New York: Giant Expectations in 2009
Only a year and a half removed from winning Super Bowl XLII, the New York Giants are looking to repeat their stellar year after making big adjustments in the offseason.
The Giants were a popular pick in the postseason last year as NFC East Champions. Unfortunately, their division rivals, the Philadelphia Eagles, knocked them off their quest to repeat, leaving the team with many questions.
How did we lose? What can we do differently? What offseason adjustments must we make?
The first big move made was not on the Giants roster, but rather with the coaching staff. Defensive mastermind Steve Spagnuolo decided to chase his dreams as a head coach, and replaced Jim Haslett in St. Louis for a contract worth nearly $12 million.
This was not their only key loss. Pro Bowl WR Plaxico Burress was released after shooting himself in the leg.
One of the best and most consistent Giants' receivers ever, Amani Toomer, has parted ways with the team. Derrick Ward signed a big contract with Tampa Bay after rushing for more than 1,000 yards. Veterans Sam Madison and R.W. McQuarters are out of New York as well.
With all of this said, the best team in the NFC East is still the New York Giants.
Pro Bowl pass rusher Osi Umenyiora is set to return after missing all of last season. Mix that with Pro Bowl DE Justin Tuck, Chris Canty from Dallas, Rocky Bernard, Barry Cofield, Fred Robbins, and Mathias Kiwanuka, and you are looking at the deadliest pass rush in the NFL.
The Giants finished second in total defense last season. It's going to be scary for offenses in the NFC East to face a healthier, more experienced, and smarter New York Giants defense this year.
Only one team ran for more yards than the New York Giants last season.
Ahmad Bradshaw will be asked to step up this season in the absence of Derrick Ward, along with young and talented Danny Ware, who has drawn comparison to Ward. The Giants still hold the strongest offensive line in the game. Look for the backfield to rush for more than 2,500 yards again this season.
The one question mark on fans' minds this year is the passing game. The Giants need to fill the shoes of Burress and Toomer. Domenik Hixon, Steve Smith, and Mario Manningham do not exactly strike fear into the hearts of opposing defenses. This will allow the defense to stack the box, forcing Eli Manning to create plays.
The Giants need a No. 1 receiver. There is no question. If they could acquire a player like Anquan Boldin from Arizona, this would free up the offense to play more aggressively. If the defense doesn't respect the pass game, the whole offense suffers.
This was evident when Burress missed the last six games last season. The Giants went 3-3 during this span after a 9-1 start.
The Giants' first draft pick went to plug the wide receiver hole by drafting North Carolina stud Hakeem Nicks. Not only can Nicks catch the football with the best of them, but he can also use his big body to block. Look for Nicks to play a big role in this year's passing game.
After a close loss to the Eagles in the postseason, the Giants are hungry this year. Their defense is the strongest it has ever been. They have a true leader in Eli Manning and a powerhouse rushing attack. With work on the passing game, the Giants will be sitting on the throne of the NFC.
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