Giant Task Ahead

Manning, Burress make New York's offense one of the best in the NFL's best so far.

Remember the days when the New York Giants were a defense-first team with a vanilla, punchless offense? Even when the Bill Parcells-led Giants won the Super Bowl, it wasn't Phil Simms and Mark Bavaro that scared teams. It was Lawrence Taylor, Harry Carson, Leonard Marshall and the rest of the New York defense. When the Giants hired Tom Coughlin as their head coach last year, the general concensus was -- despite the fact that the Giants made the trade to acquire their quarterback of the future, Eli Manning -- that the Giants would comtimue to employ an ultra-conservative, run-first offense.

It's not that the Giants were without weapons. Tiki Barber is one of the league's best running backs, and earned his first Pro Bowl bid after the 2004 season. Jeremy Shockey led the team with 61 receptions from his tight end position, while Amani Toomer was the team's top wide receiver, with 51 receptions. After taking over for Kurt Warner, Manning grew into the role, collecting his first win … over Dallas.

This year's New York offense hardly resembles last year's version. The primary differences are the addition of wide receiver Plaxico Burress, the Giants' prize free agent signee who spent his first five seasons in Pittsburgh, and the mercurial growth of Manning at quarterback. The 6-foot-5 Burress adds a deep threat to the New York offense and joins Shockey and Toomer to give Manning three big targets to whom he can throw. Through the first four games, Manning has piloted the Giants' offense to an NFL-high 34 points per game, more than four points per game more than second-place San Diego.

"Shockey's good, Plaxico's good and Toomer's good," Dallas head coach Bill Parcells said, "and the quarterback's coming along. You don't go from where they were last year to where they are this year by accident."

With the addition of Burress, the Giants represent the third consecutive team the Cowboys have faced with a big, fast home run threat of a receiver. First it was Oakland's Randy Moss, then Philadelphia's Terrell Owens, and now Burress.

"They're all different receivers," Dallas cornerback Terence Newman said. "Randy Moss is a vertical threat, probably the best in the league. T.O. is more physical -- he goes over the middle. (Burress) is kind of a combination of the two. He's big and fast, so he can get deep on you, but he's also not afraid to go over the middle. He's got size and speed, and he does some of everything."

"I've watched film, and it looks like Eli is really putting the ball where it needs to go," Dallas cornerback Terence Newman said. "We're expecting a tough game from a tough team. They're at the top of the NFC East, I think, and they want to stay there. And coming off the bye week, we know they'll be ready, rested and well-studied for us. We've got our work cut out."

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