The loss of veteran leadership at the wide receiver spot is an issue that the Giants front office has to be concerned about. They replaced personnel through the NFL Draft by obtaining Hakeem Nicks with the 29 overall selection in the first round, and Ramses Barden with the 85th overall selection in the third round. But replacing players lost with draft choices doesn’t replace the veteran leadership lost with the departure of Armani Toomer and Plaxico Burress.
Toomer was a 13 year veteran and the Giants all time leading receiver with 580 receptions. While never really a “#1” receiver in the true sense, Toomer was the Giants “Go-To” player at the position for many years when the focus was the running game, first with Rodney Hampton and then with Tiki Barber. The Giants also got some help from now New Orleans Saints Tight End Jeremey Shockey while he was here in the pass catching department. The Burress Story has been told countless times already, so i won’t chronicle it here again. It does seem worth mentioning that Plaxico was one of the vocal leaders of the offense, even more so since Tiki Barber’s departure after the 2006 season.
Now the veterans in the receiving corps are David Tyree, going into his 7th season in the NFL, followed by Sinorice Moss and Dominik Hixon, each with 4 seasons in Pro Football. While the offensive game plan may not change too much, which receivers get called for which plays might change somewhat. Surely Tyree makes the team again after his injury absence simply because of his veteran status and what he does on the specials. Then Steve Smith, because of his inside game, and his big play contributions since the second half of the 2007 season. Assuming that both Nicks and Barden have spots on the squad already because of their draft status, that’s already four of the six active roster spots. So you have Moss, Manningham, and Hixon. Three players going for the last two active roster spots. Seemingly Moss seems to be on the bubble here, given his overall lack of production last year. Unless someone gets hurt this summer, it might be a wrap for Santana’s little brother in Giants Blue. You will continue to see the “Bigger Guys” stretch the field with deep routes (Hixon, Barden & and Kevin Boss from the TE spot), while Smith, Nicks, and whomever survives between Moss and Manningham running the underneath routes.
On the Defensive side of the ball, the difference here will be the new defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan. Although he was promoted from within, Coach Sheridan has a long history as a college defensive position coach. This will be his 28th year in the coaching profession, but only his 4th in the NFL, and all 4 with New York. He was also promoted over defensive secondary coach Peter Giunta, who was the defensive coordinator for the Super Bowl XXXIV champion St. Louis Rams.
I was a bit surprised to see Coach Sheridan get the nod as “DC” but if you looked at the sidelines the last three seasons when former “DC” Steve Spagnoulo ran the show, Sheridan was usually next to him.
Sheridan has said he won’t make too many changes to the defensive game plan, but the Giants have “reloaded” their defensive front 7 with free agent arrivals Rocky Bernard and Chris Canty at the defensive tackle spot and Mike Boley at Linebacker, plus draftee Clint Stintum also at the linebacker spot. This will allow the defense to continue with it’s “whole line rotational concept” weather veteran Fred Robbins remains a Giant or not.
How much of these slight changes will you really see? RB Brandon Jacobs told us at the EA Sports NFL Draft event that the “Giants are a team built to win and ready to win now, not in 2010 or 2011.” It could just be possible that the biggest changes for the Giants could only be in the actual players and coaches, and not the playbook as much.