Monday, April 28, 2003
Giants bolster defense through draft
By ERNIE PALLADINO
The (Westchester, N.Y.) Journal News
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - About the best one can say about the New York Giants' 2003 draft is that they came in thinking defense and, for the most part, that's what they got.
Whether they've dug up a gem or two among the reaches and small-school prospects that followed first-round defensive tackle William Joseph of Miami will become apparent in the coming weeks. For now, they can simply say defensive line, cornerback, tight end, tackle and special teams at least have some bodies.
The Giants also have another body they were hoping to lose. Running back Ron Dayne was not traded. So the angry running back will remain on the roster for the foreseeable future. Or until someone like Pittsburgh or Dallas, neither of whom got the running back they needed, proposes a decent trade.
"We heard from some clubs early on," general manager Ernie Accorsi said, adding those talks never became substantive. "I feel very good about him staying right here."
As far as the newest Giants, the 11-player haul might not have brought chronic worrier Accorsi ultimate peace. But he might get some shut-eye now.
"I never feel good," he said. "But I can sleep better.
"Coming out of free agency, I kept seeing we were picking 25th, and I kept saying how are we going to get these defensive linemen. There was no guarantee anyone would be there at 25, and we got two that we feel darned good about. That alone gave us peace of mind."
Those would be Joseph and second-round defensive end Osi Umenyiora, a product of small-school Troy State. A small-school tight end in Morgan State's Vishante Shiancoe would come in the next round. And three other small-schoolers would come in the second day in Southeast Missouri State wide receiver Willie Ponder, Tuskegee cornerback Frank Walker and Eastern Michigan wide receiver Kevin Walter.
The real finds, though, might wind up coming from the big-time programs. In fourth-round Texas cornerback Rod Babers, they have a fast, powerful defensive back who can compete for the nickelback spot. Fifth-round offensive lineman David Diehl could oust both Tam Hopkins and Barrett Brooks from the battle to fill the right guard spot left open by Jason Whittle's departure. And sixth-round Syracuse wide receiver David Tyree, a kick coverage terror, can bolster the kick coverage units, even if he has to serve as the roster's sixth receiver.
"Where our roster is right now, I feel pretty good," coach Jim Fassel said. "Now, all we've got to do is be right on the draft choices."
That's a big request, especially since some of them are raw talents. Umenyiora has limited football experience but natural pass-rush abilities. Babers is on the small side, but hits and covers. Shiancoe failed to excel against lesser competition, but possesses outstanding athleticism.
But they do represent bodies the Giants expect will turn into contributors in key areas.
"Numbers-wise, we (succeeded)," Accorsi said. "As far as what was available, special teams, defensive line, we wanted someone to compete at third corner, we got them. We didn't have a legitimate backup center. We do now (in seventh-rounder Wayne Lucier of Colorado). And we have someone who can start at guard, if he wins the job.
"We've given ourselves the opportunity to fill the areas we needed to fill."
Though this class didn't contain the sexy pick of a Jeremy Shockey, Fassel was more than pleased.
"We got guys who can play and help us," he said. "There could be less questions and more competitiveness, a lot of competition for spots on this team. I like that.
"When you talk about the fifth receiver or third corner, we've gone into too many camps wondering 'Who is the corner? Who is the tight end? Who is the right tackle?' We'll have more definition that way and a lot more questions on the backup stuff."
"Those final cuts could be interesting."
At least they've got the raw materials to work with now.
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Couples wins his first in 5 years
A furious finish follows sluggish start for Agassi
Busch ends slump at Auto Club 500
Joe B. Hall enjoys the simpler things these days
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