We have not done a 'Friday Five' segment with the always-informative editor of Inside Football, Pat Traina, for quite some time now. With the 2011 NFL Draft just days away Pat and I figured it was time to change that and share some of our thoughts on the upcoming draft.
Her answers to my questions are below, and my answers to her questions are posted already at Train-A-Thought. Be sure to check those out. Just to be clear, Pat and I exchanged and answered these questions earlier in the week -- long before General Manager Jerry Reese held his pre-draft press conference on Thursday.
So, here we go.
Ed: If you read mock drafts and draft analysts all you ever seem to hear about with the Giants is offensive tackle, offensive tackle, offensive tackle. To me that's on the list of needs for the Giants, but it's hardly the most pressing one. Agree or disagree?
Pat: Agree. Let's look at the depth situation. Right now the starters are Diehl and McKenzie. Your backups under contract are Andrews and Beatty. Assuming Andrews is able to make it through the season, that's not a bad lineup. And if they're able to add Kevin Boothe (a free agent) back into the mix, that's another body at the tackle position.
Now let's say Diehl has to move inside to guard and Beatty goes into the starting lineup. If that's your scenario, then I would say, yes, a tackle is necessary for depth, but I wouldn't say tackle in round one, even though this is the last year of McKenzie's contract.
I think center is the higher priority position right now on the offensive line because the center has to develop a rapport with the quarterback. If this lockout drags on, a young center might not get that opportunity, so his training is going to have to be expedited. I think with tackle if they don't re-sign McKenzie, they might go the free agency route to find a stopgap right tackle until a suitable young prospect falls into their lap.
Ed: Value or need? The Giants could go in many directions in the first round -- offensive line, linebacker, defensive line, running back, cornerback, tight end. If you had the choice, do you target a position, or just go for the best value among the many areas you could look to improve?
Pat: Jerry Reese has said they look for the best available, so I think that's the direction you go in. One thing I have noticed with the Giants is that they're very big on building up their depth, and rightfully so - 16 games is a LONG season. So even though they might take a player where there isn't a need, eventually there is a need, if you know what I mean, due to injury, strategy, etc.
This approach worked well last year when injuries bit the offensive line in the butt and it was a lesson that I think Reese learned from the season when the d-line and LBs were both wiped out by injuries (I forget the year, but that season they were pulling in guys off the street and it caught up to them in the playoffs).
Ed: If the Giants were to do something "outside the box," what do you think it would be?
Pat: I hate to ruin the surprise, but I have a fullback in my mock draft - that's about all I'm going to say right now because I'm hoping you'll read my reasoning and why I picked who I picked. I suppose though if they REALLY wanted to throw us all for a loop, they could draft a wide receiver, though now that I think about it, maybe that wouldn't be such a shock considering they have a couple of guys (Steve Smith and Ramses Barden) who are still working their way back from injuries, and Nicks has had his share of injuries thus far in his young career.
Ed: GM Jerry Reese talked -- rightly -- after the 2010 season about the number of big plays surrendered by the Giants' secondary. The Giants have several "name" players at corner and safety. How do you fix that issue?
Pat: I'm not sure to be honest. On tape it looks like certain guys blew coverage, but then you don't really know what the call was in the secondary - was a safety late in getting over with the help or was the corner fooled?
Antrel Rolle had a lot put on his shoulders last year, and while he did the best he could with what they asked him to do, maybe he could have done more.
(By the way, I am aware he made the Pro Bowl, but so did Shaun O'Hara despite missing ten games, so I don't use the Pro Bowl as a gauge for anything.)
The other problem I saw was Kenny Phillips - often times he was so darn deep that it was almost as though the Giants had 10 defenders on the field instead of 11. Then there were times when Phillips didn't quite look like himself. Hopefully with all this down time, he comes back even stronger and better than last year.
Lastly, I have to wonder if the injuries the corners had were a factor. The team is generally hush-hush about injuries, but all you need are a pair of eyes to see when a guy isn't quite right. Anyway, that's my take.
Ed: Linebacker. I noticed in your Giants mock, which is through four rounds as I type this, that you did not grab a linebacker. Is that because the right linebacker, in your mind, was not available. Or, do you really want to see the Giants give Clint Sintim or Adrian Tracy a full opportunity before using an early-round pick on a linebacker?
Pat: Actually, I do have a linebacker in my mock draft. You'll see who it is and where I picked him probably by the time this Q&A is published. But to answer your question, historically the Giants, under Reese have been reluctant to abandon ship on their draft picks, so I don't think they are quite ready to give up on Clint Sintim or the two kids they drafted last year (Phillip Dillard and Adrian Tracy).
Also, in looking back over recent transcripts, Reese noted that the linebackers played well enough to win 10 games for them. So unless they've got a really good smokescreen going on here, I just don't get a sense that they feel linebacker is as high of a need as many of us on the outside looking in do.