By Steve Silverman
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The New York Giants have a lot to worry about next season, particularly on the defensive side of the ball.
The pass defense was woeful last year and the pass rush slipped dramatically. That’s largely because Jason Pierre-Paul was playing with a lower back problem that impacted his explosiveness and his ability to get to the quarterback.
Offseason surgery should return Pierre-Paul to his previous form. While going under the knife is troubling, Pierre-Paul, 24, is young enough and strong enough to recover without many issues.
But general manager Jerry Reese is not helping head coach Tom Coughlin’s state of mind. Coughlin is not going to put any public pressure on the Giants’ general manager, but he’s annoyed at what’s going on with his wide receivers.
As the Giants go through their minicamp, Hakeem Nicks is participating because he has to, and Victor Cruz is nowhere to be found.
Nicks missed “voluntary” offseason workouts and that did not sit well with Coughlin. He did have arthroscopic surgery on his left knee earlier in the offseason, but there are rumblings that Nicks’ decisions had something to do with his contract. Nicks is not talking about it publicly, but it’s a fair conclusion to draw on because that’s clearly the reason that Cruz is not in camp.
Cruz is not under contract and he is a restricted free agent. He has been tendered $2.879 million, and Reese believes that that amount should entice his salsa-dancing receiver to return and take his place in minicamp.
But it has not. Reese may or may not be engaging in serious negotiations with the receiver, but he has rarely been an executive who would give in to his players’ wants, desires and demands.
He is a tough negotiator.
That may save the Giants money, which they can use to spend on other players who can help the team, but it doesn’t make life easier for Coughlin.
He wants all of his players at all offseason activities. That’s not just the irrational thought of an obsessive coach, either. In an era that is long over, coaches could actually push their teams hard in training camp to see what their players were made of. They rarely get that opportunity any longer because players simply can’t hit enough during training camp. The rules won’t allow it.
Players are protected from the violence of the game, so it’s much harder for coaches to get their message across. Training camp is simply not enough.
Even veteran teams with established coaches need the offseason sessions to get their teams prepared and coached. That’s when strategies get implemented and mistakes get corrected.
A player who misses minicamp will fall behind. Cruz is talented enough to make up for it, but he will be fighting to catch up instead of getting out in front of the field.
The passing game may be the Giants’ greatest strength. Eli Manning has won two Super Bowls and he has proven to be a great, clutch quarterback. However, regular-season consistency has often escaped him. Manning needs to work with his receivers to establish that consistency, which requires Cruz to be in camp. The Giants and Reese need to work out Cruz’s contract situation quickly so that there are no further distractions as training camp gets closer.
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