Why I’m excited about training camp and what it means for the Giants in the 2012 season.
Training Camp for me is the start of the NFL season. When everyone else has been getting excited about the Olympics in our biggest city, my attention has turned to the University Campus at Albany in up-state New York where the whole Giants team are gathered to practice and install the messages and plays that will lead them to success or failure in the season.
The message from the current Super Bowl Champion Giants has been that they want to see which team from last year is the real one.
Is it the team that went 9-7 and only squeezed out an NFC East title, along the way losing games that they should have won, their once proud run game sputtering throughout, the defense questionable and at times seeming soft and porous against run and pass.
Or is it the team that got ‘hot’ at the right time and once in the play-offs kept the high-octane Falcons to 0 offensive points, made the number-1 seeded and reigning champion Packers sputter and implode, knocked out a very good 49ers team with special teams in a close overtime game to win the right to humble the Brady-Belichick machine in the last NFL game of the season.
At the end of the day the 2011 Giants were one dropped Miles Austin catch and the tip of Pierre-Paul’s finger on a Dallas field goal away from missing the playoffs completely.
This week amongst news of injuries, recoveries and practices we’ve seen Eli Manning’s and Hakeem Nicks’ game shoes:
We also found out from punter Steve Weatherford’s twitter account that these multi-millionaires sometimes sleep on Spiderman bedding:
The message coming out of camp last year was ‘Finish’ – finish games, finish drives, finish the season and it worked.
This year the message is ‘sustain’ – don’t get complacent, don’t think you are better than you are. Eli Manning summed the message up succinctly:
“This past year, we showed our potential those last six games of the season … that we can play with anybody and we can compete and we can play great football, a matter of getting to that point, finding that style of football, the way to be successful, and then holding on to it for the season.”
“You just can’t allow yourself to think about (the Super Bowl). You’ve got to be humble and remember the reasons why we turned around a team that was 9-7 to a Super Bowl team. So Eli’s right on.”
“The comparison between the last six and the first 14, you just kind of shake your head, I’m hoping we’re the team that finished.”
My main areas of interest going through camp and into the season broken down by position are:
(N.B. the following are my arm-chair opinions and I make no apology for them but if you think I’m mistaken about anything then please do comment!):
Defense (the key to the great Giants teams)
D-Line -can Osi and Tuck stay healthy and can Jason Pierre-Paul (still only 20) continue to mature his raw athleticism into technique to become a dominant force?
Update 4th August JPP is looking like having another good year:
JPP looking to continue Giant ascension.
D-Backs – With such a great pass rush the job of the D-Backs is lessened but the two elements must work in harmony and must cover long enough to let the pass-rush get ‘home’.
Deon Grant – will he return as he says he wants to? This would allow Perry Fewell to run his 3 safety formations from 2011. Or is Fewell confident enough with the development of Tyler Sash that he feels Grant is a ‘nice to have’ but maybe not an essential cog in the ‘D’
UPDATE 31/07/2012 The re-injury to Terrell Thomas could bring Grant back into the fold:
Prince Amukamara – will the 2011 1st round draft pick mature and replace the hole left by Aaron Ross’ departure to the Jags?
Terrel Thomas – is he fully recovered from the knee injury which kept him out all lastseason (his back stiffened up in practice today but the knee seemed strong)?
UPDATE 31/07/2012 Bad news for the DBs:
Linebackers – will this young group continue to grow and find their roles and what does the addition of Keith Rivers mean to the LB corps?
QB – no question who the starter will be but can Eli continue to make great decisions, protect the ball and put the team on his back when the running game sputters?
Receivers/Tight Ends (a lot of interesting stories to follow in this group)–
Hakeem Nicks – can he get back to full strength and on the same page as Eli early in the season after breaking his foot in the off-season?
Ramses Barden – can he create in games like we hear he does in practice?
Domenik Hixon – coming off his second consecutive season ending knee injury will he be able to fill in for Manningham (now with the 49ers) and Nicks (until his return).
Reuben Randle – how ‘NFL-ready’ is this exciting talent that the Giants viewed as a steal falling to them at the end of the second round.
Victor Cruz – can the salsa dancing sensation continue to produce at such a high level and dominate from the slot position again?
UPDATE 20:40 28.07.12 Mike Garafolo tweeted from camp:
@MikeGarafolo: Anybody looking for Cruz letdown should probably keep looking. He looks as explosive as he was last year plus more polished. #nyg
Travis Beckum – can he come back from his knee injury in the Super Bowl and step up to fill the hole left by Jake Ballard’s injury and subsequent poaching by the Patriots?
Martellus Bennett – can he break out and fulfill that potential that he flashed but never maintained in Dallas? Will he keep his weight down and stay healthy?
Adrien Robinson – this is one of my favourite storylines. The Giants look on this young tight-end as needing technique but rivaling JPP for raw athletic ability. Look for him to make a big contribution either late in the season or in 2013.
Running back – a key position for the Giants. Last year was statistically one of their worst ever running the ball. This is something that they’ve always prided themselves on.
Ahmad Bradshaw – I’m rooting for 44 to have a big year. I’m not going to lie, I’m going to miss the joint celebrations of Bradshaw and Jacobs
David Wilson – one word from me: “Exciting.” In Eli’s words: “The thing about David Wilson is he’s the fastest running back we’ve ever had. I mean, this guy’s; quick, he’s explosive, so that’s kind of exciting.”
Andre Brown – hoping to see this guy step up and perform. Lots of promise but it’s time to see production.
DJ Ware and Da’Rel Scott – These guys have been with the team a while and except for occasional flashes (and 2-point conversions) we’ve seen little from them. It’s time for one (or both) of them to step into the sizeable hole that Jacobs has left in the roster.
O-Line – In 2011 this group were oft-injured and not the same group we’d seen for so many years. We need more consistency and better center play in 2012.
Special Teams – can we get a return game going?
Really good to see Justin Tryon back. He wins my prize in 2011 for sheer grit. Tackling and hanging onto Reggie Bush with an already fractured arm, breaking it completely in the process and ending his season. Tough kid.
Also expecting continued performance from Devin Thomas – my undisputed MVP of the NFC championship game.
UPDATE 5/08/12 –
UPDATE 07/08/12: A look at the Giants’ Special Teams unit
The forgotten 1/3 of the game will be big (maybe make or break) for the Giants this season.
What are you looking for from your NFL team as they move through camp, the pre-Season and into the Season?
Don’t forget to follow me on twitter @anthonysavell.