Hard to get a feel for what the OP is asking; seems to be a “state of the team” analysis, so here’s my thoughts on the New York Football Giants.
All 11 starters for the #3 ranked scoring offense in the league return to the same position they played last year, while the low-ranked defense got a major overhaul with 5 new starters. The only notable change to the offense was the addition of Sinorice Moss to replace Tim Carter as the speedy slot receiver, although Tim Carter is still currently on the team providing depth.
This marks the first time in years without major changes on the offensive line. Notably, David Diehl – the 5th rounder who has started every game in his 3-season career – finally gets his second year in a row at a position. (Rookie year he was at RG, sophomore season he was at RT, and last year he played LG. He returns as LG this year.) Rich Seubert, once the best OL on the team, is now fully recovered and provides quality depth*, along with past-his-prime pro-bowler Bob Whitfield. Plus, he-of-the-funny-name Guy Whimper was drafted in the fourth round this year to finish off the unit. The OL is finally a strength of the team, which is critical to success.
The defensive line saw a rollercoaster ride in the offseason. Strahan and Umenyiora return as the best pass-rushing DE duo in the league. Behind them, Justin Tuck, who showed flashes of brilliance last year, returns to provide quality depth, while Eric Moore was demoted in favor of first round draft choice Mathias Kiwanuka. Accorsi drew much ire when he spent his first draft pick on a position deemed to be the team’s biggest strength, but regardless of how foolish it was, DE is now far and away the strongest position on the team.
The interior line, however, saw Kendrick Clancy (who was described by Football Outsiders as a “concrete wall”) jump ship for Arizona, which left a gaping hole at nose tackle, and Kenderick Allen (his backup) was waived. This left only the late-blooming William Joseph plus the training camp scrubs from last season on the team. One of which, Jonas Seawright, has become a bit of a celebrity figure on giants.com since Tom Coughlin praised him as being “unblockable” in practice. Adding fuel to the fire, David Diehl complained that he hated be matched up against him in practice because he was so hard to block. Topped by the fact that Jonas refers to himself in the third person during interviews, he has become the ultimate “Chuck Norris” superhero figure on the Giants messageboards. (“Tim Lewis is switching to the 1-6 defense; Jonas IS the line!”) Whether he’ll step up in pace of Clancy remains to be seen, but there is at least some reason to be optimistic.
Quickly, the 4-3 scheme employs a nose tackle (also refered to as “1-gap” or “1-technique”) and an under tackle (refered to as “3-technique”) as its two DTs. The nose tackle is responsible for occupying two blockers at the line, while the under tackle is responsible for penetrating the line and causing havoc in the backfield.
William Joseph is the Jints’ starting under tackle, backed up by Fred Robbins. Robbins looked great in 2004, but showed up to camp out of shape in 2005, quickly landing him in Tom Coughlin’s doghouse. All reports so far indicate he is much more in shape and motivated reporting to camp this year, so the under tackle position looks to be in fine shape with a good starter and quality depth for rotation. The nose tackle is a position battle between rookie 4th round draft pick Barry Cofield, the aforementioned Jonas Seawright, and another player from last year’s backup squad, Damane Duckett. Nose tackle will be a position to watch closely during the preseason. (They’re the biggest guys on the field, so they should be easy to spot.)
Because I believe the success of a team is almost exclusively determined by the strength of the lines, (teams are built inside out,) I think the G-Men are in excellent shape to repeat as division champs this year.
Acquiring Lavar Arrington was quite a feather in Accorsi’s cap. Coughlin and Lewis quickly designated him back to strong side linebacker, which is the position he played in Washington during his probowl years. He is reunited with two former teammates in Antonio Pierce, who he played with on the Redskins, and Brandon Short, who he played with in college. Short was a promising young player (who broke Pennington’s arm in a preseason game a few years back) who played for carolina last year, but was brought back both to provide depth and to make the Giants more enticing for Arrington.
Due to the rash of injuries at linebacker last year, the backups have had some starting time to grow, and showed flashes of ability during their chances. (Then the backups went down as well, and the Jints were reduced to street free-agents during the playoffs.) Particularly Chase Blackburn, MLB backup to Pierce, and Reggie Torbor, SLB backup to Arrington. While I wouldn’t be eager to see those two starting on opening day, I have every confidence in their ability to take over should a temporary injury sideline the starter. Brandon Short has been a starter for much of his career, while Carlos Emmons, the incumbent WLB, has been injury prone and fading a bit. So weakside linebacker could be another position battle to watch out for.
Some have said that safety Will Demps (from the Ravens) is a great player who was underrated because he was overshadowed by the phemomenal Ed Reed. Time will tell on that. Gibril Wilson returns as the other starting safety, but behind those two the depth chart is quite thin. Sam Madison was brought in via free agency, although it ended up strongly resembling a trade with the Dolphins, as they filled the hole left by him with Will Allen. Madison is old, and has nowhere near the speed of Allen, but he has great hands, and could provide excellent growth support for second year Corey Webster, who should start opposite Madison. Behind those two is the overly aggressive risk-taking Frank Walker, and the shaky (but now more experienced) Curtis Deloatch, who was pressed into service when the now-retired Will Peterson broke his back in the same place early in the season for the second time in two years. The secondary was the achilles heel of the team last year, and with all the changes made, unity could be an issue.
Mathematically, the Giants have the hardest schedule in the league this year. However, those numbers are based on last season, which is a faulty premise to begin with. For example, going by that logic you had a soft spot in your schedule if you faced the 11-5 Giants in 2005. Clearly, strength of schedule offseason projections are pointless.
The entire NFC East is a force to reckon with; I can’t imagine any team in the league is looking forward to playing any of them. For the G-Men, the first 3 games in particular are pretty grueling, but the past few seasons have seen the Giants getting off to fast starts, even in 2003 when they finished 4-12. I would not be surprised at all to see Big Blue beat the Colts opening day, nor would I be surprised to see them win the division again. Injuries are always a worry, and can derail any team’s season, but by any objective measure the Giants should be considered a legitimate Superbowl contender. (Eli looked no worse against the Panthers than Big ben looked against the Jets and Patriots in his first playoff season, and he won the Superbowl the next year.)
- When I say “quality depth,” I mean that a backup is good enough that I’d be comfortable with him starting for the rest of the season if the starter went on IR.