6. Last year, toward the end of the season, the Giants linebacker corps was decimated by injuries and, heading into the offseason, that seemed to be a big priority for the team. Have they addressed the depth at linebacker and how is the overall unit performing so far this year?
Actually, despite the addition of LaVar Arrington, the LBs have been a disappointment thus far. We're not yet sure if the onus for the poor play should fall on the players – or defensive coordinator Tim Lewis, who has been extremely cautious and passive in his defensive plans and schemes. Carlos Emmons has been solid, but certainly not spectacular on the weak side and Antonio Pierce steady in the middle. As for Arrington, he only has six tackles through two games and you could count the time he's rushed the passer on one hand. They do have excellent depth with former starter Brandon Short behind Emmons, Chase Blackburn behind Pierce and athletic rush specialist Reggie Torbor and versatile rookie Gerris Wilkinson available and contributing on special teams as well.
7. It appears that while Tiki Barber gets the bulk of the carries for the Giants that Brandon Jacobs is the short-yardage, goal-line guy, putting numerous fantasy football owners on suicide watch no doubt. Is this an accurate assessment of the situation in the backfield and is Barber still the dynamic playmaker that he's been the past few seasons?
Barber is as good as ever. He actually has gotten much better with age. But Jacobs, in his second year, is a much bigger part of this offense. Not only is he the designated short-yardage, goal-line back you mentioned, but he spells Barber every few series and so far has done a great job of it. I know you said you'd take Alexander over Barber, but it would take a lot for me to think there's a better one-two RB punch in the league than Barber and Jacobs. Jacobs is a legit 265 pounds and runs like he's 230. There'll be no arm-tackling when he's in the game.
8. Is Michael Strahan still the devastating strong side defensive end that teams have come to fear over the years or has he slowed a bit and has Osi Umenyiora gotten even better than he was after a stellar 2005 season?
Honestly, neither has stood out too much yet this season, but in all fairness Peyton Manning and Donovan McNabb aren't exactly the dream opponents for sackmasters. Strahan is in great shape and still looking to prove he's the best two-way DE in the game. Despite laughing it off, he certainly didn't appreciate Simeon Rice's claim that he was the new Strahan. And Umenyiora just keeps getting better. It's only going to be a matter of time until both break out. Unfortunately for Matt Hasselbeck, this Sunday looks like a golden opportunity.
9. Who were the big free agent signings this past offseason and how have they performed so far in 2006?
LaVar Arrington was the biggest name, but he hasn't done much at all yet; part of that blame has to fall on how he's been misused this far. The Giants have an athletic pass-rushing LB and they're asking him to drop into pass coverage more than anything else. The rest of New York's free-agent money went to the secondary, where starting CB Sam Madison has been so-so, starting FS Will Demps has been good and nickel CB R.W. McQuarters has been excellent. Former starting CBs Will Allen and Will Peterson have not been missed, nor has former safety Brent Alexander.
10. Was there a hangover from the Seattle loss last year and have the players talked about "getting even" this year? Can you remember a more frustrating loss in your time as a reporter or fan of the Giants?
Didn't really see any signs of a hangover, since they rebounded and still won the division. However, everyone knows that a win last year in Seattle very well could have catapulted the Giants into the home-field edge that the Seahawks took advantage of so well. This team believes it has legitimate designs on a Super Bowl so it's not exactly like they're hurting for motivation. As for me personally, nothing tops (or bottoms?) the blown lead in a home playoff game against the Vikings in 1997. Big Blue coughed up a nine-point edge with less than two minutes to play at Giants Stadium. Honorable mention goes to the blown playoff loss in San Fran when they frittered away all of a 38-14 second-half cushion and fell to the Niners.
This was a lot of fun, Scott. Hopefully we'll be doing this again before the NFC Championship Game.
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