My vacation is officially over. My Twitter account is active and September is here. Yes, my fellow fans, football is back!! It's about time we barbecue those wings, stock the fridge and call your local cable provider. But, before we look at the season ahead for the New York Giants, let's take a glance at some of the changes that have taken place:
Out: WR Plaxico Burress, WR Amani Toomer
In: WR Hakeem Nicks, WR Ramses Barden
So much will be said about the loss of the Giants' two most veteran WRs and also how this inexperienced group will have to make up for the production, size (Burress), and often under-estimated (Toomer) WR group of last year. While Barden, who stands 6'6", can provide a sizeable target, his learning curve will have to speed up to make a difference in this tough NFC East.
Out: RB Derrick Ward
In: RB Ahmad Bradshaw, RB Danny Ware
Though it would've been interesting to see Ware and Andre Brown battle out for that 3rd RB spot, I think the coaching staff is pretty confident that Bradshaw and Ware will sustain the running attack that the Giants unleashed on the league a season ago with Brandon Jacobs,Ward, and Bradshaw. As long as this offensive line is in tact, even Frank Gifford could have a 1,000-yard season this year.
In: About $84 million worth of defensive players (LB Michael Boley, DT/DE Darryl Canty, DT Rocky Bernard, S C.C. Brown)
The front office (and the world) saw how the DL wore down in the latter part of last season and made certain to have depth going into this season. Has that worked so far? (We'll have more on that in Part two)
With the season set to begin in about three weeks and the preseason all ready underway, let's take a look at the good, bad and the surprises so far this preseason on both sides of the ball.
Eli Manning's contract negotiation
Though it took a few days to iron out the language details, the Giants were able to secure the services of their franchise QB for years to come, while making him the highest paid player (per year) in the NFL. He's been sharp in camp at reading blitzes and throwing deep accurately. He's an unquestioned leader of this team and he's showing it. Take that, Tiki!
This former No. 1-overall pick has recently gotten the wrath of his QB coach Chris Palmer. "He's got to be more consistent. He's a quarterback. He's got to prove that he's a winning quarterback and there are certain things that he has to improve on. And I've told him that.
"He has the ability to play in this league. He's a very, very talented player, but he's got to do things the way we want them done." Stay tuned.
Though he has a lot to learn, you could tell in the two passes versus Carolina that he is always looking to fire the ball. He has a cannon for an arm and he isn't afraid to use it (unlike the aforementioned Carr). While that isn't always a good thing, considering the youth and speed of the Giants' WRs, that could end up being a great thing if the fifth-round pick develops his mind to catch up to his arm.
The Giants have arguably the best offensive line in the league. Their No. 1 rushing attack a year ago certainly qualifies them. But depth has been an issue. Enter second-round pick William Beatty.
The rookie has played as well as expected thus far in the preseason, except for a sack given up to fellow rookie DE Everette Brown of Carolina, but with experience should come improvement.
Andre Woodson hasn't had any time to really show what he can do leading the offense. Not that he hasn't gotten playing time, but the offensive line barely gives him enough time to get rid off the ball. Maybe it's his long windup, maybe it's the WRs not getting open, but it has to start with the line.
No surprises here just yet.
So far Ahmad Bradshaw has shown that he can be a force to be reckoned with in this offense. Not that we haven't seen him perform (he led the Giants in rushing during the run to the Super Bowl), but it's comforting to know that he's up for the task of running (19-yd TD vs. the Carolina Panthers; nine-yd per carry avg. vs. the Bears) and catching the ball.
The one thing Derrick Ward did that Ahmad Bradshaw needs to do better: PICK UP THE BLITZ! Losing Andre Brown for the season in a freak accident play during practice is up there also.
It has to be Danny Ware. While some saw the things he can do last year around this time, I've been impressed with how he's fought for every yard. he runs hard and he's protected the ball.
Well, their leading receiver of last year, Steve Smith, is the projected starter for the upcoming season. Add to that the camp phenom that has become Ramses Barden, who's height and athletic ability has consistently wowed the spectators in Albany. It would be nice to see Gilbride get him (and all the WRs) more involved in the offense, especially in the red zone.
No one has stepped up to rightfully claim that No.1 WR spot. Domenik Hixon has shown flashes, but he hasn't been consistent. Sinorice Moss, Smith, Nicks, and Mario Manningham have spent a significant amount of time in the injury section. Particulary with Nicks, he needs all the reps he can get to adjust to the pro game. That certainly doesn't sit well with Coach Tom Coughlin.
Derek Hagan. he's quietly had a solid camp. This former third-round draft choice has made some spectacular catches and clearly is in a dogfight to make this team. The other goes to David Tyree, who is not justifying why the Giants should keep him beyond the preseason. He is a gamer, as we all know, but he has to show more when given the opportunities.
During the Carolina game, we got the impression that the Giants were picking up where the left off a season ago, running ragged all over the field. Even in the Giants-Bears game, it was great to see that the RBs were plowing through the Bears DL and LBs, including Jacobs running right through All-Pro LB Brian Urlacher.
At some time, Coughlin will have to test his young WR core with plays that Gilbride would have devised back when he was with the Houston Oilers (and they led the league in passing offense) in order to get them a better feel for the speed of the game and work on timing. It would be nice to see Barden catch a few of those fade routes that helped him break Jerry Rice's collegiate TD record and made him a YouTube and training camp sensation. If the final two weeks of the preseason will have the feel to a real game, then dust off the playbook and let them get some work. If not now, when?
(Part 2 later this afternoon - Defense)