Paul Schwartz: I wonder if Kenny can look up in the archives and see what I wrote last year about what the Giants desperately need to accomplish before they break camp. I bet it was either similar or identical to what I'm going to treat you to right now. Once again (drum roll, please) the Giants must witness significant improvement in Eli Manning. We know, this is stating the obvious but is there any question that once again, the fate of Eli is destined to mirror the fate of the Giants? Can anyone even remotely envision the Giants as a playoff team if Manning doesn't drastically step up his game? If he spends a month up in Albany with slumped shoulders and errant passes and that laid-back disposition, how in the world will that direct anyone to greatness? Fans are already frustrated with what they've seen from this supposed savior quarterback and are exceedingly anxious to detect even a trace of a pulse in his personality. Tiki Barber is gone, meaning a large chunk of the personality of the offense is gone. The nature of his position mandates that Manning must step into the void. Can he do it?
Ken Palmer: The sooner everyone comes to grips and realizes that Eli is pretty much what he's going to be, the better off everyone will be. He's a good NFL quarterback that can play at a very high level at times. But he's unlikely to get much better or more consistent than what you've seen so far. Sure, he'll get a little more comfortable and gain more experience, but Manning is what he is. He's a quiet, aw-shucks type of guy and no matter how much the Giants, their fans and the New York media want him to change, it's not going to happen. Nor should it. He'd only look like a phony to his teammates. As a result, what the Giants most need to take out of this next month in Albany is the belief that their running game and left tackle situation is in good hands. That's imperative for this offense to have any success this season – and would also take at least a little of the pressure off Manning. And let's be serious here, Paul. You honestly think we archive anything you write? Please.
PS: OK, fine. Now let's see how Tom Coughlin handles the handful of walking wounded players during the grind of camp. The one I'm most interested in is Amani Toomer, who is coming off reconstructive knee surgery and at the age of 32 is not getting any faster. Clearly, Toomer is going to be on a one-a-day schedule and given every opportunity to work his way back at his own pace. Still, there's pressure on Toomer to show he can return to form, as second-year Sinorice Moss is finally healthy and a rookie, second-round pick Steve Smith, is waiting in the wings to burst onto the scene. Toomer usually comes to camp in supreme shape and goes about his business in consistent fashion. Things are different for him this time around. He can't push himself too hard but he also can't take his sweet time and see younger receivers rush on by. I know there are some who have already discounted Toomer, not believing he can make a comeback and once again take his place opposite Plaxico Burress in the starting lineup. I never would count Toomer out.
KP: Nor would I, genius, but as you stated, at least if he can't go, the Giants have some good insurance behind him. The position you should be most worried about is defensive end. For all of Toomer's contributions, he's yet to earn a trip to Hawaii; Michael Strahan, however, has already been named a Pro Bowler seven times. The player the Giants most need to keep on his feet is Strahan. He's the straw that stirs the Giants defensive drink. Yes, Justin Tuck appears ready for a breakout season, but the Giants need their big horse up and running – all season long. Tuck will be perfect this season spelling Strahan and Osi Umenyiora, who's not exactly coming off the Pro Bowl year he had in '05. If Strahan is either ineffective, which is highly unlikely, or gets injured again, which at 35 years old is more of a possibility, who are the Giants going to slide in at DE? First-round bust extraordinaire William Joseph? Big Blue's resident cat with nine lives is unlikely to even make it out of camp. The player the Giants can least afford to live without is big number 92. That much is clear.
PS: What is perfectly clear to me is that the Mets should have buried the Phillies when they had the chance, saving Kenny a summer filled with false hopes. Alas, now Kenny gets to cling to a dream you know is destined to become a Philly nightmare. By the time the Giants touch down in Albany for training camp, figure Kenny (once again) will be calling for Charlie Manuel's head and driving up to Albany in a sour mood. However, there are plenty of Giants that have reason for excitement and have much to gain during the month of training camp. But no one has more to gain than Mathias Kiwanuka. He's playing a new position (strong side linebacker) and is no longer a pass-rushing defensive end. The time to make the adjustments, make his mistakes and learn his lessons is during the summer. Once the season starts, Kiwanuka must be ready to roll, as opponents will be targeting him. If Kiwanuka can get out of camp feeling good about his new spot in the defense and leaving the Giants with no doubts about the move, it will be an extremely positive development. I'm looking forward to watching Jeremy Shockey go at Kiwanuka day after day, practice after practice. If Kiwanuka can withstand those battles, he'll be ready for the real thing.
KP: As bad as my boys have been lately, fortunately yours have been even worse. Just getting a whiff of a division race while we're stranded in Albany would be plenty sweet for me, but not nearly as sweet as a Phils early-June sweep at Shea, with Jimmy Rollins and Pat Burrell (off blabbermouth Billy Wagner) doing the damage. Anyway, back to football. If you have any doubts about whether or not Kiwanuka will be able to man the strong-side position, you're as crazy as thinking your horrific pitching staff will hold up when it counts. Kiwi is a superb athlete, and about as intelligent a football player as you'll ever meet. Just his size alone (6-5, 265) gives the Giants a huge edge with him at SLB. The flat and screen pass areas to his side are likely to be neutralized just because of his height and wingspan. And anyone that has any questions regarding his ability to drop into pass coverage must not have seen his two interceptions last season. Giants fans have a lot of things to be concerned about; Mathias Kiwanuka playing linebacker is certainly not one of them.
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