I’ve recently been getting requests from my fellow AC producers to write previews for the upcoming 2007 NFL Season regarding the New York Giants and the Cleveland Browns. The reason I haven’t done so yet? Simple. Chances are this is going to be a very painful season for me as a football fan. Nevertheless, here is my outlook on what the future holds for the 2007 edition of the New York (football) Giants.
Anybody looking for a perfect analogy for the 2007 Giants need look no further than Sunday’s preseason contest in which the Giants faced off against Baltimore on the road. At times the Giants looked pitiful. Quarterback Eli Manning once again showcased that “dazed and confused” expression that Giants’ fans have learned to lament and mock through the years and Manning was also responsible for a lost fumble when he dropped the ball after taking the snap. There was no reason, no pass rush, no slippery surface. Eli just dropped the ball. Literally. Manning also put his talent on display, though, completing ten of thirteen attempts for 114 yards and a touchdown.
The defense was much more impressive against the Ravens than they were in the first preseason game against the Carolina Panthers. Against Carolina the Giants looked, for lack of a better description, pathetic on defense. The team missed tackles, blew coverage assignments, and brought up water-cooler discussions amongst fans on whether or not Rutgers would be able to drive down the field for a touchdown against the Giants. Last Sunday the Giants were far more aggressive on defense, executing well-timed blitzes and actually wrapping up ball carriers, a pleasant surprise for fans everywhere. The Giants even picked off Steve McNair on a nice play by cornerback Sam Madison.
However the Giants’ victory on Sunday didn’t come without some losses. Safety Will Demps went down with a dislocated elbow and Madison pulled a hamstring. The offense suffered two blows to wide receivers. Rookie Steve Smith suffered a concussion and Michael Jennings ruptured his Achilles tendon, effectively ending his 2007 season before it even began. All in all it was a day full of ups and downs.
What better way to describe this team as a whole?
Once again the Giants will begin the season with Eli Manning having to prove that he can be the elite quarterback that New York fans have been hoping for since the draft fiasco of 2004. With the very publicized retirement of star running back Tiki Barber the offense now completely belongs to Manning, who must prove that he can lead the Giants without a future Hall of Famer in the backfield. Barber will be replaced by Brandon Jacobs, a 260+ pound back used mostly in short yardage situations last season and Cleveland cast-off Reuben Droughns. Needless to say these two have large shoes to fill, replacing the greatest running back in the history of the Giants. Unfortunately they will be running behind an offensive line that is shaky and inconsistent.
The targets that Eli Manning will be throwing to are good but not great. Jeremy Shockey, the much talked-about and often talking tight end of the Giants, had a stellar season in 2006. Shockey pulled down 66 balls and six touchdowns last season. Wide-outs Amani Toomer and Plaxico Burress can be either excellent or terrible depending on the day. Michael Jennings and Steve Smith showed plenty of promise this preseason before their injuries. Smith should return at some point but the season is over for Jennings after Sunday’s game.
All the talk about the Giants’ defense has centered around whether or not Michael Strahan will return to the team. Strahan opted not to attend training camp and has been away from the Giants since the end of the 2006 season. Reports are coming in that he is leaning towards returning to the team and may very well do so before this article is even published. Nevertheless, the entire episode has been a distraction to the defensive squad and the team as a whole. His return is welcomed but will not be without the added headaches of waiting for Strahan to get back into “game shape” as well as dealing with the fines that Strahan has accumulated from missing out on practices, camps, and preseason games thus far.
The defense is full of more questions than answers at this point with Strahan being at the top of the list. Sam Madison missed four games last season due to injury. How will the injury he suffered on Sunday night affect him this year? Can the defensive unit improve on it’s lackluster tackling and coverage schemes? Last season the team seemed to lack basic fundamentals. The unit will need to vastly improve for this team to go anywhere.
The 2006 season was a roller coaster ride for the New York Giants. The Giants started hot, going 6-2 before they lost four straight games. The team ended the season 8-8 overall and limped into the playoffs before losing to the Eagles in the Wild Card round. Simply stated 8-8 won’t get the job done in the NFC East this season. Most experts are envisioning a down year for the G-men. Can the Giants exceed expectations?
Probably not. Too many questions surround practically every position of this team. Than there’s the whole Tom Coughlin situation. Can the players unite behind a coach that they cannot stand? Coughlin was given a one-year extension in the off-season, mostly because there were no suitable candidates to take his place. This is Coughlin’s final chance to prove what he can do in New York.
Overall, things look bleak for the Giants. I’m going to go out on a limb and pick the Giants to finish 7-9 this season. My gut, brains, and mind know better than to think this team will be even that good but I just can’t bring myself to completely give up on Manning just yet. Besides, Strahan may be all over the record books but he still doesn’t have that ring. That should motivate him. I hope.
Prediction: A generous 7-9