Receivers have turned into strength for Giants

A year ago at this time, the only thing you heard about the New York Giants was that they had no wide receivers. Then Steve Smith had an amazing season, Mario Manningham emerged, and now it’s the least of the Giants’ worries.

Watching the Giants practice on Monday, I really liked what I saw of the group. They’re fundamentally and technically sound the way they catch the ball, run routes, come back to the ball and make it easier for Eli Manning. It’s a solid, deep group.

To me, that’s no surprise. Tom Coughlin came into the league coaching wide receivers. He’s very good at it.

I could see a big year out of second-year receiver Ramses Barden, who didn’t get on the field much last season. He’s a big body, although he doesn’t have the speed of Plaxico Burress. Manning has always said he likes bigger receivers, who give you a bigger margin for error. I can see Barden finding a role on this team.

  • Even though he’s won a Super Bowl, Manning is a very underrated quarterback. He’s very astute, and he does as many adjustments at the line of scrimmage as his brother, Peyton Manning, but with less flair. Watching Eli, he’s very good at the line of scrimmage, and in his seventh year, I see that he’s in the prime of his career. He’s very good at everything he does.
  • Running backs Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs caught my eye. Jacobs looks like a different player. He’s not coming off a surgery, and he looks like he has his burst back.
  • Coughlin has a background as an offensive coach, but I couldn’t help but notice that he spent the entire practice watching the defense. That’s where his eyes were. If the Giants play defense the way they did the last half of the season, it won’t matter what the offense does. They’ll be 8-8 at best.
  • I don’t think there’s an offensive line in football as cohesive as the Giants’ group. They’re probably the most experienced line in football. There is nothing they haven’t seen, and offensive line coach Pat Flaherty has been there the entire time.
  • If everyone stays healthy, the Giants will have some decisions to make on the defensive line. They might end up cutting a good player who will play someplace else.
  • If Keith Bulluck is anywhere near the player he used to be, it’s his job to lose at middle linebacker. But I don’t know if even he knows what his surgically repaired knee is going to feel like. Jonathan Goff is a big guy who played OK last season in four starts, but the defense was lost and couldn’t get aligned. Perry Fewell expects a lot out of his middle linebackers in coverage, which is geared toward what Bulluck can do.
  • The secondary can be a strength of this team if its members can stay healthy. Aaron Ross, Corey Webster, Terrell Thomas and Antrel Rolle all have experience. You need three good corners, and a good cover safety, and the Giants have that. Deon Grant has been a good player, and it would be a luxury to get S  Kenny Phillips back.
  • The Giants drafted punter Matt Dodge, and he’s being coached by Jeff Feagles. Dodge can punt it a country mile most of the time, but one shanked punt that’s returned for a touchdown can lose a game. It will be interesting to see if they go with a rookie punter. You can’t afford to lose any games on those plays. You’d rather have the 44-year-old Feagles.

— Brian Baldinger

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