"Fasten Your Seatbelt" Sign Officially On
The biggest question going into this season was "Can Giants’" onclick="return(Jiglu.overlayOpen(this))">the Giants' put some mojo back in to their passing attack?" That question, of course, was prompted by the glaring hole left in the offense by the untimely departure of Plaxico Burress.
The last time we saw the Giants' passing game in action, they looked feeble, small and weak. QB Eli Manning looked lost. The powerful Giants, who were on their way back to the Super Bowl, were sent packing by the Eagles who played full tilt in the absence of Burress, who they could never solve.
The mismatches that made the Giants so difficult for the Eagles to prepare for were no longer. TE Jeremy Shockey, who played Moby Dick to Eagle safety Brian Dawkins' Ahab, had been traded before the season. Burress' "accident" got him suspended and subsequently jailed. He regularly roamed through the Eagles' height-challenged secondary with impunity.
Teams had to make a choice on who they wanted to cover: Shockey, Burress or the ground game. By last January, those choices were down to one, and it was the easiest of the three for Philadelphia to handle. The Giants crashed back to Earth.
In the offseason, GM Jerry Reese fended off the temptation of trading for an established No. 1 wideout, even though it would have been a welcome move. The price for such players as Braylon Edwards, Anquan Boldin and Brandon Marshall’" onclick="return(Jiglu.overlayOpen(this))">Brandon Marshall was simply too high for the fiduciary-minded Reese.
"There are other ways to win games." he said in grounded fashion.
Instead, he rolled the dice in the NFL Draft and took three very interesting and intriguing athletes to augment the passing attack.
The first round pick was a no-brainer. North Carolina WR Hakeem Nicks is an acrobatic receiver with tons of potential. He reminds viewers of former Dallas Cowboys great Michael Irvin. Reese snatched him up with the 29th overall selection.
Later on, in Round Three, he grabbed Cal Poly's 6'6" Ramses Barden and Wisconsin TE Travis Beckum. Barden would hopefully fill in some of the void left by Burress while Beckum would add another big, versatile body to send into enemy territory.
So far, Reese's vigilance is paying off. Nicks led the NFL in receiving yards this preseason. He also showed the propensity to make big plays with his steely concentration and sticky hands.
Beckum and Barden are still finding their way around the Giants' offense. Barden is physically imposing, but has yet to translate that size to his advantage in an actual game. It will come. Beckum is foolishly being tinkered with at the H-back position, a formation the club did not have in its playbook before drafting him.
It's only a matter of time before these two join Nicks as playmakers.
These three join five returning players (Steve Smith, Domenik Hixon, Mario Manningham, Sinorice Moss and Derek Hagen) to form a unit that no one is harboring any respect for.
The starters, for now, are Hixon and Smith, with Kevin Boss as the tight end. They are starting because that is where the club left off in January. By this January, the picture promises to be much different.
Nicks will be a starter, and soon, the way he is progressing. Moss can get deep much like his famous sibling, Santana, the Redskins' Pro-Bowler. Manningham has been getting a lot of first-looks from QB Eli Manning. Smith is a reliable player with excellent field sense. Hixon and Hagen are on the roster mainly because they showed grit on special teams. Don't be fooled—they can catch passes, too.
This diverse group may just be the best receiving unit the Giants have had in the past half-century. Teams that underestimate them may find themselves down by two or three touchdowns in the first half. It's very possible.
The Eagles, the team that usually vexes the Giants in big games, will once again stack the box with nine players, throttling the run and daring Manning to beat them with his new crop of receivers.
This time, we're betting he will.
John Fennelly is the founder/publisher of blogNYG.com, the largest fan-based Giants' blog on the Internet.