David Wilson is the most highly-touted member of the team's seven-member draft class. The team's first-round choice, Wilson is a running back with impressive speed, balance and instincts who rushed for 1,709 yards at Virginia Tech last year. Now, to earn some playing time with the Super Bowl champions, Wilson must learn to … block?
"That's how it is," Ahmad Bradshaw, the team's senior back, said today. "If you can't protect that quarterback, you can't get out there. That's how we look at it now. We've had a lot of rookies and a lot of young guys come through here. We don't even let them, in practice, get behind Eli (Manning). When you're behind Eli you know that you're getting better and you're trusted."
Wilson, wide receiver Rueben Randle (the second-round selection), cornerback Jayron Hosley (third round) and the rest of the Giants' rookies must gain the trust and confidence of their teammates and coaches. They also have to learn the playbook, get accustomed to their new surroundings and perform consistently well in a high-pressure environment.
It's a daunting test, one that will begin in earnest late next week at the rookie minicamp. But each of the newcomers will have veterans who faced the same challenges, understand exactly what they're going through and are willing to help.
Bradshaw, a 2007 seventh-round draft choice who led the team in rushing each of the last two seasons, is looking forward to working with Wilson. The two running backs live three hours apart from each other in Virginia.
"I plan on using him as my project," Bradshaw said. "He's a very talented running back and he's from Virginia. Two Virginia guys in this running back corps is going to be dangerous. I expect to use him as my project to get him better, to get him smarter and just to mature him a little bit, just to help him understand the NFL."
Bradshaw said one of his daunting tasks as a rookie was learning everything in the team's voluminous offensive playbook.
"As a Giant running back, it's one of the toughest things," Bradshaw said. "I don't see a lot of guys coming in and being able to grasp all of the different things you can do as a running back. You just have so many pass protections, so many pass route terms, so many run terms. You have different terminology from when you're in college or when you're with another team. It's just so much different terminology with us and then we have so many keywords and hidden phrases. Different teams won't know exactly what you're doing every game. It's kind of tough. Like I say, when I came as a rookie my plan was to try to impress the coaches and learn that playbook. Once I was able to learn that playbook I was able to impress the coaches by going out there and using my God-gifted talents and go out there and do what I do best."
Bradshaw has always had a fearless, feisty demeanor, but he admits that a rookie's first pro camp can be intimidating.
"That's when the word 'job' comes into play," Bradshaw said. "When you first come in you see all of these guys and you know it's strictly football. You don't have to worry about school and grades and different things. Now it's just straight football. You worry about this playbook and doing the right things, so when it comes time for you to make a play or come out to practice and be in the right position. Coming in you have a lot of different things going through your head and you're trying to make the coaches happy, meeting new teammates. You worry about a little bit of everything when you first come in. That's why it's a good thing to come in and just be level-headed and be ready to learn."
Wide receiver Hakeem Nicks, the Giants' first-round selection in 2009, said highly-drafted rookies are well aware of the scrutiny they're under and sometimes try to be perfect on every play. His advice to Randle is to showcase his talent without feeling pressure.
"All eyes are going to be on you so you just want to come in and try to do everything right," Nicks said. "But in all likelihood you probably won't. That's just how your expectations have to be.
"(The first challenge is) grasping the whole idea of things and how we run things here, just making sure he's accountable and able to take on everything that's going to be thrown at him. It isn't going to be a lot. We won't throw too much at him, I'm sure, but just being a rookie, you know you have to come in and play the game the same way you've been playing it. Don't put too much on yourself."
Nicks suggested Randle take a broad view when he begins studying the playbook.
"Once you get the playbook down it's concepts," Nicks said. "Try not to learn just one position. Try to learn the whole offense and it will be better for you."
Hosley will join a crowd at cornerback that includes Corey Webster, Terrell Thomas, Prince Amukamara – last year's top choice – plus Bruce Johnson, Michael Coe and Justin Tryon.
Thomas said he understands exactly what Hosley faces. Four years ago, Thomas was the second-round choice of a Giants team that had just won the Super Bowl. The Giants had a talented stable of corners that included Webster, Aaron Ross and veterans Sam Madison and R.W. McQuarters.
"He's facing the same opportunity that I had," Thomas said of Hosley. "When I came in there were two or three starters here that were in that spot. We're looking for someone to come in and be young and energetic and help out and play special teams and learn to win from the best.
"I heard he's a great player. I'm happy with the addition. We're getting younger. I can't wait to meet him and help him out.'
The veterans know that by helping the draft choices, they are grooming youngsters who could eventually appropriate some of their playing time. But that hardly enters their thought process, thanks to the team-first attitude that Tom Coughlin has instilled in the Giants.
And as we've seen many times, Giants players don't retreat from a challenge.
"I've been through a lot and they say hard work pays off, but this is something that I've always dreamed of," Bradshaw said. "I plan on being the vet in the running back room. I look forward to the opportunity. I look forward to, like I say, being able to have him as my project and getting him better and just making everybody else better behind me. You're only as good as your weakest link and I want the best out of all of our running backs, especially."
"I've never been shy to help someone, to give them advice or help them in the film room," Thomas said. "I think he (Hosley) will make us better. If he takes my spot, good luck. I love competition. I was raised on it. It's something Coach (Pete) Carroll taught us in college (at USC). It's something I thrive on. It motivates me that someone is coming to take my spot. That's what this league is all about. Every year, every week somebody can take your spot. It's going to push me, it's going to push Corey, it's going to push Prince and every other DB on this team to get better. And hopefully, we can help him at the same time."