“It's not enough that we do our best; sometimes we have to do what's required”, Sir Winston Churchill
The New York Football Giants started out the 2009 campaign promising, going 5-0 before they went on to a four game losing streak, and eventually ending the season 8-8 and missed the play-offs. Many fans remember the 2009 Giants as a team that lacked heart. When it was essential for the team to step up, the organization went on to infamous losses as in week 16 and 17, when the Giants lost by big numbers against the Carolina Panthers and the red hot Minnesota Vikings.
Before the season started, it was highly expected that Big Blue would have to rely on the running game. However, the rushing attack did not live up to expectations. On the other hand, the young and inexperienced receivers that had been given lo of doubt to whether they could be a contributing factor to the offensive side of the ball, stepped up big time. Steve Smith, the receiver who emerged as Eli Manning’s go to guy, put up pro bowl numbers.
What was not a hot discussion topic before the season was the NY Giants’ defense. Whether it was due to injuries, the lack of belief in the defensive scheme and coordinator or lack of talent – things did not plan out as intended. When Osi Umenyiora walked out of a team meeting; his reaction summed up the team as a unit: they were not united. Shortly after the season ended, defensive coordinator, Bill Sheridan, was fired.
Many people expected the Giants to draft a middle or inside linebacker in the first round of the 2010 NFL draft. This was because Antonio Pierce, the vocal leader of the Giant defense, was cut after the 2009 season and would not return due to a career ending neck injury. The organization chose however, to spend their first round draft pick on the athletic, pass-rushing defensive end, Jason Pierre-Paul. They did not pick a middle linebacker until the fourth round, when Phillip Dillard came off the board.
Between those two picks, defensive tackler Linval Joseph out of East Carolina was selected in the second round, whilst Chad Jones, the hard hitting safety of LSU, got picked in the third round of the draft. The New York Giants 2010 NFL draft has seemingly left a lot of fans disgruntled. Many consider the first round pick as controversial, because of Pierre-Paul’s lack of experience. On the other side, people seem generally happy about the second round pick. There is a strong consensus that Linval Joseph will be able to create big openings for the linebackers.
Speaking of linebackers, Jonathan Goff is probably set to be the starting middle linebacker as he did an OK job at filling the vacancy of Antonio Pierce last season. It has been stated that there will be a competition for the job. Goff will face competition from Chase Blackburn and Gerris Wilkinson and with newly acquired Phillip Dillard for the job. Last year’s rookie, Clint Sintim is expected to be the starting strong-side linebacker while Michael Boley will take charge of the weak-side position.
Perry Fewell was acquired as the Giants new defensive coordinator during the off-season. He is known for pulling together defenses that create a lot of turnovers. The Giants secondary struggled last season. Injuries resulted in the Aaron Rouse – C. C Brown experiment at the safety positions, which did not turn out well. This year, Aaron Ross will be back from injury and Kenny Phillips is expected to recover, too. Additionally, the Giants have added the likes of Deon Grant and Antrel Rolle to boost the secondary – as well as adding Chad Jones with the third round draft pick.
One of the reasons why Big Blue’s secondary struggled last season was a result of the fact that the defensive line could not put pressure on the quarterback. Pro bowl caliber defensive end, Justin Tuck, played with a banged up shoulder for half the season. Osi Umenyiora did not play with the intensity that was expected from him. According to reports, Tuck’s shoulder is feeling better every day and Umenyiora is further apart from his knee-injury. There were also injuries at the defensive tackle positions. Rookies Pierre-Paul and Linval Joseph are expected to add depth on the defensive line. It remains to be seen if they can compete for the starting jobs at their positions.
When it comes to the offense, the running game has big question marks all over it. Brandon Jacobs was seemingly tiptoeing last season, and Ahmad Bradshaw has not proved to be more than a change of pace back rather than an every down back. Some claim that Jacobs was not utilized correctly last season. Kevin Gilbride tried to make Jacobs run routes on the outside instead of letting him focus on his trademark up the middle, smash mouth running style. This might still be a problem as the offensive coordinator has not been replaced. Furthermore, none of the two main running backs seem to be able to stay healthy. The Giants also have un proved running backs DJ Ware, Gartrell Johnson and Andre Brown on their roster.
The offensive line started to show signs of its age last season, and failed to stay healthy throughout the season. Young tackle, William Beatty, is expected to make strides to win the starting job at his position. The addition of rookie guard Mitch Petrus, will also add depth to the line. It is unknown whether the fifth round selection will make an impact this season. If the offensive line can get back in shape, the running game should also improve.
Last season’s positive surprise was the young group of wide receivers that emerged. The three headed weapon, consisting of Steve Smith, Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham stepped forth as the running game suffered, letting Eli Manning put up career high statistics. Hopefully, Ramses Barden and Travis Beckum can prove to be liable weapons in the red zone this season as Giants offense somewhat had a tough time converting in the red zone. Expect Hakeem Nicks to continue to prove that Big Blue had good reason to select him in the first round of the 2009 draft.
It is also important to keep in mind, that long time NFL star punter, Jeff Feagles has retired. Aussie punter Jy Bond and rookie Matt Dodge are set to compete for the starting position. Feagles was also the holder for Lawrence Tynes, so the Giants will be looking to identify their new holder during training camp. Also, the aging kicker, Tynes, will compete with Sam Swank for his position. There is also a question to who will be the return man for the Giants. Hixon is expected to grab the position, but he will get competition from the long time disappointing Sinorice Moss and safety Chad Jones.
In the same way that the wide receivers emerged last season, this might be the season another group will have to prove themselves and step up to the plate and hit it. Ironically, Chad Jones, the former, talented baseball player of LSU, might be the man for the job. It will also be interesting to see if Gilbridge can find a way to include not only Kevin Boss into the receiving game more often, but also Travis Beckum. Scout reports have it that Beckum could be a huge match up problem as a receiver from the tight end position. This does not help the Giants unless he is utilized in the offensive game plans.
What's also important to keep in mind when you speak of play-off chances is what division the team plays in. Last season in the NFC East, the Giants finished third. Only the Redskins performed worse throughout the season. The Cowboys turned out to be superior, while the Eagles did enough to finish second. This season, the Redskins are expected to be more of a challenger than they were last year. The Eagles might make a drop due to the inexperience at the starting quarterback position. The Dallas Cowboys still seem to be the team to beat, but will the Giants do enough to end up on top?
There are a lot of question marks when it comes to the New York Football Giants this season. Quarterback Eli Manning is not one of them. It has been reported that Manning stepped up big time as the leader of the team last season, and he is expected to continue to improve. The big question is whether the Giants will improve, and answer enough questions to make it to the post-season this year or not. My guess is yes. What’s your take on it?
“It's not enough that we do our best; sometimes we have to do what's required”, Sir Winston Churchill.