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2007 Season Previews
New York Giants (Last Year: 8-8)
Veteran Additions:
QB Anthony Wright, RB Reuben Droughns, G Zach Piller, DT Marcus Bell, OLB Kawika Mitchell, S Michael Stone, K Lawrence Tynes.
Draft Picks:
RB Ahmad Bradshaw, WR Steve Smith, TE Kevin Boss, OT Adam Koets, DT Jay Alford, MLB Zak DeOssie, CB Aaron Ross, S Michael Johnson.
Major Subtractions:
RB Tiki Barber, WR Tim Carter (CLE), TE Vishanthe Shiancoe (MIN), OT Luke Petitgout (NYG), OT Steve Edwards, OT Lewis Kelly, OLB LaVar Arrington, OLB Carlos Emmons, OLB Brandon Short, CB Frank Walker (GB), K Jay Feely (MIA).

Offense This Year: Of all the offensive and defensive units that may have taken a step backward this offseason, the Giants' scoring attack probably regressed more than any of them. New York has never had trouble scoring in the past; the team averaged 22.2 points per game last year, as Eli Manning threw for 24 touchdowns, and Tiki Barber compiled 2,127 total yards and five trips to the end zone. Unless you've been living under a rock, you heard that Barber has retired to pursue a career in spewing large, indecipherable words on national TV.

The Giants can plug whomever they want at running back, but they won't be able to replace Barber. The now-retired running back rushed for 1,662 yards at a 5.1 clip - 0.7 higher than his counterpart, Brandon Jacobs - and was a potent option in the aerial attack (58 receptions). Jacobs, meanwhile, caught just 11 passes in 2006. Without Barber in the backfield, opposing defenses won't have to stack the line of scrimmage, and will be able to focus more on Plaxico Burress (63 receptions, 988 yards, 10 TDs) and Jeremy Shockey (66 catches, 623 yards, 7 TDs).

Frankly, I don't understand Barber's decision to retire. He had at least two more great years left in the tank. I think it was downright selfish to leave the team. He hurt the fans, robbing them of a possible trip to the Super Bowl. The person who was hurt most by this, however, was Eli Manning, who will undoubtedly struggle without a potent weapon in the backfield. Jacobs has the ability to trample defenders, but he is not a threat in the passing game. Neither is Reuben Droughns, whom the Giants signed this offseason. Defenders will obviously be more focused on collecting numerous sacks against Manning; it's safe to say his sack total of 25 will increase significantly.

It doesn't help that half of the offensive line stinks. The oft-injured but effective Luke Petitgout is gone, so David Diehl, a natural guard, will be forced to protect Manning's blind side at left tackle. Replacing Diehl at left guard will be the unspectacular Rich Seubert. Thankfully, the right side has stayed intact; I expect Jacobs and Droughns to run behind center Shaun O'Hara, guard Chris Snee and tackle Kareem McKenzie.

If things weren't bad enough, the Giants also have issues at wide out. Burress, while talented, has a habit of taking plays off whenever he feels like it, a la Randy Moss. Amani Toomer, the oft-hobbled No. 2 receiver, will be celebrating his 33rd birthday in September. Toomer hasn't registered more than 750 yards since 2003. Depth is also a problem. With Tim Carter gone, the third wide out will either be second-year Sinorice Moss, who managed a whopping five catches last year, or rookie Steve Smith. I've got my money on the latter, though I'm not exactly sure how effective he'll be in his first NFL season.

Defense This Year: For a defense that surrendered 22.6 points per game last year, it would be easy to say that New York's entire stop unit is also a mess. The defense was ranked seventh against the run and possessed three outstanding pass rushers. So, how in the world did it allow a significant amount of points nearly every week? Let's investiage.

We should start with the defensive line. Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora were both capable of producing double-digit sacks, though it should be noted that the former missed seven games last year. Strahan's healthy now, but that's not my concern. The fact that Strahan is coming off an injury and will be celebrating his 36th birthday in November is a major issue. He's definitely past the age of regression, and I think his days of collecting 10 or more sacks has come to an end. The Giants drafted Mathias Kiwanuka to eventually take Strahan's place, but that won't happen this season, given that Kiwanuka has moved to strong-side linebacker to fill the void at that position. I believe Umenyiora will get his sacks, but Strahan won't, further damaging one of the worst secondaries in the NFL.

I think it's safe to say New York isn't satisfied with Sam Madison, whom it gave a 4-year deal to an offseason ago. Madison, along with fellow corner Corey Webster, and free safety Will Demps completely struggled in 2006. The Giants drafted cornerback Aaron Ross, but I'm not sure a late first-round rookie can be effective in his initial NFL campaign. The fact that the Giants yielded about 3,650 passing yards last year wasn't an accident; if Strahan's no longer capable of consistently getting to the quarterback, that number could be even worse in 2007.

As I mentioned earlier, Kiwanuka had to move to linebacker to fill a hole left by LaVar Arrington. Thankfully, the Giants are solid at the other two slots. Antonio Pierce is one of the top middle linebackers in the conference, while the newly acquired Kawika Mitchell was one of the few effective defenders the Kansas City Chiefs possessed over the past couple of years. Kiwanuka, Pierce and Mitchell should work well with defensive tackles Barry Cofield and Fred Robbins to maintain their efficiency against the run. Unfortunately, opposing offenses should be able to throw all over them.

Schedule and Intangibles: Jay Feely (23-of-27) is out. Lawrence Tynes (24-of-31 with Kansas City) is in. Not exactly the greatest swap in the world, but not the worst one either. ... The Giants failed to return a punt or a kickoff for a touchdown. At least they prevented teams from scoring one. ... New York should be pleased with its schedule, as it seems pretty balanced; Minnesota, Detroit, Green Bay and possibly San Francisco could be easy victories. New England, Chicago and the Jets, meanwhile, could pose too big a challenge for a team that lost its best player.

Additional Reading: Endless Banter coming soon.

Positional Rankings (0-4 stars):
Quarterbacks
Offensive Line
Secondary
Running Backs
Defensive Line
Special Teams
Receivers
Linebackers
Coaching


Divisional Rival History:
Dallas Cowboys: The two teams have split the past couple of years, although that may change now that Tiki Barber has retired.
Philadelphia Eagles: Although the Giants managed an improbable comeback in Philadelphia last year, the Eagles have triumphed nine of the past 13 times the two teams have clashed.
Washington Redskins: Home split, anyone? The host has won five of the previous six meetings, with the exception being a 34-28 Giants victory in Washington on Dec. 30. The pathetic Redskins surrendered 234 rushing yards to Tiki Barber.

Fantasy Football:
Eli Manning: With Tiki Barber gone, the number of times Eli Manning has that deer-in-the-headlights look on his face should increase. Too bad those don't count in fantasy.
Projected Stats: 3,500 passing yards. 24 passing TDs. 40 rushing yards. 0 rushing TDs.
Projected Fantasy Points: 323.

Brandon Jacobs: I think it's safe to assume that Brandon Jacobs will receive at least half of Tiki Barber's carries.
Projected Stats: 900 rushing yards. 180 receiving yards. 11 total TDs.
Projected Fantasy Points: 174.

Reuben Droughns: Didn't do much with the Browns last year. Then again, no one else did either.
Projected Stats: 800 rushing yards. 300 receiving yards. 5 total TDs.
Projected Fantasy Points: 140.

Jeremy Shockey: One of the top tight ends in the NFL. Eli Manning may throw to him more often in the wake of Tiki Barber's retirement.
Projected Stats: 750 receiving yards. 7 TDs.
Projected Fantasy Points: 117.

Plaxico Burress: Plaxico Burress takes plays off, but that doesn't mean much in fantasy football - unless Tom Coughlin decides to bench him.
Projected Stats: 1,100 receiving yards. 8 TDs.
Projected Fantasy Points: 158.

Amani Toomer: Amani Toomer's receiving yardage since garnering 1,057 in 2003: 747, 684, 360 (8 games). At age 33, Toomer's essentially done.
Projected Stats: 500 receiving yards. 5 TDs.
Projected Fantasy Points: 80.

Steve Smith: Should be a good wide out for the Giants down the road - but probably not right away.
Projected Stats: 300 receiving yards. 2 TDs.
Projected Fantasy Points: 42.

Lawrence Tynes: Not the most reliable kicker in the world. You should probably look elsewhere.
Projected Stats: 23-30 FG (1-2 50+). 34 XP.
Projected Fantasy Points: 112.

Giants Defense: Not much to like here; Michael Strahan's getting old, the secondary's a mess, and the sack and interception totals are not fantasy-worthy.
Projected Fantasy Ranking: Bottom 10 Defense.

Analysis: As you can probably surmise, I don't expect the Giants to make the playoffs this year. I think they're going to find out how valuable Tiki Barber was to their team.

Projection: 5-11 (TBA in the NFC East)


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