New York Giants 2010 Season Preview: Putting '09 Behind Them
A year after winning home-field advantage in the NFC, the New York Giants limped to an 8-8 finish in 2009, dropping back-to-back games in Week 16 and Week 17 against Carolina and Minnesota by a combined score of 85-16. After such a disappointing end to what looked like a playoff run, the Giants have had the entire offseason to simmer and dwell on what went wrong in those two weeks.
Ideally, it would be nice to say the team has had time to get healthy, but seven players on the depth chart are currently dealing with injuries, including starting cornerback Aaron Ross. Playing in a tough division, the Giants will have to get healthy and be on top of their game in a hurry, or they could be left behind.
Offense: Second-year receiver Hakeem Nicks seems on the verge of being a breakthough NFL talent, and should he emerge as a true No. 1 receiver alongside the reliable Steve Smith, Eli Manning will have plenty of weapons in the offense for years to come. Ahmad Bradshaw operated at close to full capacity in 2009, despite multiple injuries to his feet, averaging 4.8 yards per carry and making more trips to the end zone than incumbent Brandon Jacobs. The Giants are looking to an even time share, but Bradshaw's talent should win out in the end, giving him a shot at being the division's best running back by the end of this season. Heat Index: 9
Defense: Justin Tuck, Mathias Kiwanuka and Osi Umenyiora are back to wreak havoc on opposing offensive lines. Joining them is exciting first-round pick Jason Pierre-Paul. Good luck, pass blockers. Keith Bulluck hasn't managed to secure the starting middle linebacker job, leaving Jonathan Goff and Clint Sintim as the likely starters at linebacker with Michael Boley. Corey Webster should again be great at one cornerback position, but with Aaron Ross dealing with his own foot injury, it will be up to Terrell Thomas to hold the fort down at the beginning of the season. The pass-rushing presence on this team is amazing, but the onus will be on the back seven to play a big role in a potential playoff bid. The Giants' defense allowed 26.7 points per game in 2009, 30th in the league. Heat Index: 6
Special Teams: The Giants' special-teams unit was dealt a big blow when Domenik Hixon, who pulled double duty in the return game, tore an ACL this summer. The team's other return options are uninspiring. New York will also be using a new punter in 2010, as Jeff Feagles retired during the offseason -- Matt Dodge takes over there. The special-teams unit's only returning player is kicker Lawrence Tynes, who made 27 of 32 field goals last year. Heat Index: 4
Coaching: Tom Coughlin took over the Giants in 2004, and after a six-win season in his first year, he's led the team to five straight seasons of at least eight wins, including one that featured maybe the most memorable Super Bowl ever. He's one of the best coaches in the league. Kevin Gilbride returns for his fourth season as offensive coordinator, while Perry Fewell comes on as defensive coordinator after serving as interim head coach of the Bills for the last half of last season. Heat Index: 9
Intangibles: This team has playoff experience and a veteran at quarterback, as well as consistency at head coach. The defensive back seven has to develop to push this team to the next level. Heat Index: 7
Total Heat Index: 35/50. Health will likely play a determining role in the Giants' season. The running backs have had problems with it in the past, and Bradshaw will need to stay at the top of his game to spark the rushing attack in 2010. Expect Coughlin to get the most out of this group, and for the Giants to win at least eight games this year.