Is Big Blue Back?
THE D IS BACK
It won't take much for the Giants to be better than they were last year.
In fact, I think all they need to do is win one more game than they did last year to be better. Win 10 games and the Giants could very well win the NFC East and make the playoffs.
And once they're in the postseason, Eli Manning and this core, which won it all just two years ago, have the ingredients and pedigree to make a run all the way to ... MetLife Stadium.
The Giants finished last year with a porous defense that ranked 31st overall. Hakeem Nicks was a mess with a bad foot and bum knee. And the Giants disappeared when the season was on the line against a tough schedule.
In the offseason, the Giants seemed to do more subtracting than adding, by saying goodbye to Ahmad Bradshaw, Osi Umenyiora, Chris Canty, Michael Boley, Chase Blackburn and Kenny Phillips among others.
However, Jerry Reese is banking that new blood will be hungry blood. He signed several players to one-year deals hoping they'll have something to prove. The GM also is counting on proud veterans like Justin Tuck, Corey Webster and David Diehl to bounce back.
The Giants focused on fortifying the defense by signing Cullen Jenkins, who will have an impact this season, and drafting Johnathan Hankins and Damontre Moore. Perry Fewell has new toys, and he has been tinkering with many different combinations. Aaron Ross is back, and Terrell Thomas may also be back from a third ACL surgery. Prince Amukamara continues to ascend, and Jason Pierre-Paul's back will hopefully be pain free for once. The defense has nowhere to go but up.
Offensively, Eli is surrounded by explosive weapons in David Wilson, Victor Cruz, the emerging Rueben Randle and new tight end Brandon Myers. And Nicks should be healthy which will make all the difference in the world.
Remember, all the Giants need to do is win one more game than last year. A healthy Nicks, a motivated Eli and a rejuvenated defense should be good enough.
NOTHING NEW HERE
The Giants finished 9-7 last season, but did not qualify for the postseason "tournament," as GM Jerry Reese likes to call it.
There are plenty of reasons to think the same thing will happen this year.
Let's look at the current depth chart. On offense, the starting 11 is practically the same. Brandon Myers replaces Martellus Bennett at tight end -- that's probably a wash. David Wilson or Andre Brown will take Ahmad Bradshaw's place as the No. 1 tailback, and either one will have a lot to live up to. Bradshaw rushed for over 1,000 yards last season and was a team leader as well.
On defense, Cullen Jenkins replaces Chris Canty at one tackle spot -- they had similar numbers last season. The starting secondary is unchanged. And at linebacker, the Giants went from having experienced players like Michael Boley and Chase Blackburn in the lineup to counting on unproven youngsters like Mark Herzlich and Spencer Paysinger.
And don't forget about special teams. The Giants ditched Lawrence Tynes, who kicked them to two Super Bowls with clutch OT makes on the road, for Josh Brown, who was out of the league until the Bengals signed him for four games at the end of last season.
Does this sound like a drastically improved team to you?
When the Yankees missed the playoffs in 2008, for the first time since 1993, GM Brian Cashman went on a spending spree, signing CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira and A.J. Burnett to huge deals.
When the Giants missed the playoffs in 2012, for the third time in four seasons, Reese kept his roster largely intact.
Yes, Reese is operating under a salary cap, as opposed to Cashman. Still, he didn't bring in one eye-popping addition.
The bottom line?
The 2013 Giants look a lot like the 2012 Giants.
Another 9-7 finish sounds about right.