You guessed it. They’re all dealing with some level of injury. Plaxico Burress had a solid season then had to have his knee cleaned out this offseason. Amani Toomer made it halfway through the season then blew out his knee. And Sinorice Moss, the super-hyped rookie, only played in six games and caught five passes due to a quad injury. If everyone comes to the table healthy and ready to go, the Giants, especially with the addition of second-round pick Steve Smith, should boast quite an impressive stable of receivers. Unfortunately, that’s a big if.
Where does Toomer fit in?
Make no mistake about it, the Giants and their fans didn’t know what they had until it was gone. Amani Toomer’s 33 catches and three touchdowns hardly put him on pace to make his first Pro Bowl appearance. But when he went down after eight games with a torn ACL, the Giants offense, and quarterback Eli Manning especially, began to suffer and struggle in a mighty way. That’s why it’s imperative that Toomer return to form by season’s outset. Sure the Giants have been trying to replace him forever. And it looks like they may have finally found a worthy candidate in USC’s Steve Smith. But in the meantime, Toomer needs to return to the starting lineup and go back to doing what Toomer does. That is, run precise routes, catch everything in sight and provide a layer of security for Manning, who desperately needs one at times.
Who will emerge?
Whether Toomer holds up or not, the Giants need to know there are other guys they can count on. Without Tiki Barber this season, it might become even more imperative that New York is able to competently fill out three- and four-WR sets. No one knows what to expect from Moss. Smith looks like the real deal but all we’ve seen him do so far is run around in his jersey and shorts. The best news of all comes from Burress, who said now that he’s fully healthy – or at least will be by the start of the season – that he expects to have the best season of his career. New York also boasts David Tyree and Michael Jennings, both of whom proved capable of contributing when given the opportunity.
Will they be better in ’07?
They sure better be. When you add a hopefully healthy Toomer, an exciting second-round pick in Smith and basically another draft pick in Moss while subtracting only Tim Carter, that sure sounds like an improvement, now doesn’t it? Of course the expected drop-off in the running game could adversely affect New York’s aerial attack, but if all parties can stay healthy, it’s hard to envision an opposing secondary having enough able bodies to shut down all of Manning’s downfield weapons. Doubling either of the starters will leave the other open, while Moss and Smith should be able to run free on less-talented defenders. In theory it could all work out really well for New York.
Strength of unit: The depth, speed and versatility of New York’s corps of wide receivers makes this a position definitely worth keeping an eye on during camp – and hopefully the entire season.
Weakness of unit: The questionable health status of three of the top four receivers. All sound like they’ll be fine when the real bullets start flying, but we’ve heard that before.
Key additions: Steve Smith. Not just a possession receiver, Smith has already shown the ability to get deep and catch everything thrown his way.
Key losses: None. You can’t possibly count Tim Carter, can you?
Darkhorse: Anthony Mix. At 6-5, 235, the second-year man from Auburn is intriguing to say the least, especially since he’s had a pretty impressive offseason.
On the spot: Amani Toomer. He’ll be the first to admit he’s well aware the Giants are looking to push him out the door and replace him with younger, faster players. That decision will ultimately come down to how well Toomer plays this season and beyond.
Goal line rising: New York’s receivers caught 17 TD passes last season, after catching 15 the year before. The addition of Smith, a healthy Moss and a full season from Toomer should push that number into the 20s.
Where’s my buddy? Plaxico Burress will be the first to admit he missed Toomer during the season’s second half. While he did catch 10 touchdown passes, Burress’ receptions and yardage dropped significantly last year (63 catches, 988 yards) from his 2005 numbers (76, 1,214).