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Early in his career coach Tom Coughlin was known for not relating to his players. He was starting to be cast as a coach who the league had passed by, in the same vein as Bill Parcells. When a coach can no longer connect with his players, the team will suffer. In any profession that is as demanding as the NFL there has to be a connection between leader and those being led. Then Coughlin found a way to turn it all around. He started to show himself not as the “dictator” of the team, but more as a man who was leading from the front, and the team responded greatly in the years since. One of the things he also became known for during those times is developing mantras for the team to rally around. In 2011 it was “Finish”, seemed to work alright as they won the Super Bowl. Yet last years “Build a Bridge” didn’t have quite the same effect. They finished 9-7 overall and only 3-3 in the NFC East, not to mention only going 3-5 during the second half of the season. That doesn’t qualify as success in New York.
The Giants have a legitimate top flight quarterback in Eli Manning. Both Coughlin and offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride put a lot of faith in not only Manning, but the receivers to make big plays. A key component of the passing attack is the ability of the QB/WR tandem having the ability to make sight adjustments mid-play which results in big down field plays. Not having a healthy Hakeem Nicks to help stretch the field really hurt this part of their attack. The Giants like to do things in an untraditional way in their offense. It’s obvious they understand the need to have a strong running game, they have focused on that ever since their Super Bowl win over the Patriots in 2007, but they bring it differently. The traditional philosophy is to use the run to set up the pass, but the Giants use the pass to set up the run. The only thing that matters is the end result, and their offense finds a way to always produce positive end results. But we already knew that the offense wasn’t really the problem last year.
The defense had times when they were abysmal. A traditionally rugged unit looked ragged at times last year and because of that there will be some different faces starting on that side of the ball. The defensive scheme that Perry Fewell runs is a 4-3 that is based on getting pressure on the quarterback without heavy blitzing. When it works correctly, it looks great, but when it doesn’t it looks horrible. That puts a lot of pressure on the defensive line. This has the potential to shape up as another ho-hum year for the Giants front four. Some scouts have quietly been saying that they don’t think Justin Tuck will be able to return to form. He seems to no longer have quite the explosiveness that he used too, maybe he doesn’t have the hunger that he used too either. Nobody is suggesting that he still won’t be good at the spot, but maybe his best days are behind him. This leaves the Giants with essentially a three-man rotation at end; Tuck, Pierre-Paul and Kiwanuka. I don’t know if that will be deep enough to be able to get the results the team wants from their D-line.
The linebacking corp and the secondary, however, is where the real problems lie. Two new starters are going to be needed as linebackers due to the departure of Michael Boley and Chase Blackburn. The team signed Dan Connor to fill the hole at middle linebacker, and he may prove to be a younger and more athletic upgrade at the position. Yet, no one is yet considered to be even challenging for Pro Bowl considerations, not what any team wants to hear.
Kenny Phillips is gone, having signed with the Eagles, which means Stevie Brown will be stepping in as the starting strong safety. He showed up big last season haling in eight interceptions, but also showed inconsistency by being caught out of position at times. He lines up alongside Antrel Rolle, who should continue to perform for the team. The Giants like to get three safeties on the field, which helps in coverage but only emphasizes the need for pressure from the front four, which means mental lapses from this unit won’t be accepted.
Any fall off the teams offensive production had last season will likely just be a blip on the radar, nothing that signifies the start of a trend. With Nicks back at full health and Wilson in his second year the team expects to be back to business as usual when it comes to racking up yards and points. With the additions on the defensive side of the ball, they also think they can start to re-establish the image and dominance they had not too long ago. The Giants never seem like a preseason favorite to do anything dynamic, yet Manning and Coughlin have won two Super Bowls together. While they won’t pot a 13-3 record, anyone who counts them out will be making a mistake.