The OTA's (Organized Team Activities) is the official start of the NFL season. They may not seem that important, but fans having to suffer through the NBA and NHL playoffs—and the mid-season "blahs" of baseball's long regular season—have nothing but high expectations for their favorite NFL team.
The New York Giants have high expectations going into the 2009 season after a lackluster effort in the playoffs against the Philadelphia Eagles. Throughout the entire 2008 season the Giants were considered favorites to repeat as Super Bowl champions. Once "Cheddar Bob," better known as Plaxico Burress, decided to take the "fun 'n gun" offense to a whole new level, the Giants season went down the drain.
Now with Burress gone, and Giants will look to Eli Manning to make the players around him better, instead of Burress making Manning look better.
These "involuntary" organized team activities are supposed to include the entire roster. In the past, Jeremy Shockey never came and instead decided to work out in Miami. The same goes for Burress, as both decided to enjoy their offseason a little longer than the rest of their teammates.
The big question surrounding the Giants this season is how will they generate the same offense that made them one of the most feared units prior to Burress' gunshot wound. The Giants spent three of their first five draft picks on receivers that they hope can make an immediate impact.
The Giants selected Hakeem Nicks in the first round from the University of North Carolina. Ramses Barden was drafted in the third round from Cal Poly, and the Giants used their second third-round draft pick on Travis Beckum, the tight end from Wisconsin. The Giants have a deep wide receivers unit that looks to spread the field, to open up the power running game for Brandon Jacobs.
This is the second-most important round of OTAs of Manning's career right behind his rookie campaign. Manning looks to build timing and a relationship with every receiver on the roster.
Domenik Hixon and Steve Smith have been named the two starting wideouts for the Giants, with Sinorice Moss in the slot. After that, Mario Manningham looks to have an impact after his disappointing rookie season, which was plagued by injuries. The elder, David Tyree, looks to bounce back from spending the season on the injured reserve due to a hamstring injury.
The Giants hope the rookies can come in and challenge for playing time at this deep position. Nicks has great hands, precise route running ability, and was considered one of the most NFL-ready prospects in the Draft.
Then there is Barden, the 6'6'' "Giant" that can be expected to be a "green zone" threat in his rookie season. Travis Beckum is an H-Back that will be creating mismatches for opposing defenses. Offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride has already begun to draw up plays specifically for him.
It is important for Eli Manning to get his timing down with all of these receivers, as they look to replace Burress and the Giants all time leader in receptions, receiving yards, and touchdown catches, Amani Toomer. The Giants will use short and intermediate routes, so that is why it is so important for Manning and the rest of his receivers to get an early start to the season, and work on their chemistry.
The OTAs are not only important for Manning and his receivers. On the defensive side of the ball, Bill Sheridan takes over for Steve Spagnulo as the defensive coordinator. The OTAs are the first time Sheridan is a defensive coordinator in his career.
It is important for him to employ the new defensive wrinkles, although he says most will stay the same from a unit that has one of the most feared pass rushes in the league.
Osi Umenyiora is back on the field for the first time since last preseason, and now Sheridan will have to decide how to use newly acquired Chris Canty, Rocky Bernard, Michael Boley, and second-round pick, Clint Sintim.
The last two seasons the Giants have given opposing offensive coordinators nightmares, and this season, it will only get worse for the opposing offensive line trying to protect their quarterback. Sheridan will have to make sure his players stay fresh throughout the season, and keep the pressure on the quarterback when he substitutes players.
The Giants are in their brand-new practice facility, which Antonio Pierce compared to Ford Field and the Metrodome. New pictures of the facility can be seen here. No longer will Jeff Feagles have to worry about his punts breaking a light, and Eli now can air the ball out, not being cautious about running a receiver into the wall off of a deep fly route.
The first game of the Giants season does not come until September 13 at 4:15pm versus the Washington Redskins. Some people may feel the OTA's are not that important, and seen as baby steps. However, for someone to run, they first must be able to walk.
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