Eli Manning looked lost without his primary target, Plaxico Burress, in the lineup. The Giants offense could not produce when it counted most, and that problem still follows New York as the 2009 season quickly approaches.
Everything changed for the Giants last season on Nov. 29 of last year when news came down that Burress had accidentally shot himself in the leg in a New York City nightclub.
Without Burress in the lineup, the Giants limped through the rest of the season losing four of their final six games, including a 23-11 Divisional Playoff loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
Burress was released by the Giants during the offseason leaving a hole in the New York receiving corps. Veteran Amani Toomer has yet to sign with a team and is unlikely to return to the Giants, leaving Steve Smith and Domenik Hixon as the presumed starters at receiver.
General Manager Jerry Reese looked to improve that position in the draft by selecting two receivers in the first three rounds. Hakeem Nicks from North Carolina in the first round, and Ramses Barden from Cal-Poly in the third round will join Sinorice Moss and Mario Manningham as the receivers looking to boost the Giants offense off the bench.
Despite these question marks, the Giants are still expected to contend for their second straight NFC East division championship. Their offense also still remains strong due to the stellar running game New York boasts.
Running back Brandon Jacobs is expected to take a more prominent role with the departure of Derrick Ward to Tampa Bay. Ahmad Bradshaw will also star in the Giants running game that produced two 1,000-yard rushers in Jacobs and Ward.
Manning will remain at the center of the offensive for the Giants. The Super Bowl XLII MVP will look to rebound from a disappointing performance against the Eagles in the Giants' playoff loss to end last season. He must prove that he can succeed without the presence of Burress in the lineup.
The defensive side of the ball boasts new additions that will certainly boost the Giants' chances at another championship run. The return of defensive end Osi Umenyiora will take some of the pressure off Justin Tuck in the pass rushing game.
The Giants also brought in help at the linebacker position by signing Michael Boley, a fourth-year player from the Atlanta Falcons. New York also brought in defensive tackles Rocky Bernard, from the Seattle Seahawks, and Chris Canty, from the Dallas Cowboys, to bolster the run—stopping game for the Giants.
With these key additions to the defense, the Giants should regain the pass rushing prowess that once carried them to a victory in Super Bowl XLII. The strong defense, along with a strong offense (even with some question marks) should make the Giants a forced to be reckoned with in the NFL once again.
Anything but a fifth consecutive trip to the playoffs and beyond will be a disappointment.