Sunday, March 8, 2009

A Look at the Giants' Offseason Thus Far

Coming into the offseason, I thought there were some key positions the Giants management needed to address: in order of importance, 1) Linebacker, 2) Wide Reciever, 3) Safety, 4) Offensive line depth, 4a) Defensive line depth.

Giants' GM Jerry Reese.

GM Jerry Reese and his staff have made some great moves thus far. Let's take a closer look at each position...


With the 2007 championship season being the lone exception, the Giants have struggled to find consistency at the linebacker position, exlcuding, of course, Antonio Pierce in the middle. In my opinion, it is the weakest component of the defense, and the Giants need to find some personnel who can elevate this group out of mediocrity.

The Giants have drafted linebackers the past few seasons, but none have materialized into strong players yet. The team's two rookies last season, Bryan Kehl and Jonathan Goff, both struggled with injuries, though Kehl did show some flashes of his athleticism and play-making ability in limited action. Zach DeOssie, drafted the previous season, and veteran walk-on Chase Blackburn are great special teams players but neither should start (as Blackburn did) for a potentially elite defense. The same applies for Danny Clark, although I really admire Clark's attitude and work ethic. Finally, the staff was very high on Gerris Wilkinson when they drafted him three years ago, but up to this point, it seems like he's had more knee injuries than tackles.

Even Pierce leaves some questions. His value now lies more in his role as emotional leader and field general than on on-field performance. He was in the Pro Bowl a few seasons ago, but has shown signs of slowing down over the past few seasons. In short, the unit needs a makeover.

The Giants made a major move signing free agent LB Michael Boley from Atlanta to start on the weak side next year. Boley brings speed and athleticism to the position, improving the unit's pass coverage ability and pass rushing scheme. He was a leading tackler on the Falcons a few seasons ago, but struggled under new coach Mike Smith's system last year, and lost his starting job. Coughlin and co. think he will flourish again in the Giants' scheme, behind their stellar defensive line. I'm optimistic...

Wide Reciever

Unlike LB, wide receiver is a position where the Giants have enjoyed great productivity and depth over the past few seasons. That all changed of course when Plaxico Burress dodged a bullet last year and shot himself in the leg. I say "dodged a bullet" because the moron's lucky he didn't kill or cripple himself or more importantly, someone else.

Plaxico Burress faces felony gun possession charges, which carry a minimum sentence of 3 1/2 years.

The Giants offense was not nearly as productive without Burress on the field, if not for his numbers then simply for the threat he poses to opposing defenses. With his legal status still up in the air, and the all-but-certain departure of veteran Amani Toomer, the receiving corps is suddenly looking a bit short-handed. Yes, there are still four young talented players on the roster in Steve Smith, Domenik Hixon, Sinorice Moss and Mario Manningham, but none of them were able to step up sufficiently at the end of last season and say "I'm the man, give me the ball." People are quick to blame Burress for the Giants premature exit from the playoffs. I'd say the young guns' failure to execute is just as - if not more - to blame.

How the Giants address this issue remains to be seen. A lot of it will depend on whether or not Plax goes to jail. The Giants have repeated that they would welcome him back if he gets things together. If he does do time, trading for a big-name reciever, trading up or staying put to draft a WR are other possible options.

I'm pretty sure Reese will wait until Burress's trial is over to make any moves. The Giants are looking at around 10 draft picks this year and it's unlikely so many rookies will make the team, so a trade is viable. Tory Holt, Braylon Edwards and Anquan Boldin are all names that have been thrown around. Of the three I like Boldin the best, but all have some drawbacks. Trading up to get a Michael Crabtree might also be possible. Again though, I don't expect we'll see any developments in this regard until the conclusion of Burress's trial at the end of the month.


Safety is a position of need for the Giants solely for a lack of depth. The Giants released veteran Sammy Knight and let starter James Butler become a free agent, leaving only Michael Johnson and last year's first round pick Kenny Phillips at the position. I'm excited for Philips to be a starter and okay with letting Butler go. His emergence would add a great deal to an already talented, young secondary.

The G-men signed former Texan S C.C. Brown to a one-year deal this week to add some depth and potentially compete for a starting job. Reese has had a good-eye for mid-tier talent and I'm curious to see what Brown can do for me (Haaaaaa!). There are a few other veterans out there who I wouldn't mind seeing in a Giant uniform, including Darren Sharper. We'll see who else the team brings in in the coming months.

Offensive Line Depth

Depth has been an issue on the offensive line for a few seasons now. Thankfully, the starting unit is outstanding and has been very durable the past two years. The same five guys have started every regular season game the past two seasons. Part of this is toughness, part of it luck, and from where I stand the Giants can't afford to continue to rely on luck.

The most glaring weakness is back-up tackle. The Giants have been developing young guys like Kevin Boothe and Guy Whimper the past few years into serviceable back-ups. Boothe, a converted guard, saw some action last year as RT Kareem McKenzie was bothered by injuries. Watching him get burned around the edge a few too many times though, I'm hoping the Giants look to one of their three picks in the first two rounds of the draft to bring in a young tackle with a little more athlecism and ability.

As for the interior of the line, the Giants have had a solid sixth man to rely on the past few seasons in Grey Ruegamer. Ruegamer can play all three interior positions and when he has filled in, he's performed fairly well. He started at center for an injured Shawn O'Hara in the 2008 Wild Card game in Tampa . Ruegamer is a 10 year veteran and a free agent. I'd personally like to see him resign though I'm not sure what management has planned. Perhaps they're going to shift Boothe back to a full-time guard.

Defensive Line Depth

On the other side of the ball, it's much the same story. It's hard to claim that a defensive line that features two Pro Bowl DE's (Osi and Tuck), a DT that was the best defensive player on the team last season for the first 6 games (Fred Robbins), and two other talented young starters (Kiwi and Cofield), needs any help. However, as we saw last year with the loss of Osi in preseason, and the decline in the line's productivity as the season wore on, having enough talent to offset injuries and wear and tear is essential, especially for a team that hangs its hat on the pass rush.

I was anticipating the Giants would address this during the offseason, but I thought they would have done it through the draft with a DE in the early rounds. Perhaps they still will. But Jerry Reese went the free agency route and brought in some big-time talent in Rocky Bernard and Chris Canty. These players not only add depth, but versatility as well. The Giants' pass rush is poised to return to its Super Bowl-winning form.

So far, so great...

All in all, I'm very pleased by how the Giants have addressed their offseason needs. The defense is in great shape, especially up front. The one drama remains Plaxico's legal issues and how they affect the receiving corps. If Burress avoids jail time, I would welcome him back, provided he's got his head together. If that is not an option, I think that the Giants have a surplus of draft picks that they can use to trade up or trade for a veteran receiver.

Keep up the good work, Big Blue!

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