The New York Giants have gone from being Super Bowl darlings to an epic collapse—as they began the season at 5-0 in 2009, only to finish at 8-8.
Despite fairing solid overall on offense, there was still a lack of a consistency—most notably in what used to be their specialty: the rush attack.
Brandon Jacobs "came out with it" and said he dealt with a nagging injury all season—but under 1,000 yards and a 3.4 yards-per-carry average still isn't acceptable.
Despite their free fall from being a supposed elite team, the Giants still aren't far away from getting right back to where they're "supposed" to be.
Read on for a look at their major needs, as well as some suggestions as to how April might cure them.
Biggest Needs: OT, OG, QB, TE
Even if you look into the issues with the running game—more than Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw being banged up for most of the season—the depth there is still good enough to nix any thoughts of grabbing a running back.
As long as the Giants are confident their backs can regain their health and form, their backfield should be set—and they should concentrate more on their offensive line and making their offense more explosive.
This could come through upgrading the tight end spot, where Kevin Boss is a solid player but doesn't possess the game-changing athleticism that elite tight ends have— which is something the Giants could find in Oklahoma's Jermaine Gresham, or even in Florida's Aaron Hernandez in the second (or maybe third) round.
However, it's looking nearly impossible for the Giants to go for an offensive upgrade in the first round, as they simply have too many issues to think about on defense.
Round Two or Three could have them trying to find depth—at the very minimum—or an upgrade over the aging and lagging Kareem McKenzie—and some guard help could even be a focus.
David Carr should be back with the team, and Rhett Bomar is their third-string guy, but if for some reason Carr is sent packing, they could also look to grab a solid passer that could rescue them in case Eli Manning were to go down.
Contrary to popular belief, wide receiver really isn't an issue in New York, as most of the offensive issues in 2009 stemmed from Manning's foot injury or a lackluster rush offense.
Steve Smith developed into a consistent star, and the Giants will easily have their hands full deciding who is more worthy of their No. 2 spot between Mario Manningham and Hakeem Nicks.
Too much depth at receiver is going to be a good problem to have.
Biggest Needs: MLB, DT, S
From an overall standpoint, the Giants still have a very solid defensive core, but they need to make some major adjustments in their linebacking corps. And while cornerback isn't a huge need, their corps is fairly thin and could definitely use some depth.
However, starting in the first round, finding a replacement for the released Antonio Pierce—while adding a new, vocal team leader—could be key. This could be done through a trade or free agency, but it's likely the Giants try starting over with an elite prospect.
Brandon Spikes and and Rolando McClain are perfect candidates, but because it would be a gift-wrapped present to have McClain at the spot they're picking, he'd be the choice there between the two.
Whether or not the Giants go for an ILB in the first round isn't the point. They simply need to address that position in the first three rounds—unless they do so otherwise in another form.
Outside of the middle of their linebacking corps, their major issues are at safety and their defensive line.
They could go for a young, potential-ridden defensive end, as Osi Umenyiora has just six sacks in the past two seasons (he missed all of 2008 because of injury), and now he doesn't appear willing to be a rotational guy.
If they end up trading or releasing him, what was formerly a strength could quickly become a need, forcing them to reach on a defensive end prospect. Regardless of what happens with Umenyiora, they should add depth at the position through the draft.
Safety was a problem area last year, as an injury to Kenny Phillips ruined their secondary and made the rest of their defense look a lot worse than it actually was.
Landing a guy like Earl Thomas would go a long way in resurrecting their previously dominant pass rush, while both safety spots could earn good, hard looks throughout the draft.
If they don't go for a stud linebacker in the first round, they could opt for one of several elite defensive tackles. They won't be able to get Ndamukong Suh or Gerald McCoy, but Dan Williams, Brian Price, or Terrence Cody—as well as others—could be available in the first two rounds.
This is arguably their biggest overall need, as Fred Robbins is a free agent, Rocky Bernard didn't work out last year, and they aren't sure if Chris Canty will be a perfect fit.
New York can still be a competitive team—especially with most of its offense already figured out—but the Giants have some issues on defense to fix before they can start thinking Super Bowl again.
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