Final X's and O's Reveal a ‘C'

If you factored in the talent on this club and the high preseason expectations, the Giants would clearly receive a failing grade, at best a ‘D.' But with some of the injuries they had to endure, it's fair to say the Giants were simply average in 2009, and deserve a ‘C.'

While many thought this team was capable of being super, instead all the Giants and their fans will have to settle for is average.

Here's a final look at the Xs and Os for the entire season.

QUARTERBACKS

While many will focus on his 22 turnovers, there's no doubt that Eli Manning took yet another step forward in his progression to becoming a star quarterback in this league. He completed more than 62 percent of his passes and tossed for more than 4,000 yards. All this with a receiving cast that no one thought would be able to get the job done and an injured foot that was more painful than Manning publicly admitted.

Bottom line: New York's franchise quarterback did more than his fair share.

Grade: B

RUNNING BACKS

Last season the Giants boasted two 1,000-yard rushers; this year they had none. Only Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw know exactly how much their various ailments affected their play. But there's no questioning that both had disappointing seasons. Jacobs' per-carry average dropped more than a yard-and-a-half, which is downright awful, and he'd be the first to admit it. Even fullback Madison Hedgecock got swept into the '09 malaise. Last year we were touting him for the Pro Bowl. Not so much now.

Bottom line: The Giants have to decide if they really believe they have a true, feature back on the roster or not.

Grade: C-

WIDE RECEIVERS/TIGHT ENDS

Talk about a breakout season. Steve Smith was phenomenal this season. He surpassed everyone's wildest expectations and proved for sure that the Giants weren't going to miss Amani Toomer, the man he was replacing, or even Plaxico Burress, for that matter. Hakeem Nicks also disproved the notion that rookie Giants receivers can't make an impact. And Mario Manningham did a lot more right than wrong in '09, despite what some of the media outlets would have you believe. Kevin Boss gave the Giants plenty; the rest of the TEs, not so much.

Bottom line: The WRs were the MVP group of the entire roster – by far.

Grade: A-

OFFENSIVE LINE

The season began with most of the NFL – if not the Giants themselves – believing that they had one of the best offensive lines in football. They weren't all that bad, but nowhere near up to the level of play of the previous couple seasons. It's certain that some changes need to be made on the OL, and it appears that the early money might be on the staff finding a more consistent right tackle. The Giants are hoping that rookie Will Beatty might be able to handle a starting spot next season, either at right or left tackle. Shaun O'Hara obviously did enough to warrant a Pro Bowl nod, and Chris Snee played at a pretty high level as well.

Bottom line: No one can really pinpoint what went wrong and why, but the O-line just wasn't right this year.

Grade: C

DEFENSIVE LINE

For as high as everyone was on the offensive line, it was even more the case regarding the defensive front. The free agent signings were surely going to put the DL over the top and make it one of the game's top units. Perhaps the Giants should ask Chris Canty and Rocky Bernard for a few bucks back. Neither played anywhere near what the Giants expected, but unfortunately the same goes for most of the holdovers, including stars like Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck. It's really hard to find a bright spot among this group, since the preseason expectations were so high.

Bottom line: Could they possibly spend more free agent cash here? Hurry back, Jay Alford.

Grade: D+

LINEBACKERS

In 2009, you had Michael Boley and, well, um, Michael Boley. As the Giants proved, it's tough to man three linebacker spots with only one legitimately talented LB. There was no questioning the effort of these guys, but obviously the results on the field weren't nearly good enough, with the exception of Boley, who, of course, had injuries to battle as well this season. The only certainty at linebacker is that the Giants probably need to acquire two starters to play with Boley.

Bottom line: Boy, wouldn't Brandon Spikes from Florida look real good in the middle of this defense?

Grade: D

DEFENSIVE BACKS

Thank God for Terrell Thomas, the team's leading tackler and most dependable cover guy. Where would they have been without him stepping up? Yes, we might have talked Corey Webster up a little too much, but still we know he's a lot better than he looked at times this season. Injuries and/or disappointments from guys like Aaron Ross, Michael Johnson, and Kevin Dockery didn't help either. We'll likely never know who was really at fault for the countless blown coverages – the coordinator or the players. And yes, we know the Kenny Phillips loss hurt a lot, but unless he was going to be able to cover multiple receivers at a time, unfortunately it probably wouldn't have made that much of a difference.

Bottom line: As much as they hate to admit it, free agent and draft help is required here for sure.

Grade: D-

SPECIAL TEAMS

It's kind of surprising that special teams coach Tom Quinn is still on board. As a whole the units weren't awful, but they definitely caused more problems than they solved – and really no one aspect stood out as a positive. Neither specialist made you feel too confident with the ball on their foot. And no one on the roster was able to get any consistent return game going. Yeah, there were bright spots throughout the course of the season, but not nearly enough.

Bottom line: Perhaps it's time to try some other folks in some of these crucial roles.

Grade: C-

COACHING

The defense was simply so awful that the Giants didn't have any choice but to can Bill Sheridan. It no longer matters how much of the poor play was his fault because he's no longer here. While it might be vogue to want to see Kevin Gilbride jettisoned as well, do you really want to have to start from scratch on both sides of the ball? Perhaps just get Gilbride some help calling the plays? He and Eli Manning seem to have a good relationship and, to us, that's not worth messing with.

Bottom line: While admittedly much easier said than done, the Giants had sure as heck hire the right guy to take over the defense.

Grade: C

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