Key Questions Heading into the 2009 New York Giants Training Camp
The New York Giants are one of the very best teams in the NFL and have few question marks. Under Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning, the Giants have a nice little run going. In the past four seasons, the Giants have made the playoffs every single year and have earned two NFC East Division titles, one NFC Championship, and one NFL Championship. Barring catastrophic injuries to key players, the Giants are likely to add to their laurels in 2009. The Giants are a relatively young football team that should continue to get better as it matures. This is a golden age of Giants football.
(1) Will Bill Sheridan Be a Good Defensive Coordinator?: It’s a major jump and transition from position coach to coordinator. Many fail. Bill Sheridan has worked under Tim Lewis and Steve Spagnuolo. Coughlin made a mistake when he hired Lewis, but made a very good decision when he hired Spagnuolo. How will this decision turn out?
(2) Can the Giants Avoid the Injury Bug?: No team in the NFL, including the Giants, can expect to reach the Super Bowl if key players miss significant time or are not as effective due to injury. Serious injuries to Eli Manning, a starter on the offensive line, Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck, or Corey Webster could prove devastating.
(3) Will the Giants Peak at the Right Time?: In the 2007 season, the Giants were peaking at the right time; in 2008, they were not. Now there are all kinds of explanations why they didn’t in 2008, but all that really matters is that they were not playing their best football in January. The Giants will make the playoffs in 2009. That’s not the issue. It’s what they do once they get there that matters. This team is now in the same category as the New England Patriots – anything less than another NFL title will be a disappointment.
(4) Are the Giants’ Young Receivers Good Enough?: There are two question marks surrounding the revamped receiving corps: (a) is there enough talent, and (b) is there enough experience? Regarding the first issue, the Giants have enough talent in other areas of the roster to still win and make the playoffs with the current group of wide receivers. But when January rolls around and the Giants face do-or-die, lose-and-you-are-eliminated situations against top defensive teams, will this group be good enough? What if the Giants play the Eagles again in January? Can these guys get open against their corners? Will they deliver in the clutch in pressure-packed situations? The other issue is even if these players are good enough to succeed in the NFL, are they good enough to succeed THIS season? The Giants probably have THE most inexperienced group of wide receivers and tight ends in the NFL. Guys like Kevin Boss and Steve Smith seem like they have been around for a while, but they have only played two seasons. Domenik Hixon caught one NFL pass before last season. Michael Matthews and Darcy Johnson have few NFL catches. Mario Manningham, Hakeem Nicks, Travis Beckum, and Ramses Barden are very green. How many bad passing plays will occur because a receiver didn’t run the right route or didn’t use the proper technique? It will happen. The question is how often?
(5) Can Adam Koets Handle Back-Up Center?: The Giants did not re-sign Grey Ruegamer. It appears the team is high on Adam Koets as his replacement as a back-up center. If he can handle the position, it would be a very good development as Koets would be a player who could handle tackle, guard, and center. If Koets cannot handle the transition, the Giants would most likely be forced to move Rich Seubert or Chris Snee to center if Shaun O’Hara got hurt.
Five questions? That’s it? Well it is for me this year. What about the linebackers you ask? Or running back? Or back-up offensive linemen? The kicker? I’m not worried. The Giants defensive line and secondary is so good that they could, if necessary, cover up for a multitude of sins at linebacker, if that were the case. But Michael Boley, who will miss training camp with a hip injury, will return and round into form when it matters most. I look for a good year from Antonio Pierce. Clint Sintim and Bryan Kehl will press for playing time. Don’t forget about guys like Jonathan Goff and Chase Blackburn too.
Running back? The Giants are loaded at the position. It’s just a matter of how the touches are divvied up. Back-up offensive line? I’ve already mentioned the question of Koets at center. I like Kevin Boothe at guard (he struggles more at tackle). Guy Whimper has played well at tackle. And the Giants drafted the talented William Beatty in the second round. The Giants should be fine with Boothe, Whimper, Koets, and Beatty as long as Koets can handle center. The kicker? Lawrence Tynes gets too much grief. He’s pretty solid.
Believe me, like the Yankees in their heyday, the question is not if the Giants make the playoffs, but what they do once they get there. This is a very, very good football team. There aren’t many potential trouble spots. If Sheridan was a good choice (big if) and the team stays relatively healthy, the Giants are as good as anyone in the NFL. They are strong on both lines and have a franchise quarterback and very good secondary. They also have a rock of stability and knowledge in Tom Coughlin. That’s as good as it gets.