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The Giants Off-season: A Defense at a Crossroads

We waited the customary 48 hours following the end of the Jets' season before turning our attention again to the city's other football team. (This is, of course, a custom we made up just now.) And while the Jets have their share of things to focus on in the coming months, they at least have the peace of mind of knowing that their major shake-up already took place last season, and that so far, it's been a rousing success. Now it's the Giants — two years removed from the Super Bowl and one year removed from the best record in the NFC — who are at a crossroads.

GM Jerry Reese himself has admitted what we already knew, which is that while last season was supposed to be one during which the defense remained a constant while the offense (and its young receivers) found its footing, the opposite happened. Well, sort of: The receivers were fine, but the defense never found its footing. Last year, much of their draft was spent on offense, but this year expect them to bulk up their D. (It's still early, but Mel Kiper's current mock draft has them selecting Florida DE Carlos Dunlap with their first-round pick, the fifteenth overall.)

The secondary, in particular, was a disaster last season, indicating that Kenny Phillips (who played just two games before missing the rest of the season with a knee injury) might be the most valuable human being on this or any team's roster. Even assuming Phillips makes a full recovery (which is no sure thing) the Giants are awfully thin here, and watching guys like Aaron Ross play out of position only made things worse. (Some of the safety stats presented in this postseason breakdown are just mind-boggling.) They can draft to fill these holes, they can sign them via free agency, they can steal them from other teams in the middle of the night, whatever: Expect changes here, if only so the likes of Michael Johnson never get real responsibility ever again.

And while there are plenty of other questions, ranging from whether they need another running back (or perhaps even a new featured back) to what to do with the would-be free agents (Domenik Hixon and Sinorice Moss among them) who would become restricted free agents if next season is played without a CBA, the most critical move of the off-season already happened when they replaced Bill Sheridan with Perry Fewell. If you believe that Sheridan lost his players at some point (which we do), then one can hope that Osi Umenyiora and the defense's other underachievers would have bounce-back years if only because they're playing for a new coach.

Also, they should look into developing a magic injury pill that keeps everyone healthy. That would have helped a lot last year.

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Photo: Larry French/Getty Images