We're back in the NFC today after previewing the Pittsburgh Steelers and the New Orleans Saints before that. Today we'll be looking at the New York Giants, represented at SB Nation by ETVal over at Big Blue View, a site even newer than Niners Nation, having set up shop in late February. As you may or may not have noticed, I've been throwing out the primary writer of the opposition blog. As we get into the season and are doing more in-depth previews, we'll hopefully be working with the specific blog. So feel free to swing by the various blogs to better acquaint yourself with the opposition.
The 2006 NY Giants managed to sneak into the playoffs after a very pedestrian 8-8 regular season. Eli Manning put together a solid, but unspectacular campaign in which he improved his completion percentage and improved his completion total while throwing for 500 fewer yards and the same amount of touchdowns. The real highlight on offense last season was seeing the thunder and lightning combo of Tiki Barber and Brandon Jacobs. The retirement of Tiki Barber certainly leaves a whole that several pieces will try and fill.
I think it makes a little more sense to look at the losses first, since many of a team's additions are predicated on the losses; something that is very true of the Giants. Tiki Barber, step right up. Barber was with the Giants for a decade, before hanging up his cleats to be the next Matt Lauer. The good news for the Giants is they've got the big boy Brandon Jacobs chomping at the bit. Throw in Reuben Droughns and while it might be a less profile running back tandem, I think they can make up for the loss of Tiki in the running game. The bigger question is the affect on the passing game, considering Tiki was second on the team in receptions and yards.
The Giants also lost Luke Petigout and will be moving David Diehl from guard to left tackle to try and replace Petigout. Considering this is Eli Manning's blind side, it will be very interesting to see how this affects Manning and the passing game.
While it won't have an affect in my opinion, I'm gonna miss Leapin Lavar Arrington this year. While he was a bit out of control on the field, he was definitely something to behold and brought some quality entertainment to the field.
The Giants did a good job in addressing some areas of need and areas of depth. While Brandon Jacobs is a big bull of a runner, signing Reuben Droughns allows them to continue to develop Jacobs and see what he really can do outside of the goal line. Considering the goal line punishment Jacobs can save Droughns from, I think this will end up being a successful platoon. Droughns is a bit bigger than Tiki, but I could see him in a similar rushing role (minus several hundred yards).
On the defensive side of the ball, the team picked up Kawika Mitchell from Kansas City. Mitchell was a middle linebacker in KC but will move to the strong side linebacker position in the Giants 4-3 due to the continued emergence of Antonio Pierce. Mitchell reminds of Derek Smith in his prime, a guy who can provide some energy and tackling ability while in his own prime (we'll save the missed Derek Smith tackles for a few years from now).
Draft-wise, the Giants addressed several needs with some quality picks. The Giants definitely need to develop talent at DB and taking Aaron Ross is a solid step in that direction. I particularly like the Steve Smith selection as he'll give Manning one more weapon....now we'll see if Eli actually improves with him.
2007 Questions & Answers
Will Droughns and Jacobs adequately replace Barber and Jacobs? While I highly doubt Droughns will reach 1600 yards I think he could crack the 1,000 yard mark. I'd expect to see Jacobs take a more active role in the running game, which could definitely help to offset the Droughns-Barber difference.
Will Eli Manning improve? Entering this season, Manning will have at his disposal: Jeremy Shockey, Amani Toomer, Plaxico Burress, Sinorice Moss and Steve Smith. If he can't improve on last year's 57.7% completion percentage, I don't know what else will improve it. In comparing Manning and Smith, I think it's entirely possible Smith could leap frog Manning, statistically speaking. There's a lot of time between now and the end of the season, but the talent and weapons are there for both of these youngsters.
vs. San Francisco
Coming off a bye week, the 49ers will have a very good idea of where they are in the playoff race, as they'll be once through their NFC West opponents. Considering that mini-gauntlet, a bye week could be quite useful then. If the Giants, and particularly Eli Manning are able to get their shit together, this is a very dangerous matchup for the 49ers. It will test the new and improved defense as well as many opponents. I'm thinking Giants 23 - 49ers 21. Mind you, my predictions change just about every day, so take it with a grain of salt.