With NFL teams stuck in a state of limbo thanks to the lingering lockout, we are taking a tour around the league and looking at where teams stand as they await the opening of the 2011 league year. Today, we offer our take on where the Giants stand.
Top three story lines
1. The statuses of several injured players will be concerns the longer the lockout lasts. Really, the biggest thing that derailed the Giants down the stretch — other than the turnovers, that is — was the slew of players that went down, causing some real headaches and lineup shuffles, especially on the offensive line, at receiver and on special teams. The most serious injuries, which include those of WR Steve Smith and OLB-DE Mathias Kiwanuka, will create tough decisions for the team as it tries to decide how to handle re-signing them — or not.
2. Will DT Barry Cofield remain a Giant? Although he has sent signals he wants to get paid front-line DT money, he also has reiterated he'd like to be back. If he's restricted, expect him back at a high tender, which would give the team a deep, talented defensive front. If not, it will be up to two second-rounders the past two seasons, Linval Joseph (2010) and Marvin Austin ('11), to help fill the void. Joseph showed little in what was essentially a redshirt rookie season.
3. All signs point to Plaxico Burress not returning to the Giants, but it hasn't been ruled out. Burress, who will be released from prison June 6, will reenter the NFL with a chip on his shoulder after two years in jail. And like Michael Vick, his best work might be a year removed from prison — in Burress' case, that would be ’12 — but he would fill the void of the big receiver the Giants could use opposite Hakeem Nicks. You never know, but it will be interesting to the Giants and their fans wherever the former Super Bowl hero ends up.
2011 free agency — whenever that happens
Unsigned players: MLB Chase Blackburn (6), WR Will Blackmon (5), OG Kevin Boothe (5), TE Kevin Boss (4), RB Ahmad Bradshaw (4), CB Courtney Brown (3), OLB Keith Bulluck (11), WR Michael Clayton (7), DT Barry Cofield (5), S Deon Grant (11), WR Derek Hagan (5), S Michael Johnson (4), DE Mathias Kiwanuka (5), OT Jamon Meredith (2), TE Bear Pascoe (1), WR Steve Smith (4), QB Jim Sorgi (7), DE Dave Tollefson (4), RB Danny Ware (3), OLB Gerris Wilkinson (5). [Editor's note: The number after a players' name is his years of service in the league. If the NFL decides to go with free agency under the same rules as used in 2010, then a player would become a restricted free agent after three years and an unrestricted free agent after six years.]
Analysis: The biggest decisions will be on the in-house guys, namely Bradshaw, Smith and Boss. All three could be back, though, as the Giants did not draft a running back or tight end high, and they believe that Smith still has good football left in him, even after his microfracture surgery. Selecting Jerrel Jernigan in Round Three was more of an insurance policy at receiver, and he'll help out on punt returns. The Giants still believe Bradshaw can be their ace back if he can curb his fumbling, something Tom Coughlin will put an emphasis on this season if Bradshaw is back. The big mystery will be with Cofield, who might or might not be unrestricted. Kiwanuka also could be back depending on the status of his neck injury. As for outside spending, the team could seek to add a linebacker, although if it spends decent money on one, it will be a player it believes can stay on the field for three downs.
2011 rookie class
First-round CB Prince Amukamara (No. 19 overall) — A surprising pick in that the Giants have CB depth, but he can challenge Aaron Ross for the nickel job and be a big special-teams contributor right away.
Second-round DT Marvin Austin (No. 52 overall) — The team believes Austin has first-round ability and could enter the rotation as a penetrator immediately if he matures and gains more of an edge on the field.
Third-round WR-RS Jerrel Jernigan (No. 83 overall) — Punt returner was a sore spot last season, so Jernigan could be active there. He could get time at slot receiver if he works on his ball security.
Fourth-round OT James Brewer (No. 117 overall) — Expected to work at both OT spots and be groomed as a long-term replacement for either Dave Diehl or Kareem McKenzie.
Sixth-round LB Greg Jones (No. 185 overall) — Instinctive, experienced, hardworking but undersized linebacker who first must earn his keep on special teams but could enter LB mix.
Sixth-round SS Tyler Sash (No. 198 overall) — Tough, competitive hitter with special-teams mentality who needs work on his strength and range.
Sixth-round LB Jacquian Williams (No. 202 overall) — Great speed is what attracted Giants; he'll need to make it work on return and coverage units to make opening roster.
Seventh-round RB-RS Da'Rel Scott (No. 221 overall) — One-cut runner with explosive ability and return experience who is small and too often was injured in college.
Lockout fallout: How impacted will the Giants be by the work stoppage?
On a scale from 1 to 10 (with 10 being the most significantly impacted), the Giants rate a 2. Almost everything is in place already, with injuries being the biggest concern during this quiet time. The Giants would love to have their medical people closely following the high number of rehabbing players this offseason, and the offensive line could require some reshuffling. But most of the offense and defense remains intact and you can bet that detail-oriented head coach Tom Coughlin has planned for nearly every scenario being played out in this lockout world we live in. The continuity and chemistry should make this a Super Bowl-caliber team when football starts up again.