A Slow Giants Start Might Not Be the End of the World

The Giants could be in better position to close out the season in 2011 than in past years

By Josh Alper
|  Wednesday, Sep 7, 2011  |  Updated 12:40 PM EDT
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A Slow Giants Start Might Not Be the End of the World

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Pierre-Paul is one reason to think the Giants will peak at the right time this year.

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Between the languid approach to free agency and the spate of injuries to the defense, there's been a grand deflation of expectations about the coming Giants season.

There's plenty of reason to doubt the ability of the roster, right at this moment, to hang tough in the NFC. Monday's news that middle linebacker Jonathan Goff will miss the season with a torn ACL won't do much to change that perception.

While it probably seems impossible to see a bright side to all of these setbacks, there is a way to see the current state of affairs as one that can wind up changing the team's fortunes at a crucial point in the season.

In each of the last three seasons, the Giants have been unable to get the job done down the stretch of the season and gone home early as a result. There have been different reasons for each of the collapses -- a shooting here, uninspired defense there and DeSean Jackson -- but the common thread through all three has been a team that played its best football when only bragging rights were on the line.

Because there are so many moving parts to the machine, fixing this habit isn't as easy as getting rid of Matt Dodge or cutting ties with receivers who hit the clubs with guns in their pockets. You also can't just try to hold something in reserve for the final weeks of the season, because every week counts too much to say that a loss or two early is no big deal if you find a way to finish with purpose.

That truth makes it seem hard to believe that there could be anything gained by the Giants limping into the start of the season with a roster that's as banged up as it is callow. But injuries heal and young players mature -- two things that could wind up making the Giants a better team come Weeks 10 and 11 than they will be when they face the Redskins on Sunday afternoon.

There are 10 rookies on the current 53-man roster, a fairly unusual state of affairs for a team that's been resistant to change since winning the Super Bowl. Some of them don't profile to be much more than special teamers (not a bad thing given the state of the special teams of late), but they also don't figure to break down physically the way some players have in the last three seasons.

They also might turn out to be more than anyone expected at this moment in time. When you throw in young returning players like Jason Pierre-Paul, Linval Joseph and Victor Cruz, there's even more reason to believe the Giants will get better with a little age.

The team can also look forward to the returns of Prince Amukamara and Osi Umenyiora -- we're assuming because there are clearly no promises when it comes to the unhappy wanderer --  to bolster what they already have on hand. That kind of talent infusion, mixed with maturation and increased chemistry, could help the team steer clear of the doldrums that left them on the outside in both 2009 and 2010.

It's not that easy, of course, as the team will have to be able to hold its own in the first few weeks. The schedule is pretty forgiving in the first half and they still have a lot more talent than you'd imagine for a team garnering such dire predictions, so such a scenario is pretty reasonable.

You rarely get perfection in a football season, but it looks like there's a good chance that the Giants' 2011 imperfections can work to their advantage this time around.

Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.

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