After improving their record for three straight seasons, the New York Giants are looking to continue the trend with consecutive division championships, but may struggle to attain any success beyond that.
The main reason some pundits are hesitant to designate New York as early favorites to win it all is the club’s revamped offense.
While anyone familiar with the team knows that it has and will continue to rely heavily on the defense to put tallies in the win column, the offense is more of a question mark and thus warrants a closer look.
Eli Manning returns as the main man behind center and is only two seasons removed from a Super Bowl-winning performance that proved many doubters wrong. While at times his play within games has been a bit inconsistent, his overall numbers over the last three years have been steady. If he maintains his pocket presence and improves his decision making, there’s no reason to believe he won’t continue to fulfill his first round billing.
Returning as Manning’s backup is David Carr, whose 75 completion percentage and two touchdowns in only three games impressed the team enough to renew his contract for another season. He should continue to be a reliable substitute if called upon at the end of a blowout or even as an injury replacement.
Prediction: Manning will continue to start every game he’s capable of, but will see his numbers drop as he’s forced to hand off the ball to a RB core that is much more experienced than his receivers.
Speaking of the veteran backfield, the group literally lost some of the “Wind” driving its sails when Derrick Ward jumped the figurative ship for a literal one in Tampa Bay.
The Giants are not too concerned–nor should they be–with a formidable rushing attack still remaining.
Brandon Jacobs remains the key to the running game. When he’s not using his speed on the outside, he’s powering through the opposition’s line like an angry bull.
Relieving Jacobs in-between his body-bruising charges will be Ahmad Bradshaw, who has some muscle of his own, especially for a player his size. The third-year back has certainly earned his nickname with his ability to dance around defenders like flames.
Joining “Earth” and “Fire” is Danny Ware, a second-year player who is looking to make teams regret not drafting him. Speed is the name of his game; which, combined with the dedication he has shown while training with Osi Umenyiora this summer, bodes well for the Georgia native’s chances of establishing himself as an everyday back.
Madison Hedgecock knows that as a full back his primary role is to lead the man behind him through traffic and he does his job well. While he may not be a passing threat, he will give his teammates that extra space they need for the first down or six points.
Prediction: Ware will show that his last name isn’t the only thing similar to the man he is essentially replacing, as he will surpass Bradshaw on the depth chart and use his fleet feet to reach at least 700 yards by the end of the season.
Unquestionably the biggest hole in the Giants’ lineup is their set of receivers, with a depth that looks quite shallow after the release of both the controversial Plaxico Burress and long-time G-man Amani Toomer to free agency.
Leading the group are Steve Smith and Domenik Hixon, who are both coming off their first full season in East Rutherford. The two have unfortunately become the living embodiments of fans’ fears, as they’ve each failed on numerous occasions to come up with the big catch when their team needs it most.
Also struggling a bit this preseason is Mario Manningham, though like Smith and Hixon, he has plenty of potential and will have many opportunities to show that he is capable of reaching it. In fact, he has looked good enough to challenge Sinorice Moss for the third flanking spot.
Despite two TD receptions in the preseason finale, Moss may end up in another uniform by this time next year. The 24-year-old is losing confidence in his future with Big Blue, as he was given very few looks in August.
Sinorice could be joined by Super Bowl hero David Tyree, who has largely been an after thought since making “The Catch” that turned the tide of Super Bowl XLII in the Giants’ favor. It doesn’t help matters that he has been sidelined by knee complications since that memorable night in Glendale.
One of the reasons for Tyree’s lack of job security is rookie Hakeem Nicks, though he may have an injury of his own to deal with. The former UNC Tar Heel has been very dependable, as shown in the annual bragging rights game against the Jets, when he brought in two touchdowns and surpassed 100 yards.
Prediction: Moss will be packaged in a trade for a veteran wideout at some point in the season, making room for Manningham and Nicks to alternate starts as the third receiver.
Kevin Boss is an above average tight end with the ability to get open in the short field and a good set of hands to bring the ball in after finding that space. While he may not have the speed or superior receiving ability of his predecessor, Jeremy Shockey, he is a better blocker and is much more low maintenance.
Travis Beckum, the Giants 3rd round pick in this years draft, will beat out Michael Matthews and Darcy Johnson for the backup position if he continues to use his size and blocking ability to his advantage.
Prediction: With the previously-mentioned lack of depth on the flanks, Boss should get more looks than he has in the past and parlay those extra passes into extra points on the board.
With David Diehl, Rich Seubert, Shaun O’Hara, Chris Snee, and Kareem McKenzie all returning, the starting line remains unchanged–and with good reason.
Diehl and McKenzie both move well for men of their size and cover a lot of ground to make room for runners on the outside.
Seubert is a powerful and versatile presence on the left side, while Snee creates holes on the right with his solid positioning and overall strength.
O’Hara plays a simple-yet-smart game as he provides protection for the signal-caller after snapping the ball back to him.
Prediction: This five-some will continue to be one of the best units in the league and help the backfield once again break 2,000 yards.
Taking a look at each component of the roster that will come together to form the 2009 edition of Big Blue, it’s clear that strength on one side of the ball may have to balance out weakness on the other.
If the running game can continue to dominate and the young receivers emerge as reliable options, New York can truly establish itself as the Big Blue Wrecking Crew—and not the one getting wrecked.