The Giants ended off last season 10-6, which is overall not a bad record. They didn’t make the playoffs, though, due to a gut-wrenching loss to the Eagles. The Giants led by 21 points with eight minutes to go before Michael Vick began to run wild and the game deteriorated. As a Giants fan, watching DeSean Jackson return a punt 65 yards for the winning touchdown was excruciating. With this demoralizing loss, the Giants split the remaining two games and missed a playoff spot, ending their hopes and aspirations for a title.
During an offseason filled with hullaballoo and constant change, the Giants weren’t especially effective, losing players such as G Rich Seubert, C Sean O’Hara, WR Steve Smith and TE Kevin Boss. 1st round CB Prince Amukamara got injured soon after being signed, and sack specialist Osi Umeniora will miss the first couple of games. Other key players such as CB Terell Thomas and MLB Jonathan Goff will miss the season due to the injury bug. All in all, it was not a very productive off season for the Giants.
Despite all this, the Giants have many weapons remaining to carry them through the season. The running back tandem of Brandon Jacobs and the resigned Ahmad Bradshaw remains solid, and they have good backfield depth with D.J. Ware and Da’Rel Scott on hand. Scott in particular will be a guy to watch, as his two explosive runs in the preseason (65 yards on a fake punt and 97 yards) demonstrate his potential. In the passing game, Eli Manning has nice targets in Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham. Personally, I’ve been very impressed with how Victor Cruz has played, and am looking forward to seeing more passes thrown his way. Still, Eli Manning will have to step up his game in order for the receivers to be effective. The 25 interceptions he threw in the previous season looms large, casting aspersions on his accuracy. If Eli manages to cut down on the interceptions and keep his passing game steady, the Giants offense will be a formidable one indeed.
On defense, the Giants are hurting all over. Pro Bowl DE Justin Tuck missed the first game, still recovering from a stinger he received in the last preseason game. Perhaps the sharpest injury was to defensive back Terell Thomas, tearing his ACL. This all adds up to a pretty thinly-spread defense. This was evident in the first game of the season, as the Redskins burned the Giants on passes. The injuries that the Giants have sustained will have a large impact on the Giants season.
I’ll end off with a quick recap of Sunday’s game, and what I feel are its implications for the season. In the first half, the Giants kept up with the Redskins, but they lost it in the second. Eli Manning didn’t play well, throwing an interception but no passing touchdowns. He had one nice pass early on, connecting with Hakeem Nicks for 68 yards. This led to Manning running it in for a touchdown. The Giants ground game didn’t click either on their limited number of carries. In a similar vein, I am not sure why the Giants decided to run with Ahmad Bradshaw in two short yardage situations, when Brandon Jacobs seems much better suited to that task. The defense was also a bit lackluster, especially the secondary, which let Rex Grossman throw for 305 yards and two touchdowns. A blocked field goal just adds to the mistakes the Giants made.
The Giants will need to establish their ground game first, and then build the passing game off of that. Unfortunately, Eli doesn’t appear to be good enough to carry the team on his arm without the support of a good backfield. This might just be a long season for the G-Men.
Prediction: 8-8, 3rd in NFC East