ALBANY, N.Y. Jerry Reese isn't in the prediction business. So his lengthy news conference at the Giants training camp Saturday did not include any bold forecasts for division, conference or Super Bowl titles, or for a postseason berth.
But Reese, who is beginning his sixth season as the team's general manager, believes the Giants have talent, both in the locker room and in the coaches offices. That and good health should keep the defending champion Giants in the title hunt in 2012.
"I go into the season thinking we're a good football team", Reese said. "The thing you have to have: good coaches, you have some good players, and you have to have some luck. It's a combination of three things. You get a chance to go in the tournament. The NFC East is always a tough (division) to come out of. We come out of that (division), you're battle-tested. We have a tough schedule, too. I like a tough schedule because I think it helps you be battle-tested down the stretch."
"I go into the season just hoping for the best, and looking at our team compared to everybody else's team and we have as good a chance as anybody else, I think."
Reese, per his norm, was asked about numerous subjects during his meeting with reporters. One that was particularly noteworthy was his expectations for Prince Amukamara, the top draft choice in 2011 who played seven regular season games, plus four in the postseason, after breaking his foot in training camp.
"I expect Prince to play like a first round draft pick", Reese said. "That's pretty cut and dry for me."
"He should challenge for a starting job and play like a first round draft pick. When you pick a guy that high, in the first round, you expect him to play and play well and be a strong contributor to your team."
Running back David Wilson, this year's top draft choice, isn't as far along on the learning curve as Amukamara, but Reese believes he can add explosiveness and productivity to the offense.
"We expect David Wilson to get in there and get up to speed," Reese said. "He needs to take care of the ball and pass protect. We know he can run, he can put the ball in his hands and be explosive, he can catch the ball, but young running backs, they have to take care of the ball, don't put it on the ground, and they have to pass protect. Those are the things he has to do to really get going here, but he's natural with the ball in his hands. We're not worried about him as a runner. The other little things that he has to get right to play in this league he has to get up to speed with"
Here are Reese's thoughts on several other Giants-related subjects:
On the team's linebackers:
"I think it's a pretty deep group of linebackers. There's going to be a lot of competition at that position. Some of the young guys that are coming in and we've got veterans. We have (Mathias) Kiwanuka there, who is a SAM linebacker, Michael Boley is there, and you've got Chase Blackburn, who is in there. There's competition at every position, so I like that group of young guys. Our young hungry players like Jacquian (Williams), who did some nice things for us. We've got (Mark) Herzlich coming back; Keith Rivers is the new guy on the block, who we think is a really good player. So, there's a lot of depth. Obviously, those guys that play linebacker have to play a lot on special teams, so right now I think we have a pretty good group."
Whether Eli Manning answered a lot of questions that were being asked about him at this time last year.
"I think you guys were asking that question", Reese said. "For us, personally, and myself, we think Eli's been a tremendous quarterback for a long time. Again, it's a nice thing for media guys to talk about. In our eyes, Eli's been a really good player for a long time. It's very comforting to have him. Last year we said he was an ascending player, and I still believe that this year. He hasn't leveled off at all. He can still improve, and he wants to improve. That's the thing about him that we love."
On whether Victor Cruz could sign a new contract before the season begins:
"It could happen. All those options are open, but right now we're just focused, Victor is just focused on being a good football player again. The contract situation will take care of itself."
For Reese, like Tom Coughlin, the only real issue is how well the team performs.
"I think it's a good roster, he said. "I think it's a really good roster. It remains to be seen as to how good we can be. I think we can be strong, and we can be good again. But you have to do it, you can't talk about it, you have to go out there and do it. That's what's important to us, is to go out there and prove that we are a good football team, that we've got a challenge and have a chance to win a lot of games this season. Hopefully, we can qualify for the tournament. Then, if you get in the tournament, like always, anything can happen."