New York Giants: The Potential Impact of Re-Signing Plaxico Burress
If Plaxico Burress rejoins the New York Giants and his tank isn't on empty, and that is a big if, he could have a surprising impact on the team.
It must be said that when Plax went to prison he was already in the process of losing a step, and now at the age of 34 and having spent the last two years in prison it is debatable as to what kind of impact Plaxico would have, if any. And while Eli Manning, co-owner Steve Tisch and general manager Jerry Reese might support the re-signing of Plax they all need to convince head coach Tom Coughlin first, who was livid with Plaxico when he went to prison.
But I know just as the Giants do that Plaxico is an athletic freak. And to top it off Plax already knows the Giants offense, which hasn’t changed, and has a good chemistry with Eli. So while Plax will be slow, that isn’t a big deal considering he is 6'5", 240 pounds, in other words Plax’s game has never been about speed.
Plax’s style of playing wide receiver is kind of like a basketball player fighting for a rebound. Plax boxes out, shields opponents and uses his body to get between defenders and the ball. And at Plax’s size his reach is beyond that of the average cornerback's.
So while I think it is safe to assume the days of Plax being a scheme-busting No. 1 wide receiver are done, he could be a great possession receiver for a few years.
And with Steve Smith recovering from microfracture surgery, that is exactly what the Giants and Eli need.
The following slideshow is a list of five Giants and how Plaxico’s signing could impact them, and of course this is assuming Plax has something left in the tank.
1. Eli Manning
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General manager Jerry Reese has done a fantastic job putting together one of the youngest and most talented wide receiving cores in the NFL. However, the previous GM seems to understand something about Eli that Reese seems to have some trouble with: Eli Manning is most commonly inaccurate throwing high.
In other words, the shorter the target, the greater the chance Eli over throws him. That wasn’t ever a problem with Plax, whose gigantic frame and long arms made it difficult for even Eli to over throw him.
Also people need to remember that when Eli and Plax played together, no other QB/WR combination had more touchdowns during that period. Part of that was Eli and Plax formed one of, if not the best back-shoulder fade connections in the NFL. It was simply impossible to stop.
That wouldn’t change even if Plax has lost a step or two. Plax back on the Giants would give Eli a guaranteed security blanket for the 2011 season (if there is a 2011 season), which after a season where Eli threw a career-high 25 interceptions, seems to be something he really needs.
2. Hakeem Nicks
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Hakeem Nicks currently occupies Plax’s old position, split end, which is the position in the Giants passing game that sees the best action and runs the best and most aggressive routes.
If the Giants re-signed Plax, would Nicks be pushed to flanker? No way, Nicks is not only the future of the Giants receiving core he is also the present. Plax, by my estimation, would move over to Amani Toomer’s old spot. He would run short digs, crossing routes, the occasional slant and the very rare bomb.
Also, while Plax had terrible practice habits on the field, he was one of the best in the film room. Seems to be an oxymoron, but it’s true. Plax has long gotten respect from Giant coaches and teammates for the time he spent with his fellow wide receivers in the film room tutoring them on the smaller things.
This is something that in my opinion Nicks actually needs a lot of help with. And on the field, Plax would still be able to draw enough attention so as to keep Nicks from getting double-teamed every single play, which started to happen as last season drew on.
3. Mario Manningham
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The impact of Plax’s signing on Manningham wouldn’t be as big as some people think. While the idea of Manningham and Nicks starting together sounds good in principle, both are at their best when playing split end, and neither have much of a natural feel for flanker.
So with Plax or without Plax I would expect that Manningham will be a slot receiver, but a slot receiver that sees a decent amount of time at split end and is on the field a lot.
But with Plax taking care of the short routes and possession grabs, Manningham can be unleashed doing what he does best, running quick-twitch, long-developing routes and double-move bombs.
Manningham absolutely terrifies defensive coordinators with his ability to get behind secondaries, and at the end of last season he and Eli had an exceptional deep-ball connection going.
So while Plax’s presence might not create a massive jump in Manningham’s stats, it might create an increase in the amount of deep passes Manningham sees his way. And that is a good thing, for Eli Manning and Manningham.
4. Steve Smith
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Smith is coming off a devastating injury in which he tore cartilage in his knee and required microfracture surgery. So there is no guarantee that Smith will ever be close to the player he was during the 2009 season, when he was a Wes Welker-like threat out of the slot.
He is also a free agent, so if a CBA is worked out, there is no guarantee that Smith will even be back. And the problem is that if Plax was in the fold and the Giants felt comfortable with him, they wouldn’t be as upset if they lost Smith in free agency.
In other words if some other team had faith that Smith would bounce back and gave him a half-decent contract offer, if the Giants have Plax they might be less inclined to match this imaginary offer.
With or without Plax there is a chance that Smith might have already played his last game in a Giants uniform, but I believe that with Plax in the fold that percentage of Smith leaving would increase.
5. Ahmad Bradshaw, or Whoever the Giants RB Is Next Season
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Brandon Jacobs is due a ton of money next season and will probably be cut, and Ahmad Bradshaw is a free agent and might get scooped up by an RB-needy team, so I have no way of knowing who the Giants' starting RB will be next season.
But I know this—if Plax is in the fold, that RB will relish running to his side of the field.
Plax was an incredibly underrated run blocker, one of the best in the league. While not as nasty or consistent as his old teammate Hines Ward, when Plax was dialed in he came close to Ward as the best blocking receiver in the NFL.
Plax has long arms, is incredibly strong and knows how to use his body to get between a defender and the ball carrier.
Plax is a master at blocking without blocking. It was amazing to me on Tiki Barber and Brandon Jacobs long runs how Plax would be running in front of them as a lead blocker but make no contact with defenders. He knew the angles defenders wanted to use, and got in their way. Given Plax’s size the defenders knew they couldn’t run through him, they would try to run around him and then they would have no angle on the ball carrier.
Blocking without blocking...only Plax.
Bonus: Ramses Barden
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I thought about doing Kevin Boss, but Boss is an upcoming free agent, and I have no idea if the Giants have any interest in bringing him back or not, with or without Plax.
I do know however that Ramses Barden will be on the team next year, so I can talk about how Plax’s signing would impact him 'cause I know he will be around to be impacted.
Barden set the Giants media ablaze at his rookie training camp; no one has heard from him since. He still drops too many balls, runs the wrong routes and fails to understand how to use his body on a pro level to box out defenders to catch a pass.
Those are all things Plaxico is in a unique position to teach young Barden because they both have the same size and the Giants want Barden to use his body like Plax used to. Barden needs to learn how to read game film, use his body, how to react to coverage and adjust his route. Plax can help with all of that.
Now with Plax on the team, and my belief that even if Smith returns to the Giants he will start the season on the PUP list, Barden will be no higher than the fourth wide receiver on the Giants.
However Eli likes to spread the ball around, and if Plax can help Barden establish a trust and connection with Eli, his targets and production would skyrocket.
And by skyrocket I mean 400 yards and four touchdowns. I think Plax’s addition could help Barden get to that level. Not great but it’s something.