Plaxico Burress' Absence Still a Giant Problem for New York

John BorgoliniContributor IMay 28, 2009

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - JANUARY 11:  Eli Manning #10 of the New York Giants walks off the field after losing to the Philadelphia Eagles during the NFC Divisional Playoff Game on January 11, 2009 at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.The Eagles won the game by a score of 23-11.  (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

The New York Giants' 2008 season was one of the most disappointing for any team in a long time.

Through the first 12 weeks of the season, the Giants looked unstoppable besides a Week Five hiccup against the Cleveland Browns.

Then Nov. 28, 2008 came.

The Giants' leading receiver Plaxico Burress shot himself in the leg at a night club. Burress' season was over and so too would be the Giants' chances.

The receiver who had caught the game-winning catch in Super Bowl XLII just one season earlier had now doomed the Giants in the following season.

Without Burress, the Giants' passing game would no longer be a threat, and the running game that they had thrived off of all season could finally be the focus and could finally be stopped, with the exception of a Week 16 matchup against the Carolina Panthers.

The remaining receivers underachieved to say the least. Domenik Hixon, who thrived in Week Five with 102 yards and a touchdown when Burress was suspended for skipping practice, wasn't able to fill the void full time.

Second-year man Steve Smith was also unable to help out enough in the slot. And aside from Amani Toomer's 85-yard, one-touchdown game two days after the Burress incident, the remaining options would fare even worse.

In fact, the only win in December came because of Derrick Ward's 215 yards and Brandon Jacobs' three touchdowns against Carolina.

The Giants knew how bad a problem it actually was after their 23-11 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in the Divisional Playoffs, when Manning threw for 169 yards and two interceptions.

The Giants addressed the problem in the 2009 NFL Draft, taking wide receiver Hakeem Nicks out of North Carolina in the first round and Cal Poly's Ramses Barden in the third round.

The choice of Nicks might not have been the best course of action, however, because the Giants had a chance to get Browns receiver Braylon Edwards for rumored first and third round picks.

The team's unwillingness to part with these picks could come back to hurt them if Nicks doesn't work out and Edwards returns to his 2007 form. Not giving up two of five picks in the first three rounds for a proven receiver is a lot to go against for a general manager.

One thing is known, though; Burress' absence may put the Giants back to their struggling ways before the 2007 season—making the playoffs only to be eliminated in the first round.