The preseason did not exactly go according to plan for the New York Giants. Unexpected free-agent losses, a series of difficult season-ending injuries and interrupted preparation due to Hurricane Irene have all been things the Giants have had to deal with.
Today, though, the Giants turn the page on all of that. The 2011 season opens against the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field (4:15 p.m. ET). The goal remains the same for the Giants as it was when training camp began -- find a way to get back to the playoffs for the first time in three seasons.
Can this team do that? The giants have no choice but to find out. On paper, this team is not as good as the one that went 10-6 a season ago. There are a staggering 11 rookies on the 53-man roster -- more than 20 percent of the team. There are unproven players being asked to fill critical roles at a number of positions.
Say what you want about whether general manager Jerry Reese should have done more to keep some of the players who defected. It's over and done with. This season will be a referendum on Reese, who has built a reputation as a terrific evaluator of young talent and a GM who had the ability to fill holes with unknown or under-appreciated veterans. The construction of this roster puts that reputation squarely in the crosshairs.
The season will test Tom Coughlin is a number of ways. Can he get productivity out of many of these young players, tolerating some of the inevitable mistakes? Can he coax some of his veteran players to change their ways and limit some of the mistakes that blew up the 2010 season? Can he keep a team that seems depleted, and around which much of the public perception has been negative, believing that there is enough talent to get where it wants to go?
The Giants simply can't withstand many more devastating injuries. There is still talent, but not nearly as much as the team thought it was going to have. There are still playmakers, but losing many more of them would likely be a death knell for the Giants' playoff hopes.
In some ways, though, the changeover in the Giants' roster is exciting. Reality is, all of those names we were familiar with were not good enough to get the team to the playoffs the past two seasons. This is a different group about which less is known. Will it be better? Worse?
All we can do is sit back, watch and find out.
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