Friday, August 29, 2008


As promised, this New York Giants preview was published in this week's New York Beacon (the website should be updated soon). Since it's flying off the shelves (I hope), it's available on Scribe. It also proves that the photo on your right hand side isn't a fake.

Champs Still Giant Underdogs in 2008
By Jason Clinkscales

A future Hall of Famer retires. A much-maligned quarterback still has something to prove despite a terrific postseason. A talented player felt slighted to the point of forcing a trade out of town. And now, one of the most feared young defenders in the NFL is out for the season.

So how much more difficult could it be for the Super Bowl champion New York Giants to defend their crown?

Barely having grasped the Vince Lombardi Trophy in February and the Giants were looked upon as a team that will have a hard time contending for a playoff spot, let alone repeating this year. The Dallas Cowboys were considered the best team in the NFC last season and are widely considered to be the best team in the entire NFL this year. New Orleans is a chic pick for a title contender, especially after adding now-former Giant tight end Jeremy Shockey through a trade last month. The Green Bay Packers, the team the Giants beat to reach Super Bowl XLII, still has a formidable team even though the young Aaron Rodgers takes over for new Jet Brett Favre. Add the familiarity of division foes in Philadelphia and Washington to a tougher schedule and the Giants have enough factors going against them headed into the season.

General Manager Jerry Reese had an outstanding first year in succeeding Ernie Accorsi, Super Bowl withstanding. In 2007, he was able to fill team needs with quality draft picks such as cornerback Aaron Ross and backup running back Ahmad Bradshaw while signing two key veterans in linebacker Kawika Mitchell and fullback Madison Hedgecock. This year, he hopes to have close to the same success with a few additions. Kenny Phillips was Reese’s first pick in April’s draft; a free safety from the University of Miami who will be groomed to eventually start in a position that allowed too many deep passes over the past few years. As for veterans, Danny Clark was brought in to replace the departed Mitchell, who left for Buffalo. Clark will play alongside MLB Antonio Pierce and has an advantage of knowing Coach Tom Coughlin’s style as he played for him in Boston College and Jacksonville. Renaldo Wynn signed as a free agent as Big Blue wanted to add depth to the defensive line after the retirement of Michael Strahan. Wynn will be leaned upon a bit more after a season-ending knee injury to Osi Umenyiora in last Thursday’s preseason game. Though a returning Mathias Kiwanuka will be moved back to the line after being shifted to linebacker before being injured last year, Wynn and Clark will become major factors in shoring up the weakside of the defense, especially considering that the Giants will play top-notch offenses in Cincinnati and Cleveland this year.

Offensively, the Giants could actually be a better team than in 2007, even without Shockey. Kevin Boss will be one of several tight ends who will try to make up for Shockey’s production as a receiver and run blocker. It will be the most scrutinized position other than quarterback, but considering the depth that the Giants have at other positions, they may not have the pressing need to replace Shockey’s receptions. At running back, the productive trio of Brandon Jacobs, Bradshaw and Derrick Ward paced New York into playoffs last year. Provided that Jacobs and Ward can play for all sixteen games, expect the Giants to once again have one of the league’s best running games. The right ankle of Plaxico Burress will be key for quarterback Eli Manning to improve upon his heady play in those playoffs. The two connected for seven touchdowns in the first six games last year before injuries kept Burress from leaping for high and long passes. Yet, Manning has Amani Toomer, Steve Smith and the emerging Dominick Hixon to toss the ball to as well. Manning leaned on his running game and made terrific throws to his receivers within 20 yards in the four playoff games. More importantly, when the games got close, he, along with offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride trusted their game plan as opposed to changing quickly to a hurry-up offense to get the passing game going. The same formula applies as the Giants will face tough defenses from Pittsburgh, Carolina, Seattle and Minnesota to go along with the NFC East.

There’s no rest for the weary or wounded, especially after winning the Super Bowl. Throughout the year, mistakes will be made and injuries will test the depth of this team. Even if the defense picks up the slack from the Umenyiora injury and the offense builds on their winter successes, the Giants will be underdogs more often than not just based on the talent from the rest of the league. Yet, this is a team that managed to win it all last year despite a 3-5 home record and criticism from every corner of the country. Be careful about counting them out again.


Anonymous said...

Added A Sports Scribe to my list of blog favorites. So far, I like it okay.


Jason Clinkscales said...

It's a constant work in progress... as the rest of my life. Many thanks for the comment.