Jeff Risdon. 21st June, 2006 - 11:44 pm
Last season: 11-5, lost Wild Card
Coming: LB Lavar Arrington, LB Brandon Short, CB Sam Madison, S Will Demps, CB R.W. McQuarters
Going: DL Kendrick Clancy, CB Will Allen, LB Barrett Green, S Shaun Williams, S Brent Alexander, CB Will Peterson
Rookies of Note: DE Mathias Kiwanuka, WR/KR Sinorice Moss
What I like: Tiki Barber at RB coming off a career season and seemingly cured of his fumblitis. The bookend DEs, Osi Umenyiora and Michael Strahan, are sack machines that both also play the run very well. The new starters on defense all have motivation to prove themselves, and the overall talent level increased. The WR/TE positions are strong and deep, and Moss provides a much-needed deep speed threat. Moss clicked well with QB Eli Manning in minicamps. OL improved as they played more together and all 5 starters return. Manning showed great promise at times last season. Special teams has standouts across the board.
What I dislike: Toughest schedule in the league, and the first 7 games are all against playoff contenders. As good as Manning looked at times, he was the worst QB in the NFL over the last 6 games and playoffs. Completely retooling a lousy run defense takes time, and the players they brought in all have legit question marks. For all his bravado, Arrington has shown little the last two seasons and can be a one-man wrecking ball in the locker room. Their best returning LB, Antonio Pierce, still isn?t practicing after tearing up his ankle. The secondary is filled with decent players but no impact players, and badly lacks size. Head Coach Tom Coughlin has a history of quickly wearing thin when the wins aren?t piling up. Lousy or highly unproven depth at RB, QB, and DT. Barber is at the age where RBs start to radically decline. They won several tight games last year when the other team choked, not because the Giants were superior.
Best case: Eli Manning repeats his great start from last season, and Moss spreads the field with his speed and open-field ability. Barber holds form, the OL continues to improve, and TE Jeremy Shockey returns to elite status. The DEs continue to pile up sacks, and the new LBs significantly upgrade the run defense. Veterans Madison and McQuarters both hold their own and buy time for the very raw youngsters in the DB to develop. Jay Feely forgets Seattle and kicks 35+ FG again.
Worst case: Pierce doesn?t recover 100%, and Arrington remains an undisciplined enigma. Manning remains the skittish chucker he was at the close of 2005. The new vets in the secondary merely replace, and not improve, both the pass coverage and the run support. None of the young interior DL step up, and Strahan starts to show his age. The tough schedule hits hard early, and the team revolts on the coaches.
Prediction: It all depends on the first four games (IND, @PHI, @SEA, WAS). If they win one or more of those and are competitive in all four, they should be good enough to finish 9-7 and in the hunt for a Wild Card. If they?re soundly beaten in more than one and stand 1-3 or worse and in last place, they?ll be lucky to finish 6-10. My money is on the latter.
Jeff Risdon's other 2006 Team Previews
Green Bay Packers
Kansas City Chiefs
New York Giants
San Francisco 49ers
St. Louis Rams