The Breakdown: For the sake of this exercise, we’re going to assume that Plaxico Burress will not be playing for the Giants in 2009. We’re also going to make a stronger assumption that Amani Toomer will not be back either. Heck, he was barely there towards the end of the season anyway. So who’s left? Domenik Hixon had a pretty good season but he’s not an elite receiver yet. Steve Smith showed some nice things in his second year and he should continue to develop as one of Eli Manning’s favorite targets. And Mario Manningham should continue to improve, especially if he can participate in the offseason program and stay healthy in training camp. Sinorice Moss is also still around and provided a few glimpses of what he can do. Here's a stat that shows that the Giants lacked a dominating receiver in 2008: No one person led the team in any of the major receiving categories -- receptions, receiving yards and touochdowns. And the longest pass of the season? a 48-yarder to running back Derrick Ward.
The Options: Clearly the Giants have to find a way to replace Burress (again, assuming he’s either in jail, suspended or with another team by the time the season starts). They weren’t able to do that at the end of the 2008 season, and it cost them. So do they need to go get themselves Anquan Boldin? Not necessarily. The offseason provides them with a chance to design an offensive scheme without Burress, something they were not afforded time to accomplish in the middle of the season. So yes, the Giants could go after an elite receiver. Boldin comes to mind. There are a few studs in the draft as well, including Michael Crabtree and Jeremy Maclin out of Missouri. Looking at free agents, T.J. Housmandzadeh is the top at his position assuming he’s not franchised by the Bengals. Could they get away with him as their No. 1 guy? I think so, but only if they added another big-time threat like Tony Gonzalez at tight end and restructured the offense a bit. Imagine having Gonzalez, Houshmandzadeh, Smith and Hixon running out for passes? There’d have to be a mismatch somewhere for Manning to find.
I think everyone is just hoping that Plax stays out of prison and can return to the team. I think everyone realizes he is pretty much indispensable and there is no one they can get in free agency or in the draft that will help them in the immediate future.