2004 New York Giants Season Preview

<b>Head Coach: </b> Tom Coughlin - 68-60 career regular-season record (.531), plus 4-4 in the playoffs. <br><br> <b> Last season's record: </b> 4-12 (eight-game losing streak to end season), last in NFC East and tied for last in NFC

09/12/04 @Philadelphia
09/19/04 Washington
09/26/04 Cleveland
10/03/04 @Green Bay
10/10/04 @Dallas
10/24/04 Detroit
10/31/04 @Minnesota
11/07/04 Chicago
11/14/04 @Arizona
11/21/04 Atlanta
11/28/04 Philadelphia
12/05/04 @Washington
12/12/04 @Baltimore
12/18/04 Pittsburgh
12/26/04 @Cincinnati
01/02/05 Dallas
Tiki Barber #21 of the New York Giants carries the ball and possibly the offense for the Giants in 2004. 
Getty Images/Grant Halverson

Last Playoff appearance: 2002, 39-38 loss in San Francisco to 49ers in NFC WildCard game

Key matchup(s): Sept. 12 in Philadelphia, Sept. 19 vs. Washington, Oct. 10 in Dallas, Dec. 5 in Washington

Star Power: DE Michael Strahan (6-5, 275), RB Tiki Barber (5-10, 200), TE Jeremy Shockey (6-5, 255), QB Kurt Warner (6-2, 220), QB Eli Manning (6-4, 218), WR Amani Toomer (6-3, 202)

Top returnees: DE Michael Strahan (6-5, 275), RB Tiki Barber (5-10, 200), TE Jeremy Shockey (6-5, 255), WR Amani Toomer (6-3, 202), CB Will Peterson (6-0, 197), CB Will Allen (5-10, 192), SS Shaun Williams (6-2, 215), LT Luke Petitgout (6-6, 315), P Jeff Feagles (6-1, 64)

Notable Additions: LB Carlos Emmons (6-5, 250), Philadelphia; LB Barrett Green (6-0, 225), Detroit; DT Norman Hand (6-3, 325), Seattle; C Shaun O'Hara (6-3, 306), Cleveland; QB Kurt Warner (6-2, 220), St. Louis; FS Brent Alexander (5-11, 200), Pittsburgh

Notable Subtractions: QB Kerry Collins (Oakland), DT Cornelius Griffin (Washington), LB Micheal Barrow (Washington), LB Dhani Jones (Philadelphia), LB Brandon Short (Carolina)

Offensive Overview: From the moment Tom Coughlin took the reins of the New York Giants, he talked about controlling and dominating both lines of scrimmage. It's that exact position on offense that holds the fate for New York's success in 2004. The offensive talent is plentiful with a pair of superb quarterbacks in Kurt Warner and Eli Manning. Sparkplug back Tiki Barber will receive an assist from former Heisman Trophy winner Ron Dayne this year and the receivers - tight end Jeremy Shockey, flanker Ike Hilliard and split end Amani Toomer - are a trio most teams would trade for.

That said, none of Coughlin's new offensive philosophies will work unless the Giants can put together a starting five worthy of playing with all the offensive talent around them. Luke Petitgout anchors the line from the left tackle spot, but the Giants are already down to Plan C at left guard, where both Rich Seubert, who was lost to a broken leg last season, and Barry Stokes, recently placed on Injured Reserve with a back injury, are out. The promise from the line lies on the right side, where former guard David Diehl slides out to tackle and super-rookie Chris Snee, New York's second pick in the 2004 Draft, mans the guard spot.

The pieces are in place for the Giants to return to the successful offensive unit they were in 2002; now it's all up to the O-line to give Warner, Manning and Co. the time and space to operate.

Defensive Overview: Tim Lewis came on board after serving four years as Pittsburgh's defensive coordinator and he brought his aggressive, attack-style defense with him. Throughout the preseason, the Giants only showed a little of what Lewis plans to unleash on the opposition once the season begins. The constant emphasis is on going forward; always moving to the ball, getting to the ball, then stripping and recovering it.

What remains to be seen is if Lewis has enough talent to work with. There's no shortage of ability at left defensive end, where six-time Pro Bowler Michael Strahan lines up. Lewis has mentioned moving Strahan around the line and even standing him up as a linebacker to gain additional match-up advantages.

However, Strahan is the only holdover from last year's front seven, with a combo of Osi Umenyiora and Keith Washington holding down right end and Norman Hand and Fred Robbins in the middle. The linebackers are also all new - SLB Carlos Emmons, WLB Barrett Green and a mixture of Kevin Lewis and Nick Greisen in the middle.

The secondary has plenty to prove since last year's defensive backfield disaster. The Wills - Allen and Peterson - are back on the corners, with Terry Cousin brought in as the nickel. New York has a three-man rotation at safety with Shaun Williams, Omar Stoutmire and newcomer Brent Alexander. The emphasis will certainly be on intercepting the ball, as New York set a franchise low with only 10 picks last year.

Special Teams Overview: The only returning member of New York's specialty units is punter Jeff Feagles, about to embark on his 17th season. Last year's kicker, Matt Bryant is gone, as is Bill Gramatica, who was signed this offseason. That leaves the job to Todd France, whose next kick in a regular season game will be his first.

The coverage teams have been bulked up with the insertion of more starters onto the units, as well as the signing of players such as Jack Brewer.

Last season, the Giants punt and kick return games ranked at or near the bottom of the league. Second-year man Willie Ponder has done enough to be New York's primary kickoff returner. Veteran Ryan Kuehl beat out second-year man Carson Dach for the snapping duties.

The Giants will finish .500 if..... they stay healthy and their NFC East competition isn't as strong as most think. It's the sooner the better for Tom Coughlin to insert Eli Manning into the starting lineup.

TheInsiders.com 2004 NFL Football Preview
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