We all saw what happened in the playoffs last year. The Giants could move the ball between the '20s, but when it got to the red zone the Giants could not do very much. Being a smash mouth team is a good thing, but when people are stacking the box expecting run, it's not much use.
Without Plaxico there was no red zone threat, no 6' 5" target that could catch the ball at its highest point which made it impossible for the defensive back to make a play. That was the reason for the loss against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Going forward, the loss of Plaxico Burress will hurt the Giants offense. Without Plaxico Burress, teams will stack the line against the run. Without Plaxico Burress, Eli Manning can no longer be the same quarterback. Before, Eli could throw a ball in the vicinity of Plaxico and trust in Plaxico to make a play.
This was especially true in Giants stadium. The notorious swirling winds made Eli's passes float and become prime targets for defensive backs. With Plaxico, the swirling winds did not matter as much because Eli did not have to throw with great accuracy. However, as shown in the playoff game, without that accuracy, Eli is a mediocre quarterback.
Regardless of the evidence, the Giants did the right thing in releasing Plaxico Burress.
First, the Giants are one of those model franchises in the NFL. Along with teams like the Steelers, the Giants represent a model of respectability and integrity for every team to follow. The Giants could no longer hold that position if they let Plaxico Burress stay on the team. If they had, they lose their respectability as a franchise.
Letting Plaxico would set a horrible precedent for the New York Giants. The Giants become an organization run by the star players of the team instead of the coaches, the management, and the owner. Teams run by star players do want bring home championships, just headlines.
That does not mean that the Giants are stronger today than they were last year on the offensive side of the football. The have helped to remedy that situation by strengthening a strength. In signing Chris Canty, Michael Boley, and Rocky Bernard, they strengthen that defense by getting more playmakers. With the return of Osi Umenyiora, the Gaints will have that depth on the defensive line that led them to a championship. Last year, the lack of depth led to Justin Tuck and Mathias Kiwanuka wearing down by the end of the season. Do not expect that to happen this year.
Current Wide Receivers
Looking at the offensive side of the football, the Giants do need help at the wide receiver position. Every team has a window to win in the NFL and that window is open for the Giants. Some people argue that the Giants should develop the receivers they have in a solid receiving corps, but lets look at the current wide receivers of the Giants:
Steve Smith - The best wide receiver and route runner on the New York Giants. He has formed a bond with Eli Manning which can be seen on third down. He is Eli's favorite target on third down. He is already a great receiver in the slot and has the potential to be a very solid No. 2 receiver.
Domenik Hixon - Speedster who still needs to work on catching the football (remember the touchdown he dropped in the Philadelphia game). He needs to learn how to run routes with more precision. However, he can stretch the field with his speed.
David Tyree - We all remember him for "The Catch" in Super Bowl XLII. But, that's the only thing we remember him for. He has never had more that 20 receptions in one season and has never been a frequent contributor to the offense.
Mario Manningham - The problem with Mannigham is his lack of NFL play. Based on his time and Michigan he has a great burst of the line and can create separation. He has good hands and runs routes well. However, he is inconsistent and lacks the size to become the red zone threat the Giants need.
Sinorice Moss - He's got plenty of speed, there is no doubting that. However, he has yet to make an impact on the Giants. That may be due to Eli Manning's lack of accuracy in his throws. A small speedster needs to have the QB lead him with his throws so receiver can run after the catch. He has not been able to create the kind of separation needed in order to successful with a QB like Eli.
Looking at all of these receivers, I do not see a true No.1 receiver or a red zone threat. Kevin Boss did lead the team in receiving touchdowns, but he is not going to create the match-ups the Giants need to be consistently dominant in the red zone.
Regardless of what the Giants do with their receiving corps, Eli Manning needs to improve drastically. He can no longer throw the ball in a general area and how that his wide receiver makes a play. Without that tall deep threat, look for the Giants to employ more short crossing routes to utilize the speed of those receivers. He needs to develop that accuracy that allows his smaller, faster wide receivers. That will give his receivers the ability to run after the catch and create big plays that way. Eli also needs to develop his throwing strength and his spiral. In the winds of the Meadowlands, Eli can not let his passes get knocked down or carried by the wind. The only way to prevent that is by getting a tighter spiral on the ball. If I was Chris Palmer, the Giants QB Coach, that would be the most important thing to work on.
Proven Options - Free Agency
Torry Holt - Right now, I think the best option in free agency is Torry Holt. He did have a down year last year and he is 32-years-old, but he is still a productive receiver. He was not released because he was not a quality football player, but because he wanted to be released and it made sense for the Rams who are a rebuilding team looking to create cap space. I think he was agitated about playing for one of the worst teams in football. That would not be the case if he played for the Giants. Except for last year, Torry Holt has always (except for his rookie year) had at least 80 receptions and 1000 yards.
Marvin Harrison - Unlike Torry Holt, Marvin Harrison is a declining player and declining fast. Once the best route runner and ball catcher in the NFL, he has aged remarkably and is a shell of his former self. Also what made Marvin Harrison great was the chemistry he had with Peyton Manning. After all of those years, it will be difficult for Marvin Harrison to attain that connection with his quarterback over the offseason.
Proven Option - Trades
Anquan Boldin - This has been the dream of every Giants fan in America. If the Giants got Anquan Boldin, they would be the odds on favorite to win the Super Bowl. Remember Boldin put up Pro Bowl number before Warner and Fitzgerald became Cardinals. We all know what he would bring to the Giants, but at what cost? If all the Cardinals wanted were draft picks, I would be fine with that. Like I said earlier, the Giants have a window to win multiple Super Bowls and they will do it with Anquan Boldin. However, many reports state that the Cardinals want both Steve Smith and Mathias Kiwanuka in the deal, as well. I think that is too much to give up a two or three draft picks along with two valuable players.
Braylon Edwards - Like Boldin, he can be a legitimate No. 1 wide receiver for the the Giants. He is bigger than Anquan Boldin and would be a great red zone target. However, he is notorious for dropping the football. With trust being the most important thing for Eli Manning, that may cause Eli not to trust Edwards like he did Plaxico. Once again, from the reports, the price for him is too high. They want, along with two draft picks, Steve Smith. The problem with any trade involving Smith would be that the Giants would only have a No. 1 and a bunch of slot receivers. That would lead to teams doubling Boldin or Edwards making them ineffective. Any trade for a wide receiver must allow the Giants to keep Smith in order to keep defenses honest.
Broncos Duo - With the Jay Cutler trade, both Eddie Royal and Brandon Marshall may look for a way out of Denver. With the Broncos needs on defense, I think they would be content in getting just draft picks for either of them. Both of them could be legitimate No.1 wide receivers for the Giants, however it there is only a chance they might want out of Denver. Though I don't think the price will be as high, the odds are less likely that the Broncos would put Royal or Marshall on the trading block unless pushed.
As every day goes by, it seems more likely that the Giants will look to the draft to solve their problems at wide receiver. They should go after a possession receiver who can develop into a red zone threat. However, the problem with rookie receivers is that they are rookie receivers. They are inconsistent, and usually do not make an impact in their first year. There are exceptions like Randy Moss, Eddie Royal, and Anquan Boldin but those are blips on the radar as opposed to a pattern.
Michael Crabtree - This is the one wide receiver that I see who can make an impact as a No.1 receiver in his rookie season. He has all the physical and mental tools of any great No.1 wide receiver. The problem is that foot injury and the severity of it. Though that could be a problem, it may help the Giants. Before the injury many saw Crabtree being drafted by the Seahawks with the fourth pick in the draft. Now he could go to the Raiders at seven or the Jaguars at right and could fall even further if Jeremy Maclin is taken before him. That gives the Giants the ability to trade up in the draft to grab this once in a decade talent. Usually, the more draft picks the better. However, the Giants are one piece away from being the favorites for the Super Bowl and I can make an exception for that. With the second and the fifth round picks the Giants got for Shockey, they could trade into the top ten for two or three picks and still have picks left to create depth on the offensive line and line-backing corps.
Hakeem Nicks - Other than Crabtree, I think Nicks is the most polished of any of the wide receivers in this class. He is a great route runner and has glue for hands. Also he is very effective in running down the middle. People complain that he lacks the deep threat speed to stretch the defense. However, greats like Jerry Rice, Anquan Boldin, and Larry Fitzgerald were all criticized for that going into the draft. I am not saying that Nicks will become as great as those players, but you saying that he can not stretch the defense without playing a down in the NFL is a premature characterization of the man. Other that Crabtree, I believe he would be the best fit at receiver for the Giants. The Giants should trade up to get him if, he may be taken in the 20th-28th range.
Kenny Brit - The local man out of Rutgers does have the mouth watering physical tools that every one would want in a wide receiver. However, he is still a very raw receiver compared to Nicks and Crabtree. In the NFL, he can not rely simply on his physical abilities to beat defenders and catch touchdowns. That is why I see him more as a project than a kid who can make an impact right way.
Darius Heyward-Bey - His stock has rocketed due to his amazing performance at the combine. He has elite speed and better size than Hakeem Nicks. However, his lack of production at Maryland raises some doubts. Also, a 40 time means nothing when you do not have the pads on and there are no defenders. I do not believe the Giants will get him, because many see him going in the middle of the first round. If that is the case, I do not think the Giants should trade up to get him. I do not think he would be an impact player in his first year and Kenny Brit has more potential in my mind that Heyward-Bey.
The Giants will be legitimate contenders for the Super Bowl this year. They have the experience, the defense, and the running game to get back to the promised land. But, they are missing that No.1 wide receiver that Eli can trust in the red zone and can prevent the defense from stacking the line against the run. There are many options, each with serious risks, but the reward may out-weigh them all.