We continue our look through the 2009 Football Outsiders Almanac summary of ourwith a look at this year's offense.
We have been over and over the wide receiver situation. If you are a Football Outsiders' devotee you know they have done exhaustive research and concluded the Giants were actually better last season without Plaxico Burress than they were with him. I am not going to belabor the receiver issue any further. You can buy the Almanac or download the free Giants chapter if you want to read that portion.
Instead, I thought I would look at some of the other points FOA makes regarding the Giants' offensive success.
The FOA makes the assertion that the group most vital to the success of the 2009 Giants is not the receivers or the running backs. Rather, it is the offensive line.
The place where New York has impressively managed to avoid injury for two years running is on the offensive line. No starter has missed a regular-season game for two seasons. It’s a remarkable accomplishment,
considering that no other team has seen its starting five linemen make it through two consecutive seasons without missing a single start since 2003. In 2002 and 2003, both the Chiefs and the Vikings managed to pull off the feat; neither made it to three years, although the Chiefs’ starters only missed a single game in 2004; the Vikings’ linemen missed 18 games in each of 2004 and 2005.
For the Giants, the basis of their team’s strength is in the combination of the offensive line with fullback Madison Hedgecock, so losing even one player for any period of time would be a huge problem. When Kareem McKenzie struggled with a back injury last year and had to come out for periodic extended breathers in the middle of games, he was replaced by utility lineman Kevin Boothe, who proceeded to nearly get Eli Manning killed. The team has only Boothe and second-round pick William Beatty for recognizable backups, so an injury to a key player like right guard Chris Snee or center Shaun O’Hara could be disastrous for the offense.
My take: I have to agree that this is an area that worries me. It has been well-documented that even the center-quarterback exchange has been difficult in camp for any center not named O'Hara. Boothe is now on the shelf with a pectoral injury, Beatty is not ready, no one knows how much Tutan Reyes has left, or if Guy Whimper and Adam Koets can actually play.
All I can say is, cross your fingers and hope we don't have to find out.
The FOA had this to say about Manning.
The once-embattled quarterback had his best season as a pro in 2008, improving his completion percentage and yards per attempt while cutting his interceptions in half, although it’s worth noting that his six dropped interceptions were tied for thirdmost in the league. Manning still has accuracy issues — his rating of 80.9 percent on our accuracy index (see Appendix) was below the league average of 82.6 percent, and 26th amongst quarterbacks who threw at least 100 passes, but he has improved his accuracy on crossing routes and short out patterns.
My take: Eli will never be a model of perfection, or a guy who piles up great numbers. He is flawed, but he wins. That is what counts.
The Almanac also has a little nugget about offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride. I'm sure the Gilbride haters in the crowd will appreciate it.
Kevin Gilbride took some heat for his play-calling against thein the Divisional round loss, but the problem was less with the scheme and more with the execution. Gilbride has had a habit of wearing out his welcome, though, so it wouldn’t a surprise to see the blame fall on him if the offense gets off to a slow start. Head coach Tom Coughlin appears to have moved on from his old drill instructor style of coaching permanently, but again, it’ll be interesting to see what happens if the team does struggle at the start of the year.
My take: Gilbride has a ton of different offensive weapons with a wide variety of skill sets. His job is to find the right ways to use those skill sets, and watching him try to figure it out will be one of the most fascinating -- and, I'm sure, most talked about -- stories of 2009.