We love a good David vs Goliath story. The Giants defeating the undefeated Patriots in Super Bowl 42 was the perfect story. That Patriots team was talented, deep, explosive and as perfect as you could get. That Giants team was facing turmoil, bad coaching, QB questions and unknowns at key positions. We didn't know that they were capable of doing the unthinkable that season. After they ended the Patriots undefeated season was when we realized how good of a team the Giants actually were.
This year both teams appeared like shells of their former selves. Neither were complete. Each finished the season with glaring holes. The Patriots sported one of the league's worst defenses, didn't run the ball well and couldn't throw it deep. The Giants started much like they did the 2007 season; hot-seat coaching, questionable quarterback play with a barrage of injuries.
New York was lucky to get into the playoffs with a 9-7 record. New England was expected to compete for another title because they have the best coach-quarterback pairing since the legendary Joe Montana and Bill Walsh. You can't mimic the Patriots plan. Hall of Fame coaches and quarterbacks aren't falling out of the sky.
The New York Giants on the other hand have laid the blueprint to modern NFL success that our Cincinnati Bengals can follow. If you look deeper into this Giants team, our boys in stripes may be closer than you would think.
How did the Giants do it? They have one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL. Only right guard Chris Snee is worth keeping. Their one of the few playoff teams that didn't feature a freak Tight End. Their secondary was decimated by injuries. Their middle linebacker wouldn't start with another team in the league and these are just a few holes the Giants have. Their strength on offense is in their two-back rushing attack and diverse wide receiver group, lead by the now- complete quarterback in Eli Manning.
The Bengals are already showing signs of following this direction. Jay Gruden has already expressed a desire to share the football in the backfield. Easier said than done considering the Bengals need to revamp that position. Luckily for us, running back has proven to be an easy position to find in today's NFL. Every team has two capable backs and this year's draft is full of more. The Bengals actually have the better offensive line between the two teams but could still be looking for new blood at the guard positions. I don't think finding an elite guard is a must-have for this team. We've seen the nest guards in the league get man-handled this post-season. Marshall Yanda and Ben Grubbs couldn't hold their own against the Pats. Carl Nicks and Jahri Evans couldn't handle Justin Smith's tandem of loops and stunts. During the Super Bowl, Logan Mankins had his lunch taken by Justin Tuck and Chris Canty.
As for the pass catchers, A.J. Green, Jermaine Gresham and Jordan Shipley should be a solid trio but this team will need somebody opposite Green to alleviate pressure. They'll only need a 50 catch, 750 yards a season type guy in the mold of free agent WR Mario Manningham to fill out this receiving group. That leaves Dalton and his progression to become a complete QB. Adding a stable running game and weapons on the outside will only speed up this process. Eli's progression has been remarkable since his rookie year but Dalton has already started better. Hopefully signs of what's to come.
On defense, the Giants are built to rush the quarterback and disrupt the passing game. Makes sense considering the NFL is routinely referred to as a passing league. They're built very similar to the Bengals. Both have deep defensive lines that can generate pressure. The Giants have three stud defensive ends where the Bengals only really have one in Dunlap. Although the combination of Rucker, Johnson and Dunlap can pile up the sacks (14.5 between them), Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora and Jason Pierre-Paul combined to have 30.5 in the regular season. Dunlap and Umemyiora are similar as 3rd down pass rushers, but the Bengals don't have anything close to a JPP or even a Justin Tuck that can move inside and wreak havoc.
To be fair, the Giants don't have a Geno Atkins either. The point is, both teams live off pressure on the quarterback. Both teams even employ a former defensive end to play strong-side linebacker in a 4-3 defense. Giants weak-side linebacker Michael Boley is very similar to our own Thomas Howard. On paper, Rey Maualuga should develop into an upgrade over the Giants' Chase Blackburn. He's their intellectual leader of the Giants defense -- something Maualuga hasn't really achieved. In the secondary, New York has one good corner in Corey Webster and another solid guy in Aaron Ross. Similar production to what Leon Hall and Nate Clements should provide. The Bengals would love to add some youth in the first round the same way the Giants did last draft with Prince Amukamara. The similarities extend into the safety position. The Giants like to use three safeties at a time and none are truly elite players. They use a former CB in Antrel Rolle to man the FS spot. Zimmer has expressed interests in finding a similar type of guy that can cover the slot and play safety. Kenny Phillips and Reggie Nelson are the play-makers that sometimes get caught out of position. By adding a CB/FS type, the Bengals could be in a similar situation with Nelson and either Mays, Miles or Crocker being that third contributer at this position.
Looking at both teams gives me hope for the Bengals. The Giants weren't a complete team without flaws. They don't have first round picks and Pro Bowlers at every position. You don't need that. I think we as fans get caught up on how many holes need to be filled each off-season, instead of looking at team chemistry and the direction this team is heading. If the Giants show that it can be done with a dynamic passing attack on offense and an array of pass rushers on defense, the Bengals should be excited about their future. Even with the holes that may appear to be holding them back.