New York Giants defensive end Justin Tuck may have said it best this past week when he said, “on paper, we’re the best team.”
While the Jets and Buffalo Bills continue to grab all of New York’s offseason headlines with their new acquisitions, the New York Giants will be the ones who will be the last team left standing on the back page of every newspaper in January.
Disregard last season's collapse and see the team for what they are, a veteran squad with just enough fresh blood to get any Super Bowl contender back to the promise land. And for that reason, the New York Giants will begin early dynasty talk after they capture their second Lombardi Trophy in three years.
It’s hard to ignore or forget just how devastating the loss of wide receiver Plaxico Burress will have on this Giants team. No one will miss his size and dependability more than Eli Manning, but any casual fan could tell you that.
What that fan might not be able to see is that in addition to hurting Manning, running backs Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw will find its harder to run when defenses stack eight men in the box instead of the usual seven because the Giants lack a deep receiving threat. If the Giants running game begins to struggle early on in the season, Manning will need to step up and take charge.
This will be Eli’s most challenging season yet, and for that matter, his most important. With no true number one receiver, Manning will have to establish himself all over again, find new targets, and be able to keep defenses honest. If Eli continues last year's lackluster performance into this upcoming season, the Giants are going to be at the bottom of a very competitive NFC East looking up at three giants in their own right.
But while Eli tries to figure out how to navigate his way through defensive backs and linebackers, the defense will be entering the 2009 season with direction issues of itsown.
Former Secretary of Defense Steve Spagnuolo has moved his office from the swirling winds of the Meadowlands to the climate controlled, dome-topped Edward Jones Stadium in St. Louis. He will be missed, but the question is how much?
With Spagnuolo gone, the defense must now find itself while trying to avoid the possible identity crisis that sometimes comes with new leadership.
If the defense has any hopes of continuing its dominance, the responsibility is going to fall to veteran linebacker Antonio Pierce. The defensive captain has been around the league for nine years now and is arguably one of the smartest members of the squad. For any engine to run properly it needs a conductor, Pierce needs to fulfill that role.
And like any veteran captain, the G-Men will count on Pierce not only for leadership, but to blend the new ingredients that have been added this offseason with the old formula to create a balanced chemistry.
With the addition of defensive tackles Chris Canty and Rocky Bernard, and linebacker Michael Boley, in addition to rookie Clint Sintim, the fierce defense that has ruled the field for the past few years have filled all their holes and patched up any wounds they may have carried over from last season. If the defense can solve these problems, the only thing they’ll have left to figure out is who will have the most sacks by the end of the season.
Should Eli find his way, and the defense take hold of Bill Sheridan’s direction, there would be nothing standing in the way of the Giants and the franchise's fourth championship.