By Paul Dottino
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The NFL Draft had long reached its conclusion, yet there were two glaring questions surrounding the Giants’ rookie crop: What are they going to do with their new quarterback prospect? And how did they go through seven rounds without taking any linebackers?
The latter is much easier to answer, so let’s start there.
GM Jerry Reese and his staff were not as impressed with this year’s linebacking corps as some other teams must have been because there were more attractive players at other positions on the Giants’ board each time Reese’s turn came up. In addition, defensive coordinator Perry Fewell has grown fond of using a three-safety scheme – and given the way NFL offenses have developed – he’s often got only one linebacker on the field in those sub packages, anyway. That’s likely to be Jacquain Williams, who’s expected to start opposite Keith Rivers on the outside of middle linebacker Dan Connor.
The current group of reserves consists of Spencer Paysinger, Mark Herzlich and Jake Muasau – and they’ve also got hybrid DEs Mathias Kiwanuka and Adrian Tracy. Kiwanuka will make the roster as a lineman, but it’s possible there only may be room for three of the others at linebacker. The Giants will bring in some free agents and allow them to compete for those backup jobs, which will be on the low end of the salary scale – important given the team’s tight cap situation.
Syracuse QB Ryan Nassib. Hmmmm. The Giants traded their sixth-rounder to Arizona, moving up six spots so they could grab what they said was a second-round talent in the fourth.
Reese and coach Tom Coughlin realize starter Eli Manning is in the middle of his prime, admitting it’s fine with them if Nassib never sees a snap for the Giants. So how does he fit?
Coughlin hasn’t kept three active QBs since Anthony Wright and Jared Lorenzen backed up Manning, so he’s not likely to keep Nassib and David Carr this year. The only logical theories are that the Giants think Nassib can mature quickly enough win games if called upon as a rookie or they believe he’ll do enough in his preseason appearances over the next year to two to become valuable trade bait. Even Nassib acknowledged he might wind up someplace else down the line.
So what about the other players the Giants took? Let’s go through them:
1. Justin Pugh, OT, Syracuse. Has the inside track to become the starting right tackle, the biggest hole in the lineup. A solid albeit unspectacular pick, which allows him to fit in with every other reliable right tackle the Giants have started since Karl Nelson in 1984.
2. Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State. Gives the Giants their first true run-stuffing plugger on the inside since Keith Hamilton. Hankins is very quick for a big man and never takes a step backward. He and the Giants deflected questions about his stamina, saying the Buckeyes required him to play full-time – he’ll be a rotation player for Fewell.
3. Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M. Edge pass-rusher who patterns himself after the Cowboys’ Demarcus Ware and the Giants always collect pass rushers. There are questions about his work ethic, although the coaches and team leaders have done well molding players like this in the past. He is their boom-or-bust pick.
4. Ryan Nassib, QB, Syracuse. Has the tools and attitude to become a solid pro, but will they need him?
5. Cooper Taylor, SS, Richmond. Fast enough to cover tight ends and fits in well as a hybrid LB in Fewell’s sub package while providing immediate help on special teams.
7A. Eric Herman, G, Ohio. A big, mean blue-collar player who has the luxury of time while being coached up, as long as he proves he’s willing to learn. The team needs young depth on the line.
7B. Michael Cox, RB, UMass. Will have a chance to compete with Da’Rel Scott (and maybe a mystery veteran) for the final roster spot in the backfield. As of now, he may be the only longshot of the Giants’ seven picks to make the team – and it wouldn’t be a huge upset if he sticks.
GIANTS DATES TO REMEMBER: May 10-11, rookie minicamp; May 22, organized team activity No. 1; June 11-13, veteran minicamp.
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