SUPER BOWL: Profiles of key players Print
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Thursday, 31 January 2008 18:06
NFL Headline News

 GLENDALE, Ariz (AP) -Projected starters and key players for Sunday's Super Bowl:
NEW YORK GIANTS
OFFENSE
Eli Manning (No. 10), QB, 6-4, 225, 4th year, Mississippi
Younger brother of Colts QB Peyton, a two-time MVP who was last year's Super Bowl MVP ... Eli has emerged as a force in last month and has led Giants to 10 straight road wins, three in postseason ... Threw four TD passes against Patriots in season finale ... Has four TD passes, no INTs, 62.4 completion percentage and 99.2 passer rating in playoffs ... Manning outperformed Brett Favre in icebox at Lambeau Field for NFC title.
Brandon Jacobs (27), RB, 6-4, 264, 3rd year, Southern Illinois
Took over for Tiki Barber and provided strong running while healthy ... Finished with 1,009 yards in 11 games and four TDs, but has three TDs in playoffs ... Averaged 5.0 yards a carry ... Not much of a threat as a receiver, but had team-high five receptions vs. New England ... Will run over anyone, including defensive linemen. Of course, he weighs almost as much as some linemen.
Madison Hedgecock (39), FB, 6-3, 266, 3rd year, North Carolina
Picked up on waivers from St. Louis a week into the season ... Played so well, he was given a five-year contract extension after the eighth game ... Purely a blocker who barely outweighs Jacobs ... He has seven receptions, and he says his job description would note that he only carries in his dreams.
Plaxico Burress (17), WR, 6-5, 232, 8th year, Michigan State
New York's answer to Randy Moss ... Missed nearly every practice during season with right ankle injury, but has gotten healthier and practiced for last month ... Comes off career game vs. Green Bay, making 11 catches for 151 yards in bitter cold ... Scored 12 touchdowns during season, with 70 catches for 1,025 yards .... Made headlines by picking Giants to win 23-17.
Amani Toomer (81), WR, 6-3, 203, 12th year, Michigan
Veteran has come on in last month ... His three postseason TDs match his production for regular season ... Made 59 catches in 2007, but already has 15 in playoffs ... A team leader and one of two remaining Giants from 2000 NFC champions (Michael Strahan is other) ... A go-to receiver on third downs.
Kevin Boss (89), TE, 6-6, 253, 1st year, Western Oregon
Has filled in admirably for sidelined Jeremy Shockey ... Fifth-round draft pick from Division II school ... made first pro reception in ninth game, but had four catches for 50 yards and a TD vs. New England ... Has a catch in each playoff game.
David Diehl (66), LT, 6-5, 319, 5th year, Illinois
Steady former guard who moved outside this season ... Has 80 consecutive regular-season starts ... Giants like to run to his side with Jacobs going wide and Diehl leading the way ... Has played every OL position but center for Giants.
Kareem McKenzie (67), RT, 6-6, 327, 7th year, Penn State
Signed as free agent in 2005, has started 45 regular-season games since joining Giants ... Workmanlike blocker who does nothing spectacular ... Matchup with Ty Warren could be crucial one ... A local product who played high school ball in New Jersey.
Rich Seubert (69), LG, 6-3, 310, 7th year, Western Illinois
Comes off sprained right knee but expects to start ... A backup for much of his career, but started every game in 2002 and again this season ... Missed all of 2004 with broken leg ... Has also played some center ... Signed as free agent in 2001, has third-longest tenure with team.
Chris Snee (76), RG, 6-3, 317, 4th year, Boston College
Son-in-law of coach Tom Coughlin ... Probably best blocker on team ... Second-round pick in 2004 who has started every game in last three seasons ... Giants like to use power runs behind him, but he also can get downfield on blocks.
Shaun O'Hara (60), C, 6-3, 303, 8th year, Rutgers
Smart, hard-working leader of line ... Signed from Cleveland as free agent in 2004, has started 47 of last 48 regular-season games ... Sprained knee in season finale vs. Patriots and missed playoff win at Tampa (Grey Ruegamer started).

DEFENSE
Michael Strahan (92), DE, 6-5, 255, 15th year, Texas Southern
Active leader in career sacks with 141 1/2, had nine this season ... Missed entire preseason while mulling retirement, but started 15 games in 2007 ... Also is staunch against the run ... Has been enjoying second Super Bowl trip so much he's been videotaping news conferences and media day events ... Forced a fumble on Dallas' first offensive play in playoff game.
Osi Umenyiora (72), DE, 6-3, 261, 5th year, Troy
Only Giant selected to Pro Bowl in initial balloting ... Set team record vs. Philadelphia with six sacks, one short of league mark, while working against backup tackle. He also forced two fumbles against Eagles ... Giants had 12 sacks that game ... Finished season with 13 sacks, does not have any in postseason ... Had only three tackles against Patriots on Dec. 29.
Barry Cofield (96), DT, 6-4, 306, 2nd year, Northwestern
Fourth-round draft pick in 2006 who has been regular since first NFL game ... Strong run-stuffer who comes out on passing downs ... Played all positions on line in college ... Was first Giants rookie defender to start every game since LB Lawrence Taylor and DL Bill Neill in 1981.
Fred Robbins (98), DT, 6-4, 317, 8th year, Wake Forest
Veteran has gone from Coughlin's doghouse to being key part of line ... A regular all season, had 43 tackles and 5 1/2 sacks ... Signed away from Minnesota in 2004 as free agent ... Had strong playoff game at Tampa.
Reggie Torbor (53), OLB, 6-2, 250, 4th year, Auburn
Became starter after Mattias Kiwanuka broke his leg vs. Detroit in Game 10 ... A fourth-round pick in 2004, Torbor has been part-timer and special teams player ... Had 29 tackles and one sack this season, and has been steady in playoffs.
Antonio Pierce (58), MLB, 6-1, 238, 7th year, Arizona
Along with Strahan, Pierce is leader of the defense ... Intense hitter who makes big plays in run and pass defense ... Fiery type known to stir up teammates ... Led team with 116 tackles, also forced a fumble and recovered two .... His pass breakup clinched win over Philadelphia ... Acquired as free agent from Washington in 2005.
Kawika Mitchell (55), OLB, 6-1, 253, 5th year, South Florida
Giants' main free-agent addition in offseason (from Kansas City) ... Started every game, improved late in season and has been playoff standout ... Overcame sprained knee ligament sustained in season finale to play at Tampa Bay in wild-card round ... Had 87 tackles and 3 1/2 sacks, one INT, forced a fumble and recovered one.
Aaron Ross (31), CB, 6-0, 197, 1st year, Texas
First-round pick who had up-and-down year, making nine starts ... Has improved coverage in latter part of season after some early problems ... Missed half of one game for disciplinary reasons ... Hurt shoulder vs. Dallas in playoffs, but played in nickel and dime packages vs. Green Bay the next week ... Made three interceptions and had 1 1/2 sacks during season.
Sam Madison (29), CB, 5-11, 180, 11th year, Louisville
Veteran who struggled in recent years, but had decent season for NFC champs ... Used to excel in press coverage, but isn't as fast as he used to be ... Was burned badly by Randy Moss in season finale and injured abdominal muscle ... Did not play in first two postseason games and had small role at Green Bay ... Had four INTs in regular season and 67 tackles.
James Butler (37), SS, 6-3, 215, 3rd year, Georgia Tech
Considered the weakest link in the secondary ... Signed as undrafted free agent in 2005, started 12 games, missed three with ankle and hamstring injuries ... Has played well in postseason with 21 tackles after 69 in regular season ... Also plays some special teams.
Gibril Wilson (28), FS, 6-0, 209, 4th year, Tennessee
kles. Has been very active in playoffs with 27 tackles.

SPECIAL TEAMS
Jeff Feagles (18), P, 6-1, 215, 20th year, Miami, Fla.
At 41, Feagles makes Super Bowl debut ... Holds record for consecutive games at any position, 320 ... Excellent directional kicker who often leads league in punts downed inside the 20 ... Also holds on placekicks ... Previously played for New England, Philadelphia, Arizona and Seattle.
Lawrence Tynes (9), PK, 6-1, 202, 4th year, Troy
Comes off biggest kick of his career, 47-yarder at frigid Lambeau Field in OT to beat Packers 23-20 for NFC title ... Made three field goals in that game, but missed twice with chance for lead before winning kick ... Has been inconsistent for Kansas City and with Giants, although he made 23 of 27 field goal tries in 2007 ... Kickoffs rarely reach end zone, but Chicago All-Pro Devin Hester had only one return for 19 yards in New York win.
Domenik Hixon (87), KR, 6-2, 182, 2nd year, Akron
Signed off waivers from Denver ... Was player involved in collision that nearly paralyzed Buffalo TE Kevin Everett in opener with Broncos ... Joined Giants in fifth week, playing mostly coverage teams ... Broke 74-yard TD return vs. Patriots in season finale ... Averaged 27.6 yards per runback.
R.W. McQuarters (25), PR, 5-10, 194, 10th year, Oklahoma State
Veteran defensive back whose good hands make him suitable choice for this job ... Not a big threat to break one ... As a nickel/dime back, he has INTs in all three playoff games ... Previously played for San Francisco, Chicago and Detroit.
---
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
OFFENSE
Tom Brady (12), QB, 6-4, 225, 8th year, Michigan
League MVP who set passing record with 50 touchdowns ... Is 3-0 in Super Bowls since becoming starter in 2001 ... Former sixth-round draft pick (2000) ... Threw a TD pass in all but one game this season, compiling 117.2 rating ... Completed 69 percent of his throws ... Had only eight passes intercepted during season, but Chargers picked off three in AFC title game ... Comes off slight ankle sprain that required walking boot last week.
Laurence Maroney (39), RB, 5-11, 220, 2nd year, Minnesota
Has taken charge of running game lately ... Rushed for 835 yards and six TDs in regular season, has 122 yards in each of two postseason games ... Also has scored twice in playoffs ... First-round draft choice in 2006 ... Often comes out on passing downs for veteran Kevin Faulk, his mentor with Patriots.
Heath Evans (44), FB, 6-0, 250, 7th year, Auburn
Signed as free agent in 2005 ... Also played for Seattle and Miami ... Infrequent receiver and runner, almost totally a blocking back ... Scored three TDS in regular season.
Randy Moss (81), WR, 6-4, 210, 10th year, Marshall
Key addition to receiving corps who disproved critics about his selfish attitude with sensational year ... Broke Jerry Rice's single-season mark by one with 23 TD catches ... Uses size and speed so well he can't be single-covered by fast or by tall cornerbacks ... Has caught just two passes in playoffs while double- or triple-teamed ... Acquired from Oakland for fourth-round pick, Moss had 98 receptions for 1,493 yards.
Wes Welker (83), WR, 5-9, 185, 4th year, Texas Tech
Another important newcomer, Welker led team with 112 receptions ... Gained 1,175 yards and scored eight times during season, has 16 catches and two TDs in playoffs ... Hurt Giants with 11 catches for 122 yards ... Perfect slot receiver who complements Moss and other speedy wideouts ... Also can return punts ... Patriots sent second-round draft pick and seventh-rounder to Miami for Welker last year.
Benjamin Watson (84), TE, 6-3, 255, 4th year, Georgia
Final pick of first round in 2004, Watson has become favored red zone target for Brady ... Missed four games with injuries, still had 36 catches and six TDs ... Already has two postseason touchdowns ... Excels getting free over the middle, especially when covered by linebackers.
Matt Light (72), LT, 6-4, 305, 7th year, Purdue
All-Pro player who Umenyiora accused of not being entirely clean in his play ... Second-round pick in 2001 who has started 95 of 97 career games ... Not real powerful, but smart and mobile ... Very steady blocker.
Nick Kaczur (77), RT, 6-4, 315, 3rd year, Toledo
Canadian-born player from Wayne Gretzky's hometown who uses muscle more than most of New England's blockers ... Started every game but against Giants, when he was inactive ... Became full-time regular this season ... Third-round pick in 2005.
Logan Mankins (70), LG, 6-4, 310, 3rd year, Fresno State
Has developed into one of league's best guards and has a real mean streak ... Last pick of first round in 2005, has started every game in career ... Made first Pro Bowl this season ... Brady hates Mankins' beard.
Stephen Neal (61), RG, 6-4, 305, 6th year, CS Bakersfield
Former college wrestler who did not play college football ... Went 151-10 as wrestler and won two NCAA titles ... Became starter in 2004, has played in 55 games, 52 as starter ... Missed four games this season with injuries ... Brady hates Neal's Fu Manchu mustache.
Dan Koppen (67), C, 6-2, 296, 5th year, Boston College
Has become one of league's best and most versatile centers ... Heads to first Pro Bowl next week ... Fifth-round pick in 2003 from school that excels at developing pro linemen ... Has started 72 of 72 games he's appeared in.

DEFENSE
M
Outperformed more-heralded linemate Seymour this season ... First-round pick in 2003 who became starter the next year ... Had 83 tackles, three fumble recoveries and four sacks during season and has been a force in playoffs.
Vince Wilfork (75), DT, 6-2, 325, 4th year, Miami, Fla.
Pro Bowl nose tackle who does a lot more than take up space ... Really came into his own in last 2 1/2 seasons ... Had 70 tackles during season and two sacks, already has 13 tackles in postseason ... First-round pick in 2004, 21st overall.
Richard Seymour (93), DE, 6-6, 310, 7th year, Georgia
Frequent Pro Bowler who was slow to recover from knee injury ... Spent first half of season on physically unable to perform list ... When fit, a strong sack threat who also knock down passes ... Has not been a major factor in passing game this season.
Mike Vrabel (50), OLB, 6-4, 261, 11th year, Ohio State
One of NFL's most versatile linebackers, can also play inside, rush the passer or drop in coverage ... Made All-Pro team for first time ... Had 77 tackles, 12 1/2 sacks and four forced fumbles in one of his best season of seven with Patriots ... Began career with four years in Pittsburgh ... Also is a threat as goal-line receivers, and all 11 career catches have been for TDs.
Adalius Thomas (96), OLB, 6-2, 270, 6-2, 270, 8th year, Southern Mississippi
Top defensive free agent signing, versatile Thomas can rush from the line, drop in coverage, and is tough against the run ... Spent first seven NFL seasons with Ravens, who drafted him in sixth round in 2000 ... Made 82 tackles, added 6 1/2 sacks and two forced fumbles in 2007 ... Scored TD on 65-yard INT return against San Diego in Week 2.
Junior Seau (55), ILB, 6-3, 250, 18th year, Southern California
Potential Hall of Famer for great career in San Diego, was lured out of retirement by Patriots in 2006, but injured arm in latter part of season ... Has appeared in every game this season and wound up with 76 tackles, 3 1/2 sacks and three interceptions ... When LB Rosevelt Colvin was injured, Seau was forced to play more than originally planned, and responded well.
Tedy Bruschi (54), ILB, 6-1, 247, 12th year, Arizona
Most inspirational player on Patriots, recovered from stroke suffered in February 2005 to return to team late October ... A true team leader, of which there are many in New England ... Shared NFL Comeback Player of Year award in 2005 with Carolina WR Steve Smith ... Had 99 tackles to lead Pats ... Already has 15 tackles in postseason.
Asante Samuel (22), CB, 5-10, 185, 5th year, Central Florida
One of the NFL's top cover cornerbacks, and a prized free agent after this game; Patriots can't use franchise tag on him again ... A gambler who has good instincts for the ball and good hands ... Fourth-round pick in 2003 who tied for NFL lead with 10 INTs in 2006, Samuel had six picks this season and one in playoffs.
Ellis Hobbs (27), CB, 5-9, 195, 3rd year, Iowa State
Has gone from dime back and special teamer to starter and defensive contributor ... Picked off pass vs. Giants in regular-season finale, the last time Manning was intercepted ... Despite lack of height, can handle some taller WRs, but probably won't cover Burress much ... Third-round pick in 2005 who started half of games as rookie.
Rodney Harrison (37), SS, 6-1, 220, 14th year, Western Illinois
One of NFL's hardest hitters - and perhaps dirtiest players - Harrison has been fined for more than $200,000 in his career ... Still, he's one of better safeties in recent history ... Does best work over the middle, particularly against the run ... Also still plays some special teams ... Missed first month of season while suspended for using a banned substance.
James Sanders (36), FS, 5-10, 210, 3rd year, Fresno State
The weak link of the secondary? ... Fourth-round pick in 2005 who became starter late in 2006 season ... Handles run support well, not a real sharp coverage guy ... But several teammates called him most improved player on defense this season ... Had 73 tackles and two INTs ... Also plays some special teams.

SPECIAL TEAMS
Stephen Gostkowski (3), PK, 6-1, 210, 2nd year, Memphis
Has had one of toughest jobs in NFL, replacing Adam Vinatieri, most accurate kicker in history with Pats ... Vinatieri kicked two winning field goals in Super Bowls and provided margin of victory in another title game. Can Gostkowski match it if needed? ... Made all 74 extra points, an NFL mark, and was 21 of 24 on field goals.
Chris Hanson (6), P, 6-2, 202, 9th year, Marshall
One of the most underused players in the NFL, Hanson had five games with just one punt, including vs. Jacksonville in playoffs ... Not one of the higher-ranked punters in league, maybe because of rust ... Was signed as a free agent away from New Orleans before season.
Ellis Hobbs (27), KR, 5-9, 195, 3rd year, Iowa State
Broke a 108-yard kickoff return, tying longest play in NFL history (since surpassed) against Jets ... A gambler who will take most kicks out of end zone ... Did not do much on kick returns in latter part of season or in playoffs.
Wes Welker (83), WR, 5-9, 185, 4th year, Texas Tech
Superb hands, shiftiness and speed make him ideal for this job ... Smart on when to call fair catch and when to return kick ... Longest runback was 35 yards vs. Indianapolis.
END THUMBNAILS
 

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