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2006 Team Report: New York Giants

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Quarterbacks

Starter: Eli Manning
Backup(s): Tim Hasselbeck, Jared Lorenzen, Rob Johnson

Starting QB: In his first full season as the Giants starter, Eli Manning showed enough to convince fans and NFL observers that he was worthy of the 1st overall selection in the 2004 draft. Last season, Manning threw for 3,762 yards (5th in the NFL) and 24 TDs (4th in the NFL) while leading the Giants to the NFC East title. Despite his success, Manning is hardly a finished product and will need to improve considerably in 2006 and beyond to warrant consideration among the league’s elite passers. His 52.8% completion percentage was among the lowest of NFL full-time starters and his 17 interceptions were 2nd worst in the league. Flaws aside, Manning has the work ethic, mechanics and coaching to take another leap forward in 2006.

Backup QB: The Giants would be in dire straits if Eli Manning were injured for an extended period. Tim Hasselbeck and Jared Lorenzen are hardly the kind of backups that inspire confidence among Giants faithful. Hasselbeck, who actually started a handful of games while a Redskin, lacks the physical abilities of a typical NFL starter but is intelligent enough to manage a conservative game plan for a few weeks. Lorenzen, better known for his weight problems than his on-field abilities, seems an unlikely candidate to exit training camp as the 3rd string QB. But, for now, that’s where he sits on the depth chart. Rob Johnson was recently acquired and should compete for the backup job.

Running Backs

Starter: Tiki Barber
Backup(s): Brandon Jacobs, Derrick Ward, Chad Morton
Fullback(s): Jim Finn

Starting RB: Every year Tiki Barber finds a way to mystify the pundits and exceed his prior accomplishments. Last season, Barber emerged as a legitimate MVP candidate as he powered the Giants offensive engine. He finished 2nd in the league in rushing, and set career highs for attempts, rushing yards, yards per rush and total yards. His 2,390 yards from scrimmage not only led the league (Barber’s 2nd consecutive season doing so), but was the 2nd best tally in NFL history. Barber has virtually no holes in his game, and although he’s on the wrong side of 30, has shown no signs of slowing down nor is durability an issue (he’s missed 2 games in the last eight years).

Backup RBs: Last year was supposed to be the season when the Giants finally brought in a running back to spell Tiki in short yardage and goal line situations. Brandon Jacobs, the mammoth rookie from Southern Illinois was supposed to shoulder some of the load; yet at season’s end, he had just 38 carries. Despite the limited workload, Jacobs did score seven touchdowns, although he only converted seven of 16 goal line carries into scores. Jacobs is a bruising, straight ahead runner whose strength is moving the pile. There is precious little depth behind Barber and Jacobs, with Derrick Ward and Chad Morton better served as special teams contributors.

Fullback: Jim Finn reprises his role as the team’s fullback. He has developed into a devastating lead blocker, as exhibited by Barber’s MVP-caliber season, but remains a limited contributor on offense.

Wide Receivers

Starters: Plaxico Burress, Amani Toomer
Backups: Sinorice Moss [R], Willie Ponder, David Tyree, Tim Carter

Starting WRs: Plaxico Burress signed with New York last year, in part, to get out from under Hines Ward’s shadow. He did not disappoint as his season tally (76 receptions, 1,214 yards and seven touchdowns) was among the NFC’s most productive. Burress has rare size (6’5”, 231 lbs.) and, when focused, is among the toughest receivers in the game to defend. The Giants will be happy with Burress if he can duplicate last year’s production, but he’s probably capable of more. Despite his gaudy full season totals, Burress had a tendency to disappear at times, witness his Week 13-16 stretch (11 catches, 158 yards). All in all, Burress should remain one of the league’s most productive receivers as he gets more comfortable in the Giants scheme and builds further rapport with Eli Manning. 11-year veteran Amani Toomer once again starts opposite Burress. Toomer is coming off a season where he averaged a career-low 11.4 yards per catch and his 684 yards was his worst output in eight years; but his seven touchdowns was a major contribution. Toomer could be pushed by rookie Sinorice Moss at some point in the season.

Backup WRs: Last year, the Giants got little help from their backup receivers. Tim Carter, David Tyree, Jamaar Taylor and Willie Ponder combined for 15 receptions, 238 yards and a TD. That lack of production played a crucial role in GM Ernie Accorsi’s selection of Sinorice Moss in the second round of this year’s draft. Moss, the brother of Redskin Santana Moss, brings a similar skill set to the Giants. Moss is small, but has blazing speed and is a better-than-average route runner. He’ll be looked upon for help immediately in 3-WR sets (and in the return game), and should eventually replace Amani Toomer in the starting lineup. David Tyree, the NFC’s Special Teams Pro Bowl selection last year, should return. Tim Carter's strong performance in training camp gives him a leg up over the other camp bodies for the final WR slot.

Tight Ends

Starters: Jeremy Shockey
Backups: Visanthe Shiancoe, Boo Williams

Jeremy Shockey earned his third Pro Bowl invitation last year and finally enjoyed the kind of consistently productive season so many expected of him from the day he was drafted. His 65 catches and 891 yards rivaled his rookie year production, but this time around he added seven touchdown receptions. When he’s not catching passes, Shockey has become a punishing in-line blocker and played a key role in Tiki Barber’s 1,860 yard rushing season. As long as Shockey can stay healthy, there’s no reason to think he won’t remain among the league’s best all-around tight ends. Visanthe Shiancoe and Boo Williams serve as the team’s backups, and both have noticeable limitations.

Place Kicker

Jay Feely: Moving to the New York as a free agent last year, Feely wound up in the right place at the right time. The Giants provided him with the most scoring opportunities in the NFL. If he’d been perfect (like Anderson and Vanderjagt once did) he would have scored 169, setting a new single season scoring record. However he missed seven FGs, including three in one game at Seattle. On the up side, his 83.3% average was the highest of his five year career. If he can improve his accuracy, he could become an elite kicker.

Kick and Punt Returners

Kick Returners: Chad Morton; R.W. McQuarters; Michael Jennings; Sinorice Moss; Derrick Ward; Brandon Jacobs

RB Chad Morton took over kickoff returns the second half of the season (24 returns, 23.3 avg.), and is expected to keep that role this year. FA acquisition CB R.W. McQuarters is better known as a punt returner from his Chicago years. However he demonstrated he can also return kickoffs last year with Detroit (16 returns, 23.8 avg.) RB Derrick Ward posted very strong numbers in a backup role in 2004 (16 returns, 27.3 avg., 1 TD). Further complicating the picture is second round draft pick, the oft-injured WR Sinorice Moss. He was not used extensively on returns (1 punt for 19 yards, and 6 kickoffs for 112 yards) by the University of Miami, however his skills and attributes suggest he could be very successful similar to his older brother Santana or to Steve Smith. RB Brandon Jacobs averaged 29.0 yards on just two returns.

Punt Returners: Chad Morton; Michael Jennings; R.W. McQuarters; Sinorice Moss; Amani Toomer

Chad Morton returned 47 of the Giants’ 49 punt returns last year. He scored once and his 9.6 avg. ranked 20th in the NFL. New York re-signed him to a 4-year contract during the offseason. WR Michael Jennings made a strong showing in the pre-season to make the final roster. R.W. McQuarters would be a starting punt returner on most teams; however he was stuck behind Eddie Drummond last year and will be behind Morton this year. He’s averaged 11.0 yards per return over the last three years, and he’s scored twice. WR Amani Toomer returned punts early in his Giants’ career, but hasn’t returned one since 2001.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: RT Kareem McKenzie, RG Chris Snee, C Shaun O’Hara, LG David Diehl, LT Luke Petitgout
Key Backups: T Bob Whitfield, G Grey Ruegamer, G Guy Whimper (rookie)

The Giants offensive line has become one of the finest in the NFL at run blocking. Both guard Chris Snee and guard David Diehl are young, improving linemen who have opened up big holes for Tiki Barber and the running game to exploit and their best is still to come. Both players are very aggressive on the field and have Pro Bowl potential down the road. Right tackle will be manned by Kareem McKenzie who joined the club last year and had an immediate impact with the club. He is a big man who plays with a chip on his shoulder on every play. He punishes the defender across from him and is an aggressive run blocker. His pass blocking isn’t tremendous but he gets the job done. At left tackle, Luke Petitgout has really come into his own as a dependable lineman. He is very athletic, technically gifted and has developed into one of the better linemen in the league. Finally at center, Shaun O’Hara brings lots of experience to the table and fits into this group nicely. The Giants offensive line will be a top-level unit this season. No weakness across the group and enough veteran experience in behind to cover an injury or two. Expect more gaping holes for the running game this season.

Team Defense

The Giants emerged as one of the leagues top big play defenses in 2005. Only two clubs totaled more than their 36 takeaways, and they were one of just 12 teams to break the 40-sack mark. However, there were some problems to resolve such as a 27th ranked pass defense and a 24th place finish in yards allowed. They moved strongly to address the unit via free agency by adding the top available linebacker LaVar Arrington, stud cover corner Sam Madison and one of the top safeties available in Will Demps. They also addressed the future by using five draft picks on defense including their #1 on DE Mathias Kiwanuka who will be groomed to replace soon to be 35 year old Michael Strahan, and a third round pick on LB Gerris Wilkenson who could eventually emerge as their starter on the weak side. This is a unit with a great deal of talent as well as solid depth. If the new talent comes together, they could emerge as one of the leagues best this season.

Defensive Line

Starters: DE Osi Umenyiora, DE Michael Strahan, DT William Joseph, DT Fred Robbins
Backups: DE Justin Tuck, DT Damane Duckett, DE Mathias Kiwanuka®, DT Barry Cofield®, Jonas Seawright

Starting DL: When the New York Giants refused to include DE Osi Umenyiora in the draft day trade that netted them QB Eli Manning, they obviously thought that they had something special in their rookie situational pass rusher. Three years later, Umenyiora has become all that they expected, plus some, as he enters 2006 among the leagues top defensive ends. With 1.5 years of starting experience under his belt, OU will look to continue his development against the run and maintain his status as an elite pass rusher. There's certainly something in the water at Troy State (Umenyiora, DeMarcus Ware). Helping along the progress of Umenyiora has been one of the leagues all-time greats, DE Michael Strahan. After seemingly fading into the sunset during the 2004 season, missing the final eight games with a torn pectoral muscle (his first missed games after playing in 137 consecutive), Strahan rose from the ashes like a Phoenix, re-staking his claim atop NFL defensive linemen with 61 solo tackles and 11.5 sacks. It is literally impossible for Michael Strahan to keep pace at an age when most players are well in decline (he turns 35 in November), but it's also impossible to write him off after what he's shown in terms of production and keeping himself in peak physical condition. Inside is where defensive tackles William Joseph and Fred Robbins roam. Joseph, a 1st round pick in 2003, has been surprisingly unproductive in his first three seasons after being tabbed as a future star in this league. Consistency and injuries have been the biggest issues with the 6'5 315 pounder and, although he possesses all of the physical tools to dominate, his time is running out. Robbins, a traditional plugger at 6'4 325, plays the space-eating/run-stuffer role in this defense although he is not a great 2-gap defensive tackle. His fantasy outlook is very minimal, although he did surprise is 2004 with 31 solo tackles and five sacks (the only year in six NFL seasons that he's posted better than 21 solos and two sacks).

Backup DL: Justin Tuck provides quality depth at defensive end. An impressive pass rusher who holds Notre Dame’s career sack record, Tuck didn't get the opportunity to show much as a rookie last year because of the stellar seasons by Umenyiora and Strahan. At 6'5 268 he's a willing run defender with good speed whose intelligence has landed him a role in the DE rotation, helping keep the studs fresh. Tuck could also slide in and play defensive tackle at times. The Giants top DT reserve a year ago, Kendrick Clancy, left New York and headed to Arizona as a free agent. That leaves the Giants very thin on the interior of their defensive line with Kenderick Allen and Damane Duckett. Entering their 4th and 3rd years, respectively, both possess impressive size with limited game experience. Allen would get the call should something happen to Joseph/Robbins, but they'd once again struggle to provide an inside rush should that happen. The rich get richer with the Giants adding Mathias Kiwanuka to their defensive end rotation (32nd pick in first round). Regarded as a much better prospect before this college football season, he lost some steam and had problems with consistency. A tremendous natural athlete with the physical tools to be dominant, he’ll likely find a role as a pass rush specialist until he’s able to round out his game. With Michael Strahan’s days numbered in New York, and the optimism regarding Justin Tuck based mostly on potential, the addition of Kiwanuka should assure them of depth at the defensive end position for years to come. Barry Cofield was added in the 4th round to provide depth at defensive tackle. A space-eater at 6’4 303, has the size and athleticism to tie up blockers but doesn’t make many plays. With uncertainty along the interior of the Giants defensive line, one player who has stood out is Jonas Seawright. An undrafted free-agent in 2005, the 6'6 335 Seawright is a darkhorse to win the nose-tackle role.

Linebackers

Starters: MLB Antonio Pierce, WLB Carlos Emmons, SLB Lavar Arrington
Backups: SLB Reggie Torbor, MLB Chase Blackburn, LB Gerris Wilkinson®, SLB Brandon Short

Starting LBs: In his first year with the Giants, MLB Antonio Pierce proved to be a free-agent gem. Not only did he fill up the boxscore with 78 solo tackles, 2.5 sacks, 2 interceptions and 11 passes defended, he proved to be a very strong locker room presence, the heart of the defense if not the entire team. A 3-down linebacker with excellent speed, strength and coverage skills, Pierce should be back to full strength after missing the final four games a year ago with an ankle injury (including playoff loss to Carolina). SLB Carlos Emmons has never been a statistical force, but he is a huge LB (6'5 250) whose intelligence leaves him with much more value than what shows up in the boxscore. A good run defender who's solid in coverage, Emmons enter his 11th season (3rd in NY) hoping NOT for a repeat performance of 2005, a season which he finished the year on the injured reserve after missing seven games with knee/ankle/torn pectoral injuries. The signing of free-agent Lavar Arrington gives New York the true WLB that they lacked a year ago. Explosive and undisciplined, Arrington has the physical tools to be one of the games most dynamic defenders…when he’s not freelancing and out of position. The Giants appear to have a stable core on defense which may be able to soften the blow of Arrington’s wayward ways, allowing him to do what he does best without detriment to the defense. Lavar Arrington’s health may also be a concern. A knee injury limited him to just four games in 2004 and he was relatively unproductive a year ago in 13 games, although the Redskins scheme and coaches may have had something to do with his production. It looks like Carlos Emmons’ play on the weakside last year was more than just a stop gap measure. The Giants will let LaVar Arrington loose to the strongside, a move that they feel will take better advantage of his abilities. As usual, his value remains unpredictable while Emmons gets a good boost as the WLB starter.

Backup LBs: Reggie Torbor, a starter at SLB in 10 games last year is an excellent pass rusher with adequate strength who seems perfectly fit as an OLB in a 3-4 set (which the Giants have toyed with in the past). He's still feeling a hamstring injury that forced him to miss the regular season finale. A year ago at this time, LB Chase Blackburn was a rookie free-agent looking to catch on with an NFL team. Eventually landing with the Giants, Blackburn was a special team’s ace until week 15, when he started two games at MLB in place of Antonio Pierce and posted 15 tackles (6 solo) with an interception. He was carted off of the field during week 16 (neck) but is expected to be healthy for the upcoming season. Gerris Wilkinson was added in the 3rd round to provide depth on the weakside, although he will push Carlos Emmons. Wilkinson is being viewed as the eventual WLB replacement. The Giants learned last year that you can’t have enough quality depth at linebacker and they look to have taken steps to prevent a repeat performance in 2006 and beyond. Brandon Short can play both outside positions but will likely provide depth on the weakside.

Defensive Backs

Starters: CB Corey Webster, CB Sam Madison, SS Gibril Wilson, FS Will Demps
Backups: CB Curtis DeLoatch, CB R.W.McQuarters, S Quentin Harris, S Charlie Peprah®

Starting DBs: A rookie 2nd round pick in 2005, CB Corey Webster played nickel back for much of the season but appeared to be one bad Will Allen play away from entering the starting lineup. He started three games overall (including opening round playoff loss), averaging seven solo tackles per start, and, although he didn't intercept a pass in 2005, he is considered to have superb overall ball skills (a welcome change from Allen/Peterson, who couldn't seem to catch a cold). Entering this year he appears to have a stronghold on one starting cornerback job. The other will go to a new face in New York, CB Sam Madison. A nine-year vet who was widely considered one of the leagues top covermen/playmakers during his early days in Miami, Madison brings veteran leadership and 31 career interceptions to the Giants secondary. Although he's lost a step at age 32, he still can make plays and should be a welcome addition to a young defensive backfield. Another new addition to the Giants secondary is FS Will Demps. A starter for the past 2.5 season as Baltimore's strong safety, Demps is a heady player with decent playmaking skills who should bring a bit of consistency to the defense. A partially torn ACL forced Demps to miss the final five games last year and, while he's expected to be ready for training camp, he will lose some valuable time as he rehabs while attempting to learn a new defense. Strong Safety Gibril Wilson is the star of this secondary. A 5th round pick in 2004, he stepped into the starting lineup during week three of his rookie year and has not looked back. A shoulder stinger knocked him out of the final seven games of that '04 season, but his full 16 game slate in 2005 shows that injuries should not be an issue. Through his first 24 career games he's averaging 5+ solo tackles per contest with six sacks and five interceptions, making him a top-5 fantasy defensive back. Considered a run-stuffing safety with marginal coverage ability, he obviously knows how to make plays on the ball.

Backup DBs: Cornerback Curtis DeLoatch started 13 games last year in place of Will Peterson, who missed all but two games with a back injury. A huge CB at 6'2 217, DeLoatch didn't play as well as they had hoped in his second season (originally an undrafted rookie) which forced them to find a starter this offseason (Madison). In regards to Peterson, in looks like his career is in jeopardy after multiple back fractures during the last three seasons. He has been released. CB R.W.McQuarters is another free-agent addition who should fill the nickel back/return specialist role. An eight year vet, McQuarters has never lived up to his first round billing (28th overall in 1998) but he has carved out a niche as a #3/occasional starting cornerback and return man. He's started 25 games over the last two years with Detroit and Chicago. At safety the Giants don't have near the depth that they have at corner, with Quentin Harris being the top reserve. A free-agent signee from Arizona, Harris has just 43 solo tackles in four NFL seasons. With Curtis DeLoatch's size and limitations at cornerback, you'd have to think that he may be asked to transition if necessary. Charlie Peprah, a 5th round pick out of Alabama, is an in-the-box type safety project who excels against the run but struggles when pulled away from the line and into coverage. He tends to leave his feet, looking for the knockout blow, which also makes him miss quite a few tackles. Rookie cornerback Gerrick McPhearson deserves note because of his incredible measurables, although he hasn’t been able to translate that into on-field production. With a 4.21 40 time on record and good size at 5’10 190, he’s solid in run support but needs a lot of work on his ball skills.

Last modified: 2006-09-03 05:05:39



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