Through 12 games in 2008, the New York Giants were world beaters, going 11-1, which is the best record in the NFC, oh, and they were the defending Super Bowl champs. The team seemed destined for a trip to Tampa to try and make it a repeat—then Plaxico Burress shot the wheels off the bus.
Burress' suspension and the team's subsequent 1-3 finish to the season (including their 23-11 playoff loss to the Eagles) put an end to any talk of a repeat. The offense struggled down the stretch, especially in the passing game, where Eli Manning only threw one touchdown pass in the final five games.
With the uncertainty of Plax's legal situation, the Giants cut ties with their Super Bowl hero, putting their group of receivers in the hands of Domenik Hixon and Steve Smith. Burress isn't the only receiver they need to overcome losing, as the team released veteran wide-out Amani Toomer as well. So the team needs to replace its all-time leading receiver and a guy who caught the game-winning pass in Super Bowl XLII. No worries...right?
This is a team with a Super Bowl caliber defense, thanks to the return of Osi Umenyiora and the signings of Rocky Bernard, Chris Canty, and Michael Boley. The running game should be the same with two-thirds of Earth, Wind, and Fire (Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw) getting a bulk of the carries, while Danny Ware fills in as the third back.
But this team will only go as far as its young receivers go. They can run the ball all they want, but in the end, Eli and company will have to make plays to make sure teams don't stack eight guys in the box. This is where Hixon, Smith, Mario Manningham, and first-round pick Hakeem Nicks come into play. They can't single-handedly replace Plaxico Burress or Amani Toomer—but as a whole they can be enough.
Tight end Kevin Boss as well as hybrid rookie Travis Beckum will also help the receivers, as both are very capable in the receiving game.
So you look at the 2009 Giants as they get ready for OTAs and, eventually, training camp, and you don't see a lot of weaknesses. In fact, you see a team that has a lot to prove. And if you look at their roster, and all you can zero in on is the lack of a true No. 1 receiver, then you would leave that feeling pretty confident about the 2009 New York Giants.