Eye on the Prize – Midseason Update: Offense

Before the season, TGI took an in-depth look at what it was going to take for Big Blue to reach the playoffs and contend for a title. Now that the season's halfway over – and with the big Bears showdown on the horizon – we're sizing up where the Giants are as the second half of the season unfolds. Here is a look at the offense:

Quarterbacks

Looking back: Eli Manning has gone from looking comfortable at the Giants helm to being one of the game's better QBs. Manning is playing faster and smarter and making much better decisions. In only his second full season as a starter, a Pro Bowl is certainly in his future, if not this season than next.

Looking ahead: Manning played well early on last season, then limped to the finish line, with his first season at the controls ending in a nightmarish playoff loss to Carolina. However, you get the feeling that not only Manning, but the entire offense as well, is in a much better place at this point. Continuing to cut down on mistakes will lead Manning and the Giants to great things.

Best sight: The Giants desperately needed to win in Dallas to establish themselves as legitimate playoff contenders and to take control of the division. They went right out and got it. Right off the bat, Manning dropped back and threw a perfect pass to Plaxico Burress, who beat out three would-be defenders for the 50-yard score that set the tone for the entire evening.

Worst sight: The worst sight of the year actually wasn't all that bad at all. Tipped and dropped passes led Manning to start the Seattle contest in an awful manner. Yet after throwing three INTs to start the game, Manning rallied the Giants and tossed three TDs in the fourth quarter to make the game at least a little bit interesting.

Eye opener: How Manning rallied the Giants to victory in Philadelphia was the stuff of legend. New York had every right to give up after falling behind in hostile territory, but Manning wouldn't let them. After he had tossed the game-winning OT pass to Burress, you could see Manning was as happy and excited as he's ever been and couldn't help but wonder if he had turned a corner. It sure looks like he has.

Running Backs

Looking back: The best news of the season for New York is that Tiki Barber is still Tiki Barber. He headed into last weekend atop the entire league in rushing with 715 yards. Barber appears to get younger and fresher as he ages; basically an NFL freak of nature. He is well on his way to another Pro Bowl campaign.

Looking ahead: You hate to jinx the guy, but it's hard to think he's even jinxable at this point. If Barber can stay healthy, the sky's the limit for this running game, this offense and this team. As well as some guys have played this is still Barber's team – as Tiki goes, so go the Giants.

Best sight: Watching the evolvement of Brandon Jacobs. He transformed from a bruising short-yardage back to an all-around threat right before our very eyes. Jacobs definitely has a future in this league and his excitement and candor are refreshing – so is the fact that he's darn near impossible to bring down.

Worst sight: Seeing Barber temporarily on the ground against Dallas. While he never lost consciousness, a big hit leveled him and led to a fumble, something we all know Barber doesn't do anymore. While he was dazed and confused for a minute or so, he eventually jogged off and returned to the game, keeping New York's Super Bowl hopes alive.

Eye opener: The ‘official' declaration that this is it for Barber, who's still obviously at the top of his game. Once the offseason hits, we're sure that both the organization and some teammates are going to try to get him to change his mind; he won't.

Wide receivers

Looking back: Manning can't do it all himself – and he's had great help from his stable of receivers. Burress, on pace for more than 70 catches and 1,000 yards, has continued his high level of play, Amani Toomer is as crafty and productive as ever and Tim Carter and David Tyree both have shown brief flashes when called upon.

Looking ahead: You have to be worried about the back spasms that have slowed Burress this season. They led to his worst game of the year in Seattle and forced him to miss the entire week of practice leading up to the Houston contest. The Giants can obviously ill afford to play without their biggest – literally and figuratively – offensive weapon.

Best sight: Burress' behavior has been impressive. He's not perfect just yet, but you very rarely see any of the on-field antics that so clearly bothered Manning last season, although the QB took the high road and never said anything. There's no more gesturing, complaining or sulking when the ball doesn't come his way. Good job, Plax.

Worst sight: The name Sinorice Moss on the weekly injury report. We reported more than a month ago that Moss might be out for the season – and we've seen nothing that would make us change our mind at this point. While there's no way of telling how much he could have helped, it's frustrating as heck being unable to find out.

Eye opener: Michael Jennings. No one even gave him a legitimate chance to make the club, yet there he was on opening night catching a pass. While he only has three catches on the season and a 21-yard run on a reverse, Jennings is an exciting part of this offense and very well might find himself inserted into the return game.

Tight ends

Looking back: It took getting a clean bill of health and some criticism before Jeremy Shockey turned it around. He's returned to the strong red zone threat he's always been and has been blocking as well as he ever has in recent weeks. Despite being bothered by foot and ankle injuries, Shockey hasn't missed any games – and for that the Giants are fortunate.

Looking ahead: New York needs more of the same from big number 80. He might not be the first option as much as he'd like, but Shockey is still a major cog in this offense and his presence does wonders to free up the outside receivers. If the Giants get a second half of the season from Shockey that rivals his performance of the last few weeks, New York's offense will continue to hum.

Best sight: Shockey's breakout game in Atlanta. Everyone – TGI included – had already started calling for Shockey's head. He should be benched, or at least sat down until full healthy was the word. All Shockey did was go out and tear up the Falcons, catching six passes for 55 yards and a pair of TDs that broke the game open. He hasn't looked back since.

Worst sights: Seeing Shockey unable to finish both the Eagles and Redskins games. While New York was able to pull out both contests, they did so with their warrior TE hurting on the sidelines.

Eye opener: The fact that Visanthe Shiancoe can really play. After a slow start to training camp, many were figuring that Shank might not even make it out of Albany. Yet he's proven to be the most dependable backup Shockey has ever had. While five catches for 45 yards doesn't seem like a lot, he's contributing in other ways, like that fantastic effort play that helped Carter recover Burress' fumble in the Philly end zone.

Offensive Line

Looking back: You really can't ask for much more than what the O-line has produced this season. They've been dependable in both offensive aspects, run-blocking and giving Manning time to throw with equal aplomb. Of course there are always going to be moments during a game when your defender gets the better of you, but those moments have been very few and far between this season.

Looking ahead: As Charles Oakley of the Knicks used to say: If it ain't broke, don't break it. Big Blue's offensive line has been not only a pleasant surprise, but also a source of offensive strength this year. They'd be wise to just leave well enough alone here. The only change we'd like to see is a pass to sub tight end/sixth OL Rich Seubert at some point this year.

Best sight: Watching the Giants offensive line manhandle the Falcons defense in Atlanta a few weeks back. The Falcons came in boasting one of the game's best run defenses and the Giants made them look like Rutgers of old. They gashed and shredded the defensive front and also gave Manning more than enough time to pass.

Worst sight: As with most of the Giants, the low point of this season came in Seattle. The Seahawks defenders ran around and through New York's front five as if they weren't even there. Fortunately, the O-line and the rest of the club picked up its level of play after that.

Eye opener: The whipping boy of the fans and media, Luke Petitgout has clearly played his best football this season. Petitgout has been solid as a rock in the pass game and it's no coincidence that most of Barber's runs go around left end. With his back holding up and more than enough motivation, Petitgout has rebounded and played superbly; for that he should be lauded.

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