The last Super Bowl is already in the rear view mirror, and training camp is now open across the NFL. Despite having a stirring Super Bowl win over the New England Patriots, Las Vegas has a half dozen teams ranked ahead of the defending champion New York Giants including all the teams that the Giants beat in the playoffs to win it all.
You can be assured that will make for all the motivation that the defending champs need. Their regular season wasn't much to look at, but it was more than enough to get them into the playoffs where they showed their mettle. The Giants have already stated as much.
That’s why Eli Manning said in a radio interview on WFAN earlier this week that the Giants will begin camp with “a lot to prove” to everyone, even though their most recent championship isn't yet six months old. That’s a notion that has been echoed by some of his teammates who will arrive in Albany with chips on their shoulders the size of their Super Bowl rings.The Giants do have some holes to address, including at tackle and tight end, but those are concerns that mirror the issues the team had last season as well.
“There’s always a lot to prove every year,” Osi Umenyiora said. “It’s not like the Olympics or the World Cup. Every year somebody’s got to win it again. Last year’s over with. Going into this year nobody’s picking us to win again, as usual. There’s always going to be a lot to prove every year we go out there.”
It’s still early, but in some places the Giants are already projected to finish third in the NFC East, and at least one Vegas oddsmaker has them the ninth choice to win Super Bowl XLVII behind four other NFC teams (including the Philadelphia Eagles). It’s been pointed out in many places too that before they were champions the Giants were a 9-7 team that barely qualified for the playoffs.
That fact will follow them this summer, and likely for most of the year.
“It’s understood,” Umenyiora said. “We’re used to it. It’s been like that since I’ve been here.
“My teammates understand we are the champions and we are the best team in football until someone knocks us off that mantle. To me there’s no question we’re a great football team and we’re going to play that way. But it’s just making everybody else on our football team understand that what we did last year wasn’t a fluke.
“What we did last year was real and we can do that again this year.”
They officially begin working toward that goal on Friday afternoon when they take the field for their first practice at the University at Albany, free from some of the distractions that have plagued previous camps. Umenyiora, for example, got his long-awaited raise and no longer has contract issues hovering over his head. And the Giants extended Tom Coughlin’s contract through the 2014 season, taking his usually perilous job security out of play.
By comparison, the Jets are already making newspaper fodder despite having not produced on the field. They also face the prospect of a QB controversy the moment starting quarterback Mark Sanchez hits a rough spot or a losing streak and fans begin chanting for Tim Tebow. It's a self-imposed mess that will only fester the longer the season goes. And the Jets don't seem to have the discipline to keep out of the headlines, which means that it's great for selling papers but not so good for sticking to football.
Labels: football, NFL, NY Giants, NY Jets