The New York Giants begin training camp this week, with their first practice at Quest Diagnostics Training Center being held Friday. Let's look at 'Five things I think I think' as camp opens.
I think Victor Cruz will be fascinating to watch
You know the story with Cruz. The popular salsa-dancing star wide receiver suffered a devastating torn patellar tendon in the sixth game of the 2014 regular season, crumpling to the Lincoln Financial Field turf in a screaming heap of pain and anguish.
For months now, Cruz has been talking optimistically about his return -- posting videos of his workouts and telling anyone who would listen that he expects to be ready for training camp, expects to play Week 1 and expects to be the same terrific player he was before the injury. The harsh facts, though, are that many players who have suffered the torn patellar tendon injury are never the same after that.
One player who believes in a Cruz comeback is Giants cornerback Prince Amukamara:
"I trained with Cruz for one day down in Arizona ‐ and he just came in for a day because he was in town ‐ and I'm telling you, this guy looked fab... I'm telling you. Remember that I said this. This guy looks faster now than he did before," Amukamara said. "I was just looking at him and was like, 'Man, how is this possible?'" ...
"It could be [he's faster] or it could be I haven't seen him run in a long time and he just looks crisp," Amukamara said.
"But I keep telling him. 'Man, you look faster. You look faster' and stuff like that. He looks so good, so polished. He does not look like he missed a step."
The better Cruz can be, obviously the better the Giants offense can be. Seeing how often he practices, how crisp and sure of himself he looks in his route-running, whether he can still make the subtle moves to get open that made him so effective, how he reacts to contact and -- ultimately -- how productive he is in 2015 will be one of the most interesting things about the 2015 season.
I think I'm optimistic about this team
Some of you wanted to crucify me the other day when I wrote my "What if things go badly this season" post. I think talking about puking, being depressed, turning 'SNORKIS' and moving to Oakland were among the reactions.
Truth is, I am optimistic that this team can and should be better than the misbegotten squads the Giants fielded the past two seasons. This team has plenty of question marks, but the more I think about Paul Dottino's statement on 'Big Blue Chat' that the Giants have possible answers in house for all of them the more I agree with him. Not every question the Giants will be answered in a positive way, but there are enough players with real potential that many of them could be.
Provided the offensive line gives them a chance the Giants could field an offense among the five best in the league. There are so many weapons for Eli Manning to choose from the Giants should have three to four top-notch play-makers on the field at all times. Rookie Ereck Flowers will make his share of mistakes, but I have a hard time believing the Giants will just put him on an island. They will give him lots of help whenever they can. As for right tackle, I have to believe that if they don't think they have the answer they will go get someone.
Given how good the offense should be, and the fact that the special teams should be better after all of the attention the Giants paid to that group in the offseason, Steve Spagnuolo's defense only needs to be adequate to give the Giants a legitimate chance to reach the playoffs.
I think the heat is on Ereck Flowers, Landon Collins
Truth is, I can't remember the last time so much was expected so soon from a pair of Giants' rookies. Odell Beckham Jr. had a transcendent rookie season in 2014, the likes of which we will never see again. Beckham and second-round pick Weston Richburg were both starters. No way, though, that you can argue those two faced the pressure Flowers and Collins, the Giants' first two picks in the 2015 NFL Draft, face this season.
Flowers, the ninth overall pick, is being immediately thrust into the NFL inferno known as left tackle. That means he has to protect the blind side of quarterback Eli Manning, as well as run block effectively. It's a big ask, but his success is crucial. If the Giants don't block well all of those play-makers they have become reduced in importance.
Collins, the second-round pick whom the Giants got after a draft-day trade, has been a starter since the day he stepped on the field with the Giants. Thing is, having never taken an NFL snap, Collins is going to be asked to be the team's best safety AND to be the quarterback of the secondary. Another big, critical ask by the Giants. Mistakes on the back end of the defense lead to big plays, and big plays surrendered lead to football games lost.
I think the offensive line is still under construction
This is hardly a news flash, but I think there will be at least one offensive lineman on the season-opening 53-man roster who isn't on the 90-man roster the Giants will open training camp with. Whether that will be a starting-caliber player like Evan Mathis, Jake Long or Gosder Cherilus, or a veteran backup like Kevin Boothe, I have no idea. I think, though, that the Giants know this is a position they need to supplement.
I think you need to buy the 2015 New York Giants Almanac
Yes, I'm biased. Yes, your purchase of the 2015 New York Giants Almanac puts a few bucks in my pocket to help offset some of the expenses of traveling back-and-forth from my home in upstate New York to East Rutherford for training camp, games, etc. Mostly, though, this is good work I'm proud of and that I think you will benefit from as the 2015 season dawns. There is great work in here from Alex Sinclair, Chris Pflum and even 'Invictus,' as well as yours truly.