New year, new stadium, new supremacy for that other NY football team; not so fast, everyone in this city needs to just calm down with the Jets mania. This town has belonged to the Giants, the storied and proud franchise who has been to four Super bowls and won three of them since the last time the Jets were in the big game. Admittedly, the Jets have a lot going on these days, starting with their brash coach Rex Ryan who produced the #1 defense in all of football in his first year. The Jets were one game away from landing in the big game last season and now are considered to be favorites to reach the big dance in Dallas. Heck they even have a gig with HBO’s Hard Knocks; the series that has brought an in depth look into the previous training camps of six NFL teams. The Jets have owned the news these days, but as we embark on the first preseason game of the year between the Giants and the Jets, Monday night, Aug 16th, 8 PM on ESPN, I am not ready to say that the NY football landscape has changed from big blue to kelly green.
A few things to think about as we preview this match up:
For the Jets:
The Jets added a lot of talent this off season such as Super bowl MVP WR Santonio Holmes, DB Antonio Cromartie, 2006 league MVP RB LaDainian Tomlinson and 2006 Defensive Player of the year DE Jason Taylor. Last time I checked, it wasn’t 2006 and the players that have been brought in for the Jets either have some integrity question marks or have too much wear on their tires. We are led to believe that this team is built to win this year and if they don’t the Jets season is a failure. Buying your way to a championship may work in baseball, just ask the Yankees, but where has this worked in football? I know everyone has the Jets going to the Super Bowl, but did you know that out of the previous six teams that were on Hard Knocks only two made it to the playoffs with a total of three playoff wins? In fact, no team was able to get past the second round of the playoffs and together they had a combined record of 47-49. So when you watch the Giants and Jets Monday on the Jets side of the ball I would want to only see how the clash of new talent melds with their QB and if Mark Sanchez can really lead this bunch? I would also be really interested in seeing new draft pick CB Kyle Wilson filling in for Darrelle Revis versus the plethora of young Giants WR’s. And don’t be looking on the field for their best player CB Darrelle Revis. Unfortunately, he will be sitting home cozy with a Jets snuggie blanket instead of blanketing the Giants offensive WR’s. This is a big mistake and they need to get him on the field immediately if they want to salvage this years run at a championship.
For the Giants:
Winning is a team game and usually the best team, not the most talented, gets the prize and call me crazy but I like what I see out of the Giants chemistry versus the Jets personalities. The Giants have a lot of young talent that blends well together, no big personalities, just men trying to get to the mountain top together. The biggest reason I do not see the landscape changing just yet has to do with the two NY quarterbacks. To win in the NFL it used to be about defense and a running game which the Giants have always relied on, but now it is about having the best QB and best team. The past Super bowl had Peyton Manning with the worst running game in the league ranked 32nd overall and the 18th ranked defense versus Drew Brees who had the 25th overall ranked defense. Now I am not pretending that Eli Manning is as good as either of them, but he does have a Super bowl MVP and a ring from 2007, and he has a lot more experience then Mark Sanchez. Quietly the Giants will be the best again because “aw shucks” Eli will do his job, will put in the long hours, and will not be yucking it up on Hard Knocks for the cameras. He will work with his young WR’s, which are very talented and less raw this year. Look for Hakeem Nicks to have a breakout season as he showed flashes of brilliance last year in a reduced role with 790 yards receiving on only 47 receptions for 16.8 yards per reception average. Mario Manningham had a similar 14.4 yards per reception total on 57 catches and Steve Smith when given the chance to be the guy had 107 catches and 1220 receiving yards. The biggest receiver to watch is second year player Ramses Barden who only had two catches last year, but at 6 feet and 6 inches, his big body can fill the void left by Plaxico Burress on the goal line. I am not belittling Mark Sanchez, as I think someday he will be a good quarterback, but let’s be realistic. In his college and pro career, Sanchez has all of 851 passing attempts compared to Eli Manning’s 4176. Experience does count and Sanchez not only lacks in this area, he now has a bunch of A list players that will be yapping at him when they aren’t getting theirs.
Eli isn’t the only reason the Giants will reign supreme. The reason the Giants weren’t up to standards was because of their defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan. A clueless Sheridan gave up 40 points five times last year finishing with an 8-8 record. Pro bowl DE Osi Umenyiora was relegated to a third down specialist role and they had no middle linebacker or safety help with Antonio Pierce and Kenny Philips out. Kenny Phillips is back and having a strong camp and it now appears that Antrel Rolle will play beside Kenny not replace him fortifying a very weak area of the defense from last year. Keith Bullock the ten year veteran from Tennessee fills the void left by Pierce and is exactly what they needed to call the plays and bring leadership to this young, but talented defense. The Giants have always excelled on defense and Monday night will be the first test to see if Sheridan really was the problem. Unfortunately, you will not get a look at either Phillips or Bulluck as they are out with injuries. The word out of Giants camp is that everyone is loving the new fiery leadership of their first year defensive coordinator Perry Fewell who says he has never seen this kind of pass rushing talent. The Giants have long subscribed to the theory that you can never have too many pass rushers and this year they added first round selection and “freak of nature” Jason Pierre Paul to the solid mix of veterans, Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck, Mathias Kiwanuka, Chris Canty, just to name a few. As an interim head coach Perry finished strong with the Bills leading them to three out of their total six wins in the last four games of the year. He is a fiery leader and exactly what was missing with Bill Sheridan. Two other key areas to watch on Monday night is to evaluate how Brandon Jacobs runs against the #1 defense in the league and to see how the punting game does without 22 year veteran Jeff Feagles. Jacobs had a disappointing year running for 835 yards the first time of his career under 1000 yards rushing. A good showing against the vaunted Jets run defense will go a long way in quieting his critics that say he cannot be the main guy. The Feagles departure leaves a huge void for one of the strengths of the Giants special teams the past few years. His knack for directional kicking provided the Giants with key field possession game in and game out. The Giants drafted Matt Dodge from East Carolina in the 7th round of this year’s draft who is talented as both a punter and kick off specialist and is not afraid to mix it up tackling ball carriers. Dodge is one to watch closely Monday night to see if he is the heir apparent to Feagles.
The Giants very quietly have flown under the radar all year, assembling a team that has character, heart, and has a chip on their NY shoulder. The Jets might have won the off season headlines and the back pages of the papers, but the true way to own this town is to do it in the win column and the Giants have proven to do that for the past 40 years. When everyone counts the Giants out, that is when they are at their best, just ask the New England Patriots. I smell another “Tom-Coughlin-backs-against- the-wall” season brewing. The Jets and Giants open up their pre-season in the new stadium with a lot of interesting storylines to watch. While it may just be a pre- season game, this game always counts to NY Football fans, and this Monday won’t be any different. Who’s ready for some NY football?
About the Author
Written by Dennis Napoliello
Graduate of Providence College with a BS degree in Business Administration. While at Providence College, I co hosted the #1 radio program titled "The Sports Page". I make my living in the fitness industry as National Vice President of Sales at David Barton Gym located in New York City. On a personal note, I have been a long standing Giants fan as my family has held season tickets since the opening of Giants Stadium in 1976. I now own the tickets and enjoy going to the game with my three children (Peyton, Trevor and Camryn), wife (Michelle), Dad (Al) and brother in law (Chris). Other than college, I have lived my entire life in NJ and currently reside in Roxbury, NJ. My objective with this blog is to have fun writing, along with my two sons, about the team we love, and to be as objective as possible always trying to give you the fans point of view,