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Giants camp preview: Just trying to remain drama-free

8/18/2008

Editor's note: These camp previews are up to date as of the start of preseason games. For the latest changes since then, check our updated rankings, projections and profiles.

You have to figure there would be some controversy this summer with the Super Bowl champs -- wow, that still seems strange, no? -- but it ended up being relatively minor. Michael Strahan decided he has had enough, Plaxico Burress decided he wanted more money and, despite the fine playoff emergence of Eli Manning, the team decided it needed an upgrade backing him up. That's right, Jared Lorenzen, aka the Hefty Lefty, is gone. Strahan will be missed, but the other stuff is not a big deal, and training camp should be fairly quiet, if that's possible for the G-men.


Most teams in the Giants' position have dealt with major problems involving players leaving for more money after the big win. But that didn't happen here. Maybe the Giants are getting a free pass this training camp since they were such a surprise, taking a good but hardly great team and winning on the road at Tampa Bay, top-seed Dallas and frigid Green Bay to get a shot at 18-0 New England. Hey, they did it. Pressure? There's no pressure here.


The Giants made relatively minor changes to their team -- mainly to the secondary, which needed it -- and if there's any challenge to overcome in training camp, it's complacency. It would be nice if Manning became more consistent and reliable during the regular season, but if the team had to choose, I think it would prefer a stunning playoff run every time. Chances are you'll never look at Manning quite the same way you did around Christmas, and he's not being drafted in early drafts as someone with a bright fantasy future, proving that not everyone gets overrated because of a playoff performance.


In general, the Giants need their stars to remain healthy to win double-digit games and, for our purposes, yield successful fantasy producers. The Super Bowl loser jinx does not apply to this team, since they won -- odd, no? -- and fantasy owners know who they can and, in the case of Manning, cannot count on.

What to look for in camp


Key position battles: The Giants have depth at running back and wide receiver -- a good thing, except in fantasy, where potential timeshares are evil.
At running back, Brandon Jacobs should get as many carries as he can handle, so there's no true battle here, but Jacobs hasn't shown durability, so his backup is likely to hold plenty of value. We've seen both Ahmad Bradshaw and Derrick Ward taken in the middle rounds of recent drafts. Bradshaw was arguably more effective than Jacobs in January, while Ward carried the Giants in September, even crashing the NFL rushing leaderboard for a short time. And we didn't mention Reuben Droughns, who seems kind of buried at this point.


Finally, at wide receiver, it's likely that Steve Smith is ready for a larger role and could push aging veteran Amani Toomer for catches. Super Bowl hero David Tyree and Sinorice Moss are also capable helpers who could matter at some point in fantasy.

Fitting in: There's really nothing new that matters to this offense. David Carr is the new backup to Manning, but Giants fans already know Carr's star-crossed past. If he's ever needed to play, he should be better than Lorenzen, but that doesn't mean anyone actually wants to see him play. The Giants spent much of the draft addressing defensive depth but also selected speedy Michigan receiver Mario Manningham. He's unlikely to play much of a role his first year, though.

At tight end, Jeremy Shockey was shipped to New Orleans, leaving a formerly unknown rookie named Kevin Boss to make his own way. Boss, a fifth-rounder who was an instant hit last season, catching touchdowns in two of the final three regular-season weeks, figures to be someone to watch late in fantasy drafts.

On the line: Like the other teams in the NFC East, the Giants have few worries on an offensive line led by Chris Snee, especially when it comes to run blocking. If Jacobs gets hurt, fantasy owners feel confident the line will open holes for whomever coach Tom Coughlin looks to, since Giants running backs averaged 4.6 yards per carry in 2007. The defensive line is strong, so strong it was given a lot of the credit for hounding Tom Brady in the regular-season finale and in February, and while it will miss Strahan, remaining Giants Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck are coming off double-digit-sack seasons and are capable of playing even better. Plus, the secondary was strengthened by the addition of first-rounder Kenny Phillips from Miami, while talented linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka is back from a broken leg. The defense will be fine.

The bottom line

It's interesting how Manning is being viewed in the fantasy community, as if his playoffs and Super Bowl performances were flukes. Fantasy owners seem convinced his erratic regular season play the real thing, so he's not viewed as a top-10 quarterback. Being a winner doesn't really translate statistically. Still, it would be a mistake to underrate Manning. The running game is strong, whoever is leading it, and Plaxico Burress, when properly motivated, will be productive. The Giants don't have a lot to worry about in training camp, as a championship team returns intact.

Eric Karabell is a senior writer for ESPN.com fantasy. You can e-mail him here.