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Giants try again to better than just good enough

Eli Manning has a knack for maneuvering in

Eli Manning has a knack for maneuvering in the pocket and can make an amazing play when he needs to. (Undated file photo) Photo Credit: Getty Images

Giants' 2010 record: 10-6 (missed playoffs)
Record under coach Tom Coughlin: 65-47 (.580)

A 10-6 record wasn’t enough to get the Giants into the playoffs last year. And if they don’t make it this year, that extension through 2012 may not benefit coach Tom Coughlin at all.

A nonexistent offseason, a compressed training camp and a rocky preseason by Eli Manning (no touchdowns, two interceptions in 18 series) won’t make this any easier. But accomplishing a few key matters could put the Giants back in the postseason, perhaps as NFC East champions.

Handle Philly

Matt Dodge, author of the fateful punt to DeSean Jackson that capped the Eagles’ 28-point fourth-quarter comeback in Game 14, has been replaced by former Jet Steve Weatherford. But the only real thing that will help the Giants recover from losing both games to Michael Vick and the defending division champs will be more consistent defense. That won’t be easily attained without physical cornerback Terrell Thomas, out for the season with a torn ACL.

Cut turnovers

Slice Eli Manning’s league-high 25 interceptions in half and the Giants could have conceivably had had two more wins last year. Manning, beset by a combination of bad decisions and tipped balls, needs to take better care of things this time, since he no longer has reliable third-down target Steve Smith to bail him out. Manning wasn’t alone in the turnover department, either: Ahmad Bradshaw fumbled seven times and lost six of them. Nothing save for injuries will kill this team quicker than turning the ball over.

Rush the passer

With D-line convert Mathias Kiwanuka — now healthy from a season-ending neck injury — handling strong-side duties, the pass rush should get some extra zip. Problem is, middle linebacker Jonathan Goff tore an ACL in Monday’s practice and is gone for the season, leaving rookie Greg Jones in that spot. The Giants will likely bring in a former Giants veteran such as Keith Bulluck or Kawika Mitchell. They’re both old, however, and one should not expect any shutdown middle coverage in the passing game. Kiwanuka’s presence on third down can only help a depleted secondary, as will a strong pass rush that will be led early by Justin Tuck and second-year stud Jason Pierre-Paul, who starts while Osi Umenyiora heals from a knee scope. But if opponents can complete tons of passes to tight ends, watch out.



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