- Matt Williamson, ESPN.com
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Through April 18, "SportsCenter" will put every NFL team with a first-round pick "On the Clock." Scouts Inc. will break down each team and look at what questions still need to be answered.
The Giants are Super Bowl champs, so times are good for Tom Coughlin, Eli Manning and Co. Repeating will be difficult, but the Giants are built for the long haul. Although their defense was raided a bit this offseason, this team remains intact for the most part. The defense, led by coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, should once again wreak havoc on quarterbacks. The Giants will have a huge bull's-eye on their chests this season and must deal with being the hunted rather than the hunter. That is easier said than done, especially in a brutal division like the NFC East. If Manning continues his impressive growth, this team will be among the NFL's elite again.
New York retained both its kicking specialists and signed veteran Sammy Knight as a stop-gap option for the departed Gibril Wilson at safety. These are far from exciting maneuvers, but punter Jeff Feagles is still playing at a high level, and the Giants desperately needed to add a safety to the mix before the draft. Knight is a low-end starter who is at his best near the line of scrimmage. He led the Jaguars in tackles last season and is a smart veteran who will help keep everyone aligned properly. But don't expect Knight to be a game-changing member of this defense. It is also noteworthy that the Giants signed Coughlin, who wisely changed his coaching style last season, to a long-term deal. This obviously is key for this team's long-term stability, as was locking up defensive end Justin Tuck before free agency opened. This offseason is similar to last year's, during which GM Jerry Reese did very little in free agency. But he then brought in an outstanding draft class that was instrumental in New York's title run.
As is the case with most Super Bowl teams, the rest of the league was aggressive in signing the Giants' free agents, particularly off their outstanding defense. Wilson is now in Oakland, LB Kawika Mitchell is in Buffalo and LB Reggie Torbor is in Miami. The two linebackers, however, are quite replaceable. The Giants will look to fill those spots in a draft filled with several solid prospects. Wilson was not tremendous, but he was a key cog to this defense and will be missed.
The Giants could use linebacker and secondary help, particularly at safety. This is not a strong safety draft, but linebacker help should be available, giving Spagnuolo another talented, versatile piece on the second level of this defense. The Giants could still lose Michael Strahan to retirement. If that happened, Mathias Kiwanuka likely would move back to defensive end, his more natural position. However, this would further weaken the linebacker corps. Adding a wide receiver and offensive-line depth would not be a bad idea either if a value selection emerges at these positions on draft day. Overall, the Giants are in very good shape.
Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com.
3hEric D. Williams
1dSharon Katz & Hank Gargiulo