coughlin for running Barber out of town. As Barber talks more and more about Coughlin's unyielding coaching methods, it's become more and more clear that Barber would be getting ready for another season if Coughlin had more than occasionally shown his human side. Thus leading to the new Giants trivia question: Who's the only person to stop Tiki Barber? Tom Coughlin.)

The knee-jerk reaction is to wonder if Burress can sway Jeremy Shockey to make an appearance. But would Shockey's presence really make much of a difference in the development of the quarterback with the famous last name? The Giants offense is going to go as far as Brandon Jacobs takes it, which, I know, can be a frightening thought. Jacobs still needs to iron out his game, and Reuben Droughns, presumably Jacobs' backup, might wind up being just as valuable. The question is, how valuable will they be?

So other than Aaron Ross, we haven't had a whole lot to celebrate lately. He sounded like he's going to be a lot of fun in the locker room. Fans should get the same kind of enjoyment watching him on the field.

"I am full of excitement right now,'' he said during the conference call. "I really don't know how to explain it.''

Someone asked if he thinks he'll be able to start right away and Ross said, "Yes. I am not coming there to sit on the bench.''

Perfect. The Giants might have hit a home run with their first-round pick. But the rest of their linescore includes a bunch of zeros.

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