Super Bowl champion Giants have big O capability
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
”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
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.”
Online: http://bigstory.ap.org/NFL-Pro32 and