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Giants preview: Eli, recharged defense will lead team back to playoffs

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Giants preview: Eli, recharged defense will lead team back to playoffs

Post  Big_Pete on Tue Sep 07, 2010 10:34 pm

Giants preview: Eli, recharged defense will lead team back to playoffs
Giants Blog

Last Updated: 4:49 PM, September 7, 2010

Posted: 2:40 AM, September 7, 2010

The Giants of 2010 are eager to prove they have more in common with the 2009 club that raced out of the gate 5-0 and nothing like the bumblers who plummeted to a 3-8 record over the last 11 games, a swoon that turned into their first non-playoff team in five years.

In order to ensure no repeat of a horrid defensive meltdown, they have re-fortified the secondary, used their first two draft picks on defensive linemen and hired a new coordinator. Still, the Giants haven’t fostered many believers, as they’re a popular pick to finish no higher than second in the NFC East. From within, there’s a feeling that this could be a more talented roster than the one that surged to the Super Bowl title three years ago.

As the Giants last season learned the hard way, what’s on the roster doesn’t always translate to what’s on the field.

A look at the 2010 Giants:


The gang’s all here from 2009, as the front office clearly believes the assembled talent is strong enough to return the cast virtually intact, with no important additions.

Eli Manning, from a statistical standpoint, is coming off his finest season (career-high 27 TD passes, 62.3 completion percentage, 4,021 yards), more impressive given that his rushing attack wasn’t nearly as effective as it has been in previous years. Manning is in complete control of the operation and has tremendous leeway as far as changing plays at the line.

There was no experience behind him, which is why the trade went down for Sage Rosenfels, who at 32 is a 10-year veteran, unlike virtual novice Rhett Bomar, who was sent packing in the cutdown to 53.

Manning’s young receivers handled themselves quite well last season. Steve Smith set a franchise record with 107 catches, led the league with 38 third-down receptions and is a state-of-the-art possession target, but not a breakaway threat. Hakeem Nicks set franchise rookie receiving records and his 16.8-yard average indicates how much of a weapon he is with the ball in his large hands. Mario Manningham has great talent and is very elusive, but needs to get tougher and more reliable.

After leading the NFL in 2008, the running game slumped badly, with Brandon Jacobs (knee) and Ahmad Bradshaw (both feet, one ankle) slowed by injuries that required offseason surgeries. A return to form is essential, especially for Jacobs, who must prove he can be the punishing runner he has been in the past, but not lately. Bradshaw likely will lead the team in rushing, as long as he can stay on the field.

The line sagged a bit in ‘09 because of age and nagging injuries, but the five-man unit is back again for what looks to be a final roundup. It’s a savvy, veteran, smart group, anchored by RG Chris Snee, LT David Diehl and C

Shaun O’Hara. The key will be if RT Kareem McKenzie (who’s in great shape) and LG Rich Seubert (coming off shoulder surgery) can hold up, or else newly-signed Shawn Andrews is waiting in the wings.

Grade: B+


Inept and humbled is no way to run a defense, which is why there was another major emphasis on getting this unit righted after a disastrous 2009 showing.

There are enough athletes to get the job done. Now it’s up to new coordinator Perry Fewell to organize the many parts into a cohesive unit and not outsmart himself.

Up front, few teams can match the defensive end firepower of Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora, Mathias Kiwanuka and rookie Jason Pierre-Paul in terms of pure get-after-the-quarterback talent. The trick is to stop leaning on past success and future potential and get it done in the here and now. If he can stay healthy, Chris Canty at tackle looks ready for a redemptive season alongside steady Barry Cofield, with large rookie Linval Joseph and rejuvenated Rocky Bernard serving as capable reserves.

The back end’s success will fall largely on the health of safety Kenny Phillips, returning from microfracture knee surgery. If he’s again a star on the rise, the position is well-stocked with newcomers Antrel Rolle and Deon Grant, who both arrive with tangible leadership qualities. There are three starting-caliber cornerbacks in Corey Webster, Terrell Thomas and Aaron Ross, but Ross is slowed by plantar fasciitis and has to get rid of the injury bug.

Linebacker? You had to ask. Could be serviceable if 33-year-old Keith Bulluck comes back from reconstructive knee surgery to regain the form he showed for 10 years in Tennessee. Michael Boley is solid on the outside but

Jonathan Goff is unproven in the middle. Clint Sintim, a second-round pick a year ago, thus far has been disappointing.

Fewell, in training camp, showed multiple fronts and all sorts of different schemes, including allowing his cornerbacks to keep their eyes on the opposing quarterback long enough to perhaps come away with more interceptions. There’s no doubt Fewell is an upbeat personality and emotional leader but he must be able to tap into the deep talent level and motivate a group that was rudderless last season.

Grade: B


Yikes! Two huge losses from last season are the retirement of punter Jeff Feagles and year-ending knee surgery for Domenik Hixon.

Trying to replace the ever-consistent Feagles is Matt Dodge, a rookie seventh-round draft pick with a wonderfully strong leg that produces alarmingly inconsistent results. Get ready for an adventure as he endures growing pains. He’s also serving as the holder, a job he’s never done

efore. Lawrence Tynes is a fairly reliable field goal kicker who can handle pressure but needs to continue to get his kickoffs deeper.

The return game without Hixon is a mess. CB Aaron Ross was looking good on punts but has been slowed by plantar fasciitis, likely taking him out of the running here. RB Andre Brown looks just OK on kickoffs and punt returns

could fall to rookie WR Victor Cruz unless Mario Manningham gets busy. There wasn’t anything dynamic going on here, which is why the trade with the Vikings for Rosenfels also included Darius Reynaud, a speedster from West Virginia who could make an impact.

Grade: C


It’s dramatic to characterize Tom Coughlin as being on the hot seat, but in reality he’s firmly established and very well regarded by ownership, which admires that Coughlin is all business all the time. Now, that doesn’t mean he’s got a lifetime contract and it is certainly advisable for him to cajole his club into a solid, winning season.

He missed badly a year ago with the promotion of Bill Sheridan to defensive coordinator. Perry Fewell is the new director of defense and aside from his obvious enthusiasm, he must prove all his new schemes are more than fancy window dressing. Kevin Gilbride returns to run the offense and he sticks to Coughlin’s desire to run a balanced attack.

Grade: B



After one-year absence, the Giants return to the playoffs, finishing second in the NFC East to the Cowboys.




Do you have to ask? The sight of Eli Manning with blood gushing from his forehead probably caused hearts in the Giants hierarchy to skip a beat. He’s the beginning, middle and end of the entire offense and indispensable, especially considering what’s behind him.


Keith Bulluck. Every top defense needs someone to orchestrate, lead and excel. He doesn’t have to be a star but he does have to be a presence. Bulluck is trying to beat the odds at 33, coming off ACL surgery. If healthy, he’s the man for the job.


Dare you to take your eyes off Jason Pierre-Paul when he’s on the field. This first-round draft pick is as raw and rare as uncooked Kobe beef, but he’s got immense potential and uncommon physical skills. He will make plays by accident.


Terrell Thomas. The guy’s got all the measurable attributes to be a top cover cornerback, plus he’s loaded with the proper amount of swagger/confidence/arrogance to deal with the ups and downs of the position.


Cowboys, Nov. 14 at New Meadowlands Stadium. This will be the second time in three games these NFC East rivals square off. Dallas is the heavy favorite to repeat as division champ and holding serve at home is imperative if the

Giants want a say in the matter.


Deciding when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em on the offensive line. If LG Rich Seubert or RT Kareem McKenzie -- a pair of proud veterans -- shows increased signs of age and wear and tear, there’s second-year Will Beatty waiting in the wings, versatile David Diehl able to switch positions and possibly newcomer Shawn Andrews to plug in.


The passing game isn’t up to speed, at least early in the season. All the key components spent time this summer watching from the side with various ailments, and the timing and execution could suffer.


Hearing ace play-by-play man Bob Papa intone “Matt Dodge back to punt from his own 15-yard line. He nails a line-drive 60-yarder. DeSean Jackson hauls it in with plenty of running room. He eludes the first Giant. ...”

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