For those who are under a rock, the recent breaking news for the New York Giants is that Osi Umenyiora is out for the season due to a torn lateral meniscus in his left knee. Umenyiora's Injury. My first thought, is that we are done this season. How can we overcome losses of Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora? Strahan and Umenyiora are probably the two best players on the Giant's Defense (actually, check that, they are the best two) and two of the best leaders on the defense, other then maybe Antonio Pierce. Matt Mosley, in his NFC East Blog discussing Umenyiora's injury and Strahan's possible return, stated: "of all the players the Giants couldn't have afforded to lose, I think Umenyiora ranks right behind quarterback Eli Manning," and I think Mosley hit the nail head on. Giants 101 seems to believe that although losing Umenyiora is a big loss, the Giants will still be a good team. The article focused on how Reese got praise because of the depth he built and that the Giants success was not completely dependent on Umenyiora or Strahan. He has a good point, but I am not sure if we could lose so much depth from the defensive line (which was an area that was so good they covered for the Giant's shortcomings in other areas, like the secondary).
My second thought was that Strahan might come back. But I was not the only one thinking this. ESPN, smelling a story, included in its article about Umenyiora's injury a discussion between Coughlin and Strahan, though Coughlin said his conversation with Strahan was only about his new network job. But while watching Sportscenter this morning, there was a new story about Michael Strahan claiming that Strahan would consider coming back to the Giants. The article basically says that Strahan would be willing to come back for $8 million and Co-owner Steve Tisch said he would absolutely consider bringing back Strahan and Tom Coughlin said they were considering all options. Matt Mosley discussed whether Strahan would consider coming back. In his article Mosley states that Strahan, in his previous statements, has not sounded like a man having second thoughts about retirement. Mosley also stated that the Giants asking Strahan to play would force him to change his legacy of going out after winning a Super Bowl. Mosley also added that asking him to come back would put Strahan in an uncomfortable position as some fans would see him as disloyal if he didn't come back after being offered $8 million and if he does come back he could affect his legacy. However, Mosley finished by saying the Giants should do it because the situation "is not any worse then the one the Giants are in now."
Should the Giants bring Strahan back? How do they replace Umenyiora especially with all the other losses?
The biggest problem appears to be Strahan's stated high price tag and the fact that it is not clear Strahan has been working out or staying in shape, like he had in 2007 when he held out through the entire pre-season. Looking at fan comments made on ESPN's article about Strahan possibly coming back, it looks like Giants fans are divided, some think it is too much money to bring him back especially since he is out of shape, while others think it is the only way to save the season. Fan Comments on Strahan's Possible Return
My opinion is that we absolutely need to bring him back. I think the Giants cannot win any playoff games (and maybe not even make the playoffs) if we do not have either Umenyiora or Strahan. $8 million seems like a cheap price to pay to save the Giants' season. He may be out of shape, but he will probably be back to form after about 4 weeks; I'll take Strahan any day, any way. First, Strahan was third on our team in sacks with 9 (it will be hard to match that production, especially since we are moving Tuck from a role where he prospered by taking advantage of slower offensive guards and moving him to DE where he will face more athletic tackles); second, Strahan's sack total doesn't even state his full contribution on pass rushing, as he would constantly draw double teams; third, he still had a great ability to stop the run (he was seventh on the team in tackles and he has so much football awareness. Just yesterday I watched the Bucs-Giants playoff game, and noticed Strahan perfectly read a delayed running back screen to stop a possible first down. Fourth, and most importantly, his leadership on the field cannot be replaced.
But there is another reason to bring Strahan back, and that is what we must do if we do not bring him back. We lost several players from last year, mostly from our defense. From last year, our key losses would be Jeremy Shockey (TE), Reggie Torbor (LB), Kawika Mitchell (LB), Michael Strahan (DE) and Gibril Wilson (SS).
When the Giants lost these players, there were articles talking about these "huge" losses to the Giants, though most held that Strahan and Wilson were really the only big losses. (Giant's Defense Raided but not enough to slow it down and Giants Still have the best front four)
I thought all of these guys were replaceable other than Strahan. In the first round of the draft we picked Kenny Phillips, which I thought was a great pick. As I stated in an earlier post, there were debates whether the Giants should take Kenny Phillips or Tyrell Johnson with both Scout Inc's Pick by Pick Draft Analysis and Mel Kiper's Draft Grades and Analysis stating that they thought the Giants should have selected Tyrell Johnson (giving the Giants only a C+ largely because he thought we picked the Second Best Safety in the draft). But I think Phillips will be more then enough to replace Wilson. I liked Gibril Wilson, but he could not hold onto an interception for his life and his coverage skills were not that good. He is a hard hitter and is good against the run, but his inability to make interceptions and lacking in pass coverage makes him very replaceable.
While there have been a lot of comments about the Giant's weaknesses at Linebacker, especially with the Giants losing both Torbor and Mitchell, I didn't see it as a big deal and neither did many Giants fans. Torbor was a backup at best and only played due to injuries to Mathias Kiwanuka. Also as for Mitchell, the Giants really like Gerris Wilkinson and he was expected to take over for Mitchell. We also picked up Danny Clark from the Texans as a free agent. I thought Kiwanuka's return and Wilkinson and Clark were more then enough to replace Torbor and Mitchell.
And as for Strahan, even though I thought he could not be replaced, Justin Tuck proved last year he was ready to step into a role as starter at Defensive End (though there have been some questions about whether he would have as many sacks against more athletic Offensive Tackles then the Offensive Guards he lined up against), and with Spaugnolo calling the plays, he would get Kiwanuka involved at Linebacker as a pass rusher and the Giants just have incredible depth on the Defensive Line even without Strahan.
However, things have changed as a result of injuries, with the key injury being Umenyiora. First, starting with the injuries to minor players: First, Jonathan Goff (LB), our 5th round pick fractured his back and it is not clear how long he will be out or if he will be placed on the injured reserve. Goff's Injury. Second, Gerris Wilkinson started the year on the Physically Unable to Perform List and has not played many snaps, and he lost his job to Danny Clark. Wilkinson's Situation. Danny Clark was solid for the Texans last year with 51 tackles in 13 games, but was nothing special.
The injury to Umenyiora has forced the Giants to act, and barring the Giants signing Strahan, the Giants have already decided to move Kiwanuka back to the line. The NY Daily News printed an article discussing how Kiwanuka is ready to move back to the line if the Giants need him and Giants.com stated as Breaking News that Kiwanuka has officially been moved back to Defensive End. As the Daily News Article states, Kiwanuka would help ease the lost at Defensive End, as that is his most natural position and where he is most comfortable. Although as some commentators stated on Sportscenter, even though it is the most logical move top move Kiwanuka back to Defensive End, it would require taking a player who had finally adjusted to his new position at linebacker and puts him back to his old position and undoes all the progress her made. Next year, when Umenyiora returns there will be serious questions about what to do with Kiwanuka.
As one commentator stated, while Kiwanuka and Tuck are not as deadly a combo as Strahan and Umenyiora (combined Tuck on Third Down playing as Defenseive Tackle), but the Giants could do much worse. But the key loss will be at Linebacker. Right now if Kiwanuka does move to the line, that leaves Zak DeOssie (who has only played regular season games as a long snapper and special teams player) as first in the depth chart at Strongside Linebacker with 4th Round Pick Bryan Kehl as the backup, although Kehl has started a few snaps at Linebacker during the preseason when Kiwanuka was hurt. And on the weak side, the Giants only have a mediocre Danny Clark, and Gerris Wilkinson who has been hurt all year and so far has not been able to beat Clark for the starting job. This is not a great situation for the Giants linebacker corp.
Strahan coming back would either give us more depth at Defensive End, if Kiwanuka moved there, and this might be smart considering Strahan will not be at 100% for the first few weeks; or it would allow Kiwanuka to stay at Linebacker where we could use some help. So there are 5 really good reasons to Sign Strahan. I say sign him.
I will finish analyzing the draft, which I should have done ages ago, as well as their performance in training camp and pre-season games in the next post. I will also catch up on all the Summer Giants and other NFC East news.