Can Giant Speed Nullify Lack of Height?

The Giants lost almost 13 feet of receivers from last year. Gone are enormous targets Plaxico Burress and Amani Toomer and in their place are a starting tandem of Domenik Hixon and Steve Smith that stand 6-2 and 5-11, respectively. Yeah, it's safe to say that the Giants offensive game plan, especially in the passing game, has already undergone some significant changes.

Now Eli Manning will be the first to tell you that it sure is nice to have huge targets that just go up and get the ball. It takes away the urgency to be dead-on accurate; basically you just have to get the ball into an area and they'll come down with it. But having speedsters also offers its advantages. If a guy's open by 10 yards, it doesn't much matter how tall he is, now does it? There is the challenge for the Giants. Can they smoothly make=2 0the transition to a smaller, speedier passing team? You could already see it this offseason. The windows for getting the receivers the ball seemed to be smaller, requiring Manning and the rest of the QBs to be not only more accurate but exactly on time with the ball as well. One thing we've seen early in camp is a heck of a lot of interceptions, at least through the first four sessions. So it's obvious this isn't going to be the simplest of tactical changes. But it's not like players have gotten injured and the entire change was suddenly thrust on the offense; they've known about this since the end of last season. How quickly and successfully they can make the adjustment will go a very long way in determining the ultimate fate of the 2009 Giants.

Who's number one?

Penn State, of course. No, we're talking who is going to be Manning's top target? He often looked to Burress for big plays and Toomer when he was under pressure and in trouble. Training camp practices and offseason minicamps are one thing; playing with live bullets openin g day against the Redskins and the next week in Dallas is going to be another thing entirely. This question begs another – do the Giants need a true number one receiver or can they get by sharing the responsibilities? Most football types will tell you a stud number one is a must. But there have been success stories in the past (see New England) that would disprove that theory. Either way, Hixon, Smith and friends are going to have to somehow make up for the 212 balls that Burress and Toomer caught during the last two seasons.

Can the rookies step right in?

While there is a whole bunch of pressure on top pick Hakeem Nicks to make an immediate impact, the Giants are also very hopeful that third-rounder Ramses Barden can chip in mightily as well. At 6-6, Barden does provide that tremendous size that helped so much in the past and that they're so clearly lacking heading into 2009. Nicks has been impressive in the early going of camp following a great offseason. He's very smooth and polished and has the look of a guy possessing not only the physical ability but mental toughness as well. As for Barden, somehow the silly rumor got started that he's slow off the line. All one has to do is watch practice in Albany to see that that's far from the case. While raw, the Giants are keeping their fingers crossed that both rooks pay off instant dividends.

Will they be better in '09?

Similarly to the running backs, the receivers are going to be good and will even probably surprise a lot of folks, but there's almost no way as a unit they can be better than they were last season. You can't just take two of the better receivers the game has seen in recent years and think that you're going to replace them that quickly and easily. However, for all those of the school of thought that the WRs are going to lead to the Giants' undoing this season, I wouldn't wager a whole lot on that. They have a nice crop of speedy athletes poised to make their mark.