The New York Giants offseason work as a team is done. OTAs and mandatory mini-camp are in the rearview mirror, and the team's abbreviated four-week summer vacation has begun. The next time the team will convene is when they gather for training camp July 21.
What have we learned? Well, I have channeled my inner Peter King to give you 'Five Things I Think I Think' as the Giants conclude their offseason preparations.
There is no leader at tight end
It seems like Giants fans are obsessed with figuring out who the team's starting tight end will be this season. Right now, that is anybody's guess.
"It's fully open right now to all five guys. Whoever can step in and play the role the best way, that is the way we need to go," said tight ends coach Kevin M. Gilbride, who was the team's wide receivers coach the past two seasons. "We're not worries about who was drafted where, who was just signed in the offseason, who is a rookie. None of that matters."
Adrien Robinson is the only tight end on the roster drafted by the Giants. He has had his moments, but has to show the Giants he can be relied upon day in and day out. Larry Donnell had made some nice plays, but is in much the same situation as Robinson. Free-agent signee Kellen Davis has to catch the ball and show he has the versatility the Giants crave. Daniel Fells has to answer the question of why he was out of the league last season. Xavier Grimble has to overcome the stigma of being undrafted, and leap-frog four more experience players.
"I think we have a nice group there. We have big men in the room, I like the way they think about the game, I like the way they're moving around on the field," said offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo. "When we get the pads on that's when we'll really know where we are."
The Giants want Ryan Nassib to be No. 2
During both OTAs and mini-camp, when Eli Manning came off the field it was almost always Ryan Nassib who went on the field to direct the Giants offense. Snaps for Curtis Painter seem to be an afterthought. It is brutally obvious that the Giants are giving the 2013 fourth-round draft pick every opportunity to show he deserves to be the team's backup quarterback. The question is, can Nassib grab the reins or will he spit the bit?
After a combined 12 OTA and mini-camp practices, we don't have the answer. As head coach Tom Coughlin said several weeks ago, Nassib appears fully capable of lining players up, recognizing the defense and identifying the proper place to deliver the ball. The problem has been that once Nassib releases the ball you never know what is going to happen. There have been far too many interceptions or open receivers who were missed by errant tosses.
On Thursday, new quarterbacks coach Danny Langsdorf pretty much echoed Coughlin's sentiments when asked to assess Nassib:
"Really smart. I think he's done a great job, especially in our no-huddle periods of just being able to get guys lined up, whether we're in a two-minute situation or whatever situation we've been in he's done a great job of just getting us in a correct formation, getting us lined up," Langsdorf said. He's just got to keep working on executing, whether it's a throw or timing with the receivers, he's just got to continue to work with those guys but he's been very good to this point in terms of studying and learning."
Nassib is going to have to successfully execute more consistently or Painter could wind up as the backup on Sundays again.
The fullback competition is a toss-up
One thing we know about the new offense being installed by the Giants -- it will include a place for a fullback. "You like to use the fullback. The way I was raised, a fullback's a big part of the things you do," McAdoo said.
What we don't know is whether that fullback will be Henry Hynoski or John Conner, two quality veteran players who are competing for the job. McAdoo didn't tip his hand on Thursday. Asked a specific question about Hynoski, the offensive coordinator brushed it aside and spoke about both players:
"Henry and John have both done a nice job so far," is all McAdoo would say about the two fullbacks.
Without pads in non-contact practices it has been impossible to judge the effectiveness of the two in the blocking role, the primary job of the fullback. We have seen, however, that the new offense will ask the fullbacks to be versatile, to move around in different formations, to catch the ball and even to occasionally run with it.
Giants fans might think that gives Hynoski an edge since he caught 11 passes and ran five times for 20 yards in 2012, his last healthy season. That is not necessarily the case. Conner caught a career-high six passes in 13 games for the Giants last season, and has showcased good hands thus far. He also carried the ball 21 times for 88 yards (4.2 yards per carry) during the 2011 and 2011 seasons with the New York Jets, so he is a capable inside runner.
Which player will win the job? That is anybody's guess.
Chris Snee remains a huge question mark
Chris Snee played only three games in 2013, derailed by hip and elbow injuries. When the Giants decided to give Snee an opportunity to return for an 11th season, the obvious question was whether or not he could hold up physically after surgery on both hips and his elbow in the past two years.
With Snee having missed several OTAs and all of mini-camp due to a flare-up in that surgically-repaired elbow, the early returns are not good. Coughlin tried to sound optimistic about Snee on the first day of mini-camp, insisting that "we know what we have." Is that really true?
Snee did not play up to his standards in 2012 while battling a torn labrum in his left hip. Last season, he had to shut down after three sub-par games because he could not function due to a torn labrum in the right hip.
Offensive line coach Pat Flaherty was actually speaking about injured offensive lineman John Jerry when he gave the following answer, but it has to be applicable to Snee as well:
"Any time, I think one of the great questions is: ‘How is so and so improving because he's been injured?' Well, you really only improve in football by doing football activities. That's how you improve in terms of technique and fundamentals," Flaherty said.
Snee, honestly, has not done much in terms of 'football activities' since 2012. He practiced very little prior to the 2013 season, played only three games and is now shut down once again. There has to be concern, and the possibility that Coughlin will have to tell his son-in-law that he has reached the end of the NFL line.
Fortunately, the Giants appear to have a succession plan in place if they need to utilize it. Jerry started every game at right guard for the Miami Dolphins the past two seasons, Brandon Mosley has been taking first-team reps and could be ready to step in, and second-round pick Weston Richburg has been learning the position.
Jason Pierre-Paul needs to stop talking
Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul has really done very little since his All-Pro 16.5-sack season in 2011. Affected by added attention from offenses, a back injury and a shoulder injury, he has a total of 8.5 sacks since. Yet Pierre-Paul has continued to talk like one of the game's premier players.
During OTAs, Pierre-Paul said "I'm going to go out there and play like I know how to play the game of football." and then added "I'm ready to get out there and show everybody."
During mini-camp, Pierre-Paul was at it again.
"I think I've got something to prove this year," Pierre-Paul said. "To shut a whole bunch of people up. I want to shut them up."
"I know what I bring to the table," he said. "I know what I can do when I'm fully healthy. It's gonna be crazy. I'm looking forward to it."
It is great that Pierre-Paul is determined and that he believes in his ability. Ex-Giant Justin Tuck always used to say that what he said didn't matter, only what happened on the field did. Pierre-Paul needs to remember, or learn, that. He needs to stop talking about what he can do, and go do it. The Giants certainly need him to.