TE George Wrighster, DT Chris Canty, DT Rocky Bernard, OLB Michael Boley, S C.C. Brown.
WR Hakeem Nicks, OLB Clint Sintim, OT William Beatty, WR Ramses Barden, TE Travis Beckum, RB Andre Brown, QB Rhett Bomar, CB DeAndre Wright, CB Stoney Woodson.
RB Derrick Ward, RB Reuben Droughns, WR Plaxico Burress, WR Amani Toomer, TE Darcy Johnson, TE Martrez Milner, OT Shane Olivea, C Grey Ruegamer, DE Jerome McDougle, CB R.W. McQuarters, CB Sam Madison, S James Butler, S Sammy Knight, K John Carney.
2009 New York Giants Offense:
My friend Terrence, an avid Eagles fan who calls the Giants, "the Vagiants," sent me an e-mail a few weeks ago: "It hasn't been updated in awhile, but you have the Vagiants as the No. 2 team power ranked! You do realize that Eli has the third-worst completion percentage aside from Vince Young and Derek Anderson over the past three seasons (yes, including their Superbowl season)? And you do realize that Plaxico Burress is no longer on the team?"
I was definitely aware that Manning's numbers are pretty miserable, and Plaxico Burress' exodus didn't elude me either. Nevertheless, the Giants are still one of my NFC favorites for a number of reasons, including the running game and the offensive line.
Individually, the Giants don't have many Pro Bowlers up front, but as a whole, they do a great job in both pass protection and run-blocking. New York as a whole averaged five yards per carry in 2008, as Brandon Jacobs, Derrick Ward and Ahmad Bradshaw were all over the five-yard threshold. Jacobs, a 6-4, 264-pound monstrosity, is nearly impossible to tackle; he rushed for 1,089 yards (on just 219 carries) and scored 15 touchdowns. Ward, who also eclipsed the 1,000-yard barrier, caught 41 balls for 384 receiving yards. Unfortunately, Ward signed with the Buccaneers, so Ahmad Bradshaw (67 carries, 355 rushing yards in 2008) and rookie Andre Brown (29 receptions as a senior at N.C. State) will take over his workload.
The deep offensive front, comprised of tackles David Diehl, Kareem McKenzie and rookie William Beatty, guards Rich Seubert and Chris Snee, and center Shaun O'Hara, yielded 27 sacks last season. Still, despite lots of time in the pocket and a great ground attack by his side, Manning has never been all that impressive statistically, though he has shown the ability to come through in the clutch, as we all saw about 18 months ago.
But if you're not like Terrence and you've never paid attention to Manning's stats, it may surprise you that he has never compiled a better completion percentage than 60.3, and his YPA has never been greater than 6.8. Both of those numbers came in 2008, despite Manning's sharp decline after the Burress incident. In Manning's final four games of the season, he completed just 54.6 percent of his throws on a horrific YPA of 5.7. Those are Ken Dorsey numbers.
Can Manning rebound even though Burress is gone for good? I think so. Manning has had an entire offseason to prepare for his opponents without Burress. Plus, the Giants spent a first-round selection on Hakeem Nicks. Sure, Nicks is just a rookie, but he's coming out of a pro-style offense and should be ready to play right away. At 6-1, 212, Nicks will be an imposing end-zone threat.
Meanwhile, Domenik Hixon was solid as a tertiary option last season. Starting just seven games, Hixon caught 43 balls for 596 yards. With another year of experience, he'll be an effective weapon across from Nicks.
Steve Smith (57 receptions, 574 yards) will continue to function as the slot receiver, while Kevin Boss (33 catches, 384 yards, 6 TDs) and rookie Travis Beckum should be able to do a solid job at tight end.
2009 New York Giants Defense:
Another major reason I have the Giants ranked so high is that their defense is among the league's best. Last year, New York's stop unit ranked fifth in points allowed (18.4 ppg), fifth in yardage, fifth versus the rush (3.6 YPC) and tied for 10th against the pass (6.7 YPA). And those numbers aren't even factoring in all of the lucrative acquisitions the team made this offseason.
The greatest addition the Giants made wasn't even a real addition. The team managed 42 sacks last year without the services of Osi Umenyiora, who tore his MCL in a preseason contest. Umenyiora, who had 13 sacks in 2007, has practiced just fine in minicamp, and appears to be ready to dominate once again.
Now that Umenyiora is back, New York easily has the deepest and most talented defensive line in all of football. With Umenyiora, Justin Tuck (12 sacks in 2008) and Mathias Kiwanuka (8 sacks) rotating at defensive end, and Barry Cofield, Fred Robbins, and the newly acquired Chris Canty and Rocky Bernard stacked at defensive tackle, the Giants could possibly record as many as 60 sacks in 2009. I'll also be shocked if they don't maintain a top-five ground defense.
With a suffocating pass rush, New York will see its pass defense ranking and interception total (17) improve. Cornerback Corey Webster had an incredible 2008 campaign, and was consequently awarded with a 5-year, $43.5 million extension in December. Across from Webster, Aaron Ross was a bit inconsistent, but is still a very good starting corner overall. With Umenyiora, Canty and Bernard in the mix, they'll be even better in 2009.
Strong safety Kenny Phillips started just three games as a rookie in 2008, but has emerged as a top defensive back in minicamp. A first-round selection 15 months ago, Phillips is too talented to keep out of the lineup. That said, that's exactly what free safety Michael Johnson was able to do last year. Johnson started 16 games in 2008 and managed to hold off Phillips until the rookie was moved to strong safety. The Giants also happen to be deep in the defensive backfield, thanks to free-agent addition C.C. Brown and 2008 second-round pick Terrell Thomas.
The linebacking corps was a bit of a weakness last season, but the Giants improved that area as well, signing Michael Boley to a 5-year, $25 million deal this offseason. Boley, who will play at weakside linebacker, was benched in 2008 because he fit poorly into Mike Smith's defense. The year before, Boley was playing on a Pro Bowl level.
In the middle, Antonio Pierce has been dominant in the past, but struggled in 2008. He turns 31 in October, so his best days are behind him. Meanwhile, Danny Clark and Clint Sintim will compete for the strongside linebacking gig. Despite being just a second-round rookie, Sintim is the clear-cut favorite over Clark, a 32-year-old veteran. Sintim had 11 sacks as a senior at Virignia last year. No surprise that the Giants were interested in him.
2009 New York Giants Schedule and Intangibles:
During their Super Bowl run, the Giants won all of their playoff games on the road and boasted about how they were "road warriors." That's pretty factual (they were 9-1 as visitors and 3-0 on neutral sites in 2007). They were 5-2 as visitors in 2008 if you exclude a loss to the Vikings where all the starters sat on the bench. Amazingly, the Giants are just 9-7 as hosts in the same stretch.
Lawrence "New York" Tynes hit a Super Bowl appearance-clinching 47-yard field goal in overtime of the NFC Championship at frigid Lambeau in January 2008. Unfortunately, Tynes was hurt last year, so the Giants had to go with 44-year-old John Carney. Tynes is healthy again, so Giants fans will be hoping that he can duplicate his 2007 numbers (23-of-27, 8-of-8 from 40-plus).
Despite being 6,000 years old, Jeff "Philadelphia" Feagles is still getting the job done. His punting average was pretty solid at 44.0, and that's even before factoring in that he nailed 23-of-64 attempts inside the 20.
The Giants didn't score on special teams, but the important thing is that they didn't allow a touchdown either. In fact, their punting team did a great job, limiting the opposition to 5.8 yards per return.
New York is one of the top squads in the NFL, so the team isn't going to lose too many games this year. Some potential roadblocks include: at New Orleans (Week 6), at Philadelphia (Week 8), San Diego (Week 9), Atlanta (Week 11), Philadelphia (Week 14), at Washington (Week 15), Carolina (Week 16) and at Minnesota (Week 17).
2009 New York Giants Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
2009 New York Giants Analysis: To finally answer Terrence's question, the Giants are so high in my 2009 NFL Power Rankings because they have an incredible running game, offensive line and defense. You win games in the trenches, and that's where New York happens to be particularly strong.
Now, could Eli Manning be a liability once again in the heavy January Meadowland winds? Of course. But then again, I wouldn't be shocked at all if the "Vagiants" win their second Super Bowl in three years.
Jerry Reese sure knows how to stockpile talent. He grabbed the best receiver left on the board at No. 29. Clint Sintim, a fringe first-rounder, should be the team's new starting strongside linebacker.
The crown jewel of this class, however, came at No. 60, when Reese took advantage of the ineptness of other general managers and grabbed William Beatty off the board. Beatty was the best second-tier left tackle in this class. Even though he doesn't fill a need, he provided way too much positional value to pass up. This is a concept that perennial non-playoff teams like the Lions and Bills haven't grasped.
I wasn't a fan of some of New York's late-round selections, including Rhett Bomar and Stoney Woodson, but who am I to question one of the top general managers in the NFL?
Grade given on 4/27/09: A+
2009 NFL Draft Picks:
29. Hakeem Nicks, WR, North Carolina
The Giants needed a massive receiver, and they got one. I have some concerns with Hakeem Nicks' work ethic, and I feel as though he should have gone in Round 2. Still, this is a good pick for the Giants because Nicks is a talented prospect and fills a position of dire need. (Pick Grade: B)
45. Clint Sintim, OLB, Virginia
Jerry Reese is once again showing us why he's one of the best general managers in the NFL. Clint Sintim, a fringe first-round prospect, fills a huge hole at strongside linebacker. (Pick Grade: A)
60. William Beatty, OT, Connecticut
Grand Theft Draft. There is absolutely no reason William Beatty should have even fallen out of the first round. Perhaps the Lions should study the Giants' draft strategy. (Pick Grade: A)
85. Ramses Barden, WR, Cal Poly-SLO
I'm not crazy about this pick, but it's certainly an intriguing one. Eli Manning asked for large targets going into the draft. Well, his wishes have been answered. (Pick Grade: B)
100. Travis Beckum, TE, Wisconsin
Some much-needed competition for Kevin Boss. Travis Beckum is nice value here. Jerry Reese strikes gold again. (Pick Grade: A)
129. Andre Brown, RB, N.C. State
The new Wind element in New York's running back rotation. Andre Brown is excellent value at the bottom of Round 4. (Pick Grade: A)
151. Rhett Bomar, QB, Sam Houston State
Could the great Andre' Woodson be finished in New York? The Giants have a bunch of solid backup quarterbacks, so I don't quite get this selection. Still, Jerry Reese has a proven track record, so this selection could really pan out. (Pick Grade: D)
200. DeAndre Wright, CB, New Mexico
Corner depth was somewhat of a need for the Giants going into the draft. DeAndre Wright is solid value here. (Pick Grade: B)
238. Stoney Woodson, CB, South Carolina
No value here, but it's the seventh round. (Pick Grade: C)
It might be corny to say that the Giants shot themselves in the foot last year, but at least it's accurate. In case you've been living under a rock, Plaxico Burress accidentally shot himself in the leg at a night club late in the year. Burress may have scored 1,000 points when the bullet struck his body, but New York really struggled to close out the year after this incident. Should the Giants bring Burress back and risk yet another distraction? That's something they have to decide.
Saints sign K John Carney
Chiefs sign WR Amani Toomer
Seahawks sign C/G Grey Ruegamer
Giants cut TE George Wrighster
Jets sign TE Martrez Milner
Giants cut TE Martrez Milner
Giants sign G Tutan Reyes
Giants sign RB Allen Patrick
Giants sign TE George Wrighster
Giants sign WR John Bodiford
Giants re-sign CB Kevin Dockery
Giants cut WR Plaxico Burress
Giants re-sign RB Danny Ware
Giants sign S C.C. Brown
Buccaneers sign RB Derrick Ward
Giants sign DT Chris Canty
Giants sign DT Rocky Bernard
Giants sign OLB Michael Boley
Giants re-sign RB Brandon Jacobs
Giants re-sign QB David Carr
Giants cut SS Sammy Knight
Giants cut RB Reuben Droughns
Giants cut CB Sam Madison
Wide Receiver: Plaxico Burress' status is in limbo. If he can't/isn't allowed to come back to the team, the Giants will need to find themselves a new No. 1 wideout. Someone in the second round like Kenny Britt or Hakeem Nicks would work. Drafted Hakeem Nicks and Ramses Barden
Two Linebackers: Antonio Pierce hasn't been the same player lately, and it looks like this season could be his last in New York. Meanwhile, the rotation of Bryan Kehl and Chase Blackburn at weakside linebacker had fans in tears, thinking back to the good old days when Kawika Mitchell was still on the roster. The Giants could be staring at James Laurinaitis at the bottom of Round 1; he can play weakside linebacker for a year and then move to the middle once Pierce is gone. Signed Michael Boley; drafted Clint Sintim
Safety: The Giants needed a safety across from Kenny Phillips going into the 2008 season. They haven't really found anyone worthy of being in the starting lineup yet, though moving Terrell Thomas to free safety is a possibility. If that happens, New York will need even more depth at cornerback. Signed C.C. Brown
Running Back: Earth, Wind and Fire worked really well last season, but with the former two being free agents, it looks like the Giants will need a second Wind. Get it, second Wind? Eh, never mind. A pass-catching back will be easy to find in the middle rounds of the 2009 NFL Draft. Franchised Brandon Jacobs; drafted Andre Brown
Cornerback: Just depth here. R.W. McQuarters is a free agent and Sam Madison won't be far behind. This is more of a need if Terrell Thomas moves to free safety. Tendered Kevin Dockery; drafted DeAndre Wright
2009 NFL Free Agent Signings:
Chris Canty, DT, Cowboys. Age: 26. Signed with Giants (6 years, $42 million; $17.25 million guaranteed)
Though he had somewhat of a down year in 2008, Chris Canty is still a decent defensive end in the 3-4.
Michael Boley, OLB, Falcons. Age: 27. Signed with Giants (5 years, $25 million; $11 million guaranteed)
What happened!? A year ago, Michael Boley was one of the most promising young linebackers in the NFL, and was consequently listed as a 4-star player on this chart. In 2008, Boley was benched. I'm listing him this high because he's just too talented not to rebound.
Rocky Bernard, DT, Seahawks. Age: 30. Signed with Giants (4 years, $16 million)
After registering nine sacks in 2005, Rocky Bernard has managed only 12 sacks in the next three seasons. Odds are against him rebounding.
C.C. Brown, S, Texans. Age: 26. Signed with Giants (1 year)
A proud member of the WF.com message boards, C.C. Brown broke his arm and missed most of the 2008 season. He should be brought back as a very strong backup.
Allen Patrick, RB, Browns. Age: 25. - Signed with Giants
Tutan Reyes, G, Jaguars. Age: 31. - Signed with Giants
John Bodiford, WR, Packers. Age: 27. - Signed with Giants
New York Giants Free Agents:
Salary Cap (As of Feb. 5): $11 million
Brandon Jacobs, RB. Age: 27. Re-signed with Giants (4 years, $25 million)
I have some concerns with Brandon Jacobs' durability, but he's still one of the top free agents available this spring. Jacobs has proven that he's nearly impossible to tackle, and his ability to wear down defenses is something the Giants can't afford to give away.
Derrick Ward, RB. Age: 29. Signed with Buccaneers (4 years, $17 million; $6 million guaranteed)
Derrick Ward averaged 5.6 yards per carry this season and also caught 41 passes. However, his age makes him a risky multi-year signing for anyone. Also, Ward didn't carry the ball more than 20 times in any game in 2008.
Plaxico Burress, WR. Age: 32.
There's a very good chance Plaxico Burress will be going to jail. If he somehow gets out of that, he'll probably be suspended. Call me crazy, but Burress' stock isn't too high right now.
David Carr, QB. Age: 30. Re-signed with Giants (1 year, $1 million)
This may sound crazy, but David Carr actually looked very impressive against Minnesota's first-string defense in Week 17. Carr completed 8-of-11 attempts for 110 yards and a score. I'd like to see him get one more shot with a capable coaching staff.
James Butler, S. Age: 26. Signed with Rams (4 years, $14 million)
James Butler, the starting strong safety for the Giants, wasn't a big liability or anything, but he certainly wasn't a strength either. New York could use an upgrade at the position.
John Carney, K. Age: 45. Signed with Saints
John Carney was great in the regular season, hitting 35-of-38 attempts, including 6-of-8 from 40-plus. However, he was awful in a playoff loss to the Eagles, missing on two crucial kicks.
Grey Ruegamer, C/G. Age: 33. Signed with Seahawks
One of the more capable backup offensive linemen in the NFL.
Amani Toomer, WR. Age: 34. Signed with Chiefs (1 year)
It's sad, but we may not be able to hear Chris Berman say "Well-Dressed Amani Toomer" much longer. Toomer caught 48 passes for 580 yards and four touchdowns in 2008. His last 1,000-yard season came in 2003.
Kevin Dockery (RFA), CB. Age: 25. - Re-signed with Giants (1 year, $1.545 million)
George Wrighster, TE. Age: 28.
Danny Ware (ERFA), RB. Age: 24. - Re-signed with Giants
Divisional Rival History: Dallas Cowboys: After losing to the Giants two games in a row, the Cowboys were finally able to claim revenge in a December home game. However, that was Dallas' final victory of the season. Philadelphia Eagles: The Giants were 3-0 against the Eagles with Steve Spagnuolo. However, everything changed when Plaxico Burress shot himself. New York lost to the Eagles as a pretty big home favorite twice late in the year - one of which was a playoff contest. Washington Redskins: The Giants dominated the Redskins in two meetings this season. They won the two contests by a combined score of 39-14.
Features to be Posted This Offseason:
2009 NFL Draft Grades (Pick-by-Pick NFL Draft Grades as well - Live on Draft Day!)