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Prior to the start of the season, the Giants appeared to be facing a rather uphill battle following a rough off-season in which they lost key veteran holdovers in wide receiver Steve Smith and center Shaun O’Hara (both former Pro-Bowlers) as well as defensive tackle Barry Cofield, tight end Kevin Boss and veteran guard Rich Seubert (some will also count wide receiver Plaxico Burress -I don’t however- he essentially left the Giant’s the moment he shot himself in the leg back in 2008). On top of that, the Giants suffered an onslaught of pre-season injuries, most notably, season-ending injuries to Cornerback Terrell Thomas and Middle Linebacker Jonathan Goff.
But despite all that, six games into the season, the Giants head into their Week 7 bye week with a 4-2 record. Eli Manning has put together a fine season and has really come around nicely in what could turn out to be a career-defining type of season for the quarterback in his eighth professional year.
The Giants will return from their week off to host Miami, which is a must-win game for the G-men, because it is not only a home game against a last place and winless Dolphins team, but also because, it is also the calm before the storm. The storm that is the daunting remaining schedule for Giants 2011 season.
Here’s how it looks:
Head Coach Tom Coughlin’s most recent Giant teams have had an untimely penchant for faltering in the second-half of the season after starting the season off on a good note (last season being a primary example). Despite the schedule and recent season trends being against their favor, the Giants are pleased to be where they stand at the moment, and figure to to be even more pleased with the news on the injury front they have received during the bye week.
Justin Tuck is progressing from both his neck and groin injuries. It appears the Pro-Bowl defensive end is going to be fully recovered, particularly from the neck injury that has caused him to miss all but two games to begin the year. A healthy Tuck not only means their defensive leader and one of their team captains is back – it also improves their run defense as Tuck is one of the game’s better D-ends when it comes to neutralizing the opposition’s running attack. It also allows fellow defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul to go back to his normal snap count (of around 40) instead of the 50-60 he’s been getting in replace of Tuck. Even though Pierre-Paul has had a breakout season statistically speaking (second in the NFC in sacks behind Minnesota’s Jared Allen), according to Coughlin and his coaching staff, Pierre-Paul has been known to tire quickly as a result of the increase in playing time. Rotating JPP in situationally should provide for a greater rate of overall production from what is already considered to be one of the best defensive line units in the game. The Giants have to be pleased with the tremendous lift Osi Umenyiora has provided in his three games back from his own injury problem, going about his usual business chasing the quarterback and showing improvement in his ability to stop the run.
Center David Baas appears to be over the neck stinger that sidelined him for the loss to Seattle in Week 6. Keep in mind, Baas wasn’t acquired by the Giants because O’Hara left. They chose to take Baas as an upgrade over O’Hara, which says a lot about Baas’ talent and potential. Pro-Bowl guard Chris Snee is back to full-practice after sitting out the Buffalo game due to the concussion he suffered against Seattle a week prior. Snee, undoubtedly the Giants’ best O-Lineman, is expected to suit up against Miami. Impressive undrafted rookie fullback Henry Hynoski is also benefiting from the week off to allow the aching neck injury that kept him out against Buffalo to fully heal. Having those three cogs back in the offense will greatly aid the Giants’ running game, which has surprisingly struggled so far this season. Speaking of the running game, more positive news for the Giants’ offense is the progression Brandon Jacobs is making with the sprained MCL in his knee. He hopes to be back in action against Miami after missing the previous two games.
First round draft-pick Prince Amukamara is currently in the process of recovering from a broken foot that has caused him to miss all of his rookie season to this point. His status for Week 8 is still uncertain, as in all likelihood, will be his performance from here on out. The talented corner out of the University of Nebraska has yet to receive any NFL-game experience having broken his foot during the opening week of training camp. But the Giants and their depleted secondary will certainly welcome him back with open arms, even if its only to provide some depth at corner. Though if the Giants’ pass defense continues to be as poor as it has looked so far, the Giants will definitely wish for Prince to provide more. Perhaps he can see some time in nickel packages, where the Giants’ defense seems to be most discombobulated. Wide Receiver Ramses Barden and O-Linemen Adam Koets began the season on the Physically Unable to Perform List, and are now eligible these next three weeks to activated, or will be transfered to the Giants’ already crowded season-ending Injured Reserve list. Both still possess some promise, and when healthy, can provide necessary depth at their positions for the G-Men.
The brutal second-half schedule could doom the Giants. But they could also flourish just as easily as they can fail. As long as they continue this season’s trend, they will remain in the thick of things in the NFC playoff picture – despite the rough scheduling and injury totals. But as we know, injuries are a part of football – and the Giants won’t make any excuses about the injury bug hitting them harder than any other team in football. After all, last season, the Green Bay Packers had the most injuries last season and won the Super Bowl. They didn’t complain or panic. Instead, they were able to withstand the injuries and overcome a poor start to become a dangerous team in January. Just as the Giants hope to do this year.