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Season preview: 2011 Giants

by | CBSSports.com Senior Writer
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Offense: There has been a lot of heat on GM Jerry Reese this summer, and here's why: The Giants keep telling us that they want a better year out of quarterback Eli Manning, but they just subtracted two of his most reliable receivers -- tight end Kevin Boss and wide receiver Steve Smith. The Giants just don't have the money to spend on high-profile free agents, and losing guys like Boss and Smith is part of business. So Manning must adjust. He must adjust to a new offensive line, too, with the most intriguing hot spot at left tackle, where Will Beatty steps in to cover Manning's back. He wasn't ready a year ago. Now, he has no choice. So he starts, moving David Diehl to left guard where he seems better suited. But don't stop there. Manning's center is new, too, with David Baas taking over for veteran Shaun O'Hara. If the Giants can protect Manning, he has a chance. But who where are the targets to replace Boss and Smith?

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Defense: This has always been the backbone of respectable Giants teams, and it should be again. OK, the Osi Umenyiora contract dispute isn't good for anyone, but he'll play ... eventually. Add him to a group of pass rushers that includes Justin Tuck, Jason Pierre-Paul and Mathias Kiwanuka, and you have quarterbacks under siege again. But there have been key losses here, too, and I don't just mean defensive tackle Barry Cofield. Rookie defensive tackle Marvin Austin, linebacker Clint Sintim and cornerback Terrell Thomas are all out for the season, while first-round pick Prince Amukamara is expected to miss the first portion of the season. Heck, Umenyiora will miss the first part of the year, too. Not good, especially when you play in a division with Michael Vick and Tony Romo. Linebacker is an issue, too, with Kiwanuka moved to an outside spot for the second time in his career and already bothered by a sore groin. But forget him. My question: How good is Jonathan Goff in the middle?

Coaching and schemes: Tom Coughlin was 10-6 a year ago but didn't make the playoffs. Nevertheless, the Giants gave him a year extension, with the understanding that something improves -- with that something the playoff picture. The last time Coughlin went more than three straight years without reaching the postseason was 2004, and it cost him his job. It could again.

Outlook: Good, not great. I felt a lot better about this team before injuries started subtracting key defensive contributors. They should be OK there, but OK might not cut it. Reason: Their offense is wildly inconsistent and could struggle to produce points.

Predicted finish: 9-7, second in NFC East.

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