Reese and Crew Have Dynastic Intentions
Some teams just seem to come up with players. The New York Giants are one of those teams.
Every year the draft comes, and every year the Mel Kipers and the Todd McShays of the world tell you the New York Giants did "OK" but they didn't satisfy their major needs.
And every year, they are wrong.
As a Giants fan and writer, I am glad that Giants GM Jerry Reese pays little or no attention to them or anyone else who doesn't work in the industry.
Every year, Reese's team: Assistant GM Kevin Abrams; Mark Ross, the Director of College Scouting; Dave Gettleman, the Director of Pro Personnel and former Giants fullback Charles Way, who is the Director of Player Development make the team better.
And this is a team that won the Super Bowl two years ago and finished 12-4 last season.
To be fair, Reese did not walk into a mess i.e. Detroit. He began with a roster that had some very good players: Michael Strahan, Eli Manning, Tiki Barber, Chris Snee, Plaxico Burress, Fred Robbins, Jeremy Shockey, Amani Toomer, Osi Umenyiora, Antonio Pierce, Shawn O'Hara, Mathias Kiwanuka, Brandon Jacobs, Justin Tuck, Jeff Feagles, Derrick Ward, Gibril Wilson, David Diehl, Corey Webster, Kareem McKenzie, Sam Madison, Barry Cofield, Rich Seubert, Chase Blackburn, R.W. McQuarters, James Butler, Sinorice Moss and Davis Tyree. Whew!
But the NFL is a tentative proposition. Over time, players come and go, and in recent history, the Giants' planning team has proved to be up to the task when it comes to back filling and upgrading their roster.
The team does not panic and make rash moves. Every option is explored; no avenue is left untraveled. Thus far, Reese and crew have made few mistakes.
In 2007, Reese's first year, the Giants lost longtime left tackle Luke Petitgout to free agency. They were lambasted for not picking up a veteran OT in the offseason and then for not taking one in the draft.
Reese did not see the need. Internally, the Giants knew they had Richie Seubert coming back from a knee injury. The solution was to shift David Diehl from guard to tackle and insert Seubert into Diehl's spot. The result? I think you know the answer to that...
Tiki Barber retired after the 2006 season as the Giants' all-time leading rusher. The Giants decided not to panic. They replaced Barber to a triumvirate of various talents: Jacobs, the 264 lbs battering ram; Ward, who was elusive and versatile; and Ahmad Bradshaw, a rookie that no one could catch up to late in games. The Giants' running game was better than ever in 2008, averaging 5.0 yards per carry.
LB Kawika Mitchell came in, played one year, won a Super Bowl and left for Buffalo via free agency. The Giants responded by signing former Jaguar Danny Clark in 2008, who has proved to be a positive influence and a steady performer. They also slipped overachieving reserve Chase Blackburn into the lineup, who has played with grit and heart, becoming a fan favorite.
TE Jeremy Shockey was a perennial Pro Bowler, but he was a selfish player and put himself before the team. His disruptive behavior, on and off the field was not befitting of the decorum being set by Reese and his staff.
The team won the Super Bowl without Shockey, who was out with a broken leg, and dealt him to New Orleans before the 2008 season. The move made sense since the team had a budding star at TE in Kevin Boss.
The great defensive end, Michael Strahan, decided to take his Super Bowl ring and call it quits last June. He passed the torch to not one, but four excellent defensive ends: Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck, Mathias Kiwanuka and Dave Tollefson. The first three players were drafted by Reese's predecessor—Ernie Accorsi—whose mantra was that "you can't have too many pass rushers."
The biggest conundrum that Reese has had to deal with is replacing Plaxico Burress and Amani Toomer at wide receiver. Unless you've been living in a cave the past year, you know the Burress saga. Toomer was left unsigned after last season and finished his Giants career as the franchise's all-time leading receivers.
Every hack in America had a solution for Reese. He actually began to listen, but the void was so obvious that he knew action was needed. The Eagles had exposed them in the playoffs last January.
There were overtures that the Giants were going to make a trade for a Braylon Edwards or an Anquan Boldin. It didn't happen, and it appears that Reese's decision was the once again the best course of action (see below).
The NFL Draft
The 2007 draft saw the Giants select eight players. All of them are still with the team and most of them are on their way to becoming stars. CB Aaron Ross, S Michael Johnson, TE Kevin Boss and WR Steve Smith are starters.
LB Zak DeOssie is a Pro-Bowl special teamer. DT Jay Alford was an integral part of the DL rotation before blowing out his knee this summer. Ahmad Bradshaw is an electric runner and OG Adam Koets adds depth to the offensive line.
Since then, the Giants have had the luxury of drafting for the next season, and that is exactly how you create a dynasty. They are in the driver's seat when it comes to personnel right now.
Three of last season's draftees: S Kenny Phillips, CB Terrell Thomas and WR Mario Manningham are also starters. Phillips picked off Tony Romo twice Monday night. The 6'2" Thomas is a physical corner who has opened lots of eyes with his play. Manningham, along with Smith, are currently the NFL's top receiving tandem. LBs Bryan Kehl and Jonathan Goff add depth to the linebackers and are valuable ST players.
This year's draft has yet to yield any starters, and it remains to be seen whether WRs Hakeem Nicks and Ramses Barden, OT Will Beatty, LB Clint Sintim, RB Andre Brown and TE Travis Beckum turn out to be as productive as past draftees.
The void at wide receiver had been a priority all along. The Giants used a second rounder in '07 (Smith), a third rounder in '08 (Manningham) and a first and third rounder (Nicks and Barden) in '09. So far, so good.
Steve Smith should not be a surprise to anyone. Maybe its his name that confuses people and underestimates him by comparing him to his Carolina Panthers namesake.
In fact, Smith has always been a star. At USC, he was the Trojans' MVP in 2006. He played on the same offense as Heisman Trophy winners Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush. Smith ranks 5th all-time in receptions at USC, which for those of you don't know, is a storied program.
As a Giant, Smith has been nothing but clutch. He made key receptions for the Blue during their historic Super Bowl run in 2007. Since then, he has established himself as a quality receiver with great field sense and prolificacy.
Manningham should have been a rookie this season. He was drafted in '08 after his junior year at Michigan, where he was an explosive performer on an offense that bragged such stars as Chad Henne, Mike Hart and Jake Long.
When you look at the receiver class of '09 (Darrius Heyward-Bey, Michael Crabtree, Jeremy Maclin, Percy Harvin, Hakeem Nicks, Kenny Britt, Brian Robiskie, Brandon Tate just to name a few), Manningham has the leg up.
Last year, he got acclimated to the league with no pressure on him. This season, he has been asked to step up and thus far, he has.