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Pieces Must Fall In Place Quickly For 2015 New York Giants

By Curt Macysyn

The 2015 version of the New York Giants has broken the mold to which fans of Big Blue have become accustomed. After another lethargic preseason, the G-men deemed that patience was no longer a virtue, and instead of standing put, the team made significant changes heading into their opening night contest with the Dallas Cowboys. Will the new strategy work? While no one knows for sure, head coach Tom Coughlin is betting his legacy on a group of new, and hopefully, hungrier players.

Here are several of the story lines surrounding the team heading into Dallas:


Normally, injuries would not be a consideration worth discussing, but with the 2015 Giants, injuries actually became the narrative of the off season. Unfortunately for the team, two key players never even made it to training camp due to injuries sustained before camp opened. Left tackle Will Beatty tore a pectoral muscle while weight-lifting in the spring, but the Giants are still hopeful that he will make it back at some point during the 2015 campaign. In the case of Jason Pierre-Paul, it was a serious injury sustained to his right hand in a fireworks accident over the Fourth of July weekend. JPP finally reported to the Giants on Monday, and his status for the game against Dallas is still unknown at this point.

Because of the injury to Beatty, rookie Ereck Flowers was cast as the starting left tackle, and he will get a baptism by fire. The loss of Pierre-Paul creates an even larger hole in the pass rush; a hole that defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo must fill somehow. In the interim, Robert Ayers slides over to the right defensive end position in place of Pierre-Paul, with veteran Cullen Jenkins moving to left end. New York seems comfortable at this point with getting as much from JPP as they can, whenever it is determined that he is ready for game action.

On offense, the Giants have an explosive set of receivers, but the likely starters, Odell Beckham, Jr., Victor Cruz and Rueben Randle, have injury concerns of their own. Hopefully Beckham's troublesome hamstring is a thing of the past, as the team can ill afford for him to miss any time. Victor Cruz seemed ready to go after undergoing surgery for a torn patellar tendon last October, but a balky calf muscle now has his status for the opener in doubt. And Rueben Randle had been hampered by knee tendinitis in training camp, but he appears ready to go on Sunday. 

Finally, middle linebacker Jon Beason has been battling a knee injury suffered against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the second preseason game. Beason returned to practice on Monday, albeit with a bulky knee brace. The Giants cut Jameel McClain at the end of camp, so newcomer J.T. Thomas might be pushed to the middle or first-year player Devin Unga might be thrust into a starting role, if Beason is not 100 percent.

Line Dancing

We already talked about Ereck Flowers and his challenge at the left tackle position, but the entire line became a work in progress in the preseason. For starters, the line's most dependable player, Justin Pugh, was switched from right tackle to left guard, and he appears to have adjusted well to the change.

Weston Richburg was the starting left guard last season, and he was moved to his natural center position this off season. Richburg should be an upgrade over J.D. Walton, who was released after a less than stellar 2014 season at the pivot. Right tackle Marshall Newhouse was seen as a depth signing, but he was thrust into a tarting role after the Beatty injury. Geoff Schwartz had an injury-plagued 2014 campaign, and he got off to a slow start in training camp as he battled foot soreness. Schwartz will be the starting right guard in Dallas. 

New York only kept eight linemen on their final 53-man roster, a departure from previous years when the team kept borderline players like Brandon Mosley, James Brewer and Charles Brown. The right side of line looks like it may be on a short leash, however, as protecting pocket passer, Eli Manning, is critical to Ben McAdoo's West Coast offense.

Safety In Numbers

The one position where if anything could go wrong, it did, was safety. The Giants were justifiably excited about drafting rookie Landon Collins and getting him on the field. Collins landed on the injury list with a sprained knee against Cincinnati, but bounced back to play against the New England Patriots in the final preseason game. He will be the starter at free safety.

Second-year men Nat Berhe and Bennett Jackson were originally seen as answers at the safety position, but both suffered season-ending injuries. Free agent Jeromy Miles was given a long look in training camp, but the team decided the former Baltimore Raven was not the answer. Miles was released at final cuts.

Rookie Mykkele Thompson was seen as a long shot to make the roster, but he did not even make it past the first preseason game against the Cincinnati Bengals before going down with a torn Achilles tendon. The team even brought back Stevie Brown to see if he had any of the old magic left, but Brown was given his pink slip a week later when the Giants signed former player, Craig Dahl, as insurance at the position.

Ironically, injury-prone Cooper Taylor was the last man standing, and he became the starter opposite Collins for the opener. Taylor spent the 2014 season on injured reserve after fracturing his toe against the Indianapolis Colts in the preseason.

The Rookies

At this point, Ereck Flowers and Landon Collins are not only starters, they are expected to play key roles on the team. Collins will looked upon to provide leadership on defense, and Flowers must command the left tackle position. In previous years, the G-men had a veteran-dominated roster, and rookies were eased into the fold. 

Third-round selection Owa Odighizuwa will also be given a chance to earn playing time through his ability to rush the passer, a quality that this team desperately needs. Wide receiver Geremy Davis was a consistent performer throughout training camp, and he will be utilized on special teams initially. The tenuous health of the wide receiving corps indicates that he will eventually get snaps as a wideout, however. 

Free agent Nikita Whitlock spent last season on the Dallas Cowboys' practice squad, and he displaced incumbent Henry Hynoski at the fullback position. Since the team only keeps one fullback, Whitlock is the de facto starter, but the team will more often than not utilize a three wide receiver set, so his playing time will not be extensive. Whitlock saw time on the defensive line against the New England Patriots, and he provides another special teams option for the G-men.

Finally, with the injury-prone nature of Jon Beason, free agent Devin Unga could be called upon at a moment's notice. Unga showed an active motor and good instincts in the preseason, but playing middle linebacker in the NFL is not for the faint of heart.

Curt Macysyn has been covering the New York Football Giants for the past four seasons for, and he is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA). Born and raised in New Jersey, Curt attended Seton Hall Prep School in South Orange, N.J. and is a graduate of Rutgers University - New Brunswick. Follow him on Twitter @CurtMac23 for the latest NFL and New York Giants news.

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