Aug 262008
 
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8/26/2008

By Eric from BigBlueInteractive.com

Approach to the Game – New England Patriots at New York Giants, August 28, 2008: The preseason action and battle for jobs has really taken a backseat to the drama building around Giants Stadium since DE Osi Umenyiora injured his left knee against the Jets on Saturday.

First, let’s discuss the imminent loss of Umenyiora. Newspaper articles with medical experts say that if Umenyiora’s meniscus is repairable, he will definitely be lost for the remainder of the season. And the Giants have already said he would be out for the season (i.e., meaning they will put him on season-ending Injured Reserve). However, if the meniscus is not repairable (as is often the case), the doctors will remove it and there is a possibility that Umenyiora could return in a month or so. However, this is not ideal since the loss of meniscus would likely cause Umenyiora problems in the future. Everything ultimately depends on the state of Umenyiora’s meniscus. (And there is a chance that even if it is repaired, it will still have to be removed next year if it doesn’t heal properly).

Regardless, the loss of Umenyiora is a huge blow. There has been plenty of discussion about how you replace him. You don’t. Umenyiora is one of the very best defensive ends in football and you simply can’t replace him. Even if Mathias Kiwanuka plays as well as Umenyiora (which is entirely possible), it still severely affects the Giants’ pass-rush package as now instead of three top pass rushers (Tuck, Umenyiora, and Kiwanuka), you now only have two. That’s much easier for an opposing offense to deal with. Plus, the depth situation is no longer ideal.

Second, the loss of Umenyiora has forced the Giants to move Kiwanuka back to defensive end, his most natural spot. This was the obvious move. Dave Tollefson is not a starting-caliber defensive end. The domino effects here mean that Danny Clark will now start at strongside linebacker (not his preferred spot, but he said he will accept it) and probably ensures that Gerris Wilkinson will start at weakside linebacker. That means two-thirds of the Giants’ linebacking corps will be new, as will both starting defensive ends.

Third, adding even more fuel to the drama is the possible return of Michael Strahan. The vision of Strahan as a White Knight to save the day as Giants’ fans everywhere excited. Obviously Strahan returning to the fold would negate much (but not all) of the loss of Umenyiora. The question remains, however, does Strahan want to come back? The drama continues to build.

Oh, and by the way, the Giants are playing the New England Patriots on Thursday. And the team needs to cut its roster from 75 to 53.

What a week!

Giants on Offense: I’m not overly concerned about the lack of point production by the starting offense last Saturday. Eli looked sharp to me except for a couple of plays where he should have gotten rid of the ball sooner. The first- and-second-string offensive lines were not as bad as the sack totals indicate (some of the sacks were on the quarterbacks, or other blockers who failed to pick up the blitz). However, the Giants have had some issues with defensive back blitzes. The fact that the Giants are seeing so much of this in the preseason is good – it will help them better prepare for it in the regular season. Meanwhile, the Giants’ trademark ground game remains strong and deep. And with Plaxico Burress returning to practice and Steve Smith finally playing, the wide receivers corps – including the savvy Amani Toomer and emerging Domenik Hixon – should be very productive. We still don’t know what Kevin Boss and Darcy Johnson will bring to the table.

As for the back-ups, it was not a good outing for David Carr last Saturday. However, he still looks more like an NFL quarterback to me at this point than Anthony Wright. My guess is that Carr and Andre’ Woodson will be the backups.

As for the backs, I just can’t see the Giants cutting Danny Ware (what a find this guy has been). Ware can return kicks and run the football. My guess is Reuben Droughns will be released. But the Giants are incredibly deep and talented at his position. And don’t forget about FB Madison Hedgecock.

The Giants’ top four wide receivers will be Burress, Toomer, Smith, and Hixon. Mario Manningham flashed last week and will also make the team. That’s five. The Giants may only carry one more receiver, possibly two. Sinorice Moss is likely the sixth receiver. Again, this is a pretty deep and talented group. The Giants are going to have problems figuring out who to activate on game day.

Tight ends: Darcy Johnson finally looked better last week. My guess is that Boss, Johnson, and Michael Matthews are the three tight ends though the Giants still may scan the waiver wire.

The five starters on the offensive line are obviously set. The only questions here are how many back-ups to keep and who.

Giants on Defense: Just get out of the game healthy. No more injuries to the defensive line! The Giants still have two very dangerous pass-rush defensive ends in Tuck and Kiwanuka. And Renaldo Wynn is a decent back-up strongside end. But I wasn’t impressed with Dave Tollefson at all against the Jets. He’s still young and learning, but he doesn’t look particularly athletic for a weakside end. The Giants’ top defensive tackles will obviously be Fred Robbins, Barry Cofield, and Jay Alford – all three have played well.

For better or worse, the Giants’ linebacking corps will be much different in 2008. Danny Clark will be the new starter on the strongside and Gerris Wilkinson the new starter on the weakside – though the labels don’t matter much as both can and will play strong and weak. With Kiwanuka at end now, there is one less body here to factor into the equation in terms of who makes it at linebacker. Still, a decision needs to be made regarding Jonathan Goff (back injury). Bryan Kehl and Chase Blackburn are the top reserves. Zak DeOssie long snaps. Is this the end for Tank Daniels?

The top five corners will make the team – Ross, Webster, Dockery, Madison, Thomas. R.W. McQuarters can play corner and safety, as well as return punts. He may make it too. The top three safeties will make it – Butler, Johnson, Phillips. Do the Giants carry a fourth? If so, will it be Knight or Schweigert?

Giants on Special Teams: Hopefully, Lawrence Tynes will be back soon. Josh Huston isn’t doing well at all. Kick and punt coverage is still critically important in determining who makes or doesn’t make the team.

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Eric Kennedy

Founder and owner of BigBlueInteractive.com, which is now entering its 20th season. Follow Eric on Twitter @BigBlueInteract.

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