Giants among men.
I’m swamped at work and have about 5 projects that desperately need my attention, so it’s time to forget all of that for a minute and talk football. First, let me say how pleasantly unsurprised I am with my New York Giants. I have always believed in Eli Manning as a quarterback, but he is a quiet leader. Now, without Tiki, Shockey, Strahan or Plaxico, this is unquestionably his team. The team has taken on his workmanlike, no-flash, just win attitude, and after four games they have a vice-grip on the NFC East.
Leading the impressive arsenal for Eli is Steve Smith. Yes, that Steve Smith. League leader in receptions, yards, TDs, and first downs after four weeks. Some are already beginning to compare him to Plaxico Burress, but I disagree. Plaxico was a great receive because of his breakaway speed and his ability to go up get a jump ball. Steve Smith is 5′11″ and, although he’s fast, that is not his strength. Steve Smith’s strengths are his hands, his toughness, his crisp routes, perhaps most importantly, his ability to be where Eli thinks he will be. Those qualities are what made Amani Toomer the greatest Giants receiver of all time, and that is the proper comparison.
As for the replacing Plaxico question, I have said before (and been called crazy for it), that there are advantages to having more than one weapon at wide out. When a defense prepares for a typical offense, they will analyze the biggest weapon and attempt to neutralize it, then move on to the next one. The advantage that the Giants had, at least for the past four games is similar to a new pitcher in baseball: no one knows their tendencies.
There may not be a receiver that has the skills of Plaxico Burress on the Giants, but they all have tremendous talent. When faced with that, with the notion a teams sixth and seventh options at wideout are Sinorice Moss and a 6′6″, 225 lbs rookie who runs a 4.48 and looks like you put Brandon Jacobs in a stretch wrack and gave him a number 13 jersey. As Dominick Hixon was injured, Mario Manningham stepped up and shined. When he began to drop balls, rookie Hakeem Nicks stepped in and showed the world his air brakes for his first NFL touchdown–after Manning bruised his heel.
I am not at all suggesting the Giants are in a perfect position at wide receiver. But they are not weak at that position either. As the weeks roll on, defenses will amass film and pick apart receivers’ tendencies and exploit weaknesses. My feeling is that Steve Smith will remain Eli’s safety valve, just as Amani Toomer was for so many Giant quarterbacks of the past. The real interesting storyline will be whether it will be Hixon, Nicks or Manningham that earns the long-term starting role.
Of course, Eli Manning will have to stay healthy. Giants fans could do without any further scares for the $100 million man. Of course, there was some unintended comic relief provided by Tony Siragusa on the play. Siragusa’s role on the sidelines is to serve as living proof that playing in the NFL can lead to daim bramage. After Eli came up lame on the play, even though no Chief was within in 5 years of him, Siragusa chimed in on air to say “He got hit really hard on that play.” Really? By who, the 12th man? Dr. Griffin?
Elsewhere around the league, Rush Limbaugh is considering buying an interest in the hapless St. Louis Rams. I used to hate the Rams for the Mike Martz years, but now that Coach Spagnuolo is there, I can’t hate them (so much) anymore. Rush owning them would seal the deal.