The New York Giants spent a ton of money this offseason to improve upon a disastrous defense from a year ago. It was almost a necessity because of how the unit performed in 2015. Though New York went a respectable if underwhelming 6-10 on the season, the record was hardly indicative of how poorly this team looked on numerous occasions. And the defense was a main culprit. The Giants ranked dead last in the NFL in yards allowed and 30th in the league in points given up per game.
To attempt to solve some of these issues, they added major players along all levels of the defense. Ironically, after spending some $200 million on additions to the defense, there are still major question marks sprinkled all over the team. Heading into training camp, there are a number of position battles where it is near impossible to name a projected winner or even a favorite. New York has so many pieces and moving parts as it attempts to boost its performance back into the upper half of the league.
The most glaring position battle on the team will take place at linebacker, a position the organization has routinely ignored for a number of years now in favor of filling it with the least amount of feasible assets. It refused to use a high draft pick on a linebacker while also shying away from spending big money on the position. The one time NY did open the checkbook for a linebacker (signing Jon Beason), it backfired completely.
So here we are entering late summer and the Giants have three open starting spots at linebacker and a cavalcade of options to fill them. As many as seven or eight men have a legitimate shot at being a starting linebacker for the Giants Week 1. Those eight men are Devon Kennard, Mark Herzlich, Keenan Robinson, Jasper Brinkley, B.J. Goodson, J.T. Thomas, Jonathan Casillas and Kelvin Sheppard.
Herzlich probably has the lowest chance of making the starting corps. Kennard probably has the best chance. Everyone else falls somewhere in between as the team attempts to find a strong-side, middle and weak-side backer to rely on.
You don’t have to go far to find another pile-up of options to fill a position the Giants have no confidence in. That would be free safety. Landon Collins is a shoo-in to play strong safety as he is the most talented safety on the roster, yet someone much more comfortable playing near the line of scrimmage than chasing wide receivers in coverage.
For free safety, the coaching staff will have to pick between five guys: Cooper Taylor, Mykkele Thompson, Darian Thompson, Bennett Jackson and Nat Berhe. Darian Thompson and Berhe split the first-team reps during the spring.
The defense isn’t the only point of discord. There also exist major battles for playing time on offense; namely at running back and tight end. The team’s depth chart is so deep with options (even if that depth isn’t necessarily highly talented), it comes off like reading an attendance list to go through the players battling for starts. At running back, Rashad Jennings is the favorite heading to camp, but five other guys will push him for carries: Andre Williams (between-the- tackles runner), Shane Vereen (pass-catcher extraordinaire), Paul Perkins (rookie with potential), Orleans Darkwa (breakout candidate from last season) and Bobby Rainey (veteran in his first year with the team).
At tight end, fans had gotten used to Larry Donnell and his drops, but it remains to be seen if he will even make the team this year. Will Tye filled in nicely for Donnell when the latter went down with an injury last season.
Rookies Jerell Adams and Ryan Malleck, along with second-year man Matt LaCosse, will be battling it out all training camp for tight end snaps. There is a nice mix of athletes and blockers to choose from here, but unfortunately no player really encapsulates a great balance of both positional skills.
More positions to watch
Even beyond these numerous spots, there exist more questions on the Giants’ roster, such as the right side of the offensive line or even fullback. That’s what happens when a franchise is trying to get itself back into playoff consideration and has a new head coach at the helm. It will be interesting to see what the team’s roster looks like by the time the final preseason game rolls around.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Joe Messineo joins the Big Blue View staff today. Joe has spent the last 16 years in financial services but has been known to write a sports article from time to time. A graduate of Drexel University, Joe double majored in finance and marketing and was a starting pitcher on the varsity baseball team. In his free time Joe enjoys snowboarding and visiting as many NFL stadiums as possible. You can also find Joe’s writing at the National Football Post.