As the Giants prepare for training camp in the next few weeks, here are some questions to consider to help count down the days to Big Blue in Albany.
1. Can new defensive coordinator Perry Fewell pick up the pieces of a defense that allowed opponents to score 31 points or more seven times, including five games in which they allowed at least 40?
Nothing could have been more stunning than the collapse of the Giants' defense and the loss of team identity last season, which prompted a critical season-ending rant about the lack of effort and toughness from co-owner John Mara. The pressure is on Fewell to produce a positive emotional response from his players, starting with DE Osi Umenyiora, who has vowed to regain his starting job from Mathias Kiwanuka. Fewell also must light a fire under DT Chris Canty, who did nothing in an injury-plagued season.
2. Will the Giants' defense-oriented draft have an immediate impact?
The Giants tried to hit a home run with first-round DE Jason Pierre-Paul but just as easily could strike out. Drafted for his stunning athletic ability, Pierre-Paul only started playing football as a junior in high school. The learning curve will be steep. Second-round DT Linval Joseph and fourth-round ILB Phillip Dillard should get time to develop. Third-round S Chad Jones might have contributed right away if not for the auto-accident injuries to his left leg that ended his season and threaten his career.
The concern about Phillips' ability to regain his form after microfracture knee surgery is obvious. The Giants drafted Jones, and safeties Antrel Rolle and Deon Grant were their major free-agent signings. The last line of defense let them down last season and has to be better. Jonathan Goff gets first crack at replacing Pierce, whose leadership was missed after his career-ending neck injury and second-year strong side LB Clint Sintim also must gain experience.
On the other hand, they can't be worse than last year when the Giants were gashed regularly for yardage through the middle.
4. Are the Giants still a run-first team?
No. At least, not until RBs Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw demand the ball with their production. Jacobs, especially, might complain about the lack of consistent touches, and he has a point. But he averaged only 3.7 yards per carry and didn't have a single 100-yard rushing game to prove he could be a workhorse. Bradshaw topped the 100-yard mark twice but was inconsistent because of foot injuries that required offseason surgery. They've probably got one more year to get the job done or be gone.
5. Can Eli Manning be Peyton Lite?
Eli faces big brother Peyton for the second time in their careers in Week 2 in Indianapolis. Although Eli matched his brother's Super Bowl win a couple years ago, he's just now coming into his own as the take-charge focal point of the Giants' offense. He topped the 4,000-yard mark in passing, threw for 27 TDs and turned WR Steve Smith into the NFC's leading receiver with 107 receptions.
WR Hakeem Nicks earned the starting job ahead of Mario Manningham by the end of last season, but the Giants are best with all three WRs on the field. It's not traditional Giants football, but Manning has shown he can carry the team when the running game doesn't produce.