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In the last four games of the 2008 season, Eli Manning did not eclipse 191 yards passing. During that stretch -- without wide receiver Plaxico Burress -- he threw only two touchdowns.
There was much speculation that the Giants would add Braylon Edwards in the offseason, but that never materialized. Instead, they used their late first-round selection on North Carolina's Hakeem Nicks. Nicks is fairly refined for a rookie and the Tar Heels used a lot of NFL principles in their offense, but he is still a rookie and an adjustment period is a given. Nicks is an intriguing option, and there are other young wideouts on this squad who also have a lot of upside.
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|The Giants' offense faltered down the stretch last season without Plaxico Burress in the lineup.|
Domenik Hixon and Steve Smith don't have as high of a ceiling as Nicks, but both, especially Smith, are steady players. Smith should be a fine No. 2 wideout or slot guy for the foreseeable future, but he and Hixon would be far more effective with a true difference-maker on the opposite side. Hixon did lead the team in receiving last year and has some big-play abilities.
Two wild cards are Mario Manningham and Sinorice Moss. Neither is particularly big, but they can get deep. Manningham in particular could take a big step forward this year, while Moss needs to step up to see the field.
The Giants also used a third-round selection on Ramses Barden. His stature is extremely impressive, but he looked overwhelmed at the Senior Bowl and I expect that to be the case in Year One for someone trying to make the transition from a tiny school like Cal Poly. He is a long-term project.
Overall, this is a very good team. Even with Steve Spagnuolo now in St. Louis, I expect the defense to be much improved -- which is really saying something. The running game should once again be among the top few in the league. Manning did a better job of valuing the football last year and that improvement needs to continue. He also needs to be more confident in spreading the ball around -- he clearly missed his safety blanket when Burress was out. A wideout or two could step up as well. Even without a true No. 1 option at that position, the Giants should win plenty of 13-9, grind-it-out games. It would just be much easier with someone of Burress' or Edwards' caliber in the mix.
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