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Five things I think I think about the New York Giants

Thoughts on roster moves, more

NFL: New York Giants-Training Camp
Jasper Brinkley with Steve Spagnuolo during training camp.
William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports

There is much gnashing of teeth in the New York Giants fan base regarding some recent developments. With that in mind, and with a Week 1 encounter with the Dallas Cowboys looming, let’s go through this week’s “Five things I think I think” about the Giants.

I think Josh Sitton wasn’t the answer

It would have been nice if the Giants had been able to sign veteran guard Josh Sitton, but we know that didn’t happen. Sitton has joined the Chicago Bears, getting a hefty three-year, $21.75 million deal with $10 million guaranteed. I think, though, that missing out on Sitton is not worth some of the hysteria that has come from the fan base. Signing or not signing Sitton wasn’t going to make or break the Giants’ season.

“You look at everything,” coach Ben McAdoo said Monday. “I have history with Josh. Tremendous player, tremendous talent. We wish Josh nothing but the best but he’s not on our roster.”

I do fully understand that for months now fans having been hoping for/demanding upgrades for the offensive line. And I understand that, on paper, this is another in a string of missed opportunities to improve the line.

The two major issues with the offensive line, though, are tackle and depth. The Giants recently addressed tackle by re-signing Will Beatty, and I would expect that at some point he will be in the starting lineup. They could still address the depth by adding a veteran, even after Week 1 when salaries for vested veterans are not guaranteed for the full year.

I think fans should relax about Jasper Brinkley

Speaking of hysteria, there was quite a bit of it on #GiantsTwitter Monday when the team released Brinkley, the starting middle linebacker for nine games last season, for Josh Johnson, a journeyman No. 3 quarterback who hasn’t thrown a pass in a regular-season game since 2011.

Yes, Brinkley did an admirable job for the Giants in difficult circumstances last season — coming to the team late and taking over from Jon Beason and Uani Unga. Yes, I was surprised it was Brinkley and not Kelvin Sheppard who got the boot. I expected it to be the other way around.

Brinkley, though, isn’t a star. He’s an early-down, run-stopper who has played for the Minnesota Vikings, Arizona Cardinals, Giants and was cut last year by the Dallas Cowboys before playing a single game. He’s been a full-time starter ONCE in six NFL seasons.

The Giant apparently preferred Sheppard’s speed, coverage ability and special teams versatility to Brinkley’s run defense. Maybe they will be right, maybe they won’t. It was their decision to make. The Giants, if they follow their preseason pattern, will also take the middle linebacker off the field on perceived passing downs. Thus, middle linebacker is really a part-time job with the Giants.

I get that some people don’t understand adding a third QB, and that others can’t figure out how Mark Herzlich keeps avoiding being released. In the end, though, I think there is too much obsession — and vitriol — over releasing a part-time journeyman middle linebacker.

I think LB is really interesting

Let’s piggyback off the Brinkley topic. The Giants have seven linebackers, none star players, all of whom have some desirable and some less-than-desirable traits. How will they use them? I think it will be fascinating to watch.

Throughout the preseason it appeared that veteran weak side linebacker Jonathan Casillas might be the closest thing the Giants believe they have to an every-down linebacker. The nominal “starters” in the basic 4-3 defense would appear to be Casillas, Sheppard and Devon Kennard.

Don’t expect to see a steady diet of that look, though.

“It depends on what package you’re in. We can throw a variety of linebackers out there,” coach Ben McAdoo said Monday in regards to how his linebackers might be used.

The Giants like the speed and versatility of veteran Keenan Robinson, who can play the middle and usually teamed with Casillas as the two linebackers when the first-team defense was in a nickel package with an extra defensive back.

They like the versatility, leadership and special teams ability of J.T. Thomas III, who can play all the spots and can be used as a coverage linebacker. Mark Herzlich is really an emergency linebacker at this point in his career, but he is also a critical player on punt and kickoff coverage for the Giants. Sixth-round pick B.J. Goodson is the kid on training wheels and probably won’t be active on game days, at least not for a while. Still, he could be the future in the middle.

I think Orleans Darkwa was a big winner

For months I tried to figure out how the Giants would keep running back Orleans Darkwa, and despite a crowded backfield advocated for them to do just that. The clearest path was to move on from 2014 fourth-round pick Andre Williams. I felt the Giants should move on from the disappointing, one-dimensional Williams, I just didn’t believe they would.

In the end, that is exactly what the Giants did. They kept Darkwa and Bobby Rainey thanks to their versatility on both offense and special teams, and moved on from Williams. Keeping Darkwa over Williams was, in my view, absolutely the correct decision. Both he and Rainey can help the Giants in more ways that Williams might have.

I think there should be optimism

Yes, the Giants have some issues. And yes, I think there are valid concerns about positions like the offensive line and tight end. I also think, though, that those concerns and whether or not you agree with or understand recent roster moves should not obscure the idea that we have reached Week 1 of the 2016 NFL season and there are reasons to be optimistic about the Giants.

This, to me, seems like a superior roster to anything the Giants have begun a season with since at least 2012. They are better across the board defensively than they were a season ago. They have more weapons at wide receiver, especially if Victor Cruz remains healthy. They have versatility at running back. If Will Beatty can give them something and Ereck Flowers improves in his second season the offensive line will be better.

The Giants have had three straight losing seasons. I think fans should feel good about their chances to end that streak this season.