Giant Expectations

No disrespect to opposing defenses, but it sure appears as if the only thing the Giants offense has to fear is itself.

The Giants must avoid complacency. They must be wary of injury and overconfidence and of expecting rather than striving. Internal problems may arise and compromise their ability to build on the tremendous strides they made last season, when for week after week they were the highest-scoring team in the NFL.

With all their key components back, the Giants have continuity on their side, talent in abundance and weapons of every shape and size. Unless self-destructive tendencies arise, the 2006 attack should be all-systems-go.

"I love the accumulation of talent we have'' said Tiki Barber, one of the prize possessions in the Giants' treasure chest. "We're hard-pressed to find where our weaknesses are, and that's a good feeling.

"We all realize we have to work and continue to prepare and find subtle ways to get better. As good as we were last year we didn't amount to anything. We have to put our eyes on the ultimate prize. That's where good coaching and leadership from veterans comes in, and I would assume we have that, but I can't tell you that until September.''

It will be on Sept. 10 when the Giants 2006 offense is unveiled and excellence will likely be required, given that they'll be asked to match production with the prolific Colts scoring machine. In years past, this would have been an unwelcome and near-impossible challenge, but the Giants move ahead believing they take a back seat to no offense in the league. Every starter returns from a unit that scored 422 points, the second-highest total in franchise history (bettered only by the 448 points scored by the 1963 team). The Giants offense ranked fourth in the NFL, averaging 361.7 yards per game and, in a display of their rare versatility, the Giants became only the fifth team in NFL history to have five different players score at least seven touchdowns.

Every player from that scoring parade returns to the scoring party, anxious to crash the end zone once again. Barber led the charge with 11 TDs and Jeremy Shockey, Plaxico Burress, Amani Toomer and Brandon Jacobs all scored seven TDs. The distributor of the ball, Eli Manning, is back for his third season with the Giants and second as the Day One starting quarterback. Any enhancement of the offense is predicated on his continued development.

With so many options, Manning's greatest challenge is to keep a demanding group of offensive performers happy. Burress sulked noticeably in the second half of the season when the ball did not come his way. Shockey always pines for more involvement. Barber is one of the most productive running backs in the league and Toomer, while accepting more of a diminished role, clearly is more motivated the more he's involved.

Manning must stir the mix. "It's not tough, it's part of the deal, part of being the quarterback,'' he said. "Everybody's going to look up to you to kind of fix things and make things go, make things smooth. That's what I try to do. We've got a lot of guys who have proven themselves in this league already, Plaxico and Shockey and Amani and Tiki. When they go into a game and don't have many touches or many catches or whatnot, they get frustrated, they're competitive and they think they can help out this team to win. You try to get everybody the ball and keep everybody happy.

"Obviously my first rule is I have to go through my progressions, I'm not calling the plays, I have to run the play. We call certain plays to try to get certain guys the ball but if we don't get the right coverage you got to go somewhere else sometimes. When we're playing well, moving the ball up and down the field, scoring points, you don't see anybody complaining. But when we're struggling at times, when someone hasn't touched the ball, they're going to get frustrated.''

For the first time in years, the Giants head into a training camp with their five-man offensive line intact. That's a huge advantage at a position where familiarity is paramount. There are no Pro Bowl selections in the bunch – although right guard Chris Snee is evolving into one.

"You are excited from the standpoint that you have a group that we have here, that enjoy playing the game the way they do, they come to work day in and day out,'' offensive line coach Pat Flaherty said. "I see a bunch of guys coming in a room and they go to work.''

The Giants did not feel they needed much to augment their offense, which is why they concentrated so heavily in free agency and the NFL Draft on fortifying the defense. The one addition they did make, though, is expected to pay immediate dividends. Tom Coughlin cannot stop gushing – and Coughlin doesn't gush easily or often – about Sinorice Moss, the short (5-6) but strong and extremely fast receiver from Miami. The Giants envision Moss as the perfect complement to their bigger receivers, a perfect safety valve for Manning on slip-screens and receiver reverses. They see him as adding an element of speed that they lacked.

"He is very quick, he is very explosive,'' Coughlin said. "He is going to be able to do the kinds of things that, quite frankly, we did a couple of years ago with Tiki but got away from last year because we really didn't have the – we weren't having the kind of success that we had a couple of years ago. I'm talking about the 'go screens' and reverses and things of that nature. He has the ability to do that. He also is an added dimension to our team just in terms of his physical style of play and the things that he is able to do in contrast with some of the other guys we have got. So we think it is a real good situation.''

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