The New York Giants had some serious improvement in the 2010 season after the abysmal showing they gave the year before, there is no doubting that. Despite this, the 2010 campaign ended in heartbreak, starting with the two eye-gouging losses to Philadelphia and sealed with a blowout road loss to the eventual champion Green Bay Packers.
The 2011 offseason is possibly the most unsure time any team has faced in recent memory, and the Giants are certainly no exception.
With several key players due to become free agents, uncertainties at several positions and a high demand for a return to the playoffs, the Giants find themselves with questions the entire coming season depends on.
Let's take a look.
The most obvious question of course facing every team, is what will happen with the Giants' team chemistry during the work stoppage? The veterans all know the playbook, but what about the rookies?
The team's two top draft picks were cornerback Prince Amukamara and defensive tackle Marvin Austin. Both positions require time to learn the system, as well as time to gel with teammates; a process that usually takes place during training camp in July. If the lockout does not break by then, the rookies will lose out on valuable time.
Only time will answer this question.
Special teams have been an embarrassment for the Giants the past couple of seasons.
2010 was especially bad, given the loss of Domenik Hixon, who was the only player capable of actually producing on returns.
With Hixon's possible return, as well as the addition of Jerrel Jernigan, the return game is hopefully going to see some significant improvement. Prince Amukamara should be a decent addition to the coverage side as well.
Every Giants fan certainly hopes so. Nobody wants to see another season of five-yard returns, and NOBODY wants to see DeSean Jackson dancing ever again.
Eli had his best statistical season ever in 2009. In 2010, he regressed on paper and posted awful turnover numbers.
Not only was Eli tops in the NFL with 25 picks, but he also had crucial fumbles like the one in Philly that indirectly cost the Giants their playoff chances later on.
Not all of the interceptions in 2010 were his fault; in fact, many of them were tipped by his own receivers into the waiting arms of opposing defenders.
However, that little fact does not change the statistics.
Eli will need to work on calming down and making better throws next season to alleviate that stomach flutter all Giants fans feel when he steps up in the pocket.
On a side note, I may rip my own hair out if I ever see him dive to the ground face first again.
When Prince Amukamara fell all the way down to the Giants at No. 19, Radio City Music Hall in New York was echoing with feverish chants of, "WE WANT PRINCE!! WE WANT PRINCE!!."
This is completely understandable, as the premiere linebackers and offensive tackles that the Giants wanted were no longer on the board, and Amukamara was expected to be a possible top-10 talent.
The addition of Amukamara possibly makes the Giants' secondary the most dangerous in the league. With three starting-caliber safeties and three starting-caliber corners, the secondary will have a rotation as fearsome as the front four.
Prince is likely to make an immediate splash defending the pass for the Giants in 2011.
That's all that needs to be said. Brandon Jacobs.
Is he still an asset, or has he become a liability?
This is a question that is very difficult to answer. At times, Jacobs is an unstoppable tank, rolling over defenders with ease. At other times, he is a timid deer in headlights as he shuffles and falls forward for two yards.
Whether or not Jacobs shows up this season I believe will greatly depend on how much time they allocate to him.
That is of course if he isn't traded, which is certainly a possibility at this point.
This is another question that only time will answer.
The Giants have 14 players on the roster who would be some kind of free agent this summer under the old CBA.
They have handed out restricted free agent tenders to six of them: Ahmad Bradshaw, Barry Cofield, Kevin Boss, Dave Tollefson, Mathias Kiwanuka and Steve Smith.
Bradshaw, Cofield, Boss and Tollefson all got second-round tenders, meaning that if they end up signing an offer, the Giants would be due a second-round pick from the team that signs them if they choose not to match.
Though Bradshaw is his own question, the others on the list are intriguing.
If I were working with Jerry Reese, I would make signing Smith a top priority, as he has been too valuable to let go. After that, I would probably retain Kiwanuka and Barry Cofield, but only Boss if he doesn't ask for too much money.
The non-tendered free agents and Dave Tollefson are expendable, and I would let them walk if I were the Giants.
Ahmad Bradshaw is the most important piece of the Giants' free agent puzzle. The former seventh-rounder has become a phenomenon and has proven himself far too talented to be taken for granted, despite his health issues.
Bradshaw can have 100-yard games with two fractured feet and is a fiery runner who gives his all on every single play. He can play the featured role or be the change-of-pace back.
This is one guy other teams will want to snatch up, and the Giants should not wait around, despite the tender. They should make him an offer as soon as the new CBA is in place to ensure he stays where he belongs.
The short answer to this question is, "Probably."
After twice missing the playoffs with a talented roster, Coughlin is likely to be under close scrutiny this season. It is almost certain he will be the coach of the Giants for the entire season, regardless of what happens.
However, if the team fails to make the playoffs again, expect to say goodbye to Coughlin because it is unlikely the organization and fans will stand for another failure.
The linebackers were a weak point in last year's defense. They are going to have to step up this season, especially since it looks like the team does not plan to bolster them via free agency.
The biggest thing they will have to do is contain the rush and the running quarterbacks. The corps of linebackers is too inexperienced to really be judged just yet, so they remain one of the biggest question marks of all.
The Eagles have won five straight games against the Giants. They had a miracle comeback in 2010 that all but ended the Giants' season, and they are possibly New York's most bitter rival. Since they have such high potential for 2011, it is imperative the Giants at least split the series with them.
The NFC is so crowded with contenders this season that no team should be hoping for a Wild Card within the conference. If the Giants allow the Eagles to sweep them, they will likely find themselves competing with three NFC South teams, the Cowboys and the entire NFC North for a Wild Card.
Much of the Giants' hopes for 2011 hinge on their two games against the Eagles. The way things went in 2010, these two games are by far the biggest question mark for New York's Big Blue in 2011.