In 2008, the Giants were defined by their dynamic running back trio of Earth, Wind, and Fire.
The Wind part of that group has left the Giants' sails for Tampa Bay, but that likely won't stop Big Blue from emphasizing the run game week in and week out.
With a group of unproven receivers, Big Blue will have to rely on its veteran group of offensive linemen that helped pave the way for the league's No. 1 rushing attack.
The only difference this year is that the Giants will be without shifty back Derrick Ward. The 28-year-old Ward ran for 1,025 yards last season as the second option in the backfield.
Ward's replacement, Ahmad Bradshaw, is a contrast in style to the swift, smooth strides that Ward used to make defenders miss. There is no doubt, though, that Bradshaw will benefit from the 264-pound Brandon Jacobs wearing down the opposition.
Unfortunately for New York, it doesn't matter how good its offensive line is if the team becomes a one-trick pony and runs the ball all the time. NFL defenses are too strong to be run over without the presence of an effective passing game.
The Giants' approach to the passing game will likely be a conservative one, as the team does not currently possess a downfield threat equivalent to what Plaxico Burress was. I anticipate that the G-Men execute short, quick passes over the middle to possession receivers like Domenik Hixon and Steve Smith.
Tight end Kevin Boss will also play a large role in the passing game if he can effectively open up the seams for himself or the other receivers. His 33 receptions for 386 yards and six touchdowns last year established him as a potential threat for the Giants' offense in years to come.
With the loss of lifetime Giant Amani Toomer, Big Blue also loses its veteran leadership in the unit that is facing the most question marks from the media and the fans. It will be interesting to see which one of the young receivers step up and establishes himself as the go-to-guy in big situations.
Towards the end of last season, it seemed as if all the Giants did was run the ball. It was successful to some extent, but most of the time, the opposing defense knew what was coming. In order to spread out the defense, New York may want to try running the football out of four-wide sets to give Jacobs and Bradshaw more room to run.
I expect the Giants not to abandon the run at any point this season since that is their number one strength. They will need to be more creative in the passing game, though, by varying their formations and utilizing play action much more than they did last year.
The Giants will have to wait and see what rookie receivers Hakeem Nicks and Ramses Barden can do on the field before they design an offense around them. From what I gather, Nicks is a very physical receiver that lacks explosiveness. Perhaps he can turn into an Amani Toomer of sorts, acting as a possession receiver.
As for Barden, his 6'6" frame reminds us of Burress, but will he come anywhere close to Plax's production? The answer simply is no. At least not this season.
But Barden could be extremely valuable for the Giants if he is capable of running the skinny post pattern that Burress ran so well during his time in New York. Right now, the G-Men lack a vertical threat so Barden's size and speed may fill that void.
When it comes down to it, the Giants will rely heavily on their veteran offensive line and the smash mouth style of Jacobs and Bradshaw in order to repeat as NFC East Champions.
Manning will be asked to do much more this season with a fairly inexperienced group of receivers to throw to. If the Giants can gain significant yardage in the running game on first down, then they can play to Eli's strength and let him manage the game by throwing short passes to maintain possession.
So Giants fans, be ready for more of the same style of play in 2009. And don't complain, because nothing is more fun than watching Jacobs run over those tiny safeties.