2005_09_scoughlin.jpgThere is a lot of pressure heading into the 2005 football season on Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning. Coughlin must show that his authoritarian style can translate into wins and Manning must show that he deserved to be drafted first overall based on his talent and not his last name. Both coach and quarterback showed glimpses of promise last year, but this is the year they must build on it.

Manning will not be asked to carry the offensive load by himself, far from it. Tiki Barber returns as the featured running back off of a career year in 2004. Jeremey Shockey and Amani Toomer are back as well, but Plaxico Burress has been brought in to help stretch opposing defenses. Rookie running back, Brandon Jacobs looks like he may be able to put the “thunder” back into the Giants’ backfield and new tackle Kareem McKenzie will help solidify Mannings’ protection.

With all the talent on offense, defense could be the weakness of the team. Michael Strahan returns, but at thirty-three and coming off of a pectoral injury, there are concerns about how much he can contribute. Osi Umenyiora should provide a solid pass rush at the other defensive end spot, but both defensive tackles are question marks. Newcomer Antonio Pierce should improve the linebackers, but will Carlos Emmons and Barret Green play up to their potential? The secondary should be the strength of the unit with playmaking safety Gibril Wilson backed up by Shaun Williams and the two “Wills” manning the corners with rookie Corey Webster backing them up.

Add it all up and you have the makings of an interesting year for the Giants. With their relatively easy opening schedule, they should be able to get off to a fast start and then maybe hang around in the playoff race until the end of the season. Missing the playoffs would not be a disappointment, but a repeat of last year’s 6-10 mark would.

Photo by AP/Stephan Savoia via ESPN