May 19, 2008 Eagles Rumors
Over the last couple of years the Giants seem to have utilized a pretty peculiar draft strategy. First, they identify a position of immediate need. Next, they take the best player available at that position.
If that kind of simplistic logic completely bewilders you, I understand. It just means you are an Eagles fan, and you’ve spent the last four or five years tying your brain in knots attempting to legitimize each puzzling Eagles’ draft decision (hey, many of them have worked out, but that doesn’t mean they made a whole lot of sense to us at the time).
Interestingly, this simple Giants’ strategy has paid off so far. Aaron Ross, drafted in 2007 after a season where the Giants cornerbacks were routinely roasted, was a key piece of the Giants’ late-season and playoff run.
This year, it was the loss of Gibril Wilson to the Raiders that prompted to drafting of Kenny Phillips. Obviously its too early to know whether that move will pay off, but the Giants’ straightforward draft approach has certainly won them some good will from the fan base.
But the offseason wasn’t completely rosy in New York (I’ll ignore that big parade they had).
Kawika Mitchell and Reggie Torbor
What it means:
Mitchell was a solid though unspectacular performer for the Giants. He was an asset defending the run, but perhaps a bit of a liability against the pass. But most importantly, he was a reliable player for a Giants’ team that desperately needed that at linebacker. Mitchell hasn’t missed a game due to injury in four years.
|Off to Buffalo
Keep in mind the 2006 Giants were pulling guys off the street to play linebacker. Mitchell was exactly what they needed, and he did all they could ask.
Reggie Torbor was mostly a backup for New York, but one who played quite a bit. He really finished last season strong as well — with 10 tackles and a sack against the Pats in week 17.
The Giants decision to let these two guys go means they have confidence in two young players: Mathius Kiwanuka and Gerris Wilkinson. Combined, these two have started 11 NFL games — so this is no small gamble.
Kiwanuka is the clear starter at SAM, but Wilkinson will have a bit of a battle for the starting job at WILL:
“He’s going to have to beat out other players at that position,” Reese said of Wilkinson, “but he’s definitely going to get his shot to be a starter.”
Those other players are really Danny Clark, a veteran insurance signing by the Giants this off-season. Clark isn’t really well suited to the WILL spot, having spent most of his time on the strong-side, so Wilkinson would really have to screw this up to not be a starter in Week One.
What It Means: The young safety was a coveted free agent, eventually signing with the Raiders for a contract worth $39 million ($16 mil guaranteed). The Giants opted not to try to retain him at that price tag, and quickly brought in a veteran safety to help out — Sammy Knight. Knight will be 33 this year and is nearing retirement. Presumably, he’ll spend this season teaching the finer points of the position to the young Kenny Phillips, whom the Giants drafted with their first pick last month.
Phillips may or may not win the starting job in camp. If he does, the Giants will have an extremely young starting defense (Ross, Phillips, Tuck, Umenyora, Wilkinson, Kiwanuka).
I’ve already covered Phillips and Danny Clark. The Giants also signed David Carr, who’s bad luck might be enough to kill their entire season. At least that’s what I’ll hope for.
The Giants also drafted Terrell Thomas, an interesting cornerback prospect out of USC. He will likely be spending some time on special teams this year, but once the old fogies in the Giants secondary are finally gone the team will have the young Thomas, Ross, and Webster as the presumed nickel package.
The Giants got part-time running back Derrick Ward to agree to stay with the team. He, Brandon Jacobs, and Ahmad Bradshaw proved to be a lethal combination at in the backfield for the Giants. It was important for the team to try and keep Ward because Jacobs has a tendency to get injured and Bradshaw may not be an every down back.
The team also signed Rich Suebert an extension. Their offensive line was a real strength last season, and keeping them together was a big priority.
The Giants roster certainly doesn’t look any better on paper than it did last year. But it is younger, and that should have some payoff in years to come. This team did win the Super Bowl thanks in large part to the play of their young guys (Tuck, Ross, Webster, Manning) — so they have every reason to be confident they are making the right moves.
Personally, I think they may be going to far. Kiwanuka is coming off an injury and Wilkinson isn’t proven at all. Young players tend to make big mistakes, so look for the Giants to have some early season trouble. If they can survive those, this team may again be a player at year’s end.