Giants' revamped defensive line can set tone, but Manning must finish job

ALBANY, N.Y. -- The New York Giants defensive linemen were recently shown a 30-play video cut-up of Hall of Fame end Reggie White. They have seen similar ones of Michael Strahan and Hall of Famer Derrick Thomas. But the White video caught the eye of Giants end Mathias Kiwanuka.

"I was impressed with the way he got himself ready, prepared, before every snap," Kiwanuka said. "I was impressed with his will and guts."

People across the league are already saying similar things about the Giants' massive, interchangeable, powerful defensive line.

It is becoming the identity of this team.

"Well, two years ago we won the Super Bowl with them being a real important part," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "Last year we had some injuries there and weren't as strong. This year we have added there, it's a physical group, it's solid, so, yes, I can see why people think that. I don't have a problem with that."

Neither does Giants quarterback Eli Manning.

"I love a great pass rush on our side," Manning said. "I'm all for it."

This Giants' defensive front in practice on Wednesday morning showed its athleticism and strength. The starting ends -- Justin Tuck on the left and Osi Umenyiora on the right, back from injury -- are special players. Inside guys Fred Robbins and Barry Cofield add tremendous muscle. Depth is everywhere, including Kiwanuka and newcomer end Chris Canty, in from Dallas.

"Our No. 2s would be some teams' No. 1s," Tuck said.

Kiwanuka added: "It's exciting to be a part of this group. We march to our own drummer. We have that mentality of going to the ball. It kind of comes out in our personalities. Every play is a chance for us to change the game. We want to be the dominant group on the field. We take pride in that. We're greedy."

Observation deck

1. Eli is schooled: It is the sixth season for Manning and he shows a working knowledge of this offense, a coolness about it, a confidence. The Giants desperately need him to exhibit plenty of that as he helps bring along their young receivers and gives their experienced ones a chance to shine with this position in transition.

"We're the identity?" Tuck asked. "Well, that depends on who you ask. I've found things evolve around No. 10 here."

Though Manning says the Giants' defensive line can set the tone for a game, for the season, he knows his leadership and decision-making is required.

"I have to get us in good plays," Manning said. "I try to get us in situations to win. I think we have the talent at wide receiver to win. I like the work ethic, the competition I've seen from them. I admire it."

We are going to learn more about just what the Giants have at receiver as the preseason games unfold, including the Giants at the Chicago Bears on Saturday night. I would not rule out the Giants making a play for Denver Broncos receiver Brandon Marshall if the Giants receivers do not step boldly forward.

2. Hurry up and grow up: This is what the Giants are asking of receivers Hakeem Nicks and Ramses Barden. These rookies, in particular, are expected to supply answers for both starting Giants receivers from a year ago who are gone (Plaxico Burress and Amani Toomer). The batch of receivers includes Steve Smith (third year), Domenik Hixon (fourth year), Mario Manningham (second year), Sinorice Moss (fourth year) and David Tyree (seventh year). Coughlin knows the success of his team depends in part on young players learning quickly and contributing quickly.

"We had a whole offseason to deal with why we finished the way we did," he said about the Giants 12-4 regular season, home-field advantage in the playoffs but divisional-round loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. "We've added some younger players all around who we want to bring along. We want them to understand what we want them to do -- see the big picture."

The Giants believe they have the defense, running game, quarterback and special teams to rely upon to give their receivers a window for growth. But that window is not wide nor lasting.

3. Phillips is a Giant: When you watch the Giants practice, safety Kenny Phillips shines. He moves so graciously, so easily. Smooth. Talented. Some Giants told me he is the most gifted player in their midst. That is a stunning idea when you examine this deep roster. Can he crack the Pro Bowl this season?

"Our secondary is seen by some as a weakness," cornerback Terrell Thomas said. "We don't have the big names on it like the defensive line and the linebackers do. And we go off them. We gobble up balls after they have destroyed the offense. But I think our group this year wants to distinguish itself more. I think we will."

Surprise, surprise

Last season, running back Danny Ware could barely get on the field as Brandon Jacobs, Derrick Ward and Ahmad Bradshaw led the Giants' rushing attack. Ward is now with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Ware has his shot to join the rotation in a big way. Ignored by the news media much of last season, he was swarmed by reporters on Tuesday.

"I hope people see what I see," Ware said. "That I've got something good to give. And the ones that don't see it, I'll work harder until they do."

Coughlin said there is no doubt in the Giants' minds about Ware's talent.

"He just has to show us he can do it consistently and do all of the things that are expected. He's focused more than he has ever been."

Rookie report

Clint Sintim is a 6-foot-2, 256-pound linebacker from Virginia. He was drafted in the second round. Some considered him a hybrid. The Giants already see him as that and more. He can play back, he can play up. Their plan: Put him in and let him get to the quarterback or to the ball. He certainly looks like he can do that. Very intelligent player.

On The Fringe is following five players "On The Fringe" of the NFL -- including David Tyree -- sharing their stories, their progress and their setbacks throughout camp. **More ...**

Lasting image

Receiver David Tyree, wearing a T-shirt with his spectacular Super Bowl catch drawn in vivid colors on the front of the shirt. He said no message was being sent; he simply grabbed it and wore it. Tyree has been the source of much speculation that he could be cut and that he is in a fight with receivers who are better than him.

He is not counting on that.

"We are as deep at receiver as we have ever been," Tyree said. "But I know what I can do not only at receiver but also on special teams. I am a football player. I would love to be with the New York Giants, No. 85. This is ideal. But if it doesn't work out, I think there is another team out there that would be interested in a football player."


But a true Giants fan or any true NFL fan wants Tyree right here. What a class, quality person. You cannot meet him without leaving his presence inspired.

Say what?

Asked Tuck about new defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan, telling Tuck I did not know him. Tuck answered: "I don't know him, either. It's a new role, a new face, but he is bringing a lot of energy to it. And that kind of energy is always great for a defense."

Extra points

» Coughlin is concerned about his team playing the Carolina Panthers on last Monday night in Giants Stadium and now the quick turnaround at the Bears on Saturday: "I wouldn't design it that way," Coughlin said.

"It's not preseason when you're doing things like this. It's really not conducive to the growth that you normally get between the first and second games, but you do the best you can with it. We'll use it as a challenge and our guys will have to respond."

» Jacobs on his role entering his fifth season: "I can be a little more of a leader. I know a lot more now about everything. I also know how to help us in games when concepts are not working to let ability take control."

» Steve Smith said though there is not a veteran 1,000-yard receiver among the Giants, "we all aspire to be that. We all want to fill that shoe."

» Giants general manager Jerry Reese on the 2009 Giants: "I really like this team."

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