As far as offseasons and hot-stove action go, this isn't the best time to be a Giants fan. The Eagles have built a Heat-like juggernaut and the Jets have been snatching all the NY headlines and accolades.
But not all is lost. This team has talent and continuity on offense, two things that hold great value with the lockout in play.
Of course, obstacles exist. Up ahead are the top five (not only five) obstacles standing in the Giants way of a successful season. The top five, of course, not named the Eagles.
Mainstays Shaun O’Hara and Rich Seubert are now gone, unfortunate cap casualties. Former second-round pick Will Beatty slots in to play left tackle, though the Giants internally worry whether he has the intensity to hold the position after six lackluster NFL starts.
David Diehl, who last year beat out Beatty at LT, moves in to play left guard (which, by the way, costs him $750,000). Newly signed G/C David Baas will slot in at center, replacing O‘Hara. Baas is a converted guard who started all 16 games last year at center and drew solid reviews.
Chris Snee and Kareem McKenzie return to anchor the right side of the line, so at least Eli has that to be thankful for.
(Late Wednesday the Giants added Stacy Andrews, younger brother of Shawn Andrews, to provide depth. He started 12 games last year for Seattle at right guard. He’s not expected to compete at left tackle, especially since he never played the position.)
All in all, this line will have to gel and gel quick. The Giants, as recently as three seasons ago, had what was considered the best offensive line in the sport, but age, health and finance has forced them to rebuild on the fly.
This could be a bumpy ride.
First things first: Eli Manning is not an elite quarterback. But he’s consistent, serviceable and battle tested. Which is why it’s worrisome that Manning followed up his best statistical season two years ago with one of his worst, leading the league with 25 INTs (despite a career-high 31 TD passes).
To be fair, Giants receivers were guilty of tipping countless catchable balls to defenders, but that doesn’t explain away all the picks. Eli seems to have developed an unusual fear of negative sack yardage, relying instead on wild off-balance throws into coverage. While the offensive line did experience some injuries, the jump from 14 INTs to 25 and the drop from 30 sacks to 16 tells you that Eli might be trying to do a little too much.
The Giants need him to take care of the ball. His leadership will also be paramount in molding the offensive line as a single impenetrable unit (shameless 300 phalanx reference).
Returning. Punting. Kick coverage.
You name it, this team was bad at it. And it’s nothing new. The Giants have flat out stunk at this underrated portion of the game in the last few seasons. Last year this was amplified by the loss of Domenik Hixon, who will immediately slot back in as the Giants lead return man.
Last season they averaged 6.1 yards per punt return and 19.1 per kickoff. This doesn’t need analysis. This just needs to not happen again. And punter Matt Dodge was no help, kicking the ball far but wildly, sideline to sideline, and marked the turn of the Giants season—kicking directly to the Eagles’ DeSean Jackson to cap an epic fourth quarter collapse against the Eagles. Steve Weatherford, formerly a Jet, was brought in to compete for the job. By compete for we mean take.
In a tumultuous offseason the Giants added Larry Izzo as Assistant Special Teams Coach and draft picks Jerrel Jernigan and Jacquian Williams to the return and coverage teams respectively. The fact that the Giants targeted special teams in the draft specifically makes sense.
Will Osi Stick Around?
While the Giants hold all the cards in this showdown, Osi’s absence will undoubtedly hurt team chemistry in the long run, as players will be pressed daily by the gaggle of NY beat writers. The example he‘s setting, one of defiance, can not be allowed to continue.
Personnel wise, the Giants are covered with DE/LB Mathias Kiwanuka and sophomore DE Jason Pierre-Paul.
But how long will this last? If you asked me point blank, Osi has a point in that players are expected to honor contracts whereas the owners are not (see: O’Hara, Seubert) should the players break down due to age and injury.
But Osi originally signed a six-year deal for $41 million with $15 million of guaranteed money, a huge deal at the time. That deal netted him $21 million in the first three years. Osi was injured often enough during the contract term, missing one year entirely.
This madness has to end, and someone needs to take leadership on the matter. It may be time for co-owner John Mara to shelve the diplomatic rhetoric and sit down with Osi to broker a truce.
Is this Tom Coughlin’s last stand?
Osi’s shenanigans are just the latest in a series of player outbursts that display a lack of respect for a franchise that enjoys a premium image as one of the league’s flagships.
It’s already apparent with Antrel Rolle’s comments last year about coach Tom Coughlin and cornerback Aaron Ross’s outright refusal to play safety this season. And Justin Tuck, an admirable leader, simply doesn’t have the clout Michael Strahan or even Antonio Pierce had as Giants defensive leaders.
Coughlin has plenty of on the field matters to deal with—like the turnover epidemic that broke out on offense, game planning for a revamped Eagles "dream team," and avoiding a late-season collapse that has haunted the Giants annually since their Super Bowl win just a few years ago.
Coughlin was given a one-year extension so that he would avoid lame duck status. The Giants, as their unofficial policy dictates, don’t allow coaches to reach their lame duck season. So the extension was a formality. This team needs to come together, gel quickly and maintain a high level of play through December and into the playoffs. Otherwise, CBS might be losing one of its key analysts for the 2012 season.