Wednesday, August 24, 2011

NFL 32 in 32: New York Giants

Last year was an up and down year for Big Blue. Most of the year was up, but for the few parts of the year that it was down, it was really down, and you don't need to remind a Giants fan of that. But, 2011 is a new year, and they are getting healthier (maybe), and a fresh sense of optimism (maybe again). Can the Giants have a rebound year?

What's New: There are plenty of new faces, but mainly due to departures and releases and not new signings. Gone are offensive line mainstays are Rich Seubert and Shaun O'Hara, who were both powerful forces on a very good offensive line, and replacing O'Hara is David Baas, a center from the 49ers. He has to replace one of the Giants better centers, although he will get help as the offensive line has gotten healthy again. More losses have mounted, as the Giants lost wideout Steve Smith to division rival Philadelphia, and TE Kevin Boss to Oakland. And, the Giants lost DT Barry Cofield to Washington. His replacement was going to be rookie Marvin Austin from North Carolina, but he is out for the season with an injury. There will also be an abundance of new faces in the secondary, due to the rash of injuries the Giants have had to deal with in training camp. 3 corners have already hit IR, and Prince Amukamura, the Giants first round draft choice, is out until at least the end of September with a broken foot. Veteran Brian Williams has just been signed in order to fill the voids.

Biggest Strength: While Eli Manning may think he is an elite QB, many disagree with him. Despite that, he is still very good and possesses great ability. He just needs to limit his turnovers, which he did not do last season. He still has his dynamic rushing duo in Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs, who may be the best running back tandem in the NFC. The offensive playmakers are good too, despite the offseason departures. Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham are both very good wideouts, and the Giants have high hopes for Tight End Travis Beckum, who will look to fill a void left by Kevin Boss, who went to Oakland. On defense, the Giants still have a menacing defensive line, despite controversy surrounding its premier player this offseason. They will rush the passer very well this season; better than most teams in the NFL will this season despite problems with injuries and contract negotiations. The linebacking corps is also very good, led by Mathias Kiwanuka and Michael Boley, and they will be a perfect complement to the defensive line.

Biggest Weakness: The secondary has just been ravaged by injuries in the last 2 seasons, and it has taken victims again this offseason. Off to IR are 2 top corners in Terrell Thomas and Bruce Johnson, and Prince Amukamura is out for awhile due to a broken foot, as mentioned before. They will try to make do with what they have, and that may include moving FS Antrel Rolle to corner, therefore leaving a void in the secondary. The turnover problem last year may also come up again this year, both with interceptions and fumbles. The Giants' loss of playmakers on offense may result in Eli Manning forcing the issue more, which will lead to more turnovers, and that is not what the Giants want to see. For their sake, and their fans sake, they would also like to see an improvement in punting.

Outlook: This team is still pretty good despite offseason losses and GM Jerry Reese basically sitting on his hands. They will be competitive in the NFC Wild Card race, mainly because of Eli Manning and that pass rush. Despite the fact that the Eagles outclass them in the NFC East race, they may still be better than teams like Arizona, Chicago, Tampa Bay and Detroit, all of whom they will be competing with for the second wild card spot in the NFC.

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