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Reese has tough act to follow in second year as Giants GM

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Jerry Reese looked like a hockey player in the middle of the playoffs discussing the New York Giants' draft plans.

The second-year general manager was showing the stubbly signs of an early beard and the worn look of having played a game the night before.

It was the clear sign of catch-up football, from a GM's point of view.

The Super Bowl champion Giants didn't end the season until early February, and Reese and company have been going full tilt. Free agency dominated the final three weeks of February, and the last six weeks have been focused on preparing for the 31st and final pick of the first round of the NFL draft Saturday.

Although they limited Tom Brady and the New England Patriots to 14 points in the Super Bowl, the Giants (14-6) need help on defense.

Safety Gibril Wilson was signed by Oakland as a free agent; weakside linebacker Kawika Mitchell went to Buffalo; and Reggie Torbor, who filled in for the injured Mathias Kiwanuka (broken leg) at strongside linebacker, was signed by Miami.

Michael Strahan also is considering retirement for the second straight year, so add defensive end to the need list no matter what the seven-time Pro Bowler decides.

There's one other problem for Reese. He's now in a no-win situation since performing a virtual miracle in his first year after replacing Ernie Accorsi.

Not only did Tom Coughlin and the Giants win the NFL title, they did it after Reese had a perfect draft in 2007. All eight picks made the team, and almost every one contributed.

Top pick Aaron Ross started at cornerback, fifth-round pick Kevin Boss took over at tight end in December after Jeremy Shockey broke a leg, and two seventh-rounders -- RB Ahmad Bradshaw and S Michael Johnson -- made big contributions late.

Defensive end Jay Alford, who had a sack of Brady in the Super Bowl, and linebacker Zak DeOssie handled the special teams snaps all seasons, while wide receiver Steve Smith made some big plays late after overcoming season-long injuries.

"This league is what have you done for me lately?" Reese said. "All we have to do is go out there and lose a couple of games and we will all be dumb and the coach will be dumb and I will be dumb and the quarterback will be a bust."

Drafting late, it's going to be hard to match last season's success unless Reese can perform a little more magic.

One way might be to engineer a trade to either move up or to add extra picks in the second round by moving down. New York has always done well in the round, taking Strahan, Osi Umenyiora, Toomer and Tiki Barber.

The bait this year is Shockey. After missing out on the Super Bowl run, he has complained about his role with the team.

New Orleans and Seattle have expressed interest in the former Pro Bowler and Reese has listened.

However, he also noted last week that he has not made telephone calls to shop Shockey.

"Right now all I can say on Jeremy Shockey is that he is our starting tight end," Reese said. "There is always a lot of chatter going on during this time of the year."

Reese has a simple approach to the draft. He looks for value and need.

"Anything can happen on draft day," Reese said. "Don't be surprised by anything on draft day ... I learned that a long time ago."

The most talked-about scenario has the Giants taking a safety. Tyrell Johnson of little Arkansas State appears to be the front-runner. He was the Sun Belt Conference defensive player of the year and finished his career with 363 tackles and 13 interceptions.

Kenny Phillips of Miami is a close second. He is a big hitter had a career-best 82 tackles this season, including 57 supporting running plays.

Ross and Corey Webster played very well as the starting cornerbacks, but there is concern after that. Sam Madison is 34, and Kevin Dockery has been injury prone.

Brandon Flowers of Virginia Tech and Antoine Cason of Arizona might entice the Giants to take a cornerback should they be around at No. 31.

Justin Tuck is the heir apparent when Strahan decides to retire. If Kiwanuka stays at strongside linebacker, the Giants would need help at defensive end. Two players who might interest them are Lawrence Jackson of Southern California and Trevor Laws of Notre Dame, Tuck's old school.

Jackson has been productive at the highest level, with 30 ½ career sacks. Laws was switched from defensive tackle to end in Notre Dame's new 3-4 system and he made 112 tackles this past season. He also can play two positions, another plus.

The Giants have stayed away from using their first-round picks on linebackers, and this seems to be another year where there is depth after the first round. Jerod Mayo of Tennessee might entice the Giants to alter course: The junior can play inside and outside.

The Giants don't have many needs on offense, but don't be surprised if they take a lineman. They have been have looking for another tackle.

Offensive line coach Pat Flaherty has worked out Gosder Cherilus of Boston College, and Giants fans know New York's history with the Eagles. Coughlin coached there before going to Jacksonville, and guard Chris Snee played there.

"You can always improve your team," Reese said. "You can always create some competition and we like to do that. We try to create competition at every position and that is what you have to do. You create competition and let the best guy win the position moving forward. Nobody is safe; everybody has a job to win."

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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