That time of year has come again. We can all smell it as clear as we can smell the Wild Boar bacon sizzling off the grill at Little Dom’s in Los Feliz while a wayward hipster in his mid-30’s sits outside with his woe-begotten mom and asks her for money…again. Tyler Carroll lives with a pot dealer whose business fell off 5 years ago when he became mildly addicted to crystal meth and one wonders when he asks his mother Carol Carroll for another $5000- and this will be it because he knows someone who’s an intern at the Jimmy Kimmel show and he feels he’s got an “in” – if either of them actually believes this is true. They both know he stopped trying long ago and he will not be successful in his quest. In the football business we call that the “Jim Cordle.”
I can’t make it more clear than that and I know you all know where I’m going with this – it’s time for my annual prediction of who will make the final 53 for the New York Super Bowl Bound Football Giants. We had to wait a bit as so many rosters are still being worked out throughout the league and uncertainty is most certainly a factor with the G-Men as well. Kevin Boss and Steve Smith remain unsigned, drama continues to swirl around Osi Unemyiori and Barry Mankowitz, long time milk dud and red vine vendor in sections 38B through 47A may not be able to start the season due to hip replacement surgery and a mild addiction to crystal meth. Still, I’ve never been one scared to take a risk. Back in ’94 I voted for Republican Joe Rogers over Democrat Diana Degette in the heavily liberal leaning Cap Hill district of Denver and I’m not even a registered Republican. But I took that chance because I could sense a winner and as 39% of the voters would confirm I was clearly right.
So write this smack down in pen…below is who the 53 final players will be for the Giants when camp breaks.
This isn’t about Eli. We’ll have plenty of time to talk about the fleet footed, steady armed, wise decision-making ex-Super Bowl MVP from Ole Miss throughout the season. The battle here is for the back-up QB. Last season the Giants brought in the former Colt Jim Sorgi to be the back-up after David Carr, the #2 QB in 2008 and ’09, decided to battle Alex Smith for the starters job in San Francisco. That worked out well for both – Sorgi suffered a season-ending injury in the first pre-season game while Carr ended the season as the 49ers third-stringer and was released in the off-season. Last pre-season 2009 draft pick Rhett Bhomer took the majority of the snaps for the G-Men and was rewarded by being cut when the Giants traded for veteran back-up and future money lender Sage Rosenfels. And it was assumed Rosenfels would be the back-up again this year but Jerry Reese fooled us again by re-signing Carr. Prior to that the only question was would ex-LSU problem child Ryan Perrilloux actually see any snaps as a quarterback this pre-season. Now we have a battle between the underachieving Carr and the overachieving Rosenfels. And the winner? I think Carr simply because the Giants are at the cap and Carr comes in at a cheaper price. Since Manning hasn’t missed a game since taking over as the starter mid-way through the ’04 season it’s not likely either will play so why not save the $$ and go with Carr. The only way I see Rosenfels making it is if Carr plays just awfully during camp and in the preseason. Let’s not kid ourselves, that’s completely possible. But we’re going to assume Carr’s able to make his throws against 2nd teamers and makes the squad.
The re-signing of Ahmed Bradshaw was a giant WHEW for Giants fans who had visions of Bradshaw heading elsewhere and the Giants desperately signing Ronnie Brown in response. But Bradshaw is back and the Eagles signed Brown- what a bunch of jackasses in Philly. But that’s a topic we can talk about any day. With Bradshaw back and Brandon Jacobs coming off a rejuvenated 2nd half in 2010 the question is who will the back-ups be. D.J. Ware has been a pre-season marvel the last few seasons but injuries and lack of time have given him limited chances in any real games. Still, Ware seems like a cinch as the third back especially since he gives you a solid if unspectacular back-up option as a kick returner too. I predict the Giants surprise and keep 4 half backs which gives us a 3-way battle between Andre Brown of NC State, Charles Scott of LSU and this year’s late round pick Da’rel Scott from Maryland. BK loves the hard running Scott and feels he’s a rough, salty, muscled, well-hung diamond who can be smoothed over into a guy who can pound the hole. BK can go on about Scott for hours and the homo-erotic overtones are disarming. Brown seemed like a shoe-in in ’09 when he was drafted but got hurt at the beginning of camp. He had moments last pre-season but was clearly outplayed by Ware and the Giants didn’t want to carry a 4th HB. As for Da’rel Scott, I’m all for apostrophe’s in the middle of your first name but I have a problem with a guy who peaked as a freshman in college. What Brown and D.Scott bring to the table is – at least in theory – the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. But honestly, how hard is that? As long as your name isn’t Brandon, Madison or Bear anyone can do it. My guess is this will be Brandon Jacobs’ last year in blue and if the salty Cajun Charles Scott performs well in camp I’m giving him the 4th spot and possible BJ heir apparent in ’12.
Madison Hedgecock, who did little of anything last year, is gone and the Giants seem to be committed to 260-pound Pitt Panther rookie Henry Hynoski as their full-back and I’m fine with that…I guess. I assume you’ll see a lot of Ten Toes Pascoe lining up in the FB spot but who knows maybe Hynoski will be the next coming of Charles Way – or the first coming of Henry Hynoski.
Last year it seemed the Giants were so deep at receiver we couldn’t possibly keep Sinorice Moss on the roster. Steve Smith, Hakeem Nicks, Mario Manningham, Dominick Hixon, the inevitable emergence of man-child Ramses Barden and the spectacular UMass product Victor Cruz. Now, all of the sudden just a year later questions abound and the Giants seem so slim that they even considered re-signing jailbird Plaxico Burress. Smith is unsigned and injured, Hixon is coming off an injury after missing the entire year, Barden is looking bustier than Stacy Collerette in the 8th grade and Cruz ended up on the IR. So while the Giants starters will be set with Nicks and Manningham, the 3rd receiver spot is wide open. Even if Smith is re-signed he probably starts the season on the PUP. Barden will get first shot at the #3 but I have a feeling this is all she wrote for the Cal Poly SLO product. I just don’t see a spark and him starting camp on the PUP ain’t helping his cause any. Cruz probably gets the next try and I don’t know, maybe he pulls it off. Then it probably goes to Hixon, although the Giants would love 3rd round rook Jerrel Jernigan to emerge. Other guys who could fit in the mix include returning vet Michael Clayton, long since passed his productive receiving years, vet Devin Thomas, returner bust Darius Reynaud and Duke Calhoun, the other surprise receiver to make it out of camp last year who was so terrible that after just a few downs he was replaced by free-agents Clayton and Derek Hagen. There are a few other wide-outs on the roster and the name that caught my attention was Todd Watkins from Grossmont J.C. I know nothing about him but I once had a date with a 40-year-old woman while attending SDSU and we saw The Flinstones at the Grossmont Movie Theaters. The date was terrible. At the end of the night I asked her if she wanted to see me again. I didn’t really want to, I just felt obligated to ask. She said to me “Well, like I said, I really like physically bigger guys.” Then why did you agree to go out with me? That’s $6 for a movie ticket I will not get back! At least there’s addition by subtraction as Moss is finally gone. Anyway, my guess is Barden gets cut and we end up with 6 receivers – Nicks, Manningham, Cruz, Hixon, and Jernigan with Smith re-signed but out for the first 6 weeks of he season.
The question was what will become of The Big Concussion. Kevin Boss was unsigned and I was sure some team like the Cardinals or the Jags or the Seahawks would sign him but it ended up being the Raiders – which makes sense for numerous reasons. I don’t understand why it took so long. KB is good for one catch a game and is close to being an effective blocker. Word is the Giants brought in vet Ben Patrick to take over for Boss. You have to assume Travis Beckum makes the squad although he hasn’t done much, can’t block and it’s not completely inconceivable the Giants give up on him. Ten Toes Pascoe performed with heart – if not always skill – last season primarily playing an H-Back like role. I assume they keep Pascoe as the de facto full back and our man Hynoski lands on the practice squad. Or they keep both. Or they just cut Pascoe. It’s a fascinating scenario, like creating a show about a cancer-stricken science teacher who ends up dealing crystal meth. Why does Kevin Boss keep bringing up crystal meth? Anything to soothe the constant headaches. The Giants have two other TE’s on the roster – Christian Hopkins and Jake Ballard. Neither will make the final 53.
The times, they are a changing. Don’t believe me, just ask Lady Gaga, who wrote that song while painting her toe-nails in her Brooklyn apartment after sending out a Tweet to her Little Monsters to Express Themselves before heading out to the Newport Folk Festival and shocking the non-Monsters by performing in red spandex with purple pointed tits and, most shockingly, taking it all acoustic. What was it…four years the Giants O-Line was Diehl, Snee, O’Hara, Seubert, MacKenzie? That changed when the Giants first moves after the lockout ended was to cut the ex-Scarlett Night O’Hara and his faulty-backed side kick Seubert (not to mention former Eagles manic-depressive Shawn Andrews). O’Hara was injured for parts of last year and didn’t play very well when we was in the line-up so his dismissal was no surprise. But Seubert’s cut was. Seubert played well at center while O’Hara was out and after the Adam Koets experience exploded like a guitar on stage. But his back was traction waiting to happen and I guess it did make some sense salary cap wise but still I hated to see the big Lithuanian go and its created an interesting scenario for the G-Men. MacKenzie and Snee stay put, but the hope now is that the Giants can move Diehl inside to guard and that ex-49 David Baas can make the transition from guard to center. I imagine he can and Diehl will be a stronger guard than LT but this is all hindering on either talented but still raw William Beatty taking over at LT (or journmeyman Stacy Andrews). It’s a bit of a scary proposition since if neither swing it than the Giants would be forced to put Diehl back outside and plug the intellectual and mind-numbingly large-assed Kevin Boothe at guard. Regardless of how the starting group looks, you figure the Giants will keep 9 OLinemen and 7 of those spots are taken up by the aforementioned.So the roster battle is for those final 2 spots. Someone has to be the back-up center and it looks like the Giants have given up on the granola-eating Koets for that job as he’s listed at tackle this year. Koets was a bad reach pick as a tackle out of Oregon State 5 years ago and then he was hidden as a back-up center until exposed last year. If 2nd-year strong man Mitch Petrus plays a little center this pre-season and pulls it off that could be all she wrote for Koets. The only other pure center on the roster is wide-based Jim Cordle – a long shot – although there are a host of other guards on the roster who coaches could try to slide over. The 9th spot seemingly will be handed to the Koets-like 4th round reach OT James Brewer from Indiana.
Like receiver this position seemed like an embarrassment of riches at the start of last pre-season. So rich, in fact, that the Giants cut Super Bowl hero (and ace long-snapper) Jay Alford. But the departure of their top Defensive Tackle Barry Cofield (a FA signing with the Skins), Mathias Kiwanuke’s injury, the 2010 ineffectiveness of Rocky Bernard and Linval Joseph and the drama surrounding Osi U make this year’s DL progress interesting. Still, if Osi stays (and Jerry Reese says he will) than there may not be many battles here for the 8 spots – Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiori, Mathias Kiwanuka and athletic freak Jason Pierre-Paul at end and Chris Canty, Linval Joseph, Rocky Bernard and 2nd round UNC trouble child Marvin Austin at tackle. The one big piece of bologna who could sneak into the mix is 340lbs. vet Gabe Watson who’s more nose tackle then an interior player in a 4-3 set but hey that didn’t stop the Giants from spending a 2nd round pick on Joseph and look how well that’s turning out. If the Giants keep 10 linemen, I say 2010 late round reach Adrian Tracy from the charming college William & Mary gets a chance to develop as a situational pass rusher if he shows anything in camp. The only other lineman who could crack the group is 5-year vet Dave Tollefson and his West Hollywood arm band tattoo. Tollefson has been luckier than BK at a Mexican strip club after he gives a 19-year-old girl $400 and his surprising ability on specials keeps him in the mix but let’s be honest – he’s not that good on specials. He just looks good in a fairly sorry group. My guess is the clock strikes 12, the glass slipper breaks, Harry Potter grows up and Dave Tollefson moves on to a career in construction.
It is hard to imagine how the Giants linebacking corps – home of Sam Huff, Brad Van Pelt, Harry Carson, Carl Banks, Lawrence Taylor, Jessie Armstead, Brian Kelly – has been so diminished that Giant fans are reminiscing about the days when Corey Widmer patrolled the middle. Sure Michael Boley is a nice player, but not a playmaker and he’s the best LB the Giants have by far. Jonathan Goff was handed the Middle Linebacker job (and will be again this year) and he was good for like one decent tackle a game. The man is a Vandy grad which means he’s a genius. Don’t believe me? He’s managed to become the starting middle linebacker for the New York Giants despite the fact that no one knows for sure if he can really play. The 3rd starting linebacker was Keith Bullock who was so far past his prime he basically did the Luc Longley – he would start and after a few plays be replaced and that was pretty much the last you saw of him. This year, the Giants will replace Bullock with Virginia’s Clint Sintim and really who knows. He did nothing as a designated speed rusher last year but he was undersized. Perhaps he might emerge this year and honestly what other choice do the G-Men really have. Special teamer Zak DeOssie, 2010 rookie dud Phillip Dillard and this year’s 6th round pick Greg Jones, an All-American from Michigan State coming off a poor post-season and combine, are all shoe-ins for the next 3 spots. If they keep a 7th backer (and Tracy could also fill that role) the press will focus on cancer-survivor Mark Herzlich, but one wonders if his UFL physicals will translate to NFL success (or even NFL good-enough to be on a practice squad) and it’s just as possible other camp invitees like FSU’s Kenny Ingram (who played decently last pre-season) or Oregon’s Spencer Payslinger,who will go into businses with Rosenfels when his career is over, could also sneak onto the final 53 if they show some sizzle on specials.
The Giants went value in the 1st round of this year draft by picking Nebraska’s Prince Amukamara and I was all for it. I mean the guy was picked to go as high as 7th in some mocks and he landed at pick 19? You can never have too many good DB’s in this man’s NFL and I liked the pick right up until the Prince held out and then broke his foot on his 2nd day of practice. Now all of the sudden Anthony Costanzo is looking better. But what’s done is done and with inconsistent but more good than bad Corey Webster and rising star Terrelle Thomas, along with oft-injured ex-1st rounder Aaron “Hammy and Swiss” Ross mean the Giants should still be fine at CB even if the Prince’s development is delayed. Deion Grant was a big play guy for the Giants last year and his departure has BK worried, espeically since he felt both Kenny Phillips and Antrelle Rolle underperformed last year. But I told BK to sit down, have a turkey polish sausage and wash it down with a Trader Jose’s lager and relax. Neither player was bad last year and this will be Phillips 2nd full year after his injury and Rolle’s 2nd year in Perry Fewell’s system and I think they’ll both be quite good this year,but depth is a concern as Michael Johnson is gone too. A host of not particularly established 2nd, 3rd and 4th year players will round out the field and it’s a blind hat grab to which of the following will round the roster out: Michael Coe, Joe Burnett, Bob Stoops illegally recruited Brian Jackson and the guy I like Stillman’s own sub-6 footer Brian Witherspoon. Iowa free-agent rookie Tyler Sash could also find himself in the mix.
In life, sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. You go to Madrid to see the Mutua Madrid Open. You hit a bar. Across the bar you see Ana Ivanovic drowning her sorrows after a 2nd-round loss to Irina-Camelia Begu. You go over to her, you offer her some black tar heroin, tell her your Novak Djokovic’s estranged brother and you take her back to your hostel and make sweet love. You Win. Later that year you go to the Western & Southern Open in Cincy. Ivanovic pulled out. You’re staying at a Super 8. You have too much to drink plus you’ve developed a mild addiction to Crystal Meth. You see Magdelena Rybarikova across a bar celebrating her victory over Irin-Carmelia Begu. You approach her but she shoots you down because she feels good about herself and you smell like clay. So you end up going home with Akgul Ammanmuradova, who didn’t even qualify for the tourney, and she ends up robbing you and you’re not even sure if intercourse occurred and if it did you’re not that happy about it because it was with Akgul Ammanmuradova. You Lose.
The parallel is undeniable. There are inevitable clips that will last in football lore that show the Giants winning – Jim Burt knocking out Joe Montana while LT returns his pass and takes it to the house; LT going 97 on Thanksgiving Day against the Lions; Phil McConkey grabbing a deflected pass for a TD in the Super Bowl; Mark Bavaro dragging 184 49ers and their fans down the field field for 15 extra yards; Scott Norwood missing a field goal; Eli to Tyree…and then Eli to Plax. And then there are those clips that will last forever which we lose. Joe Piscarcek muffing a hand-off to Larry Czonka creating a Herm Edwards score in the “Miracle at the Meadowlands” and then the play in which just two names need be mentioned – Jackson and Dodge. Giant fans are going to be stuck with that motherfucking replay for the rest of our lives.
That kick signified what was a miserable season for the rookie Dodge, who was handed the job last year and rewarded the Giants with a handful of howitzers, biceps the size of Ed Hochli, and some of the worst punting since the Rodney Williams years. The most interesting camp battle likely will be the punting competition between ex-Jet Steve Weatherford and Dodge and the smart money says Weatherford. He’s a lot safer and knows the winds of the new Meadowlands. Vegas odds have Dodge as a 24-1 underdog to win the job. They also list BK at 15,000-1 to finish a feature length script in the next 5 years but even money to lose his temper within 5 minutes of reading this.
Amidst the punting woes, oft-criticized Lawrence Tynes was quite solid last year and has no real competition in camp. Hixon will likely be given the kick-off and punt duties although it will be fun to see if Coach C gives Jernigan some opportunities to return in the pre-season.
So here it is….the Giants final 53 when pre-season ends:
QB – Eli Manning, David Carr
RB – Ahmad Bradshaw, Brandon Jacobs, Danny Ware, Charles Scott
FB – Henry Hynoski
WR -Hakeem Nicks, Mario Manningham, Victor Cruz, Domenik Hixon, Jerrel Jernigan, Mark Clayton/Steve Smith (PUP)
TE – Travis Beckum, Bear Pascoe, Ben Patrick
OL – Kareem MacKenzie, David Diehl, David Baase, Chris Snee, William Beatty, Stacy Andrews, Kevin Boothe, Mitch Petrus, James Brewer
DL – Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiori, Mathias Kiwanuka, Jason Pierre-Paul, Chris Canty, Linval Joseph, Marvin Austin, Rocky Bernard, Gabe Watson, Adrian Tracy
LB – Michael Boley, Jonathan Goff, Clint Sintim, Phillip Dillard, Zak DeOssie, Greg Jones, Mark Herzlich
DB – Terrell Thomas, Corey Webster, Aaron Ross, Prince Akamanura, Antrelle Rolle, Kenny Phillips, Michael Coe, Brian Jackson, Brian Witherspoon
P – Steve Weatherford
K – Lawrence Tynes
- Ibrihim Abdulai, DT
- Brant Clouser, C
- Jarriel King, OT
- Tyler Sash, S
- Free-Agent TBD