Behind Enemy Lines: New York Giants

The Colts’ week two opponent, the New York Giants, are coming off of a disappointing 2009 campaign — after a miracle 2007 season and brilliant 2008 season.  After what many believed was a productive off-season for the G-men in 2009, many of the same ailments that cut the team’s 2008 season short continued to plague them.

What have the Giants done to fix these problems?  How will they fair against the Colts?  Let’s find out.

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How They are Built: Though the Colts have not played the Giants in four years, New York should be very familiar to the Colts approach.  The Giants rely primarily on defense and running the ball.  Defensively their philosophy is to get after the quarterback at all costs, bringing multiple pass rushers to generate quick pressure.  They generally plan on generating this rush by only using the athleticism of their defensive ends and defensive tackles, to quickly generate push and get in the backfield.

Offensively the Giants pound the ball with a trio of backs, led by Brandon Jacobs who is used to wear down defenses and open up the deep passing game with play-action passes.  Injuries, departures, and suspensions hurt this winning formula.

Last year, the Giants lost Plaxico Burress to a suspension, which forced young players like Mario Manningham and rookie Hakeem Nicks to pick up the load.  Though they played admirably, they were still unable to fully match the impact of Burress.  Although, both players are still young and their potential has yet to be met.

What they did last season: The Giants started the season 5-0 and seemed well on their way to another playoff berth and a chance to redeem their shortcomings of 2008.  While skeptics said their schedule was soft, most believed that the Giants would make a run without the services of Plaxico Burress and Antonio Pierce.  The following weeks would prove the doubters right, as injuries mounted and competition grew stiffer.

The Giants lost four straight before seemingly rebounding after their bye week, beating the Atlanta Falcons 34-31. The rebound was short lived though, as the Giants went on a roller coaster ride to end their season, winning one game and losing the next — until they hit their final two games, losing both by a wide margin.

When They Play the Colts: The Colts are not entirely familiar with the Giants because they play in the NFC, but in terms of style and philosophy, the Colts should know what to expect and how to counter it.  Like we saw in week one of the 2006 season, the Giants will try to pound the ball and wear down the Colts defense on the ground, attempting to chain Manning and company to the bench with long, time consuming drives.

Defensively, the Giants will try to deploy a similar strategy to the one they used on the Patriots in the ’07 Super Bowl, primarily trying to bring pressure with four down linemen.  It’s unclear how effective either of these strategies will be against the Colts with the personnel changes the Giants have undergone, and the injuries they have suffered at key positions. What once were strengths for the Giants, the offensive and defensive lines, now both have a few question marks.

Off-Season Moves: Their wasn’t a whole lot of activity from the Giants this off-season, but they did make a little noise in free agency.  The Giants signed safety Antrel Rolle, hoping to solidifying a shaky secondary, and brought in more depth at that position with Deon Grant.  Through the draft, the Giants picked up Jason Pierre-Paul, a highly athletic DE who is expected to revitalize the fearsome pass rush that faded in 2009.

A few days ago, the Giants made one final “big” off-season move when they signed Keith Bulluck, the former Titans middle linebacker who they hope will replace longtime standout Antonio Pierce, who left via release.  These two moves are the Giants most questionable.

Many suspect that Pierre-Paul is nothing more than a workout warrior — and the bust label is looming over him.  Bulluck is getting a little long on the tooth, and many are wondering just how much he has left in the tank.

Outlook: Barring injuries, the Giants still look primed to make it back to the playoffs.  Their rookies performed admirably last season and should only improve with a full year of experience under their belt.  With the problems divisional foes Washington and Philadelphia are having, I suspect that the Giants will at least get a wildcard berth.

Prediction: 11-5