by Dallas Jackson - 09/22/2005
Two weeks does not a season make. This is the advice I have to give myself before I fully jump on the 2005 New York Giants football bandwagon. After all, we have seen this kind of hot start before. Just last year the G-Men sprinted out to a 5-2 record, only to limp to a 6-10 finish. But after two weeks, I must say, I have one leg on board and I am hopping along with the other. I guess you can call me the consummate optimist, always looking for good. I just believe that this team, with an improved offense, key additions on defense and one of the best special teams units in the league, is in the driver's seat to dictate wild card positioning in a conference that sent an 8-8 team to the post-season just last year. Not to mention they have nine home games and are currently 2-0.
Let's be honest, the success or failure of the Giants largely falls on the right arm of Eli Manning. While I recognize this is only his second season, and I know he ended last season 1-6, I have to believe there is a great quarterback in there. I will pull two points as examples:
1) He finished last year with a win. Coupled with a 2-0 start this year, Eli is undefeated in his last three games.
2) From the two games I have seen so far this year, he has made much better decisions in where to throw the ball. He has thrown more accurate passes and his mobility and pocket feel are growing with each pass he drops back for. Suffice to say, I like where this kid is going.
To ease the pressure on Manning, the Giants signed prized free agent wide receiver Plaxico Burress from the Steelers. Burress was run out of Pittsburgh not based on lack of productivity, but because he wasn't a "Cowher guy." Upon leaving the Steel City, Burress is ranked seventh all-time in receptions (262) and eighth in yards (4,164). At 6'5'', he is a gifted athlete with good speed and great hands; his ability to stretch the field should open things up for the other offensive playmakers. With back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons in 2001 and 2002, he is more than capable of having productive seasons in New York, plus he already has more touchdowns this season -- one -- than the Giants' starting WRs had all of last year!
Another 6'5'' target at Manning's disposal is TE Jeremy Shockey. The oft outspoken TE from "The U" has yet to live up to his self-made hype. However, in his fourth season Shockey looks to have an intensity and drive to succeed that we haven't seen since his rookie campaign. His size and speed leaves any linebacker attempting to cover him at a distinct disadvantage. If he can take advantage of Plaxico pulling the coverage, there should be some very soft seams in the defense for the big tight end.
Filling the backfield is Tiki Barber and Brandon "Bulldozer" Jacobs. Barber is one of the best all purpose backs in the league amassing 1,650+ yards from scrimmage in four of the past five seasons, while Jacobs, a rookie from Southern Illinois, is a 6'4'', 266 pound moving mountain. He is a solid goal-line option and a guy that doesn't seem to have Ron Dayne-like problems in third and short situations. Look for these two to have big years and gain good yardage versus some very soft run defenses.
On the other side of the ball is a more mature unit from the one that finished last season ranked 14th in total defense. They very quietly added run-stopping linebacker Antonio Pierce from rival Washington, and big physical defensive tackle Kendrick Clancey from Pittsburgh. Pierce had 160 tackles (109 solo) last year, his first as a starting linebacker, and should build onto an already solid cast of backers in New York. Clancey and emerging star Osi Umenyiora will be responsible for freeing up returning starter Michael Strahan. Strahan missed most of last season with a torn pectoral muscle; while Umenyiora is already receiving a lot of attention and developing a reputation as a big play maker. The Giants did themselves a favor in holding onto Umenyiora when the Chargers demanded him in the Manning deal.
The problem with the Giants could be the tendency to play to the level of their competition. While this wasn't a problem the first two weeks, it has been a trend the past several seasons. With teams like St.Louis, Minnesota and Kansas City all coming to the Meadowlands, the Giants need to develop a killer instinct and not let the teams that do not travel well steal victories from them. If the Giants can defend home field in their non-division games, the playoffs should await them. The swing in the season could come on three separate west coast trips. The Giants will travel cross country to San Francisco, Seattle and Oakland. The way they play there could ultimately determine the outcome of the season.
The Giants were 8-8 ATS last season and are already 2-0 this year. Lines in Giants' games should be close and totals should be manageable in the low to mid-40s, so if the match-up presents itself take it and play. New York Giants football might be back in 2005.