As the Giants engage in the opening week of training camp at the University of Albany, they are optimistically embracing a new beginning.
“I think training camp is really where you establish your identity,” said veteran center Shaun O’ Hara. “…This is a time to bring everyone together and create that persona of the team that you want to be every Sunday…”
By the Giants’ high standards, last season was a colossal disappointment. Entering the 2009 campaign as a Super Bowl contender, they ended the 16-game regular season schedule 8-8 after a promising 5-0 start. Head coach Tom Coughlin’s crew lost four of their final six games and was a third place also ran in the NFC East behind the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles, both whom finished 11-5.
The issues facing the Giants were evident. Offensively, quarterback Eli Manning led a unit that was solid in averaging 366 yards per game and 25 points per outing, ranking eighth in the league in both categories
Conversely, the Giants’ once mighty defense, which lifted them to the 2007-08 Super Bowl title and the NFC’s best regular season record the following year, was terrible. In constant flux resulting from a plethora of injuries, resistance to the defensive schemes instituted by first-year defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan, and a lack of on the field leadership, the Giants allowed 26.1 points per game, placing them 30th out of 32 teams in statistically.
Senior Vice President and General Manager Jerry Reese summarily addressed the defensive deficiencies by dismissing Sheridan and hiring Perry Fewell, formerly of the Buffalo Bills, as the new coordinator, signed free agent safeties Antrel Rolle and Deon Grant, as well as linebacker Keith Bulluck, and used the team top four draft picks on defenders.
While third round selection, safety Chad Jones, is out for the season after being involved in a severe car accident in June, first round pick, defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, and second rounder, tackle Linval Joseph, are expected to be significant contributors, particularly Pierre-Paul.
“Obviously he’s developing and what’s important now is that we’re going to take it slow with him,” said defensive end Justin Tuck of the rookie Pierre-Paul.
“I’m excited to see what he’s going to be able to do when we get the pads (on) and we really start throwing things at him.”