New York Giants 2007 Season Preview

New York Giants 2007 Season Preview

New York Giants 2007 Season Preview
August 2nd, 2007

(Sports Network) - Realistically, Tom Coughlin never could have been counting on a distraction-free 2007 season, though you can also bet he wasn't expecting to take questions concerning an off-the-field issue on the very first day of training camp.

When Michael Strahan, in an attempt to squeeze a couple of extra dollars out of the Giants after landing on the business end of a $15.3 million divorce settlement earlier in the year, failed to show up in Albany when camp commenced, the tabloid fodder that had plagued the first three years of the Coughlin regime was back like a bad penny.

Call it horrible timing for Coughlin, who needed desperately to maintain his team's focus at the starting line of a season in which he likely has two choices: win or be fired.

Since late December of '06, the gruff head coach had already fired both of his coordinators, John Hufnagel and Tim Lewis, had lost the leading rusher in franchise history, Tiki Barber, to retirement, and had attempted to deal with a very shaky situation at the all-important left tackle position.

With all of that going on, Coughlin didn't need the kind of bitterness from a player that Strahan is now exhibiting, the type of ill-considered griping that in previous years of Coughlin's watch had been the domain of Barber, Jeremy Shockey, and Plaxico Burress.

Strahan is threatening retirement, and Coughlin and GM Jerry Reese are taking a hard-line stance toward his contract. Meanwhile, the team is considering signing Buccaneers castoff and locker room malcontent Simeon Rice, a possibility to which the team's other talented end, Osi Umenyiora, has already taken public exception.

All of this in early August.

And as Coughlin looks on helplessly, the storm clouds around his future begin to gather.

Below we take a capsule look at the 2007 edition of the New York Giants, with a personnel evaluation and prognosis included therein:

2006 RECORD: 8-8 (3rd, NFC East)

LAST PLAYOFF APPEARANCE: 2006, lost to Philadelphia, 23-20, in NFC Wild Card Game

COACH (RECORD): Tom Coughlin (25-23 in three seasons with Giants, 93-83 overall)

OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Kevin Gilbride

DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Steve Spagnuolo

OFFENSIVE STAR: Eli Manning, QB (3244 passing yards, 24 TD, 18 INT)

DEFENSIVE STAR: Antonio Pierce, LB (137 tackles, 1 sack, 1 INT)

OFFENSIVE TEAM RANKS: 7th rushing, 19th passing, 11th scoring

DEFENSIVE TEAM RANKS: 14th rushing, 28th passing, 24th scoring

FIVE KEY GAMES: at Dallas (9/9), Philadelphia (9/30), at Atlanta (10/15), Dallas (11/11), at Chicago (12/2)

KEY ADDITIONS: QB Anthony Wright (from Bengals), RB Reuben Droughns (from Browns), RB Ahmad Bradshaw (7th Round, Marshall), WR Steve Smith (2nd Round, USC), G Zach Piller (from Lions), DT Marcus Bell (from Lions), DT Jay Alford (3rd Round, Penn State), LB Kawika Mitchell (from Chiefs), LB Zak DeOssie (4th Round, Brown), CB Aaron Ross (1st Round, Texas), S Michael Stone (from Texans), K Lawrence Tynes (from Chiefs)

KEY DEPARTURES: RB Tiki Barber (retired), FB Jim Finn (injured/out for season), WR Tim Carter (to Browns), TE Visanthe Shiancoe (to Vikings), T Bob Whitfield (retired), T Luke Petitgout (to Buccaneers), LB LaVar Arrington (released), LB Carlos Emmons (released), LB Brandon Short (not tendered), CB Frank Walker (to Packers), K Jay Feely (to Dolphins), RS Chad Morton (released)

QB: Apart from perhaps Coughlin, no member of the Giants has more pressure on him this season than Eli Manning. Manning did not take the major step forward that many were expecting for him in his third year in the league, posting a 77.0 passer rating that was only slightly better than his second-season figure. During the second half of 2006, when New York went 2-6, Manning threw just nine touchdowns versus nine interceptions and completed fewer than 50 percent of his passes four times. In reaction, Coughlin hired noted passing guru Chris Palmer to help mentor Manning, and also got the former No. 1 pick a better backup in Anthony Wright. Wright has 20 starts on his NFL resume', as opposed to a combined five for 2006 backups Jared Lorenzen (zero) and Tim Hasselbeck (five). Lorenzen would seem to have the edge over Hasselbeck for the third QB spot, as evidenced by his No. 2 role a year ago.

RB: There is no question about how the Giants are going to attempt to replace Barber. Brandon Jacobs (423 rushing yards, 9 TD, 11 receptions), the 6-4, 260- pound bruiser who has showed glimpses of greatness in his first two years in the league, is set to take over in the backfield. The big question, however, is whether Jacobs is up to the task. In addition to rushing for more than 1,200 yards in each of the last five seasons, Barber also caught at least 50 balls for each of the final eight years of his career. Jacobs has only 11 receptions in his two-year career, and new backup Reuben Droughns (758 rushing yards, 4 TD, 27 receptions with the Browns) has also been unexceptional in the pass-catching game during his time in the league. The third-down back will either be seventh-round draft choice Ahmad Bradshaw or holdover Derrick Ward, though either Ward or Droughns may be forced into the fullback role following the season-ending shoulder injury suffered by Jim Finn.

WR/TE: New York boasts a number of intriguing receivers on the roster, though all seem to have their hang-ups. Burress (63 receptions, 10 TD) seems to disappear for long stretches of games, while fellow would-be starter Amani Toomer (32 receptions, 3 TD) comes off a season-ending ACL injury and will be 33 by the time the season starts. Their would-be heirs apparent, second-year- pro Sinorice Moss (5 receptions) and rookie Steve Smith, are unproven. David Tyree (19 receptions, 2 TD) and Michael Jennings (5 receptions), who should fill out the other two receiving slots, are role players at best. There is potential for receiver to be the deepest area of the team, but will all of the above figures perform up to expectations? Meanwhile, at tight end, Jeremy Shockey (66 receptions, 7 TD) has yet to play a 16-game season during his five-year career, and backup Kevin Boss is a raw rookie out of Western Oregon. The G-Men will either scan the waiver wire for another tight end following the final cuts or give second-year-pro Darcy Johnson a shot to fill the third tight end role.

OL: That the Giants released inconsistent left tackle Luke Petitgout following the 2006 season was not that great a surprise, though the fact that the team did little to replace him certainly was. The plan is to move right guard David Diehl over to defend Manning's blind side, a risky venture for a player that has never had to handle the league's best defensive ends. Plan B for the team would be to move 2006 fourth-round draft pick Guy Whimper into that slot, a move that would be fraught with risk as well. The rest of the line appears solid, with center Shaun O'Hara, right guard Chris Snee, and right tackle Kareem McKenzie both back in the lineup and left guard Rich Seubert set to reclaim the starting role he lost after breaking his leg way back in the 2003 season. Backup spots are likely to be taken by Whimper, holdover Grey Ruegamer, free agent pickup Zach Piller and sixth-round draft choice Adam Koets.

DL: The Giants have gone from being flush with defensive end talent to possibly beginning the year short-handed in that area. With Michael Strahan (38 tackles, 3 sacks) threatening retirement, and Mathias Kiwanuka (53 tackles, 4 sacks, 2 INT) having been moved to linebacker, right end Osi Umenyiora (31 tackles, 6 sacks) could be facing regular double-teams in his quest to get to the quarterback. If Strahan fails to report and the team opts not to acquire another left end from the outside (Simeon Rice is also a right end), either Justin Tuck (10 tackles) or William Joseph (21 tackles, 2 sacks) would likely be placed in a starting role on that side. New York looks to be better off on the interior, where Barry Cofield (44 tackles, 1.5 sacks) comes off a strong rookie season and fellow starter Fred Robbins (45 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 2 INT) returns as well. Backups in the trenches should include holdover end Adrian Awasom (12 tackles, 1 sacks), free agent tackle pickup Marcus Bell (39 tackles, 1 sack with the Lions), and rookie Penn State product Jay Alford.

LB: Poor play at the linebacker position has been a major sticking point for Coughlin's teams in recent years, a problem the club worked hard to rectify in the offseason. By moving Kiwanuka to the strong side, the Giants improved both their strength and athleticism in that area. On the weak side, free agent pickup Kawika Mitchell (104 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 1 INT) brings a middle linebacker mentality that should take some of the pressure off of middle man holdover Antonio Pierce (137 tackles, 1 sack, 1 INT). The linebacking corps is deep behind those three players. Gerris Wilkinson (27 tackles), Chase Blackburn (16 tackles), and Reggie Torbor (29 tackles, 1 sack) have all started games for the Giants over the past two seasons, and rookie Zak DeOssie, the son of former Giant Steve DeOssie, has shown impressive skills thus far in camp.

DB: Finding the correct cornerback combination will be one of new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo's most important training camp tasks. Though 33, veteran Sam Madison (39 tackles, 2 INT) is set to hold down one spot, with disappointing former second-round draft choice Corey Webster (41 tackles, 1 sack, 1 INT) and 2007 first-round draft choice Aaron Ross vying for duties on the other side. Ross could end up playing the nickel, though veteran R.W. McQuarters (56 tackles, 2 INT, 1 sack) will have something to say about that position as well. A shake-up appears imminent at free safety, where James Butler (26 tackles) has been given the chance to unseat the average Will Demps (100 tackles, 2 INT, 1 sack). Strong safety Gibril Wilson's (100 tackles, 2 INT) job is safe, though the fourth-year-pro needs to make more plays. Ex- Texan Michael Stone can play several secondary positions and is also a capable special-teamer. Second-year cornerback Kevin Dockery (35 tackles, 2 INT), who suffered a concussion early in training camp, could be subject to the final cut.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Gone is kicker Jay Feely (23-27 FG), who didn't perform badly but will be best remembered for melting down in a loss to Seattle back in 2005. Set to take his place is former Chief Lawrence Tynes (24-31 FG with Kansas City), who has a strong leg but is also streaky. The punting game is in solid shape with Jeff Feagles (40.2 avg.), and long-snapper Ryan Kuehl should be ready for the season after injuring his calf early in training camp. With return man Chad Morton not asked back to the team, Sinorice Moss (19.4 avg.) should be the man on kickoff returns with either R.W. McQuarters (5.0 avg.) or rookie Aaron Ross contributing on punts.

PROGNOSIS: The embattled Coughlin is in no position to be experimenting, though that's exactly what he's doing as he enters a make-or-break year. By handing the rushing reins to Jacobs and playing the likes of Diehl and Kiwanuka away from their natural positions, Coughlin is both courting the "genius" tag and leaving himself open to abject failure. Frankly, the latter appears more likely. The Eagles and Cowboys are still more talented and more cohesive than the Giants, who while strong in places, look a lot like a team in transition. If New York outperforms its expectations, and Coughlin makes it to '08, you can call it an upset.

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Re: New York Giants 2007 Season Preview

Getting to 53: New York Giants Roster Prediction
(Sports Network)

Below we take our stab at predicting how the 53-man roster of the 2007 New York Giants will take shape:

QB (3): Eli Manning, Anthony Wright, Jared Lorenzen

RB (4): Brandon Jacobs, Reuben Droughns, Ahmad Bradshaw, Derrick Ward (FB)

WR (6): Plaxico Burress, Sinorice Moss, Amani Toomer, Steve Smith, David Tyree, Michael Jennings (RS)

TE (3): Jeremy Shockey (TE), Kevin Boss (TE), Darcy Johnson (TE)

OL (9): David Diehl (LT), Rich Seubert (LG), Shaun O'Hara (C), Chris Snee (RG), Kareem McKenzie (RT), Grey Reugamer (C/G), Guy Whimper (T), Zach Piller (G), Adam Koets (T)

DL (9): Michael Strahan (DE), Osi Umenyoira (DE), Barry Cofield (DT), Fred Robbins (DT), Justin Tuck (DE), William Joseph (DL), Adrian Awasom (DE), Jay Alford (DT), Marcus Bell (DT)

LB (7): Antonio Pierce (MLB), Mathias Kiwanuka (SLB), Kawika Mitchell (WLB), Gerris Wilkinson (LB), Zak DeOssie (LB), Chase Blackburn (LB), Reggie Torbor (LB)

DB (9): Sam Madison (CB), Corey Webster (CB), Aaron Ross (CB), James Butler (FS), Gibril Wilson (SS), Will Demps (FS), R.W. McQuarters (CB), Kevin Dockery (CB), Michael Stone (DB)

SP (3): Lawrence Tynes (K), Jeff Feagles (P), Ryan Kuehl (LS)

Outside Looking In: QB Tim Hasselbeck, DT Jonas Seawright, S Michael Johnson

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