Super Bowl champion Giants have big O capability

The Bridge.

Coming into the season, Tom Coughlin has asked his New York

Giants to bridge the six-game run that carried them to their second

Super Bowl win in five seasons into the 2012 season that kicks off

Wednesday against Dallas.

Coughlin knows the Giants can’t afford another 9-7 regular

season if they want to become the ninth team – the Steelers did it

twice – to win consecutive titles. Make no mistake though, this

team can join the club.

Two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning is coming off a career-best

season and is improving. The defensive line can make life miserable

for any opponent with All-Pro end Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck

and Osi Umenyiora. What many don’t realize is the Giants might have

even more weapons this year.

The running game, which was the worst in the NFL in 2011, has a

chance to run over people if first-round draft choice David Wilson

lives up to the hype. He impressed everyone in minicamp with his

quickness, speed and power, then was even better in the preseason.

The Virginia Tech product got a start against the Bears last week

because Ahmad Bradshaw had a bruised right hand. All he did was run

for 49 yards on five carries. The highlight: three consecutive

plays where he had runs of 20 and 15 yards, and then went 29 yards

with a short pass from Manning.

”He is exciting,” veteran tackle David Diehl said.

Even more exciting is the prospect of a balanced offense, where

the Giants don’t have to rely on Manning to throw 589 times for

4,933 yards because there is no running game. Wilson gives the

Giants an ability to get to the outside on the ground. Bradshaw and

Brandon Jacobs, who packed the 1-2 punch in recent seasons, were

similar because they did their best work between the tackles.

Bradshaw occasionally bounced outside, but Wilson can do it any

time he touches the ball.

If Manning can pick and choose when he throws instead of being

forced to the air, Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks might take the

passing game to another level.

”It could be scary,” said Cruz, who set a franchise record

with 1,536 yards receiving last season.

Wilson knows going into the season he will be the No. 2 back

behind Bradshaw. The Giants, however, play two backs every

game.

”I was surprised by the whole experience,” Wilson said of his

start. ”I didn’t know what to expect. To go in there and be

productive, that is what I wanted to do.”

Wilson isn’t the only newcomer on an offense that scored 394

points in 2011. Rueben Randle, the second-round draft choice, has

looked very good in camp and should join Domenik Hixon in making up

for the loss of Mario Manningham, who like Jacobs signed with the

49ers as a free agent.

The biggest loss on the offense was tight end Jake Ballard. He

tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee the Super Bowl

and was waived-injured, then signed by New England. Former Dallas

Cowboy Martellus Bennett was signed as a free agent. He has shown

flashes in training camp and the preseason, but he has to prove he

can be a force when games count.

Four of five starters return on the offensive line, with the big

question at left tackle. Will Beatty was supposed to star, but has

a back injury. Veteran Sean Locklear has replaced him in preseason

games. David Diehl has moved to right tackle because Kareem

McKenzie was not re-signed.

The defense took almost a full season to find itself in 2011,

but once it did, it was outstanding, yielding 56 points in four

postseason games. The guys up front led the way.

New York had 48 sacks last season, with Pierre-Paul getting 16

1/2 in earning All Pro honors in just his second season.

”I am about 50 (percent),” Pierre-Paul said in assessing his

development. ”I am still learning. That is the good thing about

it. I want to come out here and learn and keep on improving.”

Tackle Chris Canty, who started all 16 games last season, will

miss at least six games while on the physically unable to perform

list. He had knee surgery and it has been slow to heal. Weak side

linebacker Michael Boley also may not be ready for Dallas because

of a hamstring injury. Keith Rivers, acquired in a trade with

Cincinnati, has filled in well and adds speed.

With cornerback Corey Webster and safeties Antrel Rolle and

Kenny Phillips back, the secondary is solid. Cornerback Aaron Ross

signed with Jacksonville and the other job belongs to Michael Coe

following injuries to Terrell Thomas, Prince Amukamara and rookie

Jayron Hosley.

Despite all the injuries, the first team has stood out in the

preseason; New York led at halftime in its first three games.

”We should play with confidence, we are the world champions,”

said placekicker Lawrence Tynes, a member of both championship

teams. ”We just have to go out and prove it again. I don’t know if

we can play a whole season like we did the last six weeks of last

year. You know it can be done because we did it. To be able to

sustain that for 16 weeks would be nice.”

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