A Feast on the East: The New York Giants

If there was a team that stood pat more than the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC East, the New York Football Giants would be that team. Not known for their free wheeling or reckless maneuverings, the Giants settled on making the least amount of ripples in the East's pond in the 2002 free agent window.

From a loss to the Ravens in the 2000 Super Bowl, to a 7-9 season in 2001, the Giants impression is their team could be closer to the upside than the downside for the next campaign.

The returning veterans in quarterback Kerry Collins and the running back tandem of Tiki Barber and Ron Dayne looks good on paper. Add to that the wide receiving corps that features Ike Hilliard and Amani Toomer and you might agree with the Giants brain trust that they can regain their former glory in 2002. Certainly quality players are all over the Giants roster.

But we think Nero is fiddling as Rome burns in the Big Apple. Far too many players left the Giants organization than arrived via free agency, and the draft netted exactly one player that is considered to be a stud. Add to that the erosion of the Giants offensive line and it spells trouble for the lads in blue.

Five players left the Giants organization since the end of 2001. Over fifty percent of those were either starters or major contributors in the 2000 Super Bowl season.

Jesse Armstead left Gotham for a new address in Washington D.C. He will be playing for the same defensive coordinator that beat his Giants team in the 2000 Super Bowl in Marvin Lewis. Armstead again was a pro bowl player Giants last year and should be missed even though his skills are diminishing. He will not be the player he once was no matter if he was wearing blue or burgundy. But his subtraction will be missed in the Meadowlands.

Ron Stone anchored the Giants line that allowed Barber and Dayne to enjoy a terrific season in 2000. Stone, a Pro Bowl player moved on to the left coast and the San Francisco 49ers. Considered one of the top guards in the league, this former Dallas Cowboy played rock solid for the G-Men. Mike Rosenthal should be plugged into Stone's slot but the drop off of talent will be obvious. Nothing to look forward to if you are Kerry Collins, Dayne, or Barber.

More than one eyebrow was raised at the resigning of Shaun Williams. The free safety out of UCLA, Williams was solid but not spectacular in 2001 and doesn't address the real needs of the defense that will start Jason Sehorn at one corner and rookie Will Allen penciled in at the other. Williams, the keystone free agent this year to be signed by the Giants will be moved to strong safety to fill the void left by Sam Garnes that went to the Jets.

Back to the offensive side of the ball the Giants lost Joe Jurevicius. He was the third receiver and was tough and could roam the middle of the field. Joe started 9 games and chipped in over 700 yards to the trio of receivers that made the Giants an intimidating offense in 2000. The 6'5", 230 pound receiver will join Keyshawn Johnson and Keenan McCardell in Tampa Bay. A serious mistake by the Giants since Ike Hillard has made no bones about how unhappy he is with his New York team.

Jeremy Shockey will attempt to replace the Jurevicius yardage for the Giants. The tight end taken out of Miami in this past draft has undeniable skills. He is big and fast with sure hands and can find the seam in the defense. He should make a solid target for the Giants and if he grasps the pro game quickly, he will make a bid for rookie of the year. But Shockey is not a physical type of tight end and his blocking has been questioned. Which leads us back to the real problem of the New York team.

The Giants will live and die by how effective their offensive line plays in 2002. To make a passing game that is more possession than vertical work the running game has to be sharp. And with the defection of players such as Ron Stone, the Thunder and Lighting tandem will find gaping holes and positive yardage precious indeed.

While the Giants had bright spots in 2001 in the Favre aided sack record of Michael Strahan, the G-Man fell from the pinnacle of the NFL with a disfunctioning offense. Save for a talent less performance by the Cowboys quarterback Clint Stoerner that gave back a game in which the they were down by as many as 17 points, the Giants could have been a 6-10 team last year. They won games more from the ineptitude of the other team than their own greatness.

The addition of Shockey will not be enough to change age and a poor offensive in New York. Collins is not a mobile quarterback and will find himself struggling to gain enough time to pass. Dayne's plodding will locate little to work with, showing he was a terrific collegian but not enough speed to be a terrific pro. Barber will hunt for daylight as teams run blitz knowing the porous offensive line of the Giants couldn't hold back a falling card table.

Weaknesses in the cornerbacks will be exposed and even the Superman exploits of Michael Strahan won't prevent their defense from looking old and slow. This will be a long season for fans and players alike.

The Giants will struggle and win 6 games this season if Dallas gift wraps another contest for them. But the schedule doesn't favor them since the Cardinals have moved to another division. That takes away two almost sure wins this next season. If they cannot find the same fortune as last year and steal a few games they should undoubtedly lose, they will be the cellar dwellers in the East at 5-11.

But fortunately for them there will be another Roy Williams in next years draft to take the place of Ike Hillard. So every dark cloud has a burnt orange lining for the G-Men it would appear.

Resigned: Dan Campbell TE, Mike Rosenthal G, Jason Whittle OT, Shaun Williams S.

Lost: Jessie Armstead LB to Washington, Jack Golden LB to Tampa Bay, Anthony Green FB to Arizona, Joe Jurevicius WR to Tampa Bay, Ron Stone G to San Francisco.

Drafted: Jeremy Shockey TE Miami (Fla.), Tim Carter WR Auburn, Jeff Hatch OT Pennsylvania, Nick Greisen MLB Wisconsin, Wesly Mallard OLB Oregon, Daryl Jones WR Miami (Fla.), Quincy Monk LB North Carolina.

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