By Britt Schramm
Editors Note: This morning I’m happy to introduce you to our newest PD staffer Britt Schramm, who will write “Line ‘Em Up”, our weekly preview of the Patriots’ next opponent. In his initial post, Britt looks at some of the issues facing the World Champion Giants as they wrap up their pre-season with a final exhibition game with the Pats tonight. Welcome aboard, Britt (SB).
Greetings and welcome to the first of what should be at least 17 installments of Line ‘Em Up, your source for Patriots’ Game Day opponents. This column will try to provide a different take from your standard newsprint match-up by scouring the Internets for insight by reading local media outlets, message boards and when the opportunity presents itself, the ultimate source for all comedy otherwise known as official players’ blogs. Glad you’ve come aboard and I hope that you enjoy the ride.
This Week – New York Giants (Preseason 1-2, PF-54, PA-57)
*Disclaimer – Usually, this column will deal with the Patriots’ opponent strategy, players and comments directly involved with the upcoming game. However, as everyone knows, the last preseason NFL game is basically a meaningless worthless endeavor with the only thing on the line is practice squad roster spots. So, this week, I will address the upcoming season with respect to the Giants.*
Everyone remembers the last time that these two teams met in February at the End of the NFL Playoffs. And if you watched any television (gotta love the fact that the NFL couldn’t wait to hype the coronation of Eli from little brother to SB winner and place the Manning kids in every friggin’ commercial possible) or talked with any hateful anti-Patriots people during the off-season, you couldn’t forget the results if you tried. But that’s not the End that I am talking about here.
The Ends that I’m referring to are, of course, the defensive ends on the Giants. Michael Strahan thought about pulling a Brett Favre then remembered that the life of a pass-rushing DE is more physically demanding than that of a heavily protected QB and decided to stay retired. Osi Umenyiora is lost for the season due to torn ligaments and Mathias Kiwanuka is being converted from his role of strong-side (or “Sam”) LB to help cover for Umenyiora’s absence.
Yet, with all of these changes going on the DL, there should be one person that may suffer the most – Justin Tuck. I read a very Homer-ish POV case for Tuck to possibly win the 2008 NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Tuck may have look pretty great in that last playoff game but let’s not get too carried away here.
He was nicked up at the beginning of last year and as he was getting more involved with the line rotation, he was directly benefiting from Strahan’s gap-tooth presence on the other side of the line and the double teams that Umenyiora was seeing after getting six sacks while abusing a second-year tackle (William Justice) in the Week Four game versus the Eagles last year.
Now, Tuck has to become the Man and find a way to generate more pressure while shedding the double team while Kiwanuka tries to remember how to play a position where he grabs a handful of dirt instead of being on upright back from the line of scrimmage. If he can’t, their secondary will be finely shredded like Broadway Brett’s good guy rep.
It seems that Tom Brady will not be the only one who’ll start the season with the first game of the regular season. Plaxico Burress has been hampered with an ankle injury since the beginning of last season but played through it by skipping every other practice during game week. But his ability to stay healthy is very questionable.
For the Giants, they need Burress to play the season injury-free just so they can have a chance at moving the sticks. With rebel-without-a-clue Jeremy Shockey rocking the French Quarter, SB lucky man Tyree landing on the PUP list and aging WR Amani Toomer closing in on his AARP card, Manning’s completion options from anywhere outside of the backfield spots are practically dwindling before their fans’ eyes.
So tonight, when you see the likes of Domenik Hixon, Sinorice Moss and Mario Manningham running around during the second half, you may be seeing the next starting WR for the New York Giants.
As I stated before, today’s the last preseason game. The Giants will be tonight’s opponents in name only due to the aforementioned Scrubs Night Football, but will they be a Super Bowl contender this season? Hmm, all indications are pointing to no.
This season is the first one since Natalie Cole was singing with her dad that the Giants held the Lombardi Trophy behind their Jersey walls. However, every following year after a Super Bowl appearance, there is a case to be made that Giants fans shouldn’t be making any vacation plans in early 2009.
In the strike-shortened season of 1987, the Giants finished 6-9 and finished in last in the NFC East. In ‘91, they limped to a fourth place finish with an 8-8 record with basically the same roster (including notable HOFs LT and Carson) while in the role of defending champ. And in 2001, after losing the SB to the Ravens, the Jim Fassel-led Giants finished third in the NFC East with a 7-9.
So, when you take the prior history, the season injury to one of the starting DE and the starting slot WR being out for a minimum of six weeks and the departures of both Strahan and Shockey, this year’s Giants team has the ability to make the playoffs in a relatively weak NFC but I just can’t see them making it past the first round. Next week, the New England Patriots turn their attention to Kansas City and Line ‘Em Up will be here on Friday to provide the Who’s and What’s concerning the Chiefs. Stay tuned…