Here we go...
BTB: The Giants defense wasn't its usual self last season. What went wrong and how are they fixing it?
BBV: What went wrong? Pretty much everything. First of all, Bill Sheridan was in over his head as defensive coordinator. It is always a risk when you have a first-time coordinator, and Sheridan simply could not communicate what he wanted. That will change with Perry Fewell. No way to know if he is special like Steve Spagnuolo was, but he knows what he wants, has a reputation for demanding that players know -- and do -- their jobs and he has experience. Adding Antrel Rolle and Deon Grant at safety, where they got burned often last season, was also huge. After Kenny Phillips went down in 2009 the Giants had no capable safeties at all. On the defensive line the drafting of defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul No. 1 and Linval Joseph No. 2 tell you how much of a priority the Giants put on that aspect of the game. The Giants will look for bounce-back years from both Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora.
BTB: Talk about the Giants draft. Who will see some playing time and who are you most excited about?
BBV: Well, oddly I have to start with seventh-round pick Matt Dodge. A punter. He gets the job by default because Jeff Feagles retired and there is no competition for him in camp. I am tremendously excited about Joseph, a 6-foot-4, 320-330 pound tackle drafted in the second round. I have been advocating for a big run-stuffer in the middle for a while now, and I think he could make a huge difference in the middle of the defense. Pierre-Paul will be a situational pass rusher. Fourth-round pick Phillip Dillard may eventually grab the middle linebacker job.
BTB: I've seen plenty of debate about the running game from last season and how it can improve. Your take?
BBV: Well, that's tough. What is Brandon Jacobs at this point? We don't know. How healthy is Ahmad Bradshaw after three surgeries on his feet and ankles? He says he feels better than he has since high school, but we don't know. Can Andre Brown come back after Achilles Tendon surgery. More than any of that, though, can the offensive line bounce back after a year which a couple of guys play hurt, and can Madison Hedgecock return to form after playing last season with a torn labrum. If the line can create holes, the Giants will find somebody to run through 'em.
BTB: Give us a preview of the new stadium.
BBV: New stadium is a tremendous building, even if the design is a bit generic. It's sort of gray, but I think that is because there had to be some 'neutrality' achieved as the building is designed for the Jets and Giants. There will be 'overlays' used based on which team is using the stadium to brighten it and give it Giants/Jets colors. Four beautiful video screens behind the corners of each end zone. No Mara-Tisch-tron hanging over the playing surface, though.
BTB: What are the Giants fan's expectations for this year? What's the confidence level?
BBV: My expectations are simple. I think this is a playoff team. There is a serious tone coming from all the players I have come in contact with, there is a lot of embarrassment about the way the 2009 season ended and there is a sense coming from the team that they are focused on atonement. I really have no worries that the offense will play well -- there are ton of weapons and Eli Manning is entering the prime of his career. Defensively, they should be much better. I can't imagine how they could be worse than they were in 2009, but Fewell, improved safeties and better health up front and at linebacker should lead to more Giant-like play. Giants' fans are never 'comfortable,' but I think we believe strongly that heading into the season this is a better team than the Giants had in 2009.
Thanks for the knowledge, Ed.