We interrupt the Lawrence Taylor coverage for an update that actually pertains to the 2010 New York Giants.
What should we expect from the Giants offense this year?
After giving up 85 points in the final two games, and giving up 40 or more on five different occasions, the defense stole the headlines heading into the off-season. And they never relinquished them, as in only three months the Giants brought in a new defensive coordinator, the highest paid safety of all time and five defensive draft picks.
Everyone knew that the Giants were going to address their defense after an 8-8 2009 campaign that owner John Mara admitted felt like a 4-12 one. And everyone knew that it wasn’t going to be a gradual effort. The Giants were going to bring in talented players on the front seven and the defensive backfield at all costs.
But in that process, they completely ignored upgrading their offense, aside from drafting guard Mitch Petrus in the fifth round and signing backup quarterback Jim Sorgi.
Of course, many assume that since the offense wasn’t the biggest issue in 2009, then there was no need to make any tweaks to the league’s eighth most productive unit.
However, football should not be managed as a game of catch-up. What may be the team’s biggest strength could turn into a weakness within one calendar year; look no further than the Giants offensive line for confirmation.
The defense appears to be remedied, but it’s the offense that should draw concern. Kevin Gilbride is heading into his fourth full season as Giants offensive coordinator, and he has never been known to muster a game plan that will keep defenses off balance. Frankly, there were times in 2009 where the Giants offense was too predictable, and it happened too often.
There were three games in 2009 where the Giants were held to less than 10 points. And the Cardinals game could have easily ended in the same result, as their main offensive productive came via a fluky bounce into Hakeem Nicks’ hands for a 62-yard touchdown.
Manning looked dreadful against the Eagles during the 40-17 shellacking too. The offense couldn’t run the ball and when the defense folded, the offense had a tough time putting together quality drives.
Manning admitted after the Panthers game that the Giants offense was not built to come back after the defense gives up a score or two early. This is not a good omen for 2010, because even with all the upgrades made on the defensive side of the ball, there are going to be plenty of games where the offense will have to score in the high 20s and even 30s if the Giants are to win.
The NFC East may be the most explosive offensive division in the league. The Cowboys arguably were the most consistent offense in the league from December until the Vikings game, and only became more dangerous after adding Dez Bryant to an already potent passing game.
The Eagles may have lost Donovan McNabb, but that doesn’t erase the fact they lit up the scoreboard for 85 points in two meetings against the Giants in 2009. At a minimum, Kolb will be a quality quarterback, and with their plethora of weapons, they will remain a tough team to contain.
And now the Redskins have a guy who has looked so comfortable against the Giants the last two seasons that you would think he was starring in a flag football game. The supporting cast around him remains questionable, but they can no longer be discounted as merely an average offensive team.
That’s six games against potentially high-powered offensive teams. The defense should be much better this year—which is not saying much—but it is unreasonable to expect the defense to carry the team.
And now, we are looking at an offense whose offensive line has more question marks then the Ben Roethlisberger police report, a running game that may be in flux and no upgrades in the passing game.
The optimist will say that there still is no need for concern, as Manning is still only improving, Smith has cemented himself as one of the league’s better receivers and Nicks has a chance to be a number one himself.
But the foundation of the Giants offense may have to change again in 2010. There is no skill player on the Giants that can put you on his back for multiple games, making the Giants prone to offensive slumps.
I do think there are avenues the Giants can take offensively to combat its lack of creativity. I think Nicks should be the featured number one receiver in this offense. He is the only player on the Giants that could truly impose fear into the heart of the defense.
Last year, he averaged nearly 17 yards a reception, and was a beast after the catch despite a banged up toe. He caught virtually everything in sight until a handful of dastardly drops against the Eagles in a Sunday night affair, a game in which I believe he hit his rookie wall.
He missed most of training camp with an injury, then missed a month after a week one foot injury. Yet he still had a relatively large impact in his rookie year. He has all the makings of a superstar, and it’s time he is the focal point in the game plan, just as DeSean Jackson was in his second year in the NFL.
It may sound like a pointless transition, as Smith was tremendous in his first full season as a starting receiver. He is a very good player, but Nicks has a chance to be a better overall receiver, as well a more dynamic weapon for Manning.
And just because Nicks would be the central part of the Giants passing game doesn’t mean Smith’s role would be completely reduced. In fact, he may be more dangerous in a role in which defenses can’t focus on him. He proved in 2009 that he was practically impossible to cover on short underneath routes.
With defenses trying to combat against Nicks’s big play ability, there is every reason to believe Smith would be able to maintain similar production despite a tweak in the offensive philosophy.
The offensive line was a major disappointment in 2009, and certain alterations should be made. David Diehl wasn’t bad, but if the Giants move him back to guard, he would immediately solidify the Giants as one of the better interior offensive lines in the league. But that move can’t be made unless William Beatty, a second-year player that was one of the Giants’ two second round picks in 2008, shows significant strides at left tackle.
It seems clear that the Giants believe Beatty could be a quality left tackle in the future. The move will be made when it becomes obvious that he has mastered the fundamentals of being a left tackle, and bulked up to the point where he won't be overpowered as he was by Julius Peppers in Week 16.
This move could allow the offensive line to re-assert itself as one of the league’s better groups. But it is all pending the speed of Beatty’s development. Keep an eye out for that in training camp.
There is no denying the talent the Giants boast on offense, but it would be wrong to have full confidence they will succeed on a regular basis. Gilbride’s tendencies from 2009 are out there, and if he decides not to make any changes, the offense could be the group that keeps the Giants out of the playoffs for the second straight season.