By Tony McClean
NEW HAVEN, Ct. -- A year ago, the New York Giants were still basking in the glow of their improbable Super Bowl victory over the seemingly "unbeatable" New England Patriots in Arizona.
Fast forward to May of 2009.
Despite an NFC East crown, the bitter taste of their NFC Divisional Playoff loss to the Eagles still resonates to fans and team members alike. The off-season losses of WR Plaxico Burress (released) and RB Derrick Ward (free agency) have left a sting on the Giants' roster.
However, there's still room for optimism in East Rutherford. The return of several veterans from the Super Bowl title squad -- including injured DE Osi Umenyiora -- and a fruitful draft leaves many to believe that New York will remain in the middle of the NFC East race.
Here's a brief look at both sides of the line.
While QB Eli Manning will have to find another go-to guy in his receiving corps, the backfield should still be solid. The "Earth, Wind, and Fire" trio of Ward, Brandon Jacobs, and Ahmad Bradshaw is now just a two-man show. But it should still prove to be potent.
Veterans Domenik Hixon and Amani Toomer look to be the favorites to be the starting receivers. However, they'll both get pushed in camp by Steve Smith and Mario Manningham as well as the forgotten Super Bowl hero, David Tyree.
The one newcomer to watch will be No. 1 draft pick WR Hakeem Nicks of North Carolina. While he may not physically (6-0, 212) be able to replace the star crossed Burress, the Tar Heel standout has impressed the Giant brass early on at the team's most recent mini-camp.
Adding a healthy Umenyiora will already give this side of the line a boost. However, GM Jerry Reese didn't stand pat during the off season. Adding free agent tackles Chris Canty and Rocky Bernard have added some depth to a unit that finished with 42 sacks last season.
The 6'2", 256 lb second round pick Curtis Sintim of Virginia should also see some playing this year as well. Free agent Michael Boley will add some depth behind veterans Antonio Pierce and Danny Clark
Training camp is still months away and with many other veteran receivers (i.e. Edwards, Boldin, Johnson) still on the market, one gets the feeling that Reese and the Giants may have some interest down the road.
Overall, Big Blue should still be mentioned as a serious NFC title contender.