Ever since the unfortunate ridiculous incident involving Plaxico Burress happened in November 2008, any time a TV pundit or other media member hears the team “New York Giants,” the first thing that comes out of his mouth is, “the Giants don’t have anyone to replace Plaxico Burress.”
This is very true...but who cares?
Losing a receiver of that caliber will disrupt any quarterback’s confidence during the season. It’s not even that Burress is that great; after all, the guy has made a grand total of zero Pro Bowl appearances.
In 2008, Burress was only on pace for 56 catches, yet the team was 11-1. People didn’t complain when the team was winning, did they?
Instead, Eli Manning lost a connection that was developed over a four year period.
You know, I made plenty of connections myself in a four year period. It was called college.
Some of those people I met were very good and eventually turned out to be successful, but after I received my degree I moved on and established new connections to help me grow as a professional.
I lost touch with some of the folks from school, because things change. Life moves forward.
This is why this problem falls on the shoulders of Eli Manning and his ability to establish a rapport with his young receivers.
Since the run to the Super Bowl two seasons ago, Manning has all of a sudden been launched into the spotlight. His confidence when speaking to the media was on display from the time when the Giants almost took down the Patriots in the final regular season game of 2007.
After the Super Bowl win, he found himself appearing in more commercials and magazines. Manning also landed a contract this summer that made him the highest-paid quarterback in the NFL. He seems to have embraced the attention and has become the leader of the New York Giants.
So it is now time for Manning to take his leadership role to a new level. He has to take what he learned in those four years spent with Burress and share that with his green group of receivers.
He comes across as a guy who knows his responsibilities, so if there is an issue with chemistry in the passing game I would be very surprised and disappointed. Manning and crew have had over four months to get ready for Washington.
I also don’t want to make this only about Eli and his receivers. What about a defense that ran out of gas down the stretch and all of a sudden forgot how to sack quarterbacks?
What about the lack of depth on the offensive line? That unit can’t withstand any long-term injury. These concerns aren’t any less important if you choose to worry about the state of the Giants.
But I choose to not worry about those things, and here is why:
The Giants have a well-run organization that builds its core through the draft and adds role players through free agency (not the other way around like Dallas and Washington).
New York has a juggernaut of a running game; the team had 200 yards rushing or more five times and another game of 301 yards in an important late-season game against Carolina. All of those performances resulted in a “W” and I expect more of the same this year.
Eli Manning had his best season in 2008. He set career bests in all efficiency statistics (60.3 comp. pct, 6.7 yards/pass, 10 interceptions, five fumbles) and is only 28 years old. He has finally learned to take better care of the football and has not hit his peak in this league yet.
While the defense has been beat up in the rigors of Camp Coughlin, it is stocked with good young talent.
The Giants also bring back DE Osi Umenyiora after he tore his ACL early in 2008’s camps; even with DT Jay Alford out for the year the defensive line has eight legitimate players in the trenches.
One final note…take a look at the schedule. New York plays Kansas City, Oakland, Denver, Tampa Bay, and Washington (twice). You could tell me those are the five worst teams in football and I would buy it with a good argument.
I will count all of those games as wins, which means if the Giants split the rest of their games, they finish 11-5, which is playoff material in the NFC.
You can sell me that other NFC teams are as good (i.e. Philadelphia) as New York, but you can’t tell me any team is outright better.
Honestly, what makes Minnesota any more of a Super Bowl contender than the Giants? They are set up the same way, except the Giants have a quarterback who doesn’t give games away.
They also don’t even need home-field advantage; they play well in the cold of Lambeau or Soldier Field just as well as they do in the domes (won their last five meaningful games; they rested starters at Minnesota last season).
All the Giants have to do is get into the playoffs and they have a great shot at a championship run to Miami.
Receivers be damned!