With another Giants season fading quickly into a distant memory and the Super bowl less than a week away, Giants fans can begin to accept that this was never a team of destiny in 2009. Only a biased observer would try and argue that these Giants could have given either Indy or New Orleans a run for their money this year in Miami. The Colts and Saints deserve to be the final two standing today even after late season “collapses” that led many talking heads to predict an early exit for both or at least one of them in this year’s playoffs. Hopefully, the Giants will be watching on Sunday as these two goliaths match up against one another, because this team has much to learn if they want to get back to their own championship hopes. This is not to say that this team is far away, personnel wise, from competing for the Lombardi Trophy once again, but there is much work to be done, and the Giants must rededicate themselves physically and mentally to get back to playing at this point in the season.
As unimaginable as it may be, it seems obvious it is the defense that needs a complete renovation at almost every level. Just two years removed from their remarkable run through the playoffs, things have taken a complete 180 on that side of the ball. Bill Sheridan was a disaster, especially in contrast to the genius of Steve Spagnuolo who seemed to squeeze maximum effort out of this group every game. Injuries, also, showed a true lack of depth behind the starters, this can be traced back to the GM Jerry Reese who must be evaluating the team’s personnel on a day-to-day basis even when there appears to be no holes in the lineup.
Offensively, the team may have taken a step forward in 2009. Eli Manning had arguably the best season of his career. He led the Giants with the 8th ranked scoring offense in the league, however offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride didn’t seem willing to let him take over offensively in some games, instead reverting back to a 2007 mindset when the running game led the way in dominant fashion. This kind of backwards thinking will cause teams to falter after good years. This can be the difference for teams creating success year in and year out, and is how the Patriots won three Super bowls in five years. The receiving corps turned out to be quite formidable after the loss of Plaxico Burress, it was the running game that seemed to lack identity, never managing to have the right back on the field in the right situation. There is some shuffling to be done on the offensive line but other than that this group seems prepared to put up some points in 2010/11.
The following is a concise analysis looking ahead to the 2010 offseason:
RB: Brandon Jacobs is either at the end of the line, worn out from a bruising style of rushing, or a readjustment is needed to get him back to the bulldozer he naturally is. Giving Jacobs 10-15 carries a game is not enough for a running back who thrives on wearing out the defense over a game until he is literally running through defenders, I understand the thinking is that this would preserve him over a season and it worked but he was virtually ineffective and seemingly unmotivated especially on some of the 3rd and 1’s that were not converted by the big man.
QB: Nothing needs to be said here, Eli Manning was fantastic this year, 93.1 passer rating, over 4,000 yards thru the air, and 27 touchdown passes make him a serious threat to enter the elite status of quarterbacks that only a handful in the league can lay claim to.
WR: This young corps of receivers must make Eli Manning excited at the prospect of the future. Dominick Hixon is a restricted free agent and could become unrestricted if 2010 becomes an uncapped year. It would be great to be able to bring him back but he won’t be worth it if he demands top dollar in the offseason. Hackeem Nicks and Mario Manningham appear to be a formidable top two for some time to come.
OL: This group has been a staple of the Giants offense for some time but they appeared to lose some push as the season wore on. With Will Beatty waiting in the wings, it would appear the best option would be to cut Kareem McKenzie who regressed tremendously with the season. Even the likes of Rick Seubert and David Diehl should have their talent evaluated; other avenues should be evaluated and considered leaving no stone unturned.
DL: The defensive line was assumed to be one of the top units in the league before the year started but this hypothesis proved disastrous and disappointing can only begin to encompass how bad they were. Barry Cofield may turn out to be a free agent in which case he should be allowed to walk. Fred Robbins is now a shadow of his former self and should be cut immediately. And although there may be Giants fans out there willing to give this man another year in which to redeem himself, Osi Umenyiora should be given the axe as well, keeping him will only lead to more disappointment next year, I assure you. The Giants should do everything they can to grab Elvis Dumervil who would be looked at as the second coming of Umenyiora, before he broke down.
LB: With Antonio Pierce expected to not be retained; this group surely needs to be revamped. With who or through what kind of acquisition is up in the air. The draft is one option with Florida’s Brandon Spikes expected to be on the Giants radar come April. Demeco Ryans is on the market, as well as Karlos Dansby and both should be given a look.
CB: The secondary has a chance to redeem itself potentially come next season. Corey Webster, Terrell Thomas and Aaron Ross are formidable to good players that could have a great season if safety Kenny Phillips comes back in good shape from knee surgery. CC Brown should be cut however; this evaluation does not mean the Giants should not pursue upgrades at literally every position on the defensive side.
Expect a lot of hard work this offseason from Reese or you can watch for his head to be on the chopping block come next year.