Key Questions Heading into the 1995 New York Giants Training Camp
After a productive free agent signing period and draft, on paper, the Giants look ready to contend with the 49ers and Cowboys in the NFC. The Giants are a very young, well-coached team with no glaring weaknesses. Nevertheless, before too many Giants fans get their hopes up, there remain a number of key questions heading into training camp which must be answered positively in order for the Giants to serious contend in 1995.
(1) Will the offensive line remain healthy and productive? Simply put, the Giants’ offensive line did not play well last year. Many of the problems can be credited to injuries and the fact that opposing defenses were stacking players near the line of scrimmage. However, ever since Jumbo Elliott injured his back, he has not played up to his previous standards and may never again be the player he once was. Without a healthy Jumbo, the Giants’ offensive line is just average, though depth is very good at most positions. Also, although we expect Scott Davis to perform well in William Roberts’ place, the level of his play remains a question mark.
(2) Will Thomas Lewis develop into a legitimate deep threat? Because of nagging injuries, Thomas Lewis missed a lot of time during training camp — a fact that slowed his development. However, in the last 1994 preseason game against the Bears, Thomas Lewis flashed the ability that the Giants thought he had when they drafted him number one in the 1994 Draft. Thomas did not play much in the regular offense, but he did display great speed and running instincts when returning kicks for the Giants before he suffered a knee injury that finished his season. If Lewis can put it all together and remain healthy, the Giants will field the most dangerous WR corps that they have had in recent memory. The Giants need Lewis to become a consistent deep threat in order to open up a running game that was stifled last year by opposing defenses that did not fear the long pass.
(3) Will the Giants be able to adequately replace Dave Meggett’s ability as a 3rd down specialist and punt returner? Dave Meggett will be hard to replace. Who will now become the main man on 3rd down? Will it be Herschel Walker, Tyronne Wheatley, Rodney Hampton, or even one of the WR’s? Walker was a very good pick-up and has better speed than Meggett, but he does not have Meggett’s elusiveness or savvy. Wheatley has tremendous potential, but he will have to improve his pass blocking before the Giants will allow him in the game in 3rd down situations. Hampton has great hands — something that many Giants fans forget because he hasn’t been used enough in that phase of the game enough in recent years. We think the Giants will use Walker as 3rd down back, but we would prefer the Giants use him to spell Hampton and use Hampton as the 3rd down back — Hampton has better hands and elusiveness. Giants fans have become spoiled in recent years with Tony Galbreath and Dave Meggett, we hope they can find someone to continue the tradition. It is unknown who will return punts for the Giants now, though we would like to see Gary “the Flea” Harrell win the job, if he can hold onto the ball and remain healthy.
(4) Will Brad Daluiso become a reliable, consistent placekicker? Last preseason, the Giants had hoped that Brad Daluiso would become a more consistent player and allow them to spend one roster spot on a placekicker, rather than two. It didn’t work out that way. Brad looked shaky at times and forced the Giants to keep him and David Treadwell. However, when Treadwell faltered near the end of the season, Reeves went with Brad and he didn’t disappoint, going 11-for-11 down the stretch and making a number of clutch field goals. Once again, this preseason the Giants are hoping that Brad will win the job outright. We like Brad, but he is not very smooth with his mechanics and we must admit that we hold our collective breath whenever we see him trotting onto the field. The difference between an 8-8 season and a 12-4 season often comes down to the placekicker. Let’s hope Brad can deliver in the clutch this year.
(5) Will the linebacking corps be able to improve its play? We are a big fan of Michael Brooks, but he did not play very well when he was tried at MLB last year and with the signing of Mike Croel, he will be forced to play that position again. Mike Croel is an unknown commodity. Admittedly he is young and talented, but is concerns us that he was waived by the LB-poor Denver Broncos. It also concerns us that with Brooks inside and Croel on the weakside, two smaller LB’s, the Giants will be somewhat vulnerable against the run. On the strongside, Corey Miller must cut down on his mental mistakes and act more like a team player. It is also important for Corey Widmer, Marcus Buckley, and Jessie Armstead to step up and make more plays.
(6) Will the defensive line play up to its potential? The defensive line of the Giants now consists of a group of young and talented players who have loads of potential but who simply haven’t done it on the playing field. Mike Strahan, Ray Agnew, Keith Hamilton, and Robert Harris must turn their potential into production — both against the run and the pass. All four are high draft picks who thus far have not lived up to their draft day expectations.
(7) Will Phillippi Sparks and Thomas Randolph stay healthy? In Sparks and Randolph, the Giants have one of the better starting CB tandems in the league. However, depth is a problem and Sparks has been injured every year with the team. Behind these two the Giants have Willie Beamon (an aggressive nickel-type back that a team wouldn’t want starting), Jason Sehorn (a converted free safety who can’t cover or tackle), and two rookie CB’s from Grambling (Roderick Mullen and Akili Johnson). If Sparks or Randolph become injured for an extended period of time, the situation could get ugly.
(8) Will Dave Brown continue to develop at a quick pace? This is the number one question mark heading into training camp. The pressure on Dave from the fans and the media will undoubtedly increase this year. Dave needs to elevate his game even further if the Giants are going to seriously challenge the Cowboys and 49ers. In reality, he needs to become a pro bowl calibre quarterback. We are very much excited by the fact that Steve DeBerg will be coaching Dave. While Dave can improve in all facets of his game, he needs to really improve his reading of defenses and his accuracy on deep throws. We expect opposing defenses to play the Giants’ offense just like they did last year: putting 7-8 men up near the line of scrimmage to stop the run — basically daring the Giants to pass on 1st and 2nd down. The play of Dave Brown, and just as importantly, the confidence of the coaching staff in the play of Dave Brown, must improve in these situations in order to open up the running game and for the Giants’ offense to really take off.