Giants’ Offense Loaded, But Only if Present and Healthy

John Fennelly, Lead Writer

The Giants broke minicamp today with very few of their offseason issues yet resolved. On offense, Victor Cruz is still not signed and Hakeem Nicks (knee) was not turned completely loose during minicamp after skipping OTAs.  They both missed valuable time so far this year, something OC Kevin Gilbride says no player, including them, can afford to do in this day and age.

“The thing is they haven’t been working,” said Gilbride today. “They haven’t been listening. They haven’t been growing; they haven’t been developing. They haven’t been receiving the coaching that they need to get better. To be quite frank, they need it.”

Cruz is bumping up against an important date this coming Monday.  Per Joel Corry of  CBSSports.com:

An important date to watch with Cruz’s situation is June 17. It gives the Giants a one-day window to reduce Cruz’s $2.879 million restricted free agent tender to $630,000. Normally, teams have the right to reduce a player’s tender to 110 percent of his prior year’s salary on June 15 but 110 percent, $594,000, is less than the $630,000 league minimum for players with three years of service, like Cruz, and June 15 falls on Saturday this year. The Giants haven’t been faced with this dilemma in recent years because their restricted free agents have signed their tenders in April or May. The Pittsburgh Steelers didn’t reduce Wallace’s $2.742 million tender last year when they had the opportunity.

The Giants will most likely not exercise the clause as a goodwill gesture towards Cruz. They have already allotted his tender price into their salary cap calculations, so it makes little sense on several levels for them to play hardball here.

Unless they are serious about bringing in a veteran FB, namely Vonta Leach, who was cut by Baltimore this week. Tom Coughlin intimated the Giants were “interested in everybody” when asked about Leach earlier this week. He appears to be out of their price range, however, so lowering Cruz’ cap number could be the move that get this done. Don’t hold your breath on that happening…

Kevin Gilbride

OC Kevin Gilbride

That would only happen if Henry Hynoski (knee) is delayed in his rehab. The Giants will place Hyno on PUP before training camp with the expectation that he’ll be ready for the season. If he is is not ready by Sept 1, or fails his physical, he’s lost until mid-October.

Gilbride is content with the current option to replace Hynoski, TE Bear Pascoe. Pascoe is a versatile player who can block and catch the ball out of the backfield. He is a different body-type than Hynoski, but is more than capable to get the job done. The Giants have several other TEs in camp they are hoping can produce (Brandon Myers, Adrien Robinson),which would free Pascoe up to play FB, if needed.

“We have had to do it before. Bear has done it before,” said Gilbride. “So unless the powers that be bring a guy in, then we make do. As you know we have had to make do with a lot of things in a lot of different positions. That is just one of many that we have had to do in the past. And so far – knock on wood – we have been able to be pretty good with it.”

The offensive line had been in need of a revamp after last season, and Gilbride lobbied for the front office to bring in some new blood. The offseason surgeries to G Chris Snee (hip) and C David Baas (elbow) even furthered his concern. He is more optimistic after the team made several key offseason acquisitions:

“The good thing is that we think they (Snee and Baas) will be back and they will be fairly healthy, probably healthier than they have been the last few years, which is a very positive thing. Maybe more importantly we added some young blood that can come in and look like they have the skill set to be able to play and contribute down the road. There is no question, we needed an infusion of talent at that spot – young talent that would be able to come in and eventually assume starting roles. How soon that will be remains to be seen. I know that some of the veterans that we have are going to do whatever they can to hold onto that spot. But to see a Justin Pugh come in, for example, as one – it was very, very needed.” 

Pugh is expected to unseat David Diehl, at some point, but Gilbride says no so fast…

“Just think of the man – the man is not going to give up the job. He doesn’t care who has been drafted – he was a low draft pick when he got here and no one ever expected a lot from him. What has he been playing now – 10 years? He has been a starter. I think it is going to be very difficult for someone to unseat him, but certainly Justin was brought in for just that reason – to earn a starting position. Not necessarily to unseat David, because David can move inside and be a guard for us. So it looks like Justin has enough ability – until you put the pads on, you know – but it looks like he moves well enough. He looks like he is intelligent enough – it looks like he is focused, professional, determined. So I would be surprised if he doesn’t come into play for us down the road.”

The Giants’ rushing attack has a fresh look, but it’s a long time since they had this type of speed in their backfield. David Wilson is a home-run hitter but playing RB in the NFL is about more than streaking to daylight. Gilbride seems that Wilson is turning the corner on the finer points of the position.

“He realizes that in order to get the playing time that he wants to get that he is going to have to become a pass receiver; he is going to have to become a good pass protector. And he is going to have to do the things that maybe don’t fall into the strict definition of running the football. But the good thing is that he has been working his tail off.”

Wilson’s primary partner, the much-travelled Andre Brown, is coming off a broken leg. Gilbride feels Brown has mastered the position to the point where he will be given more responsibility.

“Same thing (as Wilson), but Andre had already made good strides in those areas. And Andre has continued to grow. And he has continued to get better. You feel more and more confident. He has actually gotten to a point where you feel better about third-down. First and second-down is one ….. step; one big step; one important step. But the next step is can you be a third-down back because of the complexity of what people are doing with their defensive schemes.”