Divisional Status Check — New York Giants

Eli Manning Wife2008 Record:  12-4
2007 Record:  10-6

The 2007 Super Bowl Champions were the consensus best team in the NFL until December.  Then a series of unfortunate events (nagging injuries, Plaxico shooting himself, Eli having to throw a football in the wind) led to an unraveling of sorts, and the G-men lost four of their last five games (two to the Birds).

Free Agents
Brandon Jacobs (UFA)
Derrick Ward (UFA)
Amani Toomer (UFA)
David Carr (UFA)
Anthony Wright (UFA)
Danny Ware (RFA)
Jon Carney (UFA)
Grey Ruegemer (UFA)
Kevin Dockery (RFA)
RW McQuarters (UFA)

Brandon Jacobs and Derrick Ward both ran for over 1000 yards and 5 yards per carry.  The third back, Ahmad Bradshaw, had 350 yards and he too ran at a clip well over 5 ypc.  That is absurd and truly credit is due both to the running backs and to the offensive line, which has become the best in the NFL.  All five of the starting linemen are under contract and should be playing on opening day next year.

The strength of a strong Giants’ defense is still the defensive ends.  Justin Tuck has truly been the gem of the Jerry Reese era, and his 12 sacks led the team this year.  With the return of Osi Umenyiora in 2009, the Giants will once again feature dominant pass rushers on both ends of the defensive line.

For how great the Giants’ front four has been over the years, they have continued to mask a glaring weakness with the linebacker group.  The Giants finished 21st in the NFL defending the TE, and 31st defending the RB.  Antonio Pierce, a heady player who spends a lot of time in the film room (presumably eating), is as slow as any MLB in the NFL.  Danny Clark and Chase Blackburn are replacement level players, and while the Giants like what they see out of Gerris Wilkinson, he has yet to earn a full time gig.

The Giants were also quite bad with kick coverage (their kickers also share some blame), finishing 31st in the NFL.

Where They Go From Here
As discussed here, the Giants have a really interesting and challenging off-season ahead of them.  The Plaxico situation will need to be handled delicately, especially if they are entertaining the notion of bringing him back.  They need to address their weakness at linebacker, and there should be options available (like Arizona’s Karlos Dansby).

The wide receiver problem is their most pressing.  Will the Giants go into 2009 claiming Steve Smith as their #1 WR?  If that happens expect a disaster for young master Eli.  This is another position where their will be plenty of options (Housh, Antonio Bryant, Michael Clayton, and perhaps the NY media obsession Anquan Boldin in trade to name a few).

The Giants will re-sign Brandon Jacobs, and their is plenty of talk of them pursuing Tennessee’s Albert Haynesworth.  That would be quite an addition for this defense.

Draft Expectations:  Linebacker, secondary, wide receiver, offensive line

The Giants may be the team in the NFC East that looks most different come 2009.  They are going to be forced to address some vital positions, and the pressure is on GM Jerry Reese to come up big.

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