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With Osi gone, time to lower expectations


By now you have heard the devastating news that Osi Umenyiora will be lost to the Giants for the season after suffering a knee injury Saturday against the New York Jets.

This is one of the reasons why it is incredibly difficult to repeat as Super Bowl champion, or even to be a powerhouse year after year.

Here is coach Tom Coughlin discussing the injury.

My number one concern is about Osi. I did talk to him on the phone a short while ago and told him that he is in everyone’s thoughts and prayers and that this is something that we, in talking with Dr. Warren, Dr. Warren has convinced us that this repair will put him in great shape going forward and because of that we are certainly 100 percent behind the decision. We just hope that the surgery goes well on Tuesday and that it is a full recovery and that he is even better than ever here shortly down the road. As for the rest of us, we received this information this morning. It was probably around noon I think when I talked to Dr. Warren, and it was obviously the news I didn’t want to hear, but after listening to the explanation and Dr. Warren’s thoughts on it, I am convinced that this is the right procedure, the right way to go. I tried to talk to the coaches about it and I assured the coaches that we will have to be at our best because our team will know before they come in here tomorrow because of the media and we have to do a great job of getting our players refocused and our thoughts on going forward.

Coughlin was also asked about the possibility of Michael Strahan returning or Mathias Kiwanuka moving back to defensive end full time. He was non-committal on both questions.

Don't get your hopes up, but Strahan did not immediately shoot down the possibility of returning to help the Giants. He said only "to say if I would or wouldn't is premature."

Let's assume that No. 92 will not ride to the rescue, as much as we might wish for it to happen.

Kiwanuka_medium The obvious move is Kiwanuka back to defensive end.

I think it is a move that Coughlin and defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo are loathe to make. Yet, provided Strahan stays retired, I don't see what else the Giants can do.

Even if the Giants don't completely abandon using Kiwanuka as a linebacker -- a position I think he has been growing into quite nicely -- they will be forced to use him heavily at defensive end.

Spagnuolo talks all the time about finding a way to get the best players on the field for the most snaps -- which is why Kiwanuka was moved to linebacker in the first place since the Giants had Umenyiora, Strahan and Justin Tuck at defensive end.

It's really simple if you look at it that way. Dave Tollefson and Renaldo Wynn are decent fill-in defensive ends. But, Tollefson/Wynn and DE with Kiwi at linebacker is not nearly as good a combination as Kiwanuka at defensive end with Gerris Wilkinson and Danny Clark manning the outside linebacker slots.

In short, Wilkinson is a more talented player than Tollefson or Wynn, so the Giants will need to get him on the field.

Now for the dose of reality. Coughlin, Spagnuolo and the other Giants players will talk bravely in the days to come. in truth, though, whatever chance the Giants might have had to repeat has gone up in smoke.

The thing that made the Giants defense special last season was the number of pure pass rushers the Giants could employ, and the variety of positions in which they could employ them.

That flexibility and depth is now gone. Without Umenyiora and Strahan -- and even if Kiwanuaka moves back to defensive end -- the Giants don't have a single defensive lineman who demands a double team.

No matter who the Giants utilize, and where they position them, that means opposing offenses will have one more free pass blocker to handle the Giants diminshed pass rush, and to pick up the blitzers they will continue to employ.

That, of course, means the sometimes shaky Giants secondary will be more vulnerable than ever. There is simply no way the pass rush will bail them out as often as it did last season.

Don't get me wrong here. I am not forecasting that the Giants will fall apart and go 3-13. I think, though, that we need to temper our expectations.

This team can still be good. There are plenty of good players on the defense, and youngsters to watch like Wilkinson, Kenny Phillips, Kiwanuka and Terrell Thomas. On offense, there are a ton of weapons in the backfield and at wide receiver.

There is also a quality coaching staff with a terrific defensive coordinator who will figure out a way to maximize the talent he has left.

I just don't think this team, with the losses it has suffered on defense, can be special.

Just getting back to the playoffs would be an outstanding accomplishment.

Your thoughts?