New York Giants: 7 Biggest Concerns Heading into 2011
Like any team entering a new season, the New York Giants have some concerns that could hurt their chances of making the playoffs.
I firmly believe that most of these concerns will end up having been addressed when we look back on the 2011 season, but it doesn't hurt to look at some potential issues the Giants might have to overcome.
The past two years they've been severely hit by the injury bug and that always has to be in the mind of fans and coaches alike. Who is the next big name to go down?
Hopefully they finally have a season where they can either have little to no injuries or overcome any major injuries they have, like they did during the 2007 Super Bowl run when they lost Mathias Kiwanuka and Jeremy Shockey.
Here are my seven biggest concerns entering the 2011 NFL season.
The Health of Steve Smith
The injury to Steve Smith easily contributed to the Giants poor end of the 2010 season. Too often Eli Manning was forced to rely upon receivers that just didn't have the same talents as Smith does at beating coverage.
Not to mention Smith has some of the best hands in the NFL.
Reports started to surface recently that Smith may have to miss the first six games of the season on the physically unable to perform list (PUP), which would seriously hinder the Giants offense.
What is good about that stretch is the Giants once again have a fairly easy first half of the schedule, with basically their only huge test being against the Patriots in the first half of the season.
The Health of Rich Seubert
The Giants offensive line was hit with a rash of injuries throughout the entire 2010 season but somehow still managed to be an overall effective unit, only really struggling in the running game in a couple games.
The reason is Rich Seubert held the unit together while playing both left guard and then stepping up and playing center when the Giants lost both of their options at center—Shaun O'Hara and Adam Koets—to injuries in the second half of the season.
Many have called Seubert the 2010 team MVP and even Shaun O'Hara went as far as to offer to pay for Seubert and his family to go to Hawaii because O'Hara thought he was worthy of a Pro Bowl selection.
That is saying something.
Seubert had a serious knee injury when he dislocated it in the last game of the year and is undergoing intense rehab. Unfortunately he has to go through that away from the Giants facility, but he is supposedly going to be at full strength in the beginning of August.
Whether those reports are true is unclear, but what is clear is that the Giants need Seubert healthy, their options at left guard are limited.
Finding a Reliable Strong OLB
One thing that has generally been assumed this entire off season is that Keith Bulluck will walk and sign with another team or retire instead of playing another season in a limited role with the Giants.
It's funny that we basically have dismissed the idea of him coming back but in reality he really could, we have no idea what the Giants are thinking.
However, the Giants did draft two linebackers late in the 2011 NFL Draft so a couple of the guys on the current roster will be out the door, one of them likely being Bulluck.
So who do the Giants like to start at strong outside linebacker? Will they be able to sort it out with the possibility of missing training camp due to the lockout?
Jerry Reese came out and said he likes Clint Sintim's potential and he did play well in the one game he started last year, but the Giants used Deon Grant a lot in his place that game as an extra DB so it's hard to really evaluate his performance.
Sintim has also been hampered by injuries and whose to say he'd even be able to stay on the field.
I've predicted in previous articles that Greg Jones has a very good chance of winning the job, but that is only based on the assumption that training camp happens.
This is probably their biggest concern entering next season.
Eli Manning's High 2010 Interception Rate
Eli Manning had a career high 25 interceptions last season that were a result of two major factors: the wide receivers dropping 10 balls that went straight to the defense, and the Giants having to sign multiple receivers off free agency and just throw them into the starting mix towards the end of the season.
The second factor led to Manning trusting in those receivers a bit too much when the fact was they were running poor routes and getting Manning in to trouble to where he felt like he had to make a rushed play, which often led to a turnover.
He has a lot of work to do, as do the receivers, but I believe Manning will be able to cut down his interceptions after just a very strange season for him.
Can Jerry Reese Afford to Sign Every Restricted Free Agent?
Mathias Kiwanuka, Barry Cofield, Kevin Boss, Ahmad Bradshaw and Steve Smith are five major names that the Giants have as restricted free agents (depending on the labor situation).
It's pretty clear that most of them will be commanding long term deals worth a good amount of cash, so Jerry Reese and his front office will have a hell of a time trying to keep them all.
Personally I think they need to let Barry Cofield walk given his poor attitude this off season and the fact that he says he would hold out or demand a trade if the Giants don't give him a long term deal.
Generally when a player puts himself above the team the Giants will find a way to trade him or just let him go, so you can expect Cofield to follow that same pattern especially considering they drafted Linval Joseph last year, whose talents match those of Cofield's.
Ahmad Bradhaw's Fumbling Problem
Ahmad Bradshaw has never had fumbling issues in the past, so I can't figure out why he led the NFL in fumbles and fumbles lost last season.
However, with what Tom Coughlin has done with Tiki Barber in the past, it seems that he should be able to correct any issues Bradshaw has with how he carries the football.
Terrible Return Game in 2010
The Giants suffered through the 2010 season with a disastrous return game and it really hindered their ability to affect the field position battle that is so important in the NFL.
They were still one of the most potent scoring offenses in the NFL, but with the addition of return specialist and speedster Jerrel Jernigan likely returning punts, you can expect the offensive scoring output to be even better in 2011.