Will key loses on offense, as well as the departure of defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo drastically alter the Giant's playbook in 2009? Not in this writers opinion.
Enter Giants linebackers coach Bill Sheridan. Sheridan will be the man in charge of one of the NFL's most prolific defenses and must now live up to the expectations Giants fans have become accustomed to under Spags.
The main question on many fans minds is will Sheridan alter a defense that has already proven so successful?
According to Sheridan the short answer is "No!". Sheridan's plan is a simple one, maintain the base defense that the players have become comfortable with, add some subtle changes of his own,and continue to harass opposing QB's with aggressive pressure packages.
With the additions of LB's Clint Sintim,Michael Boley and defensive linemen Rocky Bernard and Chris Canty, Sheridan may actually have more weapons in his arsenal then his predecessor did when the Giants won the Super Bowl in 2007.
Sheridan plans to unleash one of the NFL's most versatile and aggressive defensive fronts in football. With the tremendous amount of depth the Giants have on the line Sheridan plans to rotate players in and out of his defensive front to keep them fresh and keep opposing QB's on their backs. Much the same way Spags did with Tuck,Strahan, Umenyiora, Robbins, Cofeild, Alford, and Tollefson in 2007.
While the effect of losing Spagnolou may not be immediately visible on the field, it could certainly be felt on the sideline. Spags, was a vibrant, motivating force for players on the sidelines, but Sheridan has opted to coordinate from the coaches box.
Giants fans have seen first hand that a coaches personality, or in Tom Coughlins case, a change in personality can dramatically alter the demeanor of a team. Will the loss of an animated Steve Spagnoulo have a dramatic affect on Giants players? It remains to be seen.
On the other side of the ball the Giants coaching staff remains intact, but it has seen some major changes in personnel.
Gone are veteran wideouts Amani Toomer and Plaxico Burress, as well as running back Derrick Ward. Seeking to fill those roles will be a trio of rookies: Hakeem Nicks, Ramses Barden, and Andre Brown respectively.
Offensive Coordinator Kevin Gilbride has stated that he believes the loss of Toomer and Burress will effect his playbook this coming season. Giants fans can expect to continue to see Steve Smith making plays on the inside, but the real challenge for Gilbride is finding the players to make plays on the outside like Burress and Toomer used to do.
With Burress no longer drawing double teams on the outside expect the Giants to use the middle of the field more often. Travis Beckum and Kevin Boss could emerge as the Giants biggest receiving threats if they struggle to stretch the field, or open up room on the outside.
One aspect of the Giants offense that will certainly remain the same is the running game. RB Brandon Jacobs will continue to abuse defenses by pounding the ball between the tackles, and Ahmad Bradshaw has shown the ability to run both inside and outside. The only question is who exactly will play the wind to Jacobs earth and Bradshaws fire.
The answer to that question remains to be seen,but no matter who wins the position battle they will be utilized in much the same way as Ward. The back will be used on third downs working mainly out of the shotgun formation running screens, draws, and pitches to the outside.
Though the Giants have gone through a fair amount of change this off-season they seem to be playing to the adage that the more things change, the more they stay the same.