Sure, the New York Giants don’t open training camp for over a month, but there are plenty of intriguing players on the defending champs’ roster who will be under the microscope for various reasons this summer.
Here’s a brief look:
Terrell Thomas, CB: Coming off a serious knee injury suffered during a 2011 preseason game against the Chicago Bears, Thomas is out to prove he can return to his former greatness, when he was on the verge of exploding as an All-Pro candidate. He’s been working hard to be ready and is sure that nothing will hold him back, but he will command the most eyes this summer because the defense needs him back… badly.
Prince Amukamara, CB: The kid was not only the victim of last year’s lockout, keeping him away from valuable NFL education, but he suffered a broken fifth metatarsal in his foot and didn’t get on the field until November. When he did play, he showed flashes (if memory serves, he nabbed an interception on his first pro series), but he also looked lost at times and, well, like a rookie with very little preparation. This year, he’s had a full off-season and the 2011 first-round pick should push for snaps, and press at least one veteran, or he’ll feel the heat from rookie Jayron Hosley.
Marvin Austin, DT: In essence, he hasn’t played organized ball since 2009 after a college suspension in 2010 and a pectoral injury that forced him to miss the 2011 season. He has looked pretty good in OTAs and seems to have fully recovered the surgical injury, but Austin will still be pushed. If he proves worthy of his second-round stature, he’ll be in the rotation.
Mark Herzlich, LB: The second-year player could play a key role in the NY Giants defense in 2012. In fact, he could wind up as the starting middle linebacker. Sure, the team lists Chase Blackburn as the No. 1 MIKE right now, but Herzlich could overtake him. However, he will have competition from second-year pro Greg Jones and free agent Keith Rivers. Even if Herzlich doesn’t start, he’ll have plenty of time on the field in various defensive looks.
Justin Trattou, DE: Now that Dave Tollefson has left via free agency, Trattou may have the inside track on the fourth defensive end spot vacated by the underrated fan favorite. Trattou was on the NY Giants’ practice squad last season and is poised to break out, with little competition ahead of him.
Domenik Hixon, WR: He had a torn ACL in 2010, then another in 2011 and has missed the better part of two seasons. This year, Hixon has his sights set on the No. 3 wide receiver job (No. 2 if Hakeem Nicks is out of action longer than expected), as well as returning punts. Can he? Will he? The team is anxious to see what he can do this summer, and the smart, hard-working and experienced veteran is anxious to show what he can do for the team.
James Brewer, T: Though Brewer was on the inactive list for the entire 2011 season he’ll be in the mix for the starting left tackle job. If he can do what the Giants want expect, he would add flexibility on the offensive line. And with Will Beatty still shaky following eye surgery and a bad back, inconsistency and the lack of a killer instinct, the release of Kareem McKenzie and David Diehl’s recent DWI arrest Brewer will be on the Hot List this summer.
Will Beatty, T: He’s not on the bubble for a roster spot, but Beatty needs an excellent, aggressive camp or he could lose that left tackle spot. There are plenty of others who could get a chance — guys like Brewer, Diehl and maybe even free agent Sean Locklear — if Beatty fails to show the coaches what they want to see. Beatty also missed OTA time with a back problem and is coming off season-ending eye surgery, another in a long string of injuries in just three seasons. Note: the fourth-year veteran has just 16 starts under his belt, 10 of which came last season.