Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Big Blue: Offense Preview

I bleed blue. Ever since I was a kid, the New York Giants were my life every Sunday during football season. The 2007 Super Bowl season was the highest of highs I have ever experienced, I will never forget that adventure. But last year was the lowest of lows. The defense was embarassing. It was really hard to watch. There is hope though. With a lot of players coming back from injuries and some new Free Agents, the Giants seem to be on the blueprint to sucess for this year. Let's break it down and look at what to expect at each position next year:

Quarterback: Going into his sixth year, Eli Manning had his best statistical season as a pro. One of the few bright spots on offense last year, Manning proved the passing game was not an issue and managed his way into the Top-10 QB conversation. This year though, the team is hoping to get more out of the running game, but the team hinges on Eli's playmaking ability.

Runningback: Last year, the running game between Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw fell in comparision to the top rushing attack in 2008. Bradshaw to his credit played the whole year with two broken feet and is one of the hardest-working RB's in football and is greatly underrated. I am expecting a strong year out of him now that he is fully healthy. Jacobs on the other hand needs to get back to his bulldozering ways. He is not a nimble back who can wait behind the line, he needs to run people over. If he can do this, I see no reason as to why this won't be a top 5 running team.

Offensive Line: The unit of David Diehl, Rich Seubert, Shaun O'Hara, Chris Snee, and Kareem McKenzie has been one of the most cohesive units over the last five years. The only major injury concern is McKenzie's back problems the last few years, but the Giants drafted Uconn Tackle William Betty to step up in place of one of the tackles in the next few years. The O-Line needs to strengthen its pass-protection and give Eli more time in the pocket. Eli does not do well when he is pressured and the line must protect him. With most of these guys in the primes of their careers, they should have a solid season again.

Tight End: If you watched Kevin Boss last year, you wonder how is this guy still alive? He took more bone-crushing hits to the head in one season then I've ever seen in my life. This guy is tough as nails but the concussions might be a concern. He is an excellent pass-catching TE and runs very crisp routes. He needs to work on his blocking because Giants TE's are essential for blocking in the running game. 2nd year player Travis Beckum hopefully will contribute some more this season. I didn't get to see much out of him last year but he seems to have plenty of potential.

Wide Receiver: I saved the best for last because this position has me psyched. This time last season I along with most Giants fans had no idea what to expect from this group. Well, flash forward to this year and they exceeded all expectations. Steve Smith became the next Wes Welker. Hakeem Nicks made you feel he could score a Touchdown every time he touches the ball, and Mario Manningham made every catch a breath-taking highlight catch. All three receivers share one very important trait that the Giants haven't had in a long time: yards after catch. Before with Toomer and Plaxico they would just catch the ball and get hit. But now with these guys, a touchdown can happen at any time. I really am excited with this unit and expect big things from them. Hakeem Nicks will be a star in this league. The only negative was the preseason injury to Domenik Hixon. He was a great returner for the team and was great in 4 Wr Sets. It's possible Manningham or perhaps Sinorice Moss will play returning duties.

Offensive Outlook: The most important thing this team needs to do is re-establish the running game. Last year the team did not wear down the opponents' defenses in typical Giant fashion. With a re-established running game comes the use of playaction with a deadly group of receivers. If the O-line and running game go back to the ways they were, this offense will be deadly next year and for a long time.

Miami Heat Season Outlook

Miami Thrice starts Oct. 26th.

The Miami Heat are the envy of the entire NBA with the signings of Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, and Lebron James.

Miami returns to "Leaveland" on December 2nd, in what will be a hotly contested affair for King James.

In fact, no nationally televised game on the Heat's schedule is easy. They play Boston to start the season, followed by Orlando on Oct. 29th. The classic Christmas day Heat vs. Lakers rivalry will also be renewed, in what looks to be a NBA Finals preview.

While ABC's Stan Van Gundy has said that the Heat will break the single-season win record of 72 games, the Heat still have alot of work to do.

The Heat don't have a real answer at center or point guard, despite the signings of Eddie House and Zydrunas Ilgauskas. While the starting five looks to be as dominant as it can be, questions arise about the Heat's bench.

Since most of the money went to the trifecta, the rest of the Heat team have been filled in with draft picks and players who have signed for the veteran minimum.

Although, the Heat will definitely be winners, it is just a matter of when.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Have Faith in the Sox-But What Else is New?

With the Sox 6.5 games out of first as of today, the Sox will need a boost to get back into contention for a playoff spot in baseball’s toughest division, the American League East. The critics jumped all over the Sox for their lack of action at the trade deadline, calling it a “buzzkill” and predicting the Sox will go home early this year. But what these pundits haven’t analyzed is the potential already in the roster.

Even with Josh Beckett on the DL for two months, catcher Jason Varitex and second baseman Dustin Pedroia out for a broken foot, third baseman Mike Lowell out with hip problems and outfielder Jacoby Ellsburry on the DL for rib complications, the Sox have managed to pull off a .571 winning percentage. With so many usual starters injured, the Sox are beginning to look a little like the Mets, but only on the surface. With Josh Beckett’s return amounting into a 7-3 win on July 23rd, the Sox swept the Angels to finish off the trip. Beckett is the man that brings the Sox rotation from solid to feared. As for the rest of the starters, Clay Buchholz has been holding his own in Beckett’s absence with an 11-5 record. His ERA (Earned Run Average) is 2.68, 2nd best in the AL. John Lackey has been solid in his starts following the break, and Jon Lester is 2nd in the AL for strikeouts, with 150.

As for the rest of the defense, Pedroia is beginning to run and field after a scan showing significant healing in his foot. Varitek is now off his crutches and beginning activity again as well. Ellsbury will be playing a few more games in Triple-A Pawtuckett on his rehab assignment, and should be back in the Sox lineup soon. I can’t wait to see Ellsbury back in the field, reminding the rest of the league that the Sox still have promise and excitement in this young player, with speed not often found in the AL.

Besides the re-emerging injured players, several Sox rookies could bring that missing bit of energy needed to push the Sox ahead. Outfielder Ryan Kalish made his debut on Saturday against Detroit, with an RBI and another single. Kalish, who batted .294 in the minors this year, should be a significant improvement from Jeremy Hermida. Remember Daniel Nava, the 2nd player ever to hit a grand slam with his first pitch in the majors? He’s been called back up to replace Mike Cameron, and hopefully he has a few more homers in store.

With all of this re-emerging potential for the Sox, the AL East could see a third powerhouse fighting for 1st. Starting Friday, the Sox will play the Yanks and the Rays-the two teams ahead of them-back to back. Before the end of the season, the Sox will have 16 chances against these two teams, including a home series against the Yanks to end the season, well, at least the regular season. The Sox certainly have the time to reassert themselves for a heated Wild Card or Division race. They may be down, but they’re not out.