Giants Look To Dominate with Defense in 2009: A Big Blue Season Preview

Tony ArnoldineCorrespondent IMay 13, 2009

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - JANUARY 11:  Justin Tuck #91 of the New York Giants looks on after a defensive play during the NFC Divisional Playoff Game against the Philadelphia Eagles on January 11, 2009 at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  The Eagles defeated the Giants 23-11. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

The prevalent thought in the NFL is that you can’t win a championship without a star receiver. The Giants are hoping to do it anyway in 2009, just like the Ravens did in 2000—with defense.

Ironically enough, the Giants lost to those Ravens in Super Bowl XXXV.

The loss of Plaxico Burress is certainly a blow to the Giants, but they will try to make up for the production he gave them with an ensemble cast. New additions Hakeem Nicks and Ramses Barden will join Steve Smith, Mario Manningham, Domenik Hixon, and Sinorice Moss in an open competition at the wide receiver position.

Barden is a 6’6" rookie out of Cal Poly who will undoubtedly replace Burress as the Giants’ goal line threat, a place where Plaxico was the unquestioned target. Barden has shown in his collegiate career that the fade route is one of his favorites and the one-handed catch is in his repertoire.

The Giants' running game should be strong this year, despite the loss of Derrick Ward in free agency to the Tampa Bay Bucs. New York re-signed Brandon Jacobs in the offseason and still have Ahmad Bradshaw, who will be asked to carry more of the load this year. The G-Men also drafted Andre Brown, a pass-catching running back out of North Carolina State, and will expect him to come out of the backfield and be a target for Eli Manning.

There will be no shortage of offensive weapons for the Giants. Returning tight end Kevin Boss was a threat at tight end in 2008, catching 33 passes for six touchdowns. He is joined by Travis Beckum, a rookie from Wisconsin, who will play half back in a changing offensive scheme for Big Blue.

New York’s offensive line is regarded as one of the best in the league and will prove it in 2009. The usual cast of characters is back, including Shaun O’Hara, Chris Snee, Rich Seubert, Kareem McKenzie, and David Diehl. They will be joined by rookie Will Beatty of UConn, who has impressed the Giants in their offseason rookie camp.

Without a doubt the Giants' main strength is on defense. Aside from the free agent acquisitions of Chris Canty and Rocky Bernard on the defensive line and Michael Boley at linebacker, the Giants will also welcome back defensive end Osi Umenyiora, who missed the 2008 season due to injury.

Add Umenyiora, Canty, and Bernard with fellow linemen Justin Tuck, Mathias Kiwanuka, Barry Cofield, and Fred Robbins, and you’ve got a fast, athletic, and forceful defensive line.

The linebacker position was one of the weaknesses for Big Blue last season, but now Boley will give them depth and flexibility. He can rush the passer with speed but has shown an ability to cover as well. He joins Antonio Pierce, Danny Clark, Gerris Wilkinson, Bryan Kehl, and rookie Clint Sintim.

Sam Madison and Sammie Knight were released in the offseason, but frankly it was hard to tell they were even on the 2008 roster thanks to injuries and inconsistent play. Corey Webster and Aaron Ross are quickly emerging as a dynamic duo at cornerback and will only get better. Kenny Phillips and Michael Johnson will start again at safety and should stay true to their 2008 form.

The Giants are in one of the toughest divisions in football but should be at the top once again. The Redskins added Albert Haynesworth but all the drama surrounding Jason Campbell could bring them down. The Cowboys should be good with Terrell Owens finally gone, but may repeat their typical “fall-flat” routine at the end of the year.

The Eagles improved, acquiring half of the Patriots' defensive backfield and drafting Jeremy Maclin, but can we expect a healthy Brian Westbrook all season and Donovan McNabb to play at the level he did last year?