The 2008 season was an up-and-down roller coaster ride for the New York Giants and their fans. Starting the season with a record of 11-1 before a late season collapse brought on by star receiver Plaxico Burress's "accident", there were talks of the Giants being the best team in the NFL and being bound to repeat as Super Bowl Champs.
Unfortunately, the season ended with a playoff loss to divisional rival Philadelphia. New York's disability to get anything going on offense after the loss of Plaxico was ultimately it's Achilles heel.
Let's look at the strengths and weakness of the New York Football Giants as they head into the 2009 regular season:
Offensive line: Headlined by center Shaun O'Hara and guard David Diehl, New York's offensive line represents the most consistent part of it's offense.
Their run-blocking skills helped pave the way for the two-headed monster that was Brandon Jacobs and Derrick Ward. The Giants ended the season with the No. 1 rushing attack, averaging 157.4 yards per game.
The offensive line also helped keep QB Eli Manning upright all season and he responded with his best statistical season and a Pro Bowl berth. Eli was only sacked 27 times in 2008.
During the offseason, the Giants drafted William Beatty with the 60th overall pick to help further bolster their greatest strength. Beatty, a 6'6", 307 product out of Connecticut, has thus far performed well in mini-camp and should compete for a spot in the rotation.
Defensive line: It all starts up front and New York's front seven was imposing all year around. Total, New York racked up 42 sacks all year. Justin Tuck emerged as a legitimate threat, like we all thought he would, by sacking opposing QBs 12 times.
Mathias Kiwanuka also proved himself to be an asset on defense, playing as a LB/DE hybrid, depending on what the defensive scheme called for. Kiwi forced two fumbles and showed his speed and athleticism by getting to the quarterback eight times.
He was mentioned in a possible trade for Braylon Edwards, but GM Jerry Reese knew it was important to keep this rising star around.
The additions of Rocky Bernard and Chris Canty did nothing but improve an area this team was already elite in. Adding these two to the rotation will help keep starters like Justin Tuck and Barry Cofield fresh throughout individuals games and the season as a whole as well.
Running back: Brandon Jacobs, the 6'4", 264 pound bulldozer will lead our rushing attack in 2009. His immense strength and surprising speed will help wear down the defensive front so that speedster Ahmad Bradshaw can fill the gap left by Derrick Ward when he departed for Tampa Bay.
Jacobs wrestled up 1,089 yards in 2008, averaging five yards per carry. With increased carries we should see his total yards increase, but I think his average will remain the same as he gets more and more experience.
Bradshaw may have only gotten 67 total carries last season, but he made the most of it by gaining 355 yards and averaging 5.3 yards per carry. His speed and elusiveness often catch defenders off guard, allowing him to break through the front lines quickly and outrun the secondary once he gets to the second level.
With the 129th overall pick in the draft, the Giants selected RB Andre Brown. Brown has drawn many comparisons to Derrick Ward throughout mini-camp and may very well split some carries with Bradshaw to help relieve Jacobs.
He flashed outstanding skills at the Senior Bowl and also poses as a receiving threat. Brown could very well end up being the steal of the draft.
Wide receiver: We all saw this one coming, now didn't we? The loss of Plaxico Burress makes this area the Giants' biggest weakness. Letting Amani Toomer walk didn't help either.
The G-Men enter the season with Domenik Hixon and Steve Smith as their projected starters but we all know the coaching staff hopes first-rounder Hakeem Nicks wins a starting job.
Hixon looked great at times in relief of Plax, but also had a few key drops. Getting more reps with Eli during the offseason should help improve their chemistry and limit mistakes heading into the regular season.
Steve Smith fought out some tough yards and emerged as Eli's favorite target on third down, hence his nickname "Mr. Third Down." I expect this kid to do nothing but improve as he steps into an even greater role this upcoming season.
New York also drafted Ramses Barden, a raw talent out of Cal Poly in the third round of the draft. Barden's massive 6'6" frame should provide Manning with a good fade route target in the red zone to replace Burress.
Overall, this area is a huge question mark.
Linebacker: Antonio Pierce is a play-maker and a sure tackler, but he's not getting any younger and the Giants need to begin grooming his replacement. This position was easily New York's weakest defensive point last season.
Second-stringer Chase Blackburn has complained about not being granted a starting role yet and I don't blame him. Just about every time I saw this guy on the field he was making plays. The 25 year old managed to make 61 tackles last year, 40 of which were solo, forced a fumble, and scored a sack. I hope we see more of this guy in 2009.
The Giants addressed this position by signing Michael Boley to a five year contract and by drafting OLB Clint Sintim in the second round. Sintim will take some time to develop, but I believe he can eventually become a solid starter. Boley, on the other hand looks to have a breakout year when surrounded by the immense talent on the Giant "D".
BREAKING DOWN THE SCHEDULE
WAS @ NY: Once again, the Giants open the season against divisional rival Washington and once again they should start off with a W. Although its hard to discount that Redskins defense, I think this will be another low scoring game that we squeeze out at the end.
NY @ DAL: The Cowboys are a consistently tough opponent for the G-Men and this year shouldn't be any different. The biggest question mark here is which offense can get the chains moving faster, as both NFC East teams have savage defenses. Even though it's a total toss-up, I think we emerge victorious while Dallas still tries to adjust to the loss of T.O.
NY @ TB: I think Tampa Bay's offense could surprise some people this year and actually be better then their defense for the first time in a while. Still won't make them tough enough to outdo New York though. I think Andre Brown has a breakout game here.
NY @ KC: Kansas City showed flashes of brilliance last year and made some intelligent moves in the offseason. I'm quite honestly not sure what to expect from them this year. One thing I do know is that they have some ball-hawks in the secondary that could cause problems for our inexperienced WRs. KC is bound to get a few upsets in 2009, but not this one.
OAK @ NY: The Raiders have a dominant running game but all the news out of mini-camp suggest their aerial game will suffer again this year. Oakland hasn't been able to stop the run recently and Brandon Jacobs will eat their defensive front alive. The secondary could once again cause some problems, but we won't be throwing the ball much.
NY @ NO: New Orleans has one of the best offenses, if not the best, in the league. Their defense looks to be at least slightly improved from last year. I don't think Eli & Co. can keep up with Brees and his merry band of speedsters.
ARI @ NY: Once again, Kurt Warner battles the man that replaced him. I don't see Arizona's offense being as explosive as last year, and their defense should continue it's woes. Jacobs and Brown wear down the 'D' just enough for Manning to seal the W.
NY @ PHI: Both times New York faced Philly without Plax we were crushed. Our offense couldn't score any points. During the offseason the Eagles have done nothing but improve all the way around. Gotta tell you, fellow fans, I think they take us once again.
SD @ NY: San Diego has had enough time to shake off their usual early rust. Phillip Rivers could easily take another huge stride this season. If he does, look for him to shred our secondary. I think this game mostly depends on the effect Merriman's return has on the Charger 'D'. Something tells me they can only get better.
ATL @ NY: Atlanta is on the rise. Their offense is one of the best in the league and their defense has a great foundation laid down. That being said, New York will play hard to keep up with divisional foes Philly and Dallas and squeak out a win.
NY @ DEN: Denver lost Jay Cutler to Chicago but I highly doubt it will have a massive effect on their offense, especially with McDaniels running the show. If Denver can get some momentum rolling early, we might be in trouble here.
DAL @ NY: By this time, Dallas is probably in desperation mode, and that makes them a dangerous team. Romo will be playing for his spot on the roster next year and the defense will be geared up. Although I wish we would, I don't see us sweeping Dallas in 09.
PHI @ NY: The roles are reversed from the Dallas game. Now New York desperately needs a win and Philly has already all but guaranteed a playoff spot. They take it easier on us then they should, we walk away with the win.
NY @ WAS: Our defense eats their offense alive while our offense does just enough to get by. We still need this win to keep our playoff hopes alive.
CAR @ NY: Carolina is on the down swing this year and play in a competitive division. I don't think this game will be nearly as exciting as 2008's. Delhomme chokes right when New York needs it the most and we go for the jugular.
NY @ MIN: Minnesota is another team that could fall off from last year's success. That being said, their run defense is nasty and we have already secured a playoff spot. If they've kept their playoff hopes alive then it should look a lot like last year's regular season finale.
New York's offensive woes could ultimately lead to another postseason one and out. However, if one or more of the receivers step up, they will once again be a force to be reckoned with.
10-6 isn't as bad of a fallout as some are predicting. This team once again shows it's toughness and makes it to the postseason. If they feel disrespected, the league better take notice.
What do you guys think?