What are the odds any key Giants go clubbing while packing this year? Without the safety on, that is.
The Giants have seen this movie before. Four years ago, they were Super Bowl champions after a dramatic upset of New England (a rematch from the regular season). They hope, unlike the cinema, Hangover II isn’t just a worse repetition of The Hangover.
The 2008 Giants ripped through their first 11 games at 10-1 when already injured wide receiver Plaxico Burress bungled a gun, shot himself in the thigh and the Giants in the foot. Burress, a big receiver who performed wonderfully in the 2007 playoffs, wound up going to jail. New York, which looked ready to retire the Lombardi Trophy, won one more game that season before a first-round playoff exit.
“We’ve got to improve. We were 9-7 last year in the regular season. That’s not good enough,” Giants quarterback Eli Manning told a pack of reporters at the start of training camp. “We’re a better team than that. Obviously, we showed that sense of urgency in the playoffs. But we’ve got to show that urgency and consistency throughout the regular season. Show that consistency throughout 16 games.”
When you’re the champs, Manning said, “find things you can work on. Make sure you’re better than the year before in a lot of areas.”
Giants coach Tom Coughlin said, “The message is one of improvement. Of taking full advantage of setting the bar of what we were able to do in the last six games of the year. Analyzing the previous 14 to the last six and saying, ‘which team are we here?’ ”
Whichever team it is, there’s a different roster than 2011 or 2008. Enormous running back Brandon Jacobs and wide receiver Mario Manningham are in San Francisco. Jacksonville got Aaron Ross, cornerback and husband of Olympic gold medalist Sandra Richards-Ross of Pembroke Pines.
Jacobs’ former running mate, running back Ahmad Bradshaw, didn’t have to think about the first area of needed improvement. Bradshaw knows where the Giants ranked in rushing and yards per carry last season: 32nd out of 32.
“Being 32nd, that’s devastating for us,” Bradshaw said. But he spoke highly of David Wilson, a rookie possibly groomed to be a running mate or replacement of Bradshaw. “He can open up a whole lot of things for our offense, outside, inside.”
Manning didn’t have to think hard about what he wanted to improve. His 16 interceptions still rankled Coughlin and left him ranked 26th in interceptions percentage.
“Cut down on the turnovers,” Manning said. “Continue to concentrate every practice, every play on making good decisions. Making sure whatever happens, the ball’s in our hands on the next play.”
Now, Manning is not just a Super Bowl-winning quarterback, but a two-ring Super quarterback. Several other Giants can say that, and they will be expected to say something this season.
“The leadership factor in the locker room is key,” Coughlin said. “Not only showing that way and take some of these young people under their wing and point them in the right direction as well. I think people are going to be able to put behind us what’s been accomplished.
“But the great thing about the mountain is everybody starts to climb again at this time.”