OK, I figured that since we spent part of Thursday trashing the top 10 New York Giants' impact players list from NFL Touchdown, the least I could do is create a list of my own for you to debate.
This list will be slightly different in what it tries to convey than was the one from NFL Touchdown. Everybody knows Eli Manning is the Giants' best player, thus the team's No. 1 "impact" guy. The list I am going to give you will be the guys I see as potentially the top 10 "difference-makers" of 2010. The list will be made up of players who were not with the Giants in 2009, under-performed or are likely to have vastly expanded roles this season.
To be honest, the biggest difference-maker of all is new defensive coordinator Perry Fewell. Let's keep this discussion to the guys who will be wearing the pads and the helmets during the games, though.
So, with the parameters in place, let's get started.
10. Matt Dodge -- The seventh-round draft pick from East Carolina is being counted on to take over punting -- and holding -- duties from the retired Jeff Feagles. If he can't do the job, with a little more distance on his punts than the directional-punting Feagles the Giants could end up with a merry-go-round of veteran punters. That would be bad news for the punt team, and for placekicker Lawrence Tynes.
9. Ramses Barden -- Domenik Hixon's season-ending knee injury has left the door to playing time wide open for the 6-foot-6, 230-pound second-year player from Cal-Poly. If Barden can prove he has learned how to separate more consistently from cornerbacks, run crisper routes and be a reliable target for quarterback Eli Manning that would be a huge boost to the offense. As we know, the Giants have struggled on short yardage and in the Red Zone for years now, and Barden's size, strength and leaping ability would be a tremendous asset in those situations.
8. Deon Grant -- The veteran safety, a free agent acquisition from the Seattle Seahawks, will start if Kenny Phillips is not able to go full time when the season starts. Even if Grant does not new defensive coordinator Perry Fewell has said he likes to have three safeties on the field, and Grant is a quality player and a huge upgrade over C.C. Brown and Aaron Rouse, the choices the Giants had at safety in 2009.
7. Andre Brown -- If you believe Brandon Jacobs is still a 'build your running game around him' No. 1 type back I'm afraid you might be thinking with your heart and not your head. Jacobs has a couple of 1,000-yard seasons to his credit, but has he ever truly been an upper echelon back? Maybe not. We all love Ahmad Bradshaw, but he is coming off three surgeries to his feet and ankles, will likely be limited in training camp, and no one can be sure what kind of load he will be able to carry. Brown is coming off Achilles Tendon surgery, but the word out of mini-camp was that he looked very good -- physically. Reports were that he was rusty and has a lot to correct before the team will feel comfortable with him on the field, but the Giants are going to need a third back to step up. In fact, they might end up needing Brown -- or someone else -- to be a lot more than a third back by the time the season is over.
6. Will Beatty -- Yes, I believe Will Beatty is going to end up as the Giants' starting left tackle in 2010. I believe the Giants want it to happen because you have to look to the future and not the past to stay on top in the NFL, Beatty played better than expected when called upon in 2009 and I think a starting spot is his to lose when training camp opens. He is more athletic than David Diehl, and would allow Diehl to return to his natural guard spot. Diehl has never been agile enough to handle guys like DeMarcus Ware of Dallas. Beatty is a better athlete, now it's time to find out if he is a better left tackle.
5. Linval Joseph -- The mammoth 6-foot-4, 320-pound second-round draft pick from East Carolina could be just what the doctor ordered for the interior of the Giants' defense. A huge run-stuffing defensive tackle in the middle to protect whoever wins the middle linebacker job, and to help cure the Giants' pitiful 2009 run defense.
4. Clint Sintim -- The Giants are hoping for huge things from the 2009 second-round draft pick at the strong-side linebacker spot. The Giants' struggles to draft and develop a dominant linebacker -- they have not done it since Jesse Armstead -- are well-known. They are hoping Sintim, a strong, athletic natural pass rusher, will put an end to the drought. The defense needs him to do just that.
3. Kenny Phillips -- We all know how much the Giants' defense missed KP in 2009. With the free-agent signings of Antrel Rolle and Deon Grant the team has protected itself in the event Phillips is either unable to go or limited in how much he can play or what he can do, but Phillips playing at or near the level the Giants began to see from him the first two games of 2009 would be the biggest boost the Giants' secondary could get.
2. Antrel Rolle -- I really thought about making Rolle No. 1 on this list. See my No. 1 choice for the reason why I went in a different direction. Either way, Rolle is the player the Giants absolutely had to have this off-season as a free agent. Jerry Reese has been criticized for making Rolle the game's highest-paid safety when we know he is not the best player. He is, however, exactly what the Giants needed. A veteran play-maker who can change games, pair with Phillips or replace him if necessary, and help put a stop to the endless parade of big plays surrendered by the Giants' safeties in 2009.
1. Osi Umenyiora/Justin Tuck/Mathias Kiwanuka -- OK, so maybe listing three guys together is cheating a little bit. Maybe putting these guys in the No. 1 spot on this list is a surprise, as well. I have reasons for both, though. First of all, I believe the three are pretty much interchangeable (though Tuck is still the best overall player). In 2009, not one of the three guys played up to the standards they have set for themselves in the past. As I have thought about the Giants' defense more and more, you can't really separate these three players. Shoot, you could even throw No. 1 pick Jason Pierre-Paul in here if you want. The Giants are built around one thing defensively -- pass rush. That is the basket in which the organization has placed most of its eggs. All other changes aside, this team will live and die with the success of its pass rush. That is why the defensive ends are No. 1 on the 'difference-makers' list.