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If dysfunctional Giants get it together, watch out NFC East

by | CBSSports.com National Columnist
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Eli Manning and the Giants have the pieces to get to another Super Bowl. (AP)  
Eli Manning and the Giants have the pieces to get to another Super Bowl. (AP)  

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The pass rusher hates the general manager, the coach might not yet trust the star wide receiver that shot himself in the foot and the competition is building what one player called a Dream Team. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the plight of the New York Giants.

The first day of training camp began with defensive lineman Osi Umenyiora promising an explosion to the media due to anger over his contract situation. The target was to be Jerry Reese, general manager of the team, whom Umenyiora claims broke a promise to re-do his deal. But the explosion never came because Umenyiora arrived late.

"Let's put it this way," said Umenyiora's agent, Tony Agnone, "Osi isn't a big fan of Jerry's. Osi is now waiting for one of two things. A new contract or a trade."

No one knows for sure which one will occur and there is indeed a third option: the Giants could do nothing and let Umenyiora stew. But one league source believes the Giants will eventually trade Umenyiora and Baltimore has emerged as a possible destination, though that seems unlikely. The Ravens jettisoned a number of talented veterans because of salary cap issues.

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Coach Tom Coughlin explained the Umenyiora situation this way: "It's not what you'd like. You'd like everyone to be in the right frame of mind." That's one way of putting it. You'd also like the 300-pound defensive end not wanting to pummel the snot out of his general manager.

Then there's Plaxico Burress. Coughlin and Burress once went together like a bathtub and a plugged in hair dryer. Burress is out of prison and making the Plaxico NFL World Tour rounds with stops in New York and Pittsburgh. He met with Coughlin and the Giants coach said he enjoyed their conversation and interest was possible. Burress' destination is likely Pittsburgh or San Francisco.

So the Giants are dealing with Umenyiora, Burress, and their huge division rival, the Philadelphia Eagles, are building football's version of the Miami Heat. The Giants look dead, right?

Right?

Well ... maybe not.

Something about this Giants team is intriguing. Very intriguing. Under the radar, but intriguing.

Fan Poll

Who will win the NFC East?

Eagles
64%
Giants
15%
Cowboys
16%
Redskins
5%

Total Votes: 20,602

I'm not the only one who believes this. When asking several coaches which NFC team could sneak out of its conference and give Green Bay a run they all said the Giants.

There's a feeling among some in football that if New York can overcome this dysfunctional beginning and maybe catch the Eagles a year or so away from its Super Bowl run, the Giants could do something. That's just a feeling, but it's more than an itch.

The reason is while Umenyiora may not like Reese, it is Reese who has built an incredibly fast, athletic roster that's deep enough to withstand the losses of players like Burress and Umenyiora. Burress is probably the best wide receiver the Giants ever had (yes better than Amani Toomer and Frank Gifford) and it says a lot about Reese that Burress can go to prison and Reese can find players to keep the offense churning at a respectable pace in his absence.

The defensive line is thick. The secondary just got help with first-round pick Prince Amukamara. There are solid backs and a good receiving corps. Quarterback Eli Manning has a Super Bowl ring and while Coughlin may be a hothead and stickler for players wearing the right colored socks, he's a talented coach.

The Eagles may run away with the division, but they may also find what the Heat discovered that expectations can be asthmatic and crushing. If the Eagles fall it could be the Giants -- not Dallas -- that might settle in their place.

But first the distractions have to be eradicated. The Burress situation will soon be settled with Burress maybe heading to Pittsburgh. But Umenyiora could be a problem. The Giants need to quickly deal with his situation. Letting that fester just wouldn't be smart. And the Giants are usually pretty smart because Reese is smart.

Now, if we could only keep Umenyiora from punching him in the grill.

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