2005 preview: Giants

2005 preview: Giants
By Charles Robinson, Yahoo Sports
July 29, 2005

Charles Robinson
Yahoo Sports
NFC East predictions
   1. Philadelphia
   2. Dallas
   3. Washington
   4. N.Y. Giants
New York Giants
Head coach: Tom Coughlin, second season
2004 record: 6-10
2004 rankings: Offense, 23rd (295.1 yards/game); Defense, 13th (324.2 yards/game)
2005 strength of schedule: Ninth (tie)
From SportingNews.com: NFC East overview

As expected, Tom Coughlin's first season in New York was filled with plenty of drama. Whether it was the notorious act of fining veterans for not being on time to a team meeting, players complaining to the NFLPA or the Eli Manning vs. Kurt Warner drama, there never was a dull moment.

Ultimately, the season should be remembered as Manning's sobering debut. He was already being written off by some before New York's Dec. 18 game against Pittsburgh, then went in and arguably outplayed media darling Ben Roethlisberger. His five touchdowns and three interceptions over the season's final three games had the Giants faithful breathing a massive sigh of relief.

OFFENSE

First things first: It's going to be another year of development for Manning, who isn't likely to make the quantum leap that his brother Peyton made in his second year in Indianapolis. But the offensive line should be better thanks to the addition of tackle Kareem McKenzie and the maturation of guards Chris Snee and David Diehl.

Wide receiver Amani Toomer has to play better, but he should have some of the pressure taken off him with the addition of Plaxico Burress. If Burress can avoid the dropped passes and play to his potential, he will be a rock star in New York. If he can't, his easily bruised ego and historically abrasive relationship with the media will be a big problem.

A key to the offense will be tight end Jeremy Shockey, who had a good but not great season in 2004. Manning made it clear he wanted Shockey in New York so the two could work on their rapport.

Since then, word out of the Giants organization is that Shockey is looking as good as he has since arriving in 2002. The team hopes that translates into Tony Gonzalez or Antonio Gates numbers. Without a doubt, if Shockey is playing well, he and Burress will give defenses fits with their size and athleticism.

DEFENSE

The addition of Antonio Pierce should help the run defense a great deal for a serviceable linebacking corps. But the defensive line will have to get better play out of former first-round pick William Joseph.

Fred Robbins isn't talented enough to wreak havoc on opposing offensive lines by himself, and it's time Joseph lived up to his hype. If he fails to make his mark this year, the Giants will look for alternatives after 2005.

Defensive ends Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora could be a nice tandem if both are healthy. They are on opposite career arcs, with Strahan aging and diminishing and Umenyiora looking like an up-and-coming pass rusher. They definitely can't afford injuries with rookies Eric Moore and Justin Tuck providing the only depth at the position.

Rookie cornerback Corey Webster has been added to the secondary, and he will give Coughlin an alternative to the inconsistent Will Allen, who hasn't seized big-play opportunities.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Kicker Jay Feely looks like a reliable signing, but it will be interesting to see how he handles kicking at Giants Stadium after spending half his career kicking inside Atlanta's Georgia Dome. Jeff Feagles has been consistent in punting duties.

Willie Ponder was one of the best kickoff return specialists last season. However, receiver Mark Jones has been below average as a punt returner.

PREDICTION

The Giants will finish 5-11 and fourth in the NFC East.

Charles Robinson is the senior investigative reporter for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter. Send Charles a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.

Updated on Friday, Jul 29, 2005 2:20 pm, EDT

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