Behind Enemy Lines: Part II

Our experts, John Crist of Bear Report and Ken Palmer of, go Behind Enemy Lines for analysis of Saturday's preseason matchup between the Bears and Giants at Soldier Field in Chicago. Let's finish off this two-part series with five questions from John to Ken.

John Crist: Much like with Jay Cutler here in Chicago, people are questioning whether Eli Manning has enough weapons around him to succeed in New York. Will the passing game suffer with no Plaxico Burress or Amani Toomer?

Ken Palmer: The Giants are certainly going to lose some of the jump-ball ability that Burress provided and the security blanket that Toomer brought to the table, but, all in all, they might have a better crop of receivers right now. There's no question they are now much more athletic at the WR spot, and a lot faster too.

While Domenik Hixon and Steve Smith are slated in as the starters, watch for guys like Mario Manningham, Ramses Barden and Derek Hagan on Saturday night. To me, they've been the three most impressive receivers during camp so far.

JC: The Giants ran the ball as well as any team in football last year with Earth (Brandon Jacobs), Wind (Ahmad Bradshaw) & Fire (Derrick Ward). But with Ward now in Tampa Bay, will the ground game be any different?

Bradshaw is now the No. 2 RB behind Jacobs.
Getty Images: Al Bello

KP: Nope. The Giants just slid everyone up a spot on the depth chart. While the season-ending Achilles' tendon injury to fourth-round pick Andre Brown hurts the depth, they're real excited about both guys behind Jacobs.

After a so-so sophomore season while he was battling leg injuries, Bradshaw has looked as good as ever this summer. And some scouts have told me that Danny Ware, the new third back in town, is probably the most complete RB the Giants have. Toss in one of the game's best blocking fullbacks in Madison Hedgecock, and I really don't think you'll see any kind of drop-off at all in New York's running game.

JC: New York's offensive line doesn't feature a lot of household names, but it gets the job done. Is there more talent there than the experts realize, or is the coaching staff filling in the blanks with an excellent scheme?

KP: I think you have a combination of a little bit of both. The Giants boast two Pro Bowlers on their O-line, RG Chris Snee and C Shaun O'Hara, so it's not like an old Denver Broncos situation here.

The fact that the front five has been the same for about four years now is what makes them so strong. The cohesiveness they've built on the field and the closeness and camaraderie they've built off it has gone a long way toward New York establishing itself as one of the game's very top OL units. The leaders are clearly the guards, Snee (by example) and Rich Seubert (vocally and in the locker room).

JC: Amazingly enough, the Giants still had an incredible defensive line this past season despite Michael Strahan retiring and Osi Umenyiora blowing out a knee. What is the key to their success in the trenches?

Umenyiora missed all of 2008 with a torn knee.
Getty Images: Jamie Squire

KP: The Giants certainly subscribe to the theory that you can never have too many pass rushers. That's clearly evident this season when you realize that Mathias Kiwanuka, a very effective starter last season, will be coming off the bench.

When you combine a bunch of nasty rushers with a very aggressive defensive scheme, you've got a lot of guys in position to blow up running plays and quarterbacks alike. The offseason signing of Chris Canty to play inside and the return to health of Umenyiora make this the league's top D-line, bar none. And we didn't even yet mention Justin Tuck, who went to the Pro Bowl last season.

JC: Kenny Phillips is a player many Bears fans fell in love with before last year's draft, especially considering Mike Brown was nearing the end. Is Phillips on his way to being a Pro Bowler, or does he have a long way to go?

KP: Sorry to say it, Bears fans, but Phillips is perhaps the Giants' most improved player from last season. He showed signs as a rookie, but after a solid offseason of learning and also bulking up about 20 pounds, he seems primed for a huge season. He's very much in the Sean Taylor mold, physically, mentally and athletically.

He's been among the leaders in interceptions during camp so far and in position so many times to make big hits. The only thing that's saved some of the Giants' running backs and receivers from Phillips this summer has been the fact they were in non-contact drills. Look for a big year out of No. 21. This entire Giants defense is poised to be among the NFL's best.

To go back and read Part I of Behind Enemy Lines, where John answered five questions from Ken, CLICK HERE.

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