Eye on the Prize: Defense & Special Teams

Giants Insider
Posted Aug 9, 2006


As always, TGI is up in Albany for every practice session. Here’s a position-by-position breakdown of all the goings-on in the state capital of the Giants' Defense and Special Teams.

Defensive line

Looking back: Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora have looked every bit the part of a couple of Pro Bowlers so far. Both look lean and mean and ready to go. Fred Robbins got the nod to start alongside William Joseph and Robbins has looked pretty good as well.

Looking ahead: All eyes are on first-round pick Mathias Kiwanuka, who has shown some signs early on, but is still obviously taking some time to learn the defense and his assignments. How he and Justin Tuck, who seems extra determined and motivated since the drafting of Kiwanuka, will be used remains to be seen.

Best sight: The depth of this defensive line could be very impressive. With all the rotating that happens on the D-line, it’s nice to know you have guys like Tuck, Kiwanuka, Damane Duckett and Jonas Seawright in reserve. Both of those DTs still have an outside chance to unseat Robbins as the starting NT.

Worst sight: William Joseph, after another so-so practice, rumbling up to the dining hall and refusing to speak to the media. Joseph, the only DT on the roster incapable of playing both spots, has been angry how the press has portrayed him and refuses to speak. Strahan and Umenyiora, on a much smaller scale, have also boycotted the press at times through the years but both eventually came to their senses.

Eye opener: Despite making the Pro Bowl last season, Osi Umenyiora still continues to open eyes during practice. We shouldn’t still be surprised, but at times we are. He routinely runs around Luke Petitgout during camp and has so many moves – and so much confidence – that it’s already looking like another trip to Hawaii for number 72.

Linebackers

Looking back: These guys can be real good. A trouble spot, especially late last season, the Giants boast a crop of LBs that could be a real big plus this season. Antonio Pierce looks better than ever and LaVar Arrington has displayed all that’s been expected of him so far. The depth is also impressive.

Looking ahead: Which guy will be healthy enough to grab the weak side spot? Carlos Emmons suffered a burner early in camp and was slowed, but his backup, free agent signee Brandon Short, has been limited to one practice a day due to offseason knee surgery. One of these guys has to emerge at WILL.

Best sight: Seeing monstrous number 55 on the line of scrimmage right next to Strahan. The havoc that Arrington can and should wreak on opposing offenses this season is going to be fun to watch. He’s healthy physically and more importantly mentally, and is looking to do big things in the big city.

Worst sight: Seeing Emmons injured during a goal line drill. While it wasn’t a serious injury, this guy has been slowed by various ailments since he arrived in New York. This offseason he was at his healthiest and ready to go – that was until he was sidelined less than a week into camp.

Eye opener: Everyone may look at Reggie Torbor as the forgotten man this summer, but he’s had a strong camp and should contribute plenty this season. Torbor looks faster than ever and there’s every reason to believe, despite all the players in front of him, that there’s a role for him in ’06.

Defensive backs

Looking back: It’s hardly been a strong start to camp for this group of DBs. The INTs that everyone’s been looking for have yet to come. While the offense has been impressive, it’s usually been at the expense of shoddy coverage from the DBs. One week of camp does not a season make, but we were kind of hoping for more from the new-and-improved secondary.

Looking ahead: As the new DBs become more comfortable in the system, you can expect more and more plays to come. The Giants coaching staff also has to sort out all the backups and whom they want where. There’s obviously not going to be room for everybody – and there sure are a lot of solid candidates from holdovers like Curtis Deloatch and Frank Walker to newcomers like Quentin Harris and Jason Bell to draftees like Charlie Peprah and Gerrick McPhearson.

Best sight: Will Demps didn’t exactly light up Jeremy Shockey the way that everyone’s portraying it; Shockey actually suffered his concussion after being spun around and hitting his head on the ground. But Demps was right there to make that play and has been in position to make so many so far this camp. He might actually turn out to be a very pleasant surprise.

Worst sight: Gerrick McPhearson, the seventh-rounder from Maryland with only one career college pick, dropping multiple opportunities to pick off passes. This isn’t to pick on only McPhearson, because he’s hardly the only DB that’s yet to make any plays in the early going, a group that certainly includes headliner Sam Madison.

Eye opener: Curtis Deloatch has turned in two of the better plays of camp thus far. The 6-2 Deloatch skied to grab one interception on a deep ball down the sideline and dove in the end zone for another. While he’s not expected to even crack the top three CBs, it appears that no one’s told Deloatch that yet.

Special teams

Looking back: All the pieces are in place once again for Big Blue to have a solid group of special teams. The one problem area last season – the coverage teams – looks to have been solidified with the addition of a bunch of quicker cover men. The specialists – Jay Feely, Jeff Feagles, Ryan Kuehl and Chad Morton – are about as good a quartet as you could hope for and all have performed well up in Albany.

Looking ahead: It’ll be interesting to see what impact, if any, Sinorice Moss will have on the return games. Both jobs are securely Chad Morton’s but Moss has excellent return ability and hasn’t exactly lit it up as a receiver just yet. The Giants want their second-round pick on the field as much as possible as soon as possible.

Best sight: The addition of cover guys like Bell and Harris and draft picks like Gerris Wilkinson. These guys all have good speed and should instantly improve New York’s coverage units. It’s hard not to notice the added speed even in non-contact drills. If Big Blue can get this problem squared away, they could boast the best STs in the league.

Worst sight: Willie Ponder fighting desperately to return to contributor status in the return game. It wasn’t that long ago that Ponder led the entire league in kickoff returns. Now he’s just fighting for a chance to unseat Morton at either spot. The talented and strong Ponder is also having a tough time of it as a receiver.

Eye opener: Chad Morton is quicker than ever. He dropped close to 10 pounds and added some muscle this offseason and it’s obvious for all to see. He also had his bothersome right knee cleaned up. He was real good last year; now it looks as if he might be great.


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